Thursday, July 31, 2008

Will I Make the Cut?

Nope. I'm not trying out for pro football cheer leading. Or to be a rodeo queen (I'm too old anyway.) I'm just wondering if I have what it takes to be a good horsey mommy.

I imagine real mommies go through this when they have their first have child. Did you panic about it when you first found out you were in foal (I mean, pregnant?) Did all of your insecurities and doubts about caring for and raising a child bubble up and overtake your thoughts? I have occasionally ridden this emotional roller coaster this past year with My Boy. Yesterday, I did not have a good day with my horse. Nothing majorly bad happened, it was just not a good day. For one, he pulled back when tied and he never does that. It scared me. It was kind of a freak thing (the lead rope got hung up on the corner of the hitching post when he moved around the corner of it, causing it to tighten, and the old panic-holic set in.) Everything was fine when all was said and done, but I felt helpless watching him do this and it sure got both of our adrenaline racing (hence my shaking legs afterwards.) After I longed him in the arena afterwards, I was walking him to cool him out and as I directed him over a log he kind of jumped it halfway and his right hind hoof landed on the log and he rolled his ankle over it. Of course, I was immediately concerned that he had injured it. He appeared to be fine, I've seen worse stumbles. And my sister was kind enough to run out and check his leg for swelling today and there was none. But my point is- when will the worrying stop? Please tell me it won't last forever. I am afraid that my horse is going to be hurt when I go to get him out of the pasture, or get hurt during out time together, whether by his own silly doing or my negligence.

I am amazed sometimes at the careless things I do around my horse. Taking a short cut and walking under the lead rope instead of behind him, for example. It is so easy to get too comfortable and slip into the no-no's of horse handling. When he was tied yesterday, I was grooming him in an unusual place (the hitching post in his pasture) and he wasn't even really tied. I do not tie him in his rope halter (which is what he had on) so I had just wrapped the lead rope once around the horizontal post. I was being a bit careless. When these minor incidents occur, they become powerful reminders of the strength and unpredictability of horses. It is easy to just slack off and break safety rules.

Do those of you with grown children ever stop worrying? I know my mom doesn't. She called me and left a voicemail on my cell phone the other day and I didn't happen get back to her. She left me another message the next day and sounded really worried and was insistent that I return her call to let she and my dad know that I was okay. I felt bad for upsetting her. I was surprised at how much she still worries about me, her 37 year "little girl." But really, will the worrying at least lessen as time goes by and I experience more things with my horse, both good and bad? Am I still feeling the newbie anxiety of horse re-ownership? Do I have the emotional strength to have the awesome responsibility of this 1200 lb. animal at the end of my line or under my bum? I guess I need to do all that I can to insure that my "kiddo" is safe, and that I am safe while in his presence. From there, what happens will happen. And I will roll with the punches, and we'll be okay.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

His Cheatin' Heart

My Boy has always been in love with Brandy, my sister's half Arabian mare. However, Brandy may have some competition. My sister's other mare, Fritzy, had a hoof abscess a couple of weeks ago, and she had been in quarantine (a smaller corral) right next to My Boy's pasture. These two do not usually have much face-to-face interaction time. My Boy had enjoyed that they could now visit over the gate. Uh, if you could call it just visiting. Like most relationships, there was a little flirting going on!

Notice that whenever one of them appears to be asking for attention, the other one completely looks away. Is this playing horsey-hard-to-get?

Aww....there's some lovin'.

Not gonna get any...... that my ex girlfriend trotting by over there?
Hey My Boy, how about some of this? Oh goodness-mares!

Love at last?

Pony Girl, this flirting thing is way too much work! How can I possibly keep both of my ladies happy?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cousins, More Cousins, and Mosquitos

You were right. I am the one in the Hard Rock Cafe tee and cheesy smile and my sis Paint Girl is the one in the light blue tee with the curly bangs.

I am so lucky to have such a great family. This past weekend I spent it with my numerous aunts, cousins, grandparents, great-aunts, second cousins, parents, of various combinations. My grandpa was the youngest of 12 siblings so you can imagine all of the family I have! They are a hoot. I always treasure the time we get to spend together.

My sister and I got there early. We set up our tent and unloaded our plethora of supplies and then sat in chairs in the afternoon sun, hoping to grow our golden tans and read a few pages. Shortly thereafter my cousin came over and handed me the book The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss, which I've been wanting to read and she offered to loan me. So my dime store novel will have to wait in the wings. But, I didn't open either cover.
There is little time to relax at my family reunions. How can you rest when you have faces like this to photograph?

Is it just me or is my family the only one with those amazing vintage nylon webbed lawn chairs? Do they still make those things? Like, in that shade of teal green?

Here is one contemplative cowpoke.

Question: How do you round up a large group of very active children to come over and pose for a family photo? Answer: You grab handfuls of tootsie rolls from the clubhouse. You tell all of the children you have candy and ask them to sit down on the grass. You promise to throw candy to those that smile the biggest. Then you say smile really big!
It is beautiful at the property we had the reunion at. I took a walk down the one-lane road next to it. This field used to be full of dairy cows. Now it is silent and the grass has grown up over the fence line.

About 13 years ago, my aunt and cousin brought horses to this reunion and we took turns riding on logging roads up on that hillside. The camping property we lease has an old arena on it so it made a great place to section off temporary horse corrals. We are considering a family horsey gathering here in the future, now that many of us are horse owners again.

Here is the scenic view from the window of our tent. Do you notice that thicket of grass and bushes?

Yes, our tent was right next to that thicket of grass and bushes. Guess what lives in that thicket of grass and bushes? Deer, bunnies, and coyotes. Guess what kept Paint Girl and I up all night as they tramped through the thicket of grasses and bushes, until the wee hour of dawn? Well, hopefully just the deer and bunnies. We heard coyotes, far, far away. They were far, far away, right?

We even borrowed this cattle dog, Misty and let her sleep in our tent as protection.

Misty is 9 years old and belongs to my cousin and her husband and their two children. Here she is vying for a drip of her papa's taco soup.

After a night in our tent, this is how Misty looked:

Yep, misty-eyed and foggy-headed and in need of some serious coffee with vanilla creamer (or in Paint Girl's case, Dr. Pepper), that was the look all three of us had that morning!

Not only did Misty's mom and dad loan us their dog, they graciously made us blueberry pancakes, eggs, and bacon both mornings.

What do little boy cousins do with long blades of country grass?

Why, they try to tickle and impress their little girl cousins, of course!

What do big girl cousins do?

Talk and hang out and wait for another cousins group portrait.

Aside from great memories and full bellies (grandma's deviled eggs, lasagna, and brownie cake) numerous family members were blessed to take home a souvenir of another kind: mosquito bites. In all the years I have been attending the reunion at this location, I have never seen such an infestation of bugs. On our last morning, the kids all looked like they had come down with a case of the chicken pox. My sister got bit near her eyelid as we took the tent down and it almost swelled her eye shut.

Regardless, another sun has set on our annual family camp out. Until next year, anyway.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Happy 35th Birthday, Paint Girl!

Here are some pictures from the "mortification files." Sorry the photos are not of great quality, but they were taken, what, 100 years ago? Oops- I kid, I kid, little sis, I know that you are not that old. Besides, I will always be older than you! However, it has been a good 25 years since most of these were shot.

Maple trees making great hitching posts and garbage pails make good grooming totes when you are ten years old.

These were quality jumps, people, no question. We designed them with vinyl lawn chairs and cedar posts. Durability and safety were of the utmost importance.

Except for helmets. What were those?

Double trouble: young cowgirl wannabes.

Riding ponies double in the snow was always so much fun. And you loved those fleece nose band covers, didn't you? This is Paint Girl and her childhood friend.

Goin' all out during your gaming years, on your sweet Appy mare, Kitty Kat.

Hey, why are you posing with my pony? And are those my acid-washed zipper jeans you have tucked into your cowboy boots?

Your serious show years on Knotahe. Don't you still have that hat, shirt, and chaps?

You've come a long way, baby.

Hope you enjoyed this little lope down memory lane.

Thanks for opening your heart and home to me and My Boy.

Happy, happy Birthday!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Short Takes

This picture is for my sister. I figured she'd be impressed that I am finally wearing my new riding boots, well, riding. Look Paint Girl, they even have dirt on them. Woo-hoo! And I didn't have a panic attack or anything.

After working My Boy yesterday, I very bravely rode him bareback to cool him out. I tied my 12 ft. line under the nose band of my rope halter and away we went. We just walked. He was very responsive. It's much easier to use my wimpy legs to communicate cues to him without a saddle and pad between us! We side passed over the logs, backed up, and then rested. Isn't this a lovely view?
This looks like a winter photo of My Boy's ear. But it was taken yesterday. I have not clipped his ear fuzz. It looks pretty bad. He has very perky ears and when they are clipped, they look amazing. Since he is not a stalled horse, I figure the extra fuzz is more protective for him. Also, I heard he's a terror to ear clip. He's fine about his bridle path. So I might attempt the outer edges of the ears and see how he tolerates it. Something else to work on!

My Boy has started his switch from alfalfa hay to orchard grass hay. I have been mixing the hay. But the alfalfa is about gone, so he had been getting the alfalfa in the morning, and half alfalfa, half grass in the evening. Last night when I fed him, I only gave him the grass only. After he finished his supplement, he went to his hay. He took a bite, then went to the other pile (I scatter his flakes into several piles) then left and wandered his spotted hiney all over the pasture. He was looking for his darn tootin' alfalfa! He was on a mission, I tell ya. Finally, he trotted back down to the grass, but as you can see by the expression on his face, he was a bit peeved.

I know, I know My Boy, it has to be like going from lobster to imitation krab.

My sister and I are off on a road trip tomorrow. This weekend is our annual family reunion for my mom's side of the family. We are hitting smalltownville, and will be sleeping in a tent next to a dairy farm as the sun sets and the coyotes begin to yip. We will be playing cards, eating food from the most amazing potluck ever, and putting on comical skits. I promise to report back and show you pictures. But here is one to start you off: family reunion, circa 1987. I was fifteen years old. Can you find me?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

You Might Not Know These

Gotcha! Nope, I haven't made it big time, I just did this fun magazine cover over at Flickr. I got the idea from Country Girl, go there to see what she did with her cool border collie George and find the link on how you can create your own!

In other news, I've been tagged by Victoria over at Teachings of the Horse, to tell you six things about me that you might not know. So here goes, but I can't promise you it will be interesting.

1. I love cheese. But I am really picky about cheese. I prefer white cheese, and dry, like Parmesan. I like fancy, dry, unique white gourmet cheese. Except for mozzarella, that is an exception, I can eat that out of the tub. But I do not like mozzarella cheese sticks, like those string cheese kind. I also like cheddar, but I prefer it sharp. I am not a big melted cheese fan, unless it is on pizza or in pasta or tacos. For example, I usually order hamburgers, not cheeseburgers. I detest Velveeta or canned cheese. Blech! Okay, so that's the cheesy scoop on Pony Girl and cheese.

2. I am afraid of pit bulls. There, I said it. I am. I do not know where this fear has come from. I have very limited experience with Pitt bulls and it has never been negative. My most negative experience with a dog was with a doberman/rottweiler that turned on me while I was petting it (luckily I escaped with just a minor scratch on my ear.) My good friends have a rottweiler that I have known since he was 8 weeks old and I dog sit him, and I am not afraid of him. So, this does not really make sense to me. Regardless, if a pit bull is in my midst, I do not really feel comfortable.

3. I do not smoke. I never have. If a guy smokes, he really has no chance. I find smoking to be very unattractive. If I see a handsome guy and the next instant he lights up, nope- sorry, I'm moving on, dude. It's a deal breaker for me.

4. I hate to fly. Well, I do not know how to fly (sorry, you thought I was sharing a really amazing talent, huh?) Besides, the fear is not of flying, it's of the plane falling. Throughout the entire flight I feel and listen for every bump and sound that signals the plane is going down. However, I have learned to deal with this fear, and without medication, thanks to more frequent flying and some really turbulent trips (which proves the plane can jump and dip and will still stay in the sky.) I have finally beginning to feel less anxious during flights. I do not think I will ever enjoy it. But I do not want it to stop me from traveling and experiencing new places.

5. I cry very easily. I am the C.E.O. of Waterworks Corp. Tears for Fears is my favorite band. Music and sad movies and commercials can bring on the flood. I love that I am emotional and in touch with my feelings- sometimes. Other times, it's just a big old pain because I will get dehydrated from crying and then get a headache. Or I can't find any Kleenex. Or I'm in public and crying messes up my make-up. Well, I don't really cry in public too much. I try to hold it all in and wait until I'm home.

6. During my 16-year hiatus from owning a horse, I took hunter-jumper lessons. I was around 24 years old. I rode two off-the-track Thoroughbreds, the latter one being a huge teen-aged bay gelding named Tester (appropriately so.) I was jumping little 2' courses by the time I quit. The old-school beast of a helmet I still own and wear to this day is from my hunt seat days. I really enjoyed these lessons but found the money I had to put into the "practice rides" along with the cost of the lessons just didn't fit into my mid-twenties financial aid budget. And you know what? I don't have one single photo from that six months of riding. Just mental pictures. Oh, well.

I'm not going to tag anyone because I think I've been reading these on most of your sites anyway, but if you haven't participated and want to share some of yourself with us, consider yourself tagged!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

He Loves Me, He Wants My Daisies

I had a great workout with My Boy yesterday. I have come to realize that my spotted horse is smart. Not that I ever thought he wasn't smart, but I have never tried to train him to do anything myself, only implement other training that he's had. Which, despite a little help from his previous owner, is still challenging to do (she only owned him for a year.) You never really know how a 14 year old horse was originally trained and cued to do things.

Since I have never tried to teach him a new skill, I have never really had to assess his level of learning. Saddling him and going in circles in the arena at three gaits, or walking down the trail, those don't really challenge my horse's learning skills. He is 14 and pretty much has all of that down. It is really exciting to be the one to teach him new things, because I am seeing him figure out what I want. He watches me so intently. It's really cute. It has been a great bonding experience for us. I think he is really beginning to see me as a leader and partner. It has also been about a year since he's been mine (since the beginning of the care lease and subsequent purchase.) I do think it takes about a year to really bond with and get to know a horse.

To cool him out, we walked all over the property. One area has low hanging cedar boughs, and, like the great trail horse he is, he just ducked and went through without hesitation. I love that about him.

At one point we exited the driveway to the road, and this went skittering by. Know what it is?

Nope, it's not a green rain hat! It's one of those foil potted plant covers. There was a little bit of a breeze and it would pick it up and take it down the road. It was noisy and erratic. I actually jumped once when it moved after it stopped. My Boy was quite taken by it. He was both a little spooked, and a little curious.

It always amazes me that even after a horse jumps at something frightening, they turn towards it, their nose out, intrigued and sniffy. I think that once the horse figures out the scary thing isn't going to make them it's next meal, they really want to figure out what it is. We were able to follow the green thing along the road for a little while. That's always my tactic with scary things. Keep the horse facing it and walking towards it as it moves away.

After I put him away, I went and put all of my equipment back, then headed out to the meadow to get those daisies I've been obsessed about.

Guess who decided to meet me at the fence and tag along?

I often pick handfuls of grass or dandelions and throw them over the fence for My Boy, and I think he thought that is what I was going to do.

Are you gonna pick me some snacks, Pony Girl?

I was horrified (not really, but that sounds more dramatic) that there was really only this one patch of daisies left in the meadow. Either the deer, goats, or heat got to the rest of them. Goodness!

And some of them were looking pretty wilted, their leafy stalks starting to dry up. I picked them all anyway. Broke their stems right off of their roots of life.

Look at my spotted pill, pacing the fence line. Should I pick him a little treat?

Please, Pony Girl? Really, until my horse has looked you in the face, you do not know how hard it is to resist him.

Of course, I didn't give him my daisies! However, I picked him a huge handful of the abundant dandelions and grass and tossed them over the fence.

The daisies, on the other hand, ended up in my white McCoy pitcher and hopefully I'll get a day or two out of their sunny blooming faces.

And if you're wondering if he loves me, or loves me not, I think we all know the answer to that one!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Almost Perfect Weekend

Wow. What a weekend. It was action packed and this pony girl is worn out!

Saturday my sister and I attended an Arabian horse show. My Boy's former owner is working for an Arabian training barn. Unfortunately we did not get to see her show (or win champion in her futurity class, on a client's horse!) but we did get to meet this little mare:

Here, My Boy's former owner is combing out her tail and preparing her for her owner to ride in a class. It was country english pleasure (saddle seat), amateur owner to ride. Out of 14 horses, I thought she had a good go in her class, The little mare just packed herself around the arena. She wasn't the biggest horse out there, but she just had a flashy ride and a lot of steppy action. She made the top five call back.

Then, the little mare was pinned grand champion in this class! That was exciting. Even more amazing is that we heard the story that her rider had suffered some injuries from a different horse at the Arabian show in Salem, Oregon. I guess her horse spooked and kicked her in the stomach (both hooves, full-barrel) and she sustained some injuries. So to be back in the saddle and win this class eleven weeks later was quite a feat.

This half-Arabian buckskin pinto reining horse had an amazing mane and quick spins and stops.

Here is another one of the Arabians from the stable My Boy's former owner works for, right before she was pinned top five for her hunter class. Isn't she pretty? That is a perfect white blaze.

We picked a good day to watch a show, as we got to see a variety of classes.

My night out with the girlfriends was fun. I did, however, begin to learn two country dances: the two-step and the cowboy cha-cha. Goodness, I felt like I had two left feet. I have done a lot of swing and ball-room dancing in the past, but it has been many years! However, the Wrangler-clad 60-year old dress-up cowboy wannabes that danced with us were very polite and helpful.

Yesterday, I attended a certified Parelli instructor clinic, level 3. I wanted to watch and see what every day riders were capable of doing at this level, since I have really only seen the Parelli's work at the Redmond Oregon tour stop.

There were five riders and a handful of auditors. When I arrived they were working on groundwork. Of course, this loud colored 14 year old Appy mare caught my eye. She has Secretariat breeding.

Here the instructor is demonstrating a task for the handlers to practice with their horses. You circle your horse at the trot, turn them towards you (keeping them trotting) and send them around the other way without breaking gait. Of course, in Parelli, this game has some name, but I can't remember it. He is using one of his own two horses here.

After lunch, the riders saddled up and worked in the arena. They rode a variety of patterns, working on circling their horses around a barrel at the trot, and then once betwee the barrel and the rail, slight bending and moving the horses hindquarter's the same direction as their nose was pointed (similar to side passing, except most people keep their horses nose pointed in the opposite direction they want their horse to go.) This exercise was really forcing the riders to get their horse's hindquarters over, using their seats, legs, and ribcage. Then, they worked on a drop-to-trot lead change pattern, as a precursor to flying lead changes. Later, they rode this same pattern without reins, using two carrot sticks, seat, and legs to direct their horses (all of the horses here were level three so they could be ridden without bridles.)

I was impressed with this clinician's style and manner. He was cowboy "tough" enough, pushed the rider's fairly gently, and used common sense and logic. I like how he had the riders ask question and share what they learned after each session. He really spoke to horses learning things from consistent patterns, and how to use the release. Really, he said rider's are the ones that need to be changed and most of the time we are releasing and rewarding the responses we do not want. Everyone at the clinic was friendly and one woman even loaned me one of her Parelli Savvy club DVDs to watch. She also knows of a group that meets to watch videos and talk and eat and drink wine. A kind of natural horsemanship support and networking group (like a book club?) So who knows, I might check that out.

Overall, my weekend involved a lot of driving, sunshine, dust, horses, and most importantly- learning! To me, it was nearly a perfect weekend. Just missing perfection in that I didn't get to spend enough time with My Boy. But I'm going to make that up to him today. We're hitting the arena and we're goin' to work!

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