Tuesday, September 30, 2008

No trade. Now back to Horse Porn

Well, after considerable thought and realizing that the horse I was considering trading for was way, way too thin, I'm back where I started from.

I've accepted the idea that I've got to sell Canyon and find a horse with a calmer disposition. Canyon reminds me of Goose as he's described on GNH (a bit of the ways down on the post I've linked too). That's just not a horse for a 10 year old. And since we can have only one...

So I'm surfing horse porn again. You know, when you spend hours looking at horses for sale even though you've got PLENTY to deal with and the dishes are in the sink calling.

Domesticity has never been my strong suit. And I've got lots of dishes. It'll take us a week to run out of options.

Here's a few lookers I'd love to shake a carrot at. Opinions anyone?

http://www.keithranches.com/Sally.html (even though I'm not a mare person I'm already in love with this horse. Something about buckskins, I think)

and even this one, although he's foundered in the past...

But the reality is I can't look at anything until I find Canyon a good home. So up he goes on all the usual sites again.

In the meantime, I'm working on his courage issues. We were on a trail ride at Guadalupe state park (where we had the great escape, remember?) with a woman who teaches kids to ride. Here were these girls, from about 8 to 12, all riding horses, all on bareback pads, riding without bits, just curb chains going through the halter. I think they are curb chains...

Anyway, every time the horses came across something that bothered them, they all went up to the object to sniff it. It was amazing to watch all these horses gathered around a deer blind, some sticking their nose right in. I got to thinking that if I could do this repeatedly with Canyon he might not have as many freak outs. He was by far the most high spirited and nervous horse on the trail ride (although he behaved very well on the Canyon scale).

So, while I've got him, I'm going to try to get him to be a sniffer. Today we sniffed a barbque pit and it didn't eat us. Same with the big chairs made out of willow, although they did creak.

Next week we'll work on the sprinkler on the tripod. That thing is really scary.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bailout Bucket (will hold part of $700 Billion Dollars)

Okay, the only thing I'm saying about this situation is this.


(It used to hold horse supplements. See? There IS a connection.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

How long will I be riding?

Here's the answer:

I'm with you, Connie.

Selling, trading, and the horse market

As a million horse bloggers will tell you, the market for horses is not so great these days. So now that I've decided to sell Canyon, I have to face the fact that it's not a good time for this.

Something about a recession, stock market crash, worst financial meltdown since (or possibly including) the Great Depression.


Anyway, I'm prepared for it to take a while, but I had been talking to a woman about a possible trade. I suspect she's got a customer already looking for a Pintabian and Canyon is certainly a flashy looking one. She's talking to me about a trade for a flea bitten gray/silver arabian that is very mellow. We've been going back and forth, but once I'd decided this was the direction I was going to go, I called her and we arranged for a trail ride with her horse, Canyon and an extra one. The idea was for Sierra to ride the horse in question, I'd ride her extra horse.

I'm getting pretty philosophical about horses lately, having seen them come and go at our stables. My nature is to keep an animal for it's entire life and it's been strange to see so many horses moved around like cars. I certainly hope this will be our last change, because we all get attached.

(this photo is NOT the horse we're looking at, but it looks like this horse in terms of color. Why do people love horse butts? I know, its a conformation thing, but I hate these tail end pictures...)

We tried out several different horses before we jumped in and bought Canyon. One was a dominatrix mare (okay, maybe not, but she was pretty tough going), one suddenly started pulling back and rearing whenever he was tied up, one was safe to ride but liked to bite children, and then Canyon came with more vertical lift than I was looking for. So it's almost been enough to make me think kids shouldn't even be on these things. Then some people were over with their mare that a 6 year old was cantering on bareback and I realized - girl, you've got the wrong horse.

Now seeing my daughter Sierra on that gray horse, her confidence back, high on the idea of riding again, the fear gone, I realized right then that I will do anything, even give up our flashy boy, to see her rebuild her confidence on horseback again. She does love horses. She just needs a chance on one that's not so tough to deal with.

I can get infatuated with any horse. I fuss over them, learn everything I can, take diligent care of them, get them fancy shoes and oatmeal baths when they are itchy.

But to have my eldest daughter back in the saddle - that's the kind of horse we need.

The only challenge - is this an even trade? This horse is leaner than I'm used to seeing, but is trained so well he shifts gaits on leg pressure alone. He's got great brakes and a good, gentle motor. He collects, rides nicely. My horse is flashier IMHO, an "easy keeper" that only needs 2.5 pounds of grain a day to stay nice and fat. My horse was $3k. I have no idea what this horse is worth, but it is an arabian, is flashy in a different way. Pretty lean and sounds like it's not because he's not being fed a significant amount of grain. I see a much higher food bill in my future.

But, man, this horse is CALM.

When both the horse I was on and Canyon (ridden by the other woman) spooked at a lizard in the grass, he just looked interested and alert. Maybe in the old days he would have been eaten by the lion with such a laizze faire nature. But these days, he's worth his weight in gold. Or Silver, since that's his name.

So we shall see, we still have talking to do about the whole thing...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Help Horses Hurt by Hurricane

Hurricane Ike did tremendous damage - and horses on Galveston and on a rescue ranch took a very hard hit.

Here's something from a blogger in the area:
I learned last night that there are at least 100 horses still on Galveston Island in Texas needing food and water in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. They have moved an additional 23 horses to a staging area in Santa Fe, Texas. It’s no surprise that one of the people who is coordinating this effort is Jerry Finch, founder of the equine rescue organization, Habitat for Horses.

You can read more here.

Here's the 9/16 update from Jerry Finch:

As of today, HfH has retrieved around 20 horses from Galveston island and brought them to the staging area at Jack Brooks Park. While most are in good health a number of the horses are dehydrated and highly stressed. Because of the horses highly stressed condition, the vet is requiring the horses to be held for 48 to 72 hours to be stabilized. During this holding period the horses will be treated for any cuts and small wounds. All horses will receive tetanus and have a coggins pulled before leaving the staging area.
We continue to take feed and hay to those horses left in the care of others. This is going to continue tomorrow. We have had various reports of small herds of horses on the island, those that have been verified are being cared for by long time local island residents...

Pass the word on, we need to help!

Riding with HIM

When I first took up this hobby/obession of horseback riding again, I had this vision of all of us on the trail, riding in far away places, having fun as a family.

Then when everyone saw how much work it was, then it was hot, then there were the bucking incidents, then there was all the manure...

Well, suffice it to say, it very quickly it dwindled down to me.

There's been a bit of a comeback with Mireya wanting to ride and she's always up for a trip to the stables.

But the biggest change happened last week. Adam rode Woody.

Woody is that horse at the stables that I always thought of as the perfect horse for him. He's big, has wavy mane and tail, black, beautiful and strong. Adam is a big guy, needs a stout horse with some fire to ride. Woody is also Canyon's partner in the great escape.

At the same time, Woody is very safe. Sure he's got some issues, but overall he's a safe ride. When he came up for sale, I was second in line to buy him. Behind Rudy, my fellow horse geek.

What's nice is that Rudy is sharing Woody and let Adam ride him the other day.

That's all it took. Adam was hooked. Which is wonderful, because as much as I love riding, I'm not crazy about riding alone.

Of course we can't go overboard "borrowing" Woody. But I think I've convinced Adam that two horses is a very good idea.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Great Escape PART TWO

(If you missed part one, you can read it here)
Photo: does this look like a guy that would pass up a decent patch of grass?

So, as I was saying in the last post, the horses were nowhere to be seen.

Sharon looked around and said out loud what I didn't want to say.

"We'll never find them in this."

There was no question she was right. Thick Hill Country scrub, visibility 20 feet in most places. There was no way we were going to find them in this kind of woods, not to mention we stood a very good chance of getting lost ourselves.

She kept walking along the power line and I headed back to the truck to go to the ranger station.
"Did you find them?" asked the woman at the entrance.

"No," I said. "We're going to need some help."

She nodded, and said they were gathering up some additional help. She told me about the guy in the parking lot that could have caught them right then and there and I tried not to go out and strangle the guy. Good thing her description was vague. I pulled the truck and trailer over to wait in the parking lot.

Sharon came back to the truck and said the second thing I didn't want to say out loud. "Girl, we know better than that. What were we thinking?"

Thinking? Maybe that they'd be sensible little horsies and just eat, for goodness sake. This is what happens when you are used to training dogs. No halfway decent dog would ever, ever leave a perfectly good steak dinner just to run loose for the heck of it.

But, as I should know by now, horses are so not like dogs.

Yes, it was clear. Sharon and I had channeled Lucy and Ethel, western style. Thank goodness Ricky and Fred (aka her spouse and mine) weren't around to witness it all.

We hooked up with the man who seemed to be the chief ranger for the park and he lead another ranger and myself back to the gate while Sharon tried to buy something cold from the park machine.

As is my nature, I calmed my panic with small talk and a little 'please tell me I'm not the only idiot you've had to deal with' spiel.

"So," I said, attempting to sound casual, "has this happened before?"

"Once since I've been here," he said. "A woman was riding a pretty green horse. She was thrown and the horse took off. We had to find him."

I was relieved. It had happened before, and I knew Rangers moved around a bit. He'd probably only been here a year or two. Then, like an idiot, I asked the next question. "Really? How long have you worked here?"

"Six years."

Great. Just great. I should have stopped when I thought I was ahead.

His theory was that the horses were probably following the fence line, by passing pasture after pasture searching for... well, a barn, I imagined.

"Horses are like water," said the Ranger. "They pick the spot of least resistance."

Sounded like a plan to me.

We met back up with Sharon, who was walking back along the power line (which is regularly cleared of trees and shrubs), and a second ranger who had driven down the same area in hopes of cutting off the horses before they got that far. We looked around and just past the spot where the truck had been, I spotted something odd. Flattened grass in a long narrow strip heading for the fence line.

It looked like someone had dragged something long and thin over that grass. Like a lead rope. Or two.

Now we had a trail we could follow.

For the next hour (I think it was an hour, who knows) we were like some sort of CSI meets Tonto TV show, finding broken branches, marks on rocks, knocked over cacti, and even horse manure, hot on their trail. At one point I asked how big the park was.

"Oh, about 4,000 acres."

"Wow." I said in a sort of squeak of despair. 4,000 acres of rock, cactus and scrub. These horses had trotted through all of this brush and rock, the same terrain that we'd spent two hours earlier in the day gingerly trying to lead them around ON A TRAIL. Now they were apparently barreling through it like it was a golf course.

"I swear," Sharon said, "I'm not worrying about them walking on rocks ever again."

We followed the fence line, which, thank god, was nicely maintained by the ranch next to the park. The entire time we are praying that we'll find them. But somehow I've gotten caught up in the excitement. And it kepts getting funnier to me, for some reason. Sure I'm terrified that they are going to be hurt, but something about the calm attitude of the Rangers helping us, the hike through real wild country (I'm a stick-to-the-rules-and-the-trail kind of hiker), and the fact that we seem to be actually able to track them, I'm gung ho.

We turn a corner and suddenly there they are. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid of horses. They are looking at us like "Boy, are we glad you found us. Where the heck have you been?"

I'd been so worried that they'd bolt again when they saw us, that I'd brought some horse cookies, which are generally my 'wash rack only' treat. But both horses looked so relieved, I think they would have given US the horse cookies and all the grass we could eat if we just promised to get them out of there.

Canyon was missing his rope halter and lead rope completely (now I have an excuse to get that cool yacht rope one I've always wanted), so I took off the lead rope from Woody and made it into a temporary halter. Then Sharon and I and the rangers began the l-o-n-g walk back to the trail head. During the hike, even the rangers got a little turned around.

I was particularly concerned when they were using a vulture to signal our position. It was a long, long walk. During that time, I learned that one Ranger used to be in telecommunications before realizing he wasn't happy and joined the park service. We got a bit of a nature lesson on lace cactus (while Sharon was ready to kill me. Did I mention my small talk thing?) and persimmons.

They say you should, on occassion, just walk your horse for bonding purposes. If that's the case, then Canyon should have felt superglued to me by that point. I felt like we were leading a pair of first graders back from the principal's office. They were relieved, bewildered, and happy to be with us, no matter what trouble they'd gotten into.

When we'd made it back to the truck (maybe two hours since the initial horse departure), both horses practically leaped into the trailer, didn't take a bite of hay and seemed to be pretty ... well, embarrassed, actually. You know, it's like when you talk big about all the fun you're going to have when you're a teenager, how you are going to stay up all night and toast the sunrise, then wake up realizing there's drool on your pillow and you must have crashed about 10:30 pm.

After profusely thanking the rangers (photographed here with one crazy gelding, Sharon's in the background thinking of how we're going to tell Rudy about all this), we drove back, relieved that no one got hurt, and laughed so hard at how dumb we'd been that I had tears streaming down my face.

Besides learning that you tie your darn horse, period, I did learn another important lesson, one I really need for this stage in my life. You see, we've had a lot of stress with our business lately. Things have looked pretty bleak and we've got some hurdles to clear.

But you know what? You can't give up when it looks impossible. You have to be willing to go and ask for help. As a woman who has been used to handling things independently quite often (by my own choice, not because I'm forced to), it's a good life lesson for me to learn.

I'll be calling the Park tomorrow to get their email address and the names of the Rangers who were so good to us. I'll tell you one thing. I'm sure glad I bought that park pass. Those folks were really well worth it!

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Great Escape

PART ONE: It started out so well.

photo : before the Great Escape

Once a month I get a day off from Mommyhood and get a full day to be self indulgent with horses. So far our group at the stables has taken three all day trail rides and this last Sunday we were set for the fourth. Sharon (who owns the stables and is our daughters' official adopted grandmother) and I were on our own this trip and decided to try out a new place to ride - Guadalupe State Park.

I've been to the park many times, once for a picnic and photo session, another time for a Halloween community party. (We also had our truck fill up with bees once, but that's another story.)

It's a great park, but I never knew it had equestrian trails. Sharon was set to ride out on Rudy's new horse, Woody/Woodrow, since one of her mares is pregnant and the other has a colt running at her heels.

We were also fortunate that we met up by chance with Jennifer Hamlett who has been to the stables a few times and was out there on a photo shoot. She was sweet enough to take pictures of us on our horses, and after feeling a little extra self indulgent posing there for a professional photographer, we rode off.

We had a great two hour ride in the park. We got lost, confused by a numbering system that didn't even exist on our map. The dotted line looked nothing like the dozens of twists and turns we were on. It's also pretty rocky terrain in places, and we gingerly tried to steer our horses around the worst patches like they were a pair of ballerinas instead of 1000 pound animals that wear steel on their toes. Still, it was beautiful as you can see in the photo above - that's Sharon with Woody.

Canyon did really well, although he wasn't too crazy about the asphalt part of the trip. It took a little convincing for him to get past the point the trail crosses the park road. But other than that it was just perfect. We got back without incident, jazzed about the beautiful ride.

Then we...

Well, see, there was all this grass, and we had already taken their saddles off, got them some water and were trying just to put stuff up. Sharon had her lead rope down and I thought, well, I just need to start the truck...

Okay. Here's the deal. It was hot and we were pretty hungry and tired ...

I mean there was all this gorgeous grass! Why would you, if you were a grazing kind of guy, the kind of guy that leaves your head buried in the hay rack all day, every day, until you had a huge grass belly, why would you even consider ...

Suffice it to say, I forgot one of my favorite sayings: Trust in Allah, but tie your camels at night. Apparently this applies to day time and horses, too.

Before I even made it to the truck door, Canyon took his head out of that yummy grass, looked over toward the road and started to trot off. Then Woody lifted his head, looked at Canyon, shrugged, and trotted after him.

We ran after them, calling. They responded by trotting away from us. Faster.

(I'd like to point out that both of these horses are very easy to catch, come right up to you in the pasture. I've never had to chase either of them down.)

I ran back to the truck and tried to catch up to our crazy geldings as Sharon tried to run after them. For a brief moment it looked like it would all be over. They actually came up to a guy in the parking lot, but since Canyon was high stepping and acting so nervous, the guy declined to pick up the lead rope. By the time we got there it was too late. Canyon and Woody were headed toward the park exit, trotting down the road, dragging their very long lead ropes behind them. Aren't they suppose to STEP ON THOSE THINGS?

I couldn't get it out of my head that this was the same horse I had to turn three times to get him to even CROSS the road an hour earlier. Suddenly he was Mr. Asphalt Runway.

We drove down the road trying to spot them. We got to the gate and were told by a pick up truck full of tubers that they had veered off the road back into the woods, possibly discouraged by the cattle guard at the park entrance.

Right then my heart sank. These are thick scrub woods of the Texas Hill Country, visibility in most places is about 20 feet. You can get turned around in a second. We jumped out and ran into the woods, but there was absolutely no sign of them.

They were gone.

Photo: Juniper, Live Oak, Cedar and cactus. And enough rock to break a leg on.

(Tomorrow, PART TWO)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Versatile Horse

Ever since Canyon showed himself to be a more... challenging horse... I've been thinking of selling him. We are at a stage in our life where the reality is that we can only afford one horse. And it doesn't really work if I'm the only one who can ride him.

Granted, my youngest can ride him, but that's only at a walk and only with me leading him around.

I know the horses you can put a six year old are few and far between, but I've seen a few of them lately. And it's made me think about what my kids are missing by us having a horse that's a little too hot for them to ride on their own.

We talked for a while about getting another horse, one that everyone else could ride and I'd keep Canyon for myself. I can get him to behave. He's great on the ground, sweet with the kids in many ways. At this point I can keep him under control and he's getting better, good enough I think a conscious rider will do well with him. If you know what you're doing (which I am slowly grasping) you can keep him in a good place.

But if my older daughter's riding him, he tests her. And once he know he can get away with anything, he starts to act up. It's shaking her confidence and while she still loves him, she won't ride him after his last bratty behavior where he gave her either a buck or a cow kick (I'm not sure which, I was trying to make sure no one drowned in the horse trough).

I sat for over an hour with another horse woman talking about this. I mean, I love this horse. But no where near as much as I love my kids. And I don't really want a horse all to myself all the time. She hit the nail on the head when she said it. Even if I have more than one horse, I want them all to be more versatile.

We are not barrel racing. We aren't team penning. We aren't doing hunter jumper or dressage. We want to trail ride, maybe do a parade or two. A fun game at the arena, but we aren't looking for blue ribbons and trophies. We're not particularly competitive by nature.

So as much as it pains me I'm going to start to look for a home for him. He's a great horse, in the wrong home.