Saturday, December 31, 2011

Horses in the new year

This year will bring a major change for me and my horses. This year, by the summer, we will move.

Our goal is to find a place where our horses will live with us, and not just to save on board. For me it's about time. Right now when I go spend time with my horses it's two to three hours away from the family - 30-45 minutes of it is just travel time to the barn. I find it hard to get away very often for that much time.

I have this hope that when I live with my horses I will get some of the just "hang" time with them that is out of the question right now. Maybe this is an illusion, maybe the work of having two horses at home will take away the time I think I'll gain by not having to drive to them. More likely things probably even out. But it's still something I want to try, to experience having my horse outside my door.

We are looking at the rental market in DFW and it's pretty amazing. Plenty of properties, many with space for horses, many in our price range. So it seems like this will really happen. I will really look out a window and see a horse there.

Now we have to get our house ready - paint, empty, cull, prepare. I never want to sell it, this will always be home. But as we hand it over to someone else to rent, 2012 will send us out of our comfort zone and into a new world, a world where I don't know where the best place is for fresh milk, which friends I can count on, the short cut to take when traffic is tied up.

The road ahead turns in the woods, I can't see clearly if the path is smooth or challenging. But we've picked this road.

All that's left is to ride it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What I Got For Christmas... by Smokey

Hi there. Smokey here. Sorry we've been gone a little lately. There's going to be an update on Mom's other blog - the kids have been keeping things hoppin' on the home front. Me and Lily have just been hanging out in the mud. Cuz it has been raining and that's good, because everyone was saying there wasn't any hay which is NOT a good idea. But our space got so muddy that it hurt Lily's shoulder so now she's hanging out with Cody and the new ex-stallion who thinks he's all that.

Yeah. I remember when I had that feeling. Sorta.

Anyway, for Christmas Mom got us the tooth fairy. It was good too because she says I'm sensitive. I had lost some of my hip and mom was going on and on about the bit thing, and so she took a look see.

Now, I don't think I'm sensitive. It's more like perceptive. In a big tough horse kind of way. Like a scout.

I got the whole nine yards. Tooth, some chiro, and a little bit of work below the cinch, if you know what I mean.

I'm a very good patient. I know when to chew on the sticks and when to let go.

You know, the tooth fairy, Miss Loren, she's tougher than she looks.

She fixed Lily too, but she just needed her hips and shoulder done. But I like getting the works for the holidays. When we went for a ride today, I didn't mind the bit at all! We even rode bareback and dragged Lily around.

Nothing against Santa, but I'll take the tooth fairy any day. Marey Christmas and a Gelding New Year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mr. Smokey and the Christmas Parade Part Two

Hey there, it's Smokey here. I thought I'd give you a horse perspective on this whole "parade" thing.

I had just gotten that perfect layer of mud on when Mom showed up. She got us all in for breakfast and there was a little ruckus because some of us accidently got in the same stall with Cibolo and he was all "Hey! Get out of here!"

Touchy. I was only going to take one bite and he drops a ton anyway. Fine. I had my own grain, thank you very much Mr. Alpha Male.

I figured something was up because all kinds of people started to show up and grab brushes.

Take if from me. If you have more than one person show up with brushes early in the morning it can only mean one thing. Parade.

I decided I better chow down because these parade things take a lot out of a guy. Before I knew it Mom was at it with the mane decorating. If there was any doubt before that was the final sign. Ribbons = parades.

Course all my stuff was pretty low key. Nice red blanket, a couple of ribbon in the mane that I figured I'd shake off at the first opportunity. Mom gave up on things on my head when I sent stuff airborne last year.

But you should have seen Cloud. The boy looked like a MARE! HA! He had shiny stuff, bells, and ANTLERS!

Cody got a long sparkely rope in his tail, and the new mare, Missy, she was low key too. Red, from the ranch next door, he had some big white and red thing on under his saddle. Smaller herd than last year, which was fine with me since I prefer a small herd. Less geldings to work through to make an impression on the mares, ya know.

We loaded up and the horse pullers took us around and around.

Now I don't like to speak ill of my herd mates, usually. But OMG!

First of all, Cloud was REALLY getting on all our nerves. I even had to try to bite him twice because he was a total spaz. I was like "Chill dude." and he was like "What's that!? Ahhh!!" and I was like "Where? What?" and then it was some little kid or a car and after a while I just had to roll my eyes, you know?

We walked up the street, and there were some people with those rolly horses that always creep me out. They stopped at stared at us and we weren't sure if we should stomp them and put them out of their misery, but Cody walked right by them. Cloud went by them side ways in what Mom calls "giraffe mode" which is when your head is way high so you can see them coming.

Then we got to a spot and we were supposed to stop but there was this giant grey thing and a bunch of little mini car things, and people with squashed looking hats and I didn't like it. Mom kind of figured that and hopped off to walk me over to a couple things.

I felt a little better. We did a lot of visiting, cuz in parades you have to STAND a lot even if you are a MORGAN and everyone knows it's in our breeding to be "forward" which means we don't like standing around waiting for parades to start. I got to meet all the people on the colorful trailer with the little barker. I gave the whole thing a good going over. You know they have no decent hay on those things? No wonder they all sit on it.

Mom walked me around for a while, which was good becaue there were these loud birds that kept flying over and at one point I started to wonder if they were more dangerous than the birds at the barn. They were very growly and Mom and I did the circle on the rope thing, you know, just to shake it off.

Mom also had me to some tricks for a little kid that was there and he was very impressed. I even backed, trotted, and did my fancy hip moves. Impressive stuff people like to see at a parade. We were still waiting for our turn and I was doing pretty good. I even did a shout out to some tied up horses that were pulling their own trailer, which I never have seen before. They were pretty focused, cus they didn't shout back at any of us, even though we were all "Hey! Happy Holidays Guys! What Up?!"

But it's probably a lot of work hauling one of those wagon things, so I didn't hold it against them. Mom said - Look how good they're being Smokey and I rolled my eyes. Please. They are all trussed up. What else are they gonna do? Yesh.

Then the really bad thing happened. You know how in they get those little white flappy things and its kind of unnerving to a guy? Well there was all this major noise (Mom said it was music, but I'm more of a classic rock kind of guy) and a ton of people in squashed hats and they were waving flappy things in a huge panic! That was it, we all started to make tracks - Mom had me circle, which was good, but I really thought it would be best for us to get the heck out of there. Finally the flappy people left, and other than Cloud practically running over everyone, we all got back to business.

Okay, maybe I needed to go and chill out on the parking lot for a minute, doing some more backing up and trick stuff. Just to impress, ya know.

Then it was finally our turn. For a minute there I was wondering if Mom was going to get back on. I think she was too. But her herd all gave her the thumbs up and it's not like I was all crazy like Cloud. I did kind of walk off right away, but you know it was finally time to go, you can't blame a guy.

Mom's big guy told her to breathe and she laughed and started singing, which is good, cuz you have to breathe to sing, apparently. We followed the barky dog trailer and said happy holidays to everybody. This year I stopped when Cody and Cloud did and Mom said it was amazing.

I was like, "well, duh." She probably didn't notice each time we stopped I made sure I was a little ahead. Just sending a message, you know.

I only did two circles the whole parade, cuz I got a little ahead. Last year I did so many cirlces it was like I was in the round pen. About halfway through I kind of wished I didn't have the bit, and started to shake my head. But that's not allowed in a parade, I found out. So I would dip down a little and it was not so bad. And I got rid of two ribbons on the parade route when I shook my head, which is pretty good, probably a record. Next time I think we should go bitless and show off! Ha!

Finally we were back at the trailers and everyone loaded up, cuz it was time to go.

When we got back to the barn there was a ton of good hay for all of us parade horses. Which is as it should be, Mom said.

She says I've matured. I'm thinking she has because she finally learned how to breathe, which makes it way easier. Maybe now we can go on another adventure, cuz I have this parade thing down.

Except for the flappy people. Seriously. Hope someone helped them out.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mr. Smokey and the Christmas Parade Part One

First, let me apologize that there are no pictures.

That's right. Zero. Zip. Nada. But when you hear the whole story, I think you'll forgive me.

It started last week when Donna was asking me if I was ready for the parade. I hemmed and hawed. With everything going on with Sierra, DH in another city, continued financial challenges (because while the job is going well, money is inconsistent, and in a new city there are new expenses, blah, blah, blah), I just didn't know if I was up to managing my issues with Smokey.

Because, frankly, I've been a big chicken and only doing things I feel comfortable doing. Because I wanted one area of my life to be drama free.

And Parades? That's a pretty big horse drama magnet.

So I committed to having our truck there and probably having Smokey there, maybe, if everything goes well. Donna suggested we take Smokey for a field trip to see how he'd do.

Then Tuesday. Tuesday, Sierra felt so dizzy and faint in class, they took her to the nurse. The nurse called and said I should take her to the ER because she had some swelling on one side of her face and was walking funny.

I rushed home from Austin, my mom met me with her at the ER and to cut to the bottom line and after the five hours of ER hanging out, they gave her a bag of fluids, something for naseau and recommended we follow up with our Doctor (they had ruled out anything cardiac, in case you were wondering - I sure as heck was).

She was worse on Wednesday. I started to ask her questions, to drill down more on the dizziness. Turns out she had vertigo. Severe vertigo. As in "can't even walk to the bathroom" severe vertigo. Thursday we went to the doctor who confirmed my home diagnosis and gave us a prescription for saline spray (and gave me a list of over the counter meds).

With no improvement on Friday, I opted for a chiropracter. There was a moment of improvement, then it was back to swaying ceilings and zero equilibrium. I began to suspect that only Doctor Time was going to cure this balance challenged girl.

So you can probably see why the parade seemed like more trouble than it was worth.

On the horse front I went on Thursday, more as a stress reliever, really, to see how Smokey would do in the area where we gather for the parade. There were many firsts. Donna took her huge MFT and his nature means he has to get in the trailer first. Smokey has never loaded last, in "Lily's" spot. I had even thought last month that I should train him to do so in case there was ever a need.

But never got around to it.

Cloud, who previously has had a huge cow about loading into my trailer, hopped right in. That horse simply must be first. I looked at Smokey and said, "Okay, Smoke, load up."

And he did.

Good thing I spent all that time on it.

We headed out to the big field and Smokey was confused about unloading. Usually Lily just steps out, but Smokey is used to being lead out. I stepped into the trailer and backed him out. He was a little up, but settled in quickly. We started our ride and he was a little tight, but in five minutes he had settled down and doing well.

"See?" He'll be fine!" Donna cooed.

I felt my smile grow. Maybe we could do this. Maybe I wasn't snake bit with all this crazy stuff going on. Maybe I just needed to breathe, hum some Christmas songs and commit.

Maybe. As I drove back home from the barn I wondered if I was up for all of this. There was so much going on. Did I really want to take a chance?

Saturday seemed a long way away.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mighty Heart Update

Is on Crib Notes.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cold wind

The welcome rain finally ushered in the cold, something we have been waiting for for several weeks. It's still been air conditioning weather here, something I've not experienced this deep into November.
But as they say, be careful what you wish for.

It was my day to feed horses on Saturday morning and the rain poured down steadily. I sloughed through the paddocks, struggled with wet hay. Lily, who eats outside in the paddock instead of coming in a run gave me that look. The don't you dare leave me out here in the rain look.

I brought her in for some relief from the weather and she and Smokey shared the run and some hay while I finished my work. When I set them all back out and got in my truck the rain slowed down

I really appreciate these little tests of my sense of humor. I don't always pass them, but I do appreciate the considerable planning that goes into them.

Sunday brought wind, the kind of wind that sets the trees to wild dancing, leaves twirling as they fly off like sweat from a tango dancer's forehead.
I arrived early to ride before feeding again, and Smokey and I agreed that the bitter wind called for arena time. I demonstrated all the scary things he needed to know about like the banging door and falling chair. He was greatly concerned but managed to hold it together. I'd call it progress, but mostly it was nice to see him giving me the benefit of the doubt.

We kept it short - remember, we don't really have the gear for this kind of weather, so bitter cold dives right through my paltry defenses. I hate cold. I don't live in Texas because I have an affection for cold, but the cold comes anyway. And if Smokey's massive winter coat is any indication, it's going to be brutal season around here.

We managed to improve his side pass, we will see if it sticks. Also he is responding better to canter cues. Lots more to do, particularly on canters, but I'm taking time. Maybe to much, but really, what am I getting ready for?

I'm not sure we will do the christmas parade, mostly because with sierra's situation I don't know that I have it in me to do the prep needed. I think he might do fine, but at this point worry about horse antics is way down my list of things I'm willing to deal with.

So another excuse to take my time. But I really don't have goals right now, other than enjoying my horses. With them it's quiet, simple, focused, and in the moment. It's the greatest gift I can have right now, when challenges just seem to mount over and over. In time they will all resolve, as they do,and the respites will give me strength.

Even in the rain and cold.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Don't put that hoof in a bucket and other adventures

Smokey and I have had some nice rides. I admit to doing more training than envelope pushing. We've been working on clearing up all the fuzzy areas and hitting the local trails with my friends.

I also did some research on YouTube and determined that I don't have shoulder control - in that I can't do a turn on the haunches. So we're working on that and the side pass. As Stephanie noted Smokey will cross his front legs, then his back legs, then his front legs, maybe twice, then catches up with a hind quarter move.

It's a mess, and gives us a series of things to clean up. What I'd really like to do is send Smokey to a trainer for finishing since I'm sure it'd would be easier on everyone. But given my budget, we'll have to muddle through.

Thank goodness for YouTube. We might actually accomplish something.

Sierra and I went riding on Friday. I'd pulled her out of school for the day due to some school drama (ironic, given the news we'd get later in the day). She rode Cody since Lily is still on injured reserve.

Here's Smokey in the bosal. It moves around a good bit, which is not what it's supposed to do. I'm not sure if I'll continue using this one. Today I begged, pleaded, and just annoyed Stephanie into riding. Cibolo had a bucking incident and she wasn't sure she wanted to ride at all. But he got a visit from the horse dentist (who also did a shoulder adjustment) and it seemed to do the trick - his attitude improved and he was as calm as could be on the trail.

Smokey and I had warmed up in the arena - I wish I had a longer place to run him in. We really need to haul some place. Hopefully soon.

Anyway, I rode him in a riding halter and he did pretty well, although it took more energy from me to keep him in the proper place. I'd ridden him the day before in the bit and I'm convinced he doesn't like it. I'm going to try a few different things - all of which are there in the barn. The mechanical hackmore is not an option in my mind. The bosal is close, but it doesn't fit right and I haven't a clue how to properly shape it. Plus it feels more muddy than the side pull. I'm going to try a couple of barn bits to see if a different shape will matter, and then order a nutural.

We also worked on our mole face. Cute, right?

(No horses were spooked during the above photo session. Good boy, Smokey)


Lily Update, aka Don't put that hoof in a bucket ever again....

Lily is much, much better, but when the horse dentist checked her over she found warmth in her right front hoof. She mentioned that often with Pigeon Fever a horse will founder.

She showed me how to feel for heat, something I've never felt before. It was so mild I would have missed it. She recommended soaking the hoof, just in a frisbee or something like that.

Of course we don't have any frisbees, but we have buckets.

Do I even need to finish this story?

Okay, only because you INSIST.

There we were at the wash rack. I was cold hosing her now healing abscess wound in prep for cleaning it off. I lifted her hoof and put it in the bucket. She attempted to remove her foot from the bucket.

It was one of those big buckets. She succeeded in dragging it.

Not good.

Lily commenced to panic. She pulled back so hard she snapped her halter and bent the heck out of the carabiner. She nearly sat on her tail but managed to avoid running over me or Stephanie.

She got her foot out of the bucket. This was only somewhat comforting as it was clear this was a DANGEROUS PLACE TO PUT YOUR HOOVES.

After some reassurance we were able to get her back in position, sans bucket, and finish cleaning out her wound.

Then I went to her paddock, splashed water out of the trough to make a nice muddy spot in front of her hay (which the horse dentist suggested as a Plan B to the frisbee).

The nice thing? She trusted me enough to come down from her panic and stay in the same area.

And I now have learned the value of a good Plan B.

No buckets were broken during this life lesson, which is good, because I think it was one of the bucket the BO won at her last endurance race.


Mighty Hearts.

Thank you all for your prayers and support. The news is still settling inside me like a little boat approaching a storm. The swells rise and fall, nothing completely scary yet, with every rise you can see the clouds a bit more, the froth on the sea ahead.

I'm still hoping for a nice steady wind to redirect the storm so we can head to shore safely. I still imagine us steering clear, then sitting around the tree this holiday season, relieved that we have dodged another bullet.

I've decided to begin posting news on Sierra on Crib Notes (with a note here when I do), but not for the reasons you might think. As I was driving back from the barn today I realized that many of our family members will be keeping up with things and I find it's very tough/painful to restate these explanations over and over. Facebook isn't really an option because Sierra is on it more than I am, and I don't want her constantly confronted with updates.

Anyway, given that my family has little interest in my horse life (hard to believe I'm the ONLY horse nerd. So much for DNA), and since they might want to subscribe, I think this approach will work a little better for them, but by noting on here when there's an update I can keep you in the loop too...

I'll be starting each related post here with "Mighty Hearts" and will probably link over there from the Mighty Heart page, just FYI.

Here's to quiet seas, quiet horses, and quiet rides, my friends.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

News - your prayers, if you've got them...

I've added a new page on the top. It's called Mighty Heart. There's some news there that will be a big focus for us for the next month and, possibly, much longer

I'm trying to decide where to post updates on this to folks who will want to know what's happening since I do try to keep this "horsecentric."

Do I post them on Crib Notes or forget that I'm working a theme here?

Your thoughts on the matter are welcome, my friends.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Community - a gathering and Lily Update

I was telling my DH about Carmon, a woman I've never met. I was talking to my friend, KC about how I feel I missed an opportunity to meet her, but she was too ill when I was last in New Mexico. Soon, we wrote to one another. I'd be back in New Mexico. It wasn't my fault or hers that we didn't meet.

We met as we could, here in these little thin lines, in the glow of a screen. (update. I just learned Carmon moved on last Friday. )


It's funny how close I *think* I am to everyone in this little space of pixels and white. How vested, intertwined, I feel about everyone who reaches back when I reach out (I know others just come by to merely read, and that's fine). Yet I realize that we all have a glimpse of each other, and that these connections feel sadly lacking when a member of this group is hurting, or down.

Two years ago I had a wonderful opportunity to widen my circle of "bloggers I've met."

Carmon reminds me that I should find more ways to do that. So I'm going to give it some thought. Maybe a ride in the spring, somewhere in Texas for the folks here. Maybe just an extra day in a journey to the east coast to manage a lunch with someone. Sometimes words, even heartfelt ones, seem too thin to hang a friendship on.

Or maybe it's just natural to yearn for a bit more.

But let it start with just this, this one opening. If you find your way to Austin or San Antonio, drop me a line. Lunch is on me.


It looks like Dr. Google was right. The tests on Lily came back positive for the bacteria with a name longer than I care to remember - bottom line we've got Pigeon Fever, midline edema edition.

Her swelling is down and she's in her very own paddock well away from the herd. I don't know that it'll do much good since she was oozing all over for a day, but luckily this condition is merely disgusting. She has a HUGE hole in her belly from where the abscess was, and we've rinsed it out once. She has to stay apart from her herd mates until it closes up shop in a week or two.

I miss my sweet Lily ride, but it's nice to have only one horse to work with. Hopefully Smokey and I can get some good work in over the next few weeks. I'm working on head dropping and getting that side pass cleaned up. Maybe we'll do some trails this week. The weather is beautiful, a little drizzle, on the warm side. Perfect riding weather. Hopefully we'll get some of that done soon.

Hope all is well with you!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bits, Hackmores, and Community - and Lily Concerns

When I poised my dumb question I have to say, I was hesitant. In this little horse internet community/mutual admiration society we have self described dressage queens, competitive barrel racers, endurance racers who go on 50 milers every other weekend, professional trainers who have started more horse than I've ever even looked at, weekend riders, hardcore cowboys and trail pros - and then there's me.

No one likes to look like they don't have a clue. But when you don't have a clue, you just have to own up and learn somethin'.

Thanks to EVERYONE who gave me so much to chew on. You are amazing and I so appreciate the dialog.

First given that Smokester has bolted on me with a simple snaffle and that I didn't really slow him down with it, I'm not sure I have any better brakes with a bit. I think I just have to keep working to find the right touch with him to bring him down more readily rather than rely on a bit. He has stopped relatively quickly - when I was better at seeing it coming. I get the feeling me sawing on his mouth is not particularly effective and may exacerbate the situation, actually. Maybe its about his teeth right now, but as one person said when she saw pictures of him before I bought him, it seems like he's trying to evade the bit. Maybe he's just a bit hater.

I get that I may not be ready or skilled enough, so I need to address that. As for not knowing about shoulder control, to be clear, I don't know what the phrase means. I can (and have trained him on) how to move his front end, disengage his hindquarters and get him to float over to open a gate. He backs softly, and is getting better with his side pass. So I may be no trainer, and the more I learn the less I know, but I think I might manage to learn how to do this right.

I've decided to take a few lessons in correct use of a bosal and to size the one I have to fit Smokey since this does seem to be his preference at this stage, based on how readily he's responding. I am keeping in mind the concerns on bolting and bucking. If the person I'm asking to help tells me I suck (trust me, this person will if I do), then I'll try a different bitless option. If I've learned anything from everyone it's LISTEN TO THE HORSE.

Thank you for guiding me on my journey. I'm sure both Smokey and Lily are even more grateful. :)


Now for Miss Lily.

On Sunday Lily I took Lily out for a ride in the arena. Mireya had decided she was up for a ride and the day before I'd taken Smokey out to be my ride. Although Lily is not fond of Cody, I decided to ride her anyway.

When saddling she gave me an uncharacteristic (or rather, a used-to-be-characteristic-but-we're-past-that-now) evil look when cinching. I checked her over, but everything looked fine. In the arena, though, she acted up when we cantered, almost bucking. I worked through it with her, but was perplexed. She was warmed up. She had no issue at the trot. We didn't work much, maybe two circles in each direction and called it a day. When I took her to the wash rack I saw the absolute weirdest thing EVER.


On her belly it looked like she had two swollen water hoses along each line of her midline. It looked like this horse:

only the swelling was not nearly as dramatic. It was slightly warm, but not bad. I asked the barn owner and she theorized she'd just gotten some edema from scratching her belly on something. I cold hosed it and Lily seemed relieved. She was eating and otherwise normal so I figured I'd give it a day.

The barn owner reported on Monday it was oozing something, so she cleaned it with some benandine.

I got back out on Tuesday night and it looked like this.

And she had one matching on the other side. Not good.

This is edema of the midline, in case you ever need to consult Dr. Google. I was flipping out. It was bigger. It was oozing something awful. Since Lily didn't seem to be in serious pain and was still eating, I figured it could wait until the morning.

I called in and told work I'd be taking a day off, called the vet and searched the internet all night. The only thing I could find that seemed to fit was the photo you saw above and a reference to Pigeon Fever, Dryland Distemper or Colorado Strangles (all the same disease).

You may know that Val at Fantastyk Voyage is going through this right now with her herd. I poured over her photos. Usually pigeon fever creates an edema on the chest, hence the name. Makes a horse look like it's got a pigeon breast. That's how Val's horses are presenting.

Maybe it was just a scratch. When I went by in the morning this is how it looked:

This one is badly lit, but do you see that little circle in the middle? That's where the ooze was, remarkably similar to the ooze on Val's photos.

Gooey bloody icky. Pick your word, they all work.

The vet saw us at 10 am and to make a long story slightly longer, thought it was a bite of something. Until he shaved it and found an abscess. And an infection. And an elevated white count. The aforementioned icky gooey bloody with the addition of pus like stuff is off for culturing.

According to the vet, there's been an outbreak of pigeon fever in Texas (he's never seen a case with a belly edema before, but after I mentioned Dr. Google he looked it up and found that photo). Apparently the bacteria that causes it tends to show up in drought conditions. Maybe Dryland Distemper is the better name.

Which I don't get because it's been raining a little and surely that counts for something.

The good news is my horse doesn't have some huge hernia exploding under her belly which was the nightmare that circled my brain for an hours, looking for a nice landing spot. This is treatable and chances are she will likely be immune in the future.

The bad news is its very contagious. I'm going to buy a nice big bottle of bleach and rinse out all my grooming tools, set aside a set for her during this time, then replace them. Hopefully if it is pigeon fever she'll be the one and only case of it.

On a side note: I learned Lily does not like to load as the only horse in a trailer on a windy day. We'll be working on that during her recovery time since that was a WHOLE bunch of fun today.

Monday, November 7, 2011

No words

Difficult news:

Friday, November 4, 2011

I have a stupid question

It's a stupid question, but it's serious.

Why do we use a bit when we ride a horse?

I don't mean this in a "I am a bitless convert and don't think we should put bits in horses' mouths" kind of way.

I mean I don't understand what the idea is.

Very early in my re-entry to horses I gave up the idea that bits = brakes. I had enough rodeo moments on a horse with a big ol' bit that managed to run right through it.

So I've simplified my approach to bits, opting for the ones that seemed the most mild. Then I read this post by mugwump and I thought I'd try a bosal since Smokey was the age of the horse she described. I don't have "shoulder control" - or rather I have no idea what that is. But I know the bit was bugging him.

And right now I riding both my horses without a bit. My young one and my old one. Both are riding better, dropping their heads with the slightest pressure, responding well to cues. The merest touch on the reins works, I don't need leverage. Smokey responds just to the tilt of the bosal. Lily neck reins and stops with my seat and, if needed, a slight pull.

And it got me to wondering what a bit is even for. What's the idea? Where does a bit fit in training? Why do we move out of a hackmore or bosal? Do you have to be working on things beyond my ability? What if you are only trail and hacking around - not jumping or trying to do dressage? Do you need a bit? Cuz both my horses are doing better this way, so I keep thinking I must be missing something. Or that there will "be a reckoning" or something. (They both will take a bit and ride in it, my hands are pretty quiet I've been told)

Seriously, I'm not asking this as a philosophical question, I just thought this was the best place to ask (I've asked others I know and they just shrugged.). Anything wrong with staying in a riding halter (like above) or a bosal?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Riding pants that ROCK

Sorry for the long delay, I've been busy with work (it's actually kind of exciting, many people are moving their financial lives over to credit unions and that means I'm one busy chick).

Any way, I've had to let my real life take a chill pill while I handled the work load.

(I recently realized that my work life wasn't my REAL life, although I enjoy it. My REAL life is family and horses. LOL)

As a result I've only ridden in these terrific pants once. But they are AMAZING. They are Irideons, just like my other riding pants, but I wanted to get a summer weight tights (I know, it's about to get cold, but with a birthday in October, that's just how these things go).

First I looked at every tight on the market, and picked these because they were boot cut, a brand I like, and have the knee patches and came in denim color. Having always ridden in jeans or my riding pant I wasn't sure if I was going to like the whole "tights" thing.

Color me converted.

First I got the absolute best email notification I've ever gotten that my order was on the way:

Today your order was lovingly removed from our shelves by Julie, our Product Specialist, and placed into our velvet-lined wheelbarrow.

Our 5-member equine team, headed by Royale Rouge, inspected your items to make sure they were in the best possible condition before mailing.

Stephanie, our Ordering Specialist, rang a bell and a hush fell over the barn as Boni, our Shipping Specialist, placed your items into the finest corrugated box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterward and our entire team waved goodbye to your package, on its way to you in our private A.R.T. jet.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping with us at Action Rider Tack. We certainly did. We wish we had a picture of you and your horse to hang on our wall as “Customer of the Week” and to add to our website photo gallery. We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to ACTION RIDER TACK.

Happy Trails!


I totally felt ridiculously special. (no, i did not send them a picture of me and smokey and lily, though I was tempted.)

Then I rode in them. No more hitching up my jeans to lift the leg in the stirrup. No more seam rubbing (which my riding pants are good about, but not my jeans). No more sliding in the saddle.

I felt a little silly in the store, but since they are a quiet blue, they're just like jeggins but better.

Yup. Love 'em. Planning on another pair for Christmas. :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I have the best horse in world

Actually, unfairly I have TWO!

I know, I know. YOU have the best horse in the world.

But let me tell you about my best horses.

Today I rode my five year old boy, who came up to the gate, practically wagging his tail. Seriously the flies were that bad. But he came up.

I've been doing this lately. I greet my horses, and if I don't have a specific plan, I ride the horse who walks up to me. A slight variation on riding the horse that shows up.

Smokey rode for the first time in a bosal. I have been riding him in a riding halter, but can't get his head down very easily, i get the feeling the signal isnt clear. I had read on mugs that horses teeth change a good bit betwwen 4 and 6, and that she rode horses that age in a hack more. I had a sense his mouth just wasnt as comfortable with the bit.

The bosal was perfect, a slight pressure on the reins and his head dropped. And he worked off my seat and legs in a way that felt seamless.

We rode with Stephanie and Cibolo, Janice and Lucy, Kimber and Cody (it was my birthday trail ride). We lead most of the time and he was so willing and easy going that I had that feeling bubble up like soda fizz.


I even went down a steep hill which has been nerve wracking for me lately. We both went down like it was no big deal. Which it isn't, of course.

That's the crux of it, isn't it. Since it was no big deal to me, he was fine. There were still moments when I had to work to convince him a bit, but they were tiny battles. Teeny tiny. Just enough to remind me he is young, generally trust worthy, but still young

This is one of the by products of joy, I think. It all feels so different.

Then there's the other best horse in the world. But I'll have to tell you about the remarkable Miss Lily next time. Plus I have a vendor/product endorsement.

I'm going to sleep to dream about riding.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


I have no idea where this is from, or who the child is, but it makes me beam.

Now for something off topic.

During our very difficult time (of which elements continue, of course), everything felt like it was on fire, burning all around me, burning to the ground. Everywhere I turned things that I had worked for over decades turned to ashes at our feet.

At one point, when I was walking through the house late at night I felt there was only one thing left I had control over.


I could wait for happiness to come on the heels of some change in fortune or I could try to grow it in this rubble. I worked on finding positive things, even if they were extremely slight. I downloaded the "optimist's creed" and taped it to my mirror.

But every day the creed was there on my mirror. I'd take one line and try to live it during the day. I found it was harder than I thought to keep to it, and I failed often. Yet it was still there on the mirror the next morning.

After about 3 months I started to feel different. It wasn't always easier, but deeper. It didn't feel as forced, thnking and being positive came much easier.

Then in small ways our lives turned around. Very small things at first, the equivalent of finding a few extra dollars in life's sofa cushion. Happiness showed up unexpected around corners. And then the big change when DH landed work.

What I realize is that the job, while a blessing, is not our source of happiness. No question that it relieves the pressure, but the happiness arrived before the job.

The next step on the journey slowly bloomed. I recently decided that it is my role in life (well one of them) to spread joy. Sure I have a humor column and that's a start. But I've been (obnoxiously at times) working on finding ways to bring joy to people. Making the guy on the phone at the pharmacy laugh. sending thank you notes. Calling colleagues to check on their family. You know, daily nice things, hoping it'll be a brighter point in someone's day.

Not changing the world, not yet. But working from the inside out.

I've taken this approach with my horses too. I've presumed that they too could use some joy. It's not about cookies, it's mostly taking time, trusting my instincts, and becoming more quiet, gentle and consistent.

The change there has been gradual too. Only recently have I been able to even become aware of the shift. I don't have a name for it, but I know one thing.

It sure is more fun.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Smokey's Hat Trick

So you might know I'm big on clicker training. It's helped me bridge things with my horses like the noise of a plastic bottle, taking a bit, lifting hooves. It's not a cure all and things still require maintenance, but it's made a big difference.

Plus having trained dogs, I get the idea of this, so there wasn't near the learning curve.

Anyway, Smokey is very, very lippy. I figured given all the things he wants to grab, it might be useful to put this to use and teach him to pick up a hat from the ground. This video is step #2 in that process. Step 1 was getting him to touch it with our command "target". Step 2 is to hold it in his teeth with the command "grab."

I don't even want to think about step 3 yet.

(we did this today and he actually did really well, but more on that later.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lovely? Me?

Grey Horse Matters (of whom I'm a HUGE fan) passed on the Lovely Blog award and I'm so honored.

Thing is when I stripped down my blog back when I was laying low I lost my spot for awards. (Frankly I can't even remember how to post these things, so there's THAT too! LOL)

I promise to get it up here along with the requisite blog recommendations and odd factoids about me as soon as I can punch an hour into my schedule to get my act together.

Video of Smokey working on his latest "trick" coming soon as well!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ponying part two.

Hi there, it's me, Smokey.

There has been quite a bit of goings on.

Bit. Get it? Hehe.

Anyway, after all the fun at the place with all the sweaty horses, Mom said it was time for me to practice getting dragged around like a baby horse.

I thought it sounded kind of dumb. In fact in the orange sandy circle I tried to show Mom how to do it. We all walk. Now we stop. Now we walk. Then she and Lily started trotting and I said "No ma'am, you two slow down! Someone could get hurt!"

I worry about these two some times. Yesh.

I had to use all my massive muscles in my neck to get them back to the proper gait.

Silly mares.

But then I kind of got in the mood to trot. To the right, cuz that's my favorite side. Everything is way nicer on the right. Really no reason to trot going to the left. But you know Mom. She *insisted.*

Finally we got out of the sandy orange pen and walked on the road. It was all fine except apparently I'm not allowed to bite Lily on the butt.

It's not like I was going to do it hard or anything. Lily is SO sensitive. She actually pinned her ears at me! Twice! Did she get in trouble? No, not Miss Western Pleasure trained, grand baby of some doc at a bar or some such.

Then I couldn't rub my itchy nose on the saddle pad.


The next day we went all over like that again, but way further, with me being dragged all around. It's okay, I guess, and Mom says I got the idea. Then I got to be the lead horse and I was all "Woo hoo! I'm in charge! Let's go here! I'm rubbing against that cedar! Woo hoo...errr..."

Suddenly I was going in one of those itty bitty circles while Lily followed with an irritated look on her face. Sorta a reminder that Mom's in charge.

You know, *technically*.

It was fun, but not as fun as the Cookie time. But Mom got some movie of it paaqor something and she said she'll get to that.

Back to my hay, ya'll stay outta fences!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Storm Ranch Endurance Ride - one woman's perspective

As you may have surmised from Smokey's post, he was not my ride at the endurance race. He was just at the ride to gain experience traveling to such events. I didn't intend to ride him there, although I thought I might be able to around camp. I hand walked him around and was quickly convinced that riding him around this first time wasn't an option. He needs more travel time. And I need more experience getting him to stay focused.

I apologize for the photos, they are all out of my iphone. One of these days I'm going to get back to taking real photos!

Happy, happy horse.

We three - me, Smokey, and Lily - arrived on Saturday. Most of the 25 mile competitors were out, but due back soon. The 50s wouldn't be back for hours. Both horses loaded so well, I was taken aback. In fact, Lily right from the start seemed to be happy to be going somewhere. She self loaded and moved to the side for the door to close behind her.

I tied them to the trailer, Lily perky but constrained, Smokey a bit up, but not too bad considering. The BO's new trailer, the Taj Mah Haul, was in place. I'd be bunking there.

Jake (who had been at our barn for conditioning),
did great at his race, coming in 11th
The Taj is in the

One rider, J, was going to leave, but asked if I'd like to take a quick trail ride. Fortunately there was plenty opportunity to pleasure ride at this endurance ride, something I never thought of. I always thought that at a ride like this the most you could do is ride in the endurance rides or just hack around camp. I set up horsekeeping quickly and saddled Lily.

The BO returned - she got 3rd the
first day, 2nd the next.
She's always in the top ten in these events.

Since Lily has had so many soundness issues, I was hesitant to go far on her. J assured me we could turn back at any point if I grew concerned.

Lily headed out to the trailhead with ears forward, only one hesitation around the busy area where the endurance riders come in for the vet check. We hit the trail at a walk, but soon we were trotting.

Oh boy, I thought. This is really going to be a problem. We didn't trot much that first ride out, but that's usually where things get hard on Lily. Just a short bit of trotting used to set her head bobbing. She has improved, only occasional signs of a problem, generally gone once she warms up, but I still worry.People would remark that I was riding her
only in her riding halter, which is a modified
side pull. I never once thought of putting a
bit on her. There is no reason.

Most remarkably, she stayed sound - after 5 miles the first day and 7 miles where we trotted nearly 75% of the time!

It was such a nice set of rides that I wondered why I even had a horse like Smokey. No, no, I'm not letting my silly gelding go, but the carefree ride on Lily who I trust explicitly, was just fantastic.

Lily, of course, is 17. I've successfully brought her back to her best self. She has had a great deal of training and hauling. Smokey can be that kind of horse, but not right now, and not unless I give him chances to go to places, dance on the end of a line and teach him what I can. And to let Lily show him a thing or two.

So this week I gave Smokey his second ponying lesson. But I'll let him tell you about that - next time.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Storm Ranch Endurance Ride - One horse's perspective.

Hi. It's me, Smokey.

Guess what? I convinced Mom to let me have this post all to myself! So no interruptions from you know who!

This weekend we went on a trip. First I got in my moving stall and got a cookie. Then Lily got in and got a cookie. Then we rode - ZOOM! I like the moving stall now, except when it stops. It stopped for a LONG time.

We had to stop at mom's home barn for a while. There were no cookies. So I kept pushing my special spot on the mat. I push and stomp on that spot and usually, before you know it, ZOOOM!

Lily said to quit it. She made a mad face at me. But I didn't care since she can't bite me from between the divider thing. So I stomp stomp stomp. Makes the time go faster. Seriously. Try it sometime.

FINALLY we were ZOOM again. We went down a bunch of twisty roads, one bumpy road and then we were at a new place with a whole bunch of other moving stalls and pullers, and other horses.

LOTS of other horses, mostly skinny ones, with the roundy middles. I kept it cool, though.

I might of shouted once, you know, just to say hey to everybody.

Once or twice.

Then Lily and I got our very own paddock with the biting white snakes. I hate those things. But there was lots of hay and water.

Some of the horses around us were all sweaty and looking tired. Maybe they had to run here instead of coming in a moving stall.

Then mom took me on a walk around. I didn't like it. No sir. Besides I had to leave Lily. And she was probably scared.

I shouted at her, just to let her know I was okay. Just a couple times.

Mom said there is no way I'm riding your silly nonsense.

Then I went back to the paddock and that was good. Then mom took Lily! She said "don't worry you have Tuffy to keep you company."

This is Tuffy. See? Like THIS GUY is supposed to make me feel better? Please. He doesn't even have a mane.

I tried to point out that I probably could just follow along, that they needed protection. I showed my big horse moves. Snaking neck. Couple bucks. Impressive stuff.

They left.

Crazy. I hollered at Lily for a while, just to let her know she'd be okay.

Then all I could do was wait.

Mom said she'd tell you about the next part. But she's all tired and stuff, so it might be a day or two.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cantering on a trail

Friday was huge.

I had taken the day off, but my energy and spirit was low. That weird malaise that creeps up on women of a ... certain age. Or maybe I hadn't had enough horse time in recent weeks while we adjust to DH's new schedule.

I went out to the barn not even sure if I was going to do much more than round pen and back trails.

But when I drove up I saw Stephanie was there. I tried not to get my hopes up. Stephanie works the night shift at an emergency vet clinic, and often isn't up to riding when I get there, understandably.

So when she said she was up for it, my malaise disappeared. We went on two great trail rides - one with Lily and then one with Smokey. She was on Cibolo.

And. I. Cantered. Both horses. On the trail. And she cantered on Cibolo, who was as quiet as I have ever seen him.

Lily and I cantered up a hill. Smokey we took to the dead end road (since I don't trust his brakes) and cantered there 3 times. It was an amazing mid morning ride, a gift of confidence.

And, as I'm writing this, we are camping at the endurance ride. I'm not riding the ride, but having horse adventures...which I will write up when we get home tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nursery rhyme time

I took my horses to the vet,
Their coggins I was there to get.

Two horses load in without a fit,
My carrot stick not needed a bit.

We drive, we drive, we drive some more,
I hold my purse close and pass the tack store.

Then we stop in the gravel drive,
Two horses have made it here alive.

I open the door and one steps out,
Quiet and calm, without a doubt.

The other horse nods and does the same,
You'd think the pair was completely sane.

Two quick pokes, they didn't blink an eye
Then one and two load without a sigh.

Back at home both step quietly out,
Leaving me little doubt.

Days this drama free are sweet and dear,
And worthy of posting here.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Outside My Comfort Zone Part 2

Smokey was also in a quiet space, but I found him sticky at the canter in the round pen. Really sticky. As in "I'm not going to canter, so there."

We descended into a brief argument until I realized it was headed in the wrong direction. Raising my "voice" to Smokey doesn't work. For example, I tried snapping my rein ends on him to push him into the canter. You would have thought I attempted to brand him. He became frazzled and pissy, in a sense matching my irritation, I suppose.

I haven't quite found the right line to push my point with him. There's a firmness that has to settle in place, and then he'll listen. But I can't quite hit it consistently.

We were arguing and I said "No battles today, Smokey. Let's just get this done." I brought my energy down, shifted my mind. We settled back down to a walk trot transition until it was smooth again, then I cued for the canter. And he cantered.

So why couldn't we do that from the start? I have no clue, that's what I mean by missing it somehow. Maybe he needed time, but seriously, at this point, he needs to be less... diva.

We hit the local trails, and I was inspired to do a little of the things I saw on "America's Favorite Trail Horse." I found a few obstacles including a new log. At first Smokey shied at it a bit, but after some repetition we were going over it at the trot with no hesitation. It wasn't a jump, but as close as I'm ready to attempt (given I don't know anything about jumping other that what I see on TV).

Then I took him down the route I took Lily earlier. Smokey wasn't as hesitant - he's a little better about going out on his own. THE HOUSE was still a hurdle, but not nearly as bad as with Lily. He was a little high headed, but we got through it pretty well. We even had two cars pass us and ran into Stephanie coming back from her crazy graveyard shift at the emergency vet clinic.

We were on our way back when something by THE HOUSE caught his eye. I could feel his energy rise. I gathered the reins and started to have him dosome work when whatever caught his eye really moved - and so did he. He spun and headed back the way we came. But this time, this time I was ready. I had already gathered the reins. I steered him back around, stopping him under two trees.

I had controlled the bolt and stopped him! I urged him over to the spot he had turned, but he was blowing. I dismounted and walked him through the area over and over, he followed me readily on a loose rein. On the fifth time I lead him back to the place where it all started and got back on.

And I rode him past THE HOUSE. Calmly, with a smile.

We had a good walk back to the barn, meeting up with Stephanie who had gone over to say hi to Cibolo. She brought an apple, but Smokey doesn't like them for some reason. (He will *sometimes* eat a carrot. But cattle calling cubes are his real addiction.)

This time I felt like I didn't let Smokey down. I rode through the situation, was ready, responded appropriately, didn't let fear own me. Had he bolted to the barn I'm not sure I could have stopped him, but really who knows... Maybe I would have. Afterall he could have kept going, period. In the end I think this experience gave us both something we really needed.

Faith in one another.

Outside my Comfort Zone Part 1

On Saturday I pushed my comfort zone. Usually on my first ride of the weekend I keep it pretty quiet and safe. Round pen, arena, local trails.

But I decided to start with Lily and she was so quiet and calm I thought it would be a good day to get her past THE HOUSE. The house is close to the road, with thick trees across the street. It's got many odd shapes and things around it, and at one point there were chickens that would squawk.

Clearly many horses are eaten right in that spot. You can tell by all the horse hoof marks spinning.

We did start with a warm up. In the round pen Lily was rushing at the canter, but we rode through to quieter transitions. Something about that experience made me realize my confidence has actually risen despite my lake adventure. Maybe because of the way Smokey and I ended our adventure; a trainer told me (was it Rashid? I don't remember) how you end your time with your horse has the same effect on the horse as how you feel when you end a date. If the last five minutes are great, that's what you retain about the guy..

Lily and I hit the familiar trails and then made our way to THE HOUSE. I'd ridden by it with Lily when I was with BO and one of her training horses, and had just a slight hesitation. But now we were alone. Lily was solid in our regular trail, but now we were outside her comfort zone. Riding alone, riding far from the herd.

She balked by backing up. I turned her and encouraged her forward. We did these little spirals for a while - walking forward, stopping, backing up, turning, walking forward, stopping, backing up, turning, walking forward. But soon we were past the most concerning area, and made our way further down the road. I stopped at the point I felt was two steps beyond her edge and we stood there for a bit. She was anxious, but listened.

We turned back to the barn, with only one spot where she attempted to break into a trot, but quickly responded to my cue.

All of this was bitless, in her riding halter, the one I used with Canyon way back when (the company I ordered it from went out of business, but I found them here on line and plan on ordering one for Christmas).

I was so proud of Lily, she's never liked riding solo and now is doing so well I am thrilled.

Next up, Smokey. Which was pretty good, except for the brief bolt...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Learning from bad days

I appreciate the supportive comments about my escapade with Smokey.


This horse journey for me is about learning from my mistakes. I'm not beating myself up, I just need to learn what I shoulda'.

In the event that these lessons are helpful to others, here is what I would have done different.

1. When I learned they were running late I should have had a plan B. I have noticed that horses know the minute you don't know what to do. I did take him to the street to do some work, and if I'd kept doing some deliberate work, that would have helped.

2. I should have changed him into his working halter. The web halter was not sending a message, it just became a tug of war. He never pulled completely away, but it was harder than it needed to be.

3. Correct the rear immediately. Nuf said.

4. Not spend so much time in the water. He is a good water horse, but we should have cut our time there in half.

5. Someone asked if I was lunging him. Not in terms of mindless circles. More like giving him a chance to move since that's how he releases anxiety. And refocusing. Yes he goes in a circle, but it's about turning ear and eye to me, not wearing down. I'd like to have a longer lead line for these moments.

6. Check my emotions more to not let my frustration build. Shake it off quicker. I'm going to get aggravated. But I can work on getting back to balance sooner.

I did many things right. Most importantly we ended in a very solid place. The next two days we had terrific rides. We will see what's next.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Bastrop Fire Update

The fire in Bastrop is 95% contained. The very day I went swimming with Smokey (and locked myself out of the truck and trailer, and had that weird moment where suddenly everything was... right) there was another fire at the lake, near our barn. Fortunately it was put out quickly. I've never heard of so many fires in our area starting for no rhyme or reason.

This post by Sarah at Halt Near X does a great job of summing up the situation in Texas. As does the word dire.

This video by Raymond Schlogel,a camera man who shoots for Larry Gaitlan, was so compelling, I had to post it here. There is a scene, about midway through, of horses who are running on the road, loose, running from the fire or its remains. Or maybe they have no where to go home to.

Texas Fires/Alpha Rev - Black Sky from Underground Planet on Vimeo.

If you get a chance, read his description of filming that day.

Texas sure could use a hurricane.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Well THAT didn't go well... Part 2

Ground tie. Yes, sometimes he can ground tie.
It's a work in progress.

I pulled out my chair from the trailer, grabbed my cooler, got a little organized. Smokey had his hay bag.

I decided to walk him over to the road area that leads into the parking lot. One of my goals is to work with him on pavement every chance I get since it seems to make him (me) nervous. He was perfect, lead nicely, looked about but didn't get worried.

We headed back to the trailer. Still no sign of the BO and B. I tied him to the trailer and tried to settle down to eat a little. I changed into something suitable for swimming. Still nobody.

How long does it take your horse to unravel? It took mine about 10 minutes of waiting. Then he was a fish on a line, twirling around, convinced that the other horses should be here.

I had to agree. I needed to give him something to do, something to focus on. And me too.

I decided that we'd go swimming. They'd be there soon, and could meet us in the water.

I locked my cell phone and truck keys in the trailer tack room and headed for the lake. Smokey was a little less well behaved, so we corrected here and there. His head was high, he was looking for others, calling once or twice. We entered the water and he was initially doing well.

Then he began pawing at the water. Then pulling on the rope. I only had him in his web halter (mistake number 3 of about 79) and had trouble making my messages convincing. Then it happened.

It was the thing that if I was a more knowledgeable horse woman, someone who understood young horses better, I would have nipped in the bud. He gave the tiniest rear.

Honestly, it was just beautiful and that's part of the reason I didn't think of correcting it. Then came the head moves in the water, and a second, bigger rear.

Don't get me wrong, he was never in danger of falling over, nor was he rearing "at" me, but he was definitely doing this as a show of strength. Not to me, I believe, my sense was it was more of a display meant for anyone who might dare come to eat him.

Right about then I decided to get us out of the water. I'd tried to ride him in the water, but he was too headstrong, too full of himself – in a bad way. He seemed to blank out about me for moments, I reminded him that I was there. He was that frazzled.

We walked out of the water – I turned him twice when he got ahead of me – and we headed back to the trailer. Still no sign of the BO or B.

That's it, we're leaving, I thought to myself. I secured him to the trailer, stepped in to get a manure fork to clean it out, and shut the tack room door. As I was shoveling out manure I saw him rear – again – as he was tied.

That's it! I thought, my last shred of patience gone. I gave him an immediate verbal correction and headed out to do some circles. He was a mess, but eventually got two braincells focused on me. I re-tied him and went to put up the manure fork.

Which is when I discovered that the tack room door was locked. I checked down at my pocket. It was flapped open and a quick check showed there was no key there.

Seriously? I'd lost it during our brief lead line lunging? And how did the door even lock? I was so pleased that I couldn't accidentally lock the tack room door because it requires the key to lock it. Yet I was so gifted that I somehow managed this feat.

And my cell phone?

In the tack room. Cuz, you know, it's safer in there.

Now who was frazzled?

I seemed to remember I'd beeped opened the truck, so I checked the doors. The passenger doors were still locked, but the drivers side was open. I started rummaging for the extra key. Gone. With all the recent moves we were constantly moving keys around.

We have a hidden key, though. I grabbed a dirty towel from the back and lay it on the ground under the truck. Well, now we know why we call it hidden. I sure as heck couldn't find it.

I attempted not to hyperventilate.

I looked back at the tack room door. It has a window. Maybe I could break it, I'd hung the keys on a hook inside the door, surely I could reach them. Fortunately I hadn't locked the window from the inside, and I was able to slide it open and punch out the screen.

I reached down blindly and touched the knob for the door. I figured that this door would have some sort of safety built in so you couldn't lock yourself inside. Sure enough, the knob slid , and the door was open.

See the round knob? I love that round knob.

No sign of the tack room key, but big deal, I already figured out how to break into it anyway. I quickly grabbed my truck keys and cell phone and put them in the checked-three-times,-yes-it's- unlocked truck. Now, to load Smokey.

I don't even have to tell you this part, right? He refused to load. Right about then the BO and B showed up, looking like they'd had a heck of a ride themselves. (they did).

“Will he not load?” the BO called out.

“Oh, he's going to load.” I said. Shortly there after he did, without any help from anyone else (my lone source of pride at that point).

I drove back as rain started to hit my windshield. I was so disappointed, I'd made choices that day that set us back, way back. What was I doing with a five year old horse? I had no clue. I let him unravel because I couldn't see it coming. I bit back the thought that I shouldn't actually have this horse. It's a mental road I've driven many times, thinking I don't "deserve" this horse. I'm over that now.

When championship reiners are being left to starve, I have no illusions that somehow the fact I'm not a top level trainer and dressage rider is a horrible fate for Smokey. Frankly, I'm of the mind that we are both just going to have to deal with our mutual shortcomings. I'll work on mine, he'll work on his, we'll get somewhere because I'm too stubborn not to get somewhere.

At the barn I unloaded him and took him to the round pen. We had a brief session. He listened well after some quick turns. But I knew we still weren't ending this on this note. He needed to get back in the trailer.

Before you think I was totally insane, remember, we are in an extreme fire danger zone, even a day of rain won't cure that. I can't have a horse who won't load.

And we were not ending on a good note. He was going through the motions, but he wasn't connecting with me.

We had another battle at the trailer. He wouldn't come near it, acted like he had no idea where I wanted him to go when I was trying to line lunge him. This is a horse who will change direction in the round pen with a slight movement of my shoulders.

I finally got a glimmer of cooperation. He turned in the direction I asked. We went back to the trailer. He put a hoof in, then back out. I turned him once and went back to the trailer and stood there with him, dropping my head.

“Come on Smokey. We're way past this, we know how to do this,” I said softly.

And he jumped in the trailer.

I stepped in after him. He stood in place, his eyes still wide, but something coming back into them, something I was surprised to see.

The only way I can describe it is it was that look your child gets when they drop the tough guy act and they are there, your kid again. Accepting of your help. Accepting of your role. Letting go.

We stood in the trailer together for a minute. Maybe two. Neither one of us asking to leave. Then I stepped away and said “back.” He calmly stepped back and I walked him back to his paddock and the rain went from a sprinkle to a gentle steady fall.

When I got home to get cleaned up I found the trailer key. It was stuck in my pocket.

I had apparently not dug deep enough.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Well THAT didn't go well... Part 1

Things did not go well.

In fact, it was pretty much a disaster. Fortunately, for once, I kept my perspective. Not completely, but darn near.

But let's start at the beginning. On Friday the trainer/BO suggest I join her at the lake for a morning ride. I declined. I knew she was taking her endurance riding client out there and they had been working on conditioning the new Qua-Arab in the barn.

I've been really enjoying my horse time, but sticking to my comfort zone around the barn. Both horses are doing well, we are all having a good time, drama is low.

So riding with two experience endurance riders who will be on horses who have been in training for weeks sounds like a bad idea to me. I'd be on the greenest horse, who I hadn't ridden in a week – and last week with all the changes in our lives with DH, I'd only ridden once. No thanks.

“Just join us for a swim, then. You can come out and meet us afterwards and swim with Smokey.”

Hmm. That sounded doable. We'd haul over to the lake which would be good, meet them, maybe hand walk around, then swim, then go home. Minimal. So I agreed.

That night I packed my lunch with my nerves barely contained, attempting to decide between an orange and trail mix, as if picking the wrong item would throw off my rhythm.

I ended up taking both.

I was out at the barn a little later than usual on Saturday to feed since DH was home and we were hanging out a bit. Rain had finally fallen in San Antonio and we were hopefully that a few drops would head our way. Clouds surrounded us, a welcome gray shade, the smell of damp earth in the air. I wondered if the weather would impact the horses' moods.

I pulled into the barn and set to work to quickly grained the horses I knew they'd be taking – Jake, the Qua-Arab bought from the auction, Tuffy, the BO's latest horse and just about the sweetest, calmest arab I've ever met, and Rocky, the other bay arab (also a sweet horse, but with many soundness issues). I was just starting on graining my horses when BO and the Client, B, arrived. We talked through the plan – I'd call about 11 then head out to meet them. By then I'd have Smokey warmed up, maybe we'd ride in the parking area, then swim and have lunch.

Then I saw a bad scrape on Smokey's knee.

BO checked it, and agreed it was fairly minor, something he must have picked up when they were running loose in the pasture area. I would treat it with a water therapy and decided if he showed any signs of lameness at all we'd call it off.

They loaded up after a while and I focused on feeding the remaining horses. I hooked up my truck to the trailer, triple checking everything since it had been so long since I'd hauled anywhere. Then I got Smokey saddled up and Lily haltered.

I worked Lily in the round pen and rode bareback. We worked on cleaning up our side pass to the gate. It gets better every time. I've grown so close to this mare, and she has so much try it's challenging to not over ask. We're getting the hang of each other.

Then I rode Smokey in the round pen. Not a bit of lameness in the leg. In fact I was surprised to find him quiet and responsive given how little we'd ridden lately. It was as if we weren't missing a lick. It looked like this was going to be a great day to take a step forward.

He's already getting his grulla coat on.

I took Lily back to have hay with the others and rode Smokey out on the trails. He was perfect. Quiet. Listening. We curved around bushes and trees, up gentle slopes, everything went so well. The swim would be a reward, I decided. A nice topper to a good day.

I called the BO a little later than the time we'd set up. She said they were running late, but to head on out. Smokey loaded easily and we headed out to the lake.

When we pulled into the parking lot I was a little concerned with the number of trailers in place. I thought the BO said no one was there, but maybe they arrived after they had hit the trails. I unloaded Smokey and he was pretty good. A bit up, but not bad at all.

Unfortunately it was a condition that wouldn't last.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Off Topic - Crib Notes Mega Monday

Some Mondays are more Monday than other Mondays.
Some Mondays you carefully plan your entire day to make it to an appointment in San Antonio and arrive five minutes early! That is, five minutes early for the time you carefully wrote down. Which is the wrong time. The one hour wrong time.
I tried to think of myself as only 55 minutes late, but it was cold comfort on the long drive back home.
My fate Monday was sealed early on. Right around 4:30 am I glanced at the clock and noted that yes, the alarm was set, and yes, I had another hour and a half to sleep.
Unfortunately ignorance is sleep inducing. My dreams were so optimistic, consisting of all the things I was going to get done later in the day. I felt positively productive when I woke up, until I glanced over and realized I was an hour behind, because although my alarm had gone off, it had done so silently.
Only I would keep an alarm that goes off silently. Granted, it isn’t designed to go off silently, but it has a sticky button that every now and then changes the volume from dream shattering to dream extending. I keep thinking I’ll remember to double check it and it won’t be a problem.
And now it won’t be. That clock is off to a nice big land fill.
Mireya got a tardy slip at school, the first day they were giving them out. She gave me that look as she took possession of the slip. That “you have totally ruined my reputation with the new principal” look. I encouraged her to have a good day despite the rocky start. She refrained from rolling her eyes, but just barely.
The spirit of Mega Monday continued. I tried to drop off books to donate at the library. The box they were in was falling apart, but after some careful stacking I managed to struggle over to the Friends of the Library store doorway. Only to find that the Friends of the Library are closed on Mondays.
Smart cookies, those Friends of the Library.
I managed to get my books back to the truck without dropping them on my foot. Some times fate has a little bit of sympathy. Not enough sympathy to keep the other box from falling over when I opened the door, but enough to keep everything really heavy inside the truck.
All I can say is thank goodness it’s Thursday. 

(Do you enjoy these? The ebook collection will be out in a month! )