Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Good thing come in Furry Packages

About a year ago, I had to say goodbye to my good friend, Munci. It was heart wrenching. For 12 years, we were inseparable, best buddies. He saw me through a lot of life ; 3 moves, numerous jobs, bad decisions, and miles upon miles of trails , both tagging along behind the horses or at my side for a hike or run. He was my chore buddy, my nurse when I was sick , my guard dog when I was threatened and my best friend. He withstood a brutal attack from a Mastiff to keep me safe. We spent some of our best days together chasing rocks and minnows along many Montana rivers and lakes, In the end he developed lung cancer. Always a stoic being, he hid any symptoms that he was sick. We didn’t know until it was so far gone there was nothing we could have done. I only had a few days and our time together quickly came to an end.
The topic of getting another dog has come up a lot lately but a subject I tended to shy away from. The thought of another dog was more than I was ready for. The thought of a puppy was even more alarming! Losing one dog is hard enough but we had actually lost three dogs with a year and half time. We both missed all of them terribly but for me, I decided that when the time was right for another dog, a dog would find me, just like Munci did.
Things have a funny way of working out but through a series of events and happenstance networking, we were put in contact with a German Shepherd rescue facility about 3.5 hours from home, which also happened to be 5 minutes from friends of ours who we happened to be planning to go visit on December 23rd, which just happened to be one year to the day of losing Munci. Life is so weird sometimes.

German Shepherds have always been my first choice in dogs (grew up with them) and I always thought that someday I might like to get another one.. just not now. Nonetheless, since we were going to be in the vicinity anyways, I was convinced that I should go have a look, meet the lady that ran the rescue and just "see". Tom threw the doggie travel crate in the car when I wasn’t looking.…hmmmm.

Well, here is what we came home with. Meet Xena (my Warrior Princess).

She 18 months old and has a little history. She grew up with a family but had to be given up due to employment difficulties. She was then adopted out to another family but it didn’t work out due to allergies. As a result, she has some anxiety as she has been bounced around a little. Who wouldn't? German Shepherds are generally one person /family dogs that bond very closely. She seemed to take to Tom and myself pretty quickly during our visit. I guess the deal was sealed upon seeing that. She knows her basics and has a sweet temperament. She needs some doggie socialization time but otherwise, her worst habit is jumping on poeple when she wants to play. She isn't a chewer , shows no signs of separation anxiety, and not a barker. She isn't sure about the cat yet but she hasn't shown any aggression either. The horses were totally new to her but she is quickly getting into the chore routine. It seems her biggest downfall is that she just hasn't been exposed to much in life. We'll change that!!

In just the few short days we have had her, she has definitely filled a void in our lives that I didn’t want to accept was missing.
Yah, I am a little smitten…

Welcome home Xena.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Short Horse Story

Here it is again, weeks and weeks with no posting. Yes, it’s ridiculous. I know. (hanging head)
Compared to last year at this time, we are enjoying a non-winter – winter (if there is such a thing) thus far!

Well,okay, not completely…
It has been cold but we have nothing more than a skiff of snow on the ground which means I have been able to ride a bit more. Maggie is quite plump. We.. I mean , I, have practicing the best technique of how to get on a round horse with a fluffy slippery coat. I swear one of the other horses has gotten a hold of my show sheen and is wiping Maggie’s back down with it when I am not home. What the hell is with her slippery coat!! (yes, it's a sign of a healthy horse I suppose but seriously??) It’s requiring some athletic capabilities on my part in order to get on without sliding the saddle over. Maggie gets pretty irritated about the whole thing and has actually walked over to the mounting block as if to say "please.. just use this .." Yes, I could always use the mounting block and some days I do but I think I just like the challenge of. I almost have it down to a science! Maybe I will do a little write up on details of the "How To's" and yes, there is actually a technique involved!

Maggie has also been perfecting her Houdini acts and has the "getting into places where she shouldn’t" be down to an art. I guess the allure of the compost heap full of rotting hay , chicken and horse manure was too much for her stomach to ignore any longer?? Sans electric fence. Getting in is one thing, the getting out she hasn’t really perfected yet, much to my fencing’s demise. When she first started her latest antics, she patiently waited until someone came home and rescued her. We would unplug the fence, un string the wire and release her from her confines. Well, the last time, it was Tom that got home first and ultimately had to deal with her. I am just guessing but I would imagine he cussed a blue streak all the way out to her and back and called her a few choice names in the process. But ever since, things went back to normal again. Maggie stayed out of the area. I figured she probably grew bored with the whole routine and realized there wasn’t anything worth eating in there anymore. Perfect! We were done with finding her stuck somewhere she shouldn’t be and I didn't have to worry about her getting into bad hay.

I am not exactly sure what happened after that because two days later, we came home to find the entire perimeter fencing of the compost heap saggingm ripped and two of the poles(cheap temporary plastic ones) broken right off and , as if to add insult to injury, Maggie and Cassidy were contently standing on top of the immaculately groomed grassy knoll that serves as Tom’s archery stop, which is also .. correction.. WAS fenced off . More wire fence busted. 12 degree weather…( I LOVE this mare, really...)

As if that weren’t quite enough, as we walked into the pasture, brother and sister took off, leaping off the mound (quite impressively I might add)and kicking up fairly large clods of sod as they went.. of which one landed at promptly at Tom’s feet.
Do you suppose they planned that part??

I didn’t want to look at Tom at that moment because he surely had to have steam rolling out of his ears by now…after a few seconds, as Maggie and Cassidy did what I presume was a Victory lap, I couldn’t help but start laughing hysterically at the whole thing. It was as if Maggie gave him the middle hoof… !!

I figure Maggie decided at some point in all this that she was pretty offended at what Tom called her just days before. I guess she got the last laugh and I will be fixing the missing hoof clumps on the arrow mound.

Bored horses… I may not have a fence left on the place by spring..

Monday, October 10, 2011

Catching Up...

Wow, it’s been a while. I have really fallen off the social media and horses scene. It just seems that there hasn’t been enough free moments that allow me to take time to post anything or even catch up on anyone else’s blogs.

I’ll take my chances and assume there are a few of you wondering and possibly still curious about things here at Acer Farm, so let me try to catch you up. In fact it shouldn’t be too hard.

Since late July I think I went 7 weeks, without riding a horse. In fact, other than feed them and gaze upon them in the pasture, I don’t even think I had one piece of clothing with horse hair on it.. and that’s not because I was ultra careful around them.. I just didn’t get around them much in order to get horse hair on me…
Life has been busy and there are many reasons I took a break from the horses. I guess in retrospect, I needed the break in order to take care of some other things I had been neglecting. Sometimes, you have to come up for air. The important point is that things are slowly getting back on track and I am hoping to pick up the pieces with my horses.
Two weeks ago I dusted off my Duett, found JB’s girth and bridle, (buried behind loads of other tack ) and loaded JB up to take our first trail ride since the accident. JB did very well and seemed to enjoy a chance to see something new. He has some difficulty going downhill, I suppose due to the rigidity of the joint now, but otherwise, he did great. He's slow and careful. We poked along at a walk for about an hour. Tom was along with his horse and patiently waited for us when we lagged behind. It seems JB is officially a pleasure trail horse. He’s been sporting a set of natural balance aluminum shoes since early July which helps support his sole and help him break the right foot over more quickly. The dynamics of how he travels with his new “bionic” pastern joint foot lends itself to needing corrective shoeing. I had hoped he might be okay with continued barefoot trimming but so far, he does better with the shoes. That may change in time but that is what he needs for now.

Maggie is an embarrassment. She is back to her “barrel” with 4 legs figure. She is about 75 lbs overweight and sassy as ever. Her daily exercise routine these days equates to running to the water trough and then galloping as fast she can back to her hay pile for fear that she might miss a few bites. (Yes, I purposefully feed her as far away from the water tank as possible… I figure atleast it’s some sort of activity and it provides me with entertainment of watching her run). Actually I did take her for a 5 mile ride this past weekend. She started off really quiet and happily walking along behind Tom and his colt. Unfortunately that didn’t last too long. Tom’s colt decided that a deer was the closest thing he had seen to a horse eating monster and spooked, which startled Maggie, which then seemed to set the tone for the next hour. Maggie mostly quieted back down but the “hurry” in her feet kept showing up, requiring many “training” moments… Oh well, what could I have really expected after not riding her in weeks and weeks? We finished on a good note and she got into her big flat footed, head bobbing walk that most horses twice her size can’t hold a candle to … as long as she was walking, I was leaving it alone!!

The days have gotten shorter and cooler so sadly, most of the good riding weather season is behind me, which is just typical. I finally get myself back into a riding frame of mind right about the time that riding becomes almost impossible.

The garden really took off in July. We have been busy in the last couple of weeks harvesting our bounty. Its been fun and challening. The last time I had a garden I was in high school. The food dryer has been running full time drying bags of apples, plums, tomatoes, strawberries and peppers and proven to have been a sound investment. I still have a few squash to pull and the cold season veggies like carrots, parsnip, beets, and spinach are going strong. Next year, we need to get cold frames built.

The chickens are laying eggs daily and the two young roosters we inherited from a friend are developing their crow… lucky us…

So , that’s the latest and greatest. I am hoping I will get back to some blog lurking again and with any luck , more time in the saddle this month.

Keep your fingers crossed the weather holds just a bit longer.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bracing the Sails

In my last post, I posted that Endurance just wasn’t in the cards this year for Maggie and I. Our slow start into conditioning due to weather hindered any progress right from the get go. From there, it just seemed like it was one thing or another popping up that got in the way and my whole spring riding season kind of imploded on me. Any conditioning rides we did manage to get to, starting in late June, became nothing but a battle on the trail. Maggie was usually fine if I rode alone. I could keep her at a decent pace but add one other rider and the fight was on. I wasn’t having fun on the trail, Maggie was a terror and before I knew it, I was 3 weeks out from the only nearby ride on the schedule this year. I had planned to attend for months.

Fortunately for me, some of the most difficult decisions can be the easiest decisions when you look at the facts. The facts were that Maggie wasn’t even close to being ready, physically or mentally to complete a limited distance ride. So, I bagged plans to attend and , subsequently, resigned to the fact that everything endurance related in my life was just going to be on hold for now.

Disappointed ? Yes but also a sense of relief came with it. Hubby and I headed out shortly thereafter that decision for a vacation to Idaho and Oregon. During that week away, I decided that when we returned I would make plans to attend an upcoming Alice Trindle clinic for a weekend of private lessons for Maggie and I. Tom was also on the schedule for some lesson time with Alice to do Garocha work. The clinic was being hosted at a friend’s ranch about 3 hour’s away, so we had a place to stay.

I needed a new gust of air to fill my sails. I thought maybe this would do it. If nothing else, it would give me another fun weekend away.

The clinic began on Friday July 22 and we headed down that day. My ride time was Saturday afternoon.

The Training issues I wanted to address:
-Rushiness due to hyper sensitive to any leg pressure . Not able to get any effective responses with lateral work due to hypersensitivity.
-Tension when traveling counter clock wise, locking her back and jaw and pushing through her outside shoulder when doing circles in that direction
-At a halt, hind quarter release with leg pressure ; get Maggie to take just one step over when applying leg pressure as opposed to wanting to blast head or rear (when I tried to block her forward motion)
-Tension in Maggie creating me to brace my lower back which caused more tension in Maggie, which caused more tension in my lower back, which ……; well you get the picture.
-Getting her relaxed enough at a trot where she did not hold her breath.

Training Sessions at Home (what I had started doing)
-From the ground, ask Maggie to step a hind foot over, just one step in each direction without walking forward.
-Once she was accepting that, I would get on and purposefully move my legs around along her sides while walking , but not asking anything to get her to begin to differentiate between real leg pressure for a queue and the sensation of my leg touching her sides.
-Bending at a walk using lots of circles, serpentines, etc . Walk over ground rails, stop and back with a soft feel.
-Turn and change direction without speeding up in the turn.
-Different speeds at a walk, slow walk, faster walk, fastest walk and vice versa (Hurry does not Mean Worry)

Knowing that things fell apart in a trot, I kept our home sessions mostly at the walk (as maddening as it often became for me, it was what Maggie needed). .

The Goals for the clinic
-To get some further ideas and help in slowing Maggie down
-Figure out if what I have been asking is correct. What do I need to change?
-Learning to recognize when her braciness is a direct result of my braciness.
-Figure out how to help Maggie start putting less effort into fighting me and more effort into listening to me

The Lesson
Out in the middle of a large mowed hay field , an “arena “was marked off by 4 cones. I talked to Alice about my frustrations with Maggie and what we had been working on and what I had hoped to accomplish. We started out working at a walk and she had me bend Maggie around each cone at the corners. As I turned her around the cone, Alice wanted me to open up the inside rein way out(so traveling left, I would turn her by opening my left arm out and down towards the ground) She also had me over exaggerate my posture and weight distribution to the inside of the circle by leaning down and bit a forward, towards her shoulder and the ground (don’t know how to make that make sense any better than that ) as I was guiding Maggie around the cone. As I came out of the circle I would balance up and let Maggie follow my seat aid for a leg yield over to the straight line of the arena. At first, we were out of sync and Maggie was wondering why I was leaning and throwing her off balance but she was having to compensate and shift how she was moving. AHA! She was having to pay attention! I wasn’t really long before Maggie started slowing down and listening to me. Part of it was that it was something totally new, part of it was that I was putting her into a bit of physical bind , causing a mental change in her. Pretty soon, the whole picture started coming together, she softened around the cones and actually started following her nose, stepping under herself and as she came out of the circle , she started floating over to what would be the rail of the arena. I wasn’t having to apply unnecessary pressure with my leg. Instead, she was responding to the balancing up in my seat. After a bit, we lessened the exaggeration of the weight distribution and went back to correct posture and Maggie continued to listen well. So basically , we set it up so Maggie had to pay attention to me with exaggerated “not so good” posture. This little exercise threw a total wrench in things for us at first but it worked. We repeated this process at a trot. As expected it started out rough. Ofcourse I got bracey with my lower back and as you can imagine, so did Maggie. Once I settled in and started focusing on relaxing my back and seat, Maggie started working for me instead of against me. By the time the hour and half lesson was over, I had a horse who was trotting at a normal rhythm and pace, that I could easily sit to . I had a horse that was soft , able to bend, and driving from her hind end. It was lovely.

Key points:

-Insisting on a change of gait from Maggie when I asked her to slow, even if it means we momentarily break into a walk and her head comes up and she momentarily travels like a camel.
-As rough and uncomfortable as it can get, work through various speeds at the trot ; anywhere from slow as a peanut rolling Western pleasure trot to Maggie’s fast trot to a normal trot and vice versa. Let her trot big and fast for a lap , but then insist she come back down. All the while, mix it up with changes of direction, circles, serpentines, etc keep her guessing.
-Don’t let Maggie go too far in a straight line at this time
-Change speeds often- it may take a while to help Maggie sort out that she actually can travel at different speeds at my request.

So there you have it. In the spirit of sharing those not so great times that I know we all have in training our horses(but are all too often not mentioned amongst us!). Maybe it will encourage someone else out there struggling with their horse like I was, to take a step back and look at what their horse needs , instead of staying the course with our own goals.

A lot of what I took away from my time with Alice was similar to what I had already been working on but it really makes a difference to have someone else confirm what you think is the right thing and then getting to see a change in your horse as a result of getting a little instruction. Getting to feel what it feels like when things are good and not just guessing that it was right!

In the last couple of weeks since the clinic, Maggie and I have had some really nice arena sessions on our own.

I do believe our sails are braced and I can finally advance the ship in her course.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Realizations and Refocus

I should be packing and preparing to attend what would have been my first ride of the season this weekend, (yes, while the rest of you have already attended 5 or more already!) It’s a new ride this year in Potomac, Montana. A one day ride that offers both a limited distance of 35 and a 50 miler. Between weather, work, saddle fitting issues and a huge list of other bumps in the road, I never got into a conditioning schedule this year with Maggie. I have managed to get few good 10-12 mile rides under my belt but that was it. Any remaining delusion that I could have Maggie ready for the July 23rd ride was quickly decided for me a few weeks ago when I actually looked at the calendar , factored in that I was gone the week before the ride, and considered Maggie’s latest recovery rates on our conditioning rides. Maggie was barely managing 12 miles of hilly country at a moderate pace.

It was just enough to know I couldn’t ask her to complete a 35 mile ride, in hilly country.

So, yet another ride scratched for the season. But it’s not a bad thing. In fact, I am feeling a bit rejuvenated over the whole thing.

About 2 months ago, it was just a tickle in my brain, a passing thought here and there.. is endurance is even worth doing in this part of the country? We only have 1-2 rides that are even remotely close (5 hour or less drive away) and if your lucky, you might be able to seriously start conditioning in June. That alone makes endurance a difficult goal where I live. Then there was the issues I was seeing in Maggie that I didn’t like. Over the course of the last several weeks, that nagging thought kept coming back every time I climbed on her. She was tense, rushy, bracey. Every ride with others was getting a little worse, a little more of a battle to keep her quiet and relaxed. I realized I needed to do something. I don’t know about other endurance riders, but I refuse to have a horse that is a barely controlled runaway with t braced jaw and braced back just so I can fly down the trail and compete in endurance. Not my idea of fun and I am sure not much fun for Maggie either.

When you keep trying to do the same thing and you keep running into road blocks, it’s time to change the path. That is what I have decided to do. No, I am not giving up on endurance. I am just refocusing. For now.

Without the hours of pounding out the miles, I have been spending more time in the arena with Maggie and I have realized a few things. Things I didn’t like. For one, endurance has really done a number on my riding. I have become stiff and bracey in my sitting trot, I have developed tension in my hips and lower back and guess what? It directly translates to my horse.

I have enough years of dressage and equitation lessons to draw upon to fix all of this. It just requires me to spend time on it. And that is what I intend to do.

The arena work has always been there but it was a means to an end, just enough to get by, to get down the trail. A little bending, a little lateral work, a few circles, a few half halts, etc. Now, I am going full blown back to my roots of Dressage, Equitation and maybe a little jumping just to mix it up a bit. I f I want a soft responsive horse that does more than go down the trail, its what Maggie needs. We are already making some good progress and it’s only been a couple weeks of concerted effort. Maggie is finding her slow relaxed trot and getting as soft as butter in my hands. For the first time in a long time, it feels really good to ride her and I think she is happier as well.

So, this weekend instead of packing up to go ride 35 miles, I am packing up to get a few private lessons with a respected horsewoman, Alice Trindle. She is in Hamilton, Montana putting on a 3 day clinic and it’s been a few years since I have had the opportunity to train with her. I think it will be money better spent for where Maggie and I are in our journey.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mental Health Days

I took time off work yesterday and today just because. I needed a few days to catch up on things and just have time to myself and not worry about being somewhere at a certain time. Yesterday, I paid bills, ran errands, and got groceries. Today I went riding, a long slow 12.5 miles. A friend joined me today but in the last two weeks I have logged more miles than I have all season. I guess with no one to distract me (husband) I found that riding was as good of a distraction as any, and the weather is finally cooperating.
This past week , I managed to go out and hit the trails 3 times. That has to be some kind of record! Maggie is slowly coming back into condition but it's taking a while. Today she was tired when we finished out 12.5 miles and we didn't ride fast at all. The last few miles she started getting a bit stumbly. I'll give her a few days off, which probably works out best since driving in this valley on the Fourth of July with a horse trailer is nightmarish. People seem to come out of the woodwork.. I guess it's all the summer residents with their fancy lake homes.

I think I am starting to figure Maggie out a bit. When I ride alone, she is getting much more confident and is much more relaxed on the trail. I actually prefer , and I think she does as well, when we are alone. We can trot along the trail in a nice relaxed trot, loose rein for miles on end. It's absolutely wonderful.
Add another rider and horse, she gets competitive and racey. It's not enjoyable because I am constantly having to be on her mouth half halting and getting her to slow up. She assumes MACH CHICKEN speed most of the time and trying to find a rhythym in her trot is impossible. I just have to get in two -point and stay off her back a bit. There is NO posting to that gawd-awful pace! Today we clocked a 14 mph trot. Those are the times I think, " I should just sell her as a harness trotting horse!"

So, as long as I don't ride at any gait other than a walk when another rider and horse is along, we're fine, right? Problem solved.. BORING!!

I will say that Maggie is a total ROCKSTAR on those narrow windy trails that have tree roots and rocks. She's like a cat, and it seems the faster the trot, the better she is. She just picks her way effortlessly as we fly through the trees. I never have to worry about her taking a missed step. It's a pretty cool feeling to ride a catty little horse that handles technical terrain so well at speed.

So I guess the plan is that we'll keep working on pacing at home, and getting Maggie to listen to half halts and hope that it continues to translate to the trail when others join us, but if any of you have suggestions out there for a race brained mare, they are more than welcome here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

European Update

Well, Phase 1 is completed in Salgen, Germany. the horsemanship clinic went quite well and they want him to come back!! (next time with wife ofcourse). He and his travel partners rubbed shoulders with royalty, having stayed on the grounds of the Castle of the Princess of Bavaria. Granted they stayed in a yurt on the castle grounds but they showered in the castle!! How many people can say they have done that??? They also got a private tour of the castle. Tom reports it was unreal to see. So cool...(kicking self for not going!)

Then, the travelers were off to catch a train to Budapest. After a few hairy moments of being on the wrong train and almost heading to Croatia, they figured it out and got on the right train. It was an 8 hour all night train ride, in which they had to stand up for most of it as they were last to get on and couldn't find seats, until about an hour before they were at their destination.

Tom is now safely in the Valley, in Hungary, although "safe" could be the wrong term. He has done some training, riding in armour , herding pigs and oxen, and apparently drinking wine and Polinka(hungarina brandy) based on the texted phone pic he sent me today. He takes his warrior test on Monday which involves running 6 miles with hills, shooting 500 arrows in 90 minutes or less, and riding bareback for two hours.

Hopefully he will hold off on the Polinka until after he has completed his test...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Trails, Trikes, Horses and Dogs

I loaded up yesterday and met a friend at the State land for a day of riding. The weather was good enough, it wasn't a downpour and it was above 40 degrees. We dosed up on mosquito repellent and the same for the horses and headed out. This was the first time I had been out on the trail since getting my Specialized saddle so I was interested in seeing how it felt for myself and Maggie in terrain other than my arena. Steph brough along her little Springer Spanial , Molly who is pretty well behaved on the trail, exept for the occasional chasing of a squirrel or deer. Normally I prefer not to have a dog along in this area because there are lots of other people with dogs and it's just one less thing to have to deal with in my opinion , but Molly seemed well behaved enough. They have recently logged this area so the "old" trails that I once knew very well are all but a memory now, so we put on our adventurous hats and just rode out onto various trails to see where we ended up. The thing about this area is that most trails eventually get you somewhere you are eventually going to recognized. As we came off one such trail, we realized we had been riding for 3 hours already and it was about an hour back to the trailer so we headed back down a trail that would take us back to the trail head. Along the the entire ride we had run into several mountain bikers and for the most part, they are generally willing to be courteous when they see a horse but they often aren't familiar with horses or comfortable around them. Mountain bikes coming down the trail at a high rate of speed toward your horse will tell you quickly how well trained your horse is. Unlike horseback riders who are always looking around checking the scenery, mountain bikers are so busy watching the terrain right in front of their wheel , they often don't realize they are coming up on a horse until it's almost too late. Horses often can't figure out what a person on a bike is. Even more terrifying to a horse, is a child on the back of it's parents bike! The other problem is that this area is heavily wooded. You can't always see the bikers coming but your horses is usually a good indicator that something is coming at you. Having to deal with bikers is just a reality where I live. Have to share the trails. The key to keeping the situation safe for everyone is to get the bikers talking. As soon as they say something, then the horse can recognize that it's just a person with really weird legs..However, if the bikers happen. Steph and I had run into about 4 sets of these mountain bikers and all were very friendly. If they happen to be coming up behind you that's almost a bit more difficult. yesterday we were only a short distance from the end of th trail head and there is a steep rocky decline to get down. Maggie seemed to be a bit tired so I jumped off of her to walk her down the steep hill. We were just about to the bottom when Maggie's head popped up , laid her ears back and wheeled around. 3 bikers popped over the top of the hill and were coming at us very fast, along with a vary large Chesapeake dog. I pulled maggie out of the way to the side of the trail because they still hadn't seen us, again trying not to crash on on a bike while going down a steep hill takes alot of concentration! With bikers, they are supposed to yeild to horseback riders, and most times they do but I always opt to get out of their way and let them go by, for obvious reasons. Most will yeild and stop and cautiously go by. This group hit the brakes as soon as the biker in the front saw me, which by that time he was only 10 feet from me but his dog was a different story. His dog came at Maggie and I , barking and growling. I guess it was just a reaction but had my lead rope in my hand and the dog caught the business end of it right in the nose, right about the time he was about to get way to close for comfort. I am not sure if he would have just sniffed me or Maggie but he was showing way more aggression than I thought was necessary so I just reacted I guess. It startled him but he got pissed and came back , more towards Maggie's nose. The owner, who was telling him "No" wasn't being effective in the least. At this point, the dog barked and growled and was trying to figure out how to get around the crazy lady with the rope when the owner finally had enough sense to ride off so the dog would follow him, meekly apologizing.

I climbed back in the saddle once we got to the bottom of the hill and kept heading for the parking lot. We got to the end only to find that these bikers were still there, in the biker/hiker parking lot (which is separate from the trailer parking) and so was the dog. I had to get past them one more time, cross the road and go another 1/4 mile to get to the trailer. As I passed through, the dog ofcoruse, came towards us again. They were able to grab him in time before he followed me across the road.

So, another adventurous day on the trail . Maggie is pretty tolerant of things like this, for which I am grateful. She wasn't rattled afterwards,, but it did scare her a bit. I couldn't help but wishI had been riding JB at that moment the dog came at us. JB gets down right "stallion" like and would have tap danced all over that dog had he come at us like that.

I don't mind sharing the trail with bikers, hikers, dogs, and other non-motorized recreators, but it seems that maybe there is some opportunity there to educate one another since we both have to share the trails.

Anyone else run into these situations? How do you deal with them?

On a the flip side, the saddle worked out great. I was very happy with how it fit Maggie and I was comfortable as well.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lettuce Gone Rogue

Okay, I couldn't help it because Funder's post about her one spinach plant reminded me that I have been meaning to post a few photos of our garden. I took photos last week and that was as far as I got.

It's been so wet and cold here that being in the gardening mood has been a bit of an uphill climb. The weather is really starting to wear on people's tempers. We had a rough winter , like so many other parts of the county and Spring time in the Rockies has been tempermental to say the least. I think I can count on one hand the number of days we have had over 60 degrees. We spend our weekends playing cat and mouse with rain storms , splitting our day between attemptimg to get our necessary weekend chores accomplished,like mowing, and lazying around inside with a cup of tea and good movie or book.
Sadly, we are quickly approaching full saturation.We are in the 500 year flood plain. We check our crawl space every day to make sure water isn't coming up. So far, so good and keeping my fingers and toes crossed it will stay that way. Several houses in the neighborhood have had sump pumps running for weeks.We haven't so far.. ofcourse, I have probably just jinxed myself... Sigh.

You know, it just figures that the year we decide to put in a garden happend to be one of the coldest , wettest springs on record. We started designing our garden boxes last fall and worked like dogs all spring to get them in. Finally, the seeds we sowed over Easter for cool season veggies are starting to giving back.

My lettuce has gone rogue. It's out of control. I have lost patience with trying to harvest "properly" and only nipping the outer leaves. Tonight , I couldn't even tell what was what so now, the lettuce and mesclun section looks as though a herd of rabbits got after it. I just went at it with the scissors. (Tom would be appalled I am sure but by the time he is back, it will have grown back atleast 6 times!) I couldn't help it. I now have 4 gallon bags loaded with greens and there is still more to pick. I have one other third of a garden box with more greens. Note to self for next year, plant less lettuce!

The tomatoes , peppers and herb garden are maintaining at this point but barely. If we don't get some heat soon, we may lose alot of them.

Okay Funder, unlike you, I absolutely can slaughter and consume what I reep.. so this one is for you...

Happy Gardening

When Opportunity Knocks

You better answer...

That's exactly what my husband is about to do. Tom just headed off to Europe this morning. I wish I had been on that plane with him but for various reasons, it didn't work out logistically.

This is a huge opportunity for him and I am very proud of him. It's really one of those situations that kind of fell into his lap but sometimes those are the best way for things to happen.

For those of you that don't know, I am lucky enough to be married to someone who is as crazy about horses as myself. He's also pretty darn talented in the horse training department as well and I say that as objectively as possible. Tom has been breeding, training and riding for ...., well, forever it seems. Most recently, he got involved in a bit of a unique equestrian sport called Horseback Archery. It has become his ultimate hobby and passion. No, it's not the Native American genre of horseback archery. It pre dates that by may years, back to the culture of the Steppe warriors.

In the village of Kaposmero in Southern Hungary, Master Lajos Kassai has founded a school of archery and has dedicated his life to recreating the ancient traditions and culture of his people. He also holds a few noteworthy world records, shooting over a thousand arrows in twelve hours.
and the second world record was in 2002, out of 286 gallops, shooting about three thousand arrows in twelve hours. I think there is a third world record as well but anyone can look it up on the Internet if you are really interested.
let me just say this, the man is impressive to say the least.

I can't do the sport justice in trying to explain what it's all about, but just imagine taking a horse in full gallop , with the rider shooting with the bow, (so no reins) hitting target after target, front, side and the "parting " or back shot. The horseman has to be in sync with his horse and and in total control of himself. The power of the galloping horse combined with the total concentration of the archer. It is a reflection of a complete harmony between man and horse.

The main school resides in Kaposmero,Hungary but there are many other subsidiary schools; Germany, Austria, the USA, Canada, Slovakia, Greece, New Zealand, and Norway.

I have watched my husband train for 5 years now, coming up through the ranks of the various levels through rigorous training and testing for this mounted martial art, and now, all his hard work has come to a point where he has an opportunity to go to the main school, aka The Valley, in Hungary, and partake in an international festival and training with Lajos Kassai himself.

But, before all of that, as luck turns out, Tom will be involved in another unique opportunity.

Tom is first headed to Munich , Germany where he will be putting on a 4 day horsemanship clinic for German Horse Expo. This all very overwhelming and came on the heels of the German Archery school. with Pettra Engelander. Pettra is the leader of the German Archery school. With the encouragement of Tom's own teacher and leader of the USA Archery school, Todd Delle, Pettra and Todd arranged to get Tom to Germany to put on a Horsemanship clinic. It's kind of complicated how it all came to this (and I am trying to shorten it for brevity purposes) and almost unreal when I think about it all! . So, Tom , who is quite modest about his training abilities and never wants to be in the public eye, is going oversees to try to help some Germans learn something more about horsemanship.

Something like this doesn't always just come along. I am very proud of him and all of his hard work that has brought him to this point. I can't wait to hear how it's all going.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hoof Abcess

A few days ago, I went out to do morning chores only to find JB very very lame. At first, I thought it was his front right, and my heart skipped a beat but when I asked him to move off he looked lame on both fronts. His paddock was very muddy and he was slipping around so it was hard to tell exactly which leg he was lame on. I checked him over, no swelling, no cuts, no heat. If I had to give the lameness a grade, he was probably somewhere between a 2 and a 3. The mud and bad footing made it hard to detect much of anything definitely and since he didn't act like he was in any large amount of discomfort, I threw him his hay and headed into work for the day. I would have to address it more closely later. That was Wednesday.

That evening I checked him over more thoroughly and was able to determine it was not his front right, but instead his front left. Still no swelling, hheat or cuts that I could fine anywhere, however, he was holding his heelup, keeping his fetlock cocked so as not to put weight on the back of hhis foot. At first, I thought well, he must have slipped in the mud and ttweaked something. I had a vet appt scheduled on Saturday so I decided to jjust keep a close eye on it and if he got worse, I would have to vet check the leg out. Ofcourse, he got worse.

On Saturday, JB had a pretty strong pulse in the front left. The vet hoof tested him, checking for a bruise, inflammation (laminitis) or indicators of an abcess but nothing revealed itself in those areas. We ended up doing xrays to check for a broken coffin or navicular bone. Nothing, which was good news. We decided that the only possibility was that it could be an abcess in the coronary band or a bruise in the heel that was fairly deep and undetectable. We wrapped his foot in a poultice and they sent us home with instructions to keep him contained (in case it was a soft tissue injury in the hoof or leg), keep his foot wrapped for 48 hours, give him bute that afternoon and see how he did.

By the next morning, JB was even more lame and the back part of his lower cannon (just above his fetlock joint) was hot and swollen. I gave him 1 gram of bute for his discomfot and spoke to the vet late that morning. He wanted us to pull the bandage off and repack it because he was certain it was an abcess. Ofcourse, my med kit had everything but what I needed to repack the foot properly. I had to run into town anyways so I planned to stop at the vets to get some Magna paste (way better for a drawing salve than Icthamol)and wrapping material and then get the foot rewrapped later in the afternoon.
By the time I got home, JB seemed to be feeling better so I let him out into his pasture to graze for a while. He took off running and bucking, sans a bit lame yet but he seemed better. I planned to repack the foot after a while when he had a full belly. When I finally got the bandage off Saturday evening, I noticed a strong putrid smell, something I recognized as pus. I looked the foot over and sure enough, there it was. The abcess had obviously erupted, which would have explained JB feeling better earlier in the day.

The abcess was on the left heel bulb and things were still looking a bit swollen and tender. I soaked his foot for 15 minutes in Epsom salt and then repacked the area with a bit more Magna Paste, in case there was still some drainage. I rewrapped everything to keep it clean(with all the mud around) and will pull it off again tomorrow.

It's been a while since I have had a horse abcess and have never had one at the heel bulb . Not sure what could have caused this , possibly he caught himself with his hind foot or it is simply just the fact that it's been so muddy. Either way, JB is already feeling 90% better since it released and I am so relieved that this is all it was...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Saddle Update and other news

After returning the 15” specialized saddle, the 16” finally arrived last week. Short story- it’s definitely a better fit for me. No more pain in the places where there shouldn’t be pain!! I have only ridden in it at home and haven’t had a chance to get out on the trail with it but it looks like I will be keeping it. I love how close contact it is. I can actually feel Maggie’s back lifting when she softens. No more hauling my 30 lb Wade tree onto her. Now, I just have to do the final fitting tweaks for Maggie’s back. I think I have it pretty close and Maggie seems very comfortable but I plan to have the dealer come out and give it a look over. I like a lot of things about the saddle, the look , the lightness, the adjustable stirrup position and the adjustable fit but honestly, I think Specialized can come a long ways in the area of quality and craftsmanship. I think they compromised quality in order to get a lightweight saddle. One thing I will be having modified is the D ring attachment for the breast collar. Right now, they are just stitched to a concho. There is no attachment into the actual tree of the saddle. One tough uphill pull with a little strain on that breast collar, and I could easily see that D ring popping right off. Not sure what they were thinking on that design. I was wondering if anyone else with a Specialized has modified this D ring for the breast collar? Has anyone had issues with it pulling out or breaking?

So, now that I have a saddle that is comfortable for horse and rider, maybe I can get motivated to ride a little more? Let’s hope so. For whatever reason (stress??) I have been dealing with several weeks of not feeling well. I had the flu, then bronchitis and now finally recovering from some other virus that didn't test positive for strep, but felt like it. I think I am climbing out of it and getting myself healthy again but the weather hasn’t exactly been conducive to hours in the saddle either. We have had a few teasers of nice 70 degree (mostly during the work week) in between the torrential downpours. We are setting flooding records and with all the rain and as of last week, we were still adding snowpack in the mountains. It’s been a crazy year weather wise. Riding in summer rain is one thing, riding in heavy downpours at 45 degrees? Not really my idea of a good time.

So, there is that.
The other big news , atleast for us, is that I am getting ready to send my husband to Europe in just a short couple of weeks. He is headed to Germany to put on a 4 day horsemanship clinic and then onto Hungary to train and compete at the Kassai Horseback Archery school. I am very proud of him. He has worked very hard to get to this point. Stay tuned for more details.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Things have been pretty chaotic around our place. I have barely have had time to breathe , let alone sit down a write a worthy post. So, I will just try to summarize and give a few updates for now.

I have managed some decent conditioning rides on the weekends with Maggie as well as squeezing out an evening training session or two in the arena during the week. Our average mileage has been anywhere between 7-10 miles on the trail, but much of that is hill climbing. We certainly aren’t setting any records on speed or distance at this point but Maggie is becoming quite fit nonetheless. She constantly amazes me with her strength and willingness to "just keep going". On the down side, I have run into a few “training” issues with her that I am working on. Her “go” button appears to be stuck in the on position and as she has gotten more fit, it just gets a bit worse each time. I had this same issue with her last year but with some concentrated work in the arena, we made some good progress last fall. Maggie was listening well to half halts and would slow up and listen. I was even getting to where I could ask for a couple of different speeds at the trot. This year, we seem to be back to this same problem, however, I realize that that the issue is more about her focus. Her thought is not on me and the task at hand and there's a good reason for it.
For starters, she has become ridiculously attached to the younger gelding she shares paddock space with. We are going to have to separate them but that's a whole other post! It’s a love hate thing between Maggie and Brego, Tom's up and coming gelding. Often times, I am on Maggie and my husband is riding Brego at the same time in the arena and the training session turns into a frustrating battle for all of us. Both horses just worry constantly about where the other one is. It's impossible to get much accomplished if you can't get the horses attention for more than 3 milliseconds at a time.

The second part of the problem is me. It dawned on me this weekend. I have been doing a piss poor job of keeping her thought on me. This year, I have fallen into the trap of just "get on and go". Why?? Well, that ‘s pretty simple…. I am not focused, why should my horse be? I am not even trying to tune into her, why should I expect her to tune in to me, right?

I won’t go into details but there are some major stressors going on in my life right now that I am trying to manage. Unfortunately, its taking my focus away from everything else and at this point, it has to. At least for the time being.

So, pardon me for a while, I might be a bit more absent on blogs, face book and maybe a bit slow to respond to emails as this other situation consumes my time and energy. Eventually, I’ll make it back around to some sense of normalcy in my life and hopefully get back to being more “plugged in” at some point in the future .

Until then, Happy Trails!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

JB's first ride..

I started this post out originally talking about all kinds of announcements of sorts I wanted to share with you and spun in the news at the end about JB's first ride, but when I finished, it didn't seem right , it seemed like JB's first ride really deserved it's own post, so I erased all that other stuff and started over. The other stuff can wait.

For a few weeks now as time and weather have permitted, I've been taking JB for walks and doing ground driving sessions in the arena. Friday night I had gone out to halter him and the plan was to just brush him really well and let him hand graze. I was just coming off having a knock you on your butt flu and I wasn't feeling real motivated to do much, but I needed to go out and be with a horse nonetheless. The sun , which hadn't been out all day suddenly appeared from behind the clouds and it got nice and warm. I walked back into the tack room to get a different brush and JB, who tends to like to also get into the tack room, followed me in and sniffed at his saddle. I know this is going to sound a little crazy but he seemed to be telling me wanted to go for a ride. JB and I are pretty connected and I would like to beleive, after everything we have been through together, that we are tuned into one anothers thougths on some levels. I thought for a second maybe it was too soon yet. All the doubt crept in but really , what was I waiting for? For him to tell it was time?? Well, he seemed to be doing just that. So, the decision was made for me...
As soon as I grabbed his bridle, he got the most anticipatory look on his face that I have ever seen on a horse. He definitely got excited about it. He was trying to get him mouth on the bit before I even had it ready to pop over his little ears. He was pretty cute about it. Anyways, your probably wondering when I going to stop babbling and tell you how it went , right??

Okay, I'll tell you. It went fine. I know.. anti-climactic, right ?? Well, there really isn't much to tell honestly and that is exactly how I imagined it would go. I got on and we walked off, quiet as ever. JB was very tentative and unsure of himself, having to bear the extra weight of a rider. He was very careful and that's a good thing at this point.

The less than good thing is that JB is not sound, not really anyways. It's not what I would call a limp, but a shortened stride on his right side, which I beleive is coming from the shoulder, not the pastern. His shoulder sustained numerous soft tissue injuries (torn muscles, ligaments, etc) in the accident and he had a huge hematoma in his heart girth area. My hope is that this will improve as he gets stronger, along with some massage work and stretching. He's not in any pain, he runs and jumps at liberty without hesitation. The pastern doesn't seem to bother him in the least and I am very happy about that.

Riding JB for the first time was obviously a bigger deal for me than I am able to even try to begin to portray here so I won't get into all that. When I finished my ride on JB and jumped off of him, my husband, who had come up to the fence of the arena to watch, walked over to me and said "Congratulations, this is a big deal" I hadn't thought about it that way because it just happened and I hadn't planned on it being the day I ride JB, but he was right. It was a big deal, considering. I managed a meager "thank you" and choked back the tears I could feel coming. I was mildly sad because I had hoped JB was going to walk off feeling much more sound than he did but realistically, a year ago, at this time, I was struggling with the decision on whether I should put JB down. I can deal with a shortened stride and a horse that is just happy to be with me.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


So it's May, the sun is shining and Monday night I came home from work with a killer headache which turned into a migraine. I woke in the middle of the night with the chills and achey all over.. Tuesay morning, the full blown flu had descended upon me... This is the first time I have been out of bed since yesterday.

I haven't had the flu in years. Guess this is why people get the flu shot..

Monday, May 2, 2011

We weren't exactly lost....

First , for those who lost a loved one on September 11th, I hope that last night you slept just a little better knowing that Bin Laden is dead. Stand up and salute those who serve. Here's to the land of the free and the Red , White and Blue.

Now, onto yesterday's ride.

I headed out to my usual training ground, a large section of State land, known as Kuhn's. It's about a half hour drive from home but it's actually the closest to me as far as area's to ride. I have ridden this area for 10+ years so I know it pretty well. You can easily ride several 12 -15 mile loops and if your adventurous, you can get more mileage as well. There are plenty of good hills as well as nice long flat areas. It's really a great training area. Yesterday, a friend and I headed there for the first time this season. We planned for an easy 8-9 mile ride.

I had heard the loggers had been in there over the winter, but I didn't worry too much about it since they have been logging small sections in this area for the last several years. The terrain is very heavily wooded and definitely needed some logging, however what we found yesterday was quite surprising.

For the first half of the ride, I mostly knew where I was. Mostly. Atleast well enough to find a few of the trails I was familiar with. The second half of the ride, we somehow managed to get into an area I could not even recognize. It was amazing to me that the logging had changed the look of the landscape to me so much. I kept thinking that something would eventually look familiar but it didn't. So, we just kept riding, figuring eventually it would come out somewhere that we would recognize. It never did. I knew we were quite a ways south of where we needed to be and when we ended up in behind a subdivision I was finally able to recognize, I realized wewere about a mile and a half south of where we needed to be but if we back tracked it was about 3 miles.

Maggie and Zira were starting to get a little tired and so we opted for the shorter route, given it was already after 5:00 p.m. Unfortunately, the shorter route also meant we had to trespass and potentially get shot at or chased by dogs. Sometimes, you have to weigh the odds !!

We cut through a couple of back yards, which was an area known for it's "back woodsy " folks who didn't really like "visitors". Luckily, no one seemed to notice us, or if they did, they didn't bother with us.

We finally made our way out onto the gravel road that I knew would get us back out to the main road. From there, we could then follow that back to where the trailers were parked.

Lesson learned?? There were a couple: First; learn to use GPS I carry for more than just mileage and speed tracking. Second, never sweat getting a little "turned around"..Given the changes to the landscape, it probably won't be the last time I get lost in there this season.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Great Ride Today!

Despite the dark clouds looming, I made plans to meet a friend for an easy condition ride with Maggie this afternoon. After getting what felt like a good start last weekend, and looking at the weather forecast for the coming three days, I was determined to get atleast something in before Sunday. The morning was beautiful but I was stuck working. By the time I was ready to go, I wasn't sure what kind of weather we would end up riding in. I hesitated when I went to hook up the trailer, but ony for a moment. (damn the torpedos....full speed ahead)As I drove south, theweather changed from sun, to wind, to gropple, to rain , to just clouds. Luckily, the clouds held off releasing their heavy burden.

It wasn't a very long ride but we had several little climbs to make our way up. The footing was a bit slippery with mud in places . Maggie only got a little bothered for about a 20 minute period during the entire ride when my friends mare starting her "jigging". Maggie eventually started listening to me and I was able to get her walking flat footed again, which is much better than jigging. Anyone else hate that as much as I do? I see alot of endurance riders who allow their horses to do it. I know for me, it's one of those training issues that drives me crazy. It's terribly uncomfortable and wears both the horse and the rider out.

We finished just in time and then the rain let loose, for about 15 minutes.

That short ride will have to hold for a few days.. there is snow in the forecast... again....

Will it EVER end?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A little Levity- Seven Stages of Aging on Horseback

I am sure some of us might be able to relate?? Atleast on some aspects!

The Seven Stages of Aging on Horseback
> Stage 1: Fall off pony. Bounce. Laugh. Climb back on. Repeat.
> Stage 2: Fall off horse. Run after horse, cussing. Climb back on by
> shimmying up horse's neck. Ride until sundown.
> Stage 3: Fall off horse. Use sleeve of shirt to stanch bleeding. Have
> friend help you get back on horse. Take two Advil and apply ice packs when you
> get home. Ride next day.
> State 4: Fall off horse. Refuse advice to call ambulance; drive self to
> urgent care clinic. Entertain nursing staff with tales of previous daredevil
> stunts on horseback. Back to riding before cast comes off.
> Stage 5: Fall off horse. Temporarily forget name of horse and name of
> husband. Flirt shamelessly with paramedics when they arrive. Spend week in
> hospital while titanium pins are screwed in place. Start riding again before
> doctor gives official okay.
> Stage 6: Fall off horse. Fail to see any humor when hunky paramedic says,
> "You again?" Gain firsthand knowledge of advances in medical technology
> thanks to stint in ICU. Convince self that permanent limp isn't that
> noticeable. Promise husband you'll give up riding. One week later purchase older,
> slower, shorter horse.
> Stage 7: Slip off horse. Relieved when artificial joints and implanted
> medical devices seem unaffected. Tell husband that scrapes and bruises are
> due to gardening accident. Pretend you don't see husband roll his eyes and
> mutter as he walks away. Give apple to horse.

> Trust me. Despite a lack of bounce-ability, aging on horseback isn't so
> bad, as long as you know what lies ahead. And as long as you keep your sense
> of humor.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Splendid Days

I just came off two splendid days of riding and I still feeling the euphoria. The weather, for the first time THIS year , was sunny and above 50 degrees. I rode Maggie for 3 hours on Saturday , trying out the new saddle and then 2 more hours on Sunday ( I couldn't help myself!), again in the new saddle. Maggie apparently feels like a rockstar in the saddle. Me? Not so much...I have the beginnings of bruises on the inner thighs but I was willing to sacrifice a little of my own comfort in the name of getting to ride and give Maggie a saddle she could be very comfortable in. The good news is that after riding for 5 hours in the saddle, I think I have the issue figured out. Whether it can be fixed or not remains to be determined. I am working on that with my dealer so more on that in a later post.

***(E.G- if your interested in hearing the details of what I know at this point, I can email you separately since your also having similar issues, just need your email address!)

Today and most of this week, we are back to rain so I am glad I was blessed with two solid days of riding. I have no idea what mileage we covered since I forgot my GPS (too excited to be going out riding I guess!)

MMaggie is feeling very strong and ofcourse , wanting to travel a whole lot faster than I would like her to at this point. We did a lot of walking and a couple of easy hills. I'll admist, I couldn't resist letting her drop into her big Morgan trot for a 1/4 mile. She freally loats in that gait and she loves to travel in it. My guess is as she developes her lungs, muscles and ligaments, this will likely be her most efficeint gait. Last year, she struggled staying in it without breaking into a canter. This year, she seems to have figured it out over the winter all on her own.

Good times ahead ....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Eurolight has Landed!

It arrived today! I ran right out and got it on Maggie, played with the shims and pads and I think (fingers crossed) I got a halfway decent fit for her. I may need to do a little further tweaking but I have to get her a little more sweated up to see what kind of pattern I am getting.

The fit for me however is a little different story.

It's hitting my inner thighs and quite uncomfortable. I don't know if my ass (oops there I go swearing again) is just too frieken big and I am coming too forward in the seat for their version of a 15" saddle (it's usually the right size for me) or the twist is too wide.

I have an email into the dealer I went through so hopefully it's something we can fix. Otherwise I love it!!But I can't ride in it for any length of time the way it is now.

Where the Hell is Spring????

Cover your ears.. I am going to bitch...and swear... a little..

Snowshowers , hail and thunder storms with snow since last weekend. That is what we have been dealing with. It hasn't accumulated to much more than a couple of inches on the valley floors but several feet are reported in the mountain. It's been one snow squall after another for days.

I get it , really, I live in Northwest Montana, I KNOW we can get snow, even the occasional freak storm in June but THIS??? We haven't even hit 60 yet this spring.. nope not once!! In fact we have only had one or two days in the low 50's We even broke a record since 1917 for not hitting 60 degrees by this time of the year.

GLOBAL WARMING?? my ass ... ( I warned you to cover your ears)

So, when Tamara over at IntheNightFarms posted on FB that she was doing sprints in shorts in the sunshine (while I was looking out at my snow and ice covered horses) I posted that I wanted to cry... she gave me some great advice and I think I'll take her advice..

Excuse me while I go build a snow man and proceed to blow it to smitherenes....

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Eagle has Departed..


This has been a long process but apparently when I ordered my saddle, there was a back order on the black leather seats. Just my luck.

It was going to delay things a bit. Fine, I could understand that. I was told they should have it by end of week and ship the following week. That was 3 weeks ago. I expected it to arrive last week while I was out of town, but last Friday, nothing. So Monday I called and after alot of confusion about what saddle was mine and why it was delayed , I was told they would ship Tuesday and I would have a tracking number.

When I still didn't have a tracking number yesterday, yep, you guessed it, I called again, exept I think they stopped answering my calls. I left a message just the same..yes, I was losing my patience..

This morning, a tracking message magically appeared. Kowinkidink?? I think not..

So did they just forget or what? I went through a dealer and she had a harder time than me on getting answers from Specialized or even getting return calls.

I think Specialized needs a little help in the customer service arena is all I have to say!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sustainability.. Diving in Head First

It's been a topic of discussion at the dinner table now for the last several years at our house. For some reason or another, we always came back to the answer of "not this year". Usually it was the extra work involved, the extra chore, the extra time, the extra money out. There just seemed to be more reasons not to. But this year, with the cost of food and inflation now really starting to hit, it seemed , for the first time, to just make good sense..

We have committed to raising some of our own food. Last fall, we built several garden boxes in preparation for this spring. Over the last several days, we have been busy filling those garden boxes with lots of organic compost (thanks horses!), peat moss and topsoil. Neither of us are new to gardening , having both grown up with gardening, but it had been a while for both of us. We spent the winter researching and educating ourselves on how we wanted to do our garden. We now have a plan and I can hardly wait until I can start planting some veggies.

And , since we are doing the vegetable garden, we thought we may as well add a few chickens to the landscape. Following the Primal lifestyle, we consume alot of eggs.... and chicken. So, over the last few weeks we have collected a few Heirloom varieties of pullets, along with a few meat birds that will be , well, you know... We are also going to be acquiring two Welsummer hens and a rooster from a friend who is brooding them, but that will be later this summer. In the meantime, we have 2 Black Australorp, 2 Buff Orpington , 2 Americaunas, 1 Lakenvelder and for now, 6 Cornish cross with a larger order due in the coming weeks.

A few years ago, I didn't want to be bothered with the additional work it will require , especially the start up, to add and maintain a garden and build the chicken coop(70% done at this point), and then keep them healthy.

A few years ago, I didn't feel as good as I do today either. Eating and living a Primal lifestyle has changed my outlook on things.

Sustainable? Absolutely. Raising a little of our own food just makes sense.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Priming the Pump

JB and Maggie both got some much needed attention yesterday. The grooming session left me sneezing and itching with the amount of hair that is being shed from my horses. Holy Hair!

JB and I are started revisiting ground work basics last night. I never get bored with this stuff because it seems that no matter how many times I do it, I always find some other small little thing to fine tune. My favorite thing to do to see how “little” it takes to get a horse to give me the response I am looking for. It’s amazing how little it can take!

With a year of being pampered, spoiled, loved on and being asked nothing of, it appears that JB needs a lot of fine tuning. Last night, a few observations I made and worked on:

-He blocks his right side…that’s to be expected. When I put my self on his right side, he will try to reposition himself to that I am on his left side. Or he will try to block me from coming from his left side to his right side with moving his head into my way as I come around the front of him. He’s very sly about it to…

-He travels stiffly on the end of the line as I ask him to travel around me clockwise. He falls in with the right shoulder.

-He wants to be in my space all the time and is not comfortable being at the end of the line. He wants to keep coming into me. He can’t just stand at the end of the line and be there mentally or physically.

-He wants to lead me instead of me leading him.

I realize I have created a lot of these issues as he has gone through his recovery. I'm okay with that and fully expected it. It’s a small price to pay considering the alternative. He knows this stuff, we just had to grease the gears up a bit. It took some doing but by the end of the session, as we took a walk down the road, he was light as feather on the end of the lead, watching my cues with intense concentration and getting ready for my direction. If I slowed my paced, he slowed his, if I stopped, he stopped at my side. He did several alternating turns on his haunches and forehand without any trouble or resistance. The blocking of his right side still needs some work, but that will come in time.. he’s protecting that side… we'll work through it.

I think the mental stimulation will be good for him. He seems to be longing for a purpose, a job. Purely by mistake, I have started working on some trick training with JB. He seems to have taken a liking to having me call him in from the pasture, he comes galloping up to me, stopping only a millisecond from crashing into me, I pet him , then I send him off, he goes galloping away, I call him again, repeat, repeat. It was the funniest thing when he just did it out of the blue and it was definitely his idea. Now I just have to figure out how to get him to do it on command!

I have only dabbled into trick training in the past and only know very little about it. I have great respect for those that do it successfully because it requires a huge amount of time and commitment and trusting relationship between handler and horse.

With Maggie, I also spent a few minutes revisiting groundwork basics before I hopped into the saddle. My session with her ended up being mostly walking. She would have liked to have gone faster but I knew if I asked for any trotting it would have just turned into a fight. Instead, I spent about 45 minutes working on circles and lateral work to keep her brain engaged on the task at hand instead of getting out away from me. Maggie, being a Morgan, has a natural tendency to get High headed so I spend a lot of time working her long and low. She’s still learning.

All in all, It felt damn good to climb back in the saddle and actually accomplish something with a horse again.

I will be traveling next week and will lose another week of training but it's early in the season and there is rain rain rain in the forecast...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Fling...

It could hardly be considered a real condition ride but I did manage to saddle up Maggie and take her for a short ride last night.

Of course, she found every excuse to be snotty....

Of course JB and Rebel had to "help" by running and bucking their way along the fence line as we left the property....


Of course, Maggie thought that was a good enough reason to jump , crow hop, dance sideways and generally misbehave.

I began to wonder if I had really put almost 400 conditioning miles on this mare last year , not to mention the countless additional hours in the arena. Based on how she was behaving, it was like starting all over again..Good grief.. this mare is a pistol.

There were more than a few moments I thought any minute she might just manage to send me on a spring fling if you know what I mean.

Tom came along too and rode his 5 year old bareback. Brego did a wonderful job of making Maggie and I look like it was our first time out….. oh wait it kinda was…


There is a lot to be said for geldings. Even young, hardly trained geldings…

So, I guess Spring conditioning can officially begin. I just wish I had a 10 mile section of road that wasn’t unsafe. Riding the roads regularly isn’t really a good option due to safety issues (we have a lot of traffic on our dirt roads and rude drivers). I’ll be trying to ride a couple nights a week in the outdoor arena for now. That will atleast help to get Maggie legged up a bit. Weekends, we’ll start hitting the STILL snowy trails and praying for warmer weather...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

10 Months Ago...

Today was kind of a big day. I hadn't planned it specifically but I have been waiting for this day. Things had to be just so and Today was the day.

JB got turned out into a "pasture" for the first time since prior to his injury.

....10 months ago.

Truth is, he was actually given the "ok" from the doc back in December for turnout but our footing has been much too icey and dicey to be safe so I held off, choosing to keep him confined in his corral which was about a 50x70 area, until the footing was better.

So here are a few shots of JB testing out the new leg. He was huffing and puffing pretty good after only a few laps of running the perimater of his 2 acre pasture. He came trotting up to me several times as if to say .. "Did you see what I can do??"

The photos didn't come out the clearest(still trying to get used to the new camera!) but I hope you enjoy them atleast as half as much as I enjoyed watching JB romp and play for the first time in 10 months.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

New Saddle for Maggie!!

This has been an interesting process but it looks like I am going to be the proud owner of a new Eurolight!

It started with sending drawings of Maggie’s back to Dave at Specialized and speaking with Amanda on the phone as well. Without seeing the drawings, Amanda was sure that I would need the mule bars and the wide tree.

At first I was going to go straight through the manufacturer, but then decided to call a Specialized dealer here in Montana who lives about 3 hours from me, Lisa and Jack Emory. I worked with Lisa 3 years ago when I was trying to find a saddle for JB. Both her and Jack have tons of experience with saddle fit and both ride in Specialized as their personal saddle.

I decided it would be best to work with a Lisa again, who had experience using and fitting these saddles. I trust her and she’s knowledgeable and she’s right here (sort of) if I need help.

I called Lisa and explained Maggie’s back and shared with her what Amanda thought. As it turns out’s Specialized has made some changes since I last looked at these saddles 3 years ago. The tree is now laminated wood, as opposed to a molded plastic and they have made their standard tree wider. In addition, they also offer an even wider version, called the Draft tree.

Lisa said she had a tree with the mule bars on hand she could send up to me. It was a tree for the western style saddle. It wasn't their new wider standard width but it might atleast give us a starting point to see if the mule bars were really needed for Maggie. A couple days later, I had the tree.

Here is what we determined when we put it on Maggie’s back:

Bars were bridging at the center of her back, way more than we could likely shim to correct. This indicated that the mule bars were too straight (or flat) for Maggie. Mule bars were probably not going to work for her. This was kind of surprising. Maggie apparently needs more rocker than I thought so regular horse bars on the saddle would probably do the trick. Mule bars really are quite flat but they are also at a steeper vertical angle. Maggie has pretty well sprung ribs and these bars are more for a slab sided horse or mule.

Maggie definitely needed more room and flare in the shoulders. The newer wider tree would likely work but if not, we can order the draft tree, which is wider yet.

The Bar length on the tree was longer than I was comfortable with. If we could get everything else working fit wise, this was the one thing that I could see would beproblematic. The bars on the demo tree were 22” long in a 15” seat. I would prefer about 20" on the bars.

After a few emails and phonecalls between myself, and Lisa and Dave at Specialized, we confirmed that the Eurolight actually has 20 1/2 inch bars. I could live with that. I could also opt to have the tree maker shave more off the tree length if absolutely necessary but it wasn't advised due to the weight bearing area becoming smaller. Dave reassured me that the Eurolight was successfully being used on Icelandic ponies without having issues with bar length. So with that piece fuigured out, the plan was to just go ahead with the order, along with a draft wide for the gullet width.

In a last minute stroke of good luck for me on Friday afternoon Lisa said she was coming up to my area today to look at a horse. She could bring her personal 15" Featherlight Western which has the newer wider (standard) tree. Lisa would be able to see Maggie's back first hand and we coul make a definitive decision on which width I would need based on her saddle.

After playing with a few shims and pads , it looks like Maggie won't need the draft afterall. the standard width will work and leave room for a pad.

So , Lisa will put the order in on Monday and it will be 2-3 weeks build time.

When it arrives, Lisa will work with me get it fit and shimmed correctly. The plan is to haul down to Lisa's for the day and take a ride for a couple of hours to make sure all the shims and pads are placed right.

This was probably one of the fastest and easiest saddle fitting processes I have ever gone through. I am very thankful for a helpful , knowledgable Specialized saddle dealer. It really makes the process much better.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ode To Mud


Not exactly a substance we give much thought to. It’s not thrilling, its not glamorous. This time of year however, it gets a fair amount of attention and discussion. When the snow finally begins to melt, that dirt turns to mud, lots of mud. In fact, in Montana, we actually give it it’s own season. When mud season rolls around, my thoughts start drifting to long days in the saddle, the smell of sunshine and horse sweat in my hair. (again, not glamorous) I have to remember that what appears like a mucky mess now, will soon burst into brilliant colors and blooming things in the coming months.

So, those of you also in the quagmire, just remember, until we get through it, keep your muck boots pulled on tight, your trucks in low gear and just try to enjoy the ride.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Farm Life isn't all it's cracked up to be.. Or is it??

Sometimes, I wonder what life might be like without horses, without chores, without the responsibility that never goes away.

I get up at an hour that, in most people view, is insane, atleast to most 8-5’ers in the work force. This morning’s routine wasn’t all that different than most mornings. It started with putting on the coffee, bundling up in coat, boots, mittens and hat and slogging out to the corrals and hay barn to feed the horses. By this time, my eyes are mostly open but still in a sleep fog and could be easily startled by any stray cats that come running out of the hay barn as I enter. Recently, my morning routine has gotten a little more complicated. It involves extra pampering for my older grade gelding Rebel. I have been giving him a beet pulp mash with electrolytes morning and night. (more on that in a minute)

Giving Rebel beet pulp requires me to pen him off from the other three horses he shares a pasture with. We have an adjacent corral to that pasture where the shed and water are and there is a two strand wire gate , electric, with insulated handles that separates the corral from the pasture. At any given time, there is 6-8,000 volts of electricity running through my fence so I usually don’t have any trouble.

This morning, Rebel was already in the corral, (he knows the routine) waiting for me. I ran over to shut the gate before the other three caught on to what was going on. Just as I got the gate, Maggie, Brego and Cassidy were just coming around the corner, only 10 feet from the gate. I quickly shut it, which I know they saw . Satisfied with myself that I got it latched before they could beat me to it, I turned around , walked 5 steps and CRASH, here comes Maggie.

Yes, she had busted right through the wire gate like it wasn’t even there.That's my girl... (but that is not what came out of my mouth)

Normally, I am a patient person when it comes to horses and generally, all animals (which people who know me are always amazed at, because I am the most impatient person with other people) but this??? This kinda got me peeved….

Maggie has been a problem with busting through electric fence since she arrived on the scene two years ago. She’s like a tank and just goes… with total disregard to what is in her way… It’s an issue I have had to work on a lot with her because she was a real sow to handle on the ground. We resolved the handling issue and she is now very respectful on the ground, but apparently the fencing piece hasn’t sunk in yet. She doesn’t think fences apply to her I guess.

Anyone know what the wire /voltage was that they used in the Jurassic Park movie to keep dinosaurs in??

So there I was, 5:00 this morning morning, with my flashlight, trying to fix the blankety blanken wire gate, which was completely busted in two. I ended up having to just piece it together so I could at least hang it safely out of the way. It would have to waut until I could deal with it in the daylight and when it wasn’t 20 degrees out.

So , that is how my day started today . Sometimes I have to wonder on days like today.. is it all really worth it??

Yeah.. even in the face of constant work , repairs, issues to deal with, I consider myself one of the lucky few who have space, horses, a lifestle in the country. How many people out there would give it all up for this life?? Probably a lot more than we realize. Farm life, it's definitely worth it...

Back to Rebel-
So, after two episodes of mild to moderate colic in the past Month, giving him beet pulp seems to be keeping him from trying to dehydrate himself to death, something we are still trying to figure out… Also, for the first time in the 17 years I have owned Rebel, has decided that temperatures below 40 degrees are too hard on him so he now gets blanketed as well. I guess it stands to reason. He’s about 19 years old, give or take and has been pretty low maintenance up until this winter. I shouldn’t complain but he has me worried. He’s been a great horse, with challenges, but a great horse nonetheless. We've seen some things together over the years and in his semi-retirement, he's once again, proven his worth and willingness and has become a back up archery horse for my husband. He's actually my husbands "fast" archery 19, he still runs faster than most horses half his age. He’s the horse that first got me interested in endurance many years ago and was an amazing athlete and always full of P&V.
This process has been hair pulling for both my vet and I to try to pinpoint what exactly is going on with him. He’s been such a stellar of health. Each day is a new challenge. His behavior seems to vary from normal, to withdrawn, to full on depressed. Some days he barely wants to eat and only does if I stand there with him. Some days, he won’t move for hours on end, just standing in his shed unless I take him for a walk. Sometimes, he lapses into another colic episode, I give him a dose of bantamine and he snaps out of it within a few hours. The only thing I have been able to narrow down is that I think his colic episodes are brought on by him not drinking. I don't know why , but sometimes he just stops

At first thought, I thought it was the water tank heaters but we have tested them and all the other horses are drinking just fine from them. Besides, we have them wired to a GFI so if any little trickle charge is detected, the breaker trips… no shocking or scaring the horses that way.

I suspect something more serious might be going on with Rebel but it’s hard to say what. Could be ulcers, could be a tumor, could be anything really at his age. All I know is that he is definitely not himself and definitely doesn’t feel good.

Tomorrow afternoon, I am taking him into the vet. We want to rule out it’s not his teeth bothering him. Rebel was due for a float this year anyways. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this is the cause of the issues.

I will keep you all posted.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Saddle Fitting For the Wide Backed Horse

If you have read anything about saddle fit, these types of back are one of the more challenging backs to fit a saddle to. Rocker and sometimes bridging are a couple of the more common issues to contend with.

With the start of the ride season just weeks away, the process of finding a new saddle to fit Maggie has begun. It seems like just yesterday I was going through this same process for JB, who , is surprisingly wide for a smaller framed horse. I found the answer in the Duett Companion Trail saddle. It's by far the best saddle I have ever ridden in.

Maggie will be more of a challenge than JB ever was, and that was a challenge. JB atleast has some withers to speak of. Maggie's build features the classic old style Morgan, known as the Lippitt Morgan. In the beginning, the breed consisted of 17 mares and 8 stallions going back to one stallion known as Ethan Allen II. It's hard to find a good Lippitt these days as breeders have introduced all kinds of other traits into them that, frankly , just don't belong. traits like color, height, and a myriad of other things. Maggie is one of the full blooded Lippitts and is as classic as you can get. Well sprung ribs, strong shoulders, short coupled, no withers, strong as an ox , and unfortunately, wide as a table. The Morgans were bred and used as cart horses, but Morgan's are also one of those breeds that can excel in many disciplines. For Maggie, it appears she'll continue down the endurance path but in order to do that with any success, I need to find her the right saddle.

Another Duett is a heavy contender, but I want to consider the Specialized as an option. I have looked at these in the past, a few years back for JB. At the time, they just weren't making them wide enough. They have since made some improvements and made a wider option on the tree. I took some measurements of Maggies back and have sent them off for Dave and Amanda at Specialized to review. Their initial impressions were wide tree and mule bars. No surprise there. It just so happens that a Specialized dealer here in Montana has a demo of a wide tree saddle. She also has a tree with the mule bars that she can send me. Mule bars are a bit shorter and flatter, made to fit, well, mules, or in this case, like Maggie.(shhhh, don't tell Maggie she has to wear a mule tree) Here are some photos of my wooly mammoth.Pardon the hair...Its winter in Montana..

Here's what I like about the Specialized Eurolight.

-The placement of the low spot in the saddle- its very balanced compared to alot of endurance saddles out there.
-The lightweight feature, 12 lbs.
-The adjustable stirrup position.If I want to jump in it, I can. If I want to ride dressage I can.
-The ability to adjust it to fit a couple of different horses using the shims
-The ability to adjust the fit for a horse as his/her back changes with age/condition using the shims.
-The minimalist build while keeping the attachments leather. I like to have as little leather between myself and my horse as possible but I want leather, not nylon or some other synthetic material for my girth or leathers.

I will keep you posted on the process. With any luck, the things I like about the saddle will work out for Maggie. If not, Duett will win out again.

Stay tuned

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Breaking the Ice

It’s been since November since I have been able to really do any riding. Four months of no work is far, far too long. There is more snow in the forecast, another round of winter weather advisories and warning. The icy wind has been blowing for days. The ice in the pastures were beginning to lessen until this recent refreeze. Old man winter is far from being done with us here in Northwest Montana . There isn’t much I can do about that. I’ll have to settle for taking solace in knowing that we are atleast on the back side of winter. Patches of brown grass are beginning to poke up in the yard, the angle of the sun is changing, the horses are beginning to shed, and the daylight is lingering just a bit longer in the evenings. There is still a skim of gray light across the landscape for evening chores.

Without wanting to get too fussed up over planning for the season, there are a few to-do’s before my riding season can officially begin.

This year I have a new challenge. Two horses to work, consistently, each with very different needs. Maggie needs continued conditioning , long and slow as they say . She’ll be six this year. Last year, I had just barely had her saddled for the first time by this time of year and in a short few months managed to get her through her first limited distance. What can I say, she was a quick study! This year, her muscles, tendons and ligaments are still underdeveloped for longer distances. Two definite rides are on the schedule, with 2-3 other possibilities. Maggie and I are also going to get a bit more serious about dressage this year. Maggie likes to be in charge and the discipline of dressage work brought her a long way last year, but we have a long way to go yet.
By the end of the season I hope to be riding her at training level and successfully riding Test 2 with ease. May as well set the standard high!! Ahh, the dreaded 20 Meter circle and canter transitions….

JB will begin conditioning again but not with the goal of completing any rides. My focus with him will be a slow rebuilding of his mind and physical well being after a year of being off any work from his surgery. More dressage and long slow trail rides will definitely be on the books for him. My guess is, he’ll be tagging along one way or the other on several outings. The simple joy of just spending time riding him again is enough to keep me totally content. It will be like long lost friends reunited and I am so looking forward familiarity of our partnership.

In the coming weeks, as things begin to shift, 9and hopefully the ice and snow really starts to disappear. I will take the anticipation of wanting to ride (and waiting out the weather) and direct that energy into something productive, like plucking away at the task list I seem to have acquired for myself for ride season start up. There is much to do.

--Maggie needs a new saddle -
It’s time I get serious about getting Maggie her own equipment . I used the Duett last year but that is JB’s saddle. It fits JB like a glove (or at least it did when he didn’t look like a stuffed cupcake like he is now!) For Maggie, it did the job and got us through the Thompson River Ride last year but it isn’t the best fit for her. Last fall, on any conditioning rides, I was riding her in my Wade but that isn’t something I want to ride her in for any distance. It’s fits her well, but it’s 33 lbs and doesn’t have free swinging stirrups. In the coming weeks, I will be working on taking measurements of Maggie’s back for a couple of different saddles I am considering. I will do my best to try to post pics of this process as time allows. Ofcourse, I’ll also need to get the required accutrements, breast collar, girth, saddle pads, etc…add that to the list…

--Maggie will also be getting borium shoes put on.

***Barefoot people, don't run to comments to give me heck about this one...I have already done the research on boots with studs and until they come up with a safer alternative, I am sticking with borium.. sorry to disappoint but that is just how it is going to be***

Having Borium shoes on will allow me to start riding Maggie now, as opposed to waiting until April or May. A few of my more adventurous riding partners that have already begun hitting the snowy trails. I am anxious to start whittling away at Maggie’s winter waist line (she’s a Morgan, she can’t help it) . Winter has been good to the girl.
Riding through deep snow is one of my favorite things to do on a horse this time of year and if careful, it offers some great conditioning similar to sand.

--Get the Horse Trailer ready-
I dread this one. The old grey steel gooseneck needs some help this year. I had hoped to purchase a new trailer by now, but it looks like the old Standy by will have to get us through another year, which is fine. It just makes camping for me a whole lot less convenient. New tires, a few welding repairs, and repacking of the bearings will get it ready to go. It’s also due to pulling the mats, powerwash the floor boards and of course check the floorboards for any signs of rot and replace as needed but they should all be fine as we redid the floor a few years ago years ago. Anyone in the market for a 1995 S&S Steel Gooseneck Stock Trailer??

--New windshield for the truck-
can’t ignore that crack any longer…

--Restart the boot fitting process with JB
I want to see if I can use the Easyboot Gloves for his hind feet. I also need to get new pads for front Epics.

--Get on Liz Tukey’s schedule for July or August for a couple of lessons.

As far as Horse related things to do, I think that should keep my mind and wallet plenty occupied for now. We are also getting ready for some new features to the farm this year.

What goes cluck and has big ears?

Stay tuned.