Sunday, April 24, 2011

April (Snow) Showers

Sometimes, you just have to get on your horse.  Even if the weather is less than perfect.  Saturday was one of those days.  Nebalee and I made almost eight dozen tamales, and while they were steaming, Bill and I decided to go for a quick ride.  For once, the wind wasn't howling, but it was snowing like crazy.  Not that that's ever stopped us.  Wind?  Yep, that's stopped me once in a while.  Gently falling snow?  Nope.  It was gorgeous.

Bill took a ton of pictures, which I debated on putting up.  You'd never know by looking at the pictures that I've been going to the gym and have lost 16.5#.  So, while I look like the Michelin Man, keep in mind it really is the extra clothes I'm wearing (yoga pants under my jeans, long sleeved shirt, hoodie, coat, etc.).

Yes, it was cold.  But it was beautiful, so of course there's video.  Thirteen years of riding these same trails and they don't get old.  We ended up having to do some off-roading, as the trail itself is buried under too much snow.  If the snow keeps up, I'm not sure that even the one-hour loop will be ready for the livery to open in May.  I think Compass' permit runs from May 15 to October 15, but the trails have to be completely clear for her to take rides out.  "Private" horses are allowed off trail, but "professional" (livery) rides must never deviate from the marked trail if the livery wants to keep their permit, that includes stepping off the trail just long enough to go around a snow drift.

I am, however, unbelievably thankful for the amount of moisture we've gotten in the high country, as wildfire terrifies me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Moonlight Walk

RockCrawlinChef bought me a new part for my car and I just had to try it out, so we headed out for a drive.  In my post-9HealthFair clothes, I swore we were just going to go try out the part.  But I had such a good time, that we headed up to the Lodge to see how the new part helped the handling in the canyon.

It was dark by the time we got to the Lodge, but since we were up there I decided that I might as well take a quick ride.  That's the beauty of riding bareback (well, mostly bareback) - it doesn't take a whole lot of time to get set up to go for a ride.

Normally, I wouldn't have been caught dead in my pineapple pajamas, but I knew that Mom's guests were a bunch of scrapbookers.  Now those ladies have worn some seriously odd ensembles and they wouldn't think twice about my gawdawful britches.  Estes, however, might have something to say.

Monster gathered up Estes while I traded out my sweatshirt for my Carhartt, grabbed Estes' bridle and a bareback pad (I didn't want to have to ride home with Estes hair on my pajamas).  Bill decided that it would be "safer" if he went along with me.  That's just code for "get me away from all of these crazy women".  I absolutely understand.

The moon was out and since there's very minimal light pollution from the "town", we could actually see pretty well.

Now, is this dead sexy or what?  Estes' purple halter (it's enormous on her!) and my pink pineapple pajamas.  Bill, at least, looks the cowboy part.  But neither Estes nor Ranger look thrilled to be seen with me.  Aparently, Bill's not the only human who can embarrass Ranger.

Let's take a closer look at my fashion statement... favorite shooting hat, Carhartt coat covering up my ever-sexy black workout tank, and obnoxious pink britches.  I was told I should have put on my boots, but going upstairs to get them was just too much effort.

Do I know how to live it up or what?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

First Ride (Sorta)

Sunday was a cold, blowing day, but I didn't care - I had to get out on my horse!

I had thrown the saddle pad on her and taken her around the block right after she got her pedicure on Monday, but the five minutes I was on her didn't count as a ride.  All it did was make me want to go on a real ride.

My washing machine has decided to quit working, so each Sunday I've been taking my laundry up to the Lodge to do it and I had just enough time after I started the washer to go for a quick ride.  I would have preferred a long ride, but the weather was nasty.  We had horizontal snow, but I wasn't going to be deterred.  After all, the sun was still out.  It wasn't warm by any stretch of the imagination, but who cared?

Bill bundled up and braved the elements with me and off we went.

Estee wasn't nearly as excited about the prospect of going up on the mountain in the nasty weather, but managed to put one hoof in front of the other.  With some urging, she even managed to do it at a reasonable clip.  She and Ranger moseyed along the trail, willing to take us out but determined not to enjoy it.

Until we turned toward home.  Suddenly Estes got all sorts of energy and when I got after her for it, she did something she's never done in a tantrum before - that little bitch reared up on me.  It wasn't a big rear - she wasn't trying to put me off, but she was definitely letting her opinion be known.


Bill managed to snap the picture just as we were coming down.  Thank goodness for all of the balance work that my trainer's got me doing and the few lessons I've had on M.  I've had horses rear up on me before, but I was always in a saddle, not on a bareback pad whose cinch won't tighten enough to even make contact with Estes.

We had to stop and stand nicely for a little bit and then we headed off again.  At the Estes Two-Step, which felt so good on my back, let me tell you!  We did a lot of "whoa" and "stand" until she remembered how to walk.  Then we did stuff we both enjoy - we got to go snow bashing!


I love riding through snow, and I love it even more when no one else has marked it up with their own little paw prints.

We weren't out very long - only about half an hour, but it was WONDERFUL! Cold, snow and all. I'm so glad to have my girl back. I even love that she's got opinions - it keeps life interesting.

I can't wait until I can get up there again to ride, but it'll be a couple of weeks, darn it. Between the Health Fair and coloring Easter Eggs with the family, I'm not seeing any ride time until the 23rd.

Warning: mini-rant

I recently read an article on how important it is to be able to control all four of your horse's hooves when out on the trail.  I don't buy it.  Estes knows a whole lot better than I do where to put her feet to get where we need to go.  We rode over downed tree limbs covered in snow, skirted tree stumps and wove through the trees.  Even when we were crossing multiple downed limbs that required her to place her feet in small spaces between the limbs, I didn't have to "control" her hooves.  I feel like people who must "control" all of their horse's hooves don't have much trust in their horse.

I've been in situations on the trail that I've put us in and then had to depend on my horse to figure out how to get us out of it.  And the horse (no matter which one I was on) managed to figure it out and get us back on the right track in one piece.

I just feel like there are a lot of people who want to trail ride, but want to bring the "rules" of the arena out onto the mountain with them.  They work so hard to be "in control" of their horse at all times, that there is no trust built between the horse and rider.  Of course, my perception may be skewed because the only effective way to work with Mustangs is to build trust.  Estes isn't a Mustang, but she responds well to the same kind of treatment that they do.  She has a brain in her head and she wants to be allowed to use it.

I'm the boss when I'm riding, but like any good boss, I'm open to suggestions.  I don't want to micro-manage my horse.  Do I have expectations for her behavior?  Yes.  Will I correct her if she doesn't meet those expectations?  Yes.  But does that mean I must be "in control" of her every move? Nope.  We're a team when we're out on the trail - we may have disagreements along the way just like any team - but I trust her to get us home safely and she trusts me to not put us in too much danger.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fire Season Came Early

Our lack of snow has really worried me.  As much as I prefer not having the frozen white stuff, it is necessary to keep our state from catching fire.  The high country has had more than their share of white stuff, but down low, we're hurting for moisture and have already had several brush fires.  One is burning thousands of acres just west of the town I live in.

Because of all of the fires (and April just started!), I decided it's time to revisit our evacuation plan for the horses.  They're up in Allenspark, where the fire danger is currently very low, but that can change quickly.  There are only two ways out of Allenspark, down Highway 7 to Lyons or up Highway 7 to Estes Park.

Should evacuation be necessary, Mom and Bill have to get their guests out of the lodge and to safety before they can even think of getting themselves out.  We've decided that in the event of an emergency that requires evacuation, namely fire, we're just going to turn the horses out on the mountain to fend for themselves instead of trying to trailer them out.  That's been our standing plan from the beginning.

The problem is, how do we put identification on them?  We've heard/read all sorts of ideas.  Ranger has a BLM brand, so they could eventually track down Bill.  Estes has Ida's brand, so they can eventually track me down.  But Jesse and Washoe don't have any brands.  We've discussed freeze branding, tattooing and microchipping.  Some of the ideas that we've received are to put them in a halter with an ID tag on it, but the only way we'd turn them loose with a halter on is if it was a break-away one and they might be found without the halter.

I also read about braiding a luggage ID tag into their mane or tail, but that takes too much time in an evacuation scenario.  Or clippering a phone number onto their side, but we don't have clippers and if we did, there wouldn't be any time to clipper four horses before turning them out.

My favorite idea is to use DayGlo Orange spray paint to spray paint our phone numbers on their sides.  Still takes a little bit of time, but seems the quickest.  If we made a template for the phone number that we just held over their side and spray painted, that would even be faster.

What kind of ideas do you all have?  We're open to suggestions, but they have to be fast and easy - something that could be done quickly with potentially worked up horses.

What plans have you made for evacuations?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pedicure Time

The horses' feet were REALLY long when we got them back on Friday.  Their feet do fine while out on the mountain, but Ida had moved them to "fat pasture", where the ground is nice and soft.  Makes for comfy standing around, but lousy hooves.  We were lucky enough to get ahold of our farrier to come out and trim them up.

Estes used to be a real pain in the arse to trim and shoe.  Used to be that they'd have to drug her to shoe her.  We did the math and the last time she was drugged to be shod was in 2003; we ran the livery in 2004 and she mostly behaved herself while getting shod.  And by that I mean that she only kicked the farrier once or twice and bit him once.  Because of that history, I'm always a little anxious when she gets trimmed, even though we haven't had any problems with her since we took her barefoot.  Do you think that she was trying to tell us something about the shoes?  Now that she's completely barefoot, she hasn't had any issues with the farrier.  (Mr Mrs Mom - before you object - she asked nicely for her foot back before she broke yours.)

Our farrier whipped Estee out in no time, despite the fact that she had easily an inch that had to come off of each.  You could see her sigh with relief when he finished her club foot and she could touch the ground again instead of tippy-toeing around on her high heels.

I do feel sorry for our poor farrier, as the Mustangs' hooves are hard as rock.  By the time he was halfway finished with Jesse, he'd completely dulled his rasp, so Mom loaned him ours.  While he was working on Jess, I grabbed the bareback pad and Estes' new headstall and went for a quick walk-about.  Usually I don't use the bareback pad, but she's a disgusting hairball right now and I was in my only clean pair of jeans.

It felt so good to be up on my own horse again, even for only ten minutes.  I tried working on my seat, with the leg position I'd been practicing on M in my lessons.  Yeah.  Hmmm.  She wasn't a fan.  When I ride bareback, I usually just let my legs dangle, so there's not much calf contact.  That she's okay with. 

This "new fangled" seat (as she thinks of it, I'm sure) increases the calf contact and she's not happy about it.  She got jiggy and snorty, but as soon as I let my legs dangle like I normally ride, she settled right down.  The settling down thing was really important today, as I had fallen down the stairs right before I left the house and jacked up my upper back.  The Estes Two Step did not feel good on my back, so having her move quietly was important.  We worked on standing still; she's a rather impatient horse, so standing still is not easy for her.

Even though it was a very short ride - just around the block and the cabins - it was wonderful to be back up on my baby girl.  I even think she kinda missed me.  I've been getting all kinds of cuddles from her - and she's not a cuddler. 

I can't wait until I can go for a real ride on her, not just around the block.


No matter, it's just wonderful to have them home.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

Mom posted the pics of the horses' homecoming, which left me with the videos.  I'll do a real post in the near future, but for mostly Mom's your viewing pleasure, here's the video she managed to snag in between snapping pictures.

Here's a very abbreviated video montage of Ranger playing Wild Horse.  It really is a game for him; I'm pretty sure he stopped and laughed at Bill a dozen times.  He would stop, turn to look at Bill, lick and then take off again.  It must be payback for Bill embarrassing him on the trail during the summers.

Love how Ranger unloaded on command (okay, Mom's right, all of their horses unload on command.  Estes? Not so much, but we'll work on it.)

Estes started the herd off with her own snow pegasus, but we missed it on video.  We couldn't believe that she would chose to roll in the snow instead of the dirt, but then Ranger followed suit and Eli wanted to, but chickened out.