Monday, August 29, 2011

Sir Smokey and the Fire Breathing Dragon

Hi. It's me. Smokey.

Today I have a cautionary
tale for all my fellow horses out there.

Beware the Dragon!!

It wasn't a dragon.

MOM! I thought we agreed I could tell the story.

You are going to freak people out.
Not to mention our horse followers.

Sometimes life is scary. Really scary.
This is a service to my e-herd.

E-herd? Seriously?
Did you just make that up?

We were going to try I-herd, but Lily said it
was too alpha mare.

I can see that.

ANYWAY, back to MY story. I was out on the trail
practicing dragging Lily around.

The correct term is "ponying"

Have you seen the hind quarter on
that mare?

If she's a pony, then I'm a draft horse!

Good point.

Anyway, I was high up on the trail when
I first heard the dragon. It was a terrible sound,
deep and roaring, and verily I say to you
there was even a cursed smell.

Verily? Cursed? Have you been
reading my old sword and
sorcery novels?

Lily was reading something she
called a "bodice ripper." I thought it
was about harness racing.

It was so not.

But I picked up
a few terms here and there.

Oh dear.

Where was I? Oh yeah.

Aye, the smell was terrible,
like a hoof burning. Sure, it was hot out,
but not that hot out.

Of course I was on high alert since we
have interlopers in the barn.

They are here for training, remember?

They are interlopers. I saw one of them
eating from MY HAY BALE.

We have dozens of hay bales.
How do you know they ate yours?

Silly. They are ALL mine.

Anyway, the smell and the roaring
was coming from my barn.

I was eager to investigate.

You could have fooled me.

Eager and cautious.

Like a giraffe.

It's easier to see with my head up like that.

Finally I convinced mom that we should head in to investigate.
The roaring was deafening! There was the sound of grinding
of bones too. I feared for our lives, and that of mom.

Still I walked in, courageous horse that I am.

(Refraining from commenting
with great discipline)

The roaring was coming from the lowest part of the beast.
I was right! There was a dragon!

And there, tied to the wall to serve as a sacrifice,
was one of the interlopers!

Too bad for him, but would WE BE NEXT?

I told you, it was a forge. For the black smith.

That's ridiculous. My farrier only uses files and

Sometimes they use forges.

It was a dragon!

And now the interloper has it's discarded
teeth on its feet! It must have made some sort of deal! Probably
will lead us all into the dragon's lair later!

(palm to head)

Ahem. Back to the story.

The beast blocked the wash rack and we circled it cautiously...

That's one word for it.

And I got rinsed off within a hoof width of the monster.

It was a truck. The black smith's truck.

Right. With a roaring fire and bone grinder next to it.

Egads, mom, it's amazing you haven't been devoured.

Egads? Egads?
That's it. No more romance
novels for you.

That's fine. I think I need martial arts training anyway.
They have all kinds of dragons in China.

Have you heard of Jackie Chan?

Cibolo says he's got
all the moves.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


You tell me.


and 2:

Comments and critiques welcome, but I think I improved (except for the very end lurch).

More videos and a post a little later. Stayed up too late. It was 110 today, which we do not do.

This better not be global warming, because if it is, I'm moving.

Hope you had a horse filled weekend...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Shoulder improves, riding through Smokey's antic

Lily's shoulder seems better - after her pitchy episode I noted her shoulder was out and it seemed reasonable that it could be causing her to be so off balance (although lord knows I need to work on three things at least).

So I did my best Jr. Chiro Adjustment that I was taught. I don't have the strength to do it right, or the right technique, but she licked and chewed afterwards, so I crossed my fingers. She had four days off and I came out to ride early.

Her attitude was noticeably better, and we headed to the round pen. I wanted her to run on some soft sand so I could see how she felt. Sure enough she did some out of character neck/head snaking, but after one rotation I could see that she was getting more comfortable. After five or six more turns there was no more twisting on her part, her transition was fluid. The joint, I think, was warmed up.

I think this is what she needs, every time. And I need to keep an eye on her shoulder.

We rode in the round pen, cantering smoothly. I worked on keeping my arms quiet, my legs in a better position and mostly relaxing into the ride. It was a good session for both of us. I didn't drive her with my seat, but tried to move with her rhythm. I'll try to video it tomorrow, or maybe Sunday.

We worked also on side passing to the gate which is a mess. But I think we made progress. We'll keep working it.


Smokey was very funny today. One thing I like about this horse is his curiosity. I'm looking forward to exposing him to more things so he can explore the world a bit more - poor thing, it's been so hot and I've been so budget conscious and trail worried that we haven't made any trips this summer. I could get somewhere early enough to ride, but then the trailer ride home it'll be over 100.

I think realistically my next step is trailering to another arena. I'm trying to be rational about where I'm willing to go right now. Frankly, I'm having fun riding again, and while I need to do more, I'm reveling in the fun at this point. And an arena seems like a good option.

I was getting Lily ready for cooling off after our ride and he poked his head in the tack room. A stack of magazines was just in reach. He grabbed one and started lipping through it. Apparently he found it boring, and tossed it on the floor.

Our ride in the round pen was one part perfect, and one part "I don wanna!"

His weak canter is clockwise, and I find I have to have a serious conversation at some point in that canter. Sometimes it's better than others, today we had to head off a cow kick and a turn to the center. And then, as if he reached some sort of inner conclusion, we rode on, in a perfect canter circle. Clockwise.


It was a morning I wanted to hold on to, I wanted to take the rest of the day off and not let go of my horses. Even though we didn't accomplish some big thing, we didn't conquer any major obstacle or win any trophy. I wanted it to go on and on.

There isn't enough time. There isn't enough time in my life for these horses (nor money, but sometimes I can believe that's a minor concern).

But I make the best of the moments I've got. I wrap them in a silk ribbon and wear them around my neck, letting the warmth, the softness, the smooth flow of memory sink deep inside and remind me of how precious it all is.

All of it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cantering video

Here's a brief video of my near death... er,... my canter on Lily when she felt a bit "pitchy." Let me know if I am doing anything to cause this problem from what you see. (I did get off balance at the end, so that lean was definitely not helping. :))

(isn't she just the bees knees?)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Last Weekend of Summer - 3 horse days...

It was the last official weekend of Summer (granted 100 degree days are expected for several more weeks - but insofar as the school calendar is concerned, this is it).

I had three straight days of horse time squeezed in before school shopping marathons. Friday was the usual "I have no idea what you're talking about. What's a canter?" and "Hi everybody! I'm walking by! Yoo hoo!"

Really? REALLY? Do we have ta?

Saturday was a chance to share horse time with my good friend and writing buddy Kimber (from Fragrant Liar, very funny blog) who rode Cody the Wonder Horse.

I'm not sure who was happier.

Smokey decided turns were purely optional at the canter, and we had some close encounters with the fence line. I have to remind myself that there was a time I couldn't turn him at the trot. So we are getting there. He did, however, insist on some photos (seriously, he mugged for the camera/iphone).

This is my good side, mom.

And shared his views on helmets - they should be worn, even if it's just the liner.

On Sunday Sierra joined me at the barn, she on Cody the Wonder Horse, me on Lily and Smokey. Lily did some crow hopping at the canter, but I suspect it was because of how I was sitting. Once I sat deeper for the departure, she did great. Does that make sense? I have a video I'll be posting tomorrow of our canter time.

Smokey, on the other hoof, demonstrated his ability to turn at the canter - in the round pen. But it was our best round pen cantering, so I considered it progress.

We took some time to do the trails together along with Janice and her arabian mare Lucy. Lily did well, Smokey was so-so. Wish there were more cool hours in the day...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

WTC for Smokey, Back up to Speed on Lily

The birthday marathon season is almost over and I managed to put in three solid day s on the horses - after two weeks off.

It started predictably - Lily acting as if she's never been out of a barn in her life, Smokey acking like a 900 pound toddler. Fortunately I recognize these things as part of who they are, not some sort of alarming trend.

It made me think of what it is our horses need from us and how it can be so different with each horse.

Lily, for example, as solid as she is, has a thing with worry. She tries to please but if you start to worry, she takes it and runs with it. She needs assurance, emotional assurance, from her rider. I can canter her around an arena, but when a young girl gets on her Lily feels the girl's worry and progressively gets chargy.

I get back on her and she exhales. And we go into a gentle lope, no problem.

Smokey, on the other hand, needs me to be focused and pretty stern. He is like a butterfly, wanting to flit from thing to thing. Our Sunday session fell apart a bit, and while I cobbled it back together, I realized that I need to remember to work on one thing at a time. And if it's not the day to work on it (when he gets frustrated) to refocus myself and work on plan B with the same strict attention to detail.

It's no accident that I have two horses that are so soft to the touch that I need to pay attention to details. This is exactly the kind of sense of humor God has always had with me. I had said I didn't mind waiting to have our second baby, but I didn't want to be changing diapers on my 40th birthday.

Mireya, our second child was born two months before my 40th birthday. Because SOMEBODY apparently finds these things funny.


So challenging Ms. Big Picture with two horses that are all about details?

Funny. REAL funny.

Cody, he's a horse you could ride all day and basically get away with kick to go, pull to stop. Your legs could flop all over and he'd just go with it. You need no attention to detail with that horse, just a general sense of direction.

But of course I can't have that kind of horse. No, no, no.
Because how would that help me grow?

On another note the trainer asked me to head out for a trail ride. I opted out. There is no way I'm ready after two weeks off. I need some desensitization. Some reintegration time. I finally asked her how long it had been since she'd been on a horse that bolted on a trail with her. She was silent for a minute and admitted it had been a while. It's been a while for me too. but right now, I'm going to do what I can and build my confidence. I'm simply not in a place to dive in. I'm sure she sees a horse that could be doing so much more.

But for me, I just want to work up to it. Maybe in September.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Crib Notes - the Tarantula saga part ewwww.

As I mentioned, life has been very horse free lately, but it has featured an arachnid. Here's part Ewww in the tarantula saga.

The Cobweb in the Sky

The tarantula saga continues, thank goodness.

Fuschia, the pink-toed tarantula we are arachnid sitting for the summer, is a casual eater, dining on her crickets only periodically. I have yet to see her dine on her buggy entrees, a lucky coincidence I earnestly hope to continue experiencing.

But as a result, I can’t just dump a load of crickets every other day in her terrarium/condo, but have to peer in to see if any of the doomed hoppers remain. She usually moves a bit, a tiny leg wave as if she’s annoyed that I’m blocking her light.

Then, on Thursday she didn’t move. I came back later and checked again. Nothing. I blew gently on her, which is a sure fire way to get her moving. Still as a rock. I was horrified. Somehow we had managed to kill the third grade class tarantula. The kids were out of town for the night with dad, so I decided to spare them the bad news.

The next morning my guilty conscious required me to send a message to Mr. Herzog, the teacher who had entrusted us with Fuschia’s care:

Bad news. The tarantula has gone to the big cobweb in the sky.

While Fuschia has been a relatively quiet member of the household, I was not looking forward to breaking the news to Mireya who would be mortified that we had managed to fail arachnid sitting. She’s been a dutiful, if distant, guardian of the eight-legged summer guest, regularly filling her water bowl and reporting on her location in the web.

When they arrived back home I realized it was time to break the news. I checked on Fuschia one last time.

I did a double take. It looked a little crowded in there. Like Fuschia had a guest.

Certainly we had not invited over any gentleman suitors to her condo. And, as far as I knew, no one else was bringing in more “pets,” although around here you can never be sure.

I peered in for a closer look, and sure enough, there were more legs in there than there should be. I left the room to… er… get some air.

Then it slowly dawned on me. Fuschia has molted. And apparently she has learned from my daughters that the best place for a discarded outfit is right in the middle of her room.

I sent an update to Mr. Herzog. He had been out of town, but had surmised that we were witnessing molting, not expiration.

He then suggested we could keep Fuschia’s outgrown shell, to which I sent a message back:


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Horse? What Horse? How about a Crib Note?

Tis the season of the birthday parties here (Dad and both daughters) and that means Momma has no time for her four hoofed kids. It showed when the farrier came. Lily was fine, Smokey was a brat - but he was just bored. We got it done, but fun it was not.

Plus its hot enough to smelt copper.

Hopefully this Friday will give me some horse time. Until then, here's a Crib Notes to get you laughing... I'm going to post part one of what is the tarantula trajectory:

Not our tarantula, but definitely her twin sister. Or brother.

First, some background. Our adventures with tarantula started on the last week of school:

Our youngest daughter, the one who still runs from moths, volunteered to take home the class pink-toed tarantula. Since I consider this one small step on ridding her of her bug phobia that has made spring such a delight, I agreed. This is despite my rather spotty record with tarantulas (I wrote about the wild tarantula incident four years ago, drop me a line if you’re really curious).

This sudden desire to have a large hairy spider for the entire summer was my first indication that the bouncy princess I have been dropping off every morning was being replaced by someone else entirely. Someone who didn’t mind having a tarantula and its prey - jumpy, noisy crickets which are ALSO bugs, by the way – acting out the cycle of life in her room.

Now let's fast forward to June for a Crib Note titled "When the Crickets Chirp":

So far our tarantula sitting duty has gone exactly as expected.


If you ever find yourself having to buy crickets to feed a tarantula, remember, size is everything with crickets. In our case, I bought ones that were so small, they escaped their containment box. I managed to keep this hopping, jumping, buggy problem hidden from my children until I rounded up the escapees and taped up their enclosure.

I didn’t disclose the cricket escape because there would have had no room in our bed for adults to sleep since the kids would be too freaked out to sleep downstairs. Then our pet sitter and friend, Steph, thought the tarantula escaped while we were on vacation. When the news leaked out, it looked like we’d have to relocate upon our return since there was no way either kid would come back into a house with a loose tarantula.

Fortunately Fuschia, the renamed pink toed tarantula, was merely hanging out in a thick part of her web tunnel. On our next cricket acquisition trip I got a more appropriate sized crickets. Just one problem. Bigger crickets really make lots of interesting scurrying noises in their box. I was upstairs working when I heard a crash. We looked around but didn’t notice anything amiss.

Then, while I was outside I got a call on my cell phone – from inside the house.

“Mommy?” Mireya’s voice was so small, I had to strain to hear it. “There’s a cricket loose. I’m hiding upstairs.”

I rushed back inside to find both girls hiding out upstairs, and the entire box of crickets turned over in the living room. The cat was staring under the couch, twitching his tail nonchalantly, attempting to maintain an air of plausible deniability.

Fortunately, the crickets were easy to catch. Each one had suffered mild injuries during their cat encounter and full on hopping was no longer possible. It did mean a Saturday filled with sudden screams of AAAHHH!

Another issue is once a cricket gets to a certain size it can chirp. Chirping crickets, which has always been a signal to me to relax, are having the exact opposite impact on Mireya. Chirping crickets mean there are bugs in her room, which FREAKS HER OUT.

Who knew tarantulas only feel the need to eat periodically, and until then there’s chirping and therefore a little kid in our bed upstairs.

So, in case you’re considering adding a pink toed tarantula to your world take my advice.

Get a pet rock.