Monday, January 22, 2018

My Wild Animal Park

I'd like to thank everyone for their input on dealing with Rock's bratty behavior.  I haven't had the chance to try out any of the additional suggestions yet.  We had our first cold winter storm pass through this weekend, and it's been cold and the ground has been muddy ever since.  I started blanketing the horses at night, which means that they've had to stay locked in their stalls so that they don't shred each other's blankets, and all they want to do during the day is lie down in the sand.

On the day that it rained, I was in the barn putting blankets on when I noticed a mama coyote and two pups coming up out of the arroyo.  They walked up the driveway toward me, with Mama keeping eye contact with me the whole way.  Though the pups were cute, I wasn't about to approach them.  There was one time a couple of years ago when I walked down to the well at night to listen to see if the pump was running, and when I turned on the floodlight, I found this little tiny puppy coyote at my feet.  I was walking in circles sniffing the ground, and it seemed oblivious to my presence.  I guess the light had blinded it.  I wanted so bad to reach down and pet it, but I resisted.  It is a wild animal and I figured that Mama wasn't too far away.

Anyway, while I was watching this coyote family coming closer, I suddenly realized there was movement right in front of me.  I refocused and saw the bobcat sniffing around the rabbit holes behind my tack room, just 20 feet away from me.  I blurted out, "Oh my gosh!  There's the bobcat!" and it looked at me and twitched its tail, annoyed with the unwanted attention.  Once it decided that there were no rabbits in sight, it headed back down into the arroyo with its white tail flagged.  Next thing I knew, the coyote family was following right behind it.  It was almost as if the bobcat and coyotes were traveling together in search of a meal after the rain.  Quite fascinating.  We know that dogs and cats can get along together in captivity, so why not in the wild too?  I'm actually surprised that the bobcat didn't make a meal out of one of the coyote pups.

I feel so lucky to be able to have so many up close and personal experiences with wild animals in my own backyard.  I think the only place I could live and have more action might be Africa.  Scarface the bunny has been letting me pet it on the face.  If I see any predators around, I point them out and chase the bunnies off to keep them on their toes when danger is near, and to encourage them to keep their self-preservation instincts intact, despite striking up a friendship with a human.  This year's group of rabbits cracks me up, because they come at me from all directions when I feed the horses, and they do silly things like flips in the air to try to get my attention so that I'll give the horses grain, and the horses will then spill the grain out of their mouths for the rabbits to pilfer.  Some of the rabbits try to lead me to the tack room where I keep the grain.  I don't feed grain with every meal, and that's why they put the pressure on.

The horses had been getting quite fat, so I cut down on the grain, but now they are getting a tad bit too thin, so I'm having to bump up their serving sizes.  That means more manure for me to clean up.  I'm filling the entire dump bed of the Mule every time I clean.

Right now my goals to improve my health are taking precedence over any horsemanship goals I might have.  I've started going for hikes each day, and I'm finding that I am going a little further a little faster with each effort.  The first day I only went about a quarter of a mile in half an hour.  Then I went half a mile in half an hour.  Then I went out twice in one day, both times for half a mile in twenty minutes.  The next time I went a mile in thirty-five minutes.  The last time I went one and a third miles in an hour, because I kept stopping to look at rocks.  It's still not a great pace for a healthy person, but it's awesome for me considering that I was in too much pain to walk from the couch to the bathroom a few months ago. 

I haven't been taking the horses with me, because there are so many other horseback riders out there, and I'm tired of having to get control over my horses when they get excited over seeing strange horses.  I just want to exercise, even though I know the exposure for the horses is good for them.  But it's not like I haven't led or ridden them out every winter for the past six years to get them used to strangers on the trail.  Every winter, it's like starting from square one with them, and I just don't have the patience for horses that act like babies anymore.  Grow up already.  Nobody else's horses do back-flips when they see my horses.  They just plod on down the trail looking straight ahead like a good horse should.  Unfortunately, my horses don't learn by example.  They just get silly and put on airs prancing around to try to get the other horses' attention.

Stick bug on the window screen.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Brainstorm Session

Normally, people give me advice all the time, even though I'm not asking for it.  However, I'd like to invite readers into a brainstorm session on this one, because I really don't want to have to hire a horse trainer and I'm too lazy to go back and read some of my horse training books.  So, now's your chance to give solicited advice.

I went for a trail ride on Rock and everything was going well until I tried to get him to go straight past the main trail toward home.  He ignored my legs and hands, which were telling him to go straight, and he turned on the trail toward home.  I said, "No!" and pulled the right rein toward the trail I wanted him to take.  He threw his head around in a circle, hunched up his back, and took off faster down the trail toward home.  I got him stopped, let him gather his thoughts, and then I tried to turn him around toward the trail I wanted to take.  Once again, the head flew around in the air and he took off toward home.  I said, "Rock, no!" and pulled him in a circle until he ran into a bush and stopped.

The only reason why I was able to circle him was because I circled him away from the trail I wanted to take.  But each time I tried to turn him toward that trail, a fight broke out.  I was at a loss for what to do.  I didn't want to give in and let him go home, because this behavior has been slowly building and getting worse with each ride, and letting him go home would only reinforce it.  Plus, we had only been out for about ten minutes.

I knew I could control him from the ground, so I dismounted, jerked him around a bit with the lead rope to let him know he was in trouble, and then I led him down the trail I wanted to take.  I spent a while out there away from home making him wait while I examined rocks.  Then when I felt like he'd been behaving well, I led him toward home. 

That's when we ran into a large group of horseback riders.  Rock was fascinated and kept stopping to gawk at all the horses, but I wouldn't let him.  I forced him to keep walking toward home.  It was rather ironic, because just a while ago he had been fighting me to go home, and now he wanted to stay out so that he could go meet all those horses.  I dragged him toward home, and then made him wander up and down the street with me while I picked up dozens of pieces of trash that flew out of the trash truck that morning.

Once home, I lunged him in the round pen, which is what I had been doing each time he fought me over going home.  I've been trying to teach him that when he gets home, he doesn't get any treat and he doesn't get to rest and he doesn't get to rejoin his buddies right away.  He has to work at home, so he may as well stay out where it's more interesting and more relaxing.  Unfortunately, that technique really hasn't worked so far.

Him ignoring me when I tell him where to go, and then pitching a fit and running for home is a dangerous behavior.  I've been thinking about just riding him in the arena until steering and obeying become second nature for him.  Does anyone have any other creative ideas?  This is the first time he has exhibited a major problem behavior, and I'm sure it's because he hasn't been ridden regularly since last spring thanks to my leg problems and all the other activities that have taken me away from riding.  Unfortunately, it is so late in our riding season that by the time I have a trainer work with him, it will be too hot for me to ride, and he'll just sit for a long period again.  I have to handle this myself right now.

Beyond Ridiculous

Last week I had been working with a "Planning Advisor" at the cemetery in California where my brother was laid to rest.  I was trying to order a headstone or tablet, as they call it, for his grave.  The advisor emailed me the order form and contract, I filled out the parts she indicated, signed it, scanned it, and emailed it back to her.  I didn't get any response to that email nor another one in which I asked if it would be better if I mail the original through USPS since the scanned copies were so faded, nor did I get a response to my question regarding which address to mail it to.  It was the Friday of a holiday weekend, so I gave her most of this week to respond, figuring she either went on vacation like my last advisor, or she caught one of the viruses going around in this flu epidemic.

However, I never heard a peep out of her again, so I called the cemetery's accounting department to pay for the tablet, figuring they wouldn't begin work on it until they get their money.  A young girl answered, and I told her I'd like to pay for a tablet I ordered, and I'd like to make sure that the order made it into their system.  She asked if I would be paying for the setting of the stone.  I said I just wanted to pay for the whole thing.  She said, "Hold on, please," and put me on hold with this horrible scratchy recording that kept hissing and fading in and out.  At one point the orchestra reaches a crescendo, which is deafening, so I have to pull the phone away from my ear.

She came back on the line and asked for the name of the person who's grave the tablet was for.  I gave her my brother's name and she found him in her computer system.  She sat there reading everything to herself, saying, "Okaaaay, okaaaay, okaaaaay..." repeatedly.  Next thing I knew she was putting me on hold again.  When she came back on the line she said, "I just need to find the amount.  One moment, please."

I blurted out that I know the amount, but she had put me on hold before I said it.  She came back on the line and said, "Have you ordered it already?"

"Yes, I have my copy of the contract sitting in front of me.  I scanned and emailed it in last week.  It sounds like it isn't in your system yet?"

"Hold on, please."

More waiting.  Had she just answered my question, I would have told her that I will call my advisor to see what is going on.  She came back on the line and said, "Have you come in and sat down with someone and been shown the tablet options yet?"

I said, "No, I live in Arizona and I can't travel, so I have to do everything over the phone and through email."

"So, you haven't come in.  You'll have to do that before you can pay for the tablet."

WTF?  Did this gal not hear anything I just said?  I said, "Listen, I worked out the order over the phone and through email.  I signed the contract for the order and emailed it to my advisor..."

She cut me off and asked who my advisor was.  I gave her the first name and before I could say the last name, she cut me off again and repeated the first name like she knew the lady personally, and then she put me on hold.  I was assuming that she was contacting my advisor to find out if my order was still sitting in her email queue.  After a long wait, she came back on the line and said, "Are you sure you have the right cemetery?"

OMG!  Okay, there are so many things wrong with her line of logic.  First off, she found my brother's name and grave location in her computer system.  If I had the wrong cemetery, how is that possible?  Secondly, I gave her the name of my advisor, who works at her cemetery.  Again, if I had the wrong cemetery, how is that possible?  This lady had the most unique name on earth.

I began repeating everything I previously said, and this time she didn't seem to know who my advisor was.  I said, "Let's just forget it.  I'll mail in my hard copy of the contract, and hopefully someone who is on the ball will receive it."

She said, "Are you allowed to do that?"

WTF?  OMG!  What is this?  Kindergarten?  I said, "Well, I actually asked my advisor that question, and she never responded, so I'm just going to do it and see what happens."

She said, "Hold, please."

By this point I was shaking with frustration.  I had planned to be out on the trails horseback riding by now.  I contemplated hanging up on her, but then thought, "She's just trying to help.  I'll give her a chance."

She came back on the line and said, "Let me get your name and number.  I don't want to keep you on hold.  I'll call you right back."

That's was an hour and a half ago.  I'm going horseback riding.  Bye.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


I've had the hankering to ride, but I'm still weak and having breathing difficulties.  On Monday I led Bombay out on a short walk in the desert just to get some fresh air for both of us.  Bombay has been laying down a lot, acting either ill or depressed.  Even though I still don't feel like I've recovered from the virus, I have to start exercising at some point.  Bombay was very sweet, moseying along beside and behind me, picking up sticks and drawing pictures in the dirt.  It was a very pleasant walk, until...

There's always got to be something to ruin it.  My new neighbors had invited some friends over to go trail riding with them, so super early in the morning this truck and horse trailer pulled up into the turnout at the trail head across the street from our homes, people unloaded their horses, everyone rode off together while the driver left with the truck and horse trailer.  They'd been gone for something like six hours, and here they came gaiting quickly toward us as we were headed for home.

Their gaited horses are super fast and my horses are freaked out by the way gaited horses move.  Bombay hadn't spotted them yet, even though they were only about 50 yards in front of us.  I think he's losing his eyesight in his old age.  I knew if I turned on the trail to home, they'd come up from behind us and overtake us, and I would have most likely lost control of him, so I turned us on a trail away from home and away from them.  I didn't get far enough away fast enough, and Bombay heard their hoof beats behind us.  He slammed on the brakes and his head shot straight up in the air.  He swung his head around and began breathing hard and snorting.  Gah!

I kept on him to keep moving and stay focused on me.  Fortunately, they all disappeared quickly, but it took a while to bring Bombay down from his adrenaline burst.

Then on Tuesday I took Rock on a walk with me.  As we were walking up the driveway, the new neighbors drove up and waved.  They stopped to chat, but changed their minds and kept going.  I was glad, because my energy has been limited, and if they kept me standing around for too long talking, I might not have been able to take my walk.  One of the downsides of having retired neighbors is that everywhere I go, there they are.  My previous neighbors had jobs, so I only had to deal with their barking dogs during the day.  Rock too was a gentleman most of the way.  He didn't nip at me when I wasn't looking, at least.  The biggest problem was him grabbing snacks along the trail. 

Last night I got a whole 8 hours of sleep and woke feeling well enough to ride.  However, for some reason, my new neighbors parked their truck and horse trailer across the street by the gate to the bridle trails.  They weren't blocking it, but I knew it would be a struggle to get Rock past the horse trailer, because all of my horses get super excited over seeing horse trailers, especially ones that smell like they might have horses inside.  I couldn't understand why they parked there when they have five acres of their own land to park on.  Then I noticed that the doors to the horse trailer were wide open, and I figured that they were coming back soon to move it.

I was also waiting for the recycling truck to come pick up the contents of our bin out by the street.  They normally came some time in the morning.  I ate my lunch early just to get my hunger out of the way so that once the recycling was picked up and the neighbors moved their vehicles I could go straight out and ride.

The neighbors returned from their trail ride, but did not move their truck and trailer.  Also, the recycling never got picked up.  I lost patience and started getting ready to go for my ride.  That's when the dogs broke into a barking fit.  It turned out that my neighbor was finally moving that truck and trailer off the trail head and back onto his property, slamming doors all the way and riling up my dogs in the process.  After detaching the trailer, they drove off.  Perfect.  I scurried outside and saddled up Rock.  I brought out the bridle, but got hit with a wave of sweats, weakness and dizziness and had to sit down.  I put my head between my knees.

Rock stepped closer to me and nuzzled my head.  I sat up and he kissed my face.  Then he grabbed the bridle between his teeth and tried to put it on his own face!  Clever horse.  I stood up and put it on him, but noticed that the chin strap was abnormally tight.  That's when it hit me that it was the wrong bridle.  I had put Bombay's bridle on Rock.  So, I had to go back to the tack room to fix that.

Literally, the second I lead him over to the mounting block, the trash truck arrived.  I waited for the truck to dump my recycling bin and leave, only it didn't leave.  It parked in the turnout to the bridle trails.  I led Rock to the round pen and half-heartedly lunged him, all the while waiting for the sound of the trash truck engine to drive off.  I felt myself getting more and more irritated knowing that I specifically had been waiting for that truck to come and go before riding, but since they were late today, I took my chances, and now I was suffering the consequences for not being patient.

I turned Rock to trot in the opposite direction, and he lost all self-control.  He took off at a gallop, bucking all the way around the pen.  I was thinking, "I hope to God I tightened that cinch on the saddle good enough."

But that turned out to be the least of my problems.  My brand new reins flew off the saddle horn and up onto his ears.  They were hanging on by one ear as he continued to gallop and buck in circles around me.  One of his front hooves was inches from slipping through the looped reins.  I yelled, "Whoa!" and put my hands in the air.  He stopped, but with each step I took toward him, he flinched and jumped as if to take off again.  I had to drop the lead rope and approach him talking in a relaxed voice.  I removed the bridle and reins, then sent him off again.  This time he didn't act like an idiot.

That damn trash truck was still idling in the turnout half an hour later.  I don't know if the driver was taking his lunch break or what, but it was ridiculous.  I sat down in the center of the round pen because I was so exhausted.  It was only 68 degrees, but with my illness it felt like 100.  I was sweating profusely.  When the trash truck finally drove off and I tried to stand up to lead Rock to the mounting block, I realized it was too late.  I had spent all of my energy in the round pen and had nothing left to ride with.  Thanks, Mr. Trashman.

As soon as I unsaddled Rock, a breeze came up and closed the door to my tack room, so I had to figure out how to hold this 35 lb. saddle on one arm and get the door open with the other hand.  I could have sworn that I chained it open, but my brain had pretty much shut down due to the exhaustion, so I wasn't at the top of my game.  I thought, "It's probably better that I didn't ride, because I keep doing incredibly stupid things."

So, I put the tack and Rock away, and then my new neighbors drove up followed by three other cars followed by the mail carrier, and I realized that it almost didn't matter when I chose to ride across the street.  There's so much traffic right now on our dead end road that my chances are slim of being able to cross the street and ride through an empty turnout without some vehicle suddenly needing to be where my horse and I are at that very moment.  The space I need to ride through to get off my property and through the gate is only about 50-feet wide, but there are just so many people here now, and they are all driving.  As I'm writing this, a lost truck driver is turning around at the trail head.  There is almost more traffic on our street now with my new neighbors constantly having company over than there was in the past three years with all the Looky Loos coming around to check out the house for sale.  I thought things would get better once the house sold, but that hasn't been the case. 

I've never met people who are more sociable.  Even when they go to church, they have to bring half the congregation home with them.  Now that they've been here for a few weeks, I have noticed something very odd about them.  They wear the same clothes every day.  I can't figure out when they wash them.  They own two ranches, each of which are valued at half a million dollars, so you'd think they could afford a change of clothes.  My neighbors at my old house were the same way, wearing the same clothes every day.  Well, the new neighbors must not smell bad, because they have plenty of friends.  Perhaps they actually have a week's worth of the same clothing items?  I know that when I find a wearable item that is super comfortable, I'll buy several, but usually in different colors.

I'll leave you with a few pictures I got in the round pen.  Maybe next time the pictures will be from his back.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Another Week Under the Bridge

My hopes that I was over the worst of my sore throat and breathing difficulties crashed and burned, so I've been down for the count for the past week with either a cold or flu.  Don't know which.  Don't really care.  Me not feel well.  That's the gist of it.

My husband came home early from work one day to deal with the dogs and horses so that I could get some rest.  I protested, not wanting my illness to interfere with his work, but it turned out to be a good thing, because I was pretty much worthless and incapable of doing anything on that afternoon.  Then my son flew in from the east coast to stay with us for a few days, and he made breakfast, did the grocery shopping, bought me a fresh bottle of Tussin and boxes of tissues, and made me a healthy and delicious dinner to jump start my recovery.  He even helped install running boards on my truck so that I don't need a push from behind to get in, and I no longer need to jump out and land hard on my arthritic joints.

Of course, I was sick as a dog on the day of my brother's burial, because I can never just handle one problem at a time.  I have to be walloped from all directions simultaneously.  I was told I would be called before the burial and afterward.  When no one called by early afternoon, I sent out an email to the man who had made the arrangements, and got no response.  I figured they either forgot to do it or the storm that passed through did some damage to the grounds and they had to postpone it.  The next day, despite not having a voice, I called the man I had emailed and a woman answered.  I asked if that man still worked there.  She said he was on vacation.  I said, "He was supposed to arrange to have my brother buried yesterday and someone was supposed to call me before and after the burial."

She tapped on her keyboard and confirmed that they did proceed with the burial, and she apologized for no one having called me.  She said, "We did mail a letter to you, though."

Pfffffft!  So, I guess 3 to 5 days was supposed to be sufficient for me to find out if the burial took place or not.  Considering all the incorrect information they gave to the funeral director up in Washington and the number of times they misspelled my name after I corrected them, it wasn't a stretch for me to assume that they forgot to perform the service I paid for, or even possibly lost the ashes.

Almost as an afterthought, I asked if the headstone had been set as well.  She said that tablets cost extra and I would have to order one.  I was like, "Ummm, yeah.  That's kind of important to know, and the guy who had been working with me who is now on vacation neglected to mention that.  Obviously, I don't want my brother to be laid to rest in an unmarked grave."

So, she transferred me to a lady who could make the tablet arrangements.  By that time I had been on the phone too long and my voice was fading.  Half the syllables were coming out as hisses or whispers.  The lady said, "You know what?  Let me give you my email address, and we'll finish this conversation through writing, because I can't hear anything you are saying."

By the time we concluded our email thread and all the decisions had been made, I was too exhausted to sign the contract, so I told her I'd get it to her the next day.  However, the next day we had network problems and I was unable to scan the signed paperwork.  Every time I turned around there was something else blocking me from making progress.  It turned out that this lady too went on vacation, so when we got the scanner working, she wasn't on the other end to receive it.  Then I came to find out that we're having yet another three-day holiday weekend, so no one would be working to process my order for the tablet.  Don't let your loved ones die between the end of November to the middle of January.  It could take until February to complete the entire process of laying them to rest between everyone being eager to go on vacation and various viruses floating around.

One morning my breathing difficulties got even worse when they should have been getting better, and I worried that I might be developing pneumonia.  I was contemplating asking my son to pick up a steamer device at the pharmacy to help break up the mucous and let me breathe again.  Of course that was when my new neighbor called to warn me that he got himself a burn permit and was going to start burning green waste he had cut down around his place.  What can I do in a case like that but just let him know that I'm sick and smoke gets socked in around my property because I live in a bowl, and it seeps in my windows, and then I have to breathe it?  From there, it was his choice if he was going to burn or not burn.  I figured once the burning began, I'd grab the dogs and take them to a local park for a few hours, but I really wasn't feeling up to it.  All my body wanted to do was to lie down.

They've been burning off and on over the past few days, one pile at a time.  At first, the smoke was very light, barely noticeable, but now it's starting to get socked into our garage.  I think they were trying to be considerate at first, but now they just want to get the job done.  The thing is that it takes hours, sometimes days to burn green waste when it would take no more than an hour to just load it up in your truck and trailer and take it to the dump.  As I write, my new neighbor is out driving around in his backyard in his off-road vehicle at 4:30 AM.  I'm not sure what he needs to be doing out there in the dark.  He obviously has no idea how loud that engine is right next to my bedroom.  Fortunately, I'm already awake.  Up until a couple of days ago, they were hardly ever home, but I think they got all their socializing out of their system and now the obnoxious behaviors are beginning.

When I was feeling a little bit of life coming back into me, I began making plans in my head to tackle the next slew of tasks ahead of me, and then I went down to the barn late at night to let the horses out of their stalls only to find Bombay down on the ground in pain, his hay only half eaten, and he wasn't getting up for anything.  I had never seen him like that before.  He rarely gets sick, and I've never seen him colic.  I wasn't even sure if this was colic.

But it made total sense that he would get sick late on a Saturday night over a 3-day holiday weekend while I myself am trying to recover from my own illness, and desperately in need of sleep.  That's the only way it can ever happen.  Sometimes I think my pets have sympathy pains for me, because they always get sick when I'm sick, and I spend all my time taking care of them instead of myself.  Obviously, I wasn't going to get a vet out at that time, and I didn't know what was wrong with him, so I put together a mixture of Bute in a syringe and tried to shoot it into Bombay's mouth.  That got him up.  He wasn't happy about having medicine forced on him.  There was nothing else I could do in the dark in my condition, so I said a prayer and went to bed.  When the sun came up, I was expecting to see a dead horse in the arena, but he was chipper and fine -- his usual self, and he ate his breakfast with vigor.  So, who knows?  Sometimes I think that the universe just likes to watch me panic.

I've been getting out for exercise at the parks the past couple of mornings to try to get my lungs working again, and I like to look for painted rocks while I'm at it.  My husband and I had split up to look for a prize winning rock, and I was kind of doing a grid search when this man walking a dog cut me off and walked right up to me like he knew me and we had prearranged to meet in the park or something.  His behavior was so weird and I feared he was going to delay me with his life story, so I swung around him and started talking to my husband to deter the stranger from socializing with me.  I swear, being in this town in the winter is like one huge social event to these snowbirds.  They chat it up with every stranger they meet, but I'm not comfortable having random men approach me in public. 

Anyway, I was showing my husband a picture of a rock I found on my phone, and this nosy guy stopped his dog a few feet away and was observing us intently, eavesdropping on our conversation because he had to know what we were doing.  I just looked him straight in the eye waiting for him to either tell us what he wanted or look away.  He shot me an annoyed look like how dare I intrude on his right to spy on me.  Ha ha!  I didn't back down, so he eventually gave up and moved along.  My son and I got stalked by a dog walker when we were rock hunting.  The guy was practically chasing us, and then when we slowed way down for him to pass, he dawdled and refused to pass because he wanted to listen in on our conversation.  Then this one guy was driving past my husband and me when we were searching on the side of a road for painted rocks.  He stopped abruptly and just stared at us for the longest time, his car blocking the road so that no one could pass.  I think if I keep receiving unwanted attention, I'll perfect my cough attacks and aim them in nosy people's general direction.  That should chase them off.

If I see someone who is obviously hunting for painted rocks too, I don't watch them.  I just ask, "Are you looking for painted rocks too?" and they say yes, and maybe we say "I'll show you mine if you show me yours", and then we go our separate ways.  There's nothing weird about it.  But when someone who doesn't know what's going on gets curious about why we are digging through bushes, trees and piles of rocks, that's when things get weird.  A lot of times people think we are trying to steal something, and they make it their personal responsibility to thwart our efforts.  That's why I don't like it when people hide rocks or geocaches around businesses in town.  It's not a stretch for some stranger to assume that you are doing something illegal, because there are things around that could be stolen.  However, in a park or along a hiking trail, people shouldn't be as suspicious, yet they still are.  I don't get it.  Whenever I see someone bushwhacking with their mobile phone held out in front of them, I just assume they are following their GPS to a cache or doing some kind of treasure hunt.  I don't think they are stealing plants and rocks from the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Sometimes if I'm encroaching on someone else's space looking for painted rocks, I'll explain to them what I'm doing, and then I usually end up with a new recruit.  But when people are nosy and creepy and insist on following me to spy and eavesdrop, I get annoyed and don't want to share my hobby with them.  I tend to play games with them because I want to see how far they'll let their curiosity take them.  My behavior just kind of depends on whether other people show me respect or not, and stealthily snooping in my business is not respectful.  Nor is outright staring.  What is respectful is to ask the person if they mind telling you what they are doing because you are interested.  You give them the choice of whether to share that information or not.  But I think the people who irritate me the most are those who assume that I am doing something bad, and then insert themselves into my activities or alert the authorities to my suspicious behavior.  Fortunately, most of the park rangers and maintenance workers know about rock hunting by now, so they ignore such reports.  It wasn't too long ago that the park rangers and maintenance workers were the ones stalking me, but such a huge chunk of our local population is now involved, and our group has had so much publicity that it's not a problem anymore... at least until the winter visitors show up.  Now they are the ones stalking us.

One positive thing about having this illness is that all the Tussin I've been chugging has added to the pain relievers I normally take for my arthritis and torn muscles, so I haven't had much hip and leg pain.  I can do simple things like take walks in the park.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Four Stories

Open and Say Ahhhhh

Our new supermarket in town remains impossibly crowded, so we have gotten into the habit of waking up around 5:00 AM, showering, going out to breakfast at one of the two diners in town that open early, and then doing our marketing before the sun rises and before the crowds converge.  This weekend it was especially important that we avoid the crowds because we have two flu strains causing an epidemic in our area, and this year's flu shot doesn't protect against either of them.  My son is coming to visit, and we don't need to be sick and pass it on to him to take back east when he leaves. 

Unfortunately, despite being careful not to be around anyone who coughs, I didn't dodge the bullet.  I'm guessing that someone probably coughed on some surface I touched, and that's how I picked it up.  I should have just ordered my groceries through Amazon this week, but then it would probably turn out that the delivery man coughed all over the packages.  Last night my throat was so swollen that I struggled to breathe.  The newscasters have been urging people to stay home if they are sick and not go to the doctor's office, medical clinic or emergency room unless they are having trouble breathing.  All these people with minor flu symptoms that can't be treated anyway are causing a bottleneck for those who seriously need to see a doctor.  It's so hard to see a doctor as is this time of year with all the winter visitors.  I can only imagine how long people have to wait now with this flu epidemic.  I am breathing better after taking a steamy shower, so hopefully I'm past the worst of it. 

Me, Groucho

Anytime I dye my hair myself, the dogs never give me enough time to make it through the entire process without having to take them outside.  So, I took them out right before I started the hair dying process, but when I got out of the shower after rinsing, they needed to go out again.  I told them to hang on, because the horses needed to be let out of their stalls too.  My wet hair was matted to my head, as I hadn't had time to comb it out yet, and I had Groucho Marx eyebrows, so I didn't want anyone to see me.  My neighbors had left for a trail ride earlier, so I looked around for any indication that they may have returned.  I definitely didn't want to run into them with my hair and brows like that, and with no make up on.  I ran outside to let the horses out of their stalls really quick, and the horse the neighbors left behind started whinnying.  I thought the neighbors were returning home, so I rushed to get the horses out and get back to the house before they caught me.  It turned out the horse was calling out because it saw my horses transitioning from one activity to the next, not because its buddies were returning home.

Then I took the dogs out and here came this person I'd never seen before bicycling up the street before Stewie could relieve himself.  Midge peed, but still needed to poo.  Stewie lunged at the bicyclist, who was staring at me with my wet matted hair and Groucho Marx eyebrows, and a bark-fest began.  I had to drag both dogs inside the house because there was no way they could finish their business in that state of mind.  In winters past, I'd take the dogs into the backyard to relieve themselves since so many snowbirds are out walking and bicycling back and forth in front of my house.  However, that's going to be difficult now that we have neighbors living next door.

The Paradox of Wide Open Spaces

We've been looking for a trailer or mobile home with electrical and water hook ups on a large acreage in the mountains where we can occasionally go to escape the crowds in the winter and heat in the summer.  It seems that every property with 20 or more acres does not have access to water and electricity, or if it does, all the homes are right up against each other because that's where the utility access is located, and the homes surrounding the home that is up for sale are surrounded by dozens of broken down vehicles and other junkyard items.  You can live out in the middle of nowhere, but all it takes is one bad neighbor to ruin everything, so I prefer no neighbors at all. The other big issue is that many of the affordable lots of land require a 4WD ATV or side-by-side to access.  Oh yeah, and that's the other thing:  You can see ATV tracks and hoof prints all over the pictures of the land, so you know that people are already using it for their recreational activities, so I'd have to pay to have a fence built around the property to keep those people out, and then they'd just cut the fence and keep doing what they've always done.  I've considered just buying 40 or 80 acres and camping out of tent, but that's really not an option with my arthritis.  I'd have to pay to pave a road and bring utilities to the center of my property, but you know as soon as I do that, the land around my land will get snapped up and everyone will start building houses and tapping into the resources I paid to bring into the area.  If you build it, they will come.  So, it doesn't look like there are many good options in state.

Some Piss Face Success

Something short of a miracle happened this morning when I was letting the horses out of their stalls.  For years I have been trying to train Gabbrielle not to piss in my face.  It started out with her turning her butt toward me and releasing a flood at my feet every time I approached her to let her out of her stall.  Then I'd get urine and mud splattered all over my pants.  I handled that by whacking her with a riding crop or my hand as soon as she turned her butt toward me.  However, that just taught her to do it when I was out of arm's reach.  She'd turn her butt toward me and pee as I was approaching the barn aisle.  So, I handled that by leaving a pile of rocks by the entrance to the barn aisle, and I'd chuck one at her butt as soon as she'd swing it in my direction.  Eventually, as long as I kept eye contact with her, she wouldn't do it.  But, as soon as I got distracted and looked away, she did it.

What's the problem as long as she's not splattering me, you ask?  Well, besides being an annoying obnoxious behavior, she would make such a large, deep puddle in her stall that it would take days to dry out, putting her at risk of developing thrush.  She literally created a small pond in the barn.  I kept expecting to find guppies swimming in it.  I wanted to take it a step further and train her to pee outside of her stall.  The other horses aren't a problem, because they just pee small amounts when they need to, and they pee in different locations, and bonus! -- They don't make an exhibition out of it.  They don't hold it for hours until I approach, point their privates at me, spread their legs, and then release a flood into the exact same spot every morning and every night.

So, here's what happened this morning:  All the horses went into their stalls, and as I came around to close the stall gates before feeding them, Gabbrielle suddenly strutted out of her stall.  I thought, "What's up with her?" and I looked all around for some reason for why she didn't want to be in her stall.  That's when she walked out of the barn into the arena, and let loose there!  I realized that she finally figured out that I did not want her peeing in her stall anymore, so she left her stall to relieve herself.  I also appreciated that she turned her butt away from me when she did it.  I gave her a ton of praise, which she rejected with pinned ears.  She came right back to her stall when she was done, and I praised her some more while she continued to flip me off.  Hopefully, this new behavior of peeing outside of the barn will become a habit, so I can check one more problem off my list as having been solved.  The ideal situation would be if she would simply just pee outside of the barn when I'm not around, but I know my presence is such an ingrained trigger for her bladder that we'll probably never reach that pinnacle of success, so I'll have to settle for and celebrate reaching the second best scenario.

Friday, January 5, 2018


I went from having not much of anything going on to being overwhelmed in no time.  We're doing some spring cleaning and purging, as well as repurposing spaces within our house.  We had this bunk bed / futon taking up space that nobody would ever use again.  It belonged to our daughter, but she's getting married next month, so I'm sure she has no interest in sleeping on a top bunk anymore.  We've got our son and his fiance coming to stay a few nights in both January and February, and we also may possibly have other relatives who might need to spend the night while in town for my daughter's wedding.  However, we have nowhere for guests to sleep besides that futon / bunk bed.  I wouldn't want them to sleep on my couches, which are riddled with dog hair and smell like dog butt, and we aren't really in the position to give up our mattresses due to our pain issues.  It took a lot of work to find the right mattresses that don't contribute to our pain and pressure points, and allow us to sleep.  If we were any younger, we'd gladly sleep on the floor or the couches ourselves to allow guests to use our bed.  So, my husband dismantled the bunk bed, moved the drum set into the garage, and I ordered all the parts for a new guest bed.

One of the quandaries caused by this move was that now we have no place to put our king-sized mattress pad.  I spent a fortune on it back when we were trying to find solutions to our sleeping problems, and it worked great for me, but not for my husband, so I had to take it off the bed.  We had been folding it in half and storing it on top of the bunk bed, but with that gone, we don't know where to keep the monstrosity.  So, I've been trying to clean out my walk-in closet to make room for it.  On the first day of closet cleaning, it literally took all day just to sort through my shoes.  I'm not a person who buys too many shoes because I think they are cute.  I buy too many shoes because, like with the mattresses and pads, I'm trying to find the magical product that will relieve my pain.

I thought that throwing out shoes would be hard, but the shoes themselves made it easy for me.  Older shoes that had been stored by the window got destroyed by the sun, so they went straight in the trash.  If you live in Arizona, you almost need a walk-in freezer to store your most precious belongings, because everything gets destroyed by the sun and the heat.  I probably tossed a dozen pair.  Then I put another dozen into donations bags because my feet outgrew them.  I organized the remaining items to fit on the shoe shelves, and this was the end result...

You may note that the majority of footwear includes boots, sneakers, and slip ons.  I only own one pair of dress shoes down in the lower right.  I'll have to shop for something more appropriate to wear with a dress to the wedding.

In my defense, the reason why there are so many booties below is because a long, long time ago when I discovered them, I shared them with my mother.  She loved the way they looked and she got addicted to buying them for herself.  We were the same size, so when she passed away, I raided her closet and kept her shoes.  There are several of the same brands and styles, but at least they are in different colors.

I never thought I'd find a place for the purple Ariats...

They had been sitting on the floor of the closet previously.  I really need to clean some of my boots.  Very dusty.  The boots below are my most worn...

The Fat Babies have my spurs attached.  Then there are my hiking boots.

On the second day of closet cleaning, I tackled the linens.  You know how when you buy new linens for your bed and you don't know what to do with the old ones?  Yeah.  Well, I threw my old ones in the closet, so there were comforters taking up space everywhere.  On top of that, I also sew quilts, most of which wind up folded in my closet.  Again, I threw a few out that were ripped beyond repair, but I needed to keep most of the stuff, so I threw out other stuff and made room on top shelves, however first those shelves needed dusting and the linens needed to be bundled with string so that they wouldn't roll or slide off the shelves.  They had previously been stacked on the floor.

I didn't get very far because of all the interruptions.  No sooner would I start work and either a dog needed to pee or Stewie would start barking.  I'd come out to investigate and find another delivery at the door.  In one case, the mail carrier couldn't carry my mattress by herself and she was worried no one would be home to help her.  I did help her, and it was a gut buster.  After we dropped it on the porch, I dragged it the rest of the way in.  The manufacturer had sucked all the air out of it, rolled it up, shrink-wrapped it, and stuffed it in a box.  Unwrapping it was out of this world.  I'd never seen anything like it.  I felt like Mary Poppins.  Now all we need is for the bed frame to arrive.  Also, ironically, while I was struggling to figure out what to do with all those old king-sized bed linens, new full-sized bed linens arrived.  I was up to my neck in linens.

The final phase will be to go through my clothes and figure out what needs to be tossed, what needs to be donated, and what needs to be kept.  That means trying on a lot of clothes, which is easier said than done with my bum leg.  I'm giving myself more than one day to tackle that job.

All the houses on my street are now occupied by their owners.  Everyone bailed to escape this week's snowstorms up north.  So far, so good with the new next-door neighbors.  At least they didn't bring 8 barking guard dogs with them like the old owners.  They only brought their horses, and as I expected, my horses went nuts, galloping around and bucking as soon as they saw them.  Bombay seems to be in love with one of them.

Interestingly, Stewie didn't take long to distinguish between new neighbor noises and people who are actually on our property.  At first he was barking over every little noise the new neighbors made.  They parked their horse trailer on one side of our house, so every time they close a door to it, we hear it loud and clear inside our house.  But now Stewie has figured out that is a normal noise, and he no longer acts alarmed. 

I took down the sign on my door that tells people not to knock, honk or ring the doorbell, because it was faded, and I just didn't feel like posting a new one.  Now all the delivery people are ringing my bell.  The other morning a pickup truck pulled into my driveway and I wanted to grab the person before he rang and got Stewie riled up, so I went outside to meet him.  He asked if the house next door was still for sale.  I thought to myself, "Oh yeah, THAT'S why I've been keeping the sign up and hiding from people for the past three years."

Honestly, I don't know why so many home shoppers insist on pestering neighbors with questions that they should be posing to real estate agents.  I said, "Nope.  It sold last summer."

He said, "We wanted to buy it."

I said, "Well, you had plenty of time.  It was on the market for three years."

He said, "We were waiting for the price to come down enough that the sellers might work out a deal with us."

I said, "That's what the buyer's did, and they got a good deal."

Then he and his wife told me that they were the ones who designed and built the house.  They were the first owners.  I was so delighted to meet them, because I've always wondered what kind of person would have designed such a dysfunctional house.  Most of the rooms are 12x12 or less.  They are like horse stalls.  And then there is this gigantic great room that was circular with no wall space to put furniture against.  Interestingly, they bragged about the design, not realizing that the design was why the sellers had such a hard time finding buyers for it.  They were nice people and I said, "Well, I wish you had put in an offer on time.  It would have been good to have you as neighbors."

I said this remembering that the race car driver told me he hated those neighbors when they lived there because they were always complaining about the noise he made with his race cars and power tools.  They also wouldn't let him race his ATV around on their property.  (Boo hoo.  Make sure you've got a place to legally ride your ATV before you buy one, Dude.)  It would have been nice to have someone in my corner on that issue.  I'm sure the poor lady just wanted to ride her horses in peace, and that jerk was destroying her quality of life with his noisy motorhead hobbies.

Then they explained that they moved out because five acres became too much property for them to maintain in their old age.  I was baffled by that comment at first, because there's really nothing to maintain, but then I realized that they were probably talking about the hassle of having to keep trespassers out.  Now they are running a horse boarding business and they need more room, only they can't care for all those horses themselves, so they need to buy a place where they can set up a trailer for a ranch hand to live and work out of.  Once I heard that, I imagined all the strangers coming and going and parking along the street to work with and ride their horses, and I changed my mind about wanting them as neighbors.  A horse business is better than any other business, but I just know from experience that having any kind of business in a residential neighborhood increases traffic and noise, and in this case, it would also take away my privacy.  The new neighbors have a lot of friends who visit, and who have to honk their horns as they come and go, but so far, that's the worst that came with their package, so I'm not complaining.

So, yesterday, while I was struggling to finish the job of sorting through closet linens, I stepped in a puddle and slipped, catching myself on the kitchen counter before I fell.  I looked down and immediately knew that Midge was diabetic.  The puddle was a dark golden pee.  I leave the morning syringe out to help me remember if I gave her a shot, and there was no syringe, so I had to calculate how much to give her for the time of day, knowing she'd get more insulin with her dinner.  I'm always having to try not to kill this dog by accident.  Then I had to mop three times, because diabetic pee is very sticky and does not come up easy.

While all that was going on, I looked out the window to see my horses alerting on the arroyo.  The race car neighbor's teenage grandson was running around the back of my property with a bee-bee gun that looked like a rifle.  Yesterday I saw him running around my new next door neighbor's property with that gun, and I was wondering if they were going to kick him out or not.  I pulled out my binoculars to watch him.  He climbed down the cliff to my sign and looked directly at my house as if contemplating ripping down my NO TRESPASSING sign or possibly defacing it.  He stood there for a long time and I couldn't see what his hands were doing, but since he didn't set down the gun, I thought it was pretty safe to assume that he couldn't do much damage with one hand.  Then he moved behind the tree and tried to hide there.  I wondered if he saw me watching him with binoculars and was hiding from me, but it turned out that he was hunting.  He was holding still and hiding, waiting for some innocent rabbit or bird to come along so he could shoot it.

He shot in the direction of my horses several times.  I had a talk with him and his grandfather about that a while back, and they promised they wouldn't shoot in the direction of my property.  They also claimed to love "little critters" and would never hurt them.  I figured that if he hit my horses from that distance, the bee-bees would just bounce off of them, so I wasn't too concerned for my horses.  There's always a concern that they'd get hit in the eye, though.  I was more annoyed with this family's deceitfulness.  I then watched the boy go to a hiding spot on his grandfather's property, pick up a dead animal, carry to my property, and throw it down the hill under a tree.  That was the last straw for me.  I called the cops, gave them a description of the boy and which house he went into, the cross streets, and told them where they could find the dead animal.

The dispatcher said, "So, no one has been hurt?"

I said, "An animal is dead."

She said, "Besides the dead animal, no one has been hit?"

"No humans have been hit." I said.  "But isn't there a law against hunting in residential neighborhoods?"

She ignored my question and continued to downplay my report.  I kept an eye on that house for two hours, and no officer ever showed up to investigate.  This is precisely why I rarely call the police.  It's a complete waste of time.  I'm always having to take things into my own hands, only in this case I didn't want to because the grandfather had previously threatened me indirectly by saying that if anyone messes with him, the police won't need to be involved, because he will kill them himself and bury their body out in the desert where they'd never be found.  I told the dispatcher that, and said the guy had a large gun collection that he bragged about, and she didn't seem concerned.  It's funny how you see these law enforcement reality shows and those cops take the potential presence of a gun very seriously, but guns are so common here where I live that the cops don't care.  They kind of expect everyone to be packing since it's their right to do so.  Then there are the Fish and Game shows where these guys bust their butts to investigate rumors of someone shooting at a deer from a car or shooting animals for sport and throwing their bodies away or shooting the wrong type of animal or shooting in the off season.  They even chase down trespassers.  Fishing and hunting laws are very complex.  Those officers take such offenses very seriously.

It just bothers me that I'm often struggling to solve problems, such as Midge's diabetic episode, and while I'm tackling that, there is always some bored idiot out causing problems for me by either trespassing on my property or shooting rabbits and birds or burglarizing my garage or joy riding and doing donuts repeatedly in front of my house.  It's always something around here.  I wish the universe could take some of my problems off me and sprinkle them into the lives of these people who obviously need something to do to keep them busy like me.  There were so many other more productive things I could have been doing instead of calling the police and having my report fall on deaf ears.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Rundown

Not much going on in my horse and dog world.  The big news is that my farrier told me that Rock has good hooves, which is something I never expected to hear knowing the condition they were in when we bought him several years ago.  I guess our efforts of trimming them back gradually and me riding him barefoot have made a world of difference.  The farrier also found out why Rock had been lame for a couple of weeks in December.  He had a small rock jammed up under the soft part of his frog where a pick couldn't easily reach or detect it, and thrush had formed around it.  He found it when he began cutting away dead tissue.  That explains why my usual abscess treatments didn't work.

I haven't been able to ride much due to nerve pain.  I've been getting random zaps in my right leg that buckle my knee, making it really difficult to walk without a walking stick or cane, and the more I move, the worse it gets, so I've spent a lot of time sitting down.  Usually, if I'm dealing with inflammation, I'm supposed to ice the joint that's giving me trouble, but I don't have a clue on how to relieve this nerve pain.  It's like my electrical system has gone haywire.  I don't even know where the source is, because the zaps are everywhere along the entire length of leg.  It may be time to go back to the doctor.  Since the orthopedist can't do anything for me, I'm guessing my general practitioner will send me to a neurologist.  Our health insurance changed this year, and our benefits aren't anywhere near as good as they were last year.

I got lots of good reading material for Christmas, so that's been my saving grace.  I did go hiking on New Year's Day.  I didn't wear my fitness watch, but I think I went half a mile in about half an hour.  I move like molasses with my walking stick.  A group of horseback riders came up behind me, and I was waiting to hear hoof beats before moving off the trail to let them pass.  I was afraid that if I stopped and waited for too long, I'd lose my momentum and give inflammation a chance to set in.  I think my behavior was detected as being odd by at least one of the horses, so the lead rider called out to me to get me talking so that the horses would know I'm human.  I'm sure the way I was walking resembled the movement of a zombie.  I stepped to the side and talked to them.  The three horses in front were moving at a good clip and on alert, but not shying away from me.  They were all Quarter Horses.  But the Arab in back was trying to bolt.  The rider had its nose cranked into its chest.  I waited for them to get a long way ahead before I began walking again.  The Arab kept turning its entire body sideways to watch me since the rider wouldn't let it turn its head.  Even though I was struggling with each step I took while hiking, I was glad that I wasn't riding that horse.  I never thought there'd be a time where I didn't want to ride, but pain makes you change your priorities.

Our water problem saga continues.  Now our water osmosis system is broken and needs to be replaced. I don't think we have gone more than a couple of months this past year without well or plumbing problems.  We are seriously considering buying a getaway in the mountains to escape the summer heat and have a place to go when the water situation gets intolerant here.  Each summer we've been breaking heat records.  If it's not the temperature high that's being broken, it's how long we've gone above a certain temperature.  Our summers just keep stretching out and lasting longer and longer as well as getting hotter.  If this becomes a trend, central Arizona will no longer be habitable some day.

I've been talking to my new fridge and new laptop, telling them how wonderful they are and how much they are appreciated.  That's my way of putting positive energy into them so that they won't break down.  When I was growing up, my next door neighbor's mom drove me to school, and she had this old Mustang she named Betsy that kept breaking down.  Every morning we had to go through this routine of her patting Betsy on the dashboard and speaking to her lovingly before she'd turn the key in the ignition.  I suspect this behavior is the result of something similar to PTSD over too many electronic and mechanical failures.

I got a bunch of paint markers and dotting tools for Christmas, so I've been throwing myself into painting rocks for the community.  Over the summer, it was kind of fun, because locals in the group would find my rocks and post pictures of them online, and then they'd paint a few rocks and hide them for someone else to find in a "pay it forward" kind of style, and I'd occasionally run into someone while rock hunting or hiding, and make a new friend.  It was also fun helping mothers of young children keep their kids entertained on their school breaks by painting and hiding rocks for them to find, and giving out hints.  However, now that the winter visitors are here, they are the ones finding the rocks, and they keep reporting online that they are relocating them to other states up north when they return home, which is disappointing for those of us who are trying to keep the game going locally.  I know that some groups encourage people to travel with the rocks, so they can see how far they go, but that's something I personally don't care about.  So far every rock of mine that has been taken out of state was never heard from again.  So, I may just paint now and hide everything in the late spring.

We've finally ordered running boards for my truck.  I can get into the driver's side, but when my husband drives, I can't climb up into the passenger seat for some reason.  It'll be nice having that problem taken care of.  I feel like we are constantly having to spend money on stuff to relieve my pain and give me more mobility.

The bunny of which I will now call "Scarface" has been holding still long enough for me to touch it.  I don't want to say that it is letting me pet it, because as soon as I stroke its face, it hops away.  But it does come right back, so I am able to stroke its face several times.  Now I am thinking it is not Charity, because this bunny is quite aggressive toward other rabbits, while Charity just moved out of the way as soon as other bunnies came into her space.  It's quite funny watching rabbits fight.  One charges the other, and right before they collide, the other rabbit leaps straight up into the air and the charging rabbit runs underneath it.  They fight leapfrog style, never actually touching.  It's more a matter of showing off your Ninja Warrior skills and intimidating the other rabbit so that it will run away.  One of these days, hopefully, I'll have a camera on me and catch it on film.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Bombay and The Bunny

It suddenly hit me today that I was running out of quiet, distraction-free arena riding time.  My new neighbors are moving in this weekend, and today is Wednesday.  I had planned to ride on Tuesday, but then a friend needed to meet me somewhere to get something from me and that turned into a yak session and there wasn't much time to do anything before barn chores by the time I got back.  Then I remembered that I've got a farrier appointment on Friday, I'm always busy on the weekends, so that leaves Wednesday and Thursday to ride horses.  The frustrating thing about it was that I was supposed to dedicate my time to stretching and strengthening my leg muscles before attempting to ride again, but there just wasn't any time to physically prepare.  Each time I start a dedicated exercise regimen, something happens to waylay my efforts, and my health just goes downhill from there.  This time it was having to settle my brother's affairs and getting ready for Christmas that got me off track.  So, I wasn't sure if I could mount successfully or not.  I either need a taller mounting block or a shorter horse. 

When preparing to go ride in the morning, I looked out the window and saw, to my horror, that two county trucks pulled up in front of my house, one hauling a wood chipper and one hauling a bunch of outhouses, and the doors of the trucks opened up to release a bunch of prisoners in orange jumpsuits into my front yard.  The prisoners were handed chainsaws and sickles on the ends of long sticks, and they proceeded to trim all the overgrown bushes and trees along the road.  "Well, looks like I'm not going riding this morning," I said.

It didn't matter if I rode in the arena or out on the trails.  I would have had to deal with the noise and activity either way.  So, I waited until the afternoon to ride.  I had to clean up all the manure in advance.  Usually, I have to hurry and ride right after cleaning or the arena will be littered with piles in no time.  So, I was attempting to race back to the house in my Mule to get my riding boots when I saw that some animal tried to dig up Scrappy from his grave again.  I had to get a shovel and drive over there to rebury the grave for the third time.  It was my husband's idea to start a pet cemetery on the property.  Next time I'm taking the cremation route.  We can still bury the ashes.  If Stephen King needs any inspiration for future horror stories, he's welcome to stay at my place.

I was taking bets with no one that Gabbrielle would be the first to take a dump in the nice, clean arena, and I won.  Actually, I lost, because I had to clean it up, but I was right about Gabbrielle being the first to soil the sand.

I really wanted to ride Bombay, because he's so responsive compared to Rock.  Rock may be solid on the trails and unspookable, but Bombay is effortless.  I don't need to have strong legs to get him moving.  I just need to have strong legs to stay on him.

When I mounted, my leg got stuck on the side of his hip.  I couldn't lift it any higher.  I paused, trying to keep my weight over the center of the saddle while I attempted to solve this latest puzzle.  Bombay was so good.  He just stood and waited for me to figure it out.  I stood on my tippy toe in the stirrup and that lifted my hip high enough for me to drag my leg the rest of the way over.  Then we played "Ring Around the Pee Puddles."

At first, he showed a preference to hang by the barn, so I gave him a small correction with the reins, and he started listening really well after that.

Everything he learned in all his years of training came right back to him, but what was really impressive was that people in the neighborhood began setting off firecrackers, and he didn't pay any attention to it.  The neighbors on the hill were setting them off all night long on Christmas Eve.  I was like, "Really?  It's not enough that you are shooting guns and exploding shit around New Years and Independence Day, but now you've got to ruin Christmas for everyone too?"

I suppose I owe them one for desensitizing my horses to it.  It just would have been nice to be able to sleep without all that racket the night before Christmas.

The pictures above and below show piles of dried up green waste in my neighbor's yard.  When he was here a couple of months ago, he cut down all the bushes and trees around the horse paddock and left them in piles to dry out.  I suspect he's going to burn them when he moves in, but I wish he wouldn't.  Because our house is in the bottom of a bowl, all the smoke gets socked in and seeps through the vents and cracks around our house.  Then our eyes and lungs burn.  Smoke makes us and our pets sick.  I hope he just loads the stuff up in his pickup truck and takes it to the dump like we do.

I managed to get everyone locked in stalls before this arena ride, so I didn't have to put up with any shenanigans, and my step stool remained intact.


While I was riding, a truck I didn't recognize came driving up the street and turned around in the dirt turnout by the gate to the bridle trails.  The guy accelerated so hard before he got off the dirt, so he fishtailed and made quite a commotion.  Bombay snoozed throughout the man's idiocy.  The same guy returned a second time, as if he had too much fun peeling out of the turnout and had to do it again.  Gah!  I'm so sick of joy riders coming into my neighborhood.  Get a life, people!

I thought I was alone during my ride, because I didn't see any vehicles parked at the house on the hill, so I was talking to Bombay while riding.  Then suddenly I heard a little boy's voice calling for Grandpa and I looked up to see Grandpa walking along the cliff looking down at me.  I figured that was a good time to dismount, because Grandpa watches the grandsons over Christmas break, and Grandpa's idea of entertaining them is to give them guns, matchbooks and firecrackers, and send them toward my property.

While I was unsaddling Bombay by the trailer, the bunny ran up to me to hassle me for grain.  She almost let me pet her.  Bombay was leaning over my shoulder watching me try to pet her.  It was so cute.  Then the bunny kept hopping up to Bombay, and Bombay would cock his head and study her until she hopped away.

Silly bunny, horses are for humans.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

What's Your Horse's Motivation?

I told Rock it was okay to tell me if he was still in pain, and then I wouldn't ride him if he said anything.  But there were no complaints when I saddled him up and mounted.  He was so good that he waited patiently while I stretched my leg out on the mounting block, and he didn't move a muscle until I was seated and gave him a cue.  However, riding up the driveway, he kept trying to turn around and go back to the barn.  I didn't think think that was his sign that he was still in pain.  This was more like he wanted something that was back at the barn, so I ignored his requests and urged him out to the bridle trails.

I've been finding hoof prints on my driveway that are not in a location where I lead and ride my horses, so I know someone has been riding their horse through my backyard when I haven't been looking.  They've also been leaving trails of poop behind.  Apparently, it's a horse who can walk and poop at the same time.  This is one of many leavings around the ends of my driveway.  My friends and I always clean up after our horses if they poop on my driveway or in the street, so it definitely wasn't us.

There was quite a bit of snacking going on, so we still have plenty of bad habits to break.

The picture below shows just how much the city cut away when they came through with chainsaws a few weeks ago.

It's going to get plenty dusty around here when the wind blows.  At least the wildfire situation should be less threatening with less shrubbery to burn.

Rock was doing fine until we got on a trail that led toward home.  Then he picked up the pace and blew through all of my aids to turn him onto different trails.  I wrestled with him, but he was too strong and started to throw a dangerous tantrum.  I did manage to get him stopped before he ran out into the street and before that car could hit us...

I didn't recognize the car, so I was worried they were lost tourists who would pull a U-turn right in front of my horse.  It's loud and scary for horses when cars come racing up the street and then turn around in the dirt quickly so close to them.  I've had so many drivers do that to me while I've been riding that I usually stop my horse outside of the turnout and wait to see what they do, but I didn't hear the car coming until I was in the turnout today because Rock was moving so fast and out of control.

They ended up driving past me to the house at the end of the street.  I glanced at the people inside the car and thought, "They look like Californians on vacation," and sure enough, they had California plates.  It's funny how you can pinpoint what region of the country people are from just by glancing at their appearances and mannerisms.  Yup.  It's that time of year when everyone's relatives from out of state come to visit for the holidays.  The family at the end of the street has a huge mansion and several RVs and trailers for guests to stay in.  They're running a virtual campground.  This means we'll have to tolerate them racing that dang souped up golf cart up and down the street over the next couple of weeks, because that's how they entertain their guests at the expense of their neighbors' peace and quiet.

When Rock forced me home, I dismounted and he immediately began mugging me for treats.  Ahhhh, that's what was going on.  When I gave Bombay peppermints yesterday, I did it secretly, but Rock probably smelled them on Bombay's breath.  He was rushing home because he wanted peppermints.  Not good.  So, this is what he got instead...

The camera caught him right before or after he kicked out at me to communicate his displeasure.

Just keep on working...

Work, work, work!

Alright, you're done, Dude...

He was still mugging me after his workout.

The fact that he was strong enough to keep his head and body straight and resist me turning him is testament to how important it is to make your horse want to please you.  Right now Rock is more motivated by the potential for food than he is by wanting to please me, so I need to work on our relationship and my own influence over him if I want to have safe horseback rides, or any horseback rides on him at all.  Some days he may not throw dangerous tantrums -- he may just refuse to move out at all.  He's a stubborn one.  Though I'd rather be riding, I'll start with more groundwork since this is essentially the beginning of riding season for me and my horses.  I may also start carrying a riding crop.  Even though I wear spurs, my legs aren't strong or flexible enough to do anything more than bump him lightly.  But most obviously, I need to just not feed any horse treats at home after I have ridden him, because nothing gets past Rock.

You know those online articles like "Top 10" such and such where you have to flip to a new screen or frame to see each item and that forces you to look at new ads?  I always question where they get their information, because half of the stuff they write seems to be pulled out of someone's butt.  They couldn't possibly be surveying a large enough sample of people to get accurate information.  Anyway, every time one of our local cities shows up in one of those "Top 10" articles, it winds up in the local news.  So, last night the local news reported that the majority of cities in my area made the "Top 10 Cities to Least Likely Help Their Neighbors" or something like that.  I wondered if they'd been reading my blog.  Ha ha.  But I think I understand why Phoenix gets a bad rap.  It's a very transient area, so getting new neighbors is not anything new for most people, and most of us are sick of having to help old neighbors move out and new neighbors move in.  Then there's the issue with so many neighbors only living here during the cooler months that everyone needs someone to watch their house while they are away.  I suppose if I lived in a small town in the Midwest, new neighbors would be a novelty and everyone would be helping them out and bringing them casseroles and house warming gifts.  It's just a different culture here.

There's this coyote that has been hanging around the past few days and nights who screeches and screams in such a high pitched fashion that it sounds like a little girl being murdered.  It's so disturbing that I've been going outside and chasing it off.  I did it again just now in the dark, and apparently the coyote was right next to me, because it screamed in my ear and now my ear is ringing and stuffed up like it's going deaf.  The only time I've heard coyotes make that noise in the past was when a pack of juveniles kept attacking the runt of the litter.  The poor animal sounded like it was being tortured, so every time I spotted the boys pouncing on their little sister, I'd chase them off.  Eventually, that pack grew up and separated so I didn't have to listen to her screams anymore.