Saturday, May 31, 2014

Are You My Mother?

Last night, I went out to the barn to check on Lucy and the dogs before going upstairs to bed. The dogs met me at the door and followed me up the aisle to Lucy who had her head poking out of her stall into the aisle, watching us. Kersey stood next to me and Lucy reached her head all the way down and sniffed the top of Kersey's head. Kersey looked at me: Do I stay here next to you and let this huge horse sniff my head, or do I retreat out of reach next to Sedona? In the end, she stayed frozen in place and Lucy lifted her head back up to me. I gave her a cookie and said goodnight. Pistol was watching from her stall and gave me a look that said; There had better be another cookie in your pocket for me. Of course there was.

This morning Pistol and Lucy were quietly waiting for breakfast. We gave them the morning to continue getting to know each other through the safety of a fence while we went to the farmers market.

At noontime, Brett put a halter on Pistol and I put one on Lucy. Lucy and I followed Brett and Pistol out of the barn. I wanted to walk Lucy around the property a bit; particularly up by the dressage court where I will be riding her. She walked along on a loose lead until we started up the path to the arena, past the dreaded miniature donkeys. Tuffy had run up to the fence to get a closer look at Lucy. She wasn't so sure she wanted a closer look at him.




Lucy danced next to me as we walked along. About halfway to the dressage court we stopped and I turned her to look at Tuffy. She stood for a minute, stretched her nose out to him, and took some cautious steps to the fence. Tuffy stood his ground on the other side, with his nose pressed up against the fence. Lucy arched and stretched her nose down to Tuffy and ... nickered. The soft, blowing, tender nickering sounds that a mare makes to her foal. Tuffy didn't know what to think.

Hey, lady. I may be small but I am a grown up and you are NOT my mother.

We continued our walk. Lucy didn't mind the donkeys (poor lost children, just need a mother) after that. As we started walking around the dressage court she saw Flash, Jackson and Mufasa hanging their heads over the fence of the upper pasture, ogling the girls for all they were worth. Lucy started dancing again.

After our walk, we put Pistol and Lucy together in the clover pasture (which is pretty dry and not deserving of that name right now). Lucy floated back and forth in a very elevated trot and then rolled. Three times. She and Pistol didn't bat an eye at each other; just got down to the hard work of grazing.

The clover pasture shares its western fence line with the goats. I had been warned that Lucy does not like sheep so we weren't sure what she would think of the goats. She kept a wide berth initially, but within an hour she was grazing along the shared fence, completely unconcerned with the goats.

She seems to be settling in nicely.





Friday, May 30, 2014

Lucy's Home!

After work today, I had a lesson on Lucy.




Lucy's energy level was high and she really didn't want to settle.  Maybe she knew there was a big change coming for her after the lesson.  She wasn't too pleased about being walked out to the trailer at dinner time and hesitated before loading.  Sandy stood behind her and encouraged her -- and Lucy followed me right onto the trailer burying her face in the hay waiting for her.

When Brett pulled into our driveway, with me following behind, Pistol started running the fence line, calling to Lucy with her tail in the air.


The boys came down to the end of their pasture and joined in the welcome.  When Brett lowered her window, Lucy poked her head out and surveyed her new home.  She seemed pleased.


She was even more pleased when she walked off the trailer (very calmly) and sampled the grass.

Brett fetched Pistol from the pasture and Lucy calmly followed her into the barn.  They are in stalls next to each other and are getting acquainted across the fence that divides their run-outs.  For the most part, they are peacefully munching on the grass in their turnouts with just a few squeals here and there.  Lucy didn't seem aware of the miniature donkeys in the next pasture over.

While I was making dinner, I heard a ruckus outside.  Tuffy and Finessa were racing around their pasture, playing.  Lucy was snorting and pacing in her run-out.  Pistol was watching with calm amusement.  I called to Lucy and she stopped and looked at me.  She retreated to the far end of her run-out and watched the donkeys from there.

Donkeys, goats, chickens... poor Lucy.  So many animals to get adjusted to.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Another Great Lesson on Lucy

Monday morning, before the temperatures reached the mid-90s, I took a lesson on Lucy.  She was a little sluggish to start -- it may not have been 90, but it was warm.  It took a little bit of work to get her going but once she was warmed up, she was eager to work.  The arena was crowded with lessons and other riders trying to beat the heat so we worked at the far end.  Brett tried to take pictures but between the distance and the darkness in the covered arena, most of them didn't come out.

We continued working on Lucy's trot.  First getting her relaxed and stretching.  Next practicing our transitions and making sure she was focused and listening to me.  Last we worked on getting her to collect for a few strides and then go back to lengthening.  I focused, felt her energy and responded with a soft ask -- and she gave me back more than I hoped for.

We ended the lesson with canter work.  Again, an improvement in both the quality of the canter and our relaxation as we moved together.  After a few times around, Sandy said, "Okay you can come back to trot."  And I said, "I don't want to."  I was feeling an amazing connection with Lucy; both physically in my hands and seat as well as in our focus and thought.  I didn't want it to end.  As we walked on a loose rein, I tried to explain to Sandy but got emotional instead.  She laughed and said she had heard the catch in my voice.

Sandy thinks Lucy and I have made great progress in this past month.  She is surprised at how much we have accomplished.  I'd have to agree.

As we were putting Lucy away, Winston's girl arrived to ride him again.  She wanted to get him out, tack him up, lunge him and ride him.  She wanted to do everything herself.  He dove into the halter and sat quietly, with his lower lip twitching in enjoyment, while she groomed him.  We watched her ride for a few minutes -- harmonious happiness.  Fingers and toes crossed.  Vet check is next.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sunday Trail Ride

About a month ago, Brett and I signed up to go on a group trail ride near Wilton. The weather forecast for Sunday said 96F. No way, Jose. The ride would be mostly meadow, very few trees, and in the middle of the day. Not my idea of a good time. Instead, I asked our neighbor, Cindy, if she wanted to go out with us and she said yes. We decided to head further up into the Sierras, where its cooler, and to go in the morning right after chores.

I bought Pistol some trail boots a few weeks back and I've been riding her in the arena with them. They fit well and she didn't mind them at all. In fact, on Saturday I asked her to trot and she offered canter. I had to laugh; she only went about three strides and said "that's enough." She's overweight and out of shape; I feel her pain. We did some arena riding and then wandered around the property, through the trees and down to the front gate.


I got her a new fly mask the other day. The velcro closure on her pink mask was barely hanging on. I also wanted to give her some sun protection on her nose -- it was getting a little sunburned.  I know she looks like a cow in this picture.  Don't tell her.  I don't want her feelings hurt.

Pistol was solid gold on the trail. She is a sturdy little mare; trucking up the hills with no trouble at all. The scent of pines filled the air and wildflowers carpeted the ground. We rode about two hours with no drama from any of the horses, even when mountain bikers passed us (they were all courteous). Pistol has a neurological tick that causes her to flip her head occasionally, usually in sunlight, so I rode her with a fly mask to provide her with the equivalent of sunglasses. It worked well. The trail was shady with just a few patches of sun so the head flipping was minimal.

She was very sweaty when we finished so I gave her a bath when we got home. I don't like to use shampoo often since it takes the oils out of their skin but she needed it. My Western saddle is a rich mahogany color and the leather had bled onto her sides. It looked like gashes on her side; poor thing. Fortunately, the red washed right off and I was able to put her back out in her pasture with a glistening white coat. I thought she would roll. Haha. I forgot; this is Pistol; she has a two track mind -- boys and food; she dropped her head immediately and started grazing.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Birthday Horse of my Heart

Jackson turns eleven today.
I bought him in 2009,
when he was six.

Happy Birthday handsome boy!

2009



2010



2011


2012



2013



2014

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Chickens are Out

Saturday we let the chickens out of the hen house and into their yard.  They weren't sure at first.


They cautiously hopped down on to the grass.  They pecked at the grass a few times, then scurried back inside.  Eventually, they stayed out longer.







Sedona got all tangled up in herself trying to get to the chickens.  Kersey was more interested in keeping an eye on me.  I was sitting inside the hen yard, on a white plastic chair, enjoying the show.



For you hard core chicken fans, here is a video.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Random Five Friday

1. Another hot and humid day today. Brett and I tried to sit on the front porch with a glass of wine but we didn't last long. The mosquitos and flies were buzzing furiously, landing on Brett's cheek, on my arms and on the dogs. We gave up -- gulped our wine and started on the evening chores. I remember backpacking in the Sierras when I was a kid -- and hiding in my tent to get away from the mosquitos. This is our first spring at Oak Creek Ranch; now I know what to expect -- beauty and bugs.

2. Sedona barely touched her breakfast this morning and refused her dinner tonight. She wouldn't even eat her raw meat. I managed to get a small piece, hiding two pain pills, down her throat. She chewed slowly, swallowed, and looked at me mournfully. I'm hoping its the heat and not pain that is causing her to lose her appetite. I'm more than a little bit worried. She will be twelve this summer and we've had her since she was a puppy.
This picture was taken last fall.  No leaves on the ground now.
3. Winston update: Sandy said that Winston hasn't been in a bad mood for weeks. He's been a lot of fun to ride. I'm happy and it makes me wistful for the days that I rode him regularly and thought he was the most fun horse ever. He clearly needs regular work -- which I can't provide. Sandy was able to work through his resistance and that combined with his increased fitness, has brought back the horse I loved when we were living at Aspen Meadows.
Having fun at Aspen Meadows
4. There has been a steady trickle of people calling about Winston. Most of them are attracted by his color and are not strong enough to ride him. Yesterday, an older woman came to try him -- looking for a seasoned, steady trail horse. Ummm, no. She pretty quickly decided that he was too much horse for her. I'm not sure how she got "bombproof trail horse" out of his ad which clearly states he needs a strong rider to deal with his strong personality.

5. Today a young girl, maybe 13 or 14, came with her mother and aunt to try Winston. They have an appaloosa at home, love him, but he's retired at the ripe old age of 30. The daughter rides dressage with a trainer. Winston would be in full time work. I wasn't at the barn when they came, but I heard that the girl rode Winston very well. I also heard that when she finished riding him, in the arena and out on the small trail that circles the paddocks, she couldn't stop smiling. She covered Winston in kisses and he ate it up. Winston loves attention more than just about anything and he got a lot of it from this girl. Fingers crossed....



Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hot and Buggy

Wednesday after my last meeting, I shut my office door and changed into my breeches before slipping down the back stairs to my car. I feel weird taking the elevator to the lobby in my riding clothes -- not exactly corporate attire -- even though most employees were already gone for the day. The barn was deserted, as usual, when I arrived. Deserted, except for a farrier who was working on a horse in the cross ties by Sandy's barn. There were a couple other men there talking to him and they were all having a good time. It didn't look like they were making much progress on the horse. I got out Lucy's tack but I felt like I was intruding on the guys' social gathering so I didn't bring Lucy there when I fetched her from the barn. Instead, I took her to the jumping arena where she could roll and I could sit in the shade of a walnut tree. It was hot, humid and buggy; my energy level was not high. Lucy was in a mellow mood too. She rolled a few times and then tried to reach under the fence for grass.
Here is a video of Lucy rolling



The farrier and his friends were still laughing and talking so I walked Lucy around the back of the property, past the big paddocks. The bugs were annoying me and eating her alive. She stomped her feet, kicked at her belly, and shook her head. The bites left small bumps all over her skin. Poor sensitive girl.

Back at the barn, the farrier had finally finished and was packing up his stuff. I tacked up Lucy and headed to the covered arena. It was cooler there and had fewer bugs than the outdoor court near where we had been walking. We didn't work for long. I practiced doing downward transitions in the way Sandy taught me Tuesday. First we worked on getting a soft, relaxed trot and then I slowed her by squeezing my outside hand before sinking into walk. Next we picked up a canter. When Lucy doesn't rush, her canter is lovely. I hated to stop but we practiced coming back to trot. The transition went very well but Lucy immediately wanted to go back to canter. She threw her head around a bit and I said, Lucy, Lucy we will trot all night if we have to. You need to relax before we change directions and canter again. She did. We cantered. Another good transition down to trot and we called it quits. We were both hot and sweaty.

I put her fly sheet back on so the bugs wouldn't continue feasting on her. Why is it that some people and animals are bug magnets? Bugs find Brett very tasty and he gets multiple bites compared to me.

It was 86, hot and humid when I drove out of the barn parking lot, gulping down my bottle of water. At home, it was pouring rain with thunder and lightening. So strange, the way the weather varies from home to work and the barn.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

By George, I Think She's Got It

Poor Lucy. She's better trained than me -- she's solid at 2nd level and I've never gone past 1st level. I've always had young horses that I started in dressage and brought along so I'm not used to riding a horse so well trained. Thank goodness she is a sweet forgiving mare.

When I went into Lucy's barn to get her out for my lesson, a woman was pushing a hand cart full of hay down the aisle. She was tossing flakes to the horses on either side as she went along. Just before she got to Lucy, I arrived to take Lucy out for her lesson. Great, I thought, she's not going to be happy about leaving at dinner time. I was wrong. Lucy greeted me and accepted the halter, then followed me out -- walking past the dinner cart -- to the wash rack area.

Dez, Sandy's groom, asked me to put Lucy in the end spot. "Lucy's in raging heat and I'm putting all the mares there on the end. She'll probably pee and make a mess." She didn't. I was careful grooming her because some mares don't like to be touched on their flanks when they are in heat. Lucy didn't care.

Sandy said, "She'll probably run off with you at canter" and laughed. Great. Sandy noticed my expression and said "No, really, I have never noticed any difference in her when she is in heat."

The covered arena had a couple of kids taking a lesson and another person working her horse so I suggested that we use the outside dressage court. It was warm, about 73F, but with a slight breeze so not too hot for me.

We worked on leg yield - with just a whisper of the aids. Lucy knows what to do; I don't need to "help" her. We also worked on haunches in and I finally got myself coordinated. Lucy knows how to do haunches in but I've had trouble: how much bend? Inside leg a bit back, outside leg guarding but not messing things up, a slight pulsing half-halt, and a hint of inside bend. Lucy was relieved that I finally got it.

Last we worked on downward transitions. First from trot to walk and then canter-trot. The idea was the same for both: I slow Lucy with half halts first, she collects and slows, then I sit deep and ask for the transition with my seat and she just sinks into the lower gait. Remember my rushing, careening, whee! canter? Not today. I regulated her tempo with a relaxed seat, then slowed her with half-halts and we had the most beautiful downward transition I have ever ridden from canter to trot. EVER. I said "Wow, Lucy!" and Sandy said, "She's so happy you finally figured out how to ask."

I drove home, thinking happy thoughts, and the cold rain that greeted me when I climbed into the mountains couldn't dampen my mood.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pistol's Pasture

Pistol is living the good life.

Green pasture and fresh flowers (no vase required)

Handsome boys next door

What more could a girl want?
A BFF maybe?
Two more weeks, Pistol, and Lucy will be moving in.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Wildflowers

This morning we woke to the sound of thundering hooves. The heat wave was over, the morning air was cool, and Mufasa was celebrating. Jackson joined him for awhile but, for the most part, Mufasa was racing around the pasture by himself. Flash rarely joins in these antics; at 18 he's content to watch the others ricky-race around.


After chores, Brett and I went to the farmers market. Score! Fruit is starting to arrive: cherries, apricots, peaches, strawberries and blueberries. We also bought beets, chard, baby greens; cheese, bread, pasta and salsa. We were pretty loaded down walking back to the car.

At 9:30 I picked up my neighbor and we headed off to hike a bit further up in the Sierras. There were wildflowers everywhere. I am going to try and learn the name of at least one new plant every time we go.


We thought these were wild lilac but it turns out they are called Deerbrush. They were growing thickly, crowding the side of the trail and fragrant.


I did my best to keep up with her. She just celebrated her 70th birthday and I can barely manage her pace, huffing and puffing up the hills behind her. I'm 54, I'm in awe.

Lupine is one of my favorite wildflowers; that and California Poppies. She took me to a meadow with Harlequin lupine. Aren't they cool?


One of the two "new" plants for me today was Mountain Misery, which got its name because it grows everywhere and can get gummy and stick to your shoes. The early pioneers were not fans of Mountain Misery.

The other name I committed to memory is Monkeyflower. Yes, I picked the plants with the two funniest names. Its easier to remember them that way. I particularly like Bicolored Monkeyflower.

The views were spectacular. ...but not much snow on the peaks.

 Our trail would have been under snow normally at this time of year. I hope this drought ends soon; we need next winter to be very wet.