Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Grad Bag

No, that's not a typo.  I do mean "grad bag" and not "grab bag".

I asked Bombay to help me get my exercise, so he put on his halter and took me for a walk.

Once the spring/summer days start heating up, I tend to take walks in the late afternoons so that I don't have to smell my B.O. all day after perspiring through my clothes.  All it takes is being outside for about ten minutes and you find yourself showering in your own sweat.

After being trained to always lead a horse on my right side, I decided that I'd rather be able to lead my horse in whatever position the environment calls for.  If we have a narrow pass, I signal for the horse to stay behind me.  If the ground is higher on the right, I lead the horse on my left because I want to be higher than my horse.  That way if I slip, I fall into my horse as opposed to my horse slipping and falling into me.

Anyway, I woke up the other morning feeling like my once broken arm was broken again.  This happens to me from time to time.  I've seen doctors, physical therapists and a neurologist about it.  Everyone believed I was in pain, but no one knew why.  The problem was that everyone was looking at my arm.  The neurologist finally decided to look elsewhere and discovered that I have chronic pain in my neck.  I actually don't feel the pain unless I get whiplash when a horse spooks while I'm riding it, but for some reason the neck pain occasionally manifests itself in my left arm.  Anyway, I had to take Bombay back to the old days by keeping him mostly on my right.

While walking, we found a Mylar balloon stuck in a bush next to a main bridle trail.  I pulled it out of the bush and Bombay got all huffy and puffy on me, but I ignored his reaction and just started walking while crinkling it in my hand.  In retrospect, it probably wasn't the smartest thing to do having only one arm in use.  However, he was good and followed me.  He even got curious enough to poke the balloon in my hand with his nose a few times.  We also found a plastic bag stuck to a bush blowing in the wind, so we grabbed that too.  I gave Bombay lots of praise for helping keep the environment clean.

The balloon said "GRAD" on it.  Yup, the high schools and colleges should have had their graduation ceremonies recently.  We took the balloon home and tied it to the fence so that everyone could play with it.

Even Lostine was interested.  I love it when she participates in our games.  She usually isn't curious about anything.  She's kind of a "been there, seen that, done it" type of gal.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Oops, I Almost Did It Again

Oops, I almost stepped on a Gila Monster again.  It ran right in front of me when I was walking up the driveway.  I don't know why it is so hard for me to see a bright orange moving object that is over a foot long right in front of my face, but it takes me by surprise every time I nearly step on one.  It tried hiding between a rock and hard place...

We went around the corner to give it some space, and next thing we knew it was running toward the open bay of our garage...

My husband jumped in front of it to block it from getting in, and they had a showdown.  My husband was holding his cowboy hat in front of it, and the Gila Monster was rising up and hissing at him.  It then retreated and tried to hide in the corner of a closed bay to our garage...

Then my husband shut the open bay while I made sure that it didn't try to run in again.  Pretty much every animal that goes into our garage never comes out alive unless it has our help.  They usually just go into some impossible to reach crevice and starve to death.  We also didn't want it in our garage because we walk our dogs through it dozens of times throughout the day and night to do their business, and our dogs could easily kill it, and likewise, it could easily kill then.

You don't see me.  You don't see me.  You don't see me...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tale of The Bunny with the Torn Ear and The Stunned Lizard

Each spring there is usually at least one wild rabbit that figures out I'm not interested in eating it, and it feels comfortable enough to hang out with me.  This year that rabbit is one with a rip right down the middle of one ear.  I've noticed that whenever I start pouring grain into the horses' feed troughs, bunnies will come running from all directions.  They wait until I leave, and then move in under the horses' feed troughs to catch whatever falls out of their mouths onto the ground.  However, the bunny with the torn ear will hop right up whether I'm there or not and start feasting.  It's a very smart rabbit, because it has figured out that Lostine has the hardest time chewing her food, and is therefore the sloppiest eater.

On that note, if you want your daily overload of cuteness, google "rabbit stampede in Japan" and watch the YouTube videos that come up.

Something has been trying to build a nest of sticks behind our haystack within the wooden pallets.  I have no idea what kind of animal would do this other than a rat.  We still have a rat dragging sticks up onto our porch at night.  Every once in a while I sweep them off the deck, and the rat brings them right back.  The other night I was walking in the yard at night with a flashlight and I caught sight of a very tiny mouse that hopped and stood on its two hind legs like a kangaroo.  Any ideas what could be making this nest?  The sticks are too large and heavy for a mouse to drag.

I did find this lizard close by...

Last week I was on a roll riding at least one horse a day.  The horizon looked clear and optimistic, so I thought I was finally going to get back into the swing of keeping every horse well trained and exercised.  Then my husband came home from work early with abdominal and back pains.  A short time after that he began spitting up blood, so I took him to the emergency room.  Turned out he has bacterial pneumonia, which was really odd because he hadn't been showing signs of respiratory distress like coughing.  He is now, though.

That same day I started feeling cruddy.  There were no obvious symptoms.  I just felt chronically fatigued.  I slept most of the following day and have been trying to get my energy back ever since.  I entertained the idea that a mosquito may have infected me with some disease, because every night is a battle trying not to get bit.  I don't know where they are getting in, but the mosquitoes have taken over our house.  However, it's more likely that the new prescription drug my PA put me on has the side effect of fatigue, which is disappointing.  It seems like everything is a trade off.

I'm taking vitamins to try to counteract the tiredness, but so far it hasn't been working.  So, I try to force myself to exercise.  Today my husband and I went mountain biking.  My husband was having problems with his back tire and had to return to the house.  Right then, a dirty homeless man on a bicycle rode past us on another trail and stared at us.  I didn't want to return to the house with my husband.  I wanted to ride while he repaired his tire, but the homeless man was making me nervous.  I've been a magnet for panhandlers lately.  This weekend as I was getting out of my truck I got stopped in the Walmart parking lot by a guy who was eyeing my purse and asking for a dollar so he could get something to eat.

Well, I certainly can spare a dollar, but there is no way in hell I am going to take my purse off my shoulder, open it up, and open up my wallet in front of a stranger in a parking lot, so I told him I was on my way into the store because I was out of cash and needed to get some.  It was mostly true.  I probably had a dollar, but I wasn't going to risk getting mugged to find out.

Then on the way out of Walmart I got stopped by another guy while I was climbing into my truck.  I do not want strange men coming anywhere near me, especially in a situation where I could get easily car-jacked.  He said, "Excuse me, Ma'am," and I said, "What?" in an angry, unfriendly tone, hoping he'd get scared and just go away.  But he marched right up to me.  I wanted to say, "Dude!  Don't approach lone women in parking lots unless you want mace in your face."  It turned out that this guy needed a ride, but instead of straight out asking for a ride, he asked for a cell phone charger so he could call his friend for a ride.  "I don't carry those with me," I said.  Then he saw my husband walking up and left.  I'm sure if my husband wasn't there, he'd have hit me up for a ride.

So, here I am mountain biking in the desert with this homeless guy on a bike nearby.  I kept an eye on him.  He seemed to be scouting the area, probably to set up camp, which is illegal, and I certainly did not want a homeless camp in front of my house.  I biked away from him and when it was time to turn around to meet up with my husband, I found that the homeless guy had followed me and was making a beeline for me.  I was like, "There is no way I am letting this guy get two words out of his mouth at me.  He probably wants money."  So, I kicked it into gear and blasted right past him.  There was no way he could keep up.

If I'm hiking or biking or horseback riding and people say hello or nice day as they pass me, I'm fine with that.  But when someone acts like he is hunting me down because he wants something from me, I can suddenly become very elusive or downright mean.  When the religious groups or salespeople are on my street, I usually head out into the desert to escape them, so it was disappointing to have someone stalking me out there.  I feel like there is nowhere I can go to get away from people and their personal agendas.  It's funny, but I feel way less threatened by the rattlesnakes, killer bees and coyotes than I do by my own kind.

While I was in the waiting room of the hospital, there was a man on crutches who kept trying to call for a cab to get a ride home, but he didn't have any money, so he was trying to get his insurance company to pay the cab company.  Apparently, he's been in the hospital a lot and knows that this was a benefit.  Of course, he lost his insurance card, so he was struggling to get help.  He kept getting routed through an automated system and was getting increasingly frustrated.  He slammed the receiver down several times and screamed obscenities at the top of his lungs.  I was quaking in fear, because the guy seemed to be completely insane.  I was worried that he might whip out a gun and go postal on all of us.  The security guard just sat behind his desk reading a comic book, acting like nothing was going on.  Finally, one of the receptionists assisted him and told him not to use that language anymore, and to have patience.  She successfully settled him down.  The scary part about it was that I almost offered him a ride when he first came out on crutches and mentioned that he didn't have a way to get home.

I haven't had the energy to lift a saddle, but I have been able to stand in the middle of the round pen and bark orders at the horses...

It was difficult to get Rock to move any faster than the slowest trot he could do without walking at first, but then something caught his eye and spooked him.  He took off at a gallop to get away from it.  I looked over and saw that it was just Gabbrielle lying down.  He couldn't see her clearly through the trees, so he must have thought she was a wild animal.  I took advantage of his sudden burst of adrenaline and kept him loping, but then he spooked a second time.  I wasn't sure at what.  Then I saw something white in the round pen.

I walked over to go see what it was, and found that Rock had a collision with a lizard.  The lizard was lying upside down in the dirt.  I said to Rock, "You killed a lizard, Dude."

Then I saw it was still breathing, so I ran to get my camera.  I thought I shut the gate behind me, but it swung open and Rock started heading out without a lead rope.  I screamed and jumped for the gate, which scared the heck out of Rock and he spun around and took off running to the other side of the round pen.  So, he got three good scares within a  couple of minutes of each other.

When I walked up to the lizard to get a picture, it was coming back to consciousness and flipped itself upright.

It looks like its nose got a little smashed.  I picked it up with the handle of my long whip and moved it out of the round pen, so that Rock and I could finish our session.

Within a few minutes, it was running around, so I think it will survive.  Also, a while back I got this shot of a coyote just off our porch sniffing some watermelon rinds my husband tossed outside for the critters.  The picture was taken through the window, so it's not the greatest quality...

And here is a cardinal perched on a pole...

By the time my lens zoomed out, it was gone.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Unidentified Freaky Object

Lostine and I went for a spin on one of the most perfect trail riding days of the year.  Of course, as soon as I was ready to mount, a big truck had to come racing up the street.  It turned out to be FedEx.  It amazes me how a lot of people choose to live on dead end roads to avoid the problems that go along with traffic, and then the people who live at the very last houses on the dead end part always have to be running some kind of business out of their home that requires a dozen deliveries a day.  I had to deal with that at my last house and now I'm having to deal with it again.  Only this time the FedEx truck turned into my driveway.

Part of the reason why I wanted to go for a ride was to get away from hassles.  I received an email from someone claiming to be hearing impaired as an explanation for why she didn't call me, asking me to photograph a 5-hour family reunion on a specific date.  She didn't give a location, but asked if she could pay with a credit card.  Sounded like a scam to me, so I researched it, and I was right.  It was a scam aimed at photographers.  It seems I'm having to protect myself from con artists on a daily basis, and it's wearing me down.

Then I got our credit card statement and saw way too many charges for package deliveries, and I could only account for two of them.  Last month I found that my Amazon account was connected to a device that I don't own, so I deleted the connection.  I figured I'd compare notes with my husband when he got home before assuming that our account had been hacked.  At any rate, I was tired of worrying about who was stealing from us now, so I saddled up Lostine to get away from it all and here came this delivery truck.  I had to tie her to the trailer and head up to the house to see what was going on.  Oh yeah.  I forgot.  My daughter is in the process of moving, so she's using our address for deliveries.  Can't blame that one on the neighbors.

Once the truck left, Lostine held still for the mount, so we were able to ride right out without "training" setting the tone for the ride.  Instead, praise set the tone for the ride.  She kept eyeballing things on the ground that didn't exist and hesitating.

"What's the matter, old girl?"  I asked.  "Is your eyesight failing you?"

She seemed quite alert and tense.  I figured she still hadn't gotten over her run in with the power company, and urged her on.

It was very peaceful on the trails.  We came up to the top of this ridge and some movement caught my eye.  I looked up to see this white, rippling funnel extending up into the sky on the horizon.  It was huge.  I blurted out, "What the heck is that?"

Lostine got even more nervous and started running around like a pinball bouncing off of bushes and rocks.  I got her settled down and took a closer look.  It appeared to be a whirlwind, but the color wasn't right.  Whatever it was, I was praying that it wouldn't come straight at us like these rogue winds always seem to do when I am working with or riding horses.

Then the funnel began to arch and before I knew it, I was looking at a white rainbow.  It was so surreal.  My reaction was visceral, I can only compare it to taking a quiet hike and looking up to see an elephant standing in my path with no noise to warn me of its presence.  I think it's fair to say that most people would crap in their pants.

Then logic took over and I realized that this huge white arch was over the firefighter training facility, and therefore had to be water spraying from a fire hose.  I relaxed once I knew this was not another new-to-me weather phenomenon that was going to overpower me.  The water disappeared from the skyline and we marched on.

I had forgotten all about it until we reached another part of the desert that was much closer to the firefighter training facility.  We were approaching a pole and sign that had fallen on its side, and Lostine pitched a fit over it.  I was trying to prevent her from spinning and running, and with some reassurance, I got her to approach it.  Once she realized it was just one of those stupid signs and poles, she stopped right next to it to itch her leg.  Then we rose up over a hill and I looked up to see that water spray towering above us.  It was as tall as some of the buildings in downtown Phoenix and it wasn't making any noise.  Even though I knew what it was, Lostine didn't, and she hadn't spotted it yet.  She was too busy focusing on rocks on the trail to look up.

I started thinking about her reaction to a fallen sign that she had ridden past many times before, and then thinking what her reaction would be when she finally spotted this huge water spout in front of us, and I decided that I didn't want to find out how she was going to react.  I just turned us around and kept the freaky stuff behind us.

Lostine was none the wiser, so she can keep her innocence a little longer.

A Quick Update

I saw my first Red Racer the other day.  My husband and I were out exploring the neighborhood in my truck.  I've been seeing new housing rising on the horizon and was curious as to how close it was to us.  Pretty close.  I feel bad for the people who have to tolerate the construction noises and who have lost their views of the mountains because of this new housing development.  Most of the houses in my neighborhood are at least an acre apart, but people are starting to cram as many houses in as they possibly can.  I can feel my quality of life plummeting as I write.

But back to the snake.  I would have run over it with my truck had my husband not said something.  It was wiggling fast across the street in front of us and then disappeared into a bush.  I have never seen a red snake before, nor a snake that could move that fast.  I'm used to coming upon Western Diamondbacks sunning themselves in the middle of a road or trail, not wanting to move.

Last fall I saw my usual NP/PA and she ordered various lab tests for me, but I was unable to get in while the snowbirds were here.  Each time I arrived at the lab, there wasn't even any standing room.  I would have had to wait outside for several hours just to get my blood drawn.  So, I finally got that lab work taken care of late this spring after the mass exodus before the heat of summer set in, and much to my surprise, I was called in to the doctor's office to discuss the results.  That's never happened before.  I thought, Dear God!  Now what?

Of course, my usual NP/PA had left the practice.  This makes the second decent health care provider I've lost in the past year.  At first, it was hard to find an MD/PhD that I liked.  Then it was difficult to find any MD/PhD at all.  Most doctor's offices around here have one MD/PhD sitting behind a desk, and the people who see the patients are all Physician's Assistants and Nurse Practitioners.  When they asked me who I wanted to see this time, I said it didn't matter, because he or she would just be gone the next time I came in.  They assigned a male nurse to me and I had zero expectations that he would work out for me.

When I met with him, he told me that he wouldn't have bothered dragging me into the office for my test results, but could have covered the information with a phone call.  He criticized the nurse who called me in for wasting my time.  That made him rise up several notches on my respect meter.  This guy understood that the patient's time is just as valuable as his.  My main issue was that I had a Vitamin D deficiency, so he just told me to start taking supplements.  I talked with him about the correlation between that and another health problem I've had for a few years now.  He asked if anyone had treated me for it.

Treated?  Treated?  It seems I've talked with at least five different doctors and nurses about it and for some reason, not a single one of them did anything beyond giving me a list of foods to eat.  This new male nurse said, "My wife has that problem.  I'm prescribing to you what has worked for her."

Prescribing?  Really?  You're actually going to help me?  Wow.  What a concept!  Amazingly, this one little prescription has helped me live my life again.  I'm not a drug lover.  It would be nice if my body could just balance out everything on its own, but when I have symptoms that just will not go away and that prevent me from living my life, having to pick up a prescription every few months at the pharmacy and deal with side effects are minor hassles compared to the rest of it.

In other news, my old riding buddy came by for a trail ride.  She rode Rock and I rode Gabbrielle.  I followed behind her and rode next to her when I could, because I could hear her better from those angles, but I had to keep interrupting her because Gabbrielle stopped to poop 4 times and pee once during the ride, and I didn't want my friend to get out of earshot as she rode off over the horizon telling her stories to the wind.  She had some wild, and scary stories to tell about cholla balls and rattlesnakes.  Happily, she came away unscathed in her adventures.

Gabbrielle was good, but she seemed to forget her stop.  A few times she got pissy with Rock for walking too slow and she tried to blow past him and right through my reins as I asked her to hang back.  The one thing I like about Gabbrielle, though, is that she responds really well to shame.  All I've got to do is say her name in a scolding tone, and she says, "Yes, Ma'am."

We came upon a couple on horses heading toward us on one trail.  Their horses stopped and threw their heads up in the air to gawk at our horses.  The riders looked like deer caught in headlights, their eyes wide and mouths agape.  I figured they must be riding excitable horses and were out on a Monday in hopes of having the trails to themselves.  Rock was in front, so when he spotted the other horses, he slowed down.  Gabbrielle kept dodging left and then right, trying to get around his big butt.  She finally picked her head up, saw the strange horses and slammed on her brakes.  I was trying to keep her going and focused on the trail.  P.S. had to call out to her to bring her out of her hypnotic state.  Gabbrielle unlocked her legs and started following Rock again, but with a little prance in her step, while huffing and puffing nervously.

My goal was to get our horses past their horses and teach all four horses that strange horses can pass each other on a trail and it doesn't have to be a big deal.  The man in front decided to change paths and take a different trail to head away from us.  Oh well.  Once the other two horses were out of sight, Gabbrielle practically fell asleep.  She can go from acting like she's taken sleeping pills to being a bundle of nerves to sleeping again in a matter of seconds.  I had briefed P.S. on my efforts to keep Rock focused on the trail, and he only had a few minor gawking episodes.  Normally, he would have craned his neck and turned his entire body to face that strange horses as they passed, but this time he kept on trucking.

The man did an interesting thing.  He slumped down in the saddle, pulled his hat down over his eyes, and stared straight ahead at the trail.  We tried to wave to him, but he wouldn't acknowledge us.  He got his horse moving despite the distraction of our horses.  The woman in back, on the other hand, could not get her horse moving for a while, and I noticed that she was gawking at us.  Her horse clearly knew that she was focused on us, so the horse focused on us.   It was like both the horse and rider were waiting for something bad to happen.  When Gabbrielle froze up, I knew I had to keep my focus on Rock's rump if I was going to keep her following him, so I lost track of the woman rider.  I don't know what she did to finally get her horse moving.

Gabbrielle did a lot better than the last time I rode her when we came upon a hiker with dogs on leashes on the trail.  That time she froze up and Rock nearly disappeared around a bend.  I had to call out to my husband to wait, because I was worried that with her being scared and her buddy horse being out of sight, she might react by running back to the barn.

When we did return to the barn, P.S. rode Gabbrielle in the arena, and everything came back to both of them.  Gabbrielle remembered all the moves that P.S. taught her long ago, and P.S. remembered how Gabbrielle needs to be ridden.  It is clear that they are comfortable with each other.  Though I like Gabbrielle's personality and good looks, I still haven't developed a sense of familiarity with riding her.  Some day, if I don't acquire that sense of comfort on my own through practice, I'll probably take equitation lessons on her.

I don't know what the heck happened last night, but Rock somehow managed to skewer his nostril on the metal "S" of a tarp tie, so it looks like I'm going back into veterinary mode.  Bombay is a mess of scratches, cuts, kick marks and bite marks.  He plays too rough, doesn't know when to quit, and is willing to cut off his own limbs to keep the flies off of them.  Also, both Bombay and Rock have half-moon shaped scars on their hips now from banging up against the metal stall door frames while trying to escape dust devils.  The winds have been crazy.  Yesterday, a big wind hit the house and I looked out the window to see a dust devil the size of my 100 x 120-feet horse paddock blow right through it.  It sucked up a bunch of the sand and the horses were galloping around in it, having nowhere to go to escape being pelted by the debris.  I don't think that Bombay likes the sand, stickers, heat and flies of the desert.  I think he was happier with the snow and ice up north.

At least now I know why the sand is only half an inch deep by the barn and several inches deeper by the arroyo.  These whirlwinds keep picking up and dropping it by the arroyo.  They always blow from west to east, which means more work for me as I shovel sand into the wagon a drag it back to dump by the barn.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Windy Solo Trail Ride

I planned to ride Gabbrielle in the arena today, and then if she was doing well, see how she would do on the trails.  But first, I had to clean up all the manure and fill the water troughs because I could tell by the clouds on the horizon that a storm was blowing in.  By the time I got done with those chores, the wind was blowing pretty hard, fast, and unpredictably.  Definitely not good weather to be riding either of my grey horses in.  But it was a good opportunity to work on getting Rock to focus since the wind would be blowing stuff all over the place and distracting him.

I remember reading somewhere that the first couple of minutes after you mount a horse sets the tone for the ride, so it's important to lay down the law right off the bat if you hope to have control of your horse.  Rock started his usual pussy-footing, so I immediately kicked him up to a purposeful walk.  Then he tried snatching snacks off the ground and off branches, so he got corrected for that.  Then he tried stopping to smell other's horses' roses, and got corrected for that.  Every tiny attempt to gawk was corrected before it could turn into a full-on neck craning stare.

Amazingly, after about five minutes of constant corrections and active riding, he was perfect.  He walked strong, looked straight ahead, stayed on the trail, focused on where he was putting his feet, so there was less tripping...

All was well until we came upon a plastic white grocery bag stuck to a branch on the side of the trail.  The wind was blowing it back and forth, up and down.  It had quite a life to it.  But look who I was riding -- my husband's brave, unflappable gelding who loves to play with plastic bags.  We got this.

Wrong.  The second Rock spotted the bag, his ears flew forward and then he jumped straight up into the air, changed direction in mid-flight and flew backwards, then came down with all 1,400 pounds of us on splayed legs.  He started to turn and run, but I stopped him and said, "No!"

He looked at the bag, looked back at me, and said, "I'm alright now," and he walked right past it like nothing ever happened.  That was probably the most powerful spook I've experienced on him.  He's a strong, muscular horse, so that spook gave my spine quite a jolt.

That woke him up and he managed to finish a route that usually takes him an hour in half that time.  He was still a bit up when we reached the barn, and he walked off while I was in the middle of the dismount.  Of course, I had to get my boot stuck in the stirrup.  I was trying to keep myself up over his back while trying to stop him at the same time.  I needed to get that boot out before touching the ground or I could get dragged.  I pushed up with all my might and got the boot free, but hurt my wrist in the process.  He's never done that before.  I think the wind is a bad influence on him.

I looks like I'll be getting a lot of exercise today, because I really should bicycle out there and grab that plastic bag before any other unsuspecting rider on a green horse gets into a wreck.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Horse's Memory is its Worst Enemy

I'm including a random picture for this story because I forgot to turn on my helmet cam for this trail ride.  In the era of personal desktop computers, those of us working in the computer industry had a saying:  "It's a PEBCAK issue."  PEBCAK stood for "Problem exists between chair and keyboard."  In my case, this is a PEBHAC issue:  Problem exists between horse and camera.

I wanted to get my mare Lostine out on the trails as soon as possible, because I didn't want our last ride to stick in her memory and grow like fungus.  Being surprised by the SRP trucks, tractors, and men in hard hats with chainsaws was truly traumatic for her the last time we headed out, and we nearly got into a wreck on my driveway.  It doesn't seem to matter that she's had probably 50 successful, drama-free trail rides in that same location.  Once something scary happens to a horse, that location becomes a scary place in the horse's mind, so the rider has her work cut out for her in convincing the horse otherwise.

I wanted to make sure she had a positive experience, so I double checked the street and the desert to make sure there was nothing out of the ordinary going on that could drive her to a nervous breakdown.  Wouldn't you know it, as soon as I was ready to mount, two Looky Loos came racing up the street to check out the house for sale.  One of them was kind enough to do a quick drive by, but the other one loitered, driving back and forth through the driveway of the house for sale and back and  forth in the street.  This was a truck I'd seen visiting the house many times before.  I tied Lostine to the trailer and hiked up the driveway to go suggest that they contact a real estate agent to show them the house rather than loitering and looking suspicious.  Of course, my main goal was to just get them out of there so I could ride my horse across the street and get to the bridle trails without having to worry about what stupid thing they might do around my traumatized horse.  Fortunately, they drove off just then and I didn't have to confront them.

Sure enough, as soon as we reached the same spot on the driveway where Lostine had her previous freak out, she slowed down and started to back up.  I'm not sure what I did, but she stopped backing up and stood still.  She's such a sensitive horse that I get better results if I do less than more.  I tried squeezing her forward and she backed a few more steps in refusal, so I talked to her and clucked until she went forward.  I think once she realized that I wasn't going to fight her, she could relax enough to logic things out and noticed that it was quiet and there was no movement on the trails.  All the way up the driveway and across the street, it was stop and go.  She'd take a few steps forward, hesitate, back up, stop, take a few more steps forward...  but we made it.  She did notice that the neighbors' yard looked different after the gardeners cut everything back, but I asked her to focus on getting through the gate instead of worrying about changes in the environment.

When we got off the trail head and needed to cross the first trail where the SRP trucks had traveled, Lostine lowered her head and sniffed the tire tracks.  She was hesitant to cross over them, but I urged her on before she could spend too much time thinking about it and letting the tire tracks worry her.

Out on the trails it sounded like we had suddenly entered a wind tunnel, but there was no wind.  Usually, when a strange sound happens and it gets louder, it means that some rogue wind is headed our way.  Sometimes it's a dust devil, sometimes it's a microburst, however I didn't see any branches blowing around us.  Then the hum kicked in and realized we were walking into a swarm of bees.  I couldn't see them yet, and I didn't want to, so I turned us around and fortunately the bees did not follow.

We have Killer Bees in Arizona.  Every spring animals and people get attacked, and sometimes killed, by them.  I think that of all that things that could go wrong on a trail ride, getting attacked by a swarm of bees is my biggest fear.  Everything else is further down the list.  I remember seeing a TV show in which some scientists were studying bee behavior, trying to figure out what triggers bees to attack.  People often thought it was your proximity to their hive or that they saw movement that disturbed them.  So, they did this experiment where a man in a bee suit with a really long hose attached to a gas mask walked past a beehive.  He was breathing through the long hose, and the bees chased and stung the end of the hose, but left the man alone.  They concluded that bees detect the smell of breath.  So, now, whenever I get stuck near a swarm of bees, I hold my breath.  The only problem is that I can't teach my horses to hold their breaths too, so it's best to just get out of there.

Lostine and I came upon a deep, but narrow ditch.  Normally, I don't take her up or down long hills or steep cliffs because of her arthritis, but this was a short down and up jog.  She stopped at the top and looked at me like, "Are you really going to make me do this?"

A part of me was thinking that this horse knows her limits and I should trust her judgement, but then another part of me knew that it was more important that we work on getting her confidence back.  So, I squeezed her forward, and she did a great job traversing the ditch.  I gave her lots of pets and pats and praise.  After that, I could tell that I had my confident Lostine back.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Little Rough Around the Edges

After sitting at my sentry post most of the morning and not seeing a single car cruise past the place, I decided to go for a trail ride.  Amazingly, there were no power company trucks on the trails and no gardeners next door.  I was floating down toward the barn believing that I was finally getting the break I needed to ride a horse.  It feels like forever since I've had the freedom to just ride out without drama or interference.  I looked over to see Rock standing with his two front feet in a water trough.  He splashed around in it like a kiddie pool.

I put some things away in the horse trailer, dumped some manure, and when I got into the barn I found Rock all stretched out like he was suffering from colic.  He hadn't eaten all of his breakfast, and he's usually the first to finish eating.  I thought maybe he was just stretching out to pee, so I waited, but he never peed.  He just stood in that belly stretch posture, legs way out in front of him and way out behind him.  (Insert expletive here.)

I had told my husband that I was going to "try" to ride a horse today, "try" being the operative word, but I had very low expectations after the number of times I've been let down this past month.  So, was I surprised to find the horse that I was going to ride was sick?  No.  It's always got to be something.

But I should be grooming and walking a horse with colic anyway, so I haltered him and led him to the trailer to be groomed.  He stood normal and didn't paw the ground, so that was a good sign.  After grooming him, I led him around and he acted like his hooves were hurting him.  I wondered if he had climbed into that water trough to cool off his feet rather than just to play.  I picked up each hoof to feel for heat, but they felt normal.  No heat in the legs either.  I picked out his hooves and didn't see anything that should be bothering him.

While all this was going on, our street suddenly turned into Grand Central Station with cars racing back and forth.  I tried keeping an eye on the road to see if there were strangers.  One truck turned out to belong to the paper delivery service.  A person threw the paper out the window toward my driveway, but missed.  The paper landed in a cactus.  I thought, "Thank God I wasn't riding up the driveway when they showed up.  I'm sure Rock would have been startled to have this truck race past at 45 mph and see something come flying out the window toward him."

Either that or he would have thought it was a new toy and caught the newspaper in his mouth so that he could shred it.

Then I heard a couple of really big trucks start to come up the street and then stop.  The neighbors who normally had dump trucks visit their place have gone back to New Mexico, so it couldn't have been for their construction project.  I thought I'd better lead Rock out onto the bridle trails to see if the Power Company was back.  I didn't see any of their trucks, but Rock kept alerting to our south.  I suspect they were there, but far enough away that I didn't have to worry about them.

By the time we got back to the barn one foot was killing me.  My right foot is bending inward, so my spurs dig into the inside of my heel like a knife.  I got those spurs last year and they fit fine back then.  My feet are just getting deformed in a hurry.  I finally got my blood work done that my doctor ordered last fall, and I noticed that one of the tests she put on my form was to determine my level of Vitamin D.  So, I researched Vitamin D deficiency, and sure enough, most of the symptoms I've had in the past year can be caused by that.

I knew my only choices were to put Rock away and limp back to the house for a different pair of boots and no spurs, or just get on and ride.  Keep my feet off the ground no matter what.  If we ran into trouble, I was just going to have to stay in the saddle.  If I got dumped out of the saddle, I'd be walking home in bare feet because I couldn't take one more minute of that rubbing and stabbing pain.  Rock was not showing any further signs of colic, so I got on and rode.

It was obvious that Rock hadn't been ridden in a while.  He walked off during the mount, so I circled him repeatedly until he made the choice to stop.  I had to dismount because the cinch wasn't tight enough.  The second time I mounted, he held perfectly still and refused to take one step until I said so.  Good boy!

We rode out in an orderly fashion and I prepared to practice Carson James' technique to help Rock focus.  I spread the reins wide to tell him that I want his head and neck to stay between my hands, and then when he'd turn his head to gawk at something,  I'd pull on the opposite rein to straighten his head out.  The technique essentially involves micro-managing where your horse points its head.  The only problem was that Rock kept stopping when I did that, because I taught him to slow down when I pull one rein and tip his nose to the inside without any leg pressure.  So, I had to add leg pressure to keep him going.  I also decided it was better to pull the rein in short jerks or shake the rein when I want his attention since pulling in one motion is used to steer.  Then I remembered that Carson James also would shake his foot on the side of the body where he was shaking or jerking the rein to get the horse's attention back on him and to straighten its head out, so I started doing that as well.

My efforts were pretty sloppy, but Rock had no problem focusing on the trail on the way home, so I ran out of opportunities to practice.  I'll try to get my act together better next time and have a system worked out that can't be confused with other cues.

I've decided that I don't like his Tex Tan saddle.  A 17" seat is too big for me, and the seat is rather hard.  I feel like I'm perched on a wooden sawhorse.  Rock is kind of like a drunken sailor when he walks, so it's important to have a saddle I feel secure in like my Circle Y and Tucker saddles, but neither of those fit him.  I may keep my eye out for something that will work for both of us.  The saddle he has now just works for Rock and my husband.  I also don't like that it's so heavy.  I'm usually exhausted and my arm muscles are shaking by the time I get this saddle on his back.  But first we have the big expense of vaccinations and dental work for all four horses.  Yay.

Oh yeah, I wanted to give Rock something to focus on, and there was the dove walking around on the ground, so I turned Rock toward it and said, "Get it!  Get the birdie."

He followed the dove and I was expecting it to fly away at some point, but it just kept running from us.  Rock had his nose to the ground and was very focused on following it.  Then I realized that the poor thing had a broken wing.  That's why it wasn't flying away.  Oh well.  Hopefully, we didn't terrorize it too much.  Maybe I should get him to focus on cutting cows instead of birds.