Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another Vacation

Mommy's Silver Spurs

I'm going to extend my blogging vacation a little longer. After being on a "blog makeover vacation" last week, and then a forced one due to technical difficulties last weekend, I realized that I have allowed blogging to take up too much of my free time. As many of you might have experienced, it can really consume your life. Mostly in good ways, don't get me wrong. Becoming a blogger has been a blessing to me these past 370 posts, for so many reasons. But I've had a bit of an epiphany-I have other projects and activities and interests that are calling for more attention right now. I considered taking a cold-turkey blogging break for a while, but I am not sure I can do that. I want to keep blogging in my life, but it has to be a healthy balance. So, I promise to stop in with a photo or update or a story now and then, but I won't be posting as frequently, at least for the rest of the summer. Of course, I will still be stopping by and reading and commenting on your blogs, because you all inspire me in so many ways! Thank you for all of your support and for letting me be honest with you all. I would never just stop posting and fade away into the wild waves of the web, leaving you to wonder "what ever happened to that Pony Girl blogger?" I hope you will still stop by and visit me!

Friday, July 24, 2009

English Invasion, Part Deux

Spotted Hunter

Do you remember me mentioning that Paint Girl and I were thinking of buying an English saddle? We got one from a friend of hers on trial, but never got around to trying it! We finally got around to it last week.

Goodness, what a trip! As in "trippy!" I haven't ridden English since I took hunter/jumper lessons nearly 14 years ago. Hard to believe I was jumping 2 1/2 feet jumps back then (I also can't believe I never fell off as I could barely post in the saddle this time!) I was grinning so big, trying to get the hang of short stirrups and a more forward momentum.

Spotted Hunter Two

Do my leathers look sized right?

Look how tiny I look on My Boy! My legs barely reach the bottom of his belly! I was so excited to use my black velvet helmet cover. I've had it all those years from when I took hunt seat lessons, but never used it. It just slips right over that ghastly "bowling ball" helmet I wear. It really completed the look. Seeing someone riding hunt seat without a helmet just doesn't look natural to me!

English Pony

My Boy worked fine in the saddle, no apparent discomfort or weirdness. I had a hard time getting him to trot out though, he much prefers the pace of a western pleasure horse jog.

Since I tend to lean forward while riding, I think riding hunt seat suits me just fine! Paint Girl said my horse looked quite handsome English, almost better than western. Personally, riding hunt seat seemed like a lot more work. Those legs really got a workout. I remember those lessons I took so long ago....the trainer made me post without stirrups- now that was torture!

Cowgirl Iron

Cowgirl boots in the irons

I think Paint Girl and I will eventually invest in an English saddle, although to get the proper fit on her narrow Arabian and my apple-bellied Appy, we probably won't be able to share one. I think it's a great way to practice some different skills for both me and my horse!

You can read about Paint Girl's account of riding in the English saddle here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I'm Back!

Whew, that was fun! The blog "makeover" took me a little longer than I thought, I ended up going "private" while I worked out the kinks! I still might be tweaking in the next few days! Once you start playing with code.....it's hard to stop. I now know what hexadecimal color codes are! It's like walking into Home Depot and hanging out in the paint sample section.

Since I haven't posted on my photography blog, I decided to start of my new look with a photography post! By the way, the photography blog is going to be inactive, but I will keep it open for a while.

I have noticed that people do not like to be photographed. I've taken pictures of bees, slugs, horses, cats, dogs, and rhodies, and they have not flinched a bit.

However, people tend to be more evasive when they realize you are photographing them. I've gotten glares, quickly turned heads.... even a naughty finger. Goodness, I need to broaden my skills in this area as I am trying to figure out skin tone, focus on the eyes, etc! Luckily, I have been able to convince a few subjects to face the Nikon. Whether they knew it or not!

This is a close-up of the my darling second cousin. His nickname is "the man cub." He looked down at me over the edge of a parked boat he was playing in. I love the pose and his natural smile with a peek of tongue-in-cheek, but the light was less than perfect. No idea where the sun was, but I didn't get a great focus on his eyes.

The Man Cub Goes Boating

Next up, I shot my dad as he was waiting for my mom to return from a trail ride. I loved, loved, loved the light at this time of the day (late morning, maybe 11 a.m.?) It was soft and glowing. I didn't have to worry about focusing his eyes- because he was wearing sunglasses!

Papa

Recently, I was at the stable with my mom and my aunt. I dragged them out of the barn, telling them that sunset was my favorite for taking pictures. They looked like they were dressed for a photo shoot, not the barn! They weren't riding that night, just saying hello to their horses and tucking them into their stalls with treats.

Western Twins

Obviously, they are twins. The whole time I was taking pictures of them, they'd occasionally turn and look at each other with this savvy grin. I have no idea what they were thinking, but it was adorable. I left this picture SOOC (straight out of camera) because I love the orange light on their skin.

The Twins

Isn't my mom's little wooden horse necklace cute? I think she got it at a thrift shop. That is where I got my thrift shopping talent, I think!

I have more people events coming up in the near future.....more opportunities to snap some candids, I hope!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Goodbye

I'm going to be taking a little blog vacation. I will return in a week or so.

You might have noticed that I have not been posting to my Pony Girl Pictures blog much recently. I am going to be combining that blog with this one. It was too much work doing the two blogs, mostly the loading and editing photos for them both. I want to post photos on this blogger in the larger size anyway, so by restyling my blog I will be able to do this. The photography posts will still happen, they'll just become part of this blog.

Blog makeovers are always exciting and scary. No major, crazy changes as I'm doing this on my own, I just want to clean it up and simplify, and design it to better reflect me and all of my varied creative interests. Like life, blogs tend to evolve and change as we're on the journey.

I have a lot of adventures and photos to share when I return, here are a few pictures to demonstrate what is in the works.

Hmmmm.........

See you all soon. Don't have too much fun without me!

Monday, July 13, 2009

On A Scale of One to Ten,

I'd rate my horse an 8 as a trail horse.

This is a picture of My Boy and I next to the "Big Blue Monster." He's finally building some muscle on his spotted hiney!

On the trails we ride, there is a huge piece of machinery. It looks like a blue metal ramp, possibly used to haul logging equipment. It has not been moved in years and has alder trees growing around and through it. Every time we come out of the wooded trail and into the small cleared intersection where the Big Blue Monster is, the horses always look at it with extreme interest. I've rarely seen a horse just walk right up to it. Usually they snort a little, move sideways, and generally expect the thing to leap up at them at any moment.

Last week, as we approached the blue monster near the homestretch of our ride, I was shocked that My Boy curiously walked right up the blue monster when I asked him, even smelled it when he got there (no doubt thinking there might be something to eat on it.) I even side-passed him up next to it for a picture. Credit for the helmet and the "lemonade" in the water bottle goes to Paint Girl. She is loaning me her helmet to try, since I came to the conclusion that mine was giving me headaches and that I might want to opt for a lighter-weight style than I was planning on purchasing. Actually, credit for the "lemonade" should go to my aunt The Desert Rose, the "lemonade" queen. A little liquid courage never hurt on the trails, but that is a different post!

My Boy is a little annoyed he's hasn't been front and center in the blog posts of late, all this talk of a "mutant monkey" has him stamping his little steel clad hooves. Speaking of which, he got new shoes on Saturday. It'd been about 8 weeks since his last shoeing, and my farrier said his hooves were "good enough to go on a horseback riding trip." This was good to hear as scheduling farrier appointments around a horse trip is tricky. We have one next month and I don't want my horse to be "due" the week after the trip as that might be pushing our luck, yet I don't want him to be too freshly trimmed so that he's tender. I'm just hoping My Boy can keep his shoes on! I noticed the farrier put in an extra nail in each hoof this time.

At first, My Boy was a little stinker for the farrier with his hind legs. I think our recent miles under saddle on the trails have him a little sore, we have been hiking up and down some serious hills! I should have given him a little horsey aspirin and the thought crossed my mind. Sorry spotted pill!

I am happy to report the sarcoid is looking better. It still has suspicious looking tissue, but I am keeping my fingers crossed that it is scar tissue from the sloughing. I heard Xxterra can cause scarring. I'll take a scar over a resurgence of the bump any day! At this point I'm going to keep an eye on it and as long as it doesn't change for the worse, I do not plan to have the vet out. At least not until after our horsey trip, as any biopsy or surgery to his face area could prevent him from being rideable for a few weeks.

Last but not least, I remember my Cowgirl Dreams book giveaway post? Nobody pointed it out at the time, but My Boy was in the pasture and not wearing a halter! Shortly after that, it went back on, until the sarcoid healed and we got through the 4th of July firework ruckus. However, when I turned him loose after his farrier appointment last weekend, Paint Girl and I talked about it and I decided to leave the halter off. He has been meeting me at the gate every time I call him, and even when I remove the breakaway halter and put on his normal one, he hasn't been goofy or pulled back.

My Boy walking down to meet me from the back of his pasture.

I decided it was time to start working with the catching a little bit again. If I know I have to catch him for a big ride or event, I will leave on the breakaway. But I'd like to get it off of him as much as I can. So, we'll see how the catching game goes this time around. Keep your fingers crossed!

I hope you all had really super great weekends!

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Mutant Monkey

Update: Friday, July 10, 11:45 p.m.

Paint Girl and I have been reading your comments with extreme interest all day! Thank you for your suggestions and links, we have followed them all! And Juliette, I was cracking up at your husband saying that maybe the screeching ravens were the mutant monkey!!

We are still stumped, although you all had some good leads and ideas. When I re-read my description of the tail, I said it was "hairless" but I don't actually think it was bald, it was dark colored but probably had short hair on it. But it was not bushy, we both agreed on that. That is what really stumps us the most. Most coyote and foxes have bushy coats and tails (except a weird genetic issue with "Sampson" foxes where they can lose their hair due to mange, which apparently can happen to coyote, as well.) Big wildcat tails are typically a lot longer and more rounded/thicker, this one was more medium in length, and thin. And bobcats have hardly any tail.

A fisher seems interesting, especially since we were within half a mile or so from a lake/swampy area. A fisher might be shorter than what we saw though, and once again, appears to have more fur. The same goes for a wolverine, which seemed more bear-like and also, long fur. Our animal did not appear bear-like.

There was a sign for a lost black lab posted in the trail parking area, and several of the phone number tags had been removed, so perhaps there had been sightings? If it had been lost for a long while, I suppose it could have been thin enough to resemble what we saw. But a lost domesticated dog would not flee from us into and over the underbrush that quietly and quickly, like a wild animal. In fact, it probably would have ran off down one of the two trails that "Y'd" in front of us.

The vision of what I saw slowly becomes less clear in my mind every time I replay it. I'm wearing out my memory tape, I'm afraid. We rode the same trails today and saw nothing but a deer. We looked for tracks in the general area we saw the unidentified animal, but horses had pretty much walked over that path enough to cover any tracks.

I am thinking of contacting the local wildlife/game department and at least reporting what we saw. Maybe animal wildlife researchers would at least be interested. If enough people reported a particular animal, it could help them to better gauge a resurgence in a nearly extinct or endangered animal species.

We'll probably never know, and I imagine in a few days, the quest to figure it out will begin to diminish. Regardless, I don't think we'll ever forget that dark thing running in front of us, and how eerie it is to have no clue what it was.

Life is so strange sometimes. Case in point: after I posted about my anxiety regarding the variety of wild animals potentially habitating the woods we trail ride in, we go on a trail ride the next day and see a wild animal. We didn't see a bear, or a cougar, or a coyote, or a bobcat.

We saw a mutant monkey.

At least, that is what Paint Girl said it was.

We were ambling down the forested trail near the end of our ride, among the ferns and sandy and tree root-covered paths. We were approaching the open pipeline road that takes us back to the trail head parking lot. We were nearly out of the woods. Paint Girl was in the front, then it happened so fast.

Something came out of the woods to our right. It appeared to bound onto the trail, then continue running. It crossed in front of us then continued into the ferns and heavy brush off trail to our left, barely making a sound as it went. It was very light, and quiet on it's feet.

So what was it? Here is the description that we both pretty much agree upon:

Dark in color (dark gray/black, no obvious markings.)
Lithe, narrow, thin
Flat coat
Ears: don't recall, nothing prominent
Shorter in stature, possibly just above our knee height at it's back.
Head shape: I can't recall, roundish in shape? Paint Girl said she didn't think it had a long muzzle, there was no noticeable snout, more like a cat's face.
Medium/long, thin, hairless tail, streaming out behind it.
Movement: ran on all fours like a dog, but seemed faster (Paint Girl compared it to the greyhound breed.) Nearly silent. We have heard dogs in the woods before as they accompany riders on the trails, and they are noisy and crash through the bushes.

Okay. I'm not sure it was a mutant monkey. After we saw it, Paint Girl turned to me and said something to the effect of "What in the world was that?" I think I said, "It was probably a coyote." That was my first guess. We talked about it for a few minutes, and turned to continue on the trail. Approaching us was a couple out for a walk. I said to Paint Girl, "Maybe it was their dog?" We asked them and they said no, they didn't have a dog with them. We told them we just spotted a wild animal that we couldn't really identify.

If I'm going to see a wild animal in the woods, I would like to see something that is identifiable. Not something that is a mutant, a ghostly spirit, or a Native American mythical creature. Or, was it a coyote that was having a bad hair day (in other words, mangy or had lost all of it's hair?) A wild dog? A fox? An illegal wild zoo animal someone released into the woods? A young cougar or mountain lion (but why the dark color, and the tail didn't seem right.) Honestly, we are stumped. We can replay the image of what we saw over and over, but without a photo, it's hard to really know what we saw or what our mind is reconstructing after the fact.

So, my new question of the day: has anyone ever seen anything on the trail.....but had no idea what it was? Or any guesses to what we saw? (Maybe we should do a sketch to help you out!)

It was a bit of strange ride overall, the sun was out but the bugs were pretty bad, Paint Girl's mare was being a stinker at times, and in a different area before the wild animal encounter, we heard crazy ravens. Here is a little video. (I got Paint Girl picking her nose, too. JUST KIDDING!)

video

Have you ever heard ravens when they are making a ruckus? It is kind of a scary sound. We were riding along the power line road and heard and saw these three in the woods to our right. We weren't about to ride in there to see what they were fussing about. But they sounded a bit like pterodactyls. I mean really, between the screechy ravens and strange woodland critter sighting- where were we riding yesterday- Jurassic Park?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Things That Go Poo on The Trails

Recently, Paint Girl and I took her friend out for a trail ride. The friend rode our trails a lot when her daughters were younger so she was very familiar with the area.

When it comes to wildlife on the trails, I've seen.....deer. And hawks. And baby fishes in the stream. Can you see them? Aw, sorry, I think that handsome Appaloosa shadow is blocking your view!

However, Paint Girl's friend has seen more than us. She saw a b-b-b-bear. And a b-b-b-bobcat. She even said at one time many years ago there was such a big problem with a young c-c-c-cougar that they closed the trails down. HUH?

You mean I've been moseying along on my horse, sipping Gatorade, munching on goldfish crackers, wiping aside the cobwebs, worrying about mosquitoes, all the while there are BEARS, BOBCATS, and COUGARS out there? Oh, and not to forget the COYOTES! Who needs to bring a lunch on a 3-hour ride when you might become lunch?

I've written on my fear and fascination on the bear topic before. I knew there were bear, and coyote, and deer around the area we ride. Seriously, I did not know there could be cougar and bobcats. I thought those would inhabit more mountainous regions, and we ride in a clear-cut logging area.

A bobcat, in case you wanted to know what they look like. They resemble a very large house cat!

However, on this particular ride, we saw numerous signs that something was sharing our pathways through the wilderness. Lots of berry-black poo (scat) that looked relatively fresh. I continuously leaned over My Boy's spotted shoulder in search of suspicious prints in the sand, but never saw anything. It was a little unsettling to think that just hours before, something wild had been walking along that same stretch of dirt. Gave me a little wee bit of the shivers.

I know those wild creatures don't want to run into us any more than we want to run into them. It's why Paint Girl and I like to talk a lot, and loudly, on our rides. To warn and detour any possible wildlife that we might encounter as we're passin' through!

Ya hear us, wild hungry animals? We're coming through the trails.....(shout shout, yell yell!)

You'd better run away NOW!

Or else, or else..... or else I'll sic my big spotted Appy on you!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Celebrations and Relaxation

My 4th of July celebration was mellow, yet fun! It was hot so I didn't get in much horsey time. To keep cool, I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon sitting in the shade with Paint Girl, just chatting and reading.

We did get in a few games of horseshoes. I haven't played in a year, but my first game I got several "ringers." I have sore muscles from throwing to prove it!

While dinner preparations were being made, I went and cut roses from the yard and picked daisies from the meadow for a festive table centerpiece. I used one of Paint Girl's kitchen utensil containers as a vase, it's perfect, don't you think?

Then we enjoyed a good meal, including teriyaki chicken burgers with pineapple and Paint Girl's yummy potato salad with bacon in it. Yep, bacon in it! Maybe she'll post the recipe on her blog, it was really great!

And you can't forget the brownies!

We went over and watched the neighbor's fireworks display. I did not research how to use the Nikon to take pictures of fireworks, so I did not get very many good shots. In fact, most of them turned out with weird lines of light like this:

The shutter would open and close really slow. Next year, I will research what settings to use. Besides, spending time trying to take pictures of fireworks makes me miss most of the show!

On Sunday, Paint Girl, her Other Half, and I took a scenic drive.

We saw bubbling creeks, rushing mountain river rapids, mountains, and lots of moss covered trees.

I haven't done anything like that in a while, and it was really beautiful. The air was so fresh up there, it smelled like berries about to ripen! I was thinking how it was a bit strange to see it from the car or on foot, as opposed to horseback. Not that we have ridden anyplace quite that beautiful, maybe someday! It just seems like most of the time I spend outdoors or in the woods these days, it's either on or near a horse!

I love the 4th of July. I always have. It's been many years since I have seen a BIG fireworks display. It's hard to get to them due to crowds. And, since I got My Boy, my concern is his safety and well-being, which is why I head up to the Painted Creek to keep an eye on him. During the neighborhood fireworks, the horses got a little edgy and anxious. My Boy stood in the back of his pasture, which is very open from the trees. I think he felt safer where he could "see" everything. He paced around a little and probably spooked a few times, but no major panic. I tossed him the second half of his hay so he'd have something to munch on.

After things quieted down a little, I went up to My Boy's pasture in the dark and took him some cookies. He came to the bucket and I reached over the fence and stroked his warm neck reassuringly while he munched. He kept lifting his head and looking off into the woods at the sounds of distant booms, clearly agitated, but not overly stressed. I am sure he did not sleep well that night. And it's hard when you can't make your horse feel better or understand that the world is not ending, as I'm sure it feels to them.

I hope you all enjoyed your 4th of July weekend!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Pinkie Fashion and Flowers

This post should satisfy my Fashion Friday and my Pink Saturday posts, since tomorrow is the 4th Holiday and I'll be busy with family festivities for a few days.

Recently, I've been hitting the thrift shops and second hand stores looking for some unique planters and pots for flowers. I was craving something rustic, galvanized, or shabby. Nothing! But I did find this purse on sale for $9.00. {click on pictures to enlarge details.}

Isn't it fun? Pink, quilted, a la Chanel! I can tie the long strap in a knot and wear it on my shoulder, or I can wear it long and across my body if I want to be more hands-free. And it's pretty roomy, for a smaller purse! I envision wearing it with jeans, cowboy boots, and a fun ruffled top.

Or even just a plain white tank top and a great belt. Cowgirl chic! I got it at the thrift shop that benefits the American Cancer society, ran by a couple of sweet little old ladies.

Two weeks ago I visited my parents, who live in the same town as my grandparents. While having dinner at my grandparents one night, I noticed these little carnations growing in their yard. I could smell their fragrant scent wafting along the carport walkway.

Before I left town, I had to stop by my grandmother's. My grandmother cut me a whole bundle to take home. She told me they are called "pinks". I never knew that! They are miniature carnations. I do remember that my mom always had them in our yard when we were kids. They spread out and grow pretty quickly. Even their almost sea mist-blue colored stems add a little color variety to a typical green-leafed flower garden.

I took the pinkies home and put them in one of my blue mason jars. All flowers look delightful in a blue mason jar, especially pink flowers!

The other reason I stopped by my grandmother's was to buy a baby shower gift. My grandmother is an amazing knitter and crocheter. She has these adorable baby caps and I bought two of them for my friend's baby girl.


Doesn't the trim on this one look like confetti cake? I love confetti cake!

This one didn't have as much pink, but it was still a fun, feminine, and go-with-everything color.

I couldn't decide which one I liked best. I will probably give one as a gift and keep one for myself!

Last but not least, here are some of the flowers I bought to plant in pots for my patio.

They have some bold pink colors to them! I will find some shabby rustic pots, somewhere! I wanted to buy the little pink carnations (they had them at the nursery) but I think they might do better in the ground, not in pots?

Thanks to Beverly at How Sweet the Sound for hosting Pink Saturday every week!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Wacky Weeds

The last few days have been work days in my pony's pasture. Why is it that when you are not working (as in a paying job) you still end up working? Why am I not sitting in a lawn chair in the sun, fanning myself, drinking lemonade and reading the latest best seller?

Because when you have a horse, there is always something to be cleaned, mended, exercised, unloaded, bought, fed, fixed, washed, organized, dusted, longed, raked......I could go on and on, but I'm running out of verbs.

First, I wanted to tackle these weeds growing in My Boy's pasture. I have no idea what kind of plant or weed they are. But they sprout up pretty fast and tall in the early summer.

Does anyone out there know? {click on photos to enlarge details}

My horse doesn't eat them. Last summer when we took the horses on a trip for five days, the goats roamed all the pastures and they munched down some of them. I offered a goat one last weekend, and he scoffed his nose at it.

Luckily, their root systems aren't too deep and I was able to pull most of them right out of the ground.

A few were more stubborn then others and I think I broke them off at the base of the root. Hopefully I got the majority of them, as they are about to seed and continue their intensive takeover.

Next up- cleaning the dusty old shavings out of My Boy's turnout shed. Luckily, he hasn't been using it as his toilet much lately, so the shavings were unsoiled, just coated in a heavy dirt.

Paint Girl had a helpful solution for this task, she used her riding lawnmower to pull the little cart into the pasture. We unloaded the new shavings.

And then I loaded the dirty ones in the cart. And Paint Girl hauled them up to the arena, where we spread them out over the harder ground to soften the footing.

And My Boy got a fluffy, cozy turnout shed. NOW he will start using it as his toilet again, I guarantee it!

It was good, hard work. It's such a good feeling to be productive. And I'll let you in on a little secret. To me, horsey work is never really work. I never mind making things better for my horse. Right now, his "home" is cleaner than my own home!

After cleaning up (I rinsed about 3 lbs of dirt out of my hair) I rushed off to a friend's for dinner. My friend let me sit and relax while she grilled pizza (yes, grilled pizza on the BBQ, flat bread style~ let me tell you, it was delish!) and homemade chocolate chip cookies. I ate like I hadn't eaten in weeks.

Fresh air, a little (a lot) of dirt, and horsey work will do that to ya!
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