Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mustang Pumpkin

hAPpY HaLoWEEn!

Thanks to Jennifer MacNeill-Traylor for her great advice and inspiration on pumpkin carving. She is the Pumpkin Carver Supreme!

When I read her blog about her passion for pumpkins, I had this great idea to make a Mustang Pumpkin. How fun was that?!? Fun!



I started with a pumpkin from the grocery store.



Then I found a favorite picture of Beautiful Girl. (While looking, I found some great oldies I'll share this weekend.) I blew it up and copied it and taped it to my pumpkin.




As advised in the article, I punched out holes around my picture.




Carved it out and scooped (with icecream scooper) the insides...cut a hole in back...placed candles inside.




Happy Pumpkin Carving! Thanks, Jennifer!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Scary Carrots!



It all started with my plan to spoil my boy this week. Remember last week and the Mt. Spokane ride? My boy was getting trail sour. I wanted to shock him by going to the pasture with treats.

First, he sees me coming. His ears perk up from his bale. Oh no, I just might have to make a run for it, he thinks.



Next, his ear cocks to one side where Red stands. What do you think Red? She doesn't have a halter? But she has something else in her hands. Should I go?



Getting the okay from Red to stand his ground, he looks at me and my bag with interest as he continues to chomp on his mouth full of hay.





He finishes his bite and sniffs the carrot like he's never had one before. They smell like carrots, but they're so short, he thinks.



He takes it and munches for a while. Yum, he thinks.



But because he took so long, he now has guests...other horses who know he must be getting a special treat and, since he's the Omega,....well, let's just say, he has to move aside. The carrot giver starts to retreat to the fence for safety.



C'ya doesn't need to be told what a carrot is. Smart girl.



Cowgirl's a little hesitant.



So is Shadow.





But none are as frightened as Beautiful who has yet to EVER eat a carrot!! Not one!!

What is this orange thing in your hand? First, I will look at it.



Then, I will smell it.



Then I will listen to it.



Then I will eat it. Oh my! It tickles, and is causing me to make the most goofy face!



But I think I like it...though it's making me drool.



Maybe I'll eat the leftovers.



More goofy face. I think I'm done with carrots for today.

Winterizing



Last year on October 29th--two days from now!


The temperatures dropped this week at the same time the rain came. It seems winter is never subtle around here. The rain soaked turn-outs, the muddy horses, the mucking up of the stalls, combined--make me less melancholy of summer and more hopeful for SNOW!

Here are a few of my opinions about winter, and an explanation about why I prefer snow.

Rain or Snow?

Last year everyone around here celebrated the lack of snow. After all, we had just survived two of the snowiest seasons in the history of Spokane record-keeping. About the time we all bought lots of shovels (there were none to be found during the first snowiest winter) and snow-blowers, we had one of the least snowiest seasons ever. (We all attribute this to our readiness, because we know Mother Nature likes to mess with us!)

If you don't have horses and you don't ski or snowboard, a lack of snow is probably a good thing because it keeps the roads clear and really cuts down on the shoveling. I can understand why cold rain would be celebrated by this group.

But, in my opinion, for my horses, if it's going to be cold, I prefer snow. Here's why: the snow sits on top of the fur and actually creates a barrier that holds in heat. The fur puffs up, the snow sits on top, and the horse's body heat circulates around the hairs like a convection oven. Rain, on the other hand, soaks the fur, leaves the horse skin to cold air to the point that you can look outside and see the heat coming off the body. If this is the case, you either have to blanket (waterproof) or stable the horses. Do they stay in their covered stables if given the choice? No. Horses are naturally gregarious and will eventually gravitate out to the society of the other horses, where general fighting will invariably ensue and ripping of the blankets will invariably occur.

So, my choice for horses is....snow. Actually, I believe they thrive in snow.


Blanket or No Blankets?

I used to blanket all of my horses, especially when they were in rented stables with allotted turn-out and I could keep them relatively clean and rip-free. When I moved to Spokane though, in those snowiest seasons ever, and gave my horses full turnout with optional stalls, I opted for no blankets. I didn't want the blankets to push down the fur and ruin the effect of warm body-heat circulating underneath. No blankets worked out great those first two years of heavy snow.

Last year, however, the rain and slightly-above-freezing temps, put more of a strain on the horses. Even though every horse in our herd has a covered stall in the barn, some of them spent their time out of the barn. It was especially stressful on Old Red. On the really cold days I locked them in, and I locked them in every night, but what a mess it made the barn! (Had it been snowing, they could have stayed out grazing round bales....pretty snow adorning their puffy coats...beautiful white snow covering the ground....rather than green mud.) Because of the constant rain, Red developed a rain rot on his broad back--and an old proud-flesh sore above his hoof opened up again and had to be kept covered and treated daily. (I posted about this last winter) Red's thirty and his immune system is probably not what it used to be--he's more susceptible to everything, but last year was the first time he'd shown evidence of it.

Cold rain is a nuisance!! Let it snow!!

And in those conditions, RAIN, I prefer to blanket.

How much food is enough?

Every year we debate how much hay to put up for the winter and what types. Last year we got 20 tons of the prettiest alfalfa I've ever seen and a number of Timothy round bales.

This year, our hay supplier never got back to us to arrange shipment--he just disappeared! So, we were left scrambling for second cutting alfalfa. We had to go through several people to piece together enough and we had to accept some first cutting as well.

One of my new guys told me something I found to be interesting. He said that although the pretty green alfalfa we were getting shipped up from Waitsburg looks good, it actually is much less nutritive than the alfalfa grown around here that is not irrigated. He said that because of the irrigation, the alfalfa is harvest four or more times from the same spot in a given year, thus reducing the amount of minerals in the soil. His alfalfa, on the other hand, is not irrigated and he can only get two cuttings off of it. He says it grows heartier because of it.

I wasn't sure whether to buy this explanation or not until I started feeding his hay to my horses. Indeed, it appears that it takes less of his hay to keep my horses fat than of the other, pretty, stuff. Hmmmm....anyone else have thoughts about this?

Shoes or No Shoes?

This one's easy for me. I'm pulling the shoes on Cowboy after the riding season. All of my other horses are already barefoot--they go barefoot year round. Cowboy, because of his P3 fracture, keeps fronts on during the riding season to give the hoof wall more support in case of arthritis in the coffin joint. It works out pretty good. He'll get the shoes pulled at the beginning of December.

Trailering or no Trailering?

This one's easy for me, too. If it's snowing or icey, I don't trailer. I'm careful not to schedule any activities that would require trailering. I know lots of people who do, but I don't feel comfortable with it and would hate to have my trailer slip off the road with such precious cargo. (Not to mention, I have a bumper-pull trailer which is less stable). If the roads are clear, no problem.

These are my thoughts about winter. Let it snow, let is snow. And, in early spring, please let it disappear quickly with sunshine and warmer temperatures! This scenario would be my PERFECT world.

Happy Late Fall Trails, everyone!

Past Winter Photos:





Friday, October 22, 2010

Trail Riding at Mt. Spokane--brrrr



Mt. Spokane State Park is the largest state park in Washington. It has almost 14,000 acres. On yesterday's ride we encountered sunshine and snow, depending on which side of the Mt. we were on at the time.



According to the rangers, there are 6 bull moose in the area we rode (Mt. Kit Carson road) who were a little worked up because of fall rut. Apparently, moose rut from September to late October. We saw tracks, but we didn't see moose, and maybe that was a good thing. (Notice we're wearing orange--just in case we crossed through private land).



I have to wonder, though, what the horses saw/smelled/heard. They got crazy antsy on the West side of the hill where it was more primitive and cold. At one point Cowboy started tossing his head and attempted to throw a buck--the other horse reared up. When we got out of there, they settled right back down.



I have to admit, I've only studied the map of this area in retrospect. I had no idea what a large area it was beforehand. I'd skiied at the top of the mountain, but never rode horseback through the park itself. The map we had to reference the trails was small and full of terms we did not know--like "NFA". Come to find out, that means "Natural Forest Area". That is also the area where the horses got crazy. Specifically, the Blanchard Creek NFA. It makes sense--the whole area felt more wild--dense, dark, cold and rugged.



Also, there was a point at which the road forked. As you can see in the picture, the only sign in the middle of the fork is "130". We mistakenly took the lower road which led us away from our destination.





That will be our last ride of the year to Mt. Spokane, but I'm studying the maps so that I'm ready to explore it more fully next Spring. It's a great equestrian resource. I don't know if Spokane natives know how lucky they are to live in a city and have so much riding available to them within a very short drive--Riverside State Park, Palisades, Mt. Spokane State Park, Liberty Lake, Missile Site Road, Slavin Ranch, Fishtrap Lake, to name the ones I'm familiar with.

(Riverside ride two weeks earlier)




Maps and information about Mt. Spokane State Park:

State Site--free download map and info. Link

Friends of Mt. Spokane--download free trail and topographic maps. Link

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Crossing Water, Building Confidence



Danger: Water Crossing!

My horse, Cowboy, isn’t one of those horses who loves to play in water. To the contrary, he’ll avoid it, if he can. He’s always been okay about doing what I ask, wading out in the river, crossing streams, tramping through every knee-high-water-hole we find on the trail, but in tight situations, his heart rate accelerates and he almost always balks, especially when he feels penned in.

My friend has a horse whose water anxiety is five times or ten times what Cowboy’s is despite the fact that she grew up on a farm swimming her horses into ponds and through every river and creek she could find.

Yesterday, we were on a trail ride together, with these two horses, with the goal of getting hers over the water crossing. We’ve worked with her horse through water holes on the trail this summer, and he’s done great walking and trotting into them behind Cowboy.

I was nervous about this one though because I couldn’t remember what it looked like down there and, in my mind, I remembered it being really steep on both sides with little room on the bank should one decide to jump, rather than walk across. Luckily, my memory was bad, and this water crossing was absolutely perfect for our work. Whew!

So, we walk on down the trail: it’s dense and narrow, gently inclined, and you can hear the stream tumbling over rocks and through brush below us. It gives the horses plenty of time to think—WATER CROSSING!

But, good boys that they are (on dry land) they traipse on down at a good pace, turn the corner and VOILA—there it is—the scary water!

Now, from a horse’s perspective, water really is scary. After all, it is where predators go to drink, too. A wild prey animal would certainly be smart to be alert whenever it approaches a stream and, needless to say, our horses were very smart.

Cowboy balked and took one step back. Great, I thought, He’s supposed to be the lead horse? Ay yi yi--this might be a big mess. But as I was thinking that I was also prodding him forward with my spurs, which he immediately respected, walked in and through, and off we went up the trail on the other side. Most observers would think it was pretty uneventful.

There was a time I used to let Cowboy stop and look at everything, but last year I realized that doesn’t work with him! If you stop and look at something with Cowboy, it’s like telling him—Hey Cowboy, this is something to REALLY be scared of, okay? And you’re pretty much guaranteed not to get over the thing you showed him. So this year on the trail, my motto was forward, forward, forward. Remember how last winter I took those jumping classes? This is why. In order to go forward, forward, you have to be ready for what may, at times, result in a jump, and I wanted to always be able to keep a solid seat. My goal was to stay entirely off his face this year. The old system was to make him walk across everything which took some pulling back, which caused him to back up and become nervous. Interestingly enough, since I started giving him his head this year, he hasn't jumped once and his confidence is higher than it's ever been.

So, over and through and up the trail, and Cowboy was completely happy and relaxed. Perfect.

(Here's Cowboy on the other side, looking up the trail and waiting.)



We stopped and waited for my friend, whose horse, as I said, is younger and more frightened of water than Cowboy. (Phobic, as GunDiva put it, is more to the point because, we've been told, he was in a flooded barn as a baby.) He wouldn’t follow across. We thought, that’s okay we’ll take what we can get. He’s so scared of water crossings the goal has to be smaller than “getting across”. It has to be relaxation—a sense that we can be near water and everything is alright. So, she went back up the way we’d come down, and I continued on, and we met back up and went back down to the water again.

This time, Cowboy didn’t balk, but walked in and stood and started drinking, and drinking, and drinking....he drank a lot. My friend and her horse stood next to us and we just chatted and let the horses relax for about five minutes. Good enough. We didn’t ask him to cross—instead, we turned around, ascended the same trail, and continued on our ride for about another 2 hours, ending on a positive note.

Water crossings can be, with some horses, a traumatic training event, yet, in order to have a really solid trail mount, they have to get over this obstacle. Our thinking is to take him back as many times as we can to this spot and get him to relax, eventually drink, and one day, cross this stream. The day he can do that, we’ll cross this stream a million times until he’s so confident and happy traipsing through it that he feels like a million bucks! But one thing I think we should NOT do is get into a fight with him over it, thus, increasing his stress and associating this place, even more so, with danger. I should add, this is not "trying to get out of work", as is sometimes the case--this horse is truly frightened of water—and I think (and so does his owner) that real fear should be taken seriously and worked through gently. He is the perfect trail horse in every other way--walks out fast and rides all day--confident, eager to please, and ready to go.




This proves, yet again, there is not one answer for all horses. And this is what also makes it fun and, eventually, rewarding for my friend. When she and her horse can work through his fear together, (and they will--she is an excellent horsewoman and rides all the time) their bond will progress deeper than it is now, and with every obstacle they overcome, deeper yet. This is how they become our soul horses—facing our fears together, accomplishing great feats of courage on the trail. And, I purposely wrote "our fears" because we all have our own, don't we? And if we don't have them now, we might have them later, as we age and our bodies are more fragile or life's circumstances change. If we respect and help them with theirs, they will respect and help us with ours--what a great relationship. (After all, don't we all want to be 101 and still on horseback?)

Happy fall Trails, everyone.

(The forest yesterday. You never know what you're going to encounter on a new trail, that's what makes it exciting!)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

101 Year Old Cowgirl



This is just awesome. If you haven't seen it yet, please take the time to watch. It's certainly how I hope I am at the age of 101. Amazing!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Trail Photos: A Blessed Life

Cowboy and me up by 9 mile.

This has been a blog without photos for a while, and I didn't even realize it. I'm going to remedy that today by posting as many of my trail photos as I can fit on one page! I realized, looking through these, that I often wore the same shirt on my rides, so the only way you can tell it's a different day is by a different hat. I guess I have far more variety in hats than anything else. Generally, I'm a baseball cap person, but on the really hot days I'd break out my Cowboy hat.



These first pictures are from our ride yesterday. It was great. We explored some trails along the North Spokane River up to 9 Mile.



I'm usually the one taking the pictures, so I thought I'd sneak myself in here. Actually, some of my friends take pictures, too, but we'll trade photos at a later date--probably after riding season. Every minute free we have now, we'd rather be on horseback.



Through stands of trees.



My daughter and a friend further South on the Spokane river. My friend is riding our horse, Shadow, and my daughter is riding her horse, Cowgirl (she has raised since a weanling).



Looking down over Riverside State Park.



Donna on her half Mustang horse. That horse loves the water and so far, every time we've rode, has given Donna a splash bath.



Looking over the City of Spokane.



Above the rapids.



One of the lookouts above the river.



Taking photos of friends taking photos--Cowboy and me trying to pose.





Above the rapids.





More of the river.



Cowboy and me on the ridge above the souther river bend.



On a hot day at Palisades.



Now you see why I'd rather be on a horseback and why I feel I live a blessed life. A life with horses is priceless, and these pictures don't even begin to tell the story of how it feels to be out there with good human friends and our soul-horses.