Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Dreaded Measuring Stick

We have a "stick" for measuring horse's height.  It resembles those things that they have in a doctors office or school -- a tall vertical stick with a horizontal piece at the top that they rest on top of your head. The horse version has the same horizontal piece but you rest it on top of the withers instead of on top of the head.  None of our horses like the contraption.  There is something about putting a big stick next to them with a pointy top piece jutting across to their withers that just freaks them out.

Tex is no exception.

I worked with him a bit this afternoon.  I didn't ride; we just worked on grooming and bonding.  I told Brett that my goal with Tex is to achieve harmony and I want that solid on the ground first.  He was stellar at the tie rail (ground tied) for grooming.  I tried a different saddle pad with my western saddle and it worked much better.  Then I walked him around and let him munch on the grass.

Brett found the measuring stick in the barn and brought it out.  We've been curious about how tall he is; he feels huge.  Tex was fine until I extended the stick and flipped out the top part.  Then he was in constant motion, avoiding the stick at all costs, but not pulling on me.  He circled around me - and I let him.  I gradually made the circle smaller and asked him to sniff the stick.  He was okay with a good sniff but didn't want me near his withers with the thing.

I stuck with it; I stuck with him.  I didn't get mad or push it.  I just stayed.  Eventually, he realized it wasn't going away and it wasn't going to eat him.  I was able to measure him.  He's a smidge over 16h.  Most quarter horses are in the 15h range so he's a tall specimen for his breed.

Brett put the stick away and we continued grazing around and just hanging out together.  We've really come a long way, Tex and me.  I can groom him all over his body; today I even brushed his forelock. I can rub his forehead and his neck on the right side.  He's still not sure about the kissing business but that will come.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Random Friday

1.  We had a hum-dinger of a storm come through Wednesday night.  During the day, it was breezy with brief spats of rain filled wind gusts, followed by relative calm.  That all changed in the evening.  The wind began howling through the trees, whistling around the corners of the house, and shaking the windows.  At 8pm, we lost power.  I lit some candles and sat on the couch with my iPad, playing solitaire in the dark.  I did not light the wood-stove because I didn't want sparks flying out the chimney - even with a spark arrester, I wasn't taking chances.  So, I sat under two blankets.  Brett sat in his recliner and worried, with no TV to distract him.  The wind died down an hour later and then the skies opened and buckets of water were dumped over us.  Kersey refused to go outside and pee before bed -- and she's a lab, she loves water.  No power meant no well pump and no water. Fortunately, we had already taken our showers but we worried about the horses getting water in the barn since they have automatic waterers there.  There were about 4500 residences that lost power so we were not alone.  We woke up 3am when the lights came on.  

2.  Someone left a comment asking how tall Tex is.  Good question.  I looked at his papers but they don't give his height.  We have never measured him.  My guess is that he is about 16h.  Flash and Jackson are both 15.3 and Tex is definitely taller than both of them.

3.  I'm feeling a little blue today.  My mom died on this day in 2014.  I think about her all the time; I miss being able to tell her about this-or-that.  Some days are harder than others.  Today is a hard one.  FB did a flash back yesterday; you know... the ones that start with "here are some memories from this date in past years"... and there it was, a post from 2.18.14, the day before mom died. I had posted a status of how she was doing and seeing the post took me straight back to that hospital room and the yo-yo, up-and-down of rallying and failing that happened that week.  I'm going to take Kersey for a long walk when I get home tonight (if it isn't raining too hard) and that should help.

4.  We do have a good weekend on tap.  Kyle and Ana are coming up tonight so they can ski in Tahoe tomorrow.  We will have Brett's birthday dinner tomorrow night and are going to a wine-pairing dinner Sunday.  In less than a week, we will be at Alisal for our annual vacation there.

5.  I've been thinking about bucket-lists lately.  You know, that list of things you want to do or accomplish before you die.  Brett and I have been working on our respective lists over the years and we don't really have much "big" left to accomplish.  I would like to complete the training to become a master gardener but I'm guessing that won't happen until I retire -- since it is a large time commitment.  The two activities that bring me the most peace, that put me in a place where I completely lose track of time, are riding and gardening.  What's on your bucket list?  Where do you find solace?

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Test for Mufasa

(He passed).

Brett and I spent most of today running errands and getting supplies for ranch maintenance projects.  I'm sure most of you know this, but if you own property and have horses at home you ride less often then people who board their horses.  We spend most of our time fixing things on the property or just maintaining the place.  If there is time left, we ride.  Often, like today, there is not.

We decided to put Flash and Tex up in the top pasture to graze while we worked on our respective projects.  Brett was putting a drain in at the bottom of the dressage court, hoping it would stop the erosion we experience everytime it rains.  A fairly large system is arriving Wednesday so he wanted to have that done.  I was busy in the garden, installing a new and improved drip system in my vegetable bed.

We weren't positive that I would be able to catch Tex at dinner time, when we would bring Tex and Flash back to their pasture.  The last time we put the boys in the top pasture, catching Tex was a disaster.  Read about it here.

I was pretty optimistic; Brett less so.

We walked into the pasture to fetch the boys at 5pm.  Tex walked behind Flash and stood there, looking at me, from the safety of the other side of Flash.  Normally, Tex walks over to me.  Hmmm.   I stood still, with the halter on my shoulder, and looked at Tex.  "What are you doing, dude?" I asked. He circled twice, nervously, and then walked up to me.  I touched his shoulder and he flinched away.  I spoke to him softy, calmly and firmly.  He stopped and let me touch him.  I waited for him to relax and drop his head toward the halter before putting it on.

(Yes! Yes! Mental fist pump!)

On our walk down to the front pasture, Tex kept bumping me with his nose in a campanionable way.  At one point, he reached his nose towards my face and I kissed him.  He flinched away, then licked his lips and bumped my hand with his nose.  It was really sweet.

Back in the front pasture, we turned Flash and Tex loose.  He stood by me, eating cookies while I stroked his face.  When I left to start the evening chores, he stood still watching me go.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


Who needs a zoo when you have a dressage court in the mountains?  Not us.  We see wildlife constantly.  From deer and turkeys hanging out on the roads and in the pastures, to Canada geese waddling across the driveway, tree squirrels, ground squirrels, snakes, hawks and songbirds.  Then there are the animals we know are here but we rarely see, since they are nocturnal.  Kersey has been nailed by skunks more than once and Sedona treed a raccoon in the barn a few years ago.  We hear coyotes at night in the summer and I've seen a fox here and there dash across the road in front of my car.  There have been recent sightings of a bear and a mountain lion in the neighborhood as well.

Brett groomed the arena before our month of rain started.  I walked up to the dressage court to check the footing on Friday morning and found a zoo's worth of animal tracks.  Some were easily recognizable -- raccoon and geese have distinctive tracks.  There were the usual rabbit and squirrel tracks as well.  Then I noticed some big cat prints -- the size of the palm of my hand.  The animal was clearly running and they ended in a scuffle of sand.  Whoa.  Bobcat or mountain lion?  We have both in the area.  It looked like the cat was chasing a rabbit, not a deer, so I figured bobcat.  I looked up the tracks for both on the computer and they are identical except for the size.  Bobcat prints are 1-2 inches wide and long whereas mountain lion prints are 3+ inches.  These were a tad over 2 inches.

The other night Brett and I were having dinner and he suggested we get a surveillance camera and install it down by our front gate.
"To get pictures of all the wildlife?" I asked
"No," he replied. "To get a picture of anyone who tries to break into our property."

... This is what happens when a tree hugger marries a cop.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

First Ride on Tex

Friday I rode Tex for the first time.  Brett's ridden him quite a few times since we bought him but no one has ridden him since Brett came off last August.  I've been doing a lot of ground work with Tex since January. We started with haltering and then worked on standing at the tie rail and at the mounting block.  Mostly, though, we were working on building a bond of trust; trust going both ways.  We've made huge progress and a few weeks ago I started thinking about getting on.  The weather finally cooperated and I used my day off work to ride both Lucy and Tex.

Brett was nervous about me riding Tex.  He told me later that he prayed all night long that I would be okay.  And he was really nervous when I went out to ride.  He came along and took pictures.  Fortunately he didn't tell me how worried he was; I knew he was a bit apprehensive but had no idea how deep it ran.  Of course, he's come off of Tex three times and he didn't want it to happen to me.  I get that and I would not have gotten on if I didn't feel safe.  He told me that when I was getting ready to swing my leg over Tex's back, he was praying "Dear Lord, don't let her come off... she's the breadwinner."  When he told me that at dinner tonight, I almost spit my wine across the table I was laughing so hard.

Tex was very good for me at the tie rail.  I didn't tie him.  I draped the lead rope over the tie rail so he wouldn't step on it but I didn't loop it at all.  It just hung loose.  At the mounting block he stood perfectly still.  Lordy, he's a big horse.  And he's twice as wide as Lucy.  I felt like I was sitting on a Mack truck.

We didn't do a lot.  We walked around the arena, mostly.  I wanted him to relax, not worry, be confident and happy.  We accomplished all that.  He sighed a lot; licked his lips; dropped his head and stretched over his back.

We did a little backing.  Once he figured out what I wanted, he backed from my seat.  We tried a bit of trot but he seemed uncomfortable so I didn't push it.  I praised him everytime he tried to understand and do what I asked.

Afterwards, I stood next to him while he grazed on the tall grass growing outside the pasture fence.  He would lift his head periodically, turn to me, and let me rub his forehead before returning to the grass.  For Tex, who gives new meaning to the term "head shy," it was a huge demonstration of trust and of how far we've come.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Back in the Saddle

The weather has been gorgeous all week.  The sun has been drying out the mud and temperatures have been in the mid-60s -- about ten degrees warmer than normal for this time of year.  We haven't had any rain in over a week.  This makes us nervous, to be honest.  We aren't out of the woods yet with the drought and we don't want to lose all the progress we made in January.

I took today off of work so I could enjoy the weather and RIDE.  I knew the footing in the dressage court was going to be perfect and it feels like forever since I've been on Lucy.  I've ridden once since November and I miss it.

Grooming Lucy and tacking her up took longer than usual.  She was very affectionate, turning her head to nuzzle me and resting her head in my arms.  We were warm and mellow and happy.  Brett was busy next to us, getting Pistol saddled.

Lucy was a blast.  She remained relaxed, giving me a beautiful stretch at both walk and trot.  We did a lot of transitions to keep her balanced (she wanted to rush), listening and prompt.  She was in an over-achiever mood, giving me more than I expected in every request.  I was grinning the whole time; focused on our world, our communication, our harmony.  Everything else disappeared; we were there for each other.  It is these rides that bring me the most satisfaction and happiness.  I love this horse so much; I love riding this horse so much.  Yes, she can be a drama queen but she can also be a rock star ride.

Afterwards, we put Lucy and Pistol in the top pasture for a few hours to enjoy the grass.  The grass in their pasture is nibbled to the nubs and they earned some time in the back 40.

By the way, for all who asked... Kersey is doing fine.  She had a couple barfy nights, and then was back to normal.  In typical lab fashion, she never lost her appetite.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Tuffy and Tex

The other day, in an effort to reach the grass growing outside their pasture, Tex pushed a section of fence over.  Brett needed to put Flash and Tex in another pasture until he could replace the fence.  He couldn't put them in with Jackson because Jackson ends up covered in bite marks -- courtesy of Tex who goads Jackson constantly.  Putting the boys in with girls might result in fireworks so he didn't do that either.  The only option left was to put the boys in the donkey pasture.  Brett promised to keep an eye on things and make sure Tex didn't harass the donkeys.  He called me later and said that they were doing fine together.

Sure enough, when I got home all was calm and neither donkey had a mark anywhere.  Tex and Flash were busy grazing and the donkeys were by the gate, hoping for hay.  Later, when I took the cart into the pasture to muck, I found Tex and Tuffy standing side-by-side.  They made an adorable picture.  Tex,  a muddy chestnut powerhouse, and Tuffy, fluffy and sorrel, standing together with Tuffy's back almost touching the bottom of Tex's belly; both with ears pricked forward towards me; two friends.  When Brett brought the hay cart in, Tuffy stood right behind Tex -- waiting for Tex to give the green light on sharing ha.  It came pretty quickly.

I was initially surprised by their friendship -- Tex can be such a bully.  He's left marks on both Winston (who probably deserved it) and Jackson.  He never bothered Flash, who remains alpha despite his age.  But on second thought, the friendship between Tex and Tuffy makes perfect sense.  Tuffy isn't going to challenge Tex -- Tex is four times his size.  But Tuffy loves to run and play.  Tex, more than any horse we've ever had, loves to run as well.  We often see him racing up down the pasture for the sheer joy of the wind in his face and mane, and the power of his thundering hooves.  When we ride in the dressage court (which is behind the donkey pasture), Tuffy runs in circles in his pasture mimicking us.  Finessa stands quietly, watching him, and no doubt thinking he's lost his mind.  Now Tex and Tuffy can run together -- Tex jumping stream as they go around and Tuffy splashing through.

Its tempting to leave them there, together.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Picture This

Two nights ago Brett woke me up in the middle of the night and said that he heard Kersey barfing downstairs in her crate.  I was sound asleep and I think I might have grunted before rolling over and going back to sleep.

In the morning, Brett went downstairs to let her out and I heard him swear; then the crate door squeaked open; more swearing and him yelling "not on the carpet!" -- the screen door slammed, and it went quiet.

I went downstairs and checked the status of Kersey's bed.  It was... gross.  She had one of those fleece covered foam beds in the crate.  I took it to the wash rack in the barn and tried to hose off most of the barf before throwing it in the washer -- and then gave up.  It went in the trash.  She ate something that looked like bits of bone so I'm not sure if she dug up an old bone (Sedona buried them everywhere around the property) or ate some animal.

Last night, I put a clean blanket in her crate before we all went to bed.

At 2am, Brett woke me up again.  Kersey was barfing.  While I tried to resurface from sleep, Brett went downstairs to check on Kersey.  Some swearing, again.  Then the banging screen door and quiet.  I made my way downstairs and took the dirty bedding into the mud room where I scraped it off and got ready to put it in the washer.  Just then the backdoor opened and in came Brett.

Picture this -- he was stark naked, holding a flashlight, and wearing his slippers.  He said "I put Kersey in the barn."  Pause. "And I think I scared Tex."

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Revised Plan for Jackson

About a week ago, after a storm had passed through, I tried to put on Jackson's boots so he could go out in the pasture with the others.  I couldn't get a boot on any of his feet -- they had grown too long and it just wasn't going to happen.  We didn't want Jackson to be stuck in the barn all by himself with no access to the sunlight so we put him in the fenced arena.  The footing is sand so he wasn't in any danger of stepping on a pebble and getting an abscess.  Still, he was a bit gimpy for two days and I was grumpy about him not being trimmed enough last time the farrier was out.

Jackson, in addition to being sore, initially complained loud and long about being separated from Lucy.  We moved her and Pistol to the oak pasture and put Flash and Tex in the front pasture, which is parallel to the arena.  Jackson immediately settled down without Lucy right there to tease him.

We noticed that Tex and Flash started hanging out along the fence line closest to Jackson.  And Jackson took naps and pooped and hung out on the pasture side of the arena.  He started walking without a gimp and he was calm.

He actually seems to be doing better than he does in the boots.  And the boots are a pain to put on and off -- and after a week or so they stink.  Which can't be healthy.

We have decided to skip the boots and make the arena Jackson's winter pasture.  There are patches of grass growing in the corners and he can eat his meals at his leisure -- without Pistol (the food hog) chasing him away from his vitamins.  When the ground dries and his feet get hard, we will put him back in the oak pasture with the girls.  In the meantime, everyone seems happy and Jackson is thriving.

Now, if we could just get Brett sound we'd be in business.  He has bone spurs, can't get an appointment with the specialist until March, and is in a lot of pain if he walks around too much.

Monday, February 1, 2016

An Icy Morning

Sunday we had lovely weather -- for sitting by the fire with a coloring book.  In the morning, we brought the horses into the barn.  It had been raining a bit and the rain was flipping between ice and slush and something in between.  Jackson was wet underneath his blanket and happy to be rid of its soggy weight in the dry barn.  Meanwhile, Flash was squealing, bucking and rearing in the front pasture.  He was goading Tex who seemed a bit confused by Flash's sudden burst of energy.  Flash was a handful for Brett when we brought them into the barn.  Tex came in like a perfect gentleman.  Last, we brought in the girls.  Lucy was a bit snorty and tried to spin once but held it together for the most part.

We went to lunch with friends at the roadhouse a mile and a half away; where our lane meets the main road.  It wasn't raining or sleeting so I walked and met Brett there.  When we left, the temperature had dropped and it started to hail.  I didn't walk home.  During evening chores, it snowed.

During the night we had more rain and snow.  It was very cold when we went out to do chores.  After giving the horses their vitamin buckets, we moved them back into the pasture for the day.  We may get more snow tonight but they can enjoy the sunshine during the day.

Tex always wants to roll when we bring him back to the pasture.  This morning, the ground was frozen solid -- all those "puddles" in the picture?  They are puddles of ice, frozen solid.  Tex circled a few times before giving up on his roll and heading to his hay.

The girls wasted no time digging into their breakfast.

I let the goats out of their pen last, and they made a beeline for the horses and the hay.  Whiskey ran, jumping over the ice, while Thistle cautiously picked his way over the frozen ground.  Litte Bear went at a dead run.