Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Dangers of Banana Peels

Lostine hadn't been out for a walk in a long time, so I took her on a hike around the desert.  She spooked at the flags in our front yard, which surprised me, but I suppose any horse who has been sitting at pasture a while would get over-reactive the first time out.

I was letting Lostine graze on some wild grass coming up after the rainfall when I stepped backwards and my heel fell into a deep depression left by a horse that stepped in mud.  The mud was dried up now.  When I pulled my heel out, it had a big old cholla ball attached to it.  So, I had to hop around on one foot until I found a stick, and knock it off with the stick, then pull the remaining thorns out of my shoe with my fingers while leaning on Lostine for support.  She's so used to having to play the role of a wall for me.  As soon as she sees that I've got another cholla ball stuck to my foot, she just walks up to me and stands still so that I can lean on her.

We saw some horseback riders coming toward us, and we were both so focused on them that we didn't hear nor see the bicyclist coming up from behind us.  Lostine spooked and ran around the front of me to get off the trail, and then the guy yelled out, "Behind you!"

A little too late, but he tried.

The horseback riders stopped to talk to me.  They were very nice and refrained from making the usual smart ass comment of, "Shouldn't you be on the horse and not walking it like a dog?"

They thought Lostine was pregnant, and that was why I wasn't riding her.  I told them that she's nearly 30 years old and has arthritis in her spine, knees and hocks, so she's retired from riding, but I still take her for walks because it keeps her happy.  They said, "Well, at least you are taking good care of her."

They were both riding gaited horses, so I asked why they chose a gaited breed.  I've seen a prominent trend of more gaited horse riders on the trails this year.  They said they like to move out.  They want to go fast and far and not have to worry about tiring their horses out.  They said they have Quarter Horses they left at home.  I kind of laughed at that, because my Quarter Horse is my choice to ride on the trails because I like to go slow and enjoy the scenery.

They said it was hot, and I said it wasn't too bad.  It was only about 70 degrees F.  Then I looked at their horses and realized they were dripping sweat.  I said,  "It looks like you've gone a long ways."

They told me their route.  It was a long ways.  They were from a colder state, so what felt cool to me was hot to them.  It's supposed to be in the 80s this week, so hopefully some of the crowds will thin out.

I just finished reading a book that is supposed to help horseback riders with their fear.  It's basically broken up into understanding why you feel fearful, helping you recognize the signs that you are feeling fearful, educating you on how to have better control of your horse through establishing a bond, and just telling to you get out and ride.  Not terribly helpful.  In fact, one of the points the author tried to make was that the chances are very slim that your fears will be actualized.  I filled out this workbook on what I fear will happen when riding a horse, and then I was asked to input the percentage that represents the chance of it actually happening.  Most of my fears were up around 90% chance of them happening, so her argument that most fears are irrational didn't work for me.

A perfect example is that I can handle my horse if there are other horseback riders approaching us from up ahead at a walk, but I find myself having to ride out a spook and bolt when a bicyclist comes racing up from behind us, and then the horse is so nervous and agitated that I have to deal with jigging all the way home.  Something like that happens pretty much every time I ride when the snowbirds are in town.  If it's not a bicyclist, it's a silent trail runner or a rider or group of riders galloping their horses toward us.

While leading Lostine back to the barn, I spotted a shirtless bicyclist up ahead.  He was just standing around looking at the houses, and I was wondering what he was doing.  He went out to the street and when we caught up to him, asked me for directions.  He wanted to get to the mountains, told me the route he came, but my house was blocking his path.  I've had a lot of people tell me that.  Apparently, my house was built in a very inconvenient location, which is why I have to deal with so many trespassers.  I gave him directions, and he rode off, spooking Lostine in the process.  It's not like I don't ride my bicycle around these horses all the time.

Anyway, I took Lostine home and switched her out for Rock.  I cut off his leg bandage this morning and wanted to see how sound he is now.  That hoof abscess turned out to be a fetlock injury.  My farrier was the one who figured it out.  Once I pulled the feathers up, I could see a scar under his fetlock.

Anyway, one thing the book did help me with was pointing out that when you ask a horse to move its feet, it can do one of three things:  Move its feet in the direction you ask (obedience), ignore you (not understanding or not respecting you), or move toward you into your space (aggression).  She said to test out your horse before you ride to see where you stand in your horse's eyes on that day.  If the horse shows anything less than obedience, do your groundwork first.  I've gotten into the habit of testing out the horses' moods and obedience after I've mounted them.

So, this morning I asked Rock to move back away from me, and he practically plowed me down to get out of his stall.  Not good.  When I took him for a walk, I kept asking him to stop and back up.  If he didn't back up with the wiggle of the lead rope, I'd yank it down and back toward his chest.  That did the trick, and I'd release as soon as he took one or two steps back.  But I could tell that he did not like having the lead rope yanked.  My attitude was, "Then step back as soon as I wiggle the rope."

His attitude was, "I don't want to."

At one point, I was yanking the rope toward his chest to get him to back up and he tried to take a bite out of my arm.  He didn't use his teeth, but nipped with his lips, so I immediately smacked him on the chest hard with the lead rope repeatedly until he backed up fast.  He got the point.  No biting.

After whipping my horse, I looked over to see my nosy neighbor hiding in the bushes watching me.  At least this time he followed me out onto the public trails instead of coming into my back yard and hiding in the arroyo, but I was plenty annoyed.  I'm very kind to my horses except for when they intentionally try to hurt me by biting or kicking.  Then I mean business.  Anyone who sees me unleashing my firm love on my horses might take it out of context, so this was a bad time to be spied upon.

The guy realized he got caught, and scurried off.  I noticed that he didn't bother to respect the trails, but just bushwhacked his way around.

I led Rock back toward home and saw that the bicyclist who asked for directions had thrown a banana peel on the ground.  I jokingly said to Rock, "That's dangerous.  Someone could slip on..."

And right then I slipped and fell hip-first into a bush.  The bad part was that there was a triangular shaped rock in the middle of that bush, and that is what my hip hit.  It's times like that when I'm glad I've got a few layers of fat.  I don't need the extra weight, but the padding helps.

Then I discovered that I couldn't get up.  My legs were uphill from my butt, and my butt was in a bowl with my hip wedged up against the side of this rock.  I beckoned with my finger and said, "Rock, come here."

He stepped forward to me and lowered his head down to my face.  I hooked my fingers through the noseband of his halter and said, "Pull!"

I haven't trained him to do this, but he just understood.  He gently lifted his head and backed up, which gave me enough leverage to get a leg under my butt and push myself up the rest of the way.  Horses are so awesome.  They really do care about their people.  He redeemed himself after attempting to bite me, and all was forgiven.

My hip is sore and will probably be bruised, but nothing is broken.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Caught on Camera

Remember when I kept having problems with someone stealing my horses' Jolly Balls?  I was entertaining a variety of theories.  I was actually so tired of hunting those balls down out in the desert that I've been keeping them locked up in the tack room.

Anyway, Christine suggested that coyotes were stealing them, but I had never seen coyotes go through or past the barn to get to the arena where I kept the balls. However, when I found sharp tooth marks in one of the balls, I realized that the coyote theory was the most plausible.

Last night at dusk, Stewie growled at something outside.  I saw a coyote walk right up to the barn, crawl under the gate, walk right past the horses, and go out to the far end of the sandy arena, knowing very well that the area was fenced and it could not get away if cornered in there.  He or she was just sniffing around, probably following a bunny trail.

It was hard to take pictures because of the lack of natural light, so most of them came out blurry.  I also had to zoom in, which makes it more difficult to get the coyote in frame.  If I move the camera at all when pressing the shutter release, I risk getting a lopsided and blurry shot.

Wiley coyote

Snooping coyote

Ghostly coyote

Oops.  It saw me.  This picture is worth blowing up, because the eyes are so awesome.

Coyote casually wandering back out of the arena past the horses.
Once it got under the gate, it walked right past me like it had all the time in the world.  I think they are getting too comfortable around me.  The ravens also have decided that I am not a threat, so they hang out in the barn with me.  But when one of them brought a dead mouse in and tried dunking it in a water trough, I chased them off.  Then a Harris hawk tried to steal the mouse away from them.  The raven who had the mouse flew off to its nest.  The other raven chased the hawk away.

Rock is moving better this morning and Gabbrielle is leaving him alone, so we seem to have made it past this latest crisis of horse wars.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Another Rainfall Leads to Lameness

This time Rock didn't even wait a couple of days after the rainfall to go lame.  He was lame as soon as it began raining.  This is highly suspicious.  He has no swelling or heat whatsoever on his leg or hoof, but he can't put any weight on it.  Same symptoms as always.  I began entertaining the idea that perhaps he has arthritis from an old injury in his fetlock, and cold weather causes him pain.  But that made no sense because the foot that goes lame keeps changing.  Sometimes it's the RF, sometimes the LF, sometimes the RH, and this time it is the LH.

Then I caught Gabbrielle chasing him into a corner and kicking him in the legs.  He can run when he's under attack, but the rest of the time, all he can do is hop on three legs.  I figured that Gabbrielle must have kicked him during the night, causing the original injury, so I locked her up in a stall where she would remain dry during the duration of the storm.  I was thinking that the reason why Rock always goes lame when it rains is because Gabbrielle gets bitchy when it rains.  But still, that theory didn't make sense because there was no swelling.  A serious kick to a leg would leave a mark and cause swelling.  So, maybe Gabbrielle is just one of these opportunists who beat up on the injured because they can.  Or maybe she has the survival of the fittest philosophy ingrained in her brain, and does not want a useless, unhealthy horse in her herd.

This morning Rock was worse than ever, and I could see that whatever was causing lameness in his LH was now causing lameness in his RH.  So, the poor horse had no hind end available to walk on.  He'd shift his weight from side to side while trying to stand to eat.  Gabbrielle had been locked up away from him for 24 hours, so she couldn't have made him worse.  I decided to tackle the original hoof first, and soaked it in Epsom salts while he ate.  However, he managed to kick the boot off his foot, so I had no idea how long it actually soaked.  The Velcro strap is losing its stickiness, so I need to attach the boot with duct tape in the future.

I decided to apply a poultice, but I knew he couldn't stand on the other ouchy hoof long enough for me to do a proper application of supplies and bandages the way a veterinarian would.  My game plan was to slather some gunk in a diaper, slap it on his hoof, and cover just the diaper with duct tape.  Fast, easy, and to the point.  Right?

I carefully gathered all my supplies in a bucket, picked out and brushed off his hoof, cleaned the hoof with soap and thrush treatment, dug a piece of gauze into the jar of gunk only to find out that the gunk had dried up.  Ugh!  I had to put his foot down in the mud and walk all the way back to the tack room to get a fresh jar of gunk.

I repeated the entire process of cleaning out his hoof a second time, (actually it was a third time, because I had to do it before his soak), dipped the gauze into the gunk jar, and the stuff turned out to be the consistency of those "boogers" you pull off packaging that you can't get stuck to anything other than your finger.  I couldn't wipe the gunk in the diaper, I couldn't keep it on the gauze to stick in the diaper or stick to his hoof before covering with the diaper, and only after trying super hard did I get some into the cracks of his hoof.  Then he kicked out and the gunk went flying.


So, I decided to just cover his hoof to try to keep additional mud and manure from getting on it.  I wrapped the diaper around his hoof only to find out that the sticky tabs were no longer sticky!  There was no way I was going to drop his hoof in the mud again to go solve this problem, so I picked up the duct tape with one hand and spun it around and around looking for the end.  It was invisible.  So, I kept stabbing it with my thumbnail until I felt a flap, then I pulled it with my teeth and began wrapping the duct tape around the diaper only to find out that the duct tape had lost its stickiness too!

Apparently, not even duct tape can stand up to the Arizona heat.  I need all new supplies.  Everything had been destroyed by the heat.  Fortunately, the further I got along in the roll of duct tape, I did find some stickiness left, and called it good enough.  I'm sure my "poultice" won't last more than an hour.  I didn't even try to work on the other hoof yet.  I was just too frustrated with everything going wrong and didn't want to blow a gasket.  Rock was being so sweet about the whole thing.  He's learned to ignore my rants at inanimate objects.  I just find it so ridiculous that a living animal is more cooperative than tools produced to make our lives more convenient.

I've had vets look at him in the past and no one knows why he keeps going lame.  They just tell me to treat it as an abscess.  Sometimes treatment heals him up quickly and other times it doesn't seem to do anything to help.  He also seems to be more susceptible to lameness at the end of his trim cycle, so I'm going to ask my farrier when he comes this week to trim him shorter just to see if that makes any difference.  Then I'll try trimming every four weeks instead of every eight weeks, because my friend's horse also is susceptible to hoof abscesses, but the problem seemed to resolve itself when she got a farrier who kept him trimmed short every four weeks.  It's going to be expensive, but it's also expensive feeding a horse that no one can ride, and I've got two of those right now.

I've been damming up the barn from flood waters, but this particular storm had such high winds that the rain came in at an angle and soaked the stalls anyway.  I have plans to bring in several more loads of decomposed granite to fill in a low spot in front of the horse paddock that always floods, but I don't want to do it until the ground is dry.  You pay by the ton, and wet D.G. weighs a lot more than dry D.G.

We've been having a similar problem disposing of our manure at the dump.  You pay by the pound, and wet manure weighs a lot more than dry manure.  However, even since we ran out of dumping space for our manure and had to take it to the public facility, storms keep moving in before the manure can dry out.  So, we're just doing the best we can.

We usually don't have such cold, wet winters here, but I sure could have used an enclosed barn with no windows this season.  My open air stick barn is perfect for the rest of the year.  It rains and floods in the summer, but the heat dries everything up quickly.  Sometimes it's just a matter of working with what you've got, accepting those things you can't control, and leaving the rest up to the powers that be.

On a happier note, the rain put me in a position were I was stuck indoors, so I worked 7 hours straight on my latest novel.  It's hard to believe that I didn't even complete one chapter in that time, but I really was working hard and fast.  It felt good to make some progress in the writing department.  I think it's funny that whenever people who know me ask me what I've been doing, they misinterpret "writing" as "riding" and vice versa.  So, I've been completing my sentences by saying either "writing my novel" or "riding my horses".

UPDATE:  The ridiculousness has continued much to my dismay.  Since the sun came out today, I wanted to put Gabbrielle in the round pen by herself so that she won't be cooped up in a stall, but also cannot hurt Rock.  The first thing I had to do was get water into a trough in the round pen.  I had been keeping the trough upside down in the middle of the pen and using it as a table to set down my tools.

I flipped it over, and there was this huge black widow with a web covering the entire expanse of the trough.  I hunted down some poison, sprayed the spider, and then uncoiled the hoses and attached several lengths of hose together to wash out the webs and poison.  The back door at my neighbor's house slammed right next to me and I jumped out of my skin.

My neighbor is usually very quiet and peaceful.  I will often be out doing chores and realize that I walked past him several times while he was doing his chores, and I didn't even notice him.  He's my perfect neighbor.  However, I knew something was amiss early this morning when I saw someone walking around outdoors with a flashlight before sunrise, and saw all the shades on the house pulled way up as soon as daylight broke.  None of that fit my neighbor's usual behaviors.

Every winter into spring his parents come and live with him, and his father is a door slammer.  He has spooked my horses so many times by running out of the house and slamming the door right when I was riding up or down the driveway past their house.  He seems to be tuned into me, because he runs outside every time I go near or past his son's house.  I don't know if he's bored and looking for entertainment, nosy, hyperactive, or acting like a guard dog, but his behavior is weird and annoying.  It makes me feel uncomfortable, because I know he's watching me.

I went about my business, sprayed out the trough, began filling it, and then led Gabbrielle to the round pen.  Sometimes the horses can figure out latches, so I needed to wrap a chain around the gate posts for added security.  However, the chain had been buried in the ground for so long that its moving parts were caked in mud.  I had to wash the chain and hook, then hunt down some WD-40 to get the mechanism working again.

By this point I was like, "Why does every little thing I do turn into a bunch of other things to do?"

Then my right hip just randomly stopped working.  I had to complete the rest of my tasks with one good leg.  When it was time to coil the hoses back up, I'd swear that the man waited until I got right next to his house to slam the door again.  I could feel him watching me, so I quickly finished up putting things away.

Just for kicks and giggles I limped over to the place where I was coiling the hose one more time, and sure enough, the door slammed again.  I can't see the guy, because he comes out onto a screened in porch that is tinted dark and reflective at the same time, so people can see out, but no one can see in.

In the meantime, Rock, Bombay and Lostine are getting along just fine together in the barn and main arena while Gabbrielle is alternating between throwing a tantrum and going into a catatonic state on Exile Island.  I hope my neighbor's guests enjoy the show, because an angry gray mare is going to be their view for the next few days until either Rock can heal or she can come to her senses.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Around the Ranch

We've got another storm passing through right now, but I thought I would share some photos I took around the ranch before the high winds, rain, and thunder moved in.

It's that time of year when wealthy snowbirds fly over my house in loud, obnoxious vehicles.

I finally got a shot of the roadrunner who lives in my round pen.  This was taken from the porch, which is probably about 40 yards away, using a zoom lens.  I just saw an anomaly in the pen and looked through my viewfinder while zooming in.

This picture kind of cracks me up.  I'm in a lounge chair reading about exercising, and the bookmark has the word "Eat" sticking up out of the book.

Lostine's pretty face.  The horses were milling about waiting for me to leave the porch to feed them.

Midge's pretty face.  She was waiting to be fed too.

Some random bunny's pretty face.  She was waiting for me to go away so that she could eat.

One of Bombay's many goofy faces.

And another.  He was my buddy on this day, following me as I walked around the property looking for wild animals to photograph.

Then Gabbrielle had to come up and give me her sour face.  God forbid that one of the geldings attempt to groom her.

But all's well that ends well.  Once Bombay began clapping his lips together to show submission, Gabbrielle was happy again.  Long live the Queen.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Surprise Ride

I considered riding on Friday, but I was so stiff and sore after riding all three horses during the week.  I decided to give my body the day off.  Once Saturday and Sunday get here, I usually lead the horses around on the trails to socialize them.  Then once they settle down after enough exposure, I'll ride them out.

However, my friend texted me and said that she was going to attempt the 1.3 mile ride down a residential street to reach my section of the desert, and did I want to meet up with her to go for a trail ride?  She recently moved her horse to a new boarding facility that is fairly close to my place, but there are some yards filled with barking dogs and traffic to get past.

I'm a worry wart, so I worried for her the entire time I was waiting for her to text me to let me know that she safely reached the bridle trails.  I had Rock saddled up and ready to go so that she wouldn't have to wait for me.  She was willing to ride all the way to my house, but I knew my Arabs would act like idiots and gallop around in excitement to see her horse.  I thought it would be safer if I met her on the trails.

Rock seems to know when I'm planning a ride, because he always lies down flat on his side, closes his eyes, and descends into a deep sleep at those times.  I usually let him sleep, but because we were doing a meet and greet with our horses, he had to get up.

On the way out I had a "first" at the gate.  There were two riders on gaited horses gliding across the trail up ahead, and Rock was so focused on them that he wasn't paying attention to his position in the gate.  These poles on each side of the gate only give enough clearance for a horse and two human legs, however Rock turned his body on an angle to face the other horses while stepping through the gate and I could see that my leg was going to be trapped.  Either that or the metal post was going to take out my knee.  I instinctively pulled my foot out of the stirrup, tucked my knee up and in, and swung my lower leg over the post, praying that the stirrup would not come down over the top of the post.  I know people who have had that happen to them.  The horse panics when it realizes it is tied to the gate by the stirrup, then there is usually a big wreck.

In my case, we made it through, but then I couldn't get my foot back in the stirrup.  I was hanging down his side twisting the stirrup and trying to get my boot in it, which is easy for young, flexible people, but not so easy for me.  I almost pulled out my phone and called my husband to ask him to come out of the house and across the street to help me.  But I finally got just the tip of my toe in there and decided that was good enough.

My friend's horse is a Missouri Fox Trotter, so I could see her up ahead coming fairly fast toward us.  Rock's head shot up and his feet shut down...

She knows how my horses get freaked out around fast moving gaited horses, so she slowed down as she got closer.  We talked a little bit while the horses faced each other, so they could check each other out.  Rock got super silly once we moved out.  He was throwing his head and the lead rope around and trotting to keep up.  I was worried he might try to bite her horse on the rump, so I had to keep holding him back.  He didn't like that.

At some point we switched and put Rock in the front and her horse in the back, and Rock would instantly slow waaaaaaaay down, which would drive her horse crazy.  She had to keep circling her horse to put some space between us.  I said he was like one of these super slow drivers who blocks traffic, and then as soon as someone tries to pass him, he's suddenly in a race.

I was trying to find a balance in my disciplining of him, because we could tell that he was getting mad at me for asking him to speed up and slow down so often.  He's not used to being micromanaged like that.  I just wanted a normal pace out of him.  I didn't want him to stagger around like a drunken sailor, nor did I want him to take off trotting without a cue.

We went down into a ditch with her horse in front, and I tried so hard to make Rock walk, but even with another horse right in front of him, he trotted through it.  I know I should just stop and make him go back and forth in both directions multiple times until he walks it, maybe stopping him at the bottom and making him stand, but I didn't want to make her wait.

I was getting tired of wrestling him, so I tried to set him up for success in our positioning.  Her horse could be in the lead moving away from home, because it would make Rock walk faster to keep up.  Then as we approached trails that turned toward home, I'd have to put Rock in the front, because having a horse behind him would make him focus more on what's going on behind him, and he'd be less likely to run.

Can you tell that I like purple?
We rode until I got a cramp, so I dismounted and led him home.  I used to only be able to ride for one mile before I got a cramp, but now I can do two.  I'm the same way on my mountain bike.  I have to alternate between riding and walking.

My friend decided to ride her horse to my barn to see how all the horses would react to each other.  Mine did get excited and come to the fence.  Her horse whinnied a few times for them.  Then my horses galloped around a bit.  Now we know that her horse can handle the excitement, and my horses are now familiar with her horse, so future meet ups should be easier.

I walked with her part way across the desert as she rode home.  I started worrying again about her safety going a mile up that long, hilly road.  There are a lot of blind hills where drivers can't see her.  She texted me and told me that she was chased by three rogue Pit Bulls that the owner had no control over.  Her horse was good, though.  He didn't spook or bolt and didn't kill the dogs, even though he easily could have done so.

Oh yeah, and remember when I said that now that I'm finally making use of my riding arena, someone will probably buy the house next door?  Well, yesterday and today there was a sudden influx of home buyers checking out the place.  I saw that some people had left a gate open, and we are supposed to get some high winds soon, so I went over next door to latch it.

It turned out that the real estate agent left a whole bunch of gates open and the back door unlocked.  These people think that it's okay to be lackadaisical when a home is not furnished, because there's nothing to steal, but they don't know about the bums around here who will camp out in vacant homes, and the bored kids who will vandalize and spray paint walls if you give them a chance.  I've seen so much negligence from real estate agents that I just automatically go over there now, assuming the doors, gates and windows have been left unlocked and open, and that someone has shat in the toilet but was unable to flush it since the water is turned off, so now the house stinks.  This is why it's important to have good neighbors like me.  You may need them someday to watch your back when you can't watch it yourself.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Two Horses in One Day

Rock was lying asleep on his side when I was ready to ride, and I didn't have the heart to make him get up.  The neighborhood was quiet, so I decided to take advantage of the lack of activity by riding in my own arena.  As long as the creeper didn't lurk around down in my arroyo and pop up out of bushes, we should have been fine.

I expected that I'd be riding more often in my arena after the next door neighbors moved out and I no longer had to contend with their barking guard dogs, but for some reason, I just never used the space.  I suspect now that I'm planning on riding there more often, someone with barking dogs will move in next door.

I've been running into trouble on both the trails and in my back yard these past few weeks due to the population explosion.  I'm trying to expose the horses to all the people and their activities while I've got the horse on the end of a lead rope, because I just have more control of my horses from the ground.  I know other people who have said they feel safer in the saddle, because they have better control there.  It's just that I've done so much ground work with the horses that they will respond to cues I give them using my hands and the rope.  It's never happened, but if a horse should get away from me, at least it will run back to the barn with just the lead rope dragging behind it, which is better than the horse dragging me behind it.

If you've seen some of the reactions that Bombay and Gabbrielle have to other equines on the trail, you'd understand why I wouldn't want to be in the saddle with all that going on.  I've learned that Bombay and Gabbrielle are terrified of mules, gaited horses, and galloping horses, and there a lot of them out there on the trails this time of year.  Rock and Lostine are the only horses who can keep their wits about them under those circumstances, and I can't ride Lostine anymore, and I don't want to ride Rock exclusively.  The other horses need attention too.

So I rode both Bombay and Gabbrielle in the arena, spending time getting used to how they feel, and finding out what they need to work on.  Bombay doesn't need to work on anything other than focusing.  He'd occasionally pop his head up to look at something off in the distance.  Amazingly, Gabbrielle was more confident riding around the arena, but she needs fine-tuning.  I'd lay the outside rein on her neck and remove it as soon as she started turning, but she'd keep turning in a circle even though I took the pressure off.  I don't need a reining horse.  So, I had to straighten her out and figure out a way to communicate when she needs to stop doing what I asked.  With Bombay, he was cognizant of every cue I gave him including the release, so he'd stop turning at the release and I could make very minor adjustments in his direction.

Love this saddle...

I wish it fit Rock, because I could probably ride for much longer on him if it did.  I loved how Bombay instantly collected himself on a loose rein when we moved off...

But then there were those moments when he thought he saw some movement off in the distance and forgot the task at hand...

Such a nice vertical face in the shadow below...

Bombay looks so pretty when I ride him because he keeps his ears forward.  Gabbrielle is always listening by turning her ears back toward the rider, which is a good thing, but not very pretty.  She is the queen of pinning her ears over every little thing.  I say, "Ugh!  Sour face.  Yuck!"

But it doesn't influence her to try to look pretty.  She does her own flexing when you mount...

It's kind of silly, because the point of flexing is in part to let the horse know that we don't move out the second the rider mounts, and it is a way for the rider to check the steering and make sure the horse is paying attention to rein cues.  Since Gabbrielle does it without any cue beyond mounting, the rider really has no clout in the matter.  She's a horse who likes to call the shots, but I don't want to stop her if it's all good behavior.  She's kind of like the child prodigy in a classroom who takes over teaching because she knows more than the instructor.

I've been reading a book on rider fitness, so I did some exercises from the book on both horses.  They were really good and didn't assume that I was asking them to do anything.  They stood still while I did my workout in the saddle.

I need to develop a core.  My mid-section is so weak.  Bombay has the smoothest jog on earth and I could not keep my own butt in the saddle because I had no abdominal muscles.  I'm thinking this may be a good time for me to start taking equitation lessons again.  I just need to find an instructor who understands the issues of aging, and who won't push me to the point of me being in pain or having to do something that my body is not flexible enough to do.

I can't even get a full night's sleep anymore because I have no padding left in my shoulder and hip joints.  When I lay on my sides, I'm woken by the pain.

In this picture, Gabbrielle is facing the coyote den...

Every night one or two coyotes lay there and watch me do my chores.  As soon as I lock up the tack room, they yip and howl to find their friends, and trot off to go see them.  One night there were a bunch of coyotes around barn making a hellish racket, and I went out on the porch to chase them off.  I was surprised how my horses were all just standing around sleeping throughout the commotion.  You'd think if a pack of howling coyotes playing around the barn or catching rabbits and eating them doesn't bother my horses, then they should be able to handle mules, gaited horses, and galloping horses.  I am so looking forward to getting them over this latest hurdle.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Race Against Ridiculousness

In light of the past few days, I've been developing a bit of a superstitious mindset.  It seems that every time I have plans to go for a trail ride, something ridiculous comes out of left field and prevents me from following through on those plans.  So, today I decided to nip this pattern in the bud, go out first thing in the morning and just get a new rubber water trough to replace the rusted one that leaked, and then clean out hooves and go for a trail ride before something ridiculous can happen to stop me.

I got the trough, filled it up, but hesitated to treat hooves before riding since I knew I'd probably throw out my back in the process.  So, I rode first.  The septic company left flags in my front yard marking the locations of the septic covers and there was pile of torn up plastic lining sitting there with a rock on top.  I quickly led Rock past all of that before mounting to make sure that having the flags and plastic flapping in the wind wouldn't take him by surprise.  He couldn't care less.

While heading out, I realized that I felt naked.  Something was missing.  Then I realized it was my protective vest.  Oops.  With my superstitious thinking, I figured now that I was without my vest, this would be the one day I'd fall off my horse.  I grew up in the 60s and 70s when there was no seatbelt law, but I always wore my seatbelt anyway.  Except for this one day that I forgot, and that was the one day in my life I got into a car wreck and flew through the windshield.  So, you can see why I'm so paranoid about little changes in my routine.  However, I wasn't about to turn back to get my vest, because I figured something ridiculous would happen in the process and I wouldn't get to finish my ride.

Riding out was laborious.  He was walking so slow.  I had to whip him to get him across the street before a truck hit us.  I was riding as actively as possible in an effort to get his energy up, and nothing had any effect.  He came to a complete stop because he heard someone up ahead and the only way I could get him moving again was to turn him onto a different trail.  However, he heard someone on that trail too, so I just kept kicking and whipping and kicking and whipping.

I saw the person before he did.  There was man with a loose dog who looked totally surprised to see a horse on a bridle trail, and he quickly grabbed his dog and hooked it up to a leash.  Then he cut off trail and started cutting across the desert straight at us.  Rock suddenly saw them and stopped to gawk.  I didn't know what the man wanted, but my focus was on getting my horse to pay attention to me and keep moving, so that's what I did.

Then we ran into more hikers who were using their walking sticks to exercise their arms and waists by swinging them around.  Of course, Rock had to stop and gawk. Push. Push. Push.  Keep going, man!  You're killing me.

I'm telling you.  It's like riding an elephant.  I decided to get off the main trails just so that we could keep moving without distractions.  My arms, shoulders and neck were hurting from pulling his head back around.  He is far from being soft on the bit.  I literally have haul his head back so that it is facing forward, which is like dragging a hundred-pound hay bale.

I've seen a couple of videos in which horse trainers demonstrate just lifting the rein a little bit to remind your horse to keep it's head straight.  It's not working with my horse.

Once we started heading even remotely toward home, he picked up his speed and seemed more interested in the trail ahead, but then he started his next annoying behavior, which was to throw his head around in order to get his reins and lead rope swinging.  I'd swear he was trying to swing the lead rope up over the top of his head.  It was just plain silliness, but it made for a very rough ride for me, so I tried jerking one rein and jerking both reins to correct him, but it didn't work.  So, I just stopped his feet and made him stand still.  That fixed the problem temporarily, at least.

Then the next obnoxious behavior began.  He started running up hills.  Again, I stopped him and made him stand still.  He kept saying he didn't want to and walked off without permission repeatedly.  We spent a bit on time on that until he settled down and decided to yield the power of decision making to me.

I knew we had traveled a couple of miles and I wondered why my Garmin watch wasn't vibrating to indicate the mile markers.  I looked down and realized that I was in such a hurry to ride that not only did I forget my vest, but I never turned on my watch despite wearing it along with the heart monitor.  Oh well.

Then my phone dinged because text message came through.  I tried pulling it out of its holster to see the message, but Rock was taking advantage of every little bit of inattention and he was requiring two hands on the reins at all times.  So, I kept going and wondered what the message would be about.  A friend of mine said that she would text me if she was riding in my area, and if it were her, I wanted to catch the message before I put Rock away.  But Rock would not let me take a hand off the reins.  He'd either start running or he'd gawk or he'd throw the lead rope around and shake me around in the saddle.

When we got home, it looked like one of the ravens was trying to eat bugs out of Bombay's ear.  I took some pictures.

Then I checked my message, and it was a freaking marketing text from my wireless carrier.  I typed in "X" to say that I did not want anymore of these messages.  They immediately sent another message verifying that I opted out of the messages, but telling me that if I didn't want any marketing messages whatsoever in the future, I would have to type "Q".  Sigh.  So, I did that.

Rock kept pushing me with his head, and I kept pushing him away, and then he pooped all over the place and I realized that he was pushing me to tell me to hurry up and put him back in the barn.  Oh well.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

That's a New One

It amazes me how horse ownership is chock full of challenges, most of them unwanted.  Today I had one of those "firsts".  Every single water trough was down to the last drop.  Usually, one or two get low at a time, but not all five.  I spent over an hour cleaning all of them out and filling them up.  I was worried that there wasn't enough water in our well to fill them all.

The horses were walking from stall to stall kicking over the empty ones as if to tell me I missed a spot.

While waiting for the troughs to fill, I noted that all the mud we've had this month finally dried up and all the thrush and hoof abscesses were gone.  I had worked hard this past month creating a dam around the barn that should last a while and keep all the water out during the next rainfall.  The future was looking bright.

One trough overflowed a little bit.  A short time after that I went to the barn and found Rock with water dripping from his mouth.  I noted that he had sucked up a good amount of water, and I called him my water horse.  I said he needs his own personal river, because he loves water so much.  He was happily standing in the overflow.  When I ride him, he purposefully walks right through the middle of puddles because he enjoys getting his feet wet.  While petting him, he grabbed my coat collar with his lips and gently pulled me closer to him, so I gave him a hug.

Then tonight I went down to the barn to find Rock's stall completely saturated.  Mud everywhere.  Splish splash, he was taking a mud bath.  I tracked mud into the tack room after just sweeping all of the dried mud out.  I looked in the trough, and it was almost empty.  The dang thing sprung a leak where it rusted at the corner, and the horses helped it along by kicking it.  I was like, "Out of all the water troughs, why did it have to be the one in Rock's stall?  He's the one horse who always get hoof abscesses if he stands around in mud and wet manure."

Worse yet is that since I just filled all the water troughs, the only way I can get a working trough into his stall is if I bail all the water out of two of them.  That's 140 gallons down the drain.  Gabbrielle has two troughs in her stall, so I'd rather just give him an existing one than to go buy a new one.  The problem is that the two troughs in Gabbrielle's stall have electrical cords attached to deicers that come out of the plug holes, so I have to keep them in stalls with outside walls.  If a cord is lying in the paddock, the horses will chew it up.  So, I have to move one of Gabbrielle's troughs into Bombay's stall, and Bombay's trough into Rock's stall.  More complicated that I cared for it to be.

It's just amazing how quickly hard work can be canceled out by ridiculous circumstances.  Now I get to return to the jobs of treating thrush and cleaning mud off floors.  Yay me.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Are You Kidding Me?

After having the secretary at the septic company totally screw up my appointment and waste two days of my time, I decided to try to salvage what was left of today by lunging the horses in the round pen.  By the time I finished exercising the wonderful, flawless Bombay and was leading him back to the barn with him walking in a calm, confident manner, we heard an explosion of hooves, and Bombay reacted naturally, which was to take off running too.  Zero to forty on the end of a lead rope.  Nice.

Rock and Gabbrielle were stampeding from the back of the paddock to the barn.  I thought that they were just excited to see Bombay coming back and were running to greet him.  I then haltered Gabbrielle and took her to the round pen.  She was spooking the whole way there, so I kept snaking the lead rope at her to try to keep her attention on me.  I tend to talk a lot to the horses when training them, which is bad.  I should use one word commands, but the talking is more for me to get my thoughts together.

Once in the round pen, she was acting totally nuts racing around, snorting, tripping, smashing into the railing, etc.  I just stood in the middle and waited for her to tire herself out.  She kept looking down toward the arroyo and jumping away from it.  I figured that a coyote was down there, so I started making farting noises to get her to look at me.  After making a variety of fart sounds, she jumped right into me and alerted on the arroyo.  I looked over there and saw this man standing in my back yard peering at us through the bushes.

I was pissed.  I yelled, "You are trespassing!" and he scurried off.

I kept Gabbrielle going, and contemplated running down there to have a chat with the trespasser, but I didn't get a good look at him and for all I know, he could be an escaped convict.  But I thought it was more likely to be that nosy old man who lives two doors down from me for a few weeks out of every winter.  If it was him, I was standing between him and his house, and he'd have to walk past the round pen to get home.  Nobody came up out of the arroyo, so I figured it was someone else.

Some time later, the old man did appear out of the arroyo and walked past my round pen like nothing ever happened, staring straight ahead and ignoring me.  I realized that he had been hiding down there all that time waiting for me to leave, and when I didn't, he gave up and showed himself.  I was torn on what to do, because at this point he was on his own property.  A part of me wanted to chew him out, because I've been told by the family that owns that house that they don't want trespassers on their property, and if I needed to use their land I had to ask for permission, yet here he was hanging out in my back yard where he could spy and eavesdrop on me.  What a hypocrite.

He walked along like he didn't know I existed until he reached a tree, and then he ducked behind it and turned to spy on me again.  I swear, if he weren't a neighbor, I would have yelled, "I see you, you nosy jackass!"

Maybe I'll do it if there is a next time.  I don't like to unleash my wrath on people on their first offense.  Although, this was just his first offense of this year.  He's done it to me in years past.  Gabbrielle kept spooking each time she passed the tree he was hiding behind, because he was acting like a predator.  I got frustrated and led her back to the barn, and she kept spooking and jumping into me at every bird and rabbit along the way.

What really surprised me was that the man even got Rock all riled up.  Normally, I can't even get him to hold a slow trot in the round pen, but he was galloping, snorting, and bucking all the way around.  He too couldn't take his eyes off the nosy neighbor.  At least Rock got his exercise, but I was glad I didn't saddle any of the horses up and attempt to ride them with him lurking around.  I'm beginning to remember why I don't ride much in the winter.  Snowbirds!  Argh!

The odd thing about all this is that earlier I saw my horse neighbor attempting to ride her horse out.  This is a horse I've seen her riding for years, and it is a trooper.  It goes wherever she points it.  However, today the horse refused to go down the trail on the side of the arroyo.  She kept whipping it, and it kept turning and trying to run back to the barn.  She'd turn it to face the trail again and whip it, and it ran backwards toward the barn.  She dismounted, led the horse part way down the trial, and mounted again.  Then they went through the same routine.  Now I'm wondering if the old man was down there at that point in time too.  I just don't know how someone can be that clueless about how his presence and creepy behavior affects our horses.

The Usual B.S.

I've been diligently knocking items off my To Do List to make room for work with the horses, and the list is the shortest it has been in years.  The future was looking bright and I was planning out the next training and conditioning steps I'd be taking with each horse when, as usual, a bunch of crap outside of myself took over my time and space, thus preventing me from doing much of anything.  It's days like this when I think I should just give up on my horse hobby.

Right before Christmas when I was having family and guests over, our house began to stink of urine.  At first, we blamed the dogs, shining a black light around to search for the hidden pee stains, but there weren't enough to cause such an invasive stench.  It had been raining, so I figured that the ground water was causing our septic contents to get backed up.  It was about that time to have the tank pumped, but it was too late to do it before the holiday.  Then January came and the ground dried out, and I kept forgetting to call a septic outfit.

I finally remembered, but had to do some research to figure out where the septic tank was located.  I dug up every map we had of the property, and nothing indicated the location of it.  I actually found one that showed where my neighbor's septic tank was, but not mine.  So, I called the previous home owner and left a message asking her to call back and tell me where the tank is located.  I gave her several days to respond, but got nothing, which annoyed me no end.

I've bent over backwards for this woman, tracking her down every time she moved and changed jobs, to notify her that we were still receiving her family's mail at our address.  It's been four years since they lived here.  If it were just junk mail, I'd drop it in the recycling bin and forget about it, but it's bills and tax documents.  If this lady doesn't address them, it could ruin her credit rating.  Anyway, I guess because there was nothing in it for her when I asked her to call me back with the location of the septic tank, she didn't bother.  I'm really at my wits end with selfish people.  Two minutes of her time was all I needed after I gave her hours of mine.

So, I called a septic company this morning and asked for them to bring whatever tools they use to locate septic tanks.  The lady asked if they could come out today.  I said they could.  Then she told me the window of time and quickly hung up because her other line was ringing.  I was like, "Seriously?  That's right when I was going to go for a trail ride."

I contemplated calling her back and asking for a different time, but what's one more day without doing what I planned, right?  Next thing I knew, the horses were nervously circling in their stalls and alerting on the hillside.  I looked out the window to see that my neighbor's land surveyors were back.  How friggin' long does it take to parcel off a property?  These surveyors have been here off and on over the past six months at least five times, and they stay here all day traipsing around on the hill, in the arroyo, and in the my neighbor's yards.  The horses get freaked out by these men popping in and out of bushes.

Then the utility trucks started showing up.  Of course, the drivers had to park blocking the gate to the bridle trails and they had to leave their engines running so that the whole house vibrated.  It's amazing how neighbors can still be a pain in my ass long after they move out.  They have been orchestrating all kinds of activities surrounding their property from afar.  I thought, "Well, at least I've already been screwed out of being able to go for a trail ride because of the septic appointment, so I suppose the timing was good."

I'm worried that someone might have bought the empty lot on the other side of my neighbor's house, and now I'm going to have to tolerate years of home construction noises and big trucks blocking the gate to the bridle trails.  I can't afford to buy the house next door, but had I known if someone made an offer on the vacant lot, I would have outbid them and bought it myself, even though it is not adjacent to my property.  I would have bought it just to keep my peace and quiet.

As if I didn't already have enough wrenches thrown into my plans, then the phone calls began.  It was like everyone and his brother waited for the same day to start calling me about stuff that wasn't even on my radar.  It's looking like I'll just have to appreciate what little I did get done with the horses this weekend, and that is that I finally gave Bombay a bath.  He was so dirty and sticky.  Here he is shaking himself off...

He was unimpressed with my efforts...

The poor guy is looking so old.  Though he is eating well, he needs to exercise more to build up some muscle.  I did also take Gabbrielle for quick walks in an effort to socialize her to all the people, dogs and horses on the trails.  It's so busy out there on the weekends that I can't even get the horses through the gate before someone crosses our path.

Gabbrielle is doing better about not flying into a panic over seeing strangers, but she's still concerned, especially when she's surrounded.  It's difficult to get her to focus and keep walking when someone is behind us and someone else next to us and someone else ahead of us.  She feels like she has to keep an eye on everyone because they can attack her at any second.  Even something as simple as my husband, who she knows, working in the yard, causes her to lock up and refuse to move forward.

I really don't know what to do with her other than to throw a halter on her and drag her out onto the trails whenever I see horseback riders or hikers approaching and can spare a few moments.  I've taken her to rodeos and gymkhanas before, but it has proven to be too much for her.  It's like taking an autistic child who is sensitive to noise and crowds to a concert.  You spend all your time and energy just trying to keep her from killing herself in her endless panic.  Now that I know what I know about anxiety disorders in animals, I don't think I will ever purchase or adopt another animal with one.  I think I'm better about recognizing the signs now.  And I hope I'll retain that knowledge in my next life, if I have one.

I'm still waiting for that septic company to show up.  Their window of time is closing quickly and so is the rest of my day.  If there's one thing I've learned about the service industry, it is that the customer's time is never as valuable as their's.  Around here, if you want or need something, you'd better be willing to wait a long time for it.

I suspect all I'll have time left to do once they finish the job is to clean up dog poop and horse manure.  My life really does revolve around bodily waste.  No exaggeration.