Saturday, February 27, 2010

Raising A Barn & Upcoming Projects Around the Mini-Ranch

In 2007, we bought a house in a field.

It was fourteen, unfenced, raw acres with an unfinished basement. So, we had to set to work immediately if we were going to have bedrooms for the whole family, and the horses all have a home.

After putting up temporary fencing and a round pen, we turned our attention, first, to the inside of the house, the basement. It started out as a large concrete room. We thought about how we'd like to see it, marked out imaginary walls with masking tape, and went to work, doing it all ourselves. Everything from plumbing and electric, dry wall, you name it, we did it. The carpet was the only item we subcontracted.

And later, a finished room in the basement.

After the inside was under control, which took from April to October, we started the barn project, hoping to finish it before the snow flew. First, we had to dig a trench, 3' deep, partially through rock, all the way out to the barn. It was very long, spanning 500' to the first frost-free. In this trench, we ran water pipe and electric wire. One of our sons, an engineer, told us to run a string through PVC, just in case we ever needed to run another wire out there after we filled in the trench. For some reason, we didn't do that, and I regret it now, and recommend to anyone else out there reading this and planning a barn project, to do so. In retrospect, we could have used it to wire out video feeds so that we could monitor the horses from inside the house or from a remote web server when we're out of town.

It was fun to watch the barn go up, especially since we weren't doing it. We had one month to get it up before the big snow came, and since it takes us about five times as long to do anything (learning curve) we didn't feel like it was a job to tinker around with.

I never did blog about the barn raising because it was a good year and half before I adopted Beautiful.

It was a tough decision about the barn. We only had a set amount of money and I wanted to make it stretch as far as I could with an eye to doing more in the future. With that in mind, I opted for a 60' barn rather than smaller. If I'd gone smaller, I could have got the 12' overhangs I wanted, and I really wanted them to keep the rain and snow out of the stalls, but we came to the conclusion that we could always add those on later. It would be more difficult to add on 24'.

It really stinks when you only have a set amount of money. I was really hoping money would fall from the sky so I could do everything I wanted right then and there. You know, the clouds open up and a big pot of gold (or, I'd take dollar bills--better yet, 100's) appear in our backyard. Instead of that happening, what money we did have seemed to be falling into some bottomless pit. Did you ever see the movie, The Money Pit, with Tom Hanks? It was kind of like that.

So, it's no surprise we also opted out of them finishing the tack room and stalls, electing instead to do them ourselves.

We added a couple of frost-frees on either side of the barn.

You can kind of see how rough we had it before the barn went up--lots of tarps, and panels. We called it shanty-town.

It took us until the next summer to get the automatic, heated-waterers installed. Instead, that winter, we hauled water in 55 gallons drums, filled the tanks and kept the water from freezing with stock heaters. There were a series of extension chords hooked together and extending as far as we could get them to the pastures from the house. That winter, the snow got so deep we couldn't see the extension chords anymore, and eventually, as the snow melted, we could only see them through the ice. By some miracle, they continued to work. Here's the barn that winter.

The summer of the automatic waterers, we also had time to put in the front fence. We had to build concrete braces to support it over what was mostly rock.(A tripod shape) It took us a good, long time to complete it. So, you can imagine how discouraged we were, when after the first good wind, it blew over. We went back to the drawing board, reinforced it, and it hasn't blown over since!

The fence has two strands of electric on the inside. The horses were in the pasture when it blew over, but it scared them so much, they didn't dare go near. We got the lead horse into a halter, and then the rest followed back to the barn.

Last summer we turned our sights to landscaping. We wanted some green grass in front of the house rather than weeds. And, I was dying to plant flowers and shrubs. It occupied us from March to October.

I couldn't find our last "after" pictures of the outside, they may still be on one of the cameras, but these give you an idea of how it was progressing.

This year we have big plans, and they should all be fun. We want to continue fencing in the property with wood, especially the corral off the barn, and put in a permanent outdoor arena, hopefully with some lighting.

It has been a lot of work, all these projects, and I can't say that I think it's really worth it--I'd much rather have purchased an already existing horse property, but, at the time, we couldn't find any in our price range. Because we started from scratch, there is a deeper attachment and understanding to every inch of our home and property because of the work we put in. Every flower, every blade of grass, every board and t-post, has some part of us in it, too. (I'd rather the t-posts not have any part of us or us them, but hey, they're cheap and get the job done.)

As we all look toward Spring--what projects do you have planned for your places this year? What did you accomplish so far?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Good Days, Challenging Days & Beautiful Awards

You never know with horses--sometimes you have good days, sometimes you have, rather than bad, let's say, challenging days. Today was challenging. It was definitely the type of day that inspires me to go out and invest in another round pen.

Let me start from the beginning, and I wish I had video of 99 percent of my time out there, but that would have been impossible to do unless I was shooting footage of a runaway Mustang. It took both of my hands to keep her in check. But the beginning of the day was grooming, so let me start there.

When I groom, I tie her to a ring in the aisle of the barn. Today she was antsy, but I kept grooming and brought her back to where I asked her to stand when she got too far off the spot.

When that was over, I worked with her in her turnout to get her attention, then took her out for a walk. Right off the bat she was distracted by the construction work on the house at the end of our property. There was music going, I assume from a boom box, and guys talking loudly and hammering.

So, I worked her in a circle, but she didn't want to go, she wanted to run and kept bracing her head and neck. When I'd bend her in, she'd face me and go up. It didn't take too much of that for me to figure out the walk wasn't going to happen today. Back we went into the turnout and worked on moving out and bending. By the time we were done, she was moving easily both directions (I didn't run her at all because of the slippery conditions in the turn out).

At that point, I took her back out into the open again, then back into the turnout, then back in the open, and on and on until she calmed down, walked nicely, and stayed out of my space. There I ended it.

I made sure NOT to talk baby talk to her after hearing the video yesterday and then seeing her behavior today.

It was challenging, and I'm tired, but I know, and I've said this a million times and you're probably all sick of hearing it, but it's true, every day's a new day for a horse. Her memory of today will be in generalities, 1) The outside isn't so bad, 2) It doesn't pay to misbehave with mom, and 3) Stay out of mom's space. My memory of today, as a human, will be 1) Beautiful's spoiled, 2) Beautiful likes to rear up and run away, 3) Beautiful needs to work on respect. A little more personal, as you can see.

Now, for the fifteen blogs I'm going to pass this Beautiful award along to (And, I could have added more, but some of you already have the award.) I want to add, I think this award process is very valuable from time to time because it allows us to introduce blogs people may not have heard about before. I've been going to sites that I've seen introduced so far, I hope you'll check out some of these:

1. Andrea, at Mustang Saga Andrea encouraged me to start the Mustang blog when she found out I'd adopted Beautiful. She's been here for me since the start and I've learned a lot from her own Mustang gentling. I use one of her hand-made halters on Beautiful--it's my favorite.

2. Lea at Lea and her Mustangs Past 70 years old now, Lea is a bit of a hero to all of us Mustang lovers. Mustangs are her life (Well, and her family). She heads up the local Mustang group, mentors new owners, volunteers at the adoptions and trains Mustangs for potential adopters. I could say much more, because she does much, much more, but you can find all that out at her blog. She just returned from the Colorfest Adoption in Oregon, so she'll have lots of pictures to share.

3. My mom at The Serenity Gate Her blog has changed to book reviews, but she still does the occasional personal post. Some of you have already met my mom through her blog, but those of you who haven't, you may want to stop by and say hi.

4. Joanne, at Whole Latte Life Joanne doesn't have horses, and her blog is one of the few in this list that isn't about that subject, but I have received so much encouragement from her comments as she's followed along with Beautiful's story, and also, inspiration from her blog about following our passions, she's high on my list of recommendations. I look forward to every one of her new posts. I always come away from Whole Latte Life feeling good about life and wanting to do something productive!

5. Tracey, at Mustang Diaries Again, many of you already know Tracey--she's an amazingly active Mustang mentor. She works tirelessly with the breed, training, finding homes, helping with adoptions, riding her own. Her photography is also amazing. Her posts are always funny, entertaining and well-informed.

6. Pony Girl, at Pony Girl Rides Again Pony Girl is always on some adventure, her latest being lessons in side seat. She has also started her own shop at Zazzle where you can buy some of her gorgeous equine photos! Though I love the equine-themed photos, I thought this one would make an excellent Christmas card! (Hope it's okay to post this picture from your Zazzle site).

7. Paint Girl, at Adventures of Painted Creek Farm. Paint Girl is Pony Girl's sister! She has recently adopted a Mustang baby named Chance. She also, recently, got a job in a high-end Arabian barn and just got back from the big show at Scottsdale. Tune in to see lots of great pictures of that adventure.

8. Jennifer McNeill-Traylor, at Gypsy Mare Studios. Jennifer is an equine and all-things-Halloween and whimsy, artist. I also love to see her photographs because she has an eye for capturing the essence of everyday things--especially flowers--when they're blooming. She and I have both planted lots and lots of bulbs and I'm almost looking as forward to hers coming up as I am my own! She promotes other equine artists as well--Check out the Whoa Team--Equine Artists on Etsy for all things equestrian!! (BTW, I love the big-eared bunny--check that out and her horse-themed welcome signs!)

Whew! I'm tired, but I still have seven more to go, so it will be continued. Upcoming award nominees with bios to follow: Leslie from Hoofbeats and Pawprints, Nikki, at Spidersweb, The Heart of a Horse blog, Kara, at Must Love Mustangs, Jessie and Remington, who just came back from hiatus, Arlene, of My Mustangs, Wildairo and Echo, Kritter Keeper, from Farm Tails, and Froglander from Mustang Dressage.

Here's the 1 percent of our lesson today I could video. The end. As you can see, she's tired and her eye is gentle, though it's not as willing as it probably should be. Then again, when you're tired, you're not very willing. She and I are going to have quite a Spring. It's time for Beautiful to move up from mama's baby to horse with a job. Hmmm....

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Barnyard Video--Beautiful Opens the Door & Much More!

Do you think we could win the Mustang Makeover with this trick? As you can tell, from the audio, I had a little too much fun out there cleaning stalls. As a matter of fact, after listening to myself, I've discovered that I'm pretty goofy with my horses. Feel free to mute the audio when you play that clip.

Thanks to the Gun Diva for passing along this award--which I particularly like since it uses the word "Beautiful":

The rules are:

Link to the person who awarded it to me. See above link for GunDiva.

Offer up 7 things about yourself. These are going to be odd tidbits since most people who have followed this blog know too much about me already. Hey, I'll do it as a pictorial to make it fun.

1.) I complained about these flowers Valentine's Day 2009. Actually, they weren't quite like this when they first arrived. They were the kind that came in a box--you know, like the Superbowl ad this year--those wilty things that talk.

They were looking pretty sad when they arrived. I complained, it's true, but I did it nicely--constructive criticism--and my husband quickly took me out to buy extras to doctor them up. Some lilies, babies breath, leaf--and voila! They looked great. (I didn't get any flowers in a box this year).

This cartoon from the New Yorker reminded me of that day and I cut it out for my husband.

Honey, I got you some flowers to complain about!

2. I love goats. The ones I have in these pictures were my first. They were like real babies to me after I bottle-fed them. They'd follow me all over the property and hike out in the hills behind me--come running to me across the pasture--bounding everywhere when they'd see me come out the door. Sadly, they died of urinary calculi. Now I'm an expert on that (if you need help, call me), but it comes a little too late. Although, it did help me to save the wether I have now.

3. I'm a wine nut. I love it. This picture was taken on a wine tour my husband I took through Italy with his dad and brother and sister-in-law. It was in an old cellar. Some of the wine was hundreds of years old. Wonder what that would taste like!

4. I like to golf for fun. I'm not all that good, and I don't get to play that often (horses), but we live pretty close to an amazing course and I love to get there when I can. Hey, I could feed a lot of horses out there--think they'd mind?!?

5. This one's in honor of GunDiva--I carry a Lady Smith revolver with me when I ride. (Watch out!) It was a present from my husband on our anniversary a couple years ago. (For the record, I wanted it). Sometimes I ride way out, and you'd be surprised what you'll find out there. I hope I don't ever have to use it, but just in case, I have it. (That's the Wild West for you.)

6. If I get anymore horses, I'm officially a hoarder. Arrest me.

7. I smoke cigars and a pipe. I prefer smoking when it's warm outside. I'm not such a die-hard that I'd sit in the cold, and I don't want to stink up the house. I usually buy online from Cigars International and prefer the Maduro wrappers. If I want a light smoke, the CAO's in a tin, Earth Nectar--which is often on backorder. It's funny, but most Cigar shops think I'm buying cigars for my husband. They never assume I'm buying them for myself, and I've been enjoying good cigars since I was thirty. Along those lines, I also smoke a pipe--a beautiful Meerschaum pipe from Turkey with flowers carved into the bowl--I received it for Mother's Day a long time ago.

There you go, seven things about me. Next, I need to pass this on to fifteen more bloggers--so check back!

Happy Trails! And PS, don't even think about surprising me out in the woods. wink. wink.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Walking 101

Green rider. Green horse. That was me in 1985 when I bought my first baby horse--a beautiful sorrel weanling from Quincy Dan lines.

I still remember the day I brought my last payment to Harold, the man who was selling Tanner--and who also owned the boarding stable, Lucky Acres, in Lewiston, Idaho. I have fond memories of wild and crazy times there, learning the lessons the hard way--run-away horses, horses with saddles under their bellies, those were the days!

I stood in the pasture, rope in hand, colt in halter, getting ready to take him to his new stable home I'd rented for $45.00/month (hay not included). I said to Harold, What do I do with him until he's able to be rode? (Yeah, I wasn't very bright back then).

His answer. Walk him. A lot. Come here as much as you can, spend time with him, tie him, groom  him, and walk him up those hills--he pointed up to the steep, rocky ledges--over that creek--he pointed toward Tammany Creek--and around the arena--everywhere.

Well, let me tell you, I did it--exactly like he said. I'd come out, groom him, and walk him all over hill, dell and water. What else could I do with a weanling? I owned an Appaloosa gelding I'd ride, but all my hopes were set on raising that colt--he was my pride and joy.

Looking back, I think it was the BEST advice I ever received. When it came to saddle training him, he was a breeze. When we ventured out on his first trail rides, the early lessons in trust we'd learned on our walks translated on horseback. He was the most willing horse I'd ever rode. It made me a big believer in raising them from the ground up, and the power of a simple walk to develop a horse/human relationship.

Let's dissect it for fun. What's going on when you go for the simple walk? First, that's how a herd moves all day, every day, with the leader out in front--so you're taking that role of leader and you're doing something that they do naturally and enjoy. Second, the horse's brain is fully engaged and awake as he/she takes in all the new sights and sounds. They're more apt to get frightened, and it's in those moments you teach them about respecting your space, stopping, thinking things through, moving forward. Also, you're not asking them to do anything unnatural or difficult--you're basically just "being" together--and a relationship is formed from spending time together. Oh, and you're getting in shape (hear that Dr. Phil??)

Am I leaving something out? That's just off the top of my head. So, you see, the simple walk isn't so simple after all. It may be the most powerful, cheap, and easy training tool available to us. Ponying them behind another horse is also a lot of fun, but I don't think it, alone, develops the relationship between horse/human in the same way. You may disagree with that, but from my experience, when you're ponying, you have a lot more going on with the horse you're riding and the horse you're ponying alongside.

Do you walk your horses?

Have your neighbors looked out their windows and, instead of seeing you walk your dog...

You're walking your, My Little Pony?

She's kind of getting chubby isn't she--the pony that is!?!

Bye for now, hope you have a great weekend walking your horses!! (or dogs)

Happy walking, everyone!

Who Needs a Round Pen?

Maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part, but do you really need a round pen?

There are a few times I'd like one, like first saddle and lunging, sacking out, first ride, but after that, isn't an outdoor arena better?

I have neither right now, so my method is lunge line and the wide open spaces. And really, it's working out pretty good.

Today was the first time I lunged Beautiful in the wide open. We were on the spot where the round pen used to sit, and she did every bit as good or better than when it was really there. I think she was calmer than she'd been in the past, which was good since it's still wet. She's more mature this year. She feels to me and acts every bit like a normal horse now. Last year she was super sweet, but there was something flighty--this year, I don't see that.

One thing that's impressed me is her respect of my space. Yesterday I was walking her and I saw a big pond/puddle, so I traipsed through it and she put on the brakes at the other side. You know, when they dig those front feet into the ground, hind-end back and you're still walking with the lead, so their head is all stretched out. That was her.

Screech! She came to a halt. I kept the pressure on and stayed face forward like I expected her to follow, but I knew, like many colts, she MIGHT jump it and land on top of me. I was prepared, I was braced, but.....

She walked across nicely.

Then today, when we were walking the pasture, some noise (I didn't hear it--but I assume she did unless she's a faker) scared her from the side (I assume it was Ezzy, the barn cat who was stalking us from under the trailer). Now some horses will jump into your space right on top of you--or at least try--but not Beautiful. She ran forward, got to a safe distance from me and turned and faced me, feet a bit splayed out in the fear formation--eyes looking over to see what that big, bad thing (she imagined) was.

So, she's still a bit of a Spring-Scaredy-Baby but at least she's not so panicked that she puts either of us in any danger. She'll get past it.

Jasmine has been getting the same treatment. I keep her on a lunge line when we take our walks which is a good thing since a couple years ago she got the lead under her belly and yanked it from my hands, then proceeded to run home taking shortcuts through all the neighbor's newly landscaped yards!! I don't need a repeat of that! Today she did a very similar thing, but I had 20' of rope to hold onto. Ha!

It's still like Spring around here, if you can believe it. The sun is shining, it's warm. Remember the Forsytha my husband toted around Seattle for me?

Now I'm getting to enjoy it as I sit here and write and wait for my own bushes to take bloom.

Happy Trails today, everyone. And, if you have time--let me know your thoughts about round pen vs. outdoor arena vs. the great wide open.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Picture--Video Diary: Seattle on Valentines (And the Chinese New Year)

2009 was the year of Staycations--as they say, and I sure hope the trend continues into the years ahead. I mean, can you get anymore beauty in the world than you can right here at home?

Seattle is about a four hour drive from where we live--call me bias--but I think it may be the most beautiful, clean big-city in the country.

Our vacation began, as most Seattle vacations do, with Pikes Market--the historic fish/ flower market in downtown. Beneath the upper level of fish and flower vendors are little shops--bookstores, antique stores, trinkets for sale.

More images of Pike's Place Market....

We were able to get Forsytha in bloom--my favorite! If you kept up with my gardening blog last Spring, you'll know that I planted four along the east side of the house.

Here's our self-portrait--very touristy as you can see.

It was Valentine's Day--my daughter's birthday, and the Chinese New Year! Wow! As we entered the Wild Ginger for dinner, we were entertained by this troop of dragons dancing to an aggressive drum beat. (Short video below). It was VERY cool.

My favorite building may be the Rainier Tower on 5th. It's supported by a thin pedestal--quite a feat of engineering. I captured it below in video so that you can really see how stunning it looks when you stand beneath.

Here's the Rainier Tower:

Here's video of the exciting dancing dragons:

And last, we drove to see Magic at the trainer's place in Enumclaw, Washington. It's nestled at the foot of Mt. Rainier. As a side note, I was born in Tacoma--or Dacoma, as I wrote in my 3rd grade essay about my life. Here I've come full circle, back to the Mountain of my birth.

Not bad, a ranch with that kind of view. All of Enumclaw seems to enjoy the same picturesque surrounding. It's all flat land and opens up for everyone to see--I think of it as a generous view--rather than a stingy one--that only a few select homes get to enjoy.

If you haven't already, think about visiting Seattle sometime--you'll love it! Make sure you stay downtown. We stayed at the Red Lion on 5th which was an easy walking distance to all of the sites you'd want to see, but you could just as easily drive in for the day, park, and stay somewhere outside of the Enumclaw, less than an hour away in the countryside.