Monday, September 25, 2017

Little gray mare...or "Goodbyes aren't easy"

One of the last photos of my "Three Musketeers" together.
Man, just typing that title for this blog post brought tears to my eyes.

It was a hectic weekend; picking up my "dead" car from the mechanic, some plumbing work that needed done at the house, an oil change (which turned into an oil change, fuel filter and rear deferential change) for the truck and finding both gas AND diesel to fill our tanks up with.

Saturday, basically, was shot with chores.  We had hoped to get to H's sometime Saturday afternoon to get the carports, but,  once again, it wasn't meant to be. 

So, H and I arranged for Sunday to be the day we did the pony swap.

To be honest with myself, I kind of buried my head in the sand about it all day. 

Had my heart almost ripped out when I bribed Kaylee to get her out of the house that she could go "pet the horses", and she went running out of the house to Dakini.  Little legs flying as she clutches her "Baby D" (her stuffed dinosaur), screaming "DAKINI!  DAKINI!!"  She runs up to her, and Dakini just stops grazing, doesn't move a muscle as my daughter gently touches her nose.  "Hi Dakini," that little voice says.  I tell her to give Dakini a hug, knowing this was probably the last time she'd hug that sweet mare.  She gave her a hug, and booped her on the nose (Kaylee is a big-time nose booper).  I stuffed down the "OMG, that was probably the last time she'll do that" feeling and we went to the store.

Kaylee petting Dakini.
"Hey kid, whatcha doing?"
Just how Dakini is; unfailingly patient with my daughter.
I finagled Joe to take Kaylee and meet my parents so H could bring Chantilly and we could swap.

In the quiet, after Joe and Kaylee left, I took a break from assembling our new bar stools.  Went outside and spent some time with Dakini.  I hugged her neck.  Thanked her for EVERYTHING.  Told her I loved her.  Begged her to be a good girl for H.  Gently blew into her nostrils for the last time then walked away.

It didn't hurt then.

But, once she was loaded, and Strider was losing his mind about her being on the trailer...and Chantilly was losing her mind at Blondie (H's horse) leaving on the trailer...and H pulled out of my gate, Dakini looked back at me, and I lost it.  I sat on the ATV sobbing my heart out.  My rational mind KNOWS this is best.  My emotional heart...well, it's not ready. 

That little mare came so far in the little over a year I had her.  I know I can't take credit for it.  She did it herself.  She did amazing things for me.  She dug down deep and did what was asked of her.  Sometimes she dug too far.  Which is why I know this is best for her.  She doesn't LOVE LDs.  She did them because I asked it of her.  And she's game to do anything I want, even to her own detriment.  And I didn't want to ultimately be responsible for her being hurt because of something I did, intentional or unintentional. 

Please don't misunderstand, I'm excited to learn and meet Chantilly.  To learn her.  To play with her and figure her out.

But, I guess the reality is that there is always going to be a hole in my heart that is Dakini sized.  I'm GLAD she's with a friend.  And I hope she BEHAVES for my friend, or else she'll get moved down the road.  But if she behaves, she'll have a home for life. 

And if she doesn't...I may strong arm Joe anyway to letting her come back.  Because there's something about a snippet on a gray muzzle that requires a soft kiss.
Not so good with the selfies.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Lovely evening....or "How to succeed at doing nothing without really trying"

Last night was the last night where I'll be 100% human-free at home for...who knows how long.

I gave myself permission to have fun.  Not fret over all the things inside that needed to be done, but to do a few things when I finally went indoors.

Raced home, thinking of stopping for dinner (I didn't, ultimately.  This is both the advantage and disadvantage of living so far out...there's really no fast food in our little town), but hit the driveway and bolted into the house.

Changed, let the dogs out, grabbed Strider's bit and headed out.

I love the way the gravel crunches under my feet.  Memories of childhood camping are in it.  It never fails to make me smile.

I grab Strider's halter and a long lead rope from the shed, toss them, my phone and a bottle of water onto the backseat and drive to the trailer to grab the long lunge line I have stashed in there.  My trailer is currently a wreck as I haven't yet cleaned it up after the rains kind of got into it.  I'd pulled everything out to let it sit in the sun and dry out, and then heaved it all back in when the weather threatened to rain on it all a week later.  What a disaster.  But, it's on the "To Do; No, I MEAN IT!!" list for this weekend.

So, manage to FINALLY find the long lunge line, grab the halter and go walk to get Strider.

And he ran away.  And this wasn't his playful "I'll run a few steps" run.  No, this was full fledged gallop hard and fast run.  Socks went whipping off with him while Dakini kind of looked at them both like "What's going on?"  Those two boys whirled and circled and ran and ran.  I couldn't get near them.

"Okay, so that's the game we're playing.  Fine."

I jumped on the ATV with my stick and string and gently went after them.  Pushed them to move if they slowed down.  Pushed again.  Finally they stopped, so I hopped off the ATV and Strider let me halter him.

I'm not COMPLETELY sure what happened.

I suspect the bot flies were a contributing factor.  But it took me almost getting plowed over 3 or 4 times by a snorty Paso to figure out what was going on.

I'm also pretty sure I jammed my big toe kicking him in the chest to get him out of my space as he almost ran me down a 3rd or 4th time.  I wasn't mad, but he wasn't listening to me, so I tried to communicate in a fashion he might hear.  News flash, sneakers, not necessarily a wise choice. 

I took him to our open and fairly flat area and we started to lunge.  He was on fire for a while.  How fast could we go.  I let the rope play out through my hand so I wasn't tipping his head.  Faster and faster, despite my wanting just a gait.  Okay, let's go for 45 seconds.  Rango comes running over to follow at his heels.  Pancho almost gets run over, but escapes in the nick of time. 

Round and round we go, music now a background noise as we work.  I'm focusing on him.  Watching his gait.  Is he off?  Is he stiff on the right?  No, he's fine.  His ear swivels toward me, head drops slightly.  I ask him to keep moving at a gait now as he's burned off all the frantic energy.  He asks to stop.  Just a few more moments buddy. 

We stop.  He stands there, facing me.  I finally invite him in to me.  He comes.  Those bot flies still bothering him, so I back him off again some.  Ask for some lateral movement to see if we can communicate.  We fumble some together before it clicks in for him and we understand each other and he moves over to the right.  Enthusiastic praise as I place a hand on his wet neck.

Back out on the line we do some more circles.  Shorter session before we stop again.  I attempt to get him to pivot around on the forehand.  I fail.  I get frustrated at myself so quickly switch over to the sidepass again.  Something I can communicate to him, that he understands what I'm saying.  Realize I need a lesson or two to remind me HOW to cue my amazingly smart horse HOW to pivot on the hind and fore.

We head over the barn, the flies still bothering him.  I hose him down.  He doesn't even waste time flinching anymore.  Not that he ever really has.  He's always seemed to like water.  But he doesn't even really dance around while I'm soaking him down.  I think perhaps because it drove the bugs off him.  I soak his neck and mane down. 

He stands still as I fit the bit to him.

Tolerant horse; I set it up wrong initially.  If horses glare, I'm pretty sure he did.  As soon as it was on, I knew it was all sorts of wrong.  A quick check on Google got me set straight and the bit corrected for him.

Honestly, he is so forgiving of my mistakes and errors.  How did I get so lucky?  He never holds a grudge.  Lucky for me, or I'd be in a world of trouble.

I pat him down and cut him loose.

Grab Pancho for a ride.  He's eager to go, having been running around for about 45 minutes by this point.  We head to the back of the property again.  I remind him to PLEASE not leap off the ATV tonight.  The sun is already fading on us, but I don't want to miss the ride.  Away we go, rattling over the ground as fast as I can go.  Something is driving me.  I don't know what, but we're flying.  I whip across the pasture and go through the second low lying area.  Watch a hawk launch itself off the large oak at the back.  Finally decide to go investigate.  I drive, carefully, to the oak tree.  It is large, branches hanging down for a marvelous shady area as I slowly circle the tree.  I can envision the horses beneath it better now.  I wish I knew how to start the tractor myself, for I might have brought it out to begin the cutting. 

But, I head back to the back of the property and, as I look behind me, to my shock and surprise, is Rango.  I don't believe he's ever been back here.  But he chases behind the ATV, ears flopping, a large grin on his face, his tongue hanging out.  I go slow so he can keep up, constantly encouraging him.  If I thought he wouldn't panic, I'd put him on the backseat too, but I don't dare.  He's large and skittish and currently seems quite happy to follow us. 

We come down back off the rocks and I take off a little faster, and he chases us.  Bouncing and leaping through the weeds.  I gun the ATV and he puts on a burst of speed to match.  We race through the pasture.

I laugh at him, perpetual energy he seems to have, and think, he's going to be REALLY tired tonight.  Good.

I do my daily check of the water trough.  Notice it's almost empty (and by "almost" I mean it's maybe 8" from the bottom of the trough), and decide to dump it, hose it out and set it back up. 

Finally do one last loop around the house with the dogs and head inside.  They're both exhausted and Rango throws himself into "his" chair, panting happily.  Pancho finally crawls up beside him.

Nothing I can do but laugh at them. 

And oddly, I felt more accomplished than I had from the night before.  And happier.  Certainly happier.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Gracefully accepting I can't do it all....or "It IS okay to not stay outside ALL night you know"

I don't do well when what I've planned for doesn't go as I want.  SOMETIMES I can roll with it and be gracious about the changes.  Othertimes, it just makes me irrationally angry and I fuss and fume and spew venom about it.

I knew I needed to drop off Kaylee's application at the daycare yesterday, so THAT went according to plan.  Done and done.

When I got home, the ATV called.  I also wanted to lunge Strider too.  I wanted to saddle up and go riding.  I wanted to pull the cinch off my saddle and clean it and then do a deep clean of my saddle as well.  Trim Strider's feet again.  Clean the barn from the horses being in there for a day.

Except I realized, I had work that badly needed to be done inside.  I have clothes strewn all about because I didn't have hangers.  Except, the hangers came in a week ago, and STILL the clothes are all over the place.  The dishes were stacking up in the kitchen.  The living room is still a mess after the party.  I should vacuum.  Sweep and mop the floor.  Take care of the inside animals.

Ugh.  I was angry because, I've had the horses home and I have only gotten to RIDE once. 

And I had to let it go.  I did my outside chores quickly.  I'm unsure if the trough has a leak or the horses really ARE drinking it down that quickly daily.  But, while it probably needed to be dumped, I refilled it for one more day.  Tossed Strider his supplement and grain.  Laid hands on all 3.  I refuse to rush through that part.  Nothing is ever gained to rush a horse. 

The trough full and Strider done with his snack, I cut him loose and head into the house.

I check on the lizards.  Think perhaps Chili's starting to shed in earnest.  Attempt to give him more of the appetite booster, but he just gets angry at me and runs to the other side of his cage.  Glad to see him running around again.

Feed and water the cats.  Realize I should have brought the big can back up from the road and dumped the cat box, but realize I can do it the next evening. 

Call the dogs in from playing outside.  Pancho comes immediately.  Rango ignores me, so I just shut the door and go into the bedroom to start working on small projects.

I'd ordered a device that mirrors my phone on my TV, so I quickly got that set up.  Works like a charm!  So, while I watched the final episode of "Westworld", I messed with the Kimberwicke bit I bought a few months ago.  I spent time wrenching and prying the "S" hooks off the bit and the chain so I could use quick links instead to make it easily adjustable.  I then hung it on the new bit hangers I ordered from Janet Grimes Stoltz who owns "Trail Blazers Tack" in this GORGEOUS shade of purple.  It's almost electric.  I adore it.  Makes me wish I could afford another set of tack for fun.  But the reality is the next set of tack ordered from Janet will either be for Zurkh or for Tilly.  More than likely for Tilly as I anticipate for the next year or so, Zurkh will be working exclusively in his halter and lead rope while Kaylee is in the saddle.  And, Joe's indicated he wants his OWN tack.  I told him he'll have to suffer with the saddle I have for now, but he can order his own set of tack for his mare.  Especially since she's larger than any of the others, she's going to need something bigger.

So, that little project I'd been putting off is completed!  WHEW!  Set the bit aside so that I can take it out tonight while I FINALLY lunge (or go ride) Strider.

Then figured I'd set up my Garmin heartrate monitor with the adapter kit I bought.  Again, this too has been sitting around (it actually was delivered to the OLD house, as was the bit, actually), so it was time to get it prepped up.

The instructions to convert the Garmin Premium HRM with the Distance Depot kit were ridiculously easy, and I was done with that fairly quickly.  Set that aside as well to go out tonight to give it a trial run on Strider. 

And then, it was time to start doing laundry and sorting my stuff and getting it all hung up.

Spoiler Alert; I didn't get ALL of my clothes done.  I'm trying to get all of my regular clothes and ALL of my ren garb and as much belly dance gear as I can hung.  I apparently have an extensive collection.

My dad laughed when I told him I ordered 180 hangers.  I'm actually NOT laughing right now.  I burned through 36 last night going through just one pile.  Between work clothes, riding clothes, garb/dance gear, "slumming around the house" clothes and various articles of clothing...nevermind coats and jackets and the like...I think I'm going to end up using most of the hangers.

I did get the dishes into the dishwasher.  I didn't wipe down the counters though.  At this point, it was starting to get late, and I wanted to TRY and get to bed early.

Again, I didn't get EVERYTHING done that I wanted to get done.  The living room still has Kaylee's toys strewn about.  The kitchen still needs a good sweeping at the very least and the counters cleaned.

But, I was productive.  Perhaps not in a fashion Joe will agree with.  Perhaps not in a fashion OTHERS would agree with.  And that's okay with me.  The reality is I need to learn to be okay with the fact my "To Do" list cannot always be completed on a daily basis.  My life has changed significantly.  And it will change yet again in a week (and a few days) when Kaylee comes home permanently and we begin her going to daycare. 

We'll get it all figured out.  But until then, I'll celebrate that I got things accomplished.  And I refuse to feel like I "failed" because of someone else's arbitrary "grading" system. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

I am Queen of my Domain...or "Just an excuse to ride the ATV"

Days are currently in a routine of sorts.  An odd one, as Kaylee is with my parents from Sunday night until we pick her up Friday night after work.  We both leap off the bus and quick-step to the car and head north to our babygirl, saying our happy goodbyes to our favorite bus driver that she enjoy her weekend and we'll see her again next week.

Sometimes they meet us, sometimes they bring her to our home, but we both look forward to Friday and almost 2 full days with her home.  Our days are packed with things to get done when we're not at work, but we attempt to indulge her wishes while she's with us.

But, the weeknights, currently, are quiet without her.  We come home, neither of us interested in dinner except as some kind of fuel, both of us thinking of what we need and want to get done that evening.

I make sure to lay hands on all 3 horses at some point.  Dakini usually coming up to me, as of late, distant from the herd.  Sometimes I find her at the front of the property and the boys back behind the house.  If I walk towards her, she comes to me, seeking comfort from my hands.  Her muzzle soft in my grasp.  I wrap my arms around her neck, breathing in her scent.  I long to be agile enough to leap on her bareback, but by this point, usually Strider has spotted me and thinks I must be bringing him food or some kind of treat, so he drives her away and he has his turn.  I grab his muzzle and lift it, dropping a kiss on the velvety end.  I gently blow into his nostrils before I inhale his own spicy and unique smell.  I run my hands over his sides, marveling at how soft his fur feels now.  He looks amazing to me; the fresh forage agrees with him.  He's perhaps a little heavier than he should be, but I console myself that ride season is fixing to gear up, and in a few weeks, he'll probably drop some of that if he manages to do back to back LDs for me.  I step away from him as Socks makes his way up, wanting to touch him too.  I always take a moment to look into his eyes as I gently stroke his face.  Sometimes I'm transported back into that stall at Lucky 7 where I finally placed my arms around his neck and admitted in my heart of hearts I couldn't sell him.  The tears on my face were warm as they soaked into his mane that day.  Sometimes my mind flashes to that image John Nowell took of us as we crossed the finish line together at Armadillo.  My form atrocious, but his movement still free and happy.  And I'm flooded with gratitude to him for having so much heart that day, and for taking such good care of me. 

Most nights I then leave them at this point, some nights I go and grab a halter to work on Strider's feet. 

I go and check their water trough.  Top it off if it needs it.  Dump it if it's dirty and refill it.  While doing that I'll toss Strider's supplement and a small scoop of grain in a pan and put him in a pen to wolf it down.

Those chores done, I go to the ATV.  Pancho is usually on alert and comes running over, or, if I drive the front section of the property, he comes racing up, small form flying over the ground.  I marvel that he's a 9 year old dog.  Realize that next January he'll be 10.  He doesn't look it.  He looks like a dog in the prime of his life.  Not fat, not skinny.  No gray yet on that black and tan muzzle.  I scoop him up and drop him on the backseat and remind him to hang on.  Paws go up on the arm rests as we go flying off together, his ears flapping in the breeze, tongue lolling out.

I enjoy this time of the evening.  It's not dark yet, but sunset is fast approaching.  I fly up to the gate that separates the front from the back of the property.  Open it and leave it open now.  I used to close it, afraid the horses would come back, but, why would they?  The grazing up front is best, and there's minimal evidence they want to come back to the gate. 

Pancho and I go through and we fly along, the ATV rattling and roaring beneath us.  The engine starts to whine that it's ready to shift faster, so I do, and it leaps beneath me.  This both terrifies me, and delights me as we careen faster.  Come to the first low-lying area, so I downshift, pausing to make sure we're in 4WD as we follow the tracks we've now laid down.  Rattle rattle rattle.  It's so rough through here, but the best part lies ahead as we come up from the low spot.  I open it up once again and we fly, the neighbors dog charging the fence line, barking at us.  There's a gravel "road" I follow, flying now as I shift again, we leap forward.  Wind whips past us as I turn to follow the tracks, not comfortable going through the deepest part of the weeds again.  Slow down as we get to the second low-lying area, rattling through it as we follow the fence line.  Crickets chirp as I keep the ATV slow now, crunching up the rocky part of our property, cutting through cedar trees and slowly climbing to the back fence.

Every single night I marvel that all of this is ours. 

I reflect on something Joe told me when I asked if there was anything a kid could want on our property to make it better.  He said "This is your dream."

And he's right. 

I pause, briefly, as I come back out of the trees at the back, and face forward on our property.  I can't even see the fence that separates front and back pastures.  I see the neighbors to my left, but they fade as I look around me, my heart in my throat, amazed at the gracious gift that sprawls before me.  I can already envision the horses, in the heat of the day, relaxing under the large and old oaks.  Mentally I sketch in a stock tank and fill it full of fish for Joe to fish out of.  I picture he and Kaylee, bonding over fishing poles and fisherman's tall tales. 

But, the light is rapidly fading, and I'm still a little scared of snakes.  The ATV has headlights, but I don't want to be caught out in the dark.  I don't know the terrain that well yet, and I know there's still hidden dangers I could get it hung up on, and the prospect of walking back to the front of the property on foot doesn't appeal to me.  So I slowly motor on, looking at the neighbor's on my right cattle.  They're red and black.  I assume angus.  I don't know though.  I'm eager to learn about cattle next.  And chickens. 

We rattle through the low spot and I gun the ATV again to the road and once more we fly as the dog charges the fence, letting me know I'm not welcome across their fence line.  His tail is wagging though, betraying his loud barks.  My own faithful ranch dog still perched on his throne as we slow down and rattle through the low area at the front.

"Ready Pancho?"

And I gun it, making slow and lazy loops through the front part of the pasture, pushing the throttle of the ATV and shifting up, having it leap and thrust forward.

We race to the gate as I slam on the brakes, shifting down to neutral as I set the parking brake, shutting the gate behind me.  My neighbors to the left out on the porch, music already playing, their conversation drifting lazily through the air.  Pancho remains on the seat as I playfully ruffle his ears, hand gently shaking his muzzle.  "Good boy."  And he grins that Dachshund grin at me, king of his own world. 

And we make our way to the house.  But I'm not done just yet.  One final loop around the front to see the horses again.  And a final burst of speed on the ATV before I park it by the shed.  Joe's already inside.  Probably watching TV.  I'm loathe to go in though.  So on foot, once more, I seek out the horses.  Pancho having wandered off into the brush somewhere.  Rango whips by me in the dark, bouncing happily as he too wanders back off again.

Dakini's gray form gleams, even in the rapidly settling darkness.  I can see Socks' 4 white legs, and a space where the darkness is darker than dark.  Once again my gray mare walks over to me.  I gently stroke her again, saying good night before I call the dogs to me, walk back up the driveway and go into the house.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Hard to be inspired when you're so damn tired....or "I need a 26 hour day"

I compose blog posts in my head constantly.  Don't we all?  Or, that's what I imagine.  Thing is that life has gotten busy, as has work.  I'm not exactly sure when work getting busy happened.  Late summer I imagine.

But, I'm here.  I'm have my daily blog roll I go through.  I just stumbled across another one that the posts are brief, and I realized, I could do that too.  I'm just "wordy".  Why am I so wordy?! 

I cannot believe September is already nearing its death throes. 

My Michael Gascon clinic I was to attend with my girlfriends the last weekend of August was rescheduled thanks to Hurricane Harvey.  I'm not too crushed about it.  It was bumped to the last weekend of this month.  I'm looking forward to going though.  A lot.  I'm not yet sure who I am taking.


There will soon be an equine shakeup at my house.

I realized a few things after Llano, and it's taken me months to let them percolate.  But I hadn't vocalized them to a single soul.  I needed to make sure, both rationally and emotionally that this decision was the right one.

And then fate, destiny, karma...I don't know what it was, but my friend H messaged me on Sunday asking if I really was interested in this new horse she'd bought for Joe.  I had seen this mare listed, and she's EXACTLY what I was hoping to find for Joe.  A large, beefy mare who was gaited.  Well, I didn't really want a mare.  And I'm not thrilled about her color, but what MATTERS is what she has.  Well broke.  And stocky enough to carry him.  And gaited, which with his knee, I knew he needed.

Problem was her price tag.

Now, here's where I put it out to the Universe at large for the first time.

"H, she belongs to you, so you will get to decide, but I think Dakini needs a different home.  I love her, and I love everything about her, but I think she needs a lighter rider than me.  And I don't think she LOVES LDs.  Since she's yours, what would you like me to do with her?"

The current decision is that H will take Dakini back for herself and try her out as her personal horse.  She said she liked her when she rode her for that LD in October of last year.  Plus, Dakini is short.  Which H wants. 

And, we will take Chantilly (Tilly) on trial at our house for Joe. 

I'm struggling some.  Especially when, in the evenings, Dakini comes up to me for scratches and pets and loving.  She's always the one to come to me first.  And it's not a joke that she will dump her heart out for you if she even THINKS you're asking it of her.

And I know with some refining, she'll make someone a fantastic horse.  She WANTS to please.  And I think, if sent off to a trainer, she'd make a great competitive trail horse or obstacle horse.

So, my herd is going to get that shake up at some point.

And, the last weekend of this month, after the clinic, I will go pick up Zurkh. 

"Who is that and HOW THE HELL do you say that?"

Zurkh will be Kaylee's new pony.  He is a kill pen rescue.  And his rescuer is an endurance rider that I know who took him on the Colorado Trail.  She said she hasn't found anything he won't try and won't do.  She also said that, if/when Kaylee is ready to try it, that she feels he has the ability to do endurance. 

Now, I'm not going to push Kaylee to do endurance.  No way.  If she decides in a few years she has ZERO interest in horses, then Zurkh can go back to his current owner, and she need never sit on a horse again for the rest of her life.  Or, if she decides she'd rather chase cans, cut cattle, do dressage, or H/Js, then Joe and I will support that.

But, if she decides she wants to try endurance, knowing that her pony is capable without needing to be replaced is a comfort to know.

Anyway, he's an adorable little gray gelding between 12 and 13 hands.

Which is the OTHER reason Dakini perhaps needs a new home.  Initially I planned on getting her something MUCH smaller, but realized she'd outgrow it rapidly, but be attached and not want to get rid of it.  An extra mouth to feed and take care of.  So, the original plan was to have her grow from a small tiny pony to Dakini.  Except, Zurkh is almost as tall as Dakini.  So what's the point?  Once she's outgrown Zurkh, she can move to Strider or Socks.  Or, her own full sized horse.  And, I now don't have to ask her to give up her first pony for a long time (I hope). 

Now, how do you say his name?  I'll be honest.  I have no idea exactly.  But I do know it's Mongolian and means "Heart".  I don't want to name his current owner, but if you happen to follow the Mongolian Derby, you probably know of the amazing woman who currently owns him. 

I had just posted to my Facebook that we were casually looking for a pony for Kaylee, and she messaged me and said "You know, Zurkh would love to have a little girl of his own."  I was floored.  This amazing pony who had just done the Colorado Trail could belong to my daughter?  I thought she was kidding, so I messaged her back and said "That would be amazing, but I bet we can't afford him."  Except, we can.  So I told her if she was serious, so was I.  She wanted to keep him "in the family" (endurance family), so this seemed like a blessing all around. 

Sunday, Kaylee and I went and bought him a halter and lead rope.  I let her pick the colors.  A royal blue halter and a hot pink lead rope.  I made sure not to influence her decisions, but I couldn't stop laughing and apologizing to him.  But, I imagine he'll be subjected to much worse in the course of his life being loved by a little girl.  I anticipate he'll have glitter on him at some point.  Braids in his mane and tail.  And a million kisses on his nose.

But for now, my herd remains together in the warm, late September sunshine. 

I hop on the ATV for a quick ride most evenings.  Sometimes I combine work and pleasure (like last night where I used the ATV to help do barn chores and help clean up after Kaylee's birthday party then took it out to the back pasture for my own pleasure).  Sometimes I just go for a quick ride because I want to SEE my land.  I want to know it intimately.  I want to know where the high and low spots are.  I want to know when things change due to weather. 

The back is woolly and wild.  Untamed.  I enjoy it in one sense.  In another sense, it intimidates me. I cannot see the ground.  Beneath the tall weeds, it is an unknown.  What will we uncover once we begin to shred the weeds down?  And I cannot believe that it is ours.  I marvel at the size as I race towards the back section of the property that it REALLY and truly is OURS. 

And I cannot wait to see what is uncovered and revealed as we get more familiar with it.

And I dread the time change.  Less sunlight for me to enjoy it when I get home from work.  Less time to spend with the horses on weeknights.  Somehow, I'll make it all work.

Maybe I need a day with 32 hours in it.  Because I keep sacrificing sleep to get things done. 

And find myself not caring that I feel exhausted most days in the mornings.  Because I know what is waiting just 50 miles away for me.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Home Ownership Learning Curve...or "How We've Managed to Get Neat, New Toys"

Sorry for the radio silence.  I've got a few posts started, but I've yet to get back to finish them.  Work has been frantic since we bought the house.  Perhaps because I took so much time off around the move?  Let's go with that.

Basic summary:
Hire the movers.  The money is worth it.  Bonus?  We still have all of our friends.
Just the first few nights reveal issues NOT uncovered by home inspection.
DO make sure the bed with clean sheets, pillows, etc is easily accessible.  Nothing feels as good as sleeping in your OWN bed that is NOT on the floor.

Not on night one, but night two, we had water (as significant amount of water) coming up through the floor.  At first we thought it was from the A/C condenser.  It wasn't.  So, at 11pm on Friday night, I sent Joe to go shut the water off to the house before we ruined the floor.  And we lived without water for a few days.  All 3 of us were a little gamey by the time we not only found a plumber to come to our house (another disadvantage of living in the sticks...MANY of the big companies won't come out there), but a plumber who would work on a mobile home.  Learning curve!!

So, within the first week, Joe got a shed.  It was a repo'd shed so we got a great deal on it.  It wasn't quite as large as we wanted, but it's a good size.  Joe has done a few tweaks to it, such as building a loft for additional storage, so that's helped.  We also bought a large shelf from Home Depot, which gave him more storage.  I have my saddle racks on the walls, so it's slowly coming together.

I moved all the horses officially on August 24th and 25th.  Glad I did because the rain and flooding around Cedar Creek on Friday the 25th would have slowed down my fetching Socks.  I was slated to attend the Michael Gascon clinic in Magnolia, but, with Hurricane Harvey barrelling down on Texas, they opted to cancel it.  So, rather than go to work on those days, I figured, I'd take the days off anyway.  So, on Thursday I grabbed Strider and Dakini and brought them home.  When I offloaded them, I walked them around the perimeter in the daylight, then took their halters off and let them go.  Friday, I ran and grabbed Socks and just cut him loose, knowing the other two would help form his herd and thus, he wouldn't run through the fences. So far, they're all doing great.

I woke up early Saturday morning telling Joe I was going to pen all 3 up so, if the winds and weather got bad, they wouldn't get hurt.  And that I needed to go get them some hay.  So, I raced out, planning to go to the TSC, but instead, hit up the small dealer in town.  I'd noticed he was a Nutrena dealer, so I swung in planning to just ask if he could order my  ProForce Fuel.  Sure enough, he could, would call me when it came in.  I asked, if he happened to sell square bales.  Sure enough.  So, I bought six.  He told me to drive around back and they were in the storage locker.  I kind of had to laugh and told Joe later, it's a good thing I AM a big, strong, sturdy girl, because I had to toss those 6 bales into the truck myself.  Which is fine, I mean, I have to unload them too, right? 

Strider had to go in his own pen otherwise he'll bully Dakini the whole time.  So Dakini and Socks bunked together.  What I didn't think about was since I have just 2 pens, AND the pen I put Socks and Dakini in was more exposed, AND Strider would charge at her that poor Dakini stood out in the rain most of the time.  When I got up Sunday morning, she was shivering, despite all the hay I kept tossing to them.  So, I grabbed her waterproof blanket out of my trailer (which had a little water inside the changing room area) and that seemed to help.  Once I got it on her.  I opted not to halter her to put her blanket on, and she had some zoomies, but overall seemed to understand that she was warmer (if not instantly drier) once I tossed it on her. Win!

I know it was a long two days for them in there, and I was eager to get them out again so they could move around.

Joe realized that since our weekday routine is different, and that we're commuting together to the bus depot and then riding the bus in together, his commuter motorcycle was just sitting.  So, he decided to trade it in on an ATV for us to use at the ranch.  I was kind of against this at the beginning.  Mentally, I was imagining my pastures being torn up.  However, I find that I enjoy it myself.  A few nights a week, unless we have other things to get done, I come home, change, go outside, grab Pancho (who is turning into a great little ranch dog!) and toss him on the back seat of the ATV and then I go cruise to the back pasture for a brief spin. 

My little dog at my back, wind in my face as I go ripping through the back pasture to check it out is a wonderful feeling.  And, thanks to the ATV Joe and I were able to actually find our back fence.  Our property is long and deep.  We also suspect it is one of the larger ones in our subdivision.  We were both shocked when we finally hit the back fence, having thought several times that we had reached what MUST be the end of our property.  No.  Not at all.  Keep going.  Keep going.  Keep going.  THERE is the back fence.

I know Joe is eager to get the horses out of the front property, but the back pasture needs some cleaning. 

The weeds need to be shredded down to allow the grass to grow.  The previous owners have left uncoiled bunches of slick wire out there, perfect for horses to get tangled up in and badly hurt.  Some random TPosts which either need to be pulled and removed, or strung with wire to cross fence the back pasture.  I'm unsure which I want to do currently. 

So, once Joe realized that he couldn't really continue to put off the purchase of a tractor (I told him until the weeds are shredded and the wire is cleaned up, I'm not putting the horses out back), he hit up Craigslist and found us one.  He REALLY wants them out of the front part of our property.

She's old.  She's ugly.  But she's ours.  A 1960's Ford 4000.  She came with a shredder, a plow and a flat bed attachment.  Shredder blades need to be sharpened.  Tractor needs some work, but she runs, albeit rough, and requires some extra hoops to be jumped through to get her up and going.  BUT, she runs, dammit!!!

We've settled in to a daily routine.  For the most part, no one gets any grain or anything except fresh forage (Strider gets his scoop of hoof supplement and 6oz of his grain too), and I'll say that their coats feel like silk.  Every 3rd day their trough up front gets dumped and refilled.  I make sure to at least lay hands on them all daily.  Strider is getting his feet mauled once a week.  I haven't, as of yet, tackled the other two.  But I need to.  Every night there seems to be something I need to get done outside.  I am concerned about how I will manage it all once the time change happens.  Because we plan on adding a cow and some chickens soon.  I know I'll figure it out, but I anticipate working in the dark quite a bit. 

However there is NOTHING more gratifying than looking out my sliding glass doors and seeing my "herd" happily munching away.  Or my dogs running around, startling the horses who take off, thundering through the front yard.  I shouldn't laugh as Rango goes chasing after them, but he's "grinning" from ear to ear, and I figure the brief moment of excitement for them isn't going to kill them.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Final day at Llano....or "Anything your Arabian can do, my Paso Fino can do...ALMOST as well."

Sunday dawned early.  Knowing that the Wind Riders weren't planning on going out, I really had no plans except to ride the ride.  I didn't care about placing.  I knew Strider had had the whole previous day to relax and tank back up in order to be ready for his second day out, but I figured he would be a little slow to want to move out. 

So, the only real "plan" I had was to go out with the front(ish) of the pack at a calm and steady pace and fall back as Strider needed for the climbs.  The only goal for the day was earning him another completion.  That was it.

So with that, out we went with the people who I see at ride meetings, but because they're all front runners, I never ride with them.  Oh, they all know who I am (hard to miss the perpetual turtle, right?  LOL!), and I pretty much told everyone we'd be falling back at some point, but if they didn't mind, could I ride up front with them for now?

They were all VERY gracious and kind and welcomed me to the front.  So, there we went.

There was a mild pile up on trail as one person had some issues with their horse.  We all held up when we came up on them to make sure they were okay.  And then at some point, some of us continued on while some stayed back (always making sure they didn't mind that we went on).

It's interesting to get to talk with people that you see at rides, but don't know them except by name and face.  And I had a great time once I stopped fighting with Strider to slow down.  He just wasn't in the mood, so I figured I could either piss him off and fight with him, or let the hills grind it out of him until he slowed down.

He didn't slow down.  He didn't walk the hills.  Nothing took the wind out of his sails.  He was both amazing and somewhat terrifying.  He ate well and he drank well.  He moved out and stayed with the front runners.

There were a few times when ribbons were downed or missing; thankfully up front we had someone who had helped mark trail, so she pointed us back on track and hung back to help direct the rest of the pack so no one else would miss it.

Before I knew it, we were back to camp.  I didn't realize it until after I downloaded the stats, but we were FLYING.

Llano Estacado Day Three; Loop One

So, we come in to camp, and it's still VERY early in the morning and the bulk of the ride is done.  I now know the final loop QUITE well, and know it's 7.5 miles long, so that would be wrapped up in about 2 hours if I walked it.  Heck, I realized I could hand walk him that entire loop and probably still finish!

But, I strip off his tack (lesson learned!) and start scooping water on him.  Here is where we lost some time.  We were keeping up with the lady who ultimately took first place (M.P.) but, she's on an Arabian, and he's just not.  She and I are both HWs, so we're evenly matched there.  But, Strider is a Paso Fino and he's just not swift enough yet on the recoveries.

It was at this point, as I was scooping I realized something which set me off.

My horse, at some point on the trail had lost not 1, not 2, but 3 shoes.  Now, I had heard SOMEONE's horse 'clicking' (catching front feet with back feet is what I usually think of; Socks does it which is why I usually run him in bell boots).  I didn't think it was Strider, but, after seeing that, I am now assuming it was him making all that noise. 

To say I was pissed would be an understatement.  When the shoer set those shoes I specifically said I needed them to last at LEAST 6 weeks, and did he think that they would?  He said SURE they'd last 6 weeks, and probably 8 if I needed. 

For the record, I got to do some of Last Hoorah in those shoes, and then 1.5 days of Llano Estacado in those shoes.  3 weeks.  I freaking got 3 weeks out of those shoes.  And 3 of them are out there, somewhere, at the Lake Meredith Recreational Area.  Nice.

However, knowing the second loop, I knew it had some rocks, we could slow down over those, but they're large, and not particularly sharp edged.  So, I figured we'd slow down a little and just knock out the final 7.5 miles, no big deal.  My dreams of a Top 10 finish faded and I settled in to just finish, period.

So, we waited out our hold once we finally got pulsed in, tacked back up and out we went.  We caught up with a Junior and her father who did the LDs as a true pioneer (this is the same horse and rider pair for a multi-day [longer than 2 days] ride).  I asked if they minded if we tagged along, and they assured me it wasn't a problem, so we fell in behind them and chugged along for the next hour and a half while I learned a little bit about them, but mostly sat back and mentally ran through my 3 days of riding with a smile.  My brave little horse just going happily beneath me, the sky a gorgeous blue above me, and all at peace with the world.  I made sure to keep an eye on his behavior, but saw not a head bob, misstep or anything to indicate he was anything less than sound.

As we came in on the mesa over camp for the last time, I smiled, and Dakini somehow knew as she called out, and Strider answered.  Had some feelings of sorrow that this ride was coming to an end, and that I would be leaving the next day to return home.  And knowing that, unless someone saves this ride, I would probably never be returning to Lake Meredith. 

But, all good things must end, and so did this ride.  As we hit the road, for the last time I swung off my horse, loosened his cinch, patted him on the neck with love and respect and a healthy heaping of admiration, put him in the grass and we hand walked in the last half mile, not another horse behind us.

Llano Estacado Day Three; Loop Two

So, once again, strip tack, scoop water and pulse in.  The time?  We were done with all 30 miles prior to 11 am. 

After pulsing in, time to get our final vet check done. I had hoped to vet beneath a different vet.  The head vet went out to ride on day three while another vet/rider stepped in so he could do so.  I know this vet is frustrated by my horse, and I know he picks up on it.  But, we FINALLY get the job done and I'm asked a question I've never been asked before; "Are you standing for BC?"

I blink in shock.  "Can I?"

"Aren't you in the Top 10?"

"I...I don't know."

"Go check then and come back and let me know."

So in a state of brain numbing shock, I trot back over to the In/Out Timer and ask what my placing is.

We ended up in 5th place.  My heart simultaneously dropped like a stone and flew out of my throat.

So I went back to the vet, said yes, I would stand for BC, and then thought to myself "WTF do I know about standing for BC?!  All I've been told is I should do it if I get the chance."

And at this point, the Wind Riders stepped up, stepped in and displayed what, to me, this sport is all about.  They ALL came and helped coach me through what to do.  And then HELPED me.  They helped fill my water bottles.  Reminded me to tank up and drink all of my water.  Really, as a rider, they were helping ME pack weight on as I went to the scale.  I'm not saying what the number was, but, by the time we were done filling up the 4 water bottles I had carried and I had chugged 2 more bottles of was a good weight.

Then it was get him back to the trailer...but to do what?  I had no clue.  So they helped.

From cleaning him up so he looked pretty.  To helping keep him cool.  And then to the sweet Miss K trotting him out for me because it's different than your normal trot out, and because I was so anxious I KNEW he'd pick up on it. 

He didn't show well, but watching my horse stand for BC made my eyes well up with tears.  Knowing he was standing with Arabians and some other gaited horses...well...words can't convey the range of emotions I was feeling.  Between still flying high from day 2 on Dakini to ending Llano on such a high note...over the moon.

Strider's day 3 vet card.  On the far right, ALL A's!!  I couldn't have been more proud of that entire column!!
After seeing all the horses for BC, the vet and I talked some.  They were very nice, complimentary to my horse and I (honestly, I was kind of shocked.  Always got the impression that they didn't care much for my horse...). 

Knowing that (or assuming that I knew that...) the ride meeting would be after all the 50's finished, and assuming that it would be later in the day, I headed in to town for lunch and to check in with friends and family and take some photos.

This was the road leading towards ride camp.  We would ride stretches of this road all weekend long.

This is the turn in to camp that I missed on Thursday night in the dark.  If you look closely on the right there is a sign that says this is the equestrian facilities. 

Taken from the road as you drive in to the recreational area.  This is on a steep hill going down.

This is just more of the gorgeous scenery as you drive in to the facility.

Long, LONG hill leading down into the recreational area.

That sign really isn't a joke.

Gorgeous clouds.  Beautiful sky.  Look at that green grass.  In JUNE!  And in TEXAS!

So, I hit up the Sonic in town and spent an hour or two there before heading back to camp. 

To realize I'd missed the awards meeting.  LOL!!  Missed my first time to get a Top 10 recognition.  Ah well!  Miss K got my stuff for me; a cool bucket and a bucket cover and I think a little tool as well.  I can't remember.

I did go by the ride secretary's trailer to see where we ended up in the BC standings.  I -think- from what I remember, after all the calculations were done, we came in 7th.  After dropping him off at the trainer's the next day, I know much of why that is...but still, I was quite pleased with him!!

And, with all that done, I started prepping camp so I could break it down in the morning.  I BRIEFLY toyed with leaving since it was still early, but, I knew I'd regret it, so I just dumped what I could, gave them the last little bit of alfalfa I had stashed away, gave them both filling meals of grain and beet pulp, little bit more of the electrolytes knowing we had a long trailer ride the next day, and then I settled in to just relax, enjoy my time with them and read some more.  After sun set and camp quieted down, I crawled in for one last icy cold shower (seriously, I'm getting a Zodi or something similar before our next trip!) to get the grime off, then went to bed, happy and pleased as the lights twinkled on my horses' pen.

Little gray mare...or "Goodbyes aren't easy"

One of the last photos of my "Three Musketeers" together. Man, just typing that title for this blog post brought tears to my e...