Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I rode Armani bareback and...'s like going over rapids on a greased barrel.

Let's rewind to a couple evenings ago. I popped into the barn. My instructor was conversing with another boarder. "Ah, here you are!" she said, "I've got an idea to expand your horizons!"

"Uh huh?", I asked cautiously.

"You should ride Armani bareback. It's really fun! But he's a little slippery."

After asking how sane she felt, I admitted I had thought of trying it myself. Last night I got out of work after dark. I put on my extra-sticky deerskin, fullseat breeches. I made sure my instructor was home. "I'll scream if I break my neck." I told her.

I brought Armani in and cleaned him up. I put on his bridle and asked him to follow me to the arena. He turned and looked at his side.

"Yes, I know, boy. I forgot something."

Fortunately I'd been practicing mounting with a block lately. There was no way I was vaulting on without stirrups. Armani started to walk away from the block. I grabbed mane and wriggled aboard like a tick. Oops - need to review that hold-still-while-I-mount lesson again.

We walked around the arena and did some circles. I asked for some leg-yield. Armani almost jumped sideways. "I guess I don't need so much aid without the saddle."

How light he felt! We did a lot of lateral work. I was pleased by how delicate my aids could be. Armani seemed to move effortlessly beneath me. I was surprised by how powerful and broad he felt. And a little slippery. But I figured I should try some trot work. I asked him to trot.

Woops - too much aid again! We got halfway around a 20m circle and I began to slip sideways. "Whoa", I said. My hands said "whoa" too. But my legs, clinging on like a trapeze artist, they said "Go! Go!"...

Armani decided "Piaffe" was the answer.

I watched him piaffe for 5 strides in the mirror. Armani was beautiful and athletic. He looked like a chocolate dipped Lipizzaner stallion... with a skinny monkey in breeches hanging from his side. I pulled myself back on and asked him to trot again, for real this time.

I began to get a feel for sitting his trot bareback. The side-to-side motion is very strong. After a while I felt comfortable and let go of his mane.

"Well Armani, Stacy Westfall I am not."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lemonade Award

Grey Horse Matters recently gave me this Lemonade Award for blogs that show "great attitude". Thank you!

The award says I should pass it to other blogs I enjoy. I'm passing it to:

- Rattitude a blog about adorable pet rats. One of her rats was recently immortalized on Wikipedia!

- SkyBar Farm is the sister blog to Argo's Journey. Right now they are beset with Steeler Mania!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bringing home Toodles, our new cat

I am chronicling bringing home our new cat, Toodles. We already had two adult female cats.

Sprite, age 7, is the playful one.

Scout, age 12, is the boss.

So my husband and I wanted a quiet, mature female cat, who we hoped would easily integrate with our two. We described our desires in a cat to our local humane society. They recommended Toodles, an 8 year old lady, who had been a pet before being surrendered. We liked her instantly.

To select a good match for your cats see this article.

We brought Toodles home. We gave her our guest room all to herself. Keeping her separate was important. Although Toodles had all her shots, sometimes cats can get colds at shelters because new ones are coming in often. Also, throwing a new cat into the mix, without proper introductions, can cause fights. Stressed cats can hold grudges. Some even let you know by not using their litter pan.

Toodles needed:

- A litter pan. We keep one litter pan per cat. We didn't have a spare one handy. So we made a temporary pan. We placed the pan by the door. Our pans really go in the laundry room down the hall. So once we let her out it wouldn't be hard for her to find them.

I've drawn a diagram.

- Her own food and water bowls. We washed them first so they wouldn't smell like our cats. Then we positioned them opposite the room from the pan. Cats like to eat and potty in separate areas.

- Some of her old food. We would mix it in with the brand we feed our cats, a little at a time.

- A scratching post. We didn't have a spare post either. We gave Toodles an old hooked carpet mat next to her litter pan. Want to build your own? Read these how-tos.

- A vet appointment for a check up. We gave the vet all her records from the shelter.

Day 1:

We let Toodles have an hour alone to sniff around and relax. She spent some time under the bed, which is normal for a cat in a new place. Then I went and sat on the floor quietly and let her come to me. I spent a little while with her, at different times during the first day. I let her sniff me, gently patted her. No pressure.

My husband and I spent a couple hours bonding with our two original cats. We didn't want them to think they were being "replaced" in the family. It was important to make sure they felt loved. So we watched TV, played with toys, and had a few treats.

Next episode coming soon...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Horseless Series: Your new cat

I'm going to do a short series on introducing a new cat to your household. Are there any broad or specific questions you have about:

- Choosing the "right" cat?
- What equipment a new cat needs?
- Helping your new cat adjust?
- Introducing your new cat to your other pets?

Or do you have a story you'd like to share?

I'll credit you and include a link to your blog, if you have one!

Disclaimer: I'm not a vet. Just a cat owner who dotes on her felines. I'll share my experience, link to more authoritative resources, or ask for suggestions from the crowd. :)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Horseless Friday: Oops, I did it again!

My husband and I visited our local humane society again... We left with our wallets a little lighter after our donation. But there seemed to be an extra passenger in the car going home...

As you can see, she's made herself quite comfortable in our guest room. She likes the new quilt we got and she says she's thinking of staying.

We already have two mature female cats, Sprite, age 7, on the left and Scout, aka "Baby" age 12, on the right. And yes that is a cat tooth brush in the background. What can I say? We're a childless married couple. Of course we brush our cats teeth!

We've both noticed more animals than usual being given away lately. Perhaps it is the recession, perhaps it is fear of the recession. Our two girls are great. But we'd been contemplating adding another member to the family, so it seemed like it might be time to "do our part".

I -timidly- asked if there were any "quiet, senior female cats" available. I knew where this could lead... They showed us 8 year old "Scout".

"That's my baby's name!", I said. Scout rolled over on her head.

"Baby does that all the time!", I said. I picked her up. Scout licked my lips and purred.

"Can we bring her home tonight?", I asked.

So "Scout II" came home with us. I've started calling her "Toots" because it grew out of "Two". Toots is staying in the guest room for a few days. Then it'll be short visits with the other ladies until they acclimate.
Read more tips on introducing a new cat to your household here.

So far, so good. The ladies have been sniffing and playing tag under the door. I haven't heard a single "hiss".

I wonder how she'll feel about brushing her teeth?...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Too cold to ride?

The forecast for the later part of the week is cold with a high of 2F on Friday, not including wind-chill. Our indoor stays warmer than outside but it isn't heated. I won't ride when it is below 15F.
How cold is too cold for you?
What do you do when it is too cold to ride? Grooming? Tack cleaning?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Huey is as Huey does

Huey and I also went out in the snow on Sunday afternoon, after Armani and I.

As a rather ugly Quarter Horse in a stable of gorgeous warmbloods, Huey is a daisy in a field of orchids. However, he's got a very attractive disposition. Not only is Huey a good babysitter but he's also a good riding companion for young or fizzy horses. I've wondered if he might have been a track pony after his racing career was over.

We went out with my instructor and a fizzy warmblood she's working with. Fizzy behaved remarkably well for himself. But he let out a couple of frisky hops in the deep snow. Huey eyed Fizzy suspiciously, but continued to plod sedately by his side. I patted my ugly Quarter Horse.

"Huey doesn't look handsome, but he does handsomely." I laughed.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

Armani and I went out with my instructor and her big bay. We rode through the wooded trails behind a neighbor's estate. The woods were quiet and dappled with reflected sunlight. Frequently, trees and ice creaked, sending showers of powder down on us.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

The 17.2hh big bay had an easier time striding through the snow. My little 15hh dark bay had to swim through snow over his knees.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

Armani was very well behaved. But he did grunt and complain vociferously. When we got back, we realized we'd been out for over an hour. No wonder Armani was so tired.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

- "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost copied from
- Discussion of poem's meaning at

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

This dressage test brought to you by...

I enjoy cooking. But some weeknights I ride Armani and Huey. I get home at 8. I go to bed by 10. So there isn't time to cook much. I really prefer making homemade spaghetti sauce but...

Do you think think they might be interested in an advertising partnership?

"Ragu, dinner for dressage divas."

Help me out here?