Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Five, Six, Pick Up Sticks

My dog Stewie occasionally sits by the French doors to the patio growling.  There's a lot of wild animal activity out there, so I'm rarely concerned about what he is seeing.  I finally decided to stop what I was doing and investigate what it was that captured his attention on a daily basis.  I saw a one-legged bird hopping around on our deck.

A few days later I noticed a handful of sticks on the patio, and assumed the monsoon winds blew them there.  But day after day, more and more sticks appeared in a haphazard pile.

I finally caught the one-legged bird red-handed delivering sticks to the pile.  I'm not sure what it is trying to accomplish.  It is definitely a strange location to try to build a nest, and there is no place above this point where a nest could have fallen from.  I've been tossing old bread slices, buns and heels out over the railing of the patio, flinging them like Frisbees to the wildlife, and the slices are always gone within a few hours.  I guess my generosity has encouraged some birds to take up residence.

In other news... a major stick has been removed from my craw and I'm free!  I can now walk outside at any time of day or night into my backyard to do barn chores and not have eight big guard dogs barking at me, and I no longer have my neighbors' eyes persistently prodding me.  They have officially moved out, and it feels so liberating to finally have peace, quiet and privacy.

The last time the horse trainer was here giving a lesson in my arena, he had to yell over all the barking in order for us to hear his instructions.  I don't ride in my arena often, mainly because these neighbors were in the habit of coming outside with their dogs every time I came outside.  I rode on the trails to get a break from the ruckus.  Now I can actually ride on my own property, as you have seen in recent posts.

I can also sit on my own patio and enjoy the view or read a book without the unwanted company of both noisy dogs and noisy humans.  I can talk to my horses again and know that no one is on the other side of the fence eavesdropping.  I can curse at the hay for falling apart and collecting in my bra without someone clearing his throat a few feet away from me to let me know that he is in my air space and can hear everything.  I can train my horses without unwanted observations, assumptions, judgments and comments.

I knew there was no point in raising complaints about the barking dogs, because the previous owners of my home took that route and never got any results.  The dog owners insisted that the barking was all in their imaginations, or that they were hearing some other dogs in the neighborhood barking.  "Our dogs never bark," was one of the first forceful proclamations they made to us when we met.  I now realize that was more of a threat than a denial.

The dog owners had spread rumors about the people who filed noise complaints against them, insisting that they were nuts.  Apparently, the man who lived in my house before me was suffering from schizophrenia, but I have no doubt that living next door to so many persistently barking dogs for eight years straight did drive him bananas.  I'm pretty sure the barking was why they moved out and sold the house to us.  I remember overhearing the daughter say to her stepfather, "Dad, we're trying to get you out of here since this place drives you crazy."

The barking wasn't so bad when we first moved in, and I suspect I have the previous owners to thank for that.  However, as the neighbors collected more and more dogs over the past couple of years, the barking really got out of hand.  It didn't help that the neighbors encouraged the dogs to bark at people and chase them off whenever someone simply passed by their place.  The dogs also fought viciously with each other, but the neighbors insisted that they were "just playing".  I've had visitors come to my house and want to run over next door to break up dog fights because it sounded like the dogs were killing each other.  I'd try to calm my visitors down by assuring them that this was a daily occurrence and no dog ever got seriously injured.

At any rate, I survived and now that these neighbors and their dogs are gone, it is as if a spaceship somehow picked up the entire neighborhood and set it down gently in a completely different world where everything is calm, quiet and peaceful.

For a long time I wondered how the neighbors always knew when I walked into my backyard and could come outside so quickly once I was out there.  Then I saw pictures their real estate agent had taken of both the inside and the outside of their house, and I realized that my backyard is in clear view of their windows and patios.  One photo, which was taken to show the views, displays my entire backyard with all of my horses.  I know they are trying to make it look like my backyard is a part of their property, so I hope no one buys the place and thinks they are getting my barns and arenas.

My truck has been in the shop for the past couple of days, because the battery warning light went on and no one can figure out why.  When my husband checked under the hood, he found a bird's nest on top of the battery, but that has since been cleaned up and the battery has been tested and deemed as being in good condition.  I suspected a chewed or loose wire was the culprit since birds and ground squirrels have been getting up under the hood, but the mechanics can't find any problems with the wiring.

The truck is only a couple of years old, and this is the second time I've had to take it in because of a warning light not turning off.  The other time the air bag warning light was on because the man who installed my trailer braking monitor drilled right through some wires in the floorboard.  The mechanics have also tested my key fob, because sometimes that can cause warning lights to turn on, but there's no problem with it either.  I'm looking forward to getting this mystery solved so that I can get my truck back.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Testing Out the Listening Skills

It wasn't actually planned, but we gave the horses a good test of their listening skills this evening.  P.S. had a lesson scheduled, but the horse trainer couldn't come, so she asked if I wanted to go on a trail ride, and I didn't, but I told her to go ahead and do whatever she wanted, and I might catch up with her later in the arena.  It's hard for me to do much of anything after 5:00 PM, because I have to feed and medicate the dogs, take them out multiple times, and make dinner.

Once I got done with the dogs, I was tacking up Bombay while P.S. was riding Gabbrielle out to the trails alone, and Gabbrielle didn't want to leave without Bombay.  She pitched a little fit and tried to run back to him, but P.S. stopped her and made her listen.  She went on her trail ride while I worked Bombay in the round pen.  The horses were confused and anxious, because they always do the same thing together, but today they did different activities and had to listen to their riders.

When they returned from the trails, we rode in the sandy arena, but did different activities.  Each horse had to learn to go whatever pace its rider asked it to without being concerned about which pace the other horse was moving at.  It seems like such a basic thing to train a horse to do, but we've been in the habit of always doing the same thing at the same time with our horses, and they became attached at the hip as a result.

 We worked on sidepassing along the fence...

I haven't worked with Bombay on sidepassing in years, so I stopped the cues and petted him as soon as he took one step in the right direction with no forward or backward movement...

We worked on neck reining, but he's at a beginning stage with that.  I got best results by laying the outside rein against his neck and using slight direct rein on the inside along with some leg.

He does remember his slow jog, but I had to keep reining him in each time we turned toward the barn.  He wanted to run to his stall so he could get served his dinner.  At one point, P.S. led Gabbrielle out of the gate to go pick a rock out of her hoof and he broke gait to chase after them.  He got a big NO for that.  A couple of times he lost his footing and slipped, but caught himself before we went down.  I think it's ridiculous that he can gallop all over the place and do all kinds of advanced acrobatic maneuvers when he's playing with Rock, but he acts like the sand is too deep if I'm simply trying to sidepass him or ride him at the jog.

I petted Gabbrielle with my riding crop... my Sun Devils T-shirt as the sun set.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Toad Trouble

We have a hoard of toads that comes out of hiding at night, and these big guys have a lot of audacity.

My husband found me running around in the garage at 2:00 in the morning chasing a bunch of them out.  They line up along the garage doors, and then when we open a bay door to bring the dogs outside, the toads hop inside.  No sooner do I chase one back out, and another sneaks in around me.  If I chase them off the driveway with the help of the dogs, as soon as we start walking back to the house, these toads follow us into the garage.  Don't worry.  I know they are poisonous to dogs, so I don't let the dogs get close enough for a taste.

Stewie had been chasing after something under a bush, so I lit up the ground around the bush with the red light on my camera.  As soon as I saw something move, I pressed the shutter release, and this is what came up on my LCD screen...

The sad thing is that the toad turd is almost as big as the rat.  I've got twice as much poop to scoop now that the toads have taken over the dog yard.

Oh, September, where art thou?

A Quick Spin and Feed Bag Fun

I rode Bombay for a little bit in the arena just before sunset.  It was too hot for me, so I mostly just sat on him and let him pick up the orange construction cone in his mouth and swing it around.

I didn't bring my camera while I rode, because I didn't expect anything interesting to happen, but it probably would be funny to get a picture of him holding that cone in his mouth while I'm riding him.

What was weird was that my knee did not hurt me when I mounted Rock and Lostine in recent rides, but as soon as I put my foot in the stirrup to mount Bombay, the knee felt like a fresh injury.  I think it was mostly a psychological reaction since Bombay caused my knee injury several weeks ago.  It was as if my body was saying, "Are you kidding me?  You're getting back on that horse that messed up your knee?"

I wasn't comfortable riding him.  I wasn't scared.  The best way to describe it is that I got a bad feeling that he was going to jerk me around and test me.  He did hunch his back up a few times when I asked him to sidepass and move up to the trot.  I know that you want the horse to round up his back, but this felt more like he was threatening to buck.  The trot was uncomfortable, because he kept jolting forward into it, and speeding up to break into the lope instead of doing that smooth transition into a nice, consistent jog that I was used to.  But I was also like a lump on a log in this heat, and too brain dead to recall any of my equitation skills.

After I removed Bombay's tack, I desensitized him to a big, empty grain bag.  He snorted at it and backed away at first, but then allowed me to rub it all over his face and body.  I left the bag out in the arena and let the other horses out of their stalls.  Rock made a beeline for the bag, picked it up with his teeth and shook it all around.

I went in the house and looked out the window to see that Rock had stuck his head so deep into the bag that when he lifted his head up, the bag was stuck over his entire face.  It was hysterical.  But, of course, as soon as I grabbed my camera and went outside, he dropped the bag off his head and wouldn't do a repeat performance.

He very deliberately stomped on the bag while walking away from it, as if punishing the bag for not having any grain inside it.  Then Lostine came out to investigate.  

She can't resist anything that smells like grain.  Then Bombay played with the bag a bit.

Then Rock returned to show everyone how it is done.

Gabbrielle needed a little encouragement, but she eventually sniffed it and let the bag touch her feet.

In all the years that I've been desensitizing Gabbrielle to the plastic grocery bag on the end of a stick, I've never been able to touch Gabbrielle's body with it.  I can shake it around her, but she would never let it anywhere near her body.  The other day the horse trainer got her to accept having her legs touched with it, and P.S. was able to get her accept having her chest and sides touched with it.  I have no doubt that soon they will be rubbing that bag all over her body.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Impulse Ride

Once I found out my neighbors' plans for moving out over the weekend, I kind of resigned myself to not riding until they were gone.  There was just too much noisy activity going on next to my arena and on the way out to the trails.  This is only temporary, but I was a bit bummed that we had another beautiful morning during all of this commotion.  I wanted the commotion to happen on a crappy weather with high temperatures kind of day.

Then I looked outside and saw P.S. saddling up.  I wasn't expecting her to come over.  It turned out that she saw what nice day it was too, only she didn't know about all the activity next door.  I was worried that Gabbrielle might give her some trouble.  Gabbrielle is spooky enough when she rides out alone, but to have her ride out alone while trucks are racing up and down the street and the neighbor's driveway, picking up and dropping large, noisy things, seemed to be a recipe for disaster.  Despite being ridden regularly, Gabbrielle is still a green horse.  P.S. is good about finding the perfect balance between exposing the horse to new and scary things and not taking major risks, but I still worry.

So, I impulsively saddled up Lostine.  She hadn't been ridden in months, but I used to trailer her out to busy parking lots all the time, and she does well with traffic, sudden movements and loud noises.  She did well with saddling and I took the time to lunge her so that the saddle could find that sweet spot on Lostine's old swayback, and she could work out any arthritic kinks she had going on in her joints.

While we were tacking up, one of those trucks that delivers and picks up freight car type storage units raced up the street to my neighbor's house.  Bad timing.  I was hoping the driver would finish his business quickly and move along before we rode out.  Then a loud diesel truck came racing up the neighbor's driveway from his barn out toward the street.  I looked around only to discover that P.S. and Gabbrielle were missing.  She had led Gabbrielle out into the street.  Next thing I knew I saw P.S. lunging Gabbrielle in circles on my driveway while these two trucks were making a ruckus a few feet away, and then just to add to the challenges, the mail carrier raced up the street and stopped to deliver mail to my box right next to Gabbrielle.  P.S. said that a bicyclist rode past them too, so she got hit with everything at once.

I led Lostine out to desensitize her to all the activity too.  Right when I was leading her toward the diesel truck, a woman popped up out of the bed of the truck.  She had been bending over tying down some stuff and took us all by surprise.  The horses' heads and ears popped to attention.  It suddenly hit me that I don't need a mounting block to get on Lostine since she's so short, so we led the horses out into the desert past all the trucks and people before mounting.

I tried to be quick and graceful in mounting, but Lostine clearly stated her dissatisfaction with having me on her back by jolting forward and spinning toward home while I was swinging my leg over her.  She had her ears pinned back and was ready to mow down Gabbrielle in order to get back to the barn.  I stopped her and leaned over to twist my stirrup onto my other boot, and she took off again.  Somehow it just doesn't bother me to be on a poorly behaved horse as long as it is a short, poorly behaved horse.  I can handle stepping off a 14.2 hand buck a lot easier than a 15 hand buck... and I don't mean a male deer.  I could tell that Lostine wanted to buck me off, but I don't think she has it in her anymore physically.  She's still that feisty redhead that she's always been, only now she's a bit more balance-challenged.

On our first attempt to ride back to the barn after our outing, we saw the diesel truck leave, and I thought, "Yay!  We're finally catching a break and experiencing some good timing."

No sooner did I have that thought, and here came the hydraulic truck with another storage unit.  We turned around and kept riding in the desert for a while, but by the time we returned to cross the street for home, both trucks were there.  The one driver had dropped off a new unit, and was backing up to pick up the other unit.

Lostine had been expressing discomfort by stretching her neck out and twisting her head.  At one point she slowed down a lot and just staggered around like the heat and her age were getting to her.

I realized that we could be out there riding all day in order to avoid a run-in with these trucks at the rate things were going, so we dismounted and led the horses past all that.  Of course, the horses were fine.  I have no doubt they would not have been fine had we tried to ride them past that, though.  Even though we are the same people on the ground as we are in the saddle, for some reason we are only trusted leaders when we are on the ground.  It's almost like the horses have to see someone in front of them walking past the scary object first before they will attempt it.

The truck driver was tilting the bed of his truck down and there were a bunch of people standing around when we walked past, but both horses were so exhausted from the ride that they just hung their heads low and plodded toward home.

I think all the trucks will be gone by the time of the horse trainer's next appointment, but this is one of those situations where we could use his help and bravery riding the horses past all that.  I might have tried it myself if I had soft footing to land on, but there was nothing out there but asphalt and my rock driveway.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Urge Fulfilled

I've had the urge to ride, but not in such intense heat.  Today we got another one of those cloudy mornings with a bit of a breeze, so it was as perfect as it gets for a July trail ride.  Right when P.S. and I were tacking up our horses she pointed out something odd moving up the street toward us.  It turned out to be one of those trucks with a hydraulic lift that picks up and drops off storage units.

My neighbors have been packing up to move out of state, so these trucks come by to drop off empty storage units and pick up full ones for them.  The timing of this truck's arrival couldn't have been worse, because we would have to ride right past it while it's picking up the crate.  We decided we should hand walk the horses past it before mounting so that we wouldn't have to deal with any massive spooks or bolts while in the saddle.

Fortunately, the truck driver left with a crate before we got out there, but there was still another crate in their driveway, so we just stood around with the horses in front of my neighbor's house while chatting, and the horses seemed to pick up on our lack of concern over this large box that didn't normally inhabit that location.  My neighbor spotted us and came out to let me know what was going on with the move.  He mentioned that a truck would be coming by to pick up some of their vehicles to ship across the country to their new home.  I asked when the truck that was picking up and dropping off storage units would be back, and he said probably in an hour or so.

So, we mounted up and headed out, and right when we were passing his house, he dropped something heavy that sounded like a toolbox, and both Rock and Gabbrielle didn't even look.  It was awesome.  Usually, if we are riding across the street and the neighbors are working or socializing in their driveway, our horses do a lot of gawking and balking.

Gabbrielle backed into a bush to scratch herself.  I love the shots my camera gets of Rock's rump when I look over my shoulder.  His stripe is so beautiful.  Sometimes I wish I could ride him backward just so I can look at his butt the whole way.

Most of my horses have very little neck reining training, so I'm in the habit of riding double-handed, but Rock does neck rein now.  I just need to remember to change my steering habits.

He was on autopilot, behaving well and making wise decisions, so I just let him call the shots.  However, I did have to get in his face a bit on the hills.  He wants to fast-walk down them, and his haste causes him to stumble over rocks and throw me off balance, and then once he hits the bottom of the wash, he breaks into a trot and races up to the top of the hill on the other side, usually right when I'm trying to get a foot back into the stirrup or readjust myself after a stumble.  Most horses do that, so you have to train it out of them.

Sometimes I will halt him at the top of a hill before descending into a wash and just make him be patient and wait.  That seems to help.  Horses form habits quickly, so he actually stopped himself at the top of a couple of hills and waited for me to cue him forward.  He did stop one time to gawk at a horseback rider off in the distance.

As we were approaching our street, I saw what looked like a truck up high on the back of a flatbed truck.  I thought the truck had arrived to pick up my neighbor's vehicles, so I decided to dismount and walk Rock past his house rather than to have the truck driver make some loud noise right when we were passing by in the saddle.  P.S. dismounted too.

It turned out that it was just a truck that someone parked on some high ground next to the gate we needed to ride through.  The horses probably would have been okay with that if we rode past it.  Oh well.

You can see that both Gabbrielle and Rock were half asleep as we led them back home.

My horse trainer has been working with P.S. and Gabbrielle, and I got the chance to watch a little bit of a rollback and side passing lesson along the fence yesterday.  Gabbrielle is very one-sided when it comes to side passing, because of one shoulder being several inches lower than the other.  The horse trainer got on Gabbrielle to show P.S. how to get her foot way forward to bump the shoulder when it is lagging behind.

He discovered that Gabbrielle had never had anyone tap her shoulder with their boot before, and she hunched herself up into a ball and started dancing, spinning, and backing all over the place.  She looked like she wanted to rear, and we were scared for him, but he just kept on riding out whatever she threw at him, and he would not release that tapping on the shoulder until she moved her front end over and crossed one leg behind the other.

At one point she was just standing there quivering, and the leg of the shoulder he was tapping was visibly shaking uncontrollably.  I don't know what the big deal was, because we've tapped her on the shoulder with the stick while side passing her from the ground, and she gets tapped at the cinch and on the sides by boots all the time, but I guess it's just a different sensation when she's being tapped by a boot on the shoulder.

It was a really good lesson in horse training, because he said that a lot of people give up on the cue as soon as the horse panics or gets frustrated, or they switch to a different cue since the horse is confused, but if you want the horse to learn, you have to keep giving the same cue, wait for the right response, and then release the pressure.  That's why we need this horse trainer so much.  He can ride out those panic attacks, and he stays cool as as cucumber the whole time.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


I had a trail ride scheduled with a friend and was so happy to wake up to a cooler, cloudy, but not windy or rainy day.  You don't get many comfortable trail riding weather days in the summer in Arizona, so you have to grab them when they come.  Unfortunately, one of my more disruptive health problems kicked into high gear and I had to start medicating myself just so that I could get out the door.  It turned out that my trail riding buddy was sick too and had to cancel.  But I knew we wouldn't have weather and cooler temperatures like this in a while, so as soon as the medication took effect, I headed down to the barn.

I have to keep reminding myself that even when I am ill, I always feel so much better after working with a horse.  Of course, by the time I tacked up and mounted for the ride, the clouds dissipated and the sun was blasting down on us.

Rock showed some minor signs of being barn sour after a few weeks of being off duty.  He was a sloth heading out.  I didn't bring my spurs because the last few times I rode him, he was going faster than I wanted.  This time without my spurs I had to keep kicking and clucking and kicking and clucking to get him to move his feet at a pace faster than that of a tortoise.  Part of the way out I realized that I never texted my husband to let him know I was trail riding by myself.  I didn't want to have to ride back to the house, get my reading glasses and some shade where the phone screen is out of the glare in order to text him, so I just kept riding.

On the way home I had to keep reminding him to slow down to a walk, and he'd turn his head and look at me as if to say, "I know, Mom.  I'm trying.  I'm just so excited to be going back to the shade of the barn, the water troughs, the Nibble Nets, and my herd."

Both Rock and I were dripping from head to toe with sweat.  I wished I could have gotten out there just an hour earlier.

After all of Rock's efforts to turn and rush back home, once we reached the trail head to the street, he wanted to turn on another trail and head back out into the desert again.  Fickle horse.  Doesn't know what he wants.  I think he's tired of being bored in the barn, but he also doesn't care for the extreme heat with no relief when we are on the trails.  I'm the same way.  I look out the windows of my air conditioned house and think, "What a nice day.  I should get out and get some exercise."  Then after just five minutes of being outside, I'm heaving to catch my breath and clutching my chest as I stagger back to the house.

No one was out there except the lizards, and the plane, helicopter, and flock or birds that banked just right in order to fly directly over us.  I did stop to watch the plane, because it looked so futuristic.  It was the most modern design I've seen yet.  I have witnessed plane crashes before, and knew someone who was in a helicopter crash, and another person who was on the high-jacked plane that hit the first tower on 9/11, so I always get a little anxious when I see pilots joy riding above me and my horse.  Every time a pilot does that, I try to convince my horse that he's so gorgeous that the pilot had to fly his craft way down low to get a closer look at his beauty.

Rock knows that I like to dismount over the pile of old hay, so if I lose my balance and fall, I will fall on something springy and soft.  I've been known to lose my equilibrium and land on my rump a few times when dismounting.  It's not that I don't know how to dismount.  It's just that I'm getting old.  However, today he decided that he wanted to eat that old pile of hay, so as soon as I swung my leg over, he walked around with me lying across the saddle on my stomach until he found a spot to graze on.  Then I slid down.

Picking loose hair off the cinch...

Just a wee bit sweaty...

Oh yeah.  My new farrier is a bit of an expert on the Paint horse breed, and she is 100% sure that Rock is a Paint, and about 90% sure that he's Breeding Stock Paint.  So, I guess I will have to stop calling him our Quarter Horse and start calling him our Paint.  I just think it's so awesome to have a Paint that is also a line-back dun, and he has such a rich, lush, long tail that it drags on the ground -- and I can't forget to mention his bobby socks, kind eye, and the cutest butt on earth.

In other news, I wrote the last line to my novel in progress yesterday.  Of course, the phone had to ring right when I was literally typing the last sentence and it was a call I had to answer, so I had to leave the final sentence half written, and when I finished the phone conversation, I could not remember the words I had previously chosen.  So, now I get to go into editorial mode and start making changes and repairs while reading through the manuscript.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Tidying Up

Summer is an odd time to get spring cleaning fever, but we have been making a few changes around the ranch to spruce things up.  Our old sofa recliner lost most of its cushioning, so we were due for a replacement.  Here is Stewie modeling the new acquisition...

We also have an old ottoman at the foot of our bed that Scrappy sleeps on and all the dogs use as a launching platform to jump on and off the bed, and Stewie managed to find a weak spot and start ripping the stuffing out, so we put in an order for a cushioned storage bench to keep at the foot of the bed instead.  That will give us more room to walk through the bedroom, and be longer than the ottoman so that Midge and Stewie don't have to risk jumping on top of Scrappy to get up and down.  Old man Scrap gets mighty grumpy when dogs pounce on him.

My husband has been doing a lot of work around the house.  He cut back the lantana, so that we can now walk along the flagstone when we take the dogs out to their potty yard...

He also trimmed the hedge in the front yard and laid fresh plastic down underneath the decorative rock to prevent weeds from growing there...

We were both tiring of spending all spring and summer bending over to pull up weeds.  We quickly learned that most weed poisons don't put a dent in the weeds around here.  He created a new stone walkway too.

He also upgraded the hitching post.  We were having problems with the horses going underneath it to grab snacks, and they'd get their backs wedged under it, so he added a backboard and cut the bottom corners off so that should their lead ropes get too long, the horses can't get them stuck underneath the board.

There are several rings in addition to the wooden beam where horses can be tied.  We were talking about possibly creating a ranch brand and painting or burning it onto the wood for decoration.

I'm amazed he could get all this work done in the heat and with his back problems.  He finally saw a doctor and got x-rays, and found out that he has arthritis in his sacroiliac joint at the base of his spine, and there is extra bone growing around it, so it may be rheumatoid arthritis.

I finished my last antibiotic pill this morning and am looking forward to allowing my body to get its good bacteria back into balance.  So, I'm over the infection, but I'm still working on getting my flexibility back in my knee from when I hyper-extended it falling off a horse.  I can swing my lower leg forward and backward fine, but I can't twist my leg at an angle, which makes putting on pants rather difficult.

I've been thinking about how the location of our property makes it the perfect horse property.  If we were any closer to the mountains, we'd be riding through tons of cactus and getting cholla balls caught in our horses tails and fetlocks.  If we were any further away, we'd be riding through the boring part of the desert that only has shrub brush.  But we are in a location where we have plenty of trails and space, but with enough cactus interspersed to make for interesting scenery.  When it comes time to sell this house, the trick will be to sell it to horse people who can appreciate the barns, the paddock, the round pen, the hitching post, and the gate to the bridle trails right at the end of the driveway.  To anyone else, the property wouldn't have much value.

Since I'm not feeding the horses straight alfalfa anymore, I've been feeding them without locking them into their stalls.  They aren't as eager to eat each other's rations as they used to be, because grass bores them.  But Bombay started this habit of walking out of his stall and blocking me from being able to get through the barn gate with flakes of hay for the other horses.  I usually order him to back off and get in his stall before I will come through the gate, and he does follow my directions, but the other horses get impatient waiting for me to deal with him before feeding them, and my voice gets the dogs next door barking.  If I want to avoid all of that, I just need to approach the gate with the long whip in my hands, but most mornings I'm still half asleep and don't remember to grab it.

So, this morning I started to walk through the barn gate with some hay, and Bombay came out of his stall to attempt to block and mug me as usual.  Rock decided that he was tired of that B.S. and he charged Bombay and chased him back into his stall.  Then Rock returned to his own stall and politely waited for his hay.  I burst out laughing and said, "Well, that fixed that problem.  Thanks, Rock."

Horses are so smart.  I love it when one of them takes over the job of training another.  That seems to be one of Rock's greatest talents.  Sometimes I just hand him a scary object and let him chase the other horses around with it until they give up and let him rub it all over them.  Ha!  We have a horse that is a horse trainer.  Maybe I can pay him in gum.  I mean extra pellets.