Sunday, June 27, 2010

The. Best. Ride. Ever.

Happened today.

It rocked.

The new barn manager, Compass, and I went out for a ride this morning.  She's been under a ton of stress since taking over the livery and me, well, I'm all about going for a ride any time.  Estes was full of P&V and ready to move out and Compass's horse, Eli, hadn't been out for a while.  Needless to say, we moved out at a fairly brisk clip, but still managed a walk (of sorts).  We headed out over to the Beaver Ponds and along the way found some purty fluers...

We didn't know what the big white flowers were, but when we got back, Mom told me they were a type of wild rose.  And I've never seen so many wild Columbine flowers in one place.  It was incredible.  I was having too much fun to take pictures, but noticed that the water has receded a lot and not much of the trail is underwater any more.  Bummer.  I love riding through water.

We ran into a couple of hikers also out enjoying the trail, but as soon as we cleared the hikers we had nothing but a flat, sandy stretch of trail ahead of us.  Compass suggested we move up to a canter from our power walk.  I agreed, but made her go first in case I made an absolute fool of myself.  In the two years I've owned Estes, I've never moved her up past a trot or her nice Morgan gait.  Fact is, I'm a bit afraid to turn her loose.  I know that she's fast, but she's also quick, and I know that at any point in time she can leave me.  It's by her good grace that I'm allowed to stay on her back.

It was amazing!!!!!! 

We slowed down at one point and Compass pointed out that my lead rope had come undone and was dragging, so I tied it back up and away we went again.  Why, oh, why did I wait two years to try this? 

I'm pretty sure Estes enjoyed it every bit as much as I did, as it took a while to calm her down.  Once she got going, by God, she was gonna stay going.

Can't wait 'til Tuesday when I'm back up here for another ride.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grrr...Get Your Facts Straight!

Shoddy reporting at its best. Why am I not surprised this is on Fox News?

Let's talk about what's wrong with this.

The Allenspark Livery and the Wild Basin Livery are two totally different entities, owned and operated by two totally different entities. The original broadcast of this piece tied the two liveries together. At least at the end of this clip the reporter is clear to say that the livery he was reporting from was not the one where the horse was injured. My question - why wasn't he at Wild Basin?

Am I the only one who thinks that the horse's wound looks a lot older than two weeks old, especially for a supposed high-powered rifle? It's healed up miraculously well for only being two weeks old.

The manager of the Allenspark Livery, who broke up during her interview, has done an amazing job with the livery in the short time she's been there. She's hauled away almost twenty dump trucks worth of filth that was in the pen; she's re-painted the pen and fixed broken feeders that had been neglected over the past few years. The horses are calm and well-mannered, as you can see from the clip.

This wonderful woman, the savior of the Allenspark Livery, was accused by the owner of the injured horse of shooting his horse. Three guesses who the old manager of the Allenspark Livery is. At least the news didn't clamp on to that little bit of trivia. The police obviously did not take the accusation seriously and have cleared her as a possible suspect.

Here's a little background about her accuser - I wasn't going to do this, but he's pushed one time too many - every time his horses get loose, he accuses some disgruntled employee or former employee of sneaking over in the middle of the night and letting his horses out.  This happened at least once a summer for every year he was at Allenspark.  More than once Bill and Juanita have been the ones to hear the horses and go to the livery to wake the old manager and help re-capture the loose herd.

During the new Barn Boss' first week at Allenspark, she was called to Wild Basin by a neighbor to put Wild Basin's loose horses back in the pen.  The horses were loose on the highway and she was the one who dropped everything to make sure the horses were safely put back in the pen.  Horses she's not responsible for.  Yet the thought of horses in danger spurred her to action.  I can guaran-damn-tee you that her accuser (who by the way is in charge of the horses that got loose) would not have done such a thing.

I started this post angry that the news got their facts wrong, but I realized that I'm angry at the old manager for creating such a big deal about his horse getting shot.  My gut feeling is that it was a ricochet that hit the horse and was nothing intentional.  My biggest beef with the old manager is that he sees conspiracies where there aren't any as his history indicates.

Either way, I'm sad that the horse was injured.  It doesn't matter that if it was an accident or intentional; the horse is the one who's suffering right now.  I hope the mare's well cared for and enjoys her summer off as she heals.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stacy Westfall Watch Out!

Okay, so I'm not threat to Stacy Westfall.  At all.  But I can pretend.

I've whined for a while now about wanting to increase my confidence bareback.  Yes, I can ride for hours bareback.  Up and down hills.  Across running water.  Across the highway.  Off and on trails.  All at a walk.  I'd like to be able to do it at a gait other than a walk.  Okay, I've done a slow trot for very short distances.  And, when I'm really brave, her nice Morgan gait.  But only for very short distances; we're talking a handful of yards before I come to my senses and bring her back down to a walk.

So I've been moaning and groaning about wanting to build my bareback confidence, but without an arena I'm left doing it up on the mountain.  Perhaps you've heard about the Rocky Mountains.  They're mountains.  With Rocks.  Hard Rocks.  Not the most comfortable landing should I need one.

On our ride today, Bill was messing around (as usual) and said, "arms out, eyes closed".  Sure enough, he'd dropped Ranger's lead rope (show-off only rides in a halter and lead rope when we're out bareback) and was riding with his arms in the airplane position and his eyes closed.  Which started me thinking...maybe I should work on my confidence by working on riding with my legs instead of my hands.  I know next to nothing about leg cues - remember, I learned to ride by not falling off.  Lots of hours on different horses.  Lots of wet saddle pads, but not much in the way of formal instruction.

I know that I can usually get Estes to do stuff by thinking about what I want to do, but I've got no idea how to cue her for it.  So, my plan for increasing my confidence changed right there on the spot.  I dropped the reins and rode for a few feet without my reins.  I kept repeating that until I was ready to try to guide her with my legs.

Uphill without reins (Yikes!)

Mom negotiating the turn without reins.

At least my position is correct: ears, shoulders, hips, heels all in alignment.

I chickened out when we got to the switchback headed down and grabbed onto the reins again.  She could have made it without me, but I flat-out chickened out about that steep, slippery hill.  Maybe next time.  Or the time after that.

I've decided that I'll spend a portion of each ride (hopefully a progressively longer portion each time) riding with just my legs.  I did learn that it takes a lot more concentration and that I can't talk at ride at the same time without reins.  Each time I lost my concentration, Estes took advantage and moved in her own direction.

But I'm not sure, even with all the practice in the world, I'll be able to ride like this...

Friday, June 11, 2010

CSN Review: Muck Boots

I found some boots through CSN Stores that I thought would suffice as muck boots, Diamond PVC boots.

I wear a size 7 1/2, but the boots only come in whole sizes and not wanting to squish my little toes, I ordered an 8.  Word to the wise, pay attention to the conversion charts for British/European/US shoe sizes.  I received a size 6 in Bigfoot rather than an 8 in women's.

I debated sending them back for the right size, but then thought that maybe they'd fit Mom, so I hauled them up to the lodge.  They'll be a bit big for her, but they're useable.  I'm kind of bummed, because I really like the gription (yes, that's grip + traction, and yes, it's my word) on them.  I guess it's back to Mom's muck boots for me and she gets to use the new ones.

Would I order from CSN stores again?  Yep; they kept me in the loop with regard to order processing and shipping and my order got here earlier than it's expected "due date".  My only issue is the size chart is not close to accurate.  If you're going to order these boots, you'd do good to order a size smaller than you wear.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

See What You're Gonna Miss...

...if you don't come to the High Country Rendezvous?

Last Saturday, I got to accompany one of the new livery crew members on an all day ride.  The trails we took are a couple that we'd planned on taking for our longer ride for the Rendezvous.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ride of the Week: Fall Round-up

Bill from It's A Horse Life joins us again for another ROTW.

Fall Round-up

It was a cold and fairly miserable October day, and I had gotten roped into going on a cattle hunt for a ranch that a couple of my friends were working at. "Come on!" said

both Ham and Gary. "It'll be fun!" So we rode out into the national forest looking for fifteen or twenty lost head.

Ham and Gary were well mounted on their personal horses, but I was on one of the horses that the "livery" branch of the ranch owned and rented out in their dude string. "Oreo" was a ten or twelve year old black and white pinto, and not a complete waste of hay, but wouldn't have been my first choice of a ride. After four or five hours of cross country riding in the rugged mountains looking for cattle, I was getting pretty tired of my borrowed horse and saddle, and was all too willing to stop when one of the guys suggested a break.

We dismounted and I tied up my mount. Ham and Gary both KNEW that their horses would stand "ground tied", so they just got off and just left their horses to graze on their own.

Now, any of you that have spent much time in the Colorado Rockies may know that the grazing is sparse, at best, in the high country (which is why the cattle were so hard to find) and a little traveling may be necessary to find grass. The two ground tied horses looked at one another and said, "Forget this, there is HAY back at the ranch". While we stood in the freezing wind, we all watched the two horses wheel and head down the trail at a ground eating long trot. Umm, crap.

"See you later, boys!" and I untied my horse and took off in hot pursuit. Okay- maybe not so hot. I was still freezing my pommel off.

The trails in the high country are often old game trails that have been "improved" for use by the public. Their path isn't determined by the views, or the shortest distance to the destination. The trails are placed not so much by where you WANT to go, as where you CAN go. Cliffs, steep hillsides, rock outcroppings, heavy brush and dead-fall timber all conspire to keep you on the trail, and keep the trails narrow. Narrow as in "one lane, no passing, you can't get around me, alrighty then let's REALLY RUN home" narrow.

After a few miles of trying to "head 'em off at the pass", I finally got in front of the runaways. They stopped and looked at me like I was some kind of jerk, trying to ruin their day, and I discovered my next problem. As the horses had been standing "ground tied", their reins were left down on the ground, and as they were SO GOOD at standing ground tied, neither were wearing lead ropes or halters. After their aborted bid to make it an an early day, they had about three-fourths of a rein between them, the rest having been pulled out of their bits by their feet (man, that musta hurt).

Leading a horse in heavy woods can be a challenge. Ponying a horse by its mouth rather than a halter can be a challenge. Guiding a horse that is still excited from a bid for freedom can be a challenge. Taking a horse for a walk beside your horse, because your lead is too short to let it walk behind you can be a challenge. Leading a horse AWAY from home, when he has already decided that it was time TO GO home can be a challenge If you add all these together, and multiply it by two horses, it gets really tough. The sky was gray, overcast and snowy, but the air near me was blue. I'm sure that if the horses or any cute little woodland animals nearby could understand English, they would have been thinking "Nope, that’s just not anatomically possible." The Ham and Gary heard me coming nearly twenty minutes before I finally got back. They had started a campfire, and were getting prepaired to settle in for the night. They seemed glad to see me, certainly happier than the horses were to be back where they started from.

We had found where the cattle had gone down a steep canyon to get down to water just before the great escape, but now were losing daylight fast, and were out of time. I had stopped and picked up the pieces of reins I spotted on my way back, so we cobbled together enough "steering" for the trip home, and called it a day.

I was busy at the lodge, and couldn't make the trip the next day. They found the cattle right where we thought they were, and brought them back without incident. I'm willing to bet they never got off their horses that day.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I Sit For A Minute On Estes

That's a mouthful, but it's what my niece Asset (as in, we finally got her ass-set on a horse) managed to say.  Until Memorial Day, she's been terrified of the horses and didn't want anything to do with them.  Papa Bill managed to convince her that horses weren't so scary and she sat for a second or two on Estes in the back yard while she was grazing.

Once she decided that Estes wasn't so scary after all, Papa Bill, Grandma and I spent a good bit of time lifting her up and down off of Estes..."I sit for a minute on Estes."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ride of the Week: What makes a trail horse?

This week's ROTW is brought to us by Sydney at Bitless Horse: Science VS tradition.

What makes a trail horse?

Plenty if you ask me. Any old horse can wander down a dirt path but when it comes to ditches, hills, holes, horse eating bushes and fallen trees with fangs and ten legs that spew fire and gobble up horses whole, not every horse is fit for the job title. Especially when it comes to the encounterables that move. I am talking wildlife.

A horse might snort and balk at a deer in the distance or dodge a bird flying out of a bush who is equally as scared for his life as the horse trying to run away from a retreating sparrow. But when it comes to getting them over these things next ride, that is another story. Some horses think with their heads, the others with their legs. Before you have a split second to even see what the horse is looking at you are headed off into the great blue yonder.

My mare Indigo is one of those horses that doesn’t always think clearly, especially on the trail. She is too worried about going home, where the next horse eating bush is or the neighbor walking back his own laneway three fields away. She’s a big spook when it comes to trails. On the flip side the other day I groomed her not even 15 feet from where the biggest backhoe I have ever seen in my life rattled past us. She lifted her head for a second then resumed munching greenery. Goofy, I tell ya.

On the farm here there is an abundance of wildlife. I have seen everything from deer, coyotes, red fox, snakes of all sorts, birds from sparrows and turkey vultures to the majestic bald eagle. I even seen a timber wolf a couple of times. That sucker was huge. Indigo pays no mind to these animals. Well except the time the two deer exploded out of the bush when we were not even two feet from them. Oh and that other time when…

Yeah that time. I don’t know why I haven’t ever told this story on my blog. Everyone thinks it is quite amusing. This horse that I do East Indian weddings with 200+ people dancing all around her, banging away on a Dohl Drum. This is the same horse that is scared of snapping twigs and tornadoes of leaves spinning around her. This horse should be able to do anything right?

When I first got Indigo she was a riding horse. Definitely a woman’s horse. On her ad she was labeled as “not husband proof”. It rings true even today that horse will forever be a woman's horse. I decided she was going to learn how to drive. I had the harness and carts and the other horses drove. I really enjoyed driving and so would Indigo. She started easily enough. Harness, cart, away we went. It did however take her longer than any other horse to figure out the shaves and how to turn without nearly flipping me in the cart. At 14 she had never experienced the shaves and thought like usual her body should bend. We did this all bitless and have been to this day.

Time went on and she became quite the good little driving horse and even figured how to properly turn. She loved to trot and could cover a lot of ground. We drove all over the farm and the neighbors and even went down the road a little. It was great. My little ride, drive horse.

Often times in the summer we would drive down to the beaches at the end of the lane on the highway. Our lane connects to the neighbors farm. It comes down their driveway and we are at the lake. We use it nearly every time we drive. Here is where the wildlife comes in.

It was an unusually calm day. Indigo was on her best behavior and only offered one little hop and head toss of excitement. We drove on down the lane, plugging along at her quick little trot. Everything was right with the world. We passed under a tree with two bald eagles roosting. They looked down at us as we went right under them but did not fly away. The little ditch with it’s stream was filled with the recent rain water and rushed underneath us as we trotted over the bridge. Everything about the day was zen. Ahhh, relaxing.

Soon we reached the neighbors property and picked our way up the driveway. At this point your chances of encountering a wild animal are pretty limited to sparrows and a squirrel or two. The neighbors property has the most hills you will see in the flat as a pancake county of ours. The pretty little property has a bunch of pine trees, some maples, oaks and a three legged dog.

So we are meandering up the driveway like we had done a few thousand times before when without warning Indigo is off at a gallop. I didn’t even have time to react or see what the heck lit the firecracker under her tail.

The first pine tree came faster than I expected. We made a sharp left turn around it. The second maple we missed by the skin of our teeth making a quick right. The third and fourth pines we just managed to squeeze between. This act got me bitch slapped in the face by several pine branches. Indigo suddenly came to a screeching halt back on the driveway, tail pointing strait up in the air, body shaking, snorting like a drug addict. I was picking bits of tree out of my hair, helmet and teeth, cussing having come within inches of a piney scented death. What the heck was my normally reasonable mare got her tail in a knot about?

I looked around. What on earth did she see? The culprit was spotted, or rather three legged. Tripod as I had affectionately named him, was standing in all his three legged canine glory ears laid back looking quite distraught at why his buddies aka- Indigo and I, did not come to say hello like usual but instead blasted off like a rocket into the pine trees of the immaculately manicured lawn.

Tripod stood in place, Indigo snorted and backed up a few steps only responding to a smack on the rump with my driving whip. We all stared at each other for a good long time. Indigo stood her ground but snorted loudly, the one and only time I have ever heard her do such a thing. A few more moments of this staring contest and Indigo and I walked off to visit some friends on the nearby beach. We were gone an hour or more and on our way back we stopped to pet our friendly neighbor lane three legged dog without the drama. The drive home was pleasant and we even had a couple deer come bounding across a ditch without further incidence.

So remember when you see a deer, coyote or bear on the trail it may be the barn cat that acts the role of the dangerous lion, especially if it is missing a limb or two.

P.S- Hobos that live in culverts may potentially be fire breathing dragons but that story is for another time.