Oct 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

According to weather.com, in my area, it rained 17 out of 31 days in October. Jeez. Enough already! But I’m happy to report that the sun is shining through my office window right this moment and we are being teased with a prediction of the highs in the 50’s this afternoon! Last night as we were driving home, I saw the moon. It had been so long since the skies were clear that I didn’t even know what moon phase we were currently in!

Yesterday we had the works. Wind, drizzle, mist, rain… Talk about the jackpot of crummy weather. Sheila and I had plans to ride as that was NOT what was predicted. So instead of scrapping our plans entirely, we went to a friend’s arena for a few hours. I took both Windy and Butter and Sheila brought Cooper. I think the horses even enjoyed being out of the mud. I’m always surprised at how well Butter does in an arena environment. Much better, I hate to say, than my Windy. Although she was none too keen on Cooper, poor guy!

Happy Halloween. Hope you see some sunshine in your neck of the woods.

Oct 28, 2009

Fall Riding

I’ll be wrapping up this month with the least amount of October Trail Time hours I have ever had! The weather has not cooperated for fall riding, which unfortunately for me, is my favorite time to ride! Thankfully, last weekend we managed to steal some time on the trail, albeit the weather wasn’t the most pleasant. In other words, it didn't totally suck, but almost.

On Saturday, Mary picked me up and we went to the Halloween Ride at Bader Park near Chapman, Nebraska. It turned out to be a small group, but fun. Riders were invited to come in costume. I was tempted, had I the gumption to put together a costume, but I didn’t. There were other activities at Bader Park that day, unrelated to horses. Several young girls at these other activities were drawn to the horses like many of us would have been at their age.

The next day, John and I rode as safety riders for the 4H Poker Ride at Cunningham Lake. It was well attended despite the unpredictable weather. The wind was brutal both days, but thankfully we managed to stay dry.

All in all, I rode about 6 hours and I swear to God, I was saddle sore for the first time in a long time! I’m pretty sure it was the result of an unplanned jump. I thought Windy was going to walk through the water and she decided to leap without consulting me. It wasn’t pretty but I stayed on top. Kind of felt a bit like this bad jumper guy! (I'll insert video when I have more time, but for now you can link to it.)

PS: Regarding my previous rant about fall colors... I stand mistaken. All is not lost in Nebraska. Well, in my neck of the woods, the color is gone, but I've been working at our home office in mid-town Lincoln & surprised at how lovely the trees are in town. So I'm getting a little of the fall colors :)

Oct 25, 2009

Sunday Stills ~ Fall Foliage

Sunday Stills is a place to hone your photography skills. Each Week Ed issues a new “Challenge” that gives us the opportunity to pick up what ever kind of camera we own and try and meet it. This week's challenge is fall foliage.

Fall is my favorite time of year. Any other year, I would have had a number of pictures to choose from. But this year in Nebraska, we got robbed of fall. Winter snuck it's head in the door and planted several inches of snow on our changing trees. Then a week of rain every other day, finished them off. No fall. No Indian summer. Outside it looks (and feels like) gray November.

I only hope that November will pay us back for the gloomy October. But for some reason, I don't think we'll be so lucky. I think winter just plain came early and we are paying it back for having a wonderful summer.

It started out brilliantly, then a blanket of snow and a blink of an eye, and it was gone.

Oct 21, 2009

Trail & Poker Ride on Sunday

My friend, Shari, has been so helpful to me in my preparation for and competing in Competitive Trail Riding. So in return, I want to give her a little pub for an event which she has coming up this weekend.

The Nebraska 4-H Hippology Team is hosting a trail ride fundraiser this Sunday, October 25th, at Lake Cunningham to raise money to compete at nationals in Denver. There are many awesome RAFFLE PRIZES, including unique horse pottery, a handmade horseshoe end table, picture frames and much more. Each entry or meal paid gets a ticket, and additional tickets may be purchased for $1. There are CASH REWARDS for the top 3 poker hands. Plus, THERE IS A TACK SALE and have been some great donations of headstalls, show blankets, girths, helmets, stable supplies - all new or like new! Brats and burgers fresh off the grill following the ride.

Come and ride with us! Or just join us for the meal and the prizes! Whenever horse people are together, it's a great time! Click on above picture for event information.

Oct 19, 2009

The Young Riders

On Sunday, we had a family reunion of sorts. Thirty-odd relatives (odd?) for a little Vasa family bliss. My side of the family is quite small. My parents are both gone. I have an older sister, her husband and their two kids and younger brother and his daughter. So a reunion on my side would be equal 10 people counting us. Total. The thirty “odd” that we had on John’s side wasn’t even half of his siblings. You can about imagine holidays at the Vasas.

We finally got a break in the weather after a long, damp and cold week. After carving pumpkins, jumping on the trampoline, and messing up my hay in the hayloft, Case and a few of the pre-teen (or just barely teen) cousins meandered down to the pasture with halters in tow and wrangled themselves some horses. It was just the excuse I needed to get out of the kitchen.

Frank on Butter. Yes, helmets for everyone. Someone was still fetching them from the trailer.

I tried to talk them into riding bareback but none of them were real keen on that idea. So Case tacked up Butter and Ginger and I saddled Blue and Windy, and sent the kids to my arena for a warm-up. I set up some short patterns for them to try. Weaving around cones, a small jump, and walking over the bridge. Of course most of them preferred just running around. Then they asked if they could go out into the pasture.

Case's trail ride down to the pasture. Case is in the lead, followed by Frank on Butter, Lauren on Blue & Morgan on Windy. There is road construction going on behind them.

Hmm. Case was on Ginger. She is the boss mare and if she is kept on a tight rein, so to speak, the other horses will be fine. Can I keep Case on a tight enough rein? Can I trust him to just walk and not be tempted to show off to his cousins how Ginger can run 40 mph? I threatened him with everything dear as I opened the gate to the arena. But I also knew he could handle it.

As the nieces and nephews get older, I am less nervous with them riding. I trust my small herd of trail horses and most likely none of the young riders will get themselves into too much trouble. I remember the glory I felt when I was a child and given the opportunity to ride a horse – any horse. And the older Case gets, the more confident I am of his riding abilities and herd control when riding in a group. This is the first time I let him lead a group of young kids down into the pasture without John or me and he made me proud.

By now, some of the younger girls had gathered and were most eager for their turn. They watched anxiously as the others rode down in the pasture. I decided we needed one more horse so everyone could get a turn & engaged these girls into helping me saddle Baby. I had her ready by the time Case’s gang rode back up. The boys were done riding and swapped out their horses to the younger girls. One of the older girls took Baby and handed Windy over to her sister. Another, who was not yet confident at riding solo, rode double with her cousin on Blue.

It was fun to watch what my horses could do (and didn’t do) for these girls. Ginger, normally the spitfire, dropped down to low gear for her timid rider. Blue was loping the rail like he did it every day for one of my older nieces. And Baby looked so happy just to be getting some attention. (Somebody really should put some time on that mare!) I was surprised at how well she handled for her small rider.

Go, Baby, Go!

The girls were anxious to help me untack and put away the saddles. One of the girls had Blue’s cinch unhooked while his rider was still on and another forgot Butter’s rear cinch. But the horses stood quietly while their amateur handlers moved quickly around them. And a quick inspection of the tack room had everything put back where it belonged. It was truly a highlight of their day. And mine, too.

Oct 18, 2009

Sunday Stills ~ The Letter C

Sunday Stills is a place to hone your photography skills. Each week Ed issues a new “Challenge” that gives us the opportunity to pick up what ever kind of camera we own and try to meet the challenge. This week's challenge is "The Letter C".

Coincidentally, I just got a fabulous shot yesterday, using just my little Canon point & shoot, of our old Cottonwood tree out in the pasture. It has lost most of it's leaves and gave sort of an eery appearance. The picture itself wasn't too impressive, but it was one that begged to be Photoshopped. Since I missed last week's challenge, I thought I would integrate the two.

This is the shot straight out of the camera.

Here I brought out the color of the sky.

This one is my favorite. Reminds me of something etched on copper. It is interesting how this particular action pulled out the different colors in the sky which you would not have seen in the previous two pictures.

And here I applied a texture of sorts to the picture.

While downloading pictures from this camera, I came upon this picture of one of our cats, Mickey. Quite striking, isn't he? (Yes, he is missing an eye - he was a stray & it was missing when he showed up here). However, I can't take credit for this picture. I believe it must have been taken by my older son, McCain. I liked this shot & it started with a c. Cat. So I thought I would share it, as well.

Thanks, Ed, for this new challenge. Looking forward to seeing everyone else's pictures!

Oct 15, 2009

A "Grand Finale" To A Friend

On Saturday afternoon, I got a phone call from my friend and trainer, Brenda Messick. Some of you may read her blog, Horses Are Our Life. She had just completed Day 1 of the Indian Cave Competitive Trail Ride when her horse, Finny, appeared to be colicking. She called from the road and was rushing him to her vet. My heart skipped a beat and I said a silent prayer for both of them….

I’m knocking wood as I write this, as we haven’t experienced colic in our herd, but often thought about it like one does about a number of undesirable sicknesses and diseases – knowing it exists but hoping it doesn’t come knocking on our door. I know it’s not necessarily a death sentence and depending on the severity, could be treated with something as mild as hand walking and Banamine or being “oiled” by the vet. But the nightmares we hear about colic involves surgery being the only option to save the horse. I cringe at the thought.

I could argue that horses are a necessity to maintaining my mental health, but the reality is I can pull my emotions in check when faced with what could be a very large veterinary expense. Over a decade ago, I recall thinking the platinum MasterCard was going to save the life of my beloved dog, Macy, only to have to have her put down two days later. Paying that monthly installment for “the try” was a bitter reminder of thinking with my heart and not my head and of what we loved and lost. It taught me not everything we love can be saved, the vets aren’t God and that sometimes we just have to say goodbye. I was at peace with that school of thought when my young gelding, Gunner, was mortally injured in a pasture accident years later. I won’t say it didn’t suck, because it did.

Finny was Brenda’s baby – almost literally -- as his dam died of colic when he was a foal. Brenda raised the young colt to become the fine 8-year-old gelding. The black horse, standing 15.3 hh, was quite striking with his tall white socks and his off-center wide blaze. Finny was not only recognized for regularly placing the last couple years in many of NATRC’s Region 6 Competitive Trail Rides, but he also served as a lesson horse and was a favorite among Brenda’s students.

I’ve known Finny since I’ve known Brenda. While taking lessons, she would be mounted on Finny, demonstrating what Windy and I should be doing while we never mastered it as eloquently as Finny could. Windy was comfortable with Finny and he was one of the few horses she wouldn’t pin her ears at. I think she must have had a crush on him.

Brenda and I both like to ride fast. The clouds in the distance didn’t seem a threat on what looked like a beautiful summer day last year when we were trotting and loping down the Oak Creek Trail. But the further out we got, the closer the clouds came toward us and before long, we were dodging lightning bolts in the pouring rain! On Finny and Windy, we ran for cover and waited out the storm. And as soon as the storm lifted, we raced our horses back to the trailers, freezing in our wet clothes.

More recently, we met prior to a Platte River Riders ride to put in some long trotting before the rest of the group arrived. With Windy leading, we began crossing the narrow, arched bridge. About half way across, the bridge started to wobble. Windy stopped, obviously concerned. It was too narrow for her to turn around, and no matter how I prodded her, no way, no how was she going to go forward! So she started to back up. Finny was right behind us and being the good sport he was, rather than fight to move forward, he went into reverse, too. And both horses gracefully backed all the way off that bridge!

We teamed up with Brenda and Finny at the Stephen’s Forest CTR a few weeks ago. I remember how excited we were after the “trot and jump” obstacle that we both nailed! And a funny moment started out not so funny when Windy was stung by a horse fly and started to buck as the relentless bug came back for more. I told Brenda we needed to get out of here fast. “Run!” Brenda, confused by the urgency caused by a horse fly, moved off the trail so Windy and I could quickly pass. As I am galloping down the trail, I glance behind me and see Brenda and Finny now at a dead run behind us! After our sudden departure, it seemed the fly had set it sights on poor Finny!

Windy and Finny’s pace was well matched. Finny was usually in the lead with his bold extended trot and I would try to keep Windy at least a horse length behind him. But what I remember most, was the times our horses were side by side, matching hoof falls, running through the forest.

Brenda’s Finny was diagnosed with a twisted gut and the vet concurred that she was losing him. She made the heartbreaking decision to take his pain away and let him go. I still find myself tearing up as I type this. I’m so glad I had that last ride with Finny and such good memories from that fall weekend.

My heart breaks for Brenda and the loss of her partner, Blues Grand Finale. Only the good die young, it seems. God speed, Finny. I’ll miss running next to you.

Oct 10, 2009

It's Back!

ATTENTION weather gods. This is Nebraska. We put up with bone chilling winters, spring tornados and hot humid summers because we know the best is yet to come. Every year we are rewarded with the most sacred time of year: Fall. Changing colors, burning leaves, football games, and sweatshirt weather. Rides throught the country without sweaty saddle pads. Anything goes. Typically, we get this nice break until about the week before Thanksgiving. Then we see the doctor about refilling our happy pills and hunker down for the next few months of winter hell.

But this morning, October 10th, 2009, we woke up THIS! Several inches of snow on the ground and my weather bug is screaming 28 degrees. THIS.IS.NOT.RIGHT. Winter cannot / should not cut into our fall time. The horses’ coats aren’t thick enough for this. They are calling foul! The St. Bernard has moved inside! We haven’t had an Indian summer!


This is 15 HOURS LATER!

Most of all, my brain is not prepared for this. I have plans! If this is the official start of a long winter, I want out!

Oct 9, 2009

Legal Thievery

10/2209 Update: See bottom of this blog for more information on unifying neighbors to present a unite front.

Eminent Domain: The power to take private property for public use by a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property.

CITY OF GRETNA, NEBRASKA. CITY COUNCIL PUBLIC HEARING..... Notice is hereby given that a PUBLIC HEARING of the CITY COUNCIL of the City of Gretna, Nebraska, will be held at 7:00 o’clock p.m. on November 17, 2009, as part of their regular meeting, to hear public comment regarding Eminent Domain....

Hidden away behind the property’s legal description is the city of Gretna, Nebraska’s plan to take away land from my friend. Specifically, her mother-in-law. The small hay field that she derives a small income from to supplement her retirement. The land that her son and daughter-in-law and granddaughter use not only to feed their small herd of horses, but for riding. The land that has been in the family for a long time and they hoped would remain in the family through this next century. And not only their land, but land of their neighbors is up for grabs, too. And it's more than land -- it's a lifestyle.

Is the city looking to put in new roads or perhaps a new school? No! They plan to take away the land from those who appreciate the rural lifestyle and put in a "youth complex". A soccer field! I can't help but think about the old song lyrics "pave paradise and put in a parking lot." This has left me almost speechless.

My friend is not just a horse owner; she is a 4H leader. And an active one at that. Their land is used not only by her and her family, but by members of her 4H club. It is an open area for riding and the roads are as safe as roads can be for trailer-less kids commuting by horseback. My friend and her daughter are also active in Competitive Trail Riding and use their rural roads for conditioning their horses. The traffic generated from a soccer complex will take away the option of road riding for safety reasons alone. From personal experience, I know city people have no clue how to drive near and around horses. Not only the traffic, but the lights from the complex will completely ruin their rural paradise.

Since when does a sport (not a road, not a school, but a sport!) take priority over someone else’s lifestyle? Even though my friends are active in 4H, their neighbors also risk losing their property and their quiet way of life to the soccer moms and dads of Gretna, Nebraska. Is there no other parcel of land that could accommodate this without robbing from their rural citizens? Nebraska brags of its pioneer and farming heritage but yet allows it's cities to steal for what they deem an improvement in the city lifestyle?

Most of you probably don’t know my friend or even where Gretna, Nebraska is. (Between Lincoln & Omaha, right off the interstate). But if you are reading this blog, you in some way must appreciate country living and what it means to us, our horse life and our families.

If you agree that eminent domain is not appropriate in this situation, please, post a letter in defense of my friend and her neighbors to the City Clerk of Gretna or attend the public meeting. The more opposition to the asinine idea, the better! Let them find city land for their youth complex and leave the agriculture lifestyle alone! A written objection must be filed with the City Clerk prior to November 17th. A meeting will be held at 7PM on that day in Gretna. Do it quickly!

City Clerk
Gretna City Hall
204 N. McKenna
Gretna, NE 68028

Permission granted to anyone who wants to cross-post or provide a link to this blog.

Update: A forwarded message with permission to crosspost.

Ladies & Gentlemen:

Since many of the people with whom I have spoken are totally against this "Land Grab" that the City of Gretna is interested in, I wonder if anyone thinks we should organize and retain an Attorney to represent our interests?

I suggest that if we are interested in doing so, there are two initial steps to consider:

1. Send a letter to all residents in all surrounding areas where the impact of this ill-advised concept inviting them to an organization meeting PRIOR to the City's schedule meeting. We could get everyone's objections ready for presentation at the City's meeting.

2. Consider hiring an attorney experienced in Zoning Law, etc. I have had on-going disagreements with the City of Gretna when I expanded my office building at the corner of Highways 31 & 370. I retained Gerry Slusky and in each and every case, my position prevailed. There may be other concerned residents with positive experiences with other Attorneys and we could learn about those experiences as well and perhaps invite one or more legal representatives to present their initial suggestions for a course of action.

I am happy to make my conference room available for such a meeting if you believe this is a plan of action that you might be interested in exploring.

Paul Aaron
(402) 679-5741

Oct 8, 2009

PRR End of Season Ride Canceled

Due to a poor forecast (37 degrees & snow!), this weekend's Platte River Riders end of season ride has been canceled.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I can't deal with snow in October.  What is UP WITH THAT??  It's going to be a long winter....

Oct 4, 2009

Sunday Stills ~ Happiness

Sunday Stills is a place to hone your photography skills. Each week Ed issues a new “Challenge” that gives us the opportunity to pick up what ever kind of camera we own and try to meet the challenge. This week's challenge is "Happiness".  How can I pick just one?  This blog could go on and on with my favorite things that make me happy.  But because I am late in getting the post up, I'll just go with a few.  Which to choose, which to choose.....  Since this blog is horse related, I'll start there:

Of course Windy is one of my favorite things; my partner in all things horse. 

And the herd, with the dogs keeping watch.  (Are we keeping you up, Bo?)  I love going out to the pasture and just mingling with the animals.   

Horse trail riding.  The scenery, the views, the friends, the trails.

And horse camping.

My boys have forced me to become a football fan.  Support the home team! Note #55 -- That's my boy!  I'm even happier when we are winning.  It's been a challenging season to say the least.

McCain is the one in the center in white with his hand on another's head.  Not sure if that is legal or not, but he got the job done!  I'm very happy when he has good plays.

Case is #17 in gold, with red socks.  He is the one who has the ball.  Happiness is when he gets up from the pile and looks for me in the audience as if to say "how'd I do?"  This is how we spend our fall evenings!

And last but not least -- well, maybe so -- are my chickens.  They started out McCain's chickens and he lost interest.  So I adopted them.  They are pretty cool and very photogenic. 

"And these are a few of my favorite things....."

Oct 3, 2009


A friend referred me to this blog of horse Halloween costumes.  There are some very good ideas!  I especially like the hippie & the horse wearing bell bottoms!   And the clown at the left is too cute!  Windy would look fabulous as a bee!  Click on over to  Halloween Horse  for some great ideas!

More pictures from Cowgirl Weekend:

I rode Ginger in the games as Windy had a bit of a swollen ankle.  For this game, there were tennis balls that we were to get & transfer to another bucket.  Most of the gals picked up the bucket to get the ball, but being that Ginger is only 14.3 hh, I thought I had a good chance of reaching it.  I reached the balls okay, but ended up spilling the bucket. 

I did a quick dismount to retrieve the ball & held onto it in my mouth while remounting.  Needless to say, we didn't win this game.  We didn't win any of the games.  We didn't even come close!  But Ginger looks dang good, doesn't she?  She is Windy's dam.  No doubt where Windy gets her good lucks from!

Kathy took this picture of Joan (r) and me.  Joan is all cowgirl.  I liked the cowboy hat/helmet contrast.

Best wishes to my friends, Terri and Arron, on their nuptuals today.  Some of you may follow Terri's blog, The Horse in the Mirror.   Best wishes, you two, on a fabulous life together!