Thursday, August 29, 2019

Figuring Out Skeeter

A few weeks ago, I wrote about our less-than-stellar ride in which Skeeter caused Alloy to dump Beel.

With Beel being sidelined, Mom and I planned on doing a lot of work with Skeeter on my next trip up the mountain (8/19/19). We've tried everything in my tool box to get her moving once she gets stuck, so the next thing we had (besides spurs or a crop) was to wait her out, and wait for her to get bored if nothing else worked.

She was a rock star getting tacked up, but getting that right front boot on was an issue. I'd run my hand down her leg and tell her "foot" and she'd bump me on the butt with her nose. It's a dance we've been doing forever. I off-hand mentioned to Mom that I wondered if something hurts, because Skeets does a lot to avoid picking up her foot. She backs up, leans her weight on me, shifts away, you name it. When we started thinking about it, that's the foot she always gives the farrier problems with. She reared up to get away from Mom's farrier, and tried to do the same with mine. She'll pull back and sit her ass on the ground before giving up her foot some times. Why it took us so long to think of pain rather than her just being a mare is beyond me.

It just so happened that as I'm wondering aloud about pain that Mom was looking at Skeeter. When I asked Skeets to pick up her foot, Mom noticed that her whole face went tight and agreed that maybe it hurt. Usually, when she refuses to pick up that foot, I send her out on a circle for a few laps and then she gives her hoof easily. This time, though, I decided to massage her shoulder to see if I could get it to loosen up. I am not a massage therapist by any means, but since Queen Estes had some arthritis issues in her shoulders, I had a general idea of what/where to massage. I spent just a couple of minutes digging my fists into her shoulder, massaging areas that felt tight. When I felt her relax, I asked for her foot again and she lifted it without a problem.

After we got her boot on, it was time to head out on the ride. We made it out of the parking lot, headed up toward the Post Office and she stalled out. Mom and I had swapped reins, so I was back to 9' reins. After I'd exhausted all other options, I popped her on the ass with the end of the rein. That earned me a cow kick, but we started moving again. She moved out, but I was very conscious of her speed and drove her forward with my hips. I've never had to push a horse with my hips, but the whole "shoulders of a queen, hips of a whore" thing came to mind. I'm used to pointing a horse in the right direction and having them go, so having to drive her forward with my hips quickly got tiring.

I'd just started to relax when we crested a hill and a dog started barking at us. We couldn't see the dog, who was fenced behind a tall privacy fence. Skeeter didn't spook, but did stop to look at the dog and give it the stink eye. But ... we stopped. Ugh. I finally got her moving when a car came along. We stepped off the road onto the grass and she moved a bit for me until we had to cross a driveway, then it was back to emptying the tool box to get her moving. After I'd asked a few times, I lifted the end of the rein to pop her butt, and she lifted a rear foot to cow kick again, like "really, Mom, we're going to do this?" I wiggled the rein, she sighed and moved on. Thought she could psych me out, but it didn't work.

I could keep her moving if I allowed her to walk up on the grass, off of the road, and I continued to drive her with my hips. Once we'd descended the hill and turned on Ski Road, she decided she could go and didn't hesitate the rest of the ride. We even trotted for a bit without an argument.

As we got nearer the lodge, I could feel her get antsy to get home, so Mom and I took an indirect route home, turning her away from the lodge and making her go around the block instead of riding right up to the hitch rail. When she stopped at the turn, I knew it was a baby temper tantrum, nothing else, and just lifted the end of the rein.

Overall, the ride went well. She's gotten used to me getting off and walking when we're out with Bill and Alloy, but I refused to do that for this ride. Mom and I discussed that maybe it's her shoulder that's causing her to stop, and I was pretty sure that it was her shoulder.

Mom and Bill each took turns taking her out for the next week, and agree that there's something going on with her right shoulder that's causing her to stop. She'll stop, rest, shift her weight back and forth, and then move one when she's comfortable again. Once she's warmed up, she'll go and go, but until then, she's pretty uncomfortable.

Skeeter's a really good horse, she truly is. We've had (and will continue to have) our fair share of disagreements, but she's just a great horse with an amazing heart.

Now that we know she's not just being a mare, that there is something going on with her, Mom and Bill brought her home to me yesterday. My neighbor has a chiropractor that works on her school horses every month, so I've put Skeeter on her schedule for the next time she's out. Hopefully the chiropractor can figure it out and get her feeling better. If not, I'll schedule our vet to come take a look at her.

I'm pretty sad that our mountain riding season ended earlier than I wanted it to, but Miss Skeeter needs to get her shoulder fixed. Until we're riding again, she's getting to go on walks with me, just like her brother. She's not super excited about the walks, but he wasn't either when we first started. Now he asks to go.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Damn That Mare!

Earlier this week, I went up the hill for our weekly riding date. I wasn't in any hurry, and for once Mom and Bill didn't have to rush to get back for check-in, so I was feeling pretty Zen. The mountains always do wonders for my mood, and I was starting off in a pretty good mood to begin with. I was looking forward to an amazing ride on my amazing horse.

When I went into the pen to grab her, she and Alloy were down by the creek getting some water. It was so pretty, I just had to take a picture.

Skeeter saw me coming and decided she needed to drink the creek dry before she was caught. No big deal, we weren't under any time crunch and I was in a fantastic mood. I didn't even much care that she walked away when I went up to her, she just went to the top of the hill where I normally catch her. 

She stood at the hitch rail like a pro while I groomed, fly sprayed, and tacked her up. A gentleman wandering by stopped to chat and she was happy to be a perfect Mustang Ambassador. She didn't even give me much trouble putting her boots on. 

It's always fairly easy to get her left boot on, but her right one is always troublesome. No big deal, I was in a fantastic mood, so it didn't bother me to have to put her on a circle for a couple of laps. As soon as we got back to the hitch rail, she gave me her right foot and the boot went on.

I led her across the street and up the hill with Bill leading out and Mom riding drag. At the base of the switchback, she stopped cold, but move up when I drove her forward with the lead rope. I led her up the upper trail, rather than the switchback and she walked right up it without a problem. My thought is that we'll spend the rest of the riding season walking her up the upper trail so that she can build not-traumatic memories of that and hopefully override the bad memories of the switchback.

Alloy was being his normal impatient self, so Bill was riding him out and back, out and back, while Skeeter and I trudged along to a place where I could mount up. I was wearing an old, comfortable pair of jeans that are just a touch too big. Like, barely too big. Unfortunately, when I went to mount up, the bottom of the leg of my pants got caught on the back of my boot and I ripped my pants in the crotch. But, you know what? It was okay, because I was in a fantastic mood.

I got settled in and gave Skeeter a little nudge to move. Huh. She didn't move. So I clicked and kicked again. Nothing. It was at this point that my fantastic mood began to deteriorate, and I knew she and I would be fighting for the entire ride. When she puts her stubborn pants on and plants herself, there's not a lot to be done.

Now, last week, when she got tired and stopped, I dismounted and led her a ways, but that wasn't going to happen this time. I'd just gotten on for freak's sake! Meanwhile, Bill and Alloy are riding out and back, out and back. Once Alloy gets moving, he has to keep moving or he gets all "ants in his pants" and starts thinking about bucking.

A couple of hard kicks and a threat with the end of the reins later, Skeeter sighed and took about ten steps before stopping again. Lather, rinse, repeat, for half a mile. At one point, I asked Mom to move up ahead of us, hoping Skeets would just follow. Washoe was very patient, and Alloy was getting lots of exercise riding out and back, out and back.

I had, about the third time she stopped for no reason, reached my boiling point. I was so angry, my fists were clenched and I was saying not very nice words. I had decided to tell Bill to turn on the upper rubber strip trail so we could just do the short one-hour ride and head back, when he and Alloy made the turn without me saying anything. I breathed a sigh of relief. 

Skeeter made the turn nicely and walked about 25 yards before she came to a dead stop. Again. I picked up my rein and smacked her hard right on the shoulder to get her moving. Since she stepped on my 9' reins a few weeks ago, I've been riding in my 7' ones and they're too short to smack her on the ass without pulling on her mouth, so the shoulder it was.

She must have realized she'd done effed up this time and jumped sideways into a small tree and some dead fall.

She almost looks athletic in this picture. She's not.
Unfortunately, she jumped and crashed right as Bill and Alloy were headed back toward us. Alloy heard the smack and saw Skeeter jump, so bad, bad things had to have been happening. Of course, his first reaction is to buck. The picture is the last one Bill took right before he went ass over tea kettle. 

Bill hit the ground, Skeeter came to a dead stop, and Alloy took about three running strides before sauntering off. I dismounted to check on Bill, who had the wind knocked out of him, while Mom and Washoe went after Alloy.

Once Bill could breathe again, we hiked up the mountain to meet Mom and Washoe with Alloy. Bill remounted to ride out, and Mom encouraged me to remount, but I refused. Alloy's frustration was also at a boiling point because of Skeeter's refusal to move and I didn't want to add any more frustration and cause another wreck.

Yes, it would have been best for me to remount and force Skeeter to carry me out, but it was not in the best interest of Bill and Alloy, so I hiked out. Not the first time it's happened, won't be the last, I'm sure.

I told Mom that once we got back to the lodge, we were going to drop Bill and Alloy off and I was going to mount back up and ride at least around the block. Not the best solution, but a decent compromise, I felt.

Skeeter was Not Pleased when we got back to the lodge and I mounted up. Mom and Washoe rode along with us for support. Skeets and I had a big ole fight about leaving the parking lot and another big ole fight in the neighbor's front yard, but we finally got moving and stayed moving. We only rode about two blocks, and on the way back, we kind of zig-zagged through parking lots and such, taking the indirect way home so she couldn't bolt back to the hitch rail.

For the first time EVER, I considered getting spurs. I don't ride in them, because I've never been trained to and I've ridden horses who have been ruined by people wearing spurs who have no business doing so. But... I seriously considered making an exception. Instead, I'm going to strip the horn bag off my saddle so I can get a good over-under with the rein if necessary. Also, a riding crop may be in her future if she doesn't straighten the eff up.

The next time we go out, it will probably just be me and Mom since Bill's on injured reserve, and we will have all the time in the world for our battle royale. Of course, since we'll have time to fight it out, she won't give me any problems at all.

Gah! Mares.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Copper, the Big Red Dog Update

Just over a year ago, Copper and I started doing Ease Into 5K to train for a couple of virtual races. I wrote about the beginning of our journey and our completion of the X-Files 5K, but never got around to updating about our Greased Lightning race.

Again, I bought socks to commemorate the race. I was hoping to find some cool Grease socks, but when I did an Amazon search, all I could find were bobby socks. Nebalee suggested I get some lightning socks, so I did.

Can't "race" without obnoxious socks
Nebalee also was kind enough to come run with us. For some reason, her GPS and my GPS didn't line up, but since she uses hers to keep track of her mileage, we used hers as the official distance/time. For some reason, we were almost four and a half minutes slower in our second 5K than our first. I have no idea why, but there it is.

Nebalee and Copper always look great in our finish photos

A couple of weeks after I submitted our official race time, Copper's finisher's medal came in the mail. I made him model it. He was not impressed.

We had one more race planned in October, but I got scheduled to travel for work, so we ditched it. I can't say I was terribly disappointed, but I hated losing the entry fee.

Greased Lightning was the last race we ended up "running" in 2018; in no time at all, it was to dark to run when I got home from work, so we hung up our running shoes until spring.

For some stupid reason, I thought it would be fun to sign up for a cumulative race (121.1 miles) and set a goal to complete it by my birthday in July. It was still too cold and gross for Copper and I to run outside, so I joined a gym and spent a whole four or five trips to the gym racking up four or five miles. Since Nebalee was such a good sister and did my virtual races with me last year, I agreed to run the Bolder Boulder 10K with her in May. I figured those six miles would help chip away at the cumulative race. Unfortunately, crazy shit was happening at work and my training went out the window. I did complete the Bolder Boulder with Nebalee, but it sucked big time.

I realized there was no way I was going to complete the cumulative race by my birthday, so I threw that goal out the window and once life settled down, started back up with Copper in July.

July 10, starting all over again with a nice slow walk.
Slowly but surely, Copper and I started chipping away at the miles. Sometimes, Copper and I go out by ourselves and do some run intervals. Other times, L.E. and Pearl join us and there's no running involved (I kinda really like those mornings).

Slowly but surely, with almost daily walks, we're making headway with on our race.

Screenshot taken 8/5
I took a screenshot on 8/5 of our progress, so this is a little outdated. As of today, we've completed 32 workouts, 45.5% of our race, 55.1 miles. I was disappointed that we were not able to walk today because last night's storm turned the farm roads into a muddy, mucky mess. Hopefully, tonight's storms will bypass us and we can be back at it tomorrow.

Last week, Facebook memories was kind enough to show me our first night of Ease Into 5K. The caption still holds true!

Not only does the caption still hold true, but Copper still hasn't gotten past the fact that I literally have to drag him for the first few minutes of our walks. I wish I was kidding, but I'm not. He hates the beginning of the walk, but then loosens up and walks/trots nicely next to me.

Pissy Mare Face on a gelding

"Oh, we're going home? Okay, let's go!"
I tried to officially start Ease Into 5K the other day, after doing a month of my own random walk/run intervals, but it did not go well. Copper was in a mood and it was like we'd regressed a full year. I was Not Pleased. We'll start again on Monday, after we've had a few more walk/runs under our belt. Maybe by then his full moon pissiness will have passed.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Not All Rides Can Be Amazing

Thursday's ride was good. Not spectacular, no big problems, but just kind of "meh". It's completely my fault, I chose a bad route. I thought it would be great to go to the Allenspark Trail head and do a short bit of it. The problem was that I forgot that I hate the road to get there. There's nothing wrong with the road, but it's just a road. It's a long, slow uphill for a mile and a half. There's really nothing to look at, nothing exciting. Just a long dirt road. It didn't take me long to remember why I preferred to trailer up to the trail head.

Long, boring road

We ambled along on this long, slow uphill. Alloy, as usual, was ready to go. Washoe was game. Skeeter, well, she was not enthused and dragged her feet for about a mile.

Alloy: "Let's go, let's go, let's go!"

Washoe: "Dude, okay!"

Skeeter: "Eff you, Alloy!"

Then she decided she was done and came to a stop. I thought we'd gotten past the whole "stop when I don't want to" business, but I guess not. She had boots on, so I know it had nothing to do with her tender feetsies. She just was tired and didn't wanna. I could actually sympathize, because my enthusiasm for the ride quickly waned as well, but she couldn't "win" by just stopping.

So ... I dismounted, circled her a bit, and walked along side her for a quarter of a mile or so. Hill work is good for both of our butts, but that doesn't mean I like it, so once I was winded (easy to do at over 8,000 feet), I mounted back up.

From the ground.

Without a mounting rock.

Just me, from the ground.

Okay, so I maybe mounted from the uphill side, but I still mounted from the ground. Skeeter's a task master, though. Mounting from the ground wasn't quite good enough, she wanted me to do it without a bounce (or two). Sorry to say, she did not get her way. If I have to put my foot halfway to my armpit to mount, I get a couple free bounces.

We rode another quarter mile or so before we turned back home. We never did make it to the Allenspark Trail head, but we did cover about 2.5 miles round trip.

Since we had to pass the Post Office on the way back to the lodge, Bill decided to check the mail. He tied Alloy to the porch railing and then proceeded to go inside while Mom and I waited on our horses outside. The tourists across the street at Distant Harbors gift shop loved it!

Alloy: "Ok, I guess I'l just wait here then."

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

GISH #54

After our busy Monday, I had a few days to plan my next three GISH tasks. There were two I was really looking forward to, but they required significant planning.

For those of you unfamiliar with Supernatural, or this scene, there's a little back story. Dean and Castiel (trench coat) step in the middle of a fight between the archangels Michael and Lucifer. Castiel, being an angel, isn't quite fluent in human vernacular and his insult was a little ... off.

Turns out, there is such a thing as an Assbutt according to GISH lore. An Assbutt is a mix between an African wild ass and a Monarch butterfly. Just like the unicorn and fairy tasks, this one was custom made for me.

I don't have access to an African wild ass, but I do have access to a BLM wild ass. A quick text to my friend Kathy from the U.S. Wild Horse and Burro Association was all it took to set up a time. I spent the night before we went out to do this task making butterfly wings out of cardboard. I am no spray paint artist, but I was pretty happy with the way the wings turned out.

I had picked up a white dress shirt and a trench coat earlier in the week so I could cosplay Castiel. (Cosplay - chalk it up to something I never thought I'd participate in, not to mention gender-bending cosplay. My hippie nerd daughter was very proud of me for this.) The Molotov cocktail I made using an old water bottle and a red/orange handkerchief. Really, the set up was pretty easy.

Lucky for me, Kathy has lots of experience dressing up and tying things to animals, because my initial idea of just running some baling twine around the wings and under the burro's armpit didn't work at all. She grabbed a bareback pad and we secured the wings to it. At first, I tried getting the wings to stand up, but they kept flopping to one side or the other. No problem, our Assbutt was supposed to be moving, not stationary, and the wings would be flapping anyway.

Turbo the Assbutt was a bit of a show off, but the sweetest little ass I've met. He's such a lover. A bit ornery, but he's three, so ornery is what you'd expect. He makes me want to add a donkey to our herd.

I am not an actor, Jay is not a cameraman nor director, and I am terrible at editing video, but I managed to piece together a few seconds for my GISH submission.

Here's the link to the video:

*There were other challenges I completed for GISH, but they don't really fit in with the theme of the Wild Ones, so if you want to see what else we did, head over to Just another perfect day.

(Cross posted to Just another perfect day)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

GISH #14

We came back from our second task elated, but tired. However, we had one more task to complete before we could call it a day.

Usually, mechanical bulls can be found at rodeos, but we were in between rodeos. Around here it goes: Greeley Stampede, Rooftop Rodeo, Cheyenne Frontier Days, Weld County Fair, then Larimer County Fair. This year, there was a break between the Weld County Fair and the Larimer County Fair that spanned the time frame of GISH. The closest actual mechanical bull during GISH was at Cheyenne Frontier Days, but that ended the day before and I couldn't have driven up there anyway, because I was working the Weld County Fair. I was determined to complete this task, though.

Mom has a mechanical horse thing that she used during the winters before her hip surgeries to keep her core strong and her hips working. I was pretty certain that Mom and Bill had a steer head somewhere, from when Autobot and her ex-boyfriend were playing at roping last summer. Mechanical horse thing + roping steer head = mechanical bull.

Bill put the "bull" together while Mom and I were putzing around after the ride. We were all so tired - who knew that walking a unicorn into the living room, then throwing a surprise fairy party was so exhausting - but I only had to ride the bull for two seconds. I could do that, so I did.

Here's the link to the video:

(Cross posted on Just another perfect day)

Monday, August 5, 2019

GISH #80

Our second challenge gave us an excuse to trailer the horses into Wild Basin, where we'd be guaranteed to run into hikers. It's a rare occasion that we see hikers across the street where we normally ride. As a general rule, we're okay with that, but since we needed to have people to throw a party for, we had to go where the people were.

The ride itself was amazing and we couldn't have asked for better behaved horses. They did a great job as Mustang Ambassadors that day.

Mom had baked cookies for us to give out as party treats and I bagged them up into individual treat bags. I thought that maybe people would be worried about taking home-baked cookies from strangers, so I quickly made up labels that said "Courtesy of Allenspark Lodge B&B", so they'd know the cookies came out of a commercial kitchen. (That came back to bite me in the butt later.)

Thank God Bill was the one driving, because I don't think my nerves would have made it. People coming out of the park were kind of a-holes. We were supposed to be spreading love and kindness, but I really just wanted to spread knuckle sandwiches with the way some of those people were driving.

Finally, a car saw us coming up the one lane road and pulled off to let us pass. I made Bill give them a cookie, which he tossed to them through the window as we yelled "thanks!". We did that for the next few cars. Sometimes you gotta train humans the way you train horses: make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing pleasant. People who insisted on not giving way on the road out had to thread past the truck and trailer; people who pulled over and let us by got cookies. As Ranger Mustang used to say, "Peeples can be VERY HARD to train".

Finally, we were able to get parked, tacked up, and on our way. Along the way, from the trailer parking to the trail head, we ran into some hikers who were thrilled to see horses on the trail. They stepped off to let us pass and guess what? They got cookies. Make the right thing pleasant, right?

We didn't want to risk losing the "unicorn's" horns, so we didn't put them on the "unicorns" until we reached the hitch rail.

Unicorns and fairies ready
All that was left was to set out the party sign and find us some people to surprise.

The hitch rail is off the beaten path a little bit, as you can see, so we had to go trolling for people. The first group wasn't super excited. The kids were, but their mom, not so much. The girls came and rubbed the horses' noses then off they went.

Mom walked down toward the falls, which are on the same path as the hitch rail, just a little beyond it and found a family that wanted to come meet our pet unicorns. In fact, one of the little girls was wearing her unicorn shirt, so it was perfect.

The girls were shy, but excited to pet the unicorns and spent several minutes with them. Their parents had to practically drag them away.

The most surprising reaction came from adults. Remember when I said my decision to label the cookies would come back to bite me in the butt? Yeah, Mom met them where the trail met the turn off to the hitch rail and handed them cookies. They looked at the label and asked if this was some "publicity stunt" for the lodge. Ugh. It was like an arrow through the heart. Once we explained that we thought people would be more comfortable knowing that the cookies came out of a commercial kitchen and that we were doing this for a scavenger hunt, their tunes changed.

I was hoping to see pure surprise and joy on the kids' faces, which we didn't get. However, the look of joy on the previously dubious adults' faces? Priceless!

The reaction from the adults were my favorite and I felt like we'd nailed the task. Shortly after, we packed it in and rode back out. We'd entered Wild Basin with 20 cookies, and had three left. Easy, peasy, we just stopped at the ranger station on the way out and spread the love there too.

*Verbal consent obtained for posting pictures.

(Cross posted on Just Another Perfect Day.)

Sunday, August 4, 2019

GISH #153

During the week of GISH, we are forbidden from posting our challenges on social media (unless directly instructed to do so). That rule is sooooo hard to live by, especially since the challenges are a ton of fun and I wanted to show off my amazing, crazy family.

Jay and I were placed on a random team with people we didn't know, from all over the world, and I was a bit hesitant. I shouldn't have been, everyone on the team was amazing and supportive and we each brought our own special talents to the team. Jay is far more artistic than I, so the tasks he chose played to his strengths. I signed up for the tasks that I could incorporate the animals in, and recruited Mom and Bill to help me out with three of the tasks.

Last Monday (7/29/19), I spent the day at the lodge with them working on my tasks. I'm not sure I've laughed that hard in a long time. Everyone worries about making memories with their children when they're young, but I think we should also spend time as adults making memories with our parents. Turns out, it's a lot more fun, especially when you have parents like mine.

Here's the first task we tackled on Monday:

You can't tell me that this challenge wasn't custom made for us! Puh-leeze! Unicorns in the living room? I couldn't sign up for that one fast enough. I called Mom when the list was released and asked if we could do this. I really only asked out of courtesy, because I knew she's be all in.

The first thing we needed to do was transform Mom into the Fairy Mother and Washoe into the Wonder Unicorn. Mom was easy, I found some fairy wings at a costume shop and put her in them. We also dressed up our hats, as they were going to be used for two challenges.

Washoe's horn took just a bit more work, but not much. A paper towel roll, sliced and diced, then covered with aluminum foil made the perfect horn. A couple of heavy duty bread ties to attach it to his halter, et voila! A unicorn.

Despite his little slip on the hardwood floor, he did great. I initially imagined him in front of the fireplace with the Fairy Mother (aka Bionic Cowgirl), but didn't want to risk more slipping on the floor while getting to the area rug in front of the fireplace.

A friend of Mom's was kind enough to video the whole thing, as I was focused on getting pictures. It always delights people when the horses visit the inside of the people barn, and Mom's friend was no exception.

Our first task went off without a hitch! One down, two to go.

(Cross-posted on Just Another Perfect Day)