Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Day In Beautiful's Life

I'm glad I caught this image this morning because it's the one I see every day when I feed. Beautiful has developed this funny habit of rearing up so that she can see over the divider where I'm usually divvying up the hay into the wheel barrow. I'll see her head peek up over, with her mane flying in the air, several times before I get to her.

Here are some pictures of her as I pulled up to the barn and said hello.

This was my day yesterday with Beautiful:

1. Groom her and try to get the mud she somehow found off her coat. Some horses try really hard to stay clean--I have white horses that are still white, for instance. Beautiful, on the other hand, is one of those horses who TRIES to be dirty.

2. Worm her for tapeworms. Beautiful eats and eats, yet doesn't get fat like the others. She eats more and weighs less--what's up with that? Is she a "hard-keeper?" When I went out this morning to rummage through her manure--I couldn't find a sign of a worm! I guess I should just be happy that's she's full of energy and accept the fact that she may always be lean of build--or maybe a late-bloomer.

3. Clean Beautiful's Stall.

Here's Beautiful's day yesterday--

1. After I'm groomed I will go roll in whatever dirty spot I can find.

2. Eat and eat and eat and eat--but keep my girlish figure.

3. Mess up my stall so that I can keep my owner busy.

4. Rear up several times per day to challenge the pony and let everyone know I'm BORED.

5. Rip off gutters (if owner is foolish enough to put them back up), chew my wood door down a few inches, pull out plug in waterer.

6. Play with the barn cats--pretend I'm going to stomp on them and chase them out of my run, then sniff them through the bars.

7. Sleep a little here and there.

She was funny yesterday. When she saw me come with the halter, she ran away and snorted like she was going to make me catch her. Then, she got to the end of her run and started thinking and ran back to me. It's like she remembered, oh yeah, I'm bored and I like visits from her--why am I running away?!? She seemed all too eager to be groomed and petted after that.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Two Steps Forward, Four Steps Back

I had my riding lesson with Cowboy yesterday at the barn next door. Because of the COLD and ICE, we'd been laid off riding for a couple of weeks. What a mistake!!

Everything was bad. He was sore on his left front where he had the broken P3--probably because of the wet and cold aggravating what may be the beginning of arthritis in that joint.

I don't know which is worse--cold and ice or rainy and cold--but I'm leaning toward rainy and cold as worse. It chills you to the bone, and the MUD! Yuck! I'm actually starting to think snow isn't so bad.

Anyway, back to the lesson, Cowboy was just slightly off, but enough to feel it, and my trainer thought she could see it.

At the beginning of the lesson, when I saddled and rode him over to the arena, he was great--especially for not having been ridden in so long. He was calm and walked out nicely--no jig or spooks--until we got to the property where the arena sits. Then, everything scared him--the box, the cows mooing for what appeared to be a late dinner, the birds that flew out right as he crossed through a puddle/lake. It blew his cool. (I think the cows were the catalyst--they were really worked up).

None of that was a big deal, it was actually fun to work him through it and get him to the arena.

The not-so-fun part of the experience was that he wasn't paying attention during the lesson. Which meant, we had to work on meticulous things--elementary, primary, boring stuff--all lesson. It was like starting again.

Moral of the story: DON'T TAKE TIME OFF.

Let's see, what else has happened in horseville? Beautiful discovered a new trick--waiting until the automatic waterer drains and then pulling the plug out with her teeth. Yep. And, another, sticking her head through the bars and pulling the gutters off the barn. Uh huh. Too smart for her own good--prognosis--easily bored and needs a full-time job.

Other than that, same ole, same ole--all is well, muddy and wet and cold, but well. I'm starting a new blog about my piano lessons because with things slowing down through winter in the horse world and Beautiful doing so well, more of my attention is being directed at piano mastery--a slow process, I'm here to tell you. Things I have to work on: 1.) Stage fright, 2.) Stage fright, 3.) Stage fright, 4.) Everything else.

Hope all is well in your worlds and you're getting time to ride--come rain and mud or snow and ice!

Happy Trails and Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Traditions: December Moon Over a Night Barn

I love barns at night. The soft light emanating in the darkness. You just know the animals are in there, warm, well-fed, secure.

Especially during the Christmas season, barns take on added meaning. I was playing Christmas songs on the piano last night and I was struck by this line in What Child is This?, my favorite of all the Christmas songs:

Why lies he in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding?

I remember posting a picture of this exact same moon last Fall. As a matter of fact, I used it as part of the banner for this blog. (Above) And there it was again last night. I called it the December Moon. It's born of frost and sunshine.

My farrier came out yesterday. We both agreed we'd love winter if every day was like yesterday. Beautiful moon. Sunshine. Cold.

And then, this morning--frost on the ground and Beautiful waiting in her new/old enclosure for breakfast. We had our first official "lesson" (because every day, no matter what you do, you are giving them lessons) in months yesterday--going over the basics again of disengaging front and hind-quarters. At first she was a little confused when I approached her from the side--as if I was Cowgirl, the alpha mare, getting ready to bite her. I saw it in her eyes, so I stopped and reassured her--it's me--I'm fair--I'm predictable--I don't bite.

I rubbed her neck a little bit and then asked for her step. She disengaged and crossed over nicely, like I wanted. I took the one step and reassured her again. She licked her lips and relaxed and the rest of the lesson was just wonderful. Partnership--no fear. She tucked her head and backed up with the slightest pressure on the nose, she moved fluidly each time I asked it of her. Now that is one filly who is happy to be with humans again.

I'm glad I introduced her to the herd for the summer, but in all honesty, she didn't seem to really blend well with them. She was happy to get away from them, and they were thrilled to get Cowboy back.

The farrier visit was beyond great. If there was a mark higher than A+, she'd get it. She picks up her feet now as she sees him approach them. She does it for me, as well. I think if she could pick out her own feet, she'd do it. After he was done she followed him around wanting to be in his back pocket. I guess all humans are looking pretty good to her right now.

Here's Mount Spokane this morning as I went out to feed them, but where is the moon?

Here it is, in the West.

See this paper angel on the tree? My kids and I put it up last weekend. I love putting up the tree. We have an artificial one because I grew up with an artificial. The tree becomes its own tradition, just like the ornaments.

This angel was something I purchased a long time ago when I was teaching. I believe my oldest son was only a year old at the time. One of the teachers brought them into the lounge and sold them. I bought this one and it became our tree angel. Each year the kids take turns putting it on.

She looks pretty raggedy at this point, I had to hem her dress with tape, but she keeps coming out each year to do her job.

And the foyer is transformed yet again--to Christmas.

What family traditions do you have? Favorite Christmas songs? CDs? Ornaments? Trees? Food? I'll be the first to answer this question in comments. We have lots and lots of traditions and I love every one of them.

Traditions are like that December Moon, something that returns, something that, when everything falls down around you and your life is in chaos, are there to guide you to safety.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Beautiful Spots a Young Buck

Wild looking at...


I wonder if Beautiful feels more at home with this deer than she does with my domestic herd.

This was her last day in the pasture with the others. I decided to move her back to her private stall on the other side of the barn so I can work with her more. (And, get her groomed!)

She was happy to be "home". She remembered her old stall and turnout well and performed many leaps of joy as she ran the perimeter.

Maybe she was just happy to escape Cowgirl! I think she needed a break from our alpha mare.

More pictures tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Maggie, our lab, saying wake me when it's dinner!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I was talking to my sister this morning, as I was beginning the preparations of my home for tomorrow's special guests, and she said Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday. Her reason is that it's our purely American tradition to come together for no greater reason than the selfless desire to give thanks and enjoy each other's company--to share what we have--to bring our mutual gifts to the table. It's stress-free (or should be) and it's all about friends and family and making sure everyone in our community is fed well on this one special day.

I think that's pretty nice.

The first Thanksgiving here in the US was in 1621--almost 400 years ago. They had a Thanksgiving feast with the Wampanoag Indians to celebrate their first successful harvest.

After trying to grow hay this year, I appreciate more than ever the happiness of these colonists. To grow their own crops meant they could sustain life in the new world.

Every year brings its own set of trials. This year, the recession and our stock market losses hit us hard. Most of us know someone who lost their job and couldn't find another. Our country has been burdened by the collapse of the financial system and high unemployement. Our states are struggling to find ways to save money in order to stay solvent. This affected us directly since my husband works for the state.

On a personal level we almost lost one of our grandbabies last Spring when she choked on a little, tiny bean--but by a miracle, she was saved, and she'll be with us, hopefully, many more years and celebrate many Thanksgivings long after we're gone. We can't look at her without giving thanks every time.

All in all, I'm amazed at how fortunate we've been. I haven't lost a single family member. I didn't even lose an animal this year. And life is so tenuous, it's amazing I can say that. We've kept our job. Our savings have regained some of their losses. We were able to get hay into the barn, plant lots of flowers and trees and grass, and pay off debt.

It didn't come easy. My husband had to work extra hours at another job to accomplish these goals. In this climate, he works more and makes less. He has worked more than I thought humanly possible, to tell you the truth, and then, after all that, found time to work around the ranch here. There were months he only had 1 or 2 days off, and those days were spent farming or landscaping. But he was thankful for the opportunity to work at all.

Now, finally, he will have a four day weekend and we have our family coming to share dinner with us tomorrow. We'll have my three kids here--my parents--some of my siblings and their spouses--and a nephew. It's not our whole family, but it is many of them. We'll prepare a beautiful dinner together--each pitching in. We'll relax. We'll enjoy each other's company and give thanks for the day and all that we have right now.

We know next year will bring trials as well, but on this one day, we can slow down and take a good, long look at the present happiness.

It seems holidays inspire us to complete projects around the house--maybe in anticipation of the guests who will be in our home. For us, we started the long awaited painting of the foyer. Here are some pictures of our project--we chose the color Mustard Seed which is a brownish/greenish gold. Some people love it and some people hate it. It makes me feel good.

This is what they say about the color gold:

It is no surprise that gold symbolizes wealth used wisely, but it is also the symbol of good health. People who favor the color gold are optimistic.


Put some gold in your life when you want:

increased personal power
relaxation and enjoyment of life
good health

Wearing gold in everyday life increases personal power, and promotes courage, confidence and willpower.

We've been working to pay off debt and use our money wisely, we've needed courage to meet the challenges, and we've tried hard to be optimistic about the future--it's no wonder the color GOLD appealed so strongly to us this year.

Here's wishing you and your families much success, enjoyment of life, confidence, and good health! Happy Thanksgiving!!

Painting the foyer--high ceilings made it difficult. (No wonder we put it off almost 3 years). My husband is in this shot, but believe it or not, I did much of the painting myself--climbing up that tall ladder you see there and hoping for the best!

The gold takes on different tones, depending on the light--it can look muted or bright. Here it looks muted--almost brown.

Here bright...

Before shot (remember this one?)


And ready for Thanksgiving dinner!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gloves and The Indoor Arena

We've all been talking about the perfect work glove lately. These are the ones I found at Big R. Glacier Gloves. They were only $9.99.

They're insulated neoprene with a special fabric on the index finger and thumb so that you can manage the details. They're made for fly fisherman who have to work with small equipment.

A salesperson at the store directed me to these gloves, otherwise, I'd never have found them. She said last year they sold out of them as fast as they got them in. She says, they're the glove to have.

So far I've really liked them. They keep your hands warm and dry, and I was able to fasten the bridle with them on. Unfortunately, the smallest our store sold them was Medium, so there's a little room at the end of the fingers, but it's not causing me much of a problem--I just push them on as far as they go.

We had a work day at the community arena last weekend (right next door to me). I love, love, love it!! One of the guys brought in his backhoe and dug it down 3 feet. Then, we used our tractor to incorporate the footing and harrow it.

The crew I worked with dug out the huge sliding doors that hadn't been opened or closed in probably decades!! We still need to replace some of the metal siding, but they're in working order--as are the gates which we also had to reset.

Afterward we had a potluck with stew, cornbread, salad and homemade chocolate cake. And, today I rode in it for the first time since we finished. NICE! I feel so lucky to have an arena next door to ride in through winter.

After Cowboy and I came back home today, I walked out in the pasture to pick up the netting from the roundbales. I entered the pasture from a new spot, closer to the bales. For some reason, this drove the horses nuts!! They stampeded toward me like I was some predator in their midst. Then, they started kicking at each other and cut the skin of my filly C'ya (the one who started the whole mess). I exited the pasture and then they completely stopped--snorted a bit--and calmed down and used their brains. It was REALLY strange!!

Here are some pictures of the arena work day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Beautiful Autumn

November has been more pleasant than October this year. I really enjoy the morning chores with the sun shining as it is and the barn walls to block whatever wind is blowing.

I've been locking the horses out of their stalls during the day so that they stay somewhat clean. I'm able to tidy them up each morning in about a half an hour--six stalls, one wheelbarrow full--not bad.

The horses are all fat and sassy and full of themselves. They've kept good boundaries with me, but I see them playing with each other quite a bit. They don't seem grumpy, like they did when the temps dropped into the teens, just mischievous--especially Beautiful. (A reminder to me about why they put the little ones in their place.)

Last weekend I planted 200 bulbs--tulips, daffodils, narcissus, and Iris. It was hard work, but I'm sure I'll be happy I did in the Spring. They're always the first things to flower after winter. I blogged about it with pictures on my Emily Dickinson's Garden blog.

Also, since we live out in the somewhat boonies--although, we're a mere five minutes from Spokane, we've always had lousy Internet--Hughes Net--to be specific. Well, we switched over yesterday to Verizon Broadband with their new MiFi--five users can use one hot spot. It is giving me exceptional service. I didn't realize how much time I was wasting in life waiting for pages to load--and I've never been able to upload video. This new system will give me the ability to post better quality photos and video in the future! I'm excited.

Hope everything is well at your autumn homes--and barns!

Happy Trails today.


Lea, at Lea and Her Mustangs, has suggested we all name something we're thankful for each day until Thanksgiving. I don't blog every day, but I will do this every day that I do blog.

Today I'm going to be thankful for the thing that, without which, I wouldn't want to be here--my family--all of them. Kids, grandkids, mom and dad, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters--husband--I'm blessed and my children are blessed to have a large, loving family.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Abscess Pictures

Here is a shot of Red's hoof at the tip of the abscess. It's the indention at the toe. I took this shot two days ago, the last time I wrapped it, and he's back to a hundred percent today, so I imagine when I take off the wrap today there will be a blow out. (I'll post that shot tomorrow.)

Actually, I'm pretty excited to see what happened, but he's still eating his breakfast and I don't want to disturb him.

Here are the supplies needed to mix the Sugardine and wrap the hoof: Sugar, Iodine, and Duct tape. And, by the way, you should get a helper when you do this. I didn't have a helper, and it wasn't easy holding the hoof up, tearing off duct tape, and wrapping it. I've done it all week by myself. I used to have a helper, but as you know, she got a real job and now I'm solo.

Here's the finished product. Nice and wrapped and still holding strong today, two days later. (Pat myself on the back).

When I fed this morning I threw out the yummy alfalfa, as usual, but Shadow (aka PIG) and Beautiful did not want to eat the good stuff. Instead, they went for the round bale. Maybe horses really do know what they need. Hmmmmmm....nah! They're pigs.

Speaking of eating--this Creamy Garlic Sauce by Culinary Treasures (only sold at Costco) is my idea of food heaven. I found it last Spring and bought one bottle, came home, sauted some chicken, dumped the sauce on top, and put it all over a bed of Jasmine Rice. Yum! The whole family went crazy over it.

I went back to Costco to buy more--lots more--and they were clearancing it out! Ahhhh! I bought about twelve bottles to be safe. Then, as those bottles started to disappear, I wrote the company, based in Canada, and asked them where else I could buy it.

Their answer: No where else. Only Costco. It was a temporary item!

I write Costco and beg them to bring it back. Then, yesterday, I'm shopping at Costco and I look up the aisle and what do I see....

Uh huh. Food heaven.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Survival Story from the 3-Strikes Ranch Nightmare

I'm not sure if this will embed. If not, click here to see the story of Thistle, a Mustang removed from the 3-Strikes Ranch in Alliance, Nebraska.

The story of the 3-Strikes Ranch was a shocking one to me. I'd found their website and blog after adopting Beautiful Girl, and it looked like a great opportunity for Mustangs. They said they were going to bring the 3-Strikes horses (after 3 strikes, Mustangs aren't taken to adoptions anymore) and let them run free on this ranch which, I believe, incorporated thousands of acres.

It didn't happen that way.

They let them run free, yes, but they didn't feed them. On April 19, 2009, they did some fly overs of the ranch and saw that many of the horses had died, many couldn't get up, and most were emaciated. Out of over 200 there on the ranch, I believe, 74 wild horses and burros died. Click here for news Article from that day.

I don't have anything to say about it--the facts speak for themselves. But the video from the Humane Society and Parelli (above) about the Wild Mustang they named Thistle, is heart-warming. It really highlights the integrity of Mustangs, and horses in general and the beauty of the horse/human relationship when done right.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's An Abscess

Who would guess (who that doesn't own horses, that is) that an abscess would cause a horse so much pain. They really do present themselves like they have a broken leg.

The farrier came today and, within a milisecond, found the abscess on old Red. It looks like it came from a nail puncture on the toe of his hoof. My best guess, and that's all that I can do is guess, is that the mud worked up an old nail--probably from the original construction of the barn. A nail that, otherwise, would have been buried under the hard dirt.

Now, looking back, it all seems obvious, of course. (Hindsight) I could see a dot of red that looked like blood working it's way up, and he winced and pulled away when I tapped that area with the hammer. Hmmmm....

He cut a tiny bit into it and it started to drain. I packed it with sugardine (sugar and iodine) and wrapped it with duct tape. Wrapping hooves with duct tape really does seem like a Redneck ("You might be a Redneck if....") thing to do, but it's also what those expensive vets do if you call them out. Yep. I was surprised as anyone to see my vet wrap my horse's hoof with duct tape. I mean, don't you have any fancy Vet type thing to put on it?!? Nope, just one more use for duct tape.

Do you know how much my farrier charged me for this work? "0."

Oh, and guess what, I found a Veterinarian who lives close to me who agreed to sell me Banamine. I won't tell you who that Vet is for fear that they lose their license. After all, super-expensive Motrin for horses is a scurge on our great country. Right? Nevermind the dealers who sell Meth, and Marijuana, and Crack to our youth--let's go after horse owners (or Vets who sell to them) who want to give their horses a little aspirin! (That will be my last vent (ie. sarcasm) on that point for a while).

I have a confession: I jumped up and down for joy like a school kid when he found the abscess. It was like I'd just chose the $1,000,000 suitcase on Deal or No Deal. I'm so attached to these horses despite all I do to tell myself they're just horses, they're fragile, they're prone to accidents...blah, blah. In reality, my heart breaks to think about losing any of them.

That's just something I've got to live with.

Thanks for all your good wishes, everyone!! And, I hope your day is as good as mine is now!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

When Do YOU Call the Vet?

I used to be the kind of horse owner who called the vet at the slightest sign of discomfort in my horses. If I didn't, I felt negligent.

Once, when we first moved to Spokane, my older horse, Red, got stuck in a hole. He was lying there very still with his feet in the air, and I thought he was dead, but when I rode the 4-wheeler out to him his eyes were open and blinking.

I called the vet.

Vets are usually great human beings--the best. I don't know if I've ever met one I didn't like a lot. Some of them even became personal friends. And this one was no different. He and his assisant came out and helped me get Red turned around so that he could get his feet under him. Then, we all stood around and chatted as we observed him to make sure he was 100%.

I felt great. (Though it was something I could have done myself.)

But there were other times vets couldn't help me, or they made mistakes which made matters much worse. I've never held it against them personally, but it has given me a mighty deal of skepticsm when it comes to large animal veterinary care. Some of these vets just don't have enough practical experience, or they deny practicality and rely too heavily on "Science".

So, now to why I'm bringing this subject up:

I went out Friday to find my old horse, Red, lame on the back left leg. He's a 29 year old Quarter Horse.

I put him into a 12x12 stall and inspected him top down and couldn't find any swelling, heat, or punctures. I pressure tested the hoof as well as I could without hoof testers. I couldn't find anything.

Next, I thought let's see how much pain he's in. I introduced Banamine at 1/4 dose. He starts to put it down after a couple hours. I introduce another 1/4 dose. He walks on it like it's A-OK.


I put in a call to my farrier who, it turns out, is traveling. We talk. He's willing to come by as soon as his plane lands, but I've already had him scheduled for Tuesday. I say, let's put it off to Tuesday.

My thinking: if I can keep him out of pain and confined and there's no swelling or puncture, I'm doing as much for him as anyone else could.

Saturday: Banamine wears off. Red is on three legs. I halter him, walk him. He limps. Hmmmm....not good. Banamine at 1/2 dose. Red is standing on it and walking again.

Sunday: Same exact thing as Saturday, but now Red looks worse. Or, am I imagining? Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Maybe there's a hairline fracture. Maybe Red is going to have to be put down.

Monday: I go out to feed this morning and Red is using his injured leg without Banamine. He's walking with a limp, but he's not afraid to put pressure on it. He pivots more comfortably. I give him 1/8 dose of Banamine...and wait.

Tomorrow is the day my farrier comes. My thinking now: If it's something that's fixable, either I can do it or my farrier (if it's an abscess). If it's a fracture, and therefore, for a 29 year old horse, unfixable, then the vet will be my last recourse. If he doesn't get better each day we'll call in the vet.

I'm lucky I have a lot of Banamine and Bute on hand because I have a good relationship with my vet who does trust my judgement and who, thank goodness, gives it to me as I think is appropriate.

Personally, I don't think Bute or Banamine should be by prescription only. If you're an irresponsible horse owner, there are a thousand ways you can abuse a horse--buying $40.00 tubes of Banamine is usually not one of them.

Do you know what Banamine is? It's Motrin for horses. We let humans buy themselves Motrin--why in the heck then do we have to have prescription to give our horses Motrin?!?!? It's a scam. A tube of Motrin (I mean Banamine) can cost you up to $40.00 from your vet--$20.00 on the internet (but you need a prescription, which you will NOT get because the vet wants to sell you the $40.00 tube). It's a scam! It's a scam! It's a scam! (Sorry, I had to vent.)

To sum it all up--my personal philosophy is that horse sense is often better than Science. There are things the vets are good at and there are areas where they are limited and either you (the one who sees the horse everyday) or a farrier with a lifetime of equine experience is better able to diagnose and treat.

I've lost two horses and they were both under vet care from the moment of injury or illness. In those two cases it wasn't the vet's fault. In one case they didn't have the proper equipment to diagnose--WSU was better equipped. In the other case, there was just nothing to be done. If I had to do over again, I'd call them out again in those two cases.

My horse, Cowboy, as you all know, was misdiagnosed and almost had to be put down because of Vet error. He was also treated from the moment of injury--and daily after that--until my third opinion. That is another story in itself if you haven't read it already on my blog. And that's probably the point at which I became a major skeptic, and the reason why for injuries that appear to be in the hoof, I call the farrier. Although his broken P-3 (coffin bone) presented itself as a broken leg.

As for today and Red's injury--I'm optimistic after seeing him this morning. If he can move on it better today without Banamine, that's a good sign. Although, he's not out of the woods yet, and things could change and the vet be out here, with his portable X-ray machine, very soon. But if it comes to that, things aren't looking very good for us.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's Snowing--And They're Not Letting Beautiful Eat!

It's snowing today! And yes, that's snow on my deck! It's not laying on the roads, but it is putting a dusting on the ground, as you can see. It's on the verge of becoming rain.

We put the Timothy out for free-choice eating, but it creates a dilemma, and one that I'm interested in everyone else's opinions about. The herd pecking order.

Since we put out the round bale the usual herd order politics have kicked in, and Beautiful is getting shut out of eating.

I've been watching from the window all morning to see how it progresses, and it looks like she gets in for a bite here and there.

My thinking about the herd order is, even though on one level it bothers me, it serves the function of training the members of the herd. My theory is that if Beautiful is being kept off the hay, it's because they need to teach her respect, and I need to let her learn her lesson and learn how to approach them and be allowed into the feeding circle.

I'd never let it go so far that it jeopardized her health, but it has never gotten to that point. In fact, she's out there eating for the first time right now. She had to wait a few hours and only get nibbles for her appetizer, but it appears they're cautiously allowing her to feed at this point.

How do you all handle the pecking order? And for you readers without horses, how do you handle it with your dogs, cats and other animals?

I've seen on the Dog Whisperer that many of the same dynamics occur in the human/canine pack. The human, to establish their own dominance and get respect, should make the dog wait to eat until they give the signal it's okay. Do you dog owners do this?

***Update: They ran her off again! Sheesh!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Power of Good Practices

For me, reading my list of blogs each morning is better than reading the news.

The news is just chock full of sensational garbage aimed at exciting our passions, getting us riled up against one another and everyone else, all with the aim of making money. And it has made the most controversial of them very rich.

I found out a long time ago there are things I can change and things I can't change. I prefer to direct my energy to those I can change.

Reading my fellow bloggers each day, rather than sapping my creative energy, inspires all kinds of new ideas and fires me up for doing something positive.

Yesterday, at Joanne's Whole Latte Life, she asked a question which made me think deeper about something I'd already been contemplating--the value of practice.

Practice is an overused word in many ways, and to tell you the truth, I'd come to think of it as just doing something a lot rather than doing it well. But for those of you who followed my blog this last year and a half, you may remember that I started piano lessons last February, and these piano lessons have taught me about:

1. The power of practice

2. The necessity for quality practices to form good habits.

A bad practice forms a bad habit and, as they say, bad habits are hard to break!

My piano teacher told me from the start, when I was more interested in playing a whole song than concentrating on doing small parts right, that correcting a bad habit in piano will take FOUR times longer than learning it from scratch. Four times!!

To put her theory into real time, it means that when I get to a series of measures that I've played wrong, I have to play them and play and play them, ad nauseum, until I can play them perfectly four times. (That's the corrective measure she's taught me). Sounds easy? It's not.

So, I've come to look at practice with a whole new respect. How do I sit on my horse? How do I lead them around? What habits have I taught them?

I read in a book (can't remember which one) a long time ago that there was a family who raised a colt, and when the colt was young, the father taught him to stand with his front hooves on the father's chest. As the horse grew, it turned into what could be a deadly habit and they had to take the horse in for corrective training. With horses, however, habits taught when they're young are sometimes impossible to change--and you eventually see these horses at the auctions through no fault of their own except having practiced bad things from their human teachers.

Last year I started to realize something about myself, I knew how to do a lot of things, but I did a lot of things moderately well. I had focused on quantity rather than quality. That's what made me return to piano. I thought, I want to do at least one thing pretty darn good before I die. It's worth the effort to at least try--then they can say of me,--She wasn't the best, but boy did she put in the effort to learn!

Funny thing though, as I concentrate on piano, guess what happens? The lessons I learn in piano leak into everything else. All of a sudden I see other areas of my life where I have shoddy practices--eating habits, fitness, writing, riding, ....and it could go on and on.

I wasn't born a perfectionist--in fact, I'm the anti-perfectionist--and I wouldn't say that's my aspiration--but there is something powerful to be said about developing good habits through the practice of doing things correctly, or at least as well as we know to do them.

(And thank goodness for teachers, mentors, friends, fellow-bloggers, who help us see these things.)

It's been about seven months since I started piano lessons, and I'm starting to really see the change in my playing. I had worried that, at my age, I was like some of those horses who you seemingly can't fix, and it was too late for me to change bad habits and learn good ones. Apparently, it's not--even my 42 year old brain is capable of developing new pathways with enough repetition!

Is there something you're practicing? Is there something your horse is practicing? I'm wishing you well today as you work toward your goals!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rain, Rain, Cover the Hay

It's raining today, and I do mean raining! I haven't seen it this wet for a long time.

We have five round bales of Timothy which were delivered yesterday ($40.00 for an 850 lb bale--net wrapped) sitting out there getting soaked! I guess we're going to have to hurry and feed it. Which is never a problem, my horses will eat through a bale like that in no time.

This is supplemental hay to augment the 20 tons of alfalfa we purchased from Waitsburg in July. Horses like to graze all day; it cuts down on behavioral issues and helps them generate heat. This hay will serve that purpose--give them something to chew on, as they say.

Here's little Ezzy, the new barn kitty, chasing around #42. She's been good at staying at the barn when 42 goes on her adventures! Which, by the way, we've been hearing more and more details about from the neighbors whom she apparently visits.

And Ezzy making herself look big and scary for the dogs!

Here's my sweet goat, English, being curious. English was a bottle-fed kid. She's very smart. Also, she doesn't like to be locked in, and has a long history of finding ways to escape enclosure.

And, since it's raining today, the gutters are doing their job of directing the rain-water off the roof and out to the sides of the barn. Notice in the picture my husband has discovered yet another use for twine!

Here's a picture of my boots being worn out at the barn--a self-shot portrait, as you can see by the perspective. I've thought about and blogged about these boots a lot this last week. Each day I wear them they do become more comfortable. They're at the point now where I can slip my foot right in, rather than unzipping them.

One of my thoughts about these boots this weekend, as I worked to get the mud out of the deep grooves, was the concept of "barn to town" apparel. I'm thinking that if you're going to wear these boots to town, you probably aren't using them for the kind of chores I am. Maybe they're referring to people who board their horses at an upscale barn where they just have to show up and ride and groom, because I can't really see them mucking out stalls like I mucked this weekend and then taking a trip to the mall.

Speaking of barn apparel, who out there in the blogosphere owns an LL Bean Field Coat? Don't you think they're the absolute best for working around the barn? I got one this year that has the liner for the cold days, and I just love it. If you don't already have one, you might want to check into them--they may just end up being your favorite coat ever, and they last forever!