Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cluck Honk Quack Bark, Cock-a-doodle-doo

Every morning I hear a chorus of hen, rooster, duck and geese sounds coming from a neighbor's house.  The noise has gotten louder and louder, so they must be either breeding or collecting more birds.  I wasn't really sure which house had the chicken coop until today.  Amazingly, it is a house that is probably half a mile away from mine, yet I can hear those bird sounds loud and clear.

The other day I looked up on the hill and realized that there was a new barn that hadn't been there the week before.  I made time this morning to take pictures of the barn, because I was curious if it was for horses.  Upon examination after zooming in, it is just a storage shed in the shape of a gable-roofed barn.  But in front of it, lower down the hill is a chicken coop.  That's how I found out where the noise was coming from.

They parked trailers around the shed, so the view of it is partially blocked.  Looks like they are still doing construction.  They have a stack of plywood and a stack of wooden pallets that looks to be about six-feet high.  I'm curious how they keep those chickens and geese alive with all the coyotes and bobcats around here.  This explains why I haven't seen very many in my yard lately.  They've got easier pickin's up the hill.  At my place, they have to chase ground squirrels and bunnies down holes.  They lose patience waiting for them to come out.  I've watched both bobcats and coyotes crouch down low by critter holes and wait to pounce on their prey.

We had one casualty to the heat this week.  A baby bunny died on my front porch.  I set a bowl of water out for the rest of them and left the dead bunny there, figuring that some predator would make a meal out of it.  It took a few days, but the body is now gone.  Usually, the bunnies chew through our drip system to get water in the summer, but our drip system has been broken for a while.

I'm still in physical therapy.  I'm discovering that there are other things that trigger my pain besides just pulling a wagon.  My therapist's goal is to help me recognize the triggers, so that I can avoid pain all together.  He identified some of my pain as being "stress pain".  What happens is something stresses me out or frightens me, my muscles contract, and that causes shooting pains in my leg.

The other day Stewie was sitting on the arm of my chair when he heard a noise and barked loudly right in my ear.  I jumped and twisted away from him, and felt an intense pain in my leg that prevented me from walking for a while.  Then today Stewie attacked Midge without warning, his ferocious growling and violent behavior startled me and I screamed.  Then my thigh contracted and I nearly passed out from the pain.  I've got to teach that dog to behave.  Anyway, those are examples of stress pain.

I'm not sure how to prevent some of that.  It's hard to train a Chihuahua/Min Pin mix with ADHD.  It think it's funny that the horses can spook and stampede, and I totally tune it out and don't react at all, but the dogs can bark or get into a tussle and I scream and jump like I'm the one under attack.  I should be more scared of thousand-pound animals with hard hooves than a Chihuahua.

But as you can clearly see, he rules the roost.

Midge's tumor is now several inches long.  The extra large bandages don't cover it.  I'm going to have to start putting two of them over it.  It's just too hot to keep her Thundershirt on her.

Her diabetes is relatively stable now.  I've only had to adjust her insulin once this past week.  However, I don't feel well enough to take care of her during post-op, and my days are booked up with physical therapy appointments.  Once those end, I need to see a couple of specialists.  Medical care is so time-consuming that I have to prioritize.  I could have handled Midge's surgery two months ago, but the vet wouldn't do it then.  Now it will have to wait because I'm taking care of myself.

Old Scrappy boy trying to keep cool on the tile floor...

He sleeps all day now, so I've been giving him a break from wearing a diaper.  I just found out that my father-in-law is losing his kidney function just like Scrappy.   Getting old sucks.

Sunday, June 18, 2017


Farewell to another great pair of jeans.  I found a place that had Jolly Balls on sale for $10 each, so I got a couple of those to keep them entertained until my next pair of jeans grows holes in the thighs.

We are in the midst of a heatwave, so I'm hosing down the horses and trying to keep the dogs in the shade when we walk outside.  The ground can be as hot as 150 degrees some days, which burns puppy paws.  If I have to carry them to shade, I do.

We had another weird stranger encounter.  Stewie woke me at 3:30 AM, so I took him outside.  My husband was awake and he asked, "Is that lady still out there?"

Huh?  I was still half-asleep.  "What lady?"

He said he had just taken the dogs out, and he could hear some lady walking down the street in the dark talking to someone.  He didn't know if she was walking with someone else, talking to a dog, or talking on a phone, but it was quite strange being 3:00 in the morning with only a sliver of moon to guide her way.  She didn't have a flashlight or headlamp.  She was just prowling the neighborhood at an inappropriate hour.  That's risky.  She could have stepped on a rattlesnake or run into a cougar.  We've been chased indoors by large packs of coyotes in the past when we were out with our little dogs.

She may have been out there, but I couldn't hear anything because the air conditioner and our water softener were running.  I'm glad I started locking up everything on our property.  Way, way too many strangers coming around at odd hours, and they are obviously not people who live in our neighborhood.

My physical therapist and I weren't having any luck making my pain go away by strengthening my muscles, using electrodes, and stretching.  In fact, I was getting worse.  I almost couldn't drive myself to my last appointment, because it hurt too much to lift my leg off the gas pedal and press down on the brake.  I got stuck at a really long red light and my leg wouldn't stop shaking.  I was scared that it was going to slip off the brake pedal.  I tried holding it down with my other foot.  Next time I'll put the truck in park.

I gave him a list of things I do at home that is hard on my leg, and he zeroed in on the fact that I pull wagon loads of manure around all day.  He said that pulling a wagon uses a lot of hip.  I always pull with my right arm, leading with my right hip, so that made sense.  He said, "Is there any way you can NOT do that?"

My eyes got all big and I shook my head no.  He said, "What's it for?  Why do you haul manure?"

Being a city boy, he probably thought I was gardening.  I told him that I have four horses I have to clean up after.  He mimed different positions one could use to pull a wagon, and I told him I can't pull the wagon backwards because I have to see where I'm going.  Too many rocks and rattlesnakes.  He had never heard of such a problem.  He asked if I could get someone else to shovel manure for me just for a few days so that we could see if my pain gets better.  I said my husband could do it when he's home on the weekends, and because of the heatwave this week, he arranged to work from home to help out with the barn chores.  We also agreed that if I do have to clean up manure, I would push a wheelbarrow instead of pulling a wagon.

I'm two days into not pulling the wagon, and my pain has already subsided.  I don't realize how hard I work my body until I have a chance to rest.  So, I didn't need stronger muscles, I didn't need stimulated muscles, and I didn't need to have my muscles stretched out.  All I needed was rest.  It's too bad I'm having to go through a month of physical therapy to figure that one out.  That also explains why the massage at the spa helped so much.  That was a form of rest and relaxation.  I might meet with the physical therapist one more time, and then cancel the rest of my appointments, and just use the wheelbarrow and go to the spa next time I'm in pain.

My husband has been toying with the idea of getting a little UTV that can pull a wagon around.  The main problem with that is getting it through gates without the horses escaping.  I'd have to open the gate wide, walk back to the UTV, drive it in, go back to the gate and shut it.  That offers the horses a lot of time to be bad.  I'd have to lock them in their stalls first, and I usually do that when I feed them.  I'd have to switch the order of how I do things.  I was chasing them out of the barn so that I could clean stalls, and then once the stalls were clean, I'd lock them up and feed them.  With a UTV, I'd have to lock them up and feed them first, then drive it in and work around the horses' legs to clean.  Does anyone else use a UTV to clean up manure?  How does that work for you?

Friday, June 16, 2017


I may have met our burglar.  I'm not sure, but it's hard not to be suspicious of everyone at this point.  Here's what happened:  I was cleaning up manure at 5:30 AM before sunrise and noticed Bombay watching something up toward my neighbor's front yard.  I went over to see what he was looking at, but I'm not as tall as him, so I couldn't see anything.  Gabbrielle came over to join us.  I waited and waited, expecting to see a wild animal appear, but I continued to see nothing, so I went back to work.

A short time after that, I turned around to find two medium sized dogs running up to me wagging their tails.  I looked them over and saw that they had custom collars and tags.  I didn't have my reading glasses, so I couldn't read the tags.  As I was thinking things through on how to deal with this, I suddenly heard a truck engine and tires turning around either in my neighbor's driveway or the turnout across the street from their house, and saw a vehicle moving slowly up the street.

I hopped and limped as fast as I could to get to the front of the house to wave down the driver.  I couldn't move fast enough and he passed me.  I waved anyway, hoping he'd see me, and he just happened to turn his head to look over his shoulder.  He braked.  I yelled, "Are you looking for dogs?" but doubted he could hear me over his loud engine, so I pointed in the direction the dogs were headed.  He got out of his truck, the dogs came running, he lowered his tailgate, and they jumped into the bed of his truck.  I went back to my chores.  I think he said thank you, but couldn't hear anything.

It wasn't until afterward that I started thinking about how odd the whole experience was.  First off, why didn't I hear his truck coming down the street?  He must have been stopped or parked in front of my neighbors' house.  Was he home-shopping before sunrise?  Or had he just driven up the street before I came out and got out of his truck to look around for his dogs?  But his dogs had been right in the area where I first heard his truck.  Surely, he would have seen them, so why was he driving off?  Did he try dumping them?  But if that were the case, why not remove their collars with identification tags?

Maybe he's one of these people who drives his dogs somewhere, lets them out, and then drives off so that they will chase his truck and get their exercise?  I've seen people do that.  If that's the case, I want to discourage him from doing it in my neighborhood.  It's hard enough getting my dogs to focus on their bathroom breaks without other dogs running down the street.  Perhaps me and my horses distracted his dogs from following him.

Then there was the matter of his truck.  It was painted neon green and blue advertising a car racing team.  I've seen that truck before.  There is someone who lives 2 to 3 miles away from me as the crow flies who has a truck, a trailer, a race car, and an RV with that same paint job.  Hmmmm.  Interesting.  The only thing stolen from my garage was NASCAR memorabilia and now there is someone with a car racing team suspiciously appearing out of nowhere before the sun even rises.  Wouldn't it be a great idea for a burglar to bring his dogs with him to a burglary so that if he gets caught trespassing he can just say he was catching his dogs, which happened to run into my garage?

I was nearly burglarized several years ago by a group of young people who arrived at my house with two dogs.  The dogs were supposed to distract my dogs while they robbed me, but I spotted them coming.  They didn't expect me to be home, so they ran back to their truck, called to their dogs and drove off.  They came back later when I shut my garage bay, because they thought I had driven off then, but I thwarted their second effort too and called the police.

As usual, the police were worthless.  I recognized the ring leader as a vacuum salesman who had been in my house demonstrating his products a few days earlier.  I saw him reading my appointment book and writing something down.  I was supposed to be somewhere on the day he showed up, but my son came down with the chicken pox, so I canceled.  Anyway, all the police did was call the vacuum company and ask the guy's boss if he's ever been in trouble with the law, and his boss said he was a good guy, so the police dropped their investigation.  You can see why I like to take the law into my own hands.  That's just one of many times the police have let me down by being lazy.  But I understand that they couldn't do much since no crime had been committed.

Anyway, I'm not sure if the guy driving off without his dogs was up to no good or not, but you can bet I'm going to keep an eye out for him.  I went over to my neighbors' house to make sure it hadn't been broken into, but it looked fine.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Jeepers Creepers

The other day my ex-neighbor called to warn me that someone was coming to look at their property -- not the house -- just the property.  I always get suspicious of home shoppers who do that.  I mean, if you are going to take the time to drive out there and ask permission to walk around the property, why not just set up an appointment to view the house?  My guess is that it's someone who is looking for large acreages to subdivide.  That's the only reason I can think of for why they wouldn't care about the house.  I moved here for the peace and quiet, so if some jerk buys the five acres just so he can build nine more houses on it and sell them, I'll go ballistic.

Anyway, I noticed that the truck they arrived in had some kind of business logo painted on it, but I'm blind, so I couldn't read it.   The next night another vehicle came creeping up the street with the same painted design on the side, so they came back a second time.  Even if they don't plan to subdivide, I don't want someone running a business out of that home.  Either way, it will be noisy and disruptive.  People who ran construction businesses out of their homes were what ruined the last neighborhood I lived in.  There's got to be a law against that.  There are residential zones and industrial zones for a reason, but it seems no one respects that anymore.

My daughter and I went for a walk in the morning, and a strange car was driving slowly up the street.  I always have to wonder about strangers who show up in our neighborhood and creep around.  My neighbor's house has been burglarized three times since it has been on the market.  The driver stopped and asked us if we had seen a black dog running around.  We said no, but we'd keep an eye out.  I got a better description of the dog and got a phone number from them to call if I found it.  They said they were dog sitting for their uncle and the dog got out.  I figured the dog would end up in my yard, because all stray dogs are attracted to my horses and all the bunnies around my place, but I didn't see it when I got home.

Later that afternoon I got in my truck to go to physical therapy and realized that the back wall of our garage was bare.  There used to be a bunch of NASCAR posters and clock covering the wall.  The previous home owner had left them there, and we kept them in case he wanted them back.  I asked my husband if he took them down, and he said he didn't.  That means we got robbed.

My husband took stock of his tools and they all seemed to be there.  All of our bicycles were there too.  Either the dogs rushed the burglars and they only got away with the NASCAR memorabilia, or that NASCAR memorabilia had some special value we weren't aware of, or the previous owner came back and helped himself without our permission to enter the property.

Since the burglar obviously didn't finish the job, he'll probably be back.  There are still a couple of NASCAR items he missed.  So, now I'm pissed, because this means I have to start closing and locking all doors to all buildings around my property, which I hate to do because it's so freakin' hot and my leg hurts like hell and I hate having to add in another step to my day of forgetting the keys and having to hike back to wherever they are located.  In the case of the garage, we have to keep the bays closed at all times, which really sucks, because I have to take the dogs out through the garage just about every 15 minutes and it's so much more convenient to just have a bay open.  People suck.  It seems that whenever my life is hard, people always have to do something immoral to make my life even harder.

I can tell you that if I do catch someone on my property, there will be hell to pay.  I'm so angry that I would welcome someone to give me a reason to beat them to a pulp.  Half the problem is my neighbor's house being up for sale.  It attracts a lot of strangers into the neighborhood, and most of them are up to no good.  I can't tell you how many times I walked into my front yard to find someone who doesn't belong here just sitting in their car staring at me.

Thinking back to the strangers I've seen recently, there was a strange man walking back and forth in front of my house after dark, and I was getting annoyed with him, because he was distracting my dogs when I'd take them out to pee.  I assumed he was a new neighbor.  All three dogs barked viciously at him and pulled on their leashes, which is a bit more aggressive than how they usually react to passers by.  Dogs sense people's intentions, so it could have been him.  It wasn't the people with the lost dog, because the garage was closed when they were creeping around.  There have also been several times when I noticed the horses alerting on our driveway, but when I looked out the windows, I didn't see anything.  Stewie has growled at the garage door a few times, but I ignored it because he's usually hearing just a bird that got into the garage and is trying to build a nest.  Now I know better.

I suspect next week we won't have any problems with creepers in our neighborhood, because we are potentially going to break some heat records.  One day is supposed to reach 120 degrees F.  Even the most dedicated burglars can't handle that.

Last night I took the dogs out after they ate their dinner, but before they could finish going to the bathroom, I heard a commotion down at the barn.  I peered around a tree to see the horses trying to pull the hose out of the water trough, which was overflowing.  I had to get down there and shut off the water ASAP, but couldn't with three dogs on leashes, so I dumped the dogs in the house with their leashes still on, and dragged my bum leg down to the barn to shut off the water.  But before I could get there, I stepped on a thorn that was 1/8" wide, and it went all the way through my shoe up into my heel.  I screamed at the top of my lungs and had to hop on my bad leg to get to the water before our well ran dry.

Then I hopped back to the house, removed my shoe and the thorn from my foot, and put on a different pair of shoes, because the other half of the thorn was still embedded in the shoe and I couldn't get it out.  I took the dogs out again, and there was one of those home shoppers creeping up the street staring at me.  I realized that they were probably out of their car and looking at the property next door when I screamed.  I remembered saying loudly, "Bleep bleep that hurt!"

That's the other thing I hate about that house being up for sale.  No privacy.  Someone is always over there at the worst possible times when I'm frazzled and rushed, trying to get my chores done, and I'm often cussing and cursing because I keep getting hurt.  It's almost impossible for me to feed the horses, clean up manure, and fill water troughs without getting hurt somehow, some way.  And that's always the time there's someone next door watching me.  It's so annoying to be struggling to multi-task and get all this work done before dark, only to have people staring at me like I'm a crazy woman.  How about pitching in and relieving me of some of my pain?  Make yourselves useful.  If you're wandering around my neighbor's property without an appointment, but really watching my every move while I'm in what is supposed to be my private back yard, you obviously have time on your hands.

My physical therapist seems disturbed that I haven't seen any improvement in my leg pain yet.  He questions me extensively and is always puzzled by my answers.  Apparently, it is physically impossible for me to have the types of symptoms I have.  For instance, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, yet I'm fine in cold weather and in pain in hot weather.  He said it should be the opposite.  Also, there is this one stretch I do in which I have to set my left ankle on top of my right thigh, and that is very painful for me.  I have to use my hands to lift and lower my leg, and I'm shaking the entire time the leg is up there because it's so painful.  However, all the other stretches I do for the hamstrings don't have any effect on me.  I'm starting to think the problem is twisting my knee, but apparently knee pain should not cause my hip to hurt.

He wants me to record everything I do during the day, how long I do it -- including how long I sit, where I have pain, what kind of pain it is, and rate the pain.  I barely have enough time to do what I'm responsible for throughout the day, none-the-less have time to write it all down.  But I know it's necessary if I expect him to help me.  The thing is that everything happens so fast, and before I know it, my day is over and I can't even remember what I did.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Limb Lament

Nothing much blog worthy has been going on.  Physical therapy and doctor appointments have monopolized my time, so I have very little contact with the horses beyond feeding them and cleaning up after them.  Although, yesterday I broke out my hot pink ball scoop to fling a rock at the barn roof to get the geldings to stop shredding Bombay's fly mask, and Gabbrielle came charging out of the barn to break them up.  Bombay took off to the furthest end of the arena and dropped the mask there, so lucky me got to hike out all that way to retrieve it.  Gabbrielle was so funny, though.  She perked her ears up and looked to me for praise after she disciplined the boys.  She's such a smart mare, and I'm touched that she understands my needs and tries to help.

The physical therapists and I are still trying to narrow down how to approach my leg pain.  Historically, the pain has been in my right hip and thigh, so we started out strengthening the muscles in that area, but then I started having shooting pains that stretched from my hip to my ankle.  The therapist said that's classic back pain, so he added in exercises for my back.  Now the majority of pain is in my knee, so I've got people climbing all over me, pushing and pulling and bending my leg, hip and back in all directions in an effort to stretch things out.  All of us are trying hard to understand what my deal is since it seems to be ever-changing.  The only thing that stays consistent is that the pain is always in my right leg.

I put a knee brace on it last weekend just so that I could get up and do the grocery shopping.  That seemed to help quite a bit.  Sleeping has been a struggle, because leg and knee pain keep waking me up.  I flip and flop and stuff pillows all over the place in an effort to ease the pain long enough so I can regain sweet unconsciousness.

Originally, my physical therapist was saying that in the future, he would have me record how far I could walk before I felt pain.  I was a bit anxious about that, because first off, I'm always in pain.  For me, it's more a matter of how far I can I limp before I can no longer limp.  Also, I don't want to start out my day exercising for the sole purpose of seeing how long I can go before the pain stops me, and then be in too much pain to be able to do my barn chores and take the dogs outside.  That seems counter-productive.  I'm trying to make the pain go away so that I can handle my responsibilities.

Also, between me being busy around the ranch and with it being hot outside, I doubted I'd be able to fit in walks for the sake of measuring my distance.  I think he figured that out, so now he's got me recording how many minutes I walk until I feel pain.  That's easier on me since I'm gimping around doing chores all the time anyway.  The only thing new I have to do is notice the time and keep track of which part of my leg hurts and the type of pain.

I remembered that I have a Garmin fitness watch that records both the time and distance I move, so even if I'm going in circles between house and barn all day, it will measure everything for me.  I put it on, turned it on, and headed out to do my chores.  I had barely started shoveling manure when the watch vibrated and tossed up a warning that the battery was low.  So much for that.  I charged it up when I got back to the house, but forgot to put it on this morning.  I limped around for two hours feeding horses, cleaning up manure, feeding dogs, taking dogs outside, cleaning up dog messes, and dealing with my own breakfast.  After two hours I started feeling a new sensation of burning in the front of my hip and thigh, so I wrote that down for him.

When I'm there, I feel like I'm in a gym, but I have to remind myself to think of it more like a doctor's office, because the first thing they have me do is pull down my pants so that they can attach electrodes down the length of my butt and thigh.  They are also big on treating stiffness at the start of the work out with heat packs, and then treating pain at the end of the workout with ice, so I spend a lot of time laying on my back.  It's so far removed from my lifestyle to be able to lie down and relax knowing that nobody is going to interrupt me and drag me away from that position anytime within the next ten minutes.  I don't know what to do with myself because I don't have dogs running around my legs constantly tripping me and pressuring me to take them outside.  My phone isn't ringing and no one is at the door pedaling their religion.  I like it.  I consider my physical therapy appointments to be mini vacations.  Ahhhhhh, so this is how the other half lives.

It's kind of funny, because they are always having me check in with my pain levels, and when I report any pain at all, they cut back or cut down my exercises in some way.  However, the exercises they have me do are so wimpy compared to the types of movements I have to do at home dealing with the dogs and horses and barn chores.  I try to explain to them that the workouts they have me do are not causing my pain.  I'm just in pain all the time because of my lifestyle.

As Scrappy deteriorates, he develops new behaviors that add to my problems and stress level.  He's almost totally blind and deaf now, but he also feels hungry all the time, so he pesters me incessantly for food.  He keeps track of where I am by staying connected to my feet.  He literally steps on my feet while I sit and walk.  His toenails dig into my skin if I'm not wearing shoes.  I have to catch myself when he trips me and I begin to fall.  That's jerking my back around and causing me to hyper-extend my knee, which is probably the main cause of most of my pain.  I've been putting him in the indoor kennel more often now just to give myself a break.

Midge does something similar since she's mostly blind and deaf as well.  She walks in front of my legs and feels their movement, but because she's a herding dog, she tries to control where I walk and what speed I walk, which makes me crazy.  Half the time I'm trying to get to the bathroom or fix myself something to eat, and she's blocking me from being able to do that.  It's dangerous to mess with me when I'm hangry.

I remember one time my father came to visit us when we had a Shelty, which is also a herding dog, and my Shelty kept pushing my dad around by leaning on his legs while he walked.  My dad got angry and kept kneeing and pushing the dog to get him out of his space.  I was annoyed that he treated my dog that way, but now I understand.  He had hip and back pain, and he was just trying to spare himself.  I should have been more sensitive and shut the dog outside -- something I can't do here and now for myself.  When you are young and have good balance, having a dog shadow you isn't a problem, but when you are old and in pain, it's not a good thing.

The other night I got up to go to bed and was carrying Stewie in my arms.  Since Scrappy is black, I didn't see him sleeping in the middle of the hallway and I tripped over him, nearly dropping Stewie.  I caught both of us before we hit the floor.  As a result of that experience, we now have four new night lights placed strategically around the house.  That's the other thing Scrappy has started doing.  When he sleeps, he places himself in high traffic locations so he'll detect the vibrations of footsteps when we get up and start walking around the house.  When I go outside, he presses his body up against the door so that he'll know when I open it and come back inside, so I try to come in a different door to avoid smacking him.

Midge follows me around and always positions herself in doorways so that she can keep track of what is going on in each room, but then she won't move out of my way when I need to get through the doorway.  Yelling or clapping my hands does no good because she can't hear anything, so I have to physically move her.  It hurts to bend over and pick her up, so I usually push her out of the way with my foot, which I'm sure adds to my leg problems.  Both she and Scrappy are starting to go senile, so sometimes she snaps at me and bites my foot.  They are anxious all the time about losing track of where their humans are.  I've never had dogs live this far into old age before, so it's an adjustment for all of us.

A part of me wants to find new homes for all the horses, because it hurts too much to take care of them, but then I realize that I spend way more time dealing with the dogs than the horses.  Plus, the horses have a healing quality about them.  I always feel better after spending time with a horse.  My leg pain tends to get better in cooler weather, so I don't want to give up on horseback riding just yet.  I think if things don't improve by winter, and I've exhausted all my treatment options, then I'll feel more confident about what to do with the horses.  The vet doubts Scrappy will live longer than a few more months, and Midge shouldn't have much longer beyond that.  I'm curious if most of my health issues will resolve themselves when my entire day no longer has to revolve around incontinent dogs that prevent me from eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom, and walking through my own home.

My son got his first job with benefits and a fair salary since graduating from college.  I'm so happy for him, because now he has the freedom to do what he wants with his life.  For the past several years he's been stuck driving his grandmother's 15 year old Camry through L.A. traffic to a low paying job with no benefits, but soon he'll be able to afford a car of his choice.  Unfortunately, this new job is on the other side of the country on the east coast, so I won't get to see him often.  But he's good about calling home.

My daughter is in the process of changing careers, so I get to see her more often since she's between jobs.  She's going to start dropping by in the mornings after her cross-fit workouts to walk with me while I monitor my pain.  I'm hoping she'll help me with the dogs and horses too, because I'll have more time to do my physical therapy homework if the animals don't have me spinning in circles.

I can't tell you how many times the dogs needed to be taken outside, and I wished there was someone around to do it so that I could just sit still for a few minutes or finish something that I'm doing.  The really frustrating thing is when I'm down at the barn trying to shovel manure and the dogs are in the house barking.  I know they can't hold their bladders when they bark, so I have to scurry back to the house and let them out before they lose control.  If I don't get there in time, I have to do laundry and scrub the carpet.  Sometimes they bark to tell me they need to pee, and sometimes a delivery truck drives past or someone comes to the door, which gets Stewie barking, which gets the other two going.  It's tough always having to be in two places at once, but if you've got two people, problem is solved.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Mystery in the Night and Other Assorted Topics

Around 4:00 AM I heard a loud crash coming from the barn.  I decided I had better go investigate and make sure that there wasn't a mountain lion chasing the horses around.  When I reached the barn, everything appeared to be in order.  I shined my headlamp around and all the horses were acting normal.  No one was limping.  I didn't see any blood.  I shrugged and went back to the house to take the dogs out before they peed on the carpet.

Once the sun started brightening the sky around 4:45 AM, I went back down to the barn to feed the horses and clean up manure.  I was perplexed to find Bombay's fly mask hanging neatly from the stall door handle of Rock's stall.  I remembered removing his fly mask the night before and putting it in an old metal trough outside of the barn.  Bombay is fussy about when he does and does not wear his fly mask, and if I don't comply to his schedule, he teaches the other horses how to pull it over his ears and off his face.  Then he shreds it and dunks it in the water troughs.

I was baffled over how the mask got out of the container I put it in, and was now hanging from the gate handle.  I imagined a coyote getting it out of the container, dragging it around, leaving it on the ground, and then a trespasser finding it and returning it to my barn by hanging it up.  After all, that weird lady in the dress, church hat, and camel hair coat had been watching my barn chore routine the previous morning.  She trespassed in my neighbor's yard, so why not trespass in mine at some godawful hour?

I looked around for her, but didn't see her anywhere.  That theory didn't make much sense, because why not hang it from the main gate handle rather than to walk through the barn, past other stalls, and put it specifically in Rock's stall?  I reached for the mask and realized that it didn't even belong to Bombay.  Bombay's mask was still in the metal trough.  I looked around to try to figure out who was missing a fly mask, and saw Lostine's naked face looking back at me.  Ahhhhhh, that explains it.  She likes to scratch her face on the stall gate handles.  She probably got the fly mask caught on it, panicked, pulled back, and tore it off her head.  That's what the crash was that I heard earlier.

I went to go put the mask back on her face, only to discover that she pulled back so hard that she ripped the canvas right across the cheek.  It was hanging together by the fleece lining.  Wow.  That must have hurt.  She has arthritis in her poll.  Fortunately, I had a another fly mask in her size waiting in the wings, so all is good.


There was a fun scene on the TV show The Bachelorette Monday night.  Rachel was on a date in which she and her man were horseback riding around Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  I was blown away by how crowded the streets were.  I grew up near there and remember just a few random people wandering in and out of stores.  But Rodeo Drive wasn't as famous back then as it is now, and the population of Los Angeles County was much smaller.

So, here were two people riding horses down the street with pedestrians, cars, tour buses, and motorcycles swarming around them.  They were having to do quite a bit of maneuvering to avoid running into things.  I was waiting for an accident.  You could tell that the horses were a little anxious.  Then they took it over the top by riding right into stores to go shopping.  Rachel's horse was hesitant about going indoors, so they had to get someone to lead it in.  She and her date sat on their horses while salespeople brought hats and boots and belt buckles to them to try on.  Then they went into another store and got jackets.  Rachel's horse finally let loose and left a thank you note on the floor of that store.  But what was really hilarious was that the horse was trying to kick it out of its space.  It reminded me of the way my Chihuahua Stewie kicks up dirt to try to bury his treasures.


I hate to say anything, because I don't want to jinx it, but the horses are all getting along really well compared to last summer.  Last summer Rock kept attacking Lostine by chasing her into corners and repeatedly biting her on the rump.  She was so scared of him that she'd take off running blindly whenever he came near, and she cracked her hip on the stall door frame.  Then Lostine would get after Gabbrielle to discipline Rock and keep him away from her, only Gabbrielle would get so aggressive that she'd repeatedly injure Rock.  I felt like I spent all of last summer tending to open wounds and leg injuries.

In order to prepare for a repeat performance this summer, I planted trees around the round pen to provide shade so that I could separate the horses.  However, so far I haven't needed it.  Lostine has learned to calmly walk away when Rock approaches her, Rock has learned to not pick on Lostine, and Gabbrielle has learned to discipline Rock in gentler ways like just chasing him off without all the kicking.  Gabbrielle has even settled down at meal times.  She stands back and waits for everyone to go into their stalls and doesn't try to chase them away anymore.  If Rock beats her to some leftovers, instead of her attacking him, she just thinks, "That's okay.  There are more over here that I can eat."

She used to be so bad that she would expend all of her energy chasing the other horses away from leftovers in an attempt to get them all for herself.  She and I had a serious personality clash over that.  If there are four piles of leftovers and four horses, why should one piggish mare get them all?  I don't like aggressively selfish individuals.  However, now that Gabbrielle has settled down and learned to share, she and I are getting along much better.  Bombay is still managing to just avoid the drama all together.


I finally got my hair dyed and cut.  I got fed up with playing telephone tag for weeks in a failed attempt to set up an appointment.  I even left a message for the girl to just pick a time and day, leave me a message of when my appointment is, and I will be there.  However, she called me back and just left a message asking me to call her back.  No effing way.

I remembered seeing a salon while out driving, looked them up, and gave them a call.  I was thinking that if someone actually picked up the phone, they win.  They get my business.  Someone picked up after two rings and sounded both intelligent and professional.  She got me in the very next morning.  I couldn't believe that after working on my hair for two hours, she only charged me $72!  Most stylists around here charge $120 for the same thing.  I gave her a big tip.

I wasn't happy with the fact that the two stylists talked to each other the entire time gossiping about their clients in front of their clients, but that seems par for the course in all the salons around here.  It's not the highest class of neighborhood.  Some lady covered in tattoos burst through the door wanting her hair cut right then, and when the stylists said she'd have to wait half an hour, she threw up two middle fingers and walked out.  Both stylists clucked their tongues and said, "Now that was rude."

Yeah.  Not a great neighborhood.  I was asking them what was up with so many salons cutting back, moving, and going out of business.  They explained that this past winter was slow because all their snowbird clients who used to have standing weekly appointments were dying off, and the next generation does not have their hair done as often.  I do remember that my grandmother got her hair styled every week, while my mother went in once every couple of months.  I go in once or twice a year.  So, it makes sense that they are losing business despite the excess population growth in the winter months.  I guess I will have to start getting my hair done more often if I want to keep the local salons in business.


My first physical therapy appointment was a bit of a disappointment.  For the first time in a long while, I didn't have any pain in my leg.  The therapist evaluated my range of motion, strength, and pain levels, and came to the conclusion that I really don't need physical therapy.  (That was a hard pill to swallow after struggling to just walk between the couch and the bathroom throughout the entire month of May.)

However, since my right knee and hip were weaker than my left, he gave me a set of exercises to do to build up their strength over the next few weeks.  The exercises were super easy for me, so I'm skeptical that I will benefit from them, but I'll go along with it since most people do have method behind their madness.  I actually went in there for a massage, but despite me bringing it up and the doctor ordering it, the therapist chose to ignore us and do his own thing.

Because I'm fat, people always assume that I don't get any exercise, but the reality is that because I live on a ranch, I am way more physically active from one minute to the next than most.  I'm constantly on the move going up and down rocky hills, trudging through thick sand, always climbing over objects, always lifting heavy objects, always performing acrobatic maneuvers, often risking life and limb.

He wanted to know how many times I've fallen down in the past year.  I said probably multiple times.  He wanted to know the reason behind each fall, but I couldn't even remember most of them because it happens so often.  I also have no sense of time and can't recall which falls happened in the past year.  I fall when I dismount my horses and come down on my painful leg, I fall if the saddle slips when mounting, I fall when I roll my ankle on rocks, I fall when my dogs get under my feet or wrap their leashes around my legs or pull me in opposite directions, I fall when I have vertigo, I fall when I step on a sharp object in bare feet, I fall when I slip on water after a pipe breaks or a toilet overflows, I fall when I don't lift my leg high enough to clear an object, I fall when I'm walking around in the dark in the barn and trip over a salt block, I fall when the horses stampede and knock me down...

Of course, what he really needed to know was if I ever feel unbalanced, but he didn't ask that, so we had communication problems and he ended up doing all these exercises to improve my balance.  Interestingly, he deduced that I have excellent balance.  I'm guessing I got that from riding horses.  They aren't even exercising my left side, because I don't need to build up those muscles any further.

He said he wanted me to start riding my horses and keep track of how long I can ride before I feel pain.  I informed him that it's too hot outside to ride horses, with it getting up near 110 during the day and not cooling off much at night, so he said I can measure how far I can walk before I feel pain.  He asked how far I can walk now without pain, and I thought about the last time I took a walk in a straight line.  I went about half a mile, but felt pain all the way home on the second quarter of that mile.  I wasn't cuing into the most important word in the question, which was "now".  Now I can't take walks at all.  When I simply walk from the house to the barn to do my chores, I'm in pain.  I limp or hop on one leg all the way back to the house.

There were a lot of miscommunications.  They had me fill out a questionnaire that listed common activities that the average person does and asked me to rank my pain during those activities.  The only problem is that there is nothing common or average about my life.  I can't do mundane things that most people do, in part because the dogs keep me going in circles, and in part because I'm stuck at home all day alternating between cleaning up dog accidents and horse manure.  They wanted to know if I can get in and out of a bathtub.  I don't take baths.  I only have the time for three-minute showers before another dog needs to go outside.  Still, they made me answer the question.  I had to guess on how much pain I would have if I tried to climb in and out of a bathtub.

The questionnaire and the therapist asked all the wrong questions.  They wanted to know what I do for my job.  I said I was a writer and photographer, because those are the last jobs I've had.  They wanted to know what kind of activities and movements I had to do for those jobs.  I answered, but didn't see how that was going to help them, because they were assuming that I am working right now.  I'm not.  I haven't worked on my latest novel or had a photography gig in months.  The dogs won't let me do anything other than take care of them and their health problems every second of the day, and my health problems prevent me from doing photography jobs.  In fact, I was surprised that so many of the questions focused on the patient's "job" or "career" when the majority of their patients are retired.  What they needed to ask was what kind of activities the patient is doing most often most days.  I didn't make that connection until later.

These people have no idea that I haul hundreds of pounds of manure around in a wagon each day, I move hay, I push wheelbarrows, I carry 50 to 80 pound bags of grain around, and I walk in circles for hours.  I can't measure how far I walk when I'm just going back and forth between the house and the dog yard and the horse barn and the hay barn and the tack room.  Or when I'm spinning in a circle in the middle of a round pen, for that matter.  As I was analyzing my daily activities, I realized that most people have a much more sedentary lifestyle than I do.  I brutalize my body in my effort to care for animals, and therein probably lies my problem.

I felt just as fine after the workout as I did before.  Then I got home and the dogs swarmed around my feet, tripping me, and I instantly started getting zapped with nerve pains.  I took them all outside multiple times and got no more than five minutes to sit down to relax before I had to run outside to do barn chores.  Then all the aches and pains in my right leg came flooding back, and I was unable to put any weight on that leg.  I hopped and hobbled back to the house, laid down, and the pain just got worse.  I couldn't get comfortable lying in any position.  My knee was throbbing.

I can see how they would think that I don't need their help, because I'm much stronger and better balanced than most patients.  However, I still have crippling pain that prevents me from doing both the things I love and the things I have to do because they are my responsibility.  I can't just stop feeding and cleaning up after my dogs and horses, because I'm in pain and can't walk.  Hopefully, after a couple more sessions the physical therapists will learn more about my lifestyle and start making connections on what my real deal might be.

One new side effect to my leg pain is that it hurts to drive a car since I have to use my right leg to press on the gas pedal and the brake.  It hurts to pull my leg away from one pedal and move it over to the other pedal, which is scary.  My muscles just lock up because of the pain.  I really shouldn't be driving when I'm in pain.  So, that's a common task that I need to be able to do, but struggle with.  I'll bring that up to them on my next visit and see what they think.


I find myself getting frustrated with the automation in today's society.  If you've had to call a lot of customer service lines recently, like I have, you know that you have to spend the first five minutes on the phone pushing buttons to get routed to the right department.  Then when a real live person picks up, they won't let you speak.  They cut you off immediately and fire off twenty questions at you that they are reading off their computer screen.  You can easily spend twenty minutes on the phone going through their process when you have one simple question that has nothing to do with the questions they are asking you.

I'm not sure at what point in history that businesses decided that most people are not intelligent enough to communicate their reasons for calling, but I sure get tired of being treated like I'm in a cookie cutter machine when my batter makes cornbread.  I also get tired of having to constantly fix other people's mistakes.  Nine times out of ten, if I'm calling customer service, it's because they screwed something up for me.

So, our ice maker on our new refrigerator finally got to the point where we had to run a hair dryer on it every day in order to keep it working.  I decided that was ridiculous, so I tried cashing in on our extended 5 year warranty that we bought.  I had to go through the Lowe's automated routing process and ended up in the wrong department.  Of course, I didn't find out that I was in the wrong department until after I answered the live person's twenty questions and he asked me for my credit card information.  I refused to give it to him, because the warranty was supposed to pay for the repair.  Then he told me I was connected with the wrong department.

When I found the right department, they did see that I had a 5 year warranty and they set up an appointment for a repairman to come out on Saturday between 1:00 and 5:00 PM.  Then the repairman's company's automated machine called and told us he would be out between 4:00 and 6:00 PM.  I was kind of irritated, because I'm busy doing barn chores and feeding animals at that time, but my husband was home, so I decided to let him deal with it.  Next thing we knew, the repairman called to say that he would be showing up around 1:00 PM.  I had to feed the dogs their lunch super fast, take them outside to do their business, and then herd them into a back room with a bowl of water and a fan.  Of course, I forgot the most important thing, which was to cover Midge's open tumor with a bandage.  Since I forgot, Scrappy licked it to death and any fighting chance Midge had of getting skin growth to cover it up was now gone and sitting in Scrappy's digestive tract.   This happens every time we have someone come to our house.  You'd think I'd learn from it, but I don't.

The repairman fixed the problem, which was a water hose that was pointed in the wrong direction. It was spraying water all over the ice box, and then the water would freeze, and none of the mechanical parts could move to make, crush, and dispense ice.  He told us that this was a manufacturer's defect.  Argh!  We bought one of the most expensive refrigerators on earth!  How can it have such a dumb defect?

Anyway, the repairman then wanted to give us the bill.  I showed him my receipt for a 5 year warranty and told him that Lowe's customer service told me I would not have to pay for any of it.  The repairman said he couldn't get into their system to correct it since it was the weekend, and he would need us to call them to have them correct it on Monday.  Argh!  Like I've got time for this.

So, I called them and went through their routing process again and answered the twenty questions that had nothing to do with my reason for calling, and finally got to the part where I got to tell them why I was calling.  Fortunately, the person I got connected with spoke English well and immediately understood what was going on.  He corrected it, but then put me on hold for five minutes while he called another department to make sure that they were on the same page and did not bill me for the service.  So, another small chunk of my life was lost to fixing problems caused by other people.

My point is that sometimes customer service reps and people in the medical industry need to just shut up and listen, and then they would save everybody some time.  Especially when it comes to my health, I'm tired of being misunderstood and being treated for the wrong thing, or having to spend hours correcting clerical errors that could have resulted in me either being treated for the wrong health problem or not being treated at all when I desperately need treatment.

I'm continually astounded by how many things get screwed up thanks to processes and procedures put into place by people who make assumptions and don't consider special cases.  We are headed into this society where everything is treated like it is black or white with no gray area in between.  People who answer phones are trained to follow a script, and if my reason for calling is not within the range of their script, I blow their minds and they don't know what to do.  That's sad.  Employees should be encouraged to use their brains, not be limited to automated responses.  If automated responses are what the employer wants, then he may as well use a machine instead of a human being to communicate with clients.


Sorry for jumping around among so many topics.  I've been working on this post over a period of several days between taking the dogs out and going to appointments.  I'll hit publish before I think of another story.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Two Horse Tack Breast Collar with Bling

Rock got a new Two Horse Tack western breast collar with bling to match his bridle and reins.

He was happy to model it, but a little perplexed over why we didn't go for a trail ride after I got him dressed.

Sorry, Rock.  I don't ride horses in triple-digit temperatures.

"But I'm all dressed up with nowhere to go, Mom."

I am looking forward to riding him in it and see how it helps keep the saddle in place on hills.

The breast collar is fully adjustable from all three branches, and has scissor clips on all three ends as well.  I love scissor clips.  They save so much time.  Two Horse Tack also provides a girth loop in place of the clips for people who have girths without D-rings.  You can choose between no rust stainless steel or brass hardware.

I'm thinking I will also try it with Gabbrielle to see if the breast collar helps keep the saddle from sliding down her side when she sucks in right as I mount.  That's her favorite trick, but I'm tired of falling on my rump.

If it weren't so hot outside, I would have done photo shoot with her too.  Just holding the breast collar up to her, I could see that white with blue jewels looks awesome on a grey horse with freckles.

Rock kept following me around like a puppy dog, so we got some close ups.

I just noticed in the picture above that Rock slid the bit all the way over to the left side of his mouth so that the joint is showing.  I didn't know he could do that.  Hmmm.  He's multi-talented, I guess.  It makes me wonder if he sucked the entire D-ring into his mouth.  The bit really isn't that wide.  I guess I'd better tighten the cheek pieces on the bridle.  Give a horse a centimeter and he'll take ten miles.  Ha ha!

I also see that I probably could have either tightened the bottom strap on the breast collar or clipped it further back on the cinch.  I think the center ring is supposed to sit lower too, all of which can be done.  I was distracted by my camera malfunction and didn't pay close attention to how I fit the tack on him.

Two Horse Tack has both Beta Biothane and leather tack items.  If you look at the main western breast collar page on their website, you'll see that there are many creative choices for designing your tack.  You can choose a solid color or two colors layered together, bling, reflective Day Glo, camouflage, or leather.  They can provide over the neck straps, matching tie downs, and tie down rings.

If you look at the general breast collar page, you'll see that they have English, western, jumping breast collars, and one piece breast straps.

If you aren't in the market for horse tack, they also have dog collars and leashes.

Rock had no problem reaching around to scratch an itch on his side...

I have no doubt that the breast collar is comfortable for him.  It beats the hot and heavy lamb's wool and synthetic breast collar I've had for years.  When I moved from a cold climate to a hot one, I swapped out my thick sweaters for lightweight sleeveless blouses.  I should probably do the same for my horses.

He looks like a parade horse now.

So pretty.  As far as cleaning goes, they say that soap and water should do the trick, but you can also run this tack through your washing machine inside a laundry bag or pillowcase, or on the top rack of your dishwasher with no dry cycle.

If you would like to sign up for the Two Horse Tack Newsletter, you can do that by clicking on the link.

This coupon for 10% off is still good for any item in the store...

Monday, June 5, 2017

Waiting For My New Reality

It turns out that the new Bermuda grass bales I bought for the horses to get them eating again are even worse quality than the bales I bought in bulk.  I guess it's just impossible to get good quality local hay this time of year.  I may have to outsource and buy my grass hay from out of state.  But first, I've got to figure out what to do with all this crappy local hay to make room in the hay barn for something edible.  The hay I bought at the feed store had zero moisture in its packing process, so as soon as I cut the bales open, the hay fell into one heap of dried blades of grass.  The only way to pick it up is to rake the grass onto a blanket or pick up dozens of arm loads and dump them into a wheelbarrow.  The wheelbarrow only holds enough loose hay for one horse, so I have to make multiple trips back and forth to the barn.  Feeding time takes forever in triple digit temperatures, and then the majority of the hay blows away in the wind.

I like properly packed hay that is sliced evenly and appropriately, so that I can pick up two slices at a time, and make just two trips back and forth between the horse barn and the hay barn, carrying two flakes at a time in my arms without any of it falling to the ground.  Hay that is sliced too thin breaks apart and requires multiple slices for one horse.  Hay that is sliced too thick is impossible to carry and impossible to break into smaller servings.  Hay that has no moisture in it blows away in the wind and cannot be carried in the arms at all.  Another option until the crops improve would be for me to just feed hay pellets, but that requires several trips between the tack room and the horse barn, which is even a longer distance.

If I were confronted with these feeding issues in the middle of winter, it wouldn't bother me because the weather and temperatures are nice, but for some reason I only get hit with them in the hottest months of the year when every step I take puts me closer to heat stroke.

I've been training the horses to stay out of their stalls while I'm cleaning up manure, because I don't want them kicking those nice, neat piles around and making it twice as hard for me to clean up.  The name of the game in the summer months is to get the work done as quickly as possible before I die.  So, I carry the long whip with me to keep the horses away.

This morning Lostine was being a pill, running around in every stall, mashing down and kicking around all the piles of manure, instead of just leaving the barn like I asked.  So, I yelled at her and chased her out by cracking the whip, only to have all the horses stop and point at something over by my round pen.  I didn't see anything, so I just kept cleaning up manure.  When I finished and said "okay" to each horse individually to let it into its stall, Gabbrielle ran to the gate of the barn and continued pointing.  It was like she was saying, "See, Mom?  There really is something over there.  You need to look harder."

Considering that it was 5:30 in the morning and 85 degrees outside, I figured it had to be an animal.  I looked harder and was shocked to see a human sized creature moving around in the bushes.  I had to stare a long time to figure out what it was, but every time I looked, the creature would freeze and try to hide.  So, I pretended to go back to work cleaning up manure, hoping it would come out from behind the bushes.

When it came out into the open, I saw that it was a woman wearing a dress with a camel hair coat draped over her shoulders and a church hat to match.  She appeared to be weeding the back yard of a house that has been vacant for weeks, because she kept bending over and picking up stuff off the ground.  WTH?  Who wears a camel hair coat when its 85 degrees outside?  I was wearing a sleeveless shirt and I was dripping sweat and the sun hadn't even come out yet.  Also, who weeds a stranger's back yard at 5:30 in the morning?  She obviously wasn't planning on weeding since she was wearing a dress.  I wondered if me yelling at Lostine attracted her attention, and she came over to investigate, and was just pretending to weed while keeping an eye on me.  None of this made sense.  I kept an eye on her, and she slowly worked her way across the lot of the vacant house, and into the yard of another neighbor.  Did she live there?  I don't know.  I'll have to keep an eye out for Silver Alerts.

Usually, I have my privacy in the summer since not many people in my neighborhood live here year round, and those who do, tend to hibernate indoors with their air conditioning.  That is why I feel comfortable talking to and yelling at my horses.  I know no one can hear me, but this time I was wrong.  To people who know nothing about training horses, I can come across as being overly aggressive.  I have been known to chase them around with a whip and yell at them, but I never hit them with the whip, and the yelling is my back up cue in case I don't have my whip.  If they associate my yelling tone of voice with being chased with a whip, they'll eventually just respond to my voice.  My voice is something I should always have with me.  There is a method behind my madness, but to a nosy observer peering into my back yard (and we all know I get a lot of those), I appear to be beating my horses out of anger.  I'm fully expecting animal control officers to show up at my house some day telling me they received a complaint over how I treat my horses.

Now that I am crippled and can't actually run and chase my horses anymore, I need all the leverage I can get.  My consistency has gotten them to a point where they now know that as soon as they see me waddle up with my cane and touch the whip, they had better get out of the barn.  Some days, not all days, I can move them out with just my tone of voice and body language.  That's what I'm aiming for.  If I don't push them out, they'll walk all over me, step on my feet, grab my cane away from me, knock me down, and poop on me.

Yesterday morning we had a nice breeze and my leg was more mobile than usual, so I dressed Rock up for a photo shoot, which you will see in a future post.  I got him into the round pen, pushed the power button on my point and shoot camera, and nothing happened.  The battery was totally dead.  Because of the way I had Rock dressed, I had no way of tying him up, and I had just spent an hour grooming him, so I didn't want him to roll.  I was trying to figure out how I could get back to the house to get my other camera without having him roll and without having to undress him.  My leg was starting to hurt, and I knew that if I did hike all the way back to the house, I might not be able to make it back to do the photo shoot with Rock.  I know the signs of when my leg is on the verge of releasing intense pain and I have to be careful not to exacerbate it.  I was in a pickle.

I ended up "fake tying" him by draping one end of a lead rope around a railing and wrapping the other end loosely around his neck.  Then I said, "STAY!"

STAY is another command I've been working on with the horses.  Sometimes I need them to hold still and not follow me around.

Then I limped to the tack room, grabbed my phone, and called my husband in the house asking him to bring my camera equipment.  Turned out he wasn't dressed yet, so I returned to Rock, untied him, and just let him follow me around the round pen until my husband arrived with my camera bag.  I forgot to ask him to bring my reading glasses so that I could dial in the correct settings on the professional camera.  I decided to just trust that I could use whatever settings the camera was on last.  If not, I'd live and learn, redo the photo shoot another day when I've taken the time to check the condition of all my cameras while wearing reading glasses.  There are many reasons why I don't practice photography anymore.  Too many details to remember.  Something as simple as me not checking the battery levels or not packing my reading glasses can bring a shoot to a screeching halt.  It's one thing if I inconvenience myself with my forgetfulness, but it's another to inconvenience a paying customer.

Rock was so adorable during the photo shoot.  He kept following me around saying, "Aren't you going to ride me?  Let's go play!"

I said, "Sorry, Rock.  I couldn't mount you if I tried, and in another 15 minutes it's going to be too hot to be out of the shade."

He's such a little kid.  He doesn't seem to notice that it's uncomfortable outside.  He just wants to go on trail rides every chance he gets.

I've been having a new problem with my leg in which the muscles seem to get hung up on each other and I can't either bend or straighten out my knee.  Previously, I was just having trouble lifting my leg from the hip, which meant that I had to lift my leg with my hands to get it in and out of cars and on and off horses' backs.  Now the knee is not cooperating.  I suspect I need a knee replacement surgery.  I injured that knee a few years ago when some driver honked his horn because he thought the girl I was riding with was cute, and that sent Bombay flying down the side of the road bucking into a cactus patch.  I had to do an emergency dismount before he bucked me off in the cacti, and I came down on my right leg and slipped on loose dirt, hyper-extending my right knee.  Now that I'm getting older, it's falling apart.

I'm hoping that once all this heat goes away in October, my leg will get better with less factors lending themselves to inflammation, but if not, I'm hoping there will be some surgery or medication that can extend the number of years I have left to ride horses.  If nothing can be done, I'm going to have to sell all of my horses because it's really hard taking care of them while hopping around on one leg.  I'm not looking forward to that day.  I've always thought I'd have all of these horses until they pass away.  It never occurred to me that I would lose the use of my leg and have to find new homes for them.  Especially not at the age of 52.  Right now I'm in a state of denial telling myself this is temporary, and if I hire a helper to feed and groom horses and clean stalls over the summer, my leg will be rested enough to ride in the fall.  I don't know if that's the reality or not.  I have to see how physical therapy goes and get in to see an orthopedist, who will have to run more tests in order to know what to recommend to fix it.  That could take all summer.  So, I'm in another waiting game.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

May into June

I love it when I first turn the page on the calendar and see a blank slate in the month ahead of me.  I dream about all the things I've been wanting to do, but had to keep pushing onto the back burner.  Then usually within 48 hours, my calendar is full.  I can't logically explain how it happens.  I think part of it is that I realize that I have time to set up appointments for things I've been neglecting, and then as soon as I do, other people start calling me and sending me text messages and emails informing me that me or my pets or my vehicles are due for this or that.  Next thing I know, I don't even have time to eat or go to the bathroom because I have to be somewhere doing something every morning and every afternoon of every single day.

Lately, I've been neglecting myself.  I know this sounds ridiculous, but I've been waiting to feel well enough to see the doctor.  Usually, you are supposed to go to the doctor when you are sick, but I've been in too much pain to suffer through a car ride, sit in a waiting room, and then sit in an examining room.  This weekend I felt well enough to go to those horse clinics, and I was just waiting for the holiday to end so that the doctor's office would be open.  I keep having relapses, so I've resigned myself to believing that this latest ailment will never end without medical intervention.  I'm usually of the mindset that if I ignore something annoying long enough, it will go away, but this particular problem was a clinger.  I decided that since I have to see the doctor about this, I'm also going to ask for a referral to see a physical therapist about my arthritic leg.  The summer heat pretty much inflames everything and makes it difficult for me to walk.

Sure enough, as soon as I set up that appointment with my general practitioner, another doctor's office called to to say that I was overdue for an appointment.  I ignored that call.  I have to address what my problem is now.  Preventative medicine is a luxury to me, and I don't have time for it anymore.

I'm expecting this to be a hard summer because the heat exacerbates everything including causing mechanical things to break down, causing plastic items to rot and crack and require replacing, causing my dogs and horses to get sick, and causing me to feel more pain, and all of those situations were already pushing my limits before the heat came on the scene.  Scrappy got sick after I took him in to see the vet last week.  This happens to both of my older dogs every time I take them in to see the vet.  They instantly start vomiting and get diarrhea.  I don't know if it is stress, or that the vet's office is not clean and they are picking up bacterial or viral infections, or if it is reactions to the vet giving them new medications or changing the dosages of their existing medications.  All I know is that it makes life really hard on me.  It's frustrating going to a vet or doctor to get help, and coming out in worse condition than when you went in.

My doctor gave me some samples of a medicine to try to fix my most recent ailment, and I have to report back to him in a couple of weeks to let him know if the medication helped.  He also ordered tests, ordered physical therapy 3x a week, and ordered me to see a orthopedist.  So, now my entire summer is filled with medical appointments.  I miss the good old days when you saw one doctor one time and you were fixed.  Of course, my health problems were a lot simpler back then.  When I saw him, my body temp was low, my blood pressure was ridiculously high, and I somehow managed to gain 15 pounds despite me hardly eating anything beyond crackers and applesauce these past few weeks.  I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.

I'd been monitoring my blood pressure regularly before I got sick, and it was always perfect.  All I could figure out was that the pain was raising it, but it didn't make sense that it would raise it that much.  My blood pressure is normally around 118/70 with the help of medication, however on the day of my doctor's appointment, it was 155/90.  I thought it had to be a false reading, so I took it again later in the afternoon, and it was still up there.  So, I thought things through and remembered that when my pain was at its worst, I had to refill my pill dispenser, but I was in too much pain to walk to the other side of the house to get my reading glasses to read the labels on the pill bottles.  I tried to remember the size and color of each pill while sorting them, but I must have screwed up and switched out some blood pressure pills for something else like allergy pills.  So, that's one reason to take my pain seriously.  I could have caused myself to have a stroke because of that oversight.

I have a new problem in which I can't stay awake, so I started nodding off while sitting in the examining room waiting for the doctor to come in.  I had a thought that I should write down all of my symptoms, because I won't remember to tell him everything once we get talking.  But before I could pull a pad of paper and pen out of my purse, I smelled my mother sitting next to me.  She had a distinct smell when she was alive, and nothing can reproduce that smell.  I thought, "Wow.  Things must be bad if my mother is visiting me in spirit.  I haven't heard from her in a long time."  Then I fell asleep.

I don't know how much longer it was, but the doctor walked in and said, "Sorry to wake you."

Of course, since I never wrote down my symptoms, I forgot to talk to him about my vertigo and not being able to stay awake.  However, now I suspect all of that was related to my high blood pressure.  I guess I'll have to wait for the blood work to come back to find out why I had a low grade fever.  Hopefully, if the physical therapist can fix my leg, I can start exercising without pain and lose some of that weight.

I think I walked out of the examining room prematurely, because I remember the doctor was still asking me questions as I was walking down the hall.  I was in such a daze.  He yelled out, "How has your stress level been?"

I thought, "Well, I'm not working outside the home, so it can't be that bad."  So I told him it was good.  Then I got home and had to start dealing with taking the dogs outside every few minutes, cleaning up messes, changing diapers, etc., all the while my phone was ringing and people were leaving messages asking me to do them favors, and I thought, "Who am I fooling?  My stress level is through the roof."

My doctor's office is in an upper class neighborhood, but there are mentally ill homeless people who hang out near the medical building.  When I limped out to my truck, one man was screaming cuss words angrily at some imaginary person.  He was swinging his arms around wildly, like he was fighting him.  Then he looked at me with such rage that I ran to my truck, jumped in and locked the door behind me.  The man then began pacing back and forth in the parking lot entrance screaming bad words.  I had to wait for him to get off the driveway so that I could leave without having another run in with him.  That really shook me up.  I wish there was help for these kinds of people.  I know that the doctor's office will let them sit in the air conditioned waiting room if they are quiet, and give them water, but they really need to be on medication and have a permanent roof over their heads.

My daughter recently moved and was putting her bed up for sale, so I offered to buy it with the option for her to take it back if she needs it in the future.  We have this small bedroom in the back of our house that has only had a twin bed in it.  Whenever my son and his other half come to visit, they try sleeping in various locations, but are never comfortable.  So, I thought that swapping out the twin bed for a full bed might help with that issue.

We discovered that in order to get the bigger bed to fit, we'd have to remove some existing furniture.  I figured that since we have to move things around to make room for the bed, I may as well get that room set up the way I need it for my sewing and crafting hobbies.  My husband removed a big, bulky desk and hutch that no one was using, and I was able to get my two utility tables in there with all my sewing machines and serger.  I was also able to move all of the containers I had with other sewing supplies into the room.  That way I don't have to waste precious energy and time going back and forth between two rooms to get what I need.  The only thing I know for sure that won't make it into that room is my fabric stash.

Handling this project has been difficult between my body not cooperating and the dogs being sick.  We literally couldn't get one small task done without Scrappy running from room to room leaving squirts in every corner as he went.  He knows we get annoyed having to constantly take him out, so he waits until we aren't paying attention, and he poops in the house and uses the carpet as toilet paper.

We get so exhausted cleaning up his messes and standing outside with him on a leash that we have to rest.  Then once we are re-energized and get up to start moving furniture or organizing stuff, the whole fiasco starts again.  Now, even one of the horses has diarrhea.  I wish I knew what exactly was causing all of this, because I feel like I've been stuck in this cycle of cleaning up yuck non-stop for the past few months.  I haven't tested the water yet, but have ordered an at-home testing kit.  First, I wanted to change the filters to see if that made a difference, but it didn't.  Right now I've got to get myself functioning and get the dogs contained long enough for me to get something done.

I still haven't gotten my hair cut and dyed, so it's a rat's nest of gray tangles.  I had to postpone my appointment when I was sick, and have been playing telephone tag with the hair stylist ever since.  I finally decided to not use that salon since they don't have a receptionist.  It pisses me off when it takes up more of my time to set up the appointment than it does to show up and get it done.  I think I will just go into the city, even though it's a long drive.  My neighborhood is getting so depressed that the businesses are taking shortcuts that affect the customers negatively.  I don't know how the businesses can be struggling, because every year the snowbird population grows to the point where I can't even get any services or get into businesses while they are here.  It seems like they've got too many customers, yet they can't afford to hire receptionists and stock their shelves.  We have a new shopping center being built down the road, so hopefully that will breathe new life into the area.

It's been a week and a half since the horses' dental work was done, and both Lostine and Bombay still are not eating.  I wish I hadn't been in pain and hadn't gone in the house to lie down, because I want to know what went on.  Did the horses bleed a lot from their mouths?  Is this a reaction to their vaccines?  Is the heat affecting their appetites?  Or is it that they just hate this hay?  I hope I will feel well enough today to get to the feed store to buy different hay.  They've been living off of supplements alone.  This morning I didn't feed them the supplements to see if they would be hungry enough to eat the hay, but they turned their noses up to it.  When I can't do anything, it makes me realize just how much I normally do.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

My Mane Event Experience

When I first saw ads for The Mane Event Equine Education and Trade Fair in Scottsdale, I was excited and confused.  I thought I had researched it a while back, and it did not take place anywhere near me.  After going to the website, I saw that this was the 1st Annual Mane Event in Scottsdale.  That explains it.  It originated in British Columbia and has been slowly spreading around Canada and the United States since 2004.

I managed to make it out to the event on Saturday while my husband stayed at home to care for the animals, which freed me up to enjoy the whole day.  I usually avoid driving on the 101 freeway at all costs, because every time that I do, there is a really bad car accident that keeps me stuck at a standstill for hours.  One year I arrived at the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show just as it was getting dark out and everyone was going home, because I got stuck in a traffic snarl caused by an accident.  The next time I attempted to attend that horse show in Scottsdale, I took the mountain roads to avoid the freeway, and got lost.

This time, there was an SUV flipped over on its side with its roof up against the center wall divider on the freeway.  Firefighters and police were trying to get to the people inside.  I hope they were okay.  This happened on the other side of the freeway from me, so I only had to deal with everyone slowing down to gawk, but I knew the longer I stayed at the event before attempting to come home, the better.  They'd need a lot of time to clear that wreck.

I suspect a lot of accidents in the Phoenix area are caused by blown tires.  You just can't drive on old or bald tires in this heat.  In fact, I saw on Warwick Schiller's Facebook page that he blew a tire on his way to WestWorld.

I find driving in Scottsdale to be frightening.  There are a lot of wealthy people, including sports stars and other celebrities, who seem to think they are above the law, so they race around in their rare sports cars and luxury cars at 80 to 120 mph in 65 mph zones wreaking havoc.  I feel safer in the ghetto.  I wish it were easier to get to WestWorld.  On the way home, there was a student driver near me.  I stayed with him for a while, using my truck to guide and shield him from all the insanity around us, but after a while, he started being a hazard for me by cutting me off and braking abruptly, swerving into the side of my truck, etc., that I sped up to get away from him.  As soon as I got off the 101, everything relaxed.

But back to the event...

It was considerably smaller than what I was used to with the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, which uses almost all the arenas in the WestWorld.  The Mane Event had a small round pen surrounded by bleachers in the vendor area, two speaking areas with fold-up chairs in the vendor area, and they were using one indoor arena and one outdoor arena.  It was kind of nice, because I could move from area to area pretty quickly while trying to decide which presentation appealed to me the most.

Since the population of Arizona is at its maximum between January and March, with most snowbirds leaving by April, the turnout was sparse at the end of May.  Again, I liked it, because I didn't have to work hard to find a seat or get into the bathroom.  I could walk around without bumping into other people.  It was a relaxing and pleasant experience.  I suspect that once the word gets out, future shows will be busier.

I did think that charging for parking was a mistake, as the price to get in was too high when you consider that the majority of the show was vendor booths, which you have to buy stuff from, and you are forced to buy food from vendors at the show, who charge way too much.  Many of the vendor booths were high end products that the average Joe cannot afford -- custom made hats for hundreds of dollars and handmade one-of-a-kind saddles that were a work of art.  If you are a newbie to horses, the clinics can be very educational and worth the highway robbery, but like at most clinics, the clinicians only have enough time to scratch the surface for the rest of us.

There was a trainers colt starting competition that took place in sessions over a period of three days.  I started out by watching a few of those sessions.  Apparently, the day before, several of the competitors got bucked off.  While I was walking through the vendor booths, a little 3-year-old boy was calling out to me from a booth.  I went over to see what he was saying.  He asked me if I wanted a sticker.  I said, "Oh, no thank you.  I'm having a hard enough time carrying what I've got."

He said something else I couldn't understand, so I looked at the young woman who was with him for translation.  I'm assuming she was either his mother or babysitter.  She was filming him with her mobile phone and laughing at everything he was saying.  I started to walk away when the boy called out, "Do you play Jenga?"

I said, "No, I don't.  Do you?"

He got a dissatisfied look on his face and walked around the table without answering.  Then he picked up a sticker and began peeling that back off it.  His mother was laughing really hard now.  She said, "He's going to make you take one anyway."

He walked up to me and surveyed me.  He started to put the sticker on my walking cane, but changed his mind since the surface space was too small.  His head came up to my hip, so he didn't have a lot of choices on where to stick it.  He ended up sticking it to my thigh.  I burst out laughing and said, "Well, that solves my problem, doesn't it?"

I suspect that incident will end up somewhere on the Internet, because it was just too cute.  I realized later that he was saying, "Why don't you wear it?" after I protested that I didn't want to carry anything else.  I looked up at the name on the banner above the booth and saw that it was colt starting competitor Brendon Clark's booth.  I said, "Is this Brendon's son?"

The woman nodded.  I told her Brendon did a good job in the competition.  He's originally from Australia and is a professional bull rider, team roper and calf roper.  I walked around the rest of the day with that CINCH sticker on my thigh.  I forgot about it and kept wondering why everyone was looking down at my legs.  Ha ha!  I didn't know what I was even advertising until I got home and looked it up.  Men's western clothing and accessories!

There were a couple of time slots during the day where they had two or more clinicians I wanted to see teaching simultaneously in different locations.  I ended up having to watch whoever was in the main arena, because my back was hurting after hours of sitting in bleachers, and I needed the seat backs in the box seats that the arena provided.  At the Scottdale Arabian Horse Show, those box seats are reserved, so it was nice that anyone was able to sit there at The Mane Event.

In addition to the trainers colt starting competition, I watched two problem solving clinics by Warwick Schiller, a saddle fitting clinic by DK Saddlery, a dressage clinic by Nicholas Fyffe, and a barrel racing clinic by Storme Camarillo.  I peeked in on one of Pat Parelli's clinics, but I've been to so many of his and Linda's clinics that I almost know what they say verbatim.

There were several clinics I peeked in on, but ended up leaving mainly because I don't like it when clinicians try to convince everyone that they are the experts by putting down, insulting, and making fun of other people.  I saw several clinicians telling stories about how wrong other people were and how right they themselves were, attacking past clinic attendees and Facebook fans over questions they asked or statements they made or things they did, and then when the clinicians asked if anyone had any questions at this clinic, you could hear crickets chirp.  Gee, I wonder why the audience didn't want to get involved.  Here's an idea:  If you give respect, you get respect.  Bolstering your own ego by talking about how stupid other people are and bragging about how brilliant or how right you are is never attractive nor convincing.  This is a trait I see in a lot of horse people that I find to be distasteful.

It is imperative that horse trainers and equitation instructors understand that they would not be in business if there weren't people with less experience and less knowledge than them.  We are all evolving and growing in our knowledge, and when someone is new to some arena of learning, they are essentially the equivalent of being a newborn baby.  How many of us would call a newborn baby "stupid" or "an idiot"?  No one.  So, why do adults have to put up with this abuse when attempting to learn something new?  I know it's got to be frustrating having to repeat yourself all the time and answer the same questions when you are a teacher, but that's your job.  If you don't have the patience to deal with repetition, it may be time to choose a different career.

Sorry, that's just something I had to put out there.  Food for thought for people working in the horse industry.  I find that a lot of trainers have all the patience in the world for the horses they work with, but very little patience for the people who own those horses.  However, they must realize that it ultimately benefits the horse if the owner learns from the trainer by being taught in a respectful, patient manner.

I enjoyed Storme's clinic.  She was so adorable and positive about everything.  At one point, when working with a rider, she said, "Your horse is trying to poop.  Keep going.  He can trot and poop at the same time.  I wouldn't want to try it myself, though."

Then she burst out laughing and said, "Who says that?  Right?"

The only person she made fun of was herself.  I loved it.

I only had my mobile phone with me, so this was the best I could do for pictures in an indoor arena.  Obviously, barrel racing is nowhere in my future since I can't even walk or mount a horse most days, but it was interesting getting a glimpse into the world of barrel racing and the types of maneuvers that need to be practiced to prepare for competitions.

Warwick Schiller's clinics were why I attended the event.  He has a wonderful way of communicating without a lot of repetition.  He completes his thoughts even if the horse does something to interrupt him.  If he does repeat a point, he finds a new way to illustrate it or say it.  He shows us as well as telling us.

Warwick Schiller on Bundy and Robyn on Petey

He gave a talk on what he calls "direction addiction" for those of us who have horses who go slow in the direction they don't want to go in and fast in the ones they do.  He said, "Choose where you work and choose where you rest."

The new-to-me phrase that I hope to remember every time I ride that he said was "First, you go with your horse.  Then he goes with you.  Then you go together."

In other words, if you have a barn or buddy sour horse who balks when heading out on a trail ride and tries to turn around to head back to the barn, let him head back.  Go with him.  Once you get to the barn or wherever he wants to be, work him hard.  Trot him circles.

Then ask him to go with you where you want to go.  He'll be more willing if you walk him in a straight line and let him rest at your chosen destination.  Soon you'll be going together instead of fighting each other.

He gave a demonstration on how to handle horses who get overexcited about being around other horses on group rides.  He recommends that you start in an arena with a seasoned horse and willing rider visiting.  He recognizes that not everyone can find a willing rider with a seasoned horse to help (Lytha -- this is for you...), so he made a humorous suggestion.

He said that next time you are out on the trail and your horse gets excited over seeing another horse, let him head over to the other horse, and start circling the other horse and rider while saying hello, introducing yourself, and chatting it up.  Just keep your horse's feet moving and don't stop and stand to let him rest.  The other rider will never know that you just used her and her horse to train your horse.  Once your horse learns that it always has to work around other horses, and gets to rest when moving away from them, he'll lost interest in the other horses along the trail.

After he offered that suggestion, I realized that someone did that to me once.  I ran into a group of four horseback riders in front of my house, and when I rode up to chat with them, one woman started circling her horse next to me, and then rode away and let her horse stand still at a distance while I talked to her husband.  She yelled out a few things to me from a distance, but wouldn't come close to talk.  At the time, I thought maybe her horse kicks out at or bites strange horses, but maybe she was just choosing to work her horse near me and choosing to let him rest away from me and my horse.

I know that I always come to a stop when I meet up with other riders, and we let our horses rest while we chat.  That's probably contributing to my horses being so excitable around other horses.  They not only get to meet a new friend, but they get to rest.  Although, in Bombay's case, I think he's mostly worried about where he will end up in the pecking order whenever a new horse comes onto the scene.  He expects to get his butt kicked, so he panics when he sees other horses.  This lesson definitely pertains to Rock, though.

Back to the visiting seasoned horse in the arena... you want to let your horse greet it, but keep its feet moving.  As soon as your horse stops paying attention to the other horse, walk off in a straight line, stop, and let him rest away from the horse.  As soon as he perks his ears up and looks at that other horse or gravitates toward it, go right back to it, and keep your horse's feet moving.  Start with the visiting horse at a stand still, then have it walk, then have it trot, then have it canter, and do fly bys.  Challenge your horse to pay attention to it and make him work near it every time he does.

He wrapped up his clinic by telling us, "If you are thorough, you don't have to be brave."