Saturday, November 29, 2008

The To Do List...

Click to Mix and Solve
Boots & Spurs, taken at the
Western States Mustang Challenge

Four more sleeps and we're off on another adventure. I had to count that on my I pathetic, or what?

I'm not ready. Not in the least. I need to get the panels set up again inside the paddock. I need to pick up bedding and hay.

I had someone call and leave a message on Wednesday asking to have their windows painted for Christmas; I need to call them back and get out to paint before leaving. How's that for cutting it close?

I have a couple of Hags on Stangs shirts that need to be printed up.

I need to make soap. Yes, 2 batches at the very least. Or one large batch with two fragrances (which is likely what I'll end up doing.) I ought to make some lotion while I'm at it.

And Cowboy Kisses! Simply cannot forget to bring along the lip balm featuring my favorite cowboy from Burns...people will be expecting it!

I've got to write Darling a note to get out of class.

Don't let me forget to pack...okay? I've been known to forget the little details like that in the past...

But most importantly...I need to remember to pray for God's blessing on this little journey.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

So tell me...what have you got to be thankful for this year?

A song that has filtered through my head most of the day was one we sing in church from time to time, "Give Thanks, with a grateful heart"... When things seem to be going wrong, that's not always easy.

Five years ago City Boy called me with the news: "They just told me I'd be gone by the end of the month." That month was October, meaning he'd be unemployed at Christmas. And yet amazingly enough, that was one of the best Christmases I recall. The gifts were small, but treasured. My favorite gift ever was among them...a pair of pink rubber boots! It was such a shock to see them when I opened the box and I laughed so hard I nearly cried. I loved them and made sure they were on my feet when I went to the grocery store the following morning. I'll bet those city slickers were taking a few sideways glances, but I didn't care. Those boots rocked my Christmas, and I was thankful to have them.

I hope you've been able to reflect on your life and find things to be thankful for this week, and I pray that you're able to keep those thoughts at the forefront of your mind as you travel down life's path. Not everything we face is pleasant, and many of us are facing uncertain times with the current economy. Just remember that God is always in charge, and even when we think there is only darkness, the eternal Light is always on...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Check It Out!

If you live somewhere in the west, you've no doubt seen their magazine sitting in a tack or feed store at some point. The Northwest Horse Source is a lovely little magazine chock full of interesting articles, many reader submitted, plus great horse industry news and a smattering of classifieds. What sets it apart from the other magazines of equal caliber is that it's free... Yeah, that's right! And in this economy, who doesn't like free?

So maybe you're sitting out there thinking to yourself..."Hey, Desperate, you numbskull...I live on the east coast, so how is this good news for me?" And I'd holler back at you, "Hey, check it out! They've got a blog! Not only that, but their entire magazine is online. That means all those terrific articles are just a click away!"

Yup. That's what I'd holler back. Of course, you'd probably want a link to go with the hollering, and I could provide you with that, too. Of particular interest to my dear readers...(or perhaps just my grandmother...) would be this link:

You may also want to view the magazine itself, which can be found here:

I hope y'all enjoy the magazine as much as I do.

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cough...sniff, wheeze, sneeze...

Click to Mix and Solve

You know how it is this time of year. Colds, flus and other nasty viruses floating around. The coughing, wheezing, sneezing gotta drink a bottle of nyquil winter nights are definitely upon us. Is there anything worse than having the kids call you Rudolph or your husband asking you to please put a paper bag over your head so he doesn't have to look at your baggy eyes, matted hair and the mucus running out of your nose?

Well, yes. Yes, there is. It's the internet's own Blogging Virus, which knows no boundaries or borders. There are no vaccinations; it runs rampant year 'round, zig zagging it's way at lightening speed across the globe, infecting unsuspecting bloggers when they least expect it. Last year I recall having come in contact with it at least 4 times, each time it demanded that I post 7 things people didn't know about me. Come on now, I'm a blogger! What secrets are kept? I kiss and tell daily! You've seen me at my worst...from my 8 second ride on Jet to the nasty bruises left by Sandy.

Thankfully that virus ran it's course and we all appear to be immune now... Or are we? I'm just a little bored today, so I'm about to infect a few people. Are you ready? Here's what I want to know:

1) Where did you go riding this week?
2) Your most embarrassing moment on horseback.
3) What's your favorite piece of tack?
4) Do you collect anything horsey?
5) What's your least favorite aspect of horse ownership?

Naturally, I expect photos to go along with this virus.

Now...who to infect? Let's see... How about:

Karyn from BlackFyre Farms
Linda at Beautiful Mustang
Karen at Life At The Roughstring

The rules are simple enough...just answer the questions honestly, then pass the virus on to someone else. After all, what's the fun of getting sick if you can't make someone else just as miserable as yourself?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oh...the Weather Outside is...


Up on the hill, a wee dusting of snow. Down here in my paddock, rain (resulting in mud.) When the clouds parted this evening the sky was flame red out beyond the end of the valley.

Thankfully, we had a few nice days earlier this week. Thursday I rode Jet the mile down to the arena, working her on a loose rein, walking and trotting while staying relaxed. I'm wondering if the light contact on the bit the other day was getting to her. She's sensitive about things like that, and too much contact can cause rearing in a horse like her; we already know she's prone to throwing herself up into the air. So that was the goal on Thursday; stay relaxed and confident in the saddle, and hope that would translate into a relaxed and confident horse.

It worked. There was a time or two when I could feel her tense up and try to push her way out of a circle, but I dropped the outside rein completely and just feathered the inside enough to tip her nose in the direction I wanted to go, and she followed.

After a nice ride inside, we headed home. Rather than our usual route, we turned the other direction and headed further down the road, then up and around the block. A country block, that is. She'd never been out that way and in true Jet fashion, she stepped right out like the curious explorer she is. We returned home 2 hours after we'd left, ears up and relaxed. It was a very nice ride, one I hope we can build on.

Friday, November 21, 2008

50,000...and I missed it!

50,000 visitors...and I missed when it happened! Yesterday, I suspect. I used to sit and watch that counter on a daily basis. Now? Not so much.

A lot has happened in the last 50,000 visits. Darling and I attended the Lynden Pro Rodeo where we saw the cowboys lose to the colts.

I spent a few months with Curt learning to ride...but I gotta tell you I don't sit a horse nearly as purty as he does!

Tangy had her foal, a little red colt dubbed AJ. That little mare, you may recall, was as big as a house and way overdue. There was a bit of fear that she was harboring twins...but thankfully, no. It was just one nice, big hipped boy in there.

We went on vacation last spring to Burns. On our way home City Boy spotted a roadside attraction...the skull of a dead horse. And yes...our charming souvenir is still proudly displayed outside of our house.
What? I needed to warn you as to the graphic nature of this blog? Oops. Silly me.

My parents left their home in Yuma to vacation for the holidays up here in the northwest. It used to be they vacationed in Yuma, but somewhere along the line things got turned around.

When they left for Yuma a couple months ago they took one of our kittens that had been born here this summer. He's their traveling companion. Apparently he feels my dad is an armchair. Or perhaps he thinks he's a parrot?
I saw far too many really nice horses left behind at adoptions this year, including this lovely mare. I wonder if she's still there in Burns? If so, I may just have to request that she comes to a spring adoption so I can bring her home and work with her a bit.

If you get a chance, turn on World News Tonight (tonight) and see Madeleine Pickens being interviewed about her plan to take on the over abundance of wild horses that have been in holding.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Meet the Trainers and a Chance for Beauty

An amazing turn of events came to pass yesterday as the wife of T. Boone Pickens proclaimed that she was going to adopt all 30,000 plus horses in long term holding. Seems a bit surreal, doesn't it? While some are rejoicing, others are holding their breath and wondering just how she'll pull it off. I'm left wondering if this deal was in the works when it was announced that there was a stay of execution. Either way, it again buys Beauty time, and very possibly her life.


For those of you who live in or around the northwest, I thought perhaps you'd enjoy seeing the list of trainers for the upcoming Northwest Extreme Mustang Makeover:

Whitney Campbell, WA
Miguel Chappell, OR
Kyle Churchill, WA
Gerry Cox, WA
Keith Danielson, WA
Corinne Elser, OR (Corinne won the Western States Challenge)
Cheryl Elser, OR (Corinne's mom...they say she's a tough competitor!)
Josh Fitzgerald, OR
Erin Gray, OR
Janelle Hight, OR
Scott Hulme, ID
Jasmine Ison, OR
Tracy Kiefer, OR
Erica Knight, OR
Ben Kurtz, OR
Dawn Marten, OR
Laird McCabe, OR
Becky McPheters, CA
Neil Ousterhout, OR
Denise Philips, OR
Kimberly ROss, OR
Diana Shneider, OR
Jackie Sighloh, OR
Shelley Simmons, OR
Kevin Sink, OR
CAssi Soule, OR
Jamie Thomas, WA
Ruben Villasenor, WA
Dave Weeding, MT
Tracey Westbury, WA
Mo Wilcox, OR
Leslie Zenich, OR
Jani Mari Zigray-Chochran, OR
Matt Zimmerman, OR
Brent Rollins, OR
Dave Bosen, ID

Congratulations to all those who've been selected, and I hope to meet you soon!

My plan, at least for the moment, is to head out on Dec. 3, Wednesday afternoon, travel halfway(ish), then out again on Thursday morning. This will have me traveling during daylight hours and minimizes any risk of slick roads should we end up with less than ideal weather. It will also put us down at the corrals with a couple hours of daylight left and I'll be able to get a sneak peek at the horses for the competition.

On Friday we'll spend a bit more time helping out at the corrals, and then hopefully have some time to sneak up to Steens in hopes of seeing a few horses in the wild.

Of course, the camera will be with me, along with the laptop, so that you'll be kept in the loop with all the latest news and photos of the weekend.

My favorite cowboy...aside from City Boy, of course!

Driving with me, aside from Darling, will be a young woman I met up at the fair this past August. She's been wanting to adopt, and my trip provides a perfect opportunity for her to pick out her new mustang. Debbie, who has Mist and Quiet Storm, is also considering coming along, so I'll have a truck full of helpers and spare drivers. Except for you, Darling! No driving for you...not this trip :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Do This So The World May Know...

There's been a reprieve for the wild horses in long term holding as of yesterday in an effort to allow further discussion and hopefully find a solution. Gathers will not be done with the exception of extreme cases where there is no forage for the animals (such as the mare and foal pictured yesterday.) While I'm elated for Beauty's sake, I can't see a solution that will make everyone happy and fear we'll be right back to where we started in another 12 months.

Back to the mathematical basics involved. Wild horse herds double in size every 4-5 years. Let's be conservative and say 5 years. 30,000 horses today becomes 420,000 horses in 20 years.

The only practical solution I can think of, outside of adopting them all out, is to use birth control in the mares. The discussion I had with one of the Oregon employees sounded hopeful. When the mares were administered with BC, the success rate was 90% the first year, 60% the second, and 30% the third. When a herd is gathered roughly every 4 years, this would make a huge impact, yet still allow for genetic diversity to continue.

But then there's the time involved, and how long it takes to administer this to all the herds. With a 4 year gather cycle, it would be at least 5 years before we really began to see any results. By not gathering in this upcoming year, the real problem is out there continuing to reproduce.'s the soundest of the solutions being offered from what I can tell. The question is how best to afford it while at the same time providing care for Beauty.

Darling put together this video slide show. If you've got volume? This is the one to listen to.

Monday, November 17, 2008


They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My eyes behold this mare as a thing of beauty. How about you?

This has been a tough year for mustangs and their fans. While I can rationally agree with the BLM's announcement that euthanasia of several thousand horses in holding facilities is the only real option at the moment considering the massive amounts of horses and lack of adopters, there is one horse that I struggle with.


I first saw her a year ago while at the Kiger adoption in Burns, Oregon. Beauty was in the aged mare pen with several others 10 and over. Their chances of adoption were non-existent, unless someone that weekend spoke up and said they wanted one, the mares and geldings in that age range were sent to long term holding facilities where they were to live out their lives, watched over by contractors who would provide them with fresh water and plenty off good hay. It was a sweet life, really, when you think about it. No more hunger or wondering if you'd make it to the next water hole. Just hundreds of acres on which to roam with your long term friends and herd mates just as you had when you were free. No one knew that when Beauty and the others were loaded up, that they were marching down a trail that may just lead to their death.

Beauty and her friend fear the worst...and may get it.

30,000 horses is a lot. If you own a horse, stop and multiply the cost of that one and see just how much it's costing to care for all these horses in holding. It's not a pretty thought. In Oregon a gather was recently done in the Alvord Tule and Coyote Lakes Herd Management Areas. They hadn't wanted to. It's been less than 3 years since the last one. However, feed is in short supply and the horses are thin, their ribs poking out and backbones showing. It's nearly impossible to expect these horses to survive the harsh winter of no feed and deep freezes in this condition.

Mare and foal from recent gather tell the tale of a hard summer.
Photo courtesy of Andi Harmon.

I honestly haven't got a solution. They'll die of starvation left to themselves. In holding, at least, it will be swift. Little comfort. My grandmother will soon respond to this post. She'll tell me (again) that I can't save them all. But what I wouldn't give to be able to save Beauty...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

8 Second Ride

Darling and I led Jet down to the arena yesterday for a ride. She had a rough ride with Sandy out on the trails on Monday; he insisted on jumping over all the old moguls left from the loggers, then on our way home he laid down. All I heard was a little squeal and when I looked back there he was...or they were, I should say...on the ground. Thankfully Darling had pulled her foot off to the side to avoid injury. But she was understandably shaken, and from that point has decided she really wants to ride only Jet.

Her first ride in the arena was mid-week, and the two of them did well. Walk and trot, Jet was bouncy as could be, but Darling stayed with her and even began to think perhaps she would like to give dressage a try sometime. Jet is built for dressage, all upright and springy. Surely not a western pleasure horse.

The ride was good, and as mentioned, we walked down again yesterday for a second go. Darling was a bit on the nervous side, although I wasn't too sure why. Jet was walking out but didn't appear to be doing much wrong. She ultimately was listening as Darling put her leg into her and guided her in circles. After 20 minutes or so, Darling was worn down and saying she didn't feel like trotting, so she climbed off and I got on.

I've got to hand it to Darling, she made it look easy. Once I was in the saddle Jet's true feelings about the ride began to shine through...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Eee Moh Shun Al

Extreme Mustang Makeover

You have been selected as a trainer for the Northwest Extreme Mustang Makeover.

City Boy was reading over my shoulder. "I want you to go back and read this part," he said...

We understand that this is a long emotional, physical, and expensive journey!

"Do you see that, right there?" he asked me. I was afraid he was about to point out the expensive journey when he said, " EEE MOH SHUN AL! I'm not bringing another horse home."

Yes, dear...

So, which of these beauties do you suppose I'll be coming home with preparing for adoption?

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Darling hits the dusty (arena) trail

I hauled Darling out of bed at quarter of 11 this morning.

"Time to get moving!" I told her. She grumbled something about ten minutes as I walked out the door. I'd left Sandy locked in a stall overnight to keep him dry. Today we were going to do something new. We were heading to our first horse show!

Because these little local shows can really drag, I hadn't really thought much about getting there early. I probably should have. The arena in Lynden is my least favorite to ride in. For whatever reason, horses that go well in any other venue will get a little nervous in Lynden. The chain link fencing with bright yellow bleachers on the other side seems to create an occasional case of nerves in even the seasoned horse, let alone a greenie like Sandy.

By the time we hauled in and tacked up, there was but 5 minutes left in the lunch break. Sandy had been quiet enough walking through the parking lot among the crowd of horses, but once he set foot inside the arena, that changed. His ears were up. His head was up. He was on full alert. Yellow bleachers eat mustangs, it seems, just as easily as domestics. Sandy did everything he could to avoid coming within 20' of the rail along the bleacher side. He was like a hairy land crab working his way sideways along that side of the arena.

Not only did we travel sideways, but we went fast. Very, very fast. An under control fast, but I'm certain there were people with wide eyes out there wondering if we were going to crash into their little kid as we careened around. I pulled Sandy towards the center and had him circling left and right, attempting to stay out of everyone's line of traffic so that I could get him to focus on me rather than his surroundings. Alas...there was just not enough time before everyone was asked to leave the arena so the show could resume.

I'd entered Sandy and I in the 18 and over western equitation and western pleasure classes. After that poor performance warming up I ran into the show office to ask if we could bump down into the walk trot levels in an effort to save everyone else the trouble of me ruining their go as Sandy was obviously not going to work at a lope today. The walk trot equ class was up first. I felt rather funny, but it wasn't restricted to any one age and there were a few other women with green horses in there. Sandy raced and was nervous, but we still managed to pull a second place regardless of me needing to hang onto him.

Sandy shakes off the first class jitters

We stepped outside with the other horses to wait for our next class. Someone commented that Sandy looked like he was thinking about things. He must have been, because when we walked back into the arena 15 minutes later for pleasure, he sized everything up, took a deep breath and listened to me. His whoa button was still malfunctioning, but he dropped his head and worked on the rail all the way around in both directions. Beautiful! I glanced around to see what the other horses looked like. None could compare. Of course, I wasn't watching everyone like the judge was watching, but I knew Sandy should have no problem being in the top three.

We lined up and waited for the judge to finish. As the ring steward went to hand in the results, the judge faced us and said, "Some of you are using training aids, and that's okay, but I have to place those without the aids ahead, despite the fact that your horses may have been working better."


Sandy was wearing his running martingale. Which was okay. I knew going into this that depending on the judge or the particular rules, we may or may not be disqualified for it. It didn't matter, really, because the improvement from that five minute warm up to his pleasure class 30 minutes later had far surpassed anything I could have asked.

Darling came up to me after the class and asked why no ribbon. I told her it was because we'd used the martingale. "Why? Why would you use it if you knew you'd be disqualified?"

"Because sometimes the ride is more important than the ribbon," I answered. "A good ride with no ribbon is a far greater reward than a ribbon received for a poor ride."

I'm sure Darling will munch on that one for awhile. As for Sandy, he got a bucket of beet pulp all to himself on the ride home and is now happy to be wallowing in the mud with his friends.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Can You See It?

It's horrible...just plain horrible. It was still dark when I walked out of the house. Darling had just climbed out of bed and was getting ready for school as I opened up the door to go out to feed. It hit me straight in the face. That smell... I shook it off and told myself not to dwell on it. Surely it was imagined.

I headed down the steps and across the yard where the horses and sheep were waiting not so patiently, calling for me to hurry up with their breakfast. I then slipped back inside without giving the smell another thought. Darling was up and refusing breakfast. She's not a morning person and can't stomach anything related to food till nearly noon. She brushed her teeth and combed her hair, then we were out the door and headed to the bus stop. Darling didn't notice the scent that had come crashing up my nasal passages, and I didn't say anything.

A bit later I went out to start cleaning. It was daylight now. The smell wasn't so strong. I wanted to ignore it, to pretend it wasn't there. But like a bad accident where you just can't help but look, it was pullied my eyes towards the hill where I saw the whole, gory mess...


As I sat here relaying my horrible, awful experience, Darling came by and sat on my lap to read. She got to the smell, and said to me, "I know what the smell is," with a triumphant smile. "Snow!"

"No! Don't say it!" I shouted back at her in a panic, looking around to see if anyone may have heard.

"Why? Are you afraid if I say snow, it'll come, just like if I say Boogey Man?"

"Aaaaaaggghhhh!!!!" And with that I dumped Darling onto the floor with the dogs and forever banished her from my lap.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Oh, The Waiting...

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It seems an eternity ago since Sandy came to me, an insecure little gelding with a habit of nipping and kicking and his lopsided Spanish walk. And I won't ever forget the disappointment I felt when I first laid eyes on him in Sacramento. A homely thing, to be sure. Not pretty at all like so many others. Yet Sandy is what you and I'd prayed for. God's perfect horse for me.

Sandy has given me my confidence back. I hadn't realized just how much of it was missing, to be honest, but Sandy has me doing things I've not done in years...and in some instance things I've never tried before. He's become my mentor in the equine world, slowly plugging away at me and encouraging me to try something new.

Most importantly, Sandy has reminded me of a biblical lesson, something that's woven in and out of scripture: "He who is least shall be great." Sandy has never been much to look at. Typically it's a quick glance with the 'poor, pitiful horse' look that we get. But then Sandy moves...and they see him on the rail or the trail and suddenly he becomes a star.

And that was Sandy's great lesson to me. Less is often more.

So why am I now sitting here combing through my old photos of a handful of mustangs I know to be left in Burns, wondering which one I may end up with should I be accepted into the upcoming makeover? And why am I drawn to this big eyed beauty? Sandy should have driven the point home that beauty is only skin deep...but I still can't help but plead just a wee bit with God that he put this lovely mare in my hands...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Can You Let It Out at the Shoulders a Bit?

It's a lovely saddle, really. Old, probably from the 40s or 50s according to a few different saddle tramps. Well made, too. I had Curt take a look at it to see if it was worth the proposed trade. "Whoever made this was a saddle maker," was his response after turning it around, looking it up one side and down the other. In Curt speak, that translates to a master craftsman.

The rigging is set far enough back that pressure isn't being pulled straight down from Sandy's shoulders and withers, which is a good deal. The gullet is high enough that it doesn't sit down on those same withers. The problem is the width of the gullet. Just 5", it pinches at the shoulders.

So in other pretty as it is, the trade of my current saddle for this one is a no-go. Sigh...poor Sandy will be a pinto before I've found him a good fit, it would appear. He's roaning out over his back and his withers on both sides have huge white patches coming in from our ill fitting saddle.

I spent an hour with Curt the other morning in an attempt to better understand what Sandy and I needed. Because Sandy has big 'pockets' behind his shoulders where his back hollows out, saddles tend to slide back and put pressure further back on the shoulders. For instance, the photo above shows the shoulder spots, which are 2-3" behind where a 'normal' horse would have a saddle pinch. In addition, because he narrows out so much behind his shoulders, the saddle creates a bridge along his back, lifting up off his spine before coming to rest again above his loin.

Okay, so that much was easy to deduce on my own based on his white spots. However, how to best fit him has had me running blind. After tossing both the Billy Cook and the old Adams on his back, Curt had me put three different saddles that he'd custom made on top of Sandy's back. Two were no where close to the right fit. The third was as good as he said we would likely get. Rather than being narrow at the shoulders, which I'd misunderstood as something I needed to get lift off his withers, I needed wide. Wide and flared if I could find it. 7" minimum, but a little wider if it came along.

But wide alone isn't going to cut it for Sandy. No, he also needs high to accommodate his withers. Now, not only do I get to ask sellers if they can measure the width of the gullet of the saddle they've got listed, but I ask them to measure the height as well. Then I get emails saying "I have no clue what you're asking," as well as, "Who's your source? You can fix all problems with a good pad"...oye vey.

To help others help me, I took a couple of photos and have been sending them out to multiple ebay and craigslist sellers in an attempt to educate them and decide if their saddles will come even close to what I need.

The saddle below was measured at 7" wide, but it was measured from the outside of the leather. You need to measure from the inside, where the horse's shoulders are, in order to get an accurate measurement. When I got it home, it was too narrow. Note to self...always carry a tape measure when going to look at saddles!

So what's a Funky Backed Gelding to do? Well...Ideally I'd have the money to purchase the tree, have a saddle maker carve it out to fit Sandy's back, then send it back to have it wrapped in bullhide, then the saddle making process could begin. That's probably not going to happen.

Curt suggests we find some of that memory foam that will create good cushion and mold to Sandy's back until we can come up with what we need in a saddle.

I ask you...where would Sandy and I be without Curt?