Monday, January 24, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away...


Rain does not make life in the barn very happy. Patch the puppy bounces and frolics and could care less about the water and mud, of course. However, we humans are less than happy to find it shaking from him and landing on us while we're doing our chores. Thankfully, Patch would prefer to be inside the barn, happily 'herding' the manure fork from stall floor to wheelbarrow. But when the cleaning is done, it's time for Patch to head back to his room so that he doesn't end up beneath pony feet when it's time to ride.


Despite how she may look, I'm certain that Tika loves being indoors rather than out in the weather. She's simply showing her displeasure at having that unruly forelock of hers combed out. Look at those eyes! Every bit as much expression and emotion as Patch.


And speaking of expression...would you look at this?! Honestly, every time Tango comes out to be saddled, he starts sticking his tongue out. What a character! I'll bet some of you remember Tango as a baby, way back when Sandy was down at Curt's, and that adorable colt was born?


Drip, drip, drop. The rain just does not stop. Thankfully I've got both Curt's arena or the riding club for this dreary season. Cannot wait for sun.

Friday, January 21, 2011


City Boy and I weren't too far up the road when it suddenly occurred to me that I didn't have my zoomie zoomie lens. City Boy merely rolled his eyes and continued up the highway. It was cold and damp and pretty-gosh-darned miserable out there. We probably weren't more than 15 miles up the highway when we pulled off and into the state run hatchery. From there, we walked to the riverbank and spotted a couple of bald eagles, along with this youngster perched on a snag. The baby sat there not paying us much heed, his mind intent on scouring the river for salmon.


Salmon are coming upriver to spawn right now. Once the females have laid their eggs, and the male has fertilized them, the salmon die. In the hatchery, the same thing is going on, only there are no eagles diving down to benefit. We, however, spotted several.


It was cold to the bone up there. Snow was falling in the foothills and the rain nearly cut straight through you. We didn't spend much time outside of the car. Who needed photos of eagles, anyway? Who's idea was it to climb that miserable mountain in such wretched weather?

We turned around and headed back toward civilization. Well, at least back toward home, which thankfully was just 20 minutes down the hill.

But wait!

What's that? A bakery up here in the tall, tall timber? Hmmm...must stop. Must check. What have they got that we maybe must have?


Oh, yeah!
This was definitely my idea.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What I'd Like to do Today


I'm taking the day off. Sort of. I've been down at Curt's helping with chores, cleaning stalls, riding horses, and of course working with Tika, nearly non-stop for the past few weeks. But not today. Today, just as soon as horses were watered & fed, and immediately after I finished my mug of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream, I headed for home. City Boy asked what we were going to do today. I didn't have a plan...but now I think I do. It's eagle season in the Pacific Northwest, and I'm going to see if I can talk him into a drive up river. Ought to be great fun in the rain!

What are you doing today?

Monday, January 17, 2011


They're difficult, no matter the situation. Goodbyes, that is. This weekend some friends of ours made the drive up here to pick up Lefty. This is difficult. City Boy has bonded. I have not. Oh...I may have if I didn't still have his hoof prints on my body. He is, after all, a real snuggle bunny when he wants to be.

Speaking to one of the wranglers at the corrals, she suggested that perhaps it was time to go cowboy with this boy and lay him down. I were scared at going cowboy, weren't you? Lefty needs to know who's boss. But I've not laid a horse down before and not sure I can get this monster in a black and white wrapper to cooperate as my first victim.

Enter Feral Redeye, who has wanted Lefty from the beginning. We have no clue if Lefty will ever come around and make a solid horse for City Boy, or be a horse that I can trust, but Feral wants to see what he can accomplish. And if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out.

So Lefty climbed into the same horse trailer that originally hauled him away from the corrals, and went back to the small farm in Oregon from which Darling and I picked him up several months ago in hopes of learning some life lessons.


And the first thing that happened when he got there? Kicked Robbie, the drafty lead mare, and caused her to be three legged for a solid 30 minutes. Tika still has a knot on her leg, just below her hock, where he did the same thing when turned out with her. Hopefully Robbie will put him in his place, but I sure hope she doesn't get hurt in the process!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A New Day, A New Ride


"Get your mare out and lunge the @%$ out of her today," came the directions from the old cowboy. Didn't need to tell me that!

We began in the arena where the sand is nice and deep. Helps wear them down just a bit, working in that sand. Heck, it wears me down trying to walk across it! I only spent about five minutes there, though, before heading to the round pen where I could work her in the smaller space. Easier to get her to lope when she has that wall, too. In the arena she doesn't quite make a full circle before trying to fade away to the outside, or dropping back into a trot. So the initial freshness gets worked in the sand so that hopefully she's thinking when we get to the round pen.

Today she didn't really feel like thinking, I guess, and chose to fly like a young colt in circles around me. Well, it was her choice, so I just kept her going a bit longer than maybe she'd have wanted to go on her own. Small circles also wear a horse down because they need to use their bodies more than in a larger circle. Once Tika decided that she'd rather trot than hand gallop tight circles, I began to ask her for stops and turns from the center of the round pen.


It was another five minutes before Curt showed up, and by now Tika was warmed up...literally. The sweat was working through that long coat of hers and was beginning to drip from locks of hair.

As Curt entered the round pen, Tika backed up. He took the rope and asked her to step up to him, but instead she lifted her head and backed away like a rope horse dragging a calf to the fire. A treat appeared, however, in the old cowboy's hand, and Tika decided that maybe she'd be friends again.

I mounted up and Curt led us a few feet forward, then walked to Tika's face and unsnapped the rope, asking her if she was going to be a good girl today and not give me a ride like she had the previous day. He rubbed her face and offered another treat, and then I asked her to move to the rail.

There was a slight edginess, but I don't know if it was her or me to be honest. Or perhaps a little of each? A couple of circles at the walk and Curt asked me to come towards him, and another treat appeared. We reversed, walked, trotted a couple of circles, stopped for a treat, then reversed again. Three or four treats later, and the treats were gone. By then Tika was looking at Curt each time we turned to see if he had something for her, and her reluctance toward him had disappeared.

I wasn't on more than ten minutes, I don't think. Perhaps not even that long. We only walked and trotted, and when she tried to pick up the pace at the trot Curt asked me to check her a bit, so I did, and she didn't worry about feeling the bit in her mouth, just responded by slowing down a wee bit.

Tika was delighted to have the saddle pulled from her dripping body once we were back in the arena, and the moment my back was turned she dropped down into the arena sand for a good bath. I think this is the equivalent to a bubble bath for me. She sure does enjoy the deep sand, as you can tell from her after bath photos!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Ride Her! Ride Her!"


There are just some days you're kinda glad there wasn't a video camera around, you know? Today was one of those days. I'd actually considered handing the old cowboy my camera, since yesterday's ride had gone so smoothly, but something stopped me. He probably wouldn't want to be hanging onto that while helping me, anyway.

As it turns out, he may have dumped it in the dirt, and Tika may likely have stomped it on her way across the round pen. Because today Tika did what I was afraid Tika might do. She hit the panic button.

"Ride her! Ride her!"

"Whoa!" (me)

"Whoa!" (Cowboy)

Do you know how long an 8 second ride is? Me either. No one clocked us. Not that she bucked, because Tika doesn't do that (much.) She simply dashed as quickly as she could, looking for a way out of whatever mess she suddenly thought she was in.

Curt had showed up at the round pen far sooner than usual. Typically I had ten minutes to lunge Tika and get the jitters out of her. But the last couple of rides we only worked half that time, and yesterday was such a good day. So relaxed, just walking and trotting, head lower and no real speed. We opted not to lope since she was listening and so quiet. So when Curt showed up and said, "She'll be okay,", I went ahead and climbed on.

And she was okay, really...except Curt was holding a coffee cup in his hand, and she didn't like him walking up to her with it because it was different than usual. He hid it behind his back and stood alongside her as I mounted, and it was business as usual. Then Curt did something totally foreign to Tika, and he stood off to the side along the wall so that we had room to do a few figure 8s.

Tika was unsure. He wasn't where he was supposed to be, and again with the cup! What was up with the cup? She didn't know, and she didn't care. I got a couple of circles in when something sparked in her mind, and we were off to the races where I could hear Curt's voice hollering at me over the sudden drumming of hoofbeats on the round pen floor.

I kept my hands low, grabbing that glorious mane, in an attempt not to snatch at her mouth and make things worse. She darted quickly around the pen in a mad dash, and at one point I wondered if she bucked, but I think it was more of a bounce, the kind you'd see a frisky lamb or bounding deer do. All four legs like pogo sticks, elevating the body upward. She did that only once, and at some point Curt had managed to get off the rail and was again in the center of the round pen, stepping in front of her in an effort to stop or turn her.

She elected to turn. At least twice, maybe three times. Turn and burn, dash 38' to the other side, slam on the brakes, turn and burn again. I tried to keep my body loose, but each time she stopped, I felt myself moving forward like a crash test dummy. Both Curt and I hollered whoa a couple of times, and eventually the ride came to an end, with Tika heaving and wondering what the heck had happened. I'd love to be able to tell her, but I really don't know. And the cowboy just figures it was the coffee cup, "She notices everything."

Once the fun was over, we went back to walking and trotting and getting her mind back into some sort of order. When she relaxed, we called it good. And here I was just thinking she may be ready to come home. Not sure about that now!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I Object!


I came home, anxious to climb back onto Tika and continue her training. When I walked out to the barn, however, Lefty was rip roaring in such a manner and doing acrobatics in an effort to defy gravity, that Tika, too, thought a little hip hop about the round pen was in order. That was before I saddled her up, of course, but even while lunging her feet were floating a little freely. I bounced up and down in the stirrup a bit, and if I could have guaranteed no reaction from Lefty on the other side of the panels, I'd have gone ahead and climbed all the way up. But the last time Lefty saw someone on horseback, he snorted and dashed off, kicking and bucking as he went.

No need to tempt fate, I decided. I didn't think Tika would react while I was on top, but self preservation being what it is, I opted to haul her instead to the riding club where there were no Lefty horses to distract us.

I pulled my saddle out of the trailer and went back for Tika. Three riders were there, chit chatting quietly. Perfect. They were done with their ride and would be good back up if something stupid happened on our first ride in a week. I smiled, said hello, turned and looked toward the round pen, and...

Where was the round pen?

"Took it down. Clinic next weekend, getting set up. Was brought up at the last meeting, remember?" Um...oh, yeah... So Tika again wasn't ridden. Instead I lunged her a bit, and she was a good girl, impressing those that'd not seen her for a couple months. And then I loaded her up and headed south. South...because I needed to ride! Though by this time it was getting too late to do much on this particular afternoon, but at least if Tika were with Curt, I could get a few rides in this week before moving her home after the clinic. Probably best, anyway, after a week off to take my first few rides in familiar territory anyway, right?

So I left my red head in her stall, which I'd cleaned and bedded with fresh shavings the day I moved her out.

And when I woke up this morning? Snow... (that sound you just heard was my head banging on a wall, just so you know.)


Despite the objectionable white stuff, I did manage to make it down and work my girl, which went off without a hitch. But the forcast for the next few days appears a bit iffy, so I'm not sure that moving her south will get me any further ahead. But what else do we expect with Tika's training? A few days here, a few weeks there...just one more delay in getting our girl going solid, eh?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Summit Update

View from our room at the South Point

First, let me just say I'm glad to be home. Glad to be away from Las Vegas and it's bright lights and gambling. Glad not to be breathing 'enriched' air forced into our lungs at the hotel. Glad to be cleaning stalls, and breathing in the scent of wild horses rather than cigarette smoke. The only thing I'll miss is the maid. I want a maid...someone who comes in and cleans up after me and makes my bed and delivers clean towels to my bathroom every day. Indeed, I do.

The Summit of the Horse proved to be quite interesting. I wasn't too sure what to expect; on one hand, there was talk about finding solutions, and slaughter being only one of the topics. What caught my eye on the front page of their website, however was this:

Control Excess Wild & Feral Horses: Deal with Unwanted, Abandoned, and Neglected Horses on all Lands

If you refuse to stand idly by while extreme environmentalists and wild horse non-experts create West-wide ecological destruction by allowing horses to overrun the resource base…this is your chance. Those of us who live on the land, and understand implicitly the danger presented by a one-species myopia that will destroy native wildlife, and cause damage that will take hundreds of years and billions of dollars to restore…we need to speak up. If you want to send a powerful message to Washington, D.C. and the citizens of the United States as to what true range scientists, conservationists, and horse experts know are long-term, sustainable solutions based on science, experience, and a deep compassion for horses…then this is one event that you cannot afford to miss.

Now, I don't know about you, but to me the fact that this was their lead off topic gave me the feeling that someone was pushing to do away with excess wild horses, and in a big way. If you've been here at the Mustang Diaries for any amount of time, you'll know I'm in favor of gathers and supportive of the BLM's management. However, I simply do not approve of one giant sweet that sends my beloved mustangs to Alpo. I understand the need for a solution, absolutely. But something here felt very menacing.

Nevada has more wild horses than all other states combined.

I'm a fan of education and realistic expectations where both mustangs and domestic horses are concerned. That is to say...there are too many, and our economy simply cannot support the numbers we're currently dealing with. Opening slaughter plants will not stop abuse...we know that. But will they reduce abuse? We know that it will provide jobs and help the economy, but at what expense?

There were three speakers that made an impression on me; the first one being Tom Collins of Clark County, Nevada. Mr Collins was obviously not a wild horse fan. There was no mistaking that he wanted wild horses sent to slaughter, end of discussion. I wanted to throw up. Later in the day, Bob Abbey, BLM Director, stated in no uncertain terms that healthy wild horses would not be euthanized. End of discussion. Well...not really, he had more to say, but that one sentence put an end to any further discussion all weekend on sending excess wild horses to slaughter. Sue Wallis stated later that this was never about wild horses, that they make up only 3% of the horses in the US; this was about what was best for the horse economy. Um...Sue? If that was the case, why the lead off paragraph on the Summit website?

Sherrie, Temple Grandin, and myself

But Sue wasn't the third speaker to make an impression. was Dr. Temple Grandin. Oh! I feel as though I've met a Hollywood celebrity! She was absolutely worth the trip. A brilliant speaker, she captured our attention from the beginning and had people sitting on the edge of their seats, straining to hear each and every word. Temple made it clear that she wasn't part of the decision on whether or not slaughter was reinstated for horses, just that if it was, she wanted it to be the safest, most humane method available. She stated often being shipped to Mexico was a horse's worst nightmare, and that needed to stop.

So here's the thing. Temple's goal is to make this the safest, easiest end a horse has to face. Shouldn't that be our goal as well? When I used to consider slaughter, it made me shudder. Not so much that someone would eat a horse (well...not since I was a kid anyway) but the transportation and the cruel way it was carried out. Because we've raised our own food here, we know it needn't be a stressful situation. Small facilities, local and easily accessible, make it easy on those who raise pigs, cows or sheep. Why can't we have something local for horses?

I know I'm going to be slammed if any of the A crowd sees this. They have no desire to learn. But while I sat at the summit, a woman stood up and introduced herself as having a rescue, and told us she was opposed to slaughter. Then she took a deep breath and said that if it were carried out like Dr Grandin suggested it could be, then...and only then...she could see it as something that would be preferable to the abuse and neglect that many horses are facing today. And I've got to tell you, I was overwhelmed with emotion when I listened to her speak. I wanted to run over and hug her. She got it. And she was willing to say that it was about the horse, not her emotions. Would that all horse lovers could figure that out.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Up in the Air, Jr. Birdman!

Come this time tomorrow it'll be bright lights and sunshine as Darling, McDebbie and I meet up with our friends Karen and Andi in Las Vegas. We're heading down to Summit of the Horse...called by some 'Slaughter of the Horse'. I'm honestly not too sure what to expect, though I'm hoping we'll meet up with some like minded folks who have a heart for what we're doing with the mustangs up this way.

But I can't think about that right now, because I just finished measuring my bag to see if it qualified as a carry on (it does!) and am trying to figure out a way to pack a laptop and camera into the second bag. It's a puzzle, to be sure.


I'm having a difficult time concentrating even on that, because my head is still in the clouds after today's ride on Tika. I worked her for about fifteen minutes before Curt showed up at the round pen. Today was ride six; we'd been on the lunge line each day, though the last time I rode (Friday), Curt had taken it off for the last few minutes. Today, once I was up, he unsnapped us, and off we went. Walk, trot, lope. And stop. Oh...what a glorious stop my girl has! She knows how to use her hiney, that's for sure. Even Curt let out a whoop as she stopped from the lope and set her hind end down. He calls her Cinderella...doesn't that just put a smile on your face? "How you doing today, Cinderella?"

Cinderella came home today and will have a week off. It was all I could do not to pull into the riding club parking lot on my way back to the house and sneak a second ride, but I didn't. Duty called...packing must be done...feet must meet earth. I'm going to miss my girl this week!

For those interested in learning more about Summit of the Horse, simply click the link. They're having live feed, as I understand, so you may be able to watch parts of it from your computer.

Please say a prayer for us that we have a safe and productive journey, and I'll see y'all when we get home!