Sunday, December 31, 2006

Horse Plans for 2007

I want to keep working with Lena, to continue to improve my riding and her horseness.

I want to learn more about body work so I can help keep her healthy and sound as she gets older and as we do more with her. (Plus it's a fun way to connect with her physically.)

I want to learn how to tow a horse trailer.

I want to take Lena out and do different things with her, be it cutting or trail riding or barrel racing.

I want to be brave enough to do some article submissions to some of the magazines I read.

I want to be more willing to trust her, less willing to doubt myself.

Trail adventures

Lena doesn't have a lot of trail experience, yet, and so - in the spirit of helping her grow and breaking up her routine just a little - we walked down the road a ways to a nearby orchard. In order to get into the orchard, however, you must cross "The Puddle In The Ditch." I, being the leader in our little parade and on foot, sloshed through TPITD, primarily for Lena's benefit, though also to test whether the new cracks in my old boots are admitting water, yet.

Steve and Lena started to follow but then came the distinct sound of metal horse shoes clattering to a stop on asphalt - the horse version of slamming on the brakes. She has gone through the ditch before, even with a little water in it, so he very patiently walked her around in a circle and tried again. No go, so serious negotiations began. Steve worked through the sideways dance, the circular spin, some walking up and down the side of the road, not to mention the added bonus of waving cars past us in the middle of all that.

She did finally concede and make her way through TPITD, receiving much patting and praise for her bravery, only to sink nearly knee deep in the spongy, squishy orchard ground. But with much snorting and squelching - and use of her big, strong, healthy muscles to pull her feet out of the muck - we made it to firmer ground. More patting and praise occured, of course.

Not too bad for a horse stuck with two humans as trail ride partners.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


This is probably not in the safe-activities-with-horses category, but it was fun nonetheless.

Steve was riding Lena yesterday and walked up to me after warming her up so we could switch. On a whim, I ran off to my left, Lena's right, as they faced me. We'd done this a few times before, but not for awhile, and with varying reactions from her.

This time was different.

Those big ears went back, her head came down, and for all you'd have guessed from watching her, I was a cow. Well, probably not really, but she nonetheless went right into cow-mode and it was awesome to watch.

I only wish I had four legs and more stamina. :-)

Definitely a case where I could tell she was having fun not just going through the motions.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Weird horse wound update

I think in one of my very first posts, down at the bottom of the August archive, I said that if I actually knew all the things that could go wrong with a horse, I never would have bought one. So I'm exceedingly glad of my ignorance even still because it's less for me to worry about, leaving more room to enjoy her. Not that we don't still call in the vet occasionally.

In fact, Dr. Leslie was out yesterday because Lena's lip still hasn't healed. The good doctor says Lena looks healthy and athletic, though, so isn't particularly worried about auto-immune or systemic things. (Like I even knew to worry about that before she mentioned it!)

Turns out there is a build up of granulated tissue (proud flesh) that isn't allowing the skin to come over the sores and close them up. There are some on the edges that are healed, so we just have to keep Lena from licking off the special concoction Dr. Leslie mixed up for her so we can get her lips back to their normal soft, furry state. Not an easy task. The next thing to try - if she keeps licking - is meat tenderizer, which sounds a lot like one of those old vet remedies you hear rumors about, but I trust Dr. Leslie even if it does sound a little wacky.

I suppose I could be more worried about Lena's immune system, but worrying without just cause isn't helpful and won't change the outcome of a situation, so why waste the energy. If the lip owies don't start to heal in a couple of days, I'm under strict orders to call Dr. Leslie anyway, and we'll just go from there.

Besides, riding is more fun than worrying any day.

Horse Thoughts - Year One

We're a little past the one-year mark - it was in August - but I've been thinking about this post for at least that long, so I thought I'd actually write it.

If I could summarize this last year in one word, it would be a minor miracle.

Strength and power. Sun, wind, rain and dirt-in-your-nose. Stillness of spirit balanced with primal energy. Frustration with and challenges from the horse, myself, and other humans. Learning to dance with all four feet. Mud. Horse poop - a lot of it. Laughter, joy, and the simple pleasure of being in this universe.

In just one word? "Wow," probably sums it up best.

Only a little more than two years ago, the concept of Lena was a foreign idea - one not even in the realm of possiblity. Now, we can't imagine life without her and are even trying to figure out ways to add to the horse contingency. It's wacky, I tell you!

Lena has added so much to my life - not only in the riding and handling of her sweet, sometimes spoiled, spotty self, but in the time spent with Steve and Katie. The opportunities we've had together to work with Lena, as well as take her out into the world for new experiences, have provided lessons of self that have helped me grow in ways that might not have otherwise occured - even with years of intensive and expensive therapy.

Not to mention I finally have a really good excuse to drive a pick-up truck. I guess year two will include learning to tow, trailer maintenence and rigging that poop slingshot I mention in here to use on tailgaters. Possibly even horse number two - as yet unknown - too.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

It's Ike and Cheri's fault

I sometimes feel like a stranger in a strange barn.

We love our crazy horse, and we are learning what we need to do to channel Lena's natural exuberance into reasonable arena behavior, but we're not perfect and that sometimes creates conflict with other riders. This is also exceedingly difficult in winter when stuck indoors, by the way.

Oh, my kingdom for a trailer and another horse, but we're not there, yet. Oh, and no rain, either.

Here's the thing. We learned to ride up at Slide Mountain, where sometimes you have to ride through the craziness because that's what you do, that's part of how you build the relationship with the horse. The horses Ike and Cheri raise are strong and energetic and fun to ride, so you work with it because it's more fun, more rewarding, than just sitting on a horse's back and letting them do all the work.

It's definitely not that you let them get away with bad behavior, either. Ike and Cheri are just more accepting of horses with Lena's energy level and of people like us who love to work with that energy.

And why work with a horse like Lena? Because you can feel it when she taps into the power in her own body. It comes up through the saddle into your spine, straight up into your heart and soul - a simple joy that feels like flying. It's not even speed, per se. It's whether she's having fun or just going through the motions because it's better than being in her pen. And, yes, I can feel the difference and the experience is infinitely better when she's having fun.

Lena is a lot of horse and working with her isn't easy, but it offers more reward than almost anything else I do every day. (Even if it does make my arms ache on occasion.)

Ike and Cheri taught us to love horses like Lena, horses that challenge you and help you grow as a rider. I guess that makes us wild and crazy, too, but life's too short for boring.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Big Horse Shows

Big horse shows are big.

A week ago today, Katie and I were on our way back from our whirlwind trip to Vegas, back from our first experience with a big horse show. We decided if we do this next year, staying one more night would be good. Of course, Katie is already planning Lena's Paint Vegas barrel racing debut, too.

Back to last week. Because the arena had to be completely reconfigured, cutting was scheduled for the last day. On one hand, we missed most of the events, but on the other hand, things in the barn were pretty quiet.

The hotel itself is set up as an equestrian event center, with permanent stalls and a good-sized arena. All you had to do to find the barn was follow your nose. Some poor kid spent all day Sunday vacuuming the carpet of the alcove that led to the barn.

We got to our room - up on the 23rd floor - and managed to catch Cheri and Tiffany by phone right as Amber was going down for a nap, so had a couple of hours to kill.

We went to have lunch, then went to find the horses. Cheri had told me they brought seven horses from Slide, but when we got to the stalls, we only recognized six of them. I saw Vinnie first, then Cooper, Truly, Annie, Too Much Pepper and Peaches. But we couldn't figure out who number seven was. Turns out it was "Lena," another Lena, who they were using as a help horse.

We perused the gift show - gravitating instantly towards the most expensive headstalls available. Katie declined the opportunity to watch some of the Western Pleasure events and we headed back to our room. She didn't quite run away screaming, but close. On our way back through the hotel casino, where we dodged dazed gamblers and cheerful cocktail waitresses, we found Ike. He suggested Katie go up and change for the upcoming practice session right as Tiffany called me to say Amber was up from her nap. Nice timing all around, I'd say.

Amber and I hung out, trying to stay out of the way and find somewhere to sit after the cleaning staff kicked us out of the stands. Katie helped keep the horses warmed up, trotting and loping them in the practice arena, switching out as the horses each took turns with the practice cows. The cattle were - according to Tiffany - gross and nasty, running headlong into the horses instead of moving away.

The cattle did improve the next day - here are Ike (and Vinnie) watching as the helpers settle a group of cattle.

It was hard to watch the cutting and watch Amber, but there were some great runs on some truly excellent horses. Unfortunately, my pictures are mostly blurry because of how fast everyone was moving and because we were indoors. Amber spent time watching the cutting, watching me take pictures of the cutting, looking at the pictures I took, and climbing up and down the stairs with me right behind her. I got a great work out! Probably the most amazing thing was how long Amber played with her Play-doh. I don't think I've ever seen a 2-year old play with anything for 4 hours straight. Ever! I did get in trouble with her, though, for yelling "too loud" during Tiffany and Truly's Non-Pro run. I told her I had to, it was for her mommy. :-)

All of Ike and Cheri's horses made the finals, which was really cool, and Tiffany got reserve champion in both the Open and the Non-Pro categories. In the Non-Pro, she was only behind the leader by a measly 0.5 points, but she had a really exciting ride. (Hence the aforementioned "too loud" shouting.)

It was a fast trip, and I would have liked to spend more time with the Slide folks, but the time we did spend was pretty special. I got to watch Katie reconnect with riding and with people who really treat her as if they like her. (Because they do, of course.) I got to be reminded that there are people out there who really appreciate and enjoy wild and crazy - and smart - horses like Lena. That was a pretty special suprise to get out of this trip and one of the many reasons it was worth going.

And it was wonderful to come home to Lena Rey and Steve and share the after-glow of that gift with them.

Congtratulations, Slide Mountain crew! You guys are awesome!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Paint Vegas tomorrow

Katie and I leave tomorrow morning, early. We're all packed, big belt buckle and all.

It will be interesting, we think, no matter what all happens.

More to come, I promise. :-)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A little spoiled

Okay, so I'm a little spoiled.

Owning a horse is a luxury I'm lucky enough to be able to afford, one that I work hard for and am thankful for every single day.

Riding has become such a part of my day, my life, that doing without it is nearly unimaginable, but I know I could. Since I was afraid of the big beasts only a few years ago, that seems like living without them wouldn't be that hard.

But now? While Lena seems excessive or extraneous in the master scheme of things, I know not having her would leave an awfully big hole for me, and for Steve and Katie, too. A small hole in the universe, to be sure, but since I'm a mere spec in the universe, I get my soul sustenance where I can.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Riding is not a luxury

I know a lot of people think that riding horses is a luxury, but it's not. I do concede that owning a horse may seem like a luxury, until you're cleaning out the stalls. But riding Lena saves my sanity in a way not many other things do, which makes it a necessity in my mind.

Work has been a little hectic lately because of some overall organizational changes that are going on. The best part of my day sometimes - most times - is walking away from it and plopping my butt on Lena's back and working out whatever it is we are working out that day.

I got stuck at the office yesterday and by the time I got to the barn, Steve had ridden Lena and put her away. I was so disappointed I almost cried, but at least she got ridden and Steve said they had a good ride, which are both good things.

Doesn't stop the disappointment, mind you, but at least she's getting the attention she needs even if I'm not getting the exercise or - more importantly on any given day - the grounding she provides. I think I'm good for her, too. I work with her in an entirely different way than Steve does, which gives her training a nice balance.

Handling her - grooming, my lightweight version of body work, etc. - is soothing, too, but there is something about riding, about communicating with her using physical contact of one form or another rather than words, that is very centering for me. And hopefully remotely educational for her. :-)

I figure riding actually makes me a better employee. Sadly, I don't think my employer would see it that way were I to ask to work from the barn. Though there is wireless there. :-)

So, because I'm not independently wealthy, I have to do what most horse owners do and balance work and what I really want to be doing - riding. Sometimes that means I miss out, which isn't any fun. I guess if there is a luxury component to this, it's that even if my riding skills start to deteriorate, Lena is still getting lots and lots of attention. There are a lot of horses that can't say that.

I'd still rather be riding.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Horse trailer update

We think we found a horse trailer that at least has all the features we would want and not any we don't.

It's this one from Trails West - only the bumper-pull, two-horse, slant-load version, not the one in the picture. We went to the one of the local dealers, poked around his lot, and this one fit the bill pretty perfectly. Here are the floor plans.

Aside from the basic features above, it's got what they call a telescoping divider, but what that means to non-trailer-savvy folks is that the divider actually shifts over where it attaches to the wall so you can have a large compartment in the back for one horse, or two compartments - depending on who you're hauling. Nice mechanism, says the engineer among us. (Steve, that is.) Not overly-difficult to move, but solid like you would want something keeping horses in place to be.

It's steel, and I know that some people recommend aluminum to fend off rust, but aluminum trailers tend to be about twice the price and since we are pretty diligent about vehicle maintenance in general, guarding against rust will become part of that routine. (But, hey, if I could find a good aluminum trailer for the same price with the same features, I'd take it, too.)

There is a nicely set up and equipped tack room, including a 25-gallon water tank, which will come in handy for what we want to do. (Horse camping and such.)

It has drop-down windows on the "head" side and slat openings on the "butt" side, which you can cover up with Plexiglas during bad weather.

I wanted to mount spotlights on the back in case someone starts to tailgate, but Steve said that it is illegal to blind other drivers.

"How about a poop catapult?" I asked.

Maybe my friends at Make Magazine can make me something that would do the trick. It would have to calculate the angle so as not to hit the windshield and block vision, but to at least strike the hood of the offending car with great gooeyness and splattering.

If the judge I get after being arrested for causing traffic problems is a horse-owner, I bet I only get a mild warning.

Weird horse wounds

Here's a horse injury that you might not think of until it happens.

Most of us out there have gotten our tongue stuck on something cold, even if only momentarily. I admit that I once lost a bit of the end of my tongue to our freezer.

The other evening, I was rubbing Lena's nose and lips and felt a dime-sized (or so) sore there. I got her to hold still so I could see it and it looked an awful lot like she had ripped off part of her lip when it got stuck to one of the metal bars around her paddock. (It's been really cold the last week or so, and the bars had ice on them.)

I can only imagine her reaction at having that very sensitive and flexible top lip glue itself rather firmly to the bar. Hopefully, it was less painful for her than removing my tongue from the door inside the freezer was for me.

I did check her tongue, too, which appears to be unscathed.

She seems to be healing fine, and I can only hope she has learned the same lesson the rest of us have about cold things and moist body parts not mixing well - though she probably has less of an embarrassment factor than humans do. Maybe.

Horse breaks

One of the greatest things that owning a horse has done is get me outside. I know that sounds obvious, but it's been a long time since I've spent this much time outdoors and it's one of the things I've come to appreciate a lot.

The other morning, it was all of about 29 degree when I got to the barn - warm by some folks' standards, but pretty darn cold for a California girl. And, like every good California girl, I grumbled about it as I pulled on my hat and gloves.

Then I started thinking about how much time I spend outside and the gift that really is.

If I didn't have Lena, I would drive straight into the office every morning, warm and toasty inside my car. And while I would be warmer, I'd be insulated from the early morning air. I'd miss the way the frost makes even barren pastures look magical. I wouldn't see the mist rising as the winter sun makes every valiant attempt to warm the ground. Not to mention never seeing the way the cloud of Lena's breath swirls around her spotty head as she watches me come up to her paddock.

The horses get frisky in this kind of weather, bucking in their paddocks, racing each other in the pastures. Right after I took the picture below, the mare on the right - Gypsy - came galloping up to the fence to see what I was doing. Or maybe because she thought I had treats. Or maybe just because it's fun to kick up your heels when the air is crisp and clear.

Life is full of excuses to hide inside. Lena gives me an excuse to be out and I love it. Even when my nose gets cold.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Happy Birthday to Number 88

Since my daughter Katie was the impetus for our horse experience, it is only fitting that I use my horse blog as a platform to wish her a very happy sixteenth birthday today.

Katie is a truly awesome young woman, and not just because she's my daughter. Maybe in spite of the fact that I'm her mother, though. :-)

Happy Birthday, Katie.

I love you.


Horse Trailer Shopping

After the exhileration of buying the truck, I felt a minor let-down upon realizing there would be no more car shopping -- at least for a little while.

But then I realized we could go horse trailer shopping and truck accessory shopping! And, since we're not in a huge hurry, this phase can last for a few months at least.

So I've been to one trailer lot and I've done some research online and I have absolutely no idea what in the world I'm doing.

I do know, I think, what we want. A two-horse, slant-load, bumper-pull, probably aluminum with actual windows at least on one side and a decent-sized tack room. It doesn't have to be new and it doesn't have to be overly fancy, but since it will be hauling someone very precious, it has to be in good shape. And it should be about 7'x7' to fit her royal highness comfortably. (It's the ears we have to allow for, after all.)

I'd also prefer not to pay $18,000 for it, which is what I got quoted the other day for a Featherlite. (I understand they make nice trailers, but that seems pretty pricey in any case.)

After that, we'll have to figure out the wiring and practice hauling the trailer empty a few times before attempting to pull Lena around.

Ah, the start of a whole new adventure.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Night workouts

Here we are, back in the time of year when the indoor arena comes in handy. Of course, that involves re-training Lena - again.

Yes, it's dark outside. Yes, the lights overhead make your shadow stand out more in this corner. Yes, the noises from Peter's feed cart rolling by outside echo like crazy under that metal roof. Yes, the rain makes a lot of noise on that same metal roof. Yes, the other horses are also a little freaked out - or not - but you can still share space with them and not act like a goof ball.

In other words, it's the "any excuse" time of year, which I guess is just like all year. Same challenge, different excuse, always testing.

Life with Lena. I wouldn't change it for anything in the world.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Horse blankets

Maybe it's just me, but there is no perfect blanketing solution for horses - maybe particularly in California.

If we work Lena as hard as she needs, she gets sweaty. It's too cold at night to leave her sweaty outside - she doesn't do well in an indoor stall - so we have to blanket her, but she still can't be too sweaty or she'll mold (basically) under her blanket. It makes sense, since it's what would give us athlete's foot if we were to do the same thing, but it does make for a challenge with a horse with Lena's energy.

Katie D. clips Fenway, which works really well for her. But if we did that to Lena, she'd always have to have a blanket on because she's outside. Bah.

Not to mention the blanket maintenence. We have three blankets, all of them dirty at the moment. Really, we need two more so I can wash both the heavy and the light blankets and still have something to cover Lena with.

You would think, with all the backpacking gear in the world, that someone could invent - for not too much money - a waterproof blanket that breathes, wicks moisture away, and doesn't bunch up their hair underneath it. I repeat - for NOT a lot of money!

I suppose I'm dreaming, but if I were the least bit talented, I would figure this out and make millions!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Vegas, here we come

I've made my reservations for Paint Vegas and am really looking forward to going!

Not only will it be great to see the Slide Mountan folks, but I'm interested to see what it's like behind the scenes of a really big show like this.

Plus, I'll get to spend some time with my daughter, which is always a treat.

More to follow from the show - December 10th is the cutting, reserved for the last day because they have to change the arena all around. Hopefully, I can get some great pictures, too.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Horses love trucks

We did it. We bought a truck. And let me preface the rest of this with the fact that not only do I love my horse, I love cars. We have three - the truck, the Mustang Cobra, and the Previa van. We had a Volvo wagon up until yesterday.

We had gone back and forth over the last six months or so about how to handle the daily needs of a family vehicle and figuring out a way to tow a horse trailer. While it did a nice job of scooting the four of us around, the Volvo wouldn't tow. It also broke on a regular basis and cost lots of money each time, so it was already on its way out of our lives.

For a brief moment in time, the plan was to buy an older truck that would replace the 1991 Previa van - which mostly sat until needed for a dump run or hardware store duty. But the van is hard to replace - it starts up beautifully after sitting for 3 months and will also carry the whole family if needed - things an older truck might not do as reliably. (Too bad the van won't haul a horse trailer, too, but 148 horsepower isn't quite enough for that duty.)

So yes, I will be using the truck as my daily driver - I'll be one of those tiny women in a big truck you see on the road - but it seems like the best solution for us for now. Yes, fuel economy is a concern, but we won't have four cars, so that's kind of the trade-off.

These are the sacrifices you make for your horse when you aren't Jay Leno with a big garage and a car for every occasion. Though I have to confess, I really love my big green truck.

Good lesson, ugly ankle

Sometimes you get a good reminder that horses are big, powerful animals that often react before they think. Or think too much, anyway.

My daughter Katie was riding Lena the other day down the driveway at the barn to cool her off. I was walking next to them, like I often do, when Lena spooked and whirled into me. Her front hoof caught my left ankle right on the bone and I kind of flew sideways. Then I stood there bent over for a moment, trying to shake off that sharp bone cracking pain.

Katie felt bad, Lena actually did too - she nosed me gently as I hobbled back up the driveway.

It could have been much worse. Lena is a "short" spooker, so she didn't run me over. I have relatively good bones, so my ankle didn't shatter. It was, however, a good reminder that she is big and powerful and sometimes reacts faster than I do.

Shannon says she spooked towards me because I represent safety. Lucky me. Had I been a horse, I would have either wheeled gracefully with Lena or shoved my own bulk into her to tell her she was being silly. As it was, my 126 pounds wasn't quite a match for 1,200 pounds of fast-moving, goofy, spotty horse.

Again, I was very lucky. Now, I'm just waiting for the itch of healing to start - which should be any day now.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Paint Vegas, Baby

Ike and Cheri are going to a really big show in December - Paint Vegas. It is an excellent place to showcase their awesome horses, plus they could win some serious money.

Cheri asked me if I would be willing to come help with Amber so she can help hold cows, and I think I'm going to do it!

I've never been to Vegas, so that in and of itself is a reason to go. But really, I'm looking forward to hanging out with them and helping out with Amber - not to mention seeing some world class horses in action.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

More barrel "racing" pictures

Shannon giving directions, me looking totally terrified.

Me trotting the pattern, still totally terrified, but at least distracted by movement.

Lena and Steve, not quite full speed and fuzzy because I took the picture from too far away, darn it.

Last but not least, Miss Lena by the trailer.

All in all, it was a really cool experience. I think both Steve and I have a hard time with the "event" parents over-coaching their kids, but most folks were there just to have a good time with their horse. We were, anyway, so we'll probably do some more of this.

After all, I promised Lena I'd let her go faster next time.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Barrel Racing with Lena

So our day started with a hard run-in with our retaining wall and a flat tire, but it ended with us finding something that we like to do, and that Lena really loves to do.

The car is a whole other story that I think I'll leave off of this blog for now, but Lena had a blast and was really, really well-behaved on our outing, which made for an interesting and fun day all around.

These folks are part of the "regular" crowd, at least as I saw things. We were newbies and Shannon gave us instructions and advice before we started out.

I - as you'll surely see in the pictures - was petrified, Steve got several good chuckles out of it, actually. Lena, on the other hand, was mostly calm, very interested, and generally paying attention to everything.

I have a competative streak, I know this, but I think my nervousness actually stemmed mostly from not wanting to tell Lena the wrong thing to do. As it was, Steve went out and - in his relaxed way - showed me that Lena knew what to do.

I went out for my two time-only runs and trotted her slowly and carefully through the pattern, letting her lope out of it after we circled that last barrel. She was awesome. She didn't fight me, she responded to my body, and allowed me my nervousness without getting into a feedback loop with me.

Steve loped her through the barrels and she switched leads beautifully without even being cued to do so.

Fast forward to the pole bending, same basic scene. I kept her slow throughout, Steve let her loose. That horse flew coming out of the poles and loved every second of it.

My few concerns revolve around keeping her sound and healthy, so I told Steve that if we decide to do this more often, I want to learn more about body work to keep her healthy. I saw a lot of horses getting run really hard, which isn't bad, but I'd like my friend Lena to stay strong and healthy her whole life, so I owe it to her to learn what I can to help her do that.

One of the funniest things, though, was Lena catching sight of the cows in a field next door. Her big, expressive ears went up and she watched them with a significant amount of attention. I guess she figured if she was out at a show, there should be cows involved.

Not this time, Lena Rey, but maybe next.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Willie Nelson says horses are smarter than people

Willie Nelson is at it again, this time supporting horses instead of farmers. I'm not sure I think all horses are smarter than all people, but I've seen some horses that have more common sense than most people.

He adopted eleven horses from here, which I think is a really cool use of his money.

He also takes a stand in this CNN article against the slaughter houses.

My Katie wrote a paper about the very same subject a couple years ago, so it's nice to have some open celebrity support, albeit an ornery, cantankerous celebrity like Willie Nelson.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Lessons in Wrapping

A week or two ago, Miss Lena had a swollen spot above her right rear fetlock. Katie D. came to my rescue and we went out to the barn to wrap it up to see if that helped.

Wrapping - not rapping - can be used to reduce swelling and support an injured leg. You have to be really careful when you wrap to maintain even pressure with each layer and to never pull across the back of the leg. You can wrap too tight, which - as anyone who has had a too-tight Ace bandage knows - is not good for the limb. Wrapping too loosely, of course, doesn't help much.

It was probably a bone bruise or something that stemmed from Lena thwacking her leg into the fence, but there was some fluid in there. I also thought it felt a little hot, but since I'm prone to worry, I may be overly paranoid.

Lena was mostly patient with the wrapping process. Mostly. And as we walked back to her pen with what looked like pillows around both back legs, Katie said, "She's being really good about being wrapped." Then I shut the gate and we started to walk away.

There was a commotion and I turned back to see Lena - all four feet in the air - trying to get away from her hind legs. Well, okay, trying to get away from the wraps. After Katie and I stopped laughing at her and turned to leave again, Lena peered at me through the bars of her pen, ears flat away from her head, as if to say, "You're not really going to leave me here like this, are you?"

Steve said when he got there later in the afternoon she was standing still, back feet cocked way out away from each other, looking exceptionally grumpy.

He walked her and put cold water on it, rode her a little, and by the time I got there the swelling was significantly reduced.

There are a lot of ways to deal with injuries like this, and wrapping is one that never hurts if it's done right. Cool water or ice and walking are also good. In fact, horse injuries are a lot like human ones - only on a bigger, sometimes less-cooperative scale.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

New owner at the barn

So there is a new horse - and new owner - at the barn.

Scout is a spotty horse, though I don't know if he's a Paint or a pinto, which doesn't really matter anyway. He's an 8-year old gelding, shorter than Lena by at least a hand, and very mellow.

The mom in the group - whose name I can't recall - was around horses when she was 16, but this is her (their) first horse. There are three kids, the youngest looks to be around 3, the older two are maybe around 5 and 7?

Anyway, while I watched them all hand-feed carrots to this horse, I had to refrain from doling out any advice since, a) my horse is hardly a fine example of a non-spoiled horse and b) being bombarded with unsolicited advice from every corner can be entirely too overwhelming.

So... I guess I'll keep a polite eye on Scout and try very hard to mind my own business since, heck, how much do I really know?! Not a lot if you ask the veterans at my barn, but I do know a little about being a "new" horse owner and how much advice you can really take in. It's better in dribs and drabs and way better when you ask for it.

Of course, you still have to get about three (at least) different opinions and then go with the one that works best for you and your horse, but it makes for good points on the graph in any case.

A mini mini

It's Thumbelina, the world's smallest horse!

I desperately want a mini-mini!

Learn more here.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Horse Body Work

My friend Karen MacDonald, who runs her own horse massage practice, came out a few weeks ago to show me some things I could do for Lena.

Karen uses a lot of acupressure points and Chinese methodologies, as well as some basic stretching and limbering exercises. She's been doing this for over 10 years and currently does a lot of work at the track for racehorses.

I just like working with my hands and helping Lena be more flexible and less sore, so it's been a cool thing to start learning about.

I have to say that Lena picked up on the carrot stretches very, very quickly.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Someone said to me the other day that the difference between geldings and mares is that geldings are consistent with their issues - as in they pick their particular issue or foible and it stays the same - and with mares it's a new thing depending on the day, their mood, or the amount of wind in the air.

Now, since I've only owned a mare - and only for a little over a year - I can't confirm this particular observation, but it does fit with what I know about Lena and what I've experienced with the geldings I know.

Now there's no doubt by now that I love this horse - and that I think she's special and wonderful - but she does try and do new and different things most every day, I think mainly to see what she can get away with.

Some people want horses that are even-tempered and obedient and not at all moody. Me? I like to work with her, see what kind of attitude I get today and how I can play with it and get some kind of agreement with her about what we're doing.

Otherwise what's the point?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Equine Dentistry

Today was dentist day - interesting for me, not so interesting for the horses, but important nonetheless. It involved a certified Equine Dentist - Marcus Rietema (also President of the IGSA) and my vet, Leslie Mikluvich. Oddly enough, Leslie used to be Katie's vet and remembers Bee!

Here are the tools all laid out before we got started.

Fenway was first and you can tell in this picture he knew something was up.

First was a manual "float" where the dentist basically sticks long poles with metal rasps on them into the horses mouth to de-burr the teeth on a first pass. Then comes the speculum and the power tools.

Fenway did really well, and had a lot of work done. At one point, probably before another injection, he did look over at me like he was ready to be done. Really ready to be done. (He wasn't quite, though.)

Sadie was next, but I didn't take any pictures of her because - with a whole lot of drugs in her - she did not act sedated at all and I figured the last thing she needed was the flash going off.

Then came Doc, a 20-year old gelding related distantly to Lena (Doc Bar) and looking more like cutting horse stock than she ever has. His owner had her boyfriend Phil come do dentist duty. Phil is "retired" and has my dream job - working in the local small-town hardware store. He did a great job of tending Doc and keeping us all company while we watched and waited.

This is Doc getting his front teeth chopped down to the right level. (If the front teeth are too long, the back teeth can't come together and chew food properly.)

Doc also came through with flying colors and apparently has great teeth for a horse his age. Yay!

Lena was last because I had planned to be there all day and wasn't sure what was going to happen with the extraction. As it turns out, the tooth was loose and came out (relatively) easily. We're hoping the permanent tooth - pushed back because this one was in the way - will now migrate towards the space it was supposed to occupy. Yes, I saved the tooth. And both Katie D. and Shannon wanted to see it, so it can't be all that weird of a thing to do amongst horse-owners. Maybe a little weird to other folks, though.

Lena had watched me going in and out of the barn all day, and had watched other horses go in and out all day, so was already vaguely suspicious. She also remembered Dr. Leslie, and not necessarily fondly.

Mostly, Lena was good. Luckily, Steve decided to leave work early or there wouldn't be any pictures of Lena since I would have been holding, not photgraphing.

Here she is getting her front teeth done, though since she is only five, not quite so much came off.

She did have some nasty hooks (sharp points) in the back which were causing ulcers in her mouth, which is one of the reasons to get your horse's teeth done. Would you want to have a bit in with things like that going on in your mouth?

Just so you know, there is no instant gratification here for the owner. After their ordeal, both Fenway and Lena were eating very gingerly and both turned their backs to us in an expression of their irritation. It's like parenting, really. Phil even said at one point, "It hurts me more than it hurts you."

When Steve asked Marcus why dentistry is needed for horses, the answer he got was basically that healthy teeth are even more important now that horses don't roam the plains eating hard scrabble food and live more than ten or twelve years. You know, kind of like humans. Katie says there are a lot of people who don't believe in it, but it makes sense to me and if it makes Lena a healthier, happier horse, I'm all for it.

This is Marcus after a very long day of horse dentistry. Many thanks, I'm sure Lena will start speaking to me again soon. :-)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Horse Dentist Day

So tomorrow, Tuesday, we have a certified Equine Dentist coming to the barn.

It all started because Miss Lena has a front incisor baby tooth that refuses to come out. It's not even loose! So our vet told us it was time to have it taken out and the dentist asked if I could line up other horses to make his trip from Livermore a little more worthwhile.

So I did. I've got five horses lined up - well, four horses and a pony - including Mr. Fenway who will come hang out for the day after he gets his teeth done.

Katie and I will try to take pictures to post here because it's going to be quite a production, but it's hard to take pictures when you're trying to hold up 1,200 lbs. of swaying, drugged horse.

This is a picture of Lena sleeping off the drugs after getting her teeth done last year.

Don't worry, sports fans, I've done this before.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Weekend Trail Ride

Today Jessica, Katie (Jessica's daughter), and I went for a nice trailride on Bee, Lena, and Fenway.
Afterwards we gave them apples picked from my apple trees. Fenway was hungry!
We had a great time together. There's nothing like spending a day with your horse and your friends!!!!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

New horse owner?

Adrienne commented that I really am not a new horse owner anymore, but I still feel new. Yes, it's been a year and we've learned a lot, but every day brings a new experience.

Sometimes it's subtle, like the way she responds to my mood or my stress level; sometimes it's very obvious, like the way she responded to the hackamore. (Lena, not Adrienne.) :-)

And sometimes it's something totally wacky, like the way she stood patiently with my baseball cap on her ear the whole time I was in the tack room, seeming to indulge my oddity simply because she felt like it.

Okay, she did blow out through her nose with that "the things I put up with," tone. You horseowners know what I mean, I know you do.

Hm. That does make me sound more veteran than "new" horse owner, doesn't it? Oh, well. I stick by my earlier statement - each day brings something new to it, which makes me a new horse owner every day.

Someday, I might come to expect every action, every nuance, but I doubt it. And honestly? I don't really want it. It keeps things interesting, that's for sure.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The horse ambassador

This is Cals Eclipse. He's Lena's half brother, the first foal out of their foundation mare - Lena was the last.

He has been a world champion cutting horse, true, but more important, he has been a teacher and mentor for probably hundreds of students of horsemanship throughout his 23 years on this earth.

Cheri told me the last time we were up there that they literally built their business around him - with people coming from miles away just to ride him, calling in advance to be sure he was available.

Those of us who know him understand why.

He taught me to be aware of my body and that my every movement means something to him, whether it was what I wanted to communicate or not. He taught Steve to ride with his eyes closed. He's taught countless people to sit back and let a master work the cow.

He's never mean, is always willing to work, and is as smart, playful and gentle a horse as I've ever met. He will get out there with horses 1/4 his age and keep up - if not surpass - simply because he is driven that way.

He has a very expressive set of ears, too. I have a before and after set of pictures of Steve cutting on a horse named Peekaboo, taken while sitting on Eclipse. His ears tell us exactly what he thought of her efforts that day.

He is an escape artist, too. He likes to get out and torment the people chasing him. Cheri tells the story of one of his most famous - and nearly fatal - escapes. It was winter and the deck around their house was icy. Eclipse got out and slipped on the deck while capering around the house. He fell - hard - and hit his head and neck. It was unclear for awhile if his neck would ever be okay, but eventually it was and he went back to training novice riders.

Aside from my own riding experiences with him, I have two memories that stick in my head about this fine horse.

One cold and nasty day, Ike was putting the hackamore on Eclipse and Eclipse kept shying away from Ike's hands. Ike stopped and asked Eclipse what was wrong and did he need a kiss. Then Ike - 6 feet tall, 200 pounds of stubborn cowboy - planted a kiss on that horse. Just in case, Ike said, "Do you want another one?" and gave that big horse another smooch. Only then did Eclipse let him put the bridle on.

Ike and Cheri have a granddaughter, Amber. (Tiffany stopped riding long enough to have Amber and got back on the horse right after.) Cheri brought Amber out to meet Eclipse one day and he reached out his head to her - bigger than she was - as slow and as gentle as I've ever seen an animal move. It was like he recognized his next prodigy. Apparently, Amber now rides him and bats away any adult hand that tries to stabalize her in the saddle. She must know the kind of gentleman he is.

This is one of Eclipse's recent students, Adrienne, before a cutting lesson.

This is Adrienne after the cutting lesson.

He is a master at what he does and a true ambassador to horses, to cutting, and to special spotty horses.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The hackamore

Oh, I love being a new horse owner.

Lena loves the hackamore.

The first two days we used it, she was more relaxed than I've ever seen her - except after we've ridden her hard for an hour or so - and then we're not relaxed. Her head position was great, her stops were awesome, and she was more responsive with less effort than usual.

Day three was a little different, but not much.

Day four, we went back to the bit.

Today, I used the hackamore again, and she was again more responsive and relaxed than with the bit.

I'm new, don't forget, so it may be as much my physical reaction as anything, but I love the way she responds to the hackamore. Or maybe I love the way using the hackamore makes me more conscious of my body signals to her.

Whatever it is, I really like working with her in a different way and what I am learning from it.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Everyone knows that to ride horses, you must have the proper gear. Not only for the horse, but for yourself. I don't tend to go for style, more comfort and snot and dirt-resistance - except when it comes to my boots.

My red Ariat cowboy boots are my favorite article of clothing, riding or not. Steve got them for me about a year and a half ago and - at first - they were not used for actual horse handling.

That was pre-Lena.

I wear them every day. They are almost perfectly formed, now, wrapping like a glove around my feet, creased and pliable, stained with aluminum from the stirrups, always vaguely horse-scented. (Dogs love them.) In other words, they are perfect.

I wore through the left insole and resorted to gray tape until I got around - 6 months later - to ordering new insoles. It's almost (almost) like having new boots! (Especially when I clean off the dust and condition the leather a little.)

Recently, though, I started to worry about what would happen when my red boots got too worn out to wear for going out to eat on the weekends, or my signal for the pending weekend, "red-boot Friday." I started looking at other boots, thinking either to replace my red boots with another color to ride in, preserving the red ones for "good," or to use the new, different color as my "dress" boots. I was having a hard time choosing because, really, I just wanted another pair of red boots.

Luckily, Steve understands me and convinced me to get what I wanted, even if other people thought it was silly to have two pairs of red boots.

I'm not quite sure what I'll do if Ariat stops making red boots, but for now, my feet are quite happily covered in red boots for most future occasions I can think of.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Boil Saga Continues

Yes, Bee's boil still exists. It's still an ugly round lump on his poor little elbow. When will it go away?
The vet is coming out today so hopefully he'll be able to blow the boil away! Wish me luck!!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Horse Rules

I think one of the things I like most about being a new horse person is that I don't know any of the rules. That's gotten us in trouble on occasion, but on the other hand, it's gotten us out of trouble, too. "Oh, they don't know any better."

I have owned a horse long enough to figure out that most everyone has their right way of doing things, their specific steps to follow, their opinion of what event you should do with your horse, you name it. (No events, thanks, we just want to ride and enjoy her.)

It's hard to listen to all of the advice and filter out something that makes sense to you and for your horse, but I do try to pay attention to what people say as we do different things with Lena. Sometimes things work and sometimes they don't, but it's part of the fun of figuring out our particular horse.

We want to get her a hackamore to see if she is more or less responsive - or just different - if we remove the bit. Not a mechanical one, just the simple and traditional bosul. I'm anticipating some grief - not necessarily from Lena, either - but I also know that she was trained with one, as are all the Slide horses - many of whom still get ridden regularly with just the hackamore. We do have to have one of her front teeth pulled, so maybe that can be our excuse. Either that, or people will just chalk it up to another "silly new horse people" stunt.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I tried ...

... to write a post that wasn't about horses on my non-horse blog.

Alas, I failed.

Oh, well. :-)

Spotty Blogging

My spotty muse is obvious, of course, but I see some comments on Huck's birthday party post that point out that "Spotty Horse" seems slightly restrictive. Since I don't want to change the title, I altered our tagline. (Again, for those of you paying attention.)

But I started playing with other meanings of spotty besides being covered with spots and this is where my brain went with that.

It could be that this is a blog with sporadic (spotty) news about horses, but also containing news about other four-legged beings and their teachings.

It could mean that Katie and I are not always super dedicated to posting every single day, so the frequency of our entries is spotty.

And it could be that I just happen to like the way Spotty Horse sounds and don't feel like changing it. :-)

I myself am spotty in both senses of the word - sometimes distracted, always freckled.

I appreciate having this forum to talk about the weird - and not-so-weird - things you encounter when you choose to share your life with other creatures, including other humans. Lena colors my world-view, always, so she is present in my words - at least in some small way - always. Even when I'm writing about cats or other people's dogs. :-)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Horse Medicine?

By the way, stay tuned for Katie's post about a recent farrier remedy that surprised her.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Using your hands and your head

I read a post called Shop Class as Soulcraft on one of our sites and I think there is something to this that speaks to the reasons I love being around horses. (And tools, but that's another fetish for a later date.) I will say that tool use seems to be a disappearing art, which is a shame. It's one of the reasons I encouraged my daughter to take auto shop - her friends all think a cell phone is the only tool you need when your car breaks!

Noodling through something mentally can be very satisfying, but there is also something fundamentally soul-filling about using your hands to do something. I think balance - for me - comes in part from using this tool (the computer) all day and a shovel and hoof pick in the evenings. It makes me feel more real, less ethereal, more a part of this universe.

Lena definitely makes me feel grounded and real. Trying to communicate with an alien (thanks for that analogy, Bert) is a truly challenging exercise for both mind and body. And being able to use my body as a tool to facilitate that communication is a gift that comes from using a lot of other tools along the way.

My hands may be ugly, but they are strong and will usually do what I want them to - even if they end up dirty, scraped up and greasy. :-)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What happened to Cracker Jacks?

How do Cracker Jacks relate to horses?
I've grew up a Boston Red Sox Fan.
Baseball games = Cracker Jacks.
Fenway: Home park of the Boston Red Sox and the name of my grey horse.

I just went to a Red Sox vs. A's game the other night, sadly the sox lost. During the game I bought some Cracker Jacks. Did you know that Cracker Jacks are packaged in plastic now? What a disappointment, what a loss of tradition! They don't even taste stale anymore! The prizes even suck! I'm so upset by this change. What happened to the good ol'days. I'm submitting a formal complaint to Cracker Jacks.
The baseball experience will never be the same.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Good Point

Jessica brings up a very important point about animal ownership. - Animals who own their owner.

I admit, I get overly gushy about my pets, in particular my dog. I can't stand to be away from him even if it's only for a few hours. I talk endlessly about him and find his patterns and expressions fascinating. He does rule my life in many respect but when it comes to his behavior, I rock the boat! There's nothing worse than an ill behaved pet! An ill behaved pet is like a child screaming in the grocery store because he can't have a candy bar.
It's one thing to recognize that your pet has "issues" and it's another to be completely ignorant. It's the folks who can't see fault, whose pets end up being dangerous. I witnessed a situation where a dog bit a child and the owner used the excuse that his dog reacted because he was territorial over a bone. My response to the situation was, why is that dog in public around children? Not that the dog needs to be sheltered, but if it's not good in a busy public place where there might be children, then don't put him there. It's like putting a person that is sensitive to noise in the front row of a rock concert! They're going to snap!
It's an issue of respect and if your going to take an animal and put it in domestic situations, you gotta have it!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Being the Alpha

Katie's post about the lost dog is right on in a lot of ways. (Minus the convincing me I need a dog.) :-)

In the horse world, it can be hard to balance your love of this animal and their spirit with the fact that you need to be the alpha in the herd. The same is true with cats, dogs, rats, and any other pet one might care to mention.

It's not that I think you need to dominate your pet to the extent that you squash their personality, but keep their biology, their hard-wired instincts, in mind. It's not just responsibility to them as beings, but responsibility to respect them as they are. In other words, don't make them a substitute for whatever else you're lacking in your life. It's not healthy for them, and it's certainly not healthy for you.

Oh, getting a little preachy, aren't I?

I know a lot of people who over-emphasize their pets' role in their lives. It goes beyond anthropomorphizing into a scary realm where an animal has to fill an emotional need beyond companion.

Don't get me wrong, I know how scary it is out there, how very lonely life can be. But your cat can't fill that void for you and it's not fair to ask them to do that.

Katie is a great example of someone who loves her animals and at the same time expects to be the alpha. One night, after a trail ride, she let Huck out of the truck and he came right up to Lena's legs. Lena danced a little, but Katie was right there and with a hand motion and two words, had Huck under control and safe. Why? Because she is the boss and it's a good thing for Huck that she is. Lena's got big feet!

Lena is 1,200 pounds of wants-to-be-the-alpha-mare, but no matter how cute she is or how much I love her, I can't let that happen. A bad-mannered cat is one thing, but 1,200 pounds of bad-mannered muscle is dangerous. I love her too much to let her be a dangerous, never-ridden spotty horse. :-)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Please - keep track of your dog!

Earlier this week, I pulled in to the parking lot and noticed a lost black dog. I stopped thinking it was Laika but after close inspection realized that this poor dog without a collar was clearly lost. A chubby black lab mix looked anxiously at every person entering the building, hoping to see someone he knew. I was able to catch him and shortly thereafter brought him to the Human Society. At the Humane Society they scanned him for a microchip, in which they found! BUT ..... The microchip was never registered!! It infuriates me that people are so irresponsible with animals. I plan to go the Humane Society tomorrow to check up on him. If he goes up for adoption, I'm afraid I might have to add him to the animal crew! OR - convince Jessica that she really needs a dog!!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Horse geek

Very often, unless I'm talking to another horse person, I get odd looks when I talk about my horse. My co-workers - many of them on the geekier-in-a-good-way end of the scale - can understand cats or dogs, but horses seem totally far out. Even people in my family ask me "why?" when I choose to ride rather than socialize.

So I've been thinking about the "why" today.

Riding Lena, even just being with her, adds something simple and elemental to my universe. She - and the very act of communicating with her however I can do that - gives silence to my soul and balance to my world.

That's the best way I know to describe the "why." I guess that makes me a horse geek.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I love other people's dogs

We have a very dog-friendly office and a lot of my co-workers have really great dogs - like Huck! It's a great place to get a dog fix without having to commit to having our own dog.

That's a good thing because we currently feed seven (!) cats, including four of our own. Steve says he only has one cat - Tigger - but two other cats moved in on their own, and then I brought mine, so we're up to four. The neighbor's three cats hang out on our property more than their own, which is how we get to seven. There were eight, but the local tom cat must have moved on.

Tigger is the king, though. He is not spotty, though, he's stripey. He's 16 or 17 years old - Steve can't remember - weighs all of about 5 pounds and has 6 toes on every foot. When he was a kitten, he apparently looked like he was wearing snowshoes. He has the softest fur I've ever felt - like rabbit fur - and does have a bit of small-cat attitude.

One of the things we'd love to do would be to somehow introduce Tigger and Lena. But since we couldn't get a trailer up our road and we can't imagine putting Tigger in a car, let alone a cat carrier, we haven't quite figured out how that might work. Oh, well.

Which one is Huck

Huck is the Chocolate Lab, the 2nd picture down. Laika, Huck's girlfriend is the cute little black dog!

Huckleberry Finn goes to a birthday party!

Huckleberry Finn is 15 months old. I've had him since he was a puppy. We do everything together including going to work, attending yoga classes, and going to the barn. Earlier this week he went to his girlfriend's birthday party! Huck and Laika have lots of fun together and have been stead fast friends from the start!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Horse Health

Katie's post about Bee's Boil reminded me of one of the reasons I wanted to start a blog.

There are all kinds of things that can happen to horses and as new horse owners, I think we discover a different one every month. Like, for example, Lena has to have a tooth pulled.

Now, I am sure that if I had obsessively researched horse-ownership before we bought El Spotto, I would have a) known all of the possible permutations of health and injuries and b) run screaming the other direction.

We learned the most frightening lesson two weeks after we bought her - owning a horse means you have to be prepared to lose them - but other lessons have been slightly less harrowing, thank goodness. Like how to help your totally drugged horse stay somewhat upright while she's getting her teeth done, and how to clean up the myriad of nicks, scratches and cuts they can inflict on themselves.

All in all, I have to say it's worth it. Then again, I still don't know all the exciting things yet to come. Nah, it's still worth it.

By the way, Lena has been healthy as a, er, horse since we moved her in November to our current barn.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Bee's Boil

Bee has a Boil on his left elbow. It's gross and looks like a large golf ball.
A boil is often caused from the horse shoe hitting the elbow as the horse attempts to get up after laying down.
The elbow becomes inflamed and swollen.
Bee's Boil came to life over a week ago. I tried a combination of hot and cold compresses, along with bute (aspirin for horses). I also put a doughnut (round rubber device) around his fetlock to protect him should he decide to roll in the dust again. Finally after 4 days I called the vet, Dr. Kerr. He poked a needle in to the affected area and a stream of yellowish serum flowed out. He warned me that it might pop up again. And it did. I eagerly await yet another vet appt. Ugh. The Boil saga continues.....

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Things Horses have taught me

Not necessarily in this order, but - depending on the day and the placement of the planets - any or all of them can and do occur to me on a regular basis.

I'm little.

I'm not always paying attention.

I can communicate worlds of information with my body.

Scooping out a stall is a good way to remember what's real in life and what is crap.

Warm noses and big ears can't solve everything, but they offer a lot of perspective without charging you for an office visit.

I am not - humans are not - the center of the known universe.

Relax - or they think you're about to do something weird.




Friday, August 18, 2006

How this happened

There is another common denominator between Katie and me; we both work for O'Reilly Media, Inc.

Katie works on Make and Craft magazines. She promotes the magazines at tradeshows, sells advertising in both - and on the websites, too - and helps coordinate and organize events like our very successful Maker Faire.

I work over in our Online Publishing Group, coordinating the operations end of our online ad sales department for all advertising that runs on The O'Reilly Network.

When Katie started, Shawn Connally - managing editor of Make and former horse person - introduced us. Katie was eventually brave enough to take my crazy horse and me out on a trail ride and has since endured a couple of challenging trailer lessons. And she still says my horse is good!

We both wanted to start a blog and we both have horse stories - some cat and dog stories, too - and that's how we got here.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Horse History

I stared riding when I was eight year old. I had just moved to CA from Boston and my parents had sent me off to a horse camp for a week during our first summer out west. I was hooked. I continued riding through elementary school and Jr. High, begging for a horse each day. I used to think that someday I just might actually catch a loose horse by house so I had made my own rope halter just in case. Finally five years later, after convincing my parents that there was no way to save me, they gave me the go ahead. After a year of searching for a safe trained horse, I ended up buying Bee (the palamino), a three year old with two months of training on him. Great. Needless to say it was a learning experience. I grew up with that horse. I took him to college with me at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. At Cal Poly I helped to start the Dressage Team, which introduced me to some of my best friends today (yes, more crazy horse girls). I started to reach a point in my training with Bee where I s realized he had reached his potential in the sport of dressage and to continue to push up the levels would no longer be fair to him. I was lucky enough at the time to start looking for another competition horse. I set out with my trainer and ended up getting Fenway (the grey horse). It was love at first sight with him and I knew right away that we were meant to bee together. I've successfully shown up to Prix St. George, when then of course he suffered an injury and a battle with ulcers. Figures, you dream of riding the upper levels and once you get there.....Boom. After a season off, he is coming back nicely and I look forward to hitting the ring this next season. So yes, I've always loved horses and have always been obessed with them. They're just so incredible in a multitude of ways.

The dog on Bee's back is my god-daughter, Twiggy. She is a 3 year old rat terrier but she was just a puppy when we took the picture.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dual Disciplines

As you may notice as you read this blog, Katie and I come from both different disciplines and levels of experience. (Way different!)

I am not only a new horse owner, but I didn't even grow up with the four legged, hay-chowing beasts. I liked them, but from a far safer distance than sitting on their backs.

Katie has been riding for many years, though I'll leave it to her to fill in her biography. I do know she injured her knee riding a steer, not a horse.

I ride western and have no particular plans to show. We really just want to trail ride and enjoy our lovely spotty horse, Lena.

Katie has shown all the way up to Level 4 Dressage and is working on getting ready for Level 5 with her horse, Finn. (Katie, will you supply me with a picture I can add in here, and - of course - correct me if I'm totally wrong? :-) )

Yes, amazingly enough, it is possible for a crazy cutting horse person to ride with a Dressage person. There's this funny common denominator - Katie and I really like horses. Not just for what they can do, but for their very presence. The warmth of their bodies, the whuff of their breath, their soft noses and the rich smell of them.

Horse people are crazy. Even the sane ones are crazy. But turning love for your horse and your discipline into something that is so much better than someone else's horse and activity is really crazy. Unless of course you don't really like horses.

Just my opinion, of course.

Jessica's Horse Story, Part 1

There is a reason I've ended up in the horse world, being alternately overjoyed and frustrated by this horse of the silly lips.

My daughter (also named Katie) hit the horse-crazy age and even showed a bit in some local Western Pleasure schooling. On our vacations, we would find places to trail ride to accommodate her "phase." I even surprised her once by not falling off when my trail horse reared. My partner Steve loves horses, too. His main riding experience came from - many years ago - exercising grumpy horses owned by people who never rode them.

In late 2003, I found a one-page article in a magazine about a ranch up near Sonora that said they offered something beyond "head-to-tail" trail rides, plus something called cutting you could try. This was right around Christmas the year my darling daughter went from little girl to impossible-to-shop-for young woman and I thought this would be an interesting gift. If all else failed, there were nice hotels and mountains nearby.

Oh, and I wasn't going to ride much, if at all. I was going to sit and relax, read, maybe do some writing.

We got there and wandered around, taking lots of pictures of
cute foals, and then went down to the barn where I thought I'd take some pictures of Steve, Katie and her friend Phoebe before heading back to relax. Katie remembers Ike handing me a set of reins and saying, "Here's your horse." Well, I couldn't very well back out then, could I?

My first Slide trail ride had two particularly memorable moments: Ike saying casually, as we approached the stream, "Put her into a trot, she (Dandy) likes to roll in the water," and the grin on Katie's face as she galloped past me up the trail while I hung onto the saddle horn for dear life.

And why, some might ask, did we stay? Why did we keep going back time after time to ride such wild and crazy horses? Well, after that first trail ride, I met the horse ambassador - Cal's Eclipse. World Champion, gentle, intuitive, and an escape artist. Add that to Kathy Sierra's "I rule" feeling - which happened every time we went up to Slide - and we end up as the proud owners of our very own wild and crazy spotty horse.

The New Horse Blog

I'm new to the blogging world but am always looking for a new listener. Everyone who knows me now is completely worn out by my lame horse stories.
So here we go new listeners, time to get excited, time for some Katie and Jessica Horsey Fun!!

One year later

So, I've been a horse owner for just over a year - August 1st was the anniversary of our descent into horse-owning madness. :-)

We've had an eventful year, including nearly losing her two weeks after we bought her, switching barns, and learning how to ride like we want and not scare other barn-mates.

More later, I just had to get something up so my URL would be live.