Thursday, January 12, 2017

Not Much Whoa on the Way Home

Today was another one of those days were I had to be determined to ride or it wasn't going to happen.  I received a phone call yesterday telling me to expect a phone call in the morning, and of course, that phone call came when I was in the shower, and that launched this lengthy game of telephone tag that took all morning.  At one point, I was told that the person would call me "right back".  The phone rang one minute later, I glanced at the number, and it was the person who said she'd call me.  The phone skipped a beat and changed to a different screen.  I was confused, but answered anyway.  Much to my disgust, the phone call I was expecting and trying to connect with all morning got cut off by a simultaneous incoming call from some scam artist trying to convince me that I won a free vacation.

I.  Was.  Pissed.

I hung up on her, blocked her number, and had to call the other person back, couldn't get through, and on and on it went.  By the time I was able to shut off my phone and ride, I was pretty frustrated.  I wish I could just once go for a pleasant horseback ride without other people thwarting it in some way or putting me in a bad mood.

Rock wouldn't hold still for the mount, despite all the training I've been putting in with that, so I just set him up where he had nowhere to go.  I was already feeling my energy getting depleted, and I didn't want to have to fart around with mount training.  He was awesome on the way out.

But as soon as we turned toward home, he kept breaking into the trot without a cue and throwing his head around...

He had very little whoa.  It took a lot of work to stop him, and then even more work to make him stand still.  I kind of set him up for failure by taking the longest trail that was a straight shot toward home.  He knew that all he had to do was break into a gallop, go straight, and he'd be back at the barn in no time.

He stopped voluntarily once when he saw a hiker off to our left.  It was a man without a shirt on.  For some reason, that got Rock all riled up, and he really wanted to run after that.  I had to make a safety decision to dismount.

Of course, I couldn't take him straight home after that, so we wandered aimlessly for a while.  He got annoyed, because he wanted to go home, so he started nipping me with his lips and getting into trouble for that.

Each time he barged ahead and cut me off, I lunged him in a circle and made him walk further away from home.  It was tough, because I was trying to train him that bad behaviors won't get him home faster, but my leg was giving out on me and I didn't know how much longer I could walk.  Eventually, he showed signs of understanding what I needed him to do, and he made an effort to behave better.

Once home, I lunged him in the round pen with this saddle on.

I stopped giving him peppermints after rides a while ago, as soon as it became evident that he was rushing home for his reward.  At some point, he should learn that nothing good comes out of hurrying back to the barn.  We have to go through this process any time that he hasn't been ridden regularly.  That's why I get so upset when other people interfere with my riding routine and take up my time doing other things.  I pay the price by having to re-train my horses.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Follow Ups

I know I often write about something that's been going on, but don't follow up with updates or conclusions, so I'm doing that now.

You know how I said that the people who vacation here for the winter keep coming up with new hobbies and sports to perform along or around the bridle trails that I have to desensitize my horses to each year?  Last year it was the drones and powered parachutes.  Well, this morning I discovered the latest fad.  Fortunately, I was driving my truck rather than riding a horse when it happened.

I came up to an intersection where I and other people normally cross on horseback, and this guy came ripping up the street on a recumbent bicycle.  It's a street bike that you pedal while you lie on your back.  You are feet-first.  I looked at him and wondered how he could see the traffic up ahead of him over the tops of his knees.  He was so low to the ground that I almost didn't see him and he was coming right up the middle of the car lane.  Then, not even 30 seconds later, I reached another popular horse crossing, and here came this second recumbent bicyclist blasting right through a stop sign at a major intersection going about 35 mph.  There was no way this guy could have seen that it was clear of cross traffic, because the street was lined with bushes.

I didn't see him until I was on top of him.  So, I'm expecting to start hearing about recumbent bicyclists being killed on the roads, since some of them drive like idiots and don't follow traffic laws.  It's more of this "I'm on vacation and the rules don't apply to me" mentality.  I don't even want to know what my horses' reactions will be when one of those comes flying at us.  It took years just to desensitize them to regular mountain bikes, and they still flip over backwards when they are taken by surprise by one of them.

The household stench we've been trying to track down is still elusive.  Two factors have to come into play:  The ground has to be saturated by rain water and we have to run either the dishwasher or the washing machine in order to smell it.  My husband and I ran both machines all weekend, but couldn't agree on the source of the smell.  So, I'm putting bacterial probiotics into the septic system and power cleaning the dishwasher with vinegar and baking soda and washing machine with bleach to see if that makes a difference.  We're not ready to rip up our floors to look for leaks just yet.  My headaches did eventually go away when the ground started drying up and the smell went away, but I also started taking antihistamines at that point, so who knows?  When I walked down to the barn at night with my headlamp on, I can see millions of allergens floating around in the light.  This could just be a bad allergy season and the household stench is a coincidence.

As far as I can tell, the neighbor trespasser hasn't returned.  I drove past his wife out walking with her stick on the paved road the other day.  I wanted to wave to let her know there are no hard feelings and that I appreciate her not walking through my back yard, but she wouldn't acknowledge me, so I guess there are hard feelings.

The other morning Scrappy woke me around 5:45 AM by barfing next to my head.  I gathered all the dogs on leashes and took them outside, but I was half-asleep and forgot to remove Scrappy's diaper, so I gave myself more laundry to do.  I cleaned up the vomit, but before I could get a clean diaper on Scrappy, he peed right in the same spot on the carpet that I just cleaned one minute before, so I had to clean it a second time.  Right then the horses began banging troughs around, demanding that I feed them, even though it was dark out and the sun hadn't risen yet.  I opened up the blinds and went out the French doors onto the patio to holler at them and fling rocks at the barn roof.  That shut them up.

I went back inside and was going to shut the blinds, but thought, "Who would be standing in my back yard on a Monday morning in the dark looking into the windows of my house?'

I left the blinds open while all the interior lights were on, and went about my business taking care of the dogs.  Fortunately, I was clothed at the time, because when I went outside at the first sign of light on the horizon a few minutes later, there was a strange woman standing in my back yard with a dog on a leash, and she was staring into the windows of my house.  I wish I knew what I can do to get some privacy around here.  I can't even open my blinds when it is dark outside without someone creepin' on me.  I'm also totally sick of people bringing their dogs with them when they trespass, because I'm the one who has to clean up the crap.  I've already got my shovel full between four horses, three dogs and multiple packs of coyotes pooping in my yard.

I was way too busy between all the dog accidents and horse misbehaviors to deal with the trespasser, so I just stopped, put my hands on my hips, stared back at her and shook my head.  She didn't care.  She just kept on staring.  I knew that as long as I did my barn chores, she'd continue to watch, so I went into the feed room, shut the door behind me, and took my sweet time filling the supplement buckets where she couldn't see me.  She eventually got bored and left.  I was in no mood to confront her after having to deal with vomit and piss first thing in the morning.

I've been stuck in medical care hell the past few days, but at least I got it out of the way so that I don't have to keep dealing with letters and phone calls pressuring me to follow through on getting stuff done.  This time I let them know that I want a copy of the report.  I'm not going to take their word for it that they forwarded the results to my doctor.  I gave them four hours of my time to run tests, so they had better not lose them.  It will take another hour out of my week to pick them up when they are ready, but that beats having to spend another four hours repeating the tests.  I've had more repetitive x-rays and sonograms in the past five years than I've had in the previous 45 years.  At one point they told me to change into another hospital gown and wait for more tests, and I ignored them and changed into my clothes instead, I guess kind of to make a statement that I was done, even if they weren't.  The technician came in and said that I was good to go and didn't need further tests, and I said, "I knew that.  That's why I took a gamble and got dressed instead."

I watch the technicians closely and know if they did a thorough job or not.  I'm really good about holding my breath and not moving so that the images are clear.  This time they seemed to take special care to make sure they were dotting their "i"s and crossing their "t"s with me.  I wondered if they each had a copy of my letter of complaint concerning all their past mishaps and oversights.  They certainly had a thick file on me.  They also had all new staff.  Hopefully, that makes a difference.  Sometimes it pays to wait a few months to get something done as the problems take care of themselves.  When I get too exhausted beating my own head against a wall, I have to take a step back and let others do it for a while until the wall begins to crumble.

It also took three trips between my husband and I to get our prescriptions for the month.  For some reason, our health insurance company kept saying that our contract was inactive or didn't exist.  I pressured the pharmacy to input the new card information from scratch, and magically, everything got approved.  You gotta love those input errors in this day and age of computer programs.  All you've got to do is have one person transpose a couple of letters or numbers, and you spend the next several days or weeks or months going through hell to get it corrected.  When I die, you will find red tape wrapped around my throat.

I was so busy with all of that garbage that I missed the excitement online.  My old hometown was being flooded.  Ranches and bridges and houses were under water, and a sinkhole formed on a road I used to drive all the time.  The dressage horse training facility I sent Gabbrielle to several years ago was in the midst of it, but the horses were okay in the barns.  Just their pastures were under water.

People took pictures of the valley from way up in the mountains and you could see that most of the crops were transformed into lakes overnight.  The main highway was closed and bumper-to-bumper traffic was re-routed through rural and residential roads.  Been there -- done that, but when the wildfires were happening during the drought.  I'll bet hay prices are going to go way up after this.  I keep seeing more and more reasons why I'm glad I moved away from there.  Hopefully, those affected will come out the other side okay, and if our renters call us to say that there is flood damage at our house, I'll be sending the property manager and insurance company out to investigate, because I don't trust those people.  They're always trying to get free stuff on my dime.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

When Your Only Defense is to Hide

With the past few days swinging back and forth between being hot and cold within a matter of minutes, I haven't gotten my usual amount of exercise outdoors, so I took Bombay with me for a quick walk along the trails.  I wanted to kill two birds with one stone by getting some exercise and by reminding Bombay that he has to learn to share the trails with strange horses, bicycles, people, and dogs.  My goal was to help him relax and have a positive experience.

Our first encounter was a bit disconcerting.  Up ahead on an adjacent trail coming toward us was someone in a black hoodie.  The person looked like a thug trying to hide his or her identity, but he or she also may have just been trying to keep warm.  I tried not to make too much of it, because I didn't want Bombay to pick up on my caution.  The person spotted us and seemed to be showing a little too much interest.  He or she then ducked down behind a bush.  Bombay halted and waited for the hooded person to come back into view.  I tried to urge him on, but at the same time I too was wondering what he or she was doing.

Then the person popped up and walked past us with a dog on a leash, and the dog was straining on its collar to get to us.  I realized that he/she was probably bending over behind a bush to get a leash on the dog and there was nothing nefarious about it.

I went further than usual and when I realized that we should probably turn around, I said something out loud to Bombay about it.  Then I heard barking.  Not happy, excited barking, but multiple dogs barking as if in attack mode.  It sounded like they were fighting each other.  Then I heard people's voices yelling things like, "Get them!  Grab them!"

The sound was coming from a house off in the distance.  But as the angry barking and panicked voices grew nearer, it suddenly hit me that they were all running across the desert toward me and my horse.  I know all the dogs that live on that street, and they are all little or well behaved, so someone must have had guests who brought their big dogs and allowed them to be off leash in a strange neighborhood.  When I spoke to Bombay, the dogs heard me, saw my horse, and decided that it was something worth killing.

I couldn't see them, but I could hear them getting closer, and by the sound of their barking, they were in full-on pack attack mode.  I was scared out of my wits.  I was just going for a "quick" walk and I didn't have anything to defend my horse or myself with.  By the sound of the barking and voices, the dogs outnumbered the dog owners.  I considered cutting Bombay loose, slapping him on the ass and letting him run for home, but dogs love to chase animals.  So, I quickly led Bombay due west away from the dogs, hoping to hook up with some other trail.

However, there was none.  We were out in the sticks.  There was nothing to do but hide behind a row of bushes and hope the dogs lose sight and scent of us.  We held perfectly still and listened to the ruckus as the humans caught up with their confused dogs and led them back to the house.  I was so relieved.  I gave them time to move along before returning to the trail we had been on.

Unfortunately, Bombay picked up on the fact that we were in danger, and he couldn't get over it.  He jigged and pulled my shoulder out of its socket all the way home, and it was a long way home, because I had hiked further than I should have gone in the first place.  My arm was in so much pain trying to hang onto him that I had to remember how I was taught to stop his jigging.

One trainer had me make him stop and stand and flex his head from side to side.  I tried that for a bit, and while he was good about standing, as soon as we began walking again, he'd break into the jig.  I know that C.A. would say to keep his feet moving, keep his mind busy on tasks, and only release him from the work when he wants to walk.  But we were on a narrow trail with no space to lunge and do tasks, so I came up with my own technique of smacking him on the knees with the lead rope until he stopped jigging.  All it took was one light smack, and he stopped, only to start up two-seconds later.  I kept it up until all I had to do was look at his knees, and he'd stop jigging, but only for a few seconds.

As soon as we got out in the open, I lunged him, but had to lunge him at a walk, because he wanted to take off and rip the lead rope right out of my hands.  Lunging him at anything faster than a walk was asking for trouble.  Interestingly, he walked when I lunged him in a circle as opposed to jigging, but as soon as we walked straight, he began jigging and barging ahead again.  It was quite a battle, but I refused to take him home until he walked straight and beside me, and he eventually figured it out.

So much for giving him a good experience on the trails and teaching him that not every human and dog is bad.  Now I feel like I have to go back to square one with his training.  Of all of my horses, Bombay is the one who takes the longest to get past bad experiences.  He has a memory like an elephant.  It looks like he may have to remain an arena horse a little longer, because he's certainly not safe enough to be on the trails after that experience.

I've hired trainers in the past to ride him out and get him to relax and focus around activity on the trails, but the trainers never ran into other people unless they planned ahead to meet up with someone.  I really should hire someone in January through April and get them out here on the weekends for more than just an hour, because that's always when I run into loose, aggressive dogs, riders galloping their horses, bikers racing up from behind us, and hikers swinging their walking sticks around to exercise their upper bodies.  Those are the activities that really freak out my horses.

I had nightmares last night that I was running and hiding from various people and monsters that were trying to attack me, and I was too fat to fit in any of the small crevices I tried to squeeze into, so I kept shutting my eyes and praying that they wouldn't see me and would go away.  Thankfully, the dogs woke me to take them outside to pee, so they got me out of that loop.  It's exhausting running in nightmares.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Trespasser Finale, Hopefully

This afternoon I was shoveling manure and getting ready to put the horses in the barn when I looked up and saw my neighbor trespasser standing at the top of the hill watching me.  I looked at him to see what he was going to do.  Sure enough, right in front of me, he crossed over our fence line and started hiking down into my backyard.  I whipped out my phone and pretended to type in three numbers, then held it up to my ear and said loudly, "Yeah, I have a trespasser.  Can you send somebody over?  That's right.  Thank you."

No reaction.  He just kept on coming, throwing the tree branches we had laid across the trail out of his way.  I was PISSED!

I marched over to his backyard and stood at the location where he would come out of the arroyo.  He popped up out of the bushes and said, "Oh oh, I'm in trouble."

"Yes, you are," I said.  "Did you get the note I stuck to the No Trespassing sign?"

He said yes.

"Can you understand why I don't want people trespassing on my property?"

He said yes.

"Then what is the problem?  Why do you keep doing it?"

He said with a sweet smile, "Okay. I won't do it anymore.  It is your property."

WTF?  If it were that simple, why didn't he just respect all of my past requests for him to stop?  I didn't trust that he would actually stop doing it, so I went into more detail about the issues, informing him that I have been injured twice when he was walking down in the arroyo and he spooked my horses.

He said, "I've never noticed any problem with them.  Are you sure it was me?"

I said, "It was someone coming and going from your house."

He said, "Well, I'm sorry about that.  It's just that I've been hiking here for 20 years, and it makes a nice little loop to come through your property.  But I promise, I will stop."

I reminded him that he's creating a trail for other less desirable people to take, and then we have to deal with theft and people looking in our windows and people getting bit by our horses and dogs.

He said, "I didn't realize there was a problem.  I just come down the arroyo to my backyard.  Where do other people go?  I've never seen them come through."

It was as if he was accusing me of lying.  I said that mostly in the winter, we get these visitors who vacation here every once in a while, and they remember that they used to be able to cut through our land, so they keep on doing it when they see the trail he makes.  I told him that they come up behind my arena, past my horse trailer, past my bathroom window, up the driveway, to the public trails.

I'm not sure how he can miss it, because the neighbor who lives one house further down from him has approached my husband to ask if he could plant things on that hill to stop people from trespassing and standing up there staring into our backyards.  It bugged him enough to want to take action.

I think this guy was just hard of hearing with poor eyesight and self-involved.  He sure put on the sweet old man act when I confronted him.  It was hard to rip into him, because when he smiled, he reminded me of my grandmother.  His teeth looked just like hers -- yellowing, crooked, and with partial dentures.  Hopefully, he'll stay true to his word and take a different route in the future.  We'll see.

I'm thinking if he doesn't stop, I might grab my walking stick, chase him down, and walk with him, babbling my life story as we go.  I'll just invite myself on his walks and follow him relentlessly.  If he truly likes solitude like I suspect he does, he'll learn to avoid me pretty quick, which means avoiding going through my backyard.  You've got to get creative with people like this.

Two Ends of the Temperature Spectrum in One Day

Today started out dark, cloudy, windy, and ice cold.  I did not expect to get to ride a horse.  However, by this afternoon it almost felt too hot.  It felt like summer.  With the neighborhood being so quiet, I wanted to ride in the arena.  I forgot what a chore it is to do so.  When I trail ride, I just tack up, mount, and go.  However, with arena riding, I have to clean up all the manure, tack up, lock up all the other horses (which is always easier said than done since I'm often too lazy to retrieve a halter and lead rope), set up some obstacles, do ground work, look for a low spot to stand the horse in next to a high spot for my mounting block, mount, and then go.

Bombay was my victim.  He had actually volunteered to be ridden yesterday, and I almost put the halter on him, but then my neighbor came out of his house and Bombay acted like it was the most fascinating thing in the world.  I no longer existed.  Rock, on the other hand, was having eye contact with me and totally ignoring the neighbor, so I chose him instead.  These horses have to connect with me if they expect to be ridden on the trails.

I set up the construction cones, but Bombay disagreed on where they should be placed.

He's very particular about such things.  However, after a lengthy tug-o-war, I won and put the cone back where I wanted it.

Mounting was not fun.  It felt like what I went through the last time I rode Gabbrielle.  He kept bloating and then releasing when I'd try to mount, so I'd have to tighten the cinch, walk him around some more, and try again.  He's my tallest horse, so I have to place the mounting stool on higher ground than where he stands, and that's not easy to find in the arena, because it's so flat.  I've decided that I'm going to dig a ditch in there that is just for mounting.  The worse my arthritis gets, the taller my horses get -- if that makes any sense.

Bombay got spanked because he was toying with me.  He'd stand square right where I put him in a low spot, I'd set down the stool, tie the lead rope to his saddle horn, climb up, put my foot in the stirrup, and he'd take one giant step back.  Then I'd have to get down, move the stool, and try again.  Once I realized he was doing it on purpose to jerk me around, I backed him around the arena for a couple of minutes until he was huffing and puffing.  I thought he would welcome standing still at the mounting stool, but he still took a step back, so I smacked him hard on the rump.  His whole body shook and his head shot up into the air.  He was so tense that I had to make nice-nice once he was standing still for me.  Poor guy.  I forgot how sensitive he is.  He was probably thinking, "But you usually laugh when I clown around like this."

It was so much work to get up on him that I didn't want to get off.  He eventually started poking my boot to tell me to get off.

When I was tightening his cinch, I heard an ATV drive up to the back of my property and hoped it wouldn't be one of those joy riders who just races back and forth for hours turning around repeatedly at the cliff above my arena.  That certainly takes the peace and quiet out of an otherwise pleasant horseback ride.  Luckily, it was just my neighbor driving to some destination and coming back a while later.  I was pleased with Bombay for paying attention to me and not focusing on my neighbor's activities.

That reminds me...  I was looking at a satellite view of my old neighborhood, and I saw that someone bought this house on a big acreage two doors down from me and turned it into a motocross track.  I wanted to buy that property years ago because it would have been perfect for horses.  I guess I moved away just in time.  Now the dragster mechanic and the motocross people can compete with each other on how much noise they can make, and I don't have to hear it, because I don't live there anymore.  Ironically, our house has gone up $130,000 in value since we moved out.  You'd think it would drop in value based on the noise level and the junkyard next door.

I had to ride in Bombay's winter saddle pad, even though it was hot, because his summer pad needs cleaning.  The flanks are hard and rough from dried sweat and hair.  I almost didn't catch that.  It would have been rubbing on him and probably bothering him.  His saddle has seen better days too.  I'll have to set aside some time for tack maintenance.

He looks like such a little pony here.  Bombay has a talent for puffing himself up really big when he's scared, but he's a little puppy when he's relaxed.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Changing It Up

My wish for the sun to come out came true today, and it looks like it should remain relatively dry for a while.  The forecast is constantly changing.  The last time I checked, we were supposed to have rain for the next two weeks, and now we have nothing more than a 10% chance.  I took advantage of it and rode a horse.  It's a miracle!

Rock was being pushy, constantly poking me with his nose to get me to hurry up.  Something happened to mess up the positioning of his cinch, so I had to work on it from both sides for a while.  He was annoyed.  Here he is poking me while I'm setting up the mounting stool...

He kept walking off and wouldn't hold still for me to let me get my other foot in the stirrup.  I finally got him to hold still by flexing his head from side to side, and then I worked him around the property, doing a lot of turns, circles, figure 8's, etc.  I just wanted to do something different to teach him that we don't always rush up the driveway and out onto the trails.

Once we did get out on the trails, I loosened up the reins and let him relax, as long as he stayed relaxed.  However, once he began rushing or throwing his head around, we went back to work.  I'd always turn him in the opposite direction as soon as the misbehavior started up.  Eventually, we had turned so many times that he wasn't sure which way was home, so he just settled down all together.

You done ridin' me now?

Just to drive the point home further, I lunged him with his saddle on in the round pen instead of turning him out with his buddies.

It's that time of year when I have to soften the footing with dried manure, only right now it's not so dry and only half of the round pen has been covered.  This was probably the easiest time I've ever had lunging him, because he was feeling his oats and wanted to run.  That's a rarity for him.

My trespassing neighbor was out on his land spying on me.  Last year he planted a bunch of trees on what used to be just a bushy desert lot, and now he uses the trees to hide behind when he wants to watch me.  Each time I looked directly at him, he scurried off to a different vantage point.  I did notice that he seemed to be keeping his distance from me.  He eventually appeared with a wheelbarrow and was pushing a load of trimmed branches.  I had to bite my tongue to keep from yelling out, "Hey!  Why don't you put those across the trail you've been making in my backyard?"

Last I checked, he hasn't been back to get my note.  I had to put a fresh note out there because the old one got ruined by the rain.

Amazingly, the dogs slept the entire time I was working with Rock, so there were no accidents when I got back to the house.  Also, I noticed that my headache went away when I was outside, and it came back when I was inside the house.  Our game plan is to have my husband investigate the source of the septic smell next time he's home and we run the dishwasher or washing machine.  He pointed out that the cracks in the tile floors are worse, and today I noticed that the kitchen counter top is pulling away from the wall.  It appears as if our house is splitting itself right down the middle.  If it is shifting like that, then we could have broken septic pipe under the foundation.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Detective Nuz

I've been playing detective today in an effort to figure out my next move in trying to solve this latest slew of problems.  First, Midge got sick, then Scrappy, then me.  I've been spinning in circles cleaning up messes and trying to recover from my own problems long enough to address the dogs' problems.  I've wasted a lot of money lately hiring professional help and not getting anything resolved.  I don't want to keep beating my head against that wall.

I've had a headache off and on for several weeks now, and I am not a person who normally gets headaches.  It's clearly in my sinuses, because it's more like a face ache.  My husband said I needed a decongestant, but we didn't have any.  I finally couldn't take it anymore and ventured out to the pharmacy to get some.  The pills didn't help at all.

When the dogs were at their sickest, I had to do a lot of carpet cleaning and I assumed that the chemicals were causing my headaches.  I figured that the wet carpet was causing the urine smell in the house.  Then Midge got better and I put Scrappy in diapers.  The floor was dry, but the house was now smelling like poop.  I kept looking for accidents, but didn't find any.  I kept taking the dogs outside and ordering them to stop farting and just poop, but they didn't need to.  Then I remembered that we were due to have our septic filter cleaned.

The septic company sent someone out yesterday, I paid him, and I woke up this morning without my headache.  However, Scrappy soiled all of his diapers, so I had to run them through the washing machine and dryer.  Suddenly, the house started smelling like a sewer again and my headache came back.  The smell was emanating off the floors of the dining area and kitchen.

Then I remembered that when we've had this problem in the past, it happened when the ground was saturated with water after it rained, and we were running either the washing machine or dishwasher.  To me, it seemed like the cause was a broken pipe under the house, but one plumber told me that was impossible.  I was confused by that assessment, because we had a broken pipe replaced under our old house right before we moved out.  But both houses are different.  The old house had a crawl space underneath it, and the pipes were above ground.  Our current house just sits on a concrete slab.  There is no crawl space and apparently the only way to change out a broken pipe is to rip up the carpet and tile, cut the concrete, replace the pipe, pour new concrete, and install all new flooring.  Super expensive.  We could definitely use new flooring, but not until after the dogs pass away.  Supposedly, when a house on a concrete slab is built, the pipes are supposed to last for the life of the house, but to err is to be human.

If there is a broken pipe under our house, I can kiss the next several months of my life goodbye as various contractors take over my home.  That means no horseback riding for me.  I swear, I should just sell all of my horses and take up knitting, the way things have been going for me.

I spent hours researching various causes of septic smells indoors, and none of them fit our situation.  I checked some pipes, drains, toilet seals, and vents myself, and didn't see any obvious issues.  The only thing that fit was that septic gases do cause headaches and sinus infections.  If ignored for too long, a person can get pneumonia or become asphyxiated.  Carbon monoxide can build up.  I thought about my three little dogs and how they've been staggering around gagging and vomiting.  Midge keeps falling when jumping up on furniture and Scrappy walks like a drunk and fell down the stairs this morning.  Last night my heart began racing and I blamed it on the decongestant.  Then I remembered that I hadn't taken any recently and the last dose should have worn off.  Also, my headache was really bad this weekend, and we were running both the dishwasher and the washing machine all weekend.  This could all be related.

I'm unsure what to do, because the septic company was no help, and every time I've had plumbers out in the past, they either said they couldn't help me and told me to call the septic company, or they claimed to have fixed my problem only for it to come right back, and that was for much simpler problems than this.  I'm tired of pouring money into services that don't work.  Right now I'm just airing out the house and I'm not planning on using the washing machine or dishwasher for a while.  It's freezing outside, so it's not an ideal day to be opening windows, but you've got to do what you've got to do.  I feel like I'm sitting in a block of ice, but at least I can breathe and my headache is cut back to a dull roar.

We don't have this problem when the ground is dry, and because the ground is wet right now, it makes it impossible to detect any leaks coming out from under the house.  I'm in a bit of a Catch 22.

This is one of the hassles of living a rural lifestyle.  You most likely live on well and septic, and every time you call the well or septic companies to fix a problem, they tell you to call a plumber.  Then when you call a plumber, he tells you to call the well or septic companies.  You just have to figure it out yourself.  But that's kind of hard to do when you're passed out on the couch with a headache, most likely caused by septic gasses and probably mold as well.

In addition to researching the cause of the stench, I tested both Midge and Scrappy's urine to see if either of them have a urinary tract infection.  Midge has been peeing a lot since the vet made us drop her insulin dosage, to the point of waking us up every hour or so.  She's also been drinking a ridiculous amount of water, which is a sign that she's getting diabetic.  Scrappy has been peeing about every 15 to 30 minutes around meal times, and it's hard to comprehend how his bladder can even produce that much urine.  Last night I took him out every few minutes and he still managed to pee in his diaper and have it leak on the carpet.

It turned out that they are both free from UTIs.  In Midge's case, we are upping her dosage of insulin, and in Scrappy's case I am chalking it up to old age and his inability to control his muscles.  But if there is a septic leak that is causing him to stagger around and vomit, it could also be causing him to be incontinent too.  Stewie doesn't seem to be affected, except that he occasionally gags, and it's been a little more difficult to wake him up lately.  I've just assumed that was because it's so dark out during the day.  The other interesting thing is that Stewie has been refusing to eat, and I usually set his bowl down right where the stench is the strongest.  He runs and hides behind the pillows in the bedroom instead of eating.  I wonder if his nose can pick up that bad smell even when mine can't.  I'm going to have to try feeding him on the other side of the house and see if that helps.  But as least Stewie isn't having accidents all over the house like Midge was and Scrappy is.

I hope I can get some answers soon.  If it were warmer out, I'd move all of us into the tack room for a few days and nights as a test to see if our health problems clear up.  I don't really want to spend money getting us into a motel that accepts pets.  Plus that wouldn't be an accurate test, because I'm allergic to cat dander, and chances are that a motel room that accepts pets would have cat dander in it, so my headache would remain.

It's hard to figure all of this out, because there are so many variables.  My headaches could just be caused by stuff blooming after all these rainstorms, and Midge's issues could just be all related to her diabetes, while Scrappy's issues could all be related to him being at the end of his life.  The stench could be back pressure from excessive ground water, and there may not be any leak at all, so I'd just be wasting time and money to get a plumber out to investigate.

If the sun would just come out soon, that would probably solve a lot of these problems.  In the meantime, I'll be looking for signs to direct me on which move to make next that won't end up being a complete bust.  Plumber?  Septic company (again)?  Doctor?  Veterinarian (again)?  I've already spent well over $500 on vet bills and vet supplies last month and hardly anything has been resolved.  I also spent $150 on the septic filter maintenance.  A plumber will have a minimum consultation fee to cover his time and gasoline, and we all know how I feel about doctors.  Maybe I should hire a detective who doesn't have a headache and who doesn't have to take dogs outside every few minutes?

Monday, January 2, 2017

Rock Displays a New Talent

The neighbors rang in the new year with "firecrackers", more like explosives, Scrappy rang in the new year with vomit, and I rang in the new year with a sinus infection.  I staggered down to the barn in the morning to find two injured horses.  Lostine was limping and Rock had a cut with dried blood running down his leg.  The neighbors were more obnoxious than ever.  It sounded like they were exploding dynamite right next to my barn.  I was too sick to sit with the horses, so they just had to ride it out on their own.  The animal shelter reported in the morning how many cats and dogs were injured in relation to fireworks in our area.  That number didn't even include all the pets that ran away from home.  Why do we do this again?

It rained most of New Year's Day.  I went down to the barn in the late afternoon to clean, and allowed the horses a couple of hours to roam free and get their ya-yas out.  Rock was biting and chasing everyone, which led to an upheaval, and he found himself being attacked instead.  Bombay was chasing him, and Rock was running along the fence with Bombay at his flank.  He came upon a water trough blocking his path, so he jumped it.

It was the most beautiful, perfectly executed jump I'd ever seen from any of my horses.  The water trough is between 2 and 3-feet high and about 3-feet long.  Rock looked like a Grand Prix horse.  Years ago, I use to set up little jumps at my old place and both lunged and rode the horses over them.  It was a lot of fun.  I'm thinking that if I can keep that trespassing neighbor off my property, I'll try doing that again now that I have a bigger arena.  I've been losing interest in trail riding because all the storms we've had this year keep blowing cholla balls onto the trails.  I spend more time golfing them off than I do riding.  It's kind of like trying to part a sea of porcupines.  I don't have to worry about that in my arena.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Make Hay

I was going to do a review of 2016, but when I traveled back in my posts, I realized that it was a year I'd rather not remember.  I didn't make much progress anywhere in my horsemanship or my life.  It was year filled with obstacles and setbacks.

If 2016 taught me anything, it is to make hay while the sun shines.  The weather was atrocious.  We only got about three weeks of tolerable temperatures in the late spring and a couple of random weeks in the late fall.  Everything else was unbearably hot or unbearably cold.  At the same time, the weather must have been much worse elsewhere in the world, because my neighborhood got slammed with a record number of winter visitors, only they stayed throughout the fall and spring as well.  The population explosion led to a variety of problems for me and pretty much destroyed the lifestyle I previously enjoyed here.

Most of my joy stemmed from getting to know the less troublesome wildlife like Charity the wild bunny and Betsy the bobcat.

I also learned that trying to cure most of my pesky health problems is just a huge waste of time and money.  I need to learn to live with my conditions and work around them the best I can, even though they prevent me from being able to ride my horses.

I had to train myself to shut people out of my life who drained me of my time, energy, and money, so that I could do something for myself every once in a while.  In the future, when or if we get a few days or weeks of lovely weather where my dogs, horses, and I all feel healthy, I'm planning on shutting off my phone and putting my mail on hold.  I've had so many precious moments stolen from me this year by inconsiderate people.  I'm not going to let that happen again.

It wasn't a compete fail, though, because I definitely did draw the line with some people and they've taken a step back to give me my space.  It's amazing how protective one can get of her time when she's over the hill and knows there's no going back to the young, energetic, healthy body she used to have.

Going forward, I'm hesitant to commit to resolutions since everything has felt so out of my control this past year.  If I were in control, I would have ridden my horses more, finished and published my current novel, finished that knit top I've been working on all year, and finished my latest quilt.  Instead, I spent most of the year fending off unwanted phone calls, unwanted appointments, health problems in both me and my pets, the effects of extreme temperatures, poop, poop, and more poop.  A little pee too.  Okay, a lot.  Let's not forget vomit.

At the beginning of this week I vowed to not allow unwanted appointments to monopolize my January calendar.  However, now, at the end of the week, I already have three unwanted appointments in January.  One is for the horses, one is a medical appointment for me, and one is maintenance for our septic tank.  I forgot that right around Christmas our house starts stinking from septic back up, and of course, that had to happen yesterday, right before a three day holiday weekend, so we have to smell the stench until next week.  I'm making a note to have the same maintenance performed in six months so that we can stop experiencing this disgusting problem during the holidays every year.  It's like clockwork.  House smells like butt and urine?  It must be Christmas.  I wonder how long I've been blaming this on the dogs.

I'm not liking this house as much as I did when we first bought it.  Who puts a septic tank right outside a kitchen and living area?  At my old house, we never had this problem, because the septic tank was far enough out away from the house and it wasn't the kind that had a filter that had to be cleaned constantly.  2016 has truly turned out to be The Year of Waste.

But I suppose I can fantasize that 2017 will be different.  Assuming that we do have some bearable temperatures and weather, and assuming that I have the good health to do what I intend to do, and assuming that nothing terribly tragic happens, I can tell you how I would like to spend the new year.

1.  I want to do something with at least one horse every day that the weather, temperatures and my health permit.  I started a horsemanship journal last year with the intention of recording every action I take that gets me one step closer to better horsemanship, and what I learned from it.  It's a very sparse journal after 2016.

2.  I want to make use of all my sewing and quilting supplies instead of just watching other people design and sew on Project Runway.

3.  I want to stretch and exercise in some way for at least half an hour each day, not including all the physical activity I already do during barn chores and taking the dogs out every few minutes.  If I can lose weight, I can get off some of my medications that sap my energy, and then I can ride more often.  This time last year I had no problem standing up after sitting down.  Now it is a very painful process for me, because both knees are shot.  The less weight my knees have to carry, the longer they will last.

4.  I want to finish writing and publish my current novel.  I don't care if anyone reads it.  I just want to complete it.

5.  I want to experience peace, quiet, tranquility, total calmness and predictability for once.  I think I deserve it.  In other words, I want to be able to plan out my days and actually do what I had planned instead of flying by the seat of my pants reacting to a bunch of unexpected stimuli that sucks the life out of me.  At some point here, I have to start living my life.

Happy New Year to all of you.  May all of your resolutions come to harvest.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Grooming and Booming

With the ground being muddy for the past week, and more rain on the way, I made it a priority to pick out all sixteen hooves and squirt some thrush treatment on them.  I also groomed each horse, but it was too cold to give baths, so the gray horses are still yellow with patches of rust smeared on their fur.

It was hard to get Gabbrielle to look at the camera, because some kids were playing off in the distance and she couldn't take her ear off them.  Despite being anxious as usual, Gabbrielle was really good about picking up each hoof before I asked and holding it in the air for me.  I give her lots of praise for doing that, because it saves my back from a lot of pain.  I probably don't even have to hold her hoof when I pick it out, because she keeps it still on her own.

However, my farrier doesn't like it.  He wants her to wait until he asks for the hoof.  I don't know why that matters.  I can see why someone wouldn't want a horse to anticipate the next move and do it under saddle without a rider's cue, but in the case of offering her feet, she's just being cooperative and thoughtful.  She's not lifting it to kick someone.  I've decided that the next time the farrier chastises her for helping him, I'll let him know that some of us worked hard to train her to do that, and I don't want him to train her not to do it.

Gabbrielle's topline used to be straight, but now she is starting to show signs of aging.  It's hard to believe, because it feels like I just bought her yesterday as a yearling.

The house behind Lostine is where the trespasser lives...

My husband did more work in the arroyo to make the trails more impassable, and I spent most of the day outside to discourage the neighbor from even attempting to trespass.  It turned out that he wasn't even home the majority of the day.  I hoped he left town after pitching his fit over not being allowed to use our land, but I saw lights on at his place tonight, so I didn't get that lucky.

I'm continually fascinated by the way I can see storms move in.  First, I see a wall of clouds off in the distance...

...then the wind picks up and it gets dark and cold.  Unfortunately, all the wind we've been getting lately has blown more cholla balls onto the trails.  I went for a very slow hike while leaning on my walking stick this morning, because I had forgotten to take my arthritis medication, but still wanted to get some exercise, and I stepped on a cholla sticker while trying to golf two others off the trail.  It was a fiasco to get out of the bottom of my boot.  Fortunately, I heard it crunch before putting my entire weight down on it, so I didn't get stabbed to the bone like I usually do.

I do appreciate that the air here is clean and we can see the stars at night.

It's looking like I may have to invest in a dozen or so diapers for Scrappy, because that dog is constantly peeing.  He can't seem to stop.  He even pees in his sleep.  At night after dinner, he asks to go out so often that I can't concentrate on getting anything done.  I spent an hour tonight trying to watch the last five minutes of a Netflix show.  I had to keep stopping and rewinding, because I'd see Scrappy sneaking around the corner of the couch, which means he's going to lift a leg on it, and I'd have to stop him and take him outside.  One time Scrappy couldn't hear me yelling his name, so Stewie ran up to him and barked really loudly to get his attention before he peed on the furniture.  He had already wet all three of his diapers and they were going through the wash.

I'm kind of at a point where I'm just not willing to take him outside this often anymore.  I just want to slap a diaper on him, let him fill it, throw it in the washer, and put a clean one on him every hour or so.  It would be expensive, but so worth it.  Some days my knees just don't work, and I can't keep getting up every few minutes.  I'm in a Catch 22, because his constant need to go outside is what keeps causing me to forget to take my medications, and then my knees and hips get inflamed, and I can't keep taking him outside because all the up and down and walking around is too painful for me.

One of my least favorite holidays is coming up and the firecrackers have already started.  I'll have to give the horses a few days to settle down after all the explosions finally subside.  I'm just thankful that Midge and Scrappy are mostly deaf.  Midge's new insulin level doesn't seem to be working out very well, because she asks to go out half a dozen times a night and drinks like a fish.  I haven't gotten more then one full night's sleep all week, so I'm having to take something to help me sleep between the fireworks and the dogs.  I'll deal with the carpet in the morning.