Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Birthday Ride 2017

As is becoming usual, this post is out of order. If you'd like a synopsis of how Skeeter's mountain training is going, hop on over to my parents' blog. I'll eventually get around to writing up each of our rides on the mountain, but the birthday ride is important - not because it was a spectacular ride, but because I'm now able to continue the tradition I started with Estes so many years ago.

Just for review, here's a video of our 2016 birthday ride. It was a difficult ride for me, because I lost a lot of confidence when Pearl pitched me off. However, I sucked it up and climbed up on Skeets for about five minutes.



She and I have had a few more successful rides since then. As much as I love her, I am still struggling with confidence, though she's never given me any reason to believe she would dump me. So since my birthday ride 2016, we might have had 10 in the past year. I'm kind of ashamed of that low number, but it's changing. Each ride is better than the last and I'm finding my confidence again.

Skeets on the ground and Skeets under saddle are two completely different horses. On the ground, she's still quite a pushy bitch who forgets to stay out of humans' spaces. However, under saddle, not much bothers her. She's like riding an old plow horse.

I had hoped to ride up in the forest for my birthday ride, but there were several factors that kept us from doing that, so we just took a ride around town with Bill and Ranger. Jay was kind enough to trail along with the camera (I decided it was too boring in town to justify wearing the GoPro).

She's only recently been allowed back at the rail, instead of being tied at the truck.

Ranger is so patient with the young whippersnapper.

Finally, we're off.

Right before we got stuck. I'm tired of getting stuck.

Yep. You guessed it, stuck.

Almost unstuck.

Finally on the move again.
Skeeter will probably be coming home in the next week or so, and I need to make a real effort to keep up riding her. Surprisingly, we're both far more comfortable up on the mountain than down here on the flat. Go figure.

Mom and Bill are going to focus on Alloy for a while, and then take Pearl up in the fall to start her mountain training.

Maybe for next year's birthday ride, we can make it back up to the forest and maybe visit my favorite pond.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Miles "Bucky" Buckley



If you've read my book, you've read about Bucky. He's one of the only characters that didn't get a "stage name". And when I say "character", I mean it. Bucky rode into our lives as the livery's Barn Boss during my parents' second season at the lodge, and quickly became a part of our family, one that we're missing so very much right now.

I was thrilled to hear from Bucky back in January and knew our horses couldn't go to a better place to finish their training. Bucky was looking forward to seeing the horses, and I was looking forward to getting to see him and Mrs. Bucky. Since they moved their to Arizona a million years ago, we only got to see them on occasion.

The night before we were supposed to leave for Arizona, the truck broke, which delayed our plans. Two days before Mom and Bill were going to leave with the horses, they got a phone call from Mrs. Bucky. He had been diagnosed with cancer and it wasn't a good time to take on three new horses. I firmly believe everything happens for a reason (though I'll be damned if I can figure out the reason Bucky ended up with cancer), so I think that the truck breaking down and delaying our trip was for a reason. Unfortunately, that reason was because of Bucky's health.

He was larger than life and lead a life few would believe. Everyone who met Bucky felt like he was their new BFF in moments, but he had a knack for dazzling people with stories of his life without ever letting them "in". Few people actually knew Bucky.

While I wrote a few stories about him in my book, I didn't do him justice, just like I'm not doing him justice right now. There's just so much to Bucky, so many facets that it's impossible to pare it down and put it to paper.

Lots of people went crazy over the movie "Unbranded", in which a group of guys rode their horses from the Mexican border to the Canadian one. I enjoyed the movie, but when I walked out, I looked at Mom and said, "Yeah, but Bucky was way more cowboy." She knew what I meant. One season, Bucky decided to ride from the Mexican border to his job in Allenspark. Alone. Just him and his two green-broke horses. One to ride, one to pack. He didn't have a support team, out scouting the trail for him. He didn't have GPS or a cell phone in case something happened. He had himself and his horses, and by God, he made it. Every time he'd get near a town, he made sure to call the lodge to let us know his progress.

He was diligent about keeping a "journal" of his trip via tape recorder and I started hounding him the minute he thawed out to give me the tapes to transcribe. The tapes were the last thing on his mind once his got off his horse, and over the course of the years, they've been lost.

After this trip, he did not ride a horse the entire season :)
We were all stunned when we got the news that he lost his battle with cancer and it has taken some time to process. He came into my kids' lives when they were young and impressionable, and I'm forever thankful that they got to have a "real deal" cowboy in their lives.

I asked the kids to write up a memory of Bucky for this post. Digger is struggling as much as I am to come up with something, but Ashinator and Monster were able to put a few words together.

From Ashinator:
When I think of Bucky, there isn't one big story that pops out at me, I think of all the little moments over the years. I think of him sitting at the bar drinking with Papa, laughing at some dirty cowboy joke that went over my 12 year old head. I think of watching him with the horses, wranglers, and guests at the livery across the street. I remember hoping and wishing he'd say I could tag along every time he went out for a ride. I think of the paintings of him on horseback hanging in the hallways. Or him taking the time to help me get better at riding and understanding horses. I think of that story we all love to tell about how he rode across several states on horseback, just because he could. Bucky was a cowboy through and through and one who made you feel special for knowing him- even when he teased you, which was often. But mostly, when I think of Bucky, I think about how lucky my family and I are for having had him in our lives.
Monster shared this one:
I remember one year I was working at the lodge and he kept teasing me because my hair was long and cowboys shouldn't have hippy hair and he drove me to Estes paid for my my haircut, bought me lunch, and paid me $50 to do it. lol Bucky was definitely one of a kind and the only real cowboy I've ever met in my life. He was a hell of a guy! Sitting at the lodge with him and grandpa while they teased each other and listening to Bucky's cowboy tales were one of the highlights of my childhood.
I've been struggling with this post, because writing it brings a finality to Bucky's death, and I'm not ready for that. However, the fact is, he's gone and left a young widow and son, along with his adult children. You see, it's easy for me to just pretend that he's still being ornery down in Arizona, since I only saw him once a year anyway.

Rest in Peace, Cowboy. We miss you.



Lyrics here.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Obstacle Clinic 5/14/17

I mentioned in an earlier post that Jay and I planned to spend our anniversary (and, coincidentally, Mother's Day) at an obstacle clinic lead by our trainer, Jessica of Pony Peak Stangmanship. With Copper being sidelined, Jay took Pearl instead. Neither of us have been up on Pearl since she ejected us last year (yes, it's already been a year), but we thought the obstacle clinic would be a great way to start Jay and Pearl bonding a bit more. Copper will always be his "boy" and his heart horse, but Pearl is the one he's going to have to ride.

The girls loaded up into the trailer pretty nicely. Pearl had a moment of hesitation, but then stepped right in. She had never been in Mom and Bill's trailer before, so we gave her a moment to sniff it out. Skeeter tried to not get in the trailer, but only for a minute or two. She didn't want lead into the trailer, but when Bill hopped out, she self-loaded. Apparently, she didn't think there was enough room for both her and Bill in there.

We started the clinic from the ground, but with the horses tacked up. There were a lot of obstacles to explore: bridges, teeter-totters, horse "car washes", dangling strips of death (pool noodles), tires to climb, and tires to walk through, tarps. Pretty much anything that a horse could/would spook at was available for us to work with.

Skeeter still has to explore everything with her mouth ...

... I don't think she'll outgrow it

Jay leading Pearl over some poles, right before she tripped over the "tall" one.

The dangling strips of death were very difficult for Pearl. Eventually she got over herself.

Just hanging out, watching everyone else.
Once everyone had worked through the obstacles on the ground and were comfortable with them, we mounted up. Jay wasn't feeling riding Pearl, so Bill and Mom took turns working her through the obstacles.

Skeeter *hates* her Myler 3-ring combo bit.

Hates. it.

After a year of trying to get her to like it, I finally switched back to her Myler snaffle. The problem is, the snaffle is what Pearl's been going in, so they had to share. I rode Skeeter through the obstacles first (video at the bottom of post), then passed the headstall to Pearl.

Bill took a turn first, just in case she was feeling froggy.

Mom and Pearl sidepassing through the hula-hoops.

The horse car wash was no big deal for either horse.
Pearl, of course, was a perfect angel for both Mom and Bill, but when they asked if I wanted up, I declined. She had already had two people up on her in a short period of time and I wasn't going to push it. We decided to end on a great note with her and leave her be.

I did get back up on Skeeter once Mom and Bill were done with Pearl. It was not quite as nice as the first time. The first time I rode, she did okay, she's a bit of a looky-lou and wants to be in everyone's business, so she's a bit "dull". The second time, most of the other horses had moved out to do the obstacles in the pasture and there was only one other horse in the arena with us. Little Miss I-have-to-be-in-everyone's business took exception to that and wouldn't settle down. Jessica had me move her in figure eights and circles, never a straight line (so she couldn't get momentum to bolt).

She was mouthing the bit a lot and at first I couldn't figure out why, then I looked down when we were turning and realized that I hadn't re-adjusted it to fit her and the bit was just hanging in her mouth, not at all where it was supposed to be.

Nonetheless, she did okay with the figure eights and circles. We didn't work over any physical obstacles the second time, just worked with the mental obstacle of being left behind. She and I ride alone, either in the back yard or at our neighbor's arena, but it was the first time she'd been ridden where the temporary herd moved away and it was stressful for her.

We did lots and lots of circles and turns until she calmed down, then I dismounted and called it a day. Or tried to, anyway.

At the trailer, we untacked the horses, then I poured some water into a bucket and offered it to her. Good God, you would have thought I was coming at her with a torture device. Her head went up and she pulled back to try to get away. She was tied fast to the truck, so she couldn't go anywhere. As soon as I put the water bucket on the ground, all was good, but I didn't dare pick it up and offer it to her. Mind you, this is her water bucket - the one she drinks out of when we travel; the one that hangs in her stall at the horse expo. The only thing different was that I was holding it. Dork.

I had been a long day. We were tired, hot, sunburned, cranky, and ready to head home. Pearl loaded up into the trailer like a pro, but when it was Skeeter's turn that was a no-go.

Remember back when I took her to Posse training and she wouldn't load to go home? Same thing. She was d-o-n-e and was not getting in that trailer.

I tried to get her to load, Bill tried to get her to load. Bill and I both tried with the flag. Bill and Jay tried with the flag. It was.not.happening.

Unfortunately for Skeeter, I had an ace up my sleeve - Jessica was still there, so I went and asked for her help.

Skeeter was not going to get in that trailer, no way, no how., and she tried to tell Jessica that.

But Jessica's got the patience of a saint and no matter how many times Skeeter said "no", Jessica said "yes" until Skeeter decided it was in her best interest to just get in the damned trailer. It's incredible to watch Jessica with a horse that doesn't want to load. She's completely fair in what she asks of the horse, and if the horse needs a correction, she gives one, and then doesn't hold any grudges. I, on the other hand, get pissed off and hold grudges, so Skeeter and I get into a battle of wills.

By the time Jessica was done, Skeeter loaded up nicely, stood for a few minutes, then backed off nicely when asked. They repeated it a couple of times to reinforce the idea, and then she sent us home.

It was an excellent day (even with the trailer issue), and I feel like we got a lot accomplished.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Out of Order

Not as in broken, but as in not in chronological order. I'm so far behind on the blog that I am just trying to post things as I remember them. I post most stuff "in real time" (sort of) on our FB page.

Back in April, when I was looking to take Skeeter to our 40-hour Spring Training for the Posse (which didn't happen), I wanted to give her as much of an advantage as I could. I know that balloons and kids and fairs all go hand-in-hand, so I thought it would be a good idea to torture desensitize the horses to balloons.

On April 16, I set off to the store to buy a dozen, not thinking about how icky I would feel once they were loaded in my car. I'd just started re-reading IT and the night before just read the passage about the thousands of balloons lined up under the bridge. I put the balloons in the car, sat in the driver's seat and had a "moment".

No, Pennywise was not with these balloons. I had to keep telling myself that.
On the way home, I plotted how I was going to handle the introduction. If I just tied them to the fence, the horses would simply go to the other side of the pen and ignore the scary things. If there were going to be fireworks, I didn't want to be in the pen with them initially, so I had to come up with some way to lure them *to* the balloons.

Having food-motivated horses sometimes makes things very easy. I decided to tie the balloons to their big feed tub and put goodies in there that they couldn't live without (black oil sunflower seeds and grandma cookies).


In case you don't have 13 minutes and change to watch the horses figure out the balloons, here are some stills. Skeeter, being so food motivated, was the first to approach, followed closely by Pearl. Only when Copper was certain the balloons weren't horse-eating ghosties did he approach.







I was thankful for the breeze, as it caused the balloons to move erratically - sometimes the horses got bonked in the face by the colorful ghosties and they didn't die.

Eventually the balloons became a complete non-issue, so I tied them to the fence just to keep them in the horses' minds.

You can see how concerned they were.

I ended up having to take the balloons down the next day because someone (I don't know which) had started to pop them and I worried about them inhaling pieces of balloon. When I took them down, I stood by the fence and popped every single one of the remaining ghosties with my pocket knife while the horses looked on, very disappointed that I was taking their toys away.

I'm going to call balloon training a success.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Copper the Family Pet


Jay and I hadn't said anything about our grand plans for the summer, because we didn't want to jinx it. Having already jinxed the horses' trip to Arizona, we weren't looking for more bad luck.

One of Jay's goals is to ride a 25 or 50 Limited Distance (LD), which is a "short" version of an endurance race. Our vet's wife mentioned that there was going to be one at the end of August not very far from us, and at the time, we knew our horses would come back from Arizona ready to ride that far. Since the AZ trip didn't pan out, we looked up a training schedule on line and we were looking forward to getting the horses started.

Now, Copper has been intermittently lame since we got him. He had a hitch in his get-along that would come and go. But he's a ... big ... boy and we usually noticed that he was gimpy after a bout of running, bucking, and farting like he was in shape. I mean, I get it, I feel good and overdo it, too.

However, this bout of lameness didn't seem to ever go completely away. He had good days and he had better days, but for about two months he was never 100%. I'm a firm believer in "tincture of time" for horses; even I had to admit that ToT wasn't working and I began to consider calling the vet.

I thought maybe it was an SI joint issue, because he'd taken a hard fall a few months ago while running, bucking, and farting. All of that weight hitting the ground at an angle (mid-buck/turn) had to have hurt. His SI joint was swollen and a little tender for a few days, but resolved.

One of the things Jay and I had planned to get the horses ready for the LD was to attend an Obstacle Clinic on our anniversary, to get some more desensitization work done. We all enjoy it, and thought it would be a great way to get back up on our horses. With Copper still looking lame, though, it was time to get the vet out.

She is awesome and good with equines. (She was also a wrangler in her past life, which automatically raised her cool factor with me.) It didn't take her long to come to the conclusion that Copper will never be an endurance horse. In fact, he will never be more than a light-weight, flat-land, for no more than an hour horse.

His back left stifle is a hot mess. She's fairly certain it's congenital, and did offer up surgery as a solution. Even without consulting Jay, I knew surgery was not an option. Maybe if Copper was a highly trained athlete who was winning us a ton of money, we might consider it. But he's not. He's a well-loved pet. Surgery is expensive, painful, and has no guarantee of fixing his issue.

For now, we're managing his inflammation when needed: bute the day before, of, and after farrier work; bute the day before, of, and after any work; and bute the day before, of, and after anything that might cause him to run, buck, and fart (such as us taking his girls away). When we can no longer manage him with the occasional bute, we'll bump him up to daily Previcox.

The vet thinks we can manage him for years before we have to look at putting him down. We love him an awful lot, and won't make his quality of life suffer. Right now, he's happy and healthy living with his mares.

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.