Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Because I'm old and falling apart!"

That’s what Justice Thurgood Marshall barked at a reporter who asked him why he was retiring from the Supreme Court. These days, I understand what he meant. Various parts and portions of the corporation I inhabit get ever more creaky, achy and recalcitrant. The worst is my right hand; arthritis has set up shop there and the damn thing hurts. The middle finger, especially after a stretch of immobility, or in cold and damp, would really rather not bend, thankyouverymuch. Oh, you insist? “Clonk”. The joints themselves don’t have that knobbly look; the fingers aren’t warped into twisted caricatures; but the hand ain’t what it used to be, and as a proofreader making hundreds if not thousands of pen strokes daily, I need it to work well and (mostly at least) painfree.

Yesterday I saw a therapist (acupuncture/massage), and he nailed why that hand, the middle finger especially, is so messed up – it’s the way I hold a pen, which is not the normal way you all do, but rather a weird grip which puts excessive strain on the middle finger through the hand and wrist right up into the forearm. By the time he was done massaging and pressing and realigning and freeing up this and that, well, it was NO FUN to go through but that entire appendage felt a lot better. I departed with a topical treatment, exercise instructions, recommendations for gloves to keep the hand warm, and orders to change the way I hold a pen.

Change the way I hold a pen and have done since I first learned to write, back when we used Archaeopteryx feathers for quills.

In essence, relearn how to handwrite.

Yeh, right.

Starting with yesterday afternoon and evening’s proofreading jobs, I did so. Awkwardly. Clumsily. Slowly. Even using the fattest pens I could find, it was hard. But the writing got done – shaky at times, lopsided, with a lurch here and a tremor there – and it was readable.

Even if I had to scratch it out and rewrite it. And rewrite it again.

The fingers did stray back to their old familiar form now and then. But that hurt, which helped to snap me out of error. Then it was back to merely slow and ungainly.

Sigh. For a while, anyway, my handwriting is probably going to look like a third-grader’s attempts at learning cursive.* Still, it should be worth it (and far more legible) in the long run; and I’m already feeling the benefits.

Sucks to get old, doesn’t it?

* Which reminds me – did you know they make grips to help teach kids how to hold a pencil correctly? Like this:


Since my weird pen grip involves wrapping the index finger over top of the implement and curling back around it, with the middle finger jamming the pen onto my thumb, this thing might actually help me retrain.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

At some point I'll get it right

Today’s adventures in grazing muzzles:

I sliced the hole in Commander’s muzzle about a quarter to a third larger, muzzled both boys, and turned them loose. Ta-daa! Commander, with some determined muzzle-wriggling, was able to get enough grass to keep him trying. Ben was doing fine. Both boys rolled, then resumed grazing.

Encouraged, and wanting to encourage Commander, I opened the gate from the paddock to the field. They gleefully scurried out there and dove into the forbidden fruit, with some more rolling interspersed. I went back to mucking, checking occasionally. They stayed head-down in the grass, but in a bit returned to the paddock.

Some minutes later Commander trotted in, fed up with measly rewards and mass swarms of bugs. Even with his muzzle removed he chose to stay in the run-in, so okay, just stay out of the side I’m mucking, little guy. Ben stayed out, but now he was galloping about. Was he enjoying his freedom to run, from field to paddock to run-in and back out? Or........

No. No, this wasn’t playful racing; this was Ben whipping himself into a freakout, probably over that THING on his face he couldn’t get off. After a couple of circuits so jazzed that I didn’t dare try to catch him, he rammed into the run-in beside Commander and stood still, sweaty and panting, long enough for me to talk him down a bit, then sidle up and get the muzzle off.

Phew! That was it, all right. He calmed right down. I did a quick adjustment on the straps and put Ben’s on the mighty Morgan, then led the boys back out.

Ta-daaaaaaaaaaaaa!!! They both stayed out grazing, calm and contented, till I’d finished chores and brought their midday mini-mashes to the gate. Well, “calm” – Commander did do a lot of pawing, as if to hurry the reluctant blades into the muzzle hole, but otherwise he seemed much happier. The Ben muzzle has a more open weave on the nose and the hole is an oblong roughly an inch by two inches, so the air-to-nostril flow is better and a vigorous grass-gathering effort is well-rewarded.

So, are we there yet? A lot closer to what will work, anyway. On the way home I picked up a couple of fly masks for the boys:

A Crusader with ears for Ben -- it’s a mask he’s worn before and does well in.

An Absorbine Ultrashield fly bonnet for Commander -- with that design I should be able to put it on over the grazing muzzle, or under it, whichever fits better. I went for the earless because I figure he’s less bothered by flies than Ben and has enough other stuff on his head hassling him without earhats too.

So, tomorrow we’ll try the new configuration and see how it goes. With lower temperatures and humidity, I’m hoping it will go well.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Commander gets a new grazing muzzle

You all, my Dear Readers, may recall that my last attempt to use a grazing muzzle on Commander didn’t work out so well. It took no more than an hour for the thing to be destroyed. But I’d really like to let the boys have more time out on their grass paddock than the couple of 15-or-so-minute outings they’re currently getting per day, so I invested in a pair of muzzles – one for Commander, the other for Ben. Commander’s has a tiny central circular hole; Ben’s is oblong, larger, and should let him get more grass while still stopping him from tugging off the bottom of his buddy’s muzzle.

Today was the day I tried their new duds on the boys. First up was Commander.

He was PISSED! He knew exactly what it was and he was indignant when I put it on him! He kept twitching his head away or shoving it at me as I adjusted the thing, then when I walked away he came after me, trying to rub it off against the vicious cruel human (or maybe just knock me down so he could trample me to death in revenge). Then he went into the run-in and sulked.

Poor Ben just looked resigned and a bit befuddled when I put his on.

As it turns out, by the time I got to the barn and got them both muzzled, it was twilight and the mosquitos were buzzing. Neither horse was willing to spend any time out on the grass at all. I’d lead them out, they’d dip a muzzle into the grass, say “Screw this, I can’t get anything and the skeeters are swarming me” and bolt back to the run-in.

We’ll see how they do tomorrow midday. Normally when I let them out onto the paddock for a bit of grazing while I muck the run-in, they stay out for at least ten minutes before the various daytime insects harry them back into shelter. Will it still be worth their time to go out when they can’t gobble huge mouthfuls of grass?



At midday Friday, with muzzles on both, Ben happily nibbled away at what made it through to his busy lips and teeth. Commander got frustrated fairly soon, quite trying, and trotted back to the run-in. Ben kept grazing even without his buddy there.

I took off both muzzles and put Commander back out. He dove into the grass and greedily chomped away. This time it was Ben, bug-bugged, who broke away first to flee into the run-in. I had to go out to Commander and lead him back when it was time to end his grazing spree.

Saturday midday: Let both out without muzzles and allowed them to graze freely for a few minutes; then put the muzzle on Commander. He was pissed, circled me demanding I take it off, when I walked away tried halfheartedly to graze, then said the hell with it and stomped back to the run-in, where I did remove the offending device. When he found no food in his run-in stall he tromped over to the water trough, sloshed his face around, and threw an innocent bucket into the trough. I was going to lead him back out onto the paddock for a few more minutes, but Ben came galloping back and they both crammed into Ben's run-in stall for a feverish grooming, so that was it for the grass today.

I need to make the hole in his muzzle larger. And kill every insect in Essex County.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Today I Rode Commander!


For an entire minute!!!

Maybe two!!!!

And we both escaped unscathed!!!!!

Crazy, wild, dashing bravado on my part; stoic heroic endurance on his, it was.


Actually it was a contemplated impulse on my part. I’d been toying with the idea of backing him for the last week, seeing how comfortable he looks on a half-Previcox daily. Silly daydreaming, no more – then today, with cooler temperatures, lower humidity, and a cheerful Morgan who marched soundly over to me from the water trough (where he’d been busy playing before I arrived, to judge by the water dripping off his forelock) spurred me to just do it.

I grabbed helmet, bridle and crop, dragged the mounting block out from its weed-choked abandonment next to the barn, bridled my steed and brought him out to the driveway, and swung aboard.

Be darned if the little guy didn’t march right off, walking freely, smartly, and with no hesitation or discomfort. We slogged through the high grass into the overgrown ring and commenced striding across it. Alas, this stirred up clouds of tiny pesky flying nuisances to annoy and offend Commander. But despite irritated head flips, he kept marching.

Greatly daring, I tapped his flanks with my heels. He stepped right into a short choppy trot . His normal short choppy trot. We jogged along for several strides: Commander, head up, head tossing, body saying “Sure, why not? How far, how fast?” Me, laughing, trying to steer my wandering steed more or less straight while trying to stay centered on the broad wiggly bare back under my wobbly self.

After a few seconds of such hair-raising excitement I rein-and-seat-tweaked the mighty Morgan back to a walk, exited the bug-infested ring, and slid off, still laughing. Commander looked pleased and proud. As well he should!

Where do we go from here? Not far, not fast. I want to see if he still looks as good when I go back to do evening chores, and tomorrow too; I want to see down the road a bit if I can take him off the Previcox entirely, or must maintain him on it indefinitely; and I for darn sure would like to see fewer bug swarms when next I try taking him for a ride.

But this was very, very encouraging. For both of us.