Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Thing about Poultry

I am looking for a saddle (I know, I know. I'm crazy) so I'm tooling around on craigs list and I come across this:

Free Rooster (Hutto)
Date: 2010-03-29, 5:23PM CDT
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

If you are brave enough to come catch my rooster you can have him for free.
He is mean and the kids are scared of him, he is 10 months old.

Gosh. All the chickens on blogs looks so cute! Is there natural chickenship for rooster training?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Spring Break Report

(this was from last week... Now it's over. Sigh.)

Spring break finally has perfect timing.

Here at our house we hadn’t really adjusted to the day light savings time thing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the good Lord, had he wanted us up this early, would turn the lights on.

But now it’s Spring Break! A week of not getting up during o’dark thirty !

Now we can sleep in every single day this week – because, wisely, we are without a plan. In fact, we never have big plans during spring break. We’re not the “travel somewhere exotic” kind of family. We’re more of a “isn’t it nice not to have to go somewhere” kind of family. We revel in the freedom from schedules, appointments, and routine.

Only during spring break are we never late for anything. We don’t check watches. We lounge around in the morning and breakfast disappears completely – replaced by brunch, a much more reasonable alternative.

During spring break, bedtimes are tossed out the window and we stay in our Pjs for at least one entire day.

Or, if you’re a fashionista, you get to change clothes more often.

Yes, Mireya, who at seven is thrilled with the idea of getting to do “whatever you want for a few hours” is taking full advantage of the situation. Which is to say, she’s wearing multiple outfits throughout the day and lobbying for bringing out the spring wardrobe box.

Sierra, on the other hand, a more mature 11, is happy with the double allotment of goldfish crackers, Pjs all day, and a perpetual ponytail instead of a new hairstyle every morning.

Already we’ve had our first adventure – the indoor dog wash.

It was still a little chilly to wash the dogs outside, so, thanks to tag team begging/pestering, the girls gave two of our three dogs a bath in the shower (the big dog shrewdly hid under the table). Mireya was thrilled to break out a bathing suit, Sierra was happy to be doing something that was both dog related and potentially messy.

Both bathed dogs, of course, were horrified by the entire experience – particularly the post bath outfits (a Scarlet O’Hara-esqe gown and a Tux shirt. Seriously). At this point neither dog is willing to walk into the bathroom, even for a hot dog bribe.

Hopefully the cat has taken note and is hiding out until Monday.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pictures I keep meaning to post

Not so great cell phone pictures, but still, it's spring.

Our mountain laurels are going absolutely crazy, the air smells so sweet you feel like you have a grape jolly rancher in your mouth.

Our obstacle course time. Lily at a trot. Look at my girl! Doesn't she look good on her mare?

The backing of Lily through the bushes.

And this is my dream horse. Little Smokey. Isn't he cute? He's the sweetest horse. Too young for me, though, way too green. But I love him anyway.

He's here for training and he's for sale. Hopefully I can see him being ridden soon.

How is spring at your barn?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wind, ears, and new reins

What an incredible spring day. Chamber of commerce weather, as we used to say when I worked for the Chamber of Commerce.

Mid 70s. Light breeze with occasional gusts. Jewel blue sky.

After a morning of chores, Sierra and I headed out for our third ride. This is unprecedented. It's all I can do to convince her to go with me once. But three times?


Cibolo was still reluctant when I went to pull him out, but this time we didn't have to go rounds. He turned and faced me relatively quickly when I cut him out. It's still not like it was - he would come up to me a month ago. I suspect his feet are tender without shoes.

I got him into the alleyway and did a bit of T-touches with him. Since it was windy and since I was clearing off some books earlier in the day, I found my tellington training book, which I'd bought some time ago. I looked up "hard to catch" and "spooks" and one suggestion was to do ear touches. Basically it's two mini massages - one from the poll to each ear tip, and one going around the ear (up from the front base, around the ear and down toward the jowl.

I did both ears and Cibolo dropped his head, closed his eyes and sighed. For the entire ride he didn't spook in the wind. He wasn't particularly forward, but no balking, or barn sour. (Not that we're pushing it much. We've been staying by the barn since we know they are sore - if either starts limping I'd rather not have a 5 mile hike back home.)

I really need to do those touches more often. Not sure if it kept him from spooking, but he was definitely more relaxed than he'd been in days.

Today Sierra was ready to do more cantering. We were just doing short bits yesterday, just warming up the horses. Today, Lily was ready to do more and that's when it got a bit crazy. Since Lily can get chargy, I cantered Cibolo in front of Sierra and Lily. His canter is half a speed up from a trot, really.

That worked until the fourth and final run, when, at the end, I pulled Cibolo over to the side to slow down and Lily just went around us. Sierra pulled back on the reins, but Lily kept at her canter. Sierra kept her head and sat deep, knowing Lily was heading to an area where she'd have to slow down because of the fence line. I didn't really worry, we all know this about our mare. Lily enjoys getting some speed, and the more you canter her, the more she wants to canter. She'll run herself silly. And she does get a head of enthusiastic steam, but she never does anything more than over shoot the ending by 20 yards or so. Sierra knows this too.

She was careful not to pull too hard, knowing she didn't really want a sudden stop. She brought Lily back to a trot, then came around to me, grinning, asking if she was galloping.

Not quite, I said. Were you scared?

At first, she said, but I knew it was going to be okay so I just held on.

Looks like we'll need to do some braking practice with Lily, and probably let her have some round pen time to blow off some speed. Because it's spring.

And spring means it's time to do some more running.

(and I got new reins. but apparently that's another post...)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chase the Horsey

Today, when I went to ride with Sierra, Cibolo decided he preferred not to come to me. This is probably the worst he's done - sometimes he'll come right up, other times he'll step away, but give in relatively quickly.

We all want our horses to come up to us in the field. When they don't, it's a bit of a rebuke. But I'm not going to take it personally.

(okay, I'm going to TRY not to take it personally)

Yesterday he'd had a spook fest with my friend Stephanie and she pushed him through it. I'm not sure if he was still in that mental space, or if it was just hot, or if his feet are sore, but we had a nice long game of chase the horsey.

There were three horses in the paddock and I sent them all running. I'd get Cibolo cut out, but he was high headed and jumpy. So I decided to try something different. I chased them around for about five minutes longer, really getting the other horses (who knew I wasn't there for them) tired of messing with me.

I'd cut Cibolo out of the herd and he'd stand there looking at me. I'd meet his gaze, then turn my back on him and went send off the other horses for another run. Basically, he was rewarded for standing still.

He was pretty surprised. He'd join up with the herd as I sent them around again, I'd cut him out again. We'd face each other, I'd exhale and then turn my back on him.

I did it three more times. Sort of like a "I don't want to be with you. I'm just ordering everybody around, because I am in charge" attitude. On the fourth round I turned to him and he took a step toward me. I walked to him, petted him, then walked away. His jaw dropped.

(I swear, they are just like men)

Anyway, one more time and he was like "PLEASE, can I go with you now?"

He was a bit spooky on our ride, but I kept bending and turning and really working on giving him plenty to do. We did more obstacle work and had a grand time. He was slow as molasses, tentative with everything, maybe it was his hooves, maybe the sudden heat of the day, maybe his game of chase the horsey wore him out. We'll work some more tomorrow, I hope.

After a good rinse off, gusts of wind came up and he worried some more. All the horses did. He danced a bit in the alley, but was calmed down with a bit of conversation.

So much to do... I'm re-reading through a great email on barefootness from Mrs. Mom (thanks Mrs Mom!!), dreaming of a new saddle I'm bidding on, enjoying my new riding pants (although this will be the last time I use that company to order from), wondering about my horse and if we'll be playing chase again - and why we did today.

Time, as usual, will tell.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Finding the line; riding with my daughter

It's funny how things come to these places where you find you are looking for the lines in two totally different parts of your life.

My last two outings with Cibolo I'd not been feeling like things were quite right. I would come home feeling that I was missing the mark. But I wasn't sure what it was. I was in the round pen and getting so much attitude at the canter I had to bend him and really get on him. And I knew that it got to that point because I missed something smaller much earlier.

But what?

I read something in a horse trainer email I get that said never letting your horse graze. I'd been doing our walk arounds as some quiet time and I thought is that where I've been messing up? I thought again about the conflicting information we get in horsemanship. I know that consistency is essential, but I wondered if hand walking him over to graze was really so horrible. It didn't make sense. Other people I knew and respected would graze their horses, they didn't worry over it, they rode endurance and you let your horse graze because you must. Somehow it didn't "ruin" the horse.

But something was wrong, I knew it.

I wondered what it was. Then Horse and Rider came in the mail, and in it Clinton Anderson talks about not making the mistake of letting your emotions shortchange your horse.

And I got it. Because I was getting what I wanted in the relationship - petting, loving - but in the end I wasn't giving Cibolo what he needed in the relationship the last two days - confidence that comes, it seems, from my show of strength or stern attitude.

So today when I went back out, this time with my daughter, I took a firmer line.

My daughter and I are looking for the line too. She's at the stage where she's venturing away and back, still interested in what I have to say, yet making it clear that this is her time to explore independence. She's young, but her body races ahead, she looks 14 at age 11 and she carries herself older as well. But she still feels like a child inside, and somehow understands the contradiction of this time of her life.

We saddled up together, it's a dream of mine to ride with her, for us to just have fun together, and it becomes something different from what it's been before. We're mother and daughter one moment, friends another, laughing and trying different things with our horses.

Lily needed some firmness, so did Cibolo, and both horses responded to us perfectly after the firm no nonsense tone was set. I felt the relief in them both - these rules they know. Heads dropped, softness in attitude came into place.

We ride around the trails, taking it easy on their shoeless feet, riding only for 45 minutes. We find an open area with little shrubs and play follow the leader, making up patterns between the shrubs, figure 8s and backing exercises.

We did some click and treat targeting back at the barn as fun for both us (we do this with the dogs at home) and the horses, a reward for a fun ride. Lily is quicker than Cibolo, something that amuses and thrills Sierra.

And we were both reluctant for the time to end, for the sun to set, for the dust to rise behind us like a dim wave as we drive home.

Today is a day I want to remember forever and ever.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Paying forward and looking back

A few weeks ago I got a wonderful package from Lisa - a book, Chosen by a Horse which is one of the most heart wrenching stories about loving an abused horse, and a lovely pair of socks with a happy moose.

I sent the book on to Wolfie, along with my trivia book, and a photo of my father's.

You can see the photo here:

My father is a wonderful photographer, and I wish his work was hanging in more places. It was so fun to send this out. And this is my favorite of his photos...

Thanks to Lisa for setting this all in motion...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hooves and hoofing it

Cibolo and I discussed his ongoing hoof needs. He wanted to know when he was getting new shoes. I told him that we were trying to strengthen his hooves, and then we'd see. He was not so thrilled. But he agreed to cooperate with the photo session. I'm posting these to create a record and track progress and, hopefully, the healing of the hooves as we try to transition to barefoot.

So, after a brief rinse off, we started. First the bare feet.

Using other photos I've seen, here's a few angles. Right rear. Um. Hind.

Left Hind. (See? I can learn)

Side view. Left...

and right.

Now to the front.

You can see here how high the nails went.

And the plastic gooey stuff to try to hold the structure together.

After our photo session, we went for a walk. It was cold and blustery, and all I was up for was some hand walking. This time it was just me and Cibolo.

We had a nice walk together. He leads so well, it's like having a large, really well trained dog. Then a few minutes of bareback - I was practicing having him stand next to an object and letting me get on. Walk two or three steps, then off. He's improving - he was avoiding mounting blocks and such and we're almost through that.

I still need a really, really high rock to actually be able to get on him without a stirrup. And he's not even that tall. 15.2? I think...

Makes a girl feel old.

Today, it's beautiful. Hopefully we'll ride.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

On the way to the Barn

We take a break from our scheduled horse hoof pictures to bring you a little something.

Very little.

As in mini donkeys!

We were driving back from agility practice (which will be another blog post), when we spotted this crowd on the side of the road.

Look! She pulled over! Get in formation everybody!

Hi. So. How are you?

Don't get to close. I kick!

Enough of the small talk. You got carrots?

I told you, you gotta be more polite.

Don't stare, honey. I know she looks weird.

Go on. You'll be fine.

See this square? That's where the carrots go. I'm just sayin...

Boy, do I know what I'm getting when we get our own ranch.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hooves and a blast of cold

We had a big blast of air come in as it likes to do on the weekends when it would be nice to ride.

Not that I'm bitter. Sigh.

The blast of air came in in the wake of an early morning, beautiful, ferocious thunderstorm. One lightening strike cracked through the sky so close that the lights went out, woke up our oldest (the youngest can sleep through anything), and now all our clocks are flashing.

Today is my day to feed, but I got a call from the BO saying that it was so miserable she'd take care of it, since she needed to check on all the horses anyway.

I did brush Lily and Cibolo and walked them around the rocky area to see how their hooves were feeling.

Cibolo was a bit more ouchy than Lily.

I also took a few pictures of hooves, but I need hoof picture taking lessons, apparently.

This is Lily's Left Front with the plasticy goo that the farrier put on.

Here's the more troublesome Left Rear on Lily. See that terrible crack? You can't tell from this angle but it actually bulges out - it looks like there was an abcess that came out of her HOOF!

Do you think that might have been causing her to be heavy on the front end for the last month or so?

Every other picture I took was really bad. So I'm going to try to wash all the hooves off, get an assistant, and try again.

Here's my question for the day. What is the process for toughening up feet? Just hand walking on rocky terrain? I really don't want to ride with their feet being tender.

Advice is welcome...

Hope you rode today...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bandaid of Time

Today I found a tiny used band-aid. This was a sign. Yet another one I’m not ready for.

Because a band-aid means injury. As mom, I have been the sole administrator of band-aids for all minor and major (which means minor with a whole lot more yelling) injuries for over 11 years. That time, apparently, has come to an end. My eldest daughter put on her OWN band-aid.

What’s next? Will she be taking her own temperature or stitching wounds in the playground?

“It’s just a blister,” she said, when I confronted her with the evidence.

Then she went off to program the computer or something.

Then, as I was sitting at my desk, reeling from my loss in medical status, our seven year old came up.

“I pulled out a splinter,” she said solemnly.

“WHAT?” I nearly fell over. Wasn’t it just two months ago when the Splinter Fairy had to come in the middle of the night to pull out splinters because … well, because that’s what it took to avoid leather restraints around here? “You pulled out a splinter? By yourself?” I gasped.

“Yes,” she said, somewhat shocked. It was as if she couldn’t believe it herself. “I used tweezers.”

Of course I told her it was fantastic, that I was terribly proud of her, and that she was clearly well on her way to medical school.

Then, after she had gone back downstairs, I spent 20 minutes looking at baby pictures.

Every day the signs of this sort abound. I remember when every step seemed monumental – tying shoes, learning the alphabet, getting the number seven to face the right direction. We used to practically throw a party for every milestone, call relatives all over the place, send pictures, maybe make a certificate or something.

But now it’s going so fast I barely have time to celebrate, let alone lament. These kids are no longer just growing up; they are leaping through some sort of time portal with jet packs on their back.

And I sit in the living room with a box of band-aids in one hand and a set of tweezers in the other, watching them whiz by. Dr. Mom is apparently now … unemployed.

So… Well, does anybody have a boo boo?

I have 11 years experience and a box of Barbie band-aids raring to go. And I’ve got great connections with the Splinter Fairy.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

High Tech meets Water and Rice; a public service announcement

What do you do when you see this, after emptying your washer?

Yes. Cry. Because that was one perfectly good Ipod that SOMEONE didn't take out of their pocket knowing full well that we are a "empty your pockets before putting things in the basket" household.

But it was too late to chastise, really. These things happen. And we had other Ipods.

Still, I was hoping to fix it.

We tried to open it as was described on many websites.
We succeeded only in misshaping the bottom. They must weld these things or something.

So I tried a last absolutely crazy idea I read on the internet.

I buried it in a jar of rice.

Organic rice, since it is a green ipod.

Rice, of course, is a natural desiccant. And while I held no hope whatsoever of this working, I had to try.

I left it there for two weeks while I was in DC.

I came home and got it out, not really expecting anything. But I was pretty amazed to see this after I charged it.

It works!

Is it just me, or is there something elegant about an extremely high tech device being repaired by one of the more primitive things on earth?

Yeah. Just me. :)

March for Mustangs

They are having a March for Mustangs on the 25th in DC. You can read more here at the Cloud Foundation. Remember, these horses are ours (we bought and paid for them through taxes and ongoing support of the BLM), only we can demand they be properly managed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hoof walls, clips and cheating

Cibolo, modeling his bad hoof wall:

I mentioned in my previous posts that our horses had to have their rear shoes taken off and left off. I didn't quite say why.

The photo above may give you an idea. Both their hoof walls are crumbling. I don't like that my horse was in shoes with clips, and now I like it even less. Yes, after 7 weeks he'd lose his shoe, and I gather that's why you put clips on, but the place where the clip was has crushed the wall of his hoof! (Lily, on the other hand, is just plain old cracking.)

This crushing of the hoof wall seems bad to me, but maybe it's to be expected. Still, I wish I'd known about the risk of this happening... I'd rather have to reset a shoe than have this!

I have switched farriers temporarily (I got tired of hauling and the price for the farrier to come to our place is just unaffordable right now). I feel guilty switching farriers. I'm a loyalist, but at over $100 per horse, and an hour drive each way, my budget needed a break. Getting a new farrier is a nerve wracking process. Remember the last time? Yesh. It was awful. I ended up in the middle of chiro vs farrier vs vet. I came out of that more confused than ever.

I'm thinking of moving them to barefoot and getting them some boa boots for days we are on rocky terrain.

Also I'll be getting them back on platinum plus that I had stopped buying (because I can only get it at the vet and I'm just never in that part of town).

Fortunately the new farrier has done great work in correcting the overstriding of the BO's arab, so I figured she was worth a try. She takes her time (seems to me the good ones always take 90 minutes to shoe a horse), and is all about the horse's welfare. She's not so determined to get shoes on a horse that she'll do anything. I like that a lot. (She was also concerned how close the nails were to the cuticle area (I believe she used that term so I'd understand what she was saying - despite reading all these shoeing blogs, I still can't seem to "get" it) and wanted to give both horses a month to grow out some healthy hoof.)

So, at risk of starting a horse shoe fight... Any advice, farriers? barefooters? Bueller?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Incredible ride (my new name - cat woman) (part 2)

Where was I?

Oh yeah. On the back of my horse.

Everything was going great. Cibolo was doing everything. Pushing through brush. Being first. Being last. Dealing with inclines just fine. Crossing water. Even deep, just below the stirrups water. We cantered around a field. We trotted for ages.

The Barn Owner was on her endurance Arab, Amigo, Cibolo's BFF. (He just placed as best condition horse in a recent ride here, and was a top 10 finisher). Her husband was on his huge gaited Missouri Fox Trotter, Cloud - who hadn't been ridden since November and he just hopped on him and off they went. Amazing horse. Adam was on Lily, who seemed happy to get out.

We were on our way back and I had just managed to get Cibolo back with me after his little crow hop (a half hearted test, really) and was marveling at how good I felt. I just wasn't afraid, even with that routine. It felt like just a breakthrough.

We came up to another set of trees and we saw the vulture.

Now, I'd just like to say, I'm a big fan of vultures. I don't think of them as disgusting. Frankly it strikes me as polite to only eat things that are already dead. I particularly came to be a vulture fan after reading a story about one at a wildlife rehab center here (you can download the story on this PDF, it's on page 5 of the 31 page document).

I love watching vultures ride the thermals, and in the mornings they sit on poles, wings spread, drying the dew from their feathers. It's lovely, really.

This particular vulture was pretty big and had that look. The "I think I'll be leaving" look. Cibolo and I were the last in line and closest to the vulture. I saw the vulture. The vulture bobbed his head and I knew what that meant. I had been warned.

He was going to take off right at me and Cibolo. It was nothing personal.

I grabbed the horn of my saddle, but didn't pull on the reins, and at that exact moment the vulture took off with wide black wings, looking exactly like a panther leaping from the brush. My horse responded in what was a completely reasonable way for a horse about to be attacked by a flying panther. He spooked. (Every horse there spooked a bit, but only we were in the direct line of flight.)

Cibolo did a sit spin (which I managed to hold on through), then did some sort of weird hop/jolt. I felt myself come out of the saddle and the next thing I knew I was holding onto my horse's neck with one leg flung over the saddle, out of the stirrup.

I was so shocked. Then I was instantly proud.

Because Cibolo stood perfectly still. He could have bolted, heck, even a few steps and I would have probably peeled right off. But he didn't do anything. He stood there stock still and waited.

I hauled my butt back into the saddle.

"Girl, you have a heck of a seat," said the barn owner.

We laughed so hard. It had to be quite a sight. The Barn Owner couldn't believe I didn't fall, and frankly, if I had, I was clinging so tightly to his neck and leaned over so far I might have fallen a total of 18 inches.

Adam said it looked like I was a cat clinging to a tree. It's nice to know I have reflexes like that, although I could have gone to my grave not quite learning it so vividly.

I think I'm going to be sore in places I've never been sore before (in fact just getting up from the computer is a terrible reminder of my age), but I'm really thrilled with the day.

Cibolo did really well the entire ride and the poor boy was so exhausted he didn't even want to pick up his hind quarters to get in the trailer. But he did. Both horses seemed tender footed afterwards, but there's no time for riding for a few days, so they'll have time to relax and contemplate vultures, loose hooves and adventures at the lake.

In the meantime, I'll be practicing clinging to walls. You know, just in case.

(And yes, I had a helmet on. I was the only one, actually.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Incredible ride (my new name - cat woman)

Today we had a great, great time riding.

After an iffy start when we weren't sure we were going to go at all, we suddenly were on our way to the stables to meet the barn owner and her husband.

We've had this amazing development happen with this couple. They fit us perfectly. She is crazy into horses like me, (but has much, much more experience) and loves nothing better than geeking out about horses all day.

He loves the outdoors and is more of a motorcycle guy like my husband.

It's perfect. It's something that never happens with us. Either my friends are all into horses and the guys are just into TV, or the guys are into motorcycles and the women are into shopping. It was easier when we were rock climbers, because generally the couples we knew were climbers too. When we started a family we lost touch with them, and back issues for my husband meant it was time for a different hobby.

So now we have a couple friend!

Anyway when we had an opportunity to ride with them, we were hopeful it would work out. We've never been very good about taking time for ourselves where the kids are concerned. It can be hard to remember that you did marry this guy cause you liked hanging out with him.

Everything worked out (with a minimal amount of pouting), thank goodness.

We headed out for our ride at Canyon Lake.

I was pretty worried about taking our horses out, actually. I've recently switched farriers to one that doesn't require me to haul for shoeing, and she felt our horses just couldn't have back shoes on - their hoof walls were just a mess. Brittle, cracking, just awful. We had been invited out to a different trail ride, but it's on very rocky terrain. Not an option now.

But the Lake trail really only has two areas that are rocky, so I hoped they'd do okay. There were a few ouchy moments, nothing too bad.

Cibolo seemed to be in a good space, and I had a strange sense of confidence - especially given our last trip to the lake and all the bucks we had. I worked just a second on the lunge line and made sure I had him. I made sure to bend him several times before we headed out. We stopped for bending 2 more times on the trail, then I did a few other things. Anytime he started to move his head over to the side in a head check, I did a very, very light finger pull on the opposite rein.

When we were cantering and I was ready to slow back down, I didn't haul back on the reins. I did three pulsing pulls. And the one time he did a little crow hop during a canter I pulled him around and we did a few bends.

He responded fantastic.

And then, there was the vulture.

Part 2, tomorrow. :) With Pictures!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Laugh with me

Little tired, but found this and it made me laugh. I hope it makes you laugh too...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

OT Beware the Popping

In the last two years I read something, somewhere, about microwave popcorn that led me to believe that it was terrible .

I can’t remember why. Was it was terrible for the environment, terrible for the people who work stuffing kernels in bags, or just terrible to eat? Whatever the reason, we gave up the wonderful convenience of microwave popcorn and switched over to an air popper.

That fateful night, a few movie nights ago, I was once again in charge of popping up some popcorn. Apparently I didn’t put the top on the air popper correctly.

You know, it’s amazing how just a tiny bit of catty wampus in your world can lead to total chaos.

The air popper was just getting to the point where things are really popping, a nice steady POP! POP! POP! Then the top section of the air popper fell to one side. Hot popcorn kernels, which seem so cute and harmless in the air popper’s chute, suddenly proceeded to EXPLODE all over the kitchen. No one was safe, and even the popcorn stealing dog dove for cover.

My panic in trying to put the top on resulted in the bowl of popcorn spilling all over the kitchen floor in an avalanche of salt, melted butter , and previously popped popcorn.

That will be forever known as the night Mommy exploded the kitchen.

(by the way, I found out why you shouldn't have microwave popcorn. I hate to be a kill joy, so I'm just linking to it. Read at your peril.)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rain and mud, and being thwarted.

It was raining today, so my plan to ride was thwarted. I did go and pet horses, but even our clicker training idea was out the window with all the mud.

How in the world do you avoid having so much mud? It's just awful!

One nice moment, I can now get Cibolo to come to me out of the herd, and as low man it's a bit of an accomplishment. Now he trusts me to run the other boys off. I gave him a carrot and a good rub. Then everybody got a carrot for being cooperative.

Then it was off to the hardware store for dog jump supplies. Sierra is taking agility classes with her dog. So far it's a bit basic for her. Hopefully it'll get better.

But we're building jumps, and, as usual, I can't quite find the right part. If I get this jump built, well, if it stands up, I'll take a picture...

I hope you got a good ride in today. Here's to Spring - it's here in the hill country...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Surprising Ride, and sad news

I do enjoy the days I go out to feed at the barn. Generally I enjoy them once I get there - but, not being a morning person, I dread the idea of getting up early for a 6th day of the week.

Today, though, I was glad to be out early. The day was overcast and the humidity was high. Early was a good idea.

Gratuitous donkey shot. He wags his tail like a dog. It's hilarious!

After finishing the rounds, I checked over Lily for soreness. She had none. The biting behavior doesn't seem pain oriented, or if it is I couldn't find it. We'll work on behavior correction over the next few rides and see if that works.

Then I decided to bring out Cibolo. He was just as loving as he had been on Friday, leaning in for a rub on the forehead and a massage on the jowl.I saddled him up, spending sometime working on a work around for a rear cinch. I don't normally ride with a rear cinch at all, but I watched this video and decided that I need to use one from now on. (My favorite quote from the video in referring to the danger poised by a rear cinch set too loose and sliding back. If it does get too far back... "You will get an involuntary reaction and get one of those western moments none of us want to have." Yea howdy.)

But I don't have any rear cinches, so I figured a temporary work around with a long latigo and created a triangular rigging.

We worked for a moment in the driveway, and Cibolo was great. So we headed out for a quick ride on the hills. I worked for a bit to turn his head to me, and made a few noises to keep his attention and he was fantastic. I concentrated/self talked/reminded myself of how terrific he is and how terrific I am.

We can do this. We're fine. Get some zen space girl! Ommmmm. (LOL)

Then we went up a few hills. No issue. We went down a few hills. Perfect. Then we cantered. No problemo. Not a snort, not a balk, not a worry.

Who me? I have never freaked out on the trail, Mom. Never.

I wished I had more time to do more, but when we went into the barn I heard the rain start. So it was just as well.

We did an aisle game of clicker/target training and I set him out. So is he fixed? Am I? I have no idea. I'm just happy to have had such a great day on him. I think we are getting a bit more comfortable with each other and my expectations are much different. The combination of that along with the fact that he has been worked through each situation lately seems to have done something.

I hope it lasts.

On the sad news end of things, here's a photo of Shiloh.

As you can see, he's not doing well at all. After months of trying to find out what's going on (he has had a terrible nasal discharge, green and thick) and subjecting him to various treatments including a tooth extraction, it looks like they've figured out what's going on. He has an infection of his guttural pouch, specifically Empyema. Here's the definition from the Merck:

Guttural pouch empyema is defined as the accumulation of purulent, septic exudate (I think this means mucusy snot) in the guttural pouch. The infection usually develops subsequent to a bacterial (primarily Streptococcus spp ) infection of the upper respiratory tract. Clinical signs include intermittent purulent nasal discharge, painful swelling in the parotid area, and in severe cases, stiff head carriage and stertorous breathing. Fever, depression, and anorexia may or may not be observed. Diagnosis is determined by endoscopic examination of the guttural pouch. Radiographs of the pharynx will demonstrate a fluid line in the guttural pouch and may allow the clinician to identify an associated retropharyngeal mass.

Systemic antimicrobial therapy alone will not resolve the infection; guttural pouch lavage is necessary. ... Tracheotomy may be necessary to provide a temporary alternative airway in these cases. If guttural pouch empyema is not treated, chondroid material may form in the guttural pouch and will serve as a chronic source of infectious exudate. A small number of chondroids can be removed endoscopically, but accumulations of exudate, chondroid material, or unresolved retropharyngeal abscesses require surgical drainage.

Now we know why the antibiotics weren't working. At 32, Shiloh is not a surgical candidate and in his current state would not have the strength to survive a procedure - not to mention that his owner simply doesn't have the resources.

When I walked by him to drop off hay I heard a sound like air being forced through a metal tube. It sounded so odd that I looked around for what it could be. That was Shiloh. Breathing.

Here's Shiloh trying to send a message to Pepe.
Pepe, despite the ears, is quite deaf to ear pinning, apparently.

I don't know how long Shiloh will last. This week they let him wander the property and he seemed to have a great time running loose for a bit, tail up in that fabulous arab arch.

But sometimes I see him just staring off into space, facing away from the herd and you can sense the depression.

My grandfather died of emphesema. It's a hideous way to die. From the sound of his breathing, it's clear this is progressing rapidly. We can't seem to keep weight on him.

I know his owner will be ready to make the difficult choice when the time comes. But it's terribly sad to see it happening.

One last pic - Shiloh at the Christmas parade:

Friday, March 5, 2010

Reluctant to ride

I don't know if it's been some left over exhaustion from my last trip to DC, not feeling up to dealing with Cibolo's issue, or just tired from the pace of life, (maybe a bit of all three) but I was reluctant to ride this week. I didn't head out to the stables yesterday - had too much work to do I decided, even though it was an incredibly beautiful day and I probably could have snuck out.

But today Mireya wanted to go to the stables. She so rarely wants to go, that I never let an opportunity like that go by. So we loaded up.

Initially I didn't even plan to ride. Just brush and love on horses. But Cibolo was in an incredibly loving space. He wanted to hang out with us and after a bit I decided to saddle them both. Only after taking great big whiff of horse fur.

God, I love the way horses smell.

Sierra rode Lily, Stephanie rode Cibolo.

Lily was misbehaving a bit, turning to bite when mounting. She never connects, never comes close, really. It's just a threat. We need to see what that's about. She's very cinchy, and hasn't been ridden consistently and can become a pill under those condition. Still, I wonder if this behavior is pain. I'll be checking out her back more thoroughly next time we're out.

The riders headed out and I played horseshoes with Mireya.

We set up our field: the little stump was 10 points, the inner circle 5 points, the outer 1 point. Then we named it. The Stump was the barn, the inner circle was the arena, the outer was the trail. Miss the whole thing and you were in the pasture.

Mireya is a horse shoe shark. Don't ever play her for money.

Here she is with her first ringer. First of many.

Cibolo rode very well, I hopped up on Lily at the end to just do the cool down (the larger saddle was on Cibolo so rather than switch saddles I just got on Lily instead). Lily was a bit hot, they'd done some running and she wasn't done. But the kids were getting cold, and it was time to wind things down.

So we worked on some mental things. Backing. Turning. Giving. Lily needs more consistent work, something she'll get now that the days are getting longer and the weather is more rational.

Cibolo is a different story.

It's interesting. Stephanie had worked on Cibolo through his fit with the wind. Then, when I took him out in the wind, he did fine.

I worked him through his fit with the inclines. Then, today he did fine on the inclines.

I don't know if he really learns that fast, but I am proud of the progress he's making. Hopefully my reluctance to ride (I do think I'm just mentally wiped out from work) will lift by Sunday. We have another chance to ride then.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hangman and backseat players

Beware of good intentions.

I like to think I'm an educational kind of mom. But sometimes it doesn't quite work out.

Since we do a good bit of driving we’ve come up with several games that are suitable for playing with a back seat partner and a driver. In that desperate place between Hills in the Texas Hill Country , one tends to grasp at straws.

Like hangman.

We started playing hangman in the restaurant and it carried over to the car. Sure, it’s a bit of a challenge when you can’t see your head and arms being added to the hangman’s noose, but it’s a worthy handicap given the driver’s better spelling skills, right?

Except when one of your opponents is in second grade and is not too accurate a speller.

There’s nothing quite as challenging as spelling when there are no actual spelling rules involved.

Suffice it to say, Mommy was swinging in the wind PLENTY.

Fortunately we have the Car-i-oke CD. It's a little brutal on the ears, but easier on the brain - and neck.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A glimpse of being a horseman

It took a bit of a disastrous ride to give me a glimpse of what it is to be a horseman.

On Sunday, it was beautiful, but windy. We loaded up Lily and Cibolo and took them back over to our old stables.

(Here's a photo from the days gone by and a scary barrel that freaked out Canyon way back)

Our old stables are open again, and it really is heaven for horses. I'd consider moving back, but we've gotten really emotionally attached to our present barn.

But when we pulled up and I saw that big pasture, the lighted arena and round pen, I felt a longing.

DH and I saddled up our horses and I warmed up Cibolo. He was doing well, really well given the wind which I thought would have him in fits.

We waited for Trail Rider to arrive with his friend, and rode around the arena. It was great to be in a big arena, cantering around, going through our paces.

It was the trail where I'd finally figure out Cibolo's hole, once and for all.

We headed down the trail, across the stream, then up an embankment. Cibolo got about halfway up, then came apart, crow hopping and jumping up the hill sideways. He was jiggy and freaky for a bit so I got off and worked him a bit.

This is where I glimpsed it. Horsemanship. I realized where his fear was, the slippery footing on the hill, something pings off in his head and it's a long road back.

It's not mud, it's not things brushing against his right hind. It's this incline. Because it happened again. I'd remounted and we headed for the next ditch. He got to the bottom and went to freak out level 3.5 (on a scale of 1-5) - nearly bucking, whirling, scared, scared. I got him to stop. Got off. Walked him up, then lunged for a minute. Then back down the ditch.

You need to know this is okay, Cibolo, I told him.

I backed him up the incline. I made him walk all around it, including the sketchy parts. I did it over and over. Then, at the base of the incline I got on him and we rode up.

That was it. That was my glimpse of being a horseman. I realized my job, finally, is not to just ride well, but to support my horse. To help him cope, learn, move on.

We had one more sketchy moment, and I was off again and it was more backing up inclines. But after that, he stayed rational. The wind didn't bother him. He managed the way back just fine. He wasn't quite all the way with me, but he had calmed down much faster than he had the day I ended up riding alone. I rode him all the way back, and we rode in the arena for a bit. He wasn't happy cantering, but we got through that too.

DH was not thrilled with Cibolo, but I reminded him that I'm attracted to challenging men (a point he had to concede).

He was more shocked that I got back on Cibolo and rode him up the incline after his big episode. "I don't think I could have done that," he said.

You know, six months ago, even a year ago, I couldn't have either.

But now, I can.

Maybe he can be a trail horse. Maybe he can't. I hope I can figure out how better to solve these problems from the saddle and not have to get down to regain his attention. Only time and training (of myself) will tell.

I was going to ride today and work on hills, but it rained. Maybe by Thursday...

(sorry no pictures! It was so beautiful too... )