Thursday, October 30, 2014

Good Boy

The theme of this morning's horseback ride was encouragement.  As I was trying to mount Rock, a bee kept trying to land on either him or me.  It was persistent and obnoxious.  When I saw it trying to land on Rock's eye, I swatted it away and made it angry.  I began leading Rock all over the place to get away from the bee, but it just kept following us and landing on us.  I was probably getting as angry as the bee, because I just want to go for a trail ride and the pesky bee wouldn't let me mount my horse.  So, I took him behind the horse trailer and stood very still, and the bee finally moved on.  I gave Rock a ton of praise so that he would understand that I was irritated with the bee and not him.  He was being a good boy by letting me drag him all over the place in a seemingly aimless manner.

It feels that each time I ride a horse, he or she develops some new bad habit that I have to figure out how to break.  On this ride, Rock kept leaning toward home.  If home was to our left, he leaned to the left of the trail and tried to take any break in the bushes as an opportunity to turn toward home.  If home was to our right, he leaned, pushed and turned to the right.  I had to use my legs and reins a lot more than usual...

So, instead of taking a route that I enjoy because of the scenery and terrain, I just rode him around home.  Each time I turned him toward home, he rushed.  Once we got to the trail to home, we struggled to each go our own way, but I always won by turning him away from home.  One time he did turn away from home, but stopped and refused to budge since he didn't get his way.  So, he was reminded that I was wearing spurs.

With each time I turned him away from home, he got better about just going with the flow, and with each time I turned him toward home, he did better about keeping a consistent pace and not rushing, so I stroked his neck a lot and said, "Good boy."

He learned that there was no point in rushing when I turned him toward home, because the chances were that we weren't going home anyway.  We were just going to either turn around and head back out or ride right past it.

Once home, he mouthed me and looked at me expectantly.  Then I realized that the bad behavior of pushing toward home at the beginning of the ride was my fault.  The last time I rode him, I rewarded him with treats at the end of our ride.  That's all it took.  A one-time treat, and now the horse can't get it off his mind.  Even after I removed his halter, he wouldn't budge from where I left him at the gate, because he felt like the process wasn't over.  He was still waiting for a food reward.  He got pets and pats and praise instead.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Introducing My Second Suspense Novel

Iris Weber's psychic powers and skills of mediumship have been developing and growing stronger throughout her lifetime. After finding some missing items, missing people, and the remnants of crimes, Iris overcomes her fear of being a "person of interest" and puts the victims ahead of herself by using her knowledge to help detectives solve their cases. Along with her ability to stun and amaze others with her accuracy, comes the flame of fame. Iris hits the talk show circuit, writes books, and finds herself securely employed and scheduled with readings over a year in advance. Her grounded husband Will is the first to point out when she's letting her fame go to her head, and her personal assistant Sara isn't afraid to let Iris know when she's letting it affect the quality of her work. When Iris's beloved mother Beverly passes away, all the clarity Iris had experienced before becomes muddled, not allowing her to sense that she has a very dangerous man stalking her, and he is intent on putting an end to her glory days.

The book is available in the following locations:

Amazon's ebook for the Kindle and PC

Smashwords ebook in multiple formats

Sunday, October 26, 2014

On the Trail with Lostine

Lostine and I finally made it out for our trail ride in mid-afternoon when all the activity in the neighborhood settled down.  I'm actually glad that our morning ride got thwarted, because it was cooler in the afternoon with cloud cover and a nice breeze.

Lostine was cruising along in a relaxed manner right up until she sensed something off in the distance...

...hence the tightening of the reins.

Then, while she was busy alerting on whatever she sensed, someone in a house nearby began banging buckets around, and that sent her into a bit of a tailspin.  She tried running for home, but I stopped her.  Each time she broke out of the walk into a jig or trot, I made her stand still.  She caught on quick and returned to her relaxed walk.

We ended up spending more time on the trails than I intended, because each time we came to a split in the trail, Lostine tried to commandeer our route and head for home.  And each time she did that, I made her take the trail away from home.  I had to keep doing that until she let me choose which trail we could take home.

Otherwise, I was really impressed with her efforts to tackle varying terrains.  There was a lot of tripping and one time we went down on her knees when she caught her hoof on a sandy ledge, but you can bet that she started paying closer attention to where she was putting her feet after that.

She was really responsive to my leg pressure to push her sideways to avoid rocks and cholla balls.  I think about all the years I've put in riding her and how long it took to get to this point where this mare will allow me to ride her, will follow my directions, and will do it without copping an attitude or attempting to buck me off, and it truly is amazing.  I think the only thing that saves my butt when riding this horse is our relationship.

Breaking in the Round Pen Footing

I was in the mood for a trail ride this morning before it got too hot.  I was only mildly ill, so I thought I could handle it.  I was going to take Lostine out for a ride on the trails, but right when I was about to put the saddle pad on, this truck hauling a long horse trailer pulled up in front of my house, and out came some bouncing, barking, loose dogs.  I was familiar with this couple from last year.  They are snowbirds who found our nice, quiet street and started the habit of trailering here to ride every weekend.  I don't mind that, but the loose dogs are another story.  While their horses are very well behaved, these people let their dogs run all over the neighborhood peeing and crapping in everyone's yards, so I doubt they would be considerate enough to call their dogs off my horses.

Due to the irresponsible dog owners, I decided it would be wise to put off trail riding for a couple of hours.  I decided to ride Gabbrielle in the round pen so that we could break in the new, mushy footing.  Gabbrielle is my best watch horse, alerting on anything and everything that moves.  While she doesn't misbehave, it can be disconcerting when her head shoots straight up into the air and she puffs her chest out to exert her power over trespassers.  You get this sense that she wants to charge them and attack them.  So, I worked on encouraging her to carry her head low and stop gawking.

She's a cinchy mare and gives you snotty, threatening looks when you first attach the cinch.  So, I slowly tightened the cinch while walking her around, but it proved to not be enough.  I tried shifting the saddle on her back before mounting and it wouldn't budge.  However, as soon as I put all my weight in the stirrup to mount, she let all the air out of her lungs and loosened her muscles, and the saddle slid right down her side while I scrambled to climb onto her back.  I couldn't get back down because the mounting stool was in the way and I couldn't see where I was putting my feet.  That's why mounting blocks or platforms are so much better.  You can just hop down onto them if you have to abort the mount, but with the stool, I only have a few inches of platform to land on.  I have no experience dismounting onto a stool.  I dismount onto the ground.

So, I climbed into half a saddle, because the other half was hanging on my horse's side.  I squeezed her forward to get away from the stool, and then did a bareback dismount.  I'd swear that Gabbrielle was laughing at me.  The stunt was very intentional on her part.  It turned out that with all the air out and her muscles relaxed, the cinch could be tightened another six holes.

It's stuff like this that I need to learn about her.  Every horse has its quirks.  I need to learn which hole the cinch should be in for the saddle to be steady.  While riding, she popped her head up at some hikers with loose dogs coming through a corner of our back yard, too far away for me to care enough to yell at them for trespassing.  Then these neighbors at the end of the street behind us were getting ready to go for a trail ride with four horses, and Gabbrielle was distracted by their noises, so I worked some more on keeping her collected and focused on me.

She really is a very well behaved horse as far as being responsive to cues, but I have to learn to sit completely still in the saddle or she will come to an abrupt halt.  There were several times where I didn't even realize that I was slowly leaning forward, but she called my attention to it by stopping.  Once I sat upright and squeezed her, she moved forward again.  She also wouldn't let me rock the saddle while she walked.  She had to stop for that.  I think she was worried I might be falling off.  She also stopped each time I reached up to push the shutter release on my helmet cam.  I'll have to make a conscientious effort to squeeze her with my legs while I take pictures.

I noticed that each time we got past the gate, Gabbrielle wanted to take off at the trot.  So, I worked on stopping her at the spot she wanted to run, and at some point I'll work on pushing her up to the faster paces in different locations.  That's how you break a habit with a horse.  Make them do the opposite of what they expect.

She was shying away from a part of the pen where there is a pile of rocks, some upside down feed troughs, and some tools, so I let her rest there in order for her to feel a release from pressure near that scary stuff, thus making the scary stuff her friends.

Because of the way she is built, I feel like I'm walking on stilts when I ride her.  It's not that she's terribly tall.  It's more that she's so small boned and I get this feeling that we are teetering on her tiny legs, and she doesn't have much a rib cage to wrap your legs around.  She rocks from side to side more than my other horses, so it will take a while for me to get used to her natural movements.  With some horses you get the sense that they could jump, spin, buck, rear, whatever, and you'd have no problem sticking to the saddle, but with Gabbrielle I get the feeling that she could sneeze and I'd fall off.  In fact, I sneezed and I nearly lost my balance.

When the dump truck showed up at my neighbor's house, I called it quits.  That thing is so noisy that I can hear the crashing from inside my house.  It gets my dogs barking.  These neighbors have been hauling in dirt and pushing it around with a tractor for at least the past ten years.  We've been wondering what the point is and why the project is taking so long.  I suspect they want to build another house on their property and are trying to make the land stable enough for it, but the rainstorms keep washing all the dirt away.  You'd think at some point they'd give up, realizing that it is all in vain.

We've been getting eaten alive by something -- we're not sure what.  Mosquitoes are the obvious thought, but now I'm wondering if it's ants or spiders.  My feet, arms and belly are covered in itchy bumps, and I itched both feet until they bled this morning.  I let the dogs lick my wounds in hopes that whatever healing agent they have in their saliva would stop the itching.  Now I just have this general burning sensation.

It appears that Stewie, our Chihuahua mix,  may have a fungal infection in his ear.  We started noticing that he smelled like Band-Aids.  Then we saw the his right ear was a little redder than his left one.  Now he's itching it.  We've been cleaning it, but may have to take him to the vet to get some prescription ear drops or ointment.  Has anyone else had experience with ear infections in dogs?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

From the Archives

Picture post ahead.  I'm sharing some pictures taken with my Nikon Coolpix P600 over the past couple of weeks.

A snakeskin in our front yard.  About three and a half feet long.  Probably a glossy snake.

This butterfly's wings flapped so fast that I had to crank up the speed on my camera to get a clear shot.  It flapped faster than the hummingbird.

We've spent most of the past month shoveling manure into our new trailer, taking it to the dump, and shoveling it out.  We used to get right in to the dump, but because of all of the weeds that grew after recent storms, there is now a long line of gardening trucks at the weigh station.  We put a huge dent in our manure pile...

I also finished raking rocks and spreading manure in the round pen to soften the footing.  Now grass is growing there, so I let the horses graze there.  They are all so good about not throwing a fit when I separate them from the herd now.

Despite all the manure, the flies seem to be more interested in my horses' muzzles.  If it weren't for the fly masks, I'm sure every horse would have eye infections.  I've been alternating fly sprays, but the flies seem to be immune to all of them now.

I saw this cute little dark gray bird hopping around the horses' legs in barn and was amazed at how comfortable it was around horses and humans.  Then I saw it eating something off the ground between the water troughs and realized that it was eating my Fly Eliminators that I just sprinkled there.  Bad bird!  I kept trying to chase it away, but it just flew circles around me and landed in the same spot to feast some more.  I usually sprinkle the bugs at night when the birds are sleeping, but the bugs hatched in the morning and I was afraid they would suffocate in the bag if I didn't release them sooner.

The horses finally discovered the Himalayan rock salt I put in the barn.  I was hesitant to try this product because I knew my horses would try to eat the rope, and they do try, but I just keep tying it up in a bow.  The nice thing about hanging the salt instead of setting a block of salt on the ground is that it can't melt and get washed away in the rainstorms.

I attended my first Tai Chi class and found it to be rather fascinating.  It's a very slow form of exercise that involves moving a ball of energy around with your hands.  After just a few minutes of these exercises you actually feel like you are carrying a vibrating, warm ball of electricity in your palms.  It looks easy, but it's hard work, and I was dripping sweat at the end of the hour.  But then again, I'm usually dripping sweat after an hour of sitting on the couch too.  Next week we should be dropping down into the 80's.  I can't wait.

I did publish my novel a week or so ago and found solutions to some of the formatting problems.  The whole project drained so much of my energy that I've taken a break from it, but I will do a post about it with links to where you can get your copy in the near future.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

As has been the case pretty much every morning for the past month or so, I struggled just to feel alive, but I put on some riding boots with spurs to encourage my body to get over whatever the heck its problem is so I can ride a horse.  It seems I miss out on a lot of horseback riding between October and December due to health problems year after year, so now I am entertaining the idea that I am allergic to something that blooms in the fall.  What's so odd about it is that once noon arrives, I'm fine.  I feel perfectly healthy in the afternoons.

Unfortunately, it's still fairly hot in the afternoons, so I felt bad pulling Rock out of the barn when he was already sweating in the shade.  But he's such a good guy.  He never complains.

I had our route planned out in advance -- one with a lot of rocky hills because I wanted him to exercise good judgement instead of just plodding down a sandy trail.  On our way to our first turn off, Rock's head flew up as he alerted on a hiker.  At the rate we were moving, we were going to run into each other at the intersection, so I just waited for her to pass.  Of course, she took the trail we needed to take, but she was moving fast enough and she didn't have any loose dogs with her, so I decided to follow behind her.  Normally, I'd be polite and give her some space by taking a different trail, but I've had my own plans squelched so many times by this scenario that I felt it was time for me to follow through on the route I wanted to take regardless of traffic.

It's kind of sad being on a horse who walks so slow that you can lose a hiker up ahead of you, but that's what happened.

I finally caught of glimpse of her crossing the street to the elementary school, probably picking up her kindergartner.  There was a line of school buses out there in the middle of the day.

I caught Rock on camera being naughty...

Branch snatching.  I prefer that the horses eat when I give then the go ahead, but Rock has been known to climb all the way into bushes and trees to snack and if his rider protests, he just tries to rub her off his back.  That's why I have to stay on top of this habit.

We were both taken by surprise when we came across a recently fallen saguaro on the side of the trail.  As we passed the length of it, Rock walked sideways and wouldn't take his eyes off it in case it moved.  It was a rather eerie sight.

On the way home, Rock decided to help me finish with the weeding...

I had left some weeds with yellow flowers on the driveway because they were pretty.  Rock thought so too, so he had to eat them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Follow Up

I finally began feeling well enough today to make a little progress.  I worked on the round pen footing and the weeds, and then went down to the barn to see if any horse would volunteer to accompany me on a walk.  Lostine whinnied and walked up to me when she saw me approaching with the halter.  It's kind of funny, because not so long ago, and for most of the years I have owned her, she has run to the far side of the paddock when I have approached with a halter.  I guess she's finally beginning to enjoy our low pressure outings.

Lostine is now my favorite hiking partner.  She walks beside me and lets me put my arm around her while we walk.  She's so short and hangs her head so low that I can stroke her mane as we go.  She's also good about letting me lean on her to pull cholla balls out of my shoes.

I noticed that sometime during my isolation, the electric company came by to pick up all of their equipment they left out in the desert, but I was frustrated to see that they left all their garbage behind.  Now I've got to remember to bring gloves and a trash bag out on my next hike to clean up all the soda cans and water bottles.  Jerks.  I have never seen a place where people are so disrespectful of nature as I have seen here in the desert.  I don't think I have ever intentionally littered in my entire life, so I can't understand people who do it.

Lostine kept tripping over rocks, so I led her through a different gate onto a paved road thinking it might be a relief for her to not have to navigate uneven ground.  She picked up her head a little higher being in unfamiliar territory and surveyed the yards of all the houses we passed.  At the horse rescue, a leopard Appy and a Belgian came galloping up to the fence to greet Lostine after she bellowed out an ear-piercing whinny to them.  She was okay with having strange horses run at her, but she didn't like the cactus house.  Too many misshapen spiky things growing out of the ground.  Once she spotted the barn, she tried dragging me home, but I corrected her and she settled down.  It's so nice how quickly she comes back to me after losing her mind for a moment.

Last night right before dark I took the dogs out to potty and found that the horses had stopped eating and were alerting on the arroyo in our back yard.  I held very still and listened, waiting to see if a coyote was coming up out of the wash.  Then I heard hoof beats.  A woman climbed up the hill in our back yard leading a horse.  She stopped at our sign and stared at it.  I watched her closely for any indication that might suggest whether she was guilty or innocent of tagging it.  She scratched her head and then began looking around my back yard.  When she finally spotted me looking back at her, she moved along.  Now that I know that people are probably trespassing at night, I may set up an ambush for them and have a little chat about asking for permission before entering private property.  I'd also like to know where they go.  If they follow the arroyo, they cut through a lot of people's back yards and wind up in an odd location.  What is this secret society that hangs out in my section of the arroyo?

I did find a new barefoot farrier.  I was a bit suspicious that his schedule was wide open, though.  Unfortunately, I remembered to ask his price after we set up our appointment, and he charges quite a bit more than what I am used to paying.  So, that's probably why he doesn't have many clients.  I'll give him a try, though, because if he does excellent work, then it may be worth it.

Getting hay was a different story.  The last time this latest hay supplier delivered, I asked if they ever run out of hay.  I needed to know, so that I could plan ahead and order in advance.  The man said they never run out.  Then I asked what is the longest amount of time I would have to wait between order and delivery, and he said 24 hours.  I was skeptical.  I'm used to hay running out in October and having to wait two weeks for a delivery when it is available.

So, this time I got down to four bales of Bermuda when I called in my order, trusting that they always have hay and they can deliver within 24 hours.  I got a voicemail message listing all the different hay they have available and asking me to leave my order.  Then I received a message that the mailbox was full and I could not leave a message.  Not good.

I called right back, hoping someone was just in the bathroom and could now answer.  The man who picked up said they were all out of hay.  Say what???  Then he hesitated and said, "Unless you'd be interested in a handful of smaller bales of alfalfa and Bermuda mix that have been sitting around a while.  I only have fifteen of them."

I said, "You've got mix?  That's actually what I prefer.  I asked if you carry it last time, and was told that you did not."

He said, "Oh yeah, we carry everything.  We just happen to be sold out of most of it."

So, I had them deliver the fifteen bales.  I asked the delivery man when they expected to have more hay.  He looked at me sternly and then hocked a loogie at my feet.  Nice.  Then he said, "This week."  Say what???  Again???  If the other guy had told me they'd have more hay in a few days, I would have just picked up something at the feed store and put in an order for the near future with them to save on delivery costs.  Oh well.  Another lesson learned.  Make a list of questions to ask when I call.

Owning horses sure is getting expensive and stressful.  It seems each time I order hay, I have to buy something different from what they have been eating, so I have to introduce the new feed slowly to fend off colic.  It sure would be nice to grow my own, and also to have hands that are strong enough to trim my own horses' hooves.  I have very small, delicate hands, and have failed strength tests given to me by my neurologist.  That explains why I drop everything.  I have actually been leading a horse only to discover that I dropped the rope, and fortunately the horse hadn't figured it out yet.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


I took the dogs out for a potty break and felt uplifted to find that their "yard" had morphed into a butterfly garden.  I took my camera outside for a quick photo shoot before the next microburst moved in.

A large variety of mushrooms have been growing around the property.  These are the biggest ones yet...

I went down into the arroyo to see how much it had changed since the flood, and found that someone had recently trespassed there.  A man's boot print...

A horse shoe print...

A domestic dog paw print...

And I'm unsure about these.  They look like raccoon prints maybe...

Since a lot of people came down into our backyard to watch the flood, I thought I had better check our PRIVATE - KEEP OUT sign on the hill...

Looks like someone got to it.

Of course, as soon as I read the insult, I immediately began sifting through my memory over who I would have had a run in with recently who would be so bothered as to take time out from their busy day to tag my sign.  All I could think of is that the neighbor behind me did it, because he can hear me talking to my horses... and yelling at them when they are misbehaving.  One day not too long ago I caught him standing on the roof of his shed spying on me.  I also gripe out loud about his engine revving.  Sometimes it seems he watches for me to come out to do my barn chores, and then he comes out and revs his race car engine just to annoy me.  My husband's thought was that someone else put in a noise complaint against him, and since he's overheard me complain about all his noise making, he assumed it was me who reported him.  The guy just needs to get a job.

My husband immediately painted over the sign, and we both had regrets.  We realized that the CRAZY LADY comment would probably do a better job of keeping people out than just the previous message, and for all those potential home buyers who came into our back yard to snoop around to see who their neighbors would be... well, the sign would be self-explanatory, so they would not need to venture any further.  Ha ha ha.