Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Simple Thanks on Thanksgiving Eve

The way I see most people living these days, their lives seem more complicated than they need to be. I am thankful for my quiet, uncomplicated life.

Being one of those loner types who's happier with her horses and her animals than an office full of people, I relish the quiet, simplicity my days bring. I am truly blessed. I am extremely thankful.

These days Hubby and I don't make a big deal out of the Thanksgiving holiday. Growing up, my family consisted of me and my parents. I was (am) an only child. We had a quiet trio during our Thanksgiving holidays. My mom never liked to cook. The one turkey she tried to fix was a disaster so she vowed never to bother again. We usually had ham.

When I married my husband, his family of two older brothers and his parents, always had a turkey and a family gathering. As those extended families grew, we all gathered at my mother-in-law's house every Thanksgiving. The gathering was oddly foreign to me but I liked it for the first 10 or so years. Then, things got complicated. Kids grew up. Families split up. It just wasn't the same. I'm thankful my sons had the opportunity to be a part of those good memories with their cousins, aunts and uncles. Something I didn't experience growing up.

The past 5 years, my husband and I have stayed home (though his parents live down the road from us) and had food prepared for a simple holiday, for us to enjoy. We haven't made it a big deal. I know he misses those family dinners with his parents, brothers and their families. But, lives and times move on. Personally, I like that we've simplified.

This year we have a new member in our family, our beautiful daughter-in-law, wife of #1 son. Still seems strange to refer to her as a daughter-in-law. She's really been a member of the family since the late nineties when she and #1 son met through the church youth group. But at any rate, we have added one more to our family of four. They are suppose to come to the area for a visit tomorrow. Her parents and grandparents still live here too. I told #1 son I don't want them to feel rushed, obligated, or make the day complicated. Just come over when they're able to. We'll have smoked turkey breast (Hubby enjoys using his smoker twice a year!) and some other goodies. Simple. Life is so much easier when you try to keep it simple!

I am thankful for the life I have and remembering that on this holiday is my primary goal. My family is whole. My sons are healthy. My husband and I still care about each other, he is my best friend as well as my husband. We don't have a lot of debt. My horses are healthy and winter ready. We're in good shape at the moment. Simple thanks are all that's required.

"Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just the baggage enough." Charles Dudley Warner-American essayist.

"Teach us to delight in simple things." Rudyard Kipling

Monday, November 24, 2008

What makes a good horse?

This is an eternal question for many folks. Kind of like; what makes a good husband? What makes a good friend? Everyone has qualities they're looking for and in the long term, you end up compromising some things you may not like because you know the good qualities supersede those not so likable qualities.

You decide what you know you can and can't live with. Of course, in buying a horse, you usually don't get to spend lots of getting-to-know time before purchase. Many times, it can be a shot in the dark or simply a matter of trusting your instincts.

I'm probably not the best person to advise anyone on horse buying. I would tell them to follow The Rules! Those rules found in articles about buying horses.

I didn't follow the rules when I bought my guys. I bought the first ones I went to see. I didn't get a vet check. I took my non-horsey husband (at the time he didn't know much about horses) with me, not my more experienced horsewoman friend. I'm the kind of person who tends to go on instinct. The little voice or feeling that says "yes, it's right" or "no, don't even think about it!" My instinct has served me well over the years and I trust it.

What makes a good horse for me? Well, most horse people would say "oh, she's one of THOSE...." because, I have to be honest, I sort of fell in love with Bo the moment I saw him. Love at first sight isn't always a good thing in many situations. My husband and I took about 2 years to get to know each other before I felt I was really "in love" with him! I guess in picking my horses, I found the qualities I knew I wanted right off the bat. I think I was lucky.

The wonderful couple I bought my guys from loved their horses and I could see it reflected in all their horses. They were well cared for. After talking to the couple for a while, I got a feel for how they handled their horses. They had raised them with affection and affirmation. The horses were what I term "people horses". They wanted to be with people and they would be willing partners. After only a couple hours, how was I so sure? You know, I still don't really know for certain to this day. What I do know is that my instincts and feelings turned out to be correct.

Now, my guys are not perfect but after reading tons of material, blogs, and email posts where people discuss their horses having one problem or another, I feel I was blessed! My guys really are gems.

Spirit lives up to his name sometimes. He is very sensitive. He's very intelligent. My husband asked me what I saw in him. I told him something in Spirit's eyes, though I have trouble explaining what that was exactly.

When he was presented to us at the seller's farm, Spirit ran full blast into the round pen, running around like a crazed horse and from there tried to jump out. He was a green two year old at the time. My husband thought I was crazy. I still remember the look of horror in his eyes. Kind of funny when I think about it now. Spirit calmed down, I went into the round pen with him. I stood in the middle, my head down slightly, not looking him in the eyes. He approached me. It was then that I decided, he had picked me as a leader. Probably something else going on Spirit's brain but that's how my mind worked at the time. I'd absorbed all those Natural Horsemanship lectures from Pony Boy to Monty Roberts to Clinton Anderson. In my mind, Spirit had qualities I could work with over the long haul. Hubby wasn't so sure. He still isn't sure of Spirit sometimes, but I am.

Bo was the opposite. He was 6 years old at the time. He was mannerly and obedient during the try-out ride. He was actually kind of balky. He can be stubborn, which I was told beforehand. Nothing I felt I couldn't work with. Hubby was definitely smitten with this one! Though Hubby later learned when it comes to riding, a balky, stubborn horse isn't as easy as he thought it would be. Live and learn! He's learning.

After four years, we're all well acquainted. I know their quirks. They know my moods. We accept one another. Bo chews on the wooden part of the fence when he's bored in the winter. Spirit still gets wild eyed when something startles him. Bo can be as moody as a boss mare, but I can accept that because so am I at times. Spirit paws with impatience when food is coming around. Bo will try my patience with his stubbornness during riding sessions, but if I patiently keep after him and encourage him he works with me. For a while, Bo didn't want to stand still while I mounted. I believe his previous owners didn't ask him, just jumped up and took off on him, so that's what he thought was expected of him. After a period of time, and more patience on my part, he has learned that I require him to stand still. Spirit used to move all over the place when the farrier worked on his feet, but now, he is as good as gold. He even stands for Hubby to do a little rasping in-between farrier visits.

I think to myself, if I ever had to sell these guys for some reason, would the person who bought them be as patient as I've been? I hope I never have to find out. When I bought these guys, my intention was to have them as partners for the rest of their lives. In my mind, in my eyes, they are good horses.

A good horse. Hard to define in simple terms. There are many variables. It's an individual definition and everyone's definition will hold up to the qualities they are looking for in a good horse.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Book Review-Deadly Heritage by Toni Leland

Deadly Heritage (2008 Parallel Press, imprint of Equine Graphics Publishing Group) is the first title I've read of Toni Leland's horse-fiction titles. Since discovering so many wonderful horse-fiction writers at Equestrian Ink, I'm planning on checking out her other titles as well.

Deadly Heritage takes the reader on a suspenseful ride entwined with relationship issues, mystery and long lost love rekindled. Kellie Sutton has to turn to the man who's heart she broke many years before, and ask for help in solving the mysterious wounds taking down her prize Quarter Horses one by one. Ed Campbell returns to town as the local sheriff. He never lost his feelings for Kellie, but he has to keep them under wraps for more than one reason.

Leland deftly captures the emotions of dealing with sick horses and the unknowns of desperately searching for answers. At times, Kellie feels helpless. Amid the chaos, she deals with a jerk of an ex-husband and also tries to keep her daughter's life as normal as possible. The supporting characters are likeable and of course various creepy characters thrown in to keep things hopping.

Events are fast paced. Writing clean and emotional at times, especially when Kellie is dealing with her sick horses.

Other titles by Toni Leland:

Gambling With the Enemy

Hearts Over Fences

Winning Ways

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Breed vs.Grade

The only purebred animal I think I've ever really had in my life was a Siamese cat when I was thirteen. We didn't buy him from a breeder. He was given to us by a vet.

Jed was nine months old when we met. Jed's owner didn't want him anymore because he chased her dogs. My mom had recently lost her Siamese to feline leukemia, this was back in the mid-70's. My mom didn't want to care for another cat, or become attached, but she's a sucker for homeless animals. She asked me if I wanted the unruly Siamese since he was in need of a home. This way, Jed would be my responsibility not hers. She was still grieving the loss of her Zach who she'd had for many years.

Even our once-in-a-lifetime German Shepherd, Xena, probably wasn't a pure breed. She didn't come with any AKC papers. We often wondered if she did indeed have some wolf in her close bloodlines. But then, we didn't buy her either. She was cast off from her breeder due to the fact she was not the white German Shepherd they were trying to get. We didn't care about that, we loved her for all the twelve years she was with us.

When I was thinking about getting a horse (or two as it turned out) I really had no intention of going any specific breed at first. I must admit, I wanted a paint/pinto for reasons I can't explain, I am drawn to that particular coat coloring.

I think we all know a good horse has no particular color. However, I did have my personal preferences, and I had always wanted a painted pony of some kind.

I had been looking at Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horses and especially Spotted Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horses. I'd found a breeder of KMSH's 20 miles south of us, in Northern Kentucky. I emailed him. At that time he didn't have any spotted horses but wanted me to come see his other horses. Oh, I forgot to mention that since my husband and I were in our mid-40's at the time and Hubby has lower back problems, I had been swayed by my research to look for a gaited breed by then, which led me to the KMSHs.

Just before I was about to set up an appointment to go see some of these horses, I ran across an ad on the Someone locally had Spotted Saddle Horses for sale. Now, at that moment, I had never heard of Spotted Saddle Horses so had to get online and do some research.

At first I wasn't happy to find that SSHs are Tennessee Walkers with the pinto markings, to put it rather simply. Of all the horse breeds I was aware of at that time, I was not a fan of TWHs, never had been. Oh, sure, they're beautiful, big, strong, but I had only seen those horses who performed the exaggerated steps (as I later learned) in the show ring when I had attended horse shows years ago. I wasn't fond of them. I thought they were prissy horses. I've learned alot.

So, I contacted the person with the SSH ad. He lived about 20 minutes from my house. Something (that little voice I've learned to trust) encouraged me to go see the two SSHs he had for sale.

The 6 year old's name was Overdue. Beautiful black and white with a proud head, alert eyes and gorgeous black mane with black/white full-bodied tail. He was 16H tall. The other one was a two year old with alot of spunk and spirit, black and white with a full white mane, black/white full tail. A little smaller at 15 H. Actually, they had named him Spirit. Knowing very little about TWHs I was in love! I was taken by how strong both horses looked in body and spirit.

My past prejudices about TWHs were thrown away and I decided I would buy these two boys (both geldings, of course). Maybe I was a little lovestruck, but at any rate, I had them home within a few weeks. My painted ponies at last! I often refer to Spirit as my Indian pony because that's what he reminds me of. I renamed Overdue, Bo. I just couldn't get used to the name Overdue and I'd always said if I had a horse, I wanted to name him Bo if he fit the name, and in my mind, he did.

Now that I look back, I would have been happy with a Grade horse too. I didn't intentionally set out to buy a specific breed of horse, that's just how it worked out. I had in mind gaited and paint/pinto but would have gone with non-gaited if the right horses were presented to me.

Deciding or not deciding on breed vs grade is a personal choice. I personally think there is too much emphasis on breeds. Any good horse is of any background. Sure there are differences in conformation or size or abilities, but isn't that just as personal as it is with us as humans?

I found a definition of grade horse: Parentage is of unknown, unidentifiable, or of significantly mixed breeding. This seems to be the the standard definition. I guess I just want to defend the so-called grade horses because too many people these days are too caught up in "what breed do you have?".

I am a member of a CTR (Competitive Trail Riding) email group. CTR is something I would like to do, but haven't as of yet. Anyway, the other day a poster on the group asked about the best breed for CTR. The answer used to be Arabian because they were considered the best for the endurance and CTR competitions. As a matter of fact, the endurance races, early on, were limited to Arabians only, from what I've read. I was glad to read other folks telling this person that any horse could participate and would do fine if properly conditioned. The poster was thinking about selling her half Arabian because he was only good in an arena and not on the trail. She didn't seem open to the fact that ANY horse could do it, didn't have to be an Arabian or any specific breed. Yes, Arabians have qualities that do make them exceptional in the endurance and CTR events but that doesn't mean you have to dump your half Arabian and go find an Arabian to have a good time and enjoy endurance events or CTR's.

My thoughts to people who want a good horse is to search around and find a good horse, not necessarily a specific breed. Find out what a good horse is compared to what you hope to do with it. Sometimes that may be a specific breed but for most people who just want to enjoy horses, you define what you see as a good horse.

I love the fact some people take a grade whatever-it-is and turn it into a great trail horse or a jumper or just what you want him to be. Sure, there may be certain qualities you'll need to look for. Unless you're planning to breed, and I hope people stop doing that just to have babies around to experience what it's like, you don't need to worry about "what breed do I want?". In my humble, and less experienced opinion, a good horse is just a good horse no matter what his parentage, or lack of, as the case would be.

This may seem silly on my part but when I'm asked what "kind" of horses I have, I feel sort of, oh, I don't know, elitist by telling them I own Spotted Saddle Horses/Tennessee Walkers. I don't know why exactly except I've always been one to cheer for the underdog. To me, grade horses these days are the underdogs. I wouldn't trade my two boys for anything. However, if I were looking for horses again, I would probably be looking more for the guys who people tend to overlook. The ones who aren't registered to any breed and are of unknown, unidentifiable, mixed breeding, but pass my assessment as a good horse in every other way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Realities of Horsekeeping

All my life I've wanted my own horse. Actually never planned on having more than one. All those years of wanting, I didn't realize it's wise to have at least two horses, or some kind of companion animal, for a single horse because horses are so intricately wired to herd life of some kind. This was knowledge I gained through my own research and short term experience working at a riding facility. All I ever knew was that I felt, deep inside, horses needed to be a part of my life if I wanted to feel fulfilled.

Honestly, until I worked around horses, cared for them, and saw first hand the real work involved in their keeping, I didn't have a good grip on what was involved. I'm not complaining, I'm simply explaining to anyone who is thinking about owning horses and caring for them on their own, that you need to really research what it takes. Some of it will be trial and error but there is so much good information available, people can be prepared to own horses before they take the leap.

Don't take the leap, then decide it's too much!

I'm a very conscientious person. At times, overly responsible, if that's possible. I think it comes from being an only child. I have a need to do things as right as possible, but I'm flexible. I've had many dogs, cats and other animals in my life over the years but once again, in all honesty, owning horses is different from anything I've experienced in caring for other animals. In my mind, owning and caring for my horses is similar to how I felt raising my sons. Maybe it's just the way I perceive it.

So, I'd like to spend a little time just touching on some things I have learned as a first time horse owner.

I've read a variety of statistics on how much acreage you should have to comfortably keep horses. I've read 2 acres per horse up to 5 acres per horse. Whatever the correct number per horse, I'm here to tell you, it's never enough if you have small acreage. But you know what? You manage. At least we have. We currently have approximately 5 acres per horse (10+) of fenced pasture, the other 52 acres are hill and forest. Although, right now, it's not much of a pasture. The rains started over the weekend. My guys won't be going out to their favorite field for a while.

Horses EAT and EAT the green stuff out there in the pasture. You can rotate their grazing areas, which we do, but we never have enough pasture grass. Therefore, I am constantly supplementing with hay and alfalfa-timothy hay cubes. When I first got into horses, I didn't realize how important their nutrition and feeding needs can be. I have learned, as I've gone along, what works for us. I did have the good fortune of on-the-job training, so I had some experience with the necessities of feeding horses.

Sweet feed versus pelleted. My geldings came to me having been fed a diet of sweet feed and lots of pasture grass. They were, um plump, to be kind. My guys were also a bit hyper for Spotted Saddle Horses (aka TN Walkers), in my opinon. I realize sweet feed is the cheapest or should I say most economical for many, but for me, I got my guys off of it after about the third month I had them. I went to a 10% pelleted feed. They get 1/4 lb in the morning and at night. My guys are easy keepers! Hay is the bulk of their diet but I limit their intake to 2-3 times a day. I have to be careful with their weight. The vet already advised me on this. It's my experience, depending on the horse, sweet feed can keep horses a little hot, a little on the heavy side, and little wired. When I switched to the less sweet pelleted feed, both horses were more mannered at grain time and less pushy. There are lots of variations of feeds out there you have to decide what works for you and your horses.

Deworming. I was SO confused by this topic! I think I'm a little clearer now, after a few years of trying to sort it out. I finally figured out what "rotation" really meant. I'm not going to endorse any one deworming product or any specific rotation. Once again, you have to find what works, but it's not something to avoid doing for your horses. Not always a pleasant job either but one that needs to be done for the health of the horse. If you don't like doing the paste wormers, there are daily in-feed brands.

Mucking and cleaning up the manure. My guys have a run-in stall at the side of our garage/barn. My husband did a great job building their living quarters. Though the horses are not confined to the stall, they still are not polite enough to walk out to the field to drop their waste. So, I do have to clean the stall area daily. Some days are worse than others but its a job you can't just say, "oh, I'll do it tomorrow." I guarantee it'll be worse the next day! Then, it can become overwhelming. The best way to deal with it, is to scoop the poop at least, once a day. My guys love to roll in the fresh pine shavings (which I buy by the bag and try to use economically) I put down for them so I feel a beneft from my "housekeeping" chores.

Yes, some days you feel like that's all you do, feed, water and clean up poop, especially in the up coming winter months. But if you're like me, you do it because you love them and want them to be cared for to the best of your abilities. If you can't do that, then you shouldn't have horses.

Grooming. A simple task really. Every day, you should at least take a brush to your horses. This can amount to 15 minutes if you're rushed. Do I do it every day? No. Not always possible. But I realize grooming accomplishes a couple of things. One, helps you bond with your horse and most of them like it. After all, you're spending time with them as well as making them feel good. Two, you can check over their bodies, make sure everything is looking ok. You'll know when something isn't right if you groom regularly.

Riding. Well, this is something that I just haven't done enough of and I do feel guilty about it. I feel guilty because I never intended to have only "pasture poines" or "pasture ornaments" as my family sometimes teases me about. Not a thing wrong with having horses who fall into that category, but I originally had other plans for my guys. Horses definitely thrive on attention and I believe they do need a job. My guys get bored and tend to eat on the wood planks around the corral area or the trees out in the back field. If I had them in some kind of routine, I doubt they'd be bored. This is something I'm eternally working on.

Farrier. No matter what you think, you need a farrier for hoof care or you need to learn to trim their feet yourself. I do mean LEARN, not just guessing at it. My husband will do some rasping of rough edges, but I'm not comfortable with him doing much more. I'm not comfortable with myself doing much more myself because I feel I might screw up their feet. This, I definietly leave to a professional. Find a farrier you like. One you feel you can trust. One who seems to get along with your horse. Don't expect the farrier to take care of your horse while he/she is working on their feet. Be there! Hold your horse and teach your horse how to stand for his feet to be worked on. I just feel that is common sense! Personally, I wouldn't leave my horse in the hands of a farrier or anyone else without my supervision.

Vet care. I started giving my guys their yearly vaccinations a couple of years ago. I was a little chicken at first, but there's really nothing to it. My vet lets me purchase the vaccines. When I worked at the stable I was taught the correct way to give the injections and the correct areas on the horse to give them in. My thinking, I gave myself insulin injections for years until I went to an insulin pump, there's no reason I can't give an IM injection to my horses. Be aware of reactions though, so you know what to look for. So far, this has been a really easy chore with my guys. They simply stand there as if nothing happened. Couldn't ask for a better deal and it beats having the vet, a strange person, come out and get them a little excited. Learn to take care of minor injuries yourself! Have a first aid kit ready. There are some really good books out there covering first aid for horses. The one I keep on hand is Dr. Kellon's Guide to First Aid for Horses. It's helped me out a few times.

Fencing. Try to have fencing that contains your horse. Please, please stay away from barb wire! I was witness to a horrible leg injury thanks to barb wire and vow I will never have it on my property where my horses are concerned. There are tons of alternatives. We chose a rather expensive horse fencing which has smaller rectangular squares to keep horse hooves out of it. The fencing is stronger than some of the cattle fencing. We did all our own fencing. My husband, sons and I spent 6 months working on it, before I even started looking for my horses. A plus to good fencing, increases the value of your property! I've seen so many horses inside fencing that makes me cringe.

Ok, I've hit on a few things about horsekeeping that I think are important. Things you really need to consider before ever adding that horse to your property. It's amazing that there are people who think they can just buy a horse and put him out in the "back yard" and he'll do just fine. Those horses are the ones that often end up in the rescues or worse, neglected. You can't buy a horse at the local swap meet and just keep him in your yard! That's just not right!

Please, please, think out what it takes to keep a horse! Besides the love you may feel for the horse you find, remember it also takes money, time, and effort to do it right.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Happy Birth Day to my youngest

My baby boy's birthday is today. He's 23 years old. Yeah, I know, not a baby, but he's the youngest of my two wonderful sons. Plus, as all moms know, your babies are always your babies. That goes for the horses in the family too, huh?

Anyway, I woke up this morning thinking about #2 son and his birthday. How could I not? He lives here with us right now, having graduated from college in June, but of course, no job yet. He does have an interview today! That was good news for his birthday.

He is different from his older brother. He is more like his dad. Quiet. Thoughtful. Contemplative. Patient. I can pretty much figure him out because I have Hubby figured out. Ok not all the time.

Yesterday, I went shopping with #2 son to help him find some appropriate job interview clothes. Having just graduated from college, he doesn't have much in that kind of clothing. He found a medium blue shirt he liked, and it was on sale, but was having a hard time picking out a tie. He has two ties at home, dark blue and black. Black pants. He was going for gray pants but couldn't find any in his size or style. He doesn't go for pleated fronts. So we're standing around the tie racks sorting through ties. Naturally, I go for the blues and reds, or grays with blue/black designs and stripes. He picks out a tie that is yellow/gold with black stripes. I didn't want to hurt his feelings but I sure didn't see the match there. He held the tie up to the shirt and since he was wearing black pants said he felt it was a powerful color combo. Okey dokey son. I just know that color combonation wouldn't have been my pick. But then I realized it's what will make him feel confident that matters, not what I like. And at 23, if he weren't living at home, I wouldn't be part of this process anyway!

By the way, when he got dressed to go for his job interview this morning and had on his ensemble, I was impressed. He had made a good choice. With his dark good looks, the whole outfit really set him off, making him look very professional. Looks like he has a good eye for colors after all!

Today will be a day of memories for me. Thinking back how at 7:30-something on this day, twenty three years ago, my husband and I were entrusted with a beautiful little soul to mold, love, teach, through his formative years. He has grown into a fine young man that I am always proud to say is my son. Isn't that a wonderful feeling?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Winter Readiness

Our winter months here in Southern Ohio are not usually traumatic. More like irritating. They can be damp, dreary, gray, cold, sunny, warm, pleasant, we usually see a wide spectrum. Nonetheless, we do have to do some winter preparedness for animals and property. This past weekend, Hubby and I accomplished a few of those chores. Actually, Hubby did most of it since the main job was getting all those leaves out of the gutters and I don't like ladders. I was his assistant, as usual.

As I thought about doing this particular job I thought about the other little chores we do to get prepared for winter around here.

A week ago, we installed the heater in the horse's water tank. There is always controversy over using heaters in water tanks. I use one that is submerged at the bottom of the tank. My horses would destroy anything else. The tank holds 80 gallons so they never get to the bottom to play with the heater. Oh, they did once. I had forgotten to fill the tank to the usual fill line, which makes it too heavy for them to turn over. They like to play in the water some days, the water level quickly goes down when they're having water fun. Evidently they somehow managed to turn the whole tank, with the water, over and started chewing the line to the heater. We're not sure, but seems like Bo must have gotten a little bit of a shock, he was the one shy of the tank for a little while. That was the last time they messed around with the line. But they still drink from the tank.

At the stable where I worked, the manager refused to put heaters in any of the tanks or use heated stall buckets. She said she learned in her equine classes that there is a possibility of the horses getting a shock, if the device shorted, and the horses would never go back to the tank, or buckets, to drink again. Well, the barn was her responsiblity and she was the boss, so we quit bothering about the water heaters and just broke ice. I experienced first hand what a pain in the butt it was breaking thick ice on cold mornings in 15 stalls and ourside water tanks. I decided, at my convenience, I wasn't going to do that for my horses. I check the connection and even dip my own finger in the tank almost daily, to see if there are any shorts. So far, I haven't had any problems with the electric water heater and I believe my horses definitely enjoy the warmer water.

Bought a bale of straw last week to put in the dog houses. Our two dogs are medium sized and don't have winter type hair. They have always been outside dogs. Lucy, our newer member, is something between a beagle and God only knows. She decided to show me how much she must have wanted straw in her house by rolling around in my hay building on nice bales of hay scattering the flakes into piles. I don't like my hay messed with! Maggie, the blue heeler, had never done this before but obviously, after being shown how much fun it was, joined in the rolling game. I decided the best way to deal with this was to get them their own bale of straw. Put straw in their houses and also leave it in the hay building so they could roll in that instead of my precious hay stash. So far, that plan has worked well.

I am dreading the day I have to terminate the horses from going out into the front field. There's no grass out there now anyway,but in their minds, they have to try. They also like that field because they can watch activities up and down our dead end country road. Not much activity, but sometimes, there are cars and someone visiting the lady across the road. They are nosey horses so any little activity peeks their interest. Soon, I will see the two of them standing out by the gate that opens to the front field, gazing longingly at their banished field, but I won't open it for them. I won't open it even at the soft nicker Bo will undoubtedly utter when he sees me walking out to the stall.

The front field is our main grass field and we work hard, well we try, to get grass growing every spring and summer. When the ground gets mushy and soft, the horses aren't permitted out there until about May 1st. I suppose they'll get used to being closed out, they have the past 4 winters. Reminds me of telling little kids they can't have the chocolate cake because it'll ruin their supper. Can't ruin your field or you'll have no grass in the summer!

Storing the patio furniture. Raking or mulching the leaves. Well, we haven't done much of that this year. We'll probably pay for that one in the spring because the leaves will have matted together up on the hill and under the fence line, making the job harder than if we'd tackled it a few weeks ago when they were dry.

Cleaning tack. I need to give the saddles a rub down with saddle soap. I use biothane sidepulls now, so they just need to be wiped down then hung up. I'm full up with hay right now so won't be scrounging like we were this time last year. This is the first time in about 3 years we've had our little hay building full of hay and it sure feels good!

I'm not really ready for winter mentally, but I guess I'll plug through it. The dreary days are what get to me. But with the little chores completed, I'll be able to snuggle down in my comfy robe and warm blanket in the evenings, enjoy good books and relax until about March 1.

Gee, feels like rambling without saying very much today. Suppose everyone has days like this!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Time for books-Gail McCarthy Series by Laura Crum

It's getting into the winter months although you'd never know it by the way our weather has been around here. For the past week we've had a beautiful "Indian Summer" as it's often called. Warm sunny days in the 70's. If it hadn't been for the time change Sunday, I could swear we were still in late September. Ah, but there's a change coming this weekend and when the weather turns rainy, cold with those longer evenings, I start reading more again.

In order for me to read a book and enjoy it, I MUST like the main character. I must get a feel for him or her that keeps me reading. I suppose most people are like that. If I don't like the main character, I usually find myself disinterested quickly and I might make it to page 50 before I decide I don't want to waste anymore time. Oh, I will usually skip to the end and read the last chapter to see if I missed anything. Usually, for me, I was right to close down at page 50.

I enjoy Laura Crum's character, Gail McCarthy immensely. In these modern times you might say I have a girl crush on Gail in a sense that she's my imagination's image of how I would have liked to have been, had I been involved with horses all my life and become a veterinarian to boot. Gail is tough when she needs to be yet her warm side surfaces too, especially where her animals are concerned. She's common sense and no nonsense at the same time. She has her flaws and definitely isn't perfect. Gail is attractive, as I see her in my mind, but she's not a girly girl, yet she has her feminine side too.

I've only read two of the books so far and the stories occurred at completely different times in Gail's life. I actually read Chasing Cans first because it was Laura's most recent. I then purchased Slickrock because the premise of Gail's horseback pack trip in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I'm planning to eventually get the rest of the titles. If I'd known about Laura Crum's Gail McCarthy series when I was a librarian, you can be sure I would have put in for our libraries to purchase them, but that's the way it goes in rural Southern Ohio.

Chasing Cans has Gail, now a new mom, questioning things in her new life change after the birth of her son. Something, I believe, moms everywhere tend to do, but especially older moms. Well, I mean mom's not in their early 20's. I was in my early 20's when I had my two sons so life just moved forward. But I think when older moms turn the corner of motherhood for the first time, they do tend to question their lives more. Anyway, Gail is content with her life as a stay-at-home mom, for the time being. She is no longer a vet on a regular schedule, though I'm wondering if she'll get back into it because she does feel her purpose on that path and she must have been good at it. I have to read the other titles to get more of a feel for her in her vet career.

The term chasing cans refers to barrel racing, which makes sense, and I thought a really cool title because it can also be a metaphor for life. Well, unintentionally, Gail gets caught up in being a witness to a nasty accident involving a rather nasty horse trainer, who people didn't like anyway. She got results in her training, but her attitude needed adjusting. Gail then tries to put all the ducks in a row to figure out the who, what and why of the accident because things just didn't seem right to her. So, the story continues with more characters involved than you originally think will be involved. Funny, my farrier's name is Jake.

Slickrock was the next title I read although it is number five in the series. I loved this one for the details of the packing into the mountains, the scenery, the way Gail handled herself, which wasn't perfect all the time, and the way Blue entered the picture. I do like some romance, but I'm not much for gushy stuff. I liked the way Gail handled herself in the situations they ran into while..........well, I don't want to give too much away. Gail starts out planning to take a nice, quiet, refreshing pack trip with her horses Gunner and Plumber and her cattle dog, Roey. She ends up with more than she'd planned for.

I've never been much of a mystery person. I'm not sure why, I guess it depends on the mystery because I've been reading more of them lately. Opens up a new genre for me. Plus, finding equine fiction just blows me away! I'm so happy there are writers going in this direction though probably not as financially rewarding, but that's not the goal for writing now is it.

Laura Crum's Gail McCarthy Series in order 1-10:










Chasing Cans

Looking forward to reading what Laura has in store for Gail in number 11!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Elmer Bandit is new NATC record holder

One more weekend completed, Elmer is the new North American Trail Conference record holder with a completed lifetime log of 20,720 miles. Elmer is a 37 year old half-Arabian. His owner/rider, Mary Anna Wood, has been with him all the way. I am awestruck by both Elmer and Mary Anna. I have been following their progress since Elmer's name first caught my eye while reading articles from newsletters. They are a true team!

At the conclusion of the ride, Elmer was awarded a special turnout sheet with his name across the side, "Go Elmer" by his friends and fans from The picture of him in his turnout sheet is precious. He looks bright eyed and happy. What more could you ask for? He enjoys these rides and you can see it even in the still photos. Mary Anna has said that Elmer will tell her when he doesn't want to do it anymore. I believe that's true.

So today, I am applauding Mary Anna Wood and her partner Elmer Bandit for a fantastic career and an inspiring partnership. Mary Anna has taken exceptional care of an exceptional horse over the years. He is special and so is she!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Standard Time vs Daylight Savings

Okey dokey, one more thing to put on my complaint list for this weekend. Something I don't have any control over.

I see no reason for us to keep flip flopping back and forth in March and November from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time. We're in the modern age. We don't need this change anymore. I read an interesting article on Yahoo yesterday about just this subject.

Statistics from various sources (look it up on the Net) state there is very little energy savings at this point in history for switching time twice a year. Keep it on Standard time and we'll all be fine! The world won't end! Retailers won't lose money or waste energy. The argument for farming doesn't fly anymore. They'll still be out there in the dark, using their lights and equipment to plant their crops when they need to. Most people could care less about Daylight Savings in the spring because, there really is no savings. So what if it getst dark at 8:30pm in the summer here in Ohio? What difference does one hour make?

I'm a clock person, unfortunately. I do pay attention to "what time it is" so these changes tend to be for me, few days of resetting my internal clock.

This morning I woke up at 5:30am. My mind knows it's still really 6:30am but I decided to go back to sleep for another hour. Well, by then it was 6:30am or rather 7:30am by my internal clock. It was light outside. I didn't get out to feed the animals until 7:30 am, really 8:30am and I could tell they were all a little testy with me since I had not been "on time". Especially the horses. They were really peeved at my lateness. Then I thought, well sure you are, my clock changed but yours didn't. So, now I go into transition of morning feed being at 7:30amST vs the 8:30am horse time. Oh, and the night time feed. Well, that one goes smoother because I always feed the horses at dark anyway so that feed time has slowly been changing with the setting sun since about September. The dogs and cat don't seem to mind too much about any of it.

Congress decided in 2007 to move the spring Daylight Saving time up 3 weeks, to the last Sunday in March and the switch back to Standard Time the first Sunday in November. I really truly think, if we kept our clocks on Standard Time, the world would still revolve and our country would adjust just fine. Does anyone really look forward to these changes? Seems to me it's just a pain in the................well, that's my thought on it anyway.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Thoughts on the 1st of November but not about horses

Thank Heaven above Tuesday is election day and we can be done with this marathon thing they've called "campaigning".

I am fed up.

I am tired.

I am weary.

It's all been extremely frustrating, in my honest, humble opinion. It's gone on for too long, I believe it's been stated 18 months. Sadly, I doubt Tuesday will be the end of anything, least of which will be the election.

Back in March, I was ready to give the younger presidential candiate a chance, that is, until he started hiding from things. Hiding from his associations. Skipping around issues that were presented and acting as if his past associations meant nothing. I think he appears to be a very nice man, but you cannot dissassociate yourself from the past. None of us can. That's just life! If he would have stepped up and admitted, yes, he did know these "assoicates" having worked with them, prayed with them, served on committees with them, I might have been more forgiving, more able to believe in what he said. But, I don't like people hiding things (dare I say lying?) and that's how I see his political ambitions.

Then, a few weeks ago the plumber showed up. I don't agree with "spreading the wealth". I don't believe everyone can be equal in a society. Too many generations await handouts as it is. Sure, there are people who just need a helping hand, gladly give them a hand. That's not what I see happening.

We're losing our freedoms. We're losing our liberties too. I am amazed that people are blinded to this.

As a family, we are gun owners. I believe in that freedom. I believe in the 2nd amendment. I don't mind having stricter licensing for gun ownership, I think that is as it should be. But I don't think that's what the younger guy is looking at, from what I'm seeing in his past record, on the gun ownership issue.

I don't believe I should have to take care of my neighbor. Call me selfish. Guess I am. I'm getting the feel, that's the plan. Individual independence, my friends, will be something for the history books.

Now, I'm not saying the older guy is a saint. I've studied his actions too. In my view, he is only the lesser of the two evils. His views and plans are very similar, but not as extreme as his opponents. His record isn't all that pristine. Heck, no politician's is! These guys want the top job in the country. Power is their motivator, though they always want us to believe it's for the Good of the people. Ya. Sure. I never did like fairy tales. Yes, I'm jaded and cynical.

So, as the days wear on I am making every effort to avoid tv coverage, internet news, though I do read some and the radio ads that drone on hour after hour. I've already voted anyway through absentee ballot. Almost thought about not voting at all because that's how I've been feeling lately. Unmoved and wary of either candidate. Whatever Wednesday morning brings, I sincerely doubt anyone's life will dramatically change, no matter what They've promised!

We don't need more government involved our lives, that's not what our country is suppose to be about, but evidently, They think we do!

From Merriam-Webster: socialism
1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2 a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
3 : a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections