Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pistol Has an Audition

Brett has been volunteering for an equine assisted psychotherapy program in our area called Windows To My Soul.  Because of privacy protections with the clients, Brett has not been directly involved in helping with the sessions but instead helps out with general maintenance.

And, of course, he talks about Flash and Pistol.  Those of you who know Brett are nodding your heads, "Of course he does.  He talks about his horses constantly."

Currently, the therapy provided at Windows To My Soul uses two recognized models, both of which involve the client working with a horse on the ground.  Horses are excellent mirrors and can bring great healing to victims of PTSD and domestic abuse.  A psychotherapist and a horse handler (certified in one of the two models used) stage, watch and discuss the interaction with the client.

Recently, two clients have been identified who they feel would benefit from riding therapy.  I'm sure many of you have seen pictures of disabled people being led around on a bareback horse.  The side-to-side, rocking movement of the horse stimulates something positive in the brain (that's all I know, sorry for the hazy explanation).  WTMS called Brett and asked him to bring Pistol to the center for an evaluation of compatibility with the program.

Before Brett took Pistol on Tuesday, we gave her a bath.  I scrubbed her mane with brightening shampoo and Brett washed off the dust and dirt.  She looked stunning when Brett unloaded her at the center.

I was at work so I didn't get to watch the evaluation but she, of course, aced it.  They did some ground work, they walked her up to obstacles (yawn), they walked around her, stumbling and bashing into her as an inexperienced horse person might.  She looked at them with concern but didn't blink.  Then they put a bareback pad on her back and two of the program staff rode her around.  She was good as gold.  She has a wide, comfortable back so nobody will be in pain while riding her.

They have requested that she return next Monday for further training/exposure to the program. They are also going to put Brett through the requisite background checks so that he can be involved as the person leading Pistol around for the riding therapy.

Brett has wanted to be involved with therapeutic riding for a very long time.  I am excited for both he and Pistol.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Workshop: Transitions (Part Three)

Sunday morning, thankfully, was a bit cooler.  I limped to the barn, my heels covered in band-aids to cover the blisters that grew, burst and bled as a result of my sweaty feet slipping in my tall boots the day before.  I skipped my tall boots on Sunday and wore paddock boots and half chaps.  And I was luckier than the others who had ridden their lessons in sitting trot and, as a result, were so chafed from their breeches that Sandy had to ride their horses.  My lessons were in rising trot -- I think to help Lucy with rhythm but possibly because my sitting trot sucks. So, I didn't have the chafing issue which was possibly worse than smelling like cat pee the first day.

Lucy was very relaxed, she'd been in the covered arena three times already.  It was much cooler at 10am, around 82, when I took my lesson.  After our warm-up, we worked on asking for trot from the walk -- sounds easy, right?  Not so much.  Sandy wanted me to get the timing exactly right so that Lucy could step directly into trot.  No mincing half-steps, shifting to medium trot in a stride or two.  I was to give the aid and Lucy was expected to launch herself into a foward, expressive, nicely tempo-ed trot.  The first time she did it correctly, she left me behind a bit and I choked -- she surged and I went ACK! and slammed on the brakes.  oops.  Thank goodness she is a sweet and forgiving mare.

Once we were doing those transitions well, Lucy was rewarded with some more stretchy trot.  Then we moved on to work on our trot-halt and halt-trot transitions.  Lucy rocked the halts -- square and prompt.  And then she raised her head and looked around at her fans, watching from the observation deck.  She twitched her lip at them -- then she fussed, she backed up, she clearly wasn't thrilled with holding bend in the halt.  But we got there too.

Last, we worked on transitions from a forward trot to a collected trot and back again.  She felt... different; more powerful but in a controlled way.  She was pushing from behind, she was responsive, and the only thing holding us back was me losing rhythm in the corners (tried sitting the slower, collected trot and I changed my rhythm as a result) -- which made her lose rhythm.  As long as I stayed in posting trot we were good.  If I sat, she thought "canter coming - woo hoo" or "what the ?? is she doing?" -- either way, it was much better when I didn't sit the trot.  So, I didn't.

Will we go back in November for the half halt workshop?  You bet.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Workshop: Transitions (Part Two)

Saturday, all the workshop participating riders were scheduled for two rides.  The first ride was 30 minutes, and video-taped.  It consisted of an initial assessment and a way to identify areas for improvement.  We were then able to see our videos at lunch time, before our second ride.  My baseline ride was at 9:30. It was 88F in the outdoor dressage court.

I am not a fan of heat.  My body does not do well in the heat.  I have a tendancy to get nauseaus, dizzy and pass out.  But, 30 minutes isn't a horribly long time and 88, while very warm, is bearable for a short time.  Lucy was a bit looky in our warmup (in the covered arena) but she listened and she settled... eventually.  She was less tense in the dressage court -- she likes being outside and I had hand walked her around the court the evening before.  There were no trolls residing at Clay Station Ranch.  Phew.

Most of my assessment ride consisted of me riding with my inside thumb hooked through the bucking strap so I could focus on making transitions with the ouside rein and my seat.  Lucy was tense and my fussy inside hand wasn't helping her relax.  A few minutes after we started, Sandy asked me if I thought my inside hand was contributing to Lucy's tension in the transitions and I said "No, I think it's pretty quiet.  But, don't put a robotic sensor on my or anything because I'm probably wrong."  Once I hooked my thumb and forced the hand to be quiet, Lucy immediately settled.  Hmmm.   We tried some canter transitions and Lucy was a bit sticky.  We worked through that and had a nice canter going on a circle, in front of the area where people were sitting under some small trees.  One person scooted her chair back, rustling the tree branches, and Lucy jumped forward and crow hopped.  But she settled back down and we finished on a good note.

My second ride was at 2:30.  It was 95F by then and Sandy had moved to the indoor.  I have a Cool Medics vest and I soaked it in a bucket of water while I got Lucy ready. Without that vest, I never would have made it through the lesson.  While waiting to mount, and while I watched the rider before me, Lucy rested her forehead against my cool wet vest.  I didn't make it through my entire 45 minutes but I was pleased with our improvement and impressed with how much energy Lucy still had.  She has a very forward brain, that horse.  Sandy wanted very prompt, very forward transitions.  Lucy was on her toes.  We also worked on transitions from shoulder-in to haunches-in -- back and forth as we went around the arena.  ...and then I was out of gas, unable to retain any of Sandy's instructions and starting to feel a bit queasy.

It was a difficult day, mostly because of the heat, but we made progress.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Workshop: Transitions (Part One)

This past weekend Lucy and participated in Sandy Savage's workshop on transitions.  There were five riders and numerous auditors, including my friend Heather who flew up from Southern California.

We trailered Lucy down to Clay Station Ranch in Wilton Friday afternoon.  It was "only" 103 when we arrived.  Sandy had arranged for Lucy to have a stall with a run-out/small paddock.  I unloaded Lucy and walked her over to her stall while Brett and Heather lugged over her hay.  They set the hay in front of her stall and then went back to the trailer to unhitch the truck.  There was a gallon milk jug hanging from the top rung of her pipe corral stall door.  You know the kind: you put in a packet of stinky stuff, fill it with water, flies crawl inside and drown.  Well, I had the brilliant idea of moving the jug so it would be swinging outside of her stall instead of inside.  I lifted the jug and tried to squeeze it between the bars.  It got a little stuck, I pushed... and dumped the dead flies and stinky water on the top of my head.  It ran down my face, soaked my tee-shirt and trickled into my bra.  Great.  Now I smelled like cat pee and the workshop hadn't even started.

The barn owner told me that there was a shower in the lounge, and Brett had a clean teeshirt in his truck.  I headed to the lounge.  ...and the shower would not go on.  A breaker had flipped and there was no power to the well pump.  No water in the lounge.  Sandy happened to be in the lounge and knocked on the door.  I was standing in the middle of the bathroom, stark naked, reeking.  She grabbed two water battles from the cooler and passed them in to me.  Remember, it was 103F so I didn't mind at all that the water was really cold.  I stood in the shower and dumped them both over my head.  I put my bra (which still reeked) back on and Brett's tee shirt.

Sandy did a lecture and demo ride on Releve at 5:30.  Afterwards, we snacked on cheese and had a glass of wine before heading home.  The truck smelled like cat pee the whole way home and I'm surprised they seated us at the diner where we stopped for dinner.  It took two nights of aggressive shampooing to get the smell completely out of my hair.

Sometimes, I am such a dork.

The rest of the clinic was awesome.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Food, Food, Glorious Food

Nobody loves food more than Pistol.
Hey, you got cookies?  Carrots? An apple per chance?

Lucy: You should be ashamed, begging like that.  Pistol: bug off, Princess

Meanwhile, even wild turkeys in the pasture couldn't distract Jackson from nosing around in the oak leaves for acorns.

Flash: Hey, Whiskey - what are you doing under the hay feeder?  Mufasa: Is that a camera you're carrying -- or do you have cookies?
The horses all know that Brett's pockets are usually full of cookies.  He's a big softie when it comes to treats.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

There's Hope for our Humans

I heard Lucy say this to Pistol when they were back in their pasture after we rode this morning.

Both Brett and I had good rides.

I wasn't sure how Lucy would be -- since I haven't ridden her in two weeks due to all the smoke we had from the fires (500 homes lost in the Butte fire; I can't even get my head around that).  Plus, she was really pissy last night when I was mucking her pasture.  Demanding.  I carried a dressage whip this morning when I rode in case she was sluggish or resistant.  She turned her head after I got on, and sniffed it.  Then she marched into the arena without looking twice at the corner Brett had been working on.  It's the lower corner -- trolls don't live there -- but Brett had added a wood border with drainage holes for rain water to run off, without taking sand with it).  So there was new wook and some decomposed granite, raked nice and neat.  She didn't care at all.  I had one of those rides where your face hurts afterwards because you've been grinning the whole time.  I concentrated on my position and my timing -- and Lucy was relaxed, forward, prompt and accurate.

Lucy and I are going to be in horrible shape, from a fitness standpoint, next weekend at Sandy Savage's workshop -- but we will muddle through and we will have a good time.  And we will learn.  I can't believe how the few things Sandy corrected in me in my last lesson have made such a difference in Lucy.

Meanwhile, Brett and Pistol were having a good time up in the other end of the arena.  Pistol did give the new boards the stink eye when they first went into the arena, but that's it.  Last night, Brett and I were talking about the upcoming Mark Rashid clinic.  He was wondering what to work on with Pistol -- she's so awesome already.  At the end of their ride today, I said to Brett, "Let's see what happens if you engage your core while sitting her trot.  I wonder if she will round up."  Off they went.  Pistol did lift her back a bit and she starting reaching way under with her hind legs.  I said to Brett, "There you go; that's what you can work on with Mark: getting Pistol to work through her body by how you work through yours."

We're having friends over for dinner tonight.

We went over towards Apple Hill and got apples from our favorite orchard, Hooverville, outside of Placerville. I could make pie.  The first one of the season and I'm kinda proud of how it came out, with its sparkling sugar and cinnamon crust.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Random Friday

1.  The Butte fire is now 60% contained and the smoke has left our little ranch.  We are thankful.  The weather has been cool all week, although temperatures will be quite warm this weekend.  Hopefully, that will be the last of the hot weather.  I plan to ride Lucy tomorrow morning.

2.  We will see how the ride goes tomorrow.  I'm quite sure she is in heat.  Last night while I was mucking her pasture she was in a very snarky mood; coming close, then turning and running off while bucking and kicking out.  She wasn't close enough to put me in any danger; just close enough to make a statement.  She wanted dinner NOW; she wanted a massage NOW; she wanted me to go into the house and get her an apple -- or at least fill my pockets with cookies.  I was clearly failing my duties in her eyes.
Excuuuuse me!  Where is my dinner?!  You humans are so slow.

3.  For those of you who like my posts about food: I've started posting photos of our "working woman weeknight dinners" on Instagram.  I don't have the energy to create a post here (I don't have much energy after work) after dinner and a glass of wine.  If you are interested, you can find them on Instagram - under amickelson601.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Your Fire Questions

I've had lots of questions posed through the comments on this blog and on Facebook.  I'll try to answer them here.

1.  Lori asked if we bring the horses into the barn when the smoke is bad.  Our barn, like pretty much every barn in the Western US, has an open design.  It is designed to promote the flow of air -- which keeps it cool in the summer -- so there is as much smoke in the barn as there is outside.  Unfortunately, there is no place to put the horses that is smoke free.  Fortunately, they don't get silly in their pastures -- they eat, they poop, they walk slowly from their hay to the water trough to their napping spots under the trees.

2.  Southern California has been getting a lot of rain.  The El Nino effect seems to be starting already.  Unfortunately for us, El Nino influences rainfall in the southern end of the State but not much at all in Northern California.  Up here, we rely on cold storms from Alaska that bring snow to the Sierras and build our snow pack.  Last year, our snow pack was at a 500 year low.  We need a very cold and wet winter.  There is a storm moving across the top of the State that is cold but it is not bringing measurable moisture this far down.  The Valley fire (the hot, fast one that has destroyed 400 homes) may get some rain since it is north of Napa Valley -- which is north of San Francisco.  The Butte fire will not see any rain.  It is south of us -- probably roughly even with San Francisco but on the eastern side of the State, in the Sierra Nevada foothills (also named the Motherlode because of the gold found there in the Gold Rush).  We are also in the Motherlode, but a bit further north.  We are not expecting to get measurable rain.  Although the cooler temperatures and increased humidity are welcome; the increased winds that come with a storm are of great concern to the fire crews.

3.  Tails from Provence asked if we have an evacuation plan.  She assumed that we do.  She assumed correctly.  We are often questioned about why we have a four horse trailer but only trailer one or two horses at any given time to clinics, lessons, or trail rides.  We have a large trailer because it is part of our evacuation plan.  We never wanted to be in the position of deciding which horse(s) get left behind -- and we always kept our herd at four, or fewer, horses.  With the addition of Pistol, a wonderful gift from our friend Buffy, we now how five horses.  We've talked about which horse would be left behind if we didn't have time to make two trips.  It would be either Mufasa or Jackson -- and it would break our hearts to leave either.  They are both young-ish, but neither is (or ever will be) rideable.  They are retirees.  We would put the horse in our front pasture which is huge, with no trees, and the grass nibbled to the ground.  There is nothing to burn in that pasture -- except the fence.  Jackson would be less likely to panic than Mufasa (we would leave the goats and donkeys there as well so he wouldn't be alone) so I think his chances of survival would be better.  Jackson would also be easier for someone to catch if he got loose and ran.  We would write our phone number on his body with a grease marker.  No halter -- the chances of it getting caught on something are too great.  Hopefully, though, we would have enough time to move all the horses and the donkeys -- and the goats.  Kersey and the barn cat, Passage, would go with us as well.  In either scenario.

4.  Whenever there is a fire in the area, Brett hooks up his truck to the trailer so we are ready to go.  He even hooks it up if he goes out of town during hot weather.  There are a number of places we could take the horses; including Sandy Savage's barn.  I expect we would take them to the fairgrounds because that is close and would hopefully afford us the opportunity of going back and getting the rest of the animals.  We would not wait until the last minute.  Not with the animals.

5.  The Butte fire (the one closest to us) is now 37% contained.  It has burned 71,000 acres and destroyed 166 residences plus 116 barns and other outbuildings.  There are 12 damaged residences.  Looters have arrived; and scammers pretending to be contractors.  In one neighborhood, the residents blocked the road, carrying rifles and holding a sign that says: "You loot, we shoot."  I'm not a gun advocate but I did enjoy that newsclip.

6.  The closest fire station is a mile and a half away, at the end of our road, and that brings us a measure of comfort.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


We haven't been doing much other than keep track of the Butte fire and suffer in the smoke.  The fire has grown to 101 square miles, has destroyed 81 homes and 50+ outbuildings.  That is, that they know about. The assessment crew is still counting...  After being contained 20%, then 10%, then 5% (holy crap), yesterday it was back to 10% and this morning they reported 20%.  There is no estimated date for full containment.  The fire is burning in chaparral and dry grass that is six feet high -- with a canopy of dry oak trees.  It doesn't need wind to move, there is so much fuel from the drought that it moves all by itself, consuming everything in its wake and burning hot, hot, hot.

Thursday, on my way home from work, the smoke was a clearly outlined cloud.

By yesterday, it had settled into a ground hugging fog of grey.  We spent the day wine tasting with the family of Kyle's girlfriend and then, in the evening, went to a fundraiser for a local equine therapy program.  The fundraiser was outside, the program was perfect and the food tasty.  But the smoke.  Oh, my, the smoke.  When we got home close to midnight, I felt like I used to when I was a college student and would come home after being at a disco (remember those?) with friends, reeking of smoke (I didn't smoke, but smoking was allowed everywhere then and smoke always hung over the dance floors).  Last night I wore a black shirt and I kept finding bits of white ash on my shoulders and down the front.  At first, I was confused, trying to figure what I was eating (and dropping) all over myself. Then it occurred to me that it wasn't crumbs, it was drifting ash.  It probably wasn't the smartest, and certainly not the healthiest, thing to be at the fundraiser but the cause is one we believe in deeply.  There were people there who had been evacuated and people there who had lost their homes.  We were a close knit group last night; standing in solidarity.

We woke this morning with burning eyes and headaches.  Morning chores were... a chore.  The grey has gotten denser.  I could hardly see the horses in their pastures.

We are meeting up with the wine tasting group for lunch at a winery in Amador today.  Then, we are coming back home and staying inside for the rest of the day. We will only venture out to feed the animals.

Lucy and I are going to be horribly out of shape for our clinic in two weeks.  But, there isn't anything I can do about that.  There is no way I can ride her in this smoke.  When the smoke clears, we'll get back to work.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Random Friday

1.  While fellow bloggers Lori and Mary Ann are cooling off, we have been back to triple digit heat this week.  It was pretty warm at work Thursday --

We have tried to avoid being outside but that didn't work out too well for Brett.  We had a large stretch of fence come down so he had to fix that.  Our neighbor, Marv, was helping and Marv suggested that they also remove two dead pine trees while they were at it -- pine trees are dying right and left up here due to the drought.

2.  We also had the farrier out this week.  He and Brett worked out of the sun, inside the barn, where it was "only" 98F.  The horses were all well behaved -- probably too hot to be silly.  Except for Lucy who kept arching her neck like a giraffe in an attempt to reach the bucket of carrots sitting by Brett.  Pistol has shoes now so she's ready for regular work -- once the weather cools and the smoke clears.

3.  There is a large fire south of us and east of Jackson, the Butte fire.  Fortunately for us it is burning in a southeasterly direction, away from us.  Unfortunately, it is the largest fire in the State right now.  Wednesday when we went to bed it was 4,000 acres and 30% contained.  Thursday morning it was still 4,000 acres but down to 20% contained.  Thursday night... 14,700 acres and 10% contained.  Nine homes have burned, numerous evacuations are in place, and there is no estimate for containment.
Butte Fire, Sept 10 @ noon; photo by Shannon Prieto posted on YubaNet

Our community is covered in smoke; the sky is dark with an eery evening feeling all day -- eery because there is an orange tint to the air and the sun is a bright reddish orange ball; looking more like the moon than the sun with its brightness muted by the smoke.
This morning, Friday, the fire is still only 10% contained -- and grew overnight to 32,000 acres.
This photo was taken by our neighbor earlier in the day; before the smoke settled lower to the ground; thick and dense

4.  I stopped at Hooverville Orchards on my way home from work and picked up some fruit.  There are only a few varieties of peaches left but the apples and pears are starting to come in strong.  I loaded up three bags -- plus a pie -- and headed home.


The last of the peach varieties

5. Kyle, his girlfriend, and her family had been planning to stay in Jackson this weekend and do some wine tasting.  The family cancelled their original hotel reservations since Jackson is fairly close to the fire (the lady at the hotel was happy for the cancellation in the midst of all the fire-related chaos in town) and made new ones closer to Placerville, away from the fire.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Heat is Back we took the kayaks up to Wrights Lake which is about 25 miles this side of Lake Tahoe in the Desolation Wilderness area of the Sierra Nevada.  The lake is very quiet -- no motor boats allowed at all.  We kayaked across the lake and then paddled up a stream for awhile.  90F at home and 70F on the lake.
Me and Margarita -- I mean, what else would you name a lime green kayak?

Heading up stream; lots of practice steering to dodge submerged boulders, logs and sandbars.

There were lots of pretty cabins along the shore.  (That's Brett in his kayak, Squirrel - in honor of Rachel, his granddaughter, who is on a rowing team at school)

We paddled up this stream, starting at the trail bridge.
Our friends, George and Nancy, were behind us going up the stream and took this video.

Having lunch on the shore.

Those are the Crystal mountains behind the lake -- is it gorgeous or what.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Better Safe than

...eaten by trolls.  Teresa, at Journey With a Dancing Horse, has Canadian trolls living outside of her arena, in the tall grass.  Her horse, Carmen, worries about them when the wind blows the grass.  We have trolls, as well, -- the Californian variety.  I think they live in trees but I'm not positive.  Lucy is the resident expert.  There is definitely a troll -- maybe a whole family of trolls -- living just outside the far end of the dressage court.  There isn't anything different in that corner -- a few oak trees; the same kind of oak trees that surround the entire court; dead grass; a fence.  And trolls.

This morning as Brett and I finished up chores, cement trucks started rumbling up our road to a destination just out of sight but well within earshot.  We watched a truck go by, then heard it turn into a driveway and deliver its load of cement.  It rumbled back down the road and another truck appeared a few minutes later.

Brett drove off to the airport after breakfast, to catch a plane to Southern California where he will be celebrating his grandson's first birthday later today.  (Happy Birthday Merrick!).  So, Brett and Pistol weren't here to ride with us.  Lucy was a bit high headed walking to the tie rail, but not enough to worry me.  If the cement trucks had been the only distraction this morning she would have been fine.

We were without Pistol who effectively cancels out at least one, maybe two, situations that worry Lucy.

At the tie rail I was busy brushing Lucy's lower front leg, bent at the waist, reaching down to her dusty feet.  I sensed Lucy tense and felt her look over my back towards the street (and the cement trucks).  I stood up and smacked my head on the underside of Lucy's jaw.
Ow!  I said.
Holy sh*t! Lucy said. Her eyes were wild with worry and she pulled back.
Whoa, Lucy.  You're okay.  I didn't hit you.  Well, not on purpose anyway and my head hurts worse than yours.
She settled, sort of.

Walking up to the dressage court, at our neighbor closest to the dressage court, a construction crew started up on the construction of his new garage.  The nail guns were loud and they woke up the trolls.

I walked Lucy around the perimeter of the dressage court and she was obedient, but worried.  Very worried.  I decided to lunge her instead of getting on.  On the lunge, we worked our way up the dressage court to the troll corner and there we stayed.  She spooked a few times, but a spook on the lunge line is no big deal.  We worked until she was transitioning promptly from my voice, in both directions, at any place in the arena.  And then we called it quits.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Random Friday

1.  Brett and I rode after I got home from work both Wednesday and Thursday.  The evenings have been cooling off -- its just lovely.  This morning when I left for work it was 46F!  Like I said -- LOVELY!  Lucy and I are working on our fitness so we don't fall apart in the Sandy Savage workshop later this month.  Brett and Pistol are working on her fitness as well.  We have to take a lot of walk breaks to let the dust settle, but temperatures have been in the mid-70s when we ride.  Just perfect.

2.  Pistol is looking great.  She meets Brett at the pasture gate when we ride; pushing in front of Lucy and shoving her head into the halter.  She huffs and puffs at trot a bit but she's coming along.  And she looks gorgeous -- her white looks white and her mane and tail are brushed and silky.  I love her quiet, solid energy.  I love how happy Brett is when he rides her.  And I love how relaxed Lucy is when we ride together.

3.  Since my lesson last weekend with Sandy, I've been concentrating on me when I ride.  I'm trying to keep my upper calf against Lucy -- which helps turn my airplane-wing-toes back in where they belong.  I'm riding with relaxed shoulders and heavy arms.  I'm getting the timing down with my aids.  And, most importantly for Lucy, I'm giving her space.  When she gets fussy and tosses her head, I relax my shoulders and drive her forward with my legs.  I figure if Teresa can relax through Carmen's young horse antics, then I can relax through Lucy's worry and anticipation.

4.  Brett gives the horses part of their hay before I get home from work.  After we ride, we muck out the pastures and then they get the rest of their dinner hay.  This past week, Lucy has been following me around the pasture, while I muck, like a dog.  I've had to reinforce my space with her -- or she'd stand right on top of me.  It's kind of cute but it takes me twice as long to muck since I have to keep kissing her on her soft muzzle everytime I stop by a pile of poop.  50 lbs of poop per horse, per day.  That's a lot of piles of poop when you have five horses and two donkeys.

5.  Before we go to bed at night, Brett takes Kersey out to pee.  He waits on the front porch while she goes down the stairs to the front lawn area and does her business.  About a week ago he told me that there were a pair of orange eyes watching him from down by the boys pasture, close to a drainage pipe.  Then, a few evenings later, while sitting on the front porch with a glass of wine,we saw two shapes moving in the same area.  They were far too large to be squirrels -- more in the racoon or skunk range -- but the dusk was too deep to make out more than moving shadows.  Kersey was dozing at our feet so we quietly woke her and went inside.  If they were skunks, we weren't interested in her getting sprayed... again.  Then a few days ago, after riding in the evening, we settled under one of the large oaks that frame the house with, yes, a glass of wine.  Kersey rested at our feet, hoping for crumbs of cheese.  The critters emerged in the same spot -- three of them -- and from the way they softly jumped around we were pretty sure they were skunks.  Kersey lifted her head, looked, and started in their direction.  I called her back and - amazingly - she listened and returned.  We went in the house before she could change her mind.  Good dog, Kersey.  Good dog.