Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year already

This year began with Steve still healing and recovering from his accident in July of last year. We were all doing okay until April, when I came off Lena and broke my first bone ever--my left ulna.

My recovery did not go as quickly and smoothly as I might have liked, and in June I had a Titanium plate inserted so the bone would actually grow back together instead of each piece waving at the other from afar.

Calabar and I have made a lot of progress, actually. He even learned to chase a mechanical cow in October. Not too shabby for a "crazy" Off-Track Thoroughbred.

Lena got to remember that she is cow-horse bred, even if she looks like a spotty Thoroughbred.

Steve and I learned our horses travel well and can handle new situations, even over night, as long as they have food and each other. In that order, once they settle in. And we learned Bar would not starve if left in a paddock with Lena. Big bossy brown horse.

Katie made a decision to get a horse more suited to her, sold Sammy, and adopted Forrest.

Elmer came home to roost permanently and we now have our perfect indoor/outdoor cat. Indoor a lot on these cold, nasty days as a matter of fact.

And of course this year also began with the loss of my father, a man who I would gladly call friend even if we weren't related--a thought I shamelessly stole from him, along with the frayed knot joke. Miss you lots, Dad.

Happy New Year, everyone.

May 2011 bring joy, peace, and much good will to all of you.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sort of a saddle update

I have yet to see a saddle that sits as nicely on him as this one does--despite it's sort of un-orthodox appearance--but I was once more thwarted tonight in my attempts to see how it works with me in it. I know Dave wants pictures, and I'd like to oblige, just have to get the weather to cooperate. The weather and apparently the universe, too.

Sunday, it was pouring rain. Monday, I worked too late. Last night, it was pouring rain--even more than on Sunday. Today, however, was lovely! Clear skies and cold, but NOT RAINING! Yes!

So I called Steve to tell him I would be late because Bar hadn't been out in a couple days, would probably be fresh, and I didn't want to rush through trying the saddle.

The rigging on the saddle threw me--two back latigos and no front cinch--a true centered rigging set up, I think, for which I was unprepared. I improvised by slapping a cinch and latigo on the front rings and hauled it all down to the lower barn so I could saddle down there after we warmed up.

Then I let the boy run off some steam in the round pen. He shot around to the left in a nicely balanced (albeit fast) canter until I called him into the middle.

And then I saw it. Left rear shoe no longer centered on left rear foot. Off by about two inches to the outside.


I pulled it off right then and there, grumbling to myself all the while.

I won't work him--let alone ride him--when he's missing a shoe. I know some people might, but I think of how out of whack my body would get if I walked around with one heel higher than the other and choose not to.

So we played with some desensitizing exercises, particularly with the lunge whip which (for some reason) terrifies him. I apparently don't possess the skills necessary to crack it, which is really what sets him off, but did wave it and slap the ground with it until he could bring himself to stand still. That's progress as far as I'm concerned.

Mike (our fabulous farrier) comes out on Friday, so I'll just give Bar tomorrow off and hope the nice ladies at Saddles to Boots will let me keep the saddle another couple of days. If not, I'll return it, then borrow it again over the weekend if it's still there.

Did I mention how well the saddle seems to fit?

This is either a sign that the saddle is not for me or a lesson in patience.

I'll get back to you all on which it turns out to be.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Spotty Horse gets posted

My dear friend and fellow horse blogger Katie Dougherty posted a link to another blog that lists this blog--Spotty Horse News--as one to read!!
13. Spotty Horse : This blog will reel you in because it’s clearly written by a true horse lover and natural rider who isn’t afraid to ask readers for help when she needs it.
It also lists some of my favorites, like Retired (or Un-Retired these days) Racehorse, Grey Horse Matters, and Green Slobber.

I really do write for me, to chronicle my own wacky journey. It is nice, however, to know that I'm not shouting into the wind and my words resonate beyond my own head.

Just one little bit

I am a good horse owner, better than most, not as good as a few, and always conscious of the things I haven't done. I did not get to my horse tonight and know I need to get out there tomorrow, if only to try out the saddle I found--an endurance trail saddle made for Gaited horses that sits on his back like it was made just for him. Craftsmanship-wise, it is a work of art. Aesthetics-wise, well.. Steve referred to it as the ugliest saddle he's ever seen. It is, however, set up to be a really nice, lightweight trail saddle. And--I repeat--it seems to fit Calabar like a glove.


It is winter and tonight was a particularly hideous night of deep puddles on roadways (challenging for the Miata) and cold, persistent rain.

It is vexing to not get out there some days, and to not get him the care and exercise he needs on those days. I could guilt trip myself for days, but that is probably not productive for anyone.

This article from Sue at Off-Track Thoroughbreds reminded me that doing what you can is often doing enough.

It could, however, stop raining for a few days. Just a few. Really, that's all I need.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Goofy horse videos

I got a new toy for Christmas and really wish the weather were better so I could share videos of us trail riding or something besides the indoor arena and muddy paddocks. As it is, beggars cannot be choosers, so you get a few choice nuggets from two days of a bored, soggy, amateur videographer and her favorite equine subjects.

First, here is Forrest expressing his opinion of day number ?? of rain. It's been so many in a row, I'm not sure any of us can remember. Notice his response to the word "grain."

And here is a not-so-great video of Bar being, well, goofy. I am still learning proper video techniques and apparently switching the angle mid-shoot is not recommended. Sorry! My favorite part of this one (aside from the rearing, which is okay if I'm outside the round pen) is his sideways leap, all four feet off the ground. Sproink!

Last but not least is Lena demonstrating proper rolling technique. She would get all the way over if it weren't for her withers, which must be from the Thoroughbred in her bloodlines.

I do promise to try to post better videos in the future, but it will probably have to stop raining before any really interesting subject matter arises.

Sooo.. maybe June?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Calabar's papers

Devon gave me a most fabulous gift today--almost as good as the big, brown, bouncy gift I got three years ago.

All racehorses must be registered with the Jockey Club, and these are Bar's papers. They show his breeding and registrations, plus the two wins in his record.

But my favorite part? The description of his star and the distinguishing cowlicks, of course.


Six years ago, we had no horses. Five years ago, three of us shared one horse--Lena Rey Flo. About then, I bought this ornament, signifying the three of us and our bond through Lena.

Today it has a whole new new significance--three humans, three horses, six souls.

A gift beyond measure, however you measure it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hippo Holidays to all

The holiday photo shoot went well, but it is awfully hard to get all six of us to look good in one picture! However, with some creative editing, I came up with this.

Happy holidays to everyone and their families, from our odd little herd.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Much ado about nearly nothing

After much anticipation and preparedness for a wild and crazy horse tonight, well.. I didn't get one.

He was so happy to be out, so happy to roll and stretch his legs, he did everything I asked, when I asked it.

I was ready for antics! I was willing to trot with him down to the arena to anticipate and work within the exuberance!

He must have known it and decided to mess with my head by being cooperative and calm.

Sneaky big brown horse.

What happened to December?

Bar and the dumb mud

I started off this month blogging pretty regularly, but something happened, and poof it's been over 6 days since a real blog post. A lot of work, some holiday stuff, but mainly just me not writing. Or riding much, for that matter.

Yesterday was par for the course for this week, with the minor exception that I got to leave work early to meet the vet for vaccinations. What does it mean when you consider an afternoon off to watch someone stick needles in your horse a break? Oh well. Beggars cannot be choosers.

Bar was sorely disappointed when we showed up to the barn yesterday afternoon and all he got was a rabies shot and some grazing before Steve and I headed home to get ready for my office's year-end party.

The Thoroughbred was not amused.

He danced all the way back to his paddock, looking longingly into the nice, dry indoor arena. "But I could roll! And run around without sliding! And buck! And fart, even!!! MOOOOMMMMMMMM!" We got to the top of the hill by his paddock and I sent him around me as he tried to bounce past me. He, slid a little, then backed up--all the way out of my space--and reared, expressing his utter frustration with the lack of movement over the last few days. Then he looped his front leg over his lead rope, as he usually does in this instance, came down to earth and looked at me for help.

He stood calmly and quietly the whole time I was unwrapping him from the lead rope, and I told him I totally and completely understood. Really. Unfortunately there were people riding their quiet horses in the indoor arena and they were not the types to appreciate Thoroughbred exuberance. Especially after it's been cooped up in the rain for two days.

My theory is he is so careful with his footing that he won't really frolic in the mud for fear of slipping, so he stands a lot, doesn't get to lay down as much, and gets itchy under his blanket. During the winter in particular, the time we spend in the round pen always starts with a good roll. Always. I'll even carry the tack and grooming supplies down with me so we don't have to trek back up to our barn in the rain to get saddled, just so he gets his roll in.

I suppose that makes him a little spoiled, but if it were me, a good roll when that blanket comes off seems like a very logical and necessary thing. Plus, if he gets in a thorough dust bath in the beginning, he's not thinking about it when I want him focused on other things--like the little human on his back.

After one more day of rain and no work, he ought to be really fun when he comes out this afternoon. Maybe Bar could be the next Space Shuttle!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Originally uploaded by spottyhorse67

I found the shoe in the mud, much to my relief. Gives me a tie score so far this winter. Yes!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas photo shoot

Proof positive that Thoroughbreds like to play dress-up. Lena only succumbed after seeing the boys in their holiday outfits.

One group shot

Yes, we actually contributed to and participated in cutesy photo taking. Well, sort of. Horses don't give in to much of anything they don't think is their idea, but we managed to get some good photos, though not necessarily of all six of us at the same time. That would be a Herculean task for sure. However, add a little creative editing and we'll end up a holiday card with good shots of each horse-owner combination.

Group shot in which all horses look annoyed

Lena even let us put the Santa hat on her, but only after she saw that Bar and Forrest both had decorations and decided she felt left out.

She looked from Bar to Forrest and back again, then allowed the hat to be placed on her head

Check out Katie in the perfect halter-class pose. She never did this in shows!

Technically, Katie should be a little further away, but the smile and the stance are show-worthy

Bar looks stunning in both hat and antlers, and I admit to being utterly and completely biased. He is a truly handsome horse and as soon as his shoe is replaced, we'll get back to our fun.

With hat

With antlers

Much thanks to Joan Rasmussen over at "Cowboy and Dexter's Excellent Adventure" for her fabulous photography skills!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The shoe sucking muck has arrived

Last year, around this time, iodine foot

Oh, I mean Winter has arrived--along with the shoe sucking muck.

As I've perhaps mentioned before, Bar has fairly typical Thoroughbred feet--thin-walled and prone to flaking and peeling, which can make winter in wet and woolly Northern California a little challenging. At least when it comes to keeping iron nailed onto those feet.

It's not as bad as spring sometimes, when you go back and forth from wet to dry to wet in an endless loop. The hooves expand and contract to keep up, keeping the farrier's stock in nails at seasonally adjusted high numbers. And you, the owner, have been known to employ duct tape until your shoer can get out to the barn.

Bar's space boots

So it shouldn't have surprised me, after all the rain we've had, to show up last night to a missing rear shoe. But it did. Apparently, I chose to focus on the fact that it's gotten so much better (which it has), blithely assuming he wouldn't lose shoes anymore.

Silly, silly owner. It's winter. It's wet. He has super absorbent feet that suck up the water in his paddock like hard little sponges. Then the shoe starts to work it's way loose. Then the mud starts to dry up a little and get stickier, making sucking, slurping noises around your boot as you clean the paddock.

It's just a matter of time at this point.

What really bugs me is not being able to find the shoe and having nightmares of it lying there in the muck, nails up, waiting to wreak even more havoc. I looked. I scanned back and forth with my flashlight (since of course it was dark when I got to the barn and noticed the missing shoe). Then I looked again when I miraculously managed to get to the barn tonight with just a little bit of light left in the day.

Could I find it in the fetlock-deep, hoof-shaped puddles? No. Did I stick my toe into every one I saw? Yes.

Augh. It's like torture. Do I go out and buy a metal detector? Yes, of course the thought has crossed my mind. Several times by now, as a matter of fact. Will I? Jury is still out on that.

In the meantime, while waiting for our farrier to come out, I'm not working Bar--sure to lead to some real fun next time he's out.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Searching for a new (to us) saddle for Bar

Like most Thoroughbreds, Bar has a steep wither angle--skiers would love this slope on a mountain run. That makes it challenging to find a properly fitted saddle, especially when hunting for Western/trail saddles, which seem to be built for rounder Quarter-horse types. Lena actually has her own set of impressive withers, so I was sort of able to pad up and make do with the saddles we had, at least for awhile.

But it's time. Mostly because with the addition of Forrest, the tack sharing has become a little more challenging. If the three of us actually wanted to ride together, it would be a bit of a scramble right now, and while the cutting saddle is great for high-withered horses, I sure don't want to lift it--all 35+ pounds of it--all the time. Especially since I'm 5'3" lifting it onto a 16.2 or .3 hand horse.

The other challenge is that Bar is not perfectly symmetrical--his right shoulder, probably from taking care of the bowed tendon, is much more developed than his left. I suppose it's good I don't also have to fit a saddle to myself in the same way or we'd really be in trouble.

If I had the money, I'd simply go for a new saddle from somewhere that would take my wither and back tracings and suggest the right thing for my boy. However, used tack is my option, so the search may take a little while.

I've thought once or twice about a custom-built saddle, but then you're stuck with a saddle that only fits one horse. Not to mention the cost of said custom-built saddle.

Besides, there's almost nothing I like better than shopping for tack. Except shopping for tack with an unlimited budget, of course.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Mail order horsemanship

My great grandfather had horses, working horses, and apparently needed some assistance with training them. So, long before there were the Parelli's, Clinton Anderson, Mark Rashid, or any of their predecessors (like the Dorrances), there was Professor Beery. I have eight of his mail order lessons, including lesson number six--"Promiscuous Vices." Despite the title, it unfortunately does not describe how to get your spotty mare to stop backing defenseless geldings into corners.

However, there are some great tidbits so far, though not necessarily in the order they were originally presented:

"Watch the horse's eyes, ears and muscles, for they are the mediums through which it will convey it's intentions to you."

"By these means of expression, the horse will never lie to you; treat him just as frankly, and never lie to him."

"Since you must talk to your pupil through signs, do not become vexed if it does not respond to your signs correctly, but rather blame yourself for not having made the signs correctly."

"Whenever you lose your temper, you lose the power to reason and place yourself upon the same plane as the colt, where he has the advantage because he is stronger than man. Morover (sic), do not abuse your horse, for you lose his confidence and madden him. A man ought to be a shamed to abuse a horse that acts only from instinct, because he does not do what man has probably reached through a long process of reasoning."

I particularly like this bit about teaching a colt an early lesson in the round pen (or a reasonable facsimile): " Remove all feed or chickens, etc., that would attract the colts attention."

My mom's cousin found these in an envelope her father had been given by my great grandfather, sent them to my mom, who sent them to me.

What a cool gift!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Blanket wads

This is what you get when Lena wears her blanket--little rodents. Okay, they aren't really rodents but they sure look like rodents. I'm wondering if I have a whole new pet rock phenomenon here.

Our horse blankets have a nice mesh inner layer. It helps buff their coats by pulling off dead hairs and--obviously--consolidating them into little fluffy wads.

Or not so fluffy in Bar's case. He does not create quite the same cute wads. His hair is a different texture--both finer and softer--so it combines with the mud and dirt, creating what looks more like, well, manure clumps.

Lena's wads are works of art and amuse me to no end with their fuzziness.

Katie and Steve have not yet seen the marketing value of the wads. Katie said, "Ew," as a matter of fact. I can see my vision must be developed further before unleashing this on the world.