Wednesday, January 4, 2017

It Was A Good Idea - Until It Wasn't

We have a nasty winter storm coming in. Nasty. Not only a boat load of snow, but lows way below zero. Of course, during the bad weather is when the horses need a new bale put out. Not the day before the storm, not the day after the storm, but the day of the storm.

We could have put it out yesterday, but we really wanted them to clean up the last flake and a half (we feed big, square bales - about 1400# - so a flake and a half is a significant amount of hay). And I worked open to close yesterday, so unloading after I got home at 9:00 pm just didn't sound like a ton of fun.

Jay and I planned to unload the new bale when we both got home from work tonight. Because of the storm, my campus closed early and I got to come home early. I was pretty excited to get off work while the "sun" was still up.

I figured I could borrow L.E.'s jumper cables, jump start the truck (the old girl doesn't do cold) and have the horses fed long before Jay got home and we wouldn't have to feed in the storm, in the dark.

I should have known the day was going to go sideways when I got home and couldn't jump the truck. The truck was parked too close to the fence for me to get my car close enough for the jumper cables to reach. I moved the car as close to the truck as possible, figuring I didn't need to be able to get in the truck's driver's door - I'd just crawl in through the passenger side.

Still couldn't get close enough for the jumper cables to reach, so I moved my car to the other side of the truck. I parked so close that I almost couldn't squeeze myself out between the cars. I knew I'd have to climb back in my car through the passenger side. While, I'd managed to get a lot closer, I was still six inches short of being able to make a connection with the jumper cables.

A smart girl would have just waited for her husband to get home and followed the plan.

I am not a smart girl. I am a do-er.

The horses had cleaned up the left over hay and were getting obnoxious about getting fed. I couldn't blame them, it was cold (did I mention it was 8*F?) and I was messing around forever trying to get the truck started. Again, a smart girl would have just waited for her husband to get home and followed the plan.

Again, I am not a smart girl. I am a do-er, and by God, I was going to do this.

I put my thinking cap on. Always a dangerous move. Even if the truck wasn't going to move, the horses still needed fed. I know I can't carry a flake from the big bale by myself, because they're bigger than me, I just can't get figure out how to get my arms around them without them disintegrating. I thought about getting the wheelbarrow, but have you ever tried pushing a wheelbarrow around in snow drifts?

As I was cussing and stomping around, I looked over and saw the truck bed liner that had blown out of the truck over the summer in a micro-burst. It was folded over and frozen to the ground, but it would make an acceptable sled wouldn't it?

Then I remembered that I still had my tow hook attached to my car from when I got stuck up at Mom and Bill's a couple of weeks ago. A plan was hatched! I'd drag the bed liner to the truck, cut the strings, let four or five flakes fall into the now-sled, drag it to my car, attach it to the tow hook and drag it right into the pen.

I sprained my shoulder patting myself on the back for being such a problem solver. It wasn't easy - that bed liner was frozen to the ground and frozen into an effed up shape. I slipped and fell in slow motion while trying to stomp the bed liner flat again, but, by God I'm a do-er and I was going to get this done!

Lots of cussing and stomping and patting myself on the back and I was ready to drag the bed liner food sled into the pen.

Genius. Sort of.

The horses were good and worked up and I had to chase them away from the gate more than once, but we've done this every ten days for almost two years. They know the routine - the gate opens, they go to the other side of the pen. Usually, there are two of us to take hay in, but we've both done it solo successfully. As obnoxious as the horses were being, I figured they would jump on the hay once I got it in the pen, but just to be on the safe side, I opened the gate just a foot, then got in the car and pulled it up until the bumper was touching the gate.

I got out of the car, and went to swing the gate open. The horses retreated to the other side of the pen. Good horses!

I got in my car, pulled forward and off we went. My idea was working! I sprained my other arm patting myself on the back for being such a problem solver.

The baling twine I'd used to attach the sled to the tow hook gave way, but I wasn't worried, because I'd cleared the gate and would be able to close it without any problems. I drove my car around the pen so I could just drive straight out. I saw the horses go for the hay, and just knew they'd dive into it. I came around the last little bit of my turn and saw Pearl sniff the gate, then she took one step across the invisible boundary. I hollered at her to get back; she looked at me, with a glint in her eye, I think she even flipped me off, before she sauntered out the gate.

The other two decided that they wanted an adventure more than they wanted to eat and off they went with her. I had slowed down when I saw what was happening and must have stopped the car. The horses were still in the back yard, so I just left the car there, thinking I could herd them back into the gate.

I stomped out of the pen and called for them to come back. I mean, they come when called all the time. But not this time. This time, they looked back and went, oh shit, Mom's coming ... run!

Up the driveway and across the street they went. The farmers had pulled into the driveway to check on their cattle and asked if they could help. I asked them to keep an eye on them while I went to get their halters. L.E. stuck her head out of the house and asked if those were our horses loose across the street.


They weren't going too far from home, and once they were safely across the street I felt better. I didn't want them anywhere near the street as people were coming home. I told L.E. to get the halters while I pulled my car out of the pen so I could close the gate.

Unfortunately, when I stopped the car, I lost my momentum on the snow/ice and I was not quite stuck, but not quite mobile either. With lots of cussing and driving reverse/forward/reverse/forward, I was able to get my car moving in the right direction through the gate. I was starting to feel like things were going to be okay and then I slid and got my back bumper hung up on the panel. I said screw it, threw the car in park and then swung the gate closed until it rested against my stuck car. The opening was blocked by my car, but I didn't want to waste any more time before catching the horses.

L.E. was smart enough to grab some granola bars from the tack room and by the time I got to her, she had Pearl interested in a granola bar. She bribed her close enough to catch. Copper was still pacing back and forth in the field, but Skeeter's granola bar radar clicked on and she came right up to me to be caught.

I didn't even bother to attempt to catch Copper, knowing that he'd follow wherever his mares were going. He's so herd bound that there was no way he was going to let them out of his sight. In fact, by the time Skeeter and I had walked back across the street, Copper had passed us on his way to find Pearl, who was in the pen with L.E.

I don't know how long they were free - probably only about 20 minutes, but when your horses are loose it always seems longer.

Once the horses were safely back in the pen, I asked the farmers to please help me get my car untangled from the fence. As upset as I was last week when I realized that someone had sideswiped my cars, I was rather thankful for it tonight. When I got hung up on the fence, at least I wasn't putting the first dent in my car - the dent already existed.

With some huffing and puffing, they were able to push me through the opening in the gate before I lost traction and came to a stop. I didn't care. The car can fucking stay there for all I care. All I wanted to do was secure the gate and be done.

I thanked L.E. and the farmers for their help and slogged through the snow drifts to the house, cussing all the way.

Sometimes being a do-er bites me in the ass. I shoulda just waited and followed the plan.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Fatty McFatterson

I've needed a back cinch for my saddle, but haven't put much effort into finding one. I love my lightweight saddle, but it is so light that when I longe Skeeter in it, the back end flops all around. Mom and Bill were able to find one that was reasonably priced and picked it up for me. I have a synthetic Wintec saddle and they were able to find a nylon back cinch by Formay that would work with my saddle.

I was ... confused ... when I unpacked the cinch, because I couldn't figure out how to attach it to the saddle. I'm used to the leather billets that you feed through the D-ring and hold in place with the tongue of the buckle. That was not at all how these attached. Bill had tried to explain it to me a couple of days ago, but I wasn't able to visualize it. I had to go to Google University to figure out how to get the dang thing on. I took pictures in case anyone else runs into the same problem.

I mean, really? WTH?

Ah, unhook the billet from the cinch and feed it through the D-ring

Slip it through the belt keeper

And tighten it up

Then re-attach the cinch with the buckle.

Do the same to the near side and it's finally on!

Except ... oops ... someone has enjoyed her free feed too much.
I do not believe that Skeeter was very excited about me calling her Fatty McFatterson, but if the cinch fits - or doesn't in this case ...

After I turned her back out in the pen, I took a leather punch to the straps and will hope that it fits her better next time. It looks like we both need to join Julie Goodnight's 5-Pound Challenge and maybe start Couch to 5K.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mom and Bill's Christmas Card Surprise

We have Mom and Bill's herd for a few days, and since we were going to take Christmas pictures with our horses, how hard could it be to do Christmas pictures with theirs?

Washoe the Wonder Idiot and Jesse were angels - they were easily caught and willing to play dress-up without a problem. Ranger Danger, on the other hand, well ... let's just say I got a lot of exercise trying to catch him. I might have given up a time or two, but there was no way I was going to get Christmas pictures of only two of their horses. If I couldn't get all three, then I wasn't going to do it. And, by God, Mom was going to get her Christmas pictures, so Ranger and I had to come to an understanding.

Eventually, he deigned to be caught and was a perfect gentleman for his 30 seconds of fame. Jerk.

I didn't know what to do with the pictures once we took them, so I decided that I'd make Mom and Bill some Christmas cards to send out. Now, this is risky, because I don't know if Mom has already sent out her cards. Just to be on the safe side, I didn't put the year on the cards in case she needs to hold them until next year. How's that for thinking?

Mom's herd wasn't super excited about having to play dress-up and pose for me. They do great for Mom and Bill, but I'm not really their human. There was no getting happy ears from them for the pictures. They stood nicely like I asked them to, but that was the extent of their cooperation. It was like taking pictures of sullen teenagers. But the pictures are done, and Mom's going to love this surprise, dammit.

Clockwise: Reba, Washoe, Ranger, Jesse, Humans

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Christmas Card Win

Monday was an exercise in persistence. But we did manage to get enough decent pictures to assemble a card that makes us smile.

Clockwise: Pearl, Skeeter, Copper, Speed Racer, Gizmo, Pongo, Allie-bird, humans.
Maybe next year we'll be able to get a group photo.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Christmas Card Fails

It's been two years since Jay and I attempted a Christmas card with all the critters, so I decided this was the year. It was going to happen. In my mind, I could picture it - the horses all standing nicely in their American Mustang halters and their Christmas scarves, lined up behind us, and Allie-bird sitting nicely on the ground in front of us. It was going to be perfect.

However, I've been around animals enough to know that what I want to happen and what actually happens are two different things, so I had a back-up plan.

After I decided to make the horses scarves, I decided that we were going to get pictures of the cats too and made them scarves. They were Not Thrilled.

I set up a mini photo studio (read: red fleece draped over a chair that I could plunk the cats down on to snap a quick picture) and started chasing them down.

Pongo was after the treats and didn't want to sit still.

Gizmo has a demon inside her, I think.

Speed Racer is going to kill me in my sleep.
Eventually, I did get pictures of the cats that are usable, not perfect, but usable. I turned my focus to making the horses' scarves. I wasn't sure how long they needed to be, so I took my first attempt out to try on Skeeter.

It wasn't nearly long enough and she tried to eat it.
I doubled the length, added some fake snow stuff to the ends and tried again.

This time, both Skeeter and Pearl tried to eat it.
I realized that we had a big storm coming in, so my window for getting the "perfect" pictures was closing. Jay was off today (Monday), so I took a personal day so we could get the pictures done. I expected it would take an hour.

It took three.

Instead of the perfect card I had imagined, we ended up having to go with our back-up plan of individual pictures of each horse. The wind was kicking up and we've gone one heck of a winter storm moving in, which made the horses a bit full of themselves.

Miss "Cranky butt" Pearl

Skeeter "the Goofball" Bang

Copper "I don't wanna" Casanova
I was not kidding when I said it took three hours to get the pictures of the horses. The girls were fairly easy to catch, but Mr. Copper was a turd. It took lots of work to get him caught. Lots of work.

We finished with the horses and ran into the house to change into not-horse-snotted clothes. The wind was really kicking up by then and our window of opportunity was closing very, very fast.

Pongo the photobomber and Allie-bird just wouldn't cooperate.
Eventually, though, we did come up with picture of all of us that we could use to make a passable Christmas card.

The thing is, I kinda wish we'd used all the outtakes for our card - they are a much more realistic view into our world.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Riding Day

Mom and Bill hauled the horses down today to do something we've been planning for a while: go for a ride on the farm road. It's not a big deal for their horses, but it is a big deal for ours. Besides, we have a brand new hitch rail to break in!

First things first, though. We had to put out a new bale, which meant that we got to try out our new anchor post.

Slip the end of the tow rope over the post, kick the pallets into place, and away we go!
Until two days ago, unloading the round bale required us to wrap a ratchet strap around one of the support posts for the shed, attach it to the tow rope, and then driving out from under it. It was truly a two-person job. This anchor post makes unloading practically a one-person job. You know, if the horses would ignore the fact that a new bale was being unloaded, it would be a one-person job.

Mom and Bill hauled their horses down and had them tied to their trailer, so we had three fewer "helpers" than we normally do with putting out hay. It was all Very Exciting, and the 3 Mustangeers had to move their feet. Between having visitors and getting a new bale, they were beside themselves.


Once they were all settled down (read: had their faces buried in the new bale), I pulled Skeeter to put her to work. Eventually, we'll take all three of them out on the farm roads, but we had only three riders and six horses. Some had to stay behind. Leaving any of Mom's herd behind was out of the question.

Skeets did amazing being hard tied to the hitch rail, though I was always in her sight. I've been saddling her one-handed for so long that she wasn't excited about being saddled while tied, but didn't move around too much. With more practice, she'll remember to stand still.

I decided that her black bridle was never going to adjust small enough to be comfortable for her, so I changed to a different headstall that I could adjust better. Even that was too big, so while I went digging around for the leather punch, I handed Skeeter off to Mom and Bill to get a crash course in being ponied.

Jesse's on Injured Reserve, so she has to be ponied too. She's not thrilled.

It didn't take long to fix Skeeter's bridle, so I sent her in a couple of circles just to see where her mind was. She was ready to go.

But she didn't want anything to do with the mounting block (yeah, we need to work on that), so with the success of mounting from the ground under my belt from Posse training, I decided that I'd just climb aboard. Little missy had other ideas. She forgot how to keep her feet still and at one point threatened to bite me, so she got to move her feet a lot. There were a handful of times I could have just pulled the running mount out of the archives, but there's no need for that. I don't want to have to spend time breaking a bad habit in the future, so we worked through it.

Foot to stirrup - oops, you moved off, now you work.

Foot to stirrup - oh hell, no, you did not just nip at me, now you work.

Foot to stirrup - you stood still, good girl, back off.

Foot to stirrup - oops, you moved off, now you work.

Lather, rinse, repeat. I have no idea how long we were at it, but Mom and Bill's horses were very patient while we worked through it. Eventually, Skeeter stood still through the whole mounting process. She did move off before I could get my right foot in the stirrup, but my butt was in the saddle and I was settled, so I just pulled her to a stop.

I moved her feet a little bit, doing figure eights both directions in the back yard until I felt calmer and her feet slowed. Once we were comfortable, Mom and Bill joined us in the yard and we practiced wandering around individually, then we followed their horses, and walked side-by-side with Ranger Danger.

I had to get a between-the-ears pic of the moment.
I would have been perfectly fine riding in the back yard, but Mom and Bill came down to be my support crew on my first ride off property, so I sucked it up and we headed to the road. I'll admit, I was stressed and worried. Why, I don't know. Skeeter has never been "bad", she's a bit pushy on the ground and unafraid of lots, but she's never given me any reason to doubt her.

Both of us breathing deep to relax. I found it funny that we had identical expressions.
Skeeter completely ignored the fact that there were three other horses with us. On one hand, it's great because she's got the confidence to go out by herself. On the other hand, I've never had a horse so thoroughly ignore other horses in a group. She basically did the same thing at Posse training.

I kept her to a slow(ish) walk, though she really wanted to stretch out and go. I know I'm slow to trust her, and that's my issue, but we'll be working at a walk for a while yet. We rode out only about half a mile. Mom and Bill and their horses could have gone a lot further (and they do at home), but that's about all my nerves would take. I never used to be a nervous rider, but now I can't seem to get out of my head.

Not knowing how Skeeter would react riding home with Copper and Pearl being flying goofballs in the pen, I elected to dismount and walk back. Only ... I have an issue with dismounting that is a new issue. The last two times I've dismounted from the left side, Skeeter has kicked out and I've gotten one of the ridges of my boot caught on the stirrup and haven't been able to get free. I can dismount on the off side no problem. She doesn't care, I don't get hung up, and life is good.

I started to dismount the proper way and just froze - I couldn't force myself to do it. So, I dismounted from the off side. We'll be working on getting us through our dismounting issues in the future, but the ride was going well and I didn't want to screw it up.

We followed Mom and Bill back without a problem, though Jesse wasn't so excited about having us follow them.

Cranky mare
Being on the ground gave me a free hand to take a couple of pictures of Mom and Bill riding together, which made me happy.

About halfway home, I realized that I'd inadvertently signed myself up for cardio and who wants to do that? They offered to wait while I re-mounted, but that sounded like a whole lot of work. More work than walking.

When Nebalee and Deejo were gymnasts, the gym had a rule about "one last time". Once you finished a trick, you never did it "one last time", because that's when you'd get hurt. I thought it was a good rule and passed it on to my kids. In fact, every time they did something "one last time" someone ended up hurt. I wasn't willing to risk the "one last time" by climbing back up on Skeeter after I'd declared our ride finished.

After our ride, we turned all the horses out together for a little dinner buffet. Introducing the two herds a couple of months ago paid off - there were no fireworks. They all bellied up to the hay bale and dug in.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Human Work Day (picture heavy)

For a while now, we've been wanting to put in a hitch rail. While we can saddle the horses one-handed, and they do okay with it, it would be awfully nice to have a place near the tack room to park the horses. Now that business is slowing down for Mom and Bill, they were able to pencil us in to spend the day helping with "farm chores".

My friend was absolutely wonderful and came over last week to dig the post holes. I actually asked him to bring his tractor over with the auger attachment, but he said it was much easier to just dig it by hand. I admit, I was being lazy by asking to use the auger. The last time I dug a post hole was back on my first day working for Bucky at the livery, almost two decades ago, so when he wanted to dig by hand I did not argue.

Jay and I bought all the supplies and then couldn't wait to see what it was going to look like, so we mocked it up briefly.

We knew it was going to be awesome!
Unfortunately, Jay had to work today, so it looked like it was just going to be Mom, Bill, and me. However, once Mom and Bill got here this morning, they brought the bad news that Bill had jacked up his back while getting ready to come down. The "heavy lifting" was going to fall to me and Mom. Luckily, we're both badasses. Just ask us, we'll tell you. ;)

Jay reminded me late last night that I have built in slave labor in the form on my children, so this morning I sent Digger a message to see if he wanted to come work play for a little bit. He didn't get back to me right away, so we started without him.

Getting the center post ready to be attached

Yes, I'm short, and, yes, the hitch rail is very tall

Of course, he had to check our work. It was killing him to have to stand aside.
We bolted the rail together, made sure that it was all level, then started in with the pouring of cement. I bought ten bags of QuickCrete thinking that would be enough, and it was ... barely. Mom and I took turns mixing the concrete, while Bill had the very important job of keeping the wheelbarrow from falling over. I'm not even being a smart ass - the wheelbarrow has seen much, much better days.

After reading Bill's blog about their ride yesterday, I knew I had to inscribe something into the freshly poured concrete. Just so happens we had three posts and three horses with three different brands. It was a no brainer. (I don't know why blogger rotated the pictures, so forgive me that you have to cock your head to the right to read them.)

Skeeter: 10-247888

Copper: 10-858120

Pearl: 11-858621

Digger arrived just as we finished up with the concrete on the hitch rail, so we put him to work digging a post hole in the horses' pen. We decided to put in an "anchor" post to help with unloading hay from the truck and also to use as a patience post if necessary.

Gizmo (the cat) must have thought she'd get put to work too!

It took Digger no time at all to get the hole dug.
Since we used all ten bags of QuickCrete I had purchased, we had to run back in to town to pick up another couple of bags to set the anchor post. We had originally intended to use the left-over 4x4 from the hitch rail, but I was concerned that it wouldn't be strong enough to withstand repeated use pulling 1,200# round bales from the truck. We decided to get a metal pole and fill it with concrete to make it strong enough to do the job we need it for.

Once we had the anchor post in, we went back to finish the hitch post. Despite using deck brackets to hold it together, Jay and I decided we wanted to use lag bolts to attach the crossbeam to the uprights. We did allow Bill to do use the drill to make the guide holes, because there wasn't much chance of him hurting his back even further.

My badass mom looks like she's in her 30s! How does she look 10 years younger than me?


We had to try it out - looks good!
We didn't actually tie up the horses, as they're not hard-tied often, but that's going to change soon. We'll give the concrete a couple of days to cure before we start tying them.

They did well pretending to be tied, so we introduced them to the new anchor post in the middle of their pen. Our concern, of course, is that they'll find some way to hurt themselves on it, so we put a couple of pallets around the pole just as a visual reminder that it's there.

They're such goofballs. I love them, though.