Monday, February 13, 2012

Cow Fishing; and I Rode a Horse!

We're officially into mud season now (no matter what the stupid groundhog said--what does he know anyway?) and the incredibly filthy condition of both girls threatened to delay the beginning of my riding year.
Last weekend I managed to justify procrastination by trimming three out of four sets of feet.  And doing a major mucking of Mama Misty's pen, along with turning my composting manure pile.  Then I collapsed.
Yesterday morning I did the last set of feet while everybody ate breakfast, did my regular weekend catch-up mucking and pile turning, and moved a little hay around.  At that point I came in the house and made some chilli soup and steamed tortillas (well, I cheated--they were actually nuked) for lunch, and probably could've justified collapsing again.
We've got guests coming.

Since selling Betz to Anita and Terry (her chin is nearly healed over, finally!) I had pretty much decided to keep Maddie.  She's my back-up riding horse, and I can ride her when I put hubby Al or the grandkids or other random newbies on Kate.  But you may remember that last May Maddie managed to offload me, and it took me all summer to work up the gumption to get back on her again in August.  My trust in her is weak right now, and I had pretty much decided to use her in the upcoming KVTR clinic that the trail club is hosting, to work on rebuilding our relationship.  Then, if it was all good, I figured I'd keep her, but if I still had that nagging knot in my stomach each time I even thought about riding Maddie, she would at least be a little farther along for a potential buyer.

I had let Maddie's ad on Dream Horse run out or the winter, but still had one on the free site, Horse Clicks.  Out of the blue last week I got a call from a fellow on the west side, who was really interested in coming to meet her....this weekend!
So yesterday after lunch, I drug the mudball out and started trying to find the pretty black and white spotty horse that I knew was hiding inside.  I worked on one side of her neck for ten minutes and only barely managed to get through all the dried-out-caked-on mud.  To get her even clean enough for a ride would take all afternoon!  Time for drastic measures:  The sun had come out about 11:00 (it's been dreary and wet and gray all week) and the thermometer indicated it was close to 50 degrees!  So I drug out a hose, and though I hated using cold water, I figured I would work her on the lunge line to dry, before saddling up.
The water mixed into a winter's worth of dirt, and waves of mucky slime flowed off in front of my scraper!  For this first round against the mud-monster I used plain water; I just wanted to get her presentable--I wasn't hopeful for any kind of real clean.
Tell me again why I have horses with white markings?
Don't have any "before" photos of Maddie, but this will give you the idea--and remember that Kate is naturally dirt-colored.
Misty, on the other hand, is the same color as Maddie --though more white (but less dirt).
 We headed out to the arena, which I've been dragging every night after school to help dry out.  Walk, trot, lope on the lunge line, both directions with no fuss.  None of the usual February airs above the ground that I get from her barn mate, Kate.  Since the trailer was hitched, we also did a couple of practice loads--a little reluctant at first, but then Maddie decided it wouldn't kill her, so she got more cooperative.
Back in the barn, I got the stink eye when I brought out the saddle, but after some initial "You want to put that where?!?" we were ready to go back out to the arena.  I didn't want to do much--after all, she hasn't done a thing in almost 6 months.  But I needed to know she wouldn't freak about anything, and that I could climb into the saddle and not freak out myself.
I tried to get Al's attention in the house, but only got a look out the window from Sandy, the wonder mutt, (it was probably better that she was in the house for this first ride).  Thought for a moment about calling Pat, but decided to "just do it"...
Stood Maddie next to the mounting block...
Put my foot in the stirrup and stood up...
Felt a momentary flash of panic and stepped back down.  Don't need to telegraph that to Maddie.
Took her for a little walk around the stump, positioned her again, stepped up....and swung over.  Reminded myself to breathe.  Asked Maddie to move off, and she did, politely and calmly.  Reminded myself again to breathe.  (This became a recurring theme.)
We were restricted to the center of the arena, as there was still a bit of piled snow and sloppy muddy at the outside edges.  We probably had an area about 60' by 100' to work in, that still had a few slippery spots, so we weren't going to do anything fancy.  We worked at just the walk for 15 minutes or so, first circling, then some reversals and bending exercises.  Reminding myself to breathe, and to stay off her mouth.  Finally clucked to her for a jog (breathe).  Maddie was relaxed and willing.  I tried to emulate her.  Did a few circles both ways, sat deep and asked for a halt, and climbed off and loved on her.

Back in the barn, now that she was dry, you could see that there was still deep seated dirt in her coat.  The sun was sinking, and the west-side-guy is coming late morning, so I won't be able to do a full-blown bath, but I'll give her a good curry in the morning.  I did de-tangle her mane and tail (thanks, Cowboy Magic!), threw a blanket over her and set her up in the stall for the night.

Sunday morning:
West-side-guy is running a little late, so after finishing up morning chores, I take Maddie into the arena to gauge her frame of mind.  She's in a little bit of a funk, no doubt because she rarely gets locked in for more than an hour or two.  But in general she's cooperative.  And clean!
Maddie didn't actually look too bad Sunday morning.
While we're hanging out, one of the ranch kids from across the road is trying to herd a lone cow that has somehow gotten out.  They walk up the ditch road to the east of our fence line, getting everyone's attention, but not causing any real ruckus.  Just before popping out on the road across from Hank's barnyard, errant cow ducks down into the dry grass adjacent to the irrigation weir and my intake sump and the pump that powers my sprinklers.  Single ranch kid can't convince her to come back up the embankment.  Another ranch kid crosses the road from the house with a lariat, and they rope the cow and try to lead her out.  Well, lead may not be the right word.  Drag?  Haul?  A third burly ranch kid joins the tug of war, but that cow just digs in, and with all the pushing and pulling and wrassling around, they manage to bust the four inch pipe leaving my pump.
I cringe.  Last spring I put nearly $500 fixing busted pipe and intake valves and such.  I stop watching.
My husband calls out that he thinks the cow is now IN our 6 foot deep sump!  That can only mean that the intake is now busted up as well.  A fourth ranch kid (the oldest at 24 or so) comes to help deliberate.  They try pulling the cow out tied to the hitch of a flatbed, but the horizontal pull isn't going to do it.
Ranch kid goes and fetches the excavator [think giant backhoe on tracks].  But they're right, at least this will lift the cow up and out (see the chain hooked to the bucket?).  I can't help but wonder if it will be headed straight for the freezer at this point.
Cow is out, and moving on its own four feet, if not it's own power (they're pulling it with the excavator!).
Fifteen minutes later, two of the bulls are out (no doubt taking advantage of an open gate while the boys were trying to get the cow in) and headed for the other neighbor's hay field.  Four ranch kids, three four-wheelers, and a pickup, and they rounded them up and chased them down the road, just as west-side-guy shows up.
Welcome to the wild west!

My intake is toast, as well as the pipe from the pump out--hopefully the pump itself is undamaged.
 Looking at it later, I don't think the cow broke the pipe directly, it's just that when it fell into the sump, it pushed the intake to the side, shifting the pump (under the poly grain sacks) and flexing the outflow pipe until it snapped.

After all that, the visit from west-side-guy was anti-climatic.

I lunged Maddie for a minute while we talked, then headed into the barn to tack up.  Led her to the mounting stump, and she stood better than yesterday (she had let her rear wander away from the stump a couple of times), I mounted up, and she stood quietly.  She seemed a bit stiff, so we did lots of bending and circles at the walk.  Pushed her up into a jog, and she did okay, except for one slight zing to the side--not sure why--but now she was tense again, and so was I.  Walked her out of it, and tried to convince west-side-guy that this might not be the day for a stranger to climb aboard.  He really wanted to try her, so we compromised, and I kept her on the long trainer's lead (15') and essentially lunged them together.  Stayed at a walk, but Maddie did jump big at one point.  West-side-guy stuck with her, but got pretty off-balance, which didn't help her regain her composure at all.  Led them around a bit more, then suggested we quit for the day.  Wanted to finish on a good note, so I asked her to move around me for a few minutes.
Ooops!  Now west-side-guy wants to try lunging her.  Let him give it a go, but ended up giving him a lesson in equine-human communication.
It pretty much convinced me that Maddie was not a good match for him--his heart is in the right place, but I think all his riding has been "get on and go"--he just didn't have the instincts to deal with a reactive horse like Maddie.  [Kate would be a good match, but she's not available.]

I've decided to really focus on bringing Maddie along to be ready for the KVTR clinic, to the point of not even working with Kate right now--there'll be plenty of time for her later.  I've just about decided that Maddie is staying here (I've pulled her Horse Clicks ad), as least until we can work through our confidence issues together.  Then, if I decide she's not the horse for me, we'll look at the option of listing her again.

I planned on putting Maddie's blanket back on at dinner time, to keep her half-way clean so I can work her somewhat consistently this week.
Maddie had other plans.

Monday update:
Was going to give the boys until tonight to tell Hank about the damage to the irrigation system, before I called to ask what the plan was to make it right.  But when we got home, repairs had been started.  Still don't know if they told him, but at least somebody's taking responsibility.


  1. I saw "cow fishing" and thought "this is gonna be good." Post delivers! COW FISHING! So glad the kids (or maybe the adult) are making good on the damage.

    Yeah, west side guy doesn't sound like the right fit for Maddie. You're doing so well with her - I totally sympathize about the fear. She looked great for a February paint, btw!

  2. You folks and your horses with white parts >shiver<

    I love the cow fishing. Sheesh!

  3. Geez, you really got her clean! Too bad about west side guy. You'll find the right person for her if it isn't you.

  4. Maddie is a beautiful horse. I love paints and she's lovely. Can't believe how clean she is, it's hard to see our Blue's white parts right now. It does sound like she's trying and I think you're a good rider and trainer and shouldn't have trouble helping her fix her issues. West side guy doesn't sound like a good fit but I have a hunch she might be staying with you anyway.

    Cow fishing is a different sport, wonder if they'll have it on the sports channel soon. Glad that your pump is getting fixed.

  5. "probably could've justified collapsing again" - I'll say!
    "her chin is nearly healed over" - so happy to hear this!
    "Reminded myself to breathe" - yes, so important. I am impressed with your bravery. Doing anything that frightens us is huge.
    "Maddie didn't actually look too bad Sunday morning." - She looked gorgeous. What a pretty girl!
    "Welcome to the wild west!" Oh my goodness, what a story!
    "Maddie is staying here" - Good!
    " least somebody's taking responsibility." Good to hear.

    Although you and I have many common interests, our day-to-day lives are at opposite ends of the spectrum. It is always an adventure to read your posts. Thanks for a great read.