Feb 24, 2010

Horse Scents

As I have been working on rebuilding Horsetrailriders.com: The Website, I have been reading old posts I wrote for the Stable Talk page. I especially liked this one and it is so fitting right now.

February 28, 2004: Horse Scents

Until this past weekend, January 24th was the last day I had my butt in a saddle. If you recall from my prior Stable Talk, Kathy Newberg and I rode in the cold! When I got home that day, I left my saddle in the trailer. Not unusual during the riding season, but in winter, I prefer to have it inside.

Then the storms hit. Our trailer was drifted in. Every now and then when I was tucked away warm in the house, I thought about my saddle – how I hated to leave it out there. I hoped the trailer wasn’t mysteriously springing a leak and my saddle falling victim to water damage. I would think about my saddle as I pulled out of the driveway to work each morning and think, “tonight I’ll bring it in”. I never did.

This morning I was home when John was leaving for work. For some reason, I thought about my saddle and asked if he would rescue it for me. (What a trooper that John is. I should of thought of him earlier!) I heard him come back in the house with it and never leaving my desk, hollered at him asking if it was okay. It was fine – no worse for the wear, he said. He put it in the corner by the stairs and I didn’t think any more about it.

After finishing my work, I headed down the stairs to the rec room. Something stopped me in my tracks. In that moment - the smell - you know the one I mean. The wonderful smell of leather and horse overloaded my senses. And just for a moment, it was no longer February in Nebraska. The essence of that moment swept me off to warmer days! Is there anything else like it in the world?

Feb 23, 2010

Do They Ride in Rhode Island?

I try to post to this blog a minimum of two times a week and most of the time that comes easy for me. Being that my family doesn’t have the same excitement over horses that I do, I can talk to you about my horse life. If you tune in here, you must get it, right?

When I started Stable Talk on Horsetrailriders.com: The Website years ago, (blogging before I knew what blogging was), I thought I would always have something to say, but after awhile, I started losing my edge. No longer were my posts clever and fun (assuming some of them were to begin with), but almost had the tone of a junior high student having to write his obligatory book report. (Which reminds me, is his book report done?) I got out of the habit of writing something regularly and finished off 2007 with only a dozen stories on Stable Talk.

The next year, when looking for an easy way to tell the tales of our 10-day horse vacation, I discovered Blogger. I had forgotten how much I missed writing. And all of a sudden everything old seemed new again and I looked forward to once again sharing my horse stories. Taking it off my website, Horsetrailriders.com: The Blog gave me a different audience; many of whom had like interests, but not necessarily local. The Blogger community expanded my horse friendships nationwide. How cool is that? Every state in the union and countries I haven’t heard of have tuned in at least once to this blog.

Well…. okay, I lied. Not every state. Forty-nine states to be exact. There is one hold-out. According to Google Analytics, I have no friends in Rhode Island. You would think just one horse person out in Rhode Island would find me. Over 200,000 have found my website and over 50,000 have found this blog. Doesn't Rhode Island have Google? Are there horse trails in Rhode Island? Are there horses in Rhode Island. Just how big is Rhode Island anyway?

As I am rebuilding Horsetrailriders.com: The Website, I was reading some of my old Stable Talk posts from 2004. Some weren’t bad and I’ll include in the archives of the website, while others were so embarrassing, deleting was my only saving grace! I’ll look at 2005 entries tomorrow. I can only take the pain in small doses.

What I am trying to say in this long, drawn out post is while I have been neglectful of this Blog, I have been working behind the scenes on the Website. Yahoo tells me The Website may be back up on Thursday and then I can stop worrying about it and get back to my regular postings on The Blog.

(Re-reading this post, I think a Junior High book report WOULD have been written better and probably more interesting!)

In other news, the Nebraska Horse Expo Schedule is out!

Feb 20, 2010

The Big Reveal

I don’t know what kind of condition or sickness it is, but I tend to start burying myself in a lot of projects – big projects – before the first one is complete. As mentioned in my prior blog, I started revamping my website, horsetrailriders.com, before the house project was done. Not to mention the weekend deadline of having the Nebraska Horse Expo schedule completed. I guess I had to do something while those floors dried.

We moved back into the living room late yesterday afternoon. Of course with new paint and floors, I would love to have new furniture, but that will have to wait. I do plan to get a big area rug for the center of the room. I’ll be looking for colors which lighten up the space. It's funny, the paint color is the same in all these rooms but takes on a different look depending on the lighting. The picture below, I believe, is the best representation of the true color.

This foyer behind the columns has always been one of those spaces I wasn’t sure what to do with. I think I’ll find a pretty upholstered bench to put in front of the staircase. John still needs to hang the chandelier. Today, we’ll put the dining room back together but I’ll hold on those pictures until I get curtains for the room. It’s my mother-in-law’s birthday this weekend, so John invited guests over on Sunday. Guess we’ll break it all in.

For those interested in the status of Horsetrailriders.com ~ The Website, I’m just waiting for the domain name transfer to happen – which everyone tells me is silly to have taken this long – but I’m at the mercy of Yahoo, I guess. You can, however, have a sneak preview here or by using the side navigation at the top of this page.

Feb 16, 2010


I am in the process of doing a bunch of technical stuff to Horsetrailriders.com ~ the website, not the blog. Fun stuff like changing webhosts, moving domain names & all this stuff that takes too much time and no instant gratification. No doubt, the timing will be off and Horsetrailriders.com will go black for a day or two or more. And when it comes back, who knows what I will need to do to bring all your favorite pages back up. But I'll try really hard.

I don't know why I do these things when I have 101 other things to do right now! I guess I work better under pressure or something. So if its gone, it will be back. Check here for status updates...


Feb 13, 2010

I Got Nuthin'!

I got nuthin’ to report! That’s the problem with a theme related blog. I ain’t livin’ it right now. My five hay burners are doing nothin’ but bellying up to the bale and wallowing in the mud. But mud is good. It means the temps have been over 32 degrees. Just barely, but we’ll take it. So if you tuned in for a horse report. That’s it. Click on out of here. The rest of the story is not horse related, but its all I got!

I’m cracking the whip on this construction project. I’ve had enough of dust and chaos and just want it done. If we had a crew of dozen good men, it might be. But John and I continue to trudge along with occasional help from the offspring. So close, so close and yet so far… (Name that song.) I told him I want to be putting the finishing touches on by the end of next weekend. I’m not sure he believed me.

If you recall, the plan was to remove the carpet and refinish the floors in the office, dining room and living room. Then paint those rooms, plus the foyer and the stairwell. We sanded the dining room and office first. The office floor was rough. We decided to replace it with laminate flooring. So that room is done, sans the window coverings. Of all the rooms, I missed my office the most.

The dining room is painted, a new fixture in place and there is one coat of shine on the floor. It’s in a holding pattern. We are sanding the living room floor this weekend. Its walls are done. The foyer and stairwell have been trimmed out and I will roll the paint tomorrow. If all goes as planned, we can start putting more shine on the floor each morning. It will take several coats.

Butternut. The color of the walls in the office and dining room and the world’s toughest color to match for window treatments. I’m looking for “pop”, as they say on HDTV, and nuthin’ is poppin’. After three attempts and returns, the JCPenneys’ lady is pretty sure I picked a winner this time. Of course they didn’t have the size I wanted, so the jury is still out pending the arrival of the UPS truck.

Wheat Grass. It’s such a pretty name for the living room, foyer and stairwell paint. It describes it perfectly. But as my friend Sandy put it – my paint color is a bit of a chameleon. During the day, it is the color of wheat right before its cut. But once the sun sets, the yellow is gone and it is greener than I would have chosen. The HDTV people tell me once the furnishings are back in place and curtains up, the color doesn't play such a big role. I'm hoping that will be the case and it will tone down a bit.

The Half Bath. It wasn’t in the plan but as long as I'm tearing apart rooms, it made the hit list. I think I must have thought when I put up the (horrendous) floral wallpaper circa 1996 that I would have won the lottery by now and someone else would have to remove it. The ticket never came in and that someone was McCain and me. And Oh My Gosh, warning to all women who have boys or are pregnant and could have a boy or might in the future. Do Not Put In White Tile! This room is being refloored with a wood look laminate. The wall color is pending.

Mississippi Mud. The new color for McCain’s bedroom walls. I made the mistake of taking him to the Home Depot with me today and he decided to join the remodeling fun. Oh happy day!

Big Dog Little Rug. The dogs aren't sure they care for not having wall to wall carpeting. I think I need to get some bigger rugs!

Feb 10, 2010

Nebraska Horse Expo News

For the last several years, I have had the honor of working with the Nebraska Horse Expo committee. It is coming up again quickly! Expo is held March 12-14 at the Lancaster Event Center in Lincoln. This year's featured guests are Tommie Turvey, Julie Goodnight, Richard Winters & expo favorite, Matt McLaughin. Check out Nebraska Horse Expo online!

Photo Contest
If you can't bring your horse to expo, you can still participate! Enter your favorite photo in for the Horse Expo Photo Contest. This event has long been an expo hit all because of photos taken by amateur photographers like us! There will be some fun prizes for the best photos! Click here to see how you can submit your photo.

The complete Expo schedule will be posted in a couple of weeks. Check back soon.

Volunteer Opportunities
If you would like to volunteer a few hours of your time at Expo, there are still opportunities available. Contact information is available here.

Lessons with Matt
March 5 - 10, Matt McLaughlin will be giving private lessons at Chance Ridge in Elkhorn. He will work with all levels of riders both Western and English. Anyone interested in taking a lesson can email cindysmith@chanceridge.com to reserve your time. Each session is $110. What a great opportunity to work one on one with Matt!

In other news, I figure if I work really, really hard, I can have my house back together in "two weeks". (Isn't that what they kept saying in The Money Pit?) It's coming along slow, but it coming along.

Feb 5, 2010

Remembering Gunner

Another post about horses past.

In 2001, Ginger was bred to our friend’s stud and Windy was born the following year. My friend had also bred her own mares to that same stud and also had foals that spring. One of those born to her mare was a bay colt she called Gunner. He looked a lot like Windy; just a bit more of a star and a short sock on his hind foot, where Windy had none. Windy was willowy built and Gunner was stockier. I liked him from the moment I saw him.

As I mentioned in a prior post, My Dream Horse, I sold Windy as a yearling. One of the many times we downsized and I regretted it the moment I let her go. But later that year, my friend offered me Gunner in exchange for a ½ a side of beef. I certainly didn’t need another horse, but had a weakness for this young colt. So I took the deal.

Gunner moved in and was easily accepted by the herd. He didn’t really fall into a pecking order, just squeezed in whether he was invited or not and the other horses were okay with that. He had a likeable personality and was a favorite among humans and equine alike. He was a cross between a class clown and Houdini. We’d often find him on the other side of the fence and as soon as we’d go to fetch him, he’d be back where he should be. To this day, he was the only horse that could do that.

John started him the fall of his two year old year. As we predicted, it was pretty uneventful. He was going to be an easy ride. On Mother's Day the following year, John, the boys and I loaded up and went to a nearby lake. I rode Gunner for the first time that day. Startled only once by a beastly looking culvert, he moseyed along the trail like he did it every day. I was beginning to come to the conclusion that it wasn’t working with my appaloosa gelding and I wondered that day if perhaps Gunner could be “the one.”

It was now late May, 2005. Looking back, the last 15 months had been pure hell. McCain had broken his femur and laid in traction for a month. We lost John’s dad and after reeling from that, my own mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died a mere three months later. And now I had broken my ankle just as riding season was about to kick off.

Wrapped in a temporary splint until the swelling could go down enough to cast, I glanced out my home office window. As usual, my attention was focused on the horses, always counting heads. That morning, I found it unusual that Gunner was standing off by himself and even mentioned it to John as he walked by. I went back to what I was doing but a few minutes later, swiveled my chair back to the window. Gunner was still standing alone. A little voice said something was wrong. I asked John to drive me to the pasture.

I hobbled on crutches out to John’s Honda. Tossed my crutches on the seat and settled in. This wasn’t the first time I had broken my ankle, so I knew the drill pretty well. I cautioned John not to hit any bumps. As we got closer to Gunner, I could tell something was terribly wrong. It looked like he’d been shot with an arrow! And as we pulled up next to him, I realized he was impaled by a dead tree branch.

The spring rains came fast that year and a lot of timber washed down the creeks. When the water subsided, it left debris along the edge of our pasture. In my mind, I could see Gunner running down to the pasture and turning the corner quickly and coming in contact with this big dead branch that he didn’t expect to be there.

Leaning on my crutches, I waited with Gunner until the vet arrived. I petted him softly as the vet removed the branch. The doctor examined the it and the wound. He sighed and told me the bad news. The branch had penetrated Gunner’s stomach. It was a mortal injury.

Gunner was in shock and his body was starting to shake. John arrived with the trailer and helped me slip a stable blanket on the colt. We lead him to the trailer and he loaded like a trooper. The vet recommended I put him down. But I wasn’t ready yet to let him go. I wanted a second opinion. And a third. He understood and told me to call him when I was ready.

I left Gunner in the trailer as I hobbled to the house. Surely I would find someone to fix him. I emailed the Horsetales group for support as I started to make calls. And all of those who answered, concurred with the prognosis. The doctor who gelded Gunner quietly told me, “I could have him on the table right now, Tammy, and couldn’t save him.” It was over.

I made one more phone call to the treating veterinarian and asked that he come back to put Gunner to sleep. John and I unloaded him and walked him to the barn. John made himself scarce as I sat down in the doorway of the tack room, looking out into the stall. My heart was breaking. I’d wait with Gunner until the vet arrived. But Gunner’s time was up. I watched as he went down. And just like that, he was gone.

Call it coincidence or opportunity that Windy happened to be for sale shortly after I lost Gunner. There was no doubt I would buy her back. Windy and Gunner were the same age and although they shared the same sire, in the horse world, you don’t call them siblings even though biologically they were. Their personalities were nothing alike but their resemblence was uncanny. As I glance through pictures, I sometimes find myself wondering if it is Windy or Gunner, looking for the white sock to give it away. As I watched Windy mature into a beautiful horse, I can’t help but wonder what Gunner would have been like had he lived? Maybe not as pretty as his sister, but I'm sure he would have been an awesome ride.

Feb 2, 2010

A Ride Down Memory Lane

In 2003, we owned a thoroughbred for a brief time. A 12-year-old off-the-track thoroughbred named U R Nice. “Nick” was supposedly retrained for trail riding and barrel racing but no one was using him for either activity. John bought him for all the reasons I didn’t think we should. He was flashy and fast. And tall. John already had Ginger that fit the flashy and fast bill. He certainly didn’t need another one.

I get “new horse fever”, too, and didn’t put up much of a fight about buying UR Nice. The boys were riding the horses I had bought for myself and although “fast” and “tall” were not necessarily traits in a horse I was looking for, I have always been fond of thoroughbreds. Despite harboring deep riding fears, I started riding Nick that spring.

From the day we picked him up, Nick was never easy to load. Even in our big 4-horse trailer, he wouldn’t go in first, middle or last. He just plain wouldn’t go in. So anytime we took him anywhere, John had to run his repel rope through the inside trailer ties and “pulley” him in. And it usually wasn’t very pretty or easy. But it worked. When it came time to come home, we’d make sure no one was looking and go through the same process. Once when he was loaded, he got his front hooves stuck in the mangers. I recall wondering “how in the heck did he do that?” and thinking “now what in the heck do we do about this?” I don’t recall how we freed him, but he came out of it no worse for the wear.

As summer approached that year, I decided we were going on our first big organized trail ride. I don’t remember if I knew there would be close to two hundred riders when I made this decision or if that part was a surprise to us when we got there. All I know is I could now write a book titled “What Not To Do On Your First Big Trail Ride.” Our experience definitely falls under the “live and learn” category with an emphasis on “live”.

When preparing for the ride, I made the following (what turned out to be pea-brained) decisions:
(Strike) 1: I would ride Nick
(Strike) 2: John could take our young 3-year-old gelding, Bo.
(Strike) 3: The kids can ride Blue & Mikey! Won’t they have fun!

I learned quickly that a ride such as this is no place for young kids, who were 6 and 9 years old at the time. My only consolation was they were riding good horses because we quickly found out that John and I would be no help at all to them should they need it!

The morning of the ride, we headed out toward the end of the group. Things were going pretty well, all things considered. The kids’ horses were good, Bo seemed pretty level and Nick was causing me no grief. The feeling of ease quickly ended when a buckboard pulled by drafts or mules (or both) came up behind us.

Nick heard the chains before we saw the wagon. He started to spin. And dance and hop and shake and sidepass. And then he hit reverse. He backed and backed and backed! He backed away from the buckboard. He backed away from our group. He backed with no regard to what was behind him and he backed into a barbwire fence. Even with blood running down his butt cheek, he still tried to escape the terror while too scared to turn his back to it. Only grateful that he backed instead of bolted, I dismounted and did the only thing I could do. I traded horses with John.

I bought Bo as a yearling at the Sutton sale. He was a solid chestnut with no white. Halter bred on the top, race bred quarter horse on the bottom side. He was as pretty as a copper penny. He bucked hard the first time he was saddled as a late two year old, but since then, had settled in pretty well. Although he had no real trail rides on his resume, so to speak, I wasn’t overly concerned about riding him. Unfortunately, the more John worked with Crazy Nick who now seemed to be a Kentucky Derby wannabe; I believe Bo was starting to feel the stress of that plus the two hundred riders. So he started to buck. Not with a lot of gumption, but enough to unnerve me a little more. I felt like I’d gone out of the frying pan and into the fire.

It seemed like it took forever for the team to pass us. We hung back until it was out of view. Nick got his wits about himself and Bo settled down somewhat, so John and I traded horses once more. We had a pretty nice ride…. For about 20 minutes.

Our plan was to stay at the back of the ride. There were just a handful of people further behind us and then the safety riders. Not much time had passed when we heard some commotion and saw that a rider behind us had been thrown from his or her horse. Broken bones were involved. The safety riders radioed ahead to stop the ride and requested transport for the rider. You guessed it. Bring back the buckboard! Ah, jeez….

We needed to leave the scene of the accident. Get the heck out of Dodge. Now! We slowly made our way around the waiting horses and started to ascend a hill off to the side of the trail when Nick saw them. He put on his brakes and started to back down the hill. There were people at the bottom; there was a creek at the bottom. We were NOT going down. In my best effort to change his mind, I whacked him on the butt with the reins. In his best effort to free himself of me, he reared straight up on the incline of that hill. As I fell to the side, I saw all 16 hands of that chestnut horse coming down with me.

Nick landed on his side with my right leg and hip under him. Luckily, he didn’t have the momentum to go on over me, but instead got up and high-tailed it out of there. I met John’s eyes. He quickly turned his attention away from me and took off on his colt in hot pursuit of the racehorse while two men whom I never met before, tended to me.

“Don’t move,” they told me as they pulled ice and Advil out of their saddlebags. Really, I could move and was more embarrassed to be lying there on the ground in front of two hundred riders. And God forbid someone call for the buckboard. So after I convinced them nothing was broken, with their help, I pulled myself up just as John rode back with the steed in hand.

I was always told “If you fall off, get back on!” (Yeah, like this wild-eyed horse was going to acknowledge my moxy.) I climbed back on, but in my heart and head, I was done with him. Then and always. After a short ride, I told John I would take my chances with the colt. John got back on Nick and I settled in on Bo. He felt strong and steady like a quarter horse should and a welcome relief despite his youth. There was no bucking this time. And the four of us headed quietly down the trail.

Shortly after the ride started moving again, the skies opened up and the rain began to pour. We put on our slickers and we rode on. My hip was throbbing and the kids were whining and we rode on. We were going so slowly, the safety riders finally gave up on us and passed us by. But we rode on. We finished that damn ride on the young colt and the racehorse.

I sold Nick not long after that ride. It must have been a good sign when he loaded like a pro in his new owner’s two-horse trailer. We kept in touch for awhile. It was a good match.

Most of the time if asked “Did you have a good ride?” I smile and say “Yes, the best!” and even when it wasn’t necessarily the easiest ride, anytime on a horse is a the best time for me. There were good things about this ride – the kids taking care of themselves and their horses taking care of them when John and I had no control whatsoever. The people who helped us along the way; friends I met on that ride who are still friends today. In that respect, the worst ride of my life was still a good ride.

I’ve grown a lot as a horseperson in the seven years that have passed. From how NOT to load a horse to how to best set myself up for success. Had I known then what I know now, Nick may have been my dream horse. I think of him as the one who got away. Bo, too, for that matter, as he sold the next year. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

I have no pictures from that day. It took all my effort just to ride.