Feb 28, 2009

Winter Interrupted

Nebraska winter was interrupted this past week
with a couple of nice days
worthy of taking the day off from work
and riding with friends.
With hunting season finally over,
we were able to ride along the river.
Slabs of ice washed ashore littered the interior trails
causing quite a few “WTH” snorts from our equine friends.

The river was low enough
for us to ride on the sandbars.
Isn’t it every woman’s dream
to gallop across the beach?
The ride on Wednesday will have to sustain us
as February returned with a vengeance yesterday;
chilling temperatures
and several inches of snow.

“I could have been a better friend if I hadn’t trusted time. “ – Rod McKuen
In memory of my business colleague and friend, who left this world too soon.
Godspeed, DF

Feb 24, 2009

The Eldest

McCain & Blue - Spring 2006

My oldest son, McCain, is riding in the Richard Shrake clinic at Expo. Although pleased he volunteered, I was surprised. Even though he’s been riding nine of his 14 years on earth, he doesn’t have much interest in horses outside camping and trail riding. He is, however, very relaxed on a horse and a pretty good hand. A neck reiner deluxe! Like me, he doesn’t take a lot of chances and unlike me, is more successful at staying on the top. I remember once when he was just 6 or 7 years old and riding behind me, the horse started bucking and I fell off. I look up to see the horse running away with McCain and was amazed when he reached up for the reins and pulled him in.

McCain on Jo - Spring 2005

Throughout the years, he has mostly rode Blue or whatever horse I was riding. (I think he knew if I thought it safe to ride, then it was okay!) One summer he took special interest in Black and spent some time on the trails with him. The last time he rode with us, I think he claimed Ginger. One of his prouder moments was riding Baby at the Loma Trail Ride in 2005. Equipped with her driving bridle (with blinkers), a youth saddle and a very large bag (as we left her 6 month old filly at home) he trudged down the trail, through dry creek beds and up ravines. And once, when ducking under a large branch, the whole limb fell down across Baby’s butt. They just kept on going.

McCain on Baby - Fall 2005

Since we are only taking Windy to Expo that is the horse he will ride for Richard Shrake. I don’t recall if and when he has ever ridden her before. So tonight after work and school, we had a little Windy 101. He picked her feet while I saddled her. We went to the arena and I showed him how to hold the reins as she is used to being ridden with both hands. I showed him how to use his feet & legs when moving the reins. I showed him the gist of turning on the forehand and pivoting on the hindquarters and the cues to back her. One cluck to walk, two to trot, and kiss to lope. It sounds like lessons were a lot prettier than they really were. He listened, but I'm not a good teacher. And half the arena was muddy. I was on Butter who was in a foul mood. None of us loped any pretty circles. But I keep telling myself, he will be just fine.

Funny story: When we first got to the barn tonight, McCain went into the tack room while I fetched the horses. He came out as I brought them up to the hitching post.

“Where’s my saddle,” he said. It has been a long time since he rode. The saddle he was referring was a 14” Wintec western youth saddle.

“I sold it,” I told him. He looked at me confused -- like how could I sell his saddle? I went on to explain being that he is a half inch taller than me, we wear the same sized jeans, and as little as he rides, I think my Circle Y saddle (which is not my primary saddle) will fit him just fine. Of course he had to ask how much I sold his saddle for, no doubt hoping he could cash in!

McCain's horse "power" today

Feb 21, 2009

No Sympathy for Exxon

I usually try to post a pretty picture on my blog. This is about as pretty as I have seen the diesel prices in a long, long time – so even though it is only a cell phone shot, it is beautiful in my eyes!

When we bought our 1998 Chevrolet Silverado 1 ton diesel truck in the year 2000, diesel prices were right around .98 cents a gallon. Our 30+ gallon tank could be filled for $30 and some change. And when we took our summer vacation to Texas that year, we drove the truck and I recorded about 17 mpg highway. Not bad. When we pulled the four-horse trailer fully loaded, we were getting around 12 mpg. At a buck a gallon, it wasn’t a burden.

Then, it was like the world knew that the one person in the world who spends money foolishly now bought horses! The price of horse flesh went down and the price of fuel went up. As fuel went up, so did hay prices and everything else! Heck, I boycotted eggs when they were over $2 a dozen at the store. And when a bag of grapes rang up for over $7, I told the family, “No More Grapes!” My horse’s trims are up $10 per horse and to shoe four horses for our vacation to South Dakota last summer, I considered a second mortgage! And wouldn’t you know it, when we finally do leave for our trip last June, diesel tops out that week at $4.75 a gallon!

And another funny thing happened; in the last nine years, my truck’s mileage started to drop and we are lucky to get 7 mpg pulling 4 horses! What is up with that? I am pretty sure the oil companies are to blame! A colleague questioned this trip to South Dakota which was now going to cost hundreds in fuel. He said, “Just think, Tammy, every 7 miles you drive, you may as well just toss five bucks out the window!” Riding in South Dakota was worth every penny!

I wish I kept track of what I spent on fuel last year but glad I didn’t. My heart couldn’t take it. I could have probably fed the poor in some remote country. I am serious as a heart attack when I say I blame the economic crisis on the oil companies. When fuel prices triple, more of the paycheck is needed to just get a person to work. Then there is the increased price of food and goods. Many just didn’t have enough left to pay the mortgage. People do live that close to the edge. Those in the oil companies who took home bonuses after their record year -- in amounts we could never fathom -- would never understand what it is like to make the decision between food and shelter. And that’s about as political as I will get on this blog.

In horse talk, what $1.99 diesel does for me is makes me want to plan another trip! I’d go back to South Dakota in a heartbeat; or Colorado or Wyoming. John's job took a nosedive in this economy, so looks like Hi-Ho Silverado will be with us for awhile. We'll doctor his "last leg" for another horse trip. Doesn’t seem so bad when I’m only throwing $2 out the window every 7 miles! We'll be eating grapes on the way!


Feb 20, 2009

Preparing for Expo

The above picture was taken by my friend, Joni. She was on a sled (not a sleigh, a sled) behind her big horse, Cody! Taken with a cell phone, it was a great shot!

Thirty-one days until spring. Although that is just a date on the calendar and no guarantee of sunshine and warmth, leaving winter behind is like shaking a monkey off my back. Last week’s snow is still on the ground albeit it’s splotchy. It is suppose to warm up next week, so we will be boggy again for awhile again. There will be plenty of mud just in time to get Windy ready for the Nebraska Horse Expo!

There was only one year in the last several that we didn’t take a horse to Expo. And I really missed it! As busy as I am during expo, it’s refreshing to take a break, head to the barn and pick the stall or groom and just breathe horse scent for a while. (Okay, so John does the pickin' and I do the smellin'!) It will be Windy’s debut year at Expo. McCain will ride her in the youth clinics with Richard Shrake. I’ll ride her in the trail gear presentation by my trainer & friend, Brenda Messick. I’ll also ride in the Parade of Breeds on Saturday night. She’ll be filler for other clinics and presentations, as needed.

I asked the boys if they were interested in riding with Richard Schrake. I wasn’t sure if either would be keen on the idea and was surprised when McCain volunteered. Since he has never rode Windy that I recall, I mentioned he will have to ride before Expo so he familiarizes himself with her. That has yet to happen, but I’ll push. I want both of them to make a good showing and hoping he can pick up some tips from Richard, as well.

The farrier was here earlier this week and did three head. He’ll be back to do Windy and Butter the week before Expo. While I was in the barn getting the horses ready, I looked closely for signs of shedding, but nothing yet. Following Expo, Windy is going to Brenda’s for a spring tune-up and then riding season will officially begin. No doubt, she’ll be slick when she returns home.

If you live in the area, let me know if you plan to go to Expo this year. An anonymous poll is at the top of the page, in the right hand corner.

Feb 18, 2009

Nebraska Horse Expo 2009

It's been a busy week. For the last four years, I have been on the Nebraska Horse Expo committee. Among other things, my most important duty is being handed the names of all our equine exhibitors, all our presenters & special events, and all our clinics and put it on a schedule and make it work. This week has been crunch week! And it's not as easy as filling in the blanks.

There are always nuances to look for... making sure this person who participates in the Mane Challenge is not lined up to do a breed exhibit.... and the list goes on. It all works out in the end but it sure takes a lot to get there.

So my housework has been ignored (well, that's nothing new), my kids probably haven't bathed in a week, I haven't blogged for days (or read my favorite blogs!) and I'm seeing Excel cells in what little sleep I am getting.

And I wouldn't miss Expo planning for the world!

Nebraska Horse Expo will be held March 13 - 15 at the Lancaster Event Center in Lincoln.

Feb 14, 2009

A Message to the Prince

Dear Prince Welch,

Thank you for gifting me the bells. They are not the devil! They are not evil! I didn't have one notion to spin or buck violently. I find them calming and relaxing.

Wanna put your big boy boxers on and come ride with me?

See you at Expo, you big stud!

Windy Vasa

This just in from the Prince

Windy My Love,

I am so happy that you are bonding with the "Bells of Satan". I would love to ride along side of you, although I must ask you not to wear the bells. I feel that I may crap my big boy boxers and you may not find me nearly as handsome. I must warn you those bells could turn evil and cause you much harm, I recommend you buck as hard as you can until you free yourself from them . You will never have to wear them again after that, you will find that they will then be passed on to some other unexpecting soul. Please come and meet me at Expo, we will will stand side by side as spectator pass by in awe at our beautifulness.

Your True Love.....Prince

(The story of Prince & the bells is posted in the comments section)

Feb 13, 2009

It Ain't Over Yet!

It's Back
With a Vengeance


We were warned
The Big Fat Lying Weatherman is never wrong when it’s bad news.

I knew it was too good to last.

Finding a soft spot to roll


Shake it off!


(She doesn't even know she has a splotch of snow smashed between her eyes)

Feb 10, 2009

Riding English

Riding Miss Daisy circa 2004

The first time I ever rode in an English saddle was about five years ago. I was on Daisy, an old appaloosa mare that the kids rode. I still had some fear issues then and I figured she wouldn’t try to pull anything that would cause me to lose my seat. I sidled her up to a bale of hay to mount and rode down into the pasture. I was feeling pretty smart -- thought I had this English thing figured out -- when she stumbled or stepped in a hole and went down on one knee. I slid straight down her mane-less neck and landed on my belly, spread-eagle in front of her. Thank God there wasn't an audience! There was no mounting block in the pasture and I gave up trying to get back on the tall mare in that little saddle. Defeated, I ended up walking back to the barn. My English riding days were over before they got started!

Not long after that, John bought a used dressage saddle. I don’t know what his plans were for it. The couple times he rode in it, he couldn’t keep his butt in the saddle either & it was retired to gathering dust in the tack room. But last winter, I pulled it out again. Windy was the first horse since Daisy that I trusted enough to give it another whirl. I felt I had grown as a rider since my previous experience and ended up having some nice rides in it. When trail riding season started, it went back into the tack room and I hadn't thought much about it again until recently.

One day last week, all of my western saddles were still in the trailer and I wanted a quick ride. I dusted off the english saddle & put it on Windy. Don’t get me wrong – I still know nothing about riding English. But my seat has improved over the last few years and I no longer feel like I am a “flight risk” for falling out of it (although I'll never say never!). It’s one step up from riding bareback and with Windy’s top line, much more comfortable. Tonight, I even cantered while in that saddle and I have to say it was one of the best rides I have had in a long time! What a rush! Without that bulky western saddle between us, I could only imagine this is the closest to loping bareback I will ever get. And it was great!

Riding Windy Today (my son took the picture & missed her legs!)

The good weather continues. It was actually in the sixties today. This is about 25 to 30 degrees above normal, so we shouldn’t get used to it. But I think God knew I had just about had it with the cold weather and sent me a little bit of much needed warmth today and He gave me some wings to fly!

Feb 9, 2009

Weekend Wrap-up

I’ve been working on a blog tonight and never got it finished. It was long and needs pictures and it got too late to put it all together. So I’ll save it for another day. So here I am in bed, it’s 12:21 AM and sleep won’t come.

I had a wonderful weekend. Yes, it’s February in Nebraska but felt nothing like it as the temperatures hovered in the 50’s. I rode about six and half hours on the trails and finished off the weekend riding Windy bareback in the arena and field today. The “not so nice” weather is returning tomorrow.

The above picture is an aerial view of where we rode on Saturday. It’s Homestead Lake, located in Butler County, just about 12 miles from here. Not enough trails to warrant long distance travel to this fine lake, but definitely one us locals can enjoy.

I rode Blue on Saturday. Always wonder if today will be the day he decides he can't load in the two horse trailer anymore, but he didn't let me down. We have a little routine we have to go through to get there: 2 feet first & back out. 4 feet and back out. And then he'll go all the way! We hit two different trails and by the time we loaded for the trip home, he had to lunge a bit before he would "go all the way", but never more than a minute or so total load time. Can't beat it (or him) with a stick.

Feb 4, 2009

Friday Night Follies

Last Friday, my friend Sheila and I went to Chance Ridge to ride. Our goal was to video tape each other so we could critique ourselves and our riding styles. I must mention that I use the word "style" loosely as I am really not sure I have much of a style! My hope is simply not to embarrass myself too much, is all.

I ended up taking both Ginger and Windy and wasn't surprised to find that Sheila brought both her geldings, Jake & Cooper. I saddled my mares; started by riding Ginger and ponying Windy and after a bit, tied Windy off and continued to ride the rail with Sheila. Before we knew it, an hour had passed. We switched horses then and I warmed up Windy for the big filming debut.

We each took our turn while the other shot the video clip. Sheila is a very good rider -- self-taught at a lot of things and someone whom I consider a true "student of the horse." I welcomed her feedback and was eager to try some of her suggestions. When I got home and viewed the video clip.... Oh My Gosh! Sheila was so kind! Let's just say I'm glad I have a pretty horse! And I'll say right now, you won't see that video clip here!

After our "demonstration", we turned the horses loose in the arena. A friend, who recently had surgery on her broken leg, entered the building in a wheelchair and she caught the horses' attention and off they went! They were putting on such a show, that we kept them going for awhile. Now this is a video clip worth watching!

Cast of Characters:
Bay Mare: Windy
Sorrel Mare: Ginger
Gray Gelding: Cooper
Gold: Jake

Ginger is Windy's dam. Watch the likeness as they run. Sometimes it appears they are synchronized! And what do you think about Jake's color -- the one I indicated as "gold"? He is registered "sorrel with flaxen" but others have said he appears smutty palomino. I believe Sheila said one parent was sorrel and the other palomino. He has no dorsal stripe, so is not dun. His color has always fascinated us so would be curious to see what you think.

It would be remiss of me not to mention how lucky we are to be invited to ride at Chance Ridge, just west of Omaha. Dr. Burton and Cindy Smith have truly the best equestrian set-up that I have had the pleasure and privilege to ride. And some of the most awesome quarter horses I have ever seen! I thank them for sharing it with us!

Feb 1, 2009

Riding Out of January

Really, there aren't many good things I can say about January in Nebraska. I’m trying hard and words won’t come. I guess the BEST thing about January in Nebraska is the LAST day of January in Nebraska! And this year we got a good one! We woke up to this sunrise and it welcomed in one of those rare, incredible 60 degree days! Forgetting all about -14 temperatures, frozen pipes, heavy coats and runny noses! It was time to ride!

We started tracking the weather almost a week ago. The Big Fat Lying Weatherman was hinting that the high could reach 48 degrees on Saturday. Heck, at this point, we would take anything over 30, so the Horsetales group started making plans to ride at Two Rivers. As the week progressed and the predictions remained the same, it looked like we were good to go.

I had planned to take Blue – haven’t had him out for awhile, but he is due to have his feet trimmed and they didn’t look the best. Since I just had Ginger and Windy at Chance Ridge the night before, I chose Butter for this ride. She darn near haltered and loaded herself! I think she was as ready as I was to get out and go! And pretty sure I saw pouts on the rest of the herd’s faces!

Sixteen riders met at Two Rivers for a ride scheduled at 12:30. The weather was so nice, most of us got out there a little early and were saddled and on by noon! The wildlife area is still closed to horses out of respect for the hunting seasons, but there is still enough park area to get a few hours of riding. Footing in the wildlife area would have probably been too poor anyway.

For as nice of a day as it was, the park was unusually quiet. Saw a few campers (oh, my – people really camp in Nebraska in January?) Heard the hunter’s gunfire in the distance. Startled up some deer who made a run for it around our group. Watered the horses where the ice had melted at the lake’s edge. We just couldn’t get enough of the day! Had a great 3.5 hour ride with friends!

Once home, I just wanted to savor the day. I unloaded Butter and fetched Windy. Saddled her up in an English saddle (just for the heck of it) and headed down the road. She felt good and eager to go. We rode until the sun was setting, my hands were chilled without my gloves. But what a wonderful end to a great day! My psyche is now refreshed! February, here we come!

(For more pictures from todays ride, visit Horsetrailriders.com.)