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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Lords of the Winter Hay Stomp

On blustery winter days, turn out involves leading horses to the pastures while trudging our heavy insulated boots through deep tundra like snow, defrosting frozen lead rope snaps by exhaling warm air onto them and frequently fixing wind blown blankets (not unlike folding multiple flags in a wind tunnel). As the last remnants of the sleeping autumn grass hides under layers of frozen water (aka snow), we have to lug hay to the pastures via the kids old red plastic sleds.

There is a wild dance of sorts involved with the turn out this time of year. We scatter flakes of hay around the pastures and then walk each horse out one by one. Shane stomps out first and has his only temporary choice of the vast universe of hay piles. Evelyn dances out next and despite a variety of unoccupied piles will, with little variation, go for the dried timothy pile that Shane is munching on ... who quickly is forced to move to one of the other hay piles on a safer side of the pasture.

Bobbie is then turned out next which disrupts the temporary equine equilibrium. With ears pinned way back, he immediately goes for the pile occupied by Evelyn, forcing her to the flakes being munched on by Shane, forcing Shane to yet another still unoccupied flake pile.

Periodically, Bobbie, with a strand of timothy dangling from the side of his muzzle, like a tango dancer with a rose, will inexplicably and suddenly change his hay preference and begin the tango once again forcing Evelyn then Shane to rotate around the pasture like an uneasy violent tango.

Dion and Monte have their own pasture and there own variation of the dance. Monte heads into the pasture first and will gallop quickly around the hay, bucking with all four feet off the ground. Monte then find the deepest snow drift he can find and drops and spin like a break dancer (see photo of break dancing Dion and Monte-- which doesn't do it justice) until he's properly floured into prehistoric sized powdered donut. Seemingly shaken by the sudden coldness on his body, he jumps up, bucks and dances around until he too settles on a pile of hay.

When it's Dion's turn, he will tow whoever dares lead him out to the pasture, with the strength of a Budweiser Clydesdale (it's similar to snow skiing tied to a pack of elephants). When he quickly is let loose in the pasture, Dion will breeze around like the former race horse he was, whipping Monte and the hay piles into a frosty tornado until the storm dance abruptly stops and heads drop to the hay carnage strewn about the pasture.

If anyone of the equine Arthur Millers misses a step or stumbles, not to worry, they'll get another chance to perfect their craft tomorrow.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Best Horse Movies Ever

On these wild, cold and snowy Syracuse nights (we had a 10 below windchill this morning), there's nothing better than hunkering in with a bowl of hot popcorn, a warm blanket and a GREAT movie. OK... the hunkering comes a little after we hammer on frozen water buckets for an hour. The list below clearly represents the best horse movies ever (in my humble and slightly frostbitten opinion). Of course, there is just the "smidgen" (not a word I use everyday) of a chance that you may disagree.

10) Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (Awesome!)

9) Into the West (Most obscure movie on the list -- This is a movie you should see)

8) The Black Stallion (Great)

7) Hidalgo (What a story!)

6) Secretariat (Haven't seen it yet ... heard it was good... Yes... I'm cheating on this one)

5) Black Beauty (A classic)

4) Justin Morgan Had a Horse (On the Wonderful World of Disney when I was 7 ... it counts)

3) The Horse Whisperer (A chick flick with horses)

2) National Velvet (A classic)

1) Seabiscut (Great Movie... Great Book ... Great Horse)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Twas the Night Before Christmas -- Horse Edition

Twas the night before Christmas
And I believed all through the stable
Not a creature was stirring
As we watched football on cable

When who should it be that knocked on our door
But Bobbie the pony plus horses times four

They looked peaceful and coy
We did puzzle and gawk
Bobbie opened his muzzle
And then tried to talk

The pony cleared his throat
Then started to speak
"You've cleaned all the stalls
While they stunk and did wreak

You've brushed and bathed us
You've fed us fine hay
For all of that kindness
We give you gifts on this day

Of course I think of cash
My bride hopes chaps
Bobbie stomps his hoof down
And we're back from our lapse

"For you kind lady
We give you our trust
We know you've been there
When we've danced and we've fussed

And we give you our hearts
With our long lasting love
With us you have friends
Cause you're a gift from above"

"And for you Mr. Sir
We have what you need
Yes, I'm still thinking money
to fulfill my long greed

Bobbie snorted and mused
As if he knew all my thinking
He spoke once again
With his big left eye winking

"This prize is well suited
Your gift is a kick
You expected fruit cake?
I ain't no Saint Nick

Yes you check all our water
But you gripe and you grumble
Yes you give us some treats
But you swear while you mumble

Your gift is the choice
If it was you or the horse
It's not even close
She'd pick us, Yes of course

So your gift is that choice
It's quite simple and sweet
You can stop all the grumble
or be out on the street

I looked at my wife
She looked at her shoes
She started to giggle
I followed the clues

As I behaved from that day
The pony never again spoke
Except for this phrase
That I knew was no joke

"From Bobbie and All"
For this he did cite
"Merry Christmas to all
And to all a good night

I apologize to Mr. Clement Moore

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Bread Crazy German in America

We've had more pounding snow this week ... measured with yard sticks not rulers.

It normally takes me 45 minutes for my drive home from work each night. This week, as a result of the snow, I had two nightly drives of 1.5 hours and one that took close to 2 hours. That night I'd been gazing at tail lights and snow flakes for two hours which can be hypnotizing. For part of the drive I was thinking back on the blogs I'd been reading recently.

I remembered reading "A Horse Crazy American in Germany". She noted that when moving her horse to Germany, her horse was going to have to get accustomed to eating bread. Apparently, it's been common for centuries to feed horses bread in Germany.

One of our 5 horses is a mammoth 18-2 Hanoverian named Monte who was actually born in Germany. We never actually met his owner ... but he was shipped with a his passport (he has one ... I don't), a box of raisins and a note that said "he likes raisins". So, he gets raisins. He flips out when he gets the box, acting like a goof swinging his head and tongue around like he's experiencing extreme equine ecstasy.

Remembering the blog, I decided to give him half a slice of bread ... same reaction ... like he was remembering his youthful days frolicking with some Fraulein Phillie in Frankfurt. He loved the bread. However, his boorish American siblings were not as crazed about the bread.

Note: if you're going to try bread with your horses ... you may want to Google "feeding horses bread" No, not everyone in the world is convinced bread is a good idea.

That being said, I think perhaps I'll try Monte with some raisin bread. I'll probably put the poor guy into a coma. I just Googled "feeding horses raisins." See above disclaimer and substitute "raisins" for "bread".

Saturday, December 11, 2010

We Live in a Giant Snow Ball

Just off the east end of Lake Ontario, Syracuse New York (the area we live and survive in) annually averages 121 inches of snow. The last few sadistic winters have been closer to 150 or 200.

The recent snows you may have heard about on the national news (we don't brag about much but snow) helped push us to almost 50 inches through December 10th of this year.

My son had 2 snow days off from school and the horses stayed warm inside their cozy stalls for 3 straight days. This of course make stall cleaning more challenging ... but at least we don't have to worry about our wimpy thoroughbreds freaking out because a couple of flakes hit their muzzles just wrong or the wind messed their manes up. A bunch of divas those thoroughbreds are ... always asking for limos, fruit trays and bottled imported room temperature water.

When it starts snowing and blowing, we can't get to our pastures the normal and easy way because we have an eight foot snow drift that drops right in the middle of the desired path. So, when the snow is not blowing sideways, for winter turnout we have to walk the long way around and normally take down some rails to get the horses in. Yesterday, I built a gate to eliminate the rail removal portion of the process. I talk more about our winter snow struggles in my February 2010 post "Equine Snow Angel":

When I went into our shed to get some gate materials, I scared the walnuts out of a squirrel who in turn scared the crap out of me. Apparently, he'd be nesting in the shed for the winter ... the whole thing led me to have an odd dream last night about a talking squirrel, with a trash mouth and anger issues.

Anyway ... we thankfully have a little warm up today. The saying in Syracuse is ... If you don't like the weather ... just wait a couple of hours. There's a big ice storm coming.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Frigid Night Checks

It's 25 degrees and snowing on our tiny chunk of the planet tonight.

Part of my self imposed function with the horses are the nightly checks. On summer nights I can walk to the barn in 5 minutes in shorts and flip flops. In the winter, it may take 5 minutes alone just to find my gloves. Eventually the 25 degree nights become 15 degree nights. Fifteen degrees soon yields to 5 degrees which becomes negative 5 ... with a windchill of 35 below zero.

Night checks themselves are simple enough for me. I just check the water (sometimes needing to break the water with a hammer), adjust the blankets (sometimes needing to fix the buckles with a hammer), drop each horse a mint or carrot and make sure that no horse is suffering from colic, casting or bed wetting (equine bed wetting, of course, is a common incurable affliction).

Our whole family actually loves snow ... crazy yes... but we love skiing and snowboarding as much as any family. Our kids, growing up, would even superstitiously wear their pajamas inside out magically guaranteeing a school snow day.

However, opening our back door on a snowy and windy winter night for the long walk to the barn is like standing at the end of snow covered dock peering into an icy lake wearing only a bathing cap and a smile. Jump ... the waters fine.

Gotta find my gloves!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Amusing Horse Quotes

Never send a man to do a horse's job.

- Mr. Ed

“They think they can make fuel from horse manure - Now, I don't know if your car will be able to get 30 miles to the gallon, but it's sure gonna put a stop to siphoning”

- Billie Holiday

It's a lot like nuts and bolts - if the rider's nuts, the horse bolts!

~Nicholas Evans

If horses knew their strength we should not ride anymore.

-Mark Twain

The horse I bet on was so slow, the jockey kept a diary of the trip.

- Henny Youngman

Horses are uncomfortable in the middle and dangerous at both ends.

- Attributed to both Christopher Stone and Ian Fleming

One way to stop a runaway horse is to bet on him.

- Jeffrey Bernard

I can make a General in five minutes but a good horse is hard to replace.

- Abraham Lincoln

No matter what you weigh, the little fellow is your equal on a horse.

- Will Rogers

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What Makes Me Happy

I'm frequently asked by the curious non-equestrians at work, "How often do you ride?" My typical responses are "Me ... Oh ... not since the Nixon administration" or "They don't let the wretched ride."

The truth be known, I did ride almost daily while courting my wife 23 years ago. She was teaching riding lessons and I was taking riding lessons so I could actually see her when she wasn't exhausted. She even convinced me to go into a little schooling show. True story: I almost ran over the judge and then cut off a 75 year old woman in a flat class causing her to fall from her mount. After my primary rival was taken away in an ambulance, I got second in the class, much better than I expected.

I now rarely get on a horse...maybe every 5 years or so if the stars line up just so. Yes, it usually does take 5 years to recover. Even when I do ride, it on the pony Bobbie. I'm 6 foot 2. If he starts getting fresh, all I have to do is straighten my legs and he just trots out from under me.

Truth also be known that none of this is or was ever about me. The quicker I came to that realization the better. My role is cleaning stalls on the weekends, picking up the feed at the store, doing night checks, trailering horses here and there, fixing stuff, helping with turn out and yes paying some bills. The horses are as much about me as breathing is about smelling the flowers. I'm only a side benefit that comes with the entree.

However, I love (and I do mean love) to watch my wife and daughter ride. The horse and either rider float so effortlessly around the ring with such grace and beauty that it's almost like a spiritual type of experience for me. OK ... before you think spiritual in the sense that I'm channeling my long dead fore fathers ... no ... nothing Casper the Friendly Ghost here.

Watching them ride somehow makes me feel like I'm part of something bigger.
I always have to stop and watch for a moment. I'm always at least tempted to grab a camera. I always get tears in my eyes.

It's not truly about their riding either. Yes, my wife and daughter both are accomplished riders and no I don't get the same feeling watching others ride (that would be weird), no matter how good they are. I do, however, get the same feeling watching my son snowboard effortlessly over powered snow. See the Link...

The watery eyes, the spirituality, the sappy stories do not come because of the beauty of the ride of horse or snowboard or because I live to peal onions.

It comes because someone I love is doing something something they love. It makes them happy beyond happy, which makes me happy beyond happy.

Ride Happy!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ode (or Odor) to Stall Cleaning

There's no way around it.
The poop just keeps coming.
You clean stalls every day.
While horses clean their plumbing.

No shavings aren't that cheap
You shake and toss and sift
Your backs about to break
What the heck was that I sniffed.

This ain't no perfume factory
The urine reeks and ranks
What did that horse drink
A thousand water tanks?

It's like any of life's struggles
Where should I begin
This stalls a wicked mess
There's no way I'll ever win

But persistence wins the day
Each poop I find and pick
The stall is finally clean
And I avoided getting sick

Tomorrow starts anew
The crap will drop and roll
I plead to my horse Friends
Just use a Toilet Bowl

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Wet Pasture Derby

The horses had been in for a few days because of the rain we've been getting this week. As a result, they were all freakish at turn out yesterday, dancing all the way to pasture as if they were 2 year old race horses, not the 13 to 26 year old Geritol jumpers that they are.

When released from their lead ropes they'd all canter out to mid pasture, drop, roll, race around a little more, buck with all four feet off the ground and then gradually put their heads down to graze. Everything was actually fairly predictable until Czar Bobbie, the tiniest terror of all, was turned out.

At first, he too dropped, rolled and bucked. However, after his final leap, he took off like a turbo charged Secretariat chasing the other horses around his personal killing field like he were an evil barbarian Hun looking for the fresh peasant kill.

The other horses on typical day would be spooked by as little as deer, kites, umbrellas or a Republican landslide election (Yes, horses, by nature are very liberal creatures). However, this time the fear was more primal as if they were the antelope being hunted by the "mini me" lion.

McGuiver would have defused the Bobbie bomb with some chewing gum and dental floss. However, his services weren't needed here. After 15 minutes or so, an uneasy calm returned to pasture.

Unfortunately, you never know when the angelic creatures of calm will return to the wild beasts of turmoil. We often have talked about having a bucket of grain in clear box by the pasture with a sign that said, "For emergency break glass. Hurl grain towards the little one."

We've all survived another day.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Icy Horse Halloween

Halloween played a cool little trick today with some icy snow, not so gently falling from the heavens. Clearly there must have been a cold front moving through heaven. I picture angels bundled like Green Bay Packer fans with icicles dangling from their wings and frost on the halos (or probably on their cheese heads at game time).

Today the horses are all bundled in blankets. They wanted to go out regardless and are now munching on freshly chilled grass in the pasture. "Frost on the Pumpkins" is a phrase you hear around here a lot and we've been using it this year since mid-September.

As I took a wheel barrow of manure out to dump, my fingers burned from the cold and I was quickly reminded that I needed to get new barn gloves. My old ones were thrown out on a warm day last spring. "I'll get new gloves", I can remember announcing to the world as if I were moving from the Cavaliers to the Miami Heat. Of course 90 degree days in the summer aren't always the best for marketers of winter apparel. They do seem to be good marketer's of the Miami Heat.

You know you live in Central New York, when parents annually jam snowsuits under their kids spiderman and princess costumes. Yes, they'll be a lot of overstuffed miniature ghosts prowling for candy tonight.

Time to throw another coal in the fire. Time to defrost the candy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pay Back Time -- She's Sick Now

OK ... now is truly the time that we separate the men from the boys. Yes, I was sick for a few days. Yes, my wife waited on me hand and foot. I had the life of home made chicken noodle soup. My medicine and tissues were brought to me like I was the Prince of Persia. I had hours of rest and relaxation.

Yet, all of that's over now. It's all a distant memory. I'm better, cured and she's the one now with the horrific cold and the fluid filled chest. I'm the one bringing her cold medicine, tissues and providing the foot rubs. Surely, I'd be the one making her home made chicken noodle soup, if she wasn't a vegetarian. Sadly, Tofu noodle soup just lacks the taste and medicinal qualities... of it's poultry laced cousin.

Oh and don't forget... I'm also the one take care of five horses before I go to work in the morning. I'm handling the hay, the grain, the endless supplements that I need a cheat sheet to dole out, the turn out, the stall cleaning and the sweeping of the barn. Like the Marines, I do (or did) more before 6 am than you do all day. OK ... OK ... make that 9 AM. But, still it's my pay back.

Days like this are the days when I truly realize what a sainted woman this is that I married. She does this everyday, 7 days a week, every freaking day of the year. She only gets breaks when I help her on the weekends and on the off chance we actually go away for a real vacation every couple of years or decades.

She needs more breaks... heck, I did it by myself today. One day and I need a break.

I know what you're thinking. Stop being a baby! You have a horse or two or thirty at your home ... you live this. I feel sorry for you. Yes, you're all saints. You all need vacations ...or at a minimum... get a freaking cold once in a while so you can finally get that break you need.

Gotta go... she needs another tissue.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Horse... Is it worth it?

We question ourselves quite often with the whole horse thing. Are we crazy? Clearly "yes" is the quick answer. If you're kid was interested in softball, it'd cost only the price of a glove, a bat, some balls and maybe a $50 annual fee for the league. If it was bug collecting, I'd buy a %10,000 bug net and still come out ahead.

With horses, the glove becomes a Pessoa saddle, the Louisville Slugger - a $500 riding helmet, the Rawlings balls become a $40,000 plus horse or two and the $50 annual fee becomes trainer fees, boarding, shoes, etc, etc and etc. Yes, NASCAR or golfing on the moon probably beats this. Yet, people who think Hockey or golf or skiing is expensive haven't got a clue what an expensive sport really is.

The question remains. Is it worth it? I can tell you only this. After riding since she was three, my daughter, now 19, is one of the most confident people I know. She's thinking about either medical school or a degree in business. She's dedicated her life to horses and thus she's stayed away from some of the typical teenage temptations. She handles herself extremely well with all types of people, whether young or old, nice or nasty or rich and poor. She was extremely busy growing up which taught her unbelievable organizational skills.

Could that have happened if we'd said "NO" more often, maybe. However, while it's expensive and at points we'd have to say we couldn't swing this or that, as a parent you search hard for the things that your child will be passionate about, whether track, softball, acting or (gulp) horses. If you find that one thing... that one very special thing that supersedes all, you've won.

The answer is that you have to figure all this out for yourself.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sick Today

I'm sick today with a bad cold and some chest congestion. Yesterday, I helped my wife clean stalls through that hacking and wheezing. Today's a different day. Maybe if I stayed quiet yesterday, I wouldn't be seeing the loving light at the end of a long tunnel today.

The guilt maybe the worse part of being sick on a horse farm. My wife cares for the horses all week and only gets of a bit of a break on weekends when I help her with the stalls. Not only does she not get the slight break, she's trying to nurse the prince of wimpyness (that's me) back to health. She's actually on her way to store now to buy stuff to make chicken noodle soup. "You don't have to," I wheezed out through a congested airway to no avail. She ignored me a usual and went anyway.

Who knows? I'm glad I'm not a sick horse.

If I'm sick, I can pretty much tell people where and how I'm ailing (and believe me I don't hold back). For horses, Vets have to be sleuth-like Sherlock Holmeses to deduce the virus or injury crimes by following the clues. Instead of following the money trail, finger prints or trail of broken hearts, they follow by listening to heart, belly and breathing of the sicko horse patients. They'll look at the poop, watch for biting at the sides, do pinch tests, nerve tests, watch for oozing or dozing or pacing or panting.

Vets will do anything, stick their arms up horses butts, stick tubes of concoctions (eye of newt and wolf bane come to mind) down their throats... all in the interest of helping to ease the discomfort of a frequently irate and often ungrateful patient.

We've had horses with colic so bad that it took forty feet of intestine removal and a$6,000 charge. Yes, we have insurance now.

We had horses that could barely stand due to hoof abscesses. It's good for them to walk, the vet would say, but it pained us to watch.

Ooh just thew up in the back of my throat. Yes, it stinks to be sick.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Top 10 Reasons to Own a Horse

10) You didn't need your toes anyway.
9) Cash ... It's just plain over-rated
8) They just don't make poop, like horse poop ... just ask my dog.
7) Horse chiropractors, horse psychics and horse dentists ... jobs to cool to be real.
6) Flies ... need I say more.
5) The stress keeps me lean and agile.
4) I love those rewards points from my Vet, Farrier and hay deliver guy.
3) Cool equi-vocab words are killer at parties... oxer, martingale, two-stride, in and out, hock.
2) Horse Snot ... life just doesn't getter better. Yes ... Living the Dream
1) Dover Catalogs are so much better than Victoria Secret

Perhaps you have some other suggestions for the list... send me a quick comment let me know your thoughts.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Flies...need I say more!

I think it was in statistics class in college where I first heard the saying, "There's lies, damn lies, and there's statistics." When you have horses you have to modify that a bit to, "There's Flies, Damn Flies and then there's MORE Damn Flies."

I think everyone that's owned a horse has tried multitudes of different sprays, supplements, fly sheets and fly masks. Of course, almost all work, but it truly does depend on how you define work.

Most of the sprays will work to a degree, for a while, but either the spray wears off relatively quickly or fly spray is an acquired taste for the flies and it takes a bit for the word to get out around fly town.

Supplements may work. I don't' know. However, a garlic supplement seems more like your seasoning the horse for the flies not deterring them.

Fly sheets and Fly Masks are more of an armor type of deterrent. However, the horses tend to look like futuristic alien rocks stars with the fly sheets on. Additionally, I don't know how many people I have had to explain, "No we don't blind fold our horses."

Most of our horses are fine with fly masks. However, Bobbie seems to get a form of road rage or "fly mask rage" when he has one on. Drivers seem to feel protected when they're in their little cars, behind their wheels and normally nice folks will flip the bird or swear at you like you've stolen one their young. When Bobby gets his fly mask on, our tough little pony, suddenly is not only tough, he's invincible. He flips the bird to our larger thoroughbreds and our Hanoverian by gnashing at them with his teeth, chasing and terrorizing them as he rules the field with an iron hoof. The other horses bolt around the field with the fear of god in the eyes.

We're going to try the garlic on Bobbie this year.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Eating Dirt, a Variety of Ways

My eighteen year old daughter loves everything about horses, horse shows and everything associated with the word ... "horse". She loves the smells of saddles, the sensation of landing the perfect jump, the nuzzle of a muzzle and even the endless waiting (and build of anticipation) at horse shows.

However, my seventeen year old son would rather eat dirt than step a single sneaker into the barn. He'd rather gargle glass than go to a show. Riding a horse would be less welcome than a Zombie Alien Invasion from the putrid planet of "Puke"... or whatever video game scenario applies.

While my daughter is tearing up the show ring and will jump 3 or 4 foot jumps a top her hay fuled steed, my son is shredding rails, slashing through snow and jumping 30 foot jumps aboard his gravity powered snowboard.

He loves the cold wind in his face, the feel of the ever steepening terrain as the evergreens blur by. He even enjoys the thrill (and great story) of the occasional crash.

My daughter, on the other hand, would rather eat dirt.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Bumper Sticker

Here's a bumper sticker I saw today ...
"Driver carries no cash. All is spent on the Horse."

It is amazing how much money people spend on horses. It's not unusual to drive along country upstate roads and see quarter horses and Shetlands in tiny pastures next to microscopic houses.

Mundane looking people, who'd you think sane if you saw them walking down the street, will give up nice homes, nice cars, nice clothes and vacations for a Thorough Bred or two. They'll take millions of flies, mountains of horse poop, crushed toes and a pay check to pay check lifestyle for that Standard Bred. They'll eat corn flakes and tomato soup for weeks on end ... to save money for that new sheet for the Morgan Horse. People will not buy themselvs new shoes for decades, so the Arab Horse can get them every six weeks.

Horses must be pretty amazing creatures, huh?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Equine Snow Angel

Winters in Central New York are tough ... it's like jumping into any icy river just walking out the back door some days. With a monstrous lake effect snow machine (off Lake Ontario), on average, Syracuse NY gets dumped on with over 115 inches of snow every year, more than any other larger city in the United States. The towns up here have the tools, plows and salt to keep the roads clear, although not always with laser guided precision.

The plows sadistically knocked our fragile mail box off it's helpless post four times last month. Funny how nobody at Home Depot questions when I buy three mail boxes at a time, knowing that the average life of a rural mail box is shorter than that of a dung beetle in sub zero weather.

If you think driving and living in the snow is bad, try taking care of five horses in the winter. With layers of thick blankets, the horses still do like to stretch their stiff legs all winter long out side, which makes for brutal days of blanket changing, fighting sub zero wind chills and shoveling snow paths to the barn and pastures.

So, while I'm at work enduring the harshness of fluorescent lighting, ringing phones and the heat that just always to seems to be a degree or two off. My sainted snow angel wife is bundling with layers of long underwear, ski pants and fleece like Sir Edmund Hilary on Mt. Everest, to go out into cold. With frequent six foot snow drift blocking the way to pasture, she shovels paths to fields to get our pampered equine snow mobiles out for a few hours of snow play. Of course, there's no grass in the winter, so, she lugs hay on the kids plastic red sleds to our tundra-like pastures.

The cold actually changes the dynamic of stall cleaning. On day's like today when it's 10 degrees out (yes Fahrenheit), the horse poop freezes in the barn within minutes of it dropping from it's heated maker. So, at least, the horses can't grind it into the shavings. The snow's too freaking deep to dump the manure too far from the barn, so it gets dumped in a big pile not too far from the huge front doors. Of course, in the spring, it gets moved to another pile, closer to our unsuspecting neighbors who can't quite figure out why the damn flies are so bad in the hot summer.

Yet, even with the cold and snow, it looks absolutely amazing outside with the happy horses eating hay on the white snow covered field. As steam exhales from their muzzles,icicles dangle from their whiskers like these are mystical polar horses from arctic circle. They roll and dance in the snow like school children ecstatic with yet another snow day off from school.

My wife is a saint! A cold saint ... but a saint none-the-less -- a virtual equine snow angel.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Horse Shows -- Structured Pandemonium

February 5, 2010

If there were only one word to describe a horse show it would be “contrast”. Horse shows are structured pandemonium. They are incredibly exciting, yet exceedingly boring, easy and exhausting, swift and dawdling, morning and night, stunning and hideous, expensive and, well, more expensive.

While I truly dislike watching the daughters of others show, I truly enjoy watching my daughter show. My butt cheeks would quiver as our horse approached the first jump and my wife clenched my arm with her fingernails. Time slowed and our breathing became shallow and shaky as if our bodies were in sub-zero pools of water, while our heads were baking in a desert on the equator of Mercury. While my body quaked, my mind became a play-by-play announcer. I thought to myself,

‘Eight jumps … that’s all … we just need eight clean jumps. Any hitch, knock, falter, wrong lead change, short, long, chip, could send us home unhappy. There she goes. So beautiful… like a ballet… a symphony. So beautiful.

There’s the first jump … good… good. Now the second … smooth… clean. Don’t forget to breath, breath. I don’t think I am. Breath damn it … Breath.

Now coming to jump three… just like a ballet … clear. Good…Easy on the hands… easy … easy … OK and now four … easy on the pace… easy … easy … good… great! OK a single at five … these are the hardest … a single jump … all by itself… nothing for judging pace… just a lonely jump… all alone.

Three more jumps … a gymnastic… three jumps in a line… nice gait… nice … nice … breath … breath… good over six… breath… good over seven… breath, breath …now eight. Here it comes. It’s coming … the last one. Great. Awesome! Breath. The perfect course…Breath … the perfect course. She’s done… she’s done… breath… breath. So beautiful…just like a ballet… just like a ballet’

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Toughest LIttle Pony on the Planet --- Who is Bobbie No Socks

January 31, 2010

Bobbie No Socks, a tiny mix of Welsh and Standard Bred in pony body, we first met fifteen years ago through an ad in the paper when my daughter was a wee little equestrian extraordinaire in kindergarten. We had no money then and for that matter while we qualify for bigger credit lines now, still don't have money (yes, we're like every other human on the planet with horses). I saw Bobbie and I thought no freaking' way am I spending $800 of my good hard earned money on this tiny pony. I certainly never thought I'd put my daughter on this walking dust tornado.

He had chipped hooves, thick burdocks in his tail and mane and when my wife patted him on his broad back, a choking dust cloud circled his body like a swarm of angry bees. I barely touched his fat round butt and he bolted forward in terror, likely from years of being trained as a trotter on the track. He nipped me on arm with such force that I swear I saw my dead grandfather at the end of long tunnel. However, my wife saw something in him. It could have been the twinkle in his eye, it could have been that he had good strong teeth or it just could have been some secret equestrian intuition. We broke the bank and bought him, with a credit card check.

If this pony were human, he'd have been Micky, Rocky's tough as nails trainer. The stable where we first boarded him wasn't the ideal snooty English Stable. In, fact it was more of a western barn with a huge turnout pasture with 20 quarter horses, a bunch of mules and 10 Texas Long horses mixed in one endless field. Other than field mice, Bobbie was the smallest mammal in the huge turn out pasture.

Yes, he was but a speck in the pasture, but within an hour and a couple of quick territorial battles of gnashing teeth, blood oozing wounds and kicking hind hooves, "Bobbie the Tiniest" was the the "supreme pasture emperor". He was the baddest thing that pasture had ever seen. Somehow he'd bring huge geldings in line, herding them from their mare's. He'd stare down Long Horn bulls and make 'em look like baby lamb's crying for their mama's. He somehow began herding the cattle and other horses into their appropriate places in realm of his pasture-dom. He had that pasture whipped into shape like he was an army drill Sargent, Jillian on "The Biggest Loser" or my 1st grade Sunday school teacher (she was meanest person I've every known).

Over the years, that mean little pony bit us countless times, threw a couple trainers into the dirt, forced my neighbor to have her hand re-attached in a grueling eight hour surgery and somehow became more loved in my family than I am. He gives great presents at Christmas (I love the tie he bought for my birthday). However, ultimately, this mean little pony became, the cheapest horse we ever bought (by far), my daughter's first walk trot pony (he even won a class or two) and became one of my best friends. We now have five horses, including him. However, he will always be the king of the pasture and Czar of our hearts!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Wife is Sleeping

January 24, 2009

It's 6:57 pm and my wife's sleeping. No, that' not terribly unusual. She works her butt off all day long. She's run's 10 mile races and has run in a marathon. She swims laps 3 days a week. She snow boards, has para sailed and has showed at the national horse show at Madison Square Garden. She takes care of five horses, two kids, a turtle, a poodle, a puggle and lets not forget the neurotic insomniac husband. She needs the sleep and she needs it bad.

I love her with all my heart. But, here we sit together, but alone. We're in the same room, but a conscienceness away. Yes, I could take out the trash, check the horses, re-shingle the roof, pick at my tonsil stones or solve world peace. Yet, today peace and tonsil stones will have to wait.

No, what I've decided to do is start a blog. Seems like a good time to start one... nothing really going on the world, except killer earthquakes, rabid terrorists on the prowl, a government that can't get along with itself and Tiger Woods in a run for his life from the nine iron of doom.

Oh ... she's awake now. I need to check the horses.