Monday, September 8, 2014

Join Us For A Sweet Soft Ride



 Howdy Friends!

Air so light it lifted leaves, spider webs, spirits and bird song. Kessy and I set out yesterday for day 9 of her (and my) restart. Her response to the past 3 weeks of ground work, release and relax exercises is amazing. Briefly I'd like to mention I'd been less than diligent about them for months before my cardiac adventure, and then of course the 4 months of my own rehab, while she looked just fine, she had regressed to a condition not of the best for her, or any horse. But these past 3 weeks have brought a wonderful transformation in her attitude, self awareness, and softness. I only share this because while it is true horses keep themselves in condition if allowed room to roam, have good nutrition and care, it is also true, we can, and I believe are obligated to, help them be even better.
Viewing the world from the best of all seats! Kessy is picking her way along the trail.
We had progressed to a 40 minute ride and enjoyed all her sweet gaits, and I noticed a new softness in her stride and response to cues. Softer even than before our hiatus. I've been mixing in a few exercises I had not been able to do with Kessy for some time because of my own health hiccups, and have become very excited at her responses. Each day she seems more nimble than the day before, and more thoughtful.

The sweet morning air had us gliding along listening to warbles and wrens; on Kessy's light-footedness we floated like bird song. There is a short trail we haven't visited since April that travels along a ravine loaded with wildflowers, birds and beauty. Having missed all the Spring flowers, butterflies and birds, I longed to see it this glorious morning. It was a bit farther, not by much, than I planned to take Kessy today, but the morning so sweet, Kessy so soft, I decided we would go.

We were not disappointed! The fall wildflowers were splendid, even a few butterflies sported their grace. Two busy turkeys ran the trail ahead of us. We paused to soak in the serenity of it all. Back up on the logging road Kessy slipped into her running walk. I could not resist cueing her left and right in a gentle sweeping slalom type course, just to enjoy her eagerness and response to the softest cue, and because it's another great exercise. She's always been great, but Saturday and yesterday I felt, even for her, a lighter, softer touch. I attribute it to the dedication to the exercises.

By my own restart schedule yesterday should have been a 45 minute ride, but our little excursion made it exactly an hour. We'll take today off ... except for the exercises.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Time For A "Tom Named By Horse" Update and another excerpt Pt 5

Howdy Folks, 
 
As promised I've been working on polishing and editing my novel, "Tom Named By Horse," a love story at its core. A story of young man's heart frozen by years of brutal abuse thawed by the tender touch of a young woman's spirit. An historical fiction set in 1865 Indian Territory, it also reflects the torment and confusion of its time. ~ I'm nearing the end of my final polish, and hope to have it published in 2 months. Working yesterday I decided to share this scene ... Tom has been injured and is recovering in Still Water's lodge. Still Water, Soft Cloud and Tom's friend Buck Hawkins are caring for him. Buck, an Army Scout has been dispatched to persuade Red Cloud to hold the peace. Still Water is a white woman, Tall Dog's wife and mother to Soft Cloud, by whom Tom is smitten ... Enjoy this scene from Chapter 35, it holds important true history.

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Kessy helping me edit
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        ''Red Cloud has said when the new grass comes he will move the village. He has become very troubled about the railroad. At council braves speak in favor of joining Tall Dog, this angers Red Cloud. He is also very worried, and knows he cannot stop the whites. His visions tell of great wars between the white man and his people. But Red Cloud also has visions of leaving peacefully with them. If the white man does not kill all the buffalo and does not build this railroad … Red Cloud can perhaps hold the peace.'' Still Water's eyes held the sadness and worry heavy in her heart.
  
''Red Cloud must convince his people not to fight, Still Water. The Indian nations can't win. The United States has just ended a great war with itself. I was part of that war. I know of the powerful weapons the Army can turn against the Indian nations. It will be the end of his people if they fight.''  Buck looked Still Water in her worried blue eyes and tried to convince her.
 ''The Sioux are very proud people and can be peaceful, but they can also be fierce warriors. I know them, and I know Red Cloud. I will tell you a story. The buffalo are sacred to all Sioux. Each time a white man kills for just the hide, or tongue, or just to kill, that buffalo cannot go to the next life. That weakens the Great Spirit. It also weakens the Sioux for the buffalo are the brothers and the sisters of the Sioux.
''To many times Red Cloud has seen the rotting bodies of dead buffalo which cannot go into the cloud that would welcome them into the next life. On the once happy prairie now lay the bones of too many lost buffalo. He knows the railroad will bring more whites who will kill more buffalo.
''Tall Dog knows this as well but unlike his father, Tall Dog cannot remember a time when the white man was not here. He and other younger braves grew up listening to grand stories about the times when the proud Sioux ruled over all this land and more. About time when Grandfather Mystery made the entire universe and Grandmother Earth taught the Sioux to use her for their needs. They heard the story of when Buffalo Calf Woman smiled on the Sioux and gave them their brother the buffalo, who give themselves so the Sioux may have food and hides for warmth and shelter. Now all things are threatened. Each time the braves who follow Red Cloud hear the stories of Tall Dog doing battle with the whites or killing white settlers they urge Red Cloud to join him.''
When Still Water finished Buck found he was overwhelmed. He knew the Sioux considered the buffalo their sacred brethren. But what he had not known was that Still Water might still admire Tall Dog. Watching her pretty face as she spoke of him told Buck that even though he had become a most vicious killer, and he had killed both their sons, she could still love him. Making matters worse, Buck was beginning to have feelings for Still Water. Not the silly playful urges that he would often have for women. No, what he felt for Still Water was much deeper.
''We're in quite a fix aren't we?'' Buck lamented as he handed Still Water the finished crutch for her inspection.
''This will be a great help to Tom as his leg mends.'' She spoke softly, not allowing her eyes to meet his.
In silence they walked to Still Water's lodge, each engrossed in their own thoughts about the future, the present and the past. Each worried about what they feared came next to the people of the prairie.
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Gitty Up, Dutch Henry


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

"I thanked Him for the splendor"



Howdy Friends!

Last night's thunderstorms scrubbed summer weary leaves to glossy, sparkling green. They shimmered and glistened, and let go great drops of captured water. In the gray light of morning's break, Kessy and I set out to gait. Soaked leaves smacked my face, painting assorted soggy dots on my hat and shirt. Red muddy puddles decorated the logging trail we've both missed too much these past months. No matter the goo to gait through, Kessy, in high spirits would not be held to a walk, but did agree to her world class flat walk. Day five of her, and our, restart only twenty minutes was the plan, but knowing the lay of the land, and where the most wildflowers grew, we stretched the agenda, a minute or two. Over Little Bear Bridge her bare feet clopped, and among blooms, butterflies and yellow birds we stopped. Pausing to take it all in, I thanked Him for the splendor, the beauty, my horse, my wife, our daughter and my life. 
Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Monday, September 1, 2014

"Pt 4 Restarting, Conditioning, and Great Exercises For Your Horse"



Howdy Folks,
 
I started this series when, with glee, I announced 2 weeks ago on facebook I'd be riding again on September 1 (today and truthfully, I rode yesterday, so we could get these pictures). I'd been sidelined 4 months with my cardiac adventure, and I briefly described my routine for getting my mare, Kessy, back in shape after our time off. A few friends asked what I do to restart a horse, so I figured it might make an interesting series.

This is the final installment of that 4 part series about restarting an idle horse. The first 3 parts discussed and demonstrated ground work exercises to release, relax and help create proper body carriage, posture and self awareness. The focus of this series is restarting a horse after time off, but these exercises are excellent any time, and I recommend them for every horse care givers routine. Many of them I do every time before I ride. Always. I do not believe in lunging as warm up, rather I do these exercises.
First ride after 4 months off, Kessy and Saturday are lovin' it! Me too! She really is walking, she's just walkin' big!
Some folks say horses in big pastures or in track system Paddock Paradise type living don't need to be restarted. In my opinion that's wrong. They may not be as out of shape as a stalled or small lot kept horse, but they are not fit to ride any sort of time or distance. If we want to be fair, safe and healthy. Sure we may get away with just tossing on the saddle and heading out for an hour or two ride after a horse has been idle a few months, not only is it not fair, but the damage we do will eventually catch up with us. And our horse.

It's important for the health of your horse to get them back in shape for rides; a horse loses its cardio fitness in about 30 days, muscles about the same, and tendon, bone in about 90 days. I started Kessy's restart 2 weeks ago with the carrot stretches, and shared them on our Coffee Clutch blog. Then for the past 10 days I've done each of the exercises we've discussed in parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series once a day, exactly in the order I showed them. 

The entire routine takes Kessy and me 30 minutes now. The first days it took 40 minutes, for even though she has a Paddock Paradise, she was somewhat out of shape. I even found stiffness in her neck and hind legs, not really noticeable by just watching her, but by golly the exercises sure brought it to light. She improved quickly and by days 5 and 6 was close to back to her limber self, but even this morning she told me her hind legs were not yet perfect.

Imagine had I simply tossed on the saddle and went merrily along for an hour's ride, without the days of restart exercises, the stress it would have put on tight muscles and tendons. Sure she'd have done what I asked because she trusts me and is trained to, but she'd not have enjoyed it, and the discomfort would have chipped away at her trust and enthusiasm. I wonder how many horses are disciplined and sent for training, or sold, because their owners misunderstood their expressions of discomfort for bad behavior.

So now we're back in the in the saddle and I'm taking in the world from the best seat God ever gave us. But we're still getting back in shape. Yea me too, but I'm not the important one here. We start with 15 minute rides every day for about a week. Some folks say that's silly for a horse that was as fit as Kessy before the idle time. But it's not.

There is much that needs to happen in those first rides back. Think about all the areas the tack touches, the big muscles along the spine, the girth area, even the headstall, all are out of shape and need to come back. And every part of her needs to readjust to carrying weight, her back, legs, muscles, bones, heart, lungs, tendons and feet. And her vascular system. So 15 minutes a day for about a week, preferably on a trail so it's not in a ring always turning, is the first step.

Oh and I reckon I should mention here, I'm not a fan of lunging, for exercise, or any reason, so that's why it's not part of our routine. Don't like round pens either, but that's a subject for another day. And yes, I believe even show horses are better served on the trail than the ring. In fact I believe for every hour in the ring there should be 2 on the trail.

 As I said, our first rides this week will be 15 – 20 minutes over the same course I walked for my cardio rehab. The following week we'll add time, about 10 minutes every other day, and mix in a little terrain change, and begin to ask for a little gaiting, about 3 – 5 minutes a time. 

The week after that we'll add more distance, a little more gaiting and more terrain change. By mid-week 4 we should be comfortably up to an hour with 15 – 20 minutes of gaiting. It takes about 30 days to get a horse minimally fit … when I trained for CTC and Endurance I learned it takes 60 days for cardio, 90 – 120 for muscle and a year for bone and tendon to condition.

All along I'll continue the exercises, and by the end of the month I can fine tune the exercises to the top-line exercises, pretty neck, the one step and rock back, which I do every time before I ride. I do the leg and circle pulls and the rest every now and then. Cool down, I'll do the top-line again.

So there you have it, the way I like to restart, or simply maintain a horse. Of course there's a lot more, but I gotta go ride, and you've probably had all of me you can take. Kessy and I hope you enjoyed this little series, and will incorporate these great exercises into your daily routine.
End of our first ride on the restart, we wish you happy trails!
Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry