Thursday, September 22, 2016

Invaded

Everyone needs a jolt of adrenaline every once in a while, right?  I've had a lot of stress and drama surrounding me lately, and since it all insists on happening simultaneously rather then waiting patiently in line for its turn, my way of dealing with the mass influx of unwanted excitement is to ignore it and hope it goes away.  It's amazing how many problems resolve themselves if I don't put any energy into them.

Anyway, I've been doing mindless activities to keep myself distracted from the bombardment of issues.  I was half asleep when I heard Scrappy run for the back door with a sense of urgency.  He's been sick a lot lately, vomiting and struggling to control his bladder and bowels.  It's about what I expect from an 18 year old dog.  We'll all be that way some day.

On a side note, I had been shutting Scrappy away in a bathroom while he ate his wet food so that the other dogs wouldn't try to steal it from him.  The other dogs are on dry dog food diets and Midge has a strict diabetic diet.  I heard crashing around in the bathroom and opened the door to find that Scrappy had knocked over the trash can and was eating trash out of it.  It's no wonder he's sick.  You'd think the wet dog food would be enough to satiate his appetite.  Now I have to keep all the trash cans up high.

Anyway, with him doing a tap dance at the back door, I knew there was no time to zip up and button my fly, which I undo in the evening to make room for bloating, so I ran for the door without my pants being properly attached to my waist and put leashes on Scrappy and Stewie.  We were standing next to the driveway in the dark while each dog peed, but then Scrappy kept trying to drag me deeper into the dark.  I let go of his leash so that he could find a location that satisfied him.  Turned out that he had a case of the runs.

Stewie and I stood on the driveway waiting for the symphony of squirting sounds to cease when we heard coyotes calling out way across the desert, followed by a different pack of coyotes howling on the other side of the neighborhood.  I was thinking about what a pleasant evening it was being cool with a gentle breeze when all of the sudden I heard several coyotes wail right next to me.  I jumped out of my skin!  My ears were ringing because their screams were so close and so loud.  I whipped around, but couldn't see anything beyond five feet in front of me.  Then I heard them running toward us.

I had no time to bend over and pick up each dog.  I had to just run, grab Scrappy's leash up off the ground where he was squatting, and drag both dogs by their collars while my pants fell down a little bit more with each stride.  Poor Scrappy wasn't even done relieving himself.  As I was running through the garage, I could still hear multiple coyotes hot on our trail.  Their paws were now off the rock part of our driveway and on the concrete part, which is the last part before they enter the garage.

Scrappy can't run because of his arthritis, so I was literally dragging him across the slick garage floor.  He was trying to wiggle out of his collar and I was praying that he would not be able to do so, because once he slipped loose, he'd fall behind and get pounced on.  As soon as I reached the garage door button, I pushed it to close it, opened the door to the house, hauled both dogs in and locked it behind us.

That was the scariest close call I've ever had with coyotes and my dogs.  Coyotes aren't scary during the day, because I can see them and they can see me, and all it usually takes is a little eye contact to scare them off, but at night they travel in packs and are on the hunt for food.  They can sneak up on me in the dark and snatch one of my dogs in the blink of an eye, especially if they become aware that I can't see them.

Technically, you're not supposed to run from a pack of coyotes.  You are supposed to make yourself big and make a lot of noise, however, I didn't have that option with two dogs in tow.  I seriously doubted I could have stopped them from snatching Stewie or Scrappy, because it was apparent that they were already zoned in on them.  Coyotes are like horses.  When they are hungry, everything around them disappears except for the food.

They haven't been around much during the summer, but now that fall is upon us, I'll have to take one dog out at a time in the dark and take a flashlight and some kind of noise maker or long stick with me.  We have several outdoor lights and floodlights, but they don't extend far enough out beyond the driveway for me to see what is out there.  We have bunnies-a-plenty at our place, and they are attracting the bobcats and coyotes.  I'm pretty sure the snakes are out now too, because I heard a bird making a distress call in my neighbor's back yard yesterday.  Whenever I've heard that particular noise, which kind of sounds like an angry duck quacking non-stop, I've always found the bird trying to chase a snake off.

This morning I found lots of coyote scat and pieces of beaver tail cacti littered all over the driveway and street, almost as if the coyotes were so hungry and thirsty that they were willing to chew on cactus.  I also found some spit up cacti in the horse arena, and they tried to drag one of my orange traffic cones out of the round pen.  I put those away in the tack room to avoid future theft.  Sadly, I also found a cottontail -- not the whole bunny -- just the tail in the round pen, and only four of the five regular rabbits showed up at the horse's feeding time.   The coyotes always bite off the tails and leave them behind.  I suspect that they've learned from experience that they choke on them.

Fortunately, "my bunny", the one who lets me pet it, was waiting for me by the tack room door, but I have no illusions in understanding that her days are numbered.  Every summer we collect a crowd of rabbits only to have them eradicated by predators throughout the fall.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Out Exploring and Another First

As I'm sure everyone knows, I've been waiting for cooler temps so that I can get out, get some exercise and fresh air, and start working with my horses again.  It did drop out of the triple digits this month, but it has also been a busier month than usual for me, so I've been trying to make due with what free time I am given.  Of course, by the time I had a few days without visitors and appointments and places I needed to be, the temperatures got back up above 100 and my right leg took a turn for the worse.

The magic pill I've been taking seemed to stop working in warding off the pain and inflammation, but I didn't want to let that or the heat to stop my momentum.  I went hiking with a cane, but had to leave the horses at home, because I didn't have enough hands, balance or strength to deal with them if they decided to be obnoxious.  Apparently, my bursa broke, because I've been having the feeling of cold fluid spreading around on my knee, thigh and hip.

This morning I found a trail I've never taken before and followed it.  I'm feeling a bit frustrated with the number of people who have been painting graffiti on rocks and trees in the desert.  I go hiking to get away from people and to commune with nature, and the last thing I want to see is someone's name or religious beliefs shoved in my face along the trail.

On this trip I came across two memorials, which are somewhat less offensive to me since I understand the need to create a shrine for someone dear who has passed, but it is still an encroachment on the natural surroundings, and for me, ruins the ambiance of being alone in the great outdoors.  I probably need to just start driving further out away from civilization in order to get away from this.

Anyway, one was a large rock with a religious saying on it, surrounded by smaller rocks with pet names on them, so it must have been an informal community pet memorial.  Then I found a cross made of rocks, some painted, some not, in honor of someone's great grandfather.  I pulled out my camera and took a few photos since they painted a picture of an Appy.



More proof that the people who do this sort of thing are not year-round residents.  I've been tempted to take a rock from my yard and paint something like "graffiti is graffiti" on it, and put it out in the desert by one of the rocks where people painted their name or a religious saying.  I suspect that since these people are offering positive spiritual messages or not writing bad words, they believe it's okay.

I have a long history of posting pictures of graffiti on this blog.  I remember finding cuss words spray painted on boulders up at Lake Tahoe.  I was pissed.  One of the funnier photos was where someone carved the words "poo poo" into the trunk of a tree.  Not funny, but funny.  I felt sorry for the tree, but cracked up over the thought of someone going to all that trouble to carve such a silly phrase.  I guess they never progressed past their anal stage.

In my old home town, we had a fence to a farm at the main intersection in town that had been used for decades as a place to post political and event signs.  This year the farmer posted a sign that read, "NO SIGNS ALLOWED" and someone else posted a sign next to it with an arrow pointing at it reading, "Ironic."  That made me laugh so hard.  These memorials don't make me laugh, though.  They make me sad.

Also, when I'm out horseback riding by myself, I am aware of all of the potential dangers.  The last thing I want to see is a grave marker or a memorial.  I saw one memorial last year that gave me the impression that someone died in a horseback riding accident in that location.

While I was recovering from my hike, my husband startled me by yelling out my name super loud in an urgent voice.  I dropped everything and ran to him.  He said, "There's a bobcat on our porch!"

I gleefully grabbed my camera and took pictures through the french door windows.  My husband had to call to the dogs repeatedly to keep them away from the window, because once they saw the bobcat, they'd jump against the door and bark, scaring it away.  The bobcat was just a few feet away and didn't seem to hear all the commotion inside our house.





Cute tail.

When I first moved here, my neighbors told me about all the various wildlife in the area.  I hoped to see all of these animals, and I got very lucky in seeing some of the rarer ones like gila monsters, but others remained unseen by my eyes.  Just last year I finally saw a family of javelina, and the only animal left for me to see was a bobcat.  Now I can say I've seen all the common desert creatures in my neighborhood.

Within the first few months of us being here, my husband saw a mountain lion crossing the street and going into our next door neighbor's yard, and everyone tried to convince him that it was just a bobcat.  Now that he's seen this bobcat, he can say for sure that he previously saw a mountain lion.  That's one creature I hope to never see so close to me or my horses.

I have to admit that sometimes I do worry about venturing out on foot by myself because I would be defenseless against a mountain lion or a bear.  A few years ago a news helicopter got footage of a bear running across the desert and through farm land in central Arizona headed toward a heavily populated city, so I know bears do come around occasionally.

The trail I was on today took me down into a thicket of trees and shrubs, so I veered off course to avoid being under cover.  If I disturbed a wasps' nest or bee hive, no one would find me down there.  I did see a young gal riding a white horse bareback by herself, and that sight made me wish I had been able to venture into horse ownership when I was younger.  Right now I'm struggling just to mount and dismount using stirrups, so I had to admire her for being healthy, strong and brave enough to ride bareback alone on a hundred-degree day.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Horse Stories

Here are a few little ditties regarding some of the silliness going on around the barn in recent days:

Where Are My Pants?
The horses have been having a jolly old time playing tug-o-war with my old jeans.  However, the other morning the jeans were nowhere to be found.  I looked in all the water troughs and food barrels, I patrolled the perimeter of the paddock thinking they threw it over the fence, but the jeans were gone.  I suspect that coyotes dragged them off into the desert and I will find them while out hiking, biking or horseback riding some day.

A Present For Me?
My birthday was yesterday, and part of my gift was to go on a shopping spree.  I didn't go nutzo or anything like that.  I just got a new pair of jeans, a T-shirt and a dress.  I took two dresses down to the barn to show my friend, and I was immediately mobbed by Rock and Bombay, who thought that the dresses were for them -- replacements for the jeans the coyotes stole.  I had to get the dresses out of there quickly, because one horse would try to distract me while the other horse would reach around from behind me and try to snatch the dresses right out of my arms.

Another Present For Me?
I was given a bag of candy for my birthday, so I took some to my friend down at the barn.  They were chocolate bars, so we had to eat them fast before they melted.  The whole time I was eating mine, Rock was sticking his muzzle in my face trying to eat the candy right out of my mouth.  He kept pushing into me, practically climbing into my lap to get the candy wrappers out of my hands.  I guess Rock figures that anything I eat is fair game for him.

Break It Up!
Rock ripped Bombay's fly mask off his face again.  I never see him do it, but since the Velcro is still attached, he has to be pulling it at the poll over Bombay's ears in one fell swoop.  Anyway, they were playing tug-o-war with the fly mask, so I came flying out of the house down to the barn to stop them before they ripped it again.  I do like sewing, but not every day.  Gabbrielle saw me coming and immediately knew my intentions, so she raced out of the barn right in between the geldings to break them up.  The fly mask went flying and landed in the sand.  Bombay tried to run over to pick it up again, and Gabbrielle inserted herself in between him and the mask.  I was impressed -- not only that she was helping me, but that she disciplined the boys without kicking them.

I had given her one hour of turnout with the boys under my supervision, and she managed to go the whole hour without kicking anyone.  I was so pleased to not have any wounds to mend, however last night I let Lostine out by herself and heard some crashing around.  I was too exhausted to be able to totally wake myself up to go investigate, but in the morning Lostine had cuts all over her front legs.  I know Gabbrielle wouldn't kick her, so she must have either kicked herself running from something, or she got cast and scraped up her legs on the railings.  They'll always find a way to make me clean up open wounds.  It's a good thing I'm not afraid of blood, because I've had to deal with a lot of it this summer.

Something was going on last night in the neighborhood.  Every time I walked outside, I could hear voices talking.  It sounded like it was coming from my backyard, but sounds do carry easily around here, so I didn't think much of it.  However, when I was still hearing people talking loudly at 4:30 in the morning, I had to find out who and where they were.  I've been seeing more homeless people in my neighborhood, and I don't want them setting up camp on my property.  Every time people start trespassing on my property, I get hurt.  Usually, they pop up out of bushes, spook my horses and I get knocked down and/or trampled.

I went into my backyard with a flashlight, and the talkers immediately shut up, so I couldn't follow the sound to find out where they were.  Only one of my neighbors had his lights on, but I know he didn't have company over, because he had no cars in his driveway, and this sounded like a small group of people having a little party.  Hopefully, I'll eventually find out the source of those voices.  Sometimes neighbors let friends and relatives camp out of RVs on their land, and they sit around bonfires all night getting drunk and talking, but I didn't see or smell any fires.  I didn't see any porch lights or flashlights on.  It was just people sitting in the dark.  It's a mystery.  All I know is that I'm going to have to start locking my tack room again since we've got strangers around again.  Pretty much everyone's house guests eventually end up in my backyard.

I'm seeing a trend in which there are less people living up north three seasons out of the year and coming to Arizona in the winter, and there are more people living in Arizona three seasons out of the year, and leaving just for the summer.  So, the snowbirds are turning into sunbirds.  Instead of fleeing the snow, they are fleeing the heat.  Once Labor Day got here, the people started pouring in.  The population should steadily multiply until about March, then peter out.  I was hoping to get the desert to myself for at least a few weeks before people took it over, but I'm having no such luck.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Through

We got a cloudy and windy, but still mighty warm couple of days, so I used them to do ground work with the horses.  It's time to start getting all of us into shape and listening to each other after hibernating through a long, hot summer.  I took Rock for a walk on the bridle trails, and he was well behaved.  I did warn him repeatedly not to nip me, because I knew he was thinking about it, but he did manage to resist.  He got super excited to see the horses at the rescue up the street.

Then I lunged Lostine and she got all spazzy about it.  She worked herself up into a sweat and I had to cool her down at a hand walk before she gave herself a heart attack.

Then I lunged Bombay.  I brought in the traffic cones, figuring I'd come up with some way to make use of them.  I left Bombay alone for a couple of minutes while I grabbed my camera, because I know how the readers of this blog much prefer posts with photos.  When I returned, Bombay was flipping out over being left alone...


However, once I returned to the center of the round pen, he instantly settled down and got back to work.

I decided to see if I could get Bombay to run in between the two orange traffic cones while I free-lunged him.  I started out with a very general command just to see if he was in tune enough to be able to interpret what I wanted.  I pointed at the  middle of the cones, while swinging my arm to show movement, and said, "Through."

I didn't expect much.  I mainly wanted to see if he noticed that I was giving a different cue.  He pretty much ignored it.  So, then I hooked up his lead rope and played the game of come to me and back away through the cones, and each time he passed between them, I said, "Through."

Then I lunged him in both directions in small circles on the lead rope and said "through" each time he passed in between the cones.  I was just trying to establish an action with the new word.

Then I positioned him in front of the cones and said "through" while clucking, so that he would take the initiative to walk through them instead of being driven through them.  Of course, he got pats and praise and much celebration when he passed through them.

I unsnapped the lead rope from his halter and lunged him again, backing out of his space and motioning while saying "through" to get him to go through the cones at liberty.  At first, he just passed close to them, so I'd have to send him around again.  He wasn't staying focused because gusts of wind were blowing the trees around us and spooking him, so I stopped him and had him face me.  Then I patted my chest and kissed to get him to come to me.  As he walked toward me, I walked backwards through the cones and he walked forward through them while I said "through".

Then I drove him through the cones by where I positioned my body.  I called that good enough for one session.

"Turn, man, turn."

Of course, he had to stop too itch his face on the cone before passing through.

Sniff.  Sniff.

Cute!

I kept moving the cones closer and closer together, so Bombay decided to cut to the chase...


"Is that close enough, Mom?"

"I don't know, Bombay.  Can you fit through that?"

"I'll try..."

"...or not."

Then I lunged Rock, and this was his reaction to me cracking the whip...


Go, man, go.

Cute!

"I got the fitz, Mom.  I can't stop jumping and bucking.  This wind is awesome."

"Time to get down to business, Rock."

"Okay.  What do I do?"

"Go through."

"Like this?"


"Yup.  Just like that."

Rock surprised me by learning the through game in just a fraction of the time it took me to work with Bombay.  It helps that he couldn't care less about trees blowing in the wind.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Tag

My son and his girlfriend came in from out of state to spend the weekend with us because that was their birthday gift to me and because we may not see them again for a very long time.  The job market out west has not been friendly to them, so in order to develop some level of financial security, they may be moving back east.  My son has been stuck in a low paying job and his girlfriend has been working in the film industry, which is always unreliable, intermittent work.  It's been fun watching TV shows she has worked on and only having them living a few hours away, but I understand that they've got to pay the bills.

Anyway, we played something like six games of laser tag together.  I haven't played in a few years, but I used to be really good at it.  I figured I'd still be good at it.  While taking a seat in the briefing room, a cluster of young boys taunted us, yelling things like, "You're going down!"

We just smirked and exchanged knowing glances.  Kids always think that adults suck at laser tag.  Not true.  So I thought.

This laser tag location has a bridge you must cross with a spinning tunnel around it.  With my motion sickness, that bridge is my nemesis.  The kids took off to the spinning room and I didn't even bother to follow.  I just grabbed a commander and asked if I could use the back door.  Having been there before, I was very familiar with the back door, as I had to take it after nearly flipping over the railing of the bridge from being so dizzy.

Once my son and his girlfriend went through the tunnel, they too opted for the back door.  Although, in their case, I think it was more a matter of them not being interested in being surround by screaming kids.  We just wanted to get down to business and kick laser butt.

About half-way through the first game, I realized that everyone else had a visible laser point, and I did not.  I also realized that I was getting hit a lot more than I was hitting other people.  I came to the conclusion that my gun was broken, so I approached a commander and asked him to check my gun.  He said I was holding it incorrectly.  While one hand was on the trigger, the other hand had to cover a specific spot on the barrel because the gun was controlled by a heat sensor.  I knew that, because they had gone over it in the briefing room, however my hand was always just off the mark. (I have small hands.) As soon as I covered the right spot on the barrel and found someone to shoot, the game was over.

My scores were laughable.  I placed second to last over all.  However, my son's girlfriend placed second to first over all, so our team still won and "we" put those little taunters in their place.

I managed to screw up the second game as well, and continued to make stupid mistakes that only convinced me that I have lost a huge chunk of my brain power to an early onset of senility.  For instance, I stood in the blue team's fort shooting its crystals for a long time wondering why I kept missing, only to discover that I was on the blue team.  You can't capture your own fort.

After that, I decided to stick with my kids since they seemed to know what heck was going on, and my score steadily improved as I learned a little bit more about how to play the game the right way.  This is all stuff I used to know, but if you don't use it, you lose it.

In one game this father was leading this tiny little girl around, trying to teach her how to play.  She was adorable, and probably only about four-years-old.  I watched from the tower as they hid behind a corner and tried to stay under cover while shooting people on the other teams.  She kept missing, because she just didn't have both the small and large motor skills yet to do the job, but I admired her father for being so patient and enthusiastic.  So, I came down from the tower where I had been sniping people left and right, and I walked slowly right around the corner where I knew the girl and her dad were hiding.  As soon as she started shooting me, I stepped into her laser beam so that she could have the pleasure of blacking out my vest.  Then I gave her the thumbs up and said, "Good job!"

Her dad got really excited.  That was probably the highlight of their day.

Despite trying to stay with the people I came with, we often got separated.  At one point I was walking up a ramp and saw my son in a tower at the top of the ramp.  I hurried up toward him, and his girlfriend spotted him while coming down a ramp.  She too hurried to get to his location and then she tripped and fell into me as we collided in the intersection.  It was funny.

Shortly after that, this hoard of little boys on an opposing team came up the ramp and surrounded us, shooting us over and over.  They wouldn't let us out of their trap, so we had to gently, but firmly push our way through in opposite directions.  That was a tactic we had never experienced before.  If you ever play laser tag, watch out for the little boys' birthday parties.  They know how to team up.  Although, I suspect the boys' baseball team that came in when we left probably knew even more about teamwork.

Part of the game is to shoot the crystals in the opposing teams'  forts, and each team had two forts that were hidden in the maze.  Newbies don't know that they should put at least four people in the position of guarding their own team's forts.  But, the game can be kind of boring for the guards, because they can't enjoy the maze, and they have to wait for people to come to them if they want any action.  Anyway, this one kid grabbed me and ordered me to help him guard the fort.  I did for a couple of minutes, but I was there to hang out with my own kids, so I ditched him.  He was pissed.  He grabbed me at the end of the game in a total panic yelling, "You guys didn't help guard the forts.  We were getting swarmed!"

I said, "Relax.  I'm sure we still won."

We did.  In fact, the team my son, his girlfriend and I were on won every game.  By our last game, we got so good that our score was double that of the yellow team, and the red team did not make a single point.

I did pretty well for someone who was having hot flashes and night sweats throughout the games.  Apparently, the darkness of the game room messed with my hormones, tricking them into thinking that it was night time.

It wasn't until the fourth game that I figured out that the company had changed one of the strategies in the game.  I used to be able to shoot and opponent's fort crystals once, run away to avoid getting tagged back, then when the light explosion ended, go back in and tag the fort again.  That was a way to rack up points.  However, they changed it so that the fort crystals tracked which players already tagged them, so we could only tag each opposing fort once.  So, I used the strategy of tagging the four forts first before the other teams realized that they had to guard them, and then I sniped from the towers.  It was funny watching the people I was hitting who were on the ground floor running around trying to figure out who kept shooting them.  The newbies never thought to look up, but the birthday boys had played enough games that they knew to come up the ramps in mass and swarm me in my tower, so I had to keep moving from one tower to the next.

I think the funnest part of the game happened in the last few minutes of my final round.  This one boy who was probably about ten years old started stalking me.  Since I am well versed in the art of being stalked, I always know if someone's got their sights on me.  I also was very familiar with the timing of our tag outages.  When you tag someone, his vest blacks out for a few seconds, and he can't shoot anyone.  He's out of the game.  Then the lights on the vest come back on and he can rejoin the game.  So, the kid would sneak up behind me, I'd whip around and nail him before he could shoot me, his vest would black out, and he'd run and hide.  I'd keep walking up and down ramps, turning corners, trying to elude him, and as soon as he came back into the game, he'd run up from behind me to try to shoot me again.  I had his timing in my head, so all I had to do was turn around and shoot, and he'd be right there behind me like a sitting duck.

He was having a lot of fun with it and seemed genuinely amazed at how psychic I seemed to be.  The more I shot him, she more intent he became about shooting  me.  I was the prize.  If he could just sneak up behind me and shoot me once, he would have been talking about it for days to come.  I finally decided to let him shoot me, but before he did, the game ended, so I told him, "You were so close.  Nice try."

He was laughing, so even though he didn't meet his goal, he had a good time trying.

My daughter had to be at an on-the-job training on a Saturday, so she missed out, but I may take her on another day.  I've got to play again before all these game rules and strategies slip from my memory.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Rats

Patio furniture is not safe outdoors around these parts.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

When the Clouds Come Out to Let Us Play

I picked up some kind of virus and have been feeling cruddy with a splitting headache the past two days, but we've also had awesome weather with heavy clouds, cool winds, and temps in the 80s and 90s.  After being holed up all summer, I'm not going to let some stinkin' virus keep me indoors.  I went hiking both days, and remembered to wear my fitness watch, but did not remember to bring water in a fanny pack.  I thought of it after I'd hiked out a ways, but then thought, "I just won't hike too far from home, so that I can get back quickly if I get thirsty."

The problem is... it doesn't work that way.  It's really not a matter of getting thirsty, but of your body overheating and it almost being too late by the time you realize what is happening.  You simply have to keep drinking water the whole time whether you are thirsty or not.  I do a good job of drinking a lot of water before I hike, but I'm not so good about taking water with me when I'm just walking out my front door to go for a short jaunt around the desert for exercise.

I went far and did well without feeling pain, fatigue or thirst on the first day, but that was because the weather stayed consistent.  I was being sprinkled on, the breeze was always present, and the sun never came out from behind the clouds.  It would have been a perfect day for horseback riding, except I don't like to get my tack wet, and I was more interested in getting exercise than in training horses who haven't been ridden in four months.

The second day was different, because the remains of the hurricane that brought those clouds was moving on.  At the time I left on the hike, the weather was much like the day before.  However, once I had been hiking for about an hour, the sun came out and the temperature rose from what felt like about 80 degrees to 120.  Of course, it wasn't 120, but it felt like it because of the direct sunlight and the humidity.  I immediately turned back, but could feel my body getting more and more stressed along the way.  Though I hadn't washed my hair that morning, it was dripping wet.  I had sweat pouring down my forehead, burning my eyes, dripping off my nose and chin, and my clothes were sticking to me.

When I was just a few hundred feet from home, I felt like I couldn't go any further.  I was dizzy and disoriented.  That's what heat exhaustion does to you.  I got in the front door and chugged a tumbler of ice water and immediately felt better.  I wondered if it was my imagination that my body was reacting so poorly to the sudden onslaught of heat, but then I uploaded my data from my fitness watch and saw that my heart rate nearly doubled right about the time I really started feeling ill.

It's amazing how fast the effects of extreme heat can overtake you.  But when the perceived temperature rises so quickly when the clouds scatter, you may as well be walking into a cremation furnace.

I'm developing such a sensitivity to heat and direct sunlight that I doubt where I live now in the desert will be my retirement home.  I'll probably have to either move back to a cooler climate or become a snowbird and flit back and forth between two climates.  I have this intense need to be outdoors in nature, but I can't do that if I live in a place that is too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter.  The heat didn't bother me so much when I first moved here, but something has since changed.

While hiking, I was hearing some construction noises coming from one side of the desert.  As I approached, I saw two mobile homes that used to be ugly eyesores that were now being added onto and repaired to look pretty.  They appeared to be under new ownership.  That means that more people are moving here, because houses aren't just sitting on the market un-bought.  It makes me wonder how long these new residents will stay before the heat starts to eat away at them too.

There were a lot of hoof prints and bicycle tire marks along the trails, yet I never see anyone else out there.  They must come out either at the crack of dawn or around sunset when I'm busy feeding and cleaning up after the horses and dogs.  I've thought about riding then, but the reality is that if I did, I wouldn't have enough time or energy to feed and clean up.

I purposefully wake up before sunrise, but when there is enough natural light for me to see, so that I can do barn chores without stepping on a rattlesnake, and without the direct sunlight and heat.  I only get about half an hour before the sun crests over the mountains, and then I get caught up in this whirlwind taking dogs outside, feeding them, taking them outside again, feeding myself, taking a shower, taking the dogs outside again... and before I know it, it's lunch time and we have to start the process all over.  The golden hours are precious and very short-lived, so I'm always making choices on how I'm going to spend that time.  I'm looking forward to the few months we have when every hour of the day is available for outdoor activities, not just before sunrise, after sunset, and when the clouds come out to play -- and to let us play.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Herd Dynamics Observed

Quiet and normalcy seem to have been restored.  We got to the bottom of Midge's seizures, and she's been stabilized.  My mother-in-law is out of the hospital.  My ex-neighbor is on a plane flying back to his new home.  With everything going on, there was no way I was going to let the horses add to the problems, so I actively managed the herd, only turning out horses I could totally trust to be together without wreaking havoc.

I occasionally had to release them all together so that I could clean stalls quickly without having a horse standing on top of the manure, but the entire time I was having to discipline them.  Gabbrielle now knows better than to kick another horse in front of me, so she watches me closely and waits for me to walk off with my back to her.  As soon as I hear her feet moving, I whip around to see her with her ears pinned pushing another gelding into a corner where she can kick it.  So, I herd her into a clean stall, lock the gate behind her, and she instantly poops there because she knows I'll have to open the gate to clean it up.  She's a handful.

I've been watching the herd dynamic more closely, and I'm realizing that Lostine has a lot to do with Gabbrielle's aggressiveness.  Lostine pecks at Gabbrielle to get her to keep Rock away from her.  I don't know why Lostine is so terrified of Rock.  All he does is bulldoze the other horses.  He just slowly walks toward them with his ears pinned, and if they move out of his way, he strolls right past them.  If they don't move, he pushes them out of the way with his strength and mass.  But he doesn't kick them.  Lostine just panics when he comes near her, and I'm pretty sure that she cracked her own hip trying to escape him.

If I lock up Lostine, if there's no food around, if it's not anywhere near feeding time, and it's a nice enough day for the horses to get out of the shade, Gabbrielle and Rock take walks around the property together.  They like each other.  If I lock up Gabbrielle, Rock won't leave her side.  He stands next to her stall gate all day and night.  I often say to him, "Why are you mooning over that mare who nearly broke your leg?"

Gabbrielle just likes the attention she gets from any gelding.  If I turn her out with Bombay, she'll hang out with him.  The other day I had pulled the pair of blue jeans out of a water trough and hung them on the fence.  Bombay walked up, pulled them off the fence, and the proceeded to slap them against Gabbrielle's back legs like a wet car wash curtain.  She loved it.  They stood there for half an hour doing that.

Last night I let Gabbrielle out by herself, and when I woke up in the morning, Lostine was out, and Gabbrielle was locked in Lostine's stall.  I had to laugh at that one.  Basically, Gabbrielle had to break Lostine out, only to have Lostine lock her up.  I guess I'll have to go back to locking up the stall doors with bicycle chains if I hope to truly have control over who gets their exercise when.

The only horse that gets along with Lostine that Lostine will tolerate is Bombay.  So, even though Lostine doesn't kick anyone and cause injuries that suck up all of my time, money and energy, she is the catalyst for a lot of trouble down at the barn.  I never really considered her to be the issue, because she's so ancient and quiet.  Once it permanently cools down, I'll have to start lunging her and taking her for walks to see if that helps.  It's easy to give all of my attention to the other horses because they are ride-able and still in training.

I also suspect that the reason why Lostine tries to control the other herd members' actions so much is because she sees that they do things that upset me, like rip up fly masks, fight, poop where I just cleaned, etc.  She's always been my partner, and I think she's just trying to keep the other horses in line so that they won't upset me.  However, since she's too old to physically stop them, she orders Gabbrielle to do it.  Lostine used to be able to discipline the other horses with just a look, but no one seems to respect her anymore except for Gabbrielle.

The other day I went out to lunge all the horses together in the arena just to force them to get a little exercise while we had a few clouds.  I do that when I'm short on time and can't catch and lead each horse one by one to the round pen to be formally lunged.  The problem is the neighbors.  People hear the thundering hooves of my herd, and they come out to investigate.  Then they see me chasing the horses around with a whip and assume that I am beating them.  One lady stood on the cliff in my back yard filming me a few years ago.  I didn't know if she was focusing on all the pretty horses running, or if she was going to report me to the animal police for abuse.

Sure enough, while I was moving the horses out of the barn with the long whip, my ex-neighbor was watching me.  His wife is an animal activist, and I overheard her say once that she thought that I was being abusive by chasing the horses around with the whip.  I can't control what other people think, but I also didn't need the animal police showing up on my doorstep, so I put my lunge whip away and the horses lived to be couch potatoes for another day.

The irony is that these people own horses themselves, but they never play with them, exercise them, train them, ride them, or even pet them.  They think it is enough to just feed them twice a day.  They are the saddest horses.

My horses and I actually have a lot of fun when I lunge them in mass.  We play games and try to trick each other.  One horse will split off and hope that he or she can hide in the barn to rest while I chase the others.  But I stay on top of the strays and herd them back to their buddies to remain participants.  I'll run them back and forth along the fence like a cutting horse would to a cow, and they dance back and forth on their front ends with laughter in their eyes waiting for a chance to dodge out and around me.  Bombay is always hilarious.  You can see the wheels turning in his head.  He keeps coming up with new, creative ways to evade me.  The other horses quickly recognize how smart he is, and they all huddle close to his rump, waiting to follow his cue.

Good times.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Who Goes There?

Here's my crazy story of the day:

As usual, I began feeling fatigued after eating lunch, so I made myself a cup of coffee.  The dog immediately announced her need to go outside.  I sighed, took a few sips of hot deliciousness, and then took her out.  I noticed that Rock was pecking at Bombay's fly mask, and I knew it was only a matter of minutes before he disrobed him.  I took Midge back indoors and by the time I was done hanging up her leash and reheating my coffee, Bombay's fly mask was on the ground and he was stomping on it.

I debated whether to go outside to rescue it.  I am so tired of having to hose it down and stitch it up.  A part of me just wanted to drink my coffee, but I figured it would only take 30 seconds to rescue the mask.  I noticed that Bombay was playing in the water trough, in addition to trying to pick up the fly mask, so I had to run out there before he dunked it.   As I bent over to pick up the fly mask, I heard scritch-scratch, scritch-scratch, scritch-scratch.

Who goes there?

The sound was coming from a water trough I had just filled the night before that Bombay had been sticking his nose in.  I looked inside to see this adorable face looking up at me.  At first I thought it was a rabbit, but the fur was too dark.  Then I thought it was a beaver.  But we don't have beavers here.  I looked closer and saw the long, bushy tail floating behind it.  It was one of our large rock squirrels.  These types of squirrels are somewhat rare to see compared to the round-tailed ground squirrels.

I thought, "Leave it up to Bombay to be the one horse who tries to rescue another animal."

I've noticed that he attracts wild animals, and he seems to have an emotional connection with them.  I often see birds riding on his back.

The squirrel was doing a pretty good job swimming, but I knew I had to get it out before it drowned.  My impulse was to reach in and lift it out, but I didn't want to risk getting bit and scratched up.  I really could use some thick gloves that go up to my elbows in cases like this.  I ran back to the house while devising a plan and grabbed my husband for his muscle.  It's not easy to tip over a water trough with 75 gallons of water inside, so I grabbed a bucket.  I really wanted a fishing net, but knew it would take too long to find one in the garage, and I didn't want the squirrel's toes to get tangled in it.  The problem with the bucket, though, was that I'd have to get my hands in close, and I didn't want to get bit.

My husband told me to just help him tip over the trough.  I was bummed about having to do that, because I'd been trying to dry out Lostine's stall for the past week.  She's been peeing a lot and her stall stinks in addition to always being wet.  We dunked the 75 gallons of water onto her stall floor, and the squirrel rode the wave out of the trough.

The poor thing was exhausted, so I suspect that we got it out just in time.  It slowly inched along dragging its hind legs behind it.  We thought it was injured, but once it came out of its initial shock, it scurried off on all four legs.  A squirrel swimming in my water trough is a first in my book.  Sorry, no pictures.  I was trying to save a life.

There must be something in the air, because this holiday weekend has been crazy so far.  My mother-in-law is in the hospital, my brother needs money because he's being evicted from his home and has to pay a moving company, first and last month's rent at a new place, etc., he's handicapped and has no friends or family close by to help him, and Midge had a grand mal seizure.  It's been tough trying to complete a single task without another emergency falling in our laps.  In the meantime, I've got the added challenge of my ex-neighbor being in town and needing to borrow things and talk to me.  Too much is happening at once.  I'm on overload.

We've also been having issues with various wildlife banging up against our front door at night, which gets Stewie growling and barking, which wakes me up.  We have glass on our front door, so any light from inside the house shines out and attracts bugs, which attracts bug-eating animals like toads, who throw themselves against the door and sound like burglars trying to break in.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Low-Rise Rippers

A few years ago I had bought some jeans online that were advertised as being mid-rise, but were actually low-rise.  They were constructed in such a way that the front dug into my belly and cut off my digestion while the back end slid down and constantly needed to be hiked up.  

It's bad enough that there wasn't enough material to rise above the top half of my butt crack, but these other inconveniences were beyond my ability to tolerate them.  I'd wear them for a few hours until I was so put out by having to unbutton the front to relieve my intestinal protests, and then having to hike them up every few seconds and pull my shirt down to cover my bare bottom each time I had to bend over that I'd rip them off and put on sweat pants to get some relief.  These jeans were not practical for working around the barn.

I finally decided to give them to the horses to shred, and shred them they did...





Every once in a while Rock would get carried away and bite Bombay instead of the jeans.


Bombay kept stepping on them and falling down while Rock laughed.

These next three frames all happened within seconds of one another.  Note the jeans flying in the air above Bombay...


...and landing on his back.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...

He realized that just walking around wasn't going to get them off.  I guess he didn't like wearing them either.