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!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Horses As Mirrors

Mirrors are a big part of our lives--we have them in the bathroom, bedroom, cars, decorating our homes, in our purses. They're everywhere. We're constantly looking at our own reflection and wondering how to improve it, how it's changed, what it means.

But I must say the deepest and most accurate reflection of myself I found did not come from a mirror; it came from a horse.

Horses are vulnerable. It may seem the other way around since they are so powerful and large and we are so small and easily breakable. But from their perspective, we are the carnivore--the meat-eaters--and they have as much to fear from us as they do the cougar or the bear. They are prey.

Yet, they will, under the right circumstances, afford this great trust and partnership. They'll subdue their inate fears to the point of allowing us to ride on their backs (the most vulnerable "kill" position for them).

Over at A Year With Horses blog, Kate's thoughts about working with horses, I was reminded of the great gift working with horses has been for me. I think today I enter the barn as "me", who I am and no more, but there was a time I entered the barn as a complete question mark.

A horse doesn't trust a question mark--am I good, am I bad, am I weak, am I strong, am I worthy or unworthy--those questions have to be answered for the horse to move forward with you.

For me, the answer was that I was all those things. I'm good and bad, strong and weak, worthy and unworthy. I try to be the best of myself, but I'm limited.

And you know, the horses seem to be just fine with that. They really are creatures of the day and creatures of the moment. To them, it's all about now--yesterday and tomorrow have no power over it. Humans have a tendency to be exact opposite--we can really get caught up in our regrets of yesterday and our fears of tomorrow.

So, today I'm thankful for Cowboy who first kicked my butt back into the moment--and then C'ya who gently pulls me back into the moment--and Beautiful Girl whose own fears were greater than any I've ever had. The other horses throughout my life have helped me as well, but these three are the most recent and powerful forces in my life.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Lost Barn Cat & Another Lesson

Tuffa Boots got back to me today--a quick reply, I might add--and suggested that I apply a waxy product for water repellant to my new boots--something like....Saddle Soap! Music to my ears. (I love anything to which I can apply Saddle Soap since I have plenty at my disposal.) They said it would help bring the color of the leather out, too. Above are the boots in progress--below are the boots right after I finished.

As they've dried, they've lightened up a bit. I'll take a picture in the coming days with me wearing them--maybe even out in the mudnure.

An interesting thing happened today on my way to the barn (and at the barn). I let the cats out of their house when I did the morning feeding and all was well. Then, when I went out to get Cowboy, two hours later, for an early morning ride before our lesson, #42 was gone!! I searched far and wide calling her. I went back to the house and looked there and all over the property. I called her name constantly as I groomed and tacked up Cowboy. Nothing. I know my cat, and #42 would never not come to her name being called. She's like an obedient dog.

I figured she was dead--taken by the coyotes. It didn't make sense to me since it was broad daylight, but why else wouldn't she have come?

It was getting close to lesson time and I wanted to be there early, so I took off for the arena a couple houses over. As I rode onto their property and past their large hay barn, guess who I saw hiding against the side of it in the tall grass?

Yes, #42!!!

It was the furthest I'd ever seen her from our home, and I can only figure she followed our dog over and then was scared to make it back across the wide-open fields.

I had to lead her back to the house by horseback--I was calling her name and she was bounding behind Cowboy and I like a cowdog.

Strange cat!!

As for the lesson, it was fun. I'm a learning a new lingo, like posting on the diagonal . I didn't know what she was talking about having been trained to "post" period with the beat of the horse depending on the direction we were moving in a circle. It was something I felt rather than something I saw. So, once I figured out what she was talking about, we were on the same page.

The other thing is full seat--half seat. Full seat is apparently where you're sitting in your saddle. Half seat is where you're pushed off the saddle--as in the picture below--also called 2-point.

I had decided to use my old saddle because when I was riding Cowboy around the pasture I realized that if I scoot up in the seat (it's a large seat) I could get my feet under me like she was wanting. So, when I showed up for the lesson she was pretty impressed that I'd worked all that out.

The difficult part of it all is that she has me do a lot of 2-point riding (without posting) in order to get my balance. She had me ride up in the walk, trot and lope. The lope was very, very difficult. I was supposed to be able to keep him at the lope while balancing myself in the awkard position above my saddle. I accomplished this without killing myself, but Cowboy sure seemed like he wanted to help me out. He wasn't used to it. He's a good horse and he REALLY doesn't want me to fall off--I am, afterall, his meal ticket--(and friend, he he)--and I'm sure I was sending him some mixed signals!

The other thing she had me do a lot was ride with my feet out of the stirrups in the walk and trot--she wants a relaxed leg. Apparently, I'm tightening up and it's causing me to bounce around a bit.

All and all, it was a very productive lesson, and gives me a lot to work on for the next couple of weeks. We tried to take pictures, but discovered I'd left my memory card at home.

Here is a picture of the tree we planted in the dark. By daylight we realized it was leaning to the East. Hmmmm....

Hey, you can see the stained glass in the window above the tree in this picture!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

These Boots Aren't Made for "Mudnure"

My Suffolk Tuffa Boots came today from Back in the Saddle. I thought I'd write a review about them just in case someone else is seriously interested in purchasing a pair.

First, I ordered the European 39 because I'm an 8.5 and that's what they recommended. When they arrived, however, they were much too big. I called Back in the Saddle and they said I could return those, but the refund would take 4-6 weeks, so they recommended I buy another pair in the meantime. They didn't charge me shipping again on the new order--but I had to ask for that favor.

Today the boots arrived--the size 38 Suffolk--two-tone. They seemed much lighter than in the picture, but I'm waiting to hear back from Tuffa boots to see if they need to be conditioned to bring out the darker tones. As for the fit, they have the velcro sides, so they can accomodate a number of calf sizes. I have large calves and most English style boots do not fit me--but these do.

They're a tight squeeze on, but once the foot is in, it's pretty cozy. They're lined with fur on the inside--so very warm.

However, I have a hard time imagining myself out in what Tracey, at Mustang Diaries, refers to as the MUDNURE. In fact, the more it rains and I remember exactly what mudnure really is, the harder time I have imagining myself out wearing those boots in it.

But that's what I bought them for, so I'm going to do it! They might not be the barn to town boots they were billed as after I'm done.

Tomorrow is my next Western Dressage lesson. I'm going to use a different saddle this time. Hopefully, I'll have some pictures for the blog when I'm done.

And, we had a tree delivered yesterday. It's a Heritage Birch---I'm guessing 25' tall. They said it would weight 400 lbs, ha ha, it weighs over 1000. Our tractor couldn't even lift it, so there it sat on the road to the barn...

Pretty sad. I get very attached to my plants--and I had to go out throughout the day and talk to this tree. Is that crazy?? I don't think so. I believe a living thing, even as quiet and seemingly lifeless as this tree, has a spirit of some sort that understands when it's being spoken to.

My husband and I went out this evening and used the truck and tractor to get our new birch to its permanent spot. We worked in the dark, so I'm a little concerned about how it will look tomorrow morning.

Pictures to follow....

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Most Beatiful Place on God's Green Earth

Sandpoint, Idaho--Lake Pend Oreille--Located in the Selkirk Mountains in northern-most Idaho. A little further and you'd be in Canada. Lucky me, this Eden is only an hour and a half drive from our home.

There might be places as beautiful somewhere, but there can't be a MORE beautiful place on earth.

It's where my husband and I were married 7 years ago, and where we make our annual pilgrimage each October.

If you're looking for a GREAT place to see Fall--consider this experience. For example--

You don't have to go to New York to see the Statue of Liberty--you can see her here, along the shores of the lake.

Here's the old Coldwater Creek Headquarters reflected in the river.

Our favorite restaurant, which changed locations this year and moved down by the shoreline of the Lake.

Some women after a picnic.

As we drove away, the view out the window.

What a great memory.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Comfortable Jeans, Happy Horse

The farrier came again yesterday to trim Beautiful, C'ya, Cowgirl and Shadow. Beautiful is finally to the point where I can say she was perfect. We trimmed her in the 12x12 stall, as usual, and she didn't move an inch after we set her where we wanted her.

She's comfortable with the farrier now. He always comes in and puts his arm under her neck and gives her a big hug before he starts. She knows him and even starts to lift her feet as he walks toward them.

Whew--huge sigh of relief! That has to have been the biggest obstacle I've ever had with her--getting my wild horse comfortable with strangers picking up her feet, stretching her back ones out to get them up to his height and placing them between his legs---then using the big old nippers and rasp on them.

He tested Cowgirl's hoof and didn't find a central spot for her pain. He thinks my assumption is correct, that she's pounding so much she traumatized it. Horses can even create stress founder--like road founder--by pounding and pawing. She hasn't foundered, but he said we really have to solve the problem that's causing it. He recommended hobbling her in the stall. I don't have any experience with hobbling. My solution has been to give her constant turnout.

The thing is, she is NOT a nervous horse. She's demanding. She's only five and can go out on a trail fearlessly after not having been ridden a month. She's been like that since the very first--when she was 3 and 4. She is about as bomb-proof as they come--and for a horse that young, it's phenomonal. Her pounding and pawing appears to be from pent up energy. She's a horse that wants to be used.

When C'ya gets her feet done, she is an abolsute GEM. She hangs her head down and picks up those feet for him--completely relaxed. Every inch of her just seems to melt even as she fully supports her own weight. She is an incredibly laid back horse. She is only four and the sweetest thing in the world. We were talking about that and I said something about it being too bad she didn't have perfect conformation (she's the one with the sickle or cowhock or whatever you want to call it) but he said she's going to be great. He said she turns out and her movement will be out, but it's better than turning in like our older horse Shadow who, if he's not trimmed well, will trip and hit on himself.

Now to the title of the post. I got to thinking about the picture of Cowboy and me where I'm adjusting my jeans--the Panda Express thing--all of it. I decided that I want my jeans to fit comfortably to loose. I could care less about "pounds", but I do care about comfort. So, I'm not setting a specific goal for myself except that my jeans feel loose enough to be extremely comfortable in the saddle. This will 1.) Keep me from having to buy new jeans, and 2.) make Cowboy happier.

I'm going to use Cowboy as my motivation because I'll do things for him I wouldn't do otherwise, and I let him get away with things I'd never let anyone else get away with.

For fun I came up with some Cowboy diet thoughts based upon his expression the other day:

As you know, a husband would get slapped for saying (or thinking) ANY of these things, but since it's Cowboy.....

I'll keep you all up to date on whether or not I've reached my goal--and I'll use Cowboy as my barometer!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Does Anyone Know These Boots?

Today is October 12th, my husband's and my 7th Anniversary. So much has happened since then--'02: successes, failures, heartaches, happinesses, losses, gains, moves and changes--but when I look back I just see joy.

He wasn't a horse person to start with, but because I am, he's climbed aboard more than one and took his chances. He's learned to install automatic, heated waterers, build fence, hang gates, buck hay, build stalls that can't be kicked down, grow pasture grass, kill weeds, and as you know, about a million other things associated with the horse life.

He's my good, good friend, and going through life with a good friend at your side is a gift. He's also my help-mate--without which, I would not live on a horse property or have so many horses, and I'm not referring to the financial part of it, though obviously horses are expensive, I'm referring to the amount of work involved in maintaining a ranch. I couldn't do it without him. Period.

So, what do boots and our anniversary have in common? (I think everything in my life has something in common with boots--oddly enough--or, at least, I try to make it have something in common). This year, boots are my annivesary gift from my husband. Warm, mucking boots, every girl's dream.

Here is their description: Suffolk Ladies Boot

Designed by Tuffa Boots of England, this winter boot is loaded with features: robust rubber sole and an oiled nubuck leather upper that’s also treated with Scotchgard water repellent. The gusseted opening zips for easy on/off, with Velcro fastenings for a perfect fit. And the fine sheepskin lining means there’s no need for bulky socks---your feet will be warm and toasty with a lightweight sock. Great for riding, barn chores or wearing around town in messy winter weather. Made in Portugal. Color: Brown/camel. European sizes: 36 (US 5 1/2-6), 37 (US 6 1/2-7), 38 (US 7 1/2-8), 39 (US 8 1/2-9), 40 (US 9 1/2), 41 (US 10), 42 (US 10 1/2-11)

I've looked at these boots for years now, always wanting them, always wondering if they're worth the investment. Does anyone have a pair? Have a friend who has a pair? Does anyone know anything about European sizes? I've bought European sandals, but not boots.

I'm an 8 1/2--so would a 39 be too big for me or just right? It says 39 = 8.5-9, and my daughter is a size 9. So, does this mean she'll steal my boots from me? She does do that, you know. (And Shiloh, if you're reading this, you know it's true!) wink.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Which is the Correct "Seat"?

You can decide--which is the best seat A-H. My son took these pictures for me today when I was out cleaning stalls. I thought it would be fun to saddle up Cowboy real fast and have him snap these photos of my "seat". I'm really trying to figure out what it is I'm doing wrong--or right. So here goes:

A. This is the ate too much at Panda Express, didn't put on my spandex riding jeans, my jeans are too tight seat. I don't recommend this seat for ANYONE! And Cowboy isn't too happy about the extra pounds either, as you can see him giving me the evil eye.

B. This is what I call Western Relaxed--my usual riding seat. I can say this--I've never been bucked off--so something's right about it, but dressage instructors never seem to like it.

C. This is the Kicking Back with a Brew seat--although, I don't drink "brews", but that's what it reminds me of--like I'm getting ready to kick my feet onto a coffee table.

D. Thrown-in-for-good-measure Seat

E. Legs-Down-Heels-Down Seat

F. My best try at a Western/Dressage Seat

G. Yet another try at the Western/Dressage Seat

H. My last try at the Western Dressage Seat

Okay, let me have it! Give me feedback on my "Seat". I know I'm asking for it here, but I really do want to see, learn and really understand the whole idea of a correct seat.

Please tell me your thoughts....

An Early Winter?

It's the same place, but so much colder. I don't remember ever having to worry about frozen water dishes this early in October. The horses are already furry, and a bit grumpy at their morning feedings. I don't love going out there in 20 degree weather either, but I remind myself that they just spent the night in temps in the teens.

The teens!!??!! How did it get so cold?

I've pulled out my black, insulated riding pants, all my coats, even my down-filled one, my gloves, my hats, my thick socks, my undershirts from REI, and my scarves. It's COLD!

However, the sun does heat it up in the day to where all you need is a sweater or jacket, a scarf and boots--which is great for me. I love boots, scarves and jackets.

Yesterday my husband worked out of town and I stayed to spend time with the kids. I had the morning with my daughter before she went to work, and the afternoon with my son for what he called...

MOM and SON day!

How fun is that? We went shopping for more jeans and long-sleeved shirts for him--and beanies to keep his head and ears warm. Then we shopped for scarves for me, and afterward sat and had berry smoothies while we waited for our movie, The Invention of Lying, to start. Funny movie.

Some great deals on scarves at Cocos in the Valley Mall--

Afterward, we drove through the two pound restaurant--I mean, Panda Express, where you always gain at least two pounds, and brought it home and ate, then sat together and studied his Science--the Chapter on States of Matter--Solids, Liquids and Gases, you know. The kind of stuff I always think about---or NOT.

Before dark, I went out and fed the horses and dug out Cowgirl's hoof--the one she's limping on again! I don't have a clue, and neither does the farrier, how she injures it, but she occasionally favors this same hoof. She is a horse who cribs a lot, so I can never lock her in the stall, but a week or so ago I did, and then she had this problem. It always comes up after I lock her in, so my best guess is that she uses it to pound and paw the ground and rails.

The barn cats are surviving the cold. They seem to enjoy being locked in their cat house together. We put a heater and a heating pad in it to help take the extreme cold off of them. Despite that, yesterday morning their water dish was frozen.

This cold knocked off all the tomatoes and flowers, too. The Dahlias turned black the first day it froze--the tomatoes, too--and I never did get a ripe one! The grass is starting to turn a lighter shade of green and all the annuals--Petunias, Geraniums, Alyssum, are wilting.

Could this be an early Winter or is it just a brutal start to Fall that will recede back to wherever it came from and leave us with our 60 degree, "crisp", but not cold, days?

BTW, today is stall cleaning day--the true test of our love for our horses. I'm looking forward to it--gotta work off that Panda Express!!