Monday, August 22, 2016

Brawl at the Barn

I let all four horses out of their stalls since I'd be home to supervise.  They were getting along so well.  I felt like a proud mama.

Unfortunately, Gabbrielle interpreted me walking out on the porch to take pictures as me coming out to feed them, so she immediately turned toward Rock to attack.

This picture is a typical example of the herd dynamic.  Gabbrielle is chasing Rock while Lostine is chasing Gabbrielle to get her to keep Rock away from her.  Bombay just tries to stay out of all the herd politics.  At least I can officially say that Lostine's hip is healed, because she was running all over the place.  Bombay's leg also is completely healed.

It wasn't long before the boys had a standoff, and then the fly mask ripping began...

I hollered at them to stop, and they took off chasing each other...

Soon the acrobatics began...

Bombay likes to rear while Rock likes to buck...

I'm glad he doesn't do this when I ride him.  I've been trying to catch one of Rock's bucks on camera for a long time.  It happens so fast.  He's super powerful, but it's hard to take him seriously when he always farts while hitting the apex of his buck.  I should try to get this on video with audio, because the sheer volume will astound even the most skeptical listeners.

Doing the bunny hop horsey style.

Ring around the rosie, a pocketful of posies, ashes ashes, we all bite bums.

Each time I hollered at them to settle down because they were getting too rough, Gabbrielle took it upon herself to charge out of the barn and attack Rock, so I had to just put down my camera and walk to the barn, which served to diffuse everything because Rock is always more interested in eating than rough housing.  Bombay could play all day, because eating is just a boring pastime to him.  He's like a little kid who won't come in for dinner.  It's hard to believe that he's 18 years old.

Here's a random photo of the full moon that I took the other night...

It's hard to see, but there's a tattered American flag to the left of the moon.  The monsoon season's high winds tend to destroy flags, and some neighbors take longer than others to replace them.

Last night I didn't get to finish cleaning up manure because I got hit with a haboob.  The air was perfectly still, and then I saw some trees and bushes off in the distance waving erratically.  Normally, the winds come up from the south, but yesterday they were circling and coming from the west.  All of the sudden it hit me that this wasn't just wind, but a wall of sand coming at me.  I got sand all over in my hair, my eyes, and between my teeth.

In other news, I made a rug for my daughter for her birthday...

She was too sick to come to her birthday celebration, so we took her presents to her.  She's a teacher, and she has barely started a new school year, and it is looking like she's already got an ulcer from the stress.  She's looking into a career change because teaching wrecks a person's body, and she's one of the healthiest person's I know.

My mother was a teacher, I was a teacher, and my daughter is a teacher.  For a long time I have felt that there is excessive governance in education.  Teachers have to fulfill requirements put forth upon them by their own principal, by their school district, by the state, and by the federal government.  There aren't enough school days in the year to complete all those goals, so both teachers and students are set up for failure.

Add in that more and more students are entering school with special needs, like the inability to do basic things like sit still in a chair or write their own name, and all those competencies become impossible.  Then you've all the know-it-alls who say that we need better teachers, because the teachers are the ones failing our students.  I think we will be lucky to have any teachers at all if we as a society continue to treat teachers like they as a group are the problem, and continue to pay them a lot less than what their services are worth.  I think nowadays a person would have to be a saint to take on a teaching role.

That's my reality check for the day.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Getting Ahead of the Past

In years past, for some reason it has taken me a long time to get up to speed in the horseback riding department.  I can't ride all summer, so I look forward to the temperatures cooling down in the fall, yet somehow I don't get into the swing of riding until January.  I suspect that part of it is that it takes me a while to break my old summer habit of keeping busy indoors.  Part of it is that I get out of shape during summer hibernation and I don't have the strength and stamina to saddle up and ride.  Part of it is how busy I get around the holidays.  Part of it is that I used to take classes in the fall, and all the classes I took sucked up my mornings, which is when I like to ride.  Part of it is that with the horses being out of practice, I have to start over with their foundation training, and that's boring, so I opt to do other activities first.

By the time the holidays and my classes have ended, I'm back in shape, the horses have settled down, and I'm ready to start a new routine of riding several times a week, the population explodes and I start getting hit with unexpected challenges along the trails that take the fun out of riding, so I have to do a lot of desensitization to guarantee that I won't end up in the hospital the next time some human lets her dog attack my horse or gallops up from behind me through some bushes or sets off a firecracker or buzzes me with his drone or dive bombs me in his plane or helicopter or blasts past me on his silent mountain bike without announcing his presence or whatever it happens to be on that day that scares the hell out of my horse.  Then I spend all winter trying to expose my horses to what scares them, and at the same time I try to avoid problems so that I can still have a pleasant ride every once in a while.

Right around May is when the population heads down to ghost town mode, and I have some of the best horseback rides of the year.  Then after just a few short weeks of heaven, it hits the triple digits and I'm back in hibernation.  Last May totally sucked, because I had the perfect conditions to ride and my neighbors ruined it by scheduling a ridiculous number of home improvement appointments that I had to handle on their behalf since they were on the other side of the country.  I asked them if they could postpone the appointments until summer, because in May I had perfect riding conditions and had plans to work with my horses every day, but they didn't take me seriously and did what they wanted.  That led to me quitting that job.

Also, I was developing arthritis all along my right side and it was progressing so quickly that I could no longer walk without the help of a cane, none-the-less mount and dismount a horse.  Now that my doctor found a pharmaceutical that dims the pain and allows me to move freely, I want to take advantage of it and start riding as soon as the temperatures allow.  So, I've been working out on the indoor exercise equipment to assure that I will be in shape to ride as soon as the riding season starts.  I'm also doing a little bit of ground work with the horses each day for as long as I can stand to be outside.  I'm not going to sign up for any classes, and I'm going to keep the holidays low on my priority list.

August is usually a lot hotter than it is now, and the forecast shows a steady decline in temperatures, so there is hope for an early fall.  Although I have learned not to invest too much excitement into the forecasts, because they are ever changing.  Last night I caught the edge of a storm front and chose to sit in a chair next to the barn while the horses ate.  The gusts of wind were getting stronger and stronger.  Then I realized that I was sitting in front of the little Rubbermaid shed that always blows apart in the wind.  I looked over my shoulder and sure enough, the whole shed was shaking.  If the roof blew off and hit me in the head, it could knock me unconscious.

No sooner did I have that thought and looked just beyond the shed to see this wave of sand coming straight at us.  I grabbed my chair and ran for cover.  Once that blast passed, I moved up onto the porch only to have lighting spark right in front of me.  It wasn't coming from the clouds, and it wasn't coming from the ground.  It materialized right in between them and shot out sideways.  So, I had to take cover indoors and hope for the best with the horses.  I still feel like I haven't seen it all when it comes to weather phenomena in the desert.

Do you play music around your horses?  I recently started listening to Amazon Prime music stations while doing barn chores.  I needed to improve my mood, because the heat was making me cuss out loud too much, and the other day I heard my neighbor slam his door after I let out an expletive after rolling my ankle on that damn salt block again.  I figured he had been sitting on his porch enjoying nature and I ruined it for him with my foul mouth.

I actually didn't cuss much before I experienced an Arizona summer.  The heat does it to you.  Every little move you make is hard, and then when something derails your efforts after every two steps, you kind of lose it.  My husband and I overheard a woman throwing a nasty tantrum in the supermarket parking lot after she stepped in some gum.  She was screaming at the world for being inconsiderate of others, only she was polluting the meaning of her verbal onslaught by inserting a curse between every other word.  We kind of chuckled to ourselves, and I said, "It's the heat.  People act insane in the heat."

Things that normally wouldn't bother you, and you'd just deal with them, suddenly become huge obstacles once it gets to be above 105 degrees.  Your blood is already boiling, and then something stupid happens, like you step in gum or sprain your ankle or spill your drink, and the rage just comes flying out of your mouth before you can even comprehend what happened.  You react first, think later when you are in an air conditioned environment and all your internal organs have had a chance to cool down.

Anyway, I started listening to music through my iPhone while doing chores, and I found that it not only improved my mood, but I was more focused, so I could anticipate what problems might slow down my progress.  I'd get into a trance-like state and I'd be able to shut out all the negative stimuli:  Heat, humidity, flies, gnats, mosquitoes, fire ants...

In fact, when I was done with my chores in record time, I looked for other things to do because I wanted to keep listening to music and hang out with the horses.  Not one single cuss word came out of my mouth.  I just sang along quietly.  I was listening with earbuds at first, but the horses got interested in the cords hanging out of my ears, and they kept sneaking up behind me and pulling on them.  I took the earbuds out and held them near the horses' ears.  They each looked up to the cliff where strangers congregate to watch me do my chores, thinking the music had to be coming from there.

I decided to just play the music out loud, figuring that if it had a positive affect on me, it should do the same for the horses.  Then I started thinking about listening to music while I ride the horses.  I held the iPhone behind each horse where the horn of the saddle would be to see how they reacted.  Bombay was attracted to the music, because he was bred in a barn where music was always playing.  Each barn had its own radio.  Rock was fine with it, because he's fine with everything.  Lostine ran away the first time she heard the music behind her, but was fine with it after she processed it in her brain.  Gabbrielle had fits trying to get away from it.  As long as I held the iPhone in front of her, she was okay, but as soon as I held it near her body, she evaded it.  I did some desensitization until she accepted me holding it in that location.

Next, I tried playing different styles of music to see how the horses reacted.  They seemed to like classic rock the best.  I tried listening to country, but there were too many songs that romanticized getting drunk, and that bothered me knowing how awful it can be to have an alcoholic loved one.  I've never been able to listen to rap or hip-hop.  In fact, when those two styles became popular, I stopped listening to the radio, and music disappeared from my life.  That kind of gives you an idea of how long it has been since I've listened to music regularly.

I experimented with the music by letting all four horses out of their stalls while I cleaned, and everyone remained mellow.  No fights broke out.  They just kind of followed me around and poked my iPhone carrier, as if to say, "I know where that sound is coming from."

Either that, or they were trying to change the station.

Peace on earth.  All horses are a safe distance from each other.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

August Around the Ranch

Photo rich post ahead...

One of my favorite cardinals who frequent our yard.

Awesome clouds behind the flag I used to have to repair or replace every few months.  I'm so glad that my neighbors got someone else to handle that job.  Climbing onto that roof was killing me.

My husband got me some flowers.

Our new and improved dog yard.

Pretty lizards. 

My wild bunny.  I named her Charity... 

You see, all the other bunnies who gather around Lostine's feet won't allow Charity near the grain that falls out of Lostine's mouth.  They chase her off, and she was getting super skinny as a result.  I was worried that she wouldn't survive, so I started "spilling" a little grain on my way out of the tack room just for Charity.  That wood block is her dining table.  Whenever I walk outside, she comes out from wherever she's hiding and follows me around until I acknowledge her.  Then she waits at her dining table for breakfast and dinner.  She recently started letting me pet her face.

The bunnies like to lie flat in wet spots in the shade to keep cool.

Fortunately, the bunnies know enough to hide when the coyotes come out at dusk.  We had a whole litter of juvenile coyotes in our back yard.  They were feasting on the manure pile and pouncing on each other.

I was scared for this little gal.  Her bigger brothers kept attacking her, and she was letting out yelps like she was in pain...

(Evil big brother.) 

...but she did get up and walk away just fine.  She let her pack know that I was around, and they all yipped up a storm.

Even the clouds resemble animals.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Short Jaunt

We've got clouds moving in, so I braved the humidity and took Rock for a mile hike to check out the condition of the bridle trails.

I'll have to go out with my golf club, because some trails were littered with cholla sprinkles.  It was like walking through a mine field.  Hopefully, the incoming storm will just blow them all off the trails and make my life easier.

Rock was excited to be out and to hear the kids on the school playground, so he had no problem keeping up with my pace.  He did get nippy, though, so I had to elbow him a few times which resulted in him biting my elbow, which resulted in him being backed down the trail quickly.  He kept his distance after that.

However, on the way home he sped up.  Apparently, I had to work a lot harder to manage his speed, because according to my fitness watch, my heart rate shot up on the way home.  Now my shoulder hurts.  He's an elephant.

Rock fell into a critter hole that was right smack in the middle of one trail and he struggled to keep himself upright.  He made sure to point out to me the next critter hole we came upon.  Nothing like a little accident to make a horse pay attention to where he's putting his feet.

I'm still trying to get used to my new mobile phone camera.  I keep forgetting to train myself on how to use it when I am indoors and wearing reading glasses, so I just have to wing it when I'm outdoors and blind.  All I can see is the camera icon and the big red button.  Apparently, it is very easy to switch between still shot and video modes, because I got a lot of video I didn't want.  Basically, all I have to do is move my hand over the screen and it changes modes, so I won't be able to properly operate it without wearing reading glasses.  Bummer, because it's a lot lighter to carry my mobile phone than it is to carry my cameras.  Next time I'm in the market for a new phone, I'll have to pay closer attention to the camera operation procedures.  I don't think I will ever get used to the sensitivity of touch screens.  I prefer older technology that has separate buttons for modes.  I need stuff that is spastic-proof.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

My New Friend

As the summer drones on, I've been developing less and less tolerance for direct sunlight and heat.  When I take the dogs outside, I get 15 seconds tops before I feel this intense need to seek out shade, ice water and air conditioning.  Since I own two ancient dogs and one dog with ADHD, it can take several minutes just to get them to stop sniffing and spinning in circles.  They always have to find the perfect spot to do their business.  I'm fine with that most of the year, but not when my brains are literally boiling.

We had planned on laying down a patch of fresh sod to encourage the dogs to go right away, but discovered that no one around here sells sod or even grass seeds because it simply won't grow in our area this time of year.  Plus, most sod has to be bought in bulk.  So, my husband bought a Queen Palm and planted it in the dog's yard to provide a little shade for me to stand in while I wait for the dogs to poop or get off the pot, and it should eventually grow and spread its leaves far enough to also shade our glass block window that acts like a giant magnifying glass, heating up the southern end of our house.

We're going to redirect the flagstone pathway and get rid of the picnic table.  Eventually, sod will be added.  We're already skating on thin ice by planting trees in the summer time.  We probably won't benefit from any of our home improvements we've done recently until next summer.

In other news, some turd-for-brains hit my truck and took off to avoid responsibility, so now I have this nice dent and scrape along my rear fender and bumper.  That truck doesn't even have 10,000 miles on it yet.  I don't think I have ever been able to own a vehicle that remained scratch and dent-free for five years.  I take care of them, but other people just don't give a hoot.  Also, it doesn't help that I live in an area where a large percentage of the population is drunk, on drugs, going blind, or losing its faculties.  The insurance companies encourage people to not report property damage because even if it isn't your fault, your rates go up.  Ultimately, it is cheaper to just repair the damage out of pocket if it's something minor.  I'm just at my wits end with having to pay for other people's mistakes.  So, the scratch and dent will forever remain a blemish on my truck.

I gave the horses a chance to co-mingle for a bit while I cleaned stalls and water troughs, and they all immediately began vying for dominance.  A lot of biting and herding was going on.  I almost got smashed into by a fleeing horse, and when I stepped backward I tripped over the salt lick.  So, everyone went right back into the stalls and I chucked the salt lick out of the barn.  I don't care if the rain melts the salt lick and the horses are bored.  They are even more irritable than ever because they are covered in mosquito bites, so they have zero tolerance for other horses being in their space.  I've been putting calamine lotion on their itchy spots, and using sprays to try to deter mosquitoes from biting them, but like with the flies, nothing really works.  We just need summer to end.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Stewie Plays a New Game

I tried to get a video recording of it.  I really did, but everything went wrong, so I'll have to just describe Stewie's new game.

Yesterday I was lying on the floor underneath a ceiling fan when Stewie rolled a ball up to me.  He does play fetch pretty well, but when I threw the ball from my position on the floor, I kept hitting things and knocking them over.  So, I just rolled the ball back to him.  Amazingly, each time I rolled the ball to him, he rolled it back to me with either his nose or by kicking it.  He was doing it consistently, so I tried to quietly get up to grab my camera, but there is no being quiet in a house full of deaf dogs.  They feel for vibrations.

No sooner did I get the camera, and both Midge and Scrappy woke up from their naps and paced the floor to tell me they needed to go outside.  I tried to continue playing the game with Stewie and record it quickly, but Stewie was distracted by the other dogs and kept leaving me to play with them.  Whenever Midge gets anxious, Stewie grabs her ear in his mouth and tries to get her to hold still and settle down.  That technique does not work, so I don't know why he keeps doing it.  I quickly locked the other dogs in a distant room just so that I could film Stewie playing our new game, but Midge ruined it by barking repeatedly, which distracted Stewie, and he kept running out of frame to go scratch on the door.

I made several attempts to film him and hoped that at least I could edit down to one or two sloppy rolls of the ball, but when I uploaded the videos, I saw that I had the camera off when I thought I was filming, and had it on while I was chasing Stewie around the house.  That's what happens when you start losing your eyesight.  I'm avoiding doing pet photography jobs now, because my eyesight is so bad and animals require a photographer who can capture their antics fast -- not someone who has to find her reading glasses to adjust the settings, and then remove her glasses in order to see what is happening at a distance.

Anyway, all the dogs finally did get outside.  Hopefully, Stewie will be in the mood to play the ball rolling game sometime in the near future when I have both my camera and glasses within reach, and while the other two dogs don't need anything.

School is starting in our area already.  My plans for the summer were to finish writing my next novel, but between the veterinary care I've had to administer to injured horses all summer, fixing or replacing broken stuff, and having the dogs interrupt me constantly to be taken outside, the novel had to be put on the back burner.  I always think that I'm going to have a blank calendar all summer, and that since I can't be riding my horses, I should have three to four months straight of free time to work on projects, but summer is just turning out to be one big black hole for me.  The heat scrambles my brains so much that I can't think to write, and the heat also puts me to sleep.  Reading books puts me to sleep as well, so trying to read in the summer around here is super slow going.  I tend to choose to do unimportant mindless activities so that I won't feel disappointed when I wake up and find that nothing got done.  I don't like being unproductive, but fretting isn't doing me any good, so I just have to accept the way of the sloth until fall rescues me and restores my energy.

At least if I sleep too much, I've got seven alarm clocks named Stewie, Midge, Scrappy, Rock, Gabbrielle, Bombay and Lostine.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

G Pitches a Fit

This week has offered a nice break from the relentless heat, bringing clouds, wind and some rain.  My neighborhood has managed to avoid the brunt of the storms, yet still benefit from the cooler temperatures.  There was a lot of flooding northwest of us.  The monsoon rains come so quick, hard and heavy that they can turn a freeway into a swimming pool in a matter of minutes.

The horses were fine with being locked up as long as the sun was out and no one had the desire to do anything but sleep.  However, once it got cloudy, they were anxious to be set free.  Gabbrielle threw her toys out of the pram and disturbed the neighbors by banging her hollow plastic feed barrel repeatedly against the metal railings.  I had to stop her, but didn't want to reward her by giving her what she wanted, which was to be set loose in the paddock near the other horses.

So, I haltered her and led her to the other end of the property to roam alone on Exile Island.  She spooked the whole way there.  I figured she'd throw a fit being taken away from her buddies, but she surprised me by calmly walking around exploring the area.  She even hung out at the far end of the round pen away from the barn.  I thought, "When did she suddenly grow up?"

I had let Rock loose in the paddock, but needed to clean Bombay's stall.  Bombay sneaked around me, pushed the gate open and let himself out.  Within seconds, he and Rock were rearing at each other, chasing each other, biting each other, kicking out and bucking.  I cautioned them to be nice and settle down.  They play-fought vigorously, but seemed to be taking care not to actually strike each other, so I let them go.  They were getting their exercise.

However, Gabbrielle got upset about their behavior and she galloped around in her pen screaming at the boys.  I was hoping she'd stay quiet, but I think she was agitated about not being able to control her herd.  By the time I finished cleaning stalls, the boys had settled down and chose to do activities independent of each other.  Gabbrielle eventually settled down as well.  Lostine was content staying in her stall where she felt safe.

The next time I went out to the barn to do more chores, a dump truck driver came up the street and decided it would be a good idea to stop next to the round pen and sit there with his loud engine idling for several minutes.  Gabbrielle flipped out.  She was racing as fast as she could go in circles around the pen, screaming to be rescued from this truck.  She was running so fast that she was tilted at a 45 degree angle, and her legs were sliding under the fence panels, banging up against them repeatedly.  I was worried that she'd slip in the mud and get pinned under a railing or break leg, so I had to help her.

It pisses me off that every time I try to help Gabbrielle break her dependency upon being around other horses, some stranger always has to do something to terrify her.  It happens every time.  I can put any other horse in that round pen by itself, and nothing bad happens, but the one horse who has deep-seated fears always has to be the one to deal with scary stuff.  Either a loud vehicle pulls up near her, or some wild animal comes up out of the arroyo, or a trespasser sneaks around down in the arroyo, or a neighbor sets off a cherry bomb.  It's not doing anything to help her become more confident.

When she gets out of her mind like that, I can't just catch her, halter her and lead her back to the barn.  She does crazy stuff like trying to bust through the gate the second I unlatch it, so I had to throw the lead rope at her to get her away from the gate.  Once I was inside with the gate latched behind me, I had to get her to settle down and focus on me.  I got the halter on her, and tried to distract her from the truck by splashing around with my hand in her water bucket.  All of the sudden, water became the scariest thing in the world and she pulled back, dragging me across the pen.

I took her back to the bucket and tried again and again, and she did relax a little more with each splashing session.  Then I cupped water in my hands and splashed it on her muzzle.  I could see she was coming back to me slowly.  Then someone had to drive up the road next to the round pen and stop to watch, which totally distracted her from focusing on me, and we had to start all over again, because she flipped out.  I need a huge sign that says, "GO AWAY," and hold it up every time some Looky Loos won't mind their own business, or every time some truck driver invades the neighborhood while he makes phone calls and consults maps.

A lot of bored people with cabin fever come out after storms and they just drive around aimlessly looking for entertainment.  Most of the people who show up at the house for sale next door aren't even in the market to buy a home.  They're just trying to kill time and enjoy the cooler temperatures by exploring properties for sale.  There were also several people out on their ATVs.  Some dad bought his little, little girls a tiny toy ATV.  It's real, but it's small with a very loud engine, and those two little girls have been racing it around the neighborhood behind my arena for hours on end this week.  Personally, I think those kids are too small to be allowed to speed around on residential streets by themselves.  Not only are they unsupervised, but they aren't wearing helmets and they are driving in the middle of the streets on blind hills where they could easily get hit by a car.  They've been the biggest cause of all the poopcidents and peepcidents on the freshly steam vacced carpet this week.  The dogs get so distracted by them racing that little ATV around that they can't do their business outdoors.

Anyway, once the dump truck driver and Looky Loos moved on, I was finally able to lead Gabbrielle to the barn in a controlled manner.  She had been running so long that she was covered in sweat and breathing hard, so I had to cool her down before feeding dinner.  I thought she would have learned her lesson about banging her feed barrel, but she purposely did it again before I fed her, and again at the crack of dawn this morning.  She's being a total brat.  I'm tempted to hire someone to ride her out every day despite the heat of summer just to wear her out, because she's wearing me out with all of her misbehaviors.  There's no way I can ride in this heat, but some younger people don't have the sensitivity to the heat that I have.  Or maybe I can just send her off to a trainer who can board her and keep her out of my hair until summer is over.  She needs to be brought down a notch by a different herd of horses who won't put up with her bullying.

The rain has brought out the wildlife again.  I had one incident in which I was walking all three dogs up the back steps on leashes, but Stewie wasn't heeling next to me.  He was pulling on his leash.  I turned around to find him nose to nose with a poisonous toad that was one-third his size.  Fortunately, I got him away before he tried to taste the toad.

On another occasion I heard a bird squawking out front and figured it was pitching a fit over a snake that was trying to get into its nest.  So, I quietly stepped outside onto the front porch and looking all around my feet to make sure I wasn't about to step on a snake.  Then I scanned under the hedge, slowly turning my head, and was shocked to see a coyote standing right next to me on my front porch sniffing around.  I said, "What are you doing, Yodi?"

It looked up surprised like it was so engrossed in following a scent that it didn't hear me come outside.  It ran through the hedge out onto the driveway and then around to my back yard.  It was the pretty female coyote who doesn't cause me any problems.  She's very quiet and respectful of me.  I feel bad for her, because she's so skinny now.  She must not be much of a hunter.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Game Time

I graduated the horses from being turned out one at a time to being turned out with their own gender.  Lostine pushed Gabbrielle around a bit, but not without reason.  I hoped that Gabbrielle would take note of that, and learn that a good leader does not attack her loyal followers simply because she's irritable from the heat.  Turning out the boys together was a bit more complicated.  I had to remove everyone's fly masks and rub fly spray on their faces instead since the boys have mastered the art of removing and shredding every fly mask they can sink their teeth into.  The second I walked into the house, a fight broke out.  There was a lot of biting, striking, kicking, chasing, bucking and rearing.

There was no way I was going to spend the next two weeks patching up cuts and wrapping legs.  I ran down to the barn, pointed at Bombay's stall, and he retreated into it while I shut the gate behind him.  He seemed relieved to get away from Rock.

Later, when I had time to supervise, I let Bombay out with Rock again, but pulled up a chair.  I tried reading a book, but Rock wanted to sit in my lap.  He was more interested in hassling me than torturing Bombay.  Together, Rock and I made up a bunch of games while Bombay attempted to unlock and open the gate to Gabbrielle's stall.  He had thrown his ball into her stall, so I'm not sure if he was trying to get his ball back or if he just preferred Gabbrielle's bitchy company over Rock's rough housing.

Here are some of the games Rock and I played together:

Go Fish
With this game, I swung a long whip back and forth while Rock attempted to grab the tassel end with his mouth.  Once he had a hold of it, he tried walking off with the entire whip.  However, I held onto the handle end, so it bent like a fishing pole.  Then I'd say, "I caught a fish!  It's a big one!"

At that point he usually let go, and I'd call him "the one that got away."

Books Bite
I was attempting to read my daughter's copy of THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak while Rock was attempting to eat my daughter's copy of THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak.  I couldn't let him smear his dirty mouth all over it, so each time he tried to taste it, I snapped the book shut on his muzzle.  This game didn't last very long, because he only popped his head up on the first four book slams, and after that he became totally desensitized to being bit by a book.

Get Off My Lap
This was a game to teach him to give me some space.  Each time he got too close, I put my shoe on his chest and pushed until he took a step back.  He tried biting my foot a few times, which did result in him getting a foot in his mouth, but not exactly the way he planned.

Lickey Lickey
This is the same game I taught Bombay when he was a strapping young gelding obsessed with biting everyone within reach, only for him I called it the "Nice Nice" game.  Rock kept rubbing his nose all over me and occasionally trying to get a sample of my skin or clothing, so I encouraged him to lick instead of bite by changing my body language and tone of voice.  Licking got positive reinforcement, rubbing with his upper lip got a caution, and as soon as his energy got to the verge of biting, he was given negative reinforcement before he could get that far.  It didn't take too long before he caught on.

The Paw Trap
When he got anxious because I wouldn't let him sit in my lap, he would occasionally try to paw me with his front hooves.  My response was to grab his leg in mid-air and hold it there until he got tired of standing on three legs.

Pushy Pokey
This is just a variation on the "Get Off My Lap" game, but using the long whip instead of my foot.  If he got pushy and stepped too far into my space, I'd poke him on the chest with the long whip until he backed up.

Raspberry Pie
Whenever he stuck his nose in my face, I'd grab a hold of his lower lip and then blow a raspberry on his nose.  He loved that.  Grabbing his upper lip was a different story, though.

Ear Snake
I wove the long whip around his ears, wiggled and pulled it, because sometimes he's sensitive about having his ears touched.  Interestingly, he didn't mind the long whip snaking its way around his ears.

Leg Snake
Same thing as ear snake, but around the legs.  He's always been good about standing still for that.

Rock seemed to love the attention.  As long as it stays below 100 and we have a breeze, I'll try to spend more time just hanging out with them at the barn.

Bombay never did manage to get the bicycle chain off of Gabbrielle's stall, but he did unlock the latch.

My annoying neighbors are still setting off cherry bombs and other explosives every frickin' night.  Poor Stewie was crouching down trying to do his business tonight when it sounded like something exploded down at the barn.  Stewie jumped and tried to run for cover.  I yelled as loud as I could, "WHAT THE #$%&!?"

Stewie ran into the house without completing his task, so I grabbed a flashlight and went down to the barn to make sure the horses were alright.  Amazingly, thanks to these jerkwads on the hill, my horses are completely desensitized to sudden explosions.  They just kept on chowing down their dinner.

I made my presence known with my flashlight, and sure enough, here came my annoying neighbors with their flashlight.  I must have ruined their fun, because they shut off all their lights and went back in their house.  This is the last day of July.  If they carry this behavior into August, I'll be calling the police to see what kind of rights I have as a neighbor with terrified dogs.  Probably none, because this is the wild west, but there's got to be some way to get these idiots to stop since natural consequences haven't taken care of it yet.

Another Houdini Maneuver

Yesterday, while on our way to the grocery store, I started experiencing cramping and burning in my gut.  I told my husband not to worry if I suddenly disappear.  I didn't think I could make it through an entire shopping trip.  While in the store, I began sweating profusely and feeling clammy.  I felt like a horse who was colicking and found myself spinning in circles with the strong desire to lie down in the middle of the supermarket aisle.

Right then, this elderly man on a scooter spotted me from way off in the distance and raced toward me calling out, "Oh, M'am!  Excuse me, M'am!"

I thought he was going to ask me if I was okay, but he asked me where the delicious crackers are that you can put sardines on.

Okay, I honestly don't know if he said sardines, because at that point I retreated into my own thoughts trying to figure out why he raced past several other people to specifically ask me.  I looked down to see how I was dressed, thinking that perhaps I looked like a supermarket employee, but that was not the case.  Then I looked at his face and realized by his expression and the way that he was looking at me, the man was trying to pick up on me.  I guess he likes freshly dyed blackish reddish purplish hair.

Within something like two seconds our aisle filled up and this man had six people pushing shopping carts lined up behind him waiting for him to move.  I know that the locals get very irritable in the summer heat, and after having to put up with masses of slow-moving tourists all winter, they are not willing to tolerate snowbird behavior in the summer months, so I had to get this guy moving as fast as possible.  But more importantly, I had to clear a path so that I could lie down on the floor without getting run over by a string of shopping carts.  I was dying inside, and this guy couldn't have picked a worse time to detain me.

I looked at the sign in the next aisle to see if it said CRACKERS on it, but it didn't.  Then the man behind him pointed in the opposite direction and said, "One over."

I repeated, "One over," and pointed in that direction, but I could see by the expression on scooter boy's face that he was either hard of hearing or he was trying to concoct some new task he needed my help with.  So, I started walking past him to end our conversation, and the man behind him started walking past him at the exact same time, smashing me into the shelves and knocking my purse off my shoulder with his cart.  Everyone else followed suit, punishing me repeatedly for even thinking about helping the guy.

I was hoping we'd get home quickly so that I could lie down, because now I was shaking from the pain, and of course, we got stuck behind a driver who took 30 seconds to turn out of the driveway onto the highway.  We were losing our chance to turn because he was moving so slowly, so my husband raced around the driver's vehicle to get into the far left lane of the highway, which is totally illegal, but it was exactly what the driver in front of us was doing, only at the rate of less than one mile per hour.  My husband got around him faster than he could reach the far left lane, so we won, and I suspect that the man had to clean his pants afterward.  I'm telling you, based on the number of tourists here, it feels like winter despite it hovering above 100 degrees F all month.

When we got home I lied down for a while until I looked out the window and saw Bombay swinging something around in his mouth.  I pulled out the binoculars and saw that it was a bicycle chain with the lock still attached.  I had to run out there before he injured himself swinging that lock around.  As I was rushing down to the barn, my gut was twisting in pain, but I tried to ignore it.  I took the chain away, figuring I had left it lying on the ground.

Just minutes after that, I looked out the window again to see Bombay out of his stall teasing Rock over the railing.  I ran out there, and this time I nearly fell to my knees twice when I got intense stabbing pains in my gut.  I remember thinking, "Oh hell.  Not good.  I'm going to have to go to the hospital, but first I've got to get that horse back in his stall."

His gate was wide open and his fly mask was lying on the ground with rips in it.  Just in a matter of a couple of minutes, he managed to break out of his stall and get Rock to rip his fly mask off his face.  But what was really baffling, was that he somehow unlocked the bicycle chain around his stall gate, and unlatched it.  I saw Gabbrielle standing by his gate, so I suspect he coached her on how to get the latch undone from the outside.

I grabbed the fly mask, and Bombay and Gabbrielle both knew I was mad.  They took off galloping across the paddock and continued running around like fools while I stood there pointing at the barn and yelling, "Get in your stalls!"

Bombay is hilarious when he is in trouble.  He pins both ears as far forward as they can go and pumps himself up super tall while running around with his neck and tail arched.  He looks so cute that it's hard not to break down laughing.  After a short time, they did give up and go into their stalls.  I locked everyone up tight and staggered back into the house to lie down.

I did slowly get better and eventually fell asleep.  One of the downsides of this medication that I am taking that allows me to walk is that it wrecks my stomach, and I am at risk of getting ulcers.  I don't know if that was what was going on, but time will tell.

We finally got rain last night along with violent winds, lightning and dust storms.  The television satellite gave out right when we were watching MadTV.  Bummer.  Then the internet went down, but we didn't lose our electricity.  We are supposed to get storms the rest of the week.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

It's All About the Heat

Since flies have been trying to burrow into the cut under Bombay's eye, I have to keep a fly mask on him during the day or the vet will have to come out and scrape the larvae out from under his skin.  When I try to avoid having him wear a fly mask and smear a little Swat around the wound, he rubs the Swat into his eye, so that is not an option because of the proximity of the wound to the eye.  That means I cannot let either Bombay or Rock out of their stalls during the day, because the first thing they always do is rip up each other's fly masks over the stall gate.  So, the girls get turnout during the day and the boys get turnout one at a time during the night when I can remove the masks.

Yesterday I experimented to see if Lostine and Gabbrielle could be out at the same time, and Lostine decided that she preferred to have the arena to herself.  She herded Gabbrielle back into her stall and shut the gate so that she couldn't get out.  It's kind of scary how smart these horses are.

I have a ritual of cutting my hair short some time around July or August, because I rarely remember to pull it back into a ponytail before I go to the barn.  Then the entire time I'm trying to do chores, the wind keeps blowing my hair into my eyes and mouth.  I store a packet of hair bands in the tack room, but some days the heat and humidity are so high that I can't even make it to the tack room to get them.  By the time I get back into the house, the entire length of my hair is dripping with sweat.  It's just easier to chop it all off.

Between October and May, it's almost impossible to get in for a hair cut at my favorite salon, so I have to set up my appointments in the summer.  I was surprised to walk in and find that my stylist was the only person in the salon.  She said that summers are so slow for business that everyone only works part-time, and one stylist had to move back east to keep a steady income.  She'll return in the fall.

She felt my hair and asked if she needed to wash it first.  I laughed and said no, I just did that.  She said, "Okay.  That's good.  I wasn't sure if you hair was wet from being washed or wet with sweat from being outdoors."

I said, "But I did wash it several hours ago.  For some reason, when I wash it in the morning, it won't dry until the evening."

We both realized in that moment that it was actually wet from sweat, because the water I used to wash it should have dissipated in the heat by then.

With no one but us in the salon, we got a chance to talk a lot and get to know each other better without interruptions.  My stylist was trying to figure out what to do when she was done with my cut, because I was her last appointment for the day and she had to wait for her daughter to get off from work in order to drive her home.  I said, "Well, if you want to make a little more money, you could dye my hair too."

The lighting in the salon made my gray roots stand out.  My hair looked like a bird's nest between the gray and the brittleness.  In the past, she mixed a dark color and a light color.  I told her that I had been lightening my hair with each dye, and was working my way toward a strawberry blond, so I wanted her to just use the lighter dye color because it hides the gray better.  I don't know what happened, but by the time she was done with me, my hair was black with a little red and purple shining through.  I think she was so engrossed in our conversation that she pulled the wrong dye out of the back room.  I'm sure it will lighten up after a few washings, but I was definitely looking goth after walking out of that salon.  All I needed was black lipstick and heavy eyeliner.

Before she finished with me, a walk-in client showed up for a hair cut, and my stylist's daughter got off work, putting her in a bit of a pickle.  She was busy dealing with them, and she kind of rushed me out the door.  I stopped at the feed store to get more hay pellets and senior feed.  This sales lady was talking to me and acting oddly.  She was speaking very slowly to me as if she thought I was dim.  I got home, looked in the mirror, and realized that she probably thought I was either crazy or dumb.  My stylist had not wiped the dye off my eyebrows.  She just wiped around them, so the dye soaked into my skin and my eyebrows made me look like Groucho Marx.  There was also dye on my forehead.  I think in the future I will not run errands after having someone else dye my hair.

Today I get to attempt to steam vac the carpets again since the replacement for the solution tank that exploded came in.  It's been smelling like a subway tunnel in here.  I'm having to completely re-potty train Stewie, because he's so enamored with the sights, sounds, and smells of summer that he can't focus enough to do his business when I take him outside.  He has also stopped telling us when he needs to go out.  He just pees wherever he's standing.  I remember being interested in a Min Pin / Chihuahua mix at the animal shelter where I volunteered, and hearing the animal control officer explaining to someone that Min Pins are difficult to train because they all have ADHD.  Now I'm experiencing that first hand.  Why do the cutest dogs always have to be the hardest to train?

Anyway, we have a game plan in which we are going to buy some sod and set it down close to the house, so that we can just take the dogs straight to that patch of grass, hopefully have them squat, and then turn around and get right back indoors as quickly as possible.  The dogs are always better about going if they have some grass or weeds at their disposal.  Those fake grass mats don't work.  It's got to be the real stuff and smell like rich soil.  Grass doesn't grow in our neighborhood, so I'm hoping it will last long enough to get us through the month of August.

We're also looking into some way to shade the dog yard so that I can stand out there longer without feeling ill from the direct sunlight and heat.  However, I've noticed that neighbors who have erected fabric canopies or tents had them blown down by the winds.  We'd have to find something more solid, which is going to get expensive and require a lot of labor to dig holes and pour concrete for the posts.  A remote retractable awning would be best, since we could retract it when a storm blows through, which is pretty much every afternoon this time of year, and if we can retract it with the push of a button, then we won't have to stand out there in the sun messing with it.

Interestingly, a lot of people in Arizona wrote reviews for these products, and many are doubtful that they will hold up during monsoon season.  Very few returned to report the result after monsoon season.  I used to buy shade canopies to cover the outdoor dog kennel, but they kept getting destroyed by the monsoon storms, and bringing down the entire kennel with them.  Now that I'm not covering the kennel, it stays standing because the wind blows right through the chain-link, and there is no fabric to cause a kite effect.  But I also can't put the dogs in there in the summer without the shade, so the kennel isn't getting used.