Sunday, July 17, 2016

Birthday Ride

Today's birthday ride was nothing like I've had in the past. Usually, I head up to the Lodge and go out for an afternoon with Mom or Bill. Since my birthday is in the middle of the season, I don't get to ride with both of them for my birthday - just one or the other.

My birthday ride after I put Estes down was a nice enough ride on Washoe and I'm glad I was pushed into it, even if I wasn't sure I was ready to be back up on a horse. My heart was still broken, but it was a good ride and reminded me why I loved being out on the trails.

Last year, I didn't do a birthday ride at all. Skeeter wasn't nearly ready for the trails (still isn't, but maybe next year), but we did go down to Julie Goodnight's for Horse Master, so that kind of took the place of a birthday ride.

I haven't been back up on a horse since Pearl bucked me off in May and I knew I just had to do it. What I hadn't realized was how much my confidence had been shaken by that incident. Skeeter would have been perfectly fine today if I'd just tacked her up and climbed aboard. I, however, would not have been. We spent probably 45 minutes on ground work before I even considered climbing up. My goal was to get up and sit. If I got any "riding" in, that would have been a bonus.

Annie has been riding Skeeter and Copper (and will start with Pearl) twice a week, so I knew Skeets would be fine. I just had to get myself up there. And I managed to. There were some stops and starts, but I did finally swing my leg over. I had pounded some PVC pipes into the ground in a square around the mounting block so I had physical things to maneuver around and "targets" to look at while riding. If I have something to look at, then I spend less time looking down at Skeeter.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Annie

We knew getting into this three-horse thing, we wouldn't have time to work all of them on a regular schedule, so we've been looking for someone to help us put wet saddle blankets on them. They are all three green-broke and Pearl has the most riding under her belt, but we have been struggling getting enough hours on them to help them progress.

I'd approached our neighbor, who owns a riding school, about finding a rider back in March (before we even had Pearl) and she put me in touch with someone she knew. The person she put me in touch with is an excellent rider, but doesn't do much western riding and was uncomfortable taking on a discipline outside of her own. I was disappointed, but completely understood.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a text from my neighbor telling me she thought she had someone else who was interested in working the horses. I was really excited until I read that the rider she wanted to send me was 15. I was pretty conflicted about how a 15 year old girl would handle three green-broke horses and struggled with replying for a few hours.

On my way home from work, I got a call from the rider, Annie. It took about 3 seconds to calm my fears about having a "youngster" ride for us. As my neighbor said, she's 15 going on 35. She's been riding her whole life and is currently re-training an OTTB. I invited her and her mom out to meet the horses to see if it was going to be a match.

She worked with confidence and quickly identified areas in which Skeeter and Copper needed work. She rode each of them and was able to respond to both of their very different personalities.

Skeeter was a bit mare-ish, but what do you expect?

Cops was worried, but that's his default with new things.

The day Annie came out, Skeeter developed some random soft tissue swelling in her right hind, but I had her ride anyway. I did cancel the next Skeeter ride, just in case she had an abscess brewing. Turns out it was just random soft tissue stuff (she probably did it while Pearl was chasing her all over Estes' pen) that went away in a couple of days.

Annie came back out and took Copper for a ride at the neighbor's arena and it turned into a great lesson day for him. A storm came rolling in, so Copper got to stand in the barn while it stormed. When he got a little too antsy, he went into a stall. He does not like small horses, so the stall was perfect - his next-stall-neighbor was a pony mare with a baby. Belle's not as small as a mini, and neither is her baby, but they are definitely much smaller than Copper's used to.

Finally, the storm passed and Annie was able to take him out to the arena for a ride. I haven't talked to her much to see how the ride went, but she said it was a good one.

She was on vacation last week, but starting tomorrow she'll be riding all three horses twice a week. I think the horses will respond well to a structured riding schedule, which will make it a lot easier for Jay and I to get up on them on our days off.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Pearl Update

Pearl has settled into the herd nicely. So far, the herd dynamics have not shaken out the way I thought they would. Just over a week in, it's Copper as the alpha, followed by Pearl (very, very recent), then Skeeter. I would have thought Skeeter, Copper, then Pearl. Copper stepped right up the minute Pearl moved in, which bumped Skeeter down, but she still out-ranked Pearl until yesterday/today. They're still fine-tuning the hierarchy, but I think this is pretty close to being done.

Jessica came out on Sunday for our first lesson with Pearl. We'd not done much other than just let her settle in and give her some loves, so Sunday was her first work day. Jay and I have both worked with Jessica, so we had L.E. do the groundwork lesson. It's overwhelming, because Jessica knows so much and when you're trying to learn it, it's like drinking from a fire hose.

Pearl was a bit worried that we'd taken her away from Skeeter and Copper, so we brought them over and tied them to the trailer. She calmed down immediately with her "support crew" near. It was good for Skeets and Copper to stand tied at the trailer for an hour, as well.



L.E. learned about how/why Jessica does circling work the way she does. It's helpful to have had the same trainer with all of our horses, because we can work any one of them the same way. After trying on a few saddles, Jessica decided Jay's brown Aussie fit her the best, so we tacked her up and L.E. did more work with her.

It didn't take long for Jessica to decide it was time to mount up. L.E. was a bit nervous because it has been about eight years since she was on a horse. I can certainly understand her apprehension. It's hard to climb back up on a horse if you haven't been on one in a while.



Even though the saddle is way too big for L.E.'s little rear end, she did really well. Pearl was perfect and L.E.'s grin was infectious. She's pretty in love with Pearl about now.

At the end of the lesson, L.E. wanted to make sure Jay got up on her while Jessica was there. They lengthened the stirrups and Jay started to mount up. The step-stool/mounting block was a bit far away, but not too far away. It was just far enough that he had to reach a bit to mount. He dragged his foot across her butt, which was no big deal, but then got his leg caught on the cantle, which causes a bit of worry. By the time he got his butt in the saddle it was too late, she was well and truly worried and set to bucking. Jay managed to ride out a little buck and then she let loose with a big buck and off he came.

Luckily, we were out in the middle of the field, so there wasn't much to hit on the way down. His years of TKD training as a kid paid off and he managed to tuck and roll before going splat. Pearl has never offered a buck - ever - so Jessica was stunned.

She asked me to climb up on her, as we assumed it was just too much for her with the foot dragging across the butt and the getting hung up on the cantle and the general awkwardness of the mount. We started off just like she was a new colt: foot in the stirrup, add weight, get down; foot in the stirrup, add weight, lean over, get down; rinse, repeat. She was calm and taking it easy, so I threw my leg over and plopped down to simulate an uncoordinated mount. Pearl took offense to that and off I went. I landed stuntman-perfectly - flat on my back. The only thing missing was the crash pad. The air whooshed out of me and I had a moment of panic before I rolled over to my hands and knees to attempt to catch my breath.

As much as it hurts to admit it, it was good for me to get bucked off. It's been a while (about ten years or so) and I'd let it build up to be some horrible, horrible thing. But it's not. I hit the ground, which hurt like a mofo, but I managed to get back up, which reminded me that I just lived through what I'd built up in my mind to be the worst thing that could happen on a green horse.

There were things I could have/should have done differently, but I'm not sure it would have changed the outcome, so it's not worth entertaining the "what ifs".

Jessica told us that she would not have believed it if she hadn't seen it with her own two eyes, up close and personal. Hell, I wouldn't have believe it, either. We discussed what happened, but couldn't really come up with a good reason. Jessica climbed back up on her and rode a circle without a problem, then she changed to her own saddle, which she's more comfortable in, and rode around some more. Pearl was an angel.

After a couple of days of thinking on it, I have a hypothesis. Jay's saddle has a channel down the middle, with pads on either side. Neither Jessica nor L.E. are heavy enough to compress those pads. However, Jay is. My thought is that when he finally got into the saddle, those pads compressed (bulged) inward toward her spine and "bit" her. Pain will definitely cause bucking in a horse who's never offered one.

While, I'm not as heavy as Jay, I've got fifty pound on both Jessica and L.E. When I plopped down into the saddle, I also "bit" her on the spine and she said "ouch". If I'd eased into my mount properly, she might not have bucked, because the compression of the pads wouldn't have been so sudden and ouchie. We might have had problems later, at a trot, if I'd missed a post or inadvertently slammed down on her back.

Both of us are sore as all get-out and Jay has some amazing bruises, but we lived through it and now we know that his saddle is not one that we should use with Pearl (and we both should lose some weight).

We hobbled through getting the horses put away and had to get pretty for family pictures later in the afternoon. We both knew it was going to suck and it did, but we managed to smile, not grimace, through the pics.

I had no sooner crawled into bed after an eventful (and painful) day when there was a knock on the front door. Jay was in the living room and yelled out, "babe! Someone's at the door." To which I reminded him I was nekkie and in bed, so he pulled on some britches to answer the door. It was one of our neighbors to tell us that the horses were out.

"Are you freaking kidding me?!" I grumbled as I pulled on some clothes to join them outside. Turns out, it wasn't our horses who were out, but the across-the-street neighbor's horses. Since Jay and I horse-sit for them when they're on vacation, her horses associate us with food. They allowed us to catch them while they were grazing in our yard and let us lead them back to their paddock.

It was reminiscent of the livery's break-outs, but much, much easier to handle, thank God. I don't think I could have dealt with one of those scenes.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Auction Time! Auction Time! Ladies and Gentlemen, It's Auction Time!

Jay and I kept getting ads on Facebook about an upcoming tack auction, but the local one happened to be the same night as the EMM finals. It was a no-brainer as to which auction we were going to. I was a little disappointed to miss the tack auction, but got over it pretty quickly.

Well, Tuesday, lo and behold, we get another ad on Facebook for the same auction, just held at a different site. I remembered that the original ad said there would be multiple auctions, so Jay and I made a date of it.

We had a vague idea of what we were looking for, but we were mostly just going for fun. Since I have a black saddle, I thought maybe I'd find a black headstall for Skeets. Even though Pearl has joined the family, we weren't looking for things for her. We wanted to wait until we have our first lesson with Jessica to get an idea of saddle size before we bought one for her.

We got to the auction with only about 15 minutes to look through the inventory, so we kind of ran through and made mental notes of what we'd like. One of the things that caught my eye was a good wool/gel saddle pad. There was also a cute red synthetic kid's saddle that I thought we'd bid on. I was willing to pay $30 - it went for $105, so no kid's saddle for us.

The auction started and the floodgates opened. In the end, we had purchased a whole lot more than we intended to, but we got screaming deals on everything.

We had to buy four of these. Had to. I swear.
All of the horses, Pearl included, have at least four halters.

These hangers are a necessity.

And it's a really cute way to organize the tack room.

Digger broke his last knife, so when this went for $10, we had to buy it.

I didn't even know Jay was bidding on these blingy halters.

But they're kind of cute, so we might keep them.

He bought two red and a blue.


This is more bling than I'm used to, but it should match Skeeter's saddle okay.

And the bridle came with a matching breast collar.

I also really loved this headstall. I think Pearl is going to end up with this one.

We weren't in the market for another Aussie saddle, but Jay picked this one up for $90!

Smart wool and gel saddle pad. $45, couldn't beat it.

Contoured memory wool saddle pad for Jay's first Aussie saddle.

Big black wool pad. I'm not sure about this one, we'll see how it works out.

This was the last tack auction. The auctioneers were tired of the whole damn thing and it showed, so items went for next to nothing. We watched custom saddles, normally $2,800 go for $450 or less.

They finally pulled a row of saddles lined them up on the front tables, bid for choice and they went for $250 each. Then they'd add saddles to the front tables and bid for choice again. They did that over and over again, until all of the 100 saddles were sold. Some brand new saddles went for as low as $120. If we had known which ones would fit Pearl, we probably would have picked one up.

There was one lady there who was buying like she'd just won the lotto. She had to have spent $10,000, easy. At first, we thought she had a large herd she was buying for, but with the quantities she was buying, we changed our mind and decided she owned a store and was buying stock.

Despite the buying frenzy we were in, we managed to spend less than $450, which is pretty darn good considering what we brought home.

Now I can't wait to go play dress-up with Skeeter and Copper tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Pearl's Freestyle

Trainers who place top ten in the Extreme Mustang Makeover competitions move on to the compulsory and freestyle competition. The combined scores from the top ten determine their placing.

Jessica puts together the best freestyles. They always showcase the horse's abilities and are fun to watch. We had no doubt she was going to make the top ten and looked forward to her freestyle. We were not disappointed.



To be clear, we were bidding on this mare no matter how she placed overall. I'd fallen in love with her on day one and we knew she had to be ours.

Big News! It's a Girl!

A pearl is a thing of natural beauty, formed by grit, and when polished up and shown off is a understated symbol of class and elegance. And a wild pearl (not farmed) is rare, highly sought after, and highly valued. - Jessica Dabkowski
Jay and I have been keeping a secret. We fell in love with one of Jessica's makeover horses and decided to bid on her. Jessica pretty much always places in the top ten and as a general rule, her horses go for good money at the adoption auction.

We were looking for a spare horse - one that the kids, nieces/nephews, and L.E. could ride - and thought she would fit the bill perfectly. We had the opportunity to meet her while Copper was still in training at Jessica's and she was every bit as sweet as we'd hoped. Jay and I talked it over with L.E. and she agreed to let us bring a third horse onto the property. Then she surprised us even more, by offering to go in on her with us!

The three of us were pretty nervous at auction. The first horse on the block went for way outside our budget and we were certain that there was no way we were going to get her. After the first horse, though, prices came down to a more affordable range and we started to feel some hope again.

Jay did a great job of bidding, and waited until just the right time to jump in. We got her for a great price; not so low that Jessica didn't make any money, and not at the top of our budget.

Our trailer is not BLM approved, so we borrowed another neighbor's stock trailer to bring home our new little girl. She's six years old, a 2010 model out of the Divide Basin HMA (Herd Management Area) in Wyoming, and was likely part of the same gather Copper was. Copper's from the Adobe Town HMA, which is just across I-80 from Divide Basin.

Bringing her home
Her homecoming went very well. We put her in Estes' old pen for a couple of hours so she could graze and relax a bit before introducing her to Copper and Skeeter. We hoped for a smooth introduction, as she and Copper lived right next door to each other for about two months at Jessica's.

(Turn off the volume - there's a fair bit of wind noise and some inane chatter.)


I didn't realize how much Skeeter and Pearl looked alike until we turned them out together. Skeeter is a true black, but with the sun bleaching looks like a dark bay, which is what Pearl is. Neither of them have much in the way of chrome on them except for their different facial markings. Thank goodness for the semi-permanent 16 on Pearl's hips.

I was concerned slightly on Monday that she wasn't being allowed to drink because Copper kept moving her off the water, so Jay pulled her from the pen and took her back over to Estes' pen. Oh boy, did I make a mistake in suggesting that! All hell broke loose. I figured that because Copper and Skeeter kept moving her off the food and water that they wouldn't give a damn if we moved her.

I was WRONG.

Wrongwrongwrongwrong.

Despite Copper being the one to keep moving her off the water, we moved him over to be with her in Estes' pen. He does not do alone well, and Skeeter throws a fit, but does alone slightly better.

They hollered back and forth and generally raised a ruckus for about half an hour. Then it got quiet. Like, suspiciously quiet, so I snuck out of the house to make sure Copper and Pearl hadn't jumped the fence and made a break for it.

They'd decided to make peace and each of them were face down in the grass. Even Skeeter finally quieted down once she realized they hay was all hers.

After another half hour of peace and quiet, we took Copper and Pearl back to the pen and turned them loose. Immediately, Copper started moving her around again. I kind of threw my hands up and said, "screw it".  My biggest concern was that Pearl wasn't getting enough to drink, but after grazing on fresh grass and drinking in Estes' pen, I knew she'd be fine for the day.

I felt much better when L.E. posted a picture of the three of them laying down in their pile of hay.

They called a truce.
This morning, Skeeter moved her off when I went to scratch her, but for the most part, I think the integration has gone pretty well. The plan is to give her the week off, and then Jessica will come out and do a lesson with us over the weekend.

I look forward to all of our adventures :)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Photo Shoot

This is not the post I should be doing, but it's the one I'm going to do. I'm behind a bit - there's a post about Skeeter's trailer-loading lesson last week, and one about Mom and Bill working with the horses yesterday, but I don't feel like doing those quite yet. Instead, I bring you our fashion shoot.

The U.S. Wild Horse and Burro Association sells these beautiful red, white, and blue "American Mustang" halters. I bought one for each of Mom and Bill's horses for Christmas last year, and Jay and I each received one for volunteering with USWHBA at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo (Colorado Mustang Days).

They are not our "every day" halters, but will be used for any "ambassador" duties the horses have; any place they go with the USWHBA. We hadn't put them on the horses until today. For Mother's Day, I bought Mom lead ropes for Jesse and Washoe that match the halters, and while I was doing that, bought lead ropes for us as well.

Since both horses' halters and lead ropes are identical, I put Skeeter's "gotcha" present on hers so we can tell them apart. We need to get one for Copper's halter as well, because when we're at a mustang event everyone has these halters and it would be very easy to end up with the wrong halter.

Skeeter's halter tag; a gift from my dear friend Glenna (Tara Janzen)

The back of the tag.



Can you tell Copper's not very excited about his photo shoot?

"Please Dad, can we be done?"

I just love this tag :)

Big Red Horse was d-o-n-e with the photo shoot.