Aug 28, 2010

A Good Broke Horse

Taking full advantage of these mild days, I loaded up Blue this morning and headed back out to Branched Oak to work on the mapping for the Trail Challenge & Scavenger Hunt. I think I was abducted by aliens for a week, because I seem to have "lost time." I swore it was three weeks away and then today I wake up and look at the calendar and BAM! Just like that, I'm missing a week! I have a lot of work to do between now and then. Good thing I am one of those who work best under pressure because the pressure is on!

I have been using the GPS to record all the trails and then download to Garmin Connect to review. The above map is one of my most recent downloads and the trail shown at the top near the water is a major trail that will be used in the competition. Does anyone else see what I see? Can you imagine the instructions: "Turn left at the base of the penis and continue down the shaft until you reach the…." Yeah, you get the idea. This is going to be one high-class event, let me tell you!

You know how everyone is always looking for a "good BROKE horse." And we all know they are not easy to find. Heck, my Windy is a "broke" horse, but not always good. When I don't ride Windy, I usually load up Butter or Ginger because Case and John will ride more than McCain and I feel I need to keep their horses legged up, too, for their occasional rides. As time passed, I forgot about my "good broke horse" that seems to have unobtrusively moved to the back burner. That would be my Reggie Blue. Blue Boy. Blue.

You may or may not remember my blog about Blue a few years ago. Blue was four-years- old when we bought him in December of 2000. He was probably one of the most well-trained horses we have ever had. I, being a complete novice at the time, didn't know what he knew and have only discovered some of his buttons in recent years following lessons with Windy, no doubt confusing the poor boy all these years.

The first day we rode him at home, ten years ago, I was leaning down fixing my stirrup when John flew by me on Ginger. Blue's first reaction was to follow and took off. The reins, which I had left on his neck, fell to the ground and I was desperately trying to right myself in the saddle. In my panic, I recalled the girl I bought him from saying "he stops on one rein." At that time in my short horse life, I had no idea what that meant but reached down for the only rein I felt I could grasp and pulled. And it was like God himself put those reins in my hand. Blue stopped on a dime. With that one gesture, he earned my trust.

Blue's wonderful disposition and ease on the trail made him a favorite with my boys in those early years and throughout the years each claimed him as their own for a season or two. I moved on to other horses because I knew the boys were safe on Blue. McCain has pretty much given up riding and Case no longer appreciates Blue's choppy ride, so if he's not riding Butter, Ginger will be his second choice. Occasionally John will swing on Blue to bring the cows up.

When Windy became laid up with a swollen knee this past week and knowing Cowgirl Weekend is less than 4 weeks away, not 5 (remember, I lost a week in a space ship), I did a quick inventory of our herd to determine who is on the B Team just in case she can't make the trip. When I got to Blue, overweight and underworked, I thought "why not?" Four weeks is enough time to get him legged up and he is not only MY horse, he was my first Cowgirl Weekend horse. And like the Good Broke Horse he is, (who if he had a voice, would sound like Elvis) has stepped up to the plate again and has quickly become my Go-To Guy.


Aug 27, 2010

On The Mend

Friday is my work-at-home day; first for work & then for the good of the household. Sheila, Kathy, Deb & I tried to do a Friday afternoon ride club this season, but spring rains interrupted our plans quite frequently, then the heat wave. Combine that with our busy schedules and it didn't happen like we had hoped. I can't believe that by next spring, Sheila most likely will be on the west coast...

The horses are quite literally outside my office window. The only way things would get better is if the dogs, who are literally at my feet, would quit farting! (What DID they eat yesterday?) Since I have kept Windy and Butter up here at the barn to watch Windy's wound, the other horses have stayed in the adjoining corral rather than go down to pasture even though the gate is open and they most certainly could. Being that they are the herd leaders and Windy and Butter are at the bottom of the pecking order, I didn't think it would matter to them that those mares weren't with them. I guess I was wrong. I ended up tossing them a bale of hay in the feeder last night, too.

I moved them all out to this side pasture early this morning. It doesn't have the best fencing, so don't use it much unless I am here to watch. The grass is long and thick there; they could graze there for a week, I'd bet.

Speaking of grass, ours needs mowed again. The last time we had to do it with the tractor mower because our garden tractor is eating $49 belts. We thought it was a bad belt so we bought another one. Nope. In about 2.5 hours that one was shot, too. So before we buy another $49 belt, JV needs to take a peek at WHY it is happening and fix that first. So we'll probably have to mow again with the tractor mower. Don't you just love acreage-keeping?

I had originally thought Windy's swollen knee was a result of being kicked. There was what looked like a small scrape above it. But the next day I noticed that wound was draining, so now I think she was poked with a stick or wire or something and actually wonder if a splinter might still be in there? So I picked up some Epsom salt salve to smear on it and started her on antibiotics.

There is still some swelling, but no oozing anymore. I do the water treatment, too. I guess I'll just wait and see. In the meantime, Blue has been getting some more saddle time. Taken out of semi-retirement, he has hunkered down and is doing his job. I realized I have missed riding the ol' boy and will start including him more often in the rotation. He is too nice of horse to leave out to pasture.

I have been perusing the internet looking for something to take the edge off Windy's next heat cycle, which will no doubt coincide with Cowgirl Weekend. In the comments section of that previous post, Kate said she has had some success with Mare Magic, a raspberry leaf supplement. I picked up a bag yesterday and started her on it. She seemed to eat it just fine with her grain. Since normally she isn't terribly awful when she cycles, hopefully this will be just the little boost she needs to help her through it more comfortably. I certainly wish I could use my HSA account at the vet supply store.


Aug 25, 2010

Horse Time

It seems whenever I blog less, I am riding more; which is a good thing! The past weekend didn’t give us much of a break from the high temperatures, but the humidity wasn’t quite as heavy. On Saturday morning, I took Ginger to Two Rivers and rode safety for a 4H Poker Ride being held there. It wasn’t a big ride; maybe 20 riders, but felt great to get out. The bugs weren’t bad and it didn’t start heating up until closer to noon.

Windy didn’t make the cut that day because she was in time-out. On our Wednesday ride with the Platte River Riders, she was obviously in heat and zeroed in on one particular gelding that night and made my ride rather difficult. Heat cycles have never bothered her much, but that night the hussy was raging! I didn’t want to take any chances riding safety if her mind was still on her hormones.

On Sunday, we officially started prepping the trail for the Trail Challenge and Scavenger Hunt. I met my co-chairs, Sheila and Shari, out at the trail head early that morning and we started riding the trails, planning the obstacles and GPSing for mapping purposes. I took Blue out on this day; his first trail ride of the year! Blue is a big boy; a foundation bred quarter horse resembling the old QH type build. He stands just 15 hands high, but is all of 1,300 pounds or more. Whenever I ride him, I feel like I am really riding a horse. He is a rough ride; no sitting the trot with him and he has a tendency to cross-fire when loping, but except for the trucklike ride, I forget sometimes what a good boy he is. He is the horse who taught me how to ride again as an adult. Riding him is like coming home, perhaps on the dirt road, but home nonetheless.

At last count, we have 48 or the 50 rider spots filled for the Trail Challenge and expect the last spots will be filled with entries from today’s mail. Since this is our first time hosting such a ride, I had hoped to get perhaps 25 to 30 riders. The fact that it is filled long before the deadline has thrilled me! And we have lots of work to do to make this happen. John and I loaded up Blue and Ginger last night and went back to the trail to continue clearing for the event. We got a good section of a trail done that was previously pretty much unrideable unless you were a caveman. The trees hung low over the trail and if you looked up too soon, you were apt to get clothes-lined off your horse. But it is a pretty stretch of trail and if we can get it open for this ride, I am sure our guests will enjoy it, too.

When I went to fetch the horses from the pasture yesterday, before I even got close to Windy, I noticed her knee was swollen. It seems to have a small contusion above it with some swelling in that area, too. There is heat around the knee, but she doesn’t appear to be lame on it. I put her and Butter in the corral last night so I can keep a closer eye on her. I don’t think it is anything serious, but it’s only four weeks away from Cowgirl Weekend. In need her well. In the meantime, I’ll keep putting some time on Blue. He could lose a pound or fifty.

The weather has taken a turn for the better. It was actually “sweatshirt” temperatures when I was putting the horses up last night. I hope we have seen the last of this gawd-awful heat wave, but with the weather patterns all out of whack this year, it is anybody’s guess what will happen next.

Aug 20, 2010

Redneck Office

Okay, so I'm sitting here at the table in my horse trailer with my lap top and the A/C running; drinking a Mike's Hard Lemonade. Camping, you ask? No. My horse trailer is sitting back by my barn. I hear echoes of "you might be a redneck if…." But hey, my horse trailer is a lot nicer than some homes I've seen and probably cleaner than my own right now. At least that's my story and I'm stickin' to it. Side note: The dogs keep doing "drive-bys", stopping and hitting the door, a deep bark now and then, but I won't let them in.

Actually, I am thinking and planning; taking pictures and blogging. Although this trailer is darn near perfect in every way, there is one major flaw. No, there are three flaws. Flaw #1 is being fixed as soon as the ever-loving' part gets off the slow train from the east coast…. But there are two others.

Flaw #2: The person who designed the living quarters had one of the cupboards serve as a tack compartment. Now I don't know about you, but the idea of having a saddle in my living quarters seems a little too rednecky! Think of the sweaty saddle pad! And anyway, that space could be used to correct Flaw #3: No refrigerator. Oh come on, non-horsey friends. All of us horse people like frigs in our horse trailer!

So I'm pondering.... I could put a small frig down below the sink like I had in my old horse trailer or upgrade to a bigger refrigerator (with a freezer) and put it in what is currently the tack compartment (which by the way, I don't think ever held tack. It is way too clean.) If I do that, then there is the monumental question: Where do I put the tack?

Well, you see, I have plenty of room for storage; it is just kind of a weird set-up. There is a 3' walkway between the living quarters and the chest bar for the horses with doors on both sides. Now granted, the horses' heads have to go somewhere – and trust me, they will - but underneath their head is the ideal place for the saddles.

I think I've figured out how to make that happen. I have a lot of delusions of grandeur that I am pretty sure WILL work, but not the means to do it. I have a husband who CAN do it, but thinks it is rather silly to put a frig in the trailer. "Just use coolers," he says. Well, I don't wanna use coolers! Not that we completely got away from using coolers in the other trailer, but when traveling by myself, I could. I'd just load up that frig and go! Turn that baby to LP setting and I have a cold Mike's ready on demand!

So here's my plan. Build a wooden 3-sided box that will slip into the walkway under the heads of the horses. The saddle can go under there – just need to find some sort of make-shift saddle rack to set them on. Perhaps put some hooks underneath for bridles or put the bridle rack on the door. I can slide the pad between the box and the wall. Or someone else suggested put the pad on the chest bar. The horse's feedbags can go over the top of the box and provide a little stability for that, as well. My friend, Jules, can run a saw. As soon as Flaw #1 is fixed, I need to go pay her a visit. (Jules, take note.)

For the other camping gear and horse supplies, I have put a large tool box back on the truck bed. Most of it fits well in there. So it looks like if I can bring this plan to fruition, it might just all come together.

Alright. Who let the dogs in?

You might be a redneck if ....

Aug 17, 2010

Trailer Loading 101

This past weekend, I invited horse trainer, Colleen Hamer of Blair, NE, out to work with my horses on loading in my new trailer. Although they have never had a problem loading in a slant load or a small two horse trailer, the ramp on this new trailer seemed to be causing a lot of concern. Rather than continuing to fight them, I knew Colleen could help them overcome their anxiety of the ramp and load quietly like I expect them to.

Blue was her first student this day and he is an alumni of Colleen's trailer loading school. Blue has always loaded effortlessly in our 4-horse slant load, but when I bought a 2-horse bumper pull a few years ago, he refused to load. I read the books, watched the videos and was sure I could get him to load. By the end of our session, ropes were broken, there was blood and he had literally thrown himself on the ground and wouldn't move. That's when I introduced Blue to Colleen and during that first session, she had him loading in 32 minutes. It wasn't much longer this time.

Colleen starts by working the horses in the round pen. She wants their attention on her. She wants to see softness, some flex in their neck, their eye on her, not off wondering what their buddies are up to. Blue was quite stiff when she started working with him, but he soon joined up.

After working in the round pen, she walked him to different areas of the yard and asked him to touch his nose on items she pointed to. What she wanted to accomplish was him going as directed. Blue did very well with this exercise.

When she approached the trailer, she went through the same process. Pointing him into it, telling him to "load up." A lot of pressure and release on the rope. When he would step back, she would apply the pressure until he let up. Then she would release the pressure.

In our small bumper pull trailer, Blue always has to have two tries before loading. He did something similar here. Would approach, stop, back and then try again. A little closer each time.

The ramp didn't seem to bother Blue as much as the unknown in a new trailer. But once he was in, he seemed to relax.

Colleen then asked that I put him in as well. It looks easier than it actually was. Not that trailer loading a willing horse is hard, but she worked with him on some respect issues as well. She wanted to make sure I wasn't lax on enforcing that he honor my space and listen to my commands. She watched my timing so that I released when he released and kept him straight when unloading.

Ginger has never had anyone but us work with her. Oh, there was the person who evidently put 30 days on her before we bought her, but all of her "training", good and bad, was at our hand. She was very tense when Colleen started working with her and really braced against pressure.

It took a lot longer to get her to relax. She eventually did, but I think Colleen would have liked to have seen more. When she took her out of the round pen, she would not willing touch the items Colleen asked if those items were not easily accessible. For instance, she wanted her to touch a cooler. Ginger would not bend down to do it. She would, however, touch a barrel which was closer to her nose.

She showed the same resistance when asked to load. Very stiff, unsure. I don't know if I would say scared - Ginger can be very bold - but very unwilling. Colleen kept working with her - keeping her straight and out of her space and focused at the task at hand.

She would advance slowly and then retreat or escape past Colleen.

Then she would stop as if to consider what was being asked of her.

And finally, success. Colleen loaded and unloaded her a number of times and then asked John to handle his mare, as well.

I didn't get any pictures of Windy in the round pen, but she did really well and Colleen commented that she had the best ground manners of all of them. I felt such pride! But, it was shortlived.

Rather than take her directly to my trailer, she walked by another trailer of one of my guests; a very small two horse. I smuggly told Colleen that she would load in that easily. So Colleen pointed her in that direction. And she advanced toward it.....

And promptly made a liar out of me! Not only that, her award for the best ground manners went out the door. Not only was she not going to load in that trailer but.....

....hell no! She was not going to load in that trailer.

And no way in heck was this little lady going to make her load in that trailer!

Oops. Think again, my precious Poo Bear. Looks like you lost this round!

So by the time Colleen pointed her over to my trailer, it seemed the ramp was no longer an issue.

"Load up." Colleen said.

And she did.

And once again, I went through the same steps with Windy as I did with Blue.

And I loaded my mare.

For the record, since I got my new trailer, I had loaded all the horses in it before having Colleen come out. But none of them (except Butter) loaded easy and I worried that if I were by myself and they resisted, I would have a fight on my hands and no extra hands to help. Having Colleen out to not only load them, but to reinforce some training issues will help set us up for success.

Last night, after all the friends and trainers were gone, I went out to the pasture and brought up the horses. One by one, I haltered them and lead them to the trailer and one by one, they loaded properly for me. A job well done.


Aug 15, 2010

She's In.

That's Windy. That's me. Loaded via the ramp into my new trailer.

I don't mean to leave you with a cliff hanger, but it's been a long day. I'll have the complete write-up with pictures soon. But I just wanted to tell you that all my horses will now load up the ramp into my new trailer. Yes! It's been a good day!

Aug 13, 2010

The Young Riders

It's supposedly the last day of this gawd-awful heatwave. The humidity was so bad yesterday that the shoes that I wore to hose off the horses the night before and had left on the porch, were still damp 24 hours later; even with temperatures close to 100 all day. The horses seem to enjoy their evening showers and it makes me feel good to give them some relief.

I was going through photo files the other evening and found some early pictures of the boys and the horses. The first few years were pre-digital. Someday I need to scan them. Gosh, I can't even imagine having to take in film anymore. I have literally thousands of picture files on my computer (and back-up drive!) I should clean some out, but it's kind of like cleaning a closet. You find things you forget about and spend time remembering and then as time passes, your forget the task at hand and close it up for another day. I was thinking about doing that when I ran across these pictures.

The above picture of McCain and Baby was taken in 2005 when McCain was 11-years-old and Baby was 5. She had foaled GinnyBelle early that spring and this was her first outing away from the baby. By the end of the trail ride, her bag had filled up so much that she leaked milk with every step she took. McCain was so small to be on such a big horse, but he loved that he could. Check out her bridle. It's a driving bridle, complete with blinkers.

For the most part, McCain rode Blue. When the boys were little, they spent many hours and miles behind me while I rode Blue, so they trusted him. And he took care of them. That is Blue swimming with the kids in the picture at the top of this post. Both of these pictures were taken in 2006.

In late 2003, I bought another black gelding called Mikey. He was a bigger horse than Blue and had some rodeo experience. We were told you could rope off him and he'd done barrel racing and poles. I should have passed on him when we looked at him. He appeared a little off in the front, but he had long toes with shoes that should have been removed months before and was running on cornstalks. A little thin; he looked like he needed a new home. So I bought him. It turned out that he did get sore on the long rides, so Case claimed him. He was a great horse, but I just felt he was too big for such a little kid. Case was 7 in this picture. It was taken in South Dakota and John and Case had just chased a herd of antelope.

Later that summer, we were camping at Rock Creek. We had brought our niece with us and she was riding double with John or me. A friend was camping, too, and had brought an extra horse. A little 4-year-old red dun mare. Seeing that we were short a horse, he offered this horse to Case to ride for the weekend. She seemed just his size. This was his first ride on her. The next spring we bought that mare, Butterscotch.

I came home from work one day and the boys had been riding all afternoon. I grabbed my camera and got these shots of them galloping down the alleyway from the barn to the pasture. They were having such fun. Shortly after the last picture was taken, McCain somehow fell off coming through a gate, landed on his arm and broke his wrist. Case broke his wrist 4 weeks later jumping a log bareback. So for a couple weeks, both were sporting casts at the same time.

This rather poor quality video was taken of the boys last spring in their race down the road. One was wearing a GPS and clocked their high speed at just over 40 mph. They can ride!

As I've mentioned before, Case will still ride with me on occasion, but McCain hasn't been on a horse since he took a girl riding last fall and before that, probably that race. But I think they had fun during those early years and I enjoyed watching them grow as young riders. Maybe someday they will come back to it. I hope so.

Aug 11, 2010

Every Time, Every Ride

My son probably might have observed that I wasn't wearing my helmet in the picture on the previous post. Once while in Wyoming, I tried to get away with not wearing it and he caught me. On that day, I had a terrible headache and didn't want anything on my head. With our eyes locked, he unbuckled his helmet as if to say "if you don't wear it, I'm not," so instead I told him to fetch my hard hat. Extreme heat has been another excuse; the brim of a straw hat keeps more sun off my face. But yes, these are just excuses. I was reminded a few weeks ago at our county parade how quickly accidents happen. Before it started, Windy spooked a mule team. I got her stopped and dismounted quickly to get control from the ground. Before I had my footing, she spun around and slammed into me, knocking me to the white rocked ground, not only under her, but Butter, as well. Those hooves are pretty scary up close and personal. I need to remind myself every time, every ride why I wear a helmet.

Today, Janet Caul of Cross C Equine services sent the following note to our Horsetales list serv. It was very powerful and timely. Janet has given permission for me to share her thoughts with you.

Janet's message was titled Heavy Heart Today and it read:

Every Time, Every Ride. That is the title to an informative, educational video about helmet wearing in the equestrian world. Unfortunately, not enough people know about this video, nor would they consider wearing a helmet when horseback riding. Whatever your reason for not wearing one, it's not good enough.

"It's not what real cowboys/cowgirls do." Really? You may end up not being either without a helmet.

"I'll get hat hair." It's better to have hat hair than no hair from brain surgery.

"It's uncomfortable." It's better to be a little uncomfortable for an hour or two, than being paralyzed in an uncomfortable wheel chair the rest of your life.

"I love the feel of the wind in my hair," "I love the feel of the openness." If you have a head injury you may never feel the openness or wind again.

"It doesn't look good." Riding is not about fashion...

I could go on and on with the reasons/excuses why people decide not to wear a helmet. Oh, I know, "I would NEVER let my kids ride without a helmet." But what about YOU? Aren't YOU worth it? Do you want your kids growing up without you? Do you want to be that kind of example? Oh, and don't think that "just this once" an accident can't happen. Every time you get on any horse you should wear your helmet.

"They're too expensive." Hospital bills are too expensive!

No one is exempt from an accident when riding, no matter how well trained your horse is nor how good of a rider you might think you are.

My heart is heavy as I write this. A young man, with a wife and 2 small children, chose to ride a horse without a helmet. He is now fighting for his life with a massive brain injury. He may never recover, and if he does, he will NEVER be the same. The pain and suffering is indescribable and almost unbearable for those who love him.

I'm equally angry. I'm convinced that if he had been wearing a helmet, his injuries would not have been the same, especially his brain injury. Even if God so chooses to heal him, will he think about wearing a helmet the next time he mounts his horse? Will his extended family and friends think about wearing a helmet? Will his place of employment require helmets from now on, for EVERYONE, not just the kids?

I will continue to pray for this young family daily, hourly, and by the minute. I also hope that somehow, safety while riding horses, especially wearing helmets, will become their ministry.

I also pray that if one person is changed by all of this, it was worth the pain and suffering they've endured. OR, was it?

Thanks, Janet, for the timely reminder. (And looking at the picture above, I can tell you that is NOT how you should wear a helmet. It really needs to be tighter under my chin.)