Thursday, July 31, 2008

An Award! I'm Speechless!

Wow! Thanks, Liz! You made my day!
[Brillante_Award.jpg]
Here are the rules for this award:

1. Put the Logo on your blog
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you
3. Nominate 7 fellow bloggers for this award
4. Add Links to the recipients
5. Leave a comment to recipients or email them to let them know they have an award.

OK, my nominees are:

Of Horses and Men -- Molly gets one

My Horse Life gets one

Adventures of a Horse Crazed Mind gets one

Cal Slayton gets one -- though he's much too kewl to put it on his blog LOL!

Juli Thorson -- ditto on the kewlness!

Less is More - Denise gets one

Saving Argus gets one

Thanks for visiting my blog!


Let It Rain

Sunrise -- Pilot Point, Texas

As I drove home from work last night, the sky behind me was blue and sunny, but as far as the eye could see ahead was dark. The wind was gusty enough that I had to keep both hands on the wheel. I could see a lot of both cloud-to-ground and cloud-to-cloud lightning. It smelled wonderful. I had two thoughts: poor Chula, and bring it on! Almost absentmindedly, I promised out loud that if it would rain, I wouldn't complain about having to get out of the truck to open the gate -- I was wearing a floaty skirt, silk blouse, and fussy little shoes. Not ten seconds later, the sky opened up and it poured and banged and boomed for about 30 minutes. Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor! This was very welcome, as it is not uncommon for North Texas to be completely dry from June or July through September.

When I got home, I angled the truck so I could just reach my arm out to grab the mail, then pulled up to the gate. I just sat there, reading the mail, enjoying the rain until it let up enough to not get completely saturated.

We got .75 inch of rain in that time, which was just enough to wash the insect population of 3 counties
(from crossing the lake in several places) from my windshield and grill. The horses enjoyed it from the wooded area just in back of the house. I'm hoping it helps the grass, which has been looking pretty bad. I haven't mentioned it here, but the land is over-grazed and we've had a lot of erosion. It's barely supporting just two horses, and we need to do something, but we need help figuring out exactly what and when. And there's always how much it will cost. On Wednesday, August 13, we have a county Ag agent coming to assess the land and help us devise a revitalization plan, after which I should have an interesting report.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Calor Abrasador

Translation: sweltering heat
One of these days, I swear I really am going to learn Spanish rather than the smattering of words I pick up here and there, mostly related to ordering alcohol and food! Mike and I love Latin American culture, food, music, art, the wonderful people -- all of it. I'd love to retire to Mexico or Puerto Rico.


It was 80 degrees when I got up at 4:30 this morning. The sunrise over Lake Ray Roberts already looked like the sun was burning its way through a purple cloud curtain. Triple digit temps all week.

I had to stop at the feed store and ended up getting a 14% feed with hardly any molasses in it, rather than the sweet feed I have been giving them. Then, I was almost completely past Paul Taylor's when I saw their sign reminding me they would be closed the entire month of August! SHARP FAST TURN into the driveway, since I'm almost completely out of Source. I have a couple weeks of daily wormer left, and hadn't planned on spending $160 there in addition to the $12 at the feed store, but I'm not making another trip. I'm not complaining - the wormer will last at least 6 months, the Source about 3 months and the grain a month or two.

I've been mostly coming home, hosing down the horses, maybe giving them a cool treat like watermelon rinds, and heading in the house. When I got home today, it was only 100, and didn't feel nearly as bad as it did the other day at 104. How bizarre is that? I put a bridle on Poco and hopped on. Do I have to say it? Yes, of course he was a jerk! That's what he does! I was able to control him and we just tooled around the back 2.5 acres for awhile. I did a couple yo-yos, but mostly we just walked around. We were on our way to the front half of the property when all of a sudden SHITHEAD Jazu came barreling out of nowhere and scared the crap out of Poco. Me too. Man, I hate when they do that!!! Poco bolted, but I managed to stay on. He was pretty flaky after that; it rattled me too, so I'm not surprised. My fault for not paying attention. I rode a few hundred yards, got off, praised him, then got back on and made him go some more before walking back down to the hitching post. This may not sound like any big shakes, but trust me, this is good for him and me. He got lots of praise and a couple Altoids.

Even though it's hot, I should probably tack him up next time for my own sake. I was lucky today... Maybe the next time I have a lesson, I'll do it bareback. I LOVE riding bareback. I need to work on my seat and balance. We've all been so busy -- and Nita and Jim are moving in this heat! -- it's hard to say when I'll be able to take another lesson, but soon, I hope.

Oh yeah, and next time I ride either horse around the property, I'm sticking the other one in the round pen!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Others

I'd like to introduce you to the other non-human, non-equine members of our family. All are rescues and/or foundlings. Mike and I made a pact years ago that we wouldn't actively seek new pets since they do a pretty good job of finding their way to us on their own.

Cindi
Cindi aka Ratweasel is a Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix that came to us through a coworker. Her mother had rescued her but the JR side of Cindi was way too active for an elderly person with limited mobility. Another way of putting it is Cindi doesn't know enough to stay out from underfoot. Cindi had been taken from a family (asshats!) that allowed small children to maul her as a puppy. When she gets excited, she gasps and wheezes from damage to her throat. We think it's from kids either dragging her on a leash or picking her up with their hands around her neck. Her tiny little paws (we call them mousy paws) are so delicate and she doesn't like anyone touching them. She has to be sedated to have her nails cut. You have to be very careful how you pick her up; her chest and ribcage are also very tender. She must have had multiple broken bones as a pup because she's so delicate. It's only been in the last couple of years that she'll allow children near her, and they still make her nervous. She thinks she's a big bad ranch dog. She's sassy, mouthy, loves to chase toads and grasshoppers. She's rotten inside and out and her breath could stop a train. She's super cute when her ears are up and you can see the JR in her, otherwise, she's just a little rat dog. She's about 10.5 years old; we've had her for 8.5 years. She's not as active as she used to be, but it has more to do with self-preservation than anything -- if she runs, Chula thinks she wants to play and will mow her down if she's not careful. After being knocked down like a bowling pin a few times, she knows not to run when she's around Sister.

Chula

Fugly sez: Don't Breed Ugly. Chula aka Boots is the poste
r child for backyard dog breeders aka puppy mills. Although purebred, she is not well bred. One look will tell you exactly how they butchered her ears: they turned the tiny pup on her back and did one diagonal slice with God knows what implement. You can't tell from these pix, but she looks like a cross between Gizmo the gremlin and a bat, poor thing. In profile, she's a beautiful dog.

A friend of ours asked if we would take her from a guy who was moving and didn't want to be bothered with taking her. We've always had Dobies and had recently lost one to cancer, so we agreed. Her previous owner was a salesman who traveled almost constantly. From a pup, Chula (nee Chewy) was kept in a typical Texas suburban yard with an 8 ft. privacy fence. Her only human contact came from people who stopped by to feed her, but spent no time with her.

Chula was alone all the ti
me. Her asshat owner never socialized her. She had zero manners and no idea how to interact with people, much less other animals. When Mike and I are home, our dogs are in the house with us. Chula did not know what "inside" was. Mike had to sleep on the floor with her for the first week she was with us. She was afraid of everything, including the tile floor, any household noises like the doorbell, refrigerator and ice maker, the AC kicking on -- you name it, she was or is still afraid of it. I finally figured out part of her problem is she is horribly nearsighted. She'll bark at me when I come in the door if I don't say something to her. If I am dressed in black or carrying a large purse, she'll hightail it for under our bed. She's terrified of plastic grocery bags and psychotic during electrical storms which we have aplenty here in Texas. Even sedation doesn't help. She's afraid of the camera so you really have to be sneaky to get her picture. We think it's because she thinks the flash is lightning. If you even put your hands up to your face like you're holding a camera, she's GONE. Chula is about 10 years old and we've had her for 7 years. She's come a long way, mostly because of Mike, whom she absolutely adores. She is a happy, healthy girl, whose greatest joy is when Mike lets her run the entire 5 acres. She's still just a mess, but she has a huge heart and tries so hard to be a good dog. It's hard when you're dumber than a bucket of rocks. Seriously, this dog gives dumb dogs a bad name.

In the earliest days of owning Poco, my experience with Chula helped me
deal with him.

Minnie
I had just lost Joe, my Himalyan, when one day in 2003 I was outside shaking rugs and heard a tiny, plaintive meow coming from under our storage shed. It took awhile, but I finally coaxed out the prettiest little tuxedo kitty you ever saw. She was
so tiny and finely built, I called her Minnie Mouse. She was a wild child when we got her and remained so for several years, but she's downright serene when compared to Leeloo (below). She was the bane of poor old BooBoo's (also below) existence. She may have been young and fast, but Boo's old age, treachery and sheer size got the better of her every time. She's one of those cats that, whenever you call her name or talk to her, you are answered with that little "Brrrt?" sound cats make. She is such a CAT - hedonistic, aloof (read that: stone deaf) when she wants to be, and smart enough not to get caught doing whatever she pleases. She pets herself. Minnie has many nicknames, among them Min-Min, Monkey and Princess Minniemonkey. Of all the house pets, she is the most impartial, dividing her time and affections equally between Mike and me.

Leeloo

Sometime in the first week of March 2008, an older kitten turned up within the dog’s yard, of all places, in the middle of a hellacious rainstorm. Mike put it in the
garage, then promptly opened the door to leave for work, and that was the last we saw of the cat -- or so we thought. This was a Monday. There is a certain balance around here, so there always ends up being two dogs and two cats, which is about all I care to have in the house anyway. We took the arrival of this cat to signal old BooBoo’s imminent departure, but then the little cat disappeared, so we thought it was just God amusing Himself. The following Sunday, 6 days after the original appearance of the cat, Mike called me into the garage. He had been moving and cleaning stuff, and there, behind the fridge was this cat. It had been in the garage with no food or water for that whole time. I tried to coax it out, and finally was able to barely touch it on the back when it literally leaped out at me. Needless to say, I was freaked out, but rather than attacking me, she wrapped her paws around my neck and started purring like crazy. “Oh! You’re nice. Thank goodness! Let me tell you what it’s been like out here!” She was dubbed Leeloo Dallas, after a character in a bizarre, awful Bruce Willis movie called “The Fifth Element,” that for some reason amuses the heck out of Mike and me. She is very affectionate and loves people. She has had to learn to interact with the other critters. At first, she hissed and growled at them, especially poor Minnie, whom she attacked regularly. Why Minnie, who still has claws, didn't and still doesn’t just kick her ass is beyond us. Things are better now, but there are still times in the middle of the night when we’ll be awakened by their “negotiating.” Periodically we find clumps of kitty hair from their tussling.
Monkey One and Monkey Two, monkey see and monkey do.

BooBoo
I have not tried to write about BooBoo before now and I can already feel myself tearing up. BooBoo was my heart. I love all my animals but there will never be another like him. We were soulmates and we both knew it. Sometimes he would come to me, stretching himself to be picked up, talking a blue streak. In his younger days, he was a LOT of cat to be carrying - between 15-20 lbs! He'd wrap his paws around my neck and lay his head on my shoulder or against my cheek. He was always purring, so when he meowed, it sounded like he was saying, "Mom." Mike and I used to say that BooBoo was so filled up with love and sweetness that he had to let some out every now and again.

My son (5 years old at the time) and I came across him in 1991 at the Dewey Animal Shelter in Las Vegas, NV. I was looking for a Siamese, and they had several, but none of them showed the slightest bit of interest in us. We were standing at the end of the line, deciding whether to make one final walk through the facility when I felt something on my leg. I looked down and saw this cat lying on his side, stretching with all his might, tapping my leg. When I knelt down, he started carrying on as if he'd known me his whole life. "Where have you been?? I thought you'd never find me!" I named him Gedde Lee, but for reasons I can't remember, he became and remained BooBoo or just Boo.

Not long after I got him, Boo started exhibiting neurotic behavior which I attributed to loneliness and anxiety. That's when I got Joe, the Himalayan for him. (Unfortunately, I can't find any pix of Joe, who was beautiful.) Boo became mother to Joey, who was only 2 weeks old when he was orphaned. They were inseparable until Joe's death in 2002. By this time, Boo was older, and didn't seem to mind being the only cat. He loved his people, especially me. He loved it when I'd sing to him and was especially fond of the Randy Newman theme song from the TV show "Monk." If I couldn't find him, all I'd have to do is start singing, "It's a jungle out there, disorder and confusion everywhere..." and he came running, purring and meowing at the same time.

Boo developed a thyroid condition when he was 13-14 years old. He was on medication, but we knew he was on borrowed time. The doc told us that at some point, the medicine would no longer help, we would be unable to keep weight on him, and his liver and kidneys would begin to fail. I kept hoping he'd just go to sleep, but that didn’t happen.
When Leeloo appeared in March of this year, Boo's health took an immediate nosedive. Within the week, the vet came to the house and my dear old friend of 17 years passed peacefully in my lap. Boo was a role model for how to age gracefully and cheerfully. As he was his whole life, he was a happy, happy boy to the very end. As my son used to say, "BooBoo is the best cat EV-VER." I know he's waiting for me.

There you have it -- the whole fam-damily.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Come to Jesus!

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy,
it does not boast, it is not proud.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth. It always protects,
always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Hang with me if you dare; I'm going out on a limb.

Heather once explained the concept of the Boss Hoss to me by saying the lead mare is God, and as far as my horses are concerned, I need to be God. I took that to mean I need to be their undisputed leader. Well, that too, but recently, I've come to realize it means much more than that.

I am not at all a religious person; the terms "introspective" and "spiritual" are more apt descriptors. The last church with which I was affiliated was Methodist, but in truth, the reasons I went were because it made Mike happy, and because I wanted our son to have the structure and fellowship growing up.

I never quite "got" the whole God thing, but it certainly wasn't due to a lack of effort. This was baffling and disappointing to me since I perceive the world abstractly, symbolically. God being both, I thought there must be something wrong with me that I just wasn't able to figure it out. Be more like God -- what does that mean and how is that even possible? I'm a human and a pretty darned flawed one. Do unto others, love unconditionally, let go and let God, our God is an awesome god. Yeah, yeah, blah, de-blah. The only times I came close to trusting God were those times when there was nothing else I could do, i.e., all else had failed, what did I have to lose?
I prayed and went through the motions of worshiping and praising God. Nothing I ever heard in church touched me on any other than a superficial level. I knew of God; I did not really know God. At some point, I abandoned traditional prayers and simply told God I wanted to know Him. I asked him to reveal Himself to me; speak to me in ways I understand. I asked for a personal relationship with Him, to experience Him in a way to which I'd heretofore only paid lip service. I had no idea what that might be like. There were no lightning bolts, no beams of heavenly light, no instant transformation.

Several years ago, our son went through some tragic, gut-wrenching times in his too-young life.
Watching the drama unfold was heartbreaking. Mike and I were in knots, helpless, caught in that awful limbo to which parents of adult children are consigned. It's a place where you know what needs to happen -- and you want to just grab them by the shoulders and say, "GO THIS WAY, TRUST ME" -- but you also know they need to figure things out for themselves. I found myself awake too early one Sunday morning, channel surfing. I stopped at a the beginning of a sermon by a handsome, squeaky clean, young preacher with a soft, charming Texas drawl. He said, "I want to talk to you today about lifting your children up to God." Seriously, the hairs all over my body stood on end. Rather than simply quoting Bible verses, he had the insight to apply biblical concepts and platitudes to everyday life in a very real and genuine way. In the time since, I've never actually made it a point to watch his show -- I can't tell you when or what station it's on -- but every time I do happen to catch it, there always seems to be a message that is personal and relevant.

Unless you've been under a rock for a very long time, you know I'm talking about Joel Osteen. Serendipitously, I came across his book "Your Best Life Now" at the grocery store and bought it the day after I first saw him on TV. It didn't take long at all before I began experiencing tiny shards of insight; Joel talked about how to recognize God's presence in everyday life, how to ask for His guidance and how to LISTEN with my heart. He talked about how to see God in the people around me. All of a sudden, it seemed as if all things were working together perfectly, propelling me headlong into the personal relationship with God which had always eluded me. I recall a weekend that, through no effort or direction on my part, was my big, fat "aha" moment. Insight and enlightenment, as it were, came to me wave upon wave. I felt as though I were completely different and yet, I was still just me.

I have found a very real sense of gratitude for every aspect of my life. Each day, I thank God for trusting me with my horses, for deeming me worthy of owning them, which I consider a great privilege. I ask for the understanding, intuition, wisdom and discernment to do what I need to do with them. About a week ago, I was talking to God about the perpetually challenging Poco, and I began praying for him, rather than about him. I didn't quite know how to do that, so I l
ifted him up to God in the same way I lifted my son that day and many times since. I prayed that I would understand him better, communicate with him in ways he understands. I prayed that God would open Poco's heart to me, so he'd trust me: "You know, kind of be to him what You are to me." Wow. I need to be to Poco what God is to me. I need to guide and direct him, but not forget he is a being with sentience and will. I need to show him the right path with kindness, firmness, gentleness, faithfulness, grace and mercy. God loves me because of who I am, not in spite of who I am. I need to love Poco that same way, for who he is and where he is right now, at the same time gently showing him what he can be. No matter how many times he acts like a complete jerk, I need to correct him, forgive him and keep moving forward. At times, that may require tough love, but never harshness, impatience, or cruelty. That's what it means to love unconditionally.

It has taken me a very, VERY long time to get to a place where I truly want to do what God wants me to do.
I choose to walk the path He's lain for me. I choose to be guided and directed. I choose to submit, to listen and to wait. I choose these things because God really is an awesome god. I don't mean "awesome," uttered in subdued reverence -- I mean shout-it-from-the-rooftops "AWESOME!" God so ROCKS! I trust God, not just some of the time, but all of the time. This is the place to which I must guide Poco: the place where he is willing to be willing; the place where all the hurts, injustices, and betrayals in his past melt away; the place where he has faith in me, trusts me, and wants to please me.

Poco may never be a step-out-of-the-boat faithful disciple; in fact I see him as a messed up cross between doubting Thomas, stubborn Peter, and conniving Judas. But whether his heart softens and he comes totally to Jesus (so to speak) or not, my job is to remain steadfast and true. His psyche is so damaged, if I don't, he will always be maladjusted, detached, and cynical. I am this horse's last best hope, and I intend to do right by him.

Y'all want ice cream with that nut cake?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In the Hot Seat

Mike and I went back over to Robin's on Sunday to clean out what was left of our last year's hay to make room for this year's crop. We packed it in the stock trailer then stuffed what space was left with the detritus of all the bales people have busted moving their hay. Robin had said we were welcome to whatever we cared to pick up. There are easily 50-75 busted bales of beautiful, still-green hay. Not ones to turn down free feed, we crammed that trailer full. We were picking up 5-6 flake chunks and tossing them up over the trailer door, packing it in so we could fit more. It was sticking out all over the place and rather than pull some out for the Boyz, Mike decided they needed something to keep them busy, so he just let them pull whatever they could straight out of the "honey hole." Mike is so amused by that, and the horses were busy for hours. We'll probably wait until we go through all that loose hay before we take the bales to Heather's.

Have I mentioned how blasted HOT it's been? That little trek to Robin's and I was dripping from head to foot. No "prop-puh suthin lady" here - I don't glow, I SWEAT. Change of clothes, shower at 9am, rest in the AC.

At some point late morning, I decided if I was going to do anything with the horses in terms of riding and working, I'd better get to it, because it was getting hotter by the moment. I couldn't bear the thought of standing in the round pen, so I saddled Jazu and we set off at a very slow walk down the road. Poco called to Jaz but I think it was just too hot for him to carry on like he has been known to do. We only went a little more than a mile, but I felt like I had a big wet sponge up inside my helmet that somebody was squeezing on my head. I have these wrap around sun glasses and the sweat was pooling in them because my helmet had them pressed so tight against my face. Every once in awhile I'd have to push my finger between my cheek and the lense to let the pools of sweat drain down my face. I got off at the turnaround point and let Jaz graze, had some Gatorade and headed back. He looked very funny with his pink lips and tongue. What a sweetie pie. I could barely pull myself back up into the saddle.

By the time we got back, I was literally shaking from the heat. Normally I get off, open the gate, close it behind us, then ride the rest of the way down to the hitching post, but I didn't even try to get back up again. We walked down, Pokey bringing up the rear. We had more Gatorade, then I hosed Jaz down for longer than usual. Poco really wanted Gatorade, but I told him he'd have to work for it. I did not have the energy to do much, but I wanted to get on him as a matter of principle. I put the bitless bridle (Dr. Cook's) on him, used the mounting block and hopped up bareback. I was only on him for a very few minutes. God knows if he had really decided to act up, I wouldn't have had the energy to deal with him. I probably would have just bailed. He did challenge me (always) but again, I think it was just too hot. His resistance was halfhearted at best and easily correctable. We did a loop around the back 2.5 acres then came back to where Jaz was still drip-drying. Poco earned his "good boys," some Gatorade and being hosed down. It was all good. How I love that jugheaded, worthless, proud cut piece of horseflesh.

Another set of soaked clothes, another shower and I wasn't worth a flip for the rest of the day.

Later on, the Boyz had some cold watermelon rinds I'd been saving for them. Another good day to be a pony.

Here in Texas, we put up with the summer because the rest of the year is pretty darn nice. Sort of the opposite of you guys in the Northwest and Northeast. What really sucks here is, when we finally have the extra daylight, it's too blasted hot to take advantage of it. Just about the time the temps are heavenly, it starts getting dark during my evening commute. Who the heck planned DST? Must have been a guy.

Yeah, I know, that was snarky.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

What the Hay?

Yesterday was farrier day and man, was it HOT. My tie-up spot is partially shaded, but Jon, who is always running behind, didn't make it until close to noon, so it wasn't much help. The Boyz had their pedicure, then a treat of cold watermelon rinds. I hosed them down and they immediately had a nice roll in the sand. What a good day to be a pony. I didn't work them because Nita was supposed to come today to continue teaching me to longe.

video

When I first got Poco (late fall 2006), I was buying hay from the feed store 4 bales at a time. That's all we could fit in our pickup and all that would fit in our little shed. Last winter, we again opted to use square bales for a couple of reasons, the main one being we didn't have a ring, nor do we have the necessary equipment to move or store round bales. Since we don't have a barn, we would only be able to deal with one round bale at a time. And then there's the waste factor. We get our hay from a guy (Robin) across the road who keeps it in his barn for us. It's clean, beautiful, densely packed 70-75 lb. bales. They are still nice and green even though it's last year's second cut. Whenever we needed some, we filled the stock trailer with about 30 bales, marking the amount on a tally sheet. We'd just store it in there, parked next to the loafing shed. Although convenient, I never was crazy about this idea: if there were an emergency that required transporting one of the horses to the vet, we'd have to unload the trailer first. Still, it was the best option we had.

Mike and I had originally figured we'd need 90-100 square bales to get through last winter. Robin put up 150 for me (I don't know which one of us misunderstood), which I paid for as a measure of good faith. Our original estimate was accurate; we had 49 bales left, which Robin needs us to get out of there to make room for this year's cut. This poses a multi-dimensional problem for us.

As you can see from the pictures, my horses are well fed. I can't even remember the last time we brought hay over for them. Those fat bellies are from grazing the five acres and a miniscule amount of grain, just enough to make their supplements (daily wormer, Source, grass minerals) palatable. The grass is down to nubs and it never gets a chance to go to seed, so it's thinned out quite a bit this year, allowing for more erosion on this sloped property. Giving them hay would be of marginal help to lessen the impact of grazing, but neither horse needs any more weight, especially Jazu, which is so ironic. So basically, I can't use this hay right now. Yeah, there are places we could stack the bales to help with erosion, but the horses would still eat it and I'm back at square one, and this hay is way too nice to waste like that.

Another one of those things you don't really think about horsekeeping until it becomes a problem:
we've GOT TO lay some seed this year, and of course we'll need to keep the horses off it. It's July in Texas, which means we have no right to expect any rain whatsoever for months. We'll get a stray shower or two if we're lucky, but not enough. What we have is indigenous grasses and common Bermuda, which thrive in hot temps, so although sparse, what we have is the greenest it gets. We've decided when the time is right, we'll sow some winter rye, then sow common or try starting some coastal next spring.

I've come up with what I think is a perfect solution: I'm bartering that hay with Heather in exchange for keeping Pokey & Jaz at her place when we sow. We took the first batch of it up there late yesterday afternoon. There, we ran into Jon again, who worked on 4-5 of Heather's herd. Jason, Nita and Jim were all there. Nita and I stood the bales upright and dropped them onto the hand trucks (dollies) Mike and Jim used to carry them into the barn. Had Jon not been working there, we could have backed into the barn and just shoved it out the back of the trailer, but what's a few more gallons of sweat among friends? Nita and Jim are moving out to Heather's (all their horses are already out there) and they are bringing me their hay ring. And Robin says he'll help us get round bales over here this winter.

Found out Nita is not able to make it today, so I'll need to decide if I want to work the horses (hot, hot and HOT), or which one, and what I want to do. I may opt to ride Jaz in the round pen, and depending on whether we see sweet Pokey or Psycho Gelding...well, I'll just decide later.

OT, but still relevant, my regular exterminator guy didn't show up this week and I found out it's because he's been in the hospital in a coma for three weeks. They didn't think he was going to make it. He got tossed from his horse. He's awake now, but it's going to be a long road to recovery for him. People, WEAR YOUR HELMET!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

My Kingdom for a Round Pen!

"A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!"
William Shakespeare, Richard III

I asked for and received riding lessons for Christmas 1997 from the long-suffering Mr. Fry prior to even shopping for our current property. I don't remember the name of the stable in Allen, Texas, or the name of the instructor who ended up skipping town about 10 months later with $75 I had prepaid for a couple lessons. The barn owners assumed no liability for the flakiness of their instructors, whom they claimed were independent contractors.

What I do remember and will never forget is Comanche, the 35-year old sorrel Quarter Horse gelding who was my primary teacher. Don't let his age give you the wrong impression; although bombproof, this boy was still pretty darn spry. I told my instructor I wanted them to teach me how to saddle my own horse, care for the tack and care for the horse as well. I wanted the whole experience as much as I could, given the circumstances. So my lessons ended up being hours and hours long, because I'd just hang out at the barn, taking care of business, picking the brains of anyone who'd talk to me. As I got more confidence, I rode a huge Palomino gelding named Buddy, who was a big scaredy cat (and who LOVED me, for some reason), and the instructor's dark bay TB mare, Havana. I loved the opportunity to ride Havana, who was a lot of well-trained horse. Occasionally we'd venture out on little mini trail rides (not far because of encroaching suburbia), the instructor on Havana and I on Comanche, but mostly, I became very comfortable in a round pen or an arena.

It didn't take very long after I got Poco for almost every conversation about him to start with, "If I had a round pen..." The repetition is itself very comforting to me, and if anything is going to go wrong, it's in a contained area. With Poco, that means when he starts throwing his head, looking for something to run me into, there's no place for him to go! Because it's small, with no obstacles to negotiate, I can concentrate on technique, whether it's becoming accustomed to a faster gait, or just concentrating on my seat. I don't have to worry so much about steering, avoiding trees, traffic, etc. A round pen would also solve the problem of the idle horse being a disruptive PITA when the other is being ridden.

Aside from riding in a round pen, I've also seen how effective properly executed ground work can be. The first two times Heather tried to work Pokey in the round pen, he immediately started running and didn't stop until he was lathered and heaving. Doesn't take Clinton Anderson to figure out how previous owners dealt with Poco's, er, spirited attitude prior to riding him. I was impressed at how quickly she was able to take him from that to responding off-lead to verbal commands only in her 110 ft. round pen.

For my birthday this year, Mr. Fry hired a guy with a backhoe to do some dirt work in the back, including level and till me an area for a 60 ft. round pen. This is a story in itself! I got home from work one day to find this ole boy (Dave) standing on the newly reset culvert pipe spanning the gap across the mostly dry creek bed that divides the property in half. I introduced myself and asked him if the horses had been any problem. His helper had left the gate open and The Boyz decided to get some religion (OK, maybe it was the Elysian fields) at the church across the road. I was wondering how they caught the ever-suspicious Poco, but didn't ask. I was just grateful we live in the country, where loose livestock is almost an everyday occurrence, and drivers tend to be slightly more wary of such things. Then he asked if the horses were mine. With a huge smile and that oh-so-proud mom tone, I said they were and that although they weren't anything really special to anyone else, I love them to pieces, "especially THAT one," pointing to Pokey. To which this guy says, "I wuz gonna ask yew if ya rode THAT one at night!" Then he said Arabians were about the ugliest, most worthless breed there is. I said, "Mister, you can insult my husband; he can defend himself. But if you're going to insult a lady's horse, the NEXT time I see you, it better be with your hat in one hand and a lead rope attached to a mighty nice pony that you intend on handing over to me in the other!" I was only half kidding. Found out a bit later in the conversation he raises paints and QHs. Still doesn't give him the right to speak disparagingly about my horses.

My original choice for the round pen was level, but completely in the sun, and the ground is very hard and rocky. I figured I'd have to bring in some sand. Dave made a case for putting it in a near-level location that is partially shaded, and where the ground has already been eroded, therefore soft and fine. Mike worked on the land some more, fine-tuning the grade. Since that whole area is slightly sloped, he shored up the low end with railroad ties. And then, as only Texans can truly appreciate, we picked up rocks. And more rocks. And graded again and picked up still more rocks.

Finally, finally, finally about 6 weeks ago, I had enough money saved for the round pen itself! We used our truck and flatbed trailer, but Jason drove and supervised the loading and securing of the panels. Of course, while at Paul Taylor's, Heather and I had to window-shop. Got home and the three of us had that thing up in less than 30 minutes! BTW, the big orange bucket in the middle is full of -- you guessed it -- ROCKS.

I just went outside to call the always hard-working Mr. Fry in for some chow and he was tilling the round pen for me again. What a nice man. Guess what I'll be doing this afternoon? Rockin' on!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Not One Bit

I still consider myself a novice rider. Although I ride my horses and manage to stay in the saddle 99.9% of the time, it ain't pretty. I'm working on my seat, but it sure feels like it's taking forever and like I'm still all over the place. I'm just now learning to post a trot. Like most newbies, I tend to be heavy-handed and apt to confuse my horse with unwittingly given conflicting cues. Jazu, being the consummate teacher, is patient and tolerant and can usually figure out what I'm trying to do. I've seen him with a child on his back who is yanking the bit almost clean out of his mouth, yet he remains collected and sweet. Poco, on the other hand, has zero patience for greenies, and will take advantage every chance he gets.

Poco was neck reined. I know the theory of neck reining, but I'm not good enough (yet) to put it into practice while paying attention to all the other beginning stuff -- posture, hands, heels, etc. -- so I direct rein. Poco's mouth is super sensitive and there's the slightest hint of scarring. The vet said his teeth aren't the worst he's ever seen, but they aren't the best either. We tried several different bits with him and he wasn't crazy about any of them. Though most of his non-compliance was and still is bad behavior, he does have a genuine issue with his mouth. The best experiences I had with him to this point were bareback with just a halter and reins.

Jaz and I continued our rides down the road, which were mostly incident-free. We did have one encounter which ended my streak of sticking to the saddle. One day as we rode past a property we pass every time, we were greeted by 3 large, loud dogs. Although they were behind a fence, their sudden, noisy appearance was enough to spook Jaz. He zigged, I zagged and was almost completely prone with my head on his butt. Unable to right myself, I decided it might be better if I just let myself come off. No harm done; let's just say I hit the ground with a part of my body with abundant padding. I have a helmet but was not wearing it -- I know, I know -- but this experience cured me of that.

By this time, whenever we'd get back from these rides, Poco would follow us like a puppy. The "Me, me! Pick me!" attitude rarely translated to, "I'll be a good boy." More often then not, it was like Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football -- "SUCK-ER!" After one particularly frustrating time with him, I came upon an ad in Horse Illustrated for Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle. One line in the ad made me go to their website: "You have a better horse than you think." I certainly hoped so. Every single negative behavior they listed could be applied to one or the other of my horses, and the premise made sense to me. They offered a 30-day "no questions asked" return policy, so I decided to give it a shot.

To this day, it's probably the nicest, most well-made item of tack I own. I asked my friend Nita (left, Heather's mom) to help me fit it and to be here just in case anything went afoul. I knew it would fit Jazu's little Arabian head, but Poco is part Percheron and has a massive head, so I wanted to make sure it would work for him in particular. It did, but just barely, on the loosest holes. He was confused, therefore nervous, but he didn't fight me. I only stayed on a minute or two, then got off and praised the heck out of him.

A few days later, I fitted Jaz with it and we went on a ride down the road. He took to it right away. When we got back, the Pokey Puppy came right up beside us as I was tacking Jaz down, practically sticking his own head in the bridle. I tacked him up as he stood there untied. It felt like a good day to die, so I took him outside the fence, walked him down the road a few hundred yards, turned him around, got on and rode back. He behaved perfectly. I was afraid it was a fluke, but we did it a few more times over the next couple weeks, lengthening the distance each time, and he did great. Feeling confident, Nita and I began riding together down the road, she on Jaz (I bought him from her) and me on Poco. He did FANTASTIC. We rode for hours and miles on at least two occasions with not one incident. The photo above is two very tired ponies after our ride and lots of grooming and pampering.

Well shoot, I'm feelin' downright cocky at this point! I think we must have passed some invisible marker that says everything from now on is going to be A-OK. And it was...right up until a few days later when I tried to ride him by himself down the road and Psycho Gelding acted up worse than I'd ever seen! We ruled out tack again and also ruled out being herd-bound. This was the event that caused me to load him into the trailer and take him to Heather's so she could see what was going on and offer advice.

This may always be the way it is between him and me. He's always going to challenge me; that's the kind of horse he is. As I have gotten better and more confident, his antics have escalated, which makes perfect sense: the little crap he'd pull in the old days isn't enough to intimidate me anymore. He keeps raising the bar and I'm better equipped now to deal with it. As Jon (farrier) noted the first time he met Poco, I'll never outgrow this horse.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Candyland

This area is home to some of the finest horseflesh and most famous horse people in the country, if not the world, so it only makes sense we're awash in all things horse. Today I digress from the comedy and drama to show you one of my favorite places -- Paul Taylor Saddle Company in Pilot Point, Texas. It's Candyland if you've got a horse, but fascinating even if you don't. I've already decided that when I am finally able to tell corporate America to kiss my tattooed ass, this is where I want to work.

In describing the store to non-horse people, I tell them it's like Home Depot for horses. You know how they'll have several models of everything in Good-Better-Best price ranges? Same here. For example, you can buy a $2 brush, a $6 brush or a $10 brush. Saddles start at about $300 for the Kia model to $10,000 for a full-blown Rolls Royce parade saddle. The only thing they don't carry is feed, although they stock all sorts of feed supplements. BTW, I have personally seen people drop tens of thousands of dollars in this place and not bat an eye.

The store sits on a working ranch. As you make the sharp turn into the long, narrow driveway, there are Quarter Horses on both sides. Directly ahead is the Taylors' lovely home. Another sharp left turns into the way-too-small parking lot, which is bordered by all sorts of fencing supplies, hay rings, racks, feeding systems, loafing sheds (I ordered mine here), pasture maintenance items and implements, carts -- you get the picture. More often than not, the place is packed, making the parking lot difficult to maneuver even in a small car, never mind a truck with a trailer. It's a popular stop for people coming and going from shows, so it's not uncommon to have the lot and the driveways over past the residence lined with all sizes of horse trailers and even full-sized tour buses.

I first visited the store in the weeks before I brought Poco home. The entrance is flanked by cowhides on racks, a stuffed buffalo and a stuffed longhorn, as well as sadlle racks, grain lockers, buckets and tack caddies and such. It smells good before you ever even open the door! I was
filled with a bit of fear and awe. I'm still in awe, but the people are so wonderful, there was never any need to fear. Chances are, the first smiling faces you'll see upon entering the store are Sarah and Lydia. You'll likely be greeted with a warm, "How y'all doin' today?" Along with Heather and Nita, these two young women quickly became trusted resources -- I LOVE these gals. Someday, I hope to know as much about horses and horsekeeping as they have forgotten. I have never asked a question they could not answer. Ask them for anything, regardless of how obscure, and they'll know exactly where it is and how to use it. When faced with a choice from among the plethora of products or devices, I always ask for their recommendation. Sometimes Anna Taylor also works up front, and you have to step over Lydia's Corgi when you come in the front door, but neither was there the day I took all the pictures.

As green as I was/am, I knew the tack and implements I received from Poco's previous owner were, ummm, not the best quality and not stored in the most favorable conditions. Besides the tack, the only item I kept was a hoof pick; everything else got tossed. I had no supplies at all, so I set out to buy tools and products for grooming the horse and caring for tack. I bought buckets, brushes, shampoo, detangler, oils, cleaners, conditioners.

Now's as good a time as any to address my saddle: hello, saddle. Sorry, I couldn't resist. I was trying to be diplomatic in the previous paragraph, but the fact is my saddle is okay for a first saddle, but that's about the best you can say about it. I've done the best I can to condition it and it's 200% better than the filthy, unyielding mess it was when I first got it, but to quote my late father, "You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear." It was practically new when I got it as part of the package when I bought my horse, but it's simply not made well, starting with the tree, which is some sort of composite material (read that: plastic). There is an upside to this -- the saddle is really lightweight, compared to a well-made one with a traditional wooden tree. The stirrup leathers are uneven, so I have to measure the distance from the stirrups to the ground rather than just counting notches. Every time I go to PT, I "test drive" saddles. Someday I'll be able to afford a better one, but for now, I just try to take the best care I can of the one I have. Well, that and I did buy a really nice lamb's wool pad and girth. You can be sure that when I do begin shopping in earnest, I'll be asking my Horse Goddesses for advice.

More later on headstalls & bits.

If you are ever in the area, visit Paul Taylor's. It's on Hwy. 377 in Pilot Point (Aubrey), Texas. Or visit their website http://www.paultaylorsaddlecompany.com

Monday, July 7, 2008

Small Potatoes

We moved to our current location eight years ago from a typical starter home neighborhood in a bedroom community outside Dallas, Texas. The lots were tiny and the houses so close together you could almost reach out the window and scratch your neighbor's back or other parts you may not want to scratch. Mr. Fry's dream has always been to live in the country, hearkening to fond memories of childhood on his grandparents' farm. Always one to bloom where I'm planted, I agreed. We found five rolling acres of mixed open and wooded land which, coincidentally, was zoned to allow horses. We thought we were in high cotton with all that land. At that point, horse ownership was still a "maybe someday" thing.

After about five years, I had pretty much written off having horses at this location because of the logistical challenges of the property. My brain said it wasn't going to happen, but my heart refused to let my dream
die. Then came that fateful day in late October 2006 when I impulsively ripped a notice from a bulletin board and dove in without a clue as to how deep the water (or manure, as it were) might be.

Right away, I found my perceptions of our property warping in and out ala special effects in The Matrix. For example, when Poco was confined to the front 2.5 acres, it seemed really small when I saw how fast the grass got eaten down to nubs. Same thing when I saw much poop one horse could generate and how quickly it could pile up. However, that same 2.5 acres morphed into a massive estate as soon as I started shoveling. Once Jaz arrived in January 2007, Mike was on a mission to get the rest of the property enclosed before the front 2.5 acres were completely devastated. It seemed so huge when I'd look out to check on their whereabouts and might not be able to find them at first glance, or when I went out to catch one. When I began riding Jaz on the property, those same five acres turned into a postage stamp. He can traverse the whole length of it in just a few strides.

There are definite advantages to being a small-time horse owner. I'd say "backyard," but that term is used pejoratively. The best part about it is j
ust being able to walk outside to my horses. My initial internet plea for help and advice brought the gamut of responses, but the ones that hit me like a blow to the solar plexus were those claiming I should board my horse out for at least six months. Why would I do that? I won't waste my money on a gym membership because then, not only do I have to be motivated to exercise, but I have to make the time in my schedule and put forth the effort just to get there! Why would I want to spend even more money to have my horse at someone else's place? Besides that, I just wanted to be around them, to hang out with them, understand their nature. I've waited my whole life for this. No way would I settle for only seeing my horse when my schedule allows it. Riding is great, but it's just a part of the overall experience. While I may not always have the time or the energy to ride, I always have a few minutes to hang out.

We didn't have the money or the time to cross-fence to keep the horses any distance from the house. We've been
fortunate, because neither horse cribs or has been destructive in any way. The limited landscaping we have is xeriscaping, which is uninviting and indestructible, in any case. The only casualty in that regard was a large pampas grass plant which The Boyz munched down to the roots in the dearth of greenery last winter. The unavoidable proximity has made the horses very social and people-oriented. Since they can come and check out all things human, they are much more acclimated to the sights, sounds and smells of things that many horses find scary. Several times, I've had to bump Jaz out of the way as he stood in the middle of the driveway to welcome me home. I've had to shoo Pokey out of the back of the SUV when he came up into the garage to check out the groceries I bought. Our relationship with them is not unlike what we have with our dogs; they are a part of the family in a very hands-on (hooves-on?) way.

There's another five-acre parcel beside us that's been for sale ever since we bought ours. I sure would like to buy it, but until the economy picks up, that will remain a pipe dream. Still, I can't complain. The horses are happy and healthy, and Mike and I continue to be able to live indoors. Life is good.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Life Imitates Art

In many ways, horse ownership is metaphoric for life itself. I've learned many valuable lessons and insights from my horses. I often find myself waxing philosophical, finding a symmetry between horse behavior or horsekeeping tasks and aspects of myself, my job or life in general. In honor of Liz's beloved Ariel and "first loves" everywhere, here is just a little of what I've learned.

Shit happens. When Pokey first came home, he was confined to the front 2.5 acres while we finished fencing the back half of the property. It took several hours a week to clean up the poop but, to my surprise, the chore quickly became something of a Zen experience.
Call me crazy, but not only do I not mind any smell associated with horses, I actually find it all quite pleasant. I'd get in this "zone" where my mind would wander to the normal BS that is corporate America these days. Suddenly, it all seemed so simple: shit happens. It piles up everywhere. Sometimes you can't avoid stepping in it. No matter how thorough you are, sooner (there is no "or later" about it) someone's going to make another mess you'll end up having to clean up. You just have to keep shoveling.

Bad boys are bad boys. OK, I confess: in my younger days, I had this thing -- call it a tragic flaw -- for bad boys. You know the kind: rock star good looking, really rough around the edges, dark, brooding, aren't happy unless they're flying down the road at 100 mph with their hair on fire, bottle of Jack in one hand and a joint in the other, keep you wrapped up in knots trying to guess what might happen next. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about and don't even pretend you don't! They can take you to the highest high and send your heart into the deepest abyss in a New York minute. Bad boys kicked my sorry psychic ass for a good part of my adult life,
because my sense of self was not strong enough to stay grounded and look out for ME. I finally had enough and eventually hooked up with a really NICE man, the long-suffering Mr. Fry. It took almost a year of having my heartstrings yanked in twelve directions at once to realize that what I had in Poco was just the equine version of a VERY familiar animal. And you know what? Bad boys are just insecure, scared little boys who are acting out to keep from getting hurt themselves. If you let guys like this intimidate you, you are setting yourself up for emotional (perhaps even physical) disaster. Bring it on, Psycho Gelding. I've got your number and I ain't skeered o' you no more, big guy!

Even if the sky is falling, R-E-L-A-X. It's not enough to ACT calm.
You can't PRETEND you're the boss. Horses are way too sensitive to be fooled by window dressing. No matter how counterintuitive it may seem or how hairy the situation, I need to relax; my horse needs me to relax. In the first days of owning Poco, I was completely unaccustomed to the sheer size of him, how spooky he was, and how quickly he could move. It was Thanksgiving weekend when Poco came home and my primary directive from Heather was to do whatever I was comfortable doing with him and to learn to relax around him. If I felt myself tensing up, I would sing Christmas carols. It's impossible to be tense while singing "Joy to the World," "We Three Kings," or "O Little Town of Bethlehem." Recently, after a remarkable month of compliance and success, Psycho Gelding showed up out of the blue and on a tear. I loaded him in the trailer and took him to Heather's, half afraid he'd behave perfectly. Just the sight of Heather, who BTW, has never laid a hand on him, causes Poco to hyperventilate. He knows she gets her way every time. He surprised me though, and as soon as I got on, he started acting up, just hinting that he might be thinking about maybe rearing or bucking -- "I could, you know." The first word out of Heather's mouth: "RELAX." Then she told me how to deal with the bad behavior. He kept messing with me for a little while and each time he did, my instructions always began with "RELAX." Before long he became compliant and we were both having a great time. This was the first time I was actually able to best him in the saddle and it was GLORIOUS. We were both in our rightful places and were comfortable with it. Works with horses and works with life.

The brain and the heart are mightier than the whip.
At first, Poco's whole attitude when given a command screamed, "MAKE ME!" It was clear he had been handled roughly and had been forced into doing his job. To me, he is not an indentured servant at my disposal, nor a farm implement with which to accomplish a task. We are a team; he is my partner, my friend. It would be easy to simply longe his proud cut ass until he's exhausted, then hop onto a more or less compliant animal, which is obviously what at least one human in his past did to him. The first couple times Heather tried to work him in a round pen, he just ran himself full tilt into heaving exhaustion. Early on I figured out I needed, and, more importantly, wanted to develop a relationship with him where he was allowed the time to develop trust and a willing attitude. I HATE to be rushed. It infuriates me when I feel FORCED into doing something. I don't like scary movies or haunted houses -- I don't like being scared AT ALL. My horse and I are very much alike. You can saddle Jaz, hop on and be on your way down the road immediately. Poco needs time to THINK, to figure things out for himself, to realize he's not going to die. He's come such a long way because we've taken the time to understand him and teach him things in ways that make sense to him and don't scare him. He is learning to trust and I am learning to be trustworthy.

Give the rest of the world a break. You won't find a kinder, more patient, tolerant teacher than Jazu. The more clueless or helpless the rider, the more Jaz looks out for them, building confidence, allowing the rider to work on improvement. It is not in his nature to take advantage of a person's inexperience. Jaz also knows when to raise the bar and challenge his rider, long before the rider knows it. Students (or employees, or someone being mentored) advance further and faster if empowered, if given the opportunity learn from their mistakes rather than having undue attention called to them. It's about progress, not perfection.

There's more -- way more -- I have learned from my horses. For now, I'll end by saying, my horses have enriched me and given me a different perspective with which to view my world and my life. They teach me daily how to be a better person.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Study in Contradictions

Poco's behavior on the ground continued to improve. He began to relax, no longer giving the impression he was wound too tightly. He started hanging out with Mike and me when we'd sit in the driveway to watch the sunset. One day, he even walked all the way into the garage (filled with way scary stuff) to check things out. The compressor or AC kicking on, pneumatic tools, chain saws, the garage door, Mike starting his kick-ass 1967 Chevelle (which literally rattles the entire house) – Poco was unfazed. If he saw me come out the door, he'd come over to say hello. His behavior for the vet and the farrier became not only acceptable, but exemplary. Both Jon and the doc remarked what a different horse he'd become – I was SO proud.

My relationship with him was becoming quite wonderful. I would sit on the small slab outside the laundry room and he'd come up cheek-to-cheek. He seemed to like feeling me breathe on him. The softer I spoke, the closer he’d come and the harder he’d struggle to stay awake. But the progress we were making on the ground was still not carrying over as success under saddle. Every once in awhile, if it felt like a good day to die, I'd try again with varying degrees of success, but it was sporadic; the victories were small and short-lived.

Whenever I rode Jaz on the property, Poco would do things like lag behind then gallop full-bore like some crazed banshee to spook him. Or he'd follow us really closely, biting Jaz's butt, or trying to pull the pad from under the saddle. He'd bite my boots or the stirrups. He'd try to pull the headstall right off Jaz's head. Sometimes he'd walk along beside us, then step directly in front of us, abruptly cutting us off, frustrating poor Jaz to no end. I'd smack him with the crop and he'd sulk. "Pain in the ass" is a mild, kind description.

Meanwhile, I was gaining confidence riding Jazu. Once Heather put me onto his game, he's submissive enough that it was easy to outmaneuver any crap he tried to pull. To escape Poco's nonsense and for a change of scene, I began taking Jaz off the property, down our winding, low-traffic, paved county road. The area mostly remains undeveloped and heavily wooded. Periodically the land drops sharply into steep ravines formed from rushing water when it rains. In many places, the land under the grass is very rocky and uneven. I do a lot of shifting on and off the road and from one side to the other for the safest, most comfortable-on-the-feet route for Jaz. There aren't really any smooth stretches long enough to get a good trot going, so mostly we just mosey, with a few secs here and there of trot. This is great bonding time for Jaz and me. We ride, he gets to graze, people stop and want to pet him, we share a Gatorade -- what's not to like? I was getting stronger, eventually able to easily mount and dismount without the mounting block. Jaz finally learned to stand still until I say he can move.

The first time we "went walkabout," Poco screamed his silly head off from the moment we started walking away. Mike said he kept it up the entire time we were gone, running himself into a lather. Jaz never even called back to him. It was likely the most peace and personal attention he'd had since joining the family. When we returned, Poco turned his back on us. After I tacked Jaz down, groomed him and let him go, Poco bit him and herded him off to the back of the property. The tantrums continued, but lessened in severity each time Jaz and I left the property.

One day when Jaz and I returned from our ride, I called to Poco as soon as I could see him. When I opened the gate, I encouraged him to walk with us to the area where I groom them. He stood quietly on Jaz's off side and didn't harass him. Every time I passed him to work on Jaz's off side, I'd pet him or brush him. The next time Jaz and I rode, same scenario, but this time, I swear, Poco's demeanor seemed to say, "Me, me, pick me!" I asked him if it was his turn, tacked him up and hopped on. I didn't push my luck and only stayed on a few minutes, but it was glorious. Riding him is such a RUSH.

Next time, same deal. He actually stood there, put his head down for the bridle and I saddled him as he stood, untied. I got on and -- sucker punch -- Psycho Gelding returns!

Upset? I was despairing, despondent. Heather and I were both just baffled by his inconsistent behavior. I didn't know what to do, but by this time, I was used to the roller coaster that is life with Poco. Sometimes all you can do is just keep on keepin' on.

Next time: Life Imitates Art
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