Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bombay Got Sent to Exile Island

I know.  Round pens should be used for lunging and riding -- not time out.  I've had to separate the boys several times this spring for getting too rowdy.  I'm fine with them play fighting, but as soon as I hear hooves connecting with flesh, whoever's hooves were flying is the one who is sent to Exile Island.

See all that yellow in the photos?  That's what's been making us sick lately.  The Palo Verde trees are in full blossom with tiny yellow flowers.  For a while there, I had no choice but to take antihistamines every few hours, because otherwise I couldn't get anything done except blow my nose every few seconds.  The upside of antihistamines is that they help us sleep.  The downside is that we sleep so well that we wake up to dog poopsidents and peepsidents on the carpet, and I get to greet each day with a bucket and scrub brush.

You can see my neighbor's round pen and one of her horses up on the hill in the upper right of the second picture.  Here's a shot I got the other day of the boys playing rough...

I think they were playing the carriage game with the ball, Rock ripped the ball away from Bombay and threw it in the air, and then Bombay got mad and bit him.

Here are some other shots I took around our place over the past few days...

It's extremely difficult to get pictures of all three dogs hanging out with each other.  Usually, by the time I stand up to get my camera they all take off in different directions.  They were in a much cuter pose before I got this shot.  Stewie was on the move so I didn't even have time to get Midge's ear and Scrappy's butt in frame.

Stewie often acts like my dining room chair is his throne.  Somehow he always manages to climb up my leg into my lap while I'm eating.

The ravens are still bringing bones to the horses and using the coyote's water bowl to dunk their meal meat and pelts in.  Yuck.

 The ocotillo are in bloom.

Enjoy it while you can.  Next week everything will look completely different.

Monday, March 30, 2015

New Horse

Just kidding.  My friend let me ride her Missouri Fox Trotter today, because I've never ridden a gaited horse before.  It's different.  The walk kind of rocked me forward and backward.  I couldn't figure out how to get a comfortable trot going, and couldn't stop the horse right away, so I didn't try any faster gaits, but he was a really sweet gelding.  I was hugging and kissing on him, and trying to get him to drink out of my water bottle.  I even accidentally kicked him in the butt while dismounting, and he couldn't care less.  He was a part of a dude string for several years and was used to having to give rides to all kinds of people.  I'm sure he'd been kicked in the butt many times before.

We led him across a busy road with motorcycles and trucks pulling trailers roaring past, and he wasn't in the least bit concerned.  He was great being out on the trails without a buddy horse too.  Here he is getting his bath.  He was totally relaxed during that too.

Too cute.  You know I wanted to take him home with me, but I've got enough horses at home waiting for me to clean up their poop.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Boys Model CNJ's Latest Designs

It's that time of year to stock up on fly masks for the boys since they shred through them so fast. They've been wearing a store bought brand that I won in an auction, but I wanted to make sure they each had a CNJ special, because her homemade masks are strong.  The mesh lasts probably four times longer than the mesh used with the store bought brands.  I emailed her with my order, and this is what she wrote back:

I just bought a bunch more mesh and I have a variety of colors- grey, tan, white and the new addition is two metallics, brass and charcoal, that have a shimmer to them. Fleece? Black, navy, hunter, yellow, orange, pink, red, and in prints I have zebra, lime green zebra, black & green leopard, giraffe, camo, blue camo, pink camo.... 

I decided on zebra print with white mesh and giraffe print with metallic bronze mesh.

Come pick out your new toys, Boys.

Rock was very pleased to model his mask.  He couldn't stop smiling.

I got really excited when I saw that CNJ added in these handy dandy tabs to help me grab the Velcro strap.

So cool.

Bombay was being grumpy, so it took a lot of pictures to get one with his ears forward.

Time to switch it up.  Now Rock is trying out the zebra look.

And Bombay is styling in his giraffe costume.

Rock and Gabbrielle kept interfering with the photo shoot.

Can you guess why?  Look at the shadows.
I got Bombay to put his ears forward by holding up a treat.  That only worked for so long until Gabbrielle and Rock caught on and started mugging me.  Gabbrielle was chewing on my pocket and Rock was giving me the sniff down.

Since the mares don't let the boys rip the masks off their faces, they both still have their masks that CNJ made last year and the year before.  Besides the fact that they last longer than store bought brands, I like that I can custom order sizes.  The Farnam Supermask II in a horse size barely reaches to attach under the geldings' large jowls.  The next size up is extra large, which is way too big.  When I make it as tight as it can go, the flies can still climb up underneath the nose band.  So, I explained that to CNJ and she knew just what to do to get her masks to fit my geldings perfectly.  She didn't even have to come out and take measurements or ask me for measurements.

You can contact CNJ at her blog or through the email in her profile if you'd like to order some.  We met for dinner last night and I got the inside scoop on what's to come next in her blog posts about her latest driving competition.  You won't find any spoilers here, though.  My lips are sealed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Flowering Cacti

My mare Gabbrielle accompanied me on a hike into the desert to get these pictures after Rock helped me find these flowers during a trail ride...

See the bee?
I put Gabbrielle away because her lead rope was getting stickers all over it, and I rode my bike down the road to another location...

I saw that my neighbor had a newborn foal.  This filly is a black and white Gypsy Vanner and is for sale for $8,000, if anyone is interested.  She runs a horse rescue and breeds horses to raise money to keep feeding the horses she rescued, if that makes any sense.  I didn't take pictures, because it was in their back yard, but I can direct you to the ad, which has pictures.


Between me being unexpectedly busier than usual, the weather being wetter than usual, and my health being more obnoxious than usual, I haven't been able to get a whole lot of horseback riding in this winter.  I've been walloped with one illness or injury after another over the past five weeks.  Every time I turn around, it's something else, and I'm not just talking about the sniffles.  For instance, the past two days I have had a knot in my calf that made me walk with a limp.  I have no idea where that came from.  Then yesterday the allergies kicked in with uncontrollable sneezing, endless nose blowing, chills and sweats, headaches, swelling, etc.  If I wanted to stop sneezing and blowing my nose, I had to take an antihistamine, which knocked me out.  I think I slept a total of 18 hours yesterday alone, and only woke up to go to my photography class.

So, when I woke up today feeling about 70% normal, I was determined to ride a horse.  When I am consistently not feeling well enough to ride over a long period of time, I get frustrated because I know that the horses are going to be so much more difficult to work with as more time passes without them being ridden.  At the same time, my desire to ride wanes.  I develop other habits besides riding horses, and then when I feel better I have to get back into a routine where I make riding a part of my daily activities.  Ultimately, I always feel great when I return from a trail ride.  Being out in the sun allows me to sweat out whatever toxins my body doesn't need, I feel stronger, and I feel happy because I've accomplished something.  So, I knew I had to ride before I got any deeper into this rut.

Of course, as soon as I started getting ready, my body said, "Go to the bathroom NOW!"  Took care of that, went into my office to get something, but totally forgot what I was going into there to get because an old camera of mine freaked me out by turning itself on, extending its lens toward me, and then retracting the lens, and shutting itself off.  I haven't used that camera in so long that the battery should be dead.  So, I just said, "I guess the spirits are talking to me," and I went on my merry way.

Whenever I leave the house to go for a ride, I have to remember five things:
1.  Lock the trash can, so that the dogs can't get into it and make themselves sick.
2.  Get my protective vest.
3.  Get my mobile phone.
4.  Get a bottle of water.
5.  Get my GoPro camera.

I always, without fail, forget one or two items, get halfway to the barn, and have to turn around to go back and get what I forgot.  That happened today.

I had promised a friend that I would get Rock tuned up so that she could ride him, and when I approached him with the halter, he jumped at the sight of it, spun his butt into my face with his tail tucked under, and took off at a gallop across the paddock.

Whoa.  Not good.  He's never done that before.  He always either comes to the halter or stands and waits for me to put it on him.  He was clearly communicating to me that he liked being a barn ornament and had no intention of doing any work.  Obviously, I couldn't let him get away with that.  So, I took several minutes out of my trail riding time to teach him that running from the halter is futile.

Then I had to take several more minutes out of my trail ride to teach him that he is to walk beside me when I lead him, and he is not to stop and graze every few feet.

I led him into the round pen because he was acting very jumpy.  He overreacted to every cue I gave him, and I didn't want him jumping two feet in the air as soon as I lay some leg on him.  I figured he was jumpy because it had been so long since he'd been around humans or had a rider that he didn't understand what I wanted and he was scared of the unknown.  So, I worked with him on simple requests like walk, trot, whoa, and turn toward me, not away from me.  He caught on, and with each success, he received praise, and eventually relaxed.

I tied him to the trailer to be tacked up, and I managed to drop the reins in a patch of stickers, so I had to take more time out of my trail ride to get the stickers out of the reins.

I got my GoPro set up on my helmet only to discover that its battery was completely dead.  I had charged it the last time I used it and I had turned it off, but apparently the battery can keep draining if you don't use it.  So, I grabbed my GoPro-free helmet and strapped it on.  I don't know what is going on, but over the past few days I have had four cameras, my laptop computer, and my mobile phone all go on the fritz.  They shut themselves down and won't start back up, or they start themselves up and shut themselves down.  This is some seriously weird stuff.  A lot of static electricity in the air, I guess.

Right on cue, all the delivery trucks started driving up the street.  I got used to them not coming around until mid to late afternoon all winter, but now they are coming mid-morning, which means that many of our winter visitors have gone home.  That's a good thing, because it means less congested roads and supermarket aisles, and less unwanted surprises on the bridle trails.  It's easier for me to feel more confident on the back of a horse when the chances are low that we will run into motorcycles, ATVs, bicycles, powered parachutes, inattentive drivers on the roads, hikers popping out of bushes, and loose dogs that want to eat my horse's hooves.  The chances are pretty high right now that we will run into rattlesnakes and killer bees, but I'd take that over the winter visitor circus any day.

The delivery trucks made their rounds quickly, so I led Rock over the the mounting block, and he wouldn't hold still for the mount.  Really?  You're supposed to be our best horse.  So, I had to take more time out of my trail ride to work on holding still at the mount.  He learns quick.

We headed out and he managed to drag my leg against a branch that had a ton of bees on it.  They got all stirred up, and I held my breath and prayed that they were just common bees and not the killer strain.  Nobody got stung.

Then the gawking began.  I have a subscription to THE TRAIL RIDER magazine and have been picking up on a few new-to-me training ideas.  One thing I see on the trails that I like are horses that focus on the direction they are headed, and never bother to look at hikers and bicyclists and horseback riders who pass them.  All four of my horses morph into giraffes the second they spot any movement or hear any noise on the trails, and several of them have problems walking when their periscopes are up.  I'm tired of my trail rides coming to a halt because of my horses' reactions to activity that has nothing to do with us.  Julie Goodnight wrote something about correcting your horse every time it gawks, so that it learns to focus on the trail ahead and tune out everything around it.

So, each time Rock's head turned, I pulled his head back straight and pointed it where I wanted him to go.  If he got too obsessive about studying whatever was distracting him, I was going to turn him in the opposite direction and make him walk away from it, even if there was no trail there.  Fortunately, it didn't get to that point.  He learned to focus on where we were going.

I also decided to head off the problem of him rushing home before it could get to that point.  I pulled that off by taking trails we normally don't go on, walking just a few yards up them, and then turning around, returning to the main trail, finding another trail, not following it to the end, and turning around, then crossing the main trail where he wanted to turn toward home, and stuff like that.  I just mixed it up so that I would eradicate all expectations from his head regarding where we were going and when we were actually heading toward home, since we headed for home several times only to turn around and go back out.

In the process, we found several different types of cacti that were blooming.  The wildflowers that were pushing up out of the soil over the past few weeks are now drying up and dying, but the cacti are offering some color.  I plan to go out there when the light is better and take some photos before the blossoms are gone.

Rock was good.  I felt like I got my old buddy back by the end of the ride.  I like it when it doesn't take too much effort to tune up a horse after he has had a long vacation from work.  Once he consistently comes to the halter, holds still for the mount, and follows directions from the saddle, I'll feel more comfortable with letting someone ride him.

I wish I had pictures from the ride, but it appears that all my cameras are on the fritz at the moment, so I'll dig through my archives and see what I can find.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

They're Out

It rained yesterday afternoon and last night, and then today was bright and sweat worthy, so all the critters came out.  I saw a rattlesnake crossing the street.  Unfortunately, it was headed toward the house of the neighbor who chops off rattlesnakes' heads.  Then this afternoon I was on the lookout for snakes when I almost stepped on the Gila Monster in his usual spot where I see him every spring.  You may wonder how I can be looking for snakes and miss a giant neon orange and black lizard before nearly stepping on it.  My view was obscured by a rock wall while I was going up some steps, and he was at the top.  I froze and yelped, while he spun around and ran back into his hibernation spot.  So, unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures.  But I think seeing my first rattlesnake of the season and seeing my favorite G.M. on the same day is pretty awesome.

The Search Continues

Unfortunately, the new dog vet didn't work out for us, but at least Stewie is caught up on his vaccinations for the next year.  My husband feels that the vet he took Scrappy to when he had Giardia was the best.  It's just so far away and you have to take a really congested road to get there.  I keep thinking there's got to be some vet closer to home who I can tolerate, but it seems all the vets around here went to the same vet school -- the one that teaches them to put the fear of God into pet owners and drain their wallets with a lot of unnecessary tests and treatments.

Here were my issues with the new place:

1.  Tiny waiting area.  You have to be on guard so that your dog doesn't touch noses or get into a tussle with other dogs.  If worse comes to worse, you have to take your dog out into a supermarket parking lot.  I don't know why, but the majority of veterinary offices around here are little store fronts in strip malls.  Not very safe for animals with all the traffic.

2.  Only one vet and two technicians on staff.  The technicians doubled as receptionists, so we had to wait until they were done answering the phones in order to get into an examining room.  We finally saw the vet half an hour after our appointment and by that time we were the only clients in the place.

3.  They have an office cat that was loving on me, and I'm allergic to cats.

4.  Their walls were covered with educational posters that list all the things that can go wrong if you don't choose certain optional treatments for your pet.  It seemed like they were more interested in selling to our fears than in making us comfortable.

5.  The receptionist/technician verified with us four times which vaccinations we wanted until I was about to scream, "Can't you listen???", and then half an hour later she started pushing another vaccination.  I agreed to that one, which opened up the floodgates and then the vet swooped in and started adding more and more tests and vaccinations and procedures and surgeries in until I thought I was going to vomit.  I snapped at her and told her I wanted the three original vaccinations and nothing more when she tried to get me to sign a print out for several hundred dollars worth of services I did not intend to have done.

6.  She told us that Stewie had to have his baby teeth pulled after the vet at the low cost clinic said it wasn't necessary.  She also insisted that he had abnormal build up on his teeth and needed a cleaning.  He's only one and a half years old, for Pete's sake.  I owned dogs my whole life and they lived normal, happy, full lives without dental work.

7.  For every optional service I refused, she talked about the worst case scenarios with a scowl on her face, pushed educational pamphlets on me, and tried to make me feel guilty for neglecting my pet.  People should be praised for bringing their pets in for routine exams and vaccinations, because for every one who does that, there are more people who never take their pets to see a vet because they can't afford it.  Being shamed for protecting my wallet seems to be the norm in most vet offices now-a-days.  The way my husband sees it, some of these services vets try to sell us are like tornado insurance.  Can it happen?  Sure.  But can you afford the insurance, and is the pay off even guaranteed?  Sometimes you can spend more in insurance that it would cost to just deal with the problem when or if it arises.  Many of the options being pushed on me required multiple appointments, and I am desperately trying to free up my time -- not tighten the noose.  Vets sure can be like used car salesmen.  I feel like I need to take a shower after dealing with them.

8.  Stewie was so terrified that he ran a temperature.  I felt that both the technician and the vet handled him roughly.  For instance, the vet kept pulling on his legs and showing us how one of his knees pops in and out.  That's not necessary.  That's like hitting someone in the head and saying, "See?  He has a headache.  Here, I'll do it again just to be sure.  Yup, that's definitely a headache.  Let's schedule surgery."  Sometimes I feel like I'm in a mechanics shop instead of a veterinary clinic, and the name of the game is to point out as many potential problems as possible.

9.  They turned away a man who had an emergency because they were "all booked up".  However, they could have easily just given my dog his shots in five minutes and helped this man.  Instead, they chose to hold me hostage for an hour while they told me everything that exists on earth that could kill my dog and what I needed to do to fix it.  All the five star reviews on the Internet say that this vet really cares about the welfare of animals.  What I saw was that she cared more about money.

10.  I got on the freeway to get home, and got stuck in slow moving bumper-to-bumper traffic.  I had to get off at the next exit and take the side roads home.  Now you know why I am so adamant about not having to take freeways or busy roads to a vet's office.  You never know how much time you are going to need to get there and back.  Between the traffic and being held hostage while haggling over my dog's healthcare, I need to block out an entire afternoon.

I just want to find a vet who respects my choices and isn't always pushing the up-sell, but that's hard to find around here.  I miss my best vet in Nevada so much.  He actually did the down-sell.  He'd tell you your options, and then say, but this costs so much and it isn't guaranteed, so it's a bit of a risk...  He was also very practical about end of life choices.  He'd let you know how much the treatment was affecting the animal's quality of life and whether it was worth it.  He was into making humane decisions as opposed to guilting pet owners into doing everything to save a life at any expense.

I also want to find a vet who respects my time.  No means no.  If I say no, that does not mean it is time to start arguing with me.  I went in to get vaccinations, but what I got was a bunch of bullshit.  When the vet finally got around to administering the shots, it took her all of one minute.  So, why was I forced to say no for an hour to a bunch of other crap?  I think in the future I will need to verify in advance how long the appointment will take.  If I am told it will be any longer than 15 minutes, I'll make an appointment elsewhere.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Dumb Luck

A quick story...

A couple of years ago my local feed store gave me an envelope to collect Nutrena proofs of purchases (POPs).  I believe the deal is that if you purchase 12 bags of Nutrena Safe Choice products and bring in the proofs, you get one bag free.  I started carrying each empty bag from the barn to the house, searching for scissors, cutting out the proof, and then walking back outside to put the rest of the bag in the recycling bin.  That quickly became a pain in the butt.  It seems I always emptied a bag right when I was in the middle of three different chores.  So, I noticed that the tags sewn into the bottoms of the bags had the UPC on them also.  I could easily rip those off without having to search for a pair of scissors.

However, by the time I had several of those tags piled up, I realized they wouldn't fit into the envelope.  Then when I had 12 proofs, I noticed that the UPC on the tag did not match the UPC on the bag.  I figured the store or the company wouldn't accept them, but thought I'd ask anyway.  I wasn't planning on going to the feed store today, but I impulsively grabbed the envelope on my way out the door to another appointment, because it was in the same area as the feed store.  The appointment finished early, so I went to the feed store to ask about the tags.

The store clerk informed me that they were different, and I did have to cut the proofs of purchase off the backs of the bags.  However, there just happened to be a representative from Nutrena in the store.  The clerk told her of my situation, and she said, yes indeed, you have to take the time to cut out the POP on the back.  No tags.  So, the clerk threw my 9 tags in the trash and returned my 3 POPs back to me in the envelope with directions to bring it back when I have 9 more POPs.  Then she asked the Nutrena rep if she had any coupons she could give me since I made the effort.  She said she has some in her car.

She returned to me with three coupons for $3 off future purchases, and a handy dandy measuring cup so that I know exactly what the weight is of the amount of grain I am feeding the horses.  I usually just fill a coffee can or bucket and divide accordingly.  So, I didn't have to suffer a complete loss for being too busy to bother with the hassle.  She advised to me keep both the envelope and the pair of scissors in the same location where I store the bags, so it will be convenient and I won't forget.  She said that if she was going to get a free bag for cutting out POPs, she would make damn sure she did it.  For some of us, time is more valuable than money.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I voiced my other concern, which was that there was no expiration date on the deal, and I didn't want to invest another year or two of my time cutting out POPs if the deal is no good by the time I return to the store with 12 POPs.  She said the deal is good forever.  She thanked me for buying their products and said I'm doing a good thing for my horses.

The thing that baffled me was that the store clerk said there was a sale on Safe Choice Senior today, but we got distracted before I could ask her the price difference.  Ultimately, it didn't matter, because I did plan to buy more bags anyway.  But I thought the total on my receipt was a bit too high, so I checked my records, and sure enough, the price for one bag was $16.99 a few months ago, then $17.99 with my last purchase, and now with the sale I saved a whopping 20 cents per bag at $17.79.  Now I'm kind of concerned that the regular price may have risen above $17.99 if $17.79 is considered a sale.  I'm unsure what causes the price of a product to be raised multiple times within such a short period of time, but it doesn't surprise me that the price of equine supplements would go up at a time of year when people in some parts of the country are running out of hay.  It is what it is.

So, would you take the time to cut out proofs of purchases over a period of months or years to save roughly eighteen bucks, especially with the price of most horse feeds going up?