Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Two Friends Taking a Walk

Bombay always has to stop to check on his friends at the horse rescue when we go for a walk.

Can you believe that my knee still hasn't totally healed since I hyper-extended it last June?  It still blows out backwards when I take a step every now and then.  But I'm thankful that we occasionally get these cloudy, cooler days so that I can take a walk with a friend in the desert and get those muscles back into shape.

Bombay found the sole of a shoe...

...but it didn't taste good.

Every time I see some random sole of a shoe laying around beside a hiking trail, I want to find the owner and take him or her shopping for better shoes.  I've never had a pair of shoes just fall apart like that while hiking before.  The owners must be buying really cheap stuff.

Then Bombay found a really big stick and drew in the sand with it a while.  I suspect he was writing S.O.S. so that someone would rescue him from me and take him back to the barn where he could snack on the hay in the Nibble Nets.

Here he is running really fast.  Not really.  A gust of wind just picked up his mane while he was taking a nap.

He woke up when the neighbors began doing some construction.  It must be a special week because three different neighbors who are usually at work in the middle of a week day were all home doing outdoor chores.  I figured they all heard me cursing this morning when another hay bale exploded all over me depositing itchy grass all down the insides of my clothing.  I'm at a point where I'm about ready to hire someone to feed my horses for me just so I can avoid the hay allergy symptoms I get when wrestling hay:  Runny nose, headaches, red, itchy skin...

Bombay helped me pick up the mail.  Now I just need to train him to cut open hay bales and carry flakes to each food trough and hay bag twice a day, and we'll be set.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Road Apples and Broken Brakes

We got another cloudy morning and took advantage of it.  I was riding Rock in his Renegades, so there were no limitations on where we could go.

In the summer heat, I've been sticking close to home in case the horse or I are overcome by the heat, but it was cool enough this morning for us to venture beyond the roads.  We crossed the busy road, which is a little less busy in the summer.  Not a whole lot of motor homes or motorcycles to contend with, anyway.

We saw a couple of cars off in the distance and began crossing -- something both horses have done many times before.  However, Gabbrielle, who was in the lead spooked over some writing in white paint next to the white line.  She refused to cross the white line because of it.  I was watching P.S. work her through it, and in the meantime I was watching these cars getting closer and closer.  There are blind dips in the road, so unless the driver's attention is on the road way in front of them when they rise up out of one of these dips, they won't see a couple of horses in the road until it's too late, and the speed limit is 45 mph.

Just when Gabbrielle got over her hesitation and finished crossing the road, I cued Rock to finish crossing, and he wouldn't budge.  I hadn't worn my spurs nor brought a riding crop, and I had loop reins.  I had nothing to spur him on with other than the slap of my hand on his rump or the saddle strings.  I saw the cars much closer and my heart skipped a beat.  I kicked him repeatedly, and he finally lurched forward and walked inch by inch as slowly as he could across the street.  Once on the shoulder I turned back to see the first of the two cars whiz behind us and run over a trail of Rock's manure that he deposited while crossing the street.  He was pooping in the middle of the street!  That's why he didn't want to move.  And I thought it only made sense to train show horses to keep moving while they poop!  Now I have a good reason to teach my trail horses to keep moving while they poop too.

We had to maneuver around a lot of cholla balls, which was a struggle with Rock.  He's so resistant to cues right now.  But it was good practice.

We rode for a while, and turned back when the angry clouds finally started getting closer.  We tend to get lost when we go to the other side of the busy street.  There are some trails that end at cliffs, so we try to avoid those.  Then on the way back we always manage to choose the wrong trails and either wind up at a cliff with nowhere to go, or we wind up having to go down into deep, rocky arroyos, which is no fun when you can barely steer or slow your horse.  Once we turned the horses for home, Rock wanted to fast-walk his way back while in the lead.  I kept trying to get him to slow down or stop and wait for Gabbrielle to catch up, but his mind was on a one-track loop.

Usually, if I tip his nose to the side he slows down and I release the rein, but nothing was working, so I tried to circle him closer to P.S. and Gabbrielle.  That's when his bad attitude kicked in, the ears went back, the tail swished, he hunched his back up and began crow-hopping in the circle.  I tried releasing him to go straight once he slowed down, but then he sped way up, so I'd have to circle again, and with each circle he got cockier.  I've been on enough bucking horses to know the signs right before it happens, and Rock was planning on dumping me in the dirt and running for home as soon as I gave his head back to him.

So, I tried the one-rein stop, only he wouldn't stop.  He kept doing tight turns.  I made the decision to dismount as soon as he did come to a stop.  I had no whoa with that bitless bridle and we were approaching the street.  I couldn't risk him being out of control on or near the street, so I led him home.

You can sort of see his trail of manure in the street near the right side of the gate.  He pulled on the reins all the way home, so I had to keep correcting him to make him walk quietly beside me with some slack.

Once home, I put him in a bridle with a bit and rode him around for a while.  He was way more responsive in turning and stopping.  We can go back to the bitless bridle once he brushes up on his manners, but for now he has proven himself untrustworthy.  The next time the horse trainer goes out on the trails with P.S. and Gabbrielle, I'll ask him to ride Rock in the bit and work on his gas pedal, steering, stopping and backing.

Gabbrielle got a bath today.  Isn't she gorgeous?

My horse trainer makes these Stay-Put Halters.  They are so nice looking that I'm ordering one for myself.  If anyone is interested, let me know and I will find out how much he charges to ship them to people.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Loving the Clouds

Clouds are a huge blessing for horseback riders in the middle of August in Arizona.  You have to drop everything and ride when such rare moments come around during the summer months.  My husband mentioned that whenever he rode Rock after our horse trainer rode him, he was smooth as butter in all of his maneuvers, but since the horse trainer has been riding Bombay and Gabbrielle throughout most of the summer, Rock has gotten sticky again.  He'd do things like stop in the middle of trail and refuse to budge for my husband.

So, I decided to spend a little time with him and see what was going on.  I think that because Rock hasn't had to do much work all summer, he is reluctant about returning to the trails.  The first thing he did was to avoid getting haltered.  Next he walked off from the mount.

I did some groundwork maneuvers with him away from the mounting block and kept his feet moving, only letting him rest next to the mounting block.  Then I said whoa in a very firm tone and he held still and stayed still until I cued him forward.

He doesn't like it when I chase his tail.  That's one of the quickest ways to get him moving.  He picked up on Clinton Anderson's training techniques pretty fast.

The next problem was his steering.  He almost took off my knee on the sign while going through the gate.

I tried to back him out of it in order to get him better lined up, but he was committed and my timing was poor.

The gratuitous butt shot...

The rainstorms of recent weeks have been washing the sand and dirt off the trails, so there is exposed rock in places, like large boulders buried underground.  Going down into this arroyo, we had to navigate a small rock face.  There was really no good place for the horses to put their feet.  

I tried to guide Rock to the left, but he went right and lost his balance.  He started falling down the hill and recovered by breaking into a trot.  I just let him go because I knew speed was what he needed to get his balance back.

Right behind us, Gabbrielle tripped and started to fall as well.  She ended up cutting her coronet band on a front foot.

Here we are circling back to help Gabbrielle catch up after a pit stop.  You can see her peeing in the upper right-hand corner...

In this next picture Gabbrielle evaded that dark patch of dirt.  Rock got annoyed and tried to pass her, and then she pinned her ears back and I had to chew her out.  As soon as her attitude gets sour, we have to correct it so that she won't try to kick other horses on the trail.

 Down the road to home...

Now I'm just waiting for the thunder off in the distance to reach us and give us another good watering.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rejecting for Respect

The mountains look so different from one hour to the next.  This was the view from my back porch this morning.  The weather has been all over the map this week, but we finally got the cooler mornings and evenings I've been waiting for.  Each time it is cloudy with a nice breeze, I think of saddling up for a trail ride, but usually within a few minutes of having that thought either the sun comes out with its oppressive heat and humidity or high winds come out of nowhere and then it starts pouring rain.

People have been coming out of hibernation, so I'm back in the role of having to stave off the trespassers.  They come in waves once it cools down.  I've seen quite a few bicyclists, hikers and horseback riders.  The old deaf bicyclist who was Bombay's nemesis on the trails last spring came out and rode down my neighbors' driveway to look into the windows of their house.  I know the house is for sale, but after all my experiences with Peeping Tom neighbors in the past, I am still bowled over when I see someone behave that way.

I would never dream of peering in the windows of someone's private home, even if it is up for sale.  If I'm a serious buyer, I'll get a tour from a real estate agent by appointment.  I also caught another neighbor racing out of the driveway of the house next door hauling a bunch of stuff in a trailer.  He was acting so odd that I went over next door to make sure that none of my neighbors' sculptures were stolen and no gates, doors or windows were open.  I suspect the man was just being nosy and peering in the windows too, and when I came outside he knew he had been caught, so he raced out of there in a hurry.  Since I've been parking my truck in the garage, people think no one is home at my place, so they tend to take chances, because they think there will be no witnesses to their actions.

I spend a lot of time outside because of the horses and dogs.  We're still trying to get Stewie potty trained, and if it doesn't click with him before the snowbird campers show up to the south of us, all hope will be lost.  He gets distracted by every little noise and keeps forgetting to do his job.  Each time he doesn't do anything around meal times, we put him in his crate, take him out a while later, try again, and again, and again, until he finally goes, and then we celebrate by throwing the "poo poo outside squeaky toy" around for him to fetch.  A new friend told me that she has a Chihuahua mix that she's never been able to potty train and he's 16 years old.  That's so depressing, because she knows her stuff when it comes to dogs and horses.  As far as basic commands go, Stewie understands "stay", but he confuses "come" with "sit".  Because of his attention problems, I have to get down on his level and get in his face while giving the commands.  It's a lot of work.  Multi-tasking is not an option when training this dog.

I didn't have enough time to ride between feeding the dogs and the horses, so I took Bombay for a quick hand walk in the desert, hoping to find some snakes since it has cooled down enough for them to come out.  We didn't run into any animals at all, but we followed some fresh horse hoof prints in the mud.  Bombay was a bit hyper, occasionally prancing and getting ahead of me, keeping his head high most of the walk and alerting on things way off in the distance.  I came to the realization that if he is 16 years old and he's still such a high energy, nervous horse, he's probably never going to change.  He's had a ton of training, but his personality will most likely remain the same.  I wish I could find a job for him to do that would make him happy, because I doubt he will ever be a consistently relaxed trail horse.  I just find it so discouraging when I have to keep taking three giant steps back, or worse yet, go all the way back to square one in a horse's training.  At some point I feel like I have to give up and get on with other things if I want to keep my sanity.

When we returned to the barn, I was exhausted and still had to feed the horses and clean up manure.  I looked over to see all four horses pacing and circling their stalls, smashing the manure into the ground, making it ten times harder for me to clean up.  The hay has been falling apart the second I pick it up, so feeding time has been expanded to a half hour production in my efforts to get the hay off the bale and distributed to the horses' feed barrels and hay bags without spilling any on the ground or down my bra and underpants.

I knew that by the time every horse got its ration of hay, the manure would be an insurmountable problem, so I grabbed the long whip and chased all the horses out of the barn.  However, Lostine refused to leave and just kept running out of one stall and into another.  She knew exactly what I wanted, but she refused to get out of the barn and join the other horses so that I could clean stalls.  I had to actually tap her with the whip several times before she gave in and cooperated.  Usually, just a crack of the whip, or better yet, the sound of whipping the aluminum roof of the barn is enough to get the horses out.

Then the entire time that I was cleaning stalls, Lostine kept galloping around, trying to charge her way back into her stall.  I blocked the entrance to the barn aisle with the manure wagon and long whip, but they didn't deter her.  Each time she approached, I chased her off.  Rock saw her challenging me and decided to creep up on me in order to sneak past while I was busy chasing Lostine off, but it didn't work.  I was on top of things.  Bombay creeped forward a little, but halted as soon as I said whoa.

I knew that both Lostine and Rock were sure that they would be allowed to go back into their stalls as soon as I finished cleaning stalls, but I wanted them to learn to wait for me to give them permission.  As soon as I cleaned up the last pile in the barn, both Lostine and Rock came running and I chased them off again.  Then I started cleaning up manure outside the barn.  Lostine broke into a gallop as soon as I got far enough away that she knew I couldn't outrun her, and she charged into the wagon handle and pushed right through it as if it were a turnstile.  I chased her back out and she finally gave up.

When I was ready to let the horses into the barn, I directed Gabbrielle to go in first since she was the only horse who didn't try to sneak past me.  All the horses understood that they were to wait until I pointed at them and said their name.  The next least offensive horse was Bombay, so I sent him to his stall, followed by Rock.  They all entered in an orderly fashion.  Then when I gave Lostine permission to enter her stall, she turned her nose up to me and refused to go in.  Typical.  I ended up having to herd her into her stall, and she ran instead of walking.

I call that type of exercise "rejecting for respect", a play on Clinton Anderson's "lunging for respect".  Only you don't need a round pen or a long line.  You just chase the horses off whenever they are misbehaving or in your way, and don't let them near you or near the object of their desire (their stall, another horse, or their hay) until you explicitly give them your permission.  It's the same thing that horses do to each other in a herd.

The yellow butterflies showed up this week.  I'll know it's really cooling down when the multi-colored ones appear.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Skies

One More Toad Hit the Road

We're continuing to have problems with toads this summer.  The wildlife problems here tend to cycle, and each year is different from the year before.  Each time the weather changes, I think, "Which animal is going to be a pain in my butt for the next few weeks or months this time?"

If we forget to close the garage door before it gets dark outside, the toads make a beeline for it.  I used to try to get the dogs to chase them out when I had them on leash and could stop the dogs before they put their mouths on the poisonous toads, but the toads have learned fast and know that dogs on leashes are nothing worth heeding.  Then I tried catching the toads with with gloves on my hands and carrying them outside, but in the time it took me to get the outside, they'd pee all over me.  Then I tried sweeping them out, which works as long as they don't go deeper into the garage to avoid the broom, and find a hiding spot.

They have a lot of nooks and crannies they can hop into to get away from me.  If they slip into one of those, they are stuck spending the night in my garage, and I am stuck having to clean up all of their gigantic turds and sticky pee puddles.

Last night one got away from me and hid behind a heavy piece of furniture.  A lot of times if they aren't smart enough to hop outside once the garage door is opened again, they will dry up and die in my garage.  Then I have to clean up dead toad too, not just its relentless pee and feces.

A couple of nights ago something was tapping on our back door and Stewie kept growling.  I turned on the porch light and looked outside, but saw nothing.  Then I opened the door to find a large praying mantis stuck to it.

This morning I thought Midge's stomach was heaving as I was attaching the dogs' leashes to take them out through the garage.  But each time I heard the odd sound, she wasn't moving.  I realized that the thudding was coming from the other side of the garage door.  I wondered if my husband forgot to close the garage door and we were being robbed.  But I didn't have time to investigate because first thing in the morning if the dogs don't go straight outside, they'll relieve themselves inside.  I decided that if there were burglars in the garage, I'd release the dogs on them to chase them off.

I opened the door to the garage and the dogs charged out, but no one was there.  As I turned to close the door behind us, I saw one of those huge toads hopping inside the house.  Argh!  My hands were full with three dogs on leashes, so I couldn't pick it up, but I wasn't willing to let it soil my house and hide behind furniture all day, so I punt kicked it out of the house and back into the garage.  Amazingly, the dogs were so focused on relieving themselves that they didn't even notice this toad flying right past them.

Once the dogs were done with their business, I grabbed my gloves.  By the time I opened the door to the garage to hunt down the toad, it had returned to throwing itself against the door and it was trying to hop right past me inside our house a second time.  The toad put up a fight and tried hard to escape me, but there was no way I was going to let any toad with that much gall get away.  I scooped him up and carried him outside.  He was already pumping his gut and peeing all over my gloves.  I held him way out in front of me so that it wouldn't dribble down my clothes, and I released him.

I'm sure I'll see him again soon.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Riding into the Sunset

My husband had the week off from work and was looking forward to going horseback riding, but between the monsoons, the humidity, the heat, and my headaches it was looking like just trying to stay upright in the saddle was going to be impossible.  Just when I had given up on trying to go for a trail ride, P.S. came by and the wind picked up late in the afternoon.  There were some clouds broiling on the horizon, but it looked like they would either amount to nothing or take at least an hour to reach us and drop any rain on us.  I had taken my Ibuprofen and my husband had taken his pain medicine, so we quickly saddled up to join P.S.  Unfortunately, I forgot to clean my camera lens before leaving, so most of the pictures are blurry in the corner.

Riding Lostine is like driving an old junker that can break down at any minute.  Whatever happened to my Maserati?  I kept praying she could make it a few more steps without me having to pull off to the side of the trail and call for a tow truck.  The good news is that she was really gassy while saddling up, but pooped all along the trail during the ride, so she was much more perky toward the end of the trek.  I'm glad I chose to ride her, because the exercise helped her tummy feel better.

I'm getting truly fed up with being sick and hungry all the time, so I've been experimenting with foods to figure out what fills me up and gives me energy, and what makes me hungrier and weaker.  I'm discovering that my body just can't tolerate sugar or caffeine anymore.  Also, now that my husband has moved his office out of the dining area and into an unused bedroom, we can move our treadmill, elliptical machine, and stationary bike into the dining area where we can exercise in air conditioning and watch TV at the same time.  That should help me workout more often.  We have two dining areas, so we still can use one of them for dining.

I'm usually so out of shape by the fall season after not doing much beyond napping and vegetating all summer that it takes me a long time to get back into the swing of hiking or horseback riding every day.  I find I just don't have the energy to do it after coming out of hibernation.  I'm going to try to change that this year.

I can feel fall approaching, because in May and June we had to ride early in the morning if we wanted to ride in bearable temperatures.  July pretty much sucked 24 hours a day, but now we occasionally get a decent afternoon with a breeze.  I can't wait for the nighttime temperatures to drop, because then both mornings and evenings will make for good trail rides.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Spare Pics

I take random pictures, forget about them, and find them on my camera later.  Since there hasn't been much of anything beyond the same old, same old to write about, I decided to share some pictures.

This is the side of my property that I haven't been able to visit often because of the guard dogs next door, but since they moved out, I was finally able to get some beautiful shots on a cloudy day...

Looking out into the desert where I ride the horses...

My husband took a closer look at the tree that took on some damage during the last big storm, and he found several more large branches that had either broken off or were hanging.  Here he's dragging a branch that is a tree in its own right...

Gabbrielle always has to snoopervise...

I'm hearing thunder now, but still waiting for rain.