Sunday, March 31, 2013

Settled In

24 hours in and yes, I'm loving having Her Highness here.

I got up this morning to a text from her Landlord that she was doing great, so I waited to go over until I was on my way to Easter dinner at Nebalee's house.  That gave me time to finish baking the cupcakes and making the jalapeno poppers without being rushed.

I pulled up and saw her sleeping in the yard, enjoying the sun.

I think she might be part cat - give her a sunbeam and it's nap time.
She roused herself enough when I got to the gate to escort me to the back fence.  It was obvious she *had* to show me something.

"See them, Mom?"
There's a whole herd over there ignoring Her Highness.

She had introduced herself quite loudly to the other horse on the property, but no matter how much she hollered, those darn horses across the road would not respond to her.  She was not pleased and kept taking me back there like she was telling on them.

I checked her hay and water and told her I'd be back after dinner.  I kinda forgot to tell her than when I came back, it would be with Ivermectin.

First order of business when I got back was getting rid of as much hair as possible so she wouldn't look like a curly.  I'm fairly certain the birds will be thanking me once they get a look at the amount of hair I curried off of that girl.

It's harder to see here, but there's, like, half a horse on the ground.
I have a little "issue" with loose hair.  So as much as I love my girl, I HAD to wear gloves while grooming.  And I had to keep moving around so that the breeze would take the hair away from my mouth.  'Cause that's just gross.

Her hooves are long and were packed with God-knows-what; they need some serious work, but I think that if I work on them a little bit every day, they'll start looking better.  I'm still not super confident with hooves, but I am fairly certain that if I go in baby steps I won't screw her up too badly.  At first, I was thinking she was thrushy, but I think that what I saw was unshed sole.  I poked and prodded around her hooves and she doesn't seem tender.

After a good brushing, we took a quick walk around her new home.

Her pen - she loves all the new grass coming up.

The little house she thought she could follow me into yesterday.
The stall she won't go into without me.

This is Buck, he's on the other side of the property.
The farm road we'll be doing our Ease Into 5K training on.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Estes' New Apartment

Thank God for good friends.  When Mom called and told me that Estes needed to be moved ASAP, I called a friend who I know has some land and already has a horse on her property, thinking that maybe she would let me lease a spot for a month or so.  She agreed, but the next morning called me with what she thought would be a better place.

Turns out she has a friend who might have a better set-up for Estes and she wanted me to look at it.  My friend had remembered that Estes is getting up there in age and thought she might appreciate some formal shelter.

The place is perfect and beautiful and only about five minutes from our place.  For the first time since I've owned her, I'll be able to be with her every day.  I'm a lot excited about that.

Mom got directions to Estes' current pasture and we headed out to pick up my baby.

After traipsing through the cow pasture, we spotted the horses.  Estes saw us coming, she went on alert as soon as she heard us, but being Queen of Everything, she allowed us to cross the pasture to approach her.  We had assumed she'd be out there with the big herd, but it was just  Her Highness, Paint, and the Shetland-cross horse-type thing.

Paint was one of our livery string back way back when, so he's an old friend.  And I mean OLD, he's 27 if he's a day and he's lost an eye, which is kind of creepy, but he's still a sweetie.

Oh, I know you
Estee was perfectly happy to let me rub on her, but we had to go through the ritual of pretending to run away.

See how fast she's trying to get away?
Once she was certain I understood that she was still the Queen, oh about thirty seconds, she decided that she could come with me and practically haltered herself.

Ok, you may approach.
Does the Royal Purple still look good on me?

We spent a few minutes loving on Paint, who looks really good for his age, other than that eye thing.

The Shetland-cross horse-type thing is supposed to be Paint's companion animal.  I think that's another way of saying he/she/it is Paint's seeing eye dog.

Ok, so he/she/it's kinda cute.
The thing I *hate* about picking up Estes from winter pasture is all of the crying and going on when I lead her to the trailer.  This year was worse, because it was just the three of them and the cows and I'm pretty sure Paint doesn't count the half-horse as a herd member.  Paint bellowed and hollered and Estes bellowed and hollered and the little one tried, but it came out sounding more like a squeak.

It only took us about forty minutes to get to Her Highness' new place.  She's got a house in her pen.  Like, an actual two-room house, which is super cute.  She's also got a stall that I doubt she'll use, but I did take the time to show it to her.

That's for me?

I guess it might do.
I led her around the perimeter of her new place and turned her loose.  She was more than a little happy to start grazing on the new grass, while the Bionic Cowgirl and I unpacked all of her stuff.  "All of her stuff" was ten bales of hay and her bucket 'o supplies.  She's a light traveler.

Hop to it, Humans.
See that little building behind Estes?  That's the little two-room house I was talking about.  I opened the door to put her bucket inside and had to quickly shut the door.  While Her Highness wasn't overly excited about having her very own stall, she was certainly interested in claiming the house as hers.  Maybe I shouldn't have taught her to follow me through the Lodge, after all.

She hollered after us as we left, but when I went back this evening to check on her, she was quiet and grazing.  Mom and I had loaded up a couple of hay bags and I hung one on a post in the middle of the pen and one in the stall.  When I went to check on her tonight, she hadn't touched either bag of hay.  I took her a handful, which she ate, but then looked at me with disdain and went back to the new grass coming up.

She's got to put on some weight, so I'll be free-feeding as much hay as she'll take and start her on some Senior Feed this week.  I'm hoping to get some weight on her in the next four weeks.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Estes Is Coming Home!

Well, sort of home.

I got a call from Mom today and she started with, "Ida called..."  First, let me tell you that phrase chills my heart.  Estes is no spring chicken and I'm constantly dreading a phone call that could be bad news.  Read: my baby girl is dead, dying, or needs to be put down.  To date, I've only had one bad phone call from Mom, but with Estes' increasing age, I constantly worry.

Sorry - got off track.

It was bad-ish news, but not about Estes' health.  Ida just needs her herd off the pasture, so Estes has been evicted from fat pasture.  Only, it's too cold and snowy for Her Highness up the mountain right now, so I had to scramble to find her a place for the next six weeks.

Luckily, I have an amazing friend who I've worked with for several years who lives not far from me and who has a pen I can lease until it's warm enough to move Her Highness up the mountain.  I'm not going to lie, I'm kind of excited to have her only ten minutes from me.

Now that I know I have a place for her, I can allow myself to get excited that I can go hang with my girl every day.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My Most Difficult Ride

I've been going to write about this ride since October, when it occurred, but I had a hard time (and still am) gathering my thoughts about it.  It was perhaps the most frustrating ride I've ever been on, though Estes came through like the Queen she is.

Compass wanted to make a commercial for her livery and get some promotional pictures, so she hired a photographer/videographer and invited people to come participate in exchange for a free ride.  Deejo, Mrs Deejo, Mrs Junior, Mr Nebalee, and Autobot went along for the ride.  I actually started out my ride NOT with the group, but met up with them at about the halfway point when I went to talk to College Boy.

Let me tell you about College Boy.  Her Highness loves him very much.  When she likes someone, she makes up her mind and that's all there is to it.  I don't know what it is about him that she likes so much, but she immediately bonded to him.  Whenever I had her out and College Boy was around, she would bury her head in his chest and just sigh.  For a very stand-offish horse, that's saying a lot.  Granted, he's a great guy, good looking, and has a naturally easy way with horses, so I guess it's not really surprising that Estes developed such a crush on him.  He's never even ridden her, though I wouldn't hesitate for him to do so.

Last summer it was very hard for me to deal with the livery.  If it wasn't for College Boy, I wouldn't have ever set foot on the property.  Really, it was a lot of little things that made me insane and created a lot of resentment and anger on my part.  Mom and Bill are so much better at taking the high road than I am and are much better people. Once I'm done, I'm d-o-n-e.  And last summer, I was d-o-n-e.

So it was probably my frustration with the entire summer that made the final livery ride so difficult; take this post with a grain of salt, for it probably wasn't *as bad* as I thought it was.

I've worked on Julie Goodnight's TV crew for a few years now, so I had a fair idea of what it was going to take to get the pictures and videos needed.  I knew there would be a lot of "hurry up and wait", which is fine.  It was a beautiful day and I had no place I needed to be except on the back of my mare.  When we ran into the livery ride, I headed over to talk to College Boy and no surprise, Estes buried her head in his chest and decided we'd go along and help out, which really meant ponying and holding the photographer's horse.  Not a big deal, Estes is experienced at ponying and the photographer's horse, RC, was one that I'd known forever, so I didn't think twice about the fact that we were bareback.

RC, Estes and I stood around and talked to College Boy while the photog did his thing.  He wanted some shots of College Boy galloping along a trail.  He got some excellent pictures, but I was unhappy that these pictures were going to be used for advertising.  Guests are absolutely NOT allowed to gallop along those trails, it's a safety issue.

I do actually love the pictures, though.  This one is my favorite.  Not many people have a professional photographer clicking away the very first time they gallop.  College Boy had a blast.

Photo cred: Allenspark Livery

After the running like their tails are on fire shots, we moved on to the trench trail, where I got twitchy all over again.  They wanted more pictures of horses and guests running.  Off trail.  In the direction of home.  Who else thinks this might not be a good idea?

It turned out okay, they did it a couple of times and got some good footage to use, but I really, really was unhinged by the fact that they were videotaping a business breaking the rules they were bound to by their permits.  All commercial rides must stay on the trail and must stay in control.  Oh, and the dog off-leash?  In direct violation of Boulder County's leash laws. (And I'm the one who went to jail for a loose cat!)

As we moved on, College Boy forever earned a place in my heart when he told the photographer that my mare would do anything I asked.  And he's right, Estes is pretty much the bomb (and bomb-proof).  So Estes and I ponied RC back and forth across Fox Creek for some really pretty footage of a water crossing.  By that time, I'd resigned myself to just getting through the ride.

We got everyone across the creek and headed back to the picnic area, which is rarely used, but there are some hidden waterfalls back there that would have made for beautiful pictures.  The trail isn't used very often and can get kind of narrow.  In fact, there are pictures around here somewhere of that trail - it can get pretty gnarly in areas.  Nothing high or scary, just tight quarters.  We had along with us, the livery's two new mules, Mike and Ike.  They were bought for packing, but didn't have much training on them.  We got to a particularly tight section of trail and realized that we couldn't get them through with their packs on, so the decision was made to reverse course.  The photographer, College Boy, and I were kind of in the middle of the line, so when we had to turn around, they ended up ahead of me.  This is important in just a few minutes.

Since we had to reverse course, the decision was made to send College Boy and the photographer up the Goat Trail, which we would have to pass anyway.  The views from the Goat Trail are stunning, there's no doubt about it, so of course, there had to be pictures taken up there.  However, the Goat Trail even from the "good" side is not for beginners (or intermediates), so the plan was for the rest of the riders to wait at the bottom of the trail while College Boy and the photographer went up for some quick shots.  Again, they were astounding.

Photo cred: Allenspark Livery
Yeah, the plan was to wait at the bottom of the trail.  But remember that crush that Estes has on College Boy?  I let my guard down as he and the photographer headed up the trail and Estes decided she was going too.  I can't even tell you what happened; I was ponying the mules (oh God, a whole OTHER story), waiting on the trail and then suddenly Estes and I had hopped up on a boulder and she started scrambling after them.  I got her stopped, but we were on shale and there wasn't any way to turn her without falling to our deaths.  I wish I was exaggerating.  The mules had not followed her up the boulder, so I dropped the lead rope and veeeerrrrryyyyy slowly slid myself off her her back, feeling with my toes for the ground.  College Boy and the photographer had stopped on the Goat Trail ahead of us, mostly, I think, because the photographer dropped his tripod.  Since I was on the ground, I could easily get the tripod.  That was the only easy thing.  They went on to the top while I figured out how to get us out of our little predicament.

I finally told Estes to stand, picked up the tripod and squeezed by her with it.  I didn't have a good angle to put the tripod in one of the mule's packs, but I leaned off of the boulder, out over the open space and just jammed the damn thing in, figuring I could fix it once I got my horse back down.  Standing behind her on the trail, I looked at our options, which were very few.  I had to take her up the trail ten yards or so before there was any space wide enough for me to turn her around.  The old girl can turn on a dime, so I didn't need a hugely wide spot on the trail, but I did need something more than I had.

I squeezed by her again, aware of the shale slipping out from under my boots, picked up her reins and lead her up to the wide spot to spin her around.  In order to turn her and stay out from under her hooves, I had to scale some loose rock, but we managed to get her turned around and headed back in the right direction.  We descended the trail very carefully.  My boots were slipping on the rocks and I was afraid that if I fell, she'd step on me or slip and fall herself.  We weren't very far up the trail, but it seemed to take forever to get back down.  Of course, while I was getting us situated, the rest of the line had bunched up and there wasn't any room for us to get back in line.  I had the front of the line move up, I think by that time Compass had the mules, to make room for us.  I perched on the boulder above the trail, extended my hand with the reins in it and told Estes to step down into the trail.  And then I held my breath just in case she jostled me on the way by.  I have a severe allergy to falling under a horse's hooves.  I should have never doubted her.  She stepped down into the trail and looked at me like I was an idiot for doubting her.  There wasn't any room to mount, so I slipped down into the trail ahead of her and led her for a few yards until I could find some place to mount up again.

Hell, after all of that, the rest of the ride went smooth-ish.  We had no sooner lined up and started out and College Boy showed back up.  Either they were very fast moving up and down the Goat Trail or it took longer than I thought to get Her Highness back on the trail.

For some reason, I had to move up and take the mules from Compass, though I don't remember what the reason was, but I ended up leading the ride with two pack mules who didn't have much training on them and were not very good at being ponied.  It took a bit to get them lined out properly and they'd stay in position for ten or fifteen yards and then get all jacked up again.  It was very frustrating, but Estes was amazing.  She didn't even bat an eye when I grabbed the "string" (two still counts as a string, right?) of mules, though she did get annoyed when they didn't stay lined out like they were supposed to.

Eventually, the mule string went back to Compass and we headed home.  I was never so glad to be headed back home as I was that day.  Nor was I prouder of my mare.  It wasn't an easy ride, I asked a whole lot of her and she did it all (and then some, if you count the Goat Trail debacle).

We did end up with a beautiful picture of us with College Boy and Fancy.

Photo cred: Allenspark Livery
The videos turned out beautifully, even if my nerves were shot by the end of the day.

Friday, March 15, 2013

It's 70*F

And all I want to do is go riding.  But little missy is still out to fat pasture and will be until probably the first week in May.  I miss her, but I know it's best for her to be where she is and I know we still have some cold weather heading our way.

I'm coming to terms with the thought that this might be her last year up on the mountain with Mom's herd, that she might have to live down here on the plains with me.  We spent some time at Rocky Mountain Horse Expo watching a demonstration on at-liberty obstacle courses.  I feel like that might be something to keep her brain engaged once I can't ride her any more.  We'll see how she does this summer on the mountain, but I know it's a possibility that it could be her last year.  I certainly hope not, though.

If I have any readers left, I'll put up the post of the livery's last ride in October.  Let me tell you, if it was a scored trail obstacle course, Estee and I would have won first place.  She was a rock star and did everything I asked of her - including ponying two mules who hadn't been trained to pack or pony.  Too bad there aren't any pictures of the two of us on that ride; the photographer was hired to take pictures of the livery horses and riders, not me and my girl.