Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sleep Over

A couple of weeks ago, L.E. was out of state and I was tending the chickens each evening. You may know that I *hate* birds.

Hate them.



But I kind of really love "our" hens. They're a hoot and they don't try to peck me or get too close and they lay delicious eggs.

About the third day L.E. was gone, I came home from work just as the sun was setting and noticed things were awry in the farm yard. Items that were normally stored to the south or east of the buildings were lying in the middle of the drive and the gate to the hens' pen was mostly closed, with the bar that normally holds it open lying on the ground next to it. Now, I know that the hens can't budge that metal bar, so something was not right in Paradise.

I quickly picked up the errant items and put them away before I want into the hens' pen. It looked like they had already tucked themselves in for bed, but since things were not quite right when I got home, I decided to open the coop to check them.

One hen.

Two hens.

Uh, where's the third hen?

Crap. I always worried when L.E. went away that I'd lose one of her hens to a critter. I stood there in their pen looking around and it dawned on me that we'd probably had a microburst while I was at work. The microburst would account for things being out of place and the gate being partially closed, despite the metal bar that normally holds it open. I dared to hope that the hen had roosted somewhere else and set out on a walk-about the property to find her.

Twenty minutes later, I gave up and hoped that she'd found herself some place nice and secure to hole up for the night. When Jay came home, I told him that we were missing one of the hens and said that the best place she could have roosted would be in the horses' hay. I'd looked around their round bale, but didn't see anything, but it was getting dark and she's a red hen, so I might have missed her.

About one a.m. I was awakened by loud, continuous banging. At first I thought it was the horses kicking the round feeder, but the noise wasn't quite right for that. I figured they'd stop in a few minutes and tried to get back to sleep. The horses were having none of it.




I listened for snorting and running, but it seemed to be quiet out there except for the banging. Whatever those horses were doing, they weren't panicked. I finally dragged myself out of bed and put on my glasses so I could peer out the window.

I couldn't see Copper, but I saw Skeeter walking around the pen with something in her mouth. "Aw crap, that better not be the hen. Wait ... that's way to big to be a hen. What the hell is in her mouth? Did they stomp a coyote to death?" Since I had no idea what she was swinging around, I slid into my clothes, grabbed a flashlight and headed out to see what they were doing.

By the time I got out to the pen, Skeeter had dropped whatever she had been playing with and met me at the fence.

"Hey Mom, whatcha doin' up?"

"What the hell, Skeets? It's the middle of the night, what are you guys doing?" I shined the light around the pen and found what she had been swinging around - their big rubber feed tub - but it didn't account for the sound of hooves on metal. I kept shining the light around the pen until I saw a reflection in the middle of the pen that didn't belong there.

"Copper, really?" The water baby had dumped the metal water trough and kicked it all over the pen. In his defense, I knew they were low on water and had intended to fill it when I got distracted by the missing hen, then I forgot. It wasn't empty, but it was low. The big red horse decided that the middle of the night would be a good time to play with the trough and that was that.

Cussing under my breath, I dragged the trough back to where it belonged and started to fill it. Even with the hydrant wide open, it was taking forever to fill, so I thought I'd wander around the round bale and see if the missing hen had roosted there. Sure enough, she had burrowed herself into the hay and was practically invisible. I stood there, flashlight shining on her, contemplating whether or not I should try to move her to the coop.

Skeeter ambled over, looked at me, looked at the hen and lowered her head, "Mom, we're having a sleep over. Leave her alone, we got this." And with that, the big black horse ushered me back to the water trough. As soon as she was certain I was going to stay at the trough, she took up a guard position near the hen. She guarded the little red hen in the same manner she stands guard over Copper when he's flat-out.

All I could do was laugh at the goofy mare, finish filling the water trough, and go back to bed.

The next morning, all of the hens were back together as though nothing happened.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Rocky Mountain Horse Expo - Sunday

(Sorry for the delay. Work. Life. Blizzard. Work.)

Saturday started so well, and then kind of disintegrated so both of us were on the fence as to whether or not we were going to scratch from the Extreme Mustang Race (EMR). I had planned on riding it, with my back-up being doing it in hand, but the closer the race got, the more concerned I got about riding Skeeter.

We talked it over Saturday night and decided that we were just going to tack up the horses and do it in-hand, but with their gear on for practice. Sunday morning dawned nice and early (earlier than usual with the damn time change), and we headed to the barn. On the way, we talked it over again and decided that we weren't going to tack up after all - we didn't want to give the horses even more to stress over. Skeeter probably would have been fine, but Copper's still really new to grown-up clothes.

Once again, we were among the first at the barn, so it was nice and peaceful. We grabbed the horses and went to the arena just one aisle over from the stalls to warm up.

Really, really early in the morning.

Really early.
Skeeter did as she was asked, but I couldn't get her full attention. That's what I get for adopting a mare - she has the ability to multi-task. She's like, "yeah, yeah, yeah Mom, I'm circling, I'm circling. But did you see that over there? I'm changing direction, yeah I'm paying attention to you ... wait ... there's something ... okay, I'll change direction again."

Copper, of course, was perfect. Jerk.

We groomed them a bit, and then headed to the arena. First, we had to go through another building. The building where they housed the drafts, carts, and minis. Remember how much Copper loves minis? I'm sure that was on Jay's mind. He marched Copper through the building, eyes straight forward, one step after the next, just like he was marching to his death.

Light at the end of the tunnel.

We made it!
We managed to make it through the building without any big blow-ups, though Skeeter and I had a couple of discussions (that's a theme for the day). She wasn't afraid of a damn thing in the building, but her pushiness and curiosity were tap dancing on my nerves.

Someone dropped hay on the ground. It was an excellent reward for making it through.

Look at the relief on Jay's face. Look at how red mine is (that's not relief).
We knew the hardest part of doing the EMR was going to be getting there. The minis in the building were no problem at all, mostly because Copper and Jay didn't see any, but we still had to get past the cows. Neither of the horses have ever seen a cow up-close, but they've seen them out in the distance at home and they're not impressed.

Jay thought Copper would be afraid of them, and I thought Skeeter was going to try to kill them. We took the horses one by one over to the pen where the cows were and introduced them. Skeets snorted at them and backed up and then went, "Oh, is that hay they're eating? Don't mind if I do!" and helped herself to the hay.

Concerned, but not afraid.

If they share their hay, they're okay in Skeeter's book.
Once we arrived, there was nothing to do but wait until the walk-through. So we circled and backed and ate with the cows, and circled and backed and ate with the cows. When the time came for the walk-through, we handed the horses off to Mom and Bill. Apparently, during the walk-through Mom had to leave to meet Nebalee's crew and left Bill with both horses.

Bill's a good horse-sitter, even when things got pretty exciting. Where they are standing is oh, 150 feet from a highway on-ramp. When the first firetruck went by with lights and sirens, it was okay. When the third went by, apparently things got interesting. From in the building, where we were doing the walk-through, we didn't hear a thing and Bill had to wrangle two unhappy horses by himself.

Following the walk-through we had a lot of hurry-up-and-wait again. We waited in the tunnel with the other horses for most of it, but my damn ADHD horse kept needing to move her feet, so back out to the tarmac we'd go. Every time we left, Copper got anxious. We were the last two in the class, so we had a lot of time to sit and wait. As our turn got closer, we moved Copper and Skeeter up closer to the gate.

Copper handled it like a rock star. Skeeter lost her ever-loving mind. Luckily, there was no rearing and bucking like on Saturday, but she definitely was having some confinement anxiety (a lot like her human). She could not stand still and at one point stomped my foot pretty good, and bad words spewed from my mouth. I had a moment of, "let's just fucking quit" before I came to my senses. We could do the vast majority of the obstacles laid out and I knew once she had something to focus on, instead of lots of somethings, she'd do fine.

I didn't get to see any of Jay's go because I was busy trying to keep Skeeter under control, but the video shows what an amazing job they both did.

We went immediately after Jay, and I was right, as soon as we stepped out of the claustrophobic alleyway into the big arena, she calmed down. There were things to look at and sniff and investigate. Jay and I went into the EMR with the intention of using it for experience, neither of us expected to place (it's a good thing, because we didn't).

You could almost see her relax once she had a job to do. She was still interested in what was going on, but was finally more interested in seeing what Mom was asking her to do. She really, really needs a job.

As soon as we finished, we went back out to the tarmac to wait for the awards ceremony. I thought that Skeets and I were last, but they had the youth division (only two riders) immediately after me, so it was hurry-up-and-wait again.

Skeeter was wound up (again) and the happiness I experienced from her doing mostly well in the arena evaporated. By the time we lined up in the arena for the awards, I was well on my way to hating my horse, but I tried to plaster on a smile anyway.

We both earned a participant ribbon, and I mean earned when I say that. The actual EMR was the easiest part of the morning and we both felt a huge sense of accomplishment when we were done.

It was a very long morning, and Skeeter was Hulk Smashing my last nerve. By the time we got back to the stalls, I had hate in my heart for her. Pure hate. I might or might not have threatened to haul her across the street to the Purina factory. She's a smart horse, I know that. She has manners, I know that too. Unfortunately, she's also a busy body and cannot focus when there's too much going on. I hate being impatient with my horse, but I hate having an ill-mannered horse even more. I got her back into her stall before we both said and did things that we'd regret (like the Purina factory).

Copper, of course, was perfect. Jerk.

We got them settled and I stomped off, demanding food. Jay mentioned that I could be hangry, or Skeeter could be hangry, but we both cannot be hangry at the same time, because it is ugly.

An hour or so later, will a full belly, and my blood sugar back up in the normal range, I reflected on our performance. We did pretty good. Not as good as Jay and Copper, but pretty good. We had nothing to be embarrassed about (in the arena). When I mentioned it to Jay, he looked at me and - hand to God - said, "You just needed time to lick and chew".