Jun 27, 2010


This week's Sunday Stills challenge is "History"; defined as something 60 years old or more. I would have loved to have gotten on my horse and rode around my country roads snapping shots that fit the category, but I had a terribly busy week at work and there was just no spare time. However, this challenge is a good opportunity to share some pictures from my archives that were taken in 2005 and the story that goes with it.

Early that year, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. For those who don't know your cancers, that is the bad one. The "Michael Landon" cancer, we called it. Not a matter of "if", but "how long?" It was about a 2.5 hour drive to Mom's house from ours and each weekend, I would take one or both of the boys and we would go "home" to spend time with her. Part of our weekend ritual was to get in the car and drive somewhere. Chasing memories, I guess. On this particular day, we drove to the farm where Mom was raised.

Mom's dad, Frederick Hornbussel, was a German immigrant, coming to America when he was just 18 years old or so. He arrived in New Orleans and made his way to Nebraska, where I understand other from Germany that he knew had settled. He farmed until his death and then Grandma moved in with us. Dad and my uncle kept cows out to the farm and each day after school, we would go to the farm so dad could do chores. We played in the barns & explored. I am thinking the family sold the farm around 1966. The house was torn down in the years that followed. I remember each bedroom had etched glass windows. I think Dad said some vandals had stolen all of the glass from those doors. The above picture of my boys with their grandma was taken on what was the steps to the back porch of the house.

The building to the left was the garage. Dad had an old tractor that he kept parked in this garage. The building behind it was just a working shed. We kept a chute beside that building and the calves would be run up that chute when they were vaccinated and dehorned. You can see this same building on the left hand side of the photo at the beginning of the blog, taken when my mom was a child.

My sister and I always called this building the "Dairy Queen". We would play like we were Dairy Queen workers and one of us would place an order through the window my boys are looking through. I remember once when high winds came through, this building was overturned. I don't recall my dad straightening it out; perhaps this was done by the new owners.

Here the boys are sitting in the doorway of the corn crib. My mom said Grandpa would always take a break there and sit down to fill and smoke his pipe. When he died of an apparent heart attack, this was where he was found. It's not morbid to me; just a piece of history.

This view is looking back toward the barn and the corn crib, with the "Dairy Queen" in the background. We used to have barn cats that ran wild here. But they all had names and we would search eagerly for them every time we were out there. The hayloft in the barn had a big rope that we would swing across from bale to bale. What good memories...

This was the last time I visited the farm. Mom died about 45 days after these pictures were taken. I love these pictures and the history and the memories. But what haunts me are my boys' eyes. Especially Case, my youngest. He is so sad. When I told the boys that Grandma was sick with cancer, McCain asked "Is she going to die?" They never knew my dad except that he died of cancer. To them, cancer meant death. I told the boys that we will pray Grandma is with us a long time, but that we have to be prepared for her to go. I remember McCain whimpering. He said, "I don't know what to do about that?" I thought that was an interesting thing for a then 11-year-old to say. And you know, I didn't know what to do about that either.
This day was bittersweet. I had such good memories of growing up at the farm. Of the poppy flowers that you could see out the west window of the house. The big mulberry tree right by the well. Our first horses were kept in that very same barn. The wheat field was just beyond it to the south. This challenge took me back to that day and beyond.

Jun 24, 2010

Horse Camping & Other Musings

Since 2005, the Horsetales group has had an annual ride each Father's Day weekend. It has morphed more into a Platte River Riders group than Horsetales, but there is always some crossover. This year, we planned to go to Indian Cave near Shubert.

The rains have made planning impossible. Indian Cave is very hilly and if wet, not very fun. The forecast did not look promising. So at the last minute, we changed plans and instead of driving 2 hours to Indian Cave, drove just 30 minutes to Branched Oak Lake. If we got rained out there, at least it wasn't a 2 hour drive home.

The weather gods surprised us and we had a pleasant weekend. Even sweatshirt weather one morning! It was so good to have Case riding with us again, albeit Butter was quite a handful for him on this brisk morning. There were about 20 some riders throughout the weekend. Good friends & of course, good food. The rain finally did arrive on Sunday morning. Luckily, not a huge storm. I tore down camp in my raincoat and we were home early Sunday morning.

I'm not sure what this group was looking at, but I really liked the colors in the pictures.


It's been a really busy week at work. Just got about a half-hour of horse time in tonight. Windy and I sprinted down the road and back, just under 3 miles. Now that the rain has quit, the mosquitos are as big as small birds and were on attack. Windy was sprayed; I wasn't - so I seemed to serve as the buffet line for the nasty bugs.

Book Review

I just finished listening to the audio book Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I know, most of you probably read this a couple years ago. It takes me awhile! But it was worth the wait! What a wonderful book! For those who haven't read it, the book takes place in the early 1930's. It centers around a young vet student who, following an unexpected tragedy, joined the circus. I loved the circus charactors and the rapport he had with the animals. And, it had a nice ending. If you haven't read it (or listened to it), it's worth picking up. I hear there will be a movie in 2011.

Jun 22, 2010

Give Back

Trailhead Cleanup at Two Rivers State Park

Due to heavy flooding, some of our trails and trailheads have been damaged. It’s time to show a horse friendly park we care. Please join Dwight & Mary Hanson at Two Rivers SRA starting about 9 am this Saturday, June 26 for help in clean-up. Most likely cleaning out fire pits, washing picnic tables, or picking up flood garbage. Bring clothes you can get dirty in, gloves, muck or waterproof boots, bug spray, and hand trowels, racks, and shovels. Questions call Mary Hanson 402-432-8746 or email at hrsdrv@yahoo.com .

Jun 21, 2010

The Rain

Over five inches in 24 hours;
over 10 inches in 7
or 10 days...
I don't know...
I've lost count.
We've had just about enough now.....
thank you very much.

Jun 20, 2010

Gone But Never Forgotten

I thank you for the music
And your stories of the road
I thank you for the freedom
When it came my time to go
I thank you for your kindness
And the times when you got tough
And Papa, I don’t think I said
“I love you” near enough

I miss you, Dad & think of you often.

Emery Charles Martin
(1921 - 1994)

(Above lyrics taken from the Leader of the Band by Dan Fogelberg)

Jun 16, 2010

The Belgian & The St. Bernard

So we go out to catch the horses for an evening ride. They see us coming and start to mosey their way across the pasture. They were on to us. Baby, being that she never gets picked to go riding, didn't join the herd & walked up to us as if to say "whatchya doin'?" So John decides rather than walk across the pasture to get the "real" rides, he would hop on Baby bareback and "round 'em up". Bo, the St. Bernard must have been willing to help. Nothing like the gentle giants of the equine and canine world to head 'em out and bring 'em in!

Heading west. Wrong direction!

I think he made a big circle and is back where he started from. He's regrouping now. I'm not sure what he is doing with the reins. And it doesn't appear the herd is taking him very seriously. Ah, but here comes Ritz off to the right. He'll show 'em how its done. (Note: at any time I could walk right up to Windy or Blue and put a halter on them. But noooo, he is on a mission!)

And they're off! You watch 'em, Bo! Don't let them come this direction again.

And finally, heading to the barn.

We have a way with turning even the simpliest of tasks into an adventure.

Jun 15, 2010

Possible Trail Closings

Due to heavy rains & flooding, I've heard some areas may be closed right now to horse trail riding. I have not contacted these areas but please know from what I have heard, the possibility exists. You may want to reach out to any park which you are planning to visit and find out current conditions.

I was told that you cannot go beyond the cabooses at Two Rivers near Venice. This would mean you can't get to the horse camp or trail head, so assuming horse trail riding there is not available at this time. I was also told Halsey got 10.5" of rain in the last day or two and roads and trails in the Nebraska National Forest are closed. In addition, it was still raining at Indian Cave this morning and they don't anticipate the trails to dry out until this weekend, provided they get no more rain. So please, call before you haul to any of these locations.

And remember, riding on wet trails damages the our trails. Please let them dry before you ride.

See http://www.horsetrailriders.com/ for additional updates, if any.

Jun 13, 2010

Sunday Stills ~ Eyes

Sunday Stills is an opportunity to to pick up our camera and meet the challenge Ed bestows on us! To keep in the theme of my blog, I try to keep my photos horse related, although for this challenge, I added in a few others for variety. This week's challenge is "Eyes".

I love McCain's green eyes.

Baby has the softest, deep-chocolate eyes.

Ritz's eyes are dark brown, too and he is always watching....

And Mickey only has one good eye; the bad one is blue. It's kind of startling until you get used to it.

Jun 11, 2010

My Riding Buddy

We have a great little trail around the perimeter of our property including a nice little tree-lined path between our pasture fence and the creek running next to the highway. But at the end of that trail was a bog; a sinking-up-to-the-hock type bog that wasn’t worth risking the tendons on the horse trying to cross. So from there you must take the highway with cars buzzing by you, the horse and dogs at 65 mph or you backtrack. We have always planned to put a bridge there or something to aid in crossing so we could finish the loop, but just hadn’t gotten around to it; until this year.

John brought home some broken up pavement from a demo job. He dumped the load into the bog and then moved the pieces of concrete with the tractor to put in a base where the bog was. He continued to stack concrete on the base until the water was running clean over the rock. Then he drove across it with the tractor to further set the base and viola! A water crossing!

Vacation is only a few weeks away and I’ve been trying to ride all three horses to get them somewhat legged up for the trip. The idea of a water crossing on our place has spawned Case’s interest in riding again. So for several nights this past week, I had a riding buddy. Case was three-years-old when we bought our first horse, so he has literally grown up on horses. And I love to watch him ride. We head down the road, cross the water crossing, and run through the fields together. He told me the other day he’d forgotten how much fun it was to ride. Especially to ride fast.

The other night we enticed John to ride with us. He just put a halter and lead rope on Ginger and an old Indian blanket to keep him from getting sweaty since he didn’t saddle. We rode for a couple miles and at the bottom of the hill, Case told him he wanted to race. And they did. What you don’t see on the video is the finish line. Or the lack of one. Not wearing a bridle, Ginger just kept going and going and going. John was beyond pulling her in with a lead rope and just hung on as she made a wide turn down the hill, through the pasture, taking down a dead wire of electric fence in her way, one sliding stop at another fence, a quick pivot before lunging off to the barn. Case and I followed finding his hat, sunglasses and cigarettes along the way.

Later, John said his legs still felt like Jell-o. Not bad bareback riding for an almost 50-year-old man. The crazy fool.

Jun 9, 2010

And the Answer Is....

This past winter, I whined about not having anything to blog about because I was stuck inside. And now that the weather is nice, it seems I don’t have time to sit down and blog and when I do, my mind is a blank. Mindee from Our Front Door (who is a local blogger & I have yet to meet in person) gave me the idea to do a Q & A post and she provided me with the questions.

Since it’s all about horses, feel free to copy these questions & post to your own blog with your answers. It would be fun to see your replies and how/if our horse life is similar or if we come from different worlds.

1) What is the biggest mistake you made as a newbie horse owner?

Not taking lessons before or even during the first few years of horse ownership. I had horses as a kid. I knew it all, right? Wrong! Now that I was thirty-five years older and lacked a sense of balance and had a new friend called “fear” and a big sense of self-preservation, all of that changed. Of course I blamed the horse – which in fact was not an appropriate horse for my first horse, but I could have been riding Trigger himself and it wouldn’t have made any difference. I was still just a middle-aged woman trying to be a cowgirl!

2) Other than brushes, picks, saddle and bridle, what are the top 3 most essential pieces of equipment?

1 - A horse trailer! I don’t know what I envisioned us doing when we got our first horses; riding down the driveway over and over again or through our pasture? A trailer gave me the freedom to go anywhere, ride with anyone and try all sorts of new things. I have two trailers – the big 4 horse gooseneck we use for camping and my 2 horse bumper pull. If I had to give one up, it would be the gooseneck. Since the boys don’t ride much, probably 80% of the time I just use my bumper pull trailer, but I love, love, love my home on the road with my big one.

2 – I’ll sound like a nerd, but I consider my helmet essential equipment. Even if I were the best rider in the world (see #1, trust me, I’m not), I protect my head so I can protect my brain which hasn’t aged well at all. If you are interested in why I choose to wear a helmet, you can read my blog about it here.

3 – A good saddle pad. You should see my tack room! There are a lot of not so good saddle pads in there. I just want my horse comfortable. She’s got to haul me around and a hot heavy saddle. So I want her comfy, too and having a good pad between the saddle and her back is important.

3) Have you used a trainer? If not, how have you learned new skills?

When I got Windy back, I sent her to a trainer to put some “buttons” on her. When she came back from the trainer, I realized she knew more than I did. So I started using a local trainer to help me sync up to Windy. In these lessons I realized I didn’t even know the basics to riding and really learned a lot. I would love to continue to take lessons but with the boys so active with school sports and events, there are just not enough hours in the day. I’ll save that for when we get that empty nest.

4) Are all your horses shoed? Why or why not?

Most of the places we ride, our horses don’t need shod. Even the gravel on our road is not big rock. When Blue was regularly ridden, we kept front shoes on him as he would get sore & this helped him. But since he has moved to semi-retirement, he hasn’t been shod in almost two years. We are taking the horses to the mountains this summer and those who make the travel team (Windy, Ginger & Butter) will be shod for that trip. They all have good feet, but I don’t want to drive that far and lame one of them up the first day there. So it is a preventive measure. I am not anti-shoe, just thrifty. If they don't need it, I don't shoe 'em.

5) Favorite trail? Locally? Anywhere? Least favorite?

My favorite trail of all times is Harney Peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was a gorgeous ride up the mountain with tree-lined trails, caverns and breathtaking views. The trail down – a different one – followed a stream for what seemed to be miles. It took my breath away.

Favorites locally or semi-locally: Camp Moses, just 20 miles down the road from me. Lots of hills and wildlife and hidden trails and bushwhacking! The Oak Creek Trail from Valparaiso to Loma because over the course of three years, about 10 of us cleared that trail so I like to say “we made it ourselves!” And Rock Creek Station near Fairbury, because I have so many good memories there!

Jumping to least favorite (locally) is Pawnee Lake. And it is nothing against the trail or lake itself, which is very nice. It just seems like every time I have rode there, I didn’t have a good ride. So rather than blame myself, I blame the trail. I schedule the Platte River Ride there when I know I can’t make it!

6) Best trails for beginners?

I asked the Horsetales bunch what trail they thought was the best for beginners and had a lot of opinions and they were all right for the reasons they stated. If I were to take someone out for the first time, I would take them to the Oak Creek Trail in Valparaiso because I know that trail so well and can avoid the scary parts. Branched Oak is also beginner friendly with wide, groomed trails.

7) Did you ride at all as a kid? Did you want to?

We didn’t live on a farm growing up, but had cattle at my grandparent’s farm. They were deceased, so no one lived there and we went out every day after Dad got off work to do chores. Dad bought us a carousel pony named Dolly. She was fabulous. You would ride her and she would just go in a nice little circle like she was still on the carousel. She had a filly we named Misty who was a terrible little thing. When we sold the farm, Dolly was sold for $40. Dad kept Misty and boarded her on the outskirts of town for a bit. She was never a good horse and was eventually sold. I always dreamed of living in the country and having horses. It just took me a few decades to get there. (Above picture is me on Dolly, my sister, Ann, standing next to Dad.)

8) Do you do any conditioning to make you a better rider?

When I first started riding, no. I was overweight and flopped around like a sack of potatoes. Over time, my balance improved, but I was still a tub of lard. When I decided I wanted to try distance riding, I knew I had to lose weight. I started dieting in January 2008 and joined Curves to tone up. I lost 37 pounds and felt better than I have felt in my life. I was wearing a size 10 – which I hadn’t seen since my early twenties – and had energy to burn. Over the past year, about 10 pounds have crept back on, so I rejoined Weight Watchers last week & am committed to getting back to where I was … or less, so I have a little cushion…. I still go to Curves two or three times a week.

9) If you could never ride again, where would you turn your passions?

Hobby Lobby, of course! (Just kidding, in case my friends are reading this!) If I couldn’t ride again, I would have a small retirement home for horses so I could still see them out my kitchen window, smell their scents and feel their breath on my face.

10) What are areas where you can cut costs with the horses? Where should you never cut costs?

We order our own vaccinations from the vet supply catalogues to reduce veterinary costs. I only shoe when needed and grain only when one needs to gain weight or if they need added energy for some distance riding or other above average activity.

We cut our own hay and alfalfa from our place so I know they are getting good hay at all times. When they are not on pasture, they are on round bale 24/7 and I don’t think you should ever cut costs when it comes to haying your horse.

Thanks, Mindee! This was fun. I hope some of the rest of you do the same on your blog. Leave a comment if you do, so we can be sure and read up on your horse life.

Jun 4, 2010

Q & A Anyone?

Trying, trying, trying to find something interesting to blog about but it just goes to show that things have been pretty uninteresting around here lately. School is out and we are slowly getting settled into a new routine, or lack of one, it seems. I have, however, been searching in vain for that money tree my kids seem to think I have growing wild around here!

When it's not storming, I've been enjoying the quiet warm evenings and walking down to the pasture to check on the herd. Last year, I was riding a lot more in the evenings. I need to get back into that routine before the July heat gets here. The rains have kept everything so green. It's been a picture perfect spring... or maybe we just appreciate it more after the winter we just had.

Baby seemed to be off the other night. I suspected an abscess and soaked the big girl's foot and stabled her overnight. By the next day, had you not known she was off, you couldn't have seen it, so I concluded she must have just twisted something and was a bit sore. Blue, however, ended up with a full-blown abscess and I had to have the vet out last week to open it up. Poor guy.

Last weekend, John and I camped overnight at Camp Moses Merrill with my girl friends. Poor guy - always the odd man out when it comes to horse people, it seems. I was reading in Horse & Rider Magazine that a recent survey suggests that almost 90% of horse enthusiasts are women. That's no surprise to me, really, as it is certainly evident among my circle of friends. However, I would venture to say that those cowboys who rope & rodeo are not necessarily survey takers and the percentage of male participants in those venues would be higher.

The video above was taken at Camp Moses as we came down the hill we refer to as "The Boomerang" because of it's twist. I was disappointed that this didn't really capture it's steepness - it may have been more impressive if I was shooting from the bottom, up.

To break this "bloggers block", Mindee over at Our Front Door suggested I should do a Q & A blog. You ask questions in the comments & I answer them on the next blog. So, Mindee, you had better ask a question that requires me to write an essay just in case no one else asks anything! :) I do have a fairly busy horse weekend planned, so if nothing else, I hope to have new stories to share.

So, what do you want to know about me or my horse life that I haven't already blogged about or that maybe I have?

Jun 1, 2010

Storm & Flowers

John called as I was driving home and said I may want to turn around and head the other direction. The ominous clouds I’d been watching in the sky were producing golfball-sized hail at home and if I kept going that direction, I’d drive right into it. Cussing once again the decision to have a $1,000 deductible on my Durango, I flipped a U-turn and headed toward the clearer skies via gravel roads.

As I watched the sky, the outside temperature dropped from 91 degrees to 67 degrees in less than 5 minutes. I was now heading west and the north wind was pounding against me. I stopped to take these cell phone pictures, but was most anxious to get home. Eventually, the wind blew the storm in my direction and although I didn’t get hit with much hail, the strong rains quickly saturated the gravel roads. I put the Durango in 4WD just to get me to the next town. There, I pulled off and waited it out. Later, the rain gauge at home would measure 1.5".

When we moved here seventeen years ago, my mom and her sister - my Aunt Dorothea and Uncle Bud - would bring me starts to some of the plants from their own yard. These peonies were from Dorothea and Bud’s garden. We have transplanted them a few times as they just weren’t taking off like we had hoped. This year, five years after Mom died and even longer since both Dorothea and Bud passed, they finally bloomed brilliantly. Just two days ago I was out taking pictures of the magnificent flowers and cut a few to bring inside. Smelling the fresh scent, I remembered all the peony bushes every yard seemed to have when we were growing up; making for pretty bouquets to take to the cemetery on Memorial Day.

I’m glad I have the pictures, because the hail tonight pelted the blooms right off the plant.

To keep this horse related, the good news is, we got our alfalfa field baled late yesterday afternoon! Whew, that was close!