Monday, April 29, 2013

Is This The One?

Sunday, Brett and I checked out a promising place. The more we looked at it, the more promising it became. It's eight acres set in a beautiful valley.

The property was a dressage facility in 2008, complete with a professional trainer and lots of kids on dressage ponies. They even held schooling shows there. That owner lost the property in 2011 and the trainer packed up and left. Since then its been held by a bank and an investor. The investor bought it a year ago, threw on a new coat of paint, and listed it. The grass is knee high.

There is a full size dressage court and a warm up arena. Grass is growing through the sand, but the base looks good.

There are six or seven fenced pastures -- room for all the animals. The donkeys could have their very own pasture and we could rotate the horses amongst three of the others. The goats would have an area too.

There is a porch along the front of the house where we could sit in the evenings with a glass of wine and watch the deer. There are a lot of deer in the area.

The barn is huge with stalls, tack room, bathroom and an attached covered round pen.

We made an offer today; crossing our fingers and holding our breath. I'll let you know if it works out.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, April 26, 2013

Starting the Next Chapter

I've been busy today packing all my work clothes and loading them in the car.  Brett's been busy making the property look pristine.  There is a showing scheduled for tomorrow afternoon (crosssing our fingers that they fall in love with Aspen Meadows).  We won't be here; we're leaving bright and early to drive to Sacramento.  It will take the better part of the day to get there -- with lunch and potty stops, I'm guessing it will be an eight hour drive. 

I will move into temporary corporate housing -- a fully furnished apartment provided by my new employer for 90 days.  I start my new job on Monday and I am looking forward to getting settled into my office, meeting my assistant, and interacting with the team I am joining.  It's going to be quite an adventure living in an apartment in Sacramento during the week and flying home on the weekends to be with Brett and the animals.  I'm telling myself it will be an adventure and I'm hoping that I will be too busy at work to get seriously lonely.  I'll be lonely without Brett, for sure, but I'm hoping that coming home on the weekends will keep it from becoming unbearable.  I'm a pretty independent and self-sufficient person but I don't like being separated from Brett.

I'm not sure how often I'll be posting but I'm guessing that posts will be limited to the weekends when I am home.  During the week it's going to be "went to work, ate dinner, called Brett, went to bed" -- not exactly fodder for interesting posts. 

Brett is going to stay with me for the first few days in Sacramento.  We are going to look at a property on Sunday and Brett may look at some additional properties Monday and Tuesday while I am at work.  If we find anything interesting, I'll share for sure.  The property on Sunday sounds promising -- it was a one time dressage training farm with a full size dressage court, a warm up arena and a barn.  It's been vacant for awhile and grass is growing through the sand but it might, just might, be something we could fix up.  The house needs work but I'm willing to live in a shack if I have a full dressage court to ride in...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Last Day at Work

They gave me a big ol' cake. Strawberries and cream filling. And perfectly decorated with a cowboy hat in one corner and a bandana in the other. It was a really nice send-off.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Winston and Mufasa make Progress

...and so do Brett and I.  Gayle came up this morning to give us lessons.  The early morning was foggy and cold but by the time Gayle arrived, just before 9:00, the sun seemed to be winning the battle.  The fog never completely burned off, it just retreated to haze and by noon we were back to fog.  It stayed cold and wet outside for the remainder of the day and we may get some thundershowers tonight.

Winston and I were up first.  At my last lesson we worked on getting bend in the corners, keeping the forward and getting Winston's hind inside leg to really reach on a 10m circle, and we introduced leg yield.  Winston and I have been doing our homework so we were able to kick it up a notch.
Warm up on a long rein; working on getting a marching relaxed walk.
Winston had to focus on keeping forward and responsive to my leg, reaching over his back, moving in a supple way, and keeping steady contact with the bit.

I had to keep my elbows bent, but relaxed, at my side; carry my forearms; keep my hands above his withers and close together; shoulders back; and look up and around the circle.  In general, I can keep track of three things.  This was way more than three and I was huffing and puffing keeping the forward supple energy going with Winston while leg yielding on a circle.

Gayle had us spiral into a very small, tight circle around her without losing energy.

Then we had to spiral back out by leg yielding.  We were to gradually make the circle bigger by stepping sideways and forward, staying bent, and reaching under.  We had a tendency to go straight sideways but we had a couple good gradual circles by the end.  And then I was toast.

Doing pretty well here

Going sideways without bend through Winston's body. 
Brett wasn't sure how his lesson was going to go.  He tweaked his bad knee at work yesterday and this morning was having trouble walking without significant pain.  He loaded up on Aleve and got Mufasa ready.

When Brett first got Mufasa he (Mufasa) didn't understand contact on his mouth and he was very unbalanced.  Brett has been working on taking a light contact and Mufasa is accepting that.  The balance is getting better but Mufasa tends to fall in on a circle.  Gayle worked with getting Brett more evenly balanced (he was favoring the leg with the bad knee so he didn't have equal weight on both sides) and that helped tremendously.

They worked on keeping an even tempo.  Mufasa can move forward at a nice clip but when he is unsure or feels unbalanced, he tries to stop.  Right now, there is a lot of trust and confidence building that they are doing together.  They take care of each other and the bond is developing.

Once Mufasa had a balanced trot on a 20m circle, Gayle had them doing serpentines.  They finished up with some canter work.  It was the very best canter we have seen from Brett's big red dun.  In the video below you can see the trot work, the serpentine and a bit of canter.  It's a short video but it gives you an idea of how they are moving together.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


At the end of yesterday's post, I left you in the parking lot of our realtor's office.  Brett and I were hot, sweaty, dirty (climbing all those steep hills) and discouraged.  We drove our rental car to Sacramento where we located my temporary housing complex.  Starting this coming Saturday, it will be my home-away-from-home until we can be together, in our own place, in the Sacramento area.  We sat on the terrace of an Italian restaurant, ate pizza, guzzled ice tea and talked about the afternoon. 

After discussing the highs and lows of the properties, the mis-information on listings, and the inability of Google maps and Google Earth to give us a really accurate picture of terrain, Brett brought up the log house we liked so much.  That property was relatively flat, with a barn, an arena, and two pastures.  Other than the rotting wood and the out-of-touch-with-reality owner, it was perfect.  Remember it?

We had a couple of hours to kill before our flight home so we drove up to El Dorado and cruised by the property.  It was a beautiful drive and the land was as well organized as we remembered.  Brett parked the car on the shoulder of the narrow road and walked along the street-side fencing.  It was dusk and the house was dark.  When we previewed the house last month, the owner told us that the water and gas were turned off.  The house did not look lived it; most of the furniture was gone and there were cobwebs on the windows. 

One of Brett's concerns about the house is a cement walkway that runs along the side of the house (the left side of the house in the picture).  The cement is poured too high against the house and it didn't appear to have a way for water to flow off.  It is also the area with the most wood damage. Brett wanted to take a look at the cement and see if it could be "fixed."  The gate was ajar so we slipped inside.  Brett strode purposefully across the front lawn towards the cement area.  I followed, with less purpose, so a flickering from the inside of the house caught my attention.  A TV was on.  I told Brett and we high-tailed it back out the gate.  Either someone was sitting in the dark house watching TV or the TV was on for security purposes.  We didn't stick around to find out. 

This morning I talked to the realtor that is helping us with our new home search.  He advised us to not act out of desperation.  He reminded me that this house is priced higher than the awesome kitchen house on the hill.  It should be priced significantly less based on its lack of view, dark log interior, inspection issues, etc.  The owner is not willing to be reasonable.  He reminded me that we are dealing with an out-of-touch, unreasonable owner and it would not be wise to buy an overpriced home with lots of issues.  He assured me that the right place will come along; that our place will sell; that it will all work out and that we don't need to make choices based on desperation.  Excellent advice. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

More House Hunting

Sunday morning Brett and I drove to the Ontario airport to catch our flight to Sacramento.  We got to our gate and, funny thing, it said the next plane (at the wrong time) was flying to San Jose.  Hmmmm.  Maybe they changed the gate?  We checked the board and our flight did not exist.  Brett was pacing in circles around me by this point.  I looked at my boarding pass... whoops!... we were supposed to be boarding a plane in Sacramento, not Ontario.  I totally flip-flopped the flights.  Brett's jaw got very tight.  In fact, his whole face got tight.  I don't think there were any wrinkles anywhere.  The smile lines were gone for sure.  Fortunately, the ticket agent (I love Southwest) was very nice and got us on the next flight to Sacramento.  I told her she saved my marriage.  Brett tried to smile but he was still decompressing.

We went to Sacramento to look at one house in particular although we had four on our list.  One had sold the night before so that brought it down to three.  We went to the "particular interest" house first.  It was advertised as great horse property, in an equestrian community that has miles of trails within the community and links to trails going to Lake Tahoe, Canada and Mexico.  The house was one story and just the right size for two people with occasional visits from children and friends.  It was also priced low enough that we could make an offer without selling Aspen Meadows first.  The kitchen was clean, bright and cheerful.
 In fact, the whole house was clean, bright and cheerful.  I loved the house.  The trouble was that it was sitting on a very steep slope.

There were stairs to get into the house from the garage, the deck and the front door.  You could not get into the house without going up a long flight of stairs.  The "pasture" was slope so steep and overgrown that you could hardly walk it.

The only horse amenities were a run-in shed and a small tack room.

We spent over an hour at the property trying to make it work.  There was no place to park a horse trailer or Brett's utility trailer.  There certainly was no room for an arena.  We threw in the towel and moved on to the next house.

This house was at the end of a quiet road that climbed a sloping hill.  They did not advertise as "horse property" but the kitchen was to die for and it was enough land that we thought we could make it work.  Brett loved the house.  Me, not so much.  The kitchen was gorgeous but the house felt chopped up to me, split between three floors.  But, the views.... awesome!

The land sloped gently down from the top of this hill.  We could have made it work and it would have been beautiful.  However, the house had been on the market only three days and there had already been 15 people to see it.  The price was high enough that we couldn't swing it until Aspen Meadows sold.  I'm sure it will be sold to someone else within the week.

The last house was, again, horse property.  By the time we got there in the middle of the afternoon, it was pushing 90F.  There were ten acres on this property.  Plenty of room for horses and pasture, right?  Wrong.  The house was fine but the land consisted of an acre or so of usable ridge-top that dropped steeply down on both sides.  The usable land was being used by a hodgepodge of garden, orchard, vineyard and waaaay in the back at the bottom of the property a postage stamp sized area for two horses.  Definitely not.

Our realtor dropped us off back at our car.  I'll tell you about the rest of the evening in my next post.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Here Comes the Sun

After a cold and blustery week, today was warm and sunny.  There was a slight brush-your-body breeze, bright blue skies and warm sun.  We rode after breakfast before the pleasant warmth turned to uncomfortable heat.

Winston was a rock star.  He remembered all his bendy lessons and was like butter around my leg.  The last time I rode him, he finally bent around my leg at canter.  Today, he bent on the circle and in the corners and anywhere else I asked him.  His leg yield was prompt and reaching waaaaaay under; not straight, mind you, but expressive and easy.  I was happy thrilled with him and he was pretty pleased with me himself too. 

We let the horses graze afterwards.  The grass is quickly turning brown so they had to forage far and wide.  Flash, Mufasa and Winston headed for the area where blackberries are growing on the fence.

Jackson was busy behind the barn, grazing along the back driveway.  He came around the corner of the barn and headed for the grass on the slope.  Right after I stopped the video, he saw the others and cantered - CANTERED- up to join them.  Lame?  I don't think so.  Not today, anyway.

Then they spotted the front lawn.   ooooohhhh, green grass!  Even better.
Can you see Jackson and Mufasa through the apple tree?

Brett on his way to get Flash.  A horse stepping on a sprinkler head is not a good thing.  Can you see Flash's tail through the cherry tree on the right?

Mufasa was hiding in plain sight.  Jackson was busy by the fountain.

Maybe Winston and Mufasa wanted to come in the house?  Winston walked right up to the front door.
Tomorrow morning we are flying up to Sacramento to look at more property.  No nibbles on Aspen Meadows yet.  It's a bit discouraging. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cold and Windy

This morning the horses were huddled in the pasture sunshine when we went down to feed.  It was cold with gusts of icy wind.  The low last night was 28F.  That's pretty darn cold for spring time in Southern California. 

After breakfast, I rode Winston.  Dr. Thacher was due at 10:30 to give the horses their vaccinations and I wanted to ride before she arrived.  I wore my jacket down to the barn and kept it on while I rode.  Winston was good despite the wind and tried to pay attention.  It wasn't easy for me to stay focused either.  I try to ride every step and not get sloppy in the corners or do a meandering walk.  Every minute I'm riding, I'm training.  Today we worked on prompt responses to my leg, transitions from walk to trot without losing connection and leg yield. 

Vaccinations went well.  Winston has had huge issues in the past with vets and dentists.  When they approached his side or neck, he would lose his mind.  Something about it scared him to death.  Last time Dr. Thacher was up we put Winston in the wash rack where he couldn't jump sideways on top of us and she gave him a handful of cookies after each shot.  When she finished, he wanted more.  We tried that again.  I led him into the wash rack and then she said "give him the mother lode treatment" -- all the cookies he could eat while she gave the injections.  Oh man.  He is loving vaccinations now!  She is his new best friend and I think he cried when she got in her truck and drove off to her next client.  The rest of the horses and the donkeys were easy.  They are all excellent about getting shots.

At lunch time, their were no horses in the pasture. 

That cold wind was still blowing.  The horses were all in the barn.

My garden tells me that it is spring.  I have rhubarb and artichokes and my first strawberries.

But it sure doesn't feel like spring.  I'll have the wood stove going again tonight.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sun? What Sun?

This morning dawned grey with wisps of fog blowing across the property.  I turned my jacket collar up on my neck as the dogs and I walked down to do chores.

I wanted to give the bunnies some grass as a treat with their breakfast but there wasn't a long stalk to be found.  Brett had efficiently and thoroughly mowed it all down.  I looked at the property behind us with its long grass and decided to open the gate and grab a fist full.  Sedona was right behind me and tried to push past.  The look on her face was "Zeus!  I'm going to go play with Zeus!"  Unfortunately, Zeus died a few years ago and then Buffy and George moved to Nevada.  No more Zeus.  No more Buffy and George.  We miss them.  And clearly Sedona does too.  She ran circles around me for five minutes, jumping and grinning like a puppy. 

The sun didn't come out all day but there was sunshine in the house.  I was afraid that with my new job, I wouldn't be able to attend the wedding of my friend Sylvie.  She lives in Brittany, France and we have been sisters separated by an ocean for a long time.  It will have to be a quick turn around trip but I can go and that makes me incredibly happy. 

Camille is doing better, much better, today with her flu.  This afternoon we spent a couple hours just hanging out with the dogs and the goats, talking about boys and university and majors and life.  She is frustrated with the junior college experience and is ready for university life.  The fog went from wisps to thick and wet.  We went back in the house and I lit a fire in the wood stove.

Pizza for dinner.

Chance of rain tonight and tomorrow. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Up and Down

We had another warm day today -- I was comfortable in a sweatshirt doing morning chores and switched to a tee-shirt by 10am. 

Yesterday evening our realtor called and said there would be a couple coming up late this afternoon to look at the property.  This morning we started on our respective "to-do" lists.  Brett's list, of course, was much longer than mine.  Those of you who know Brett are not surprised by this, I'm sure.  I married an over-achiever; a perfectionist - and a hard worker. 

I skimmed the pool, pulled some weeds and straightened up the house.  Then I went down to ride Winston before it got too hot.  On my way down to the barn, I turned on the rock fountain.  The fountain, like so many things at Aspen Meadows, was a gift to me from Brett.

My goal for today with Winston was to keep him sensitive to my leg, to ride corners well, to ride our circles all the way to the rail instead of cutting it short, and maybe do a bit of canter.  Steffan Peters, in an article in USDF Connections, said that he uses a squeeze of his leg from his groin to his calf instead of spur or whip when a horse doesn't respond immediately.  He does this so his leg doesn't move and the correction is quieter.  I wasn't sure how effective I would be but I liked the concept so I gave it a try.  When Winston started slowing down, I gave a light squeeze with my calf.  If he didn't respond immediately, I gave a full leg squeeze and held it until he surged forward.  With Winston, that was a nano-second.  He's a sensitive horse.  I only had to do the full leg squeeze twice.  After confirming his bend in the corners and on small circles, I asked for canter.  It was warm out so he wasn't exactly racing around.  I kept him forward on the rail until he was carrying himself in a balanced way.  Then I put him on a circle and asked him to bend around my leg.  This is where we have been working with canter.  When I ask for bend, he gets stiff and pushes against my leg.  Today, he stayed supple, stayed balanced and forward, and bent around my leg.  I praised him enthusiastically.  He pricked his ears and smiled.  Then he bent some more, even leg yielding out on the circle-- at the canter.  We hadn't been working long but the canter was perfection.  Its what I've been working towards for months.  We called it a day and celebrated.  Winston got a bath.  I got a Diet A&W Rootbeer (here's to you Lytha). 

I worked some more on my list, cleaning up the barn, while I waited for Camille to arrive.  She has the flu and wanted to spend the weekend up here with me.  Sometimes you just want your mom.  Camille's bright aqua-blue car drove up the driveway, she climbed out and then collapsed on the couch.  I checked on her between my other projects and gave her some white rice.

Our realtor called just as Brett was finishing up mowing and said that the realtor with the prospective buyers couldn't get up the Ortega highway with his clients.  There was an accident and the road was closed.  She had told us earlier in the afternoon that the people aren't looking for horse property, they want a home where they can entertain.  My thought was that they wouldn't like our place anyway.  Yes, the house is set up well for entertaining but we are kind of remote for parties.  And, what the heck would you do with the barn, the arena and the pasture? 

Dinner tonight was comfort food for Camille:  tuna casserole and apple-berry pie for dessert.  Brett's exhausted and depressed.  All that work and nobody except me to admire it. 

Friday, April 12, 2013


We're back to square one finding a house in the Sacramento area.  The owner countered with a whisker drop in price and an unwillingness to correct any of the problems identified in the inspection and pest report.  The reports showed significant, and I mean expensive, significant, can't get a loan without correcting - issues.  He wanted to sell the house "as is" -- and the inspector hadn't even been able to check everything because the water and gas were turned off.  So, we decided to pass.  We could have ended up with a real can of worms.    Sigh.  Such a pretty house, too.  But we will find something.  Of that, I am sure. 

We've been running around fixing little things here and there on our place.  Brett spent all day outside mowing.  I ran errands and hid the clutter in the house.  Dinner was simple.  I made a dressing with fresh raspberries, blue cheese, pecans, raspberry vinegar and olive oil.

Then I tossed together some spinach, the dressing, more raspberries, cheese and nuts.  I topped it with chicken I had roasted.  While I was cutting up the chicken, I pulled off the crunchy skin and shoved it in my mouth.  I just love crispy skin.  Fresh bread on the side and a bottle of pinot noir. 

This relocating business is a lot of work.  I can't even escape at night -- I dream about offers on homes and temporary apartments and my new job... all night long. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013


When Brett and I were in Paso Robles last weekend, we checked out a winery my dad had recommended to us as having a spectacular location and excellent wine. 

The winery is called Daou and it sits high on a hill, with its vineyards spreading out below the tasting room and cellars.

The area outside the tasting room was beautifully landscaped with lavender and there were comfortable chairs strategically placed so you could sit with a glass of wine and soak in the view.

The wine was tasty too.  I echo my dad's recommendation.  Stop by and check it out if you are in the Paso Robles area.