Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Superstitious Thinking

I had planned to ride Gabbrielle after riding Rock yesterday, but wanted to give my leg a rest first.  She needs more practice riding on the trails without a buddy horse, but it seems that every time I plan to ride her regularly, something happens to prevent it, and as a result, her riding experience is very haphazard.  By the time I can ride her again, I have to start over, begin with groundwork, ride her in the arena, then ride her with a buddy horse on the trails, and finally ride her without a buddy horse on the trails.  However, life rarely cooperates long enough for us to get that far along.

I haven't ridden her in a while, so I thought I would brush up on riding cues with her in the arena first, and if all went well, then ride her on the trails.  However, when I ride in the arena, I have to lock up all the other horses in their stalls, and let them out when I'm done, and with my leg only having so many steps it can take in one day before it gets inflamed, I figured it would be dead before I could ride.  I decided to just ride her in the arena with the other horses being loose.  If they pestered us, she could learn how to herd them.

Just as I was about to go down to the barn, I got a bad feeling in my gut.  Dang.

There's an inherent problem with a bad gut feeling:  I have to decipher whether it is my intuition speaking or whether it is fear speaking, because if it is just fear, then I want to beat it.  However, if it is my intuition, I want to heed it.  Every time that I have ignored my intuition in the past, something bad happened and I got hurt.

An example of when I didn't heed my intuition is when I got into a car wreck and flew through the windshield on the only day in my life that I chose not to wear a seatbelt.  That head injury is a part of why I'm such a dingbat.

An example of when I did heed my intuition is when I did not go to a party only to find out later that there was a gang fight and someone got stabbed right in the spot where I most often hung out at those parties.  I was a Friday night regular there, and this was the one time I followed my gut instinct and did not go.

This felt like intuition, because a thought kept popping into my head that we were going to get hit by a whirlwind.  I had no reason to think that, because there was only a gentle breeze outside.  However, we do get bizarre, unpredictable winds this time of year, as well as in late summer during monsoon season.  We get whirlwinds, dust devils, gustnados, microbursts and macrobursts.  You can't really see them coming until it's too late and impossible to get out of their path.

I felt enough trepidation to postpone riding a little while longer.  Sure enough, right about the time I would have been riding her in the arena with the other horses loose, a huge wind shook the house, blew the back door open, and the dogs jumped up and ran out the door barking.  I chased them back into the house and pulled the door shut with all my might.  As the wind moved away from the house, I could see that it was a gustnado.  It hit the barn, and the horses stampeded across the arena with this spinning debris chasing them the whole way.

When the horses reached the far corner and could not run anymore, they turned to face it, and it stopped and spun just a few few away from their faces.  I was so scared that their eyes were going to get pelted by debris.  It spun in that half of my arena for a good 20 seconds, sucking up a bunch of that new sand I just had dumped, and then finally moved off into the distance.  It creeped me out the way it stopped to "stare" at my horses before moving on.  It was like a monster instead of just a wind.

I shudder to think what could have happened had I been riding Gabbrielle in the arena with the other horses stampeding and the dogs escaping the house during that incident.

Anyway, that got me thinking about how superstitious I am about riding Gabbrielle, in particular.  It does seem like something bizarre comes out of left field every time I work with her.  It feels like each time I mount her, either people or wildlife or the weather insert themselves into our space and all hell breaks loose.  It's really no wonder that this mare is afraid of her own shadow.  She probably associates me riding her with horrible things happening to her, and I, in turn, associate riding her with horrible things happening to me.

Other people have been able to ride her without ridiculous things happening, so I'm convinced that this has something to with her energy and my energy colliding.  The majority of my disfigured fingers and toes have come from Gabbrielle's panic attacks.  I tell myself that my body is feeling residual pain from all the accidents I've had while working with her, and that's why I'm hesitant to ride her.  But then I push past that and do ride her, and I discover that she's a very talented horse and I enjoy the ride.  That gets my confidence up, so I ride her a little bit longer, and then something totally ridiculous that I couldn't make happen if I tried, happens, and my superstitious thoughts take over.

What I'm discovering is that I'm not afraid to ride Gabbrielle, because she really is a good horse, but I'm afraid of what will happen to us if I ride Gabbrielle.  I'm not sure what to do about it.  One could argue that I just need more good rides with good outcomes on her, but if the past is any indication of the future, I don't think there's much hope for that.  That's part of why I chose to sell her, but now that I can't sell her, I feel like she's with me for a reason.

I know she has the potential to become my best riding horse, but I need everyone and everything around us to leave us alone long enough for us to make progress together.  We just need to get over this hump to a point where we trust one another and have faith that everything will be okay.  Then we can start dealing with interruptions, distractions, and big scares.  I just feel like we really haven't been given the chance to get comfortable together.  I keep trying, but I always come away feeling angry because yet another seemingly impossible and ridiculous thing ruined my efforts to work with this horse.

So, I tried again today, only I made sure to lock up all the other horses to prevent a stampede.  The saddle was giving me all kinds of fits.  Gabbrielle is really bad about bloating and she is lopsided, so it's important to get the saddle snug to prevent sliding.  It's hard to have patience with her after being able to cinch up Rock in two tries.  Gabbrielle requires at least six tightenings, and even then, I am lucky if the saddle doesn't slide when I mount.  So, I lunged her to get her to relax her muscles.

That worked, but then the cinch landed in a spot where there were no holes in the latigo, so I had to adjust the opposite side... three times, because she continued to bloat every time I approached the cinch.  I was so frustrated.  I wanted to just give up, but pushed through it.  Every little move you make is difficult when you are in pain.

As I was getting ready to ride, I got a gut feeling that I was forgetting something.  A little voice told me to get the riding crop.  Oh yeah!  I've been having that annoying problem with her running backwards.  I got the crop and tapped her with it a bit from the ground to see if she would respond to cues from it, and she did.

Still, I had to tighten the cinch several more times because she was playing the bloat game.  Once I mounted, she automatically flexed herself...

She's so weird.  You can see in the picture above that the older sand is red and the newer sand is purple.  It never occurred to me that sand comes in different colors.  I mean, I know there are black sands beaches and white sands beaches, but I thought sand was sand when it came from the same general location.

As soon as we started moving, she lost her head and ran forward, then backward, left and then right, zig-zagging all over the place.  I hadn't given her any cues beyond a cluck of my tongue.  I said, "What the heck are you doing?"

She immediately stopped and let out a big sigh, as if to say, "I have no idea."

I clucked again and she took a step back, so I tapped her on the rump with riding crop, and she lurched forward.  I didn't have any problems with her acting silly after that.  She just needed to be reminded that I was carrying a riding crop, and she behaved herself.

I looked over and saw Rock alerting on the driveway, and thought, "Here it comes.  Whatever is going to scare the hell out of this horse is headed down my driveway."

I was half-expecting it to be the Jehovah's Witnesses, but it was a big gust of wind.  Fortunately, it wasn't a whirling wind -- just a forceful breeze, so we waited it out.

This is the only other picture I got of her with her ears forward.  I had to push the shutter release on my helmet, which explains the strange positioning of my hand on the reins and crop...

I rode a while a longer and thought, "Hey, nothing horrible has happened yet.  Maybe I should quit while I'm ahead."

Then I thought, "Nah, I should keep riding."

Then I thought, "But Gabbrielle gets grumpy if I ride too long.  I should definitely quit before she gets grumpy or something ridiculous happens to ruin the ride."

I dismounted, and the second I took a step back after landing on the ground, there was this loud explosion.  I have no idea what it was or where it came from.  It just happened.  Had I ridden for one more second, the ridiculousness would have had its way with us.  Hopefully, Gabbrielle took note that something scary happened after I got off her back.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Last night I was woken out of deep sleep by a super annoying "ding ding ding ding" sound coming through the window.  I tried to shine a flashlight on the horses, but the battery was low and the beam wouldn't reach.  Gabbrielle is usually the troublemaker, but she also stops whatever she is doing once I shine a flashlight out the window because she knows that if she doesn't stop, things will escalate from there.  This time the noise did not stop.

I had to throw on a coat, grab the floodlight remote, and march down to the barn to shut up whoever was making that racket.  This time it was Bombay.  He was tugging on the hay bag, and the clips were hitting the metal.  When I first got the hay bags he did that and kept me up several nights in a row making "music".  Back then I ended up wrapping all the hardware in duct tape so that it couldn't bang against the metal.  I think yesterday's high winds reminded him of the noise, and time wore the duct tape off.  I didn't want to be out there for an hour wrapping all the metal in tape, so I just detached both bags from the railings and threw them on the ground.

By the time I got back in the house, I was sneezing and my nose was running non-stop.  It's best to stay out of the wind here, because the dust it blows up carries Valley Fever.  I popped an antihistamine in my mouth, and then looked at the clock and realized that it was 3:00 in the morning.  Oh-oh.  Not good.  The antihistamine would put me to sleep, and I needed to get up early if I was going to ride today like I had planned.  I had assumed it was around midnight.  I should have looked at the clock first before taking a drug that would put me to sleep.

This weekend my hip and thigh were causing me so much grief that I screeched every time I had to do anything with my leg other than drag it.  I bought a bunch of extra large pain relief patches and stuck one running from my hip all the way down to my knee on the outside of my thigh.  Amazingly, the next morning the pain was completely gone.  I cleaned house all day, doing a lot of bending, stretching and crawling around, and it didn't hurt at all.  Then I went down to the barn to do my usual chores, and walking on the rocks and sand instantly made me go lame again.  So, now I know that half the problem is walking on uneven ground.  I don't know what I can do about it other than to hire someone to do my barn chores for me full-time to give my leg a chance to recover.  It's just so weird that I've been doing these same chores my entire adult life and they never caused this problem for me until now.  Shoveling manure too much has wrecked my arm before, but only having one good leg is new to me.

Just when I got to the point where I couldn't take it anymore regarding the ravens dropping dead animal parts into the water troughs, they stopped doing it.  That's one thing I love about the desert:  Everything comes and goes in cycles, so there is always light at the end of the tunnel.  They still follow me around, but they're not killing for sport anymore.  They have a nest full of babies out in the desert on one of the power poles.  I think they were doing overkill for a while to make sure there was always enough meat for their babies to eat, and they were dropping the excess food into the water hoping it would keep.  It was like they were using the water troughs as their personal refrigerators.  I just don't know how they expected to get that meat out once it was in there.  I suspect now they are busy teaching their little ones to fly, and are spending less time hunting.

The coyotes are still attempting to steal the horse toys.  Every once in a while I find them on the outside of the gate.  I throw the Jolly Ball way out to the far end of the arena hoping that the horses will be too lazy to carry it all the way to the barn to dunk in and dirty the water troughs.  I think part of the reason why the horses have been stuffing their toys in the troughs is to hide them from the coyote thieves.

By the time Rock had finished eating his breakfast, I could tell that it was going to be a bad leg day, so I took preventative measures by adhering a pain patch to my thigh and taking Ibuprofen.  I picked out his hooves and treated them for thrush, because I've been doing everything in my power to prevent problems from happening this weekend with the horses.  Why?  Well, a friend who hasn't ridden horses in a while is coming to a long ways to ride with me.  It occurred to me that Rock has a knack for going lame at the most inopportune times, so that's why I treated him for thrush even though he didn't have thrush.  Also, I asked my neighbor to avoid scheduling her gardening crew from showing up this weekend.  I didn't want men with power tools popping up in and out of bushes while we were riding.  She graciously agreed to help me out on that one.  If it were just me riding, I'd deal with it, but I don't want a beginning rider getting hurt on my watch.

I pointed Rock up the driveway to see if he would hold still while I mounted.  Nope.  He walked off.  I didn't stop and look both ways while crossing the street, because I didn't hear any car engines.  However, I forgot that when it is windy, you can't hear much of anything anyway.  I turned my head to see that neighbor who tried to pick a fight with my husband driving straight toward us.  I thought, "Oh great.  This guy is going to do the biggest douche bag thing he can think of to try to scare my horse."

I kicked Rock to get him to speed up.  The guy was not making any effort to slow down.  I could see that Rock was concerned.  At the last second, when the truck approached his hind end, the guy did let off the gas a little bit, enough for me to take notice and think that perhaps there is hope for the man.  My helmet cam took a picture just as we were passing through the gate, and Rock had his ear cocked toward the truck.

I just meandered around close to home in case my leg pain got worse or the winds picked up.  We had 45 mph winds yesterday and they blew the roof off of my little shed where I store the winter blankets.  There was also another bee attack in the news yesterday.

At one point, Rock stopped and got visibly agitated about something up ahead to our right.  He didn't want to move forward.  I couldn't see anything, but I had no doubt that he could see, hear or smell something that worried him.  Normally, if a horse such as Gabbrielle balks at a bush or trash on the trail, I just push her forward until she walks past it, but Rock isn't afraid of much.  If he is worried, I've learned that it is best to heed his warning.

If I can't see what he is snorting at, I don't want to push him through it, because there might actually be something up ahead that could hurt us.  I don't want to drive him into a bee swarm or a rattlesnake or vicious dog.  So, I turned him onto a different trail.  This is always quandary for me, because I am essentially telling him that yes, there is something to fear, and once he has his hind end toward the thing that upset him, if the wind rattles a bush, he could take off running.  Sure enough, that's what he did, but he also stopped as soon as I cued him to do so.

He was a bit of a stinker, repeatedly grabbing snacks along the trail while ignoring me saying NO and slapping the rein against the side of his neck.

I really appreciate how well behaved Rock is when he's tied.  He usually doesn't move a muscle.

It's such a treat to just be able to saddle and unsaddle him without working around a dance.  Overall, the ride was pretty good considering that it was windy.  He still has habits we need to work on, but he should be fine this weekend.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

I spent most of my weekend shopping for a new refrigerator.  It seems I just bought a new one not too long ago for my old house when we remodeled the kitchen.  I hardly got to use it before we moved.  Now the ice crusher broke on the 14 year old Whirlpool fridge in the new house.  There's no point in repairing it when it is that old, so we went to Lowe's to look at refrigerators, and they were having a sale on them.

We went in not having a clue as to what we wanted.  The only problem we were aware of with our old fridge was that there was never enough room in the freezer for our groceries, and it is a side-by-side.  We discovered that the problem was that the ice maker took up a huge chunk of the freezer, but nowadays the ice makers are downsized and either located in the door or in the upper corner of either the fridge or freezer.

We wandered around looking in a variety of models trying to educate ourselves when a customer service lady offered to help.  Unfortunately, it wasn't her department, so she didn't know much, and the person who did know a lot about appliances had disappeared.

When I shop, I prefer not to be helped unless I specifically ask for it, because I need to concentrate and can't do that if someone keeps talking to me.  I'm on the verge of senility, and I can't afford to be interrupted.  My train of thought went off the tracks years ago and now it is traversing the desert.

Anyway, this gal steered us toward a top of the line Whirlpool with French doors, an independent meat drawer, and a freezer drawer on the bottom.  My husband was all set on buying it, but my gut was telling me it wasn't quite right.  Each time I was about to put my finger on the problem, the lady started talking, and I'd forget what I was going to say.  That happened several times, so I just walked away to another location so I could concentrate, and she followed me.  I was hoping she'd stay with my husband.  As soon as I opened another refrigerator, she said something to discourage me from even looking at it.  We decided to go home and double check the dimensions of our cabinet space, because the fridge she was steering us toward seemed awfully big.

Once home, we decided that the new fridge would stick out several inches, but that would be okay.  I did more research online, and everyone seemed happy with that fridge.  I printed out the information on that fridge along with a less expensive model that had an ENERGY STAR rating.  Our electric bill is high enough in the summer time with all the air conditioners running.  I didn't want to blow a fuse with a less efficient refrigerator.

I also compared prices, and Lowe's was the lowest thanks to this sale, so we went back the next day.  Upon looking at the fridge a second time, we realized that the meat drawer was a refrigerated section.  We freeze our meat, so we assumed it was a part of the freezer section.  When we realized just how much less freezer space we would have, the refrigerator lost its appeal.  Also, the ice and water dispenser bugged us.  You had only one pressure plate, and had to toggle a flimsy touchscreen button between water and ice, which meant more fingerprints on the control panel, and the water hose was pointed down in a location that would miss some glasses.  Also, the indentation on the door would only fit certain sized glasses.  You would have to angle a pitcher or tumbler so much that you could never fill it to the brim.

We use our water and ice dispenser dozens of times a day, so that's almost the most important part of the fridge for us.  We started wandering around hoping to find something better.  Then we found some models on the ends of aisles and on display further away from the refrigerator section we hadn't noticed before because we had that lady driving us toward that one fridge.  There was this glorious LG fridge with over 10 cu. ft. of freezer space.  It had separate pressure plates for the ice and water, and they were metal instead of plastic, so they would last longer.  The water dispenser wasn't even in the cubby, so you could hold a keg up to the thing if you wanted to, and you wouldn't be limited by cubby space.  It was designed intelligently.

It also had one of those easy access energy saving outer doors that allows you to just access what it stored inside of the door so that you don't let all the cold air out and hot air in by opening both French doors to dig around.  The door storage was wide and deep enough to hold gallon jugs.  Also, the crisper bins were at eye level, so you can't forget about fruits and vegetables while they rot and mold.  Our crisper drawers are on the bottom of our old fridge, and we've lost a lot of good food by not eating it in time.

I saw one review in which a lady complained about LG dividing the crisper drawers into three sections, which caused a loss of space.  However, I would prefer to have the three drawers to separate out products, so I can avoid cross contamination.  We could sort by age, so if something does start molding before we can get to it, the mold won't destroy everything else in one big drawer.  I've never liked keeping hot dogs and cheeses in with the salad.

The only problem was that it was expensive at nearly $2,600.  However, when we looked at the retail price of nearly $3,800 and discovered that we'd be saving $1,200, we decided it was worth it.  31% off a refrigerator that we could have for 15 to 20 years is nothing to sneeze at.

The customer service lady who helped us the day before found us, and didn't seem happy to find out that we still had not settled on getting the Whirlpool she recommended to us.  She said she was going to hunt down the appliance guy.  She finally found him and told him in front of us that we were in the day before and spent a lot of time going round and round about what we wanted.  She said she couldn't help us anymore, so she needed him to intervene.  It's not like we were buying duct tape.  This was a big purchase, and we wanted to make the right decision for us.  The man answered our questions knowledgeably and realistically, and then went in the back to see if they had one of those LG models in stock.  Then it hit us that we didn't know if it had a water filtration system.

One of the pluses I liked about modern day fridges was that the water filter could be changed at arm's height.  With our old fridge, we had to get down on the floor and change the filter underneath the fridge.  That's no longer an option for us at our age with our arthritis.  I really loved the Samsung water filter location, because it was at belly button height, however we could not find the water filter pocket on the LG fridge.  When the salesman came back, he showed us that it was in the back ceiling of the fridge.  It was reachable, but changing it might be hard on the shoulders.  We can always use a step stool.  It's better than lying down on a tile floor.

It turned out that the one fridge they had in stock was smashed up during shipping, so they had to order one for us, and it will arrive in a couple of weeks.  We got a five-year warranty with it, because it appeared by the reviews that every once in a while someone would get a flat-out lemon that broke down immediately, and they struggled to get help if they didn't have a warranty.

I printed out the specs for the LG fridge we did buy once we got home, and I was elated to find out that it did achieve an ENERGY STAR rating.  Bonus!

The one thing we could not test out that I hope is better is that the fridge will be quieter than our old one.  Not just the motor, but the ice crusher.  I can't hear the TV at all if someone is dispensing crushed ice in the kitchen.  I have to assume it's better, because manufacturers can improve on appliances a lot over 14 years.

Now that I did a lot of walking while shopping two weekends in a row, my leg is shot.  It was so hard limping around the barn and arena picking up manure.  I decided that as soon as I got in the house, I would lie down with cold packs on my hip and thigh.  But then I looked up and saw a nasty smoke plume in the sky.  It looked like it could be out in the desert on the bridle trails and I hadn't heard any fire truck sirens.  It was going to get dark soon, so I had to jump in the car to go investigate to make sure it wasn't a wildfire that could spread to our house and barn.  It hurt so bad just to lift my leg into the car.  There was no way I could get into the truck.

Upon driving a few blocks, I discovered that the fire was much bigger and much further away than I originally thought, so we turned on the news and found out that it was a new apartment complex under construction in another city.  It made national headlines along with the Walmart shooting nearby.  I did get my hip and thigh iced and am in less pain thing morning, but I have to go do the marketing, so that will put me back on the couch by the end of the day.  So, as usual, life and old age have gotten in the way of my horse time.  Ride when you can, folks.  Nothing is guaranteed.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Dog Day

All the dogs got baths today, and they smell wonderful!

I hooked them up to long leashes tied to the porch railing so that the sun could dry their fur.

Midge's leash was long enough for her to get down the steps and lay in some dirt and rocks.  None of my work lasts very long around here.

She has recently lost most of her hearing, as well as some of her eyesight.  I kept calling to her, but she wouldn't come.  So, I banged on the railing, and sure enough, she felt the vibration and looked all around.  I waved to her and it took a while for her eyes to find me, even though I was only about ten-feet away.  Then she came.

Scrappy is mostly blind and deaf too, but he's so in tune with me that he always knows when I've left the room and he comes looking for me, even if he was just in a deep sleep.  Sometimes he sits at the door waiting for me to come inside when I am already inside.

They all got their teeth brushed, and I clipped Midge's toenails.  I have to take the boys in to a salon for the pros to clip theirs, because they fight too hard.

Yesterday I received notification from my dog food supplier that the vet who prescribed the glucose management dog food for Midge will no longer renew her prescription.  I managed to get us out of "the system" by switching her to an over-the-counter insulin that does not require $500+ well checks every couple of months for a prescription renewal and another $150 per bottle.  I also found a pharmacy that doesn't keep track of how many boxes of syringes I buy, so I don't have to be worried about being turned away because I'm buying syringes "too soon".  The final step is to get her onto non-prescription dog food that works for glucose management.  I ordered a couple of brands to try them out.   Then I should only have to take her to see the vet when she needs to see the vet, as opposed to when her prescriptions run out.  This move is saving us thousands of dollars a year.

Yesterday I saw a ground squirrel attacking a snake.  I ran outside to get a picture of it, but the squirrel took off and the snake didn't move.  It turned out to be a dead snake with its head and tail chopped off.  I suspect that a person killed the snake and a bird carried it over and dropped it on my driveway.  It's gone today.  Someone must have ate it.

Hey you!  Stop taking my picture!
The ravens have been a nuisance about dropping dead animals into the water troughs.  As soon as I clean out a trough and re-fill it, they drop something else in there.  One day I wasn't feeling well and decided to just not bother.  The horses had other troughs they could drink out of.  By the time I did clean out that trough, the water was red from all the blood.  Another time they dropped a dead bird that had just eaten a lot of bread into a trough and the entire surface of that 75 gallon tank had bread floating in it.

The horses haven't been much help either, because as soon as I clean and fill a trough that the ravens destroyed, the horses drop their toys in it and dirty the water.  I'm thinking of taking their toys away next time I clean and fill the troughs, although I'm not filling them to the top anymore.  I've just resigned myself to only putting in 4 to 6 inches of water every day.  It's just too hard and such a waste of water to have to bail out 75 to 100 gallons.

A cactus wren had babies in our saguaro, so I hear this echoing tinny sound coming from the inside of the cactus.

This same woman keeps driving up to the fence at the back of our property and walking around there while talking on her phone.  This has become such a habit with her that my husband and I have been speculating over why she does this.  It seems like she's trying to hide from someone and wants to have a private conversation.  We decided that she's having an affair.  I've gone out there and took pictures of her to try to discourage her from hanging out in our backyard, but she's always so engrossed in her phone conversations that she doesn't notice me.  Technically, she parks on the easement, but when she crosses beyond the fence, she's definitely in our backyard.  I think next time she comes around, I'll sneak up on her and try to eavesdrop to see if we are right about the affair.  And if she catches me, all the better.  She'll be sure not to come back.  Ha ha!

I'm all ears... well, what's left of them anyway.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Horse Expert for the Day

My daughter asked me to be a "horse expert" for the day and let her first grade students interview me about horses through a video conference.  The lesson was regarding who, what, where, how, why, when questions, and my job was to answer most of them appropriately, but throw in a couple of incorrect answers and see if the kids catch the incongruity between the question that was asked and my answer.  So, if they asked a "when" question, I might answer with a "where" response.

I decided to do the video conference from the barn so that the kids could see the horses behind me.  I cleaned up all the manure and groomed them a little bit beforehand only to turn around to find Gabbrielle pooping right when I planned to do the interview, and rubbing rust stains all over her white fur.  That horse undoes everything I do so fast.  All that work I did to shore up the barn in preparation for flooding during storms has already been dug up by Gabbrielle, and Gabbrielle only.  She just seems hell-bent on doing the opposite of what I do.  She's like a rebellious teenager.

Anyway, I cleaned up the manure again, and set up a chair in a stall that Lostine was standing in, then closed the gate so that none of the other horses could come in.  The other three are really bad about trying to climb into my lap when I'm sitting in a chair.  Lostine and Rock did a good job standing still behind me so that the kids could see them in the background.  Gabbrielle was the first to start causing problems by banging the metal latch around on the gate, demanding that I let her in.  When I ignored her, she ran around into the stall next to us and tried poking the tablet over the railing with her nose.  She could hear the kids' voices and wanted so bad to be involved in the discussion.

I got up to show the kids some hay, because they asked what horses eat, and on the way back into the barn, Gabbrielle was hanging all over me.  I decided to just stand with her head over my shoulder so that she could ham it up.  She got a really good reaction out of the kids.  They were all saying, "Awwwwww!"

Gabbrielle's ears were as far forward as they could go, so she looked pretty cute.  I also used her to show an example of how horses are trained.  I was talking about the pressure and release method, by saying that you ask the horse to do something and stop asking once it gives the right answer.  Right then Gabbrielle was pestering me by rubbing her muzzle on my arm and working her way down to eat the tablet, so I said, "Back!  Back!  Back!" while waving my hand at her chest, and as soon as she took a few good steps backwards I stopped and showed that I rewarded her by letting her rest, which also told her she gave the right response.

I don't think the kids could see much, because I had to hold the tablet while I was doing that, but they got the idea.  I probably should have set up a little table in the barn and set the tablet on it so they could see a wider view.  This turned out more like those funny videos of BatDad where his eyes are always in the corner of the screen while the action is happening in the background.  I just tried to get my smile in frame so that the kids would know I'm friendly.

They had come up with the questions in advance, and the kids came up to the computer one at a time to read a question off the board.  It was good practice for them in both reading and speaking, because they had to speak clearly and loudly for me to hear.  They had one unplanned question in the end, which was, "What are those things on the horse's faces?"

So, I got to talk about fly masks and eye infections.  I considered taking the fly masks off the horses for the video conference, but then I thought the kids might find the masks to be entertaining, like the horses are going to a costume party.

My first incongruent answer was too subtle, so they didn't catch it.  So, I tried the same technique a second time, but in a more obvious way, and they did catch it that time.  I was going to mess up a third question in a different way, but before I could catch myself I had given the correct answer.  Oh well.  It was a fun exercise.  I felt like I was on the "What's My Line" game show, trying to trick everyone with my answers.  If Gabbrielle could speak, I'm sure she would have taken over the entire interview.  She's such a ham-horse.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Trail of Broken Fingernails

My poop load has doubled since I went clothes shopping at a couple of malls in a couple of cities yesterday and didn't have time to clean.  I knew that if I took the time to clean up all the manure and dog poop, I'd be too sore and tired to ride, so I rode first.

See?  I can make smart decisions.

Here are some things that Gabbrielle would spook at along the trails...

But not Rock.  He stopped right next to this discarded ATV tire to poop and grab a snack.  He also ignores dead stuff along the trails that Gabbrielle always thinks is alive, simply because it looks different.

This is the point at which I noticed that I broke a fingernail...

I've broken so many nails while horseback riding that I could name a trail after all of my broken fingernails.

Love that dun rump...

And here's your reward for another great ride...

I saw one other horseback rider off in the distance.  I was watching carefully to see if Rock noticed the other horse first or if the other horse noticed him.  It turned out that neither horse noticed each other, but the girl riding happened to look in our direction and do a double-take.  I'm sure she was thinking, "Dang!  I thought everyone went back home and I had the desert to myself."

Bombay was swinging my old blue jeans around while I released Rock to go play with him...

Now I must go have a meeting with a pooper scooper and a manure fork.


Even though my daughter lives and works nearby, we don't get to see her very often because she's so busy with her job.  I wanted to spend some time with her, so last weekend we had planned to go out to lunch at a recommended restaurant in the city and clothes shopping.  However, we had to cancel because of the heavy rain.  We tried again this weekend.

The food was delicious, and she took me to a Dillard's Outlet.  Normally, I can't afford to shop at the higher end department stores, but this was an outlet where they stock the leftovers at discount prices.  Most everything was marked down to either 1/2 or 1/3 of its original price.

I've been in need of some fancy clothes, because the majority of my wardrobe is made up of jeans and yoga pants.  I do have some dresses and slacks left over from my thinner days when I had jobs, but I'd have to lose 30 pounds to be able to fit into any of them.  So, I wanted to look for a fancy dress for special occasions and some nice slacks and a blouse that would fit me now.  I found all three, plus five pair of jeans and a top that were too good to pass up.  Then when I got to the register, they took another 50% off each item that was already knocked down to half or a third of its original price.

The retail price of the fancy dress was $150, and I walked out of there with the dress, slacks, blouse, top, and five pair of jeans all in a huge bag that weighed about 40 pounds for about $150!  All those clothes together cost the original price of the one dress.  I was doing my happy dance.  Now I finally have some quality clothes in my closet.

I love the jeans because retail on the NYDJs is usually between $110 and $150, and I got two pair for about $20 each.  The other three pair of jeans are Reba's.  I've never tried her brand before, but I loved all the bling and fancy designs on the pockets and waist.

By the second hour of our five hour shopping spree, my leg had given out on me, so I was alternating between limping and dragging the leg behind me.  At times I couldn't get into the car without using both hands to pull my leg up and in.  I wish I know what was going on with that leg.  I've had a lot of theories, but none of them quite ring true after I really start paying attention the behavior of that leg.  I could see my general practitioner, but he'd probably just get imaging and refer me to some specialist.  That's three appointments that would cut into my horse time.  I'm wondering if I should just go straight to a chiropractor.  It's a combination of my hip and knee bones being loose and muscle pain shooting down the outside of the thigh.  I'm not sure if it's just the pain or an actual loss of muscle control that makes the leg stop working.

The other weird thing that's been going on with my body is that I keep tasting salt in my mouth.  It started when I would kiss Stewie.  I'd come away from the kiss feeling like someone poured warm salt water in my mouth, so I started calling Stewie "salty dog".  But then one day I kissed Rock and came away with that same sensation.  I said, "Rock, you should get together with Stewie because you both have outrageously salty skin."  Now I have that warm salt water taste in my mouth almost all the time.  I looked it up online, and it's one of those things where nobody really knows what causes it, but it has never killed anyone, so nobody in the medical field really cares enough to research it.

The weather and temperatures were awesome this past weekend.  It is so nice when it's warm outside coupled with a cool breeze.  I spent a lot of time sitting on the patio with the dogs, and doing more barn chores than usual just so that I could be outside.  The ravens managed to drop dead meat into all but one water trough, and the horses let me know that they were upset about it, so I spent a lot of time bailing out water, cleaning and re-filling water troughs.  I wish the weather could stay this way forever, but we are going to pop up into the 90s this week.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Quick Story

Just a quick story before I forget...

This morning I was locking the horses up in their respective stalls for breakfast when Lostine backed up to her freshly filled water trough and lifted her tail.  I scrambled to try to get to her to stop her, but knew I wouldn't make it in time.  I yelled, "Lostine!  You'd better not poop in that trough or you'll be in big trouble."

Right then, Rock ran over to her, threw his head over the railing and bit her on the butt.  She jumped forward just as she started pooping, and missed the trough.  I love it when other horses seem to understand what I'm saying and help me solve the problem by intervening on my behalf.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Quick Spin

I saw in the forecast that the winds were going to pick up quite a bit by noon, so I wanted to go for a quick trail ride before it got too crazy.  My husband offered to ride with me, but I declined because yesterday he was saying he felt like he'd been kicked by a mule in the gut after his illness, and because I hadn't ridden either Gabbrielle or Bombay in a while, so they'd be plenty "up" even without the wind.  I just wanted to keep Rock's training going because we were having so much success.

I'm sure that other horsemen and women can relate to this, but I have a speed at which I am willing to increase challenges for my horses, and a pretty good sense of how much stimulation will push them over the edge to the point where they become dangerous for the rider and un-trainable.  I try to avoid crossing that line.  If I had been doing regular groundwork with one of the Arabs, and there was no wind, if it were not a day when all the neighbors were out and about, I probably would have taken one of them on a trail ride with my husband and Rock.  But my gut was telling me that decision would not be good for anyone on this day taking other factors into consideration.

Just when I was ready to mount, Rock went on alert and I looked up to see my neighbor in his back yard.  He's an indoor person, but occasionally -- like once every four months -- does yard work.  (He has a tiny yard that doesn't need much work.)  I decided to lead Rock past him quickly, just so he could see what was going on, but then I realized this man in my neighbor's back yard was not my neighbor.  Then a woman came out of the covered porch carrying pamphlets, and they got in a van.  I was like, "Oh.  Hell.  No."

They were door to door missionaries.  I quickly dragged Rock down by the arroyo to get as far away from them as possible, because I knew that if they spotted me, they'd come right down my driveway into my back yard and suck up what little time I had to ride before the winds set in big time.  I've never had a missionary go away when I've asked him too.  It's like as soon as you resist their agenda, they push harder.  I just wanted to ride my horse and I was under a time constraint, so their uninvited appearance set off my frustration.

Fortunately, they left, but not without first knocking on the front door and getting the dogs riled up.  How hard is it for people to just read signs on doors before knocking, especially when the sign says not to knock or ring the doorbell?

Rock and I headed out when I thought they were gone, but I spotted them at the end of the street, so I rushed him through the gate because I wouldn't put it past them to come racing up their street in their van to chase me down.  Some people feel uncomfortable being all alone in the wilderness with wild animals, but getting away from people is what helps me relax.  I could feel myself melting into the saddle as soon as we got away from "civilization".

This is where the cuteness comes in...

I just love his crooked blaze and have to take a picture whenever he looks to the right.

This is when I become more of a control freak in the saddle...

Chollas to the left of us, chollas to the right, here we are, stuck in the middle of hell.  I'm saying, "Go straight.  Shoot the gauntlet.  Do not swerve or I will be going for a bronc ride."  There were cholla balls and new growth sprouting up on the trail itself.  Shortly after this point is where I had to dismount and walk the rest of the way home...

We made it past the chollas okay, but then Rock suddenly jumped straight up into the air and continued jumping around while trying to spin and run in the other direction.  I kept him pointed in our original direction, and he kept jumping.  I was looking all around trying to figure out what was spooking him, and then just a few feet in front of us, a dog popped up out of some bushes and ran off with a limp.

Once Rock saw that it was just a dog, he settled down quickly.  I continued to ride him, but now he wanted to chase the dog and was ignoring my cues to slow down and stop.  Just like that I went from having precise control over my horse to having no control.  I just remember thinking, "Thank God I didn't ride Bombay or Gabbrielle.  That would have been a disaster."

I kept seeing the dog up ahead darting in and out of bushes, so as soon as I succeeded in halting Rock, I dismounted and tried to catch the dog.  It was in need of medical care.  I didn't get a good look at it, but could tell that it was brown and white.  It looked like a Bulldog to me, but my husband said he saw a brown and white brindle Boxer limping up the road this morning.  I was like, "Really?" because someone on our street lost that Boxer months ago.  I saw it in my driveway the night they lost it, and it had run out into the desert.

I couldn't believe that it could survive that long on its own.  My friend just had an experience where she was out riding her horse with her German Shepherd by their side when they got surrounded by four coyotes.  The coyotes baited her dog into playing and they all ran off together.  She was able to get her dog back before the coyotes attacked it, and she hopped off her horse, grabbed her dog by its collar and walked them both a mile home with those four coyotes stalking them the whole way.  A Boxer is smaller than her dog, so I was amazed it could survive for months out in the desert.

My attempts at catching it failed, because it was clearly terrified of strangers.  As soon as I got close or called out to it, it took off running like its tail was on fire.  I was trying to remember where I saw the post about the lost Boxer, and then I remembered that Christine shared it on Facebook, so I went back in her archives and found the post in January.  As soon as I saw the picture, I knew it wasn't the same dog.  This one I saw today had more white around its chest and shoulders.  So, now I'm in the process of trying to find who's looking for this dog.

I also worked with both Bombay and Gabbrielle in the round pen.  Bombay spooked big at something, or I should say nothing, and I thought, "I've got to fix that."

On the spot, I made up a game I'll call "Don't Get Punked", in which as as soon as Bombay stopped paying attention to me, I'd chuck a rock at something plastic or metal or wood, just to get a variety of sounds going, and I made sure I did it directly behind him, so that it would have maximum spook potential.  If he spooked, I sent him off to run a few laps.  If he didn't spook, I praised him and left him alone.  Of course, after a few rounds of this, he caught on and knew that it was his job to not spook, so he made sure that he paid closer attention to me.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Oh, What a Relief It Is

Yes!  The gods cooperated with me today and showed some mercy, so I was able to go trail riding on Rock.  First, I hiked out a little ways into the desert to make sure the bee swarms moved on.  It was silent -- just the way I like it.

I took the time to stretch out, because I could feel my right leg locking up after that little walk.  I sat with the soles of my feet together, and could press my left knee to the floor, but the right knee was sticking way up and there was too much pain on the outside of my thigh and hip to push it down.  However, by the end of the stretch period, I had a lot more flexibility and less pain.

As I was on my way out the door, I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to call the property manager of my house in Nevada and have them arrange to get the septic tank pumped.  I stupidly decided to call right then before I forgot, and of course no one was available to take my call.  The secretary kept trying to send me to someone's voicemail, and I had to stop her.  I said, "I'm leaving right now and can't answer if someone calls me back, so I don't want to leave any messages.  I'll call back when I can get a live person."

You could tell that my method was throwing her for a loop.  I didn't want to go into great detail about how I've desperately wanted to ride a horse for weeks and now that I've finally got the time, I don't want it thwarted or interrupted by a game of telephone tag.  For some reason, I can never just call a person and get something taken care of.  It always turns into a huge production with a lot of communications going back and forth.

If I remember, I turn my volume off when I ride the horses, but sometimes I forget, and if the phone rings too loud, it spooks the horse.  Then it keeps ringing and the horse is running around trying to get away the sound while I'm trying to dig my phone out of its holster to stop the ringing and control the horse at the same time.  I just prefer that people not call me back, but I call them when it's convenient for me.  If they're not there, because it's not a convenient time for them, that's fine.

I recently turned off the notification sounds for text messages all together, because Amazon has been obnoxious about reminding me to use my Prime benefits and to continue listening to some music track I stopped in the middle because I was busy.  Now my phone vibrates when I get a notification or text message and somehow that's worse.  That freaks the dogs out.  The horses think it's a fly pestering them.  The battery on my mobile phone has been running down quickly and requiring a charge twice a day, and it's built into the phone, so I may be due for a newer, smarter phone that will actually mean "none" and I pick "none" for what I want to hear and feel when someone sends a message.  To me, "none" means no tune and no vibration, period.  It will also be nice to have a feature that allows me to block certain callers.

No sooner did I start tacking up Rock when I heard a truck making a ruckus somewhere nearby.  I looked up and saw that it was a city truck blocking the gate to the bridle trails.  I blurted out to myself, "Are you kidding me?  I've been waiting all week for a moment to ride, and you guys have to do trail maintenance right now?"

I was so discouraged.  I was really beginning to feel like the universe hated me and did not want me to be happy.  I tacked up Rock anyway, hoping they'd be gone by the time I was ready to ride, and they did leave.  However, later I saw the power company's cranes out there putting up power poles and I nearly flipped out.  I've had two falls and two springs ruined by those trucks, cranes, and men with power tools on the bridle trails.  You'd think they'd be done by now.  As we got closer to the cranes, I realized that they were actually on a street next to the trails, and not on the trails themselves, which made me feel better.  At least I shouldn't have to deal with low flying helicopters surveying the power lines where I ride.

Anyway, my ride on Rock was pretty darn near close to perfect.  He was so well behaved.  I could even steer him around cholla balls and saplings.  He did have one tiny spook when the wind picked up and rattled something in a bush.  He just jumped away from it and spun to face it.  Right after that, two hares ran across the trail in front of us, but that didn't scare him.  We also saw the raven's nest packed with babies, a vulture eating something off to the side of us, and a roadrunner trotting around.

This is the second ride I've had on him recently in which he did not rush home, so I petted and praised him a lot.  He also kept stopping whenever I'd shift my weight in the saddle, which was a pleasant surprise when you consider that I couldn't stop him at all last month.  I think he's ready to be ridden by less experienced riders now.

Yay, Rock!