Thursday, October 20, 2016


Yesterday I walked out the back door and saw movement off to my left.  When I turned my head, I caught the figures of two animals diving down behind my retaining wall.  One seemed to be attacking the other.  All I could see clearly was a lush, reddish coat and pointy ears.  I thought it might be a fox, but foxes are fairly shy and I've never seen one this close to my house.  I've only seen them out in the desert.

The prey broke free from the predator, and they both jumped up over the wall and disappeared into a bush.  I was still struggling to comprehend what I was seeing.  I waited, and then a bobcat walked around the bush toward me and sat down about ten feet in front of me.  It looked at me with those gorgeous cat eyes while gently waving it's tail beside it.  I talked to it, and it listened, looking at me with curiosity.  I was fascinated that it wasn't afraid of me.  It acted, well, just like a house cat.  I slowly reached for my mobile phone, and when I looked down to locate the camera app, the bobcat slinked around the corner of the house, so I was not able to get a picture.

My husband said that it was probably waiting for me to look away before it made its escape.  Then last night I saw a TV show on the life of cats, in which cat behavior is studied by attaching a camera and GPS device to the collars of house cats.  They did say something about cats being territorial and locking stares until the other animal looks away.  I had house cats while growing up, but then developed a righteous allergy to their dander, so now I have to avoid cats and homes that house cats or I'll end up sneezing non-stop with a horrible headache.

I looked for evidence of what kind of prey it was after, and found a lone feather.  Seeing the bobcat was just one more reminder of what a magical place I live in.  I've been feeling bummed that I haven't seen a Gila Monster in over a year, but seeing a bobcat three times in the past few months makes up for it.  I don't know if the bobcat is male or female, but I decided to call it Betsy.

There was a nice breeze, so I took Rock out for a quick walk around the bridle trails to work on his leading skills.  He still needs to improve on not crowding me and not wiping his nose on my shirt, but he was super good about slowing down to my pace when I shook the lead rope.  It's actually really good that he had a little pep in his step.  Usually, he drags behind.  I wish I had found the breeze sooner so that I had the time to ride him, but the sun was setting and everyone was waiting to be fed.

Just a quick story about medical care hell.  I had asked my doctor to refer me to a different imaging facility, since everyone at the one I'd been using is incompetent.  I've suffered through everything from receptionists forgetting that I was on the line and hanging up on me to doctors getting my x-rays mixed up with someone else's.  Almost every other time I go in, either their computers are down or their imaging machines are broken, and they have to reschedule.  I hate the place with a passion.

So, my doctor gave me a referral to a different facility.  I called them only to find out that they closed the location closest to my town.  I would have to drive into a high traffic area in the city.  I really didn't want to do that, especially with traffic being on the increase, so I bit the bullet and decided to schedule my appointments with my old imaging place.  I was on hold for 15 minutes after being told that I was caller number two in the queue.  A receptionist picked up and said, "Can you hold just one quick moment please?" and she put me on hold before I could respond.  I waited another 5 minutes and then she hung up on me.

I was so angry, because this has to be the third or fourth time they've done this to me.  There was no way I was going to call back and be put on hold for that long again, so I contemplated calling my doctor and cancelling the surgery.  My experience is that when things don't get off to a good start, they just keep getting worse.  I've actually seen patients drive to the facility in person to complain that they'd been calling, trying to set up an appointment, and couldn't get through, so they came in person to do it.  The receptionists then explained that they don't schedule appointments in the office, and the patient has no choice but to call centralized scheduling.  That's how bad this place can be.

Anyway, once I cooled down and started thinking things through, I did my own research and found one other imaging facility near me, but it turned out that they didn't have the right machines that I needed.  I tried one more time to get through to centralized scheduling at my old facility, and this time someone actually picked up and worked with me after I had been on hold for 5 minutes.  The lady sounded like she was done and wanted to quit her job, but her mood improved after we talked, and she was nice to me.  I suspect they've got patients yelling at them all the time.  When I go in, I'm planning on talking with everyone who will listen about the various issues I've been dealing with concerning their facility, but I'm going to do it in a calm, friendly, non-emotional manner so that they will more likely listen and act upon my suggestions.  I'm continually seeing evidence of how I have influenced other people without even realizing it, so I know I have the power to change things for the better.  Improving service at this imaging facility is going to be my new mission, especially since I'm stuck with them.

Since I don't have a recent picture of the bobcat, I'll show you a picture of a pretty bird, minus its face.  It wouldn't look in my direction.  Wildlife doesn't always cooperate.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Stocking Up Before Winter

I recently went to the pharmacy and told the pharmacist that I wanted to stock up on my dog's diabetic supplies before the winter visitors get here.  My old pharmacies would have told me that I'm not allowed to do that.  They would only give me one bottle of insulin and one box of syringes at a time, and they'd actually keep track of that last time I bought them.  If enough time had not passed, they would not sell me more.  This new to me pharmacy is awesome, because the lady's response was, "You're smart.  Just tell me what you need and I'll get it for you."

I asked for two bottles of insulin and four boxes of syringes, and she didn't blink an eye.  I probably could have asked for more.  She asked how long that would last me, and I estimated about six months.  We both hesitated and wondered if that would be enough to help me avoid the long lines.  This past spring, the population really didn't recede until June.  Oh well.

I asked if it has already been getting busy, and she said it has.  During the summer she had a lot of downtime waiting for customers, and now there is a steady stream, but the lines aren't too long.  I can tell they are trickling in by the packs of traffic on the road.  The drivers all hang together in a herd, and then there are gaps between the masses.  Where I used to be able to just turn onto the highway or merge onto the freeway without waiting, now I must wait for a break.  Soon there will be no breaks, and I'll have to take streets with traffic lights.

I don't realize just how important it is for my days to go like clockwork until another person comes into the mix and messes it all up.  The hay delivery man called at 7:30 AM this morning and asked if he could come deliver right then.  I said yes, not really thinking about the logistics.  I had just fed the horses their breakfast at 6:00 AM.  I wouldn't be able to leave them in their stalls with a huge truck unloading a block of hay right beside them without the horses injuring themselves.  Sometimes the horses are good about ignoring the trucks, but sometimes they completely flip out and run in circles crashing into the railings of their stalls.  Since they've had a long, quiet summer, I'm sure they will be spooky this time around.  I'm just not up to tending to any more leg injuries.

So, I had to run outside and let all the horses out of their stalls, knowing that Gabbrielle would probably attack the geldings over the hay.  I didn't know which was worse.  Having the hay barn right next to the horse barn is convenient for me when I need to feed, but it's not convenient when I need an early morning delivery.  If I had truly been thinking ahead, I could have fed Gabbrielle in the round pen to keep her separated from the other horses, but my head has been elsewhere.

I'm still recovering from a doctor's appointment in which I was told that I need surgery, but the doctor doesn't want to do surgery because she doesn't think I am healthy enough to survive it.  A few years ago, she had offered to do this surgery, but I postponed it because I wanted to give my body time to resolve the problem itself.  That never happened.  Had I known the I would age so quickly in just a few years to the point of not being healthy enough to undergo surgery, I would have elected to do it back then.

I was rather shocked by her assessment of me not being healthy enough for surgery, because people who are much older and much heavier than I am have surgery all the time.  I think she was referring to just the general conglomeration of health issues I've had lately.  We compromised at the expense of my horseback riding season.  She's going to do outpatient surgery to take tissue samples for a biopsy in December.  I have less than two months to lose weight and get my blood pressure down.

What my doctors don't understand is that all of my relatives were super skinny and still had high blood pressure and hypertension most of their adult lives, so genetically speaking, I doubt my blood pressure will go down when I lose weight.  My daughter is a feather and only 26 years old, and she has high blood pressure.  I'm going to continue working on losing weight, despite all the discouragements of not getting any results yet while working out each day and limiting my food intake, because I know I'll recover faster if I'm lighter and stronger.  I just wish the temperatures would actually drop down into the 80s like they've been predicting for several weeks now, because then I'm not limited to just working out indoors.  Once I can start hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding regularly, that will make a huge difference.

I think she's doing the biopsy as a test run before actually removing the organ, because previously she was just going to remove the organ and then examine it.  This means a lot more appointments and expenses for me.  It's quite frustrating.  In the next few weeks I will have to have 2 to 3 imagining appointments and 2 to 3 doctor appointments.  I really did not want to be sucked into medical care hell during horseback riding season after waiting five months for the temperatures to cool down enough for me to ride.  I should have known better.  I just went in for an annual physical (to beat the winter visitors), and asked if I could have surgery next summer, and this was the result.  I told her I felt like I was giving up my life, because now I'm going to be sitting in medical offices the majority of the time, and she said, "It's not that bad."

Well, when you only have a few days now and then when the weather is right for riding, and you feel well enough to ride, it does seem that bad.  Then I read in the pre-operative packet that I'm not allowed to take anti-inflammatories in the week before the surgery, and I nearly flipped out.  That means I won't be able to walk in the week before the surgery, and thus won't be able to ride my horses.  And, of course, I probably won't be able to ride in the week after the surgery either... or maybe several weeks.  She says this biopsy surgery is necessary because she has to rule out cancer, but I've had these symptoms my entire adult life.  They've just gotten progressively worse.  Common sense would say that if I had cancer, I'd have passed away a long time ago.  I'm pretty sure that this is going to just be another huge waste of time and money with no diagnosis and no cure.

When the hay delivery man arrived, the horses raced to the far end of the arena, so I knew I did right by letting them out of their stalls.  This was a new driver, and he was hesitant about dropping his load in my barn.  I informed him that they've done it in the past, and if this is the same truck, it should fit.  I missed my old driver, because he was so confident.  Anyway, this guy ended up doing an awesome job.  He checked his work as he went to make sure he didn't hit the top or sides.  He set it down right on the very back of the pallets as far back as it could go in the barn, which I liked because it protects it from the rain better.

It's going to make it difficult to squeeze back there to tie down the tarp, but we'll make due.  We can just tie down at the corners, but hopefully we won't need the tarp since he set it back so far.

It's always a relief to have a fresh block before winter.  Hopefully, this will last six months like the insulin and syringes.

I moved an old water trough out of the way for the truck, and the rusted bottom fell right off...

I've been using it to throw away twine, so I guess I didn't need the bottom anyway.

Our blue feed barrels are cracking from the heat, and every time I inquire about them at the feed store, they say they don't have any and don't know if they will be getting any in the future, so I may have to come up with a new feed trough solution.  I used to use the small sheep troughs on the ground, but the horses kicked them around.  I weighted them down with rocks, and the horses threw the rocks around, making a racket and bothering the neighbor.  So, we used the blue barrels, but the horses learned how to bang them too.  So, my husband anchored them down better, but now the anchors are breaking.  I've also used hay bags, but the metal parts make a non-stop, annoying clinking noise on the metal railings, so I had to wrap the metal parts in duct tape, but then the heat melted the duct tape off.  The heat pretty much ruins everything.

While most people stock up for winter because the roads are often blocked by snow or made treacherous by ice, I stock up for winter because the roads are blocked and made treacherous by those wishing to escape the snow.  It's kind of ironic, but I understand.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Gab and the Rat

I was too tired to finish yesterday's post.  You want to take a gander at why I haven't gotten much sleep lately?  Gabbrielle.  Who else?  That horse always has to find something that she can bang on all night long in an attempt to wake me up so that I'll come feed her, which never works, because I don't reward her for that behavior.  I just yell at her and take away whatever she is banging.  With a horse like that, who needs a rooster?  Although, I do have one neighbor who keeps chickens, a rooster and some geese, and that rooster makes a racket at any time of the day or night.

The neighbors must hate us animal owners.  This is the time of year when people like to open their windows at night to let the air cool down their houses, and every noise that my mare makes wakes people up.

I'm in this quandary, because if I let her out with the other horses at night, one or both of the geldings will be injured in the morning, but if I leave her locked up in her stall, she kicks her water trough and feed barrel, and bangs any loose gate within reach.  I've been considering putting her in the round pen at night with a water trough so that she'd be far enough away from houses that any noise she made shouldn't be as loud.  However, I suspect she would just scream and run in circles all night long, and that would be worse.  Neighbors would come out of their houses in bathrobes to investigate if a horse is trapped.

Gabbrielle is hell bent on doing whatever it takes to drive me crazy and to be disrespectful of everyone who comes within her firing range.  The other day she smacked my friend in the mouth with her tail.  I'm sure it was intentional.  She's tried that maneuver with me, but I know it's coming, so I grab her tail mid-whack and hold it while chastising her.  Hitting people in the face with her tail is her way of telling them to get out of her space.

While I was out of town, she nearly put my husband in the hospital.  I had told him to not let Gabbrielle out of her stall, because she's on a diet, and I don't want her chasing the other horses away from their hay.  Also, sometimes even when the other horses make way for her, she still chases them into corners and kicks the bleep out of them.  I didn't want to have to cut my trip short to come home to mend injuries.  My husband decided to handle it differently.  He let her out of her stall, but then as soon as she stole another horse's hay ration, he reached into the feed barrel to remove the hay she was eating.  She knew he was reaching into the barrel, but when she saw his hand in there, she overreacted and threw her head up, clocked him in the face, and dislocated his jaw.

The jaw was swelling up, but instead of going to the ER, my husband raced to his favorite restaurant to eat his last meal while he still could.  While painfully trying to chew his food, the jaw snapped back into alignment and the swelling dissipated, so there was a happy ending.

I'm due for a new block of hay, and it's important that I order it now before the winter visitors deplete the supply.  It's very difficult to find large amounts of hay between November and March here.  Anyway, I have to clean all the old hay out of the wooden pallets first.  I usually end up with a pile of old, moldy, dusty, loose hay that is about five feet wide by three feet high once I've raked it into a pile.  I have to scoop all of that into the wagon and dump it in a recycling location.  Once I tried just spreading it out, and the hay delivery man refused to drive his truck over it, because he said he wouldn't be able to get any traction.  Ever since then, I've had to make sure I get it all raked up off the driveway to make way for the new hay.

Anyway, it's quite the process.  It's hard to do in one session, especially when it is hot outside.  So, I've been doing a little bit at a time around sunset and sunrise.  It's much harder than usual right now, because a variety of critters made nests under the haystack this summer and they completely changed the surface and stability of the ground.  Something made a burrow, and piled rocks all over the place, so I have to rake up all the rocks and relocate them while filling in the holes.

I always see animals scatter when I pull up the pallets.  Last time I saw a bunch of pack rats.  This time I saw a tiny baby snake, a mouse, quail eggs, a spider, and something that moved too fast for me to focus on it.  I only caught the tail end of the snake disappearing, so I'm not sure what kind it was.  The tail was black, so maybe either a king snake or a black racer.  The mouse was a mouse and not a pack rat or kangaroo rat.

I instantly get a headache when raking up all that dusty hay.  It's my least favorite chore.  At least here, I can mostly shake the hay out of the pallets.  When I lived in the mountains, the old hay would get packed in with snow and ice and I had to chisel it out.  My hay delivery guy there refused to set fresh hay down on unclean pallets, because he said that the mold would spread, and he didn't want me returning his hay for a refund claiming that it arrived moldy.  I wouldn't have done that, but I guess other people did that enough times to him that he learned to demand that they clean out their pallets.  I remember one year I couldn't get the pallets clean, so he set the block on a pile of rocks.  Then when the pallets thawed out in the spring, we went back to using them.

While raking up hay, I also found a rattlesnake skin and a bunch of old dried out cacti and fruit.  The critter even dragged in both horse manure and coyote turds to feast on.  I know there is no way a coyote could have gotten under that haystack to poop.  Rodents sure can be a nuisance.

We've had a rat stuck in our bathroom wall that always manages to start scratching and chewing right after I fall asleep.  I have to keep getting up to bang on the wall to quiet it down.  I have rat poison in the nearest water closet, but it won't take the bait.  I think last night it was actually in the bathtub drain pushing the drain stopper up and down in an attempt to escape the pipes.  I don't know how it could have gotten in there in the first place.

So, I guess Gabbrielle isn't totally to blame for my lack of sleep.  The rat is at fault too.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Yadda Yadda Yadda

A couple of weeks ago I started letting all four horses out together, because Gabbrielle's mood had improved considerably with the cool down in temperatures, and she was proving herself to play well with others.  The morning after our Battle of the Bulge, Battle of the Saddle, Battle to Get On Her Back, or whatever you want to call it, Bombay was covered in hoof-shaped cuts and bruises.  Gabbrielle was immediately quarantined to her stall.

I felt guilty, because the evening had even been too stifling hot for me, but I didn't think that it might bring out the monster in my mare.  I should have known.  We had a spell in which summer returned along with all the aggressive, annoying flies.

What was mind baffling was how Gabbrielle managed to kick Bombay in some of the locations where he had injuries.  He had to have been sleeping while lying down, and she must have attacked him unprovoked.  She even kicked him in the nuts... or the sack they used to hang in.  The worst of it was right where the saddle sits on his back, so of course, I won't be able to ride him for a while.  When I made the decision to just ride the geldings this year, I forgot that by simply having Gabbrielle in their vicinity, she will manage to take them out of the game too, and I most likely won't be able to ride any horse.

That day I gave Gabbrielle a bath.  She hates having water sprayed anywhere near her head or her tail and always has to dance around to avoid the spray.  I don't have a wash rack, so I tie the horses to a stall railing.  She gives me a workout as I feel more like I'm playing tennis, running from one side of the court to the other in order to get every part of her clean.

At one point a tiny mist of water sprayed on her ears and she pulled back.  Because Rock had been playing with the other end of her lead rope on the other side of the fence, he managed to loosen the tie enough for there to be some give when Gabbrielle pulled back.  That gave her the confidence to keep pulling, and she broke free.  She ran toward the driveway, stopped, looked at me, looked up the driveway, looked at me...

I said, "You want to make a run for it?  Go ahead.  I won't chase you.  I know you are too much of a wimp to go out in the desert by yourself.  You'll come running back to your buddies for protection."

She sighed and lowered her head in resignation.  She knew I was right.  I walked over, picked up her lead rope, led her back to the railing and tied her again.  She was smart enough to know that there was no point in trying to pull back a second time, because I would have made sure there was no getting out of it after that.

What really put me off was that she kept threatening to kick me when I was trying to brush out her tail.  She's never been that mean before.  I decided to put her away in a stall before she could ruin my riding season even further by breaking one of my legs.

Of course, the first thing she did when I put her in a stall was to rub her hips and sides up against the railings so that she came away with rust stripes.  She wants to be a zebra?  Fine.  I'm not going to lose it over the fact that she just canceled out all the hard work I put into cleaning her.  Then she lifted her tail, pooped, and proceeded to circle around it like she was getting ready to roll in it.  I hollered at her and clapped my hands and she changed her mind.

I had put her in Bombay's stall, because that's where the sun was, and she still needed time to dry.  When it was feeding time, I had to get her out of Bombay's stall and into her own.  I set the manure wagon across the barn aisle to prevent her from leaving the barn, and I opened the gate to her stall.  Just when I was letting her out, Bombay walked into Gabbrielle's clean stall and took a dump.  I turned my attention to him to get him out of there, and Gabbrielle squeezed around the wagon and ran out into the arena to roll in the sand.  I grabbed the pitchfork and chased her back to her stall before she could get dirt and manure all over her.

Gabbrielle used to be the sweetest horse.  She would never eat her hay until she kissed me first.  She followed me everywhere I went.  She'd beg me to ride her when I was riding other horses.  I had high hopes for her because she had such a good attitude, but I suspect that she's a cold weather horse.  He attitude began going downhill during our first summer in Arizona.  She hates the heat.  I also think that she may have a hormonal imbalance.  I've taken her off grain for now to see if that helps.  She doesn't need any excess energy.

I bathed Lostine after her, and what a pleasure that was.  I love a horse who just cooperates.

I've been short on time, sleep, pain-free days, cool breezes, and patience lately.  I kept breaking fingernails when I was doing barn chores, and was tired of having to run back to the house to cut off the dangling participle.  My fingernails always break back behind the blood line, so if I don't address the problem, I'll bleed more with each time I touch something.  That hurts.  Anyway, I finally got smart and stocked my tack room with a fingernail clipper kit so that I don't have as far to go to get it.  Most of the time this happens, I'm in a race against the sun and need to get my chores done either before it rises and burns me to a crisp, or before it sets and takes my light away.

I also cut all of my fingernails down to nubs, and of course, had something happen first thing in the morning that required fingernails.

And so it goes.  Yadda yadda yadda.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Last Ride

Since Gabbrielle has been so obnoxious, expressing her barn fever in full force, I wanted to start working with her to keep her busy.  I took her for a walk in the desert the other day, and she was fine.  She balked a bit on the way out, stopping to look around every time she heard or smelled something, but the rest of the time she was really good about walking slowly next to me, letting me and my bum leg set the pace.  She investigated one trash pile, but didn't spook at anything.

This morning I tacked her up for a ride, and she began fussing about the cinch before I had even pulled it under her belly.  I've decided that I hate dealing with cinchy horses.  It's just one more neurotic behavior I don't have the time or energy for.  If I cranked the cinch tight enough to interfere with the horse's heartbeat or breathing, or even to pinch the horse's skin, I'd understand why Gabbrielle pitches such a fit.  But the reality is that I'm very gentle.  I tighten gradually and always move the horse around after tightening it.  If I see any wrinkles in the skin, I loosen it.  There is no need for her to worry.

Then she turned her head away from the bridle.  I gently pulled her head toward me and slipped the bit into her mouth, praising her for cooperating.

Then my husband walked out to do some yard work next to the round pen, so I decided to lunge her next to him in the round pen while he shoveled and pushed a wheelbarrow around.  She was fine until he climbed into the back of the utility trailer to dump the wheelbarrow.  Then she threw her head up and bolted to the other side of the round pen.  She's seen him do this a hundred times, and she was fine with it if she was walking by, but moving at any pace faster than a walk triggered her spooky side.  It was like this:

I'm trotting, I'm trotting, I'm trotting.  What's that behind me?  Oh frick!  Why I am I trotting?  Something must be chasing me!  Run!

Once she could trot past him while he was in the trailer, I cooled her down and took her to the arena for a ride.  I walked her around him from that perspective just to make sure she wasn't going to lose her mind, and she was fine.  I pointed her toward him so that if he made any loud noises, she could see what was going on.  I'm a stickler for safety when it comes to mounting, because you do not want your horse to bolt right when you have one foot in the stirrup and are in the process of swinging your leg over, especially when you have a special leg like mine that needs to be lifted over with one hand.

I rocked the saddle and it was on solid.  I put my foot in and leaned forward.  Again, the saddle was secure.  However, Gabbrielle's expression made me suspicious.  I put my weight in the stirrup and leaned forward while swinging my leg up as high as I could get it before grabbing it to pull it the rest of the way over, and right then, Gabbrielle sucked in her belly, letting the saddle slide all the way down her side.  I went down with it.

Now, she's a fairly short horse, so this normally wouldn't be a problem, except for the fact that the mounting stool was right there.  One leg landed on it while one leg landed off.  I tried getting both legs off, and my left leg slid down the side of the stool, taking skin off it as it went.

I was pissed and threw the mounting stool across the arena, but maintained a cool exterior as I adjusted the saddle back to where it was supposed to sit on her back.  Please note that she did not get scared and spook with the saddle on her side, almost hanging off her belly.  She was clearly expecting this to happen, because she made it happen.  She just stood there while I fixed everything.  I think she even found me throwing the stool to be humorous.

Then I led her around some more, gradually tightening the cinch again.  I led her to the mounting stool, rocked the saddle, stepped in the stirrup, and there was that expression again.  The expression of a mischievous horse.  She was watching me closely.  She knew the difference between me testing the saddle and actually mounting, so I went ahead with the first movement I would make when actually mounting, and there went the saddle sliding down her side again.  I swear she was laughing.

I was like, "Alright, you want to be a cinchy horse?  I'll give you a real reason to be a cinchy horse."

I tightened it to the point where she had wrinkles, I backed her up, I tightened it some more, but there was a problem.  There was no hole in the latigo where I needed to stick the buckle, so I had to loosen the other side of the saddle.  Around and around we went again, trying to get her to let her guard down just a second so that I could tighten it where it needed to be.

At the stool, I went to mount, and the saddle slid.  I was able to tighten it two more holes after she sucked her belly in, then two more holes after walking her.  That's four full holes from the point at which I thought it was tight enough to safely mount.  That's what a trickster this horse can be.

This was my view for the majority of my attempted ride:

When I finally mounted without the saddle sliding, I turned her left and she went right.  She continued turning right until she made a full circle and nearly crashed us into the damn mounting stool.  I said whoa, and she ran backwards.  I pretended to dismount, and she stopped for me.  I tried to get her to move forward, and she moved backward.  I said, "You want to go backward?" and I tried to force her to keep going backward, but she suddenly decided to go forward.  I pulled her right and she went left.  She was clearly jerking me around.  This is not an untrained horse.  She's had five horse trainers since the age of one, and she's eleven now.  That's ten years of training.

Once she stopped, I just sat on her to think a while since my emotions where telling me to smack her silly, but I wouldn't do that because I'm not a horse beater.  You can see here that she was tense and fully focused on my next move, because she wanted to stay one step ahead of me and do the opposite.  She's not the type of horse to rear or buck her rider off, which is nice, but she is too smart for me.  She knew that I forgot to bring my riding crop, and she took full advantage of it.

I sat there knowing that I needed to dismount, tie her up, retrieve the riding crop from the tack room, mount her again, and give her cues with the crop, but I was so exhausted.  By this time I had been working with her from the ground for an hour and a half, and it wasn't getting any cooler outside.  My leg was stinging and feeling like it was bleeding.  I got off and put her away.

I'm thinking I just won't bother trying to ride her anymore.  It's too much work when you consider that I can have either of the geldings tacked up and walking down the trail in five minutes.  I don't know how much longer I have to ride with this fast progression of my arthritis, so what's the point in dorking around with an uncooperative mare?  I think I'll just spend this year enjoying the boys.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Herbivore Meets Carnivore

I looked out the window to see Rock and Gabbrielle marching out to the end of the arena like they were on a mission.  Then I saw movement on the other side of the fence.  I pulled out the binoculars and saw a coyote chasing rodents down holes.  The horses were very interested in what it was doing.  When Rock began nibbling on something, the coyote approached him to see if what he had to eat was any better than the lunch that got away.

(You may have to click on the photos to make them big enough to see the coyote.)

Apparently, the coyote decided that weeds were not an interesting food source, because he yawned and walked away.

But not without taking one last look down a critter hole.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Making an Effort

Back in January I started keeping a horsemanship journal.  The idea behind it was that I wanted to do something with the horses each day, even if it was just two minutes of teaching them to lower their heads.  A variety of things got in the way of me doing anything beyond feeding them, but at least I've got a record of where I left off.

I really wanted to start riding regularly in October this year, because I usually don't get into the swing of things until December, and by then I've got the winter visitor population explosion to deal with, which includes fifty times more traffic on the roads that I have to cross on horseback, and fifty times more traffic on the bridle trails, most of which are people who don't know trail etiquette around horses.  It kind of takes all the fun out of riding.

The problem with this October has been the rapid rise in temperatures in the mornings.  Before sunrise, it can be down in the 60s and once the sun comes up, it can reach the 80s and 90s in no time.  I'm finding that my body cannot acclimate to such a rapid change.  It feels more like 120 degrees to me, and I sweat profusely.  All I want to do is stay indoors in the air conditioning.  This month has been disappointing because the weather forecasters keep promising daytime temperatures in the 80s, and then raising them to the 90s week after week.  We have a high pressure system socked in over us, so it still feels like summer.  Yuck.

The horses have been stir crazy.  They want me to take them out and ride them.  Yesterday I managed to take Lostine for a walk, and she looked so happy to have a change in scenery.  She didn't want to go back to the barn, but I could see that her legs were getting tired and wobbly, so I took her back anyway.

This morning I fed the horses by flashlight, hoping that they would finish their breakfast before it got too hot outside.  Still, by 9:00 AM when they did finish, I was questioning whether I wanted to ride in the heat.  I knew I had to ride in the arena at the very least.  Bombay was my willing victim this time.

Each time I tack him up, I experience disbelief over how easy it is.  He's so calm about getting dressed for a ride, and he even sticks his nose in the bridle and opens his mouth for the bit without any guidance.

He automatically collects himself for a smooth ride, reminding me how well trained he is.  Riding in the arena really shows off the difference in training levels with my horses.  They can't just follow a trail, but have to listen to my cues on where to go next and how fast.  I would say that Bombay is definitely my most well trained horse.  He's so in tune with me that he does what I'm thinking before I even give the cue.

I had a buyer interested in him last year.  When she took her test ride, she kicked him, and I could see by the expression on Bombay's face that he was horrified.  All he needs is a slight adjustment of the seat or a tiny squeeze of the legs to go.  I've never had to kick this horse.  I should have told the lady who was test riding him, because he looked pissed afterwards.  The lady contacted me several months later asking about him, and I told her I decided to keep him.  Each time I ride him, I think, "How can I put a horse who is this responsive and well trained up for sale?  I've put nearly twenty years into working with him and we are a finely tuned machine."

But then summer comes and I think, "I can't keep taking care of this many horses.  It's too hot and I'm too old."

I really wish I could sell Gabbrielle, because she's constantly getting on my last nerve.  I feel like I spend more time throughout each day disciplining her for misbehavior than I do taking the dogs outside to pee, and you know I spend a tremendous amount of time taking the dogs out.  Every extra barn management task that I have in my routine is to prevent Gabbrielle from causing problems.  It seems that every day she is coming up with some new behavior that is totally obnoxious.  She needs someone who can keep her busy and tuckered out.

Bombay resting in the shade between Gabbrielle and Lostine's favorite pee spot.

He's so perfect until he hears a noise or sees movement, and then the head and ears go on alert.  Fortunately, he doesn't spook as much as he used to.  He even sleeps while I undress him.

That's one of the benefits of having an older horse.  He's as tired as I am most days.

The jeans I recently found that the coyotes stole have been shredding because they got brittle in the sun, so I gave the horses one of my old softball T-shirts from when my daughter played in high school.

The boys play tug-o-war and the carriage game with it.

When Rock loses interest in playing, Bombay swings it around like a lasso.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

I Found My Pants While Wearing In My Boots

I took over a mile hike this morning in an effort to wear in my new western boots.  I figured I wouldn't get very far before they started rubbing me somewhere, but they we comfortable as can be for the first mile.  It was only when I stopped moving that I started feeling the rub effects.  Why did I stop moving?

Well, I found my pants.

Or at least one leg of them.

These are the jeans I gave to the horses to play tug-o-war with and the coyotes stole them weeks ago.  I knew that if I just kept hiking out in the desert, I'd eventually stumble upon them.  They were close to the spot I expected them to be.  There's a coyote den that I know of near my house.  This section of my jeans was just up a gully from that den.  I hiked around in search of the rest of the pants, but haven't found them yet.

I was kind of worried about someone stumbling upon my pants in the desert and assuming that someone was either mauled by a mountain lion or raped.  I hoped the knots in the knees of the jeans would help people deduce that this was a pet toy.

As I was hiking back home with the pant leg hanging from my hand, I noticed a coyote stalking me.  I turned to face it and said, "I see you!"

It ran to another hiding spot, stopped to watch me, I turned and said, "I still see you!"  I'm pretty sure it was following me to see where I was taking its pant leg, so it could steal it back.

I let each horse sniff the jeans to see their reaction to being united with their old play thing...

While I was out hiking, a horseback rider followed me on an adjacent trail.  I think the horse thought I was riding a horse, because it kept calling out to me.  When the rider tried to pass me in the distance, the horse got nervous having me behind it, and tried to bolt.  The rider pulled it around and made it face me.  The horse continued to call out to me.  I was tempted to whinny back.

Most horses on the trails are fractious this time of year because they've been sitting around the barn all summer.  In a few weeks there will be hikers and bikers and horseback riders everywhere, so now is the time to be out gradually re-introducing your horse to the sights and sounds of the desert.  I never thought I'd say this, but I'm looking forward to there being more traffic on the trails, because they are getting so overgrown.  Some of my favorite trails are disappearing due to a lack of use.

Stewie says hi.

Saturday, October 8, 2016


We had a short lived lightning show tonight.  There was no time to hook the camera up to the tripod, so my pictures came out blurry, but still interesting.

The conditions were perfect for pictures, because the clouds were in the distance, far enough away for me to not worry about myself being struck.  Usually, I won't go outside at all during lightning storms when the air smells like ozone and bolts are hitting all around me faster than I can blink.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Small Opening to Crawl Through

I've been hankering to get out and have my first ride of the fall season after a long hot summer in hibernation, but one thing after another has blocked my efforts.  These issues have been going on for weeks, but just to give a few examples I'll talk about this week's mishaps.

On Saturday I bathed and groomed the geldings, and trimmed Rock's tail to prepare for the riding season.  This was something I'd been trying to do in the previous weeks without success.  It felt good to finally knock that off my To Do List.  I planned to ride in the arena on Sunday while my husband was home in case I had trouble dismounting with my bum leg.  You may recall that I developed pain and inflammation in my right leg at the beginning of summer, got diagnosed with osteoarthritis and put on anti-inflammatory medication.  I tried doing a test ride on Rock in the arena during the summer, but it was so stinkin' hot that both Rock and I were sweating profusely and unable to do much of anything other than to scramble to get into some shade.

However, on Sunday it rained all day long, which is a rarity for Arizona.  We usually get a quick downpour and then the sun comes out and it's sweltering hot again.  This was a cool storm that drizzled and rained steadily throughout the day, so riding was out of the question.  Of course, my husband washed his car the day before.

Even though my husband was at work during the week, I still planned to ride on Monday.  However, I had such extreme HMB and cramps that I was considering going to the ER instead.  I thought I was going to give birth to my internal organs.  Because I'm already on anti-inflammatories for the leg, and because I have stomach problems, I'm not allowed to take any other medications on top of those if I'm in pain, so I had to ride it out.  Eventually, the problems subsided, so I planned to ride on Tuesday.

I put on my riding boots, gathered my equipment together and noticed that my helmet cam battery was dead, so I decided to clean stalls and the arena while waiting for it to charge.  However, by the time I finished cleaning up manure, my leg was in so much pain that I couldn't put any weight on it.  I hopped back to the house and spent the rest of the day sitting and lying down, trying to get control of the inflammation.  My thigh felt like it was on fire.

This pain was worse and different from the arthritis pain I've had in the past, so I did some research and found that it could either be arthritis pain or a DVT blood clot.  Now I was in a pickle.  I could either go to the ER and pay a $10,000 hospital bill only to find out that it is an arthritic flare up, or I could assume it is an arthritic flare up and possibly have a stroke or heart attack.  I did what I always do.  I waited it out, but kept the phone close by in case I had to call 911.

The pain did subside and the burning stopped by late afternoon.  Bombay was acting stir crazy, making loud noises chewing on everything in sight, so I decided to test out my leg by taking him for a quick walk to relieve his boredom.  We didn't get very far because the pain returned.  I was feeling so discouraged, wondering if I will ever be able to ride a horse again.

My husband said that he would stay home from work on Wednesday if my leg was not better in the morning, so that he could do my chores and take me to a doctor if need be.  However, this morning I woke up pain-free and was able to do all my barn chores without any issues arising.  I knew I had to jump on this small window of good health, so I saddled up Rock as soon as he finished his breakfast.

Of course, the trash truck had to show up right when I was getting ready to ride. First it picked up at all the houses behind my arena, and I can tell you that my neighbors must be heavy beer drinkers, because there was a lot of glass breaking.  We bought Rock because a trash truck showed up and dumped the contents of a huge trash bin into its crusher with those mechanical arms just a few feet away from Rock, and he didn't react at all, so I knew he'd be okay with the truck.  However, with this being the first time I've ridden him in many months, I did not want to take a chance on having the truck let off its air brakes and take Rock by surprise right when I was mounting.

I had to wear sneakers, because I was convinced that walking around in heeled riding boots yesterday was what triggered my leg pain.  I normally would not ride in sneakers because they have gummy soles that can stick to the stirrups and prevent me from being able to quickly pull my feet out during a wreck or a dismount.  I prefer the slippery leather soles of boots, but apparently I'm at a point where I need orthopedic shoes with slippery leather soles and no heels to ride in.

The trash truck came around to the houses on my street while I was doing ground work, and right when I was about to mount, the driver parked in front of my house with his engine idling.  I waited for him to leave, but he wouldn't.  I realized that he was watching me and waiting to see me ride, so I led Rock back into the barn out of his line of sight, and he drove off.  Then I led Rock back to the mounting block and mounted successfully.  Considering that I wasn't even sure if I could mount with my wonky leg, the last thing I needed was a truck rumbling just a few yards away from us to add to the tension.

Rock had to test me on pretty much every cue I gave him, so I had to stay focused on keeping the pressure on until he did what I asked.  All he wanted to do was to return to the barn so that he could raid other horse's leftovers.

I rode for as long as it took to get him to be cooperative and responsive, and that gave me a decent amount of time in the saddle to test out my leg.  I was anxious about dismounting between the unpredictable leg and the gummy sneaker soles.  Ironically, I probably had the smoothest dismount I've experienced in years, and I was walking without a limp afterwards.  In fact, I think sitting in the saddle stretched out some muscles that needed stretching, so my leg felt good.

So, I'm happy knowing that my riding days aren't over just yet.