Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Rites of Spring: Day Two

Okay, so I didn't get to the blankets yesterday. I didn't even take a swipe at them with the brush. My excuse is Spring Fever, Classic Mode. If that doesn't do for you, you need to get out more.

As the winter was pretty much an icy wash, I've been focused on getting the horses back into shape. I didn't bother posting about Leo's newly-diagnosed arthritis with its side-effect of extraordinary online shopping excursions for newer and better supplements at higher and higher prices. I should have. This stuff is a testament to horse owner idiocy in its finest hour.
I had Leo vetted out for the first time in eight years because he was having trouble putting his hind feet down. Disengaging his hocks had become a process, and I thought it was something that needed to be looked into.

Leo is 22. The vet dutifully poked and prodded, did the mandatory flexion tests, watched Leo move, and declared him arthritic. Not a new situation, he said. The damage, though massive, was old. Very old. Probably dating back a decade or more before I owned him.

So why am I bringing this up? Because I've just spent three weeks gradually working the old guy back into shape. Starting with 10 minutes of walking, moving gingerly to 20 minutes of walk/trot, finally achieving a full 40 minutes of walk/trot/canter. I was so pleased with myself for my diligence and caring attitude. Leo was so thoroughly peeved.

With one quick turn on the haunches around a barrel in the ring and a drop-dead gallop that probably shaved full seconds off my best run back in the day, Leo pointed out that the arthritis that had been there for 10 years or more had been there for 10 years or more. It was there when we were running barrels. It was there when we got very nice 50's scores in our dressage tests. It was there when he was giving lessons to beginners. So why did it suddenly become such a Major Deal? Because I'm an idiot. Leo told me so, and I believe him.

Moving on to the topic of the day. . .

Spring Cleaning continues!

6. Brushes! Geez! What is that scum that accumulates at the base of the bristles? Last fall I ditched all of my vintage brushes and bought a whole set of new ones. Two, in fact, since my serious case of chemo-brain caused me to forget I'd already bought the first one. A bucket of water with lots of bleach took care of all of it, so I now have shiny-clean brushes in my brand-new Lowe's see-through dishpan. Yee-HAH!

7. While addressing the tack thing I noted that there were saddle pads of an indescribable color which, scraped with a gloved finger, showed pink and green underneath. There's a load of horse wash now in my laundry room waiting for the moment when I get irritated enough to put hairy horse stuff in with my SO's underwear.

8. I was totally proud that I scrubbed the water troughs and refilled them with lovely, clear water. I was totally peeved when not ten minutes later, Pokey soaked her feet in them. Both feet. Both troughs. These are 100-gallon troughs, so this was no small feat (no pun intended). Reminder: Clean up the muck in the pasture and move the hay bale feeder to dry ground to avoid further offending the picky mare.

9. On the subject of water, all the buckets in the barn were slimy. The first hint of warmth brings on the slime mold like a chorus line waiting in the wings for their big number. This morning I killed it all with bleach and put the freshly-scrubbed buckets back. I even threw away the disgusting pink one that my daughter bought 20 years ago for her gelding (yeah, he had some gender issues thanks to being the cathected object of a 10-year-old girl). I've never quite accomplished matching buckets (or anything else) in my barn, but at least they're not waving at me as I walk by.

10. Speaking of cleaning up muck (#8), for some reason the two horses turned out in the barnyard spent all winter pulling all of the hay out of their rack and piling it on the ground. They don't eat it, just roll in it. Time to come up with a new plan for next winter. Maybe I'll make them work off the cost of the wasted hay. That would show them!

Enough work for today. Time to let another horse prove me an idiot.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rites of Spring

Know what this is? This is my farm's sign. Know why it's special? Because there is no ice on it! Not one cicle. Not a flake of snow or a hint of sleet.

This is, dear friend, a harbinger of Spring!

Every horse person knows that every change of season brings with it nuances of the passage of time and special moments which we share with our equines. In the Great Northeast, spring is particularly important as it gives us time to defrost before summer, with its bugs and burns (and bikinis, if you've stocked up on fake tan lotion for those horse-person-white legs), hits full force. Full-frontal summer is not for the faint-hearted. There is much to be done to prepare. So let us get on with our Spring To-Do List:

1. Under all that brown and grey stuff in the corner or hanging in front of the stalls are winter blankets. You know they're there, but like the midges that will soon arrive, you can't see 'em. My personal approach involves a long-handled siding brush with which I can beat the brown stuff off before I cover myself with plastic and attempt to move the mess outside. Eventually the pressure washer will take care of the dirt. Probaby just in time for next winter, which should arrive around August if our current weather pattern continues.

2. The horses aren't the only ones in need of a bit of exercise. Time to shape up before tight-pants season! I bought four new exercise videos and TiVo'd eight segments of high-stress yoga. So far I've managed 22 minutes of Pilates warm-up exercises. I'm resting comfortably.

3. There's tack in that-there tackroom! I've peeled off the layers of saddle pads and satisfied my curiosity. I really do own more saddles than I thought possible. Your turn. Bet you'll find at least one item of tack you didn't know you (still) had.

4. Time to rid the barn of freeloaders! No, I'm don't mean the horses. I mean the rodents. Mice. Rats, even. Squirrels if you've got 'em. And let's not forget the raccoon who's been nesting in your loft all winter. For what it's worth, there's a nifty battery-operated killing machine for the smaller critters. I got mine at Lowe's. Just smear a little bait on the back end and turn it on. In the morning, lift the lid and gently dump the corpus into the trash and reset. No muss, no thrashing death-throes, no traps dragging along behind something trying valiantly to take the cheese home for supper. Just a neatly deceased critter.

5. The last for today (overload is bad for the spirit) is windows. If the barn has any, clean them and open them up! Cleaning first is a good plan so the full effect of all that unaccustomed sunshine can be felt by everyone involved. While you're at it, you can go ahead and hang the fans. You have my blessing.

Well, that was exhausting! I, for one, am going to take advantage of the almost-warm temperature and go for a ride. The rest of the dirt will stick around till I get rid of it.

Happy Day!