Mar 30, 2009

A Rare Occasion

Two rare events took place at my house tonight. First, Baby, our draft cross, got her turn at going out for a ride and the secondly, John actually rode! By George, I don’t think he has been on a horse since New Year’s Day game day!

It was almost 70 degrees today, but with gale force winds. I wanted to take advantage of the warm temps but wasn’t looking forward to fighting the wind. I had already talked myself into riding Baby – she’s the only one who has had NO time at all on her lately. The last time I rode her, I took a little rock n rollin from her when we touched the electric fence, but for the most part, she is pretty mellow. Just hard to drive with the legs and you tend to have to use the upper body quite a bit. If nothing else, you get quite a workout when you climb aboard the big girl. (See Sheila, I didn't say "plow rein"!)

But John mentioned checking some fence and I suggested if he was going to do that, we should just ride down and check it and perhaps he should put some time on his big horse. And he agreed. I saddled Butter while he bridled Baby & jumped on bareback. I caught up with him down the hill. We rode the fence line, and along the pond and then made it over to the bog which I have Butter crossing now. Baby would have none of that! Her big ol’ feet could have tromped right through it, but John didn’t push her.

Baby is nine years old this year. We have had her since she was a weanling. We have no real use for a big horse like this but she has kind of become a fixture in this horse life of ours. So she stays. Perhaps I’ll ride her next time.

Mar 27, 2009

The Real Mother's Day!

Having married into a large family, I learned early on that Mother’s Day is not about me – it’s about getting together with family – well -- specifically, my husband’s family. And if I even think about skipping out – doing what I want to do on my Mother’s Day, my kid’s will whine and my husband will be in trouble with his mom. There will be whispers around the table about why Tammy isn’t here and how I’ve taken my husband and kids to the dark side (riding horses! Gasp!) So unless I’m having brain surgery, I had better be at the family dinner table on Mother’s Day and I’d better like it!

In anticipation of this blessed family event, the first spring that I started trail riding back in 2001, my friend Tammy M. and I took off from work the Friday before Mother’s Day. We invited a couple friends to come along and we rode the Oak Creek Trail. Tammy M. recalls doing this every Friday before Mother’s Day with other friends long before I had horses, but it was my first. And once I do something I like, I make it a tradition. When 2002 rolled around, more friends were invited and each year since, the ride has grown. Last year there were close to 120 women celebrating Mother’s Day on the Friday Before Mother's Day!

I never in 100 years would have thought this many women would take the day away from work and/or family and come ride with me on our little Oak Creek Trail. But they did and they still do! I’ve had riders come from three states and several hours away, some driving in the night before and spending the night at the trail head! I don’t think it is so much about where we ride but having the opportunity to ride with other women and enjoy our day. And having food catered the last few years, is just icing on the cake! It truly is a Mother’s Day.

Originally, I thought I would rotate the ride to different trails each year but upon further contemplation, I decided the Oak Creek Trail had just what I needed. First, I know this trail like the back of my hand since I helped build it with the Nebraska Horse Trails Committee. It’s close enough to home that we can run over a few times prior to the ride and clear any downed tree branches that the illegal ATV traffic did not move over the winter. And the trail is not difficult by most horse trail rider standards. It runs along a hiking and biking trail which was once a railroad line. Riders can avoid most of the trail obstacles or water crossing by going around them next to the limestone, if needed.

The ride hasn't gone without incident. There is the annual fight with my husband about making sure we have water for the horses at the trail head. (I want it done yesterday and he thinks "zero hour/9 AM" is fine!) There have been a accidents; a rider sustained a few broken ribs and another a broken ankle. The locked bathrooms caused quite a stir last year. But most of all, there have been smiles among women and friends and yes, mothers and daughters, as they share the day.

Now that Expo is over, I’ve got the Friday Before Mother’s Day Ride on my mind. I hope to see you there on the Friday Before!

Pictures from past rides

Mar 24, 2009

Helmet Poll Results

To accompany my recent blog about helmet use, I ran a short survey to see how many of you who read this blog wear helmets. Sixty readers participated in the poll. I think the results are indicative of those who read this blog. In the real world, I would say those that never wear a helmet is a lot higher, especially among casual riders. From my survey,

23% wear a helmet 100% of the time
18% wear a helmet 75 - 99% of the time
15% wear a helmet occasionally
26% never wear a helmet

On the Sunday morning of Expo, my friend Tammy A and I participated in a trail tack demo for Brenda Messick of Messick Tack. I was in a bay mood -- black pants, brown and black jacket, brown and black boots. Of course the goal was to match my bay horse! But my gold helmet just didn't cut it. So I borrowed a new Troxel Cheyenne from a friend. Capped off the outfit quite nicely (pun intended). Talk about a NICE helmet! Check it out! Windy had been quite high all weekend and I was quite happy I didn't have to demonstrate how well the helmet actually worked!

Me and Tammy A at the Trail Tack demo

I appreciate you taking the poll and posting your comments on the original post. I know that post won't make all of you become helmet wearers, but I do hope those of you who have been on the fence about wearing a helmet and find it awkward, embarrassing or out of place will now know I once felt that way, too, but took the plunge and now it has become "the norm" for me and it ain't so bad. I know it's saved my head at least twice! (Okay, so I never told you abut the big tree branch that about knocked me off my horse! I swear, I didn't see it!) And it's super cool if you can find one to match your horse!

If you missed my original post about why I wear a helmet, you can see it here: Hard Headed Woman

Mar 22, 2009

Crammin' It All In

I could have named this blog entry “Making Every Moment Count”. That would seem a bit unhurried which was what this weekend wasn’t! We had two days of basketball tournaments and traveled 150 miles to my niece’s going away party (she's leaving for Iraq) plus got everything back in order after Expo, including cleaning the trailer. Boy, a spilled bottle of Show Sheen really does make the LQ floor slick and the two teen-aged boys sleeping in it last weekend were bigger pigs than my horse!

While Windy is away for her spring tune-up, I have vowed to put time on the other horses – most notably, Case’s mare, Butterscotch aka “Butter”. She’s picked up some bad habits having only a kid riding her most of the time and has become very barn and buddy sour. I enjoy riding her when she is good – and she is a good little mare, but can be quite a handful when she's naughty. We’ve had a few good rides this week and up until the last 100 yards from the barn when we disagreed on which route to take there; this morning’s ride was fun and relaxing.

While Butter took a time-out away from the barn, I saddled Ginger. She knows going through the gate to the arena means work, so had a heckuva time getting her up to the gate to open it from the saddle. So I made it harder work to be outside of the arena and finally she relented. She is starting to really shed and is almost a cherry red right now!

A short time later, my little one-eyed Mickey Kitty found me. He wondered into the arena and greeted Ginger. If I pat my leg, Mickey will jump up to me. I wondered what he would do with me on a horse? What would Ginger do? I made sure I had a good hold on the reins with my right hand and motioned for Mickey to come on up. He did, but he jumped on Ginger’s shoulder, rather than my knee – with his claws out! I swept him up quickly. Ginger barely flinched! Whew! Probably wasn’t a real good idea and no doubt I would have scolded my kids if they tried it! Rode over to the hitching post and let him down.

Left the arena (going out of the gate is so much easier than going in – imagine that!) Rode over to the trailer and fetched Butter from her time-out. Ponied her out to the cornfield and back. Both horses moved along easily. Almost two hours had passed since I went outside. When I got back to the barn, I let Bodett out of the tack room. He visited Mickey for a bit and then smelled noses with the horses. He posed nicely for a picture with Baby. Our gentle giants.

Back to the grind tomorrow….

Mar 20, 2009

Press Release re Expo


The Nebraska Horse Council has been inundated with questions and comments relating to the unfortunate incident at the Nebraska Horse Expo last weekend in which a toddler was injured. In an effort to respond to these inquires we would like to offer the following:

The Nebraska Horse Council is a non-profit organization with the mission to unite, inform and represent Nebraska’s equine community. The purpose of the annual Nebraska Horse Expo is to provide a venue for equine enthusiasts and the public to obtain information and education about the equine industry.

The equine involved in the incident was an 8 month old mule colt. At the time of the incident the mule, its owner and other equine were in a staging area not intended for public display. The animals were waiting to move to the main arena in preparation for the evening “Parade of Breeds.” Efforts were made through the use of concrete barriers, signage, and event volunteers to create separation between vehicle traffic, pedestrians and equine traffic. Without the permission or knowledge of the owner, the mule colt was approached from behind by the child. No one representing the child’s family was asked to leave the Lancaster Event Center when they returned on Saturday evening with questions. They were provided with contact information for both the President and Vice-President of the Council and Co-Chairs for the Nebraska Horse Expo.

The Nebraska Horse Council feels deep sympathy and concern for the injured child. Our prayers are with her and her family for a speedy recovery.

Mar 17, 2009

Another Expo is History

Windy & I in the trail tack demo at Expo

Things I Learned At Expo

When pulling the big trailer, remember the mailbox.

Windy can become buddy sour in 2.4 seconds of stalling next to a strange horse

You really can rent three wireless sound systems 1 hour before show time!

Do not yell at the staff you’ll later need the most

Having my son ride my horse in a clinic wasn’t a good idea

You really can pull a horse or your friends’ kids to participate in a clinic on a moment’s notice

Be careful what you say when testing a microphone as you don't know where else it may be broadcasting.

Windy thinks mules are the devil

Never have your husband fetch a sound system that is plugged into the same electrical strip as the barrel racers clock… while barrel racing is in progress

My friends have my back

Show Sheen works on a dirty horse

Ariats are better than tennis shoes

There are 405,000 square feet in 5 buildings at expo

Walking from building to building all day long will not combat the calories taken in at the concession stand

You can charge beer if you order 4 bottles and have no cash

Windy thinks ponies with American flag stable blankets are the devil

I would not make a good bouncer, but John & Jess would

St. Bernard puppies stop people in their tracks

My friends remembered my birthday

The entire Expo Committee & volunteers are awesome!

People really do read my website & blog!

Mar 11, 2009

Expo Plans!

The Nebraska Horse Expo starts for me tomorrow! Although the doors don’t officially open until noon on Friday, the committee and volunteers will be at the Lancaster Event Center moving in horses, meeting our clinicians and guests and assisting vendors.

I’ll be doing my time between the Nebraska Horse Trails Committee booth and the Expo t-shirt booth. But my primary job will be walking the floors from arena to arena to make sure scheduling is running as planned. I wish I had a pedometer, as I would love to know how many steps I will be taking over the next four days!

I also hope to have time to watch my son ride in the Shrake youth clinics. And if I’m lucky, I’ll sneak away and ride in the flag presentation and Parade of Breeds on Saturday evening! On Sunday morning, I'll ride for Messick Tack's trail tack demo.

Our riding club, The Platte River Riders, will have a booth in the non-profit area! Stop by and pick up a ride schedule. You can also order a PRR t-shirt while at Expo.

It is 11 degrees right now with a “feels like” temperature of –7! It is miserable, but the rest of the week promises temperatures in the 40’s. That’s perfect expo weather! Any warmer and horse people would rather be riding! This is the coldest March that I remember for a long time. I got home late last night and didn’t plug in the truck and paid for it today! Who’d of thought you have to still be plugging in your diesel in March?

Just a reminder that the Nebraska Horse Expo will be held this Friday through Sunday, March 13 –15th. This year’s special guests are Ken McNabb, Julie Goodnight, Richard Shrake and Dianne Olds Rossi and her dancing horses! The Expo schedule is available online!

Mar 6, 2009

Hard Headed Woman

If you've been following this blog, you may recall this story from late last summer. I met some friends at an indoor arena for a play day. I’d been riding a green horse and was quite pleased with how far we had come. When someone rolled a big ball into the arena, my horse’s ears went up and he was in hot pursuit of the ball. Curious and eager. Truly, I was pleased with his reaction. There didn’t seem to be an ounce of fear. And just as I'm thinking we could be playing broom polo, he humped his back and bucked like I’ve never felt before. I remember trying to bring his nose around and the next thing I remember, I was smacking the ground head first, right above my eye….

I belong to many chat groups – mostly just lurk except on those I moderate. It seems no matter what the group, there are topics that people are so passionate about that when brought up, the conversations always tend to go south. Two that come to mind are barefoot vs. shod and helmets. I think I’ll just stick to one for today. Helmets. There are strong opinions from both camps. Although statistics support it, common sense tells me I have less of a chance of a head injury if I hit my head while wearing a helmet. And truly, I don’t care what you do. It is your choice. Your head. Your life. So instead of having to say “but, but , but” when the topic comes up again – and it will – I can just refer to this blog which really is, just my opinion thrown in with some statistical information.

I wear my helmet probably 95% of the time and I am smart enough to know I should wear it every time. (I just wanted to have that 5% disclaimer in case one of you catches me without it.) I ask that my sons (ages 14 & 12) wear a helmet 100% of the time and they do probably 99% of the time. Their exceptions are not valid, but sometimes it just happens. My husband does not wear a helmet. That is his choice. He didn’t use to wear a seatbelt either and now he does. So perhaps he will come around. In my riding circle, I have more friends who do wear helmets than those who don’t. I don’t judge them either way. I know people who are very vocal about wearing a helmet and those who are very adamant they never will. There are extremes to every cause.

Let’s just say I’m not an extremist but I make an informed decision. While it is true that most of the time when you fall from a horse; you probably won’t fall on your head and while it’s also true a helmet will not protect your neck, I wear a helmet for the times when I may fall and I may hit my head. The statistics support there is more of a likelihood that you will receive a head or brain injury when you strike your head. A helmet reduces that risk. Broken bones will most likely heal, a brain injury may not.

Do I give myself a false sense of security by wearing a helmet? Do I take unnecessary chances just because I wear a helmet? No. Once the helmet is on my head, I give it no more thought than I give my boots; it’s just part of my gear. Sometimes after a ride, I have to be reminded to take it off. And I was surprised to find they were not too hot. If you don’t ever wear a hat, you might be uncomfortable at first. But if you normally wear a ball cap or cowboy hat, I think you will find a helmet might be a tad bit cooler with the ventilation helmets offer.

I think the biggest problem about wearing a helmet is the awkwardness of it. Not in the fit or the look, or the flat hair, but in the perception some people have that helmets are just for the inexperienced, unconfident or poor riders. Look around at those who routinely wear helmets. Endurance riders, eventers, fox hunters, hunter/jumpers, and jockeys, to name a few of our top equestrians. We are in good company and I doubt many of those riders even have conversations about helmets. They know the pros to wearing one. I am disappointed that more clinicians and trainers do not wear a helmet or promote helmet use with their students. You would think that would be the first safety option which comes to mind.

True confession. When I started riding again as an adult, I never wore a helmet. I bought them for my kids, but never enforced using them. When my horse stepped on my ankle and broke it while I was on the ground – I wasn’t even riding -- I realized how easily and unexpectedly accidents happen & that clip to my ankle could have been my head or that of one of my sons. And as a result, helmets became a part of our required riding gear. I truly believe my example made the transition easier on my sons. Months later when I saw my youngest thrown from the back of his horse and a crack in the back of his helmet from that fall, I celebrated that decision!

The Statistics

It’s not speed that kills. It’s “gees”. Three hundred gees is the international threshold for serious brain injuries. A fall from 3’, if unprotected can result in an acceleration of more than 300 gees. When riding a horse, your head is usually 6’ off the ground. Approved helmets cannot allow more than 300 gees to pass through it. I don’t have to be a stinkin’ actuary to know that reduces my risk.

The University of Nebraska Extension, partnering with Washington State University, reports that over 60% of all horse related deaths involve head injuries. Read that carefully. It’s not 60% of all falls that cause head injuries, 60% of the time that you hit your head in a fall, you die! Six out of 10 times.

A study done by the University of Nevada reviewed 641 equine accidents from 1986 – 1996. They also reported 60% of all head injuries result in death. In addition, offered these statistics:
  • Of the 14 equine related deaths during the 10 year time period, 90% were the result of head injuries. Twelve of the 14 who died, died from head injuries.
  • 88% of those who died fell from their horse, were kicked in the head when on the ground. They never hit their head on the ground or a rock. They were kicked in their head after they fell from the horse.
If I backed into those statistics looking for a way out of wearing a helmet, I probably could convince myself they aren’t necessary. And I probably wouldn’t have had one on the day I took head-dive from the colt last summer. And I am pretty sure I would have had more than just a headache that day. We all make choices in our horse life. What to feed, how to trim, riding disciplines and breed preferences. Barefoot or shod. Helmets are just another choice and a choice I make.

Equestrian Medical Safety Association and reprinted on

University of Nebraska Helmet Equine Safety; Every Ride Every Time

Mar 4, 2009

The Youngest

Case on Ginger

After we endured temperatures below 0 this past weekend, we were rewarded for our perseverance with sunny and 60 today! Whatever! I am so weather weary! This weekend we’ll be springing ahead into daylight saving time and winter hell will be almost over!

I slipped on a sweatshirt and my riding pants and was surprised when I asked my youngest son, Case, if he wanted to go riding with me and he said, “Yes.” He went on to say “Someone needs to take the buck out of Butter!” Guess he heard me complaining about my short ride on his horse last week and pretty sure he thought he would do better! I put a saddle on Windy, he barebacked. The only dry place was down the road.

I am pleased to report there was no buck in Butter. And even though Case hasn’t had his butt on a horse since November, he rides like it was yesterday. He’s probably even better. He’s taller and stronger; just more grown up. Wish I had grabbed my camera... he was in his basketball sweatpants and athletic shoes, AE sweatshirt and his riding helmet! Equestrian chic? Not!

Case has a nice seat and if he had the passion, he could do anything… rodeo and speed events would have been most likely. When I was planting the seed, we didn’t have the right horse for him and he lost interest. His natural abilities go beyond riding; he excels at all the sports he participates in. And the traditional sports are more his thing than the horses. As someone who has never had any natural ability to do anything except talk too much, I find it uncanny he’s from my loin!

Nonetheless, I enjoyed our time together this afternoon… just riding down the road.

Mar 1, 2009

A New Addition

Madeline & her cat, Tommy

About ten years ago, I found myself without a dog. My old dog had died the previous summer and our 7 year old English Springer Spaniel, Macy, passed away unexpectedly a few months later. The house was unbearably lonely. I found another springer, Madeline, a few weeks after Macy died. It wasn’t long after Maddie settled in, that I was at the Humane Society helping my mom pick out a dog and noticed a St. Bernard in a pen waiting to be adopted. I mentioned it to John later that evening and was surprised when he returned there the next day. He didn’t get the dog I saw, but came home with a big black dog. She resembled a Newfoundland, but we were told she was Lab/Saint cross. For the next 9 years, Jo-Jo was a part of our farm life. We lost her to bone cancer about 1-1/2 years ago.


I thought about getting another giant breed after Jo-Jo died. I like having an outdoor dog to alert us to people coming onto the farm and keeping the wild animals at bay. I ended up finding Ritz, a white German Shepherd. He was 6 months old and bigger than a puppy per se, but something different. After meeting him, the kids unanimously voted we take Ritz home. He came to us with a kennel, his own set of bath towels, a huge box of toys and great medical records. He had every shot known and was bathed weekly at Pet Smart by his former owner. He’s forgotten his cushy start to life living here with us. And other than losing a couple teeth to a horse kick, I’m pretty sure he is about as happy a dog can be!

Puttin' on the Ritz

This past Friday, there was an ad on Craig’s List for 8 week old Saints and priced right – free! My heart started pounding. I was very tempted to call and tell them "YES! I’ll take one or three!" As a friend said, I could ask forgiveness later, right? But I didn’t. Instead I called John and tested the waters. Either he was in a good mood or knew he wouldn’t win the battle. I got the green light.

When Case and I picked up the puppy, we noticed his more humble beginning than that of Ritz. I couldn’t help but think of the Ritz Carlton vs. the Motel 6. So that is how the puppy got his name. Bodett. Tom Bodett. Of the Motel 6 fame. (I’ll leave the light on for you…)

Meet Bo.