Sunday, December 5, 2010

An eventful day: Snoopy writes in his diary

Dear Diary,

Today started out really good. I got up early to look for Raul, who brings me my hay. I waited forever, but he finally brought it. I was hungry so I ate it all. It was good. Then I looked out of my stall, but no one else was around. The other horses were still eating. I was bored.

It's easy for a guy to be bored in a stall. There's not much to look at. Not much to do. If I was in a big place with lots of horses, it would be more fun. When I was little, I remember being in a big place with two older guys, Tucker and Johnny. Before that, I had been in with Uncle Snowy. And even before that, I was with Mom.

The bigger place was fun to run around. I like to run around. I like to look at things and bite them to see what they are. Sometimes I pick them up and throw them. Johnny and Tucker wouldn't let me bite them. Neither would Uncle Snowy. Mom wasn't crazy about it either.

Once, I got in with the goats. They were fun to bite. I could pick them up by the tail, but I couldn't throw them very far. They complained, so the man took me back to my own pen.

Now Two-Legged Mom says I'm a big boy and have to be in a stall. I like her, even if she won't let me bite her, but I'm bored in the stall. Once I had to be in my stall for a long time. My leg kinda hurt. They took me to a place where I laid down to sleep and woke up with something heavy on my foot. It was there forever, then they took me back to the place and took it off forever, then I went back to my stall and stayed forever.

At least, I thought it was all forever. I was really bored in my stall. I found out, if I bite something and swallow, it makes my brain all floaty and my body gets tingly. It was fun. I started doing it all the time. If I was going to be in my stall forever, I might as well have fun.

Today, after I ate, I bit the stall door and swallowed. It felt good. I did it again. Again and again and again and again and then Auntie Niki came to my stall and said, "Knock it off, horse. The cribbing is driving me nuts."

But I don't know what that meant, so I just kept biting and swallowing and feeling good about it. Auntie Niki got me out of my stall and let me run around in the little pen. I love to run and jump. She took me to the Wet Standing Place and sprayed water on me, then took me to the Dirt Standing Place and made me stand there forever.

At least, I thought it was forever, but she took me back to my stall. There was nothing to do, so I started biting and swallowing again.

Two-Legged Mom came. I nickered, "Hello."

"Santa got you an early present, Snoop Dog," she said.

I don't know who this Santa is, or what a present is, or even what early means. Mostly, I heard, "Blah, blah, blah, Snoop Dog." But I love it when she talks to me.

She and Auntie Niki came into my stall. Auntie Niki put something on my neck and talked to Two-Legged Mom. She said, "Blah, blah, blah, his throatlatch, blah-blah, blah."

When they left my stall, there was still something on my neck. It was hard, but didn't hurt. I bit my stall door and tried to swallow.

I couldn't! I couldn't swallow and make my head floaty! It must be the thing on my neck. I licked the stall door, but it wasn't the same. I pouted forever, until dinner came. Then I ate.

This Santa must be a very bad person to make me stop biting and swallowing. I mean, I love Auntie Niki and Two-Legged Mom, but WTF?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

He's a good boy, he is

On my other blog, I posted our annual Christmas picture for people to choose. This year, we actually got more than one useable shot. If you haven't voted, travel on over there and help me select a good picture to go with the Christmas letter.

In and around the good photos, we had a bunch of hmm, not so useable pix. Usually these are because Snoopy has had enough posing and wants to sniff the cat or eat Marcus' hair or something. I'm posting these outtakes to show you it's not always his fault.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Training day

Forgive me for not posting in awhile, but there hasn't been much to post about. Snoopy is as right as rain these days, thanks to monthly visits from the horsey chiropractor. Yes, we have chiropractors for our horses, as well as acupuncturists, and possibly even aromatherapists.

"Take a deep breath, Mr. Investment. The apple-carrot-molasses mixture should bring a feeling of - Mr. Investment! Please stop eating the potpourri!"

My trainers, Niki and Tina, have been riding him, although it's been mostly Niki. Tina is the owner of the ranch, and not only is she up to her ears in the daily ranch upkeep AND the dog boarding/training business she runs to help pay the mortgage, her grandson is struggling with aplastic anemia and she has to dash to the hospital, or pick up his older brother, at a moment's notice. She's not a praying woman, but I don't think she minds if you want to toss a request God's way to get little Grant back to good health. His blood transfusions are not holding. I get the impression that the next thing on the list is to go for the bone marrow transplant. He's only four, for Pete's sake. He needs a break.

But I digress...

So Niki's been riding Snoopy and everyone is asking me when I'm going to get back into regular training, and I keep saying, "Next week, I hope." Except when Next Week arrives, it's too hot out or too rainy or I'm too exhausted and I don't get on him.

And then there's this other 'thing'. When Snoopy started to get better, I had this mental picture of getting on him, practicing over a few trail poles and wham! going off to the horse show. That's not what happened.

When I got back on him to train, things had changed. I used to walk him into a box (four poles on the ground, laid perpendicular, to make a box), stop, then turn him around and walk out. Nowadays, you walk your horse into the box and KEEP WALKING as he turns around. This turns out to be a lot harder than it sounds, and it already sounds pretty hard.

I also have to hold my reins differently, looser, with my thumb up instead of down.

Oh, and I have to close my spurs** on him to stop, instead of just saying, "Ho." (No, we don't say Whoa. Try it. "Whoa" is more lip movement. "Ho" just slides outa your mouth.) And then there's the spur backup. I keep my spurs on him to back him up, instead of raising my reins and saying, "Back."

Suddenly, I didn't know how to ride anymore. Suddenly, he wasn't even my horse anymore. He had all these cues that I didn't know. It made me frustrated, upset, and even angry. I wanted to hit something, but I didn't.

I had a meltdown. I told Niki how much I hated it all. I told her I didn't want to ride him anymore. I even said I'd rather sell him than try to back him off my spurs again. There were a few tears.

Niki calmly replied that she didn't want me to be upset about all this. She had me accompany her to the arena, where she got on Snoopy and explained what she was doing and why. Using the spurs was to keep Snoopy's head from lifting, which is what happens when you use the reins. I could still say "Ho". I didn't have to push him hard with the spurs, just turn my toes out and press him lightly. He still moves forward off the spurs if he's already moving forward; he just backs if he's stopped. She showed me how it all worked. She tried to make me feel better.

I was skeptical, but not as upset.

This week, I had two lessons on Snoop. I tried out what she said about the spurs, and added a vocal command of "clucking" to the back, which made me feel better. The first lesson went really well. We didn't do a lot of poles, but we did circles, stopping, backing, jogging and loping. He was very responsive and I had a great ride. There were no tears, either.

I thought, since I had a great first lesson, my second lesson would go badly. It didn't. I did a lot more poles this time. Niki showed me how to push him across the pole at the jog, which kept my tush in the saddle. I learned to kiss to him as he loped poles and felt his response. It was another great ride, another good lesson.

It's now looking more possible to me that I'll be able to show him one day soon. When I do, there'll be PLENTY of pictures to post.

**A note about spurs: If you don't ride horses, spurs sound like big, pointy instruments of torture. None of our spurs are sharply pointed. We would never use anything on our horses that would harm them. Some of our horses are very ticklish; put your leg on them and they go. Other horses are not ticklish at all; put your leg on them and they just don't feel you. A spur at this point is like taking a finger and poking them. Snoopy is one of those horses.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's an honor to be nominated

I won! I won!

Without even competing...

So, here's what happened: I lurk on a lot of blogs, and I frequently add my two-cents to the mixture when there's an interesting topic. I was lurking on the Professional's Choice blog and saw a few entries that were just begging for my comments. Of course, I was happy to oblige.

As it turns out, they were having a contest to give away free stuff to some lucky commentor, and they pulled my name out of their cyber-hat. I won a pair of leather protective boots.

Here's Snoopy modeling my prize.

They're so pretty, and so much nicer (and more expensive) than the ones I usually purchase, I'm tempted to only use them for special occasions, like, maybe the Christmas Day lunge. But I won't - I'll use them all the time.

Thanks, Professional's Choice!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

He's finally back in the game!

Snoopy was back in Burbank this weekend at the Lights! Camera! Action! Horse Show, held by Track One Events. This time, Tina rode him in the AQHA Green Trail. The class started at 7 a.m. both Thursday and Saturday. I live in Orange County, which is about 50 miles from Burbank, so I had to get up at Oh-My-God-Thirty to get to the Equestrian Center.

I missed Thursday's go by about 15 minutes due to traffic. Snoopy was back at his stall being unsaddled when I walked around the corner.

"Do you know what your horse did?" Tina asked.

Knowing Snoopy, I couldn't say.

"He knocked over the wheely cart."

The "wheely cart" is a three-tiered metal cart that holds our brushes, sprays, bell boots, etc. Apparently, Snoopy had gone out of his way to make contact with the cart and send everything flying into the barn aisle. The good news, if you can call it that, is the racket and rocketing equipment didn't scare him. He looked over the mess and pronounced it good.

I was only surprised that Tina was so surprised by this. She knows what kind of goofball he is.

"I moved it away from him," she protested.

Not far enough, Tina. Not far enough.

Most horses are tied to their stalls with their lead ropes. Not Snoopy. He gets a chain, because he gnaws through rope.

We called him our "junkyard dog".

As for the class, he showed well on Thursday. So well, that he got a FIRST and THIRD! That's right. After spending several hundred dollars on the show, I got a $10 iTunes card.

On Saturday, he tried really hard, but Tina misread the course and took him over a pole he wasn't supposed to take, which caused him to break from the lope. You could tell he wanted to figure out how to do it correctly, but it was still just ugly. Tina was still kicking herself after the class, but sometimes things like that happen. The poles were set up like a wheel and she just got it into her head to take all of them.

He was a little tired, too, so his trot-overs were a little clunky, but I was still proud of him. Tina says I need to show him in the next show, which will either be in Temecula in July (can you say, "dress rehearsal for Hell?") or back in Burbank in August.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Back on schedule, two years late.

Snoopy and I went to the Hollywood Charity horse show last weekend!

It was his first show in two years, and although he didn't show, he hung out and behaved like a gentleman. Well, mostly. The first day, he screamed a lot and wanted to jump out of his stall to go – I don't know, somewhere ELSE, I guess. After he'd been out for a lunge, he settled down and enjoyed his stay, except for calling out to any of his friends when they left or returned.

While he hung out, I was a working gal. There were three horses from our barn to be shown in various events. One of the owners could only be there two of the five days, one of the owners is physically limited as to what she can do, and one of the owners is a child with lovely but inexperienced parents to help. Our trainer, Tina, couldn't be at the show due to a family health crisis, which left the whole show to the other trainer, Niki. She's good, but it's hard to get three horses plus clients ready for classes that are back-to-back.

For those of you who haven't been to a show like the Hollywood Charity, certain western events require a lot of bling on really pretty horses. Here's Snoopy as an example:

For this picture (and to be shown), Snoopy was first "trimmed." His muzzle hairs were shorn, as well as the hair inside his ears, the long lashes under his eyes, and the hair around his feet. This makes the horse's outline look really clean to the judges. Next, although you can't see it, his mane was banded. This is a process of putting little ponytails all the way down his mane, which is then cut to about 2-3 inches in length. It makes the mane lay very straight and quiet, adding to the clean outline. Because Snoopy doesn't have much of a tail, he's wearing a fake tail here. Don't laugh – lots of horses wear them. It adds to the balance of the look.

Now just stick on a colorful saddle pad, and a saddle and bridle with lots of silver, and voila!

What do riders wear? Something like this:

This is a showmanship outfit, but you get the idea. Lots of sequins and rhinestones, like you've been attacked by a Bedazzler. Every time I dress up like this, I feel like visiting a karaoke bar to sing a few Patsy Cline numbers.

On show days, you clean each horse off with a damp rag, spray a conditioner on them to make them shiny, wash their face, including their nostrils and ears, and usually paint their hooves black with a fingernail polish-like substance. For a little extra shine, a dollop of baby oil on their muzzles makes them look fresh and dewy. Seriously.

So I helped Niki get the horses out, made certain they were shiny, brushed their tails, added the fake ones, got them saddled and out to the arena with their riders. After the rides, I helped unsaddle, rinsed off sweat, washed tails (fake and real), and put them in their jammies.


When we're at a show, we want the horses to stay as clean as possible and not rub the rubber bands out of their manes. So we have stretchy hoods to protect their manes, sheets to keep their coats clean, and bags for their tails (we braid the hair).

After all this was done each day, Niki and I would get Snoopy out and work him. One of us would lunge him, then she'd ride, and then she'd give me a lesson. Lessons during a horse show are interesting – you're trying to ride in the same warm-up arena with a bunch of competitors and everyone's trying to stay out of everyone's way.

The first day, only Niki rode him. The warm-up arenas were stuffed to the brim with reiners, so you really needed Advanced Steering. It's like riding among dive bombers. Out of control dive bombers.

The next day, I got to lesson during the English classes, so I was weaving in and out of big, long-legged horses and riders, all decked out for Hunter Under Saddle classes. Thrown into the mix was a small child who couldn't steer on a very patient horse. Niiiicccee.

Niki and I were alone in the warm-up pen on Saturday, mostly because it was time for the evening extravaganza, and everyone else was in the main Equidome. It was a fun lesson. Each time he was out, Snoopy was completely relaxed and seemed happy to be at work.

I'm not sure when our next show is, but I'm hoping that at least he can be shown by either Niki or Tina in the Green Trail Horse class (a class for horses with less than 10 points in trail). If I can get my lesson schedule more consistent, maybe I can go out in a Novice class with him.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Short but sweet.

This is a quick post, because all I really have to say is,


Uh-huh, that's right. I'm riding my horse. The black one. The broken one. I've had two rides on him now, under Niki's very watchful eye and he feels so good.

And tall. He feels really tall. I'm used to riding his mom, who is 15 hands when she has new shoes and stands up very straight. Snoopy is a solid 15.3, which means he's taller than I am.

He feels different than Frostie, too. Her jog (trot for you English riders) is very smooth, but mostly because she likes to shuffle her feet. His jog is very bouncy in a rhythmic way. You're on one of those slo-motion trampolines like you dream about, where you go way-far-up, then way-far-down, without the jolt of actually hitting top or bottom.

It's okay if you don't get it - I've tried to describe it to Tina and she doesn't get it either.

Their lopes (canters) have the same difference. They both give you the rocking horse feel, but Frostie's got a very sittable, shuffling lope; her son's lope is all slow legs and long hang time. Both feel good, neither feels the same.

Snoopy's left lead has always been his weakest. This is actually good, since my right leg is stronger and I can help him more with his left side. His injury has made him use his hip a little more than before, to compensate for a lack of flexibility in the ankle, which feels very pronounced on the left lead. As I loped him down the arena, I was aware of my seat shifting every four or five strides. It could have been due to riding in Niki's saddle, but it's definitely something I must fight against.

My next post will be in about a week or so - when I tell you all how the horse show went! Yes, Snoopy is going to his first horse show since the accident. Granted, he's not going in any classes, but he is going to travel to Burbank, hang out at the show, and be ridden in the warm-up trail. If you're in the area next weekend (April 28 - May 2), come on out to the L.A. Equestrian Center for the Hollywood Charity Horse Show and look me up.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Do you believe in magic?

Even though this is Snoopy's blog, today's story is about his mom, Frostie. Frostie is the first horse I ever owned. I bought her when she was three, ten years ago. This is her:

Her AQHA registered name is One Zip in Time, so named because her grandfather's name is Zippo Pine Bar, a rather famous guy in the Quarter horse world. She is registered as a chestnut, although most people would describe her as a roan. Actually, I recently learned she is rabicano.

Frostie is very friendly and sweet-natured. Her manners are impeccable; she leads quietly, doesn't crowd, lifts her feet for cleaning with ease, stands still for grooming, clipping, saddling. But don't be fooled. There's a reason I call her the WRM (Wild Red Mare).

She's spooky. If a trash can has been moved, she snorts at it. If one of the guys is on a ladder, she won't walk by him. And if it's a windy day (which is often in southern California), forget it. Every tree that moves, every flower that waves, is going to jump out and eat her. We often tease that she sees dead people because there's nothing for her to spook at and yet, off she goes.

In the old days, she'd run across the arena with me before I managed to stop her. Now I've learned to check her with the reins and push her forward with my legs and she puts her head down and obeys me. But I still hate that feeling of her body tensing, the way her ears cock forward and her head snakes sideways, just before she tries to plant, wheel, and scamper.

Last year, one of the trainers, Barbara Pinella, at the ranch invited an animal communicator to come and talk to some of her clients' horses. She opened the offer to the rest of us once her clients were finished, so I thought, what the heck.

I listened to her discussions with the Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods in Barbara's barn. They liked jumping, some wondered why they weren't getting Christmas stockings anymore, others wondered where their stable mate went, etc. In other words, it was all about their life in the here and now.

Then it was Frostie's turn. I was feeding her some watermelon while the communicator walked into the stall and she told me Frostie liked it (well, duh, she was gobbling it up), and that she really liked the fruit salad I fed her once. That piqued my interest, since I remembered feeding her fruit salad exactly one time, at a horse show.

Once she started talking to her in earnest, things changed.

"She wants you to know she had a very bad mother and her early life was horrible."

Great. Everyone else got "I like carrots" and I get Charles Dickens.

She went on: "Her mother hated humans and told her they would be mean to her. So when they came to wean her or train her, she resisted and they were mean, thus fulfilling her mother's prophecy. She says she chose you because she knew you in a previous life. You sold bread from a cart in Europe, and she pulled the cart. Pulling a cart was very hard on her feet, and now she's always worried about and sensitive to any foot pain."

This part was interesting because we tease about her shoeing experience, that she's such a girly girl, her shoes never fit as well as they did in the store. Monte (our farrier) will shoe her, she'll walk away fine, then two hours later she'll be three-legged lame because a nail is too tight.

Then the communicator surprised me: "She says she'll give you a baby if you want one."

"She already gave me one," I told her. "Snoopy."

The communicator looked confused. "Let me ask her."

After a moment, she got a funny look on her face and said, "Oh." Turning to me, she explained. "Frostie's glad you like that horse, but it's not the baby she meant to give you. He's not an old soul, he's kind of a simpleton, and she wanted you to have a baby that was more like her, only better."

I said, "She was a very good mother."

"Yes, she said she tried to be a good mother, because her mother was so awful. But he's a little disappointing to her."

"Well, tell her we love him. He's a great show horse." I didn't tell the communicator, but Frostie's assessment is correct. Snoopy is a mouthy, smothering guy on the ground, and a dream to ride, but he's no equine Einstein. I'd equate him to the stereotypical high school jock - excellent in his sport, but don't ask him to do higher math.

She talked about some other things, and Frostie promised to try to trust me more, even when things scared her. I'd say she's gotten better at trying, although she still lets her nerves get the best of her.

For those of you who read this and think, pfft, animal communicators, let's just say I'm pretty open to the possibilities of life. First, I don't possess the hubris that says the only reality is the one humans can experience through their senses, that there are no colors we can't see, sounds we can't hear, etc. Second, I'm the kind of gal who wants to believe in magic. I think you either are or you aren't, and there's no penalty in being one or the other.

Besides, if I didn't believe in magic, I wouldn't have had the faith that Snoopy would recover from his injury, and I wouldn't be able to tell you that after almost two years, I will start training on him again, probably this week, and may even send him to a show at the end of the month.

Is there anything you've needed magic/faith/something extra for, to get you through life?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

And the rains came

This post is a little late, since most of our El Nino storms are (hopefully) past us. We were supposed to get one this weekend, but it seems to be stalling and giving us less of a spanking and more of a few gentle swats.

The horses at my trainer's ranch (The Silver Rose Ranch) are mostly show horses, which means they mostly hang out in box stalls. Comfortable, roomy, but stalls nonetheless. So when torrential rains hit, we cannot get them out without worrying. The ground is slippery and some of them come out of their box stall with too much energy to walk quietly. During the last downpour, I went to the ranch, hoping to get Frostie out and at least hand-walk her around to let her stretch her legs. By the time I got from my car to the barn (a short walk!), the skies had opened up again and were dumping water on us.

"But she's been in her stall for two days now," I told Tina. "She's going to be spinning in there soon."

"She'll just have to spin," Tina said. "They all will, until we can get them out safely."

Two days later, the rain had gone and the roundpen was just dry enough to let them run amok. This is what Frostie did:

It was the best shot I could get - the others were too blurred. I like to refer to this as her "Arab mode" - tail up, neck arched, careening around the pen as she snorts.

Snoopy, fortunately, is in a large pipe stall and, although the rain might beat in at the edges, he stays relatively dry and gets more room to roam, as well as a bird's-eye view of his world. Two days later, this is what he did:

Yes, that's Tina on him. Niki has been sidelined briefly, while she had a little surgery. I won't go into detail, since I don't know how much detail she'd like to have floating around on the Internet, but let's just say she had the equivalent of a C-section, but didn't bring home any bundle of joy as a reward (or are they a punishment). So Tina has taken the horse training back for a while, in addition to all her dog training services. We all help out, so everything gets done, but she'll be very happy when Niki can ride again!

Like I've said before, under saddle, he's a dream horse. While I was getting him ready for Tina, he still wanted to eat me.