Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wonderful Weekend

While it poured rain at Oak Creek Ranch, Brett and I were in sunny Solvang at the Alisal Ranch.  It was my birthday present from Brett.  We had a great time riding on the cattle ranch, eating far too much good food, and relaxing in our cabin.  Saturday morning we drove into Santa Barbara and walked around the botanic gardens.

There were poppies blooming like crazy.  At home, the poppies are just coming up and they certainly aren't blooming yet.

Santa Barbara is a good seven hour drive south from here, on the coast, with sunshine, mild temperatures and lupine in bloom.

Waves and waves of color.

Even the turtles in the garden pond were enjoying the weather.

We're back home tonight.  It rained almost two inches while we were gone according to the rain gauge.  It's raining right now and will continue off and on all week.  There's even a chance of snow Tuesday morning.  Poppies?  Not quite, not here, not yet.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Almost Ready for Chickens

Brett finished painting the hen house before the rain started.  I love the cheerful red color.

He and Richard built a nice sturdy gate into the chicken run.

I have ordered baby chicks.  They will arrive on April 14.  I can't wait.

There will be 16 chicks.  I wanted a mixed flock of interesting breeds.  I chose breeds based on cold hardiness, docile dispositions, and funky feathers.  I'm not concerned about whether they are good layers -- we don't need a ton of eggs for two people.  There were a few breeds I wanted but couldn't get -- it seems my favorites are popular with a lot of people.

Our flock will be a mix of Blue Andalusians, Ameraucanas, Barred Rocks, Polish, Lakenvelders, Brahmas and Cochins.  I wanted, but couldn't get, Buff Orpingtons and Marans.
File:Buff Laced Polish Chicken.jpg
Buff Laced Polish: Wikipedia
I'm so ready.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Winston Thoughts

I'm sure it isn't a surprise to you that I spent most of last night thinking about Winston.  The more I thought, the more I became convinced that he may very well have ulcers.  Sandy had mentioned the possibility Thursday and it makes a lot of sense.

1.  Winston was not reactive the first year after I bought him.  He was forward and sensitve but also level headed.  He tried hard.  He couldn't wait to go to work; always meeting me at the gate.  I took him to a couple shows and he was solid as a rock, even in cold freezing wind that drove most of the other competitors to scratch.

2.  Then we moved.  He was already a bit more reactive, but still a happy partner.  I think that even though he enjoyed the shows, being there with all the noise and activity was stressful.  It was a far cry from his peaceful paddock life.  The move to our present home involved a very long trailer ride.  I've tried to block out exactly how long; but I'm guessing it was in the neighborhood of ten hours.  Then he had to adjust to a new place.

3.  Winston didn't settle in peacefully.  He harrassed Jackson in the pasture so we had to separate them.  Then he started goading Mufasa.  When we were finally settled enough that I could ride again, I had lost six months.  He was belligerant and hard to catch.  He started resisting work.  I was baffled.  Where did my steady Eddy fun horse go?

4.  I trailered him down to take a few lessons with Sandy and we did well.  I loved how Sandy had me ride with focus and I loved how she used softness as a reward.  Winston seemed to be doing well.  I was feeling encouraged.  In answer to Kates (valid) concern, Sandy always goes to a very soft place- and stays there - as long as the communication is flowing.  The horses she trains are happy and relaxed.  This is not an issue of having the wrong trainer for Winston.

5.  Winston became more and more reactive; to the point where I didn't feel safe.  Initially, Winston made a lot of progress with Sandy and riding him was like being on a different horse.  He was soft and forward and fun.  But he still had reactive days and lately they've been increasing.  He flinches visibly when touched.  Sometimes, he does more than flinch.  In the past week, his demeanor has changed.

6.  The plan: a full course of ulcer medication; a full work up by the massage/acupressure therapist; ulcer prevention supplements and, lastly, more time with me.  Sandy will still work with him -- she is much clearer and I don't want confusion to add to his discomfort.  But, I plan to visit him in the evenings after work -- grooming, hand walking, hanging out.  We've been out of town the last few weekends with my  mom's memorial and my birthday, but I plan to spend more of my weekends with him now.  Some of you may remember Kalvin, a horse who stayed at Aspen Meadows for a little more than a year while healing from an injury.  He was a sweet horse, but he never bonded with us.  His heart belonged to his owner and he lived for her visits.  The difference in his attitude, the shine in his eyes and the spring in his step when she came to visit were impossible to miss.  I know Winston misses me; he tells me so when I visit.  I need to spend more time with him.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Random Five Friday

1.  Its still raining.  We had four storms backed up against each other, hanging out over the Pacific Ocean.  The first two have come through and the third will hit Saturday.  The last one will come ashore and reach our area Monday.  The storms aren't particularly cold; the snow level is staying above 5000 feet but they are windy and wet.  Wednesday evening, there was a tornado watch just north of us.

2.  Lori asked if I soak Jackson's feet when he has an abscess.  His soles are already extremely soft so I do not soak.  However, I do slather his hoof with an epsom salt poultice underneath his bootie.  Winter is hard for him.  Once the weather warms and the ground dries, his feet will harden and he won't have any more trouble.

3.  I have a couple new followers -- welcome!  I use the Friday post to answer questions and respond to questions so please join in the conversation.  Thank you for the kind (and encouraging) words about the property.

4.  Brett and I went to a wine pairing dinner at the Smith Flat House Wednesday night.  We were seated at a long table in the cellar, next to one of the old mining tunnels from the gold rush, with 12 other brave souls.  I say "brave" because of the menu.  The chef at the restaurant is inventive and talented; he likes to push the envelope.  The main course was goat.  Ten people cancelled and another four didn't show.  We tried not to think about Little Bear and Thistle back at home.  I told myself that we have chickens (or will again soon) and we eat that so I should be okay with goat.  My dad assured me that it is tasty -- and it was.

5. I was going to take a lesson on Winston today but, after talking to Sandy, decided that it was better if I wait.  He's still very reactive; blowing up at every little provocation.  I went by to see him and drop off his supplements.  He was standing with his head in the corner; his eyes listless.  He's not happy.  Sandy said he's stressed.  We are going to put him on an ulcer protective medication and perhaps give him a round of GastroGuard "just in case."  I'm concerned that he isn't happy, that I'm not happy, and that Sandy is concerned about his suitability as my partner.  ...I brought the subject up with her today; I've been thinking about it a lot.  I think Winston would excell as an eventing horse; he loves to jump and he loves to go.  He's brave and confident and he has heart.  The problem is that I don't want to jump.  I don't want a horse that is reactive.  I don't want to be bucked off again.  When Winston is good, he's a blast to ride.  But, more and more, the "good" is disappearing into unhappiness.  Sandy advised me to not throw the towel in yet but I'm getting pretty close.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Jackson Cracks me Up

Tonight when I got home from work Brett was riding his mower outside the front gate.

The dogs were on time-out (Kersey got out under the fence again).  Two Canada geese were enjoying the clover pasture and the horses were milling about, nibbling on the green grass.

I couldn't wait to change into my jeans and get outside.  Rain clouds had been gathering all day and were crowded together overhead.

 Jackson was a filthy muddy mess.  They all are but it really shows on a grey horse; dirt and grass stains ground into his hair.  I was going to give him his daily once over with the shedding blade but decided to give him a full grooming session instead.  He turned his head back to watch me, to check my pockets for cookies, to ask for face rubs and to give me friendly bumps with his nose.  I smiled through the white fur that was flying off his body.

As I walked back to the barn to put away Jackson's tack bag, he reached his head down to the hoof that had been bothering him and started to rub, then lick, the hoof.  Weirdo.  I thought maybe there was some adhesive on the hoof from the bootie I had made him.  But no, there wasn't anything on the hoof but right at the coronet band there was a hole.

Jackson had two abscesses in that foot.  Oh, man, no wonder he was in such pain.  Sunday, I found a hole in the sole and he was walking much better but not 100%.  Tonight he was walking completely sound so it was the second abscess bursting that gave him complete relief.  Poor guy.

Brett finished up his mowing and rode the mower up to the barn to put it away.  He rode it, roaring and spitting grass, right past Jackson who was still grazing in the vicinity.  Jackson didn't even look up as Brett passed by close enough to reach out and touch Jackson if he had wanted.

I had finished up the chores so we brought the horses into the barn for the night.  It has started to rain.   I love the sound of the rain.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

We're All Doing Better

My mom's memorial celebration went very well.  I brought a couple hams and a sliced turkey breast, my brother brought champagne (my mom's favorite kind), and my sister brought plates, coffee and cookies.  Saturday morning we made a CostCo run and picked up enough food to feed an army.  We pulled out all my mom's pretty platters and arranged a beautiful buffet.  At 3:00 the house was crammed full of friends and family.  My father said a few words and talked a bit about my mom's cousin John who couldn't come in person but was with us in spirit - and who had sent a wonderful tribute FedEx.  My brother-in-law spoke next, about how my mom accepted him for who he was from the time he first started dating my sister -- more than 30 years ago.  I was up next.  I made it through, talking about my relationship with my mom as a child, teenager and adult.  I was a bit, er, challenging as a child and teenager.  But, through it all she was a tremendous positive influence in my life and we became very close friends.  My little brother spoke last -- reading a letter he wrote her after her death.  It was a wonderfully warm and intimate celebration, in the home she loved.  My dad's sister Elsie and my cousin Nancy made the drive and stayed late into the evening, talking and reminiscing while the kids all congregated up on the rooftop patio with the remains of the bottles of wine that had been opened in the course of the afternoon.  The evening was loud and boisterous and filled with laughter.  My mom would have loved it.

Saturday morning, Sandy sent me a text.  Remember how Winston was being uber naughty?  Well, when she rode him Friday he was well behaved and she was very pleased with his work.  She thought I would be happy to have some good news on a difficult day.  She was right.

This afternoon, we drove back home.  We pulled in the driveway and a very welcome site met my eyes.  Jackson was standing square on all four feet.

He couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about.

I checked his foot and there was a big hole in bottom of the heel, still oozing a bit.  I gave him a quick grooming with the shedding blade -- he is dropping hair like crazy; losing his heavy winter coat and getting ready for summer.

I did a walk around the garden and snapped a few pictures for Lori.  She is still getting snow and needs flowers to keep her spirits up.

We ended the day on the front porch with a glass of wine and the dogs at our feet. No more stress about memorial speeches for me and no more abscess for Jackson; a big ham bone for each of the dogs for dinner and our own bed to sleep in tonight.  Its good to be home.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Random Five Friday

1.  The blog will be quiet this weekend.  My mom's memorial is Saturday.  I will be celebrating her life with my family and with her friends.  I want to talk about her at the gathering; to share a bit about our relationship and what she meant to me.  I want to but I'm not sure I'll make it through.  I'm going to give it my best shot though.  Wish me strength.

2.  We do not plan to put a cover on the chicken run to protect them from hawks.  We'll see how it goes.  They will have a large oak tree and the hen house for cover.  If hawks start raiding our flock, I'm sure Brett will come up with some kind of cover.  He is putting chicken wire all along the bottom.  We don't need raccoons pulling chicken heads through the fence.  Yes, they do that and it's gruesome.

3. There has been some discussion in the comments about Jackson and his metabolic syndrome; about his supplements and about the wisdom of letting him eat grass.  We don't believe that he has a metabolic condition after all.  We had him tested six ways to Sunday and all the tests came back negative.  I did put him on Cushings medication for a year since metabolic conditions can throw false negative lab tests -- it didn't make any difference.  Our vet up here thinks Jackson just has crappy feet.  His laminitis isn't progressing and he shows no other symptoms of metabolic imbalance.  His soles are super thin, they get soft when the ground is wet and voila, abscess city.  He gets a vitamin supplement to balance his hay.  Other than his feet, he's very healthy.  He's got a boot on -- a diaper and epsom salt poultice covered with bandage tape and a duct tape sole.

4.  I bought a bird feeder and hung it on a pole in my garden.  I can see it from the breakfast table and my kitchen window.  I have a pair of binoculars and a book on birds in the Sierras sitting close by.  Brett thinks I've gone off the deep end, constantly looking up birds.  I saw a mountain bluebird the other day so it must be spring.

5.  Sandy called and cancelled my lesson on Winston.  It seems he's taken naughty to a whole new level.  She felt it best (and I agree) that I not ride him until he gets past this tantrum stage.  She likened his behavior to a two year old; I don't want to do it! I don't! I don't!  But instead of banging his head on the floor (my little brother excelled at that one), he throws himself around the arena.  Sandy rides with a lot of tact and sensitivity so if he's pulling this with her, it's all about him.  We don't think its pain related since he's good as gold when the work is easy and only protests when she's asking for a bit more.  I'm sure he's sore; boot camp is hard work. That isn't an excuse for bad behavior.  I have asked that the body work person give him a treatment (massage, acupressure) and we'll see if she feels anything especially ouchy.  In the meantime, I'm very thankful for Sandy and for her working with Winston.  She believes he can do the work and he can be a good partner; he just needs to do some growing up in the attitude division first.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wednesday Evening

I love pulling into the driveway after work with almost two hours of light left.  Tonight, I flung the groceries onto the counter and ran upstairs to change into my jeans and a sweatshirt.  Brett had been busy painting the hen house today.  I love the color; so cheerful.

Brett asked me to help him bring the horses into the oak pasture for the night.  He let them roam around the ranch today.  Mufasa was already next to the pasture, ready to be tucked in for the night.

Flash was a bit further down, grazing underneath the tree house.

Jackson was the furthest away, chowing down on the green grass next to the dressage court.  His right front is brewing another abscess.  Poor guy.

Brett had both Flash and Mufasa in the oak pasture in the time it took me to move Jackson a few feet.  Once we got off the spongy grass covered ground and onto the packed dirt pathway, Jackson stopped and looked me with eyes that said he just couldn't make it all the way to the oak pasture.  We were right next to the donkey pasture so Brett opened the back gate and we put him in there.  He thanked me and got to work on the grass, which must have been very tasty judging by the way he was ripping at it with his teeth.

Tuffy wasn't too sure about sharing his pasture with Jackson.  When Jackson is sound, he enjoys chasing Tuffy.  Of course, he isn't in any shape to chase anything right now.  What is he doing in here??!

Are you listening to me?? I want him out.  Now.

Sorry Tuffy.  Deal with it.  Jackson is moving in until his abscess bursts.  Put on your big boy pants.

With the animals safely tucked in for the night, I headed into the house and made dinner.  Black rice with mangos, oranges, peanuts and watercress, all tossed together with a lemon honey vinaigrette.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Brett's Project: Chicken Pen

We've really missed having chickens and their eggs.  I told Brett I wanted to get some chicks in April so he's been busy planning and building their digs.  He gathered his supplies and marked where to put the posts for the chicken pen.

We ordered a shed and last Friday the guy came with his truck and his nail gun to put it up.
The Front

The Back
Shelf for nesting boxes

Saturday, we picked up some old produce packing boxes to use as nesting boxes and Rusty the Rooster for the front.

Brett's friend, Richard, arrived last night to visit for a few days.  They always work on projects together.   Today they worked on getting the fencing up for the chicken pen.  They started by framing the gate Brett installed next to the pen with access into my garden.  Brett made the gate wide enough to accommodate his tractor so he can bring in loads of compost for the fruit trees and planters.  The cross beam is to keep deer from jumping over the gate into the garden.

Brett and Richard were college roommates.  Richard was an aeronautical engineering major and Brett started out in architecture.   Between the two of them, they made sure the fencing was perfectly level and straight.

I know it is overkill for a chicken pen but that's the way Brett does things.  We used to joke that the chicken pen at Aspen Meadows was a palace.  This one is looking like a chicken resort.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Welcome Spring

I know spring is still a few days away but today it was spring at Oak Creek Ranch.  The sun was warm, the daffodils were blooming and the grass was green.  We moved the horses into the clover pasture.  The got to work on the grass after licking their bowls of cereal clean.

After chores, we climbed into the truck and drove down to visit this guy.

Sandy was getting ready to load Releve when we arrived.  She was showing yesterday and today (75 both days at 3rd level).  She told me that she has started working with Winston at canter and he is not happy about going in a nice frame.  We were just getting ready to start work on Winston's canter before we moved so this is new work.  His canter is comfortable but he goes around like a giraffe, hollow in the back and head high.  No loose swinging back and no pushing into the bit.  And he likes it that way, thank you very much.  He's been pitching a fit with Sandy so she advised that I just do walk and trot work today.  He was the same way with learning to use his body in trot so I know he will get there.  In the meantime, I'll let Sandy deal with the tantrums and I won't encourage things by cantering like a giraffe.

We started working long and low.  Winston likes long and low.

He does not like the actual work part that comes after the warm up.  He ducks his head and tries to avoid working into the bit.  I am not pulling him into this rolker-looking frame.  He is doing this all by himself.

Winston, Winston, it's not going to work.  I squeeze him forward with my calves and squeeze my fingers as if I were holding a wet sponge.  Up with that poll buddy.  Time to work.

When he realized the old evasions were not going to work with the new me, he gave up and gave me some very nice trot work.  I love the way I ride now -- with half halts that mean something, with focus, and with determination.  I still reward with softness, of course, but when Winston resists I don't give in.  Patient persistence is paying off.

After our short bit of work (I have another cold and very little energy), we went for a relaxing walk around the back pastures.  I'm pretty run down -- very busy at work and not sleeping well.  My dreams are transitioning from disturbing to sad so I'm not as afraid to sleep.  Grief is hard.

We picked up some supplies for Brett's current project and headed home.

The horses were exhausted.  Grazing in the clover pasture under the warm spring sun wore them out.