Monday, February 11, 2008

Our First Clinic

The sun shone on Synergy Stables in Junction City last Saturday! Yes, the sun was out, and we had a sunny, good time for our first official clinic with gaited clinician Gina Gardner. I might live through my first winter in the Willamette Valley after all!

Despite a serious hustle of work to get ready for our clinic and a power outage the night before that delayed printing out the liability releases, checking last minute emails, etc., all went smoothly on our clinic day. It was a small clinic, with only four horses/riders, plus an auditor, as we needed to make sure we fit comfortably and safely in our small, indoor arena (because we were sure it was going to rain).

Everyone arrived in good spirits, and all the horses behaved wonderfully. Gina got the group started with analyzing everyone’s horse and riding, and finding out what folks needed and wanted to work on. She changed out a bit for one horse/rider, which seemed to help immensely.
After the lunch break, the weather was still beautiful, so we moved out to our large outdoor arena.

Daughter Jerri jumped into the clinic with her leased Spanish Mustang (the one she is using to practice trotting and posting…argh!), and as the session was wrapping up, I grabbed July, one of my wonderful Paso Finos, to join the last hour of fun riding, trading horses, and chatting.

Jerri and I are excited to get our activities under way at Synergy Stables. We have both organized clinics before, and I have hosted Gina in Alaska three different times, but this was that first wonderful time to host a clinic at our own facility. We hope to promote gaited horses as well as natural horsemanship, with a real focus on education and knowledge to help us with our horses.

Thanks to Gina Gardner for another great clinic. And thanks to Meg, Sarah, Maggie, Julianna, and Harris for their participation. We look forward to seeing you again at Synergy Stables. Thanks also to our great horses at Synergy Stables. Lucero gave Maggie a nice ride and Precious helped Julianna keep learning. Without our horses, where would we be?
More sunshine to come (Did someone whisper spring?) And why are all those frogs singing at night at this time of year?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Winter Wonderland

It is snowing at Synergy Stables in Junction City, Oregon! Snow isn't big news in the general scheme of winter weather, but this part of Oregon doesn't get much snow. It rains here and rains and rains in the winter. Ugh. But today Junction City looks much like Anchorage, Alaska. The horses and I feel right at home. It is beautiful, and I celebrate all of nature's beauties. Today is our "sneak preview" open house at Synergy Stables. The weather and road conditions will probably discourage all but the most hardy, but we'll plan to have fun anyway.

When I started blogging (then fizzled out) a year ago, it was winter in Alaska, and I was inspired to share our stories of riding in the snow, winter riding tips, and all about shoes and Easy Boots with studs to help with winter riding. (See 2007 blog posts). The irony of this snow is that I probably won't be riding in it. Underneath the snow, the ground is soft, with mostly mud. We had frozen ground for a few days with quite cold temperatures by Oregon standards (20's...pipes froze briefly, but that's another story).

Yesterday, we thawed out and it rained and rained and rained (yes, I think there are always three "and it rained."). So, bottom line, trails are too muddy to ride, even with the snow, although over time, as I get to know the area, there may be places that work for winter trail riding. Paso friends up the road ride during the winter on logging roads, but they are heavy on gravel and my horses are barefoot for the winter.
So, I would love to ride in this snow, but will probably have to enjoy the snow from my vantage in front of the fire or on my walk to the barn. Either way, I feel right at home.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Alaska Paso Finos Fly South

We have been in Junction City, OR for three months and 10 days!!! But...who's counting? We have been living our new adventure, after traveling 3,200 miles from Anchorage, Alaska to Junction City, via Whidbey Island, WA, and a side trip to Paso, WA. My three Paso Fino horses, Lucero, July, and Moreno, and I made the big trip, starting on October 1, 2007 and landing at our new farm in Junction City on October 14, 2007.

I have neglected this blog for almost a year, but I hope to revive it with tales of our adventures from Alaska to Oregon and to share our new adventures at Synergy Stables where daughter Jerri and I are looking forward to many wonderful times together.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Slosh & Freeze

Right now our weather is on the warm side for this time of year. Last Friday, we had record warm temperatures in the 40's. Lots of sun today so it felt like spring is just around the corner...but we can't get too hopeful. This is still early February.

But we scooped the poop off the snow today, worked on fence repair and kissed a few noses. No riding today, as one of the gang has a shoe off, and we have some icy conditions.

As we did our barn work, I thought about the first blog I wrote, just a few weeks ago as a "guest blogger" for my daughter, Jerri. I wrote about watering your horses in cold weather. That is such an important topic because a good water supply is so vital to a horse's good health -- summer or winter.

Let's revisit that blog by hopping over to Jerri's site and checking out the best practices that I have found for keeping your horse hydrated in cold temperatures, with a few side bar comments about horse keeping in cold weather.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tips for Smooth Riding in the Snow

Here are some tips that we have found helpful for riding in the snow:
The condition of your horses’ feet and proper “footwear” for your horse is critical for a safe ride. Horses are quite sure footed in deep snow without shoes, but riding on ice is dangerous.
Last year we used Easy Boots with studs on the horses’ front feet. They provide wonderful traction, although they can create pressure or rubbed spots on your horse’s heels if you ride too many hours in them or put them on incorrectly. Occasionally we lost one, but generally if they fit correctly and are put on correctly, they stay put and are a wonderful product. Getting the hang of getting them on, especially in cold conditions took a little doing, but with practice we got better and faster. Our horses were barefoot all last winter with regular trimming every 8 to 12 weeks. Easy Boots over shoes is pretty challenging to get the right fit, and I wouldn’t recommend it.

This year we are using ice shoes on the front feet only. My farrier prepares the ice shoes by adding borium to the heels and toes of the shoes in small drops to create traction. Horses must also have a suitable pad to prevent the build up of snow in the foot. There is a solid pad with a raised bubble that works wonders in keeping the horse’s hoof clear of snow at all times.

There is also a pad that follows the pattern of the horse shoe, but leaves the center of the foot and the frog exposed. We have this pad on one of our horses, and it has worked well also. Generally this pad works well, but sometimes it is not as effective depending on the shape of the foot. The advantage of this pad is that is allows the foot to breathe.

With the really deep snow this year, we are using splint boots, just to give the horses a little more support as they work their way through the snow. They stay on fine, even in deep snow.

Dress warmly so you can be comfortable and enjoy your ride. It takes a lot of experimenting with the right socks, boots, gloves, hats, pants, etc. to get the right combination for you. As in all sports, layering is a good approach. I have found silk sock liners and glove liners to be an excellent choice, as well as thin wool. Good quality winter riding boots that fit safely in the stirrups are a must. We love the Mountain Horse Rimfrost Winter Paddock or Ice Rider Tall Winter boot. Dover Saddlery is one source for Mountain Horse Boots. Grab one of the thin helmet “beanies” from a sporting good store that sells snowboarding and skiing helmets to wear under your helmet. They are wonderful.

Be sure to care for your horse properly after your ride. Towel them in the sweaty areas, brush the snow and ice off the belly and legs, and have a good wool or poly cooler handy for them to wear for a couple of hours while they dry off. I don’t blanket my horses in the winter, except for below zero conditions, but I always use a cooler after a winter ride.

Carry your cell phone, lip balm, tissues, and extra glove liners in a small fanny or saddle pack. Good communication is a must in an emergency.

Enjoy your horse and your friends and family who ride with you. It is a privilege to ride in the snow and share such a unique and exhilarating experience!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Smooth Riding in the Snow

We rode in the snow today and yesterday and last weekend and the weekend before. It is a wonderful experience to ride your horse down the trail in a winter wonderland. Although I have lived in Alaska for over 30 years and owned my horses here for eight years, I don’t have a lot of experience riding in the snow. Last year was the first winter that we rode a lot in the snow, and this winter has been spectacular for snow riding.

Alaska winters in the Anchorage area are not brutal by any means. Many states have colder winters and heavier snowfall. Our biggest challenge is a wide variety of conditions. While this has been true to some extent the entire time I have lived here, it has become more pronounced in the last five plus years, as “global warming” has been working its magic. Global warming is no joke in the North Country.

As we plan for winter riding, we face a number of conditions that can put a damper on our plans. Anything less than 10 degrees is pretty nippy. Worse than that, are periods of warming into the 30’s followed by rain or freezing rain, then dropping temperatures, creating icy conditions that challenge even the best of ice shoes.

This winter we have been treated to record heavy snowfall and many weeks of temperatures ranging from 15 degrees to the high 20’s, which has made for spectacular winter riding conditions. The footing in these conditions is great. We are fortunate to live right next to designated horses trails and can ride out of the driveway onto the trails and entertain ourselves for several hours. The trails are not groomed, generally, although Steve, the local trail ride and sleigh ride guy, does do some trail maintenance. The trails are generally maintained simply by use. They get some horse traffic in the winter, along with a few cross country skiers, and some hikers and dog walkers. No motorized vehicles are allowed. Yeah!

Our three Paso Finos love to get out for riding and are enthusiastic in the snow, moving right through the deep spots and pushing ahead. As the trails get beaten down and packed, the going is easier for the horses, but in deeper areas or where they are punching through the crust, it is A LOT OF WORK for the horses. They work up a sweat and breathe hard, so we take it easy and don’t push too much.

So, for those of you who live in snow country or near opportunities to ride in the snow, make the most of it. Horses love to canter in the snow, and although we love "gaiting" our gaited horses, cantering through the snow is exhilarating and fun for horse and rider. And...don't forget that wonderful cup of hot chocolate or other favorite hot beverage when the ride is done.

Next blog: tips for riding in the snow.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Mary and Jerri -Sharing the Paso Fino Passion

As a kid growing up in Missouri, I rode horses flying down the country roads and through the fields and the woods, loving the power beneath me and sharing that terrific partnership with my horse. I rode mostly alone, sharing the horse hobby mainly with my mother. I read horse books and magazines, my mother and I attended horse shows just to learn and observe, and when the budget allowed, I had those few magical riding lessons that I remember to this day.

When I "got back to horses" after some 20 years without them, I didn't really think that I needed any "horse friends" or to share my hobby with anyone. There is a great pleasure for me in just communicating with my horse, and I thought that was all I needed. While it is true, that I love just being with my horses, in this phase of my life I have discovered the joy of sharing my horses and my passion with others.

My greatest joy is sharing the Paso Fino Passion with my daughter, Jerri ( We didn't have the privilege of having horses when she was growing up, but she joined me in the Paso Fino world some six years ago, and her development as a horse woman has been amazing.

My daughter Julia has also become an accomplished horsewoman, and we have shared some beautiful moments as well on the horses, but at this point in her life, horses are not a central focus.

And...I have made wonderful horse friends as well. Sharing the horses and the horse passion has been the central focus, but without exception my "horse friends" have become my friends as well, sharing our hopes and dreams and concerns as we ride the trails, work in the clinics, and scoop the poop.

Share your horses and you share yourself!