Sunday, May 8, 2011

News From The Home Front

Well, I didn't get much horse work done this weekend--I did spend some "quality time" with Kate: got her feet trimmed up, in anticipation of a very horsie weekend coming up. More on that later. Suffice it to say, that's why, though she could really use the work, I felt obliged to work on projects instead of riding--I'll be away all next weekend.

Remember this new fence line and barn driveway?
I got the brace posts all finished and some holes dug, at least until I ran out of shear pins for the post hole digger. These are bolts that are designed to break (shear off) when the auger hits something solid (like a rock, of which I have a few), the theory being that it's better to break one pin (or six) than to break the auger or gear box or other expensive part of the post hole digger. That's a very good theory, until one runs out of replacement bolts, and the hardware store is 20 miles away.
Time to move on to another project.

Every year I dread starting up my irrigation system, for fear of whatever catastrophe will ensue after a winter's rest--and there's always something!
At the end of the season last year, my primer pump was giving me fits, so I knew that would be an issue right from the get-go. Plus, the pump had sounded very odd to me, when I went to drain the sump that feeds it last fall. I ended up bailing the six-foot deep sump by the bucket full.
When I walked out a couple of weeks ago to check on the system, the foot valve that should have let the pipe empty of water had malfunctioned and the four inch pipe intake supporting the mechanism had shattered when the water froze. I was so disgusted that I didn't get a picture until after the pump guy came and picked up the intake--that's the sawed off pipe at the right.
He also suggested that many of my priming issues might be eliminated if we were to shorten the distance the hand pump had to draw the water across (it's harder to "pull" water than it is to "push" it). So I poured a new pad for the pump, right next to, though slightly above, the sump--that's it to the left of the electric pole. Now to cut apart the piping and relocate the pump assembly.
When I went to move the 7 hp pump from the lower pad, this is all the farther I could get it, and only by sliding it across the cement. Once I hit the dirt/grass, it wouldn't budge. So back to the barn to get Babe, the blue tractor. I jimmied together a chain "harness" and lifted the assembly gingerly to the new pad (sorry, no pictures).
Pump guy brought out the refurbished intake on Friday, so I glued together the discharge pipe, and went to prime the pump, fearing that the odd sound from last fall meant that the pump would need rebuilding as well. >:-(

I couldn't get the primer pump to draw water!
All that work, and the primer still didn't work!
But I could hear faint air leaks, and as I have done many times in the past, I disassembled the pump (it's the little thingy on top that looks like an old kitchen hand pump, because that's essentially what it is), greased the rubber diaphragm and carefully reassembled it--this sometimes takes two or three tries, but I lucked out today--first try!

Now came the big question:
Would the actual irrigation pump work right?
Amazingly, YES!We've got sprinklers!

One last project:
What's this hole for?
It's the initial test hole for the garage!
I took my drawings into the county plans examiner the other day, and he said I did better on them than some professionals. He made a few suggestions, and told me some details drawings I need to include. I'm waiting for another bid on the trusses, which have to be engineered--the company that produces them will provide the drawings.
I just wanted to check the nature of the soil in the garage's location--and gauge whether the post hole digger would be sufficient, or if I would have to rent a backhoe.
Look Ma, no rocks! (or at least, very few).

I'm hoping to have the fencing projects all out of the way by the time school's out. Then, once haying season is done, my focus will be the garage. And riding.

Monday, May 2, 2011

In Which We Join A Pirate Crew For The Day

Me: Hey, Maddie. Wanna go for a ride?
Maddie: Sure, Mom. Where we goin'?
Me: Kate, Wanna go for a ride?
Kate: Do we hafta? I'm trying to get me some beauty sleep here.
Me: Come'on, Kate, in ya go.
Kate: Oh, Ho-kay.Went yesterday to observe and help (a wee bit) at the Milwaukee Road Rail Trail endurance ride, just outside of Kittitas. Corky and I did a little bit of Competitive Trail Riding back in Montana, when we were both way younger (and skinnier!), so I knew the basics. I have no need these days to hurry through 25 or 50 or more miles on a super fit horse (and these horses, if competitive, are super fit). But I was there for a purpose:
I wanted to finally meet in person with Aarene of Haiku Farm.

We had tried to meet up last year at this ride, but I had a 4H show for little Jackson, and wasn't feeling well, besides, so it was not meant to be.
Aarene had said she aimed to be at the trialhead ridecamp about 10-ish (she wasn't riding this event), and that's just about when I arrived, with both Kate and Maddie in the trailer. Looking around, I spotted shelties! Luna and Mimsy, so I knew Aarene couldn't be far.
She promised to teach me to "pulse" horses as riders come in from a loop--I've never been successful in finding a horses pulse (or my own, for that matter), so I was dubious. (Please note--the only reason Aarene uses a pink stethoscope is 'cause she can't find an adequate one in purple!)Here they come!I don't have any photos of me actually pulsing anyone, 'cause everyone was sorta busy about then, but I did do a few horses--from the middle of the pack, where there wasn't quite as much urgency. It's a matter of getting the stethoscope in just the right place--one good trick is to move the horse's foreleg a little forward, to "stretch" the vein out closer to the skin. If I didn't find it right away, I called in someone who could, so that I wasn't penalizing a rider with my incompetence.

Here's a lovely mule and her rider that were one of the first teams in, riding the 25-miler. (This long-eared photo gratuitously included for Carson of the 7msn.)
These two grays were probably a mile away, and I didn't have the long lens with me. But they stood out against the sage well enough that you get the idea. They had just left on the last 8 mile loop of the fifty miler, and they're just lopin' up that hill, easy-peasy!
Aarene and I with Monica, from Horsebytes, who was also doing a little OJT in pulsing (she was definitely better at it than I). There were a couple of other bloggers there, some actually riding their horses!So we decided we'd better get on some horses!
Kate and Maddie had been standing very nicely at the trailer for a couple of hours.
Aarene wanted to try out my Tucker, and I wanted her to try out my go-fast-cat Maddie, so we put the Tucker on her. (There is no way anyone could ever imagine Kate as an endurance horse! Aarene later described riding Kate as somewhat akin to riding a sofa--soft and wide and slightly slower than said couch.) Having no other wide-body saddle but my Crosby, that went on Kate.

That's when the problems started.
I had pulled off my stirrup leathers when I put the saddle up for the winter, and I could NOT get them back over the stirrup bars! Oh well, I can do Kate stirrup-less, as long as I figure out how to get on.

But Maddie had other thoughts: It occurred to me the previous night, and I let Aarene know, that I have been the only one to ever ride Maddie. (Her one occasion of doing some ground work with another trainer was not a happy one, either.) Maddie did a little bridling evasion with her head, but Aarene is an excellent horsewoman, and gently worked her through it. Then she went to mount.
Aarene is terribly fit, and used to mounting her "Gigantor" 15.3h Standardbred mare, Fiddle, so I assumed she would do okay from the ground.
My mistake. Aarene might do fine, but Maddie wanted no part of it. I don't think it was so much "buck" as "duck and run." After a couple of valiant tries, Aarene decided discretion was the better part of valor, and we decided to trade horses.
Maddie was too worked up at this point for our usual mounting strategy of standing next to the wheel well of the trailer, so I dug out my little Rubbermaid step stool. With it I could just follow along with Maddie's wiggles until she stood still. Then some upping and downing at her side.

Finally, she stuck to one spot, and I climbed aboard.

Now to get Aarene on the stirrup-less Kate. She moved half-way cooperatively up to the trailer, Aarene slipped into the saddle, and we were good to go.

Once we got going, Maddie was very good. She's used to lots of commotion, but had never been to this particular trail before. She was happy and forward most of the time, and led the way, except in a few instances that steady-Eddie Kate had to demonstrate the safety of going between horse-eating hazards such as laying down gates and cement retaining blocks.We went about a mile up the railroad grade, then dropped down the hill on the final leg that riders use to come back into ridecamp. Aarene described riding Kate like this:
Kate is short. Kate is cushy. Kate is calm. Riding Kate is about as thrilling as riding the futon in my living room.
They say in endurance that "To finish is to win!" and here we are crossing the finish line!We WON!

Unfortunately, Maddie was not quite done with her naughty shenanigans. When we returned to the trailer to dismount, just as I got to the same spot as Aarene's mounting issues, with my right leg finished coming over her back, and me just getting ready to slide down, Maddie did another frantic leap away from me, and I ended up on the ground, but not on my feet! She had done a mild version of this behavior two weeks ago on a club ride, but I had chalked it up at the time as a one-time distraction.
This is new behavior! Or maybe not--thinking about it later, this was strangely reminiscent of a day early in her training, when she got pretty wild-eyed at my weighting her stirrups (I hadn't been on her yet).I began to wonder if there was some kind of back issue, but it just so happened that on our way home, we had a planned stop for Maddie's very first chiropractic visit. The chiro did not find anything that far "out," and did only some minor adjustments.
Now, it seems we have a training issue for the coming weeks.