Thursday, August 28, 2008


Not much time for horses today. Classes started Monday, so we're back on fall hours at the library and open on evenings & weekends. Thursday is my regular evening to work, which would ordinarily mean a full, uninterrupted afternoon of Sunny-time.

But sadly, today is also M's next to last day with us here in SD. He'll head back to his mom out East on Saturday, so we spent the afternoon collecting clothes & digging out the big suitcase. Tomorrow we'll be packing in earnest - although the way the airlines are charging for luggage, I'm tempted to UPS the whole kit & caboodle!

T didn't have any classes until tonight, so the three of us, T, M & I, finished up our running game of Rodeopoly after lunch. (M won, told you he's a shark!) Actually, we broke the bank and called the game on account of lack of money. But with $6K plus in cash and multiple "gold buckle" properties - well, let's just say the kid's a tycoon in the making :)

Since T's teaching, M came to the library with me to hang out while his sister stayed home to work on homework (her choice). She's staying here with us this school year, and so far seems to be settling in well. She was excited for the first day, and very enthused about the middle school's laptop program. We'd love to have M stay, too, but his mom's not wanting a completely empty house - and who can blame her! It just echoes here when the kids are gone.

Splitting the kids up isn't ideal, but the middle school here has a more stable environment. (No horses involved, unfortunately.) It's also close enough she can walk to school, and with two of us at home to present a united front, there's a bit more supervision and less opportunity for rule-bending. (I have the utmost respect for responsible single mothers who lack the support system of a family network to support them, and who cope with multiple children - how they manage, I have no idea. I'd crack.)

So, this will be the first time H & M will have been separated for any length of time. H says she's looking forward to being an only child - but I think that's at least partially a put on. M wants to stay too, and we'd love to have him, as well, but....

Anyway, long-story-short, my horse-time this afternoon consisted of a head check, fly-spraying and a few pats & scratches, but I can't begrudge the family time, either. Saturday evening and/or (hopefully AND - I'm crossing my fingers for AND!) Sunday I've promised myself some quality hours with the four-feets.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Retail therapy, anyone?

Okay, this is out of the ordinary, but it is horse-related - I don't know if everyone out there is familiar with Equestrian Collections, but they're a pretty good online horse store.

They're having a 70% off "tent sale" for the next day or so, and there are some good deals on random stuff. They have $2, $5, $10, and $20 dollar "tables, as well as a coupon book.

If you're at all in the market for show attire or riding stuff, it's worth checking out. I've been pretty happy with both the customer service and quality of their merchandise. The delivery isn't always terribly speedy, and they lean more toward English, but, I guess you can't have everything, can you?

Happy shopping!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Playing games

What do you do when the evenings start getting dark too early? Why, play games, of course.

Usually it's Golf (cards), Rummycube or Sequence, but last night we broke out the Rodeopoly. If you're not a Monopoly fan, you'll probably hate it, but if you like the occasional game, and don't mind learning a bit of Rodeo trivia, it's fun. I actually knew (well, guessed) the first Cowboy Up challenge question, and earned $50 from my neighbor!

Things I've learned thus far:
  • What a hoolihan is
  • The "official" name of the first barrel in barrel racing
  • That M is a shark when it comes to playing this game!
  • That I can't do math faster in my head than an 8 year old. Sigh.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Space cadet!

This morning M and I cleaned out and washed two cars. I'd washed the little truck last night, so that makes three clean vehicles :)

(The Bravada's for sale, if anyone wants a 4-wheel drive SUV....) That just leaves the big truck for tomorrow night.

T made the distressing discovery that the garage has (had) wasps on two sides up in the soffit. Wasp spray is a good thing! Hopefully, they're dead.

After a late lunch I headed out, collected horses, and tacked up to ride. I hadn't heard there was going to be a storm, but I'd have said we were in for a tornado, the way Sunny was acting. The sun was out, sky was blue, and there was just enough breeze to keep things cool. NOT a blustery, spook-inspiring day, I wouldn't have thought.

Eventually he settled in, and we worked pretty steadily for about half an hour. Not enough to make him really sweat, unfortunately, but enough so that I could definitely feel it in my legs and back. He was at least damp under the saddle and between his back legs, so....

He was big-eyed and on his toes again as I untacked, not shifting around, but sort of anxious and watchful. He kept staring off across the hill toward the road. I think the neighbors may have collected their beef cattle this morning - maybe he was on the alert for more action. Who knows what goes on in their heads sometimes.

I need to ride more, but my accomplishments for tonight were a) getting on in the first place, and b) not getting off when he kept feeling scoot-y underneath me. That's enough for now.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lazy afternoon

We had a slithery visitor this morning. T was cleaning up a pile of limbs we've been wanting to take out to the farm, and turned up this little guy. Just a garter snake, and M was thrilled.
We let him wind his way across our hands for a bit, and then turned him loose to eat bugs in the tomatoes.
He (the snake) was remarkably calm about the whole experience - I can't imagine being picked up and handled by giants! But he didn't hiss or struggle, and was seemingly content to rest suspended across our palms without wriggling off. He did disappear quickly enough once he was back in the greenery, however.
I spent the afternoon out communing with the 4-feets. They were enjoying a typical lazy day. The first feel of fall was in the air. Oh, the leaves aren't turning or anything, but the sky was perfectly high & blue, and it just smelled like the first days of autumn always do.

I brushed out wind tangles, fly-sprayed, and just hung out for a while. Pennie, Lace & Foxy, the three older mares, all have the same habit. When they spot me coming toward them with a brush, they pause where they are, cock a hip, and let their eyes glaze over while I groom. They just enjoy every moment of the attention, pure and simple. It's sweet. Especially when I hit those itchy spots and their lips start wiggling.

I wish Sunny had the same reaction, but he's not particularly interested in being brushed. Itching his belly - now that, he likes.

The younger ones entertained themselves trying to see what was in the fly-spray bottle (it doesn't have quite the same shape it did when they started) and stood around in an interested circle while I brushed Lace, waiting their turns. When I left they'd almost all decided it was nap time, and were dozing contentedly.

Riding tomorrow, I think.

Corn Palace Days

School started last Monday.

The Corn Palace Festival started on Wednesday.

The teachers must just love all the tired kids with cotton candy hangovers this week!

Every year about this time, Mitchell's Main Street shuts down between 7th & 1st, the rides and game booths are set up, and the deep fryers start bubbling. Every evening the sounds of live music from the Corn Palace stage drift across the nearby streets, and kids, parents, and doting grandparents weave their way through the milling crowds stuffing their faces with corn dogs, cotton candy, and caramel apples. (All it's missing to make it really fun are the animals....)

Rides aren't my thing, and I'm not much on crowds (I don't like them any time, but they're especially awful when they're made up of people I may be expected to recognize and talk to - I really hate small talk!, but Friday night is "junk food" night around here, and fair food certainly qualifies. The kids (and T) like the rides, too.

Super Shot (after)
Last year M wouldn't ride the "drop" ride (I don't blame him!), but this year he's been waiting for it. As you can see from the big grin, it was a thrilling experience.

Way up!
Evil Ride!
H & T ventured on this one, too, which actually didn't look too terrifying, except for the height. I can attest to its popularity, but if I have to ride something, I'll take one that stays a bit closer to the ground. M doesn't do stuff that spins (Tilta-Hurl, anyone?) after a previous bad experience, so he and I watched and documented (and kept track of everyone's stuff - I need to wear something with more pockets! I had car keys, cell phones, an eraser -don't ask - gum, T's wallet, cameras.... Good Grief!)

I have to admit, I was really looking forward to the elephant ears (a.k.a fried dough/funnel cake), but by the time we'd hit both ends of the midway twice, I ready to head for home. Too many people, too much noise, and I prefer to get my thrills on something four-footed and furry. That's quite death-defying enough for me!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Failure to be spotted

BrownEyedCowgirls posted this a.m. regarding a rather unfortunately-pictured horse and the tendency of folks to jump on the bandwagon and judge things with more haste (and spite) than wisdom.

I wrote before about how I acquired Sunny, rather than the nice broke horse I was saving my pennies for.

Sunny had a number of strikes against him:
  1. He was deemed a failure because he's (almost) solid chestnut instead of the pinto he was supposed to be.
  2. He isn't exactly perfect, conformation-wise. The first thing the farrier's wife - ever tactful - said when she heard I was thinking of buying him was, "couldn't you pick the other one? [Sunny's full brother Windancer, younger by one year, and a pinto to boot] He has straight legs!"
  3. He's not very tall - just at 15 hands, if I'm generous with the tape, and I have long legs.
  4. 5. & 6. He wasn't much more than halter-broke (sort of), was still a stud, and wasn't registered.
I bought him anyway. BO's loss, my gain - I've never really cared as much about color as about commonsense. Good conformation and a good brain are worth a lot more than coat color IMHO.

So why, if conformation is so important, pick him? As far as the legs go, yes, his left front is just a touch crooked. He's also just a smidge cow-hocked, but that's not uncommon for Arabians. Those are his biggest faults, and they're not horrible. His feet wear evenly, and he's sound. He has a pretty head (and of course, as we all know, how pretty a horse's head is is definitely the most important character trait to look for - LOL!), and he's comfortable to ride - didn't know that then, of course, but I did like the way he traveled.

These two pictures of Sunny were taken on the same day minutes apart.

Now, I wouldn't say Sunny is conformationally suited for anything in particular. But he could probably compete successfully in the lower levels of many things, and since I have no particular aspirations towards greatness, we suit each other quite nicely.

As for being small - well, I've ridden, and enjoyed riding, lots of tall horses. Quite honestly, I like having a horse that I can get on bareback without having to resort to block, fence, or bucket. At 150 lbs, he's not working too hard carrying me, and I fully intend to keep him for a very long time. Given how stiff my knees are some days, it's purely a pleasure not to have to stretch so very high to find that stirrup! (Oddly, both Dancer, the full brother mentioned above, and his half brother Thunder - are tall - well over 15 hands, and both have spots. Genetics are fascinating, aren't they?)

The unhandled, ungelded, and unregistered points? Well, I could (and did) fix all of those. He wasn't mean or chargey, just young and full of spunk. The good brain part was, I admit, a gamble. He could have been a snot - his mother tended toward cranky. But I struck lucky. Sunny takes most developments with equanimity.

And from subsequent observation, all of the foals by Sunny's sire I've been around have had his same tendency to be easy-going disposition-wise. Granted, I've worked at that, and at not turning him into a "hot" Arab, but the basic readiness to trust has to be there first. He has it.

Sometimes you just have to grab that diamond in the rough. Even if you're the only one who can see the facets shine. In this case, lack of spots certainly paid off for me.

So maybe that roan mare Mrs. Mom took a liking to isn't to everyone's taste. Maybe they don't see the power in her big hind end, and the spark in her eye doesn't speak to them.

Hopefully, the fact that FHOTD posted that mare's picture for everyone to make fun of will prove to be the silver lining and not the end of the story. I'd like to see that mare and foal get an upgrade, and I'm pulling for them both!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Camera Damage

We've had high wind advisories here for the past two days, so my plans to ride haven't quite materialized. I had feed and a new mineral block in the back of the car I wanted to take out to the farm, so tonight after dinner T and I headed out for some pony time.

The herd was up on the hill enjoying a semi-fly free evening, and they were all happy to see us.

The three Stooges?

We fussed over them all a bit, scratched ears, checked for bumps & bangs, etc. I've gotten into the habit of always taking a halter & lead along just in case someone needs to be hauled back to the barn for doctoring. No one needed anything but attention this evening, but since we had the halter along, I had T hold Thunder while I bounced up and down next to him, laid across, and then swung a leg over.

He's still at the thinking about it stage, but mostly just cocked a hip and accepted the attention. I'd meant to do more with him this summer than I've had a chance to, but he's stayed sensible with what I have had time for.

The whole herd followed us back up to the lot, just in case something more than scritches & pats might be forthcoming.

Too bad, guys!

There was only one casualty of a very nice hour - I dropped my camera, and I think Sunny pawed at it before I found it. It still takes pictures, but has a lovely crack and a black mark across the viewscreen. Could have been worse, I suppose - at least I can still see the bottom half of the picture!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Idle thoughts

  • Why is it that we spend so much time worrying over what exactly we have to accomplish, instead of simply taking the time to enjoy where we've gotten to?
  • Is it really necessary that nature synchronize her watch so that all female members of a household suffer PMS simultaneously? (And just how many crabby women does it take to cause an implosion?)
I rode tonight. Briefly, since I was losing daylight by the time I walked back and collected Sunny. He's gained weight. I know this, because not only is he round like a pumpkin, but the new girth I ordered (which thankfully has elastic on both ends!) was snug before I reached the fourth hole on both sides.

The girth I've been using is plain cotton web with no elastic, and I'm guessing would not have fit tonight.

We trotted poles, worked on catching diagonals, and that was pretty much it. T took some video, but the shots were either too long or really awful or both. It felt like I had one stirrup leather longer than the other for most of the time I rode, and I kept wiggling trying to fix it. Saddle looked even, felt even, & the leathers were adjusted the same. They aren't old enough to have stretched out. Everything was feeling better by the time I finished, so I'm guessing I just need to stretch out more before I get on.

Aside from remembering to stretch, I'm still rounding my shoulders, and my hands are consistently too far forward. I'm going to have to really concentrate on riding with longer rein, and on getting my hands back to the pommel of the saddle so I'm not constantly collapsing over my hips.

Leg position wasn't absolutely horrid - as I was reminded previously, I need to keep my toes in. But other than the stirrup thing, I felt & look pretty secure.

I do need to stop looking down to check my diagonals. I can feel them, and 9 times out of ten I'm correct if I'm thinking about it and remember to change crossing the center or changing direction. I just have this bad habit of looking down.

My goal is to get out to the farm earlier on Wednesday evening. The shadows have pretty much covered the field by 7 PM, and by 8:30 when I finished up, it was starting to get dusky. I love fall, but I hate losing the daylight!

Two does and a half-grown fawn darted across the road in front of me on the way home. Pretty things. Hope they stay out of sight during deer season.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New feet pictures

I said the other day that I'd try to get after pictures of Sunny's feet. Well, I didn't remember the camera until a week later, so these are not exactly fresh from trimming, and they're dirty....
Fronts - before

Fronts - after

Hinds - before

Hinds - after

Not great shots, are they. The difference is probably most noticeable in the hinds - he was starting to get pretty toe-y.

Today the sun is out, and I'm going riding. Yippee!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wagon Train Album

If you're keeping up with the Fort Pierre to Deadwood wagon train, Inertia Sports Media has a really nifty album of shots from yesterday posted on their site.

The east and westbound trains will meet on Deadwood's Main Street at noon today in front of the historic Franklin Hotel (and Casino).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Feet are done!

After being forgotten by the farrier on Tuesday, I spent this afternoon watching a steadily blackening sky and waiting for the heavens to open. Just before 6 PM I headed out - lightening in the southwest, and scattered raindrops on the windshield.

In town, the streets were still mostly dry. Just south of town the road was wet and there were fresh puddles. By the time I turned in the driveway at the farm, although the raindrops had ceased hitting, it was sticky and humid and still.

Thunder was rumbling off in the distance, and the lot was a slippery mess. Yuck. I called the farrier - was he still planning on coming? "Is it raining?" No, not yet. He'd leave right away, then.

I grabbed halters, and slipped and slid my way to the back pasture where the horses were holed up against the trees - this is what the sky looked like as I crested the hill.
They trailed in walking slowly behind Sunny and swishing flies. The farrier was waiting for us (par for the course when the horses aren't caught). Rather than tie any of them up and attempt to trim in the lot, I just pulled them out one at a time to stand on the grass where there was at least a bit of traction and less goo.
Yucky lot!
Sunny looks thrilled, doesn't he? They were all walking very carefully, as was I!

The whole gang hung out for a bit after the farrier finished & left, but as I drove away they were all heading back out for grass. It was way too slippery to ride, so another night has passed me by. Can't regret getting all those hooves trimmed, though.

The farrier left me with the unhappy news that his rates are increasing. He didn't say how much, and I didn't ask. It isn't completely unexpected, as at $25 a head (just trimming, no shoes) he's been very affordable. As long as he does a good job and stays available, I'll keep booking him. Still, I can't say I was happy to hear it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wagon train's western counterpart

Here's something I hadn't seen previous mention of - the Ft. Pierre to Deadwood wagon train has an eastbound partner. The Wyoming train is fewer in number, but seems to have an edge on the Ft. Pierre group at least as far as ratio of experienced long-distance wagoneers to newbies goes.

The western group left Cheyenne, Wyoming, on July 28th, and plans to meet the westbound train in Deadwood on August 15th according to coverage from the Rapid City Journal.

Monday, Monday

Except it was Tuesday. I wouldn't have known it, though. I think everyone was tired from the weekend and from the late night on Monday, because everyone was crabby yesterday.

Supper was left-over lasagna, which suddenly was an "I don't like this!" dish for the kids (?!) H had a school orientation meeting last night at 5:30 which had evidently slipped her memory, so after a half hour of rushed preparations (yep, she's a teenager, so hair & clothes MUST be perfect before meeting her peers) she was ready. Unfortunately at that point T reviewed the information and discovered that the meeting is tonight. Sigh.... Much slamming of doors and drama ensued.

I slipped out of the house and headed for the farm. The farrier was due at 6:30 to trim the last four horses, and I wanted to get a ride in if possible. After I finally located them in the back field, got them up, into the lot, and the water running (due to cow sorting, penning, & planned loading, and the strategic location of the loading chute path, the stock trailer has been parked in front of the automatic waterer for the last few days, so we've been bucket watering), I sorted off the four with long feet. After they'd all had a chance to drink, I shooed the rest back out.

That was 6:15. At 7:30 and still no farrier, BO went in to call and find out what was up. "Oops, sorry, I forgot." So, we have a new date for Thursday. By that point I was hot, sweaty, covered in horse hair (might as well use the time spent productively, right?) and dirt, and the rest of the horses, including Sunny, were long gone over the hill and out to graze.

I didn't ride, but I did get some quality time with Star and Pennie. Did a bit of showmanship-type stuff with Star & some groundwork stuff. Man, is she quick. All four enjoyed a good brushing, so it wasn't time wasted, I suppose. Just not quite according to the plan in my head. Life seldom is, I guess.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ft. Pierre to Deadwood - too much historic realism?

What with trips, visitors, and school preparations, I've been doing a very poor job of staying up-to-date with events of the world. brown eyed cowgirls posted a comment this morning, wondering if I'd heard about a nasty wreck on the The Ft. Pierre to Deadwood commemorative wagon train. Other than a the very brief notice in the Rapid City Journal noting the death of a man who'd fallen from his horse, I admit, I hadn't been following things as closely as I'd intended.

The two week long ride draws to a close this weekend with a celebratory parade down Deadwood's main street. Unfortunately, what should have been a happy occasion will be saddened by several serious accidents which claimed the lives of at least two people and horses over the course of the trip.

Articles in the Rapid City Journal ("Another man injured on historic trail ride" Aug. 9th, "Man who fell on historic trail ride dies", Aug 8th) describe the two accidents, and mention that two horses have had to be put down, one due to a broken leg, and the other due to "illness."

AP coverage of the ride's early days showed up in papers far and wide, including the Miami Herald ("Wagon train makes 100th anniversary prairie trek", July 31st), the Monterey County Herald - California - and even on

It appears America is still very much enthralled with the idea of the "Old West."

Gerald Kessler, the wagon master, is quoted in the AP coverage as saying:

"I think we'll lose 10 percent the first two days,"...."People just ain't got themselves in shape and their horses in shape,"[and] "...we've got a lot of older people that probably haven't ridden 20 miles in 20 years."

"You're going to have your day-to-day wrecks, breakdowns and buck-offs," he predicted.

That certainly does seem to be how things have shaken out.

Although there are likely a good many folks on the train who prepared their horses and packed adequately for their adventure, there are always those whose rosy view obscures common sense. And unfortunately, with horse-related activities the unexpected occurs with great regularity and can claim even the most prepared.

I sincerely hope that the accidents brown eyed cowgirls describes (see first comment) are the last serious wrecks the train experiences. How awful for all of those involved. My sympathies go out to them, and their families.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Visitors! And a plan for the week

I'm a horrible correspondent. I like to write, don't get me wrong; I've started more letters to various people than they'll ever know. I'm just slow to finish and usually fail to send them. Cards for birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations are routinely belated.

Since I also loathe, detest, and despise calling people (although I love it when they call me...), I'm just not very good at staying in touch.

Which brings me to the visitors - a couple of weeks back I had a letter out of the blue from a very good correspondent, who also happens to be my college roommate. She writes lovely long letters, which I read, enjoy, and to which, with great frequency I generally fail to respond (guilt, guilt, guilt!).

Long story short, she and her family are coming to SD, and stopped in for a visit. We're just on the far western edge of their loop. They're doing a Laura Ingalls Wilder-tracking trip - how cool is that! In the process they've covered multiple states (all the way from Massachusetts).

They camped (in a covered wagon) at the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet - their three girls, who are absolutely adorable - were fascinated by the giant Percheron teams, the calf, the sod houses, and especially taken with the kittens :) M, their middle daughter, starts school this year. She was thrilled with prairie school, ringing the bell, slates, and carrying your lunch in a syrup pail. As her mom said, the first day of modern school may be something of a shock, but hopefully not a disappointment!

After joining us in Mitchell for a supper and a quick (and damp) visit to the (World Famous!) Corn Palace
in the pouring rain, they headed back for camp and one more day in South Dakota before trekking homeward. It was wonderful to see them, and I've renewed my vow to be better about writing.

Tonight the farrier comes back to finish the four untrimmed horses. Hopefully, he'll be on time and I can get a ride or two in post-trimming. Here are my goals for the rest of the week:
  • Sunny: continue working across ground poles, and on circles & bending & transitions
  • Lace & Pennie: clean up manes & thorough grooming, and some good pictures
    • Riding
  • Star: thorough grooming & some good pictures.
  • Thunder & Amyra: "post time" saddled & groundwork
Ideally, I'll actually accomplish most of that!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

New feet!

Farrier came, and none too soon. Sunny's feet weren't terrible, but he was getting a bit long, and I've been wearing his feet down riding. The others were definitely in need of a trim.

It's tough enough to find a good farrier, and when you do, then general rule is that everyone else locates him/her, too. As per usual, he was a bit late, but that's par for the course. I used the space between ETA and actual to detangle manes, apply several coats of fly spray, and attempt to locate several missing halters.

Never did manage the last - I swear, gremlins carry them off. I was three short this time - one may be in the back of the car with my bridle. Car is in Sioux Falls at the airport, so.... BO said she'd pick a couple up next time she's in town, so maybe next time.

It's not really a huge problem. Only a couple of them are nosy enough to bother anything if left loose, and they're all easy to catch when you want them. The senior mares can be turned out as soon as they're done. Sunny remains tied for the duration as do the younger ones - they can use the post time for patience building.

I was pleased with Thunder's progress. The last trim he was better, but still not exactly a fan of the stranger in his space. This time he was only mildly snotty about holding still, and not at all snorty and big eyed. A good thing, because the farrier was not exactly his usual patient self.

He was late (not a big surprise, as I said), and beat besides. He said he'd had 60 horses booked for the week, and of course there are always extras and emergencies. It's 4-H and county fair horse show season, and ropings, barrel runs, and rodeos are all fairly thick on the ground this time of year.

After the fourth horse, with the kids not fed yet, it was closing in on 8:30, and he was so achy looking when he straightened up I suggested that maybe he would like to come back next week. He ended up doing one more, our filly, so that both of mine would be done (and I could pay him, so at least he didn't leave empty handed).

Actually, the horses earned themselves a compliment. As the farrier was collecting his tools I apologized for the antsy behavior he'd had to put up with from a couple of them. (Mostly attempts to get a foot back so they could stomp flies - nothing really obnoxious, and fairly understandable given the fact that the little buggers were sticking to everything. But I'd like to keep this guy coming back, so....) He said as a general rule, this bunch are some of the easiest he trims! Imagine that - high praise from a died in the wool QH person :-)

I wanted to get some after pictures of Sunny's feet for comparison, but ended up forgetting and he was out in the pasture by the time I remembered. Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, August 8, 2008

'Tis the season....

Fall is fast approaching. School starts for H on the 18th of August. At work the student athletes are starting to trickle back, and the faculty are reappearing after escaping for whatever part of the summer they claim as their own.

This time of year I'm usually scrambling to squeeze in SD State Fair horse show preparations like vet checks for health certificates, the farrier, and tack cleaning around everything else.

But this year will be a gap year as the State Fair show goes. Last year's Arabian Show had 8 horses - 4 were Flaming Star farm entries. Another farm brought four, and that was it. Bleh. BO doesn't want to do the open show, because, "how will a non-Arabian judge even know how to place Arabians." O-k-ay.... But if they win or place well, isn't that a positive? It's not a discussion I'm going to win with her, and the open show date doesn't work for me anyway, so scratch that as an option.

She's now discussing downsizing her horse herd. No babies for the last three years for various reasons, and the market for Arabians in SD wasn't strong to start with. So now she has six mares of various ages that haven't foaled for three years. Three are broke to ride, two of them well, one I'd consider very green but willing. All of them are healthy, handleable, and they're nice mares both breeding and personality-wise.

They are not, however, apt to sell, through no fault of their own.

I see the situation thusly: You, the owner, have horses you'd like to sell. Those horses are worth whatever they're worth to you, personally. It's your right to put whatever price on them that you want. But however much you may like your particular breeding, color, type, etc., the market will NOT necessarily agree.

Even assuming you have good horses - horses that people might want to buy IF they knew about them - you still have to get the word out to those people!!!!

Talking up horses you might want to sell to two or three people does not constitute advertising, nor, unless you are very lucky, will such a method reliably produce results unless you're a) lucky enough to talk to the right person, b) in possession of a very good reputation and/or have well-known, well-exposed horses, or c) you're a horse dealer or otherwise involved enough in the horse industry to have lots of horsey friends that find your horses desirable (see pt. a).

If you're actually going to advertise, bare bones advertisements listing nothing more than the horses' names, ages, bloodlines & registration status, and whether or not they are "broke to ride" are, of course, better than nothing.

But it's certainly not the most effective method of selling something, particularly not a horse.

People like to see pictures. Preferably good pictures. Pictures in which the horses are nicely posed, clean, and healthy. If they're trained to do something useful, so much the better. A good description with attention to spelling, grammar, and some knowledge of what's marketable and what makes you sound asinine also helps.

Yes, advertising properly does cost money.

But if you're serious about selling, and would like to find a good home for horses you claim to love very much, isn't it worth the time, effort and expense that it will take to place them?

GRRRRRrrrr!!! I hate coming home mad, but when the topic comes up I just can't be sympathetic with her on this one.

Venting aside, there are two very nice Egyptian-related Arabian mares in their late teens available for a good price. They're both lovely, sound, easy keepers, up-to-date on shots, farrier visits, worming, etc. Both were professionally trained western, and are a pleasure to ride. You can see more information on the farm's sales page. I'd lean toward wanting to see Lace placed with a lighter rider, mostly due to her size.

Of the younger mares, I'm not sure which the BO's decided she can bear to part with. They are all easy to handle, easy to catch, and similarly up-to-date on feet & health stuff. They're not started, but it wouldn't take much for someone with the know-how, space, and time to do it, and my guess is she'd consider reasonable offers for any of them.

Truly, I'm hoping that this whim of hers will blow over for the time being.

Ideally, T and I would find that acreage in the country, and they could all come home with me, but that's not an immediate solution. In the meantime... I'm going to start taking some decent pictures of the girls, check classified sites for information, and look into paying for some decent advertising.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Among other unpleasant things to make your heart go pitty-pat...

For me, breaking down on a long road trip qualifies.

We took the big truck to Michigan. Lots of space for the kids, camping stuff, etc. Diesel's high, sure, but it gets good mileage (25mpg going!) if you knock the speed back a bit. It gets points for having room for the folks & their dog for expeditions - seatbelts for all but the dog, too. And having the room to bring back a big dresser for H's room was definitely a bonus.

Still, a road-trip in a high mileage vehicle is always a gamble, isn't it? You just never know what mechanical gremlins are lurking. I really like vehicle-related problems to strike close to home, or better yet, not at all!

We did the oil-change thing before leaving, and everything was ticking over like clockwork. Should have known it was too good to be true for long. Halfway back we pulled in to a gas station and were treated to lovely white smoke drifting up from the vicinity of the left rear brake. Eek!

And right there at the gas pump, too. We now have an auto-rated fire extinguisher. In the truck. Where I can reach it. Easily.

Back in May the truck had what we thought was a stuck brake - same side, same symptoms.... But after taking it apart and reassembling, (gotta love country neighbors who don't mind assisting - and volunteering essential tools - when you pull into their yards unexpectedly billowing smoke!) it seemed to be fixed.

So, still about 6 hours from home we pulled in to a Chevy dealership with a service station - hey, it was handy, across the street from the gas station, and I wasn't driving far while smoke was still trickling out of the rear of the truck!

Kind mechanic's immediate verdict: it's not brakes - there's a leak in the rear axle differential seal. To quote him, "Not a deal breaker. It's safe to drive, just get it serviced when you get home." Whew. Okay, I could live with that. With that fire extinguisher handy, just in case!

Back at home we dropped the behemoth off with the mechanic Monday afternoon. Tuesday morning's diagnosis was not pretty. Not one, but two new seals, new pad(s?) for the emergency brake (old ones were saturated with differential fluid), and they highly recommended replacing the back brakes (both of them) while they had everything torn apart. Sigh. Yep, pads had a fair amount of wear in May when we pulled the wheels, so that wasn't a total surprise.

I love my truck. I certainly appreciate having new brakes: stopping on demand is a good thing. I will be very happy when it has a clear bill of health and I'm not checking the rearview mirror for smoke if I turn too sharply while braking.

I just wish that sense of security didn't cost an arm and a leg!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dodge: An old friend does it right

A few weeks ago I posted regarding a gelding I'd once ridden whose new owners had a "old injury" related question.

I received a Dodge-update recently, and I just have to share.

A Bit of Background: Dodge is a real sweetie - a big boy for a half-Arab, with a personality to match. He was so not being used to his full potential standing in as pasture sentinel for the broodmare herd, which is what he'd been left to once Sunny started occupying most of my time. He just needed the right person to really make him shine.

His new owner, J, a young lady from out East, has definitely broadened his horizons. From a western horse with a background in trail & cows, he's gone to the land of English saddles, working in frame, and collecting with the best of them. (J's mom wrote this letter after Dodge had settled in a bit - what a lucky horse he is to have landed with such a great family!)

The Update: J's been showing him in open class hunter at some of the big shows - and they're placing! Last week they got their first blue. Her mom sent pictures from two shows they attended last weekend, as well as some of Dodge actually standing in the ocean on a recent trail ride.

As much as I appreciated the show pictures, I really loved the one J's mom sent of the two of them in the ocean. Dodge was wearing his skew-eared "I know you want me to do this. I'm doing it. But I don't have to look like I'm happy about it!" face - so typical I was laughing looking at it. He will happily stand all day in a stagnant pond, but moving water is suspiciously active for his taste - goofy boy.

We (BO & I) always knew Dodge could compete with the best given the opportunity. His new family has faced some challenges - all that standing around between trail rides gave him a short attention span for arena work, which resulted in some tantrums, and he's still developing some of the muscle needed to carry himself in frame for long periods - but they're also seeing a lot of progress and potential for more.

What really makes my day, though, is how happy they've been with his unflappable trail attitude. Good boy, Dodge!

A Dodge retrospective:

Pre-4th of July Parade,
Wessington Springs, SD

Pre-4th of July Parade, Mitchell, SD (2001)


Parade of Lights test-run, (2004)

Parade of Lights test-run (2004)

Dodge (2005)

Monday, August 4, 2008

SD goes to Michigan

How short, and yet how sweet one week can be. Friday before last at almost exactly 10 PM we had the truck loaded and the kids buckled into the back seat. Stops at the post office, the bank, and the gas station accomplished, we headed out for Upper Michigan to spend a week pinballing between the big lakes, visiting my folks, fishing, and indulging in other (sadly) non-horsey activities.
Sunrise in Wisconsin

It's a long drive, and longer with all of us - why is it that pit-stops are never necessary simultaneously? But the sunrise in Wisconsin was beautiful. Right before I took this we passed a loaded cattle truck which appeared to have completely missed a curve and "emergency stopped" across the oncoming lane into a small stand of trees. I'm guessing from the lack of skid marks that the driver fell asleep. Thankfully, although the underneath of the engine compartment had to be shredded, the cab was undamaged, the driver was out and moving around and the cargo appeared to be upright, as well. The state police were on scene and everything was well in hand, so we didn't stop to offer assistance.

This year we were just in time for some beautiful ripe blueberries and even the mosquitoes and swarms of deer flies couldn't keep us from picking. (I've been reading all those jam and jelly descriptions Latigo Liz over at Cowgirl Up has been posting with my mouth watering, so I'm looking forward to trying my hand at some wild blueberry jam.)
Wild Blueberries
(well, these particular ones were black...)

The kids and T fished in Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and most successfully in MacDonald Lake right down the road from my folks.

Fishing at Grand Marais (Lake Superior)

"If I don't look at it, I'm safe..."
Some of us weren't as excited about all the water - my mom's Belgian, Yancy, thought it was just fine staying dry, thank you very much!

Yancey on alert
She was much more entertained keeping watch over the rustling bushes while they fished off the dam at MacDonald Lake.

The Moving Wall, the half size replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall, was in Manistique while we were there, and we took the opportunity to stop and pay our respects. It was very moving, no pun intended. Although I've visited the real thing, it's incredibly touching to hear the hush and see the tokens left by survivors and their families.
At the Moving Wall

We also visited the Eva Burrell Animal Shelter (a.k.a the Humane Society of Schoolcraft County) and played with the kittens for a while. My folks volunteer, and it's always fun to see the animals. I usually try to help on their day when I'm home, but the kids hadn't been yet. M had a great time with the kittens, but we'd agreed beforehand that we couldn't take one home with us - not only would Mabel and Snowball have objections, but 14 hours in a truck, not to mention two days camping across Wisconsin with a kitten.... Not gonna happen this trip!
Adorable, or what?
Can't say enough good things about the shelter, though. Like all shelters, they end up with a lot of dumped animals nobody wants, or people can't afford to keep. Not enough spay and neuter, and with the economy what it is, lots of older, hard to place pets. They make a great effort to get everything successfully and responsibly re-homed.

Sunset over MacDonald Lake
Unfortunately, after many long walks, gorgeous sunsets, lots of wonderful meals, happy hours of fishing and hysterical games of golf (the card game, not the ball & stick variety), our trip had to come to an end.

Now that we're home it's laundry, school planning, and lots of memories to file away.

Wow - an award!

See what happens when you're gone for a week... People give you stuff ;)

Thanks, to Latigo Liz over at Cowgirl Up, I get to add this nifty award!

(Now I just need to figure out how that works exactly....)