Friday, August 28, 2015

Still in Hibernation

Hibernation:  A state of inactivity and metabolic depression.

Life is really a Catch 22 in the desert in the summer months.  You try to wait out the heat so that you can be active outdoors again, and when a storm moves in that brings cooler temperatures and a nice wind, you can't go out anyway because of the lightning.

Yesterday we had a storm move through that technically missed my area, but was close enough for me to benefit from the cooler air.  I had such a strong desire to hike out into the desert on the trails due to cabin fever that I just went without thinking about it, but before I reached the trail head, lightning struck just in front of me.  I quickly turned around and scurried back indoors.

Now we are back to the usual blinding sun and heat.  I feel like I've just been passing the time until September, which is the first month that promises more bearable temperatures, at least at night.  If we can get it to cool down at night, then early morning horseback rides are in order.

My goal is to start riding as soon as the temperatures, my health, and my schedule allow, to try to get everyone tuned up before all my neighbors and the snowbirds begin utilizing the trails.  My riding has been sporadic in the spring and summer.  We had incredible weather last spring with winter extending itself out rather than summer encroaching too soon.  I felt so fortunate until the power company took over my riding haunts and turned what used to be pleasant jaunts on horseback into horror stories for my horses, which jeopardized my safety.  I suspect everyone felt the same because I didn't see anyone else out there riding their horses amongst the construction and upgrades.

I also want to fit in some arena riding while the house next door is still vacant, although my neighbor should be returning to do some maintenance and repairs as soon as the temperatures cool down.  The storms kept doing damage to their house and things finally got too complex for me to fix myself.  Patching leaks in roofs and repairing plaster are not in my skill set.  I was starting to get scared, because literally everything I touched instantly fell apart, so each time my neighbor called me and gave me some assignments to do over at her place, I got stressed out because I knew I'd just end up creating more work for myself by either stumbling upon more broken stuff or breaking it myself by breathing on it.

I just want a few rides in the arena and on the trails where my horses and I can go back to basics without distractions, and then I can start working on getting my horses to focus on me once people move in next door and begin frequenting the bridle trails.  But I know there are a lot of other horseback riders and hikers and bicyclists who are anxious to get out just as much as I am.  I know they are already taking their chances in the early mornings and late evenings, because I've seen my horses crowd together at the corner of the paddock to watch horses go past on the trails in the distance.  I expect the trails to be even more crowded this year because new housing has been going up all around us.  Neighbors who owned several acres parceled them out, and as a result, the population here is increasing faster than I'd like.

In the meantime, I've been collecting photos of weird cloud formations.  This one looks like a bomb went off on the other side of the mountains...

This one looks like a volcano erupting...

This one looks like a party for a variety of clouds...

Monday, August 24, 2015


I just wanted to acknowledge that it has been a tough week for some of us with one blogger losing her horse and a blog reader losing her husband.  I don't want to encroach on anyone's privacy, so I won't go into details.  You know who you are, and I want to extend my condolences to both of you.  Grief is a hard road to travel.  I hope it will be gentle with you.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Not Much

What's been going on?  Not much.  I'm always looking for stories to tell on my blog, but not a whole lot has been happening beyond hunkering down to stay out of the heat and humidity.  All of the hardware for the new tack room has arrived, but it's like an oven in there right now, so me thinks I will wait a few weeks before attempting to install anything.

Since Stewie is incapable of heeling on a leash, but pulls ahead of me, I always watch his behavior as we walk out of the garage to see if there are any wild animals around.  If he charges at something, I pull him back, assuming it is a rattlesnake or coyote.  So, the other morning he strained to get to something and I came around the corner to see a black racer snake drinking out of the drip underneath our orange tree.  It slithered off super fast, like its name implies, and disappeared into a bush.  Those snakes are really cool.  I don't see them often.

Scrappy's tumor is doing well now that we keep him dressed so that he can't lick and chew it.  The vet is having me wean him off Prednisone to see if it gets worse without it.  Scrappy has good days and bad days, because the steroids affect his energy and appetite.  He does better with the drugs.

Lostine is still standing around in poop every chance she gets.  I started lining the perimeter of the barn and fence with manure to try to dam up the flood waters so that the horses don't have to spend so many days standing around in mud after a rain storm, but now they enjoy standing in manure, which isn't much better.

Maybe before next summer I'll order another truck load of sand and buy a bunch of bags to make sand bags to line the barn and paddock.

I've been treating both Lostine and Rock for thrush.  My horses never got thrush when we lived in Nevada, but it's like an epidemic here in Arizona during monsoon season.

This is how the horses pass the time in the shade.

Rock creeping up on me.  He's such a stalker.  I think his stalking behavior is hilarious.  I remember pointing it out to my female farrier and she said, "Oh, I just hate that about geldings.  It's so creepy.  That's why I like mares better."

I was like, "How can you not think that is funny?"

I suppose if a horse was always sneaking up on you and biting you, it wouldn't be funny, but Rock just follows me around like a puppy in love.  Sometimes he'll rest his nose on my shoulder or rub my back.  He was a major biter when we first got him, but now I can kiss him on the muzzle and he is trustworthy to be gentle.

I was kind of worried about Rock a few days ago, because he was acting out of character, being overly reactionary to the point of being dangerous.  I was letting the horses in and out of their stalls while the farrier was here, and they were all good about walking straight into the stall by themselves where the farrier was waiting for them.  Nobody attempted to avoid his/her pedicure.

However, Rock stopped in the middle of the barn aisle.  I clucked and raised the halter and lead rope toward his hip to encourage him forward, and he leaped right over the wagon, kicking out as he went, and running up to the farrier.  We were both quite shocked with how fast it all happened.  I said, "Well, that was unexpected."

Then over the next couple of days, each time I tried to approach him to pet him, he turned away from me or raised his head as high as it would go so that I couldn't reach his face.  I knew that I hadn't done anything to hurt him, yet he was acting like I had been physically abusing him.  I finally realized the problem was that Gabbrielle had been attacking him while he was lame from the hoof abscess.  He had scars from bite marks and kick marks all over him.

So, I had a talk with Gabbrielle and told her she'd be living in the round pen by herself if she kept up that behavior, and she has since settled down...  probably more due to hormonal fluctuations than my urging.  Anyway, since then, I have spent some time just petting Rock and getting him to trust me.  Now he's my sweet, slow moving sloth again, begging for more hugs and kisses.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What Automatic Waterer Do You Use?

The other night during our heatwave, I went into the barn to find five of the six water troughs empty, and the sixth one had been pooped in.  I had just filled all the water troughs the day before.  Of course, the trough with the poop in it was full to the brim, so I couldn't just tip it over and wash it out.  I would have to bail all that water out.

I was completely disgusted with the whole situation, and spent over an hour running between house and barn cleaning and filling each trough.  When all was said and done, Lostine promptly walked up to one trough and very intentionally pooped in it, clearly having no appreciation for all the work I just did, for the fact that I gave up watching my favorite TV show so that the horses could have fresh water, and for the fact that I was dying the entire time in the extreme heat.

My husband experienced my rage and suggested we get automatic waterers.  I've been looking at what is available and see several issues with them.  The affordable waterers are expected to be mounted to wood, and the hose comes out the side.  I have to mount the waterer on metal and need the hose to come out the back, because my horses cannot resist chewing and destroying anything within reach.  That means no floats and no paddles.  I need a waterer in which the horses can touch nothing except the water in the bowl.  If the waterer can sit on the ground, all the better, but I still have to anchor it to something or they will kick it across the paddock.  Also, we have no electricity and don't plan to put any in.

It looks like there are some that might fit my criteria if I'm willing to pay hundreds of dollars, but I don't like to pay that much unless I have recommendations.  So, what automatic waterer do you use?  Please describe it and tell me if you would recommend it to me under my circumstances.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Conclusion of Rock's Lameness

I've been chalking up Rock's frequent lameness issues to hoof abscesses, but several people have suggested laminitis may be the cause since his episodes are so frequent.  My farrier did see evidence of past laminitis in his hooves when I bought him, but said he didn't appear to have problems with it since I've owned him.

However, that little seed of doubt got planted, so I started feeding him less grain.  He's not on pasture, and while there are many causes of laminitis, he didn't seem to have any of them.  Just a couple of days ago, he began walking better.  Today I cleaned out his hoof the best I could and found this...

It appears as if an abscess has blown out through his heel.  There was also a deep hole on the same side of his hoof, but through the sole.  The hoof as a whole is a mess, but he's due for a trim this week, so most of that should get addressed.  At least now I know it wasn't laminitis, so I can fatten him up again.  The poor guy's ribs started showing just from being fed more hay and less grain.

Scared the Sheet Out of Me

So, here I was working on a project with the TV on when I heard a strange noise.  The dog was twitching in his sleep, so I figured he was having a nightmare, but the noise grew louder and more persistent.  I finally recognized it as the sound of one of these birds that always squawks relentlessly when there is a snake around.  I opened the front door and saw the bird fly out of the hedge.  I began slowly sneaking up on the spot in the hedge to see what kind of snake it might be...

...stupidly not looking where I was walking.  This huge bull snake was right under my feet on the porch.  I almost stepped on it, and screamed while running backwards, crashing into a patio chair.  Of course, in that instant I didn't know it was a non-venomous snake.  I just caught it out of the corner of my eye.  I ran to get my camera, but was shaking so badly that half the photos came out blurry and had to be deleted.

The funny thing was that the snake went over to investigate my fake rubber rattlesnake and my fake plastic tarantula that I leave on the front porch to ward off salespeople and religious groups.  I asked it to stay a while, because I figured a live snake would be more effective, but once it knew the animals were not real, it headed into the hedge to get whatever the bird had been trying to protect... most likely eggs.

Happy Days are Here Again

I did manage to get hay from my favorite supply company that backs it right into my hay barn without me having to lift a finger, break a sweat, pull a muscle, or die of heat exhaustion.  They brought 64 bales, but told me that my barn could easily fit 72 or 80 if I want to make it last a bit longer to avoid the high hay prices and shortages at other times of the year.  That will also help me avoid having to always clean out the pallets and rake out the barn on the hottest days of the year.  So, note to self:  Order a larger squeeze next time.

This order cost me $15 a bale.  I like to track the prices as they change.

There is this friendly large lizard who has been living under the old hay stack, and he got displaced when the hay got low and we cleaned the pallets.  This morning he ran into the tack room, and then ran out when I started to close the door.  He's not too concerned about people.  He was on top of the pallets when the truck was backing the block of hay onto them.  I was worried he'd get squished, but he had the sense to run out of the hay barn just as the block was being lowered on top of him.

I was just thinking the other day that my horses have been so calm lately, but the three Arabs tried leaping over the railings of their stalls when the truck showed up.  They started getting used to the loud engine, but then would panic each time the hydraulic arms made a hissing noise.  I tried to calm them down by talking to them and telling them they are okay, but they were mentally checked out, so the truck driver drove all the way up the driveway to the side of the house when he was done to help the horses settle down.

Bombay got a bump on his cannon bone out of the ordeal.  He just kept running into the metal railings hoping to break them, and beating up his own shins in the process.  As soon as the truck driver left, they all immediately went back to being their usual, relaxed selves.  Note to self:  Next time open up the stall doors so that the horses can run to the far end of the paddock.  It's good to get the horses used to scary stuff, but not if their reactions result in injuries and vet bills.

You can see the one lone hay bale left over from the previous stack sitting off to the side.  I cut it a little too close this time.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Heat Changes Everything

The increase in the August heat changed everything for me.  We had been up around 115 degrees F during several days and rarely dropped below 80 at night, so there was no relief from the heat.  For a while there, I changed my routine of cleaning up manure once in the morning and once at night to cleaning it up in smaller increments throughout the day in order to conserve energy.  However, recently it has been so hot that I couldn't even tolerate stepping outside for one minute during the day, because I immediately begin pouring sweat, felt like I was going to pass out, and my skin felt like it was on fire.  So, I conserved energy and kept my sanity by not picking up any manure for a few days, and then woke up at the crack of dawn one day to clean up several days of manure before the sun rose.

The horses hated it because keeping all that manure around increased the fly population, but that was the lesser of two evils.  Every year the hottest part of summer becomes all about just surviving.  I'm pretty sure I got sun poisoning last week and was out of commission for several days.  Each morning I woke up with a whole new set of symptoms and was generally out of it.

I've been super busy simply because it takes ten times longer to do mundane things.  For instance, my Easy-Up saddle rack arrived one morning, and even though it only took a grand total of ten minutes to assemble, it took me all day to do it because of the heat.  First I opened the box, but just getting the scissors and putting them back wiped me out.  Then when I got my energy back, I pulled everything out of the box, and had to take another break.  The coating on the metal pieces stunk, so I had to move all of them out onto the porch and air out the house, then take another break.  Then I had to move them all off the porch down to the new tack room, and take another break.  I had to wait until after the sun set to assemble it in the tack room, because it's too hot in there without a fan or air conditioning in the summer months.

I should open the windows to the tack room at night to let cooler air in, and close them during the day, but the weather has been so unpredictable.  Thunderstorms move in with little warning, and I don't want the nice, new floor to get warped from water damage.

Our Rubbermaid shed is still in shambles, because we don't have the energy to clean it up in this heat.  It might just sit there until fall.  Last time the wind blew it apart, we were able to re-assemble it with an extra hand to help, but we don't want to bother anymore.  The plastic has been permanently weakened by the heat and by it bending after being blown down, so we will probably just take the pieces to a recycling center or give it to someone who is willing to deal with it.  It cost us over $400 and only lasted eight months.  Don't bother getting a Rubbermaid shed unless you are planning on keeping it indoors.

The extreme heat also meant having to remember to wear gloves, because everything I touched burned my hands.  And when I filled up water troughs or sprayed down the horses to cool them off, I had to run the water until I could touch it without being burned.  We don't have a water heater for the barn -- just the water coming out of the ground and the hose, and it somehow gets hot enough to almost reach a boiling point.

Since I've been spending so much time outdoors at dusk and dawn, the owl and I are becoming better acquainted.  He flew next to me one morning and landed at the corner of the hay barn to visit with me and watch me do my barn chores.

When I finally made it through that last of my major plans for the week and was looking forward to getting a full night's sleep, my husband woke me up.  Though I'm fairly kind and pleasant when fully awake with a full tummy and in bearable temperatures, I turn into a monster when woken from a deep sleep.  He needed my help getting a baby rattlesnake out of the garage and the dog's yard.  I was cursing like the dickens.  Damn snakes keep taking my sleep away from me with their sneaky ways.  I used to enjoy seeing snakes, but we've had so many around our place this summer that they are becoming serious pests, and there seems to be this pattern of them always showing up when I am in desperate need of some rest.

In fact, they always seem to show up when our daughter comes to visit.  My husband pointed that out a few years ago, and started calling her "The Snake Whisperer".  I figured it was a coincidence, but considering that we hadn't seen our daughter or a snake in several weeks, and then one appeared in our garage right after our daughter visited, has convinced me that something weird is going on there.  Some kids create poltergeists.  My kid attracts snakes.  I thought that maybe it was just that we leave the garage open for her to get in the house when she visits, but she often stumbles upon snakes when we go hiking too.

That was the first baby rattlesnake I've seen, and now I am super paranoid about everyone's safety.  You can barely see them.  It would be so easy to step on one or for the dogs or horses to sniff one out and get bit.  And, of course, if there was one baby rattlesnake in our garage, could there be more?  Did someone lay eggs in there when we weren't looking?  I really don't need this hassle right now... or ever.

Of course, the simple solution is to just always keep our garage bays closed, but we need to keep them open when doing work outdoors.  We need access to tools, and we take the dogs out through the garage a dozen times a day and night.  We don't like walking out the front door, because the snakes hide in the hedge and it's hard to clean dog poop off the decorative rocks.  We don't like walking out the back door because snakes always camp out at the base of the staircase, and Scrappy can't easily make it down and up the stairs in his decrepit state.  It's a stone staircase, and the poor dog fell down it once.  The garage is kind of our only option, but the rattlesnakes are holding us hostage in our own home.  It's just hard to find peace in the summer here since the animals are busy trying to survive too.

My daughter transferred to teach at a school that is even further out in the desert, and she said that teachers were experiencing having rattlesnakes drop from the ceilings of their classrooms.  I guess they get into the vents and crawl spaces to keep cool and just drop from ceiling to floor when they want out.  The school also went into lock down its first week.  My daughter was thinking it might be someone with a gun on campus, but it was a bobcat on campus.  How weird is that?  Could you imagine going to school in Africa and the kind of lock downs they might have there?

Scrappy keeps peeing on the dog clothes I put on him to keep him from chewing on his tumor, which is tiny now thanks to the medications he's been on, so I've been doing laundry almost every day.  I'm thinking he may need a permanent diaper, because he just doesn't even try to hold it anymore.  The vet warned me that the medication he was on would make him pee more.  I was like, "More?  How is that physically possible?"

But apparently, it is.  The vet's office called last week and wanted me to bring him in for a follow up this week.  I said I'd have to call them when I have a sliver of time open up.  The vet tech seemed annoyed, but I refuse to be at the beck and call of a vet.  I really dislike it when these vets think they own me and my dog once I see them about a health problem.  All the vet wants to do is to see if the tumor shrunk, and I already told them over the phone that it did.  Apparently, they don't trust me and have to see for themselves.

So, while this new vet seemed to be promising, she's turning out to be one of those time-suckers.  After I took Midge in, the vet called and left a message about her test results and said to call the office if I had any questions.  I didn't have any questions, so I didn't return the call.  Two days later her tech called me to ask why I didn't call back.  I thought that was odd.  She wanted to know how Midge was doing on her new insulin, and I had to inform her that we have to finish out the old insulin before I will know, and she made me promise to call the office with an update once that happened.

This time when the tech called to see how Scrappy was doing and if the tumor was shrinking, she did say to call back, but I was sick and busy and overwhelmed with other things that were going on in my life.  I'm sorry to say that my life does not revolve around returning phone calls.  The very next day, the tech called again.  It was a bad time, but I knew if I didn't pick up, she'd keep calling me and probably wake me up when I finally got a chance to take a nap.  One would think they'd be too busy to be babysitting, but I get the impression that they don't get a whole lot of business.

I had a dental appointment recently, and that office takes up more of my time confirming and re-confirming my appointment than they do to actually clean my teeth.  First, they have a live person call, then they send a couple of emails, then they have a computer call -- on and on it goes, even if you already confirmed the appointment with the first call.  I think I had a word with them about it six months ago, so this time they cut it down to just one phone call and one email.

We are down to one bale of hay today.  We cleaned out the wooden pallets and raked all the dregs out of the hay barn to make room for a new block.  So, I get to spend the day calling around to see who has hay and who can deliver.  That's always time consuming.  I'm amazed how something as simple as that can turn into twenty phone calls.  The name of the game for me next year is to time things so that we don't have to clean out the hay barn and pallets during the hottest part of the year.  I am praying that the place that has the awesome truck driver who can back his squeeze truck right into my hay barn is available.  If we have to re-stack hay, we're screwed.  In that case, I'd rather drive to the feed store every few days and just buy a few bales that I can roll off the bed of my truck into the barn.

Lostine had some bad flares on her hooves that I was planning on trimming off before all this heat set in and I got sick, and she has managed to break most of them off herself in my absence.  The farrier is coming this week, and I'll have to get on his case about trimming their hooves shorter and smoothing down the soles to prevent cracks.  He doesn't like the heat any more than I do, so he's been taking shortcuts and doing a half-assed job.

It was unfortunate that everything unwanted came to a head this week:  The heat, the hay, the farrier appointment, the vet appointment, the sick dog, the lame horse, the dental appointment, and me being sick.  It sure would be nice if things could spread themselves out.

But I also got to do some things I wanted to do, like celebrate my daughter's birthday and visit with P.S. and her horses.  P.S. and I had been talking about trail riding from the stable where she boards her horses, but I opted out of riding on this day in part because of the heat, because I was feeling weak and doubted that I could even manage to mount a horse, and in part because I didn't know either of her horses very well.  It's always stressful for me to cross streets on horseback, and there is a super busy street where people drive 45 mph or faster between the stables and the bridle trails.  I opted to lead one horse out while she rode.

Gotta love a buckskin...

It's kind of tough, because her choices are to ride in the extreme heat of summer, but get her space and peace and quiet, or ride in more comfortable temperatures with dozens of snowbirds in campers competing for the same space.  But the horses do seem to get desensitized to all the activity over time.  The barn employees run errands around the stable in golf carts, so the horses get used to those whizzing around.

P.S. was showing me how she gets her Missouri Fox Trotter to do a couple of gaits while a trash truck was dumping the contents of one of those huge dumpsters into its compactor.  That was pretty noisy, but her horse paid no attention.  There was also a tractor driver loitering around and people in carts racing past, and this is the slow season.  Imagine what its like over winter when people live at the stables out of their RVs and they get around on bicycles, motorcycles, ATVs and golf carts as well as horses.

When we were standing on the side of the road waiting for a break in traffic to cross, a loud motorcycle raced past, and neither horse reacted, despite it being just a few feet in front of their faces.  I think about how long it would take me to get my Arabs to accept all of the activity.  Right now they are used to peace and quiet, and just the occasional wild animal passing through.  If I took them to this stable, it would be a whole different world.  I realize that taking them to a place like that is the best thing I could do for them, but finding the time and energy is easier said than done.  I think I'd rather just pay to board them there for a month than to keep trailering them there, but from past experience I know that any desensitization I do doesn't stick unless it is constant.  Once I brought them home, they'd get used to the peace and quiet, and then start spooking left and right at anything unusual.

Horses are always playing a game of "What doesn't belong?" and whatever they feel doesn't belong is what frightens them the most.

P.S. said that despite all the activity at the stable, her horses will still spook if something unusual happens like a van pulling up next to the arena where she is riding, and lowering a man in a wheelchair out of it with hydraulic arms.  There's always going to be something happening that is out of your control that your horse recognizes as being new and different, and therefore threatening.

The buckskin is new to P.S.'s family.  She showed me how she wanted me to lead him and correct him, so that I could be consistent in the way she's been training him.  She said he sometimes barges ahead and sometimes falls behind and balks.  I only had problems with him getting a little in front of me.  The first time I had to correct him three times with increasing intensity before he paid mind to me, the second time only two times, and the third time only once, so it seems like he should be easy to train as long as you mean business and are consistent.

Since I stopped a few times to correct him, and since he walked slower than the gaited horse, P.S. kept circling back to stay with us so we could chat.  At one point I looked up and my heart skipped a beat, because the horse she was riding fell to its knees in front and then starting going down in the back too.  She stayed well balanced, but I freaked because I was scared that the horse would fall on her.  She helped him back up, then dismounted to make sure he wasn't injured.  The horse was fine, but its just one of those things that happens with horses.  That's why I'm such an advocate for wearing helmets.  It doesn't matter if your horse is well polished, dead broke, spook-free, and totally worships the ground you walk on.  Accidents happen, even to the best of us.  Fortunately, my attitude about helmets has rubbed off on P.S., so she rides with one too.

When it cools down and my energy returns, and I get back into the swing of riding horses, we'll try again with the trail riding out of the stables, and I'll see if I can get the MFT to do some gaits for me.  It is supposed to start cooling off sometime soon, only in the desert "cooling off" means dropping down to around 105 degrees F.  It will also help things when we get out of monsoon season, because I'm kind of tethered to home by a dog with severe storm phobia.  I always thought I wanted to live on a ranch filled with animals, but I wasn't considering how hard it would be to take care of all those animals in extreme weather conditions, which is pretty much the norm here this time of year.

The other day I was watching the documentary film "Winnebago Man" about a man who was trying to make a commercial for Winnebago RVs, but he was having a hard time focusing, remembering his lines, and filtering his thoughts.  Someone made a video of his outtakes and it went viral.  He was labeled "the angriest man in the world."

I was watching these videos thinking, "That could be me in this heat."

It's really hard to think straight and be patient when your brains are cooking.  At the end of the documentary the man said that it was difficult to shoot the commercial because it was ridiculously hot, humid, and the flies were driving him nuts.  I thought, "Yup.  That explains everything."

Of course, people who lived in more pleasant climates found his behavior to be hilarious or baffling, but I could relate to his endless frustration.  The other day I attempted to just go down to the barn really quick to take care of a couple of tasks, and I kept getting bit on the foot by a fire ant with each step.  I squashed the ant, but it seemed that another one was still in my shoe.  I kept trying to kill it, but somehow failed, and it kept biting me each time I put my shoe on.  I finally lost patience, screamed out some curses, and chucked the shoe out into the horse paddock and walked around with one barefoot, which was now getting burned by the ground with each step I took.  I'm sure that my actions would appear to be humorous to someone not going through my living hell, but believe me, they are anything but funny.

I feel like I'm living the television show "Naked and Afraid" every freakin' day.