Saturday, December 20, 2014

False Progress

I've been thinking about why I feel like I'm at the end of my rope with Bombay.  I decided it is because I'm tired of being fooled by false progress.  With most horses, you train them until they master something, and then you move onto the next thing.  Most horses do need refresher courses every once in a while, but with Bombay, there are days in which I feel like we have to go all the way back to square one and repeat everything he's been taught over the past 17 years of his life.

I remember one of his selling points was when his breeder told me that she is known for producing horses that can be put out to pasture for a year or two, and when you put them back to work, they are as good as they were when you left off in their training.  They remember everything.  That has been far from my experience with Bombay -- the exact opposite, I would say.

Not too long ago, I enjoyed the challenge of training horses, but I have changed.  I think my increased awareness of my own mortality and roughly how many years I've got left in my lifespan have made me impatient.  I don't want to keep taking two tiny steps forward and three giant steps back.  I want to see some real, solid, permanent progress with this horse, and I'm just not getting it.  He has had at least five different horse trainers work with him over the years, excluding myself, and there are times when he acts like he was born yesterday.  A 17-year-old horse should be better than that.

I was asked if I am considering selling him.  That's a tough question because I have always thought that when I take ownership of any animal, it is my responsibility for life.  But I admit that I am changing my perspective on that topic.  If there is someone out there who has the skills and desire to work with him, I wouldn't want to cheat him out of that opportunity by making him a pasture ornament.  Also, horses are expensive animals to keep.  I feel like they need to make use of themselves if they expect free food, board, and health care.  My own children contributed to the family unit by doing chores throughout their lives, so I want my pets to do the same.  A horse who turns every little request into a struggle is not doing his job.

There are days when I think about how much more free time I would have with one less horse to feed and clean up after.  But then I also think about how removing one horse from the herd would disrupt the herd dynamic and probably result in disputes among the remaining horses.  The horses I keep would miss the horse I sold.  I know people buy and sell horses every day, and horses adapt well being moved from home to home, herd to herd, but they do experience some level of stress during the process.  Plus, I know that Lostine is at the end of her life span, and I may find myself down to three horses sooner than one would expect.

Ultimately, I think if the perfect person came along and really wanted to own Bombay, I would sell him.  But I don't think I'm going to go out of my way to find a new home for him.

He did redeem himself today.  I took him for a hand-walk on the trails and my husband hand-walked Rock.  I had heard children's voices in the desert, so I wanted to expose Bombay to as much activity out there as I could.  Of course, as soon as we got out there, everyone was gone.  We saw one hiker with dogs way off in the distance, but nothing within spooking range.  I wanted to run into hikers, horseback riders and loose dogs, and I wanted to make Bombay stand politely while people petted him, other horses sniffed him, and dogs ran circles around his legs.  But it's my dumb luck that such things only happen when I'm in the saddle, and when I hand-walk him or a horse trainer rides him, the desert is deserted.

Rock turned out to be the troublemaker, taking nips at my husband, leaning on him, and stopping to eat without permission -- all stunts he doesn't dare try with me anymore, but horses always have to see how much they can get away with each time a different person works with them.  My husband commented on how impressed he was with Bombay's behavior.  He said he was the perfect gentleman.  It was true.  Bombay walks on a loose lead, stays out of my personal space, always lets me go first when we pass through narrow areas and gates, and despite walking a ways along a road with cars rushing past, he didn't spook once.

The problem is that it would be a completely different story if I were in the saddle.  He is willing to accept leadership and totally trust me when I lead him from the ground, but he feels vulnerable when I am on his back.  He doesn't think I can protect him if I am on his back.  He worries constantly when I am over him and not beside him.  And he loses his mind over the dumbest things.

The lack of trust goes both ways.  He doesn't trust me on his back and I don't trust him to even give me and my welfare a second thought when he's got his own agenda.  The only difference is that I have never hurt him when I have ridden him, but he has hurt me.  So, I guess the question is, do I keep him because he's such a great hiking partner?  Do I keep him because he makes me laugh?  Do I keep him because he was my first horse?

I can ride him fairly safely in an arena.  He has occasionally bucked in the past, and he does spook in the arena, but he doesn't bolt, because he knows he's got nowhere to go but in circles.  If he does buck me off, at least it will be into soft footing.  He still has to contend with hikers, horseback riders and loose dogs around the arena, though.  If people would just respect my NO TRESPASSING signs, my life would be so much easier.

Here's a funny story about something that happened the other day.  There is a barrier at the back of my property that was put up to prevent drivers from going off the cliff into my backyard.  One of the four sections of fence blew down in a macroburst last summer.  I called the county to send someone out to fix it.  A man showed up, picked up the broken section of fence, leaned it up against another section, and left.  Of course, it blew back down in the next storm.  Then a neighbor propped it up, and it blew down again in the following storm.  I hiked up there to see if I could fix it, gave up, leaned it up against the standing section, and of course, it blew back down in another storm.  (Do you see the false progress theme here?  That fence is a lot like Bombay.)

So, my husband hiked up the hill to nail it in place.  He came back down the hill to get a metal rod for reinforcement.  I was out cleaning stalls and I saw this nosy neighbor come running up the street to inspect the work that my husband did on the fence.  The man started shaking the fence and then he put his hands on his hips and stared at me.  My husband came up out of the arroyo and I told him some man was up there, and I think he wanted to talk to him.  The man waved, and my husband blew him off because he was tired of hiking up and down the hill, and he just wanted to get the rod and finish the job.

I have no doubt that the man wanted to put his two-cents in on how to repair the fence.  It's a good thing he didn't talk to me, because I probably would have bit his head off for sticking his nose in where it didn't belong, giving unsolicited advice, and attempting to supervise my husband when the man could have repaired the fence himself anytime over the past six months that it had been laying there broken.  I really don't care for people who won't take the initiative to do something themselves, but as soon as someone else attempts to do it, they have to control their every move.

Back when my daughter was a baby, I had to live next door to an elderly couple who were total sourpusses, and they always had to come running out of their house to tell me everything I was doing wrong in raising my baby.  I couldn't do anything without them inserting an opinion.  I discovered that they were spying and eavesdropping on me when I was inside my house with the windows or sliding glass doors open.  Of course, when I questioned them about how they raised their own children, I found out that they didn't have any.  They kind of conditioned me into believing that when an old person comes around, it's because he or she intends to meddle in my business.

I don't know what this man's intentions were, but I'm just so tired of people standing up there on that cliff staring at me while I do my barn chores that I won't give them the time of day anymore.  I'm too busy, and I know they wouldn't appreciate it if I walked into their backyards and stared at them while they did yard work or laid out by the pool.  Their behavior is kind of reminiscent of those old cowboy movies where a wagon train is coming through a valley, and a bunch of Indians on horseback stand up on the surrounding cliffs looking down on them.  The pioneers know that they are about to be attacked.  I think I need to get myself a megaphone, so that I can ask people what they want without having to stop what I'm doing and hike all the way up there.  The problem is that I already know what most of them want.  They want permission to cut through my property, and I won't give it to them.  They usually stand up there and stare a while, then scratch their heads and walk away when they realize that I won't welcome them with open arms into my backyard.

But I digress...  Back to Bombay.  I don't really have any plans for him beyond knowing that I don't want to put anymore time into training him on the trails.  Maybe someday if he's in a really mellow mood and begging me to ride him, I might ride him out there again, but I'm not willing to put pressure on myself to keep him tuned up anymore, especially since my efforts rarely bear fruit.

If he were my only horse, I probably would hire an equitation instructor to help me gain his respect from the saddle.  I hate to say it, but Bombay was at his best when I had that instructor who made me smack him with the riding crop over every little digression.  If he spooked, I had to smack him.  If he bucked, I had to smack him.  If his head popped up, I had to get in his face.  If he broke gait, I had to scold him, rein him in, or kick him back up to speed.  I didn't like riding that way, but maybe he's the type of horse who needs that kind of structure.  My last riding instructor made me put my riding crop and martingale away, and made me promise to never use them again, but that's also when Bombay began giving me grief.

On the other hand, if he were my only horse and I had a terminal illness or became dangerously fragile as I aged, yet still had this burning desire to trail ride, I'd definitely sell him to make room for a trustworthy mount who can carry me in my final days stress-free.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Whoa Nelly

This afternoon I trail rode Bombay for the first time in a while.  You may recall that he was sick, possibly with an ulcer, before that he was just acting plain crazy and the best I could do was to ride him in the arena, before that it was just outrageously hot, and before that I was recovering from the knee injury he caused me when he took off running and bucking down the trail and I had an unplanned dismount.  I trusted Rock and Lostine to carry me with my ouchy knee, but not Bombay.

We began our ride out in front because Rock was moving as fast as a rock.

Bombay was looking all around with every muscle tense, searching for something to spook at.   I let Rock move in front to see if Bombay would relax, but it just turned into a battle to keep him off Rock's rump.

Rock was a good sport and didn't get irritated or try to kick, but I was getting plenty irritated with Bombay.  He had no whoa.

I noticed a lone rider on a gray Tennessee Walking Horse off to our right, but Bombay didn't.  I tried to keep him collected so that he'd keep trucking on, but Rock was behind us at that point and he got a total boner over seeing that horse, and he had to stop to gawk.  Bombay turned his head to try to figure out where Rock went, and that's when he spotted the strange horse.  The rider was at a stop waiting for us to get past, so that her horse wouldn't get too excited, but Rock was being stubborn about moving along and Bombay was getting high-headed, so the rider passed behind us.  I got tired of struggling with Bombay to keep him moving, so I said, "Okay, fine.  If you want to look, then look.  Other horses aren't going to hurt you."

We ended up riding kind of parallel with the other rider, so both Rock and Bombay kept on gawking like that was the most fascinating horse they'd ever seen.  Maybe it was the way it walked.  Gaited horses move different from what my horses are used to.

Probably the most frustrating thing about trying to keep Bombay off Rock's butt was that he kept hunching up his back, and I knew he was considering bucking me off.  Bombay has a lot going for him like athletic ability, strong hooves, a balanced conformation, good teeth, great sense of humor, he's creative in the way he plays, he's got a rocking chair lope and slow jog that are to die for, but the fact that he is unpredictable and can sometimes be downright belligerent makes him a difficult riding partner.

As we were headed down the main trail toward home, a large flock of birds flew up out of the bushes over our heads and around us.  It was unexpected, fairly loud, and it made me jump.  Both horses threw their heads up in the air and balked, but settled down the instant they realized it was just birds.

I was feeling good, thinking we were going to make it all the way home with me getting into a wreck when my husband said, "There are a bunch of horseback riders up ahead."

"A bunch?"  Images of a dozen riders from a local trail ride outfit popped into my head.  The last time I saw them, they were all cantering toward us and Bombay nearly flipped over backwards thinking the horses were stampeding because they were being chased by lions.  I knew that with how nervous and grumpy Bombay was the entire ride, I wouldn't survive whatever was coming toward us, so I hopped off.  His head flew up in the air because he spotted them right when I dismounted, so I was praying he'd hold still, and he did.  I was dismounting in some rocks and didn't want to sprain my ankle.

The rider in front was on a huge mule, and I know Bombay has never seen a mule before.  We stood off to the side of the trail because there was a bush preventing us from passing each other.  The rider on the mule asked me if everything was okay.  I said yes, that my horse just hasn't been out in a while and was on edge.  Bombay scuttled around to try to get away from the mule, and the mule jumped to get away from Bombay right when the lady was telling me that she was in the same boat.

Bombay held it together until the line of equines got behind him and then he flipped out.  I was so glad I dismounted.

He started jumping around on the lead rope, doing little rears, and he jigged and snorted all the way home after one long, last gawk...

At this point I feel safer riding Gabbrielle than Bombay, and she's still a fairly green horse.  Bombay has had more training than any of my horses.  I could blame all those pellets and supplements I had to put him on to fatten him up, but I think he's just a hot horse and he's never going to change.

It's disappointing to see him act this way because he was doing so well on the trails last fall and winter.  I thought we were finally over the hump.  I know I haven't ridden him in a while, but I'm just not willing to keep sinking money into his training and risking life and limb to work with him myself anymore.  I'm getting old and I just want to go for a nice, relaxing trail ride on a horse I can trust.  I know I've got at least two of them, maybe three.  Once Gabbrielle heals, I'll see if she's number three of not.  As for Bombay, I'm not sure what his future holds.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thwarted Again

I had plans to take a trail ride yesterday before today's rainstorm moved in, but before the horses could finish eating their breakfast, a huge earth mover / backhoe showed up next door.  The horses ran circles in their stalls, tails up over their backs, necks arched, heads in the air, snorting.  I wasn't sure if it would be better or worse for them if I cut them loose.  When I brought some dump trucks into my paddock to pour sand, Gabbrielle injured her leg on the metal railings in her stall.

Earlier I had been examining Gabbrielle's shoulder because she's been limping due to yet another self-imposed injury, and she let me manipulate the leg, swing it back and forth, circle it vertically and horizontally, and she tolerated a deep tissue massage.  I was beginning to think there was nothing wrong with her shoulder, and that she was limping from another hoof abscess.  The conditions are ripe for one.  The problem is that if I go to the trouble and expense of applying a poultice, no amount of duct tape will keep it on with all the mud we have.  I decided to try soaking the hoof in a warm Epsom Salt bath, but Gabbrielle was having none of it.

Each time I set her hoof in the tub, she'd rear up and pull back.  She wasn't scared.  She was just being a stinker about it.  I'd pick up her hoof and slowly move it toward the tub, and she'd pretend like she was eating, but she'd have her head tilted over the food barrel so that she could keep a close eye on where I was putting her hoof.  Then the second it touched the water, she'd rear up and pull back.  I had other things I had to do, so I set up some barriers around her food barrel so that the only way she could eat was if she put her hoof in or right up against the Epsom Salt tub.  Then I went in the house.

Now with the tractor next door, I could see that Gabbrielle kicked around all those barriers I had set up, so I had to go down and get them out of her stall before she hurt herself again and broke everything.  Once the horses began to get used to the tractor, I stepped outside to head for the barn to let them out of their stalls, only to find the real estate agent playing fetch with a loose Husky right up against my fence.  The dog could easily run into my yard, get under the gate, and chase my horses around.  I opted not to let the horses out of their stalls, because if they began running around in excitement over the tractor, the dog might go after them.  I ended up having to leave the horses locked in their stalls until mid-afternoon.

What was making me nuts was that the guy kept driving the tractor up the driveway next to my paddock, and I'd think he's done only to have him turn around and come right back down the driveway.  I think he was just having fun drag racing the thing up and down there, because I saw no point in his behavior.  His job was to remove weeds and he cleared the driveway first thing in the morning.  He had one of these tractors with tiny front tires that allowed him to maneuver tight corners quickly, so he was racing all over the place. The neighbors set up their property like a fortress, and they have this maze of fences, narrow alleyways, and padlocked gates leading to all these different fenced off sections of land.  If the tractor driver wasn't so hyper and had just worked slowly in one place for a while, I might have been able to go for my trail ride, but his driving habit made the horses feel like they were being charged repeatedly by this large machine.

Of course, the horse I rode would probably settle down once we got away from the tractor, but I was worried that the other horses that were left behind would get even more agitated losing one of their herd members for protection.  The tractor finally left just before sunset, and then all the nosy neighbors had to come running out of their houses to check out the work that was done on the place next door, so it was still buzzing with activity.

The funny thing about this is that the lady who owns the house came to check on it last month, and she hired one immigrant worker to clear all the weeds.  We're talking weeds on every square inch of five acres of land, and he was supposed to pull each one up by the roots.  The poor guy spent all day there doing back breaking work and only put a tiny dent in the problem.  So, it didn't surprise me when he returned with a bulldozer.

I was doing a pretty good job of not getting too annoyed about losing my one day before the storm to ride a horse, and then I received a letter in the mail from the neighbor who owns the house next door, and she informed me that her husband is coming out next week to do more yard and home improvements.  Argh!  We'll finally be drying out from these storms by the time he arrives, and then I probably won't be able to ride because of his activities.

I thought I was finally going to get some peace and quiet when they moved out at the beginning of summer, but then the home shoppers started doing drive bys and coming into my backyard to examine their backyard since they had their backyard under lock and key, the real estate agents had open houses every weekend and the home shoppers kept parking where they blocked the gate I needed to ride my horse through to get to the trails, followed by more moving vans, and now I get to deal with heavy machinery and construction.  And once someone actually buys the house, I'll have to deal with more moving vans followed by more construction, because nobody can just buy a house and leave it be.  Everyone has to change it to fit their needs.  Then, of course, I'll probably have to deal with more barking dogs, possibly other loud farm animals, most likely loud engines from their vehicles, and the new neighbor's bad habits.  The one thing I really liked about the previous neighbors who lived in that house was that they drove smart cars, which are very quiet.  Now that we have a lot of diesel trucks and motorcycles showing up next door to view the place, we're realizing that the noise and vibration comes right through the wall into our house.

I wish I had a million dollars to buy this house and put an end to my neighbor troubles once and for all.  Perhaps some day when both my husband and I are retired, we can live in the boonies away from civilization, but we have to live around other people right now because that's where the jobs are.

Anyway, my motto of the year has become, "Don't put off horseback riding you can do today, because there's no guarantee you can do it tomorrow."

I wound up spending six hours wrapping gifts.  At least that's out of the way, though I would have preferred to be stuck indoors wrapping gifts on a rainy day like today.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lostine Got Her Just Dessert

I've been locking the gate to Bombay's stall to keep the mares out of it because they have been using it as their personal porcelain throne.  Poor Bombay has to stand in a puddle of mare urine while he eats.  Despite locking the gate, Lostine figured out how to unlock and open it, and she let herself in.  I threw a rock at the aluminum roof to chase her out before she could pee, and locked it again, only this time I wrapped a rubber tarp tie around the posts.  Not long after I went into the house, she had the tarp tie undone, unlocked the gate, and was back in Bombay's stall.  I chased her out again, tied the gate down in a sturdier manner, went back in the house, turned around, and she was right back in his stall!

As soon as she saw me come out the back door, she took off running.  She looked healthy enough to ride, so I decided to give her what she deserved for her shenanigans -- a trail ride.  She started her usual avoidance behaviors, but I let her know I wasn't putting up with any of it.  She could collapse on the ground all she wanted, but I was still going to get that saddle on her and ride.

First, I took her to the round pen to lunge her and tighten the cinch a bit at a time.  She kept stopping and alerting on something in the arroyo, and I kept pushing her to stay focused.  She saw something that sent her into a tizzy and she was galloping all over the place.  I couldn't get her to slow down or stop, and she was jiggling the horn bag loose.  Another few rounds and the thing was going to fly off the saddle into the dirt.  Also, the cinch needed to be tightened some more or the saddle was going to slip down her side.  I had to get her stopped.  The best I could do was to block her path and say, "Easy" each time she ran toward me.

Eventually, she slowed to a walk and came to me.  I attached the lead rope, tightened her cinch and fixed the horn bag.  Then I did some ground work with her on the lead rope so that she couldn't get so crazy out of control.  She jumped and snorted, and I looked up to see a man in a dress shirt, dress slacks, and dress shoes coming up out of the arroyo in my back yard.  My mouth must have dropped open as I stared in disbelief.  It's all muddy down there.  What was a man in business apparel doing in the wash behind my house?

I kept Lostine moving because I wanted her to stay focused on me, but I kept an eye on the man.  He didn't look at me once.  He started to walk toward me and then turned and moved over into my neighbor's back yard.  He walked right up the trail as if he lived there.  I've never seen the snowbirds who vacation in that house up close, so I thought perhaps it was the man who owned the house.  But then it hit me that he was carrying plants that he had dug up, which would qualify him as being "The Mad Pruner", who does not live in that house, but who traipses all over his neighbor's back yards with the excuse that he is taking care of their properties by pruning bushes and trees (without their permission).

He has this ridiculous belief that because other people's back yards are a part of his view from his house, he has the right to make them prettier.  He asked my husband if he could prune and nurse a tree in our yard so that it would grow bigger and block his view of another neighbor's junk vehicles.  Of course, he asked after he had already been doing it.  I hate it when people pile junk vehicles on their property and ruin the view, but I also hate it when people trespass on my property, spook my horses when I'm riding by popping up out of bushes in my back yard, and invade on my privacy.  The man walked right past the house, so I think it was the Pruner.  I was hesitant to chew him out for trespassing if he was the guy who actually lives in the house, but it wasn't until it was too late that I realized the guy was trespassing on both my property and the snowbird's property.  I think when the snowbird does show up, I'll ask him if he has given permission to this other neighbor to do what he pleases in his back yard.

Having a man in nice dress clothes pop up out of the bushes and walk past me kind of freaked me out, so I headed out for a trail ride, figuring I'd be less likely to run into strange people on the public trails.  I mean, why use 22 miles of public desert that is right across the street from your house when you can just trespass all over your neighbors' back yards, right?

Lostine was a bit of stinker during the mount.  She kept trying to move off, so I just stood on the step stool and lunged her in circles around me.  When she tried to stop, I'd tap her rump to keep her going.  After a dozen rotations, she got irritated and decided that it was easier to just stand still in the location I asked her to and let me mount.

On the way out, the mood was spooky.  The sky was dark and cloudy.  There wasn't a soul in sight.  The air was cold.  I could hear my own breath.  I was actually shivering in my protective vest and helmet.  I had set my GoPro camera to take videos.  I saw a fire truck coming out of the station with its lights on, so I turned on the video to record, but the fire truck wasn't in frame.  All you could hear was them turning on the siren, and you could see Lostine's ears flip forward and her head fly up, but she was good.  She didn't spook.  Then we were surrounded by a chorus of dogs howling.

The video I am going to share is one in which I rode her past the fallen saguaro with many limbs.  It looks strange from so many angles, so all the horses get startled when they first see it.  I had not taken Lostine past it by hand or when riding before, and for the first time in years, she spooked.  It was one of those jump up, teleport sideways, and come down hard with all four feet planted several inches in the ground kind of spooks.  I got quite a jolt from it.

Just as we were getting to the gate to cross the street for home, the mail carrier arrived four hours late because of the holiday load.  I made Lostine stand and wait for him to pass us in both directions.  The mail carrier was dressed in a Santa Claus suit, and he waved really big out the window at us both times he passed us.  Lostine popped her head up but didn't spook or panic.  I had the video recording, but the lens was pointed down, so the mail carrier wasn't in frame.  Then I rode her to the mailbox and had her help me get the mail.  Then I delivered the junk mail to the geldings so that they could rip it up, but they weren't in the mood today.  I had to pick it up and put it in the recycling bin.

I'm a bit peeved with USPS right now.  I was expecting a package that contained three Christmas gifts for family members ten days ago.  Amazon reported that there was a mail carrier delay.  I gave them some time to correct the problem, but I received no further communication, so I called the post office.  They only had records showing that they received it, but they couldn't find it anywhere in their building and it never got on the truck to be delivered to my house.  They told me to call Amazon.  I asked what if Amazon can't help me, and the postmaster told me that "Amazon usually just replaces items that were in missing packages."

It was clear that USPS was responsible for the lost or stolen package, but they wouldn't take responsibility for it.  Amazon said that they couldn't replace two of the items because they were ordered through a third party seller.  They were unclear in explaining what I could and could not be refunded for, so I just asked for a full refund for everything.  Because I got a different customer service rep for each communication, and because they were all in India, I had to suffer through one mishap after another.  First, they refunded me for the entire order.  I had to write back and explain that the order was separated into three shipments.  I received two, but not the third package, so they only needed to refund me for the items in that package.  Because the credit card company was already processing their first refund, they had to get my permission to charge my credit card for the items I did receive.  Hopefully, that's the end of it.  My family members aren't going to get some of their Christmas gifts, but I'm sure they will survive.  I just find it ironic that Amazon had to cover the cost of the problem, though they didn't do anything wrong, and the USPS got off scot-free.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Meet and Greet With the New Herdmate

While shoveling another ton of manure into the dump, we found ourselves adopting another herdmate for the horses.

Every once in a while we get lucky and find something good when someone brings in a load of items that didn't sell at a yard sale.  I'm on a roll finding uses for other people's trash.

You go poke it.  No, you go poke it.  You first.  Are you kidding me?  That thing will kick my butt.
Of course, Rock was the first to say hello...

What are you and where have you been?  Oh oh, I'm acting like a dog.
...and to knock it over...

That looked like it hurt.  Did it hurt... when you fell from heaven?
...and to throw it around.

With all that hair, I can fly you like a flag.
I had washed the toy before letting the horses play with it, so water flew all over Rock's face when he threw it around, but that didn't deter him.  It just made it more fun.

He got possessive over it after a while...

This is my new girlfriend.  We'll figure out the logistics later.
When she wasn't as responsive as he would like, he began trying to nudge her around...

Boy!  This is one tough broad.  She won't budge.
I tried to convince Gabbrielle that the new horse looked just like her, but she wasn't impressed...

She was gimping around with the help of Banamine.

Hmmm... Which one of you two pretty ladies would like a date with me tonight?
I caught Bombay throwing the toy in Rock's face...

Their expressions afterward...

Dude, that's just uncool.  You don't chuck my girlfriend in my face.  You just don't.  I mean, who does that?  You do, apparently.
Predictably, a fight broke out...

Gabbrielle:  Oh brother, here we go again.

As expected, there was a casualty...

I guess it's back to the dump for me.  Thanks guys.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Concrete Plans

This morning I let Rock and Gabbrielle out of their stalls since they had wolfed down their breakfasts, but I left Bombay and Lostine locked in since they were still picking at the contents of their feed barrels.  I went to the feed store to stock up on more products that were recommended by readers, and when I returned, Gabbrielle was lame.

This is why I always hate to focus on training her.  One or both of us always manages to get bit by bad luck every time I start working with Gabbrielle.  I know it sounds foolish and superstitious, but this is my experience.  I have no idea what happened to her.  She's dominant over Rock, so Rock would not have kicked her.  She has no swelling on her legs.  Her feet are not sensitive or showing signs of an abscess.  I think she threw out her left shoulder -- probably when being too aggressive while chasing Rock away.  So, she's on the Disabled List.

It's too bad because I wanted to ride her today.  It's been a while since I've ridden between the rain and my health issues, and we are supposed to get more rain this weekend.  I took Lostine for a walk in the desert and she was quite perky about the whole thing.  I love it when the horse I choose is happy to join me on my walks, because having a scared or grumpy hiking partner is never fun.

There's this white bucket that someone dumped in the desert a few months ago.  I figured it had to be cracked from the sun.  I'm sick of looking at other people's trash, so I decided to go pick it up and take it home and dump it in my trash bin.  It turned out not to be a bucket at all, but a solid concrete cylinder that was once inside of a bucket.  It was surrounded by chunks of concrete, rocks, and broken glass.

It suddenly occurred to me that this would make the perfect mounting block, so I rolled it away from all the hard, sharp stuff over to some soft sand and set it upright.  It wobbled a bit, so I stuck a shim under it and viola!  I was able to stand on it and tower over Lostine's back.

I've been looking for a solution to not having anything to stand on when mounting in the desert.  When I lived in the mountains I could usually find boulders, but there's nothing sturdy to stand on in the desert.  I struggle with trying to set my horse in a ditch and then stretch my legs from the sloped side of higher ground to reach the stirrup and still be able to push up and out to swing my other leg over.  I don't know if this concrete cylinder will be tall enough for me to mount my taller horses, but it should work with the shorter mares.  I never got around to asking my husband to go cut those old telephone pole stumps shorter.  I was a little worried that would not be legal since telephone poles are the property of the power company.  But I don't think anyone can punish me for making use of someone's trash.

I didn't take my camera with me, so I don't have a picture of it, but I did get a picture of that weird orange tree on the side of our house.  The oranges are finally ripening in December.

Also, someone wants to remind everyone that he's cute...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gifts Are Not Always Tangible

Ever since Thanksgiving, I have been consumed by shopping for gifts.  I always think I'll get the job done faster online by avoiding the traffic and crowds, but I still spend a ridiculous amount of time scrolling through thousands of gift ideas.  Then once I actually find a gift idea that might work, I have to dig around to see if there are better prices, better brands, better colors, better designs, and coupons for the item.  I think that usually a minimum of two hours passes between the time that I find the item I want to get, and the time I actually purchase it because I am always convinced that there is something I'm missing.  I read the descriptions and reviews repeatedly to make sure it won't be something I will have to return for one reason or another.  When I realize that my browsing trek began at sunrise, and now the sun is setting, I wonder if it would have been simpler to just shop locally.

I've been criticized in the past for "not putting much thought into the person" who I am giving the gift to, but what people don't realize is that I obsess over it so much that I wind up just grabbing something -- anything in order to have a gift to give them, because otherwise I would go insane.  So, criticizing my gift choices is never a good idea, because all it does is make me more neurotic than I already am.  Plus, when people complain about my gift choices, it makes me not want to give them gifts in the future.  I had a relative make fun of me for the gift I gave him last Christmas, so I purposefully ignored his birthday.  I didn't want him calling me to abuse me over my gift choice.  The irony was that he got so incensed over me "forgetting" his birthday that he tried to blackmail some money out of me.  Apparently, he felt like I owed him.  Yes, I have some jerks in my family.  No amount of modelling from perfect parents and Cotillion classes could teach them how to behave in a civilized, none-the-less gracious, manner.

My mother was the family Saint, always appreciative and prepared with the perfect thing to say about the gift.  I always felt like I was floating on air for days after I gave her a gift.  As a result, I made, bought, and wrapped dozens of gifts for her every chance I got.  I knew that my efforts improved her days.  The irony of it all was that after she passed away, I found a whole bunch of gifts I bought her shoved in a closet with price tags still attached, so I knew she really didn't like the gifts.  She just liked being thought of and cared for.

That's what it's about, isn't it?  Showing others that they matter to you?  So, if someone communicates that you matter to them, shouldn't the effort be welcomed and encouraged?  I am always touched when someone I barely know, or someone I didn't consider, gives me a gift.  They can give me a lump of coal, and I'm grateful and humbled by the fact that I was even on their radar screen.

Despite the crowds out shopping, part of the holiday season includes giving of yourself to strangers.  It's hard to remember this when we are so busy scrambling to find gifts for relatives and friends.  My husband and I always feel sorry for the cashiers in stores who have to keep the long lines moving, and have to deal with all the grumpy shoppers and their complaints, so we ask them how they are doing and make small talk with them, letting them know that we are interested in their lives and how their day is going.  We don't hold up the line like a lot of retired people do telling their own life stories to cashiers long past the time when their items were rung up and paid for, but we just take a minute to let the person who is helping us check out know that we see them as a human being and not a machine.  We do the same with restaurant servers.  Sometimes a little conversation and human connection can make the day more bearable.

There are a lot of people who normally don't drive out traversing the roads buying gifts for others, and while their driving maneuvers can be dangerous and infuriating, we try to be patient and not give in to the urge to honk, extend middle fingers, or whip around them while shaking our fists.  Still, we see a lot of other drivers behaving that way.  We are hearing more sirens, which alerts us to the fact that someone is having a bad day.  Probably the best gift we can give to others is to simply help them have a good day by not making it worse.

When my mother passed away, I was humbled by the number of people who wrote letters and attended her funeral who all said the exact same thing about her -- that she was kind, generous, and her love was unconditional.  I can attest to all of that, because I was her daughter.  I experienced a countless number of times when she was kind to me when I didn't deserve it.  And she was not a meek woman.  This kindness was not a weakness, but a strength.

It was then that I realized that when we die, all that really matters is how we treated others.  Our goals and accomplishments are secondary.  So, I've been trying to remember to choose kindness over whatever else is going on in my head and heart.  It takes a tremendous amount of filtering and self-control to practice kindness, especially when others may not be treating you well, but the rewards are phenomenal when you do.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Just Pictures

I don't have any horse stories to tell, so I'll post a few pictures...

I had a routine, but invasive medical screening procedure last week and managed to get some kind of infection out of it, so I've been waiting for my fever to come down before getting active again.  We may have made a lot of progress in the field of medicine, but in some ways we've shot the human race in the foot by turning medical procedures into cattle calls, sacrificing privacy and cleanliness while risking infection.  I'm at a point where I'm thinking that unless I need to do something to save my life, I'm going to avoid "routine" tests as much as possible.  You simply cannot go in healthy without coming out sick.

My mother-in-law recently went in for some back surgery.  They opened her up, discovered there wasn't much they could do for her, closed her up, and sent her home.  Over the next week she complained about increasing pain, and they ignored her.  She wound up in the hospital having emergency surgery because of a blood clot triggered by the back surgery.  They also discovered some nerve damage.  Sometimes, even if it is broke, it's not worth the risks to try to fix, especially if the fix is not guaranteed.

What I am astounded by is how much time and energy doctors put into covering their butts.  If they put that much energy into taking care of patients, we'd all be better off for it.  When I looked at my surgery report, the entire thing was about me having the risks explained to me and me signing a paper that I knew the risks.  I probably talked to 5 nurses and 2 doctors during the process, and not one of them explained the risks to me.  However, the front office, shoved a bunch papers in my face and said, "Sign here."

I informed them that I didn't have my reading glasses and they said, "Oh, don't worry about it.  This is just standard stuff."  How does that constitute "explaining the risks to the patient"?

But enough of that.  I could go on forever about my disdain over medical care.

Most of my interactions with the horses lately have been at feeding time.  I realized that Rock has come a long way in his manners.  I no longer have to coerce him into getting into HIS stall and staying out of other horses' stalls at feeding time.  I no longer have to shove him at the hip to get him to move so I can close the gate.  I no longer have to smack him on the nose for trying to rip food out of my hands.  I no longer have to even ask him to move when I'm cleaning up manure in his stall.  He used to stand over the manure, and I'd have to harass him to get him to take a few steps forward so I could clean it up, but now if we share a stall, our motions are like a choreographed dance and he can anticipate where I need to clean next, so he takes the initiative to move out of the way.  That's pretty amazing.

When I see how well behaved Rock is, it makes me realize what is possible with my other horses.  I'm tough on Rock because Rock is tough... and easygoing.  I tend to baby Lostine, because she's so old, and I'm wary of doing something to spook Bombay and Gabbrielle that could result in me getting hurt, so my training efforts are different from one horse to another on a very subtle level.  But I think if I use the same actions and pressure I have put on Rock over the past year and a half to behave, the other three will be better horses for it.