Friday, September 30, 2011

"Better take along some glue..."

I haven't ridden English all summer, but now that fall has arrived, my calendar has opened up, and show season is over - which means the trainer's calendar has cleared some, as well.  I'll be starting lessons again soon, so I've been meaning to put on some riding time in breeches.  Ordinarily I'd just switch to English tack half the time on the trail, but with Thunder along.... I feel a bit safer ponying him from the security of a western saddle where I can dally if I need to.

Anyway, I decided tonight was going to be and English night.  T and J were packing up shotguns to go dove hunting, and I didn't want to waste such a beautiful evening on housecleaning.  I'd originally intended to just hook up the trailer, since everything I needed was in it, but J blocked the hitch when he pulled in, and I hated to make him go back and move it - it wasn't that much trouble to transfer my saddle, Sunny's bridle and a couple of brushes to the truck, after all.

"Better take some glue along!" was J's comment, seeing me in breeches.  Ha, ha... Funny!

Little did he or I know exactly how prophetic that comment was going to turn out to be.

I collected the boys, set them to guarding posts, and commenced brushing.  Sunny untied himself as soon as I bent over to brush Thunder's belly.  I retrieved him and retied him, regretting the fact that I'd neglected to bring along the Tabasco sauce for his leadrope.  And realized I'd forgotten the fly spray in the truck.  Went back after it, and returned to find Sunny wandering off again. 

Wound his lead around the post without knotting it - sometimes that fools him for a while - got them both fly sprayed and feet cleaned out.  Then back to the truck for the saddle and bridle.  Hauled it all down to where the horses were (still!) tied.  And discovered that I'd forgotten one very critical piece of gear... the girth.  Ooops... Guess I should have brought along that glue - LOL!

I swear by this point Sunny was laughing at me.

I did remember the bridle, though, so on it went, and I wriggled my way on.  Thank goodness for short horses!  But as I've learned the hard way in the past that breeches are much slipperier than jeans, the circle loping I'd planned was right out.  For the first 15 or so minutes I concentrated on getting a good working walk, being very deliberate about corners.  I pretended the tall weeds were cones to circle and weave through, and focused on looking ahead and hitting the marks I'd set.  When he was responding nicely at a walk I picked up a jog-trot and did some big to little to big circles.  Then it was back to the walk and some counter-bend reverses to both sides.  Going clockwise round into a counter-bend to the left and reverse to counter-clockwise is coming along prettily.  He's really starting to step under and yield his shoulder - at least from on top it feels good.  

Counter-clockwise circle into a counter-bend to the right, reverse to clockwise circle needs work.  So we did.    He's stepping over, he's just not flexing /bending/yielding through the neck, shoulder and back.  Hmmm....Possibly related to his lack of interest in picking up the left lead?  I think it will be easier to reinforce the bend with a saddle, where I can really open my left leg and use my right side more effectively. 

All told, about 45 minutes of work. Not nearly as long as we've been riding, but more intentional than just pointing him down the road, especially without Thunder attached.  Next time though?  I'll be sure to double-check for ALL the necessary bits and pieces!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

When leaves attack

It wasn't the only thing I accomplished yesterday, but it was the one thing I was happiest to have done.  T got the garden tilled for fall and I hosed off the trailer mats and rinsed the walls down.  I stick a couple of buckets under the low edge at the back to catch the run-off, and pour it on the flowerbeds - I figure it's good fertilizer, and better than letting all that water just run down the street.

92' here yesterday.  And no breeze to speak of.  The cold water felt fantastic, although I needed a real shower by the time I got done.It's not pristine, but it's clean enough for now.  I'll do a more thorough job when winter's a bit closer.

T had stuff he wanted to finish up, but J and I rode.  It was too late to monkey with Sunny and Thunder by the time we got started, so since T wasn't going, I just rode Rufus.  Rufus needs a trim and set - we rode the dead mile, and his shoes are worn enough that he was finding the grassy footing a lot slicker than either of us liked. 

Had to laugh at him, though - he didn't like the long weeds catching at his tail much, and at one point he tucked his butt way under and sort of scooted forward like something was after him.  I thought he'd picked up a dead stick or rattly weed, but when I turned to check it was only a fist-sized dead leaf sitting on his hind end.  So silly.  Good thing we weren't riding today - the way the wind is blowing he'd be inundated with leafy attackers.

Rufus is fun to ride occasionally, but I wouldn't trade Sunny for him on a regular basis.  He isn't as careful about where he puts his feet for one thing, and he's not as sure-footed, either. Old shoes don't help of course, but even when he's newly shod he doesn't pay as much attention to where his feet are going, and when he gets distracted, he trips over things.

On the plus side, though, Rufus has lovely walk-lope and trot/lope transitions, and riding him more is helping me figure out where I'm going wrong with Sunny.  Sunny prefers the right lead, and will pick it up nine times out of ten no matter what I think I'm asking for.  And I'm figuring out that's not all his fault.

See, if I cue properly, Rufus will take the correct lead - i.e. the one I've asked for - every time.  But the more I ride him, the more I'm realizing I have a tendency to muddle my left lead cues.  When I get it wrong with Rufus he crossfires, scrambles into a sprawled out trot, or does his letter U imitation to the left.  He's trying to do whatever it is he thinks I'm wanting him to do, which in his mind, isn't lope.  So... if I practice on Rufus until I can get him to step into the left lead as automatically and sweetly as he does the right, then I'll know I'm at least being as consistent with Sunny.  And that, combined with lots of left-lead circles will hopefully be a step in the right - or left - direction.

We covered about 6 miles.  It was still warm enough when we left that the horses got a bit sweaty the first couple of miles, but even though we kept them at a pretty steady jog most of the way, it had cooled off enough that they were dry by the time we got home.  Finishing a good ride on a beautiful fall day just fading into a spectacular sunset has to be one of the very best things ever.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On the road again

BIG rusty nail - not in a good spot, either
The guys at Graham Tire patched it for us, but had us bring the spare in and swapped out the tires/rims.  They said it would be okay for a spare, but not for regular use since the puncture was so close to the sidewall.  Sigh...   

He makes it look so easy
In the time it took me to haul the spare out of the back of the truck, roll it around, hoist it up onto the holder and re-secure it, he had the tire back on.
The boys contribution was standing at the fence whinnying at us.  Apparently they thought the trailer was getting more than its fair share of attention.  Sorry boys, no ride tonight - maybe tomorrow.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dead Mile Ride

We logged 10 miles last night - C was home from college for the SDBRA finals this weekend. She ran decent times in 1D and 3D and brought home a new headstall for running two identical times with Lightbulb. 15.621 - down to the thousandth of a second - what are the odds on that, I wonder?

Anyway, we rode most of the usual loop, but added on what's known as a "dead" mile - basically, it's where a mile road should be, but isn't.  The state owns the right-of-way, but there's no actual road.  It's fenced on both sides, but what's in between is generally just a track, at best. It was only one mile out of the ten, but a lot of fun, nevertheless.

I ponied Thunder again, so I didn't have a hand free to take pictures - too bad, because it was gorgeous.  The leaves are starting to change, but there are still butterflies flitting around.  We navigated a couple of downed trees and a couple of washes, tall grass and low hanging branches.  Uneven footing galore.  Can I just say for the record how much I love riding a sure-footed horse!

Thunder only hesitated once, at the first low limb - not low enough to hang up in, just low enough that I needed to lean down to get under it.  The downed trees I just tossed the lead back over the saddle and let him follow Sunny through single file.  Sunny minds his feet and picks his way through carefully, and Thunder stepped along behind him pretty as you please.

T took him for a bit after we got to the gravel so that I could lope ahead.
Love those ears!

He really needs a rider

Stopping to check out some scary equipment - rubber teeth, who knew!
I wanted to get some nice group pictures, since C won't be back home again until Thanksgiving, and T will be gone soon, too - but every time I pointed the camera at anyone head on, they ducked and I ended up with blur.  Grrr!
Backsides - no faces :(
J took a turn with Thunder, as well.  He's such a died in the wool QH man, but I think he's coming around.  

It was a beautiful evening - we even encountered a couple out for a romantic sunset ride on a pair of well-matched palaminos.  They were holding hands - the people, not the horses - it was really cute.

We got back to J's just as it was getting dark, unsaddled, brushed the horses down, picked out feet and loaded up with a minimum of fuss.  I love having lights in the trailer!  The only fly in the ointment?  Arriving back at the farm and stepping out of the truck to a loud hissing noise... an old rusty fencing staple in one of the trailer tires.  Phooey!

Luckily T had met me out at J's with his truck and followed me back over to help unload, so we could leave the whole works there for the night.  Much easier to change it in the daylight!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Catting around

Hung out at J's for a while last night.  The boys made new friends.

Hey!  Keep your nose to yourself, buddy.

Eeeuw!  Horse cooties!
I'm just going to ignore you now.
It's touching me....  Remove it, please.

T worked on the trailer lights/brakes issue - the wiring harness on the truck needed a new connector clip thingy and a bit of soldering.  I made myself "useful" by supervising which I'm sure he appreciated - LOL  The test run was a success, so hopefully they'll be good to go now.

I've been walking pastures looking for something that Thunder could have done this on.   


He has some scratches and some hide missing on his knees and over one eye, as well, but it's all surface.  No blood, and nothing's puffy or sore.  It looks like he tangled in some wire, but I haven't been able to find anything so far. (They're turned out in a different field until I figure out what he managed to wind himself up in.)

It's an ongoing project.  The horses, cows and sheep rotate between pastures.  The sheep eat the weeds the horses and cows won't touch, which is great.  But they're hard on the fencing, and the cows - especially the calves - are worse.  The horses aren't too bad, but if the electric is off for some reason, Sunny and Thunder will both fence crawl because the grass is always greener...  So once I finish where they were supposed to be, I'll tackle where they weren't supposed to be.  Sigh...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Let there be lights... please!

If all had gone as planned, this would be a picture of us leading two horses back after a nice long ride.  Instead, it's a picture of us walking them back after they loaded up for a brief four mile ride in the trailer.

Something's up with the truck wiring, and we could either have trailer lights or trailer brakes.  Not both.  Grrr...  We've had a problem on and off with a clip, but this time the usual fix didn't.  I think welding may be in order.

We were supposed to meet J to ride, and we were already late because I forgot a couple of things and then we had to stop for fuel.  And the days are getting shorter.  We could have continued the couple miles over on back roads and worked on it there.  But as I saw it, our options after getting there were either a) waste riding daylight trying to get everything working, b) ride, and trust that we'd get back with enough daylight left to get home safely, c) try to fix it in the dark after riding, or d) just drop the horses back off and take the trailer back to town.  I wasn't going to risk hauling the horses in the dark in a trailer with no lights.  And no trailer brakes didn't seem like a fantasticly safe option, either.

After some "discussion" we decided to go back to the farm and unload Sunny and Thunder - no complaints from them - and then head to J's.  T could still ride Rufus, and I'd take the empty trailer back to town.  Best laid plans.  T and I ended up swapping roles, so I got to ride Rufus for 6 miles, and he got to put dinner in the over :)

Rufus is getting fat (more riding needed!) but he packs on the pounds differently than Sunny.  Where Sunny, round, feels a lot like saddling a 55 gallon drum, Rufus fat feels like riding the pointy end of a hard-boiled egg.  We jog-trotted and loped most of the way, and I couldn't keep my calves wrapped around him.  Not a comfortable feeling at all.  Although I did manage one of the smoothest walk/lope right lead transitions I've had with him.  Unfortunately, left was not nearly so pretty.  But I'm starting to think this whole issue with getting the left lead is something I'm doing.  Something else to work on.

It was dark by the time we got back.  But an absolutely gorgeous night for a ride.  I LOVE fall!  Just can't say that enough.

~ T says still no joy with the lights, but we'll pull things apart and see what we can see in the morning.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Looking back...

Going through old pictures on my computer....

I was maybe 5 or 6?
Time sure flies - it doesn't seem that long ago that picture was taken... 
I think Shan and I had the same haircut!

Aside from the bangs and the weird pigtails,
it got me thinking how quickly things change...

Three years ago in September we didn't have Rufus
(far right)

Two years ago this month there were eight horses at the farm...
Last year in September there were 5...
Star and Solitaire should be driving handily as a team by now.
Now there are two.  (Although Amyra will be back.)

Can't help but wonder what the next year will bring.
Of course there's no way to tell.  
But one thing I am pretty sure of - the pony-esque bangs?  
Not happening again! LOL

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sheep eat horses, don't they?

The other night - before it turned cold and fall-like and gorgeous - the three of us were out for a ride.  It was one of those hot, semi-muggy, still nights where the dust just hangs in the air.  Everything was very peaceful, and we were all enjoying just moseying along watching the sun sink.

We were riding our usual 8-mile loop around the country roads, covering familiar ground.  About 5 miles along on one of the corners there's a house set just back off the road on a little tree-covered hill encircled by pasture.  They've had in the past the occasional small herd of cattle and a random horse or two turned out, but this year the grass has been knee-deep and undisturbed but for the occasional pheasant when we've passed.

On this particular occasion, however, there was a whole flock of knee-high fluffy white things roaming around out there, the setting sun giving their fleeces a gold-toned rosy glow. 


Buddy had spotted something - but what!?  Hooves skidded to a gravel-rattling stop.  Suddenly T and J were both mounted on very tall, very alert horses.  Sunny and Thunder applied brakes, as well, looking around for whatever was bothering the other two.  

At the sound of gravel scattering, sheep heads popped up.  Baa-aaa - inquisitive sheep noises ensued and the flock advanced bouncily to about 50' away, round white bodies hopping and rustling through the long grass.  Buddy and Rufus were not enthused.  They danced.  T and J insisted they remain to face the onslaught.  Sunny and Thunder divided their attention between watching to make sure the other two horses weren't going to sidle into them and surveying the pasture for the "scary" thing.

The sheep paused.  

Baaa-aaaa I couldn't resist - I baaed back at them.  And apparently communicated the equivalent of, "Come and get it!"  A tidal wave of sheep headed our way as fast as they could come.... 

T and J had their hands full with snorting, spinning horses convinced they were going to get eaten.  Sunny and Thunder were looking around still trying to figure out what had the other two horses so concerned (they live with sheep, so after the initial surprise of seeing something move in a routinely empty pasture, weren't worried about anything that went baaaa).  And me?  I was trying not to fall off I was laughing so hard.  Sigh...

The sheep were brave enough to get within about 25' of the fence before I moved Sunny toward them and they fled leaping and still baaing in the other direction around the tree grove and out of sight. 

I do love my "spooky" boys - LOL!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Shoe shopping...

Sunny and I have logged over 32 miles of gravel road this week.  Calendar-wise, he should be about due for a trim, but....   

 I think he's already plenty short, if a bit ragged around the edges.  

Except for the few months he was with the trainer as a three-year-old (and covering several miles of gravel road every day, with all the resulting hoof-wear), he's never needed shoes.  Good feet, and he wears them pretty evenly all the way around.
 Front right
Right hind

Unlike Rufus, who we've pretty much determined needs shoes to be comfortable on anything other than pasture, Sunny doesn't get sore-footed on gravel.  But he is getting pretty short in the toes.  Rufus will get his shoes pulled while T's gone unless I decide to ride him a lot - but I'm contemplating having shoes put on Sunny.  I think it's that or invest in some barefoot boots for him, but there are so many varieties out there... Anyone have any experience with those?

Horse Cookies, Rocks, and the Boys Get a Night Off

Anyone ever made your own horse treats?  I have a recipe for homemade ones somewhere that was fairly well received.  But apparently they come in mixes, as well - a few months back a friend found and presented me with this attractive package from Ann Clark, LTD.   

Since it finally cooled off I went on a baking spree - and after poppyseed cake (b-day), banana bread (thank you) and cookies (care packages for C and one of T's service guys), I decided to tackle these.
Now I can bake pretty much anything from a recipe most of the time, but I'm generally leery of box mixes.  Don't ask me why, but they never seem to turn out quite right.  Still, adding applesauce, a tablespoon of oil, and some water sounded fairly hard to screw up.  Bake at 300' for an hour and cool in the oven... 

They were certainly pretty all cut out. And the batter smelled yummily of molasses.  Good enough to eat, in fact....  Of course I had to try who can resist raw cookie dough!   Not me, especially when it smells that good - LOL

No leavening, so they didn't puff up.  And next morning when I opened the oven they were nice and crunchy.

I tried them out on the boys last night - broken into smaller pieces - the verdict?  Sunny likes them, Thunder was not as enthusiastic.

We collected more rocks yesterday - J's pasture this time.  The horses were quite baffled - rocks aren't edible...

T found this along the fenceline - which wasn't nearly as exciting as the nest of baby garter snakes we encountered unearthing the previous load.  They were really cute - only about 8 inches long.
This is what we've been working on - rocking in three sides of the house.  Only about one more load to go - FINALLY!
100% Mabel approved

I finished the day up with some pony beatification ~ oh, good grief - that should be "beautificaion" (they're certainly not saints, either of them! ~ time - it's been a couple of weeks since the boys saw the trailer without being loaded into it.  Last night they both got a thorough grooming and lots of scritching, then I turned them back out.  Couldn't have asked for a nicer day! 

Ahhh!! Now that's the spot!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fall fun in the sun

Sunny's getting pudgy(er) - I had to let the cinch down a hole.  We rode Thursday evening and again this morning.  The weather has been spectacular.

 Perky pony ears - they always make me smile!

T and I alternated ponying Thunder.  He got to go along naked today since we were running behind.  I can't quite saddle two in the time it takes T and J to get their horses ready, so...
It's good for him to get used to other horses, and certainly doesn't hurt to separate him from Sunny for a while.  J even ponied him for a bit. 

But he's happiest with his nose just about alongside my knee.

The roads we ride are generally pretty quiet, but not this time of year.  In about a month it will be pheasant season, and we'll see a different sort of traffic.  But right now it's mostly farmers. We had semi-silage haulers, tractors dragging folded up 30 foot sweeps, trucks with dogs in the back - you name the equipment, it probably passed us at some point - just your routine country road fall traffic during harvest - and none of the horses batted an ear. 

Part of what makes a good trail horse for me is being able to ride where I want to without having a fidgety, fighting horse on my hands.  I can ride out in front or fall way behind and Sunny doesn't get too concerned.  Although we do try to group up a bit and stay to the same side of the road when encountering a vehicle.

We're going again tomorrow morning.  Color me happy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


And I thought being on leave would see things slowing down a bit...  not so!

The boys have had a couple weeks of eating their fool heads off - not that they're complaining.

 I snatched an hour early last week and spend some time hanging out.
Sunny and I annoyed the sheep for a bit.  And that pretty much concludes the horse activity of any duration for this post, so feel free to stop reading here - LOL!

Corn Palace Festival week came and went with funnel cake and rides.  T and I celebrated our anniversary - by hauling fill dirt and rocks for the west edge of the house. 

So many projects, so little time! 

Then before we knew it it was time to get the kids packed up and head for the airport - what with the earthquakes, hurricane/flooding out east and the fires down in Texas, it was sort of strange to drive down through Nebraska/Iowa and see that they're still recovering from the flooding this spring.
Sandbags line long stretches of I-29 and the feeder roads, and there are plenty of detours.  But that's not in the news anymore.

We had fun poking around the Old Market in Omaha - so many neat shops and restaurants.

The kids weren't excited about sushi, so we did the traditional Spaghetti Works for supper, and T and I saved lunch at the Baby Blue Sushi Saki Grill for after their flight left the next day.  I had Silly Rabbit and Hot Poppers - Yum!

We wound our way down through KS, stopped off to visit C who's starting her first year at K-State in Manhattan.  111' when we parked the car but it's a dry heat.  We wandered the campus until she was out of class, then took her out for supper.  One of the prettier campuses I've ever been on - sorry, IU!

We spent the weekend with T's mom, then headed back for SD on Monday morning.  Since we weren't (for once) in any particular hurry, we took a few detours on the way.

Very cool.

Early Tuesday a.m. it was back to reality - well, sort of... We helped J work cows -  weaning calves and fall vaccinations.  I got to gather, but since we ended up using our truck to move the portable corral, I just rode one of their horses.  Ended up ponying another, which made things a bit interesting.  A lovely way to spend a fall morning!  But I was too busy to juggle the camera, so no pictures of that, unfortunately.