Monday, March 27, 2017

Com Down

"Com Down" is my play on "calm down" and "communications down".  It's looking like I may have to "break" my phone and not buy a new one for at least a month.  That will be my story and I will be sticking to it.

But first, the back story.  This weekend I hiked some really nice trails that are set aside for hikers, bikers and horseback riders in my area.  Despite being a Saturday, we didn't see another soul.  There were some people loading up horses into horse trailers in the parking lot, and I thought, "I could do that.  I could trailer Rock out here and ride.  I can take back roads and don't have to hassle with going through town or driving on freeways, so it should be a low stress experience."

I liked the trails because they were not overgrown with cholla, and there were choices between wide, well maintained trails and narrow, winding, more private trails.  The washes were wide and sandy, loaded with hoof prints, so I knew it was a popular place to ride.  When I got home I looked at the trails from satellite view and realized that they were just down the street from my horseback riding buddy's house, so I could meet her out there and we could ride together.  I was feeling good about the plan until I got hit with one of my pesky health problems and remembered that it is so rare for me to have a day where I even feel well enough to go hiking, so my chances of feeling well enough to trailer a horse out and ride are pretty slim.  I'd probably be too exhausted or in too much pain to mount after trailering and tacking up.

I passed out on the couch after the hike, only to be woken by my husband announcing that he needed my help because there were "animals everywhere."

Huh?

I staggered outside to find Midge squatting down taking a dump.  My husband said, "Grab a dog!"

Huh?

He had just herded the other two dogs into the house, and Midge wasn't going anywhere.  What's the big emergency?

Then I looked up and saw that all four horses were out of the paddock grazing on that poisonous grass that gave the boys tummy aches last week, which prevented me from being able to ride.  Damn.  It.

As if that wasn't enough of a disappointing shock, my husband then told me that Midge had poop stuck to her butt and I would need to find a stick to get it off before taking her into the house.  I swear, that dog always gets poop stuck to her butt in emergency situations.  Pack of coyotes stalking the dogs?  Midge gets poop stuck to her butt.  Rattlesnake in the dog's yard?  Midge gets poop stuck to her butt.  Big truck driving way too fast down my driveway right at my dogs?  Midge gets poop stuck to her butt.  Lightning striking the ground right beside us?  Midge gets poop stuck to her butt.  And before some genius suggests that I shave her butt -- I do that.  Constantly.

I'll skip past the chase and just say that we got all dogs and horses back to their rightful spots.  I tried making up for the sleep I missed, but then Gabbrielle woke me by banging the metal gate against the metal fence panel.  I had to climb out of bed and fling a rock at the aluminum roof to chase her off and shut her up.  I tried to sleep again after doing chores and feeding all the animals, but then Midge woke me up by pacing and barking because she had to go to the bathroom.

As you can imagine, I was in a pretty grumpy mood after having my sleep disturbed repeatedly by animals.  I was composing a FOR SALE ad in my head for Gabbrielle, titling it, "Free Alarm Clock".  Every spring, Gabbrielle becomes a lot of trouble for me between constantly waking me up with her banging, and beating up on the geldings and injuring them so that I can't ride them.  I planted trees around the round pen to make that her new home this spring and then two of the trees lost all their leaves, so there's no shade available.  I thought the trees were dying or dead, but it turns out that they are semi-deciduous and it is normal for them to be leafless for a couple of weeks in March each year.  Had I known that, I would have chosen a different type of tree.  That defeats the whole purpose of me getting those trees.  March is right about the time that Gabbrielle needs to be sent to Exile Island.  I remember having that question of whether Tipuanas lose their leaves on the tip of my tongue at the time we were going to buy that big one, but someone interrupted and distracted me, so the question never got asked or answered... until now.

I started playing Skyrim since I knew that no one would let me sleep, and then my phone rang.  It was my ex-neighbor, the one who promised me that she would kick those squatters off our properties and out of the neighborhood.  She said, "Do you have a minute?  I have to tell you something."

Well, first off, nothing she says ever takes a minute.  She's a non-stop talker.  Secondly, she never calls just to tell me something.  She always has something she wants me to do for her.  I knew this was just another one of her manipulative ploys, but I listened.

It turns out that she did not kick those obnoxious people off our properties, but she instead accepted their second low-ball offer to buy her house.  This means that nosy man who leans on fences and stares into my backyard for hours pointing at stuff around my place -- that annoying man who drives several super loud off-road vehicles, is going to be my neighbor.  God help me.  I'm getting both a nosy and a noisy neighbor.  That's my worst nightmare.

Anyway, it's bad enough that the very people who I wanted to go away and stop disrupting my horseback rides are the very same people who will be moving in next door, but then to have my ex-neighbor asking me to participate in the process really puts things over the top.  Sure enough, she didn't call just to tell me something, but to ask me to do something for her.  I swear to God, my own relatives don't ask me to do as many favors for them as this ex-neighbor does.  She wanted to know if there was a lock on her gate, because she has a bunch of businesses and home inspectors who need to drive their trucks down her driveway into her backyard over the next couple of weeks.

I knew that what she really was asking was for me to let all those people onto her property and supervise them to make sure they do their jobs, but there was no way I was going to get involved in all that crap, especially after that woman ate up all my decent horseback riding days last spring with this same type of nonsense.  I told her that yes, there was a lock on her gate.  She didn't believe me and told me to go check.

Really?  I told her I wasn't even dressed, so I'd text her when I had time to go check.  She said I'd have to call her back, because she doesn't have good reception for text messages.  Say what?  No!  Just no!  Absolutely not!  She wanted me to call her back so that she could suck up another hour of my day.  Fortunately, her husband grabbed the phone away from her and gave me his number and said I could text him.  All the while, she was protesting.  He ruined her efforts to bend my ear a little longer.

I'm pretty sure that she just was buying more time to try to manipulate me into handling those appointments on her behalf, because she told me she wouldn't be able to come out until closing day to pick up her stuff, and she was questioning me extensively on how I was "feeling" and what the weather was like.  She only does that when she has some physical labor she's planning on dropping into my lap.  In the past, I've said no to doing jobs for her because it was too hot and because I was struggling with one of my health problems.  She doesn't seem to get it that when the weather is super nice and I'm feeling good, I don't want to spend it doing her favors.  I want to be out riding my horses.  I don't mean to be selfish.  It's just that my time to be physically active and to enjoy riding my horses is coming to a close between my failing health and triple digit temperatures looming on the horizon, not to mention new neighbors next door who will most likely being doing all kinds of disruptive things when they move in and get everything reorganized to their liking.

Once I got her off the phone and texted her husband about the gate situation, I tried to resume playing Skyrim.  Normally, when I pause it, I save.  However, her phone call distracted me from my regular routine, so when my character and her horse got killed by a giant, I discovered that I lost all the progress I had made since several hours before because I didn't save.  One more reason to turn off my phone.  I'm letting everyone I care about know that if they want to contact me in the next month, use email.

I lunged three of the horses Sunday afternoon, and performed an experiment in which I tried to control their speed and direction from a chair in the center of the round pen.  Normally, I stand in the center with a long whip, but my leg was killing me, so I sat.  Bombay and I were doing a good job working out the subtleties of lunging from a chair until he came to a screeching halt and pointed up to something on the hill behind me.  I turned around to see some guy standing up there watching us.  When will this end?  Why are there always people standing on that cliff staring into my backyard?

I decided not to give him anything to see.  I picked up my chair and moved behind a tree where he couldn't see me, and I let Bombay stare back at him.  I figured that Bombay would let me know when the guy left, but Bombay stared for a really long time.  I looked back and saw that the guy had moved further down the cliff to a location where he could see me.  He was leaning on the fence looking down at me, so I picked up my chair and moved again behind another tree.  He still did not leave.

I got up to go confront him and saw that he was now climbing down the hill into my backyard.  Another trespasser!  I watched him, and saw him grab something and then run back up the hill.  I realized that this was one of my neighbor's grand sons, and he was driving a remote controlled car around.  He was making it go over jumps and had apparently jumped it right off the cliff into my backyard.  I had kicked him off my property in the past for shooting rabbits and quail, so he was watching me, because he didn't want to get into trouble for getting his car.  I didn't care if he got his car.  I just didn't want him standing up there watching me, invading my privacy, and distracting my horses while I was trying to train them.  If I took my horses to a public livestock arena and an audience gathered around to watch, I wouldn't mind one bit, but I expect to be left alone when I am working with horses in my own backyard.

I finished lunging Bombay and swapped him out with Gabbrielle, and she was a ball of nerves with that guy up on the cliff making a whirring noise.  I tried making her responsible for maintaining the gait I ask for until I cued her to switch to a different gait.  She did a pretty good job, so I halted her and walked up to her to pet and praise her.  Just as I was reaching out to stroke her face, she jerked her head to the left and then to the right, and jumped forward right into me.

One of my pet peeves about spooky horses is that they jump on top of me when they spook.  I hate that, and in that moment I decided that I was going to make it abundantly clear that this horse was to never, ever do that again.  I'm an old lady with brittle bones and I don't need an 800-pound horse jumping into my lap because she's imagining that the Boogie Man is coming up from behind her.  She ended up seeing the painful end of the lead rope.

Then we played a game called "Look at Me or Get Smacked and Backed".  I'd approach her to give her a cue, and every single time, she'd jerk her head around in a panic, and jump.  I suspect that transitioning from one activity to the next was giving her a few seconds to pay attention to what was going on around us and find something to spook at.  But after getting smacked by the lead rope and backed up several yards for spooking or thinking of spooking, she quickly learned to keep her eyes on me.  Normally, she jumps left and right and tries to drag me from the round pen to the barn after one of our sessions, but this time she was very well behaved and focusing on staying at my side going my pace and giving me my space.

After I released her and walked behind her to latch the gate, she kicked out at a fly, so I had to smack her on the legs with the lead rope to teach her not to kick when I am in the vicinity.  When I say "smack", I seriously doubt she felt much more than startled.  The popping noise was probably worse than the sting.  It's nothing compared to what a horse's hooves could do to me should they connect with my kneecap or head.

She can get quite sassy with me, sometimes smacking me in the face with her tail on purpose and sometimes doing warning kicks.  She's so full of herself in her herd, bullying the boys into submission and whatnot, that sometimes she forgets that her reign does not extend to the human race.  There are a lot of things about Gabbrielle's behavior that irritate me including the way she chases all the horses out of the barn and stands in the entrance to block them from getting back inside when it is raining.  She also attacks horses when they simply try to get a drink out of a water trough.  She acts like she suddenly decided that she had to drink that water and they were in her way.  She chases horses into corners and then turns her butt toward them and kicks them repeatedly.  She's not a nice horse, and every once in a while it is necessary to give her an attitude adjustment before someone gets hurt.

Then there's Lostine.  Sweet, sweet Lostine.  Lunging her from a chair was no problem.  She even walked right up to me when we finished and let me stroke her and play with her forelock.  I miss the days when she was Queen who reigned over the herd.  She was a kind leader.  I hoped her example would leave an impression in Gabbrielle, but none of us were that lucky.

Later that evening when I pulled the manure wagon up the barn aisle, Rock walked over to greet me.  I petted him and then turned to do something, and Gabbrielle charged him, pushing him into me and knocking me sideways.  Rock jumped off me with a horrified expression, worried that he hurt me, and I chucked the manure fork at Gabbrielle, chasing her out of the barn.  Then I grabbed the long whip from the tack room and kept it with me, but I didn't have to use it because she kept her distance after that.  If I don't set boundaries with that mare, she's going to kill me one of these days.  When she pins her ears at another horse, she's so zoned in, and the menacing look in her eyes is merciless.  It's hard to break her out of that murderous mindset.

It may be time to just keep her locked up in a stall except for a few hours of turnout by herself like I did last year.  I don't know what it is about spring and summer that make her so bitchy, because she gets along with everyone pretty well in the fall and winter.  It's probably a hormonal thing.  I'll run it by my vet when she comes out to do vaccinations and dental work.

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