Saturday, April 23, 2011

This Is SPRING?!?

So I'm running about a week behind--on everything in my life!
The next month will be worse, as I have my very busy "Drug Prevention Month" going on at school in May; I'm going to an endurance ride (to volunteer, not ride) next weekend; and I've got my mountain trail clinic in the middle of the month! I'll try to keep things updated as best I can.

Last weekend, Maddie and I trailered with Pat to a KVTR ride towards the east end of the valley, near the Wild Horse Wind Farm. She loaded right into Pat's smaller trailer, even though she's only been in it once, about two years ago.
The group of ten riders did about a 7 mile loop up one draw, over a saddle in the hills, and then down the next draw, so we were able to stay out of the wind, mostly.
These HUGE machinery tires have been brought in (by the BLM?) to provide watering stations (for range cattle? or elk?), and they created quite a stir among the horses, especially as we drew up the rise to the first one and discovered it was full of wind-blown H2O.
Maddie really did well, only looking a little askance, and more at the behavior of the other horses than the tank itself.

She also crossed several little creeklets and two boggy spots on the trail, with hardly any hesitation! She thought about jumping one, and then chose on her own not to, just as I was about to check her back.
She did jig on me a bit, so I asked for a lot of two-track/side-pass and made her work, and that settled her down a lot on the way up the hill. Coming back down she got revved up again, and the extra work didn't seem to help--she just got more frustrated.
Putting her in behind Pat , ponying Chief from solid as a rock Rambler, helped her slow down some, as they created a bit of a roadblock. I was glad she does seem to have gotten over the nasty habit of walking right up on the horse in front of her--bad manners, indeed, and dangerous with some horses.
I actually had her leading the group for a bit, and she really likes this: she stops the wiggles and just strides right out! But then another gal's horse, who is also a jigger, came up alongside us, and suddenly the race was on! At this point I dropped back into the pack again.
As the terrain opened up, I did some full circles to get her listening, and this helped. We were close enough to the trailers that she wasn't too upset by the other horses getting so far away.
Using this nice big trailer as a windbreak, we had some lunch and conversation (and Evra's great cookies!). Something happened with a couple of the tied horses, but Maddie stayed calm throughout the hubbub. Then we loaded up and headed for home.

Sunday, I got three of my four brace posts set for the new section of driveway fence. However, I hit a lot of good-sized rocks (softball-to-soccerball), and ended up doing almost as much digging by hand with a shovel and pry-bar, as with the tractor's post-hole auger.
Unfortunately, I threw my back out in the process, so I've been taking it pretty easy, project-wise, all week.

I opted not to go out with the club today, because, along with all my fencing projects, I also found out I need to do some major rehab on my irrigation pump system! So it'll be a work-weekend, since I know I'll be playing horsey all day next Saturday.
If I make enough progress, I may ride a bit here around the place, to try teaching the girls to pony one another. (Pat and I both suspect Maddie will be the better leader, just because she's more forward than Kate.) That way, I could conceivably start doubling the value of my exercise sessions on the trail...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Plotting and Planning

Spring is trying to happen, and summer can't be too far away (I hope, I hope!). It's time to get going on this year's projects.
You may remember that last summer I replaced the 4X4 fence posts in front of Beth, here, with the 6X6 posts beneath her in the foreground.
I'm slowly replacing all the 4X4s that were my original paddock fencing, with sturdier 6X6ers. I am just about finished replacing the posts in the fence line that was behind her:
All I need to do is finish the H-braces and re-stretch the wire and re-hang the gates.

Another project just getting underway is replacing the horse-eating high-tensile field fence along the driveway with safer 2X4 mesh.
In the process, I will alleviate a long-standing issue where the auxiliary drive turns towards the barn. See the telephone pole to the left?Let me show you the view from the other direction...
Although I have gotten very adept at negotiating the turn under the guy-wire, visitors (including those with horse trailers, dump trucks, and harrowbeds full of hay) are reluctant to risk the tight turn.
So I am going to sacrifice a small (usually sparsely turfed) corner of the pasture to make a new access road to the barn, on the nearer side of that pole. The new corner is at the left, and the old corner brace by the pole will come out. I plan to take advantage of some of that extra width to plant some trees to provide shade for that pasture, and a little screening from the road for the house.
Another longstanding wish-list project will hopefully be addressed this year: replacing this small shed (whose door finally beat itself to death in one of last month's wind storms)...
...with a real garage, about where the horse trailer is parked in this photo (south and slightly west of the house/arena/barn).
This will be possible because we just used our tax refund to pay off the horse trailer loan. And the monthly amount that was going to that loan is now going towards the tractor loan, which will officially go bye-bye next month (the loan, not the tractor). Then both of those chunks of money will be split between building materials and double payments on the truck, which should be paid off by next fall! Then one last credit card balance (by next spring) and maybe pay off those pesky student loans early?
In the big picture, we're trying to get out from under all our debt and finish things up around here, in anticipation of retirement in a few years. Of course, it could all be sabotaged by our little commuter car dying (it's been thinking about it) or the unexpected medical expenses that sometimes come with horses and/or increasing maturity (ie. getting old!--It ain't for sissies!).

If I'm really ambitious, I'll add the south wing onto the barn. Although Al and I have identified the garage as the priority (because the horse trailer really needs a home), completing it will also allow me to move my shop and various stored items out of the barn. Then, if the wing is done, I could conceivably create some additional income by taking on one or two retirement boarders, in addition to RT.
If I can manage the finances, it would be really easy (hah!) to create a certain degree of economy of effort by doing both building projects concurrently: get both permits, rent the backhoe to dig both sets of post holes (both will be pole-buildings), set all the posts and pour all the cement (one delivery truck), raise all the trusses and sheath both roofs (a week or so of rental man-lift), then close them in as time and energy and cash allow.

Then, again...Did someone say something about going for a ride?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Rained Out, Stuck In The Mud

Well, it's been two weeks since spring break, so I need to finish off the week for you--not that there's much to tell.
After our ride with KVTR on Wednesday, Thursday dawned clear and pleasant. I should have gone for another trail ride, but instead, Sandy and I climbed in the truck and drove east to Moses Lake, where a farm supply store had put fencing on sale. I have several projects to do (next post), including enlarging the fenced part of our yard for Sandy to have more room to move. By buying four rolls of horse fence and two of lighter weight dog fence, the extra distance was compensated for by the sale price.

We got back to the home place, unloaded the fencing rolls, ate some lunch, then hooked up the trailer. But not for a trail ride.

My friend Anita has a mare who has had on-going issues with laminitis. She has been working with a therapeutic farrier, but there is no electric available for the vet's portable X-ray. The road to her pasture is long and has been a mucky, muddy mess all winter, and the mare has been too uncomfortable to walk out to either their house (power) or the road (trailer trip to the vet's).
So with the infamous Ellensburg wind drying things out a bit, Anita scheduled an appointment at the clinic.
I gingerly maneuvered the trailer in, backwards, almost to the mare's pen. With an extra dose of bute in her, the mare managed the rest of the distance fairly easily. She has only been in trailer a couple of times in her life, and the last time was six or eight years ago, so we left plenty of time for loading. She stood at the open doors of the trailer while Anita wrapped her legs, then leaned forward to check it out...and loaded herself!
Great! Plenty of time to ease our way back to town.
The X-rays were more positive than expected, with less rotation of the coffin bones and more hoof sole still present, so now the farrier knew where he could go next. So we loaded her back up, and turned towards home.
And as we turned south west, the sky turned absolutely BLACK! Every mile we drove, the rain came down harder. By the time we got to the driveway to Anita's pasture, I could barely see out the windshield! And a river had developed in the road. To save the mare any more standing as we tried to turn around, I drove in frontwards, feeling the slop pull at my wheels. We got her off-loaded, then I tried to back the rig out. But the ruts kept grabbing the trailer and pushing it off to one side, trying to jack-knife it. There was a little bit of purchase in the grass on either side of the drive, but the ruts wouldn't let go of my front tires, even in low-low four-wheel-drive! Anita's husband had his tow chain in hand, just about ready to pull the front end around with his old tractor, but first he tried laying the chain under one of my slipping front tires. With just that extra bit of traction, I made it onto the grass, and we slowly and gingerly proceeded to where I could finally turn around and head for the county road. All-in-all, it had been at least forty-five minutes, with the rain continuing to pour down, and the footing getting worse. I was happy to hit the pavement and drive back through town towards home. Half an hour later, the rain had completely stopped (though it started up again and rained all night--Anita could hardly walk to her barn the next morning, for all the additional water, on top of all the mud I had churned up!).

Friday was a recovery day, but Saturday, Pat and I wussed out on the scheduled KVTR ride: it was windy and spitting snow about the time we would have had to load the horses.
Only a few intrepid riders went out......though some more joined in for the chili feed afterwards.Monday, it was back to school, and one of the craziest weeks of my professional life. I won't go into that here, but suffice it to say, by Friday, I needed another week off!

The following weekend, rather than ride with the club, since Pat had her granddaughters with her, I tagged along with them, back to the Army east trailhead, for a sunny, but windy ride. Kate was really good going out, with me riding on the buckle, and her moving in a relaxed and forward (for Kate) walk. She even complied nicely when I asked her to move off to the side of the trail so I could take pictures of Pat, her daughter, and the grand-girls.Unfortunately, when we turned back towards the trailers, we also turned IN to the wind, and Kate didn't appreciate that one bit! She gave me several little crow hops, and one good buck, for no more reason than that she was being a snit. I managed to stay where I belonged, and even was able to keep a safe hold of the big Nikon I had opted to bring for the day. But I was not pleased with her shenanigans.
Sunday and the rest of the week has been cruddy, weather-wise, so not much got done. School was a little better this week, but today the wind came up again, and I decided to stay inside (besides chores) and get caught up on here and on reading other folks' blogs.
Maybe tomorrow I'll get something accomplished.
Then again, maybe not.