Friday, December 30, 2011

Rockin' Down the Road

 Jazu the Wonder Pony at the honey hole

With a high today in the lower 70s, it was perfect for a ride down our old familiar road. Jaz and I haven't done this ride since last spring, but he was a champ. He remembered where The Usual Suspects (madly barking dogs) were and marched right on past. There were even 2 new little yapping dogs running loose that ran after and he stayed completely calm. Stupid people. Good way to a) have a lawsuit brought against you if I come off my horse or b) get your dogs killed because you're in violation of the rule about no loose dogs.

And while we're on the subject of stupid people, whatever happened to common courtesy? We live on a narrow 2-lane road, and people were flying past us. I kept motioning for people to slow down and was getting the dirtiest looks. Jaz is good with cars, but there's no sense tempting fate. I don't understand what it would hurt to slow down a little – you don't have to brake, just take your foot off the gas for a second. I'm sure they would expect similar courtesy from me if I came upon them walking or their kid on a bike.

But enough of that. Great relaxing ride down our road, and I hope to get in another before the Boyz go back to Iron Ridge next week.

Happy New Year to all!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Forever Afternoon

Tuesday afternoon.
I'm just beginning to see,
Now I'm on my way.
It doesn't matter to me,
Chasing the clouds away.  
— "The Afternoon: Forever Afternoon" by the Moody Blues
from their 1967 album "Days of Future Passed"

It was the very sort of winter day that serves as a reminder of why we put up with those 106° days during the summer: sunny without a cloud in the sky, with temps in the upper 50s. Perfect spa day.
I don't know what a spa is, but it's putting Jaz to sleep.
Not me. I'm wide awake.
Strange, but all of a sudden a nap does sound kinda nice.
Can't. Stop. Yawning.
Wow. They even serve lunch.
Feeling refreshed. How about a rousing game of bite-the face?
Ha! Jaz thinks he's gonna bust a move on me.
I'll get you, old man.
I only asked for a trim, but she cut off about 6".
Still, it's a nice facility. Look at all this clover!

The sun felt so amazing that Mr. Fry and I fetched chairs and beer to survey our kingdom and contemplate our takeover of the world. Another great day to be alive.

Monday, December 26, 2011

My Awesome Christmas Present

One of my least favorite things to do is lugging tack from my truck to wherever it is I'll be tacking Jaz up, which is usually the chute at the farm. I pull my truck close to it, make multiple trips to get all my junk out, then park my truck. After the ride, most times I take Jaz over to the truck, tack him down, tossing gear inside as I go. But I still will have stuff lingering by the chute and usually at least 2 trips back and forth.

Not any more.
The back "leg" folds in the direction indicated
and clips to the diagonal bar when you're pulling it.
It all collapses down ...
... for easy transport and storage!

If you're interested:
Time it right and you can even get free shipping.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Home for the Holidays

For the first time since May, Jaz and Daltrey are home. Although not anywhere near recovered from the drought, we felt like the land could tolerate them for a week or so. I have the sheer joy of being able to look out my windows and see ponies pigging out or playing, and I can walk out and spoil them any time I want. Bliss.

Both of them walked into the trailer calmly the first time, with no bribes needed. This was Daltrey's first ride while tied and he rode like a champ, despite the fact that there was nothing in the hay bag to keep him occupied. This was also his first time to be backed out of the trailer. He hesitated and wanted to come back in when that first hind foot hit air, but he listened and exited quietly.

 Not great forage, but certainly better than it was.
 There are a few patches of winter rye like this.
Jaz kept heaving huge sighs.

Mostly, it looks like this.
This is mostly clover with other weeds,
some of which they eat, some not.
But there are still quite a few places that look like this.

Turn the sound way up.
I've never seen him eat so fast.

I have off the week between Christmas and New Year to enjoy them.
Maybe I'll even take that dirty grey one down the road.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

An Apology for Grooming

a•pol•o•gy | əˈpäləjē|
1 a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure
2 a very poor or inadequate example of
3 a reasoned argument or writing in justification of something, typically a theory

My barn buddies have dubbed me the Grooming Queen.

I usually fetch and start prepping my horse well before everyone else because it takes me that much longer to get ready to ride. I hold the opinion that grooming is one of the most important things we do for our horses for so many more reasons than merely making them pretty.

 What do you mean, I'm a mess? Is that bad?

 I didn't mean it, honest.

The goober he is.
Mmm, your hands smell like ... carrots and cookies!

The beautiful boy he is becoming.

Back in my newbie days, I was clueless as to the nature of horses, and I had no idea how to handle my inaptly chosen first horse. I was unprepared for how BIG they are and how fast they can move. Heather's sage advice: only do what you're comfortable doing. For awhile, grooming was the only thing I was comfortable doing, so I did it a lot. It helped my horse and me relax and get to know each other. It helped me learn how to move him and teach him basic commands such as stand, step, over and eventually lift. It helped me teach him manners and patience.

Grooming has also helped me to know my horses' bodies and accustom them to being touched all over. It's useful in winter to help find wounds, skin conditions, lumps and bumps, etc. that you can't see when they're all woolly. My first clue that something was wrong with Jaz (ultimately strongyles) was that he flinched when pressure was applied to a spot in the middle of his back where there was no wound, no mark, no bruise. That's also how I found the little sarcoid on his chest.

And finally, there is nothing like those huge sighs of relaxation and pleasure that you get for your efforts. As far as I'm concerned, grooming is good for the equine and the human soul.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Grey Winter's Day

Finally got a ride in today after a 3 week hiatus due to either rain or the arena still being too wet to ride. The arena was tilled deeply but not finely, and the horses were a bit put out that they actually had to pick up their feet. I think we all kept it at walk-trot.

This was also a chance to use my new Nikon S9100.
I'm very pleased with this camera so far. I debated as to whether to upgrade to a SLR, but when I really thought about how I take photos, a P&S just makes more sense for me. This one is exceeding my expectations. It's FAST, as in zero lag time between the time you hit the button and your image appears onscreen. 12.1 megapixels with an 18x zoom — now THAT'S what I'm talkin' about. It has a wide variety of automated settings, or you can program it. It's almost like a hybrid between a P&S and a SLR. All these images are right out of the camera, with the exception of being downsized and optimized for fast loading on the web.
 Jaz wasn't happy about having to give up his new blanket.
Looking rather svelte — no more pregnant gelding.
 Rachel and Moon
 Chris showing Poko what a lance is all about for SCA games.
 I was at the end of the lead rope when I took this.
 Sure you can't get any more in your mouth, Jaz?
 Heather and Poko
Kris and Voodoo

It was cold for us wimpy Texans, but great to see my ponies and my pony pals.

What's up with y'all? Got all your Christmas shopping done?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Marking Milestones

It was the day after Thanksgiving 2006 when my adventures with horses officially began.
That's the day I brought Poco home.
I had purchased him a month earlier,
but we had fencing to do
before we could bring him here.

I was so lucky to also meet
my wonderful friends and mentors
I'm thankful for them every day.

Jaz joined us in early January of 2007.
Poco was so happy to have a friend.
I was delighted to have a horse I could actually ride.

Although I was already completely smitten and
trying desperately to talk myself out of it in June 2010,
I eventually bowed to the inevitable and
Daltrey came home in October,
when he was 8 months old.
Look how little he was!
(Look how green it was back there!)

 In February of 2011, I made the decision to sell Poco.
It worked out better than I could have hoped,
since his new home is none other than Iron Ridge,
where he gets the snot worked out of him.

Jaz loves being my main man.
It makes my heart sing when he whinnies at my arrival.
I regret every second I took him for granted.

(shown here with Joker's White Russian aka 'Red'),
is growing like crazy, becoming a fine young man.
I'm very proud of him.

It may have taken 49 years for me to get my pony,
but it's never too late.

"Don’t be afraid of the space
between your dreams and reality. 
If you can dream it, you can make it so."
— Belva Davis

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Big Ol' Truck

Big ol' truck
10 feet tall and 10 feet wide
It's a big ol' truck
Here she come again man
— 'Big Ol' Truck by Toby Keith from his 1994 album 'Boomtown'

I got my first horse in 2006, but I didn't get my vintage 70's stock trailer until the following year. I was driving a new Ford Explorer, and Mr. Fry was and still is driving a 2000 Nissan Frontier light truck. I hated the Explorer and have been driving a Nissan Pathfinder since late 2007. It has a back-up camera and I can usually hitch the trailer on the first try.

Both Nissans will pull the trailer and 2 horses, but with only 6 cylinders, you wouldn't want to do it very far. I don't trailer them anywhere else except back and forth to the farm (about a 15-min. ride) and the vet (a little over a mile) but even less now that the Boyz are living at the farm. 

We both commute 40+ miles to our jobs, so gas mileage has to be a consideration in our choice of everyday vehicles. Another consideration is a good, sturdy vehicle that can handle highway speed and is heavy enough to offer some protection in the event of a mishap. The Nissans have served us well in their dual duties, but we have been wanting a heavier duty truck for a long time. Until a couple months ago, the economy had put the kabosh on that because even though the Nissans are both paid for, we couldn't take on a car payment. We also wanted to keep our other vehicles, so no trade-in.

Then Mr. Fry went online and found this in San Antonio. And the price was right.

It's a 2005 V-8 Chevy Silverado in pristine condition inside and out. We think it was owned by a young Texas stud muffin for a number of reasons, including a kick-ass stereo and an after-market satellite radio. It also has a nice bed liner and a diamond tread finish tool box. It's a long way up for me.

It's easy to get going way faster than you should, especially with that stereo cranked. Mr. Fry and I have a bet: first one to get a speeding ticket in it has to buy the other one dinner. I plan on being at the receiving end of that wager.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Paybacks for Summer Heat

Today was the kind of day for which we Texans cling to hope while in the throes of triple-digit summers: beautiful blue skies, friendly, fluffy clouds, a light breeze and temps in the low 80s. Almost Thanksgiving and here we were in jeans and tees. I freakin' love it.

Jaz has been such a good sport as he teaches me to canter, but I know he's bored with the arena. So today the first part of our ride was in what we call the house pen at the farm. It's usually where the geldings and newbies are kept, but today, everybody was elsewhere. The last time we tried to ride this pasture, the cracks in the earth were dangerously deep from the drought, but today it was in fairly good shape except for a few holes, which were clearly visible. We even did a few strides of cantering while out there. It kind of scares me a little outside the arena because Jaz is ungraceful on his best day, and he's seriously overdue for a trim, so he's already kind of tripping over his own feet. Heather's been having trouble getting on Jon's schedule.

Heather rode the amazonian Midnight the Percheron, Sarah rode Nita's App mare Ishka, and Kris rode her Saddlebred Voodoo. Kris was trying new headgear on Voodoo, so she stayed in the arena, and we joined them after awhile. They all make me smile, because they kept making me canter some more because they "missed that time." Right. We're still only going about a half dozen steps at a time, we're just doing it more often. Although my seat feels secure, I'm still not getting the cuing or steering thing consistently, but we're getting better. And, most importantly, I'm having a great time.

The new baby boy at the farm is adorable. If you haven't read about Joker's White Russian (Red), do be sure to catch up on Heather's blog. He is two months younger than Daltrey and makes my baby moose look positively petite. Daltrey is enjoying having a boy his own age that also doesn't understand what the big deal is about running. That said, after our ride, I put Daltrey, Jaz and Red in the arena and got them going, which was a lot of fun to watch. Poor Red is seriously out of shape, if in fact he ever was in shape.

The perfect ending to a perfect afternoon was sitting in the driveway, catching rays and drinking beer with Mr. Fry.

What's shakin' with y'all?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Me Upon My Pony

No boat.

The weather has been crisp and cool with a enough rain to elicit hope, but that's about all you can say. I will never complain about rain again. I will gratefully accept having any and all plans called because of rain. Many people I've talked to have reached the same conclusion we have: the land will not fully recover from the drought without human intervention. I'm glad the horses aren't here or it would be a catastrophe. Mr. Fry planted a ton of grass, but it's not the lush winter carpet we were hoping for.

Jaz is still teaching me to canter. Thank goodness he's a great teacher and I am teachable. Last time I rode, we cantered the length of the arena, the farthest yet. It's still such a rush for me, I'm trembling when we stop. I am finding the experience similar to when we trotted in that I can't really think about much else yet besides staying on, so it's not pretty. Jaz has finally decided I really do mean it when I ask for it, but works very hard to keep me up there. I love that horse.

With the cold snap comes a touch of worry for my delicate grey flower, who doesn't tolerate sudden drops in temperature well. Poco was still here last winter and tore Jaz's blanket (for about the zillionth time) to the point where I'm going to seek professional help to fix it. (BTW, Poco's blanket remains pristine even after all these years.) Those blankets were inexpensive 400 denier Paul Taylor specials. While fine for most, Jaz needs something warmer, although I will keep the old one, which will fit Daltrey in no time ... well, for a day or so, at least.
I decided on this one, which is 1200 denier and waterproof, and even came with a storage bag. Red is Jaz's new color. Daltrey's is blue to match those amazing eyes, but he gets hand-me-downs until he stops growing.

Daltrey is doing great, growing like the proverbial weed and acting for all the world like a doofy, snotty two-year old. We continue to work on the basics. I had ordered a John Lyon's book of baby training exercises, but Amazon canceled it due to supplier issues. Well, dang. Guess I'll continue to make this up as I go.

I hope y'all (and your ponies) are staying warm, having fun, staying safe. What's everybody up to these days?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It Wasn't a Fluke!

Things always work out in exactly the way they are supposed to. This morning, I was wide awake at 5am and rather than fight it, I just got up. What a perfectly beautiful morning it was! And the good news is that all my chores were done by about 10:15am.

It developed into a cloudless and sunny day, with temps in the 80s, but there is a 60% chance of rain tonight and tomorrow. Since it was so early, I loaded up and headed to Iron Ridge. Our Sunday morning pony party will likely be rained out, or so we hope.

I was not the only one trying to squeeze in a ride before the rain. Erica had already finished riding Lady by the time I got there. She stayed for about 30 minutes longer.

Heather rode Poko and I rode Jaz in the arena. I'm delighted to report that our cantering last week was not a fluke. Heather is helping me get the cuing and the timing right. What I find so odd is how much smoother Jaz's canter is than his teeth-jarring trot. I like it; I just need to get used to it. And Heather actually saw it this time. We took a few steps a couple different times. Not pretty, but it's a start.
About midway through the ride, Jaz started acting as if he were exhausted, although I hadn't ridden him hard at all. By the time I tacked him down, he seemed like he felt pretty punk. Heather gave him a cookie and he wouldn't eat it. That's a red flag for my chow hound. Heather listened to his gut and it sounded like he might have gas, so she gave him the end of a tube of Banamine. I turned him loose and he nibbled the nubs of grass poking their way though the dirt from the last rain. There's not much, but it's something to do. I thought he was feeling better ...
If 19-month old Daltrey is not as tall as Jaz, he's close. His back used to be at the level of my outstretched arm, but now, it's up. He's finally starting to look like a horse. His back used to be flat, but now you can see defined withers. His barrel has deepened. Although he almost looks a little fat in this photo, he's actually ribby and hollow-hipped from his last growth spurt. I think he will surpass Heather's height estimate (based on the length of his cannon bones at birth). He may be every bit as tall as Scorch.
By this time, Chris and Rachel arrived to visit Moon. Chris usually claims Poko, but since Heather had already ridden him, he had the honor of Moon's first ride since her rescue 5-6 weeks back. Happily, it was uneventful. He bought her from Heather for Rachel, but I don't know ... he seems pretty smitten with Moon himself.

All the horses seem to feel the change in the weather. The wind shifted and clouds began to form. Jaz was not the only horse acting "not right." After rides and grooming, we all sat down to talk  I glanced over to see Jaz lying down in front of the water trough in the house pen. As we walked him back to the barn to give him a full dose of Banamine, he was farting with every step he took.

I left to get groceries on my way home and when I called to check on Jaz, Heather had also given him a little Bute, which seemed to make him more comfortable. My delicate grey flower.

Mr. Fry borrowed the Iron Ridge tractor, which has a bucket, and worked hard all day busting up the hard packed dirt and planting grass seed. I sure hope this rain doesn't miss us.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Uncharacteristic Brevity

Today, Jaz & I took about a half dozen steps at the canter.

Thanks to Heather for tilling the round pen, which always gives me a bit more confidence and sense of security when trying anything. I know now that my problem has been timing. I was thinking that canter had to be faster, and so I was getting into a really fast trot and asking for the transition, and Jaz wouldn't. Today, I asked for the canter from a slower, more fluid trot. I still have to convince him I'm serious, because we've just trotted for so long. I don't blame him for not believing me. Everything else must have also been right, because after I did it once, I was unable to duplicate it.

I'm whupped and super happy.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Showing Our Appreciation

I've said it many times and I'll say it once more: without Heather and her family, the good folks at Iron Ridge Sport Horses, I'd have prolly ended up dead in a ditch somewhere long ago. They have taught me everything I know and continue to teach, encourage and support not only me, but our whole group of Pony Party Pals.

Today was a day set aside to show our appreciation by having a BBQ on their behalf. Burgers, dogs, chips and soft drinks were provided, and everyone brought something or other to share. There was a great dip, dump cake, beer, and I made brownies.

And everyone came bearing gifts: buckets, hardware, vet wrap, halters, shampoo, conditioner, fly spray, brushes, dewormers, cookies, alfalfa cubes, Gatorade, etc. The most awesome gift: arena lights so we can ride at night!

 Watching a minor drama unfold in the arena
 Casey & Z (My D Zire — The Polecat x OK My D Lindy)
Z threw a tantrum. Casey showed him the error of his ways.
 Steph and the beautiful Godiva

Even some horse hubbies showed up, including Mr. Fry. Met some nice new people, saw some folks I haven't seen in about a year, rode Jazu, played with Daltrey, had the requisite moments of pony drama (none of which involved me or my horses), ate, drank, laughed, and of course, told lies. In other words, pretty much a perfect day.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Familiarity Breeds Contentment

I decided to vaccinate Daltrey against strangles because of new horses coming and going at the farm. I remember when I first met Heather and her family, they had a bout with strangles and it wasn't pretty or fun. The horses were miserable and everything had to be scrubbed with bleach. Jaz had it when he was a baby, and they build immunity, so no vaccine needed for him. Daltrey was feeling a bit under the weather immediately after the injection, but he seems to have completely recovered today.

Although it's still warm, the weather is pleasant enough to finally remind me of why I love Texas. This is by far the most gorgeous time of year. Today temps were in the 80s with a light breeze and nary a cloud in sight — a perfect day to ride.

After my totally boring (but good) ride on Jaz today, I brought Daltrey out for some patience lessons. I tied him, groomed him, picked all 4 feet, washed his face, etc. I took him in the arena and led him over the ground poles, around the barrels. We practiced walk, whoa and back. I brought him up alongside the mounting block, stood above him and leaned over him. He did well, but he's still very much a baby. He likes to chew on the lead rope and starts getting impatient after a few minutes of doing anything. Can you believe he's already 19 months old? It's gone by so fast!

Not much else going on with me or mine. Heather and Jae are on an adventure picking up a black Percheron mare. Last I heard, they had already blown 2 tires on the trailer. It may be a very long day for them. Oh well, it's good blog fodder.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Life Goes On Without Me

Weekends have come and gone. Most of them find me at Iron Ridge on Sunday mornings, except for last weekend. I had some airline miles that I needed to use or lose. Since I didn't have enough for a flight, I booked a night at a nice local hotel for Mr. Fry and myself to hang out. It was wonderful, except Mr. Fry can't take the sun like I can and ended up blistering. Not pretty.

Most of the time, I'm fine with my horses being at Iron Ridge. After all, I can only ride on the weekends anyway, and that's where my friends hang out. The sad truth is, I ride mostly on Sundays only, because Saturdays are generally spent doing the things that allow us to live comfortably indoors and keep the Board of Heath at bay. Now that the weather has begun to cool, I miss being able to jump on Jaz and take off down the road on a whim. But it still hasn't really rained. We've had a few showers, but it would take more than a foot of rain to bring us back from drought stage. The land has not improved, not even a little. So, at Iron Ridge they stay until such time as we feel the land can handle a visit from them.

Today was Pony Party and shot day for my Boyz. I bought the vaccines last week and Heather administered them. We put Daltrey in a stall and he didn't even stop eating his breakfast as Heather stuck him. It was a different story when we checked on him a few hours later. Nothing to be concerned about, but he was hanging out quietly, facing the back of the stall. When I spoke to him, he stiffly turned toward me.

Jaz was perfect, albeit a bit lazy, on our ride. We went about as fast as you can go at a trot without breaking into a canter. We're SO close! To be honest, I think I'd feel more secure if we were in the round pen rather than the arena, but either way, it WILL happen. Jaz got his shots after our ride, and was showing no ill effects when I left.

I seriously thought about shutting the blog down this week due to lack of compelling content. It's not the same when I'm not interacting with the horses daily. I decided to hang in there for awhile because Daltrey is now 19 months old and it won't be long until his adventures truly begin. Thanks to all who have continued to hang in there with me. I appreciate you.

PS -- I've mentioned our friend Rachel and her husband Chris. They have adopted one of Heather's Second Chance Horses, an ex-racing paint mare named Moon. Rachel has started a new blog, so stop by and check her out.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Less Tacky Post

This is one of those follow-me-down-the-rabbit-hole posts.

Somehow, I ended up owning 5 saddles.
1. This is the saddle that came with Poco. It was inexpensive (as was all the tack that came with him), and I spent months conditioning the stiff leather into submission. The "tree" is nothing more than a piece of heavyweight composite plastic, which makes it lightweight and flexible, so it literally will fit any horse. The seat has zero padding. I added a gel seat pad and a sheepskin cover that helped.

2. I then bought a Tucker Trail saddle, which I eventually traded for this barrel saddle I now use, but I kept #1 as a spare for when other people came to ride.

3. I remembered that Poco's previous owner also had an inexpensive Aussie trail saddle that I knew was prolly just laying around in his garage, so on a whim I called him and asked what he wanted for it. I'd use it if I liked it (and sell #1) or clean it up and stick it on Craig's list if I didn't. I didn't like it at all, but since it had a large seat, I took it to Iron Ridge for some of the larger SCA riders to use. I had a few nibbles from people wanting to buy it, but none ever went through and it's still at the farm. I don't have any photos of it.

4. When I bought #3, Poco's previous owner also tossed in this adorable Mexican child's saddle. You can't tell from the photo how small it is, but the seat is barely 12". It is also an inexpensive saddle, and I'm currently waging conditioning war with the leather. No telling how long this was on his garage floor. This will be my grandson's saddle, when he's ready.

5. And this is the vintage western saddle I found at the yard sale. It is coming along nicely. I'm into my third liter of conditioner. Go here to see what it looked like when I got it. I don't like metal stirrups, but I have plenty of time to change them out before Daltrey is ready.

SO ... I cleaned up #1 with the intent of putting it on Craig's list, but Kris, who has ridden in that saddle countless times, bought it so she'd have a spare. I threw in the pad that came with it and the wooden stand that came with #5. One down.

Somewhere along the line, #3 (the Aussie) turned up minus a stirrup and leather, so I need to either bring it home from the farm, clean it up, replace the parts and stick on Craig's list — or — replace the parts and see if Heather wants to sell it and just put whatever she gets toward board for the Boyz. Either way, I want it gone.

I also gave Kris a couple headstalls (both of which were given to me) that I never use and that don't fit Daltrey's drafty head now, much less when he's grown. My goal is to be down to 2 complete sets of tack plus the kiddie saddle. We'll see how that works. Who can resist the siren song and luscious smell of tack stores?
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