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.


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.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sleep Over

A couple of weeks ago, L.E. was out of state and I was tending the chickens each evening. You may know that I *hate* birds.

Hate them.



But I kind of really love "our" hens. They're a hoot and they don't try to peck me or get too close and they lay delicious eggs.

About the third day L.E. was gone, I came home from work just as the sun was setting and noticed things were awry in the farm yard. Items that were normally stored to the south or east of the buildings were lying in the middle of the drive and the gate to the hens' pen was mostly closed, with the bar that normally holds it open lying on the ground next to it. Now, I know that the hens can't budge that metal bar, so something was not right in Paradise.

I quickly picked up the errant items and put them away before I want into the hens' pen. It looked like they had already tucked themselves in for bed, but since things were not quite right when I got home, I decided to open the coop to check them.

One hen.

Two hens.

Uh, where's the third hen?

Crap. I always worried when L.E. went away that I'd lose one of her hens to a critter. I stood there in their pen looking around and it dawned on me that we'd probably had a microburst while I was at work. The microburst would account for things being out of place and the gate being partially closed, despite the metal bar that normally holds it open. I dared to hope that the hen had roosted somewhere else and set out on a walk-about the property to find her.

Twenty minutes later, I gave up and hoped that she'd found herself some place nice and secure to hole up for the night. When Jay came home, I told him that we were missing one of the hens and said that the best place she could have roosted would be in the horses' hay. I'd looked around their round bale, but didn't see anything, but it was getting dark and she's a red hen, so I might have missed her.

About one a.m. I was awakened by loud, continuous banging. At first I thought it was the horses kicking the round feeder, but the noise wasn't quite right for that. I figured they'd stop in a few minutes and tried to get back to sleep. The horses were having none of it.




I listened for snorting and running, but it seemed to be quiet out there except for the banging. Whatever those horses were doing, they weren't panicked. I finally dragged myself out of bed and put on my glasses so I could peer out the window.

I couldn't see Copper, but I saw Skeeter walking around the pen with something in her mouth. "Aw crap, that better not be the hen. Wait ... that's way to big to be a hen. What the hell is in her mouth? Did they stomp a coyote to death?" Since I had no idea what she was swinging around, I slid into my clothes, grabbed a flashlight and headed out to see what they were doing.

By the time I got out to the pen, Skeeter had dropped whatever she had been playing with and met me at the fence.

"Hey Mom, whatcha doin' up?"

"What the hell, Skeets? It's the middle of the night, what are you guys doing?" I shined the light around the pen and found what she had been swinging around - their big rubber feed tub - but it didn't account for the sound of hooves on metal. I kept shining the light around the pen until I saw a reflection in the middle of the pen that didn't belong there.

"Copper, really?" The water baby had dumped the metal water trough and kicked it all over the pen. In his defense, I knew they were low on water and had intended to fill it when I got distracted by the missing hen, then I forgot. It wasn't empty, but it was low. The big red horse decided that the middle of the night would be a good time to play with the trough and that was that.

Cussing under my breath, I dragged the trough back to where it belonged and started to fill it. Even with the hydrant wide open, it was taking forever to fill, so I thought I'd wander around the round bale and see if the missing hen had roosted there. Sure enough, she had burrowed herself into the hay and was practically invisible. I stood there, flashlight shining on her, contemplating whether or not I should try to move her to the coop.

Skeeter ambled over, looked at me, looked at the hen and lowered her head, "Mom, we're having a sleep over. Leave her alone, we got this." And with that, the big black horse ushered me back to the water trough. As soon as she was certain I was going to stay at the trough, she took up a guard position near the hen. She guarded the little red hen in the same manner she stands guard over Copper when he's flat-out.

All I could do was laugh at the goofy mare, finish filling the water trough, and go back to bed.

The next morning, all of the hens were back together as though nothing happened.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Rocky Mountain Horse Expo - Sunday

(Sorry for the delay. Work. Life. Blizzard. Work.)

Saturday started so well, and then kind of disintegrated so both of us were on the fence as to whether or not we were going to scratch from the Extreme Mustang Race (EMR). I had planned on riding it, with my back-up being doing it in hand, but the closer the race got, the more concerned I got about riding Skeeter.

We talked it over Saturday night and decided that we were just going to tack up the horses and do it in-hand, but with their gear on for practice. Sunday morning dawned nice and early (earlier than usual with the damn time change), and we headed to the barn. On the way, we talked it over again and decided that we weren't going to tack up after all - we didn't want to give the horses even more to stress over. Skeeter probably would have been fine, but Copper's still really new to grown-up clothes.

Once again, we were among the first at the barn, so it was nice and peaceful. We grabbed the horses and went to the arena just one aisle over from the stalls to warm up.

Really, really early in the morning.

Really early.
Skeeter did as she was asked, but I couldn't get her full attention. That's what I get for adopting a mare - she has the ability to multi-task. She's like, "yeah, yeah, yeah Mom, I'm circling, I'm circling. But did you see that over there? I'm changing direction, yeah I'm paying attention to you ... wait ... there's something ... okay, I'll change direction again."

Copper, of course, was perfect. Jerk.

We groomed them a bit, and then headed to the arena. First, we had to go through another building. The building where they housed the drafts, carts, and minis. Remember how much Copper loves minis? I'm sure that was on Jay's mind. He marched Copper through the building, eyes straight forward, one step after the next, just like he was marching to his death.

Light at the end of the tunnel.

We made it!
We managed to make it through the building without any big blow-ups, though Skeeter and I had a couple of discussions (that's a theme for the day). She wasn't afraid of a damn thing in the building, but her pushiness and curiosity were tap dancing on my nerves.

Someone dropped hay on the ground. It was an excellent reward for making it through.

Look at the relief on Jay's face. Look at how red mine is (that's not relief).
We knew the hardest part of doing the EMR was going to be getting there. The minis in the building were no problem at all, mostly because Copper and Jay didn't see any, but we still had to get past the cows. Neither of the horses have ever seen a cow up-close, but they've seen them out in the distance at home and they're not impressed.

Jay thought Copper would be afraid of them, and I thought Skeeter was going to try to kill them. We took the horses one by one over to the pen where the cows were and introduced them. Skeets snorted at them and backed up and then went, "Oh, is that hay they're eating? Don't mind if I do!" and helped herself to the hay.

Concerned, but not afraid.

If they share their hay, they're okay in Skeeter's book.
Once we arrived, there was nothing to do but wait until the walk-through. So we circled and backed and ate with the cows, and circled and backed and ate with the cows. When the time came for the walk-through, we handed the horses off to Mom and Bill. Apparently, during the walk-through Mom had to leave to meet Nebalee's crew and left Bill with both horses.

Bill's a good horse-sitter, even when things got pretty exciting. Where they are standing is oh, 150 feet from a highway on-ramp. When the first firetruck went by with lights and sirens, it was okay. When the third went by, apparently things got interesting. From in the building, where we were doing the walk-through, we didn't hear a thing and Bill had to wrangle two unhappy horses by himself.

Following the walk-through we had a lot of hurry-up-and-wait again. We waited in the tunnel with the other horses for most of it, but my damn ADHD horse kept needing to move her feet, so back out to the tarmac we'd go. Every time we left, Copper got anxious. We were the last two in the class, so we had a lot of time to sit and wait. As our turn got closer, we moved Copper and Skeeter up closer to the gate.

Copper handled it like a rock star. Skeeter lost her ever-loving mind. Luckily, there was no rearing and bucking like on Saturday, but she definitely was having some confinement anxiety (a lot like her human). She could not stand still and at one point stomped my foot pretty good, and bad words spewed from my mouth. I had a moment of, "let's just fucking quit" before I came to my senses. We could do the vast majority of the obstacles laid out and I knew once she had something to focus on, instead of lots of somethings, she'd do fine.

I didn't get to see any of Jay's go because I was busy trying to keep Skeeter under control, but the video shows what an amazing job they both did.

We went immediately after Jay, and I was right, as soon as we stepped out of the claustrophobic alleyway into the big arena, she calmed down. There were things to look at and sniff and investigate. Jay and I went into the EMR with the intention of using it for experience, neither of us expected to place (it's a good thing, because we didn't).

You could almost see her relax once she had a job to do. She was still interested in what was going on, but was finally more interested in seeing what Mom was asking her to do. She really, really needs a job.

As soon as we finished, we went back out to the tarmac to wait for the awards ceremony. I thought that Skeets and I were last, but they had the youth division (only two riders) immediately after me, so it was hurry-up-and-wait again.

Skeeter was wound up (again) and the happiness I experienced from her doing mostly well in the arena evaporated. By the time we lined up in the arena for the awards, I was well on my way to hating my horse, but I tried to plaster on a smile anyway.

We both earned a participant ribbon, and I mean earned when I say that. The actual EMR was the easiest part of the morning and we both felt a huge sense of accomplishment when we were done.

It was a very long morning, and Skeeter was Hulk Smashing my last nerve. By the time we got back to the stalls, I had hate in my heart for her. Pure hate. I might or might not have threatened to haul her across the street to the Purina factory. She's a smart horse, I know that. She has manners, I know that too. Unfortunately, she's also a busy body and cannot focus when there's too much going on. I hate being impatient with my horse, but I hate having an ill-mannered horse even more. I got her back into her stall before we both said and did things that we'd regret (like the Purina factory).

Copper, of course, was perfect. Jerk.

We got them settled and I stomped off, demanding food. Jay mentioned that I could be hangry, or Skeeter could be hangry, but we both cannot be hangry at the same time, because it is ugly.

An hour or so later, will a full belly, and my blood sugar back up in the normal range, I reflected on our performance. We did pretty good. Not as good as Jay and Copper, but pretty good. We had nothing to be embarrassed about (in the arena). When I mentioned it to Jay, he looked at me and - hand to God - said, "You just needed time to lick and chew".