Monday, August 31, 2009

Misty's Monday Muse

BIG HORSE, little horse.

Does size matter?

The researchers at Cornell University think so. They are studying the genetics of equine body size to learn more about how genes make us grow and influence our breed-specific traits, as well as how genes affect disease growth. Marley and I are participating in the study because we want to help horses live healthier lives.

If you are a horse or pony that would like to help, and you are at least 4 years old or full grown, here's what you will need to provide:
  • Tail hairs containing your DNA.
  • 35 body measurements from the length of your ears to the circumference of your hind cannon bone.
  • A 3-generation pedigree, so they can be sure horses in the study are unrelated (have a different dam and sire).
  • Profile photos
Marley's measurements were taken yesterday. He was a little bored, but he did enjoy a couple of the measurements. He liked having his neck measured with his head down to the ground because there were snacks on the ground to lure his nose down and stretch his neck. He had some fun when Mr. and Mrs. OnceUpon were standing in just the right spot measuring his tail bone; he let out a slow "whooooooosh" of stinky gas. "Oh Marley!" they exclaimed as they waved their hands in front of their noses. Then they laughed and said that must be the equine version of "pull my finger."

I'm getting measured today and I will try not to "whooooooosh" in anyone's face. But I am a horse and I eat a lot of fiber, so I can't promise.

Read more about the study and how you can participate in Equine Study Needs Participants.

Friday, August 28, 2009

My First Breyer

There was something missing from my horse crazed childhood.

I had a Barbie doll; Ken too.

I had a family of trolls and their troll house.

I had a Betsy Wetsy doll and an Easy Bake Oven.

I had a large collection of stuffed animals that included a gorilla, a snake, and a tiger. I also had Toucan Sam that my mother ordered for me from a box of Froot Loops.

There was one stuffed horse that I brought home from a trip to Germany when I was 10 years old. It's the only stuffed animal I still have from my childhood.

I had a squirt gun, a slinky, a jump rope, and a hoola-hoop.

I enjoyed many of the typical childhood toys.

Oddly though, I never had a collection of Breyer model horses.

At the ripe age of 50, I have decided to right this wrong.

My first Breyer horse arrived in the mail recently. I opened the box to find inside...


What? You've never heard of the Breyer Mummy?

Ok, so Breyer never really made a Mummy model. Who could it be then? Let's find out...

2004 edition of the Old Timer mold.

Since I love drafts and he looks like he could be a Percheron, this guy seemed like a good start to my belated collection. I'll never be a big collector, but I plan to buy a few that have special meaning to me.

Did you have a Breyer horse collection when you were young? Or young at heart? It's never too late, you know.

Hmmm? Maybe when I wake up Saturday morning, I'll have an urge to watch cartoons while I eat my cereal. Froot Loops, of course.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Misty's Monday Muse

I have been a very good girl this summer, if I may say so myself.

I went on my first trail ride in July. My Lady rode Marley and Cowboy Trainer rode me. You wouldn't have known it was my very first trail ride, I was so calm and relaxed.

I was a brave girl too.

Most of the horses balked at all the mud holes on the trail...

Not me. What's a little mud and water? I think it is good for my hooves, and maybe my tail too...

None of the other horses dared cross this one with the temporary bridge...

Ho hum, just another mud crossing.
I like bridges.

I walked over some big, fallen trees off the trail too. Cowboy Trainer said it was like riding a horse with a lift kit.

We had beautiful weather this past weekend, so My Lady took me to a 2 hour lesson Friday afternoon. The instructor did some ground work with me and rode me for a few minutes to see what I know. It didn't take her long to discern what a good girl I am. My Lady got on next and we did some exercises at the walk and the trot in the arena to help us get in sync with each other.

I had a nice cool shower when I got home and then I rolled in the dirt. It felt great!

My, what big feet I have.

The next morning we picked up Andy and his mom and we went to a lovely park where My Lady and I had our first trail ride together. Andy and I got along great and we became good trail buddies.

That windmill was a little scary though. Andy thought so too. It moved in the wind and made creepy noises as we rode by.

Andy had a piece of grass sticking out of his mouth. He looked silly, so being the good friend that I am, I thought I would help him get rid of it.

Pssst, Andy, you've got something in your teeth.

We're looking forward to more lessons and more fun trail rides this summer.

Did I tell you? I'm a very good girl!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ticket to Ride

Saturday morning, on my way to the Buck Brannaman clinic, I stopped for gas and discovered my wallet missing from my purse. I had been shopping online the previous evening and left it on my desk next to my computer. The trusting fellow at the gas station accepted a check without I.D. and I was back on the road. I'm not a speeder, but I took extra caution to observe the speed limit closely as the Interstate was thick with Highway Patrolmen giving tickets. Heaven forbid should I get pulled over and found to be driving without a license.

On the way home from the clinic, I remained very conservative with my speed. But I started getting really sleepy as I drove along the Interstate. I was shaking my head, had the A/C blowing cold air on my face, and was singing along with the radio...rather badly...but belting out the lyrics to keep myself awake. I decided to exit the Interstate early and take a road home that I don't normally travel, hoping the change of scenery would perk me up a bit.

Yep, you know where this is going.

I was unfamiliar with the road which happens to have quite a low speed limit for the type of road it is. I hadn't noticed a speed limit sign and I wasn't paying attention to my speed when I crested the top of a hill and there he was; a sneaky Sheriff Deputy sitting on the other side of the hill just waiting for someone like me to come over the top. Gasp! I looked in the rear view mirror and saw him do a quick U-turn in the road; I knew I was had.

I haven't gotten a speeding ticket in 30 years and what are the chances I'd get pulled over the one rare time I forget my wallet and am driving without a license?

Fortunately, the officer was in a forgiving mood that day. He said, "Ma'am, there are several things I could write you up for, but I'm going to give you a break." He was very understanding about my wallet sitting next to my computer at home, and didn't penalize me for driving without a license. (Maybe his wife is an online shopper who forgets her wallet too.) He clocked me at 19 miles over the speed limit, but only wrote me up for 4 miles over the limit with ZERO points! That was a relief.

(In the United States, you can incur penalty points for exceeding the speed limit by 5 or more miles per hour, and for other traffic violations. The bigger the violation, the faster the speed, the more points you receive. Points are dreaded because the insurance companies will raise the cost of your auto insurance for a number of years. Not only do you have to pay a substantial fine for the violation, but you pay more for auto insurance for a long time.)

I was lucky, but the fine was still enough to put a damper on my plans to go back for another couple days of the Brannaman clinic. There is an auditing fee for each day of the clinic and my clinic funds were now redirected to government income.

My speeding ticket became a good reason to stay home and ride my own horse instead of watching others ride theirs.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Misty's Monday Muse

Bits of wisdom shared by Buck Brannaman at a recent clinic My Lady audited:
  • It is impossible to have a horse dull to your leg and light to your hand.
  • Proper use of spurs requires independence from the spur; not dependence on it.
  • Riding in a western saddle without a rope is like not wearing underwear.
  • You may never work cows, but a horse prepared to use a rope will be the best riding horse ever.
  • Think about the position of your body so that you aren't taking energy away from your horse.

Rope Work (click to enlarge)
In this exercise the student lopes (canters) around Mr. Brannaman and his horse. As he moves his horse along, the student must ride so that the rope doesn't touch the ground.

Students also loped around & around a barrel, letting out their rope and winding it around the barrel like thread on a spool. Then they had to turn around and lope the other direction, around & around the barrel, while unwinding the rope and coiling it neatly with their hands. Here, Kathleen and Hollywood are preparing to lope around and unwind their rope from the barrel.

Check out the fashion in cowgirl hats being worn by the gals riding in the clinic. They aren't wearing the traditional cowboy hat that has the brim turned up on each side. These brims are flatter and the hats look more like a ladies sun hat you might buy at a fine department store. Very stylish. If they came with ear holes I'd wear one too.

Cowgirl Hats

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Marley on Parade

Marley was all charm and sweetness when we entered him in a parade, dressed in candies and lollipops. The family dressed to match and while I led Marley, Mr. OnceUpon and the kids passed out candy to children along the parade route. It was great family fun.

Pre-parade grooming & primping zone.

Sweet Pony

Lots of people stopped us as we were walking to the staging area, asking "What kind of horse is that?" and "Can my children pet your horse?" Marley was a charmer and his cute, round behind evoked a lot of giggles.

No caption necessary.

The only downside to being in a parade, is that you don't get to watch the parade.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Misty Missed Her Monday Muse

Misty was too busy to post yesterday as promised. She ran out of steam before she could sit down to the computer. That seems to be happening a lot lately. So here is her Monday Muse on Tuesday.

My Summer Vacation
Misty the Percheron

This summer, I went on a road trip to attend a Kathleen Sullivan natural horsemanship clinic in Durango Colorado. Marley came along to keep me company. It was the first long haul we've made in the trailer with My Lady driving. Here I am moments before being loaded into the trailer in my new red shipping boots. They'll never be this clean again. I also had to wear this annoying fly mask so debris wouldn't get into my eyes during the trip with the windows open. Marley had new blue boots, but his weren't as stylin' as mine.

Even horses get new boots.

Breakfast service in the trailer was nice, but breakfast ran out long before we arrived at the ranch in Durango. It took us all day to get there because we had some trouble.

First, after driving for hours, My Lady overshot the exit from the Interstate. As she left the highway to turn around and go back to the missed exit, a highway patrol officer waved her to a stop and informed her that the tack door on the trailer was open. Goodness long were we cruising on the Interstate with the tack door open? Fortunately nothing fell out of the trailer. We would have been mortified if we had caused motorists behind us to dodge feed buckets, saddles, a mounting block, a muck bucket, and a manure fork bouncing on the highway.

Next, as we were about to get back onto the Interstate (tack door doubly locked this time), My Lady realized the truck engine was too hot. So we sat on the side of the entrance ramp for an hour to let it cool. Then My Lady looked at the coolant reservoir and was concerned that it was empty so she called US Rider. They were wonderful and sent a nice fellow to our aid who added coolant to the radiator and into the coolant reservoir. It was a very hot day and we think it was "operator error" that caused the overheating. My Lady was driving the old truck too fast (going the speed limit with the A/C on). We still had the toughest part of the drive ahead of us - Laveda Pass and Wolf Creek Pass. We were advised to keep the RPMs around 2,000, turn the heater on to vent the engine, and the nice man with the coolant showed My Lady how to take the truck out of overdrive with just the touch of a button. My Lady felt really dumb. Remember, she's new to this horse hauling activity and doesn't know much about diesel trucks. She knows a lot more now - enough to fill a thimble.

As we started up the first pass, My Lady was nervous and watched the engine temperature and the RPMs very closely. She thought the engine was getting hot again, so we sat on the side of Laveda pass for awhile, just to be safe. We made it over both passes, but could only go 25 mph up Laveda. On Wolf Creek we had to drop down into 1st gear and could only go between 12 and 15 mph on the upside while other cars and trucks zoomed past us. We were jealous of their speed.

Downhill was easier, but had its own challenges, as you can imagine.

The mountain scenery was beautiful. My Lady says she would have enjoyed it if she hadn't been stressed to her wits end and worried about Marley and me because we refused to drink any water during the whole ordeal.

It was all down hill after those mountain passes...pun intended...and we finally arrived at the ranch. My Lady was dehydrated, exhausted, and had a sun burn on her left arm and the left side of her neck. She was a wreck.

Marley and I were shown to our lovely accommodations - a big pen with loafing shed, featuring a lovely view of the mountains, green fields, and a herd of grazing horses. We trotted around, kicked up our heels, had a nice long drink of water, then settled down for dinner. We felt right at home.

The ranch owners were very kind to My Lady, knowing she had just made her first long haul with horses and had encountered some trouble along the way. They parked the trailer for her and had her sit down and have some dinner and a tall glass of ice water before she left for her motel.

The clinic was great. In the morning we did ground work and in the afternoon we worked under saddle. Marley participated too. A beginner student without a horse worked with Marley. I'm happy to report that Marley was a pretty good boy. Oh, he did show her his ornery side and got away from her a few times on the lead line. But he took good care of her under saddle and she did a fine job with him. I was good too, and was especially graceful, for a draft horse, at turning a 360 degree circle, by moving my front end, then back end repeatedly, while ridden under saddle and in the confines of a square made of ground poles.

The trip home was much better. We still had to go slow over the passes and slower than everyone else on the highways, but we made it without incident this time, although the transmission temperature rose well into the yellow warning zone as we approached the summit of Wolf Creek. The truck is in the shop getting a radiator flush and a new thermostat. They found a small leak in the water pump which may have contributed to overheating. But the mechanic said it is not a good truck for hauling horses over mountains. The truck is a pre-PowerStroke F250 and not as hardy as the newer models. We're hoping for a new truck to haul us over the mountains. Until then, Mr. OnceUpon suggests we attend clinics in Kansas or Nebraska.

Take a rocky ride over Wolf Creek Pass with a real trucker.

P.S. We have another busy week planned. We're getting Marley ready for a special activity. Hopefully he'll be a good boy again and we'll have some fun pictures to share.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Birthday Boots & Cake

Today is my stepdaughter's 19th birthday. We took her shopping for a pair of cowgirl boots then out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.

We all left the western wear store with presents.

The girls got boots...

The boys got hats...

Everybody got cheesecake...

I'm a purist when it comes to cheesecake. I like it plain. Dad had dutch apple cheesecake, brother had Snickers bar cheesecake, and the birthday girl had chocolate chip cheesecake. We were all stuffed.

Birthday Girl Boots

OnceUpon's New Boots

P.S. Misty will be musing about last weekend's horsemanship clinic on Monday.