Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Stills: Beast or Beauty

Take something bad and find a way to make it look good/find some beauty in it – at least photographically. Like an invasive weed, dusty cupboard, scummy pond, flies…
I didn't find anything ugly but I did find something beautiful that drives me nuts.

When I planted our landscape, I put in some Jupiter's Beard because it is a beautiful color, drought tolerant, and it attracts butterflies. is also extremely invasive.


It also grows where I don't want it; like in the middle of my shrub roses.


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Friday, April 27, 2012

Breakfast in the Mud

A fast moving storm blew through yesterday, leaving mud in its wake.  The horses all rolled so the soft shiny summer coats that were emerging have disappeared under layers of caked brown mud. 

Jackson wins the prize for Most Thorough Mud Rolling.

Kalvin is caked in mud as well but it doesn't show up as much on his dark bay coat.  He is spotless on one side and filthy on the other.  He gets the award for Most Generous.  He always shares his breakfast bucket of senior feed and carrots with the donkeys.  He only gets a smidge of feed in his bucket so they must each only get a small mouthful.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Everything is Breaking

First, thank you to everyone who has left me clinic advice.  It's all great and I'm making a "to-do" list.  I want this to be successful so people come back -- and that way Gayle comes back.  Ulterior motives, I admit.  Keep the comments and suggestions coming.

There is a fast moving rain storm coming in today.  We did the morning chores under cloudy, cool skies.  As we were finishing up, our wonderful electrician arrived.  Remember when Brett and his friend replaced the water heater in the barn?  Well, it stopped working and when Brett checked it he found that he must have wired it wrong and fried the thing.  So, Don came up and fixed it, confirming that Brett had indeed made a mess of the wiring.  Brett is an exceptionally handy husband but he isn't an electrician.  Now we have hot water in the barn.  Jackson will be pleased; he likes warm water for his bath.

The water heater is located up at the top of the ladder.  

 Last weekend our washing machine crashed.  I did some research and found that it would be better to replace the washer, given its age, than repair it.  After further research, I picked the make and model that I wanted and looked online to see who carried it (Whirlpool).  Sears was the closest store so we went down Sunday and bought one.  It was scheduled to be delivered Tuesday in the late afternoon.  When I got home from work, there was no washing machine.  Brett said that the delivery guy called in the mid afternoon and said his GPS was telling him to take a twisty turning windy dirt road to our place.  Brett told him to ignore his GPS (that road is for off road vehicles) and take the highway up the mountain.  That, apparently, wasn't something he could do.  We got an automated phone call saying the delivery guy couldn't get his truck up the road and delivery would be Wednesday evening. 

This morning, when I got back in the house after chores, there was a message saying they had cancelled the delivery and to call to reschedule.  I was pretty angry.  No one will be home tomorrow and the laundry is spilling out everywhere.  I made a few phone calls and they got us our washing machine delivered this afternoon.  It's hooked up and working.  Yes!

Then my tall riding boots died.  The zipper bit the dust.  The boots are old and I have certainly gotten my use out of them but the timing isn't good from an expense standpoint.  I have huge calfs, like seriously HUGE.  Off the rack boots don't fit over my calf so I have to get semi-custom or custom ones.  The zipper in the old boots couldn't be replaced without costing a small fortune.  So, I ordered new boots.

The clouds left at around noontime and the sky was a deep blue.  I did some work in the garden, lingering outside despite the humidity that was building by the minute, because it was just so beautiful out there. 

Brett was busy making everything look fantabulous.

Strawberries are starting to ripen.

I love apple blossoms
The clouds moved back in, thicker and darker.  We are supposed to get quite a bit of rain tonight.  We will bring the horses into the barn tonight, but they are hanging out in the pasture this afternoon. 

Kalvin and Winston at the pond.

Of course, they had to run up to see me.

All in all, a good day at Aspen Meadows. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Clinic Hosting

Have any of you hosted a clinic before?  I'm looking for tips -- things to do and things to avoid.  What do you appreciate or like the most when you participate in a clinic and what drives you nuts?

Yes, we're going to host a clinic.  It is how we are getting Gayle up to our place so we can still take lessons with her.  She requires a minimum of four lessons and I'm pretty sure we can scrounge that up.  Heck, with Brett and I we are already halfway there! 

We hosted a clinic once before -- years and years ago.  It was a lot of work and our trainer at that time was excellent, but she was hard core dressage in focus.  She's also a very intense person and I think the local folks were intimidated.  There were also some people who trailered in; one brought a whole bunch of drama with her and the others said that they weren't interested in navigating the mountain road again with a trailer -- and I couldn't blame them.  This time, I am not focusing on people outside of our community and Gayle is very low key, non-threatening, and loves all breeds of horses.  I know Brett sometimes felt that he was being judged as "less worthy" because he was on a plain ol' Paint horse.  He has never felt that way with Gayle and he has blossomed as a rider with her guidance. 

In other news, Brett came across a rattlesnake sunning itself by his lawn mower.  It slid off into the neighbor's tall grass before he could react.  Yipes!  We've seen many gopher snakes in our years up here but never a rattlesnake on the property.  ...on the community roads, yes, but inside our gate, no. 

I haven't had a chance to take pictures the last few days.  Things are busy at work which I like but it does cut down on my play time.  I do have a picture of my dinner last Sunday night.  We went to our favorite restaurant, Marché Moderne, before going to the theatre (we have season tickets to the South Coast Repertory).  Don't hate me... I had rabbit.  Our waiter told me it was wonderful, served with baby brussel sprouts, almonds and a lovely sauce.  He explained it with all the flair of his heavy French accent and how could I resist?!  (the rabbit, people, the rabbit!). 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday Stills: For Ed

This week's challenge is to post a picture from one of your favorite challenges from Ed.  I enjoyed the challenge of looking down a fence line.  Here's one I took yesterday.  Happy Birthday Ed!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Better Day

Neither Brett nor I slept well last night.  Brett had weird dreams loosely based on some news story he saw on TV just before bed.  I kept worrying about losing the best trainer I've ever had.  Losing access to the barn where she trains isn't a big deal -- our footing at home is much nicer  -- but losing Gayle would be a huge loss.  And, of course, problems always seem much worse at 3 am.  The good thing is that Gayle wants to continue working with us and has offered to come out to our place once a month.  I'm hoping that our boarder will take a lesson too -- Kalvin was doing Prix St. George before his injury.  Gayle already gave me a date to pencil in for May so that is a positive thing. 

When we first started working with Gayle, she was brand new to this barn and only had three horses boarded there.  Everyone else trailered in.  Now, the stalls are all full and she is busy.  It used to be that we trailered in, there were other trailers there as well.  We haven't seen anyone else come in with a trailer in quite awhile.  I suspect, like many of you, that the barn owner doesn't want to deal with trailering in kind of people since the barn is full. 

And, besides, the garden looks beautiful right now so who wants to waste all that positive energy and beauty on barn drama worries.

This morning we trailered down to a big regional park in Irvine that borders the wilderness for a group trail ride.  The ride is led by docents with the Irvine Conservancy and we get to ride in wilderness not open to the general public.  Winston unloaded like he'd been there before and stood quietly at the trailer while we waited for everyone to arrive.  Flash was his consistent mellow self, dozing in the sunshine.

We started out with four docents and five guests.

The trail was beautiful, but it was also straight up to the top of a ridge.  About half way up, one of the guests who was riding a young Kiger mustang, had to turn around and go back.  Her little mare took one look at the trail, climbing steeply and for as far as you could see over shale and hard packed dirt, and said "no way."  Two of the docents went back with her.  That left two remaining docents, Brett and I, and another couple.  We made it to the top of the ridge and sat for awhile, letting the horses catch their breath, and enjoying the breeze.  Then we started down a gradual decline that looped around and joined back with the steep trail.  One of the riders yelled "Rattlesnake!" and there he was in all his huge angry glory, rattling his tail for all he was worth.  He eventually slid into the bushes but he kept on buzzing.  Winston and Flash walked past -- as far to the other side of the trail as possible -- without blinking an eye. 

We got back to the staging area a bit after noon, hot and sweaty and tired.  Winston nailed this ride.  He was calm and relaxed the entire time, never refusing anything.  He was happy to be in the front, the middle or the back.  He would have preferred to trot down the hills but that was the only correction I had to make. 

Back home, we let them roll and take a long deep drink from the trough (so much better than water offered from a bucket before we came home).  Then we hosed them off and let them graze for about an hour.  Brett sat in his blue chair and I sat in the grass under a tree.  It was hot again today -- 88 degrees when we pulled in the gate at home.  I'm a bit sunburned but happy.  I have an awesome horse and an awesome husband.  The trainer thing will work out one way or another.

Friday, April 20, 2012

What a Day

Today started off normal enough -- we did the morning chores before breakfast and then discussed plans for the rest of the day.  I planned to move some more tomato seedlings into real pots in the greenhouse, make some sourdough bread, and go to the grocery store -- before the saddle fitter arrived to look at Winston's saddle in the late afternoon.  Brett thought about cleaning the barn and doing some weed whacking. 

I started the bread rising from the starter I got going last night and played in the greenhouse for a bit.  Not too long because highs approached 90 today so it was HOT in there.  After my online French lesson, I grabbed my wallet to head to the grocery store... and noticed that my debit card had gone missing.  Instantly panic set in as I sat with sweat beading on my forehead trying to retrace my steps.  I called the restaurant where Camille and I had dinner Wednesday and, thank God, they had it.  So, Brett and I drove to Yorba Linda to get my card and then came back home -- three and a half hours round trip.  In the meantime, my sourdough had been rising and rising and rising.  

When we got home, I quickly formed my loaves and headed to the barn to groom Winston before the saddle fitter arrived.  The horses were all hanging out, trying to stay cool. 

Jackson was taking a nap.

Flash and Kalvin were hogging the shade.  Winston was hanging with them.

Of course, as soon as they saw me they had to come over and say hi.

The saddle fitter arrived as I was putting on Winston's halter.  He started doing the nervous dance when she walked up to him with her wither measuring tool so she spent some time making friends and then he was fine.  My dressage saddle, that I bought for Jackson, is too wide in the shoulders for narrow baby Winston.  She had to adjust the tree quite a bit.  She left a bit of room to allow for him to fill out, which we know he will do.  In the meantime, I will use a shim in my Mattes pad to make it perfect. 

While she worked on the saddle, Winston grazed on the slope.

Jackson found some shade down by the water trough/pond.
When she finished working on the saddle, she had me ride in it and it was amazing.  I was able to post lightly instead of clunking down and it felt so balanced.  I rode for maybe 10 minutes so she could watch the saddle at walk, trot and canter.  I was drenched when we finished.  I am not a fan of riding in hot weather. 

I asked her to look at my Western saddle as well and it has the same problem.  I've ordered the Western equivalent of a Mattes pad (its a Thinline Western pad liner with shim pockets) but until it arrives, I will stick with the dressage saddle for trail rides.

My loaves had been rising close to three hours at this point.  I ran up to the house to get them in oven and harvested some beets that were going bananas in the garden.  My rhubarb is ready to be harvested too.  Maybe I can fit in a pie this weekend.

Amazingly, the bread was still okay.  Thank goodness sourdough is slow to rise and bread, in general, is forgiving.  We had bread, cheese, and a salad of beets, oranges and goat cheese for dinner.  Get a load of these beet greens:

And then -- the wierdest, worst part of the day.  I got a call from our trainer, Gayle.  We were scheduled to go out there for a lesson next Wednesday and she called to tell me that the barn owner doesn't want us to trailer in anymore.  I was speechless.  We pay the haul-in fee ($40) and Brett rakes up every last piece of manure and loose hay before we leave.  We observe all the rules.  We never complain.  I was shocked.  I have never been uninvited to a barn before.  Poor Gayle was embarrassed and unhappy about delivering the news.  She still wants to work with us and we are going to try having her come up here once a month.  It's a long way for her to drive so it will be time and money for her (and I told her I would pay her whatever she thinks that is worth).  I'm just ....  I can't even think of the words to express my surprise, shock, disbelief and hurt. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bella is a Brat

The weather this week has been very warm and sunny.  Bella has been enjoying the sunshine and snacking on my apple trees.  She seems to have a particular love of apple trees.  I am not happy about this.  She has already stripped one tree and now she's working on the Fuji. 

Passage was also enjoying the sunshine; snoozing and stretching on the stump we use as a table by the wash rack.

Life is good for the critters -- just not for the trees.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Winston Wigs Out

Yesterday, my new camera came in the mail.  My old camera was, well, old.  It is in the neighborhood of ten years old and the zoom stopped working.  I bought another Canon Powershot because I had been so happy with my old one.

I'm a point & shoot kind of gal.  This one served me well.  My new one is so small compared to this!
This is a test picture I took with the camera last night.  These strawberries from the local organic farm are amazing!
This morning after breakfast, Brett and I went down to the barn to ride before our vet arrived for spring vaccinations and to evaluate Flash's hocks. 

Winston and Flash were very mellow while we tacked up.

Both horses were excellent when we rode.  Winston was mellow and working with me.  Afterwards, I gave him a bath so he'd be clean for Dr. Thacher and let him graze while he dried.  When she drove up, both he and Flash barely looked up from the grass they were nibbling.

Winston was fine with her until she put her stethoscope on him and tried to listen to his heart.  Then he wigged out -- just like he did with the dentist.  He jumped sideways and landed on her foot.  Not good -- or acceptable.  We ended up putting on stud chain; then a lip chain; then putting him in the wash rack with a lip chain.  Just to get two shots done.  He was crazy, out of control, out of his mind scared.  I wonder what happened in his past because this is not the Winston that I know and love.  He was happy to get love and carrots from Dr. Thacher when she finished and he followed her around the pasture while she vaccinated Kalvin.  So strange.

Dr. Thacher also did flexion tests on Flash's hocks.  A-OK.  No hock injections for him.  It looks like the shoes have taken care of the problem.

Tonight before we did chores, I got out our stethoscope and sacked Winston out with it.  He wasn't too sure at first.  He gave it a good sniff and was okay with me rubbing it on his face but when I started to move towards his neck he got nervous.  Eventually, he was standing still and relaxed trying to kiss me while I held it on his heart.  I think I'll continue to work with him regularly and see if I can't get him past this.  I also noticed some hives on his neck and barrel -- probably a reaction to the vaccines.  He seems fine otherwise -- bright eyed and alert. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Making Progress

Last Friday, after the lesson with Gayle, Flash was not at all sore in his back.  Sunday, Brett and I went on a long trail ride that included many steep hills and clambering over and around boulders.  Flash wasn't sore that evening or the next morning.  He did take a long nap, stretched out in the sun, but pushing and prodding on his back resulted in no response whatsoever.  We are optimistic that putting shoes on his hind has solved the problem of his sore hocks. 

Jackson is bouncing back from the last rain and the resulting wet ground.  The soft sore soles on his feet are getting better each day.  The ground is drying up -- weather in the 70s and climbing through this weekend.  We have been putting him in the paddock so he can move around and interact with the other horses; but not get pushed around and made to run.  I read an article the other night in Equus about laminitis.  It said that sometimes horses who are lamanitic due to soft, thin soles can improve when they are barefoot.  Sometimes they grow thicker stronger soles.  Jackson is definitely more comfortable barefoot and his feet looked better at his last trim so maybe he will reach a point where he is comfortable as a pasture pet.  I know the damage he already has isn't reversable and he won't ever be rideable, but maybe he can hang out for a long while still.  He is determined... and so am I.

I had another great ride on Winston before work this morning.  We are still working on him accepting the outside rein and moving into the contact but it was improved from last time we worked.  I love how he learns and tries so hard.  Even the walk-trot transitions were smoother.  I grabbed my thigh and rolled it forward and tried to keep it there.  Despite all the work we did, the zipper didn't come down on my tall boot.  That's a good indication that I was using the side of my calf and not the zippered back.  Those boots keep me honest. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Trail ride

This morning Brett and I took the horses on a trail ride. We were just going to do the loop with maybe a short detour to see a new trail that was recently cut. We tacked up and headed out. I wasn't feeling ambitious due to the ache in my shoulders, abs and thighs from yesterday's lesson. About an hour into the ride, where the loop trail turns and starts looping back, we came to the newly refurbished trail. It's a short trail linking our community's loop to the Morgan Trail which is popular with hikers. Previously, the linking trail involved negotiating a very steep hill full of dumpster sized boulders. Jackson couldn't make the hill so we hadn't been out there in years. The new link cut down by the stream and was easy. It was a lot of work to clear - I had tried to go that way once with Jackson and couldn't. We followed the link to the Morgan Trail and decided to ride it for a short distance. It is a beautiful trail meandering under huge oak trees, groves of sycamores and eventually through scrub brush. Winston was relaxed, happy and forward. He scrambled over boulders and slid down muddy inclines. He was on a long rein and I was sitting relaxed in the saddle. I can't remember ever being so relaxed with one of my horses. Auke was full of himself, strong and exhausting. Star man was afraid of his shadow so he jigged. Jackson loved it and was relaxed but he hurt on rocky parts and worried about logs. I worried about him. Winston jumped the logs. I was in heaven. We did eventually turn around and come back home. We were out for over three hours! Winston continues to amaze me. He is such an athlete.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lesson with Gayle #6

Yesterday afternoon and evening we got hammered by a big storm.  There was high wind, rain and a lot of hail (but not as much as Michaele got).  Before we went to bed, I called Gayle and put our morning lesson on "maybe" status depending on the weather and state of the property in the morning.  I woke up in the middle of the night and the wind was still flinging hail against the windows.  I was pretty sure we wouldn't have a lesson.  But, I was wrong.  Brett was up before sunrise to get the horses breakfast and when he came back up at 6:30 he said the sun was breaking through.  We loaded the horses and went.

Winston was in a pissy mood.  He turned away from me when I got him out of his stall, he tried to turn and come out of the trailer, and he scooted all over the place when I tried to get him to stand at the mounting block.  Since he was dying to go, Gayle had me pick up the trot right away.  Afterward my lesson, I scribbled some notes to help me remember everything. 

1.  Keep my toes pointing in.  No more of this toes pointing out to the side business.  I need to roll my thigh on, even if that means grabbing it in my hand and putting it where it needs to be.  The difference is immediate in how secure and effective I feel.  Toward the end of the lesson, when we were working on canter, I started to get a cramp in my outside calf.  Then I realized my toe was pointing out so I was pushing Winston over/steering with the back of my calf instead of the inside.  As soon as I corrected, the cramp went away and Winston steered like a dream.  Courtney King Dye said this was a struggle for her (women's anatomy is not helpful at all) and if she had to work at, then I can too. 

2.  At canter, keep my right elbow poking into my hip and my toes pointing forward.  When my right side is my outside, I am a dorky mess.  If I point my toes forward, my elbow swings out.  I have to control BOTH of them.  Thankfully, my weak side is the opposite of Winston's. 

3.  When I ask for more, he has to give it immediately.  It doesn't have to be huge, but it has to be enough that I feel a definite difference.

4.  I need to kiss the seat of my saddle with my seat when I post.  I'm landing too heavy. 

5.  Keep the outside rein firm at all times.  I can soften when he carries himself but I can never, ever, give it away.  He needs to accept the contact and work through his body into that contact, back to front.  I especially need to keep the contact firm and steady in my upward transitions.  Don't worry about the inside rein or bend at this point; working in the contact comes first.

It was a long, hard lesson.  Good, of course, but hard.  While Brett and Flash had their lesson, I sat in a chair and Winston grazed next to me.  He took a couple big mouthfuls of grass and dumped them on my head.  I imagine there is a mesage there. 

Back home, the clouds had come back and it was cold and windy.  We turned the horses out in the pasture.  Jackson was bucking up a storm in his stall turnout so I let him out too.  His turnout is mucky wet so it couldn't be any worse to have him out on the firm wet dirt instead of sinking in mud.  He is determined, as Lori noted, and he wanted to be out.   

Flash and Winston discuss who gets that particular bin of hay.  Winston lost.

Jackson joined the group and I put Winston's blanket back on.  He walked right up to me and stuck his head through.

Remember when Bella cut her back leg?  She lost a lot of weight then.  She has gained it all back -- and then some.

Bella thinks she is Vanna White, showing off the aloe flower to me.  Kyle says we should call her Bellatrix.

First artichoke of the season! 

One of the families living in the eaves outside the great room windows.

I finished creating my blog book yesterday.  2011: January to June.  248 pages.  Hardcover.  8 1/2 x 11.  Upgrade to premium photo paper.  $70.