Monday, November 23, 2015

Learning to Roll With It

Sometimes life can be beyond ridiculous.

You may recall that I mentioned cleaning house weeks ahead of the holiday, and having a nagging feeling that something would come up that would prevent me from being able to clean at the last minute.  A few little problems cropped up along the way, but I still had time to get around to sweeping and mopping before Thanksgiving.

My husband and I planned to go hiking Saturday morning to get our exercise, but (long story short) we ended up spending the morning at the dump.  With my snow shovel, I moved manure out of the pile into the wagon, and dumped it into our trailer on Friday night.  Saturday morning, I shoveled manure out of the trailer into a pile at the dump.

I felt good.  I even considered taking a second load to the dump that same day.  At one point, I took Rock for a jog and we stumbled upon a trail that was littered with cholla balls.  I was trying to maneuver Rock's front end around one of these stickers when he stepped on another one with his hind leg.  He was in so much pain that his knees buckled and he started to go down.  I caught him and helped him back up.  He was hopping on three legs.

We were a long ways from home and I didn't bring a saddle bag with us, so I had nothing with me to remove the cholla ball from his fetlock.  I tried knocking it off with a stick, but he wouldn't let me near his leg.  So, I led him through some bushes, hoping the branches would snag the sticker and pull it out.  Nothing seemed to be working, so I considered calling my husband and asking him to bring us some needle-nosed pliers or scissors.  Just then I noticed Rock looked a lot happier and was walking normal.  The bush trick worked.  It loosened the sticker enough that it fell off after walking a ways.

I took him back to the barn, and then hiked back out to the same trail with my walking stick to knock all the sticker balls off the trail.  I swung the stick like a golf club, and barely hit the ground, but the vibration coming back up the stick sent an excruciating pain up my left arm, and it was just hanging there useless.  I couldn't grip the stick with my left hand.  I examined my arm, but didn't see any visible breaks.  I figured the pain would go away in a little while, and I headed back home.

The pain got worse and worse.  I didn't see any bruising or swelling, yet when I took Ibuprofen, which is for swelling, the pain eased up, which meant there was swelling.  I researched the situation, and the only thing that made sense was a stress fracture from the repeated movement of shoveling.  Often times, you don't feel any pain when the bone weakens and starts cracking, and then you do some mundane movement, and the crack gets worse, and then you feel the pain.  This is definitely a bone pain, not a muscle or ligament.

So, I started the RICE regimen of rest, ice, compression and elevation.  I can't lift anything or shovel, which means that barn chores are nearly impossible for me to do unless I can do them with one arm.  I've figured out how to cook, wash dishes, and makes beds with just one arm, and I plan to spend the next couple of days sweeping and mopping with one arm.  My husband and P.S. are helping with the barn chores.  I'm hoping that if I give my arm a rest for a few days, then I'll be past the critical point where I have to worry about cracking the bone even further.

I don't even want to bother seeing a doctor, because I'm so frustrated with medical care.  If I try to see my general practitioner, he'll tell me to go to the emergency room.  My insurance won't cover all of it, so I'll have a huge bill, and emergency rooms are so stressed that I'd get better care from my G.P.  They'll x-ray the bone and find nothing, because fractures rarely show up on x-rays.  Then they'll send me home with instructions to do the RICE method and take Ibuprofen, which is exactly what I'm doing anyway.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen doctors or taken my pets to vets only to be given the wrong diagnosis and treatment.  At this point, I trust my own medical knowledge more than I do that of a rushed and distracted professional.

I'm frustrated to have my plans ruined by an injury, but what can I do beyond just learning to roll with it?  I'm thankful to have supportive relatives and friends who are helping out.  The irony in all of this is that I wish I could say I broke my arm being thrown from a horse, but instead I cracked it shoveling too much manure.  This is just more proof to me that I own too many horses, and I probably inherited osteoporosis from my mother, so it is time for me to start taking Calcium Citrate supplements more regularly and work harder to cut back on the size of my herd.

I keep telling myself that it's not that hard to take care of four horses, but then this happens and I watch other people do my barn chores, and I realize just how much work really is involved.  Then I feel guilty because I'm taking time out of other people's busy schedules to have them take care of animals that are my responsibility.

I've spent a lot of time out of commission these past couple of years, so I need to face the fact that this isn't a fluke, and getting older means having more health struggles, so I need to be realistic about how much responsibility I can handle.  This isn't the first time that I've had trouble with this arm, so I probably should cut back to only being responsible for what I can do with one arm, even when I have two functioning arms.  Hopefully, someone will want a little gray Arabian mare for Christmas, so we all can have less poop to shovel.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Stewie Has Clothes That Fit

Being a short-haired Chihuahua / MinPin mix, Stewie shivers in less than 65 degree temperatures.  We keep picking up dog coats in pet stores and markets, but they never fit.  The extra-small sizes are for straight Chihuahuas and the small sizes are for Corgis, so the extra-small dog clothes strangle him and only cover half his body, while he climbs right out of the small dog clothes because they drag on the ground.

I finally got smart and searched for dog clothes.  That's where I found Jin's K9 Kreations.  All items are hand made and can be custom ordered.  She makes dog beds, belly bands, blankets, harnesses, collars, leashes, and other doggy stuff.

I perused her pre-made selection and found a cute little dog coat / harness that would fit Stewie's long body and ordered it.  It came with its turkey design just in time for Thanksgiving, and it fits perfect!  Stewie is so happy.

It's very well made with a fun cotton print on the outside and fleece on the inside.  I love the D-ring sewn into the back.  With his old coat, we had to dig under it to find the hardware on his harness where we could hook the leash.  This coat is convenient in so many ways.  It was intelligently designed, so you don't have to pull it up or take it off each time he needs to potty.

Keeping watch on the horses

Look, Ma!  You don't have to take off my jacket when I need to pee!

You can't pet this dog without him chewing on your hand.

Stewie kept trying to chase quail, but he was good about coming when I called.

Thankfully, he's not a shoe chewer.
I turned the photo shoot into a training session.  Each time he trotted off to chase bunnies and birds and lizards, I called to him and he came back to me.  Then he was petted and praised... at least until he started chewing on my hand.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Droning On

This morning I was taking stock of everything that needed to get done today and prioritizing the tasks, knowing there weren't enough hours in the day to get it all done.  I mainly wanted to make sure I got things like mopping floors done while no one was home to slip on the wet floors and get injured.  The dog poop was piling up outside, so I went out to clean it up first.  While out there, I felt what a beautiful day it was and considered playing hooky from cleaning and taking a "quick" trail ride.  Then I noticed a strange vehicle parked by the gate to the bridle trails.

I thought, "I hope that person leaves soon, because I don't want to have to contend with riding around his car to get out to the trails."

With the dog poop cleaned up, I went down to the barn and paddock to clean up manure and let the horses out of their stalls.  I noticed the driver of the vehicle pulling forward even more, thus blocking the gate to the bridle trails.  He got out and started unloading something from his hatchback.  Next thing I knew, it sounded like he was firing up a leaf blower.

"Ugh!  A gardener!" I thought.  "This could go on all day."

My neighbors list their home with a new agent every three months, and every new agent has to bring in a crew of gardeners, house cleaners, photographers, and other agents.  The activity is non-stop for a few weeks, so after a year and a half of this, I'm pretty fed up with all my good weather days being ruined by a whirlwind of activity in the neighborhood.

Anyway, it sounded like the leaf blower was over my head, and I looked up to see a drone with camera attached flying over my horse paddock.  It turned out that the agency was taking aerial video of the neighbor's property.  It was annoying having this buzzing over my head while I worked, but I figured the camera was pointed and my neighbor's place, so I wasn't too concerned.  It would eventually go away.  I noticed that the horses were swishing their tails angrily as if an insect were buzzing around them.

I was out there for a long time because there was a lot of poop to scoop, and I noticed that the drone spent more time over my property than the neighbors'.  I was beginning to feel like my privacy was being invaded.  I kept doing chores waiting for the drone pilot to finish his job and drive off, restoring peace to the beautiful day so that I could go for my trail ride, but he wouldn't go away.

My husband said that he heard a story in the news about a man shooting down a drone that was buzzing over his back yard, because the camera was invading his privacy and the buzzing was causing unwanted noise pollution.  I decided that if anyone started the habit of flying drones in my neighborhood, I would first talk to the person if I knew who was doing it, and if he didn't stop, I'd shoot it down myself and be willing to pay for damages as long as he keeps his replacement drone over public property.  If he didn't like that settlement, we could discuss it with a judge.

People say that airplanes and helicopters fly over people's back yards all the time, and it's not a problem.  However, planes and helicopters do not fly as low as drones and usually are not recording photographs and videos that can be uploaded to the Internet.  Plus, most planes and helicopters are passing through to a destination, but when someone pilots a drone, it is usually within a small area, so the drone hovers and buzzes around repeatedly.  We're talking apples and oranges.

Anyway, I walked to the far side of my barn away from the subject that was supposed to be video taped, and I stood under and overhang while petting my horses.  All of the sudden that drone flew over my barn and down with the camera pointed directly at me.  The guy was definitely spying on me, so I flipped him the bird, and he piloted the drone back to my neighbors' property in a jiffy.  He must have been watching the video with a live feed to a monitor on the ground.

I suspect there will be another open house this weekend with signs and balloons all over the route I have to take to get to the bridle trails.  Then all the home shoppers will be parking in front of the gate.  I'm at a point where I just wish the house would sell so that I don't have to deal with anymore invasions of drones and Looky Loos.  It's been nice not having barking dogs next door, but I'd like to reclaim the trail head for horseback riding rather than parking.

The good news is that I eventually did get to ride.  The horse trainer came by mid-afternoon.  I had planned to have my horse saddled and ready to go before he got here, but it turned out to be a bit of a crazy day.  My husband came home from work early because he was sick, so I never got to mop the floors.  When I went out to saddle my horse, I got distracted by manure and tried to clean it up "really quick", but the horse trainer arrived early.  I told him to take his time, and he still had Gabbrielle saddled and mounted before I was done tacking up Bombay.

Gabbrielle looked totally relaxed, and Bombay looked like a basket case.  I could feel his nerves.  I tried to ignore them, but both his nerves and my nerves came into play off and on throughout the ride.  While riding up the driveway, Bombay was doing something weird that was shaking me in the saddle.  The trainer said that he was trying to grab the lead rope with his mouth so he could swing it around.  We rode out into an open area, and the trainer tried coaching me through the neck-reining process, but I kept screwing up, going back to old habits.  Bombay was totally confused, either turning in the opposite direction or turning and trying to run for home.

My plan was to practice neck-reining during the ride until the motions became second nature, but the trainer was in the lead and he kept taking us down narrow trails and steep trails, and there weren't many opportunities to turn.  We somehow wound up on the trail from hell that has all of these pointless switchbacks across a wash -- a lot of down and up and turn and down and up and turn.  Both Bombay and Gabbrielle were getting more and more nervous.  Gabbrielle was balking at rocky sections, and Bombay kept prancing up onto her butt, trying to push through her.

Gabbrielle was doing a good job walking on down into the ditches and up the other side once she got unstuck, but Bombay wanted to run and I was struggling to hold him back.  He gets angry if I pull on the reins too much, but I couldn't circle him in some of these tight spots and I couldn't let him keep running into Gabbrielle or she might kick.  I just wanted to get out of that mess, so I asked the trainer to stop when we got to the bottom of the wash.  I said I needed a breather, because my horse was nervous and that was making me nervous, and I just wanted to sit still and not pull on his mouth for a bit.

We bushwhacked until we reached a straight trail that ran along the ridge of the arroyo.  Bombay instantly relaxed and gave Gabbrielle her space after that... at least until the trainer circled behind us and put Bombay in front.  Then Bombay picked up his pace and got all jiggy, which drives me nuts, so I circled him around some bushes.  Gabbrielle got in front again, and Bombay instantly settled down.  Apparently, Bombay does not like to be in the lead.

I was trying to figure out why he has been so stellar when the trainer rides him out alone, and why he was such a ball of nerves with me on him and another horse keeping him company.  I decided that I'm just not the best rider for him.  Something about me makes Bombay nervous, and when Bombay gets nervous, I get nervous.

One piece of information I got off the trainer that I want to remember is that Bombay does better if you gently ask him to do something and you wait for the correct response.  He does not do well with pressure, and he's claustrophobic, so if I react to his spooks and bolts by pulling back on the reins and clamping down with my legs, it can trigger him to either panic or get angry, which can lead to a wreck.  He's the type of horse that you just have to relax and let him run when he bolts, and then slowly gather up a rein to pull his head around to stop him.

Gabbrielle needs pressure, because otherwise she wouldn't do anything or go anywhere, because she's afraid of everything.  When she spooks or balks, I have to get her to pass whatever is bothering her and show her that it doesn't concern me.  If she's still nervous, I have to circle the object at a distance and then as soon as she focuses her attention elsewhere, we walk away from it.

That makes sense, because we're trying to train her to not be concerned about stupid stuff, so as soon as she loses interest in it or shows signs of relaxation, she is rewarded by moving away from the object.  I like this method, because forcing her to face her fears by approaching them directly and making her touch them with her nose has never been a favorite activity of mine.  I think that just adds to her fears, and I think the point should be to teach the horse to stay the course, stay relaxed, and stay focused.  Plus, one of these days, the horse might really have something to fear, and the last thing we want it do to is touch a rattlesnake or mountain lion with its nose.

We were ending the ride on a pleasant note, because we found a wider, straight trail where we could talk without having to worry about rocks and cacti and steep drop offs, when the trainer turned us toward another infamous steep hill where I got into one of my wrecks, so I asked him to go right instead of left.  Bombay was anxious to get home for dinner, and he wanted to run, so the last thing I needed was to have to struggle to keep him at a walk down a long, steep slope.

We made it home without any spooks out of Bombay.  He did trip a few times, and he did break into a trot a lot, and he did turn and try to run for home a few times, but at least he didn't do one of his teleportations sideways.  Gabbrielle, who is supposed to be my trouble child, was fine for the most past because she had her buddy horse with her.

I think I'm just going to have to spend some time on Bombay working out consistent communication so that he's not so nervous and confused.  I certainly don't beat him or do anything that should make him nervous, but I guess he just likes to know what is expected of him, and I'm not communicating that in a way he understands.

The trainer and I talked a bit about how to train ourselves as riders to be relaxed and not react when our horses spook, shy, or bolt.  He said you just have to spend a lot of time in the saddle and practice.  My skeptical side verbalized that during the process, you most likely fall off and get injured, and then you have to recover for several weeks or months, only to start all over from the beginning trying to ride often enough to learn to relax and not react, only this time it is much more difficult because you are suffering from post-traumatic stress and an even deeper fear of riding.  I feel like there has to be a more cautious and systematic approach to teaching your body and mind to relax and not react to your horse's antics, but sometimes when you try to be safe, you end up just setting yourself up for a wreck.  I suspect that's why so many people ride in faith and just say a little prayer before departing.

Oh yeah, and back to the subject of drones, my horse trainer said he had one follow him down the trail when he was riding a horse.  It was pretty annoying for him, and had the horse been scared or startled by the drone, he could have been hurt.  Our local news has been covering stories about people flying drones too close to commercial aircraft, risking a crash by having the drone sucked into the airplane engine.  I suspect a lot of new laws are going to need to be put into place regarding the flying of drones, because it seems that not a whole lot of drone pilots have something called common sense.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Escape from Holiday Prep and Pressure

Being a typical horse woman, I clean my barn more often than I clean my house.  I estimated that it will take two weeks of work to get the house clean and shiny by Thanksgiving, so I've been cleaning for a few hours each day.  I knew that by the time Thanksgiving got here, whatever tasks I did on those first few days of cleaning would need to be repeated, because dust and dirt build up fast around here, so I started out slow to get the majority of the tasks done closer to the eleventh hour.

However, in the back of my mind, a little voice was nagging me to work faster, because those two weeks aren't going to go as planned.  Sure enough, I received an unexpected phone call one night from someone who needed to set up an appointment with me.  I hemmed and hawed over a time, because I knew no matter what time I chose, it would end up being inconvenient for me.  But I didn't want to overthink it, so I picked a time.  Of course, that turned out to be the perfect time to go for a horseback ride and I regretted setting up the appointment.

I figured there would be time to ride later, but I steam cleaned the carpet, which led to more trouble.  The dogs were getting high on the chemicals, so I had to open up all the windows and doors to air the place out, which meant staying home for a few more hours.  The steam vac also left behind a bunch of wet balls of dog fur despite me just vacuuming beforehand, so I had to vacuum afterwards too.

I planned out in my head how I am going to spend the next week cleaning the remaining parts of the house and fit in a few breaks for trail rides, and just when I was feeling confident that I could do it all, someone asked me to do her a favor that requires me to sit at home and wait to do things on someone else's schedule for an entire day before Thanksgiving.  I felt like a bomb had gone off in my brain.

Of course, she picked the best day for trail riding, both weather-wise and schedule-wise.  Every time this lady asks me to do her a favor, I think, "Just this once.  I can be inconvenienced just this once, and she's on her own after that."

Then she asks for another favor, and I struggle to say no, because I'm empathetic to her plight.  But seriously, who chooses a day right before a major holiday to schedule something for someone else?  I guess she thought I wouldn't be busy preparing for guests?  If I don't get in a few horseback rides, I'm going to be very grumpy and burnt out by the time the holiday actually gets here.

Whenever I get overloaded with responsibilities and appointments, I tend to shut down and refuse to do any of it.  I also tend to run away.  I couldn't take having to do anymore cleaning, because I literally had blisters on my hands, and I didn't want to give this lady an answer until I cooled off, so I went down to the barn and asked for a volunteer to take a hike with me.  I didn't want to ride knowing how frustrated I felt and how sensitive my horses are to my moods.  Plus, I really need two hours of uninterrupted time to ride, because getting all of the tack and equipment together is half the battle, but I can take a horse for a quick walk and be back in half an hour.  I took my camera and did a quick photo shoot.

Bombay was fascinated with my long sleeves.  He kept nibbling them as we walked...

They're the color of carrots.  I don't have the opportunity to wear warm clothes very often around here.

Always posing proudly for his fans.

Bombay had one gigantic spook that shook the ground, and I was thankful that he didn't land on my foot.  I think the insides of this dead saguaro caught his eye and scared him.  It definitely stood out as an oddity.

This was the first week in a long time that my To Do List took up two pages of a lined legal pad.  Everything fell apart at once, so I have a lot of home repairs and sewing to do.  Also, we've run out of space to dump manure, so it's that time of year when we have to dedicate an hour each day to shovel manure out of the pile into the wagon, and dump it into the trailer.  Then on the weekends, we haul the trailer to the dump and shovel the manure out of the trailer.  It's better to have it happen in the cooler months, so at least one thing is going my way.

Monday, November 16, 2015

After the Rain

It has been raining.  I just noticed now in the picture above that there is a double rainbow.

I spent my rainy day reading Angels Three:  The Karen Perry Story by Landon J. Napoleon.

This tragic plane crash in the mountains near my home happened a few months before I moved here, but the community was still fresh from the trauma and many people I met mentioned it to me.  Today the burn marks are no longer visible on Superstition Mountain, but memorials have been erected to honor the six individuals lost.

This is a very engaging, well written story that serves as a reminder that we never really know the paths that others have traveled, and that is why it is so important to strive toward communicating from love and understanding.

I haven't read a book in a long time that I could recommend, but this one got me out of that rut.  I recommend it.  In some ways, I have so much to say about the story, about how it affected me, but in other ways, there are no words for what I feel.

In the aftermath, Karen Perry and her friends are operating a non-profit organization called 3 Wings of Life to help children in our community going through difficult times.  Part of this program involves equine-assisted psychotherapy, as Karen, like many parents of autistic children, learned that horses can serve as miraculous healers for those afflicted with autism, as well as other special needs.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Going Public Again

I set my blog to private two months ago because I made the decision to put Gabbrielle up for sale, and I didn't want any of my stories to influence horse buyers in a negative way.  I wouldn't hide the truth from horse buyers, but because I am a writer, I understand the importance of tension when writing blog posts, and I tend to write about the more harrowing portions of my horseback rides.  It's really not all bad.  My horses are pretty good characters.

My decision to sell Gabbrielle was triggered by a dark period she went through this summer in which she did not get along with the geldings and temporarily injured both of them.  She's had her attitude adjustment, and is behaving better now.  However, I'd still like to sell her before next summer because it's just too hard to take care of four horses in 115 degree heat for five months straight.  I have also been continuing to develop health challenges that make it hard to ride one horse, none-the-less four.  Right now I've got the help of my horse trainer in exercising and training Bombay and Gabbrielle, and P.S. has been coming by one morning a week to feed and clean up after the horses, so that I can have the energy to ride.

I don't want to say that I will never ride Lostine again, but she's definitely ready to retire.  She has been having problems with her coordination and balance in her old age.  She has good days and bad days.  I would really like to cut back to two horses, so I put Bombay up for sale also.  However, Lostine's condition makes me realize that if I sell both Bombay and Gabbrielle, I will only be able to ride Rock, and he spends a lot of time in traction because of his tendency to get hoof abscesses.  I've never been in a position where I had no horse to ride.

Then when Lostine passes away, Rock will be all alone.  So, selling Bombay has been a bit of quandary.

So far, the horse shoppers have only been interested in Bombay, so I dropped Gabbrielle's price, hoping to get more interest in her.  I'm probably going to have to take a loss with her.  Nobody really makes a profit selling a horse they've owned for 9 years anyway.  I'd just like her to go to someone who understands her and will ride her often.

At the rate things are going, I don't think she will sell any time soon, and just in the past 24 hours I've had several people ask for access to my blog.  I didn't offer access to anyone, but kept blogging for myself.  I did give access to a couple of ladies who figured out how to get a hold of me.  Then I remembered that I purposefully broke the link to my email address in my Blogspot profile years ago when I was getting too much spam, so no one could get a hold of me easily unless they happened to already be in contact with me via email or phone.  So, I got my email link working in my profile again.  Then more requests came in for me to either give them access or make the blog public again.

I thought it would be easier to just make it public.  Quite frankly, I'm touched that some people enjoy reading my blather and seeing my photos enough to ask.  I will try not to disappoint.

Scrappy, my little black and grey Chiweenie, is still alive and kicking.  I think the vet's guess that he had cancer was not the case.  His growth has shrunk enough that it is barely noticeable.  He just continues to grow old and sleep a lot.  He's definitely more blind and deaf than he already was, though.  But his sense of smell still tells him when there's food around.  One of these days I'll make a video of him begging for chicken.  It's hilarious.  He climbs right up into my husband's face, and squeals and whines so loud that we can't hear the TV or carry on a conversation.  Sometimes you can make out words like "I want some" and "Give it to me."

The Inevitable

I knew that one thing was inevitable when I began trail riding horses in the desert:  At some point, the horse I am riding will get stabbed by a cactus and I will quickly learn how much that hurts a horse by his reaction.  I've heard all kinds of stories ranging from horses who don't react at all to horses that launch into a bucking fit while running down the trail.

Today I rode Rock out, and he didn't want to leave the barn again.  I had to work him in circles by the barn and then release the pressure while steering him away from the barn.  The problem was that Gabbrielle didn't eat all of her food, and Rock wanted to eat it before Bombay or Lostine got to it.

Right when I was finally pushing him up the driveway, the mail carrier arrived.  Bad timing.  I kept pushing him, and he kept trying to turn back to the barn.  I figured the mail carrier would deliver to the other two houses, turn around, and pass us going in the other direction before we even reached the street because Rock was moving so slow.  However, we got to the end of the driveway, and still there was no mail truck.

I stopped Rock and waited, because I could hear an engine coming from below the blind rise in the road.  The mail carrier pulled over in the turnout next to the gate I needed to ride through to get to the trails.  That's my pet peeve.  He wasn't blocking it, though, so I pushed Rock across the street, and right then the man jumped out of his truck with a big white basket.  Rock's head popped up in alarm.  I kept pushing and spurring him forward, trying to pretend like nothing was going on in front of us.

Then the mail carrier opened up the back of his truck and threw boxes around.  He was sorting out the mail for the next section of his route.  I pushed and pushed until Rock finally made it through the gate to the main trail.  Things after that were relatively uneventful.

He just popped his head up in alarm to see the "seal cactus" lying on the side of the trail up ahead...

It looks like some kind of animal, but he figured out pretty quick that it was just a plant.

He was still anxious to get back to Gabbrielle's food, so I continued to alternate between riding away from the barn and toward the barn in an attempt to get him to regulate his speed to something in between the two speeds he was offering.

Then the bee showed up.  It kept landing on his eye, and I tried to shoo it away by shaking the rein.  Unfortunately, it was a very aggressive bee.  I was worried that it would sting him.

I had the thought that I should get off and deal with this bee before it turned into a really bad situation.  Right then, he pinned back his ears, which he never does, humped up his back, which he never does, and took off running.  I knew I had to get him in a tight circle before he started bucking, so I pulled his head around and ran him into a bush.

He stopped and I tried to let him get his act together and walk off again, but he was still agitated.  I figured the bee had stung him, so I dismounted...

...and led him home...

Walking on his left side, I did not see the cholla ball stuck in his right fetlock...

...until I removed his tack and approached him from his right side.  That sticker was jammed so deep in there that I couldn't have just flicked it off with a comb, as some horseback riders have taught me to do.  I had to get a pair of scissors and clamp down on the core of it, then pull back fast and hard.  I could tell that it stung him because he was kicking and favoring that leg...

He was happy again once that booger was out of his system.  I made sure he got peppermints to soothe the pain.

A Three Hour Tour

Step right up and you'll hear a tale...

Activity on the trails increases considerably over the weekends, but my horse trainer comes in the middle of week, so I've been trying to simulate stranger danger by hiking, riding my bicycle, and leading horses out on the trails while he's out there riding my spooky grays.  Since this Wednesday was a holiday, Christine had it off from work and was able to ride her mare Maggie out so that my horses could experience meeting up with a new horse -- someone not in their own herd.

She and the horse trainer returned to my barn and reported that Gabbrielle did just fine meeting Maggie, but Gabbrielle is still spooking at little things along the trail.  She's handling big problems real well, like traffic and strangers, but she can't handle a rock or stick or piece of garbage on the ground.  What am I supposed to do to help her get past such irrational fears?  Exposure and desensitization obviously aren't doing the trick.  I keep hoping maturity will help her as it did with Bombay.  He spooks a lot less than he used to.

Bombay was clearly excited to meet Maggie.  He ran from the horse trainer when he tried to halter him.  Bombay seemed anxious about following Maggie out, but I guess he got over it.  The trainer just said that Bombay was neck reining well now.  I said that maybe next week I can ride Bombay and he can ride Gabbrielle, and he can make sure I am doing the neck reining training correctly.  I'd hate to pay a horse trainer to do all this work with my horses only to have me turn around and ruin it by not being consistent with his methods.

Though I only expected him to ride each horse for an hour, he gave each horse and hour and a half of his time, and basically went on a three hour trail ride.   Thus the Gilligan's Island reference of a three hour tour.   I appreciated his generosity, so I paid him for the extra hour.  He didn't want to take the extra money, but I said that as long as he was training my horses that entire time, he was providing a service to me and he deserved to be compensated.

Oh yeah, one funny thing that happened was that the trainer tied Gabbrielle to the side of his flatbed truck, and she repeatedly pulled back on the lead rope because the metal ring she was tied to kept creaking and making a funny noise.  I was watching her closely, because there was the potential for her to blow up and have a panic attack, but she seemed more interested in the sound she could make by lifting her head and leaning back.  While she was tentatively testing out this strange new device, a neighbor drove up in a dump truck and dumped some landfill, making a racket.  I thought for sure she would lose it, between the creaking metal and the dumping, but she did fine.

The horses are getting fuzzy and I'm starting to wear jackets myself.  I forgot what it is like to shiver, but we are all shivering now.  It's amazing how fast the temperatures dropped.  I thought summer was never going to end.  Now the horses lay in the sand in the sun in the mornings to try to warm up.  They're so cute.  They look like babies, and I want to cradle them in my arms when they sleep so peacefully on their sides.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Out and About

Last night I took the dogs out to do their business and spotted a snake on the driveway by the trash cans.  I took the dogs back in, grabbed a flashlight, and walked over to get a closer look.  I always want to know what kind of snakes are visiting.  Unfortunately, this was a juvenile Diamondback -- very dangerous.  It had both its rattle and its head in the air and was watching me closely.  I decided to just close the garage bay and hope that it goes away and doesn't come back.

So, now we are on snake watch.  We have to look both ways before exiting doors, garage bays, and staircases.  It's one of the many inconveniences of living in the desert.

When we went hiking this weekend, my hiking boots were rubbing blisters on both my heels and toes, so today I stopped at Big 5 to try on some new pair of hiking boots.  The first pair I tried on were the BearPaw brand.  If I tied them tight, the ankles rubbed, and if I loosened them up, my foot slid around, which causes callouses on my soles.  The second pair I tried on were the Denali brand.  Getting the laces to fit in the hooks was hard, and they slipped at the heel, which would give me blisters, so I passed on them.

I was going to try on one more pair, but right then a big crowd came in and my helper disappeared.  I was about to give up and noticed another lady waiting patiently.  I decided to wave down the salesman for her, because I could tell that she was in pain being on her feet.  She said she was having problems with her arches.  While he helped her, I also got him to bring out the one other pair of hiking boots for me to try on.  These were the Coleman Golden-W.  I liked them.  They were well cushioned, light weight, and there was lots of room for adjustment just using the laces.  They were roomy, but I could also tighten them up to prevent slippage, so I bought a pair.  They were on sale for $29.99 from a regular price of $59.99.

Driving home I saw a lot of winter visitors struggling to navigate the roads.  We have these odd left-hand turn lanes here that are like two Ls hooked together.  So, drivers are supposed to let two cars into the short part of the L, and everyone else is supposed to wait without blocking the intersection where cross traffic has stop signs.  However, those waiting to make the left have right-of-way over those at the stop signs, so when one car leaves the two-car section, the third car has the right to turn in there before anyone else goes.  The only time the people at the stop signs can go is when their intersection is clear and the left turners coming from the other direction cannot go because of traffic.

It's confusing.  Anyway, I saw this one winter visitor stopped in the long half of the L, and there were no cars in the short half.  He was supposed to go, but he was paranoid that the person at the stop sign would hit him.  The person at the stop sign could not go because of traffic.  The people behind the man who wouldn't take his right-of-way were getting frustrated.

A short time later, I got into the short section of the L to make my left at another intersection, and this driver pulled up right next to me instead of behind me.  This was a one lane road, and here was my truck and a little car crammed in there side-by-side.  I looked at the guy like what the heck are you doing?  It turned out that he was making a U-turn while I was making a left, so it worked out, but had I been making a U-turn too, he would have cut me off.  That's the type of driving we've got to deal with this time of year.

When I got home, I took the new boots for a test hike along with Lostine, who hadn't been out of the barn for a while.  She spooked three times, mostly at grasshoppers.  She feels so light weight, that even when she jumps into me, all I have to do is put my hand out and I can push her away with just a touch.  And when she bolts, as soon as she hits the end of the lead rope, she stops immediately, so I don't get rope burn.  She did trip several times.  She's been having problems with her equilibrium, stumbling, staggering, and sometimes falling.  She's not sick, she's just getting old.  I myself fell into the vacuum cleaner last night for no apparent reason.  I just lost my balance.  I blame it on the antihistamines I've been taking to fend off allergy symptoms.

The new boots passed the quick hike test.  My right pinkie toe hurt a little, but all of my boots bother it.  I need to remember to wrap my pinkie toe up against the toe next to it any time I wear boots.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

My Aching Deformed Feet

I normally don't ride on the weekends because I'm either too busy or all the neighbors are out distracting and spooking my horses, but I wanted to take Bombay for a test ride myself before the horse trainer came for his next session.

A lot of little things kept happening to expend all my energy and frustrate me.  First, my boots rubbed my feet and toes in several locations and after just a few minutes of walking, I felt like my feet were in a vice.  Since I don't own a single pair of boots that don't rub my feet, I decided to keep a spare pair of boots and a spare pair of sneakers down in the tack room.  Then, I will wear comfortable slip ons while grooming and saddling my horses, and only put on the boots when I'm ready to mount.  Boots are for riding, not walking.  Either that, or I'm just going to start riding in sneakers.  I can't take the pain anymore.

Then I noticed that his lead rope looked like someone had cut off the end of it with scissors. I have no idea when that happened.  I suspect it was just a matter of Bombay chewing the end of the rope and destroying it while tied to the trailer a few weeks ago, and I just didn't notice it then.

After I lunged him, I noticed that the horse shopper had lowered my stirrups and never put them back to where they were.  I couldn't remember where I had kept them positioned, so I looked at the wear pattern on the holes and set the stirrups based on those.  When I mounted, my right leg was in pain and I couldn't move my foot forward to put pressure on his shoulder.  I dismounted and discovered that while the left stirrup was four holes down, the right stirrup was only two holes down.  So much for gauging based on the wear patterns.  I think too many people have used that saddle for me to do that.  I settled for three holes down on both sides, but I could probably go four.

Also, the battery on my GoPro camera was dead despite me just charging it the other day.  I was pissed and cursing to myself.  It seems a lot of my blog posts have been without pictures lately.

Bombay kept walking off from the mount, so I had to repeatedly lead him away from the mounting block to work his feet every which way before bringing him back to the mounting block to rest.  My feet were killing me, so I dreaded it every time I had to do this.  I just wanted to mount and go, but I also didn't want to let him get away with walking off while a person is mounting.  He did that to the horse shopper and embarrassed me.  Of course, he never does this when the horse trainer mounts him.

When I finally did mount, I had him stand still for a while and flex.  That was good, but then when I cued him forward, he lurched into this crazy fast walk that threw me off balance.  I tried to halt him, but he kept going.  I thought this might turn into another one of those rides where Bombay takes on a mind of his own and goes rodeo on me.

He did eventually stop, and he was really good about stopping after that.  I don't want fast horses.  I want relaxed horses.  I want them to go at a relaxed pace and not feel like they are in a race.

I practiced neck-reining him by laying the outside rein against his neck, pushing his outside shoulder, and then going to the direct rein if he didn't respond.  He didn't respond right away to the first cue, but once I put pressure on his shoulder, he turned fast.  I felt like I was on a reining horse.  Only a couple of times did I have to use the direct rein, so he's halfway there.

Once I rode him a bit, he settled down and realized that all of his speed and jerkiness was making me nervous, so he went back to the relaxed horse he used to be.  I neck-reined him around the mounting block and rubber trough in both circles and figure eights.

Then the horse neighbors who live behind my round pen had company over, and they all stood outside talking, which sucked up all of my horse's attention.  I couldn't get him to focus, and he had his head up as high as it would go.  Eventually, the company drove off, but then the neighbor started slamming trailer doors and dragging trash cans around while I was riding, and Bombay did not want to take his eyes off the location the noises were coming from.  I tried my best to ignore all of it, but me ignoring it didn't influence my horse any.  If he's worried about something, he's going to keep his eye on it.

I thought about removing my boots and walking around barefoot to put all the tack and grooming supplies away, but I knew I'd just injure my feet worse.  I always go down to the barn with great expectations to ride multiple horses, and then reality hits.  My body sucks.  If I love horses as much in my next life as I do now, I'd better be given a healthy, well-formed body so that I can actually enjoy them.