Wednesday, September 25, 2013

This Paint Is A Saint! (mostly)



It's been a busy summer, and Kate has done herself (and me) proud!

In the three weeks between school getting out and the start of haying season, Kate and I managed to get out to two mountain trail events!

The first was the Cowboy Mountain Trail Competition, put on by the Three Wild Cowgirls, in Walla Walla.  Barb from the Trail Riders went with me last year, for one day only, and I was hooked!  I love the 95% natural obstacles (no pool noodles or stuffed animal mazes), and the ability to choose the level of challenge you and your horse are up to.  And the group of people that compete at these affairs is always great!
Teeter-Totter Bridge.
The creek was part of each day's course.  They are allowed to drink, and in fact we are encouraged to let them, just as you would do out on the trail during a long ride.
Coming up the "switch-back."
Through the stumps.
Down through the mud bog.
...and back down.
The end.
It's a three day competition, and you can ride in as many classes as you/your horse fit the parameters.  In other words, you could spend a lot of money!  I chose to do the Ranch Mare series over the three days, with a "warm-up" in "Old-Timers" on Friday.  I made and then corrected some mistakes in that first class on Friday, and Kate ended up winning the Ranch Mare class for the day, with quite a healthy lead.  I wish that I could have afforded to do another class on Saturday and Sunday, because, by Ranch Mare many of my competitors had had the chance to do the course two and three times.  I ended up with a fourth and a third on those two days.  What was really NEAT! was the last day's ride:  Kate did a perfect round as far as I was concerned!  Forward, no blatant errors, good attitude, just an overall great go!

The nice thing was that the first day (when we did get a "practice run") we had a good enough lead that by Sunday, even with the third and fourth the other two days, Kate held on to a one-point lead for the three day series!

Champion Ranch Mare
(Love this picture so much, I'm putting it in again!)
Shanda (and friend), Kate's partner, and Lana in the background (two of the three Wild Cowgirls)
Cups (an option instead of ribbons) for each individual day's go, and the captain's chair, complete with CMTC logo,  for the series (that's Kate's new and improved bridle)
A few weeks later my friend Barb and I headed down to Goldendale (catching up to Debby, who had gone down the night before) for one of a series of competitions at C.B.Mello Arena.
 We started out in the open in-hand class, mostly to let Kate have a look at the course.  She was so willing and forward that she ended up winning the class.
Tire Two-Step
Log and Rock Maze

Water Obstacle, complete with Ducks!
That's my foot, stepping over my obstacles.  Kate's going, with or without me.

Then came two under saddle classes. We had a few glitches here...

 The pleasure class was more ACTHA-like, with pool noodles and pink flamingos, which Kate handled okay.  The second was called "Ranch Horse" and was more natural obstacles.
Waiting our turn.  Sunburn city for both Kate and I!
 Many of the obstacles in the pleasure class were the same as the in-hand class: the campsite, the log/rock maze, the water crossing.
Over the hills, and through the criss-cross logs. 
Here was one we had done very nicely in Walla Walla--carry the bucket of water to a barrel and empty it--only a little farther.  Suffice to say that Kate and I both got just a little bit wet.
One obstacle in both classes that I didn't get any photos of was a horribly muddy, knee deep bog.  In the first go, Kate had other footprints to follow across the narrow direction of what used to be a pond.  She looked hard, but didn't hesitate.  The second go, she was the first in the class, and had to create the path the long direction of the bog.  Here again, she looked, but slogged right on through.  I was very proud of her!
Major glitch here:  I had no clue what a "Spanish pole" was!  We were to approach the tree, pick up the pole to a vertical position, circle around it (between the tree and the pole), then return it to the leaning position on the tree.  Kate thought I was asking her to run her head into the tree!  When I did finally get a hold on it, she proceeded to drag it 50 feet away from the tree, where we finally circled it, then returned it, more or less, to the tree...
Another pole disaster here:  See the two barrels?  The pole was across them.  We were supposed to pick up one end by its rope handle, circle the other barrel without letting the pole drop off, then return the handle end to its barrel.  Notice how far we are from the barrels?  'Nuff said.
Kate is an ace at teeter totter bridges! 
We did have a problem with a very solid bridge that shouldn't have been an issue--except that it had two kiddie pools underneath it representing a "creek?"  Kate just about lost it!  I was determined not to get off.  After three or four tries, and backing up a total of a couple of hundred feet (Kate's favorite evasion), she decided it was no big deal and walked right across!  Silly girl!
Leaving the arena through the gate.  Kate did a lot of side-passing at various obstacles, and was getting frustrated with me for keeping asking for them, but most were pretty decent.
At one point we were supposed to lope down a slight hill.  This was after some of Kate's most frustrating behavior, and I wasn't even going to go there, so we long trotted instead.

Even with a couple of 1s for the basically attempted but not completed obstacles, Kate managed to get two thirds!
Our awards.  The night light is already up in the hallway (for grandkid visits) and the sign will go out by the tie rings in front of the barn.  The candle?  Not sure yet--I'm not a candle person.  It may get re-gifted.
Just before haying season got going, two grandkids came over for a couple of days before camp nearby.
Hello, horsies!
Laney learns about trail obstacles.
And Kate practices side passes (Laney thought going sideways was way cool!).
Brenden and Misty in the big pasture.
Misty tried to take advantage, but Brenden prevailed!
What a pair--the kids and the horses.
Kate gets her just rewards--a treat from a sweet smelling little girl's palm.
Then it was time to bale hay!  we lost a couple of fields to early summer rain, but the rest baled up nice in just a couple of weeks of steady work.
Once I was done with that responsibility, it was off to the trails with the Kittitas County Trail Riders.
One ride I really love is through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area to Pete Lake, not far from the Pacific Crest Trail.
Kate bruised her sole last year on this shale fall (though it's been cleaned up a little), so this year she wore her Cavallo boots (think: sneakers for horses, complete with velcro).
Lots of water crossings, which are old-hat for Kate.
It's hard to believe that this area is only about an hour from home!

The next week we headed up to the Upper Elk Heights trail system.
Someone periodically places whimsical characters on the trail, pink pigs, lady bugs, and this friendly (but suspicious looking) fellow.
Later in that same ride, I tried something pretty noteworthy for sometimes herd-bound Kate.
We split off from the main group and joined Gary on an alternative trail for the last few miles back to the trailers.
Kate and I have been building our trust in each other, I, after my issues with Maddie, and Kate just pushing herself through new challenges.  

 Another day the KVTR group headed off to the Flying Horseshoe Ranch, outside of Cle Elum, for what's becoming an annual trail ride/gourmet burger lunch.  It's so popular that we ended up with over twenty riders, so we broke up into smaller groups.  We had a chance to ride a new trail recently blazed for the Washington State Quarter Horse Association prize ride.
We're not at the back of the group, where Kate usually likes to be...
But wait!  There's no one in front of us either!  Momentous day!  Kate actually led all the way from the ranch to the river!  On high alert the whole way.  A few bug-tussles, and one hissy fit, but she did it!
See?  We're really in front!
When we got to the river, we had to drop down a steep, twisty, brushy trail.  Kate looked hard, hesitated a moment, then trundled on!
Made it.  I gave Kate a break, and let her tag along in the back on the return trip.

Then it was time for the grandkids to come back, as they had only had two days at Grandma's Farm before camp.  Also "Little Mikey" (who is now about 6'3") needed to come for a while. Three straight days of riding and four at the lake (in spite of the threat I made to put them to work on the building projects).
Mike leads Kate, while Laney does helicopters.  Much more confident this time.
My three banditos!
So confident that she took a ride on RT!
I should have dropped his stirrups even more than the two holes I did.
Mike didn't have quite as much control in the bosal, but Kate had just has her teeth done, so I wanted to give her a break.  She took advantage of it by giving Mike a little crow-hop when he didn't let her follow Laney/RT and Brenden/Misty and I up the hill.  He stuck with her, though.

One last milestone (no pictures, though, but it did happen.)
Kate went on her first solo trail ride (sorta).
One afternoon, Pat rode the three miles or so from her place to ours.  We snacked and visited a bit, then I saddled up Kate and rode back with Pat about 2 miles.  Pat continued on home, and Kate and I turned back toward our place, along the irrigation ditch.  She knew she was going home, so that helped, and again, she was on high alert.  There was one horse-eating bale of hay that had been left to rot at the edge of a field, but other than a few circles before tippy-toeing past, she was good all the way back--no rushing or fuss.
A lot of Kate's first "trail rides" were in the cattle pasture next door, but she always knew that home was right there (and let everybody know where she was!).  I may have to take her back up to Flying Horseshoe and do a few of their little, close-in loops, to show her she can do it.  (I would definitely carry my cell phone, and maybe even have Pat available with a horse just in case.)
All in all, Kate and I (and the grandkids) had a great summer.  Did we meet our goals for the year?
Shoulder control for lateral movement and neck-reining--much better side passes and turn-a-rounds, no rubber-necking and the start of neck reining.
Loping--not so much, but we did work on it.  We're both sort of unbalanced and awkward.  Just have to suck it up and ride through her crop-hops, so we can just put the time in on big lope circles.
Next post:  the building projects!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The State of Things at EvenSong Farm

Long time, no post, huh?
This has been probably my toughest year at school, child and family-wise, and I haven't had the energy to keep up with much other than basic farm chores all spring.  Here's one of several up-dates I'm going to try to get posted, now that school is out, and before we start baling hay.
  Since I've decided that breeding is no longer an economically nor philosophically good choice for me, I have refocused my attention on building a retirement farm for horses whose owners feel that their equines have earned a pleasant life after working hard for them.  Although I have only found one permanent boarder, I have had the privilege to welcome a few very nice horses for either lay-up, R&R, or semi-permanent board.

You might remember Teddy and Cheyanna, who were with us briefly last spring.
 Then Indy came for the summer months.  She a retired barrel racer that earned her Mom the "Rookie of the Year" status at the NFR as a teenager!  Indy's second career was as a broodmare, then her Mom decided she deserved some "golden years."  She went home to Mom's smaller place over the winter, and returned again in April.
 Last fall, Vermont and Africa came to stay with us, while their Mom concentrated on finishing her Masters, finding a new job, finding a new home in a new city (where the new job was), and finally finding a place for the horses to relocate to.  They all headed to Walla Walla in April, just before Indy returned to EvenSong Farm.
 Also in April (a busy month!), Charlie came to join us.  Charlie's Mom used the "off the track" Thoroughbred for dressage, and watching him float around the pasture, one can really see why!  But he has developed some arthritis in his front knees, and she wanted to give him some time off where he could move around (and eat) full-time.  So he's here with us for a couple of years, until Mom and her Hubby can get their own place.  Then she'll bring him back slowly as her other half's easy riding trail horse.
 Last, but certainly not least, there is our long time resident, Royal Tardez--RT.  He's our longest term retiree, having come here over six years ago, when his Mom and "Grandmom"  needed a place where he could get the "royal" treatment he demands.  It's hard for me to remember that he's not a member of the family:  I gave lessons to his Mom and him when they were both about 14.  Here's a shot eating his 33rd birthday breakfast in April.
So here's where we stand now.
 Charlie has been in a pasture on the north side of the barn, keeping Indy company while she's been on dry lot. Last month we had a bit of a scare, right after pulling Indy's shoes for the first time in several years: it was hard to tell if her gimpy gait was due to her thin flat soles having to adjust to barefoot, or if the lush spring grass was overloading her system. Once the heat was out of her feet, I started hand-grazing her for an hour for a few days, then increasing her time to a couple of hours in a small grassy paddock.

Yesterday was the first day that everybody was out together
(more or less). 
I put Indy out with my girls in the "diet" pasture for four hours, first thing in the morning, when sugar content of the grass is lowest (the mares stay in at night, mostly because they're all "big-boned" like their Mamma.) 
Maddie and Indy paired up right away, having been together when Indy first arrived for the summer. RT, who considers himself "herd stud," worried for a bit, then relaxed when the girls settled into grazing.
Then Charlie, who was now all by himself on the north side of the barn, needed to join the gang. ( I had introduced him to RT a week or so ago, and once RT finished establishing his superiority in the hierarchy, he just ignored Charlie and paced the fence trying to figure out how to get back to the mares.  Charlie was a perfect gentleman, following at a respectful 25-30 feet behind RT while he carried on.  I finally put RT back out on the south side with his girls.)

Here is the pictorial story of what happened when they all ended up together (girls and boys separated by one fence).

Charlie seems to be all by himself in the "fat" pasture.

I really had to zoom out to get both geldings in the photo, as Charlie was again staying at a respectable distance.
He's checking out the mares.
Charlie moves closer, and Maddie heads over to visit.
"Whatcheryadoin' wit mah ladies!?!" RT moves in to protect "his" herd.

Maddie and Indy move away, and Kate hurries in to see what's happening, with Misty in tow.

RT does his best Black Stallion impression...

...and Charlie reacts appropriately submissively.

"Nothin' to see here, folks. Move on." And everyone goes back to grazing, except RT, who maintains guard over the whole herd.
So that's where things stand with the horse population.
Next post:  Kate does GOOD!