Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fate Takes an Unexpected Turn

I apologize for the length of this post, but there's a lot of ground to cover, and it just won't work to split it into two posts.

After much soul searching, I made a major decision this weekend: to put Poco up for sale. You all know how I feel about the big lug, so I suspect I have your attention.

Although Poco and I have come a long way, he needs a much stronger and more capable rider than I am (and possibly will ever be) to bring out the best in him. It's not that I lack confidence in my ability, and I certainly strive to improve my skills, but I also have to be realistic. I will be 59 years old in May. I did not ride as a child, didn't grow up around horses. I naively bought Poco as my first horse in 2006. I am basically a weekend warrior, which means that I don't really get to ride enough to make dramatic improvements in the short term.

Poco is not a lesson horse, but that's how I've been using him. He has tolerated me on his back, but the last couple times I've ridden him, it's obvious he's whatever the equine equivalent is to bored and frustrated. You all know what I'm talking about when I say that I could feel him about to explode under me.  It's been the grace of God and the bond we've built on the ground over the last five years that he hasn't purposefully ejected me.

And yet, if I take him down the road with Jaz on walkabout, he has always been perfect. As long as he's not the point horse, he is intrepid and will willingly do things that Jaz won't, like descend a (relatively) steep ravine, cross water, etc. Forget trying to get him out by himself. I've worked on the buddy-boundness as much as I am able, but again, it's the whole weekend warrior thing. He's already latched onto one of Heather's client horses, Cruz, since he's been up at Iron Ridge. Unfortunately, I don't always have the luxury of having another rider for our excursions, and our road is not a safe place to pony another horse.

I take 100% credit for Poco's impeccable ground manners, because when he came here, he had NONE. I'm proud of that, and grateful to have learned that I have a strength in that area. My instincts are best on the ground. Poco will do anything for me on the ground. He'll stand tied for hours and let me do anything I want. He loads on the first try. He's still a tad bit heavy-footed, but he does pick up his feet willingly. He doesn't crib, bite, or kick. Both times I've come off him, it's been because he was scared and I was unable to ride us out of it, which a more experienced rider may have been able to do. I have to work really hard in the saddle; it does not come easily to me.

All you have to do is read on Heather's blog what she has been able to get out of Poco, and it's obvious that the difficulties I have with him stem from my lack of ability, not his. I have to step up and say that this is as far as I can go with him, given the fact that I still have to work full time, and am not able to ride any more than I currently do to rise to this occasion.

Now, Poco and Heather have a love-hate relationship. She has his number and can make that horse do INCREDIBLE things. He hates that. And yet, he loves the challenge. He is thriving. I wish you could see how good he looks.

Poco actually has a lot of good qualities. He is completely sound and tough as nails. He has good feet and is very sure-footed. He has stamina to spare. You can't wear him out; you will just make him stronger. Although only 14.2hh, he is well able to carry a larger rider.

He's smart. I was goofing around with Jaz one evening after he'd finished his food. I taught him to touch and bump a ball using clicker training. Poco was sticking his nose in my pockets, trying to get the treats. I stepped away from them both to give Daltrey some more food, and I see Poco push his way in front of Jaz and start pushing the ball around, like, "So, how does this work? Where are my cookies?"

And I have learned so much from Poco. I knew nothing of the true nature of horses until I got him. I had to step up at every turn because of that crazy-ass, psycho gelding. He has played the pivotal role in how far I've been able to come.

I made the decision to put him up for sale, not expecting that anyone would buy him. And that's fine, because I committed that he has a home with me until death do us part. He is not one of those horses that pines away when he's not being used, though that's not really what I wanted for him. On those occasions when someone would come over, I loved being able to take him down the road. But, unlike Jaz, he's not a horse that you can not ride for a couple months then just jump on.

If the right circumstance were to present itself, I decided that I would not hold him back from being all that he can be.

That opportunity presented itself most unexpectedly.

When I told Heather of my decision, almost immediately, she suggested a trade: Poco for the remainder of what I owe on Daltrey. I was not expecting that AT ALL.

I heard myself say "done."

Over the last few weeks, I've felt Poco and I detaching from each other. I can't explain it. I have been troubled, and perhaps he has sensed that. When I went up there today to give him a spa day, uncharacteristically, he didn't want to be caught. I won, of course, but the point is: he is already her horse, and has been for weeks.

I'd be a liar if I said it wasn't bittersweet. Poco (or Poko, as he will now be known) was my first horse. My love for that beast made me weak in my knees, and probably always will. I am grateful that he is in a situation where he will be worked to the full extent of his potential by a kind, experienced rider and trainer. I am also grateful that I will still be able to see him, love on him, and ride him whenever I want.

I'd also be a liar if I said I wasn't excited. I very much like the new dynamic here with just Jaz and Daltrey. I had a fantastic ride on Jaz yesterday. I was able to concentrate on my riding rather than simply controlling my horse. My experience with Jaz has been that when I'm ready, he'll take us to the next level.

What a weekend it has been.  So far, I haven't cried. Maybe that's because it hasn't really sunk in yet. Maybe it's because I constantly affirm that all is exactly as it should be. I feel like I've grown up, in a way, because I was able to set my emotions aside and make a decision based on what was best for both of us.

And life goes on.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

First Walkabout of 2011

It was a beautiful, sunny day with temps in the high 70sF. I decided to take Jaz out to see how Daltrey did by himself. I gave him a scoop of feed to distract him so he wouldn't follow us to the gate. Mr. Fry said he squawled and ran around a little, but he settled down pretty quickly. If he heard him, Jaz did not react.

Jaz has weathered the winter well — that is to say he's fat — so I only took him about half the distance we normally go. We're both out of shape, but every step was perfect. Jaz never flinched at the barking dogs or anything else. Heather used my saddle last, and she shortened the stirrups. I lengthened them, but took them up a notch higher than I had been. What a difference! I felt so much more secure in my seat while trotting. In the photos, I can see my alignment is much better.

Mr. Fry took these pix after we got back, and I have a bad case of helmet hair, but I bet none of you looks any better after a ride, so I don't mind. Hell, it is what it is.

Note to self: saddle needs to come a little forward next time.

It was later than I thought when we got back, so rather than head to Iron Ridge, I took Daltrey on a very short walkabout. Babies! He was a little scary. I was having a hard time keeping him in position behind and slightly to the side of me. He was anxious (as in nervous) and wanting to run out ahead of me. It didn't help that Jaz was carrying on. We did the whole walk going in circles so I could keep him (and me!) in a safe place. At one point, he leaped forward and bucked while only about half a lead's distance from me. I felt the air move beside my right ear. Had I been in a safe position to react quickly, he'd have really gotten it for that. As it was, I had to let it go, because he would not have know what he was being punished for. When I drew him back in, he leaned in and grabbed my arm with his lips. I was close enough to be able to pop him on the shoulder in a timely manner for that.

Note to self: wear a helmet next time I do ANYTHING with him. Carry a dressage whip (longer) rather than a crop so I don't need to be so close to administer a punishment.

Today I'm headed to the farm to see my barn buddies and my psycho gelding, who is making Heather earn her training fee. Haven't decided if I will take Jaz or ride one of theirs. Not a good idea for me to get on Poco just yet. He's not worn out enough yet to stop fighting.

Hope you're all having a great weekend that includes horses.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sun at Last!

Our crazy ice, snow and bitter temps are finally behind us, and we're back to the kind of weather that makes us the envy of our northern brethren. It's sunny, with temps in the 70sF — perfect, in my book.

On Saturday, after cleaning, laundry, and whipping up a batch of to-die-for chicken tortilla soup, I skedaddled to the outdoors and some pony time. The horses had been blanketed through 2 bouts of rain, sleet, freezing rain, and snow for more than a week. I was afraid to look.

Cindi caught some rays. I didn't get a picture of it,  but Martha curled up on Jaz's blanket, which we had laid out on the concrete to air out. By the grace of God, Martha didn't get stepped on, because every time one of them moved, she barked furiously and nipped at their feet. I thought JRTs were supposed to have some sort of built-in horse sense. Nope.
 How butt high is he? Judge for yourself.
Exhibit 1.
 Exhibit 2
At this angle, the engine and the caboose are almost level.
No need to tell you what both horses did the second those blankets were off. I started with Jaz, because I wanted him to be completely done so he could stand there and be an example to Daltrey. Although it was still pretty muddy, that's actually sand. I set about cleaning him with a rubber curry. If we can believe what both my horses are telling us, Spring is on it's way, because they are shedding like crazy already. I had hair and sand in places you don't want to hear about.

Jaz had two small spots of rain rot on his shoulder, and a huge (and very tender) one on the right side of his neck. I soaked them with Listerine and Vitamin E, gently peeled the skin, and soaked it again. He flinched every time I touched it, but ya gotta do it. It's already looking much better, and one more treatment ought to do it.
Meanwhile, Daltrey was being a total pest. In the photo above, Jaz and the hitching post are to the right, and all my grooming stuff is to the left. Daltrey kept wanting to drink the water, which by the end was quite icky from cleaning Jaz's sheath and butt. YUK! No kisses for you! And he kept pulling stuff out of the caddy, trying to break into the cookies, chew on rags, engage Jaz in Bite the Face ... you get it. He also kept coming up behind me and laying his head on my shoulder, like, "Whutcha doin', Mom?" As endearing as that was, of course, I had to chastise him for violating my space. I was tired before I even started on him.
Finally, it was Daltrey's turn. As I hoped, Jaz stood like a champ. Daltrey was a little dancey, and wasn't good for quite as long as I know he can be, but I was able to do what I needed to do. No rain rot, no injuries, just shedding out — you can see wads of hair on the ground.
I took this shot so you can see how tall our baby is getting. He will be a year old on March 9.

When I fed them last evening, and Daltrey was mostly done (except for all the food he'd flung), I gave Jaz the okay to move in. Normally, he just moseys over and they share in the cleanup. Instead, Jaz pinned his ears and postured that he'd bite. I'll be darned if Daltrey didn't turn around, pin his ears, and stand his ground. Poor Jaz will end up at the bottom of the herd again.

Is it winter or hinting that Spring is on the way? How have your horses fared this winter?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Enough, Already

I have this thing every year about wanting at least one guilt-free stay-home day that I can blame on the weather. Today was my 4th day home out of the last 8 work days, and it's to the point where it's enough, already.

This is our second round of uncharacteristically inclement winter weather, with frigid temperatures, biting winds, and layers of ice and snow. We knew it was coming, so I've been working like a demon to get everything done I needed to that I would be unable to accomplish at home, and brought home whatever I could. 

The cold and cranky Cafeteria Lady — who is on duty in rain, snow, sleet, or hail for 45 minutes to an hour every evening — is fixin' to bitch-slap Ole Man Winter.

"How bad was/is it," you may ask. Bad enough that Jaz and Daltrey actually took shelter in the run-in shed. NEV-ER happens. This is the first time in almost five years I've ever seen them choose to be in there when food isn't involved.

  Speaking of food, Mom ...

Don't you love how his belly
sticks out of the blanket?
 Popsicle toes hooves

Waiting for Baby to finish ...
... or at least until Mom says it's okay to share.
Unlike Piggy Poco, Jaz usually doesn't run him off.
 Meanwhile inside, Leeloo and Minnie
find a sunny spot.
The Ratweasels (Martha and Cindi), 
who barely tolerate each other,
create a puppy pile for warmth.

Should be in the 60sF this weekend,
but it's bound to be muddy.
I'd like to get up to Iron Ridge to see Pokey.
This weather has delayed his training
by at least a week, probably more.

Wonder if he's still mad at me?

Saturday, February 5, 2011


This is a rant because it's my blog and I can.

On December 27, 2008, I bought a Sony DSC-W170 Cyber-shot point -and-shoot camera. For a short while, it worked fine, but then one day in 2009 when I turned it on, the lens kept extending and retracting, and I got a message to turn the camera off and on again repeatedly. I got online with Sony chat support and they walked me through the re-initialization process, which fixed it. But it kept happening. Seemed like I was having to re-initialize the dang thing about every other week. Finally, the day came when that no longer worked. At some point in 2009, I had to send it in for service. I had to pay for insured UPS shipping, but the warranty covered the service. They never said exactly what they did, but I suspect they replaced the whole lens assembly — basically the entire guts of the camera.

At least once after I got the camera back, I had to use online chat support to diagnose and correct other issues, and then it started the same cycle again — déjà vu — and I was having to re-initialize the dang thing every other week or so. Yesterday, as before, that would no longer fix the problem.

I called Sony support this time and got "Brian" from Budapest (or Bali or Bangkok or Botswana), whose script required him to apologize for my inconvenience as the start of each sentence. First he told me they had no record of ever having serviced my camera. He searched by serial number and found me. Then he told me I need to send the camera in — again — and asked if I purchased an extended warranty. I did, but guess what? It expired December 27, 2010. Of course it did. So now, I'd be charged for shipping and service.

I'm not stupid, and I'm not unreasonable. I know stuff wears out and doesn't last forever. But this camera has not been dropped or abused in any way, has a documented history of this same issue, and Sony wants to make it my problem? Really?

I emailed them a message via their website, and told them I intended to tell anyone who would listen that Sony SUCKS. They responded with an automated email thanking me for taking the time to write, because my feedback will help them get better. Then they had the cojones to send another automated email wanting me to take a survey rating their customer service. It was tempting, but it's an exercise in futility, since it's all automated responses. I'm not going to waste my time; it will just piss me off more than I already am.

I won't pursue repairing the camera again. I'm sick of crappy quality and companies that refuse to stand behind their products. I got a Canon PowerShot A3000 as my 15-year service award from my company. I gave it to Mike, but will share with him until such time as I can afford to buy another. I can assure you, it will not be a Sony. Nor will any other electronic device I buy be a Sony. No baloney.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Frightful, Not Delightful

Jaz has finally stopped calling for Poco and settled into his new role as Herd Leader and Chief Nanny to Baby D. Meanwhile, North Texas got kicked in the booty with the storm that has buried much of the country. We had been watching the forecast carefully, so I made sure I had dropped Poco's blanket off at Iron Ridge, and that Jaz and Daltrey were blanketed before it started.

Mr. Fry, back on night shift (boo, hiss), left before the storm started. He took a change of clothes with him, which ended up being a good thing, because his company was kind enough to put them up in a hotel. As with the last storm, this one started as rain. Temps dropped, and it turned to sleet, freezing rain, then "thunder snow," which completely wigged out Chula the Doberman in the middle of the night. By morning, we had a lovely layered parfait: a crust of ice on top, then snow, then varying thicknesses of solid ice underneath. Temps never got warmer than the low 20s F, flattening to the low teens as highs, with lows of 5-7° F. We had biting 40 mph winds.

Yanks and Canadians can scoff all you want about how this is nothing, but keep in mind: this is Texas. Not only are we not used to this; we are ill equipped to deal with it. Most of us do not have clothing suitable for such bitter weather. Southern heating systems aren't designed to withstand sustained cold temps. Our heat pump froze the first day. Schools across the Metroplex and surrounding areas have been closed for four days. We've had rolling power blackouts.

I grew up in the Northeast, so I'm not afraid to drive in inclement weather. However, I commute 43 miles each way to work, most of which is farm roads. I took off two days and figured yesterday it would be cleaned up enough to not be a major hassle driving. I could not have been more wrong. It took me 1.5+ hours each way. I was truly amazed at how bad it still was. We don't have chains and snow tires here. I saw someone two cars in front of me and only doing maybe 30 mph do a couple donuts into the opposite lane and off the road. There are places where the ice was several inches thick. They may throw some sand in the roads, but that's about the extent of snow management down here. 

There was a 30% possibility of 1-2 more inches of snow today, which would have been enough of a mess. But that changed during the night. We have 3-4" on top of the ice, and McKinney, where I work has more than 6". Nope, ain't happening. You can't even see where the road is. And it's still snowing. Bitter cold temps prevail and they are calling for the dreaded "wintry mix" again on Monday.

And what do we have to look forward to?  MUD. The inevitable rain rot under those blankets. Gunky hooves. Poco's training being delayed.

It's official: I am SO over this.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How The Mighty Have Fallen

Evelyn: You know, nasty little fellows such as yourself
always get their comeuppance.
Beni: They do?
Evelyn: Always.
— The Mummy (1999)

Stopped by Iron Ridge to drop off Poco's blanket, as well as payment for his training.

Oh my. 

Heather put Poco in the paddock with the young stallions. She said Poco strutted in, declaring that he was the boss. Remember Scorch, who stayed with us for awhile last winter when Jaz was sick? Scorch, now a huge 3-year-old Stonewall Sport Horse, said, "You mean, you used to be the boss," and whomped the snot out of my boy. 

Bwahahaha! Our evil plan is working!

See, Poco is a legend in his own mind. Up to this point, he has managed to dominate every horse he's ever been around, which pretty much explains his attitude. This is a very good thing!

Poco looked up at my greeting, but wouldn't come over to the fence to see me. He is sulking, big time. Finally, he walked over and I saw the nasty bite Scorch left on his nose. That has got to smart. Then — I admit it — Heather and I started laughing. I wish you could have seen Poco's expression. He backed off and turned his butt to us, which only made us laugh harder. My answer to his gesture of disrespect was to pick up a stone and chunk it at his fat ass, sending him shuffling off in a huff.

Got a text later from Heather than she and Poco went head-to-head in the round pen. He's already trying the old, "Aw c'mon, I didn't really mean all that" routine. What a suck-up! Heather said he was lathered and penitent.

[rubs hands together gleefully] I'm gonna enjoy this next 30 days way more than I should.
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