Sunday, March 19, 2017

Gun Training

At our Posse meeting last week, the subject of gun training came up. That's something that we'll work on as a team, but I thought it would be a good idea to get a head start. With Skeeter as green as she is, I don't want to add too much to her plate.

I've got a few weeks before our annual spring training, so I thought I'd use the time to start desensitizing all of the horses to gunfire. They're use to hearing shotguns and rifles out in the surrounding fields, but nothing up close.

I pulled out the shotgun and my .22 pistol and got to work. This is a long, mostly boring video, but I think we made some good progress.

I had some hiccups with my shotgun (two years in storage, not enough oil), but once I get those sorted out, I'll try to get a few shots off each day at random intervals until it becomes a non-issue. I'll do the same with the .22. Once they're "over it", I'll move up in caliber.

The plan is to buy some blanks eventually, so that when we go on walks, I can just randomly fire off shots. We need them to be gun safe anywhere, not just at home. There are probably other, more "right" ways to make them gun safe, but I think this is what's going to work for us.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Goofing Around (Picture heavy)

There are some really cute videos of horses playing with toys floating around Facebook. There's the one of the horse playing with the squeaky toy and then there's this one of a horse playing with a giant stuffed animal. The videos are great fun to watch, and it gave me ideas for more desensitizing, so a few weeks ago I headed to the toy store.

I picked out a couple of squeaky dog toys at one store, and when the cashier was checking me out, he asked what kind of dog I had. He was a bit surprised when I told him the toys were for our horses and asked if they liked dog toys. Who knows? They've been playing with a milk jug full of rocks, maybe they'll appreciate the dog toys.

The first store I went to didn't have giant stuffed animals, so I went to a different store. There were some amazingly huge stuffed animals, but I had no intention of going broke for a toy that was going to get dragged through horse poop.

Horse toys

Allie-bird asked nicely for one of the toys. I caved.
Impatiently, I waited for Jay to come home from work so we could go play with the horses. I wanted to see what they would do. Skeeter is usually very curious and brave, so I expected that she would be the first to play with the new toys. Oh boy, was I wrong! Miss Pearl and Copper were the brave ones. Skeeter took a sniff and then went away.

It really wasn't too terribly exciting. We could have caught the horses and forced the issue, but I prefer to let them explore on their own. We played with the toys for a while, then L.E. came over and played for a bit as well. As much as Skeeter pretends she doesn't want to play with the monkey, she claimed it when L.E. was playing with her.

Copper claimed the giant bunny and will allow the others to sniff, but if they thought about playing with it, he moved them away from it. Eventually the new wore off, so we tied the toys to the sacrificial post just to see what they would do.

The sacrificial post amused us two-leggeds a lot more than it amused the four-leggeds. We got bored of watching them do nothing with the critters and went back in the house. A bit later, I looked out the window just in time to see Skeeter rip the monkey's face clean off. She had taken him off of the pole, had one foot on his belly and his face in her mouth. Game over for the monkey.

RIP Sad Monkey

I fetched the monkey from the pen, along with the guts I didn't want them snuffling up. Poor Skeeter looked so forlorn about the fact I took her monkey away that I felt bad and finished gutting it, so she could have the 'hide' back to play with.

About an hour later, Jay looked out the window to see the rabbit carnage strewn about the pen. The rabbit was much larger than the monkey and had a lot more guts for us to clean up. A lot more.

RIP Floppy Bunny. You were a good bunny.
I'm going to pat ourselves on our backs for doing a reasonably good job of desensitizing the horses - these were scary things and they didn't care one whit. They were just boring to watch with them. No fun crazy horse videos from our place, that's for sure.

Monday, February 13, 2017

On Hold

Our horses' Grand Adventure has been put on hold for a bit.

It seems Beel's truck decided that it didn't want to go to Arizona and went on strike. Luckily, it broke down at the gas station the night before we left, instead of leaving us stranded on the highway with three horses in a trailer. The truck had been fixed by the dealership the week before our scheduled trip, so to have it break down less than one week since picking it up from being "fixed" did not make anyone happy. This time, instead of going to the dealership, Beel found an actual diesel mechanic to work on the truck.

It is now running, but the window of opportunity that Jay and I had to go down with the horses has closed and it'll be Mom and Beel running them down when they can. We were sad that we had to postpone the trip, but have been thankful to have them with us for a bit longer. The weather has been unseasonably warm down on the plains (while Mom and Beel have been getting hammered with snow), so we've had time to just hang out and enjoy the herd.

I'm not certain the horses are as thrilled as we are about having time to hang out with them, though. The weather has been so nice that we took the "winter" water tub out of the pen and disconnected the hoses. Suddenly, we had extra baling twine, from untying the hoses from the fence, and we had a couple of 4' hoses. The horses were curious, so we helped them do their best Cyndi Lauper impressions. You can see how thrilled they all were.

"Really Mom?"

"I can pull this off."

"I'm never going to forgive you for this, Mom."

Thursday, February 2, 2017

One More Sleep

In approximately 12 hours, we'll be loading up the horses and headed to warmer pastures.

If you've read my book, Tales from the Trails (a little shameless self-promotion), then you've "met" Bucky. He's a real-deal cowboy who is doing what he loves with his wife and son by his side. Long before the movie UnBranded came out, Bucky decided to ride his green horse from the Arizona border up to his "summer job" in Allenspark, so he loaded up two horses - one to ride, and one to pack - and set out. This was long before GPS and cell phone coverage everywhere. He didn't have a "support crew". He'd call and check in every few days on his trip, and he always had a hell of a story when he'd call.

He and his wife are two of the best Barn Bosses I've ever worked for, so when he suggested I take the horses down to their place, I jumped all over it. I know there are a lot of people who look down on trail "nags", but I have to tell you, those nags are some of the best trained horses I know. They might not know a lot of fancy dressage moves, but they are solid mounts. The opportunity that Bucky and Mrs. Bucky are giving the horses can't be beat.

Our paperwork is all in a row, the hay nets are full and ready to be hung in the trailer and the horses are ... intrigued. They all got very excited today when I started prepping the trailer. They got even more excited when I went into their pen to fill the hay bags, and Skeeter was beside herself when I took the halters off of the fence.

Where are we goin', Mom?

Yikes! These had to come into the mudroom to thaw.
I hope they are as excited tomorrow about the trailer as they were this morning, otherwise it can be a really stressful start to the trip. I don't foresee any problems whatsoever, and any problems that might come up will be solved with a honey/oat granola bar.

Though the horses don't know where they are going, I'm sure they'll be glad to go some place where they don't look like this in the mornings:

Miss Pearl

Miss Skeeter
When you get a chance, check out their temporary new home (YES, they are coming back home to us in May) at Blue Sky Ranches.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Preparing for a Grand Adventure

We haven't said much, because things are just now coming together, but if all works out the horses will be going on a Grand Adventure and we are crazy excited about it.

In January, when Mom and Beel were headed to pick up Alloy, our friend Bucky messaged me and told me to put my horses on the trailer down to his place. Of course, it was way too late to do that when he messaged me, but it did plant the seed.

The Mustangeers need wet saddle blankets, and a lot of them. Bucky runs a dude ranch out of southern Arizona. He's going into his busy time and short on horses. Mom and Beel talked it over with Bucky and his wife to see if they were serious. We were certain they were because Bucky never says anything he doesn't mean, but before we put the horses on a trailer his direction, we wanted to double check. (And we thought it would be a good idea to run it by Mrs. Bucky before we showed up with three extra mouths to feed.)

Turns out this is a mutually beneficial agreement and the horses will become "snow birds" in a week or so, which brings us back to the vet visit.

I was a bit worried about catching Copper, because he's either really, really easy to catch or a complete ass - there is no in-between with him. I decided to catch him first instead of giving him a chance to get upset when I took the girls out one by one. I also decided to stack the deck in my favor and went into the pen with his very favorite brush. He can be a brat, but he's a sucker for a good brushing. He was a breeze to catch, which I took as a good omen.

The vet asked if it would be okay to sedate the horses. At first, I was hesitant, because they were just getting vaccinated and they've always done great for him, but he explained that it was a "needle heavy" visit, so I agreed to sedation.

Copper is such a lightweight.

Pearl wasn't excited, but got over it.

3 Stoned Mustangeers

Just hanging out, enjoying their buzz
The vet visit went beautifully. They were saints, even before the sedative, but the drugs made the visit go much faster. They got a four-way, plus rabies, plus strangles and blood pulled for their Coggins. Once their blood work comes back clean, we'll be one step closer to getting them to Bucky's Boot Camp for Lipid Enriched Equines.

After the sedative started wearing off, Skeeter decided to tell everyone what happened at the top of her lungs. The neighbor horses got a blow-by-blow recitation of her vet visit, and I'm sure they were thrilled.

This morning, I looked out the bedroom window and saw this ...

In case you can't see through the fence and feeder, Copper and Pearl are lying in their hay while eating it. They're taking full advantage of their post-vaccines sick day. Turds.

Skeeter made a point to come out of the shed to show me she was a good girl and Copper jumped up once he realized he'd been busted lying in his hay. Pearl didn't give a single damn and continued to eat breakfast in bed. Brat.

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.