Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Winston Does the "Dawn Thing"

This afternoon I squeezed a ride in on Winston in the late afternoon.  I was tied to the computer and the phone all day with work, and took a gamble that no work related emails or calls would come in between 3 and 4pm.  Of course, when I got back up to the house both of the proposals I'd been waiting for all day had arrived in my inbox. 

In the meantime, though, I rode my horse.  My expectations weren't particularly high.  I woke with a headache this morning.  It disappeared for awhile but came back about an hour before I rode.  I was hoping that the fresh air, exercise and focus required to ride Winston would banish the pain.  I did forget about it while I was riding, but it rushed back in a heavy wave over my scalp the minute I got off. 

We had sunny skies and comfortably warm weather until 3:00.

When I led Winston out of the pasture and up to the tie rail, there was a stiff cold wind blowing and dark clouds out to the west.   When I slid Winston's halter off to put on his bridle, he snuggled his head in my arms and held it there.  I was amazed.  Most horses are claustrophobic about their heads. Not Winston.  After he was bridled, I turned to pick up my helmet and gloves.  Winston rested his head on my shoulder.  Do you read Kate's blog A Year With Horses?  If you do, then you are familiar with Dawn, a thoroughbred who belongs to her daughter.  Kate rides the horse now that her daughter is launched and it has been quite a journey.   Dawn is a sensitive horse, requiring very tactful riding.  Dawn is also still very much her daughter's horse; there is a special bond between the two of them.  So, Kate was happily surprised when Dawn started resting her head on Kate's shoulder in a gesture of affection.  When Winston rested his head on my shoulder, eyes soft and warm, and breathed soft and contently.... well, my thought was "He's doing the Dawn thing!"

By the time we finished, the sky was all clouds with no blue to be seen.
Tonight, the rain starts. 
Tomorrow, we drive to San Luis Obispo in the rain.  We will have dinner with my son, in the rain, and spend the night.
Friday, we will drive the remainder of the trip to San Francisco.  In the rain.  We will attend the rehearsal dinner for Brett's neice.  In the rain.
Satuday, we will go to her wedding at the SF Zoo.  In the rain.
Sunday, we will drive home.  In the rain.

Quack, quack.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Green Green Grass of Home

Jackson, what are you doing?

What does it look like I'm doing?

What are you staring at?  Take that camera away.
I'm trying to eat.

Can I go in there and help?  Please?  I'm starving...

Monday, November 26, 2012

The New Dynamic Duo

Sunday morning, Brett and I tried taking Winston and Mufasa out together on a ride around the community.  We weren't sure how far we would get.  We weren't sure how well they would get along.  We weren't sure if either of them, or both, would be a nervous wreck.

When we started out, Winston and I were in front.  Flash walks so slow that we always went first so Winston could walk out at a nice pace without running up Flash's back end.  We hadn't gone far, when Winston saw or heard something and slammed to a stop.  Brett and Mufasa walked around us and kept on going.  We fell in behind.  We could hardly keep up.  Winston has a nice big moving-right-along walk but Mufasa is in another league.  He doesn't slow down going up hill, and he doesn't slow down going downhill.  He never slows down.  I asked Winston to lift his back but otherwise left him alone.  He worked hard, pushing with his hind and reaching way under to keep up.

Mufasa didn't spook at anything.  He flinched at a trash can and at a little flag stuck in the ground.  Other than that, he swung those legs forward and glanced around without slowing his pace.  I'm not sure if Winston was working too hard to be worried of if Mufasa's calm attitude rubbed off, but I had a stress free ride.

We got home, dismounted, looked at each other and grinned from ear to ear.  Our Sunday morning trail rides are back.

And look who I found hanging out together in the pasture later in the afternoon:

Sunday was warm, tee-shirt weather in the morning with a cool breeze in the afternoon.  The orchard has exploded into gold.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Focus After Falling

Wednesday, before we flew to Colorado, I worked with Winston in the arena.

As I was tacking him up, Brett and Flash rode down the back driveway and out the gate on their way around the block.  Winston threw his head in the air and danced sideways at the tie rail, swinging his butt from one side to the other, and craning his neck to see where Flash was going.  I had to be stern with him and insist that he pay attention to me.  It is impossible to clean out a horse's hoof if he is dancing on it.

By the time we walked out to the mounting block, Brett and Flash were out of sight.  Winston settled down and stood quietly for me to tighten his girth and mount.  Our warmup walk work was uneventful.  I picked up the trot and had one nice lap around the arena before Winston threw his head in the air again and lost his focus.  Sure enough, Brett and Flash were walking up the road, past the arena to the front gate.

Winston and I had a very focused ten minutes.  He felt much the same as he did before he had his melt down and bucked me off.  He was not nearly as crazed as then, but the feeling was the same.  I immediately went into focus mode.  Winston threw his head up and I could hear his brain screaming Flash!  Flash!  Where are you?!  Each time, I kicked him forward while keeping my hands steady.  He ducked his head, took the bit, and worked.  For a minute, max.  Then his head popped up again.  So, we started doing a forward, engaged trot on a 10m circle.  This required him to lift his back, bend around my leg, step under with the inside hind leg, and connect to my hands through the bit.  Whoa... that's a lot for a baby horse brain to process.  I got my horse back.

We had some of the most beautiful trot work we've ever had.

When we finished, his mouth was nice and wet -- foamy from all the thinking and honest work.

And I felt brave again.   

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving in Colorado

Thanksgiving morning started with Brett making pancakes for the grandkids while Kerri, Brett's daughter, and I started assembling the ingredients and utensils I would need for making the stuffing.

Brett and Chris

Andrew and Telly


My grandmother's stuffing recipe is full of apples and raisins.  I tweaked the recipe a bit, using Craisins instead of raisins and adding some thyme and sage.

Once the turkey was stuffed and in the oven, we relaxed.  The turkey came out beautiful.  I got to work on the mashed potatoes and the rest of the guests started arriving bearing plates of smoked salmon, pies, pumpkin soup, and rolls.  While Kerri set the food out on the buffet, Adam (her husband) carved the turkey, and Brett opened the wine, I made gravy.  Then we feasted.

Today, we'll eat turkey sandwiches for lunch and I'll make a big pot of turkey soup for dinner. 

It was a perfect day; clear Colorado skies, time with family, and great food.  We've come so far from the first years of our marriage when the relationships were a dance around wounds from divorce.  There was no dancing this year, no hurtful moments.  Just easy good times.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

to all of you, our friends and family,

eat, drink, laugh, and give thanks,

Annette and Brett


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Getting Ready to Go

Brett and I will flying to Colorado this afternoon.  We are spending Thanksgiving with Kerri, Brett's daughter, and her family.  Remember the grandchildren who stayed with us a week this past summer?  We are going to their home.  In addition to packing, we had a lot to get done this morning before leaving. 

The morning was gorgeous, cold enough to be brisk but not cold enough to freeze your fingers if you took your gloves off.

Brett fed the chickens, topped off their water, and refilled the feed container.  Israel will collect (and keep) the eggs and throw them some scratch in the mornings.  Chickens are so easy.  I went out the back door of the garage into the dog yard.  I opened their gate and we headed over to the goats.  They all met me at the gate, but as soon as I tossed a flake of hay into their feeder they all deserted me.  Except for Thistle.  He's my friend.  We always have a snuggle, scratch and burp (Thistle, not me!) session before he eats.

As the dogs and I passed through the orchard on our way to the barn, I noticed that green grass is starting to grow under the fruit trees.  We have green grass in the winter and spring; fall and summer are brown. 

After chores were done, our bags were packed, and we talked briefly with Kerri on the phone -- Brett to coordinate her picking us up at the airport, and me to answer a question about brining the turkey -- we headed back to the barn.  Kerri and I make a great Thanksgiving team.  I cook and she decorates and is the perfect, welcoming, warm hostess.  I hide in the kitchen with a glass of champagne making mashed potatoes and keeping an eye on the bird. 

We had to ride before leaving.  Brett tacked up Flash and went for a walk around the block.

Meanwhile I got Winston out to work in the arena. 

We had a good ride.  I'll write about it in another post and schedule it for while we are gone. 

When Brett finished working with Flash, he rode Mufasa.  He was able to mount from our big green mounting block for the first time.  Mufasa stood quietly, licking and chewing, while Brett climbed up the steps and swung himself on.  Mufasa responds well to direct rein and a snaffle, so Brett is riding him in his dressage tack.  We found a bit that fits and adjusted Flash's bridle; Flash's dressage days are over.  I think Mufasa is VERY handsome in dressage tack. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone -- including those of you outside the US.  I am very thankful for all of you; for your comments, for reading my blog, for being my friends. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Give Me Twelve More Years

Last night, as Brett and I shared a Charcutier Plate consisting of duck prosciutto, chicken terrine, fried rilletes, potted pork, grilled bread, house-made mustard, and sipped our Kir Royales (champagne cocktail) I told him that I wanted another 12 years.  We shared a salad of baby greens and warm goat cheese and he asked, "So when we've been married twenty years are you going to ask for another twenty?"  Absolutely!  By the time we started eating our steaks, sauteed mushrooms and potatoes, I was stuffed.  We drank most of our nicest bottle of L'Aventure wine (a syrah, cabernet blend) and sank deeper into the cushions of our quiet corner table.  A big thank you to Sandy, Don and Katie.  Remember Kalvin who used to board here at Aspen Meadows?  When Katie moved him down the mountain to be closer to her, her family gave Brett and I a gift certificate to a French restaurant in Costa Mesa.  We used it last night. 

Of course, after eating all that food and drinking all that wine we were in no condition to drive an hour back up the mountain.  I had booked us a room at the hotel where Pinot Provence is located so all we had to do was stagger to the elevator and collapse in bed, too stuffed to move.  Our room looked out over the Performing Arts center, past a huge Christmas tree, and the twinkling lights of Orange County.  We left the drapes open all night so we could enjoy the view.  That way, too, we woke at dawn so we could be back home in time for the morning feeding. 

Before dinner, Brett gave me a card...

and jewelry!!  Awhile back, we went to dinner with Brett's sister and her husband.  Dana, his sister, was wearing the most beautiful, unique necklace and I went crazy over it.  Now I have one of my own. 

Today, which was our actual anniversary, was quiet.  It was raining when we got home and water dripped off the brim of my cowboy hat while I mucked.  The clouds started moving out by noontime, but it remained cold outside.  Brett watched some football.  I played games on my iPad.  We were not productive.  We are not used to big meals and lots of wine -- I usually have one glass of wine with dinner, Brett sometimes two -- so we were tired.  We rode Winston and Flash around the block in the mid-afternoon.  I'm making a quiche for dinner. 

Tomorrow, we start on the next twelve years of wedded bliss.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tell Me What They Did to You

I wish Mufasa could talk to us.  I have some questions, some concerns, some bits of missing history about him.

First of all, Mufasa, why are you so worried about being touched?  Your eye is soft and kind, when I walk into the pasture you immediately walk over and stretch your nose to greet me.  But, if I extend my arm back in greeting, to give you a friendly rub on the face or the neck, you flinch away.  And if I run my hand down your neck to your withers to give you a nice scratch and massage, you swing your hind end away from me and look at me with mild alarm.  It isn't hard to put a bridle or a halter on you.  It's just hard to touch your gorgeous red hair.  You are clearly a curious, friendly fellow by nature and you are beginning to trust Brett.  I am sure you will eventually trust me as well.  I just want to know who hurt you or threatened you so that you feel the need to shy away from contact. 

Mufasa, you have such interesting brands.  What do they stand for?  On your shoulder, you have the number 5.  Is that because you were born in May?

And you have a fancy "W" on your hind.  I know you came from a ranch in Texas and then you went to work work cattle on a ranch a couple of towns over.  This is maybe the brand from the cattle ranch?  The name of the ranch where you were born is called Green Creek Ranch so I don't see a W coming from there.

And then there are the saddle sore scars.  You have matching white scars on both sides where someone rode you in a saddle that didn't fit.  I can see that it rubbed you raw on both sides and that the hair grew back in white, as it does when there is a sore.  This makes me angry.  Is this from the guy in Louisiana who wanted to ride you in rodeo roping?  He sold you because you weren't fast enough.  Did he yank you around and try to jack you up into high excitement and speed?  The movie in my mind is horrible.  I am so sorry, Mufasa.  I promise you that you will never wear tack that doesn't fit ever again. 

Thank you for being a kind, sweet and willing horse despite your past experiences.  Life will be good here.  There will be good food, pasture mates, comfortable saddles, tactful and kind riding -- and lots of attention from Brett.  Prepare to be pampered.  And welcome to Aspen Meadows, your forever home.

Are you enjoying the rain?  You seem to be very comfortable with the herd now.