Friday, July 31, 2009

Ride 'em, Mike!!

Well, Mike rode out his first big "green horse moment" today.
It wasn't so much Kate being silly--she was actually pretty much a blob. Beth was the snot. After warming up in the arena (hardly necessary at 85F.), Mike and Kate followed me and Beth, in the long lines, out the driveway. Now, since Beth last ventured out into the big wide world, I have drastically pruned the willows and cottonwoods along the driveway, so everything looked different! Plus, Beth was on the lookout for the dreaded puddle that tried to swallow her up last time (I'm not sure if I blogged that 45 minute drama at the time). Plus, the cows were watching!
So Beth and I pranced and danced our way out the driveway. Mike and Kate were meandering along behind. Once or twice Beth would try to back up or whirl away from some perceived danger; occasionally she would meet up with the dun overo immovable object. Just short of the end of the driveway, where the awful puddle had been, Beth lost it: she half reared and spun towards home....and into Kate. At this point, Kate had had enough, and herself spun away from naughty Beth.
And Mike stuck with her.
And he got her stopped and turned back away from home.
By then I had gotten Beth settled, and reminded him to breathe.
It took him a few moments to gather his wits (and his stomach), then we all headed through the scary water pits and down the road. Beth still strutting, but at least listening better; Kate back to dragging along in low gear.
It was the kind of incident every rider needs to handle now and then, and Mike handled it!
Cowboy up!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Growing up at Grandma's farm

Weather here has been atrociously hot, hovering around 100F. for almost a week now. My 12-year-old grandson Mike is visiting for a couple of weeks before he goes off to "TeePee Camp" up the Manastash Canyon. I told him he was here to provide "cheap labor" but it's been too dang hot to ask him to do much, since I have to direct/help him. But he and I have gotten out for a few hours each morning and gotten some projects going, not the least of which is replacing the horse trailer floor.
His payment: riding time.
Mike has been on horses since he was a baby....unfortunately only for a few hours a year, when he visits! Most of his lessons have been on Misty. Here I led him for an outing, with Maddie in tow, so it was 2005 and he was 8.
This was the first summer he rode at all independently, and then only in the round pen.
By 2007 the two of them were accepting challenges from Grandma, and really making some progress.
Then last year, Misty was not only preggers, but had started showing some navicular-like symptoms. So we gave little RT a try. I told Mike that, if Misty was a comfortable '57 Chevy, then RT was a Ferrari, speedy and fast cornering! They did okay, though I think Mike was a little intimidated.
[Please note that Grandma did get him boots with heels last year--Unfortunately, he's completely outgrown them this year.]
So who to put him on this year? Misty's got Jackson at her side. Mike's grown a foot since he was here in 2008, and was almost too big for RT last year, so I don't think that's a good option. (Mike at twelve and a half has now not only passed me in height, but Grandpa Allan as well--and his feet are bigger than Al's too!)
Is he ready for Kate?
Is Kate ready for Mike?
They've known each other plenty long enough. (Did he ever take that shirt off the week he was here that year?)
Monday, I took the camera out to the barn to document the "first ride"...Got this "gettin' ready" photo, then forgot the camera in the barn. But that first day we started in the round pen. Mostly walking and a little bit of jogging--Mike's balance has improved a bunch! Then out to the arena for some circles and figure-eights around the barrels for practicing control--this didn't go as well. Kate was being a poop, and totally ignoring Mike. We upgraded from the bosal to the snaffle, and that helped some.
Yesterday, by the time we worked on the trailer floor for an hour or so, it was too dang hot to do anything with the horses. So I promised Mike we would ride first today.
Warming up in the round pen, Kate tried every trick in the book to avoid the bit and buffalo Mike into thinking she was in charge. But he didn't get too frustrated, just kept at it until she responded. I pointed out to him that once he started riding like an equestrian, instead of just sitting in his easy chair, she responded more appropriately.

In the meantime, I got Maddie saddled up. She helped me supervise. This picture is the one that shows the best example of Mike riding.
Close-up: Soft hands, looking where he's going. Look at those heels! And check out Kate's response.
We headed down the driveway (past the neighboring cows) and up the road, with Maddie leading. But when we went to turn down the canal path, Maddie wasn't sure about the water flowing over the little dam that feeds our irrigation system. So I had Mike bring Kate around to take the lead. Funny how I can let the green rider on the green horse be the "seasoned trail horse" for my even greener horse!
At the top of the south pasture.

Here's Mike convincing Kate that she really can go the long way around the house, even though Maddie and I took the short-cut through the back yard (to drop the camera off at the porch).
All in all, it was a good first "trail ride" even though it probably wasn't much more than half a mile. I didn't want to do much more, because on Maddie, I couldn't have helped Mike out too well if he had had any trouble. When friend Pat gets back from a week at the beach (good timing Pat!) maybe we can all head for the hills.
For all her lazy poopiness, Kate is a gem.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Silly Sunday

Look, Auntie Laurie: I gotz a toy!

Toy: the movie.

More silliness.

Mother and Son

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hi There, from Cicely, Alaska!

On Wednesday, Kate and I were off to the wilds of "Alaska" with the Kittitas Valley Trail Riders.
Not really.
Any of you that were fans of the quirky little show "Northern Exposure" may be aware the outside shots were filmed in the mining town of Roslyn, Washington (hence the "Roslyn Cafe"). The fictional setting of the story was Alaska.
The Roslyn Riders Poker Ride that Maddie and I went on back in May followed, for a short while, anyway, the "Coal Mine Trail," part of an old railroad spur line that served the mines of the Cle Elum, Roslyn, and Ronald area.
Yesterday, Pat and I met up in Ellensburg and caravaned with 10 or 11 other trailers up to the trailhead at the west end of Cle Elum, and rode the full five and a half or six miles of the trail (depending on if you believe the trail markers, or Barry's GPS) through Roslyn, to it's "suburb" of Ronald, for lunch at the "Old #3 Tavern (named for a mine shaft). We started out with 13 riders, but one last couple, who didn't connect with the caravan in time, caught up to us on the trail. It was the biggest group of riders yet this summer, for one of their weekly rides.
It was a very pleasant ride up a fairly shallow grade, with lots of shade and a bit of a breeze. Which was good, because temperatures were pushing 100F by noon.
We actually rode on city streets through "Cicely" (Roslyn), though we were a couple of blocks away from the area of storefronts that folks would recognize from NE. Motorists were polite and accommodating to our little "parade." We stopped at the edge of town for a potty break, at this trailhead/city park restroom.
Chuck had claimed trail boss status, based on his bright yellow boots and green "glad rag."
Then back on the trail for the last stretch to Ronald, paralleling the highway. Normally, Pat rides drag anyway, but today, Kate was a little ouchy after one stretch of trail that was covered with bigger rocks (most of the trail was small, sandy gravel), so she was dragging along at the end of the group. I think I'll just have to start putting her Simple boots on for trails I'm not familiar with, just in case.
Arriving at the Old #3. With 15 horses, the issue became where to put them all. There was one small hitching post, to the right under the willow tree, where three horses went. Then the jeep and truck in the middle of the picture were moved, to give access to a short permanent "high line," between the two trees--five horses went there.
Finally, Walt--who, by merit of having a glad rag too, and for having brought along a long length of rope, got promoted to co-trail boss--set up another high line, outside this frame to the left, between a telephone pole and a small evergreen.
I had hoped to get a secure post or tree for Kate, seeing as how she's never been introduced to this type of tether (which is really quite safe, once they figure it out, because there's nothing solid for them to fight against if they get in trouble). But when I told one of the guys that she'd never been high-lined, his pragmatic response was "No time like the present!" She was actually less worried about it than Pat's 20-year-old veteran, Rusty. It helped that she was a bit tired from the ride.
So Pat moved Rusty to a branch of the tree. And it was time for lunch. We took turns popping up out of our seats to check out the window on everybody. At one such moment, it became apparent that someone had pulled back on the line, as it had stretched a bit, and was lowered to about chest height. So co-trail bosses Chuck (who easily tops six feet) and Walt (who ain't near that tall!) went out and tightened it up. When we went out after a delicious lunch (grilled pastrami on rye), I found that Kate's knot on the line was pulled considerably tighter; so it was either her who had created the problem, or she had reacted to someone else's misbehavior. But all in all, she stood quietly.
Then it was back down the trail to Cle Elum. We let the horses stand for a bit at the trailers, while we shot the breeze, then headed for home.
Once home, I hosed Kate down, which I truly think she appreciated.
She was actually drinking from the hose!
Afterwards, I stood her in a muddy spot for a while, to ease her dry hooves. (Today, I'll rasp off a couple of nicks that developed, and dress her hooves really goo-ily.)
She headed straight out to pasture with the other girls, and seemed none the worse for wear.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Happy Jackson

A day in the life of a handsome young man:

Mama Misty and I comes in for mornin noms.
Into r co-z stall. Notis how mah butt is turnin blak? Face too. An chest. Pretti soons all mah bron partz wil b blak! Blak is bootiful!
I haf mah own buket now.
Pretty soons, Auntie Laurie will put up a creepy bar to keep evrybudy elze outta mah noms.

It's mah job to kleen up Uncle RT's brekfast too.
Watchoo lookin at?!?
Oh, hai. Auntie Laurie.
Hay, yu too! Fight nice!
Wanna play, Uncle RT?
I'll scratch yur bac if yu scratch mine....If I kin reeech...
I needz a nap!
I trustz mah Auntie Laurie, evn wen Iz sleepin.
Wate a sec! How dis happen?
Mama, yur onna rong sidz!
DIS how it happend. I wuz hangin with RT.
But I gotted cot up.
Alls wel dat enz wel!
(In case yu didn notis, Iz hidin in mah Mama's tail agin!)
Auntie Laurie back in:
Jackson is a pretty independent little cuss! I was working in the barn this morning, and was aware that Misty was out in the east pasture, but didn't realize that Jackson was sound asleep just outside the stall. RT was standing guard close by. When I started up the circular saw, Jackson woke up with a start, but hung around to see what I was up to, even though Misty was a good fifty yards away. And he would have to travel thirty yards north to the gate before turning south to get to her. When he finally headed out fifteen or twenty minutes later, he turned the gate corner at a run, with a whinny, and rejoined his mama.

This last sequence is for BJ's Carol. This is a few of the flock of pigeons that took up residence in the barn this year. I love their cooing, and they're prettier than the starlings we've had previous years, but just as messy to have inside. I will have to find a polite way to discourage their presence next year.
And lastly, Kate and Maddie coming in for their breakfast.
Maddie and I have been practicing loading, and have come to an understanding: she won't fuss, as long as there's a hay bag (or at least a cookie or two) waiting inside the trailer. Hey! Bribery works!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Quick Sale Update

We had a pleasant, if looong, day at the fairgrounds today, at the private treaty sale offered by Rodeo City Equine Rescue. My feet feel like they've been run through a meat-grinder! When I thought I wouldn't be taking Maddie, I had decided to wear my comfortable hiking boots (which I wear around here for working, any time I'm not riding--but they're a little clunking in the stirrups). But with Maddie back home, I would be riding, so I wore my Ariat paddock boots, which give my feet and ankles great support, but just aren't meant for being on my feet all day. And, except for maybe ten minutes in the "show ring" two times, I was on my feet all day. My hubby has promised me a foot massage at bedtime (Thanks, Honey!).

As for the girls, there were only two minor glitches:
Maddie balked at loading, both at home and leaving the fairgrounds. I can't say that I blame her much, what with her two long trips already this week. But I can't have that nonsense. So, although I promised her a couple of days off, looks like we'll be practicing trailer manners this week. The babies, on the other hand, loaded right up for their adventure this morning, and, in spite of a couple of mishaps, primarily due to my exhausted state by the end of the day, came home well, too.

The other glitch was with Beth, who is not really patient with saddling in the best of circumstances. Instead of lugging saddles to the [nice, shady] pen where the girls were spending the day, I took my steeds, one at a time, back to the trailer to saddle. When it was Beth's turn, she was a little upset, though not distraught, about leaving her buddies, and another horse at an adjacent trailer was carrying on a bit. So when I went to throw the saddle up, she was moving about some at the end of the lead (tied to the trailer), and the saddle landed a bit askew. Nothing I couldn't have straightened out, if she had let me. But instead, she swung around, and the saddle slid back off the other side--which gave her even more reason to dance. My trail-riding friend Pat had come along to be my "gopher" for the day (Thanks, Pat!), so I fetched her and then held Beth while she hoisted the saddle again ("I didn't realize how HEAVY your saddle was!") and everyone was ready for the sale ring.

Actual presentations went very well, although there was not very good spectator attendance. I worked Maddie in the dressage saddle at the walk and trot. She was well behaved both times, in spite of the fluttering 1/2 inch electric tape "ring," and the rock band warming up [loudly] in the adjacent fairgrounds area during the afternoon. Amy warmed up nice on the lunge back at the pen, but was a bit full of herself in front of the audience (and with the fluttering fence)--she did do all that I asked of her, though.
Beth was a star! Stood quietly waiting for Amy to finish; worked first on the lungeline, then stood quietly again, while I hooked up the long lines. She worked smoothly and willingly ground driving. And she's the one that generated the one at least halfway serious prospective buyer--we talked at the pen before going in, and then they seemed impressed with her work. They didn't come back to talk afterward, but had taken one of my business cards, so I wouldn't be surprised to hear from them later (though I wouldn't be surprised not to, either).

All in all, it was a good day. But I recognize that it was colored with my frustration with the week's events.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Busy [Twenty-Four/edited to read] Thirty-Six

Finished the first cutting of Timothy last night. Four barns full. Five, if you count my little corner of the hay universe. It's a good feeling--if I can sell at least two horses (hopefully this weekend), this will be enough for the winter!
Had a good ride on Maddie yesterday morning, and again today. I have a pair of women, a mother and twenty-something daughter, coming from out-of-town to see her later today. They've had their eye on her on Dream Horse for quite a while, now. Dad finally said "yes, you can get a second horse." And when they heard I was planning to take her to a sale Saturday, they figured they'd better get over here to look at her.
Sandy had an unexpected visit from her friend Trackster this morning. While I went out to change my irrigation sprinklers, Al took the time to let the two of them play (with Sandy still in her radar hood and on the leash). It is good to know that she can still get along with some dogs.
[old photo] Later in the morning she went in to the vet's to have the "drains" removed from her biggest wound. Of course, since everything was looking so good, healing wise, Sandy had to gum up the works by miscalculating the jump into the back seat of the truck with her cone-head on, and fell back out. So by the time we got to the vet's she was bleeding from her drain-hole. Not much, and the vet said it didn't look like anything to worry about. And it had quit by the time we got done. So otherwise, she's healing well.

PM Update:
The gals showed up with their trailer! That's how sure they were that they wanted Maddie. We worked in the round pen, first me, then L. got on--looking a bit timid--she is the first person besides me to ride Maddie, and Maddie had made some nasty faces about loping with me, again, so they just walked at first. Then we switched out saddles--L's actually seemed to fit her better (confirmation that I need to shop for a wider one for Kate)--after a few minutes Maddie relaxed and moved out a bit nicer, and L relaxed and Maddie relaxed some more and L relaxed some more. Then they asked to see her load. They had a little two horse slant, with a step up, but Maddie stepped right in. They evidently let their horses turn around to come out, but Maddie backed out quietly before I could get in a position to turn her around. We loaded her again, and this time turned around for the unload. Again, no problem. And so it was a done deal (pending vet check)! We rinsed her down (it was upper 80's) put leg wraps on her, and went to load. Maddie's attitude was "What? I've been in there twice already today!" So it took a little persuasion from my horse, buggy whip, but still not that big a deal. And then they were on their way!

Tomorrow the younger two get their final work, and baths, before the sale on Saturday. Although I would have liked to be on Beth by now, and I have had some success in standing in the stirrups, I simply wasn't up to pushing it. But she is ground-driving well, and I even got baby Amy started in the long-lines as well!

And I've arranged for another trailer to take Beth and Amy, so I can haul Misty and baby Jackson down in mine, as replacements for Maddie--"deposit will hold 'til weaning." It's a good time to sell a baby, while they still have the "Aw, cute!" factor. Otherwise, they're usually here until they're started under saddle.

We'll see.

Later PM Update
Mom calls to say the trip went great. No fussing in the trailer; off-loaded like a champ; wandered around new [big] stable, looking at things, but no spook; let her loose in the arena to shake off the two-hour trip, and Maddie wandered away, then peed, then came back, as if to say, "Now what?" Put her in a stall and she made herself at home.

Friday AM Down-date
At 8:30 this morning I got a call from out-of-town mom. She's very sorry, but they'll be bringing Maddie back, this morning, before it gets too hot. They recognize that I need to get her to the sale tomorrow.
Turns out that last night, after they got her settled into her first-ever-in-her-life stall, (and evidently before they got her some hay to munch on), daughter saw her "crib" on the wall. "Did she actually suck air?" I ask "Or was she chewing on the wood? Or what?" I ask. Mom's not sure, she didn't see it happen. They watched all morning and didn't see it happen again. But daughter has an absolute dismay over horses that crib.
Daughter was reportedly in tears all night; doesn't even want to look for another horse now. Mom sounded like she was close to tears on the phone: "She's absolutely perfect. But I know my daughter, and there's no convincing her different at this point."

Now I must say that none of my horses crib, so none of them has ever seen a horse crib. And even though all my paddock fencing has a wooden top rail, I am more likely to find a rail displaced (knocked down) than chewed on. They have plenty of pasture and turn-out time. Even these days when they're locked in the paddocks half-time, they are more likely to play with the chains on panels and gates than anything else.
I had reminded the ladies that Maddie had never lived in a stall, and that she would need lots of turn-out time, and that maybe a couple of stall toys would be appropriate. I suspect that she was simply "tasting" her new environment. At worst she may have already been bored, and did seek out a anxiety reliever. The daughter admits that she did not "gulp" any air, but simply set her upper teeth on the top of the wall and arched her neck some. But she was unwilling to take any chances--or rather, give Maddie a chance.
If I did not have the sale tomorrow, I might have tried being more persuasive that they should keep her there a few more days. But I don't need the drama, thank you.

So as of noon, Maddie is back with her herd.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dog Days of Summer

It's been a rough weekend here. Time that should have been spent with the horses became time spent with the dog at the vet!
If you've visited here before, you may have gotten glimpses of Sandy, our part greyhound (we think, though as she has gained weight, she's lost that "racing silhouette") rescue from the Yakima Humane Society shelter. When we first got Sandy, she was pretty timid--who wouldn't be in a noisy, frightening setting like that? But she soon came out of her shell.She and Kate grew up together.
Hank's foreman's dog "Trackster" and Sandy are best buds. Anytime his family is gone from the house (including Sunday morning church) Trackster makes the 2-mile trek down the road to visit and play.
Hank's dogs, however, are a different story. I'm not sure when the animosity started, but the cattle pasture just west of our house is disputed territory: Sandy considers it her playground, but when Hank's boys do the irrigating, they bring along their two Aussie-Border Collie crosses, who want to defend the area against the interloper. Also, anytime Sandy accompanies me to the north end of our property, just across the street from Hank's, much barking ensues, and if the dog's can get to one another, there have been increasingly violent interactions. And, though she is equally at fault in being the aggressor, Sandy takes the brunt of it, as it's two against one. In the first such incident, a year and a half ago, they nearly ripped one of her pads off her front paw, as well as leaving significant puncture wounds on her hips and tail.
So we began taking her to town with us each day. The first few days, my principal allowed me to bring her to school, so I could do what doctoring was needed. Then she settled into a routine of going to the home of our now 93-year-old "dog-sitter," Lucille.
Lucille loves dogs. But she's a smart lady, and knows it would be difficult for her to take care of one full-time. And recognizes that it would be unfair to make a long-term commitment to a pet. So several years ago she started dog-sitting for our old Aussie, Chewy (Chewbaca), as Chewy's health declined, and it seemed unfair to leave her home for our long days in town. The task gave Lucille a reason to get up every morning--and gave us the opportunity to check on Lucille's well-being on a daily basis.After we lost Chewy, it was three months before we decided to get another dog--yet Sandy, being only about 5 months old, was a bit rambunctious for Lucille, so we would only take her for brief visits. When she was injured, however, she was older, and she needed to be kept quiet, so Lucille took on the task of dog-sitting again.
And won't give it up!
Unfortunately, this took away my motivation to get our yard fenced, so at home, Sandy generally was kept pretty close--if I had to work out towards the road, or if the kids were irrigating, Sandy stayed in the house. But occasionally, when Sandy is already outside and the boys have an unscheduled foray into the pasture, there are still scraps.

Saturday morning, we saw the boys go back to their house after setting their irrigation pipes, so we let Sandy out. But there must have been problems with the irrigation, because minutes later they were back, the dogs trailing along behind. Now, in the past, I have seen the two BC's hesitate at the cattle (but not dog) fence opposite our house, looking to see if Sandy were outside. On this day, they saw their target and ducked under and jumped Sandy.
All of the wounds were on the back of Sandy's body, attesting to the fact that she was retreating when they got her. Most were puncture wounds in her hips and tail. But one of the dogs did some major damage in her groin, right where her body joins her back leg. Some muscle damage, but, luckily, they did not manage to penetrate her abdominal cavity.

It was late enough in the morning that, by the time we stabilized Sandy and called the after-hours line, the trip to town would put us at their doorstep just as the clinic was opening for business.
There were five major wounds that required stitches. Sandy left the clinic about noon, with a bunch of purple stitches, antibiotics and an "e-collar" (named for the old Elizabethan lace collars).
The vet tech described the area of her groin as a "no man's land"--meaning there is a bit of an internal gap there where fluids could collect, so two "drains" (the little white squares in the photo) were left in that wound, to allow drainage.
Another trick I've used in the past is to put a shirt on a dog, to at least slow down any urge to lick or chew at the stitches--Obviously this T-shirt wouldn't stop her for long, but it does allow me to give her some freedom from the e-collar for short periods in the house when I can sit right with her and intervene if she starts fussing at things. She's actually pretty good about it, but the collar goes back on any time I can't give her my full attention.
Saturday after the surgery and most of the day Sunday, Sandy was pretty lethargic, not eating much until Sunday evening, and depressed about the collar and being limited to leash walks. She is feeling much better today, going outside with me for chores, and barking out the window at neighborhood goings-on. The girls were all quite fascinated by Sandy's new fashion accessories!
Tomorrow, she will visit Lucille for the morning (we have been concerned that the injuries might upset Lucille, but not having her visiting dog is upsetting to her as well) while I go to Yakima for fencing for the yard.