Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Copter Surprise

Christmas day started out very calm and peaceful.  We had just finished a late lunch when we saw an unusual black and white striped helicopter fly low past our house.  We watched from the windows as it hovered over the property across the street as if the pilot were intending to land at our neighbor's house.  Then it reversed direction and circled back around our house, around our barn, coming very low over the horse's dry lot, then we lost sight of it.  We ran to the living room window to watch it land across the street and I said,  "I bet that was a good desensitizing experience for the horses."  Just after I spoke those words, we saw SaraJane running wildly across our front yard with that tail of hers straight up in the air.  Oh oh!  Horse on the loose!  And on the run!

The helicopter landed across the street in our neighbor's yard.  I found SaraJane behind our house, running up and down outside the pasture fence, whinnying frantically to Misty who was on the other side of the barn, still in the dry lot where she was supposed to be.  How on earth did SaraJane get out?  Then we saw the dry lot fence.

The poor little girl must have lost her mind when that horse eating pterodactyl flew overhead.   It looks like she ran right through the fence. 

Fixing fence was not on the agenda for Christmas day, but Mr.OnceUpon got right on it.  As he was working, I noticed that Misty has been doing some of her artistic whittling on this wooden fence post.  Silly termite!

I went across the street and introduced myself to the neighbors.  (What a way to meet your neighbors, huh?)  They are renters and haven't been here long and will be leaving soon when their new house is finished.  I told them we had a little mishap with the helicopter flying so low over our horses and asked that they call me before the helicopter takes flight so I could close the horses in the barn.  They were very nice and were sorry to have scared the horses and asked if SaraJane was ok.   She is fine.  She made it through the fence with just one small scrape on her leg.  The pilot is their son and he was "dropping in" for dinner to surprise his mother on Christmas day.  At first he had tried to land from the other direction, but the wind was not in his favor and that is why he circled around our house and came in low over the horses. 

The dad gave me a call when his son began his pre-flight and I locked Misty and SaraJane in the barn. It probably would have been good for them to see the helicopter lift off and fly away, but we had enough excitement for one day.

The pilot lifted off and flew away into the sunset, with an audience of neighbors standing in the street.  It's not every day that a really cool looking helicopter lands on our street.

Oddly, this is the 3rd helicopter to buzz us (if you count the gyrocopter) and the 2nd time this year that one of my horses has had the wits scared out of them by a low flying helicopter (the trail ride incident last June was the first). My horses seem to attract more helicopters than flies. 

But all are safe and calm now.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Under the Gun and Under the Weather

I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, however I would love to vacation on another planet right now.

I'm under the gun at work which continues to be extremely stressful as several project deadlines are looming in February. I won't be online much until I get through this big push.  I'm just hoping all the other parties involved in this huge work effort get their acts together so I can get my part done and over with.  I don't want these projects bleeding into spring and summer. 

I'm under the weather because stress + overtime = illness.  It was bound to happen.  I got hit hard by a virus and have been sick in bed all week.  I'm hoping the worst is over.  I don't have time to be sick.

Horse time is limited too, but I'm trying to ride once or twice a week depending on weather, health, and energy level.  I only have two opportunities to ride during the winter weeks.  I can ride on Saturdays if the weather is mild enough for outdoor riding.  Or I can ride one evening a week when a local equestrian facility opens their indoor arena to the public.

Riding with the public is an interesting experience in itself.  The arena may be packed with riders going both directions at various speeds.  In a word: chaos.  Unfortunately there is no arena etiquette during these public riding times.  It's every rider for himself; watch out and avoid collisions.   Other nights I may find myself with the entire indoor arena to myself.   That is a different challenge with the eerie silence interrupted occasionally by sudden noises that are amplified by the big space.  I think I'll take a radio with me to cut through the heavy silence when I find myself riding alone.  I hate to ride alone!

I hope to catch up and visit your blogs this weekend since I'm still too sick to ride. 

I do hope everyone and everyhorse is having a healthy and happy holiday season.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Misty's Monday Muse - Feelin' Groovy

It's not even Christmas yet and I got some groovy new threads.  Check me out in my new fleece cooler.

MyLady says it reminds her of a pair of bell bottoms she had in the '70s.  You couldn't pay her to wear pants with horizontal stripes now though.  I'm cool with the stripes.

Being the full-figured chick that I am, clothes off-the-rack don't always fit me to the max.  I'm wearing a size 81 and it is a little snug in the shoulders.  The length is good, but the belly straps had to be extended all the way.

Big is beautiful, Man!

Since I have all my winter hair now, I get sweaty under my saddle when I shake my groove thing.  My new cooler will keep me from getting chilled when I ride home in my rolling box after a workout.

Can you dig it?

Peace out,

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Things People Say

Last night my husband and I attended a church youth barn dance in a small country town. The dance floor was lined with hay bales and the  D.J. was spinning tunes from a big flatbed trailer strung with white lights.  The organizers did a great job decorating.  The refreshments were yummy and the kids were having fun.

At the entrance were some ladies seated at a sign-in table to check kids in as they arrived.  The dance music was loud and I probably didn't enunciate my words well, resulting in a funny exchange with one of the ladies.

Next to the table was a tub full of horse shoes for the kids to take home as a memento. Mr. OnceUpon made a remark that started this odd conversation:

Mr. OnceUpon:  "None of those shoes would fit Misty."

Me:  "Nope, they are way too small.

Lady:  "Oh, do you have a horse?"

Me:    "I have a draft horse and she has really big feet."

Lady:  "Really?!  Wow!  Where do you keep your giraffe?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Up in the air! Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

As I was finishing my morning barn chores one day last week, I saw an unusual, loud, slow moving aircraft circling our property.  I've seen an ultralight plane fly over once in awhile, but this was very different.  It was small, bright yellow and had a rotor much like a helicopter.

A few days later my husband received this photo taken by a friend of ours who was riding in that odd little craft which I now know was a gyrocopter.

You can see me walking back to the house. Too bad the horses aren't in the picture, but they were in the barn happily chowing down on their breakfast hay.

Can you see my horse trailer, discreetly parked behind the house?  It's a big pain to back it around the corner, but that's the place where I must park it in order to comply with our rigid homeowner's association rules.

You can see the circle in the front where I lunged Misty this summer before the grass got too dry and she started slipping on it.  I really want a round pen. That would be a good place to put one, but alas, our snooty homeowners association won't allow a round pen at the front of the property. I might be able to put one in the pasture, but it would require some costly excavation.

Don't be alarmed.  We haven't buried anyone in our backyard.  (That would also be a violation of homeowner association rules).   That's just our septic tank buried in what looks like a grave.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Misty's Monday Muse - Something's in the Air

It's baaaack.

The inevitable has happened.

Yesterday afternoon, the sky was blue.
Yesterday, I took MyLady on a lead line walk to the pond.
 This morning, the sky is all white and fuzzy.
Today, MyLady doesn't want to go for a walk.

Bella is happy.
She loves to roll in the snow.
Bella would like to go for a walk today.

(This snow won't last long, but it's a glimpse of things to come.)

It had to happen sometime,

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Me and My Mare - Horsemanship Clinic Getaway

Work continues to be very stressful and demand long hours of me.  There has been little time for blogging or riding and it is going to remain this way through February. Every now and then, I have to TAKE some time to get away from work, and purposefully schedule some "Me and My Mare Time".  That's what I did a couple weeks ago. 

Misty and I attended a Debbie Bibb Horsemanship clinic and I had a blast focusing on my sweet mare.  It was a real bonding weekend for us.  The clinic was held at the CSU Equine Center in Fort Collins where we had a very nice, comfortable indoor arena in which to work and ride.

We started out with some ground control exercises, then rode a pattern to see where we are with our horses and what we need to work on.  We walked along the left side of the arena, turned right, through two orange cones, over ground poles ,then turned left around another cone and trotted to the far end of the arena where we did two big circles that formed a figure eight when put together, then we continued back down the long side of the arena, trotting serpentines through about 8 ground markers, then to the right where we came to a stop between two parallel ground poles, then we moved forward at a walk, turned right, came to a stop and backed up.

Other exercises during the weekend:

  • Controlling our horses feet and mind from the ground
  • Leading exercises to get in synchronization with our horse and control their stride as we lead them
  • Giving to the bit on the ground
  • Giving to the bit from the saddle
  • Riding exercises to help us with our seat and balance
  • Sitting trot, to learn to move with our horse and not against the horse
  • Emergency Stops
  • Moving our horse's shoulders and hips from the ground and from the saddle.
  • Walk, trot, and canter transitions
  • Lengthening and shortening our horse's stride

We had a competition during the lengthening/shortening exercise.  Four ground poles were placed to form a square (a box).  We practiced riding straight through the box to gauge how many strides our horse walks normally through the box.  Misty took 4 strides.  Then as the competition began, we had to state how many strides our horse would take to walk through the box on that 1st round, then each successive round we had to add an extra stride.   Sometimes strategy works if you lengthen your horses stride through the first round, then let them walk naturally (the easiest to predict and control) through the 2nd round.  It can give you the advantage of having an extra round before shortening the stride gets really challenging.  But sometimes it backfires.  Most of us started with our horses normal stride.  So first time through I said Misty would take 4 steps, and she did.  2nd time through I said she would take 5 steps; I shortened her stride and she took 5 steps inside the box.  Next time she took 6 steps.  If a horse takes fewer or more steps than you state, then you are out of the competition.   Misty and I won the competition with 8 strides through the box.  For fun we tried to do 9 strides,  but didn't quite make it.  She stepped outside the box on the 9th step.  

We did another fun challenge near the end of day 2.  Parallel poles were set up for us to ride through, forming a "shoot" (pictured above). We each took a turn riding up to the shoot, through the shoot, and beyond the the shoot.  For example, a simple instruction may be: "Ride a posting trot to the middle of the shoot, then ride a sitting trot out."  As we did this, we had to look ahead at Mark (Debbie's husband) and call out how many fingers he was holding up as we rode through this exercise.   Debbie gave each rider different instructions on each turn. These were instructions meant to challenge us individually.  My biggest challenge on my last turn was "trot up to the shoot (sitting or posting) and then in the middle of the shoot transition to a canter.   Misty and I are both new to cantering under saddle together and I've had a tough time getting her into a canter when I've tried it on my own in a large arena.  She just keeps trotting faster, faster, faster. (And the previous day, when we worked on walk, trot, canter transitions in a large circle, I worked only on our walk-to-trot and trot-to-walk transitions.  We aren't ready to canter in a circle and have only gotten into a canter a few times.)  So I was surprised when Debbie challenged me to canter.  I wasn't sure if I could get Misty to canter in the shoot, but we had been doing so well together all weekend, I decided to give it a try.  We trotted into the shoot, I asked her for the canter, and what did she do?  She immediately picked up a lovely canter!!!  I was really quite surprised.  We cantered forward for a few strides, then  back to the walk and I gave Misty lots of At-A-Girl pats on the neck and told her what a good mare she is. 

Near the end of the clinic, we repeated the riding pattern we started with, to see how we had improved in just 2 days.

I had a great time at the clinic.  Misty was super focused on me through all the exercises and I couldn't have been more pleased with her.  I love my mare!

It was a busy weekend and I didn't have time for pictures,  except for a few taken during our breaks.

During breaks we tied our horses to sturdy hitching posts outside the arena where they could relax and visit with their neighbor.

 Next to Misty is a 2 year old Holsteiner gelding, not yet started under saddle since he is young and still growing.  But his owner did just about everything from the ground that the rest of us did in the saddle, including the riding pattern by leading the gelding at a walk and a trot over poles, through and around cones,  and  in circles and serpentines.  It was a lot of fun to watch the youngster progress from being scared to walk into the building at the start of day 1, to trotting alongside his owner confidently through the patterns by the end of day 2. 

 Hitching posts double as scratching posts.

 That's the spot!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Misty's Monday Muse - Welcome Wagon

On her first day here my new roomie, Miss SaraJane, received a welcome gift from the Misters Pippin and Doc of  Living a Dream.  The boys'  Mrs. Owner was kind enough to deliver it for them; I think they were a little shy about meeting the new girl. 

Carrots (my favorite)!  Horse cookies! A cute card! All tied together with the ever useful baling twine!  I was so jealous!  Then SaraJane shared her treats with me and I got over it.

Thanks Pippin and Doc.  Your gift was well received and deliciously thoughtful.
SaraJane sends you carrot kisses.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

About SaraJane our Foster Filly

Misty was a lonely-only for several months this summer after her barnmate went to a new home.  I considered purchasing another horse, but decided against it.  I've made great progress with Misty since she has been an only-horse and she needs to remain my focus. My job is stressful and requires some long hours; upwards of 60 hours a week lately. The reality is: I don't have time to ride two horses.

But horses are herd animals and I didn't want Misty to be alone for long.  So SaraJane has come to live with us.  SaraJane belongs to a horse rescue and we are providing her a foster home. 

SaraJane and her herdmates were picked up last Spring by the rescue after receiving a phone call from a concerned individual who knew the horses were in jeopardy.  SaraJane and her herdmates were being kept in a junk filled pasture with no grass. They had not been fed in two weeks.  Their keeper did not care about them at all so fortunately relinquished them with no argument.

SaraJane is as sweet as they come.  She is a gentle soul who likes people.  She seeks people out, follows people around, and loves attention.  She is a beautiful rose gray color and cute as a bug's ear.  She is 2 years old and apparently had no hoof care her whole life.  She came to the rescue with a slipper foot, 8 to 12 inches long, on her left front hoof.

SaraJane's farrier told me when she walked, she rolled onto the outside of her deformed hoof.  She had no heel to support her weight and her frog - what there was of it - did not make contact with the ground.  He was not sure he could save her hoof, but started working on it little by little.  In four months time it began to resemble a normal hoof.  Below you can see her left hoof is still much smaller than her right hoof and her heel is contracted.  But at least she has a heel now.

SaraJane's hoof is a work in progress. She needs time to just hang out, receive regular hoof care, eat good food, and interact consistently with people.  Her future is a little uncertain, but the  rescue's veterinarian thinks she will eventually be suitable for light riding. Time will tell.  Until she is ready for more training or gets adopted, she is welcome at our home.  She is fitting right in and follows Misty's lead, even napping in one of Misty's favorite spots....the ditch-o-poo.

Misty napping in the poo last winter.

SaraJane napping in the poo today, as Misty stands guard.

A girl needs a warm, cozy spot to nap on a chilly morning.

Check back soon to see the adorable Welcome Wagon gift SaraJane received from two handsome admirers.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Misty's Monday Muse - Lonely No More

I have a new roommate.


 Her name is SaraJane.
I think we will be good friends.

The End(s).

Everybody needs a friend,

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Baking Lessons

Misty and I had our 4th baking lesson with Sir Cowboy today.

Free clipart, animations and web graphics

I call them baking lessons because during lesson #1, Sir Cowboy called Misty a half baked cake. He said we need to turn up the heat and finish baking.

The heat is on and Misty and I are baking together.  Stick a toothpick in us, and it will still come out with some batter on it, but we are progressing and on our way to becoming fully baked.

Lesson #1: We walked and trotted in the round pen, working on my use of reins and leg aids.  Sir Cowboy evaluated my tack and made some adjustments and suggestions.  He loaned me a breast collar and rigged up a makeshift  flank set out of  a light horse sized flank cinch, nylon straps and baling twine. (Baling twine...almost as versatile as duct tape.)  It did the trick until a local saddle maker could make those items in draft size to fit Misty.  It is hard to shop "off the rack" for Misty.

Lesson #2: We trotted a lot and did exercises around barrels.  Sir Cowboy surprised me when he instructed me to put Misty into a fast trot around the round pen and kiss her into a lope.  She kicked out a little bit the first time we moved into the lope.  The furthest we loped was 1/2 way around the round pen. Loping under saddle is unfamiliar to Misty and it was the first time I had loped (cantered) in 25 years.  Then we finished up with some trotting exercises so Misty could end the lesson with confidence.

During lesson #3, I was surprised Sir Cowboy didn't make us lope some more.  Instead we did our turning and trotting exercises in the round pen.  Then we ventured out of the round pen to the front pasture where Sir Cowboy had us trot through a line of poles suspended from a high wire.  We worked on leg cues and releasing pressure through the poles.  It wasn't  pretty, but we did it with only one mishap.  While turning around the end pole, Misty stumbled on some uneven ground and went down onto her front knees.  Don't ya just hate it when that happens?!  She recovered fine and I stayed in the saddle.  Sir Cowboy said, "It's OK, she just tripped. You are riding a horse with big feet, you know."   Next we walked over a wooden bridge Sir Cowboy uses for training.  We walked over that bridge as if we had crossed it a thousand times.  The next time over the bridge Sir Cowboy told me to stop Misty on top.  No problem.  Piece of cake (even if it is just half baked). But Sir Cowboy likes to challenge us. He told me to back Misty off the bridge.  What?  Back her off the bridge?  We've ridden over these types of training bridges before, but always in one direction....forward!  I'd never thought of backing her off of a bridge before.   Misty was a little surprised with that first step backward off the bridge, but handled herself well.  The next time, Sir Cowboy had me say the word "Step" to prepare her for the step down, much like I do when I back her out of her horse trailer. She stepped backward off the bridge with ease.  I really need to have Mr. OnceUpon construct a bridge for us at home.  I like riding over bridges.  We ended that lesson by trotting a barrel pattern.

During the two weeks between lesson #3 and today's lesson, I've been practicing trotting in an arena, around barrels and through a line of orange cones.  I've also been putting Misty into a lope on the lunge line often.  That is something I have not done with her until the last 4 weeks.  I've stayed in my comfort zone too long, lunging her at the walk and trot only and that's probably why she kicked out a little bit when we went into our first lope under saddle during lesson #2.

Lesson #4: Today we stayed in the round pen for the whole lesson.  We started out with ground work to warm Misty up like we do at the beginning of every lesson.  Then I mounted and we did some trotting.  Sir Cowboy had me stop and get off while he made an adjustment to my saddle.  He tied a rope onto the rings at the back of the cantle.  I still tend to perch forward a little too much and he said this would help me get the feel of sitting deeper in the saddle and will give me confidence at the  lope.  He doesn't want me sitting back with my butt all the way in the saddle.  He wants me sitting on my pelvic bones, with weight in the stirrups, but not pitched forward so much.  He instructed me to hold the reins in my left hand, hold onto the rope behind my hip with my right hand, move to the rail at a fast trot and then move into the lope.  Misty picked up the lope without kicking this time.  We did this several times and she was very good, if only a little difficult to get into the lope because she was tired, and it is harder for a horse, especially a draft horse, to lope in a circle in a round pen.  I was tired too and made some mistakes.  One time Misty started trotting faster and faster, but wouldn't go into the lope and I felt a bit out of control.  Sir Cowboy said I was tensing up and using my legs to tell her to lope, but was hanging onto her mouth at the same time; giving her mixed signals.  We started over and I concentrated on moving my hands forward with her and not pulling back and we went right into a nice relaxed lope and traveled several times around the round pen.  It was great and we are a little more baked.

Sir Cowboy wants me to practice loping Misty on my own when I take her to an arena.  He told me not to lope around the corners, but to put her into a lope as we travel down the long side of the arena; start with a short distance and work up to loping the length of the arena.  He told me to be brave and that I've got to turn up the heat to get to the next level.

And so we bake...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Misty's Monday Muse - Cruisin' the Neighborhood

I took MyLady on a ride through the neighborhood today, accompanied by a couple of my horsey friends and their humans.  We've only cruised the neighborhood once before and that was exactly 1 year ago.  It's sort of like a trail ride, but with a lot of strange and noisy things moving around; the kind of things that can worry a horse.

I had no problem passing the driveway culverts and the big green electrical boxes and the "house-for-sale" signs.  The cars driving by me on the big road didn't bother me at all. 

Then we turned onto one of the neighborhood side streets and I became distracted by all the activity on both sides of the street.

It was very windy on this street and there were flags flapping atop poles on both sides.

Humans were moving around in their yards.  Some were traveling on their 2 legs, others were riding ATVs and noisy lawn mower machines.

There were horses on both sides of the street that caught my attention.  One was running along his fence and calling to us.  I've met him before.  I think he wanted to join us.

I was pretty nervous as we left the street and rode into a big grassy field.  When I get nervous, MyLady gets nervous.  And when MyLady gets nervous, I get even more nervous. It's a vicious circle.

It wasn't so windy in this field and soon  MyLady and I both began to relax and enjoy our ride.  We circled a bunch of picnic tables.  No big deal.  Picnic tables don't eat horses.

Then we had to go back onto that street with all the busy humans.  That's when I saw a REALLY, REALLY tall human, the tallest one I've ever seen, making a loud hissing noise as he spit white stuff onto the side of his house.  I got nervous and MyLady didn't know why.  Then she saw the really tall human too and said, "Oh Misty, it's just a man on a ladder spray painting his house."   I was glad when we moved passed that scary, tall, spitting man.

The rest of the ride home was easy.  The street we live on is much quieter.  As we rode onto our home property, our next door neighbor came over and said he and his wife had seen us riding on the side of the road.  They said from now on we don't have to ride on the road, but can pass through their property to get to the field behind us.  That is so nice of them and gives us access to more riding area.

MyLady removed my saddle, brushed me, and turned me loose in my paddock.  I was so glad to be home.  I immediately found a spot in the sunshine, stood very still, cocked one back hoof and let my head down and my eyes got droopy.  Mr. OnceUpon laughed at me because I got so sleepy, so quickly after getting home.

I've been a good mare during this holiday weekend.

Saturday I took my lady on a lovely trail ride through the pine trees

Sunday afternoon I rode in my rolling box to an arena where MyLady trotted me around orange cones and barrels. Whew, that was hard work.

Today we experienced strange sights and sounds in our neighborhood.

Tomorrow is my day off!  Yippee!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tranquil Trail Ride

Yesterday I rode the trail horse I dream of owning.

Oh wait...I do own that horse!  It was Misty!

Yesterday Misty and I went on a trail ride with two of our equestrian neighbors.  It was only our 3rd trail ride of the year.  The first two trail rides were good, but there were minor issues to work through.
  • Drainage culverts to cross where the dirt changes and horse-eating pipes protrude from each side.
  • Mountain bikers riding up behind us with little or no warning.  
  • Tree stumps and gnarly wooded shapes that look like strange beasts.
  • Hikers with dogs off-leash
  • Misty trying to eat every pine tree we pass.
  • Regulating our pace along the trail.  (Misty can be a speed walker)
  • Circles, circles, and more circles.
  • Motion sickness.  (Don't eat lunch and drink soda pop shortly before riding a draft horse with a big, lumbering stride.)
But yesterday the ride was different.  Within a few minutes along the trail I exclaimed, "I'm riding the trail horse I've dreamed of owning!"  Misty was very calm and relaxed on a loose rein.  I felt calm and relaxed, enjoying Misty's steady, rhythmic stride. The ride was beautiful and peaceful.  We are making progress.  And it was great fun to ride with friends.

Unfortunately I have no pictures.  My camera is hiding from me.  I know I could find it if I did some house cleaning.  But right now, this bumper sticker from Horse Hollow Press is my motto:

September is offering up some of the best riding weather of the year.  We must take advantage of it.  Soon enough, the snow will fall and there will be plenty of time for house cleaning then.  (I promise Mr. OnceUpon).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cavalia in Denver September 2010

I wanna go to this.

Hey Mr.'s near my birthday.

Cavalia will be performing in Denver September 22 - October 3, 2010

If you've seen Cavalia perform, please tell us what you thought of the show.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Misty's Monday Muse - Termites

I have a secret.

I hear we have a termite problem in our barn.
They say it is one really big termite. 

I know nothing about it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Misty's Monday Muse - Half Baked

Hello there. I haven't had much to say since my little buddy went to a new home. It's been kind of boring and lonely without Marley, but I've handled it well and I'm enjoying the extra attention from MyLady.

On Saturday, MyLady and I went into the country for a riding lesson with Sir Cowboy. Sir Cowboy called me a "half baked cake". He says I'm half baked because I'm 7 years old and am not a finished horse and MyLady has been dabbling with my training for 3 years. He says we need to turn up the heat and get me fully baked. MyLady has to raise the bar for both of us. She has to get brave and move beyond her comfort zone.

So on Saturday, we started out with groundwork in the big roundpen. I had to do a lot of trotting and loping. Then MyLady got onboard and we did exercises at the walk and trot (more trotting than walking). Sir Cowboy put two barrels in the roundpen with an orange cone on top of each barrel. He gave MyLady 3 rings. She was supposed to trot me around the barrels and place a ring over the cone, then switch rings and reins to the other hand and drop another ring over the next cone as we trotted around the 2nd barrel. Even at a standstill MyLady was all discombobulated trying to practice switching rings and reins between her hands, so Sir Cowboy took the rings away. We did the exercise without rings so MyLady could practice switching just the reins between hands and using her leg aids to move me around the barrels. It wasn't pretty to begin with, but we did pretty well. Then Sir Cowboy decided to raise the bar on us. He told MyLady to move me into a fast trot around the round pen and "kiss me into a lope".

A lope!!! MyLady has never asked me to lope before! And if you read her last post, you know she recently just loped on a school horse herself for the first time in 25 years. Sir Cowboy told her to be brave and trust me. He told her to put me into a lope for just 1/4 of the way around the roundpen, then pull me up to a stop and we'd talk about it. We trotted fast, and then moved into a lope for just a little bit and then MyLady asked me to "whoa." It went pretty well, but she was a little surprised because she felt something unexpected as we moved into a lope. She felt an extra hitch in my giddy-up, as she describes it. She turned to Sir Cowboy and asked, "DID SHE BUCK?!" I didn't really buck, but I did kick out a back leg. Sir Cowboy said it is not uncommon for a horse to do that the first time it lopes with a rider because it can be a bit of a surprise to us. (I had a Pro lope me under saddle once, over a year ago, but I haven't done anything like that since.) He told her to put me into a lope again. I didn't kick out this time because I knew what to expect. We stopped again to talk and think about it and I got lots of pats on my neck and was told I was a good girl. I was glad to rest and relax and catch my breath. Loping is hard work. The last time we loped we went 1/2 way around the roundpen before Sir Cowboy told us to stop. My Lady didn't want to stop, but she did because she is an obedient student. My lope felt really nice to her and she was enjoying herself. Sir Cowboy said that on that last lope, I was very relaxed, loping nicely, and that MyLady was perfectly in sync with me.

We rested for a few minutes so I could think about what I had just accomplished with MyLady on my back. Then Sir Cowboy had us end the lesson with some trotting exercises. He says it is good to end with an exercise I'm very confident with after having moved forward into a new challenge, like loping. Next week he plans to have us work up to loping 2 times around the round pen.

We have some homework to do this week. MyLady is to get more aggressive with our groundwork and has to make me lope in a roundpen or on a lunge line while she is directing me from the ground. Sir Cowboy could tell that MyLady has been stuck in her comfort zone and hasn't been asking me to lope during groundwork.

We also have to work on my stops. I'm pretty good at stopping, but Sir Cowboy wants me to come to a full stop more quickly when MyLady asks for a "whoa". He doesn't want me trotting for a few strides, then walking a few strides before coming to a stop. There is a difference between transitioning to slower gaits and a "whoa". I need to have a good "whoa" from any gait. He said that someday MyLady and I may need a good, solid stop and wouldn't it be better if I stopped sooner, rather than traveling several mores strides....right over a cliff? Then he told us this funny story:

One day a policeman pulled a motorist over for running a stop sign. The driver argued and said, "But officer, I slowed down!" The officer took out his billy club and started hitting the driver over the head. The driver yelled, "Stop! Stop!" The officer asked, "Do you want me to stop? Or do you want me to just slow down?"

Whoa means whoa, not slow down.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Confidence Booster

Quite by accident, I came across a horse for sale that sounded interesting, so I called the seller. The seller, whom I'll call Sir Cowboy, is a professional team roper/cowboy/trainer. Sir Cowboy trains roping horses, gives roping lessons to people as well as teaches beginning riding lessons to children and adults. He suggested I come to his ranch and take some lessons and he'd put me on this horse he has for sale.

I've taken 2 riding lessons on this roping horse and he's been a big confidence booster for me. On my 2nd lesson, I loped for the first time in 25 years. It was wonderful!

I wish this were the horse for me, but I'm trying to be wise about this next purchase. He's 15 years old and has been a performance horse. He has a big knot on his knee; looks like it might be a capped knee, but I don't have much experience with equine knee issues. He's been perfectly sound when I've ridden him. He moves nicely and is comfortable to ride. But the knee worries me and I'm afraid it will become a problem down the road. The protrusion on his knee joint feels hard, like it must be calcified, and that worries me. So I guess I'll keep looking. My farrier advised me to "ride 10, buy 1". I really have to ride 9 more horses before I recognize the right one? This is harder than finding a husband.

I think I can learn a lot from Sir Cowboy, so I will continue taking lessons from him. He is a traditional cowboy - encouraging, yet firm and won't put up with any weakness. Here are some words of wisdom Sir Cowboy has spoken during our lessons:

"I know you got hurt recently, but if you want to ride, you gotta dig down deep and be brave. You gotta control your motor (as he taps on his chest over his heart)."

"There is no such thing as 'pleasure riding'. Riding is work and if you aren't riding, then you are just hanging on."

"You are training your horse every time you ride. You keep training him until you bury him."

During lesson #2 when Sir Cowboy told me he was going to have me lope, my eyes got big and I said, "Ohhhhh, but...." He stopped me and said, "I don't want to hear that. I told you you've got to be brave...or get a bicycle."

I look forward to more lessons with Sir Cowboy. He pushes me and corrects my riding, but he also tells me when I'm doing everything right.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finally a Truck Purchase

My old Ford truck failed me and I was grounded for a couple of months while Mr. OnceUpon and I considered repair/replacement options and test drove several used trucks.

We chose to replace the old Ford F250 diesel with a new 2010 GMC Sierra 2500 HD SLE Z71 4x4 with the 6.0L gas engine. (If that isn't gibberish to you, then you know trucks and I'm impressed.)

I've never had such a difficult time narrowing down a vehicle choice. Ford, Dodge, Chevy, GMC...then there are the different engine options and trim levels and this and that. It was becoming overwhelming so one Saturday we decided to get in the old Ford, drive to a dealership, and "Get 'er Done!" Eight long hours later, we drove home in the GMC.

We went back and forth about gas vs. diesel and everyone we talked to had a strong opinion one way or the other. We decided on the gasoline engine for a couple of reasons.
  1. The diesel engine is a $7,000.00 option. Ouch.

  2. A diesel engine is overkill for the amount of towing I do, which is less than 2,000 miles a year (3,219 km).

This new truck has the power to haul two horses anywhere I want to go. Sure, it will be less fuel efficient hauling a trailer up a mountain pass, but I can buy a lot of gasoline for many years to come before I'd reach the break-even point on a diesel purchase.

The new truck is a pleasure to drive and it is nice to have a positive occurrence after the recent string of truck & horse issues.

LESSON LEARNED: Get the facts - the Carfax (or AutoCheck report) when you buy a used vehicle.

When someone wants to make their problem your problem...buyer beware! (That goes for horses too.) We got ripped off on the old Ford which we bought based on the seller's word and a pre-purchase check at a local diesel specialty shop; both of which turned out to be a bit unreliable.

We spent a lot of money repairing that truck, but kept finding more and more problems. It was time to be rid of it. We received a clean title when we purchased it, but when we went to trade it in, we discovered it had been salvaged early in its existence. It originally came from Canada (the tire pressure info on the inside of the driver's door was in French). Apparently it was wrecked at 15,000 miles, rebuilt, sold, and the title got washed as it passed through several states in the U.S. If we'd pulled a Carfax or AutoCheck, we would have known better because all the details showed up in the report. We didn't get much in trade at the dealership because of the salvage history. As they say, "Live and learn."

In the meantime, I'm finally getting out & about with Misty; taking riding lessons and getting training help.

Misty is faring well as a lonely-only, but I do want her to have another stablemate one of these days.

I heard from Marley's owner that "he is happy and doing well."

I'm shopping for a 2nd horse now and I wish I could pull a Horsefax on prospective ponies. I hope I can be smart about this next purchase. I'll be sharing some thoughts on that in an upcoming post.

Horse shopping is even more portentous than truck shopping!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Littlest Swallow

It's very nerve-racking when children begin to exercise their independence.

We have our first family of Swallows nesting in our barn.

This was taken a couple of weeks ago:

I love how the parents decorated with equine tail hairs.

Just this past Monday evening when I went into the barn to feed Misty, I discovered the babies had left the nest - all five of them. Three were on the floor and two were precariously perched on a board about 10 feet up the wall.

I shut the stall doors so Misty couldn't come in and step on anyone. She would have to spend the night outside, but that's ok; she's an outdoorsy kind of girl.

One of the babies on the floor flew upward and tried to land on the top of the inner stall wall, but it couldn't find a perch and quickly disappeared as it fell behind the wall, down to the bottom and became trapped between the inner stall wall and the outside wall of the barn.


I couldn't bear to think of the poor little guy stuck back there. He wouldn't be able to get out unless he could fly straight up, like a helicopter, for about 8 feet. So I called my husband down to the barn and we went over the options.

1. Let life (or death in this case) takes its course.
2. Rescue the little guy....but how?

We opted for option 2. We knew the barn builder did a good job when he constructed our barn. We were about to find out just how good a job he really did. We wish our home was built as solidly as this barn.

First, Mr. OnceUpon removed the trim so he could get to the boards.

Then he began prying the edge of the bottom board loose a little bit, working the nail heads out enough to get the hammer claw around them and pull them all the way out. This turned out to be quite difficult, as the nails were about 6 inches long and strongly embedded.

With a lot of struggle and grunting, Mr. OnceUpon pulled the last nail out, but alas, the board wouldn't budge. That's when we noticed that the two bottom boards had additional tacks in the center of each board. Those two boards weren't going to come out at all. So Mr. OnceUpon repeated the process of prying and removing the nails from the 3rd board up. Again, a difficult and time consuming task...and not how he had planned to spend his evening.

The third board was finally loose, but there was no way to dislodge it completely. It was wedged tightly in place by the boards on the corner wall. And from what we were discovering about our barn, the boards are probably nailed in on that end too.

We scratched our heads, wondering what to do next. We couldn't pull the board out far enough to reach the baby swallow. Should we get destructive and cut the board? Oh, why not. We've already been at this for a couple of hours and we're so close.

Mr. OnceUpon asked me if I had a block of wood he could use to hold the board out far enough so he could cut it with a saw.

Hmm? A block of wood? I looked all around the barn. No blocks of wood, but I do have this collection of cow bones I've found on our property.

Mr. OnceUpon fired up his power saw and started cutting. And here's why those two bottom boards were too secure to pry loose. They are tacked to this extra support piece. The baby was to the right of this support board.

And here's the reason for all this trouble (click the picture to get a good look at that face):

I tried to reach down to scoop the baby up in a dust mask, but my arms weren't long enough. Fortunately, Mr OnceUpon has longer arms than me and the baby swallow was finally freed. Hurray!

It was getting late, but the lights were on in the barn and the little trouble maker started flying around, looking for a place to perch. He managed to make his way up to the board where two of his siblings were perched. The three of them huddled together and spent the night on this board.

During all this drama, one of the other two had managed to fly back up to the nest, leaving the youngest sibling on the floor, looking very pitiful. This baby, the littlest swallow, must have been the last egg to hatch and was not ready to leave the nest this day. It reminded me of something my dad used to say when I was a kid, "If all your friends jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, would you jump too?" In the case of the littlest swallow, the answer is yes. I placed some hay around him so he'd have something like a nest to surround him.

It was 11pm by this time. All the birds, including the parents, were in the barn and seemingly safe for the moment. Mr. OnceUpon quickly glued the board back together and secured it in place with long screws and we called it a night.

What a nice man I married. He never got angry or cranky once; not even when he bonked his head on the stall door while prying those long nails out of the wall.

About 5:30 the next morning, Mr. OnceUpon put the trim back in place while Misty supervised. She's still banned from the barn so she enjoyed her breakfast outside.

The babies all survived the night in their various sleeping spots. Before I left for work I was surprised to find the parents and the four older kids all sitting on the pasture fence just outside the barn.

But what of the littlest swallow?
Thank goodness I emptied the automatic waterers the previous day!

He looked pretty safe in there and while I was snapping this picture one of the parents flew into the barn to check on him.

When I came home from work that evening, I found the four older siblings all back in the nest and the littlest swallow was on the ground in Misty's paddock. He flew a little bit and managed to perch on the pasture fence where he was joined by his parents. They fed him dinner and then went to the barn and called for him. He eventually made it back into Misty's stall, but he couldn't gain more than about 4 feet in altitude and was stuck on the floor of the stall again while his siblings cuddled together in the nest above. I put a 2-foot tall wire shelf in the stall and he flew up onto it and settled down for the night. He was still perched on the shelf this morning. I left for work wondering how they would fare today and hoping the littlest swallow would find his wings soon.

I'm happy to report this evening that all the kids, including the littlest swallow, have found their way into the nest for the night.