Nov 27, 2011

Frosty Buns


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The day after Thanksgiving, I planned a ride with my Horsetales friends.  It wasn’t one of those rain, snow, sleet or hail type rides; long-term forecast promised temps in the high fifties, so that was good enough for us.  The sky remained overcast and there was a chill to the wind, but most of the ride was in the trees so really, we didn’t freeze our buns off – it was quite pleasant.


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I planned to take both Windy and Fancy as a friend was borrowing a horse from me.  I had told her she could ride either, but after a brief ride on Windy Thanksgiving morning, I was pretty sure no one but me should ride her on Friday.  She was naughty!  We spent more time lunging in a bean field than actually going down the roads!  Days like that are few and far between, but it does make me appreciate those good days.  And on Friday, for the most part, I seemed to have my good mare back.


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I was the first to arrive at Branched Oak Lake.  I was anxious to get there early to 1) take the P & V out of Windy if need be and 2) to see the new equestrian campground that was being constructed.  I was thrilled to find it was about done.  What was once a primitive campground now has 14 or 15 electrical hook-ups, corrals and an out house.  Before I pulled in, I stopped to take some pictures from the Durango window so I could share with those on the Nebraska Horse Trails Committee who is responsible for some of the funding for this campsite improvement. 


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I had both mares saddled when Sara pulled in and she adjusted the stirrups on Fancy’s saddle while I dug though the Durango trying to find my GPS which I had seen in the truck just minutes before.  Wasting no more time in that search, we rode off to warm up and see what kind of horses we had under us.  It was all good. 


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There were fifteen of us riding, including our friend Dionne and her team of percherons.  Windy has had issues with carts and wagons in the past, so I gave her plenty of time to observe before we rode off and she found her happy spot behind them.


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The trails at Branched Oak are pretty wide and we were happy that Dionne could get her team on most all of them sans a few of the single tracks.  I am pretty sure she worked harder at driving than those of us riding.  I have not had an interest in driving but do have great respect for those who do and frankly, I’m in awe at how easily a small woman handles a team, a cart and all that goes with it.  My hats off to Dionne.


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There was a fair share of young horses on the trail on Friday but they all did superb for each of their levels of training.  We rode just under 8 miles and I don’t think we stopped talking At. All.  It’s always good to get together with friends.


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As we rode back toward the horse camp, I remembered taking the pictures of the area when I drove in.  I made a loop down the road thinking perhaps my GPS fell out of the truck when I took those shots.  Sure enough, another rider found it on the road and unfortunately, it couldn’t be saved. 


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To those of you in Nebraska who read this blog, this new campsite is really quite exciting and I can’t wait to use it next spring.  A funding contribution for this campground was provided by the Nebraska Horse Trails Committee though game days, trail challenges and other fund raising activities which many of you have participated in or donated items for the event.  Thank you for that!  This is what we get in return.  Pretty incredible, huh?



Nov 24, 2011

Riding Bader Park


It’s been a week since I last blogged; seems life is going 100 mph and its hard to sit down and find the pieces to share on this blog.  Work is busy; its dark when I get home; certainly not much horse time. 


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Last weekend, I took a class with The Camera Doctor from Kearney, Alan Mais.  Although I don’t use an SLR camera (yet), I do take a lot of pictures on what I learned is called a “bridge” camera.  My Canon SX10-IS has more functionality than a “pocket camera” but not up to snuff with the big guys.  I won’t bore you with my notes from class but I do hope to start taking better pictures as a result.  We just scratched the surface in our seven hour class and only yesterday morning did I get the opportunity to try out what I learned, albeit it was quick and dirty.  The sun was shining beautifully on the trees out yonder which were covered with a pretty layer of frost.  


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I am not ready to take the plunge to an SLR quite yet.  I think my Canon has hidden possibilities that I want to continue to discover.  And since I carry it in a saddle bag most of the time, I don’t think I would be as lackadaisical about a higher priced camera.  Since 80% of my photos are from the back of a horse, I wonder if a photography hobby might be separate from my riding hobby.  And do you know how much tack I could buy for the price of one of those lenses?


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Yesterday we got a break from November as the temperatures soared into the sixties!  (That is what we Nebraskans say when it is extreme for the time of year – “the temps soared!”)  I had been watching the forecast up to ten days prior; had penciled myself out of the office in hopes it stayed true to what was being predicted and it turned out even better.  I planned to take Windy and meet my friend, Jules, at Bader Park.  She would be riding her new horse, so Windy would be the “good trail horse” setting a nice example.  When Mary decided to come, too, and usually rides her good mare, Sara, I decided to take Fancy instead.  I was surprised when Mary unloaded Rosie, her husband’s gaited Morgan.  I have never seen Mary ride Rosie and its been a long time since Rosie was out on the trails.  I thought “so much for having a leader horse among the ranks.” 


Fancy started out leading at a nice clip, but did have her “Vera” shoes on.  Veered and this, veered at that, gawked here and there, spooked at a piece of plywood she spotted about the same time I unzipped the zipper to my vest.  But nothing I wouldn’t expect from a new, young horse.  She was actually really good. 


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(Side note:  by the looks of this picture, I learned NOTHING in class!)  The horse is partially shaded, my shadow is in the picture.  Don’t blame Alan for this one! Smile )


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Jules’ new mare, Zeta, was a rock star for her first time out on the trails.  She is a six year old appaloosa mare, trained in reining and making her debut on the trails, as far as Jules knows.  She probably stands 14.2hh and is just as cute as a button.  For those who aren’t warm to appys, she will change your mind.  She has a darling personality, cute little bobbie socks and an interesting tail.  Look at the stripes! 


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Rosie turned out to be a good lead horse and stepped up to the plate on a few occasions when our “new mares” weren’t sure it was safe to proceed.  If Rosie goes, they would be less tentative about taking the next step.  We trotted through some of the open fields, crossed a sand bridge and walked through some water that still was covered in the morning’s ice.  Both Fancy and Zeta weren’t too keen on it breaking under their feet and went for higher ground. 


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We rode out on the river and interrupted a goose hunter.  Evidently he didn’t see us or wanted to make sure we knew he was there when he fired four shots and brought down a goose not far from where we were standing.  We decided we should probably find another trail.  The same horse that spooked at plywood was unbothered by the sounds of gunfire. 


I feel a little like I am cheating on Windy, but I know that every ride I can put on Fancy is important right now.  The more I can expose her to, the more she sees, the more conditioned she becomes – the better trail horse she will be.  She has some pretty big shoes to fill, and although her style is quite different, she is coming along just fine.  I know we couldn’t replace Ginger, but I’m confident Fancy will get where ever “there” is in her own way.  Tomorrow I am taking both mares out again and a friend will ride Fancy.  We’ll have her good and broke by the time John has time to start riding with us again.     

Nov 17, 2011

Flying South


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It is a crisp and chilly day here on the plains.  (Yes, sounds like my poor attempt at the first line of a bad novel!)  Just nineteen degrees.  John put the horses in the corral yesterday because he was working on the pasture fence, so the dogs and I went out to check if all is well and pleased to find no fresh bite marks on Fancy.  We have an automatic waterer, but I also like to keep a fresh tank filled in case one of the bossy mares would try to keep Fancy from it.  The fresh tank was empty and when I went to fill it, I realized I had forgotten to unfasten the hose from the faucet so a bit frozen this morning.  I unhooked it and pulled it out into the sunshine.  It shouldn’t take long to thaw. 


Temps are expected to reach 50 again today (now I sound like the noon weatherman), but with strong winds which seems to be the norm lately.  I took the day off today in hopes of getting some outdoor time.  Tomorrow I am flying to Austin for the day and as luck would have it, it is predicted to be the last nice day for awhile.  The weekend looks wet and cold. 




While I was outside, I heard the geese flying south, too, before I could actually see them.  We’ll see more of these flocks in days to come – we seem to be on the direct route.


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The other day when I put Fancy in with the herd, Butter had been down in the pasture by herself.  She saw some activity and came running up to the corral.  Windy was standing next to Fancy and approached Butter.  It almost looks like she is warning Butter to behave herself so they can all stay together. 


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Yeah, Butter isn’t buying the plan for one minute, is she?


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Later out in the pasture, for the most part, the horses ignored Fancy but every now and then, Butter had to give her a little run.  Once again, you can see Windy watching over like she is very disappointed in Butter.  I know, I am anthropomorphizing, but don’t all of us who have animals do a little bit of that?  Didn’t Dr. Doolittle make us all believers? 

Nov 13, 2011

Wrapping It Up


Today it was time to do the dirty.  The dirty job, that is, of cleaning out the trailer, winterizing it and putting it away for the next few months.  With the price of diesel at $4 a gallon, it certainly doesn’t take much arm twisting.  For any day rides, I can take my bumper pull hooked to my Durango and enjoy the 60 cents a gallon price difference.  And before you say diesels get better mileage…. ah, no.  Mine doesn’t.  My 1/2 ton Durango with a hemi pulls my bumper pull with better mileage than my diesel.  And most of my friends who have 3/4 ton gas burners get better mileage than my diesel.  But if you have hung with me over the years, you know how I feel about my truck.  I hate it.  But anyway, back to today…..


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The trailer wasn’t in bad shape; I am usually pretty good about cleaning it between trips, but hadn’t since we returned from Kanopolis.  I swept the shavings out and then pulled the mats and cleaned the floors.  I also scrubbed manure and fly poop off the walls; stopped short of the ceiling other than spraying it.  The cold water coming down my shirt sleeve was a bit much for November.  I took a “before” picture, but forgot to take one after the work was over. 


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In the living quarters, I cleaned out clothes and food items that I didn’t think would winter well.  Drained the water tank and scrubbed the counter, refrigerator and and floor.  All that’s left is draining the water heater and pulling the battery.  John made room in what I lovingly call his “80% Shed” (My friend Mary and I are blessed with handy husbands but commiserate that many of the projects are only 80% done.)  Next weekend I’ll finish the job and hook up the bumper pull to my Durango and make sure everything is working on it.  And then Miss Fancy Pants will need to have a loading lesson in that trailer.  She has been real good about loading so for and I don’t expect a problem, but I also don’t want to find a problem if I were in a hurry. 


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I had a minor meltdown today.  I was putting things into the tack room and was mindful of Ginger’s bridle, Ginger’s halter, Ginger’s original saddle.  A particular mellow selection of songs on Pandora radio and 101 other reminders made my heart ache and the tears poured again easily.  Fancy has been a good diversion but the pain of losing Ginger is still so close to the surface. 


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Speaking of which, today was also herd integration day; all five horses are now together.  And it went fairly well, thank goodness.   That is Fancy standing to the right of Baby; eating from the same bale.  Who’d of thunk?  I guess Baby must have figured out that the key to getting back with Blue is being nice to the new girl.  The corral is open to the pasture so they all have plenty of room to get away from each other.  Help her make it through the night….



Nov 12, 2011

Weather Gods


Early in the week when Friday’s forecast was predicted in the fifties, a few of us with flexible Friday hours started making some ride plans.  I work from home on Friday mornings and was so confident it was going to be a slow day that I blocked my calendar and took PTO.  But Murphy’s Law kicked in and that didn’t happen.  I was worrying if I was going to make ride time at all that afternoon.  I did, but was late.  I hate being the one people are waiting on because I know how frustrating it is – especially when a day like Friday temperature wise was a gift we won’t see very often again for months. 




I brought both Fancy and Windy and Fancy served as a guest horse.  I wouldn’t loan her out to just anyone, but my friend, Corie, is an experienced rider albeit she is just coming off an injury.  I assumed she would ride Fancy but gave her the option of Windy.  Truth be known, Windy isn’t the easiest ride.  But from everything Corie had heard about Fancy, she was fine riding her.  We tacked up quickly and hit the trail about thirty minutes later than planned (big sigh). 


Camp Moses Merrill is a private bible camp and convention center located about 20 miles north of me.  And they are kind enough to open their near 600 acres to horse trail riders for a small fee.  It is a very tough ride on the horses; lots of hills and tough on riders if you don’t know where the trails are as many are hidden among the the trees.  We’ve been riding there for over ten years, so not so tough on me except times like this after the leaves have fallen; sometimes the trails just disappear under it all. 




We saw an abundance of deer; they don’t hunt Camp Moses, so I like to think they are taking shelter from the season which starts today.  We were startled once by a man approaching us in camouflage. He was coming from the adjoining property and putting up No Trespassing signs in preparation of hunting season, ensuring that riders don’t get off the trail and into the warzone of high powered rifles. 


One of the trails open up to a hay pasture which appeared the camp had sectioned off with electric fence for their personal herd to graze.  We continued up the field road and before my eye could catch up to the fact that the electric fence was down, Windy stepped into it.  She startled, spun and started to head back down the trail.  I could hear the fence still on her foot and while attempting a one-rein stop,  my brain was telling me to bale off.  As I was looking for a soft place to land, Windy stopped. 


Now mind you, this field road was not a path but a pretty wide open space.  After the fireworks and thinking that was the only suspect part of that fencing, we continued on – all the while watching the fenceline.  I was following Mary on her horse Sara and Corie on Fancy.  We all saw at the same time the fence was down again.  I looked at the horses in front of me and saw that it was laying on the ground about an inch left of Sara’s hoof.  Fancy was to Sara’s right. 


I got off Windy and gave her to Lauren who was riding behind me and started to approach Sara so I could move the downed fence.  Probably hearing Lauren leave with Windy, Fancy started to back around Sara.  Before I could get to the fence on the ground, Fancy was caught up in it.  I cringed as I saw Corie struggling to keep Fancy still while looking to step off.  And what was no time at all, Fancy was out of it and standing still enough for Corie to quickly dismount.  I am not sure who was shaking more:  the horses or Corie and me.




There were five riders and four mares and a gelding.  Corie said Fancy was a bit snarly at the other horses; a side of her I haven’t seen yet (Fancy, not Corie Smile  ).  I think she is starting to gain some confidence and is getting in a little bit better physical condition so perhaps we are seeing a little stronger Fancy.  John will enjoy that; he is not used to a quiet ride although I think he is starting to appreciate it. 


The weather gods surprised us with temperatures that reached sixty-six degrees.  Such a gift for November 11th in Nebraska.  Although today is to be just as nice, rifle season opens for deer hunting, so being out on trails on a horse is not the place to be.  I will probably ride a bit in our arena or pasture just to take advantage of the day but won’t be dodging any bullets out and about on the trails. 

Nov 7, 2011

If Not Drugs, A Tumor?

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I know I have mentioned our past horse purchases.  First there was “kid-broke (three-year-old) Ginger.  And once, after purchasing a pretty paint mare at a sale, my non-horse sister-in-law called me the next day to ask if I bought a horse.  I thought it odd she call, but she went on to explain that a co-worker of hers saw me bidding and knew the horse.  It broke it’s last owners back.  That mare didn’t stay with us long.  There was the pretty black mare that broke three of John’s ribs and the pretty black gelding that was most likely navicular.   And there were others.  So by the time I bought Windy back, although she had been ridden, I was hoping she wasn’t too old to bring back from the dark side should she have one.  (The jury is still out.)


When we found ourselves horse shopping after Ginger died, although I was quite anxious to get another horse, I also knew we had time to look.  I wanted to start out looking for our ideal.  We saw a few before I stumbled across Fancy’s ad, but none had really tripped our trigger.  I consulted with a friend, a very respected horse breeder, about Fancy.  She liked her looks and breeding and pointed out that we shouldn’t disregard what training she has had.  Although I was somewhat bargain shopping, my friend pointed out that I needed to look at the horse and the training and together, it sounded like a great deal.   




You know the rest; the first trip to Rock Creek to last weekend at Kanopolis; Fancy just takes it all in stride.  We joked initially that the drugs hadn’t worn off yet, but now long past, I tend to wonder if she has a brain tumor.  We just don’t luck out with horses of this nature. 


This past weekend, there was a “Haunted Trail Rider Challenge” being held about an hour away.  A few of the Horsetalers decided to go and because I knew I’d be in good company, I decided to take Fancy.  Why not?  She has been unshakeable so far and I haven’t really had a chance to ride her outside the arena.  We didn’t have to do anything really; just soak it all in and give her more exposure.  I did invite John to come along but told him I was riding his mare. He had other plans so wasn’t interested in going.  Good thing, because he would have had to take Butter.  I don’t like him riding Windy and I sure didn’t want him competing with me on MY horse.  (Ignore the double standard, please.)




Well, we came, we went and we didn’t come home a winner as far as points are concerned, but her performance was a major success in my book.  With just a cluck, she attempted most things I asked – most without hesitation or concern.  Truly, her only angst was over hoola hoops and even that was a delayed reaction.  The following pictures were taken both during warm up and competition. 




We started by playing with some of the obstacles that weren’t part of competition.  I was surprised at how easy it was to ask her to approach a challenge and see her look and act.  Don’t you just wonder what is going through her head (beside the tumor?)


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She stepped right over this tarp covered mattress.  I had my druthers: I think of all the things that can go wrong like getting one of her shoes stuck in the tarp.  There was another tarp over the ground that was covered with garden hose & once again, she stepped on it and crossed.  The tires in the foreground of this picture were “steps” which we went up and down.


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During competition, we were asked to stop at this plastic birdbath and pick up a stuffed lollipop and then trot a circle 8.  I was really impressed with how she set herself up when I asked for a stop and stood quietly while I reached for the item. 


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We were asked to back through the U-shaped timber.  We started on the right side and I attempted to turn her on the forehand to get over to the other side.  She had a little problem lining up, but it was really just communication – her learning what I’m asking or me learning how to ask her correctly 


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I just liked this picture.  She had a nice headset.   My posture could have been better; I look like I have a touch of scoliosis. 


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This was an interesting obstacle.  The PVC pole was left next to the fence and I was to fetch it and place the end on the barrel and then circle it.  I couldn’t get her sidled up to pole enough for me to reach it, so I asked the judge to put it in my hand.  Fancy wasn’t too startled by it, but she would attempt to walk away from it when I would lift it toward the barrel, so we just called it good by holding it. 


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The challenge started by going in the gate which we did, but it wasn’t pretty.  And lastly, we had to go out the gate; and we nailed it. 


The most important thing I learned is our mare is very willing.  (Note, I say “our” mare.)  There were some things she didn’t do, but not so much because of fear or stubbornness but more from confusion; not understanding what I was asking.  And that is reasonable.  She was trained by someone else and we have to learn to sync up with what she has been taught.  All that will take time.  Don’t tell Windy, but I am pretty sure she would have placed higher than my pretty bay mare.  Although Windy is a little more refined to my ask, she has no use for silly pet tricks.  I am not sure I would have gotten her to go under the inflatable, as shown at the top of this post.  Fancy passed through it like it wasn’t there. 


My same wise friend pointed out that I shouldn’t compare the two mares but appreciate what each can teach me and what I can learn to apply to the other.  And I think that is good advice.  If there is no drugs in this mare’s system and she doesn’t have a brain tumor, I think we may have made one of our best horse purchases.


Did I mention that I had FUN?  I really, really did!



Nov 5, 2011

Windy Ride


The title should not be confused with “Riding Windy”.  I rode Fancy… in the wind. 

I hated to leave my housework post as my only accomplishment this weekend, albeit I did get the place a bit livable for now.  Having been gone all last weekend and having to travel twice this week for work, things were looking pretty chaotic on the home front.  Laundry is now under control and I could safely invite in guests without too much embarrassment. 

Anyway, back to my windy ride. 


November is teasing us with near sixty degree weather, but true to Nebraska, it doesn’t come without wind.  Today it started blowing in the morning with gusts over 40 mph.  It’s hard to enjoy the warmer temps.  But, not to be discouraged – because it could be 30 degree with wind – I decided I would ride.

I had planned to ride Windy, but I’m a bit nervous about taking Fancy on an event tomorrow, so saddled her instead.  I can tell she is getting much more confident in the weeks since we had her; she lunged nicely for me and I saw enough that I was ready to ride.  After a little while in the arena, I took her off to discover the trail around the perimeter of our property. 

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I worked her on going over the bridge quite a bit before I finally relented and led her over it.  After that, we crossed it a few more times on foot and mounted.  Same with the water crossing which is next to the highway.  I have to admit I didn’t spend a lot of time on the try on this one.  I still have nightmares over the highway scene on The Horse Whisperer.  In my mind, I could see her bolting up the hill for the highway.  In my mind, I told myself to dismount quickly and keep a hold of the reins.  The mind can play funny tricks on you.  But alas, there were no highway scenes played out. 

We did gates, we opened the door to the truck, we walked over a log… we just took care of business.  I won’t say she wasn’t nervous – she was – and so was I.  But she left the barn, she left the herd and she did pretty much everything I asked, so can’t complain.

So, as I mentioned earlier – tomorrow I am stepping out of my comfort zone and taking her to an event called The Haunted Trail Rider Challenge.  From what I understand, these are obstacles set up in an arena; a competition of sorts.  I am going solo and my goal is to just expose her to new things and in the process hopefully not embarrass myself too bad. 

“New horse.”
“Only 4 years old.”
“Hasn’t been ridden for a year until we got her.”
“Really, she is my husband’s horse.”

I have all the excuses/disclaimers ready!  Wish us luck.




This post is terribly off topic and titled as such because my goal today was housework.  And then horse time.  But I keep getting sidetracked from cleaning.  I absolutely HATE it. 


Here are a few things I thought I would share with you with regards to housework.


1)  Laundry Detergent.  I am no longer a brand snob.  When Tide and Cheer were no longer available for under $10, I started trying some of the store brands and found there is NO DIFFERENCE in the cleanliness of my clothes.  Dress clothes turn out just as nice and football uniforms still need a stain sprayer.  But I bet I save 75% by buying the no-name brands. 


2)  Dishwasher Soap:  I did not find the off brands to work as well but a friend’s plumber recommended Finish over Cascade and I tried it and concurred.  It works BETTER than Cascade and is cheaper, too. 


3)  I will never, ever buy a front load washer again.  I don’t know if its just me, but a lot of my freshly washed clothes end up on the floor in front of the washer before getting loaded into the dryer.  I HATE it.  My luck this will be a washer that will last forever but if it doesn’t, I will replace it with a top loader.


4)  And unrelated to housework, why the heck is diesel fuel over 50 cents higher than regular.  I cannot WAIT to trade in my diesel for a gas burner.  So there!


Okay, back to the regularly scheduled program. 



Nov 2, 2011

First Snow


Supposedly we had our first snow today, but I was jetting at 40,000 feet to Texas and by the time I returned, it had melted.  So does it count if I was sitting in 80 degree weather while my fellow Nebraskans were texting me pictures of the nasty stuff?  Believe me, I don’t mind missing it At. All. 

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Horsekeeping continues to be a challenge.  Butter was not happy having to be the corral-mate of the new girl.  Fancy's bite marks were just beginning to heal when we returned from Kanopolis and we hated to put her through that again.  We decided to try putting Blue, our only gelding, in with her. 

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Blue and Ginger were the herd bosses and none of the others would cross them.  Both were passive leaders; they led the herd through looks, not bites or kicks, and they were respected.  Today, however, I realize Blue fed off Ginger’s courage because without her, he hasn’t really stepped up to the plate.  He has not really left Baby’s side since Ginger passed and Baby is an aggressive horse.  We don’t need her moving into the lead position so perhaps without Blue at her side, she’ll step back to her lessor role. 

The first night bunking with Blue, Fancy had some fresh bites but I’m not sure if they were from Blue or perhaps Baby reaching over the fence.  Those first 24 hours, from the looks of the poop trail, Blue and Baby stood next to each other, with the fence between them.  If Fancy came nearby, she would be within range of Baby reaching her. 

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I opened the pasture gate so Baby, Windy and Butter could leave the corral.  I figured Windy and Butter would, but I was surprised to find that on Day 2, Baby joined them in the pasture.  Since then, Fancy has had no more bites and on occasion, I have caught her and Blue eating from the same flake of hay. 

Perhaps it will all work out.  The sooner, the better.