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.