Sunday, July 30, 2017

Should I Shampoo My Horses?

For those who follow my blog, you know by now that I am what you call a minimalist.  Why?  Because I can be.  I don't show. I don't compete.  I ride the trails.  My horses train mostly at home, with me, so they're rarely exposed to large groups of new horses.  I try to keep down their stress levels which, I believe, is the #1 contributor to illness and injury.  I've examined every area of care and stripped it down to the essentials--smart worming cycles, rotation of pastures, the best farrier care, smart immunization cycle (not overdoing it), the best hay, and constant exposure to a stable, safe herd.  I want my horses to have fun and take pride in what they do at all times.

However, there was one area I hadn't really thought through, but I did today as I was giving Beautiful Girl her bath, and that is washing my horses with shampoo.

You see, at the start, as I was showering her back and hind end with water, it was beading wonderfully over her top line, keeping her from getting saturated.  As a recent Curly Girl minimalist convert, I've been thinking a lot about hair and the natural oils on our scalp, and I knew to recognize a good thing when I saw it.  Still, it didn't stop me from lathering her up with shampoo and washing all those great oils off.  By the time I was done, she was squeaky clean, smelling of roses, and entirely ready to go roll in the dirt again.

Since leaving the barn, I've been researching and thinking about it, and I've come to realize, I may skip the shampoo in the future.  I could have accomplished everything I wanted with water alone and a little scrubbing.  I mean, I don't think it's going to hurt her, but maybe there are protective qualities to those oils.

Horses in the wild do just fine with out shampoo.

My family came across what appeared to be a herd of wild horses last week at Lake Roosevelt and my sister took these pictures.  They were getting a reprieve from the hot temps in the cool of the water.  There's no doubt, horses like water and appreciate a cool soak--but water isn't as harsh as the chemicals in shampoo and, I imagine, it mostly leaves those oils in tact.

What are your thoughts on shampooing horses?

And, thanks for voting for The Willow Center!  You can vote every day up to August 31st.  Here's the link!  Thank you from all the kids who are being helped! Vote Willow Center.

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Horse to Heal a Heart

I had a guest and horse helper for the last few days, my nine year old grand-niece.

She washed Lily, the pony. She helped me trim her bridle path.  She led her through the obstacles in my arena.

My grand-niece lost her mom last year about this time, and as you can imagine, it has been a painful journey for her. But she loves the horses.  Horses heal hearts.

In fact, I know a horse who lost his mom, too.

Cowboy hasn't ever been a kid's horse or, for that matter, given kids rides at all.  When I first put her on his back, he looked unsure.

But after some wither scratches and rubs along his mane, he was melting in her hands.

He even allowed her to lead him through the obstacles.

I was proud of Cowboy.

My grand-niece now lives with my sister and her husband--her grandparents--and we plan to get her up here to the horses as much as possible.

There is a non-profit center in her town that helps children who are grieving.  It's called the Willow Center.

They meet every week and then have an annual summer camp for the kids.

There is currently an internet competition going on for a charity to receive a $5,000 donation and the Willow Center is vying for 1st place with three others.  Please click on this link-- Willow Center for Grieving Children --and click a vote for Willow Springs.  They don't ask for any information and you can vote from anywhere.  You can also vote every day!  If you can take a second and help them out, I thank you!  My grand-niece, and many more children who have lost moms, dads, sisters and brothers, are being helped tremendously. 

And, a little horse time doesn't hurt either!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Bossy Mares and Bossy Cowgirls

Woohoo--crazy, curly hair, sans hat!  Now, you know what I mean when I say it's wild.  In defense of the hair, the wind was blowing from the back--so, under normal circumstances, it isn't quite that Va-Va-VOOM. It's just voom. or vava.

I have gone full curly though--bangs and all. I don't brush or comb. I don't shampoo.  I only condition and comb it with my fingers. I use a special towel to dry it, one that doesn't take out all the moisture--t-shirt  material.  I use a diffuser that only gets the roots and not the "canopy".  I refresh it each day with a water spray infused with 3 drops of Rosemary essential oil.  And, I use a non-drying gel and curl cream.  I NEVER straighten, because curls have "memory" and the more you let it go curly, the more they remember their shape.

Enough on hair--let's talk horses.  It's hot, and it's hard to ride.  We spend 3/4's of our time now on the water. I'm lucky to get any riding in at all.

I did manage to squeeze in the above ride last Friday. It was a day with my daughter and her husband.  He's somewhat of a newbie to horses, and Shiloh and I know EVERYTHING, so the poor guy gets both ears full.

Colton, sit forward up hills.  
Colton, sit back down hills.  
Colton, put your heels down.  
Colton, let your hips move with the horse's rhythm. 
Colton, slow down around corners while hauling.

Poor guy!  We're ramming a lifetime with horses into a day ride, but he's learning fast and doing great and we should soon be able to just ZiP IT and leave the poor guy alone!

He's a natural.  He's the guy with a HEART for the horse.  He didn't come to it looking at them as tools, but as companions and partners.  I'd say he's 90 percent further than most.  And, he's more than  willing to take correction--he just prefers it be delivered with kindness.  (Hint, hint. Now, we know why our mare herd is so bossy!  They get it from  us.)

The grass is finally starting to dry up, and I'm able to leave the horses out grazing all day without much fear of founder.  They're much happier.  And, my life is easier only having to bring them back in at sundown.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Horse Has Changed, And That's A Good Thing, I Think

With good health, and training, my horse is getting a bit of an attitude.

A couple days ago, I was putting Cowboy away, and I spotted Leah, from the periphery,  moving at a brisk pace to enter his stall before I closed the gate.  Leah knows that when I bring them in, she gets to escape the mare herd (the mean girls) and get her supplements, so she's always eager to return to her stall, but she is usually easy to push away.  I put my arm in her path to redirect her--ask her to wait her turn and....

I got it ripped off.

She committed.

She dove in with all 1,200 pounds of her body.

The devil himself wasn't going to stop her.

It was one of those moments when you look at your arm--banged up, maybe broken, skin ripped off the elbow, as you realize your leg  hurts, too--and think--that was dumb.  REALLY dumb.  And, then you wonder why, why would you have decided to put your arm and leg in between an open stall (food) and a 1,200 pound animal.  It happened so fast, I could only go with my instincts and experience.  BUT one variable was off--experience.

Leah had changed.

My arm wasn't broken, though it is still sore and scraped.  I don't even remember how it got scraped or what it got scraped on--it happened in such a flash.

That night, I took Leah for a ride to the neighbor's barn.  Her different, "Girl Power!," attitude showed in everything we did.  First, she didn't let me mount, or more accurately, she started to take off as I threw my leg over.  We were in the neighbor's pasture when she was doing that, and she could see the other members of her herd grazing, so she was definitely mad that she wasn't with them and was acting out quite purposely.  I mounted and dismounted over and over and over, until she got it right.  The ride went well, and we headed home.  Once again, she saw the herd grazing--and she tried to break away.  I circled her back.  Turned for home, she tried bolting away.  Circled her back, and so on.

When we arrived at the barn, I figured that was a good time to work her in the arena--so she doesn't get the idea that coming home and eating is always the end game.  My husband had ran the tractor into my arena gate a couple weeks before, and it wouldn't shut without great effort, so I left it open and figured I'd test her and see if she bolted to it.  I figured she would give me enough of a warning that I could adjust and redirect her away, should she decide to break for the opening.

She did break for the open gate--and I did NOT have any warning when she decided to go.  So, we went through the gate and I got her into a circle and back into the arena--where I dismounted and CLOSED the gate.

All this is to say, my sweet Leah has changed--and that's a good thing.  She is no longer anywhere near obese.  In fact, you can see her ribs--a thing I never, ever imagined I'd let happen to one of my horses.  Now, after her obesity founder, a little rib has become quite a wonderful look to me.  And, it has made a world of difference to her.  Her new weight is changing her body, and her new body is changing her athleticism, and the athleticism is changing her sense of herself and what she can do.

Remember Little Joe, the horse my friend gave me.  He foundered last year, too--at her house. He recovered sometime during the year, but right after I got him, in spring, he developed an abscess. (I suspect it was the way he was trimmed.  Her farrier had left a lot of sole on the foot, probably as a protective measure, and my farrier took it out to return the foot to normal--but that transition may have caused the abscess.)  I poulticed and soaked it--got it to drain a little, but it would come back in the same place--or never fully go away. Eventually, I stopped soaking it, and decided to let time do it's thing while I continued him on a restricted diet with supplements.

Well, his abscess seems to have finally fully broke and he, too, is feeling good and staying thin.  Unfortunately, he is proud cut, and I have to constantly remove him from the mare herd, but he is a well trained little guy and will be a lot of fun to ride.  I'm going to saddle him up this morning and see what he can do.

Tonight will be Beautiful Girl's 3rd lesson/ride.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Anxiety Free Riding: A Tale of Two Horses

Yesterday, as I was saddling my horses, I started to think that anxiety is a little different than fear.  Anxiety can be this nagging--something's wrong, but I don't know what--kind of feeling.  Fear seems more focused on an actual thing to be feared.  And, it struck me, all of my horse training has gravitated to an overwhelming desire that my horses be as anxiety-free as possible.  I even prefer acute fear to smoldering anxiety.  You can get past a fear, but anxiety cuts paths through the brain that are hard to fill back up.

Because of that, some horses will only get so far beyond anxiety, and that's okay.  

Cowboy is a phenomenal trail horse, but he's insecure around large groups of horses.  I've decided he doesn't need to be around large groups of horses.  He's 22, and I'm not changing his basic personality.  He had a ton of training when he was young, but something didn't go right.  Maybe it's because he's an orphan foal.  Not sure.  But, in any case, he can be an anxious horse.  I love Cowboy deeply, and we have had a wonderful journey together--despite his anxiety.  Who knows, maybe I love him more for it.  I know how hard he has to work to get past it.

I want all my horses to get as far as they can get, but not to push them over that fine line of too much.  
It's hard.

In my desire to keep Beautiful Girl anxiety-free, I know I didn't take her far enough, but I'm making up for it now with the help of a trainer I trust.  It took me a long time to find that trainer.  On the bright side, Beautiful has had all good experiences and is full of trust.  Leah got a late start, too, probably for the same reason, but she is also full of trust.

Yesterday, I rode Cowboy and Leah to the next door barn.  Our neighbors baled hay on our fields, so we cut the fences in between our properties.  Generally speaking, I prefer to ride away from home--more trails and less barn sour.  Since I'd never ridden Leah from home, I didn't know what to expect.

She was rock solid.  She alerted a few times, like in the picture at the top, but it was normal new place, new thing stuff.

Cowboy, on the other hand, took a lot of reassuring, so we did things he likes to do--run, play, and eat. When we got to the neighbor's barn, he was worried about the other horses, so I dismounted and walked him through the grounds. 

That is a big change for me.

My thinking used to be--push them through their fears.  Now, I sometimes just get off.  I don't care.  It's easy to get back on.  I wish I'd done that with Cowboy years ago, but ah, well, I did my best with what I had at the time.  And, sometimes, your best bet is to stay in the saddle.  

Today, we'll do the same thing as yesterday.  Positive repetition is the cure for anxiety.

The jumping class was fun. Leah will never be a good jumper, but she was a trooper.  I took the class because I wanted her to work on foot placement and my own seat to help her get that proper placement. At one point, she tried to put her foot between the jump poles and knocked them off their post.  Rebecca told me to praise the heck out of her.  I did.  She said the last thing you want to do is make her think she did something wrong and develop anxiety about the jump.  We circled back around and she walked over the poles perfectly, without a nick--and without anxiety.

Rebecca promotes a "THIS IS FUN!" mentality in her students--and she wants us to do the same for our horses.  "So, you knocked down a what!?!  Poles can be picked back up.  Thank you for trying so hard.  Good girl.  I love you!"

Tonight, we have our bi-weekly trail clinic.  I'm going to ride Leah to the clinic from home.  Yay!  And, since she will have already done it twice--she'll be anxiety-free.  I'd call that perfect.

The jump.

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Second Ride on Beautiful, A Water Adventure, AND a New Car

I had a whirlwind weekend that started on Thursday and ended Sunday.

To start, my husband and I took our Waverunners up to Kettle Falls.  We rode them up the Columbia River (Lake Roosevelt / Columbia) to the Canadian border.

On the way, we saw a sign for a winery.

Would you like some wine?  Yes, we'd love some wine!

We pulled the Waverunners onto the shore and tied them off.

We hiked up the hill my husband is walking back down in this photo.

We walked through a gate that warned of "electricity".

At that point, I was a little nervous wondering if it was going to be a scene from Deliverance.  I mean, there's nothing in this photo that says "lovely winery in 1000 feet."

But we followed the path and came across the vineyard.

And soon, we found our Shangri-la.  (And, like the people of Shangri-la, the winemaker said he was 75, but wouldn't have passed for a day over 60.  He looked like a thin, healthy hippie with longish, blondish, grayish hair, and wearing a Hawaiian shirt that was open in front.  His picture is on one of the labels.)

Here is the label:

The China Bend Wine Tasting Room that he and his wife built 35 years ago.  It's called China Bend, because the bend in the Columbia River, at that point, is the same name.  Also, I heard they are selling the whole operation if you'd like to move to paradise.

Like a scene from Hansel and Gretel except, instead of candy and gingerbread,this house was resplendent of vino.

We came. We tasted. We bought. We hiked back to the runners.

(The B&B addition-click on the link for more information.)

Back down at the water, I took photos of the flowers that were growing underneath--at my feet.  It was like a huge, magical aquatic flower garden. Here is a small portion.

My husband decided to jump in and partake of that magic before we pulled out.

We were off again.  Here are some more photos.  I think they call these types of pictures nature porn.  Bahaha!  Whatever works.  It was all breathtaking.

We stayed at a B & B in Kettle Falls that night, and I drank too much Scotch.  I paid for it the next day when we spent the morning and early afternoon back out on the water.  You could say, I was happy to get back to land and start heading home.

Here, I will divert to explain a bit about what led up to what happened next: A couple weeks ago, one of our cars went on the blink. We are not car people.  We just want vehicles that safely get us to point A and point B.  We buy cars, take good care of them, and keep them.  Because of that, we have /had no car payments.  But my husband called me that day and said--It's time to buy a car!

I couldn't get into buying a car because that's a big chunk of money I'd rather spend on travel or horses or family get-togethers.  But I figured, if it was true we needed one (and we did) then the car should, at the very least, offer an adventure.

Back in 1990, I had a vehicle like that--a Toyota 4Runner.  I decided I'd buy another. The problem was, the 4Runners of today--at least, on the lot that I went to--were all fancy, city cars--and I wanted something more rugged.  I didn't know that Toyota had a special 4Runner--a rugged, tough, tank of a thing that just screams--let's go down that dirt road!  Until....

Driving home from Kettle Falls, in the teeny town of Colville, WA, I saw it.  The only car that made buying a car seem like a good thing.  The Toyota 4Runner TRD PRO with special shocks and tires and struts and metal skid plates and wire harnesses and coated bottom and all kinds of fancy gears to get you out of mud and snow.  The perfect car for Spokane--whose streets are paved with potholes.

And, I bought it!  Not that day, of course.  I was too hungover and seasick to stop and buy a car, but the next morning, as soon as they opened their doors.

And, we were off to the races.  A Runner pulling a Runner.

On Sunday, Rebecca got a second ride in with Beautiful.  She did great.  Here we are waiting for Rebecca.

There was an obstacle of tires I've written about before.  Rebecca tried to ride her over those tires, but Beautiful very politely took her front right hoof and drug the tire toward her--then walked through.  Rebecca tried it again from the other side and Beautiful did the same thing from the other side.  The tire even got stuck on her front hoof, but BG kept her cool and pulled it back step by step until it came free.  I'm thinking she may be pretty smart.  Just a guess.

Tonight, I'm taking Leah to jumping class next door.  Rebecca swears they are teeny jumps!

A little history:

This is the last picture I have of my old 1990 4Runner.  A certain person who will remain nameless (my oldest son) had it stuck in mud. I gave it to him when he turned 16 (he was born the same year as the 4Runner) and he sold it about 2 years ago--still running!!  I owe that car a  lot for keeping that boy alive.  And the many, many good memories I had in it.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Drill Sergeant & the Comforter

I rode Leah on the trails yesterday, and she came back normal and hungry. However, after her dinner, I noticed she wasn't coming out into her run.

It's easy for me to observe their minute-to-minute behaviors from our house where my comfy recliner chair look right out over the barn, and my comfy outside wicker rocking chair, also looks directly at the barn. You could say, I'm always looking at the barn. So, I noticed when my horse wasn't sticking to her routine. 

I walked out to the barn, opened the door, and there she was lying down in her stall. That's not normal for her. I walked her, hosed her back leg (just in case), massaged and comforted her, but I could not find what was causing the issue. She didn't appear to be colicing. She didn't appear to be lame. She was walking normal. No heat or swelling. So, I just kept going in and out through the night until about 12.

 On my last trip to the barn, I saw a horse's silhouette in the dark. It was standing at the end of Leah's run by the closed gate. It was doing what I had been doing--comforting Leah--standing over her as a protection. The rest of the mares were huddled in a group a ways a way. I thought, whoever that mare is, and I'll find out when I get close enough, that is the comforter--the true leader--and I was eager to see if my suspicion about who it was would be confirmed.

 It was Cowgirl and, for the record, that's who I'd guessed it was.

Here's Cowgirl in the same place today. Now that Leah's up, she's standing a bit further away from her gate.

Cowgirl is that perfect mix of drill sergeant and comforter--the hard and the soft. She demands obedience (for the good of the individual horse and the herd as a whole), yet, she's the one who is always there to protect and stand with the one in need. She was doing the job I would do if I was able to be in the barn 24/7.

Sometimes, you have to walk away and let nature do its thing. I did everything I could for Leah before I went to bed. But I finally had to close that barn door and wait.


 The farrier came this morning to change Leah's shoes, and I was eager to get his perspective on her feet and her fetlock injury. Leah had fully recovered from whatever had been ailing her the night before. She was up and at 'em. Hungry. Demanding.

My farrier tested all of her feet and watched how she was able to distribute weight on them. He bent them to place them up on the trimming stand. And, in a nutshell, he couldn't find anything wrong with her.

So many mysteries lately.  I don't like mysteries, but I do like happy endings.


Leah was so good on the trail yesterday, you wouldn't believe it.  She went through a stream like it wasn't even there.  She went over a land bridge with grass taller than her head and a thin, swampy path more narrow than her body.  She walked on like she was the most confident, eager horse God had ever created.

The other riders said, "She's a GREEN horse?!?"  

I love it when she makes a liar out of me!