Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rocky Mountain Horse Expo - Saturday

We got to the barn bright and early on Saturday and it was wonderful. Nice and calm - only a handful of people there working with their horses.

Skeeter and Copper needed to come out of their stalls for a bit; being cooped up was making them antsy, so we took them out on a short walkabout. I put Skeeter in the outdoor round pen and tried to work her, but she was too interested in being a big dog. She wandered the outskirts of the pen, smelling all the smells. I didn't push her too hard to work, I just wanted to get her out of the stall.

After about ten minutes, she came up and asked to be haltered, so we left the round pen and Copper went in with Jay. The boys spent a few minutes in the round pen, then we went back into the barn to clean the stalls and get them fed. They stood tied to their stalls nicely and, in general, acted like well-mannered horses. It was wonderful.

Copper wishing Jay would hurry up with his room service.

Standing tied like a good girl.

It being the day of the Saint Patrick's Day parade, we played dress up with Copper, who took it all in stride. Don't tell anyone, but I think he secretly liked it.

We were scheduled to work the booth from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., so we settled in to answer questions and talk to the few people who walked by. I'd nodded and smiled at a few, when a familiar face walked up. He started to reach across the table to shake hands when his cell phone went off and he stepped away from the table to answer it. I looked at Jay with wide eyes and mouthed, "That's Val from Unbranded!"

When "Uncle Val" finished his phone call, he came back to the table to introduce himself. It was such an honor to meet him and I told him so. The movie Unbranded has brought a lot of awareness to the wild horses, but Val stole everyone's heart. The movie might have been about Ben Masters and his friends riding BLM mustangs border to border, but Val was the heart and soul of the movie. To have him standing in front of us was a dream.

He'd found our coffee pot the night before and was coming to refill his cup (I think he lives on the stuff), but thought it would be polite to introduce himself before he got himself more coffee. We had a great time talking to him - what a sweet and genuine guy. He was not acting in the movie;what you see is what you get - a weathered old cowboy who loves life and the people around him.

Janna (another booth volunteer), Jay, and I listened to his stories for about twenty minutes before I asked for a picture, which he was more than willing to oblige. The wealth of knowledge he has is astounding.

Jay, me, Uncle Val, Janna
He was in and out throughout the day and what was most amazing to me is that he remembered everyone's names. This is a gentleman in his 70s who had to have met hundreds of people throughout the weekend, yet could remember every person's name. He took the time to come meet our horses (and complimented us on them), met Mom and Bill (and apparently Asset, but that might be a sore subject), and generally brightened everyone's day.

I can't think about Saturday without beaming - he brings such joy to everyone around him. Meeting Uncle Val was the highlight of my weekend. You know there are some people who you are better for just having met them? He's one of those people.

Okay, I'll stop with my fangirl moment and move on to the rest of the day.

They were both good Mustang ambassadors (for a while)

I wanted to get Skeeter out and about again, so when Kathy (our boss) pulled her gelding out to bathe him, I pulled Skeeter. She likes to be sprayed down with the hose and I thought she'd like to at least see the horses' "shower room" (or whatever they call it). I pulled her and she followed Doc nicely, but quickly got jittery with everything going on. We tried to stay, but she had to move her feet, so back to the round pen we went.

She rolled a couple of times and sniffed around, but was still pretty "up". Mom and I disagree a bit - Mom thinks she was looking colicky, but I think she was just too amped up from over-stimulation. She had been pooping and peeing well and was fine until the energy in the building went up. Suddenly, there were people and horses everywhere, plus the train was chugging by. I wasn't worried about her wanting to roll, because she hadn't laid down in her stall at all and there was a lot of really nice dirt for her to take a dirt bath in.

After a few minutes, Jay and Copper were there waiting for the round pen and one other person, so I pulled her to wait for Jay.

Copper is super sensitive, so Jay was actually able to work him in the round pen. Skeeter and I were just going to wait on them, but it was all suddenly way too much for Skeets and she lost her mind. A little rear and buck and then she couldn't keep her feet still. No amount of circling could get her attention back on me, so as soon as I saw a gap in the people and horses, we headed back to the barn.

We did a lot of stopping and breathing (for me) before we made it back to her stall. I'm fairly certain that she actually looked forward to getting locked away from the craziness.

I'd just finished getting her new water and hay when Jay and Copper returned. Copper - nice, laid-back Copper - lost his shit, not because we left, but because there was a little mini pulling a covered wagon. That damn mini was going to eat Copper, he was certain of it.

Both horses were looking a little drawn up and we couldn't tell how much they'd been drinking because they kept playing in the dang water, so we went on a search for electrolytes. At the Brighton Saddlery booth we found one of the Likit things with 'lytes in it, so we bought that to hang between their stalls, then we found the Agape booth, which had samples of EquiPride. After talking to the lady at the booth, she gave us a sample with instructions and sent us back to the barn.

Skeeter thinks that if humans eat it, it's good for horse to eat, too, so getting her to try the EquiPride was no problem. Once we were certain she'd eat it, we dumped some into her water. Copper, though, thinks we're trying to poison him with people food, so he was a bit more leery of the stuff. Jay dumped some in his water anyway. With the Likit hung between the stalls, and the EquiPride in their water buckets, we decided to go see more stuff. When we came back a couple of hours later, both buckets were empty and there was no sign of them dumping it. Whew, potential crisis averted.

After a fun dinner with the rest of the USWHBA volunteers (lousy service, but fun company), we called it a night. Mom and Bill headed to the horse trailer to camp and we headed to our hotel. Sunday was going to be a big day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Rocky Mountain Horse Expo - Friday

The alarm went off very early Friday morning.

3:30 a.m. early.

Early, early.

But we managed to drag ourselves out of bed and get moving. We quickly packed the clothes we needed for the weekend, then packed the vehicle with all of the tack and horse gear, and hooked up the trailer. Everything went according to plan, and we were ready to load up the horses by 4:30 a.m.

We grabbed their halters, went into the pen, and haltered them in the dark without issue.

Skeeter followed nicely to the trailer, stepped her front two hooves in and then came to her senses. It was like she finally woke up and realized we were putting her into the trailer in the dark and she suddenly didn't want to go. We circled and did a little ground work before trying again. This time, she got her front two hooves in, realized there was hay in the manger and put the third hoof in before she came to her senses and bolted back out of the trailer.

We did that several times before I looked at Jay and told him to give Copper a try. Certainly, if we could get one horse in the trailer, the other would be willing to load. And certainly, since Copper had just come from the trainer's twelve hours before, he'd remember his trailer loading lessons and step right on in.

I should have known the morning was going too well.

Jay worked to "drive" Copper into the trailer. Copper got two hooves in, came to his senses, and bolted backward out of the trailer. I was holding Skeeter on the far side of the trailer, when I heard a holler and, "Babe! Copper's loose!"

I looked over to see Copper trotting away (all of twenty yards before he stopped) and Jay on his knees, holding his hand. The first words out of my mouth were, "Do you still have all your fingers?". It's a terrible question to ask, but an important one when dealing with horses.

Jay assured me he did, but I didn't believe him until he turned on his cell phone flashlight and checked. I walked over to Copper and picked up his lead rope, handed my gloves to Jay and they tried again. Jay wanted Copper to know that even if he pulled away, he'd have to get back to work. A few tries to load later, we gave Copper a break and tried again with Skeeter.

The frustrating thing is that both horses have been loaded into our trailer. Not at the same time, but they've both been in the blasted thing!

At 6:00 a.m., we threw in the towel, put the horses back in the pen, unhooked the trailer and headed to Denver without them. When we got into cell phone range, I called Mom and let her know we were headed down, but without the horses. I texted the person in charge of the Pleasure Class we were supposed to compete in and scratched us both from Friday's competition. We figured we'd try again during daylight on Saturday, but we were supposed to be in a meeting at 7:00 a.m. in Denver (we were definitely going to be late), and be ready to help set up the U.S. Wild Horse and Burro Association booth. We were scheduled to volunteer from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., so we really didn't have any time to fart around with the horses.

While talking to Mom, I told her that if they brought their trailer down on Saturday and hauled the horses to the expo for us, we'd pay their gas. They did us one better - a couple of hours after I talked to Mom, I got a text from L.E. that the horses were loaded into the trailer and they were headed our way. Mom texted right after L.E. and let me know they (and the horses) would be there by noon.

I felt pretty bad about it, because I know there were some events that Bill wanted to see in the morning and he missed them to go pick up our two boogerheads. However, I was glad that they were on their way.

"We refused to get in our trailer, and now we're in jail?!"
Mom and Bill made great time and the horses were in their jail cells stalls just a hair before noon. We hung water buckets and hay nets, then headed off to see the Colt Starting Challenge. A couple of hours later, we got back to the barn to check in on the horses and I was told that Skeeter caused a bit of excitement.

In her boredom, she started pawing at her hay net and got her leg caught in it, which then caused her to panic. A passerby saw what was happening and started to go into the stall. Luckily, our "boss" caught her before she got in and told her to stop. Kathy (our boss) grabbed Skeeter's halter and go it on her fairly easily. Once the halter was on, Skeeter calmed down and stood nicely. Kathy had the passerby come in to hold Skeeter while she cut away the hay net.

It was a cheap hay net, and I hung it far too low. I didn't even give it a second thought because she'd eaten out of a similar hay net, hung at a similar height from a trailer, but I didn't think about the boredom factor. I was lucky that Kathy and the other lady reacted so quickly. Skeets was fine, but because of her both horses got to pick their hay out of the shavings instead of eating out of their hay bags.

Copper didn't do anything as drastic as Skeeter, but he still managed to cause some trouble by playing with his water bucket. Jay must have filled it at least five times on Friday. Copper would pick it up with his teeth, pull it away from the wall, then let fly. When he got bored with that, he'd stick his head in the bucket and slosh it back and forth. His stall was one muddy mess. It was impossible to see how much water he was actually drinking because he kept emptying his bucket out in other ways. Jerk.

Despite knowing there was nothing in the stalls they could hurt themselves with (anymore), I was pretty paranoid the rest of the night.

Mom, Bill, Jay, and I had tickets to the Mane Event that night, so we cleaned the stalls, fed, watered, and spend an evening being astonished by the acts in the Mane Event. My favorite was the Fjords - they did "tandem driving"; the riders rode one horse, while driving one in front of them. I had never seen anything like it. I mean, riding correctly is hard enough; and driving correctly is hard enough. Who in their right mind wants to do both at the same time? It was incredible.

Eighteen hours after we left home Friday morning, Jay and I were able to check in to our hotel room and call it a night. Poor Mom and Bill had to drive all the way back up the hill to the lodge. We couldn't be blessed with a better support system than those two.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Last Work Day Before CMD

Sunday was our last work day. Jessica wanted me to go out and ride Copper before he comes home, so I headed out there with Mom and Bill in tow. Actually, the trailer was in tow and Mom and Bill met me there. I dropped off the trailer for Jessica to work with Copper on, because it's such a small trailer compared to Mom and Bill's. It took an hour to get him into their big trailer to take him to Jessica's, so we knew he'd take some work to get into our little two-horse, straight-load trailer.

Jessica had me do his whole routine - round pen work, ground work, and riding. He worked like a perfect gentleman and his power steering is much better than Skeeter's. I know this after riding them back-to-back. He really was amazing. I spooked him once by slapping the saddle strings against my leg, but he recovered quickly.

When we were done, we headed back home to work with Miss Skeeter. She and I had a really bad work day on Friday and I wasn't comfortable working her by myself. When I say bad work day, I mean bad - she got all hard-eyed and kicked out at me a couple of times while working on the circle. I thought maybe just she and I were feeding our frustrations off of each other, so I had Jay work her and she did the same thing. One moment, perfect, soft-eyed and willing; the next, hard-eyed and kicking.

I had been bragging about how she'd gone through estrus without me even noticing a change in attitude and it bit me in the butt. I think she just wasn't feeling well post-estrus and was letting us both know. No matter the reason, I felt it prudent to wait until I had back-up just in case she was able to connect if she had more "episodes".

Of course, once I had more ground support, she was excellent. Truly amazing, which makes me believe even more that she was suffering from some post-estrus nastiness.

She was so good that I rode her (in her beautiful new saddle) around for about ten minutes.

And then Mom rode her around for about ten minutes ...

The stirrups were a bit short, but Mom made do
Finally, Bill crawled up on her. By that time, she was pretty close to being done, so he only rode for about five minutes ...

If that look doesn't say "I'm done", I don't know what does.
I'm pretty proud of her for being so good. Three different riders on a horse with less than fifty rides - only about five rides at home - without a fit is wonderful. I could not be more pleased with her.

Unfortunately, there hasn't been any more time to work with her this week, so the next time I'll be up on her will be at Mustang Days on Friday. This week has been filled with brand inspections and vet visits for their health papers. Jessica has been a God-send; she handled the brand inspector and the vet for Copper so I didn't have to take even more time off of work. Additionally, she has worked Copper with the trailer so when we go pick him up at 5:30 a.m. on Friday we shouldn't have a battle.

My hope is that Skeeter loads up nicely, because I haven't worked with her on it at all. She's been trailered places, but not in our trailer, though she has loaded up into it previously. Positive vibes for an easy loading at 4:30 a.m. would be appreciated.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Our New Tack Room (f/k/a Living Room)

We took Jay's saddle to Jessica's on Sunday and determined that it fits Copper nicely. Without stirrups (irons, if you will), there was no riding being done in the saddle, but we at least knew it fit.

Sunday was a most excellent day because JAY RODE COPPER!!! We have video, Jay just needs to edit and upload it, but both he and Copper did so very well. I'm proud of both of them.

After his lesson, we went horse shopping to get things we needed for CMD. Important things like stirrups and silly things like feed bags and water buckets. Jay found a cute consignment tack shop in Longmont and they were awesome  to work with. Since we had his saddle in the car from trying it on Copper, they suggested we bring it into the shop so we could try out blankets and stirrups to find the right combination of what we needed.

He chose some nice endurance-type stirrups and a pad thin enough to use under the saddle. The ladies at the shop were kind enough to not only put the stirrups on the saddle, but adjust them to fit him. Oh! And he was able to find the exact rein he's been looking for for almost a year.

Looks pretty good, doesn't it?
We picked up some leather conditioner and are working it into the leather every few days. This saddle is going to ride completely different than the western saddle Copper has been worked in, so Jay's going to take it to Jessica's and have her start him in it.

We've been living with the saddle in the living room for a couple of days and I joked that it was becoming our tack room, but last night *my* new saddle was delivered and now the living room is really a tack room.

Jay's saddle was the first one I'd ever purchased, but the one I'm riding Skeeter in doesn't fit her well, so I ordered a new Wintec synthetic saddle for her and it came last night. I had to unbox it, but until I know it fits her (I'll try it on her tomorrow or Friday), I'm not taking all of the protective coverings off.

(We're using the broomstick to turn Jay's stirrups)

I made a tactical error in buying my new saddle though - it's black.  Everything I own is brown, so I guess that means I need to buy Skeeter a new black headstall and reins. :)

We do actually have a tack room, but it's easier - for now - to have the saddles in the house. We can continue to work leather conditioner into Jay's saddle and I can continue to admire my new one. By Friday, the living room will be back to being a living room.