Dec 30, 2008

The Ride of Their Life

The temperatures were predicted to be in the forties yesterday. After living through winter hell lately, Julie and I couldn’t make plans fast enough to hit the trails. Sheila didn’t have enough time from her dog sitting job to fetch Cooper and trailer over, so I offered to bring Butter for her to ride. I told Julie I would meet her at 12:30, but left a little bit earlier than planned so Sheila would have some time fitting Butter with her tack.

I haven’t had the trailer hooked up since before Christmas and was annoyed with myself at how many times it took me backing up before I got the truck lined up with the hitch. Am I out of practice or what? When finally there, I got out and lowered the trailer onto the ball, plugged in the lights & brakes and hooked up the chains. Remembered again that John lost the hitch pin when he borrowed my trailer to take the calves to the sale and I still hadn’t replaced it. Case came out as I was finishing up. Chatted with him briefly and then got in the truck and pulled the trailer ahead to the driveway. Opened the doors and went and fetched my horses.

I love my little trailer. It is a 1994 Sundowner bumper pull, two-horse straight load. It is a well made steel trailer, big and roomy and just what I was ready to drive to Texas to buy when a friend found the identical trailer only 70 miles from me for half the price. And since I got it two years ago, I rarely pull my 4-horse trailer anymore unless we are camping or I’m hauling more than 2 horses. My plans when I got the Sundowner was to pull it with our Suburban, but John uses “the Burb” quite frequently for his work, so I pull my Sundowner with the one- ton Chevy truck. A lot of truck for a small trailer, but it’s all I have. If I can get 11 mpg diesel pulling that, I’m happy! Well, not happy but as I said, it’s all I have.

Butter and Windy load easily and start munching on the hay I had Case put in their mangers. Although I never tie my horses in my big slant load, I always hook them to trailer ties in this trailer. I don’t want them trying to get their heads over to the other stall. I closed up the bunk doors, got in the truck and headed down the highway. Two Rivers is about a 30-mile drive.

I’m about 10 miles from my destination and chatting with Robyn on the cell phone when I cross the railroad tracks just east of Mead. Those tracks are always misleading because it looks like they have been recently redone but still rougher than crap. The trailer hits them hard. I glance in the rearview mirror and it took me only a moment to realize that something isn’t right. Robyn said I started shouting "s-bombs” over and over and louder and louder and she knew something had to be wrong with the trailer. And she was right. Something was terribly wrong. It was too close, it was out of control, it was fishtailing, and I could see driver behind me each time it swerved. They were backing off. This wasn’t good….

I tapped the brakes and the trailer rammed the rear end of my truck. I knew then that my trailer was no longer on the truck and the safety chains were my mares' only lifeline to me. I couldn’t lose them. In a flash, I recalled recently reading a recount of a trailer accident on a Yahoo list group and how the husband kept the nose of the truck straight to get control of the trailer. I couldn’t let the trailer take control of the truck. I was scared to slam on my brakes for fear of locking the brakes to the trailer and flipping it, so only let off the gas and tapped the brakes lightly. I knew I had enough truck to stop the trailer but I had to have control first and bring it down slowly. I had no way of knowing that the trailer had already came unplugged from the truck – probably with the first big fishtail – so the trailer brakes were a mute point anyway.

I continued to lightly tap the brakes and let truck take the impact from the trailer to slow the trailer down. In hindsight, I should have known then I had no brakes on the trailer, but it didn't cross my mind until later. I was wondering at that time what the horses were feeling when they would hit and then get jerked back as the trailer hit the end of the chains. Luckily, I was going up a slight hill so that helped slow the rig down, too. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we came to a stop on the side of the road. I got out and ran back to check on Windy and Butter. Windy looked no worse for the wear; she was standing, thank God! And no blood. Ran to Butter’s side & she had her head down munching on hay. Also standing and appeared unscathed.

The tongue of my trailer was under my pick-up and the jack of the trailer was hooked on the underside of my bumper. The chains were still intact. Julie came when I called her – I was worried I might have to unload and needed her help on this busy highway. And more than that, I just needed a friend. The pick-up that I had seen behind me passed and quickly pulled over to offer assistance. He evaluated the situation, left briefly to get more tools and returned with whom I assume was his son. They jacked up the truck to free the trailer and then got the trailer back onto the truck for me – all without unloading the girls. They would accept no payment – just said they hope someone stops to help their wives should they need it sometime. Was the right person following me or what?

I feel very blessed that my horses and I were not hurt. I am very lucky my truck and trailer are both fine. My heavy steel Sundowner took repeated impacts with the truck and kept my girls safe. And even though I complain about my big ol’ diesel burning POS, I am so very happy it is what it is. With that long wheel base, I never once felt like my truck couldn’t handle what the trailer was doing to it. My 1998 Silverado finally lived up to his name: Hi-Ho Silver!

Oh and why did the accident happen to begin with, you ask? It's John’s fault! Isn’t that what all wives say? Okay, it really isn’t. It was my own stupidity. I didn’t replace the lost $2.39 cent safety pin. It’s my trailer. They are my horses. It was my responsibility to fix it and I didn’t. Actually, I had kind of forgotten about it until I hooked it up.

The lack of the safety pin wasn't the issue as much as what that pin makes you accomplish. Under normal circumstances, the safety pin fits snugly into the hitch once the hitch is locked into place. The pin will not go in if the hitch is not locked. Great safety feature! But if you don’t have a pin, you have nothing to test the lock. It wasn't that my lock wasn't working -- I didn't engage the lock. I simply forgot to lock the hitch. I didn’t check or recheck. I just went on my merry way. When the trailer hit those railroad tracks, it simply bounced off the ball because I hadn't locked it down. (Head hits desk over and over!) Today I bought 3 new pins. I will never be pinless again!

Bet you think we never rode after that! Did I mention the temps were in the 40’s and it was a beautiful day? Pulled up to the trail head at 12:30 as planned. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

Drive safe!

Dec 26, 2008

The Day After

After the last week of bone chilling temperatures, today it warmed back into the 50’s – quite unseasonably, I might add. I saddled Windy for a short ride but she felt like she might have some stiffness in her right front leg or shoulder. I lunged her a bit & she seemed a little short-strided. It has been so icy and snow packed in the corral, she could have twisted it or strained a muscle. Decided not to push it with her – there will be other days – and went back to the barn and unsaddled her. Cleaned her stall and messed around with the rest of the herd who seemed as glad to see me as I was them. It’s a muddy mess out there right now, but better than the alternative.

Butterscotch seemed a little forlorn today. As the rest of the herd watched from the feed bunk side of the barn, Butter hung out on the opposite side, looking over the fence at Windy and me. I had opened Windy’s run to the bean field and she had been working her way a little further out. I’d caught Butter testing the gate that would bring her closer to the bean field, too. What the heck? The girl just wants to have fun. Grabbed some twine & slipped it around Butter's neck and lead her through the gate. Once in the bean field, she took off on a dead gallop. My heart skipped a beat knowing how muddy it was, but she seemed pretty sure footed. Her tail flagged and head high, she ran toward Windy. Hearing her coming, Windy took flight and they raced across the terrace and then circled back up to the corral area.

The Holidays are over! At least in my world, they are. For Christmas, we started Christmas Eve at John’s sister’s home in Wahoo, had Christmas morning with just our family and the drove to my sister’s home in Superior that afternoon. We got back home early afternoon today. Ate too much, drank too much and spent too much. And now I’m glad it’s done! Other than taking the horses over to 3V Stables for their annual game day on New Year’s Day, we don’t really celebrate New Year’s.

I know its clich̩ to mention the commercialization of Christmas. But after living through the worst financial crisis of my lifetime this past year Рfrom skyrocketing gas & grocery prices to the crashing of the stock market Рit makes me long to keep things simpler in the future. Being mindful that Case is just 12 years old and that I have allowed myself to fall into the spending trap, I have to be careful not to change too much too soon. I've got eleven months to figure out how to find that perfect balance of helping the boys to appreciate the season with less in their hands and more in their hearts.

From our house to yours.... Merry Christmas!

Dec 21, 2008

The Big Chill

It’s been a chilly weekend. Well, chilly is really too nice of word. It’s more like a living hell. Temperatures have hovered around 0 with wind chills dipping to –27 degrees. Our automatic waterer has frozen up again and we spent part of the day working to make sure all corrals have water. The barn is tolerable, but depending on the hierarchy of the herd, one or more may be left out every now and then but for the most part, all should have shelter from the devil winds.

Welcome to day one of winter. Last week, when the temps were a sultry 10 degrees, I told John we were going to become snowbirds and live in Texas each winter. But desperate times call for desperate measures. To heck with seasonal Texas: let’s just move to Panama for the rest of our lives!

I sat on my lazy butt most of the weekend and started working on fixing some pages on my website, which link from this blog. The last I had worked on it, some of the coding didn’t publish well on all browsers. I hope I got most of that cleaned up. As I was viewing the pages, I became bored with the same old pictures, so decided to replace some to give it a fresh look.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but anytime I start looking at pictures, I lose myself in the past. Today was no exception. Hours past, literally! And some of the questions going through my head as hundreds of pictures flip across my screen are:

· Were my boys really that small when they started riding and without helmets?
· Was I crazy?
· Do I ever relax my reins?
· Are my thighs still that size?
· Is that Windy or Gunner?
· Is that Dash or Ginny?
· Is that Blue or Mikey?
· Why do I buy look-alike horses?
· Why did we sell that horse?
· Why did I cut my hair?
· What happened to that halter?
· Who is that person?
· Does that horse always make my butt look that big?

So I start emailing photos to the Horsetales Yahoo Group – which has been relatively quiet lately. (I know they aren’t riding in this mess – where the heck is everyone?) And before long, I get some return photos from other collections. And we start to reminisce about our horses and our rides and we recall how many of us moved from being cyber friends to “real ones”. The evening passes by quickly now. Less was done on my website than planned but it was more fun chatting with friends online. I even temporarily forgot about the “artic wasteland” as Tracy on Horsetales coined the Midwest today.

As I am commiserating with like minds about everything from blanketing our horses to picking frozen snot from our their noses (the horse, not the friend), I am reminded that many of us on Horsetales got to know each other online during another long winter several years ago. And it wasn’t until riding season that we actually met face to face. People have come and gone from Horsetales, but it continues to be an appreciated lifeline on days like this. And from the looks of it, there will be many days like this yet to come. Just how many miles away is Panama and do they have DSL?

What is the weather like in your neck of the woods and what do you do to get through the day?

Dec 19, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

Pictured is Jo, an appy gelding I used to have. He went on to be leased to a friend and from what I know now, is a "husband horse" for another family. The snow picture was fitting & thought RedDunAppy would appreciate the spots!

I left Tuesday for Philadelphia. I love to travel the week before Christmas! (Not!) But duty called and as much as I would have rather not traveled this time of year, Philly offered temperatures in the 40’s, while here at home we were in the deep freeze! We had two days of long meetings but enjoyed some great cruisine each evening. It was so bad for the diet!

Storms moved into the midwest Thursday night. Although there was no bad weather in Philadelphia, we were traveling through Chicago today and in the best of weather, that is not a reliable connection. I was pleased that we had minimal delays and the wheels touched down in Lincoln around 3:30 this afternoon.

I finished Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen while traveling and it left me longing to see my horses. After dropping my bags in the kitchen and seeing John and the boys briefly (I got more of a welcome home from Ritz!), I put on my coveralls and boots and winter gear. On impulse, I tossed a rice bag in the microwave for a minute and stuck it in my pocket as I headed to the barn.

John had already done chores and Windy was eating by the cows that were on the other side of the fence. I went into the tack room and wrapped the rice bag around the bit of her bridle, took her halter and lead from the hook and headed to her pen. She put her head down into the halter and followed me out of the gate. Fetching her bridle, the bit was warm to the touch -- just right -- and she slipped it into her mouth easily. I was ready to go dashing through the snow.

On a warm summer day, I can sidle her up bareback to the panel fence and quickly slide on with all the finesse a 47-year-old woman can muster. All the romance of such a ride tonight is quickly lost as there is no way to accomplish the same graceful feat in Carhart bib coveralls! Combine that with an ice coated panel fence and the first attempt found me lying across her back trying to bring my big right leg over her rump. (Picture the boy in The Christmas Story with his fat winter gear!)

Once on her warm back, we headed down the driveway. The sound of the snow under her hooves made me wish I had strung the jingle bells around her neck. Ritz darted ahead, his white body lost in the snow. It wasn’t a long ride, but a necessary one. I needed cleansed of big city noise and crowded airports. As I rode back to the barn, the daylight was fading and the snow looked blue in contrast against my bay horse. I’ll miss the Marriott bed tonight, but even that doesn't feel as good as being home.

Dec 18, 2008

All I Want For Christmas....

I always have said that if I had ME on my Christmas list, it would be so easy to shop! Some nice horsy etched wine glasses or horseshoe earrings (studs, please). Or perhaps a new bling belt or better yet, a bling headstall for Windy, which is kind of for me!

When I was at Messick Tack the other day, I saw some great socks with horses on them! And she also had a nice riding jacket (in black, please). In some of the magazines there are sweatshirt that says some clever horse slogan like “Barn Bum” or “I’d Rather Be Riding” -- too frivolous to buy for myself, but what a great gift! ( I prefer a hoodie to a zipper, please.)

Oh, and the tack I could use! Let's see.... I’ve always thought those organizers that held sprays and hoof picks and brushes would be handy. And what I wouldn’t give for one of those lunge lines the NH gurus all pimp -- not because of they are supposed magic, but because they feel so good in my hands!

For camping, I’ve wanted a memory foam pad for the mattress in the trailer as well as a Coleman shelving unit for our outdoor cooking gear. And one of the camp chairs with a built in table and cup holder would also be lovely!

For winter, I would really enjoy a pair of lined riding boots and a sheepskin seat cover for my saddle. And thinking ahead to trail riding this spring, what I wouldn’t give for a new GPS with the built in maps! A new set of pommel bags and some saddle strings would be nice, too.

So you see, if there is an equestrian on your Christmas list, it doesn’t take much to make us happy! Feel free to share this list with my husband and kids or yours.

What horsy item do you want for Christmas? Feel free to add to my list via the comments!

Dec 13, 2008

Time in the Saddle

I have been a member of the AQHA recreational ride program for several years. Three years ago, our Nebraska Horse Trails Committee introduced a similar program in our state called Trail Time. This was my 3rd year of participating. It is not a race. It is not a competition. It is just between you and your horse or horses. For the last 2 years, my goal was to ride 250 hours each year. Come the end of December of both years, I struggled to get there. Went a couple over the first year & a couple shy last year but averaged 250. Never one to sandbag, I set the same goal this year. When August turned out to be exceptionally nice riding weather, I realized I would easily make the 250 hours, so set my sites on 300 hours. And today, December 13, 2008 – Windy and I crossed the finish line at 300 hours of Trail Time!

The temps neared 50 degrees today. The winds were blowing, but it was definitely a ride day. After Case’s basketball game, I went to the corral to fetch my best horse. She didn’t seem to mind me interrupting her meal. She knew today was special.

We headed out the driveway with no destination in mind. Ritz leads the way and we followed. Headed down the hill, rode the pasture to the perimeter trail in the trees and then back along the pond. Realized I had too many layers on & stopped and tied my coat to the saddle.

Went over to my mother-in-law’s pasture and did our pole bending pattern through the trees. Note to self: need to come down with nippers and do some trimming – we had to take some of the poles pretty wide! As we passed the apple trees, Windy glanced in that direction – no doubt remembering the warmer days when we rode under the tree for treats.

As we headed out to the bean field, I squeezed and kissed and we moved directly into a canter. What a rush! She felt good and solid and easy as we climbed the hill. As we neared the top of one of the terraces, Ritz took a dive into the snow drift on the other side and Windy put on her brakes. We turned and continued on top of the terrace until we cleared the snow and continued our climb at close to a gallop. Once on top of the hill, she caught her breath while I snapped some pictures of what is one of the favorite views of our farm.

Our “secret” trail wasn’t open. There was a hotwire up and cows grazing in the cornfield. We turned east and I gave Windy her head, a small squeeze and she easily moved back into a lope. We rode up and down the long slopes of the bean field and even did one small jump across some water and mud in the water way. We got to the edge of the field next to the highway and climbed another terrace to the corn field. There, I stopped and let her forage for corn.

We ended back up in the “pole bending" pasture and weaved in and out one more time. Ritz took a walk around the pond and onto the ice. We had hay on the trailer waiting to be put up in the loft and I could see John up there getting set up. I glanced at the clock on my cell phone and I was 5 minutes from hitting my 300 hours. It was time to go home.

We started a slow lope up the field road, Ritz leading the way. I squeezed tighter and she moved quicker. Before long, we were galloping. Ritz heard us narrowing the gap and got out of the way. I brought her in just as we got to the corner and we walked up our driveway and crossed the finish line, so to speak.

John took our picture to commemorate the event – thus the reason her legs are cut off and her ears aren’t up. (My friends are laughing at the ears!) Other than having a pair of nuisance underwear on, the 300th hour ride couldn’t have been more perfect. It was like Windy knew it was a special day, too. There was nothing I would change about the ride. Galloping through the fields on my best horse!

In my heart there is no doubt
you gave to me unselfishly
the best days of my life

Dec 12, 2008

Random Pictures

Digital photography was the best thing that ever happened to this mediocre (at best) photographer. Sometimes I get lucky and get a good shot. Most of the time, I end up deleting more than I save. But sometimes, the picture may not be right on, but just something about it appeals to me.

The look in the eye….

The position or lines of the body…..

Sometimes, perhaps just the candidness of the shot.


They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, Oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don't take my Kodachrome away

Dec 9, 2008

Saddle Pals

In 1992, I moved to the country shortly after John and I moved an old farm house onto his parents’ property and began to restore it. If you have ever tackled such a project, I’m sure you would agree there is never an end in sight. There is nothing like having two small kids, preparing bottles, changing diapers and living in a cloud of drywall dust! Some days, I was ready to trade it all in for a double wide trailer just so I would have some peace!

Other than family and work, we didn’t have a large circle of close friends. We were quite a ways out of town, I was new to the area and we were too engrossed in our project and children to have much time for socializing.

Horses were truly an afterthought to the whole country living thing and the first ones we bought were most definitely on a whim! We weren’t even finished with our house, let alone have an acreage set up for livestock! But we did and now we do, but I wouldn’t recommend that be the natural order of things!

When you have children, people come out of the woodwork with advice and helpful hints – solicited or not. But other than one of my best friends, who lived in Texas, I had no one to share the horse excitement with. My work friends and family had no interest in this new hobby of mine, just mild amusement. Since we only bought one horse broke to ride, going to the end of the driveway and back was the extent of my horse activity. I wanted more.

As I started adding horses to the herd, I reached out to people I had met who were associated with horses. From those who sold me a horse and actually answered my emails after the fact (either content with the idea that the horse wouldn’t kill me or anxious to find out if perhaps it did) to those looking for volunteers to help build a horse trail in the vicinity. (We didn’t know it would take 5 years!!) The circle continued to grow.

Recently, I had lunch with some “horse friends” (why do I always have to define them as “horse friends” -- like they aren’t “real” friends) that I am pretty sure I’d have never met had we not all had horses. And we talked horses, but we also talked about other things that “real” friends talk about. Kids, family, life in general… And if I were to die tomorrow, I am pretty sure I would have a good showing at my funeral from the horse contingency.

On the same token, I’ve also met some horse people who were like the overzealous breastfeeding mothers, who wrote the book on horses, forgotten more than I will ever know AND were pretty sure I didn’t have a place in it. And that’s okay, too. They provide humor in other ways. And they’ll miss a heckuva party the fun bunch will throw after the funeral!

In addition to the face-to-face friendships, there is Horsetales Yahoo Group, a cyber network of over 200 horse riders and enthusiasts in our area, many of whom communicate daily, others who read and enjoy the daily banter. There are more than a handful of Horsetalers whose numbers are programmed in my cell phone and I consider a good friend – the kind who has my back! (You know who you are!) I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – if I don’t have anyone to ride with, I never asked.

Not only did I find a hobby (obsession) I am totally committed to, but I have made some really great friendships that I cherish. I’m sure it’s true with other activities; that the world opens up just a little bit more and lets a few more into your life because of what you have in common. And all because I wanted more than the occasional ride down the drive. Pretty cool, huh?

Dec 5, 2008

Penthouse Suite

I really don’t know how this will translate to the blog. It is more of a pictorial, and unless you were there, you probably can’t fully appreciate it.

I had a lot of fun in the barn tonight watching herd dynamics and taking pictures. A little background: Although I love all my horses, I’ve put more time and effort into Windy than any of the others. So let’s just say she is special. A bit of a prima donna, I admit, made that way by yours truly.

While she was recovering from an abscess last month, I kept her stalled separately in the barn. After 30 days, she was ready to rejoin the herd. She’d grown quite weary of her stall and run while the others were out to pasture! Well, now the cold weather has moved in and all the horses are brought up to the corral with a round bale. All of a sudden she is thinking her little stall is the place to be. And no way, no how is she going back to the corral with the herd!

Never mind that having her stalled is an inconvenience for me. I’m her slave anyway. So what that it is almost zero with the wind chill and her particular penthouse has no automatic water tank and I have to go out and chop ice from her tank twice daily. I’m out there anyway cleaning her stall. And hand feeding her since she has no round bale in her run. What we do for those we love!

Meanwhile, back in the corral, the herd hears me enter the penthouse suite. Blue sneaks in and peers through the gate separating the “haves” from the “have-nots”. He’s checking to see if she is getting grain. He doesn’t think I can see him!

So I drop some hay down to the bunks on the “have not” side, just so they can get out of the wind for while. There are two bunks on that side of the barn and one in the lean-to. Ginger is not about to share her side of the barn and quickly runs Blue off. (Actually, she is hoping she will get a chance at the penthouse in days to come!)

"Now get out of here and don't come back!" Ginger says to Blue. And Blue has to go and share the bunk with Black and Baby.

Butter usually eats in the lean-to, but knows if she comes begging on the other side of the barn (after everyone else has started eating) that she will get a special treat. Can’t you just hear her saying “pretty please?”

And while everyone else is jockeying for their position, Miss Windy enjoys her formal dining in the penthouse suite (and don't tell the rest of the herd that there is a flake of alfalfa in her trough!). Sometimes life just isn’t fair!

Dec 4, 2008

Call of Duty

This is my 22-year-old niece, Kelsey, riding Black on Thanksgiving. She is with the Nebraska Army National Guard, all 105 pounds of her. We just found out this week that her unit will be called to go to Iraq this coming spring. Quoting Forrest Gump: "That's all I have to say about that."

Dec 2, 2008

Not Your Typical December

Last night, the stars lined up just right to form a celestial spectacular that we won’t see again in our lifetime, so they say. I just happened to hear about it on the radio when we were driving home and McCain said “look” and there it was. Of course my cell phone didn’t capture the brilliance, nor could I keep a steady enough hand using my digital camera after I got home. My friend, Julie Baker, braved the chilly night equipped with her camera and tri-pod and got this great shot!

Tonight, we had another rare occurrence: almost sixty degrees in December. It was KILLING me to sit at work today knowing that friends were out riding. I truly hated them at that moment! (Okay, hate is a strong word – I disliked them at the moment!) Then my phone rings. It was McCain. He left his car lights on in the school parking lot this morning and the battery was dead. Would I come get him? Would I? I couldn’t leave work fast enough to fetch my poor, stranded son. “Get in the car!” I hollered at him as I squealed into the parking lot, my Honda Civic barely on two wheels! “We are burning daylight!” Okay, a slight exaggeration, but I did push it a bit over the speed limit to get home. Changed clothes quickly and saddled Windy in 4 minutes flat.

Enjoyed a little over a half an hour of daylight and rode into the evening. Windy was pretty high, which surprised me. Some of my other (wretched) friends who were riding today also mentioned some of their horses were a bit spirited. I bet they felt as good as we did! There was no wind and even after dark, there was no bite to the air.

Its short lived. The Big Fat Lying Weatherman says the snow will reach us about 3:00 AM tomorrow morning. We’ll awaken to the white stuff. He also says we may have possibly seen the end of the 50’s for 2008. Of course this time he probably isn’t lying.