Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

As has been the case pretty much every morning for the past month or so, I struggled just to feel alive, but I put on some riding boots with spurs to encourage my body to get over whatever the heck its problem is so I can ride a horse.  It seems I miss out on a lot of horseback riding between October and December due to health problems year after year, so now I am entertaining the idea that I am allergic to something that blooms in the fall.  What's so odd about it is that once noon arrives, I'm fine.  I feel perfectly healthy in the afternoons.

Unfortunately, it's still fairly hot in the afternoons, so I felt bad pulling Rock out of the barn when he was already sweating in the shade.  But he's such a good guy.  He never complains.

I had our route planned out in advance -- one with a lot of rocky hills because I wanted him to exercise good judgement instead of just plodding down a sandy trail.  On our way to our first turn off, Rock's head flew up as he alerted on a hiker.  At the rate we were moving, we were going to run into each other at the intersection, so I just waited for her to pass.  Of course, she took the trail we needed to take, but she was moving fast enough and she didn't have any loose dogs with her, so I decided to follow behind her.  Normally, I'd be polite and give her some space by taking a different trail, but I've had my own plans squelched so many times by this scenario that I felt it was time for me to follow through on the route I wanted to take regardless of traffic.

It's kind of sad being on a horse who walks so slow that you can lose a hiker up ahead of you, but that's what happened.

I finally caught of glimpse of her crossing the street to the elementary school, probably picking up her kindergartner.  There was a line of school buses out there in the middle of the day.

I caught Rock on camera being naughty...

Branch snatching.  I prefer that the horses eat when I give then the go ahead, but Rock has been known to climb all the way into bushes and trees to snack and if his rider protests, he just tries to rub her off his back.  That's why I have to stay on top of this habit.

We were both taken by surprise when we came across a recently fallen saguaro on the side of the trail.  As we passed the length of it, Rock walked sideways and wouldn't take his eyes off it in case it moved.  It was a rather eerie sight.

On the way home, Rock decided to help me finish with the weeding...

I had left some weeds with yellow flowers on the driveway because they were pretty.  Rock thought so too, so he had to eat them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Follow Up

I finally began feeling well enough today to make a little progress.  I worked on the round pen footing and the weeds, and then went down to the barn to see if any horse would volunteer to accompany me on a walk.  Lostine whinnied and walked up to me when she saw me approaching with the halter.  It's kind of funny, because not so long ago, and for most of the years I have owned her, she has run to the far side of the paddock when I have approached with a halter.  I guess she's finally beginning to enjoy our low pressure outings.

Lostine is now my favorite hiking partner.  She walks beside me and lets me put my arm around her while we walk.  She's so short and hangs her head so low that I can stroke her mane as we go.  She's also good about letting me lean on her to pull cholla balls out of my shoes.

I noticed that sometime during my isolation, the electric company came by to pick up all of their equipment they left out in the desert, but I was frustrated to see that they left all their garbage behind.  Now I've got to remember to bring gloves and a trash bag out on my next hike to clean up all the soda cans and water bottles.  Jerks.  I have never seen a place where people are so disrespectful of nature as I have seen here in the desert.  I don't think I have ever intentionally littered in my entire life, so I can't understand people who do it.

Lostine kept tripping over rocks, so I led her through a different gate onto a paved road thinking it might be a relief for her to not have to navigate uneven ground.  She picked up her head a little higher being in unfamiliar territory and surveyed the yards of all the houses we passed.  At the horse rescue, a leopard Appy and a Belgian came galloping up to the fence to greet Lostine after she bellowed out an ear-piercing whinny to them.  She was okay with having strange horses run at her, but she didn't like the cactus house.  Too many misshapen spiky things growing out of the ground.  Once she spotted the barn, she tried dragging me home, but I corrected her and she settled down.  It's so nice how quickly she comes back to me after losing her mind for a moment.

Last night right before dark I took the dogs out to potty and found that the horses had stopped eating and were alerting on the arroyo in our back yard.  I held very still and listened, waiting to see if a coyote was coming up out of the wash.  Then I heard hoof beats.  A woman climbed up the hill in our back yard leading a horse.  She stopped at our sign and stared at it.  I watched her closely for any indication that might suggest whether she was guilty or innocent of tagging it.  She scratched her head and then began looking around my back yard.  When she finally spotted me looking back at her, she moved along.  Now that I know that people are probably trespassing at night, I may set up an ambush for them and have a little chat about asking for permission before entering private property.  I'd also like to know where they go.  If they follow the arroyo, they cut through a lot of people's back yards and wind up in an odd location.  What is this secret society that hangs out in my section of the arroyo?

I did find a new barefoot farrier.  I was a bit suspicious that his schedule was wide open, though.  Unfortunately, I remembered to ask his price after we set up our appointment, and he charges quite a bit more than what I am used to paying.  So, that's probably why he doesn't have many clients.  I'll give him a try, though, because if he does excellent work, then it may be worth it.

Getting hay was a different story.  The last time this latest hay supplier delivered, I asked if they ever run out of hay.  I needed to know, so that I could plan ahead and order in advance.  The man said they never run out.  Then I asked what is the longest amount of time I would have to wait between order and delivery, and he said 24 hours.  I was skeptical.  I'm used to hay running out in October and having to wait two weeks for a delivery when it is available.

So, this time I got down to four bales of Bermuda when I called in my order, trusting that they always have hay and they can deliver within 24 hours.  I got a voicemail message listing all the different hay they have available and asking me to leave my order.  Then I received a message that the mailbox was full and I could not leave a message.  Not good.

I called right back, hoping someone was just in the bathroom and could now answer.  The man who picked up said they were all out of hay.  Say what???  Then he hesitated and said, "Unless you'd be interested in a handful of smaller bales of alfalfa and Bermuda mix that have been sitting around a while.  I only have fifteen of them."

I said, "You've got mix?  That's actually what I prefer.  I asked if you carry it last time, and was told that you did not."

He said, "Oh yeah, we carry everything.  We just happen to be sold out of most of it."

So, I had them deliver the fifteen bales.  I asked the delivery man when they expected to have more hay.  He looked at me sternly and then hocked a loogie at my feet.  Nice.  Then he said, "This week."  Say what???  Again???  If the other guy had told me they'd have more hay in a few days, I would have just picked up something at the feed store and put in an order for the near future with them to save on delivery costs.  Oh well.  Another lesson learned.  Make a list of questions to ask when I call.

Owning horses sure is getting expensive and stressful.  It seems each time I order hay, I have to buy something different from what they have been eating, so I have to introduce the new feed slowly to fend off colic.  It sure would be nice to grow my own, and also to have hands that are strong enough to trim my own horses' hooves.  I have very small, delicate hands, and have failed strength tests given to me by my neurologist.  That explains why I drop everything.  I have actually been leading a horse only to discover that I dropped the rope, and fortunately the horse hadn't figured it out yet.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


I took the dogs out for a potty break and felt uplifted to find that their "yard" had morphed into a butterfly garden.  I took my camera outside for a quick photo shoot before the next microburst moved in.

A large variety of mushrooms have been growing around the property.  These are the biggest ones yet...

I went down into the arroyo to see how much it had changed since the flood, and found that someone had recently trespassed there.  A man's boot print...

A horse shoe print...

A domestic dog paw print...

And I'm unsure about these.  They look like raccoon prints maybe...

Since a lot of people came down into our backyard to watch the flood, I thought I had better check our PRIVATE - KEEP OUT sign on the hill...

Looks like someone got to it.

Of course, as soon as I read the insult, I immediately began sifting through my memory over who I would have had a run in with recently who would be so bothered as to take time out from their busy day to tag my sign.  All I could think of is that the neighbor behind me did it, because he can hear me talking to my horses... and yelling at them when they are misbehaving.  One day not too long ago I caught him standing on the roof of his shed spying on me.  I also gripe out loud about his engine revving.  Sometimes it seems he watches for me to come out to do my barn chores, and then he comes out and revs his race car engine just to annoy me.  My husband's thought was that someone else put in a noise complaint against him, and since he's overheard me complain about all his noise making, he assumed it was me who reported him.  The guy just needs to get a job.

My husband immediately painted over the sign, and we both had regrets.  We realized that the CRAZY LADY comment would probably do a better job of keeping people out than just the previous message, and for all those potential home buyers who came into our back yard to snoop around to see who their neighbors would be... well, the sign would be self-explanatory, so they would not need to venture any further.  Ha ha ha.

Out of Commission

I had all kinds of great plans for working with the horses as soon as the temperatures cooled down. We've had comfortable horseback riding weather for well over a week now, and wouldn't you know it -- Murphy's Law hit me hard.

First, my body failed me.  I've been mostly bed ridden.  Each time I start feeling better, something has to happen to cause a relapse, so I've been in a really depressing cycle of being disabled and oppressed by pain.  I really should have gone to the hospital, but I have so little faith in emergency rooms.  They either move me to a different hospital or send me home without pain killers and tell me to see my own doctor to set up seeing a specialist in two months when the problem will have gone away on its own.  Nothing ever seems to get resolved in emergency rooms from my experience.  So, I just suffered and have been waiting for my body to heal itself.  And I do have an appointment with a specialist, but the timing is crucial, because I have another health problem that interferes with the procedure that specialist needs to perform.

I was right in the middle of several projects when this happened, so there is a lot of unfinished business around the ranch.  I've had a trash bag filled with weeds sitting in the driveway.  There was one little section of weeds I still needed to pull, and in the week I've been down and out, all the weeds I already pulled have come back.  In the backyard, I've been fighting off Jimson weed, but it keeps coming back with a vengeance.  I don't want my horses to get loose and start chowing down on that.  Also, I had planned to have the round pen footing done last week, but that's a job I can only do when I'm feeling strong and healthy, so the round pen is still unusable.  My husband has been handling a lot of stuff, and I feel guilty just lying around doing nothing.  He has had to take manure to the dump and shovel it in and out of the trailer by himself.  It goes so much faster with two people.

I've been trying to ease my way back into my normal routine, and trying to avoid stress, but so much is out of my control.  Our well was still giving us fits.  The last time we ran out of water, my husband found that there was a loose wire that stopped one of the pumps from working.  However, ever since he repaired the wiring, the pump had been making a loud vibration that could be heard all the way inside the house as well as outside.  I kept trying to get the well repairman out, but he repeatedly blew me off because he thought I was an idiot or a hysterical woman or something.  I don't know.  He just kept telling me that sounds and vibrations are normal.

So, my husband called him, and the repairman was perfectly willing to come out until he made the connection that this was the same address from which the crazy lady called about the noise and vibration.  My husband had to do some convincing, but the guy did show up.  As soon as the pump started making a ruckus, he acknowledged that it was dying and the vibration had probably been causing other parts to break as well.  Long story short, he ended up replacing a pump, some floats, some pipes, a gauge and who knows what else.  He even had to replace parts he installed just last year, because they were already going bad.  Hopefully, this time we won't have to deal with running out of water again for many years to come.

We are almost out of hay, and I wasn't able to clean out the pallets to get ready for a new stack, so my husband had to do it.  I haven't called in my order yet because we are trying to get the wooden pallets and the ground in the hay barn to dry out, but I am stressing out that I'll be told that either the hay company has gone out of business or they don't deliver to my area anymore.  That's happened so often lately that I'm beyond being a pessimist.  I'm a fatalist.  If I get past those initial worries, I'm going to have to work out the right number of bales to qualify for hand-delivery and pay to have the bales hand-stacked, because last time they talked me into delivering with a truck that sets the whole block down, and my hay barn wasn't wide enough to accommodate the arms of the machine, so my husband had to re-stack all those bales with rheumatoid arthritis in his spine.  I'm not going to let that happen again.

You may recall that the last time I lost my hay supplier, I lost my farrier at the same time.  Well, this is deja vu all over again.  My new farrier called me up to inform me that she's moving out of state pronto, my horses are due for a trim in two weeks, and I will have to find a new farrier.  Awesome.  At least my previous farrier gave me 8 weeks notice so that I didn't have to piss off the new farrier by giving her no time to work me into her schedule.  It's not her fault.  Something happened out of her control, but I am so fed up with having to hunt down barefoot trimmers that I'm thinking of doing something drastic.  If my health were good enough, I'd just attend Pete Ramey's seminars and learn how to do barefoot trims myself, but as recent months have shown me, I usually only get one healthy week out of each month, and the rest of the time I'm in pain.

My photography instructor created a class at my request, and now I can't even attend it because I can't trust my body to behave itself and stay out of trouble for five hours straight in order for me to sit through this class each week and simply be able to stand up and walk around on field trips.  Instead, I'll be taking an hour long Tai Chi class taught by a nurse each week in hopes of getting back into better shape.  It's a bit of a Catch 22, because every time I start an exercise regimen to beat my health problems, the exercise triggers the health problems, and then I can't exercise.  But at least the Tai Chi class costs a lot less than the photography class, so it won't be too much of a loss if I can't attend a few sessions.

October 15th came and the population exploded overnight.  Now we get to experience the joy of too many people and not enough space.  We tried to eat out in restaurants as much as possible during the summer since we could get right in to a table and be served without having to stand in lines.  Now we get to battle to change lanes, battle for parking spots and battle for access to products and services.  All of that is par for the course if you live in a city, but I haven't lived in a city in over 25 years, so it's difficult for me to adapt to the sudden changes.

I actually stocked up on canned goods and food with a long shelf life in part because I wanted to cut back on the number of times we have to do grocery shopping alongside hundreds of retired couples in Bermuda shorts on scooters blocking aisles, and in part to avoid having to catch viruses and infections from the wall-to-wall people in the supermarket.  I'm so tired of sniffling cashiers wiping their noses and then touching my food and coughing all over it.  I wish we could go back to the days when a nice, clean cut young man in an apron and Buddy Holly glasses delivered groceries right to our back door.

The other day my husband and I were driving down an off ramp from the freeway and we had a green light to make a left turn.  As we approached the intersection, we noticed that the cross traffic coming from our left was not slowing down.  My husband slammed on the brakes at the green light, and this Roto-Rooter van came blasting through the red light while the driver next to him saw the red light at the last minute and slammed on his brakes.  He had just been subconsciously doing the same speed as the Roto-Rooter driver, not paying attention to the lights until it was almost too late.  Anyway, the Roto-Rooter driver had his phone in his mouth and was fiddling with something in his hands.  I don't even know if he had a clue that he nearly killed us.  

All the neighbors have been coming out of hibernation.  There's this one retired guy who we call "The Mad Pruner", because he's obsessive about pruning every bush and tree in sight... and I mean every single one, whether it is on his property or not.  He walks right into other people's backyards and trims their landscaping without permission.  Only when he gets caught does he ask for permission.  We noticed last year that one of our favorite flowering bushes got snipped as soon as it started blooming, and I've always suspected that neighbor.

Anyway, I spotted him out in the public land last week trimming trees on the trail head with a long, orange pruning stick.  That's illegal.  But the trail was getting overgrown and I was tired of being scratched by thorns as I rode my horses through there, so I decided to say nothing.  He can pay the fine if he gets caught, and I can reap the benefit of his ignorance.

Right now he's on a jag in which he wants to put wire around the bases of trees that line the cliff in our backyard so that "we" don't have to look at our neighbors behind us.  I guess he's tired of looking at their pile of junk vehicles.  I'm mainly tired of hearing the engines of those junk vehicles revving, but I guess they ruin his view of the mountains.  I support him in helping the bushes and trees grow there, but I'm afraid that if we give him an inch, he'll take a mile.  I need my privacy and don't want to run into him every time I walk out into my backyard.  It's already happened a couple of times.  He says he never goes near our horses, but he doesn't understand that trespassing is offensive and disrespectful, even if he has good intentions.

Also, it appears as if the real estate agent who is selling the house next door will be having open houses every weekend until it sells.  It's been a zoo next door each weekend for the past three weeks with all kinds of characters coming and going.  Most drive loud diesel trucks and motorcycles.  The previous neighbors owned smart cars, so we never heard them coming and going from the inside of our house.  Now I am realizing what a luxury that was.

Anyway, these open house events are turning our peaceful neighborhood into a public attraction.  Of all the houses my family has sold over the years, we have never once had a real estate agent agree to set up an open house.  That's money out of their pockets.  So, I wonder what kind of pressure my previous neighbors have been putting on their agent to sell it.  The owners still need to come way down on their price if they want any hope of selling, but I suspect they are trying to catch the snowbird wave before making the drop.  I'm hoping I'll win the lottery so that I can just buy the place and stop the insanity.

I've been having fits trying to publish my novel.  I followed all the guidelines, but there is something wrong with the conversion tools.  They placed a bunch of unwanted hyperlinks at the beginning of my novel, removed some apostrophes where they were needed in order to be grammatically correct, added some spaces where I had it left justified on purpose, and made all the quotes come out in a different font from the rest of the manuscript.  So, my novel keeps getting rejected for distribution.  Each time I attempt to clear the formatting and start over, it just creates more problems.

I'm considering abandoning the project and either hiring someone else to do it, or going the traditional route of wasting years of my life trying to find a literary agent and/or publisher to put it into print.  At this point, I'm just too overwhelmed by everything going on around here to concentrate on all the issues caused by faulty software.  It makes me angry that I can spend ten years of my life writing, editing, and perfecting a book manuscript, only to have some conversion tools make me look like a total amateur when I hit the PUBLISH button.  I think it's safe to say that I can never go back into the job market as a software engineer.  I don't have the patience for it anymore.  I might find one too many bugs and go postal.

I guess I can sum it all up by saying that the hobbies I love most in this world, namely horseback riding and writing, are getting to be more trouble than they are worth.  If the problems could spread themselves out, I wouldn't feel this way.  But apparently it is my karma to get walloped all at once, usually when I am sick and in pain, so I'm considering putting my hobbies up on a shelf and calling them a thing of the past, just so that I can get some worry-free rest.  I'm hoping things are just bad right now and will get better, so that I don't have to give up.  If I could find a doctor who can actually help me without humiliating me, that would be a great start.  It's too bad bodies aren't like cars and you can just trade in the old, broken down ones for a new ones.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Simon Says

Tropical Storm Simon says no one is going anywhere this morning.  None of this "take two giant steps forward" stuff.  

I awoke early this morning with an urgent feeling that I had to get out of bed right then to feed the horses.  I stepped outside to find myself under a gray dome of lightning that flashed across the entire sky's expanse.  I ran down to the hay barn to feed the horses, but did not have any open bales.  I had to move a bale and cut it open.  By the time I was done doing that, thunder and lightning were all around me with some rain.  I fed all four horses as fast as possible, but before I could get out the gate and run to the house, they sky opened up and the metal roof of the barn exploded in noise.  All four horses started running out of their stalls into the aisle where I was standing.  I knew I would be on the hoof end of a stampede if I didn't get control of the situation, so I jumped up, made myself really big, and threw my arms out with palms out like a police officer stopping traffic.  Amazingly, all four horses came to a simultaneous stop, looked around, and went back to eating their hay.

I couldn't get out of the barn and reach the house without getting pelted and slipping in mud, so I stayed in the barn to wait it out.  I saw my husband backing out of the garage and thought, "I hope he doesn't think he's driving to the office this morning, because he'll never make it."

Then I thought, "I hope he drives down here to pick me up."

He did drive down to the barn and I ran to his car.  It turned out he was coming down to help finish feeding the horses.  I told him I was done, and I just needed a ride back to the house.  I tried to talk him out of going to work, but he said he needed to leave right then before it got worse.  Five minutes later he was back home.  The roads were flooded and he knew if he ventured any further he'd probably be looking down the wrong end of the Stupid Motorist Law.  In Arizona, anyone who has to be rescued from his vehicle because he drove through flood waters has to foot to bill for his own rescue.

My daughter is a teacher, and her classroom is at the lowest point in the school, making it the very first to get flooded.  Her classroom carpet has had to be replaced several times, and the maintenance workers always try to shore up her outside door with sandbags when they know it's going to rain.  She's in Mexico right now enjoying sunshine on a beach with her boyfriend, and I'm glad, because if she stayed in the area on her fall break, they'd be calling her in to clean up any mess that her classroom suffered.  According to the news, the location of her school was hit hard with flooding.

We essentially got two inches of rain in one hour.  It was as if we got hit with the wall of the eye of the storm.  The arroyo in our back yard was more full than we had ever seen it.  People were driving and walking into our back yard to watch the flood.  My horses were alarmed by all the activity and had a hard time eating.  My neighbor's property is built upon four tiers or plateaus, and this is the first time we've seen the water get up to the second tier.  The street in front of our other neighbor's house was transformed into a wading pool, and it's not even one of those dips that is designated with a DO NOT ENTER WHEN FLOODED sign...

If the water built up any further in our front yard, it would have reached the front door and made its way into our house...

Despite our best efforts to prevent Bombay's stall from flooding, it still happened, but Rock is never worried about getting his feet wet.

Fortunately, this was a very small portion of the entire storm system and the rest of it passed by in a different area, so the rain quit after an hour and all that water is already soaking into the ground.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

One of Those Days

After not having much luck riding Bombay on the trails, I tried riding Gabbrielle, but it just seems to be one of those days.  There must be something in the air.  I placed the saddle on Gabbbrielle's back, and she reacted by scrunching up her butt and scuttling around.  I hadn't even cinched it yet.  It's the same saddle I've always ridden her in.  I slid it forward and backward along her back looking for any indication that I hit whatever she considers to be the sweet spot, but she just continued to act as if I had placed a cat with claws on her back.

As always, I had inspected both the pad and saddle before placing them on her back, so I had no idea what her problem was.  I led her out into the arena for some groundwork, and she managed to swing her butt at me and threaten to kick.  WTH?  She's never done anything like that before.  So, I moved her to the round pen where I could free lunge her at a distance rather than on a lead rope up close and personal.

Despite me just walking her around the utility trailer parked outside of the round pen and letting her inspect it, she wouldn't go near that part of the pen for the first several rotations.  I feel like I am so over dealing with irrational horse behaviors.  It's really hard to ride a horse as reliable, steady, and level-headed as Rock one day, and then have to turn around and deal with these two gray Arabians who have had tons of training, and seeing them still act as if they had never been handled before.

When I moved her up to the lope, the water bottle in her horn bag bounced out, flew across her shoulders and landed on the ground next to her.  She was horrified.  So, I picked up the bottle and attempted to put it back into her horn bag, but she was having none of it.

What was supposed to be a little lunging and groundwork before some arena riding turned into me having to spend an hour desensitizing her to the freakin' water bottle.  Each time I shook it with a different tempo, she ran faster to get away from it.  I finally tricked her by putting it behind my back, asking for a kiss, kissing her on the nose, pulling the water bottle out and me kissing it, then asking her to give the water bottle a kiss.

She did.  Then I had to work on getting her to let me touch her body with it.  She's been touched by plenty of water bottles and has packed them out on the trails, but this particular one was scary because it jumped out of her saddle and tried to attack her feet.  When she finally let me put it back into the horn bag, I lunged her to make sure she wouldn't freak out over the sound of the sloshing coming from behind her, and all was good again.

I just didn't have time to ride anymore, because the dogs had to be fed, get their meds, and get their potty break.  Hopefully, after the storms, we'll have another day to start over, and I can ride these two gray goofballs before my own hair gets any grayer.

My Hoss is Broke

With rain being expected for the next two days, I wanted to ride another horse out on the trails.  Lostine's arthritis has been making her gimpy and she's not eating as much as she used to, so I didn't want to stress her out.  I contemplated riding Gabbrielle, but feel I still need a little more time getting to know her in the arena, just to make sure that we are communicating clearly before hitting the trails.  That left Bombay.

Don't let that sleepy face fool you.

I walked him around to tighten his cinch a little at a time, and he kept balking, like this...

I felt like I was trying to lead a donkey or mule.  Bombay used to lead so beautifully, so this sudden change in behavior concerns me.

Texting my husband to let him know I'm leaving for a trail ride...

I attempted to mount Bombay and he swung his hind end away from me.  This is the type of crap Lostine usually puts me through, but Bombay and Rock are usually solid about mounting.  When I did get on him, flexed him from side to side, and then cued him to walk up the driveway, he swung his hind end around quickly and did a 180, not moving his front feet from where they were anchored.

Huh?  I wasn't at all ready for a full come about.  I checked my leg position and decided that I certainly hadn't cued him to do that.  I turned him around and tried cuing him up the driveway again.  This time he began side passing into a pile of rocks.  What the...?  I checked my leg positions and considered that perhaps I was applying more pressure with my outside leg.  I cued him evenly forward, he jerked forward two steps and then dug his heels in and refused to move.

I turned him to get him to move, and he hesitantly went where I pointed him, but in a zig-zag pattern like a drunken sailor.  Something was wrong with my horse.  He seemed broken, and not in a good way.  Moving forward with a gentle squeeze or cluck of the tongue has never been an issue with him.  It was automatic.  Now I felt like I was trying to pilot a plane by guessing which dials and sticks do what.

A lot of thoughts went through my head.  Could he be in pain?  His body has changed drastically this past year.  He's a bit skeletal.  You can see every bump of his vertebrae clearly, and his spine has deep dips in it in places.  He's not skinny.  He's just getting the physique of an old horse, despite only being 16 years old.  He doesn't seem to have any problems with his legs.  He only acts oddly when someone is on his back, which leads me to believe he may have back pain.

He's been ridden in three different saddles with a thick pad, and I always check the fit, as well as inspecting the pad for burrs and scorpions, so I don't think it is a problem with the tack.

The horse trainer has been riding him all summer, and from what I hear, he's been pushing Bombay to do things out of his normal realm of experience.  That's usually a good thing, unless you have an ultra sensitive horse who becomes terrified of being ridden because he's been pushed too far.  I got the sense that Bombay did not want to be ridden, while in the past he never protested.  He just took it as a part of his routine.  Perhaps his attitude about trail riding had soured.

It could also be that because he has had a different rider all summer, he was trained to that person's riding style and has forgotten the easy flow that he and I once had when I rode him.  I have ridden him in a group, and he was fine, but sometimes the horse is just following the crowd as opposed to listening to his rider in that scenario, and now that I was trying to ride him out alone, the lack of communication between us was showing itself like a flashing neon sign.  So, I dismounted and led him into the half-finished round pen to do some ground work...

I only have half the round pen covered with a layer of manure and the rest is hard-packed clay.  I'm looking forward to being done with this project of softening the footing in the round pen, but it's one of those things that's taking forever, just like editing my novel.

As soon as I began lunging him, he spooked halfway across the pen.  He wasn't in the right frame of mind for a trail ride.  If he's going to flip out over a rock on the side of the pen that he's seen a hundred times before, I doubted things would be better on the trails, where the monsoons have changed a lot in that environment.

I led him on the trails with his saddle on, and he was visibly anxious until we got to a point where he realized that I was not going to ride him, and then he relaxed.

Then I rode him in the arena when we returned.  I simply wanted to walk in circles, or walk straight toward an object, but he kept doing fancy, somewhat violent maneuvers.  He felt like a horse that had been partially trained for reining exercises, but he didn't quite understand them, so he was just trying out various stunts to see if I would release and tell him that was the correct move.  He side passed all the way across the arena, and did a few awkward spins, but I really wasn't doing much with my hands, legs and seat.  All I could figure out was that he was anticipating for me to ask him to do those maneuvers.

My goal was just to jog his memory regarding my style of riding, so that he would stop acting so weird.  It seemed to work.  I could feel a flicker of recognition from him while I was in the saddle toward the end of the ride.

I thought that having people riding my horses during the summer would keep them tuned up, so that I wouldn't have to retrain them and go through all this preparation work for trail riding in the fall, but it didn't work out that way.  I still have to rebuild our relationship since I haven't ridden regularly since May.

I'm getting nervous that I might be losing my space, peace, quiet, and privacy soon.  Today I spotted a strange man with a tall stick walking around in my backyard.  It turned out that he was surveying the property line between my house and the house that is up for sale.  That makes me think that someone put an offer on the house and wants to clarify boundaries.  I chose to leave a 12-foot alley between my horse fence and the neighbor's horse fence, because I didn't want my horses touching noses with other horses that could be carrying diseases.  That was a problem at my old place.  Anyway, now I fear that by leaving an alleyway, some new neighbor is going to move in and claim it as his, even though we know it is within our property line.

The neighbors to the north of that house had built upon their property, and had to give up some of their land to the people who's land they encroached upon.  So, now I'm worried that some newbie will come in and decide to just start pushing his way onto our land to the south since he had some land taken from him in the north.  My previous neighbors admitted that they thought the land they claimed with their white fence was public domain, and once they found out that it was not an easement, they put a fence around it and claimed it as theirs, so this movement south has already been happening.

Anyway, once someone moves in there, who knows what kind of activities they will bring with them, but whatever it is, I know it will take my horses some time to get used to it all.  For that reason, I want to get in as much riding time as possible now while things are still tranquil and somewhat predictable.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Rock Made Me Proud

Rock and I went for a mid-Monday trail ride in hopes of having the desert to ourselves.  My plan worked.  There wasn't a soul in sight.  Rock was practically tip-toeing up the driveway in his resistance to avoid leaving the barn, so I had to keep tapping his sides with my spurs and squeezing with my legs.  I didn't bring my watch and was bummed that I couldn't time how long it took for him to get from the barn to the main trail, but then I remembered that I set my helmet cam to take a picture every 60 seconds and could time it once I saw the pictures.

Six minutes!  It took him six minutes to get from one point to another that would normally take any other horse just one or two minutes to do.  Eventually, he took a really long, stinky dump and got the lead out.

We needed to cross an arroyo and I decided that instead of halting him and reminding him to walk, I would just keep the reins loose to see if he remembered the walk rule on hills.  He started speeding up, so I did have to verbally say, "Walk!"  But he did walk the whole way after that without me having to remind him with use of the reins.  He got a big petting for that.

Our neighbors dropped the price on their house a little bit, so now there are more Looky Loos coming around.  As we were approaching the road on the way home, someone was cruising slowly back and forth in front of both their house and my house.  As long as drivers are just passing through, the horses don't pay any attention to vehicles, but when people cruise slowly back and forth, repeatedly turning around, it appears to be predatory behavior to horses, and the horses get worried.

I myself never know what crazy things people are going to do.  Sometimes they get so excited about seeing a horse that they react by honking their horn.  Other times they roll down their window and start yelling questions at me.  Or like the people last week, they jump up on top of something and start filming us.  I think my biggest fear is all the car doors flying open and a bunch of kids and dogs running up to my horse screaming and barking in excitement.  There's this one man who parks his vehicle in the same spot every weekend, opens up his tailgate, lets half a dozen dogs out, and lets them race around the trails unsupervised to get their exercise.  Needless to say, I won't ride my horse in that part of the desert on weekend mornings because of him.

I stopped Rock and waited for the Looky Loos to move along.  I used to not be able to stop him for more than a few seconds.  He was very impatient and would throw his head around whenever I asked him to take a break, but on this day he stopped for me three times and did not walk off or throw his head around.  He just stood and waited for me to cue him forward.

The last incident that made me proud was how he behaved during my bizarre dismount.  I reached behind me to grab the cantle as I twisted my outside leg out of the stirrup, and my thumbnail got caught on some beading on the back pocket of my jeans.  I ripped a jewel out and had to dig it out from underneath my thumbnail.  I went to lift my outside leg up and it wouldn't go.  I don't know know what my problem was, but I did not have the strength to lift my leg.

I was wearing spurs, and I didn't want to drag them against Rock's side, but I didn't have any control over that leg.  I suspect I used so much strength in my legs trying to get Rock to move out at the beginning of the ride when he had a load in his pants that my muscles were too exhausted to move by the end of the ride.  So, I leaned over his neck and dragged my leg up his side to his butt, where it got stuck.

My spur was totally dragging on him the whole way, and now I was in this weird position with my leg and spur caught on his rump.  I pulled my leg down to the other side with my hands while leaning over the saddle.  I just laid there on my belly across his back because I was worried that my legs might not be able to hold me up once I hit the ground.  Rock was such a good boy during the entire dismount.  He didn't move a muscle.  He didn't pin his ears.  He didn't get nervous.  He just waited as if this was something that happened on a regular basis.

It was a long drop down, but my legs did hold me up and I could walk.  I think I need to practice dismounting from a sawhorse or something before I go riding next time.  Obviously, I've probably dismounted a horse hundreds of times, but as I get older, things just don't work the way they used to.

Rock had to stop to smell the roses that the other horses planted while he was away...

Doesn't he have a gorgeous mane?