Thursday, December 22, 2011

Random Act of Kindness

With all the ugliness we see in the news, online and in life, it's heartwarming to actually witness a real life random act of kindness. Does give one hope that there are still some good people in the mix. The young man's random act of kindness will stay with me for a long time.

My husband and I were on our way to the store for grocery shopping. We're excited to have our whole family in on Christmas Eve. We decided to stop by a small diner we enjoy. It's always friendly there. The owners are often working along with their small staff of one or two, depending on the time of day. This evening, one waitress and one cook. It was an hour before closing.

As we sat waiting for our order, at one of the out of the way booths, we noticed a young man exiting from the restroom. He walked slowly, deliberately, with a heavy limp. He sat down at the counter. The waitress and the cook were friendly with the young man. From the exchange, it was apparent that the young man ate at the diner often. In walks an older man, probably in his fifties, who sat down at the counter beside the young man. There were four other men sitting at a booth near the counter area. The younger man and the older man, at the counter, strike up a conversation. It was easy to hear what was said. The older man was engaged in what the younger man said. The young man had slower speech, and seemed to struggle a little, but the older man was very generous. 

The older man explained he was passing through Ohio, to Michigan, to spend Christmas with his eighty-nine year old mother. He said he was from North Carolina and it was a long drive. He was planning to get a room in Columbus (about 90 minutes away) for the night, then head on to Michigan in the morning. By this time the other four men were also involved in the friendly conversation. 

After a while the young man got up to pay his bill. As he was heading out the door, he turned to the older man and told him he hoped he had a safe trip to Michigan. Then he said "Merry Christmas!" and walked out the door. 

The waitress informed the older man that "Jimmy" had just paid for his dinner. It was obvious the older man was stunned. He turned and looked at the door where Jimmy had disappeared. The waitress told him Jimmy was just like that and often left her a bigger tip than he needed to. The other four men all agreed and said Jimmy was even nice before the accident. The older man asked about Jimmy's limp, and his speech, and they acknowledged that Jimmy had been in a bad car accident. The man was still in shock, shaking his head a little in disbelief. I could see he wasn't used to something like that happening to him. As he was leaving, he told the waitress, and the four men, that their town was very friendly and you just don't see that very often these days. He wished all a "Merry Christmas" and presumably headed on his journey north.

Jimmy's random act of kindness touched eight people yesterday evening, those who were present to witness it. I'm sure he had no idea that he touched eight souls with his kindness. Regardless of whether it's Christmas, or not, being present to witness a random act of kindness is God's way of showing the rest of us that there is still good in the world.

Merry Christmas and may the spirit of this season be with you throughout the year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I feel I'm ready for winter this year. I'm at ease that the horses are prepared. My hay building is full, which hasn't happened too often in the past. I'm usually scrambling to get some more hay in before our winter hits hard, which is usually mid-January for us here in Southern Ohio. I like to distinguish Southern Ohio from the rest of Ohio because we're different around here from what is often perceived of Ohioans. Most people have visions of Columbus or Cleveland. My end of Ohio is more of a West Virginia and Northern Kentucky association. Yeah, we're the "hillpeople". When I was growing up I had a cousin who lived in Northern Ohio. She liked to call me a Hillbilly. I didn't really mind so much, I figured I was better off than her anyway. I prefer hills to flat land any day. We tend to refer to anyone who lives above Chillicothe, Ohio as Flatlanders.

Both horses are winterized with fuzzy fur. My big boy, Bo, looks like a bear, in my opinion. His hair has basically grown into a soft teddy bear-like looking fur and I love hugging his neck and petting him when he's in his winter coat. Spirit's coat grows a little different, but still furry, just not as teddy bear-like. I don't do blankets. Never have, probably never will unless there's an illness. I keep my horses as natural as possible. They've never worn shoes since I've had them. They have excellent hooves, so I've been told, by three different farriers and two vets. And they even have, the supposedly dreaded, light colored hooves! Guess I got lucky.

The heater is in the water tank. Sure, I know all the controversy about water heaters but I chose to go that route because I didn't want to be busting ice all the time. At my age, it's all about ease of the job on my part. I think after a while, we earn the right to be a little lazy on some chores, find ways to deal that make them easier for us.

We were able to get sand into the corral area back in October so I'm free from mud this year. That's a relief. The sand has its drawbacks, it gets tracked all over and I have to sweep off the stall mats occasionally. The horses have discovered they enjoy rolling in the sand which can be unsightly when it's wet and sticks all over their coats. I think Hubby appreciates the fact he doesn't have to listen to me gripe about mud this year. No swamp to deal with. I don't have lava rocks pointing up, which happens when the mud freezes, although the water logged sand did freeze after the heavy rains we had four weeks in a row. But after the temps warmed up, the lava rocks were gone. I'm thinking I like the sand better than the mud any day.

Brought out my Carhartt overalls last week when the temps dropped. I do love my Carhartt's! Both the coat and the overalls keep me warm on cold mornings. Of course, I feel like the Michelin Man or a human size marshmallow walking around, but I'm not cold.

Of course, Dear Mother Nature has other plans and this week we're back to temps in the 40's & 50's with rain predicted most of the week. No worries, the worst of our winter usually always shows up by mid-January so the worst is yet to come, but I think I'm ready.

Right now I feel confident that when December 22 rolls around next week I can say Winter, Bring It ON! I hope I don't regret those words but for once, I feel winterized and energized! 

This photo was taken a couple of years ago after a serious ice storm in early February.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Short and sweet...I'm not

I tend to ramble sometimes and that's what I'm doing today.

I've been busy, for once. For a few years now I haven't had to travel to any kind of job for work. Hubby and I are fortunate we can be comfortable with his income alone. Actually, I've not been employed full-time since 2004, when I was a librarian/library branch manager. My last job was working part-time at a horse facility from summer '04 to winter '07. My life plan didn't necessarily include not being gainfully employed, at age fifty,I had planned on becoming an elementary teacher, that was my training back in the '80s. But, as we all know, after dwelling a few years in the adult world, life has a way of moving down different roads and away from our original plan. It's up to us to choose which route is best. I love this little gem: We plan, God laughs. Something like that. I have no regrets.

Anyway, the past weekend saw both Hubby and I on the road and putting down miles. Saturday we headed to a few out of the way places with a little Christmas shopping in mind and a gun show on the way home. Saturday night, our oldest son called asking if Hubby could help him replace a broken brake line on his truck. A deer attempted to cross the road in front of him, typical this time of year, but as Son put on his brakes, the truck kept going. Fortunately Son wasn't hurt. He's not sure about the deer. Besides the brake line, the front grill and headlights were obliterated. Son's truck is a '90somethning Chevy S10 he's trying to keep running until he can afford something else. The incident could have been much worse had the brakes gone out at another time in another place. I believe his guardian  angel was flying with him that evening. So, Sunday was spent at our son's place, about fifty miles northeast of us. Our daughter-in-law fixed a fantastic dinner for us, which was much appreciated though not expected. I enjoyed spending time talking with her. She's a busy lady and I'm so proud of her for many reasons. Though I've known our daughter-in-law since she was a young girl, there's a lot I still don't know about her and enjoyed that she wanted to share her thoughts and ambitions with her mother-in-law on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

By Monday morning, Hubby and I were both tired, unfortunately, he had to go to his job. I do feel guilty about that at times. I remind him, his time will come and I may be the one heading out the door while he gets to do his own thing at home around our little farm. OR, maybe we'll win the lottery and we can both just spend time here at the farm!

Then, yesterday, I took my mom to some stores just to try to get the Christmas feel. I actually detest Christmas shopping in general. Most of my gifts are purchased online. I thought Mom should get out. This is a tough time of year with my dad gone and even though she tries to act like she's OK, I know it's a painful time. Well, that trip was another fifty mile jaunt north. Any time I need to shop for anything, it usually involves a 30-60 minute drive, unless I just want to check out the Dollar Store or Post Office in my little village. I really don't think it's a town though it is listed on the map.

Basically, random thoughts on a dreary, half snow/half rainy day. Not so short and sweet because I guess my mind doesn't run that way. I'm trying to get into the holiday mode, but quite honestly, I'm not that into it. I'm not a Grinch, or Scrooge, but I've found the feeling has to be worked on the older I get. So, back to working on that holiday cheer!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November 2011

November felt like a fly-by month. Now it's done.

The first days of  November will forever be tough for me. Seems, in my life's journey, the days of October 28-November 3 have been designated my trying time of year. I always feel, if I can get through those days without anything horrible happening or any life changing event, I'm good for the next year. Several major events happened over my lifetime and they were often during this time. From the death of my grandparents,cancer diagnosis, to surgeries for my sons, among some of the events,and then ultimately my dad's passing on November 3, 2009. I always feel apprehension, sadness, and often depression when the end of October into the first of November arrives. No major events this year. I breathed a big sigh of relief this morning. I made it.

Looking back over November, the next big day of the month is November 14, which was my youngest son's twenty-sixth birthday. My oldest son (who's twenty-eight) was determined we'd all get together for his brother's birthday. They live about three hours from each other, with our home right smack in the middle of their travel time, meaning we'd all gather here. It made me smile that my two adult sons still think the world of each other. I made a point to foster a caring relationship between the two of them when they were growing up. I am more than pleased my influence paid off. They are brothers, but they are also best friends. Makes me proud! We gave baby brother a sweet little birthday party including sword play (Hubby's new collectable weapon) outside, practicing their slicing technique through water filled gallon milk jugs sitting atop a tree stump. My "boys", all three of them, have never been lacking for ideas when it comes to play of one sort or another. My daughter-in-law even took a turn knowing full well,this is how we often have fun in this family. It was a good day!

Thanksgiving came earlier than I had anticipated this year. I hadn't paid attention to the calendar. I thought we had one more weekend before Thanksgiving Day. I was caught off guard. I remedied that by ordering from Bob Evans for our Thanksgiving dinner, the week prior. My mother-in-law probably shook her head at that, but who cares? She didn't come anyway. My mom thought it was a fantastic idea. Food is food and however it's served, it's the time spent with those we love that matter the most. 

My sons were here Thanksgiving afternoon, and evening,with their ladies. Both ladies have their families in the area and I told both sons to go to those gatherings because I felt it was more important. I told my sons I'd have something here in the late afternoon into evening and hoped they'd stop in. I left it open ended. 

Oldest son has been married for three years now. He and his wife have known each other since they were kids. Youngest son is getting married in June 2012. They've known each other since high school, and she has said she ALWAYS had a crush on my son. After graduation they went separate ways when they attended college. They got back together a couple of years ago and officially started dating. The story she tells is that they remained friends via Facebook chat through their four years of college. They jokingly agreed that if neither one of them was married, or involved with anyone, when they both turned twenty-five,they'd just marry each other! As it turned out, they were probably meant to be together way before they both realized. They were engaged in December last year, the year they both turned twenty-five.

Hubby and I are thrilled whenever we can have all our kids together, and on Thanksgiving Day, it worked out that way this year. I'm a realist. I know that these times are precious and as lives evolve, children come along, time becomes more demanding for all of them, we may not all be able to get together on the same day. That's why I find these gatherings very special.

Hubby and I made one more hay run last week. We picked up thirty more bales of hay. When we placed the last bale I felt a sense of relief. My hay building is full. I am ready for winter! I have enough hay to get through even the toughest winter this time around. The dog houses are filled with straw. The cat is warming by the fireplace. Our new generator has been tested and ready to go should we get any foul weather power outages. We got a few flakes of snow last night. OK, December, and winter, bring it on!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Maggie's Pawprint

I've decided to run some posts about the animals I've had in my life over the years. How they've affected me and how their personalities are all so very different. It's amazing, really, when you start thinking about the personalities and characteristics of the animals who've shared your life. I don't believe, for one moment, that animals don't have souls, maybe not like ours, but something is in there.

Maggie came to us in 2005. Our oldest son had been working at a state park over the summer. One evening, when he rolled into our driveway in his Jeep, with no doors, I could make out something sitting in the passenger seat. At first my thoughts, no doubt loud, though I can't recall if I said anything out loud, "Are you kidding me? You actually brought a dog home?"  Yeah, my ire rose at first. We had one German Shepherd, Xena. Xena was not the most social dog when it came to other dogs. I was worried more than anything else. Son jumped out of his Jeep, and the dog bounded after him. He explained that the park manager had said if the dog wasn't picked up by the next day the dog warden would be called to pick her up. Son is a caring soul regardless of how macho he tries to be sometimes and just couldn't let that happen, so he brought her home. He'd done the same thing with a box of tiny kittens three years prior.

The dog was kind of cute but kind of not. She was of a black/gray marbled color.She looked like she was an Australian Cattle Dog/ Blue Heeler with one blue eye and one brown eye giving her an odd, almost spooky appearance with her rather tall pointy ears. My son reminded me that I once said I'd love to have a Blue Heeler after seeing "Zip" in the movie Last of the Dogmen. Well, yes, he was right, but I'd like to be prepared for another dog. Giving a dog a home is a major responsibility, in my opinion. However, it was kind of hard to reject her when she sat down at my feet and looked up at me as if to say "I'll be good. Can I stay?" while her tail thumped behind her and I was drawn to the blue eye. Funny, when you look at her, you tend to focus on the blue eye.  My sons had done this to me once before, ten years earlier, with Xena. I had said NO to one more dog, we already had two "rescues", when my mother-in-law, their grandma, had shown the adorable fluffy black pup to my sons, fully knowing they'd fall in love with her. But that's for Xena's pawprint story...

So, I said we could keep this apparently abandoned dog, for a while. She may belong to someone was my thought. Son decided to name her Maggie Mae. I didn't really want to name her just yet. He  explained, pleading her case even more, she'd been wandering around the state park camping area. She had a collar but no tags attached. She also had some decent manners and knew how to sit when asked. She appeared to be around two years old, not quite a pup, but not quite an adult. I told Son to at least TRY for the next week to see if someone is looking for her when he went back to work at the park. He said he would ask around and ask other workers to do the same. In the end, after a couple of weeks, no one claimed her and no one came to the park looking for her. 

Maggie seemed like an awfully nice dog on further inspection. But, I had the horses to consider and I didn't want a dog running them. Little did I know then, I'd only had the horses for about nine months at that time, for the most part, my horses don't like dogs in their field and they can take care of themselves. Sometimes, it seems the two of them even like to tease the dogs. But, on our property, the horses are the top dogs and that's my rule. 

Maggie did have her period of transition. She is a herding dog, hence the variety of descriptive names of her anchor breed; Australian Cattle Dog, Blue Heeler and Queensland Heeler. She's most likely not full Heeler, but looks to possibly have some Sheltie, Border Collie or Australian Shepherd after researching these breeds. She's not as stocky as most Heelers, but doesn't have the same hair as the other three breeds. Blue Heelers are not known to have blue eyes, in general, while the other breeds can. Anyway, most of that doesn't matter. What mattered was that her herding instinct was getting her into trouble with me. 

For several months I had to find a way to turn that herding instinct in another direction. She had a habit of chasing and barking at the horses when I opened the gate to let them into the front field or when they were enjoying a leisurely roll on the ground. They ignored her most of the time. It took some patience on my part to work through this problem. Unfortunately, for Maggie, the problem took care of itself. One day, as I was opening the gate to let the horses out, Maggie took off after them, heeling and barking, not really sure what she was doing. In the blink of an eye my younger horse, Spirit, he was three years old at the time, turned on a dime and ran Maggie down right in front of me. I gasped as Maggie rolled on the ground, scrambled up and ran out of the field. I was horrified. I found her lying by the fence, breathing hard, blue eye looking up at me as if saying "What just happened?" To this day, she rarely goes into the field where the horses are, she'll stay along the outside of the fence and if  she does enter,I command her out, by simply saying "Maggie, OUT" and pointing toward the gate,she trots out and waits for me. Even dogs sometimes have to learn life lessons the hard way. I checked her over after the incident, she appeared bruised in the rib area, but nothing worse. She learned when and where she needed to be careful around the horses that day. Now, if the horses are romping in the field and she starts barking, all I have to do is say her name to get her attention, and tell her NO. She stops. One thing that is indisputable about Blue Heelers they are intelligent and learn quickly.

My fears about Xena not accepting Maggie into our "pack" were unfounded. Xena and Maggie got along well. They became buddies, BFF, if you will.Naturally, Maggie and Xena had their arguments until the position thing was worked out, but it didn't take long. A few growls, a couple of  "arguments", and they settled into their relationship. When Xena died three years later, Maggie was genuinely lost for a while. There was saddness in her eyes, well, especially the blue eye. Maybe she was feeding off our sadness at losing our friend of twelve years, but I believe she missed Xena. Dogs do grieve losses for a period of time.

I must admit, at first when Maggie was chasing my horses and barking, alot, at times I was exasperated with her. Xena never chased the horses so I wasn't sure how to deal with this young herding dog. But, I'm not the kind of person who gives an animal a home then turns around and abandons it or sends it somewhere else because of some inconvenience on my part. Dogs, and horses too, need guidelines. Once you've worked with them and showed them, with patience and consistency, what those guidelines are, they are the most wonderful companions in the world. When they know they have leadership in you, are safe, cared for, have plenty of food and shelter, and insecurities can be overcome, they return the favor with their devotion. Isn't that all we really want from them? Our animals really ask for so little yet give so much.

Sometimes I've wondered what Maggie's life was before us. She seems attracted to older women which made us wonder if she maybe belonged to an elderly woman and was abandoned because something had happened. My mother-in-law is not a dog person yet every time she would come to our home, Maggie would sit down  beside her. Or maybe that was just Maggie being sensitive to someone who didn't really care about dogs one way or another and was trying to win her over. Maggie has proven to be a people pleaser. I've also noticed that Maggie loves kids and gets excited when she sees them, while our other dog, Lucy, doesn't, so maybe Maggie had kids in her life as well.

Whatever her background story, it ends with our family. Maggie has earned her place in our pack and forever left her pawprints on our hearts.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pasture Envy

I have a confession, of sorts, I've discovered I suffer from pasture envy. As I pass by homes with big country yards and lush thick grass I think: "what a waste of space, that would be such great pasture for my horses. If it were mine I'd put up fence and have lots of pasture for my horses. Why do they waste time mowing?"

Then there are the farms with, what seems to me, acres and acres of fenced grass fields. I find myself wistful that my two horses would love that much pasture field and the hours of grass grazing.

My two Spotted Saddle Horses came from a farm where they had probably a hundred acres to roam grassy hillsides. I remember the farm had so much grass I questioned moving the horses to our two small pastures. Granted we have over sixty acres of land, but approximately fifty of it is forested hills and valleys with creeks separating the hills. This area has been called The Foothills to the Smokys. Don't get me wrong, I do love the forests and it makes for great walking/riding trails as we carve them. I've regretted that my horses don't have more grazing area and that I took them away from some awesome pastures. I have no idea how they feel about it but I suspect if they could voice opinions, they'd prefer the awesome pastures.

My older horse was six when I bought him. He was used to roaming a big space and eating all the grass he could in a day. His body showed it. But my younger guy was two and I wonder if he even remembers the lush pastures he came from, I'm thinking, not so much. 

Over the past seven years we've worked at various rotations of the smaller fenced acres, which amounts to about ten acres. We use a portable electric fence in the front yard area of our house during the summer months, for a couple hours of evening grazing. It's more like a field anyway and I'm not a person who gives much credence to what my yard/field looks like out here in the country. God made grass for grazing animals, not so we would have to mow it. 

If I were to actually design, or buy another place, with my horses in mind, I wouldn't build it in a valley, between hills. I also would make sure there was not a tree line near my fence line. Seems we sporadically have to fix broken fence areas due to falling branches or entire trees. With a heavy sigh, I've decided, we'll deal with it all as it is and I'm going to quit complaining about it. I don't foresee us moving any time soon. The place is paid off so unless we were to sell it as a small horse farm and move to Kentucky,I love Kentucky,it is what it is. My youngest son lives in Maysville and when we go down that way to visit, I admire the green rolling pasture land, and feel that pasture envy creeping up on me. 

Hubby and I continue to work it out, for the horses, here on our little plot of the planet as best we can. Eventually, we'll have all the trees out of the back field and more grass will grow there. Realistically, because of the ground composition, we'll never see lush green pastureland back here. When I've brought this subject up to my vet a couple of times, about my lack of good pasture grass, he looked at my guys and said "You're probably better off with less pasture. You don't have to worry about founder and these guys look like really easy keepers."  So, evidently, it's not really as bad as I keep thinking. However, I'll probably continue to have pasture envy. The grass is always greener at the other farm.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Exotic Animals Loose In Central Ohio

If you've been listening to, or reading, any form of news this morning you've learned that approximately fifty exotic animals were released from their cages on a private farm and are possibly roaming a rural area of Zanesville, Ohio. Zanesville is about a two hour drive north of where I live in Southern Ohio. Latest report I heard during a TV interview, allegedly, the owner of the farm possibly opened the animal cages before killing himself. While that is tragic in itself, what I find more tragic in this situation is the fact that approximately 50 exotics were being kept by a private citizen, in cages, on his own property. The sheriff's news conference confirmed 30 animals have been put down by law enforcement since last night, most of them were on the outside of the property when law enforcement arrived and the sheriff gave the order shoot to kill. There are suburbs close to the farm where the animals were kept.The sheriff also confirmed that there had been ongoing investigations following up reports of abuse and loose animals since about 2004.

Let me just say right up front there is absolutely no good reason for any private citizen to keep exotics like lions, tigers, bears, giraffes??? whatever, especially in a populated state like Ohio. It's not right. It's cruel to the animals and dangerous for surrounding homeowners. I also learned from another interview, and I haven't checked this information out myself, Ohio is one of the worst offenders when it comes to exotics being kept by private citizens. Ohio?  I was stunned. Evidently there are no strict regulations for owning and keeping exotics in the state of Ohio. 

The Columbus Zoo and The Wilds (an official wildlife preserve near Zanesville) are on the scene hoping to rescue some of the animals alive, although they didn't say what kind of animals they're looking for at this point. They've closed some schools in the area and are advising people to stay indoors. While I realize news media outlets run with this kind of story, I always try to glean what I think is credible and dismiss the hype.The deceased had been in prison for a year and had a jail record including animal abuse as well as possession of illegal firearms. This fact, if true, is troubling at any level.They were aware of the situation and had been concerned something might happen. I suppose they're all tip toeing around much of the law issue because as we all know, you can go down quick with a bad TV interview. This is an ongoing story so the information will change as the day goes on. 

A few years ago someone in the county ten miles north of us kept two lions. One of the lions got loose and was running down the main highway. Now, Southern Ohio can be wild and wooly. We have acres of forests, hills and hollers. Wildlife is abundant. We have seen an increase in coyotes, black bear and wild boar. But for someone to keep a lion, is simply beyond common sense. I never heard what happened to the lion although local news stated the owner was fined. Whoop tee doo!!!

Three times a year, the local fairgrounds, which is five minutes from my house, hosts a gigantic swap meet known as Swap Days or Trade Days. I personally quit attending several years ago because I don't like crowds AND there were people selling all kinds of animals in very confined cages as well as exotic animals. Common to see cages with baby lions or bears. I couldn't understand why they were permitted to sell them. Did the officials look the other way? when I heard about the lack of exotic animal regulations for private citizens in Ohio, it all made sense.

I am not an over-the-top animal activist but I do play by common sense rules. I cannot understand the mentality of someone who would even consider keeping 50 exotics like lions, tigers, bears, etc on a small farm just because they could. I think it's one for the psychologists to figure out.

When I first heard the story my thoughts went to horse and livestock owners. I was thinking if it were in my immediate area my shotgun would be locked and loaded and I'd be out there with my horses until all the animals from the farm were accounted for. While I don't like the idea of having to shoot any animal, I would do it in defense of my own. I suppose we'll get stories from the neighbors in the upcoming hours as news media scour the county to talk to the locals. Unfortunate as it is, it is the story of the day here in Ohio.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dream a dream, but reality is what it is...

The Tevis Cup endurance race, one hundred miles in one day, was held in California this past weekend. Due to weather induced terrain problems they moved the race from mid-summer to October 8. A few days before the race, a snow storm blew in leaving snow in the mountains, on some trails, and in camping areas. But, they carried on. The race was completed and won by a veteran Tevis participant, who's won it previously. In my mind, and I'm sure in the mind of many of those riders, it's not winning, it's finishing. And to those people who even attempt, they have my respect. The prize...a highly prized belt buckle.

I'm in awe of the people who have the opportunity to ride with their horses, as a team, in this event. Realistically, I know it's not something I'll ever do. Yes, we can dream dreams, but more often than not, reality is what it is. So, from  hundreds of miles away, through the magic of technology, I checked the Tevis updates on my Facebook page over the weekend, following the progress of the race, gazing at the posted photos of horses and their riders. You could even check in on a webcam, but unfortunately, my current satellite internet is not conducive to webcam viewing. I found myself sighing heavily, that the experience was out of my reach.

I'll continue to admire those who ride endurance, and particularly The Tevis Cup. I still have a dream, that maybe, one day, I'll get to a Competitive Trail Ride, or a shorter LD (Limited Distance). And the possibility of an ACTHA (American Competivtive Trail Horse Association) event, is within my reach. But The Tevis, ah yes, the top of the line, is an event I will only be following online. That's OK. We need to dream our dreams, but also realize that sometimes reality is what it is, and adjust.

Happy Trails, whatever that may mean to you!

The Tevis Cup


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Get Your Emotions Out of It!

I had one of those AH HA moments recently. Read an article by one of the popular trainers and his words clicked with me. Get the emotions out of your horse training. I realized for the longest time that's been one of my problems. Emotions getting in the way because they're MY horses.

When I worked at a riding stable and was training those horses, well, keeping their abilities up for our young program riders, I was business with them. I didn't feel anything I just did what needed done whether it was working on their starts and stops, getting them use to trail riding vs. arena riding, stand while tying, all the little things that needed attention. I knew the horses had to be rideable, leadable, mountable, accessible to the children we were servicing. The horses had jobs to do and I had to make sure they were ready. 

At home it's been a different story, and I think I just figured it out when I read the words of the trainer. When it comes to my two horses I've worried too much about what and how they do things. I've worried I'll ruin them in some way. This, I decided has been my problem and my handicap with getting my horse-life fulfilled. I think part of it comes from the very fact that I wanted to own my very own horses for so long, when I finally got them (at age 43) I was star struck in many ways. So now, I've decided that the reason my progress with my two guys has been at a stand still has been due to my emotional involvement.There's a place for emotions with our horses but there's also a place for business. I've been too concerned about right and wrong, which is important to a point, instead of just doing what I did with the school horses. 

My new training philosophy is to get to the same mental place I used with the school horses. I really think I'll make more progress that way. Easier said than done, probably, but those light bulb moments can be cause for turning corners, and I want to go there. Plus, I've come to a time in my horse-life where I'm questioning if it's right for me to have my guys since I haven't taken full advantage of what horse ownership could be. But, that's a post for another day....

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Draft Horses,Visions of the Past

I attended a draft horse show in Hillsboro, Ohio, a week ago. I've been a fan of draft horses all my life. When I was a kid, my parents and I attended the Ohio State Fair to see the Budweiser Clydesdales. This was back in the 70's when there was no internet, no instant access to photos of these gorgeous animals. I still remember the pounding of the hooves and the jangle of the hardware as the team thundered into the coliseum. An experience forever stamped in my memory.

A few years back I was thrilled to find an annual draft horse show an hour's drive from us. We've been attending for a few years now, but didn't make it last year, I think it was weather, or a family event, can't remember exactly, so it had actually been two years since we'd attended the show. The first years Hubby and I attended I was amazed at the number of draft hitch participants. Marveled that there were still people who drove six-horse hitches and traveled with their draft horses to shows across various states. As I recall, there were eight of the six-horse hitch wagons in the one class. They had to divide the class up into two sections, with the winners vying for first place in the third round. This year, there were three. THREE! I was saddened by the decline though I've thought for a while that the show would dwindle and with the economy so sluggish, I really wasn't surprised by the downturn in entrants. There were also several canceled classes due to no entrants. As I looked around the outdoor arena, there were fewer people in attendance and it was a relatively nice day, though cloudy with a threat of rain. The entrants in the hitch classes, six-hitch,four-hitch and unicorn, were mostly from Ohio, one wagon from Indiana.

Back home I got to thinking, what will happen to the drafts? Obviously, not used in farming, except in Amish communities, of which we have many here in Ohio. Close to my home I often see Amish farmers with their Belgian drafts working their fields. But what of draft breeds in general? I was curious so looked up Spotted Draft horse. They came to mind because of my big Bo, who is actually a big Spotted Saddle Horse. We often wondered if he had some draft in his genes. I also looked up Percheron. What I found was that drafts are now being used to breed with smaller, athletic breeds, and warmbloods, for eventing and dressage horses. At least they have a place in the 21st Century. Still, I wondered about the future of the legendary work horses who were integral in working the American farms of yesteryear. My grandpa trained drafts to do farm work back in the early 1920's when some Ohio farms still hadn't transferred to tractors yet. I often wish I'd had a chance to talk with Grandpa about his horse training years, but he died before I was five. All I have are pictures and stories my mom has told me. Probably also the fate of the drafts in the future.

I'll always get a chill when I see a draft horse standing in a field, or working an Amish farm, and especially when I have the opportunity to see them roll in their wagon hitches,as long as the opportunity remains, reminding me of a less hurried time in American life.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September Has Arrived

Been incommunicado for a while. I always thought that was a clever term, incommunicado. Actually, I think it's just called l-a-z-y where I'm concerned.

Hubby has been trying to squeeze in vacation days before the company he works for transitions the workforce to another company at the end of September. We're still in twilight zone over that move, or at least that's how it feels. When he's on vacation, so am I. Just works that way. My daily routine gets all out of whack.

Most of the time we've spent working on projects around our little farm. Last week we picked up a supply of hay. We had to drive an hour, two counties away. I never realized hay could be such a deep dark secret in our county, but apparently that's the case. I made numerous inquiries. Ended up getting fed up and decided we'd just make the drive to a farm supply operation we knew had hay for sale. We also ordered in forty ton of sand mix, which was an easier proposition because it was delivered to us. The sand mix is for the horse corral area. I'm done with being patient about the mud and this year was the last straw. After asking a few horse owners, and reading online articles, I finally came to what I hope is an economical, and hopefully, good solution to my mud problem. A local horse breeder/trainer told me where he bought his sand mix for his arena and training areas. Turned out, the stuff was what I was looking for. It's not as fine as masons sand, but not as rocky as bank run or pea sized stone. So far we've put about 1/2 a ton down and I'm pleased to say, after the last rains from Tropical Storm Lee passed through this week, no mud. This stuff might just work out!

We did manage to get in one afternoon motorcycle ride last week, before it got way too hot and then rains came into our area from Lee. Can't really complain, it's been dreary, but nothing like what many other places had to face from Hurricane Irene and remnants of Lee. We were spared flooding this time around.

Neighbor dog has returned. Rufus, the black lab, stopped in Monday evening and has been here ever since. I don't know exactly what the problem is with his real home up the road. Obviously, he prefers to escape to our home instead of staying at his own. He doesn't act like he's abused. I can't very well feed our dogs and not feed him so he gets fed a bowl of dog food when we feed Maggie and Lucy. Hubby believes Rufus isn't fed enough. He thinks, even for an active a year old pup, the dog is too skinny. I think the neighbors just don't pay enough attention to Rufus and when he gets loose, he's off for freedom,which is our place because he's free. 

Around here Rufus seems happy just to be around people, lay near the house, on our back deck and tries to get our dogs to play. Hubby and I have tried to ignore Rufus, but I'm a sucker for an adorable face, so it's harder for me. Plus, Rufus has been fairly well mannered and hasn't bothered the horses. 

I called his people, yet one more time, today. Left a message. Told them I thought someone would have missed the dog by now and sent someone down to get him. They have to go by our house. We live on a dead end road. They know where Rufus hangs out. Makes me wonder if they really care about the dog. OH, looks like someone must have gotten my message. Rufus just took off running up the road following behind a blue pick-up truck that I know to belong to one of his people. Good! I'd rather Rufus be at his home, where he belongs. He has two kids there who hopefully adore him. He is an adorable pup, I have to admit. Maybe he'll outgrow his need to visit here, eventually. I don't mind if he drops by and then goes home, but he was here for two nights and had become like one of those guests who outstays their welcome, according to looks on our dogs' faces.

For now, I'm trying to get myself into some kind of routine. I've been really lax. I've learned something about myself this summer, I'm the kind of person who NEEDS routine and planning. When left to my own devices, I get NOTHING accomplished. If I have a plan, a routine, or lists, I'm much more productive. Some people can be productive without really knowing where they're going or where they'll end up. I'm not one of those and I finally realized that this summer when trying to be one of the other kinds of people. Hubby is kind of like the "others", but my reality is deadlines,lists and a plan to follow. Sometimes it takes a little while to figure things like that out. Looks like it took me the last 30 years!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Relaxing for the moment...

The horses are taken care of for a while. They've been vetted, trimmed and de-wormed. They got the works this month.

Spirit had his teeth floated a couple of weeks ago. He was definitely in need. The vet showed me the points on Spirit's teeth. It's so weird watching the vet do his power dentistry inside my horse's wide open mouth, held that way by a very odd looking mechanism of a halter. The poor horse slightly swayed under the fog of a sedative and Hubby held the rope keeping Spirit's head steady through the procedure. The results, Spirit is eating much calmer now and appears to be enjoying his grain much better than before.

Looks like the unsightly slobbers are over. The fungus, brought on by this summer's high humidity and extended rains, no longer growing on the leaves of the white clover in our field. I'd never experienced the slobbers with my horses in the 6 years I've had them here. The vet said he's seen it all over the county this year. I'm thankful it only lasted with my horses for a few weeks.

My farrier came yesterday and trimmed up their feet. Always glad to hear my farrier tell me how good their feet are, he rarely has to do anything but trim. They've got good strong feet and for that I am uber thankful!

Our cat, Buddy, continues to work through his asthma. It still seems almost comical to talk about my asthmatic cat. I'd just never heard of it before his problem started. He gets a depo injection once a month, sometimes an antibiotic. I decided a while back to try to keep him as comfortable as possible and as long as he still seems content with his life, that's how we'll leave it. Sooner or later the condition will worsen, as it has already but not enough to where he doesn't want to eat or drink his water or head outside to sit on the deck. He'll tell me when he's tired of it all. Considering we found him abandoned in a box with four other kittens, no bigger than the palm of a hand, eyes closed, and hand fed for weeks until he could eat on his own, helping him as much as I can through the end of his life is my goal. He's a wonderful cat and has had a good nine years with us. Nine years he probably wouldn't have had otherwise.

So, right now, my biggest goal is to try to get in some hay when Hubby is on vacation in a few weeks. Hay supplies are low around here from what I'm hearing. Just peachy! I honestly, and I've said this before, never thought about hay being among the problems a horse owner faces because I always thought hay was one of those things you could always find, easily. Live and learn! In the meantime I've been getting them used to Lucerne's Hi Fiber forage which they do seem to like. Not that I want to feed it to them as a complete forage because that would be very expensive, but as a supplement, it's a definite maybe. I was scared off of hay cubes after Spirit's choke incident, unless I soak them. I decided I don't want to spend time each day soaking the hay cubes if I have other alternatives.

Right now I feel I can relax for a bit. The corral is finally free of mud! The horses are up on all their appointments. The cat had his vet visit the other day. The dogs are doing fine. Hubby seems good too after a bout with numerous seed ticks on his legs, which is a topic for another post some time. The mowing is caught up for at least a week. Today I have the feeling of....ahhhhhhh.  Enjoy the day!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vet Visit

Funny how something as simple as a vet visit can set you on a high. Well, it does me, when things are deemed good and all the questions I had written on my list were adequately answered. Plus, once again, I learned a few things. This particular vet is strictly an equine vet. We're lucky to have him. He does alot with local breeding programs and power dentistry. He's a local "boy" who worked at the University of Kentucky and at the Lexington horse farms before returning to his home town. I decided after the choke incident, with Spirit, that maybe it was s good idea to try to stay on Dr. R's client list since it's difficult to get any of the other vets in the county to come out on farm calls.

The main reason for the vet call was that I have put off giving my two horses their vaccines this year. I usually do it in May, myself. This year though, I don't know, I just decided I wanted a vet to do it. Then the weather has been so bad with storms and rain, I kept putting off calling Dr. R. Then I decided since I had the vet out here, I was going to make good use of his knowledge and add to mine. I've learned alot over the past six years, but there's always more.

I keep a notebook on my horses. I log their de-wormings, vet visits, farrier visits, any problems I run across with the horses in general, how I dealt with it, what worked, what didn't and hay purchases. I was able to show Dr. R when I gave the vaccines last year and what they were. He was fine with the vaccines I'd used, which I bought from one of the local vet clinics, but said he was adding the West Nile to it. Well, I can openly admit, I actually thought I'd been giving West Nile but he told me it came in a separate injection. So, I learned that the vaccines I'd asked for at the local clinic which were 5 in 1 did not have West Nile. That was an eye opener. I knew what they had in them when I bought them (East and West Equine Encephalitis, Equine Rhino, Equine type A2 viruses and Tetnus) but didn't even think about WN and "assumed" it was covered. Sometimes it does pay to have a vet visit once in a while to get educated.

After the injections were given I started asking him my laundry list of questions and concerns. Oh, actually, it wasn't that long of a list but since I had him there I was going to hit him with them. One thing about Dr. R, he enjoys explaining things. I told him about Spirit's choke incident. Once again I was reassured that most choke events take care of themselves. He advised me, if needed, to use water into the mouth to help the horse salivate so the food, or as it was in this case, hay cubes, can soften and the horse can then swallow. When the episode is going on, the horse is still trying to swallow. Dr. R said he hasn't run across any serious scarring issues. He told me he hasn't run across a case of choke where the horse hasn't been able to handle it, but there are always those cases where the obstruction may not be food. He just hadn't run across one yet.

From that point I told him that I was pretty sure Spirit needed his teeth floated because he was exhibiting some of the signs: dropping food, turning his head, and I thought the choke incident may have also been and indication although part of that was brought on by him being startled from behind when he was trying to grab a few cubes from Bo's pan. I also mentioned that Spirit was drooling in the evenings. Now this was something I thought was part of a teeth problem but Dr. R told me that right now white clover has developed a fungus. The horse eats the clover with the fungus and it in turn irritates their mouth. He said the drooling would probably last a week or so then I wouldn't see it anymore. It's nothing that affects the horse in any way, other than the drooling short term. Makes sense because the drooling happened in the late afternoons after I'd brought the horses in from their grazing field. I never saw Spirit do it in the mornings when I was feeding, brushing or preparing them to go out. Mystery solved.

I made another appointment to have Spirit's teeth floated next week. After that, we should be good to go for a while and I know I'll feel better.

Dr. R also eased my mind on Bo's weight issue. I was shocked at the amount of weight the big boy had lost over winter. He looks good now but I'd never seen him that skinny in the six years I've had him. He's always had plenty, probably extra, meat on him. I showed Dr. R a picture of Bo when I first brought him home six years ago. He laughed and said  "He looks pregnant" Yeah, that's how fat Bo was because he'd come from a big open pasture home where there was more than enough to eat. Dr. R said he knew of many horses who'd lost extra weight this past winter because we'd had a pretty cold one. He said horses in our area cannot keep weight on through January and February no matter how much they're fed because in very cold seasons their bodies are busy trying to keep them warm. So, I felt better about that knowing I didn't do anything to cause it. He told me he prefers to see a horse on the thin side anyway because it's easier on the joints especially on big boys like Bo.

I felt satisfied when Dr. R rolled out of the driveway. I looked at the receipt and even though it was more than my last doctor appointment I had a sense of relief that we were all in good health.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Finally, the vet will make his visit!

I don't know why, exactly, but I've put off this vet appointment for waaaayy too long. I used the weather as an excuse. And honestly, I am embarrassed about my mud situation. But, after talking to my friend, who's been into horses for 20+ years, we both agreed, Spirit is probably in need of a good float on his teeth. The signs are there, dropping food, the choke incident, turning his head to the side when eating his pellets. 

First though, I need to have a wellness check and probably the dreaded vaccinations. Dreaded, because my guys are usually lethargic for a few days following their vaccinations and now, our temps are soaring into the 90's with heat index around 105 during the late afternoons. I'm questioning my brevity at finally making the appointment, but I know it must be done.

I've made a list of questions for the vet. Since I don't have him out very often I thought this would be a good time to address some questions and concerns. He's an equine vet who grew up in the area and moved back here after working for a while at the University of Kentucky and at Lexington farms. He has an on call business, no office so you have to call him to make an appointment. So, right now, I'm feeling fortunate that I finally have a vet coming to look at my guys and hoping to make the most of this visit. I'm guessing I'll need to set up another appointment to get Spirit's teeth floated but I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rant about my mud problem

I'll preface by saying I realize there are bigger problems in the world but in my personal little dot on the planet this is a big issue for me this year. MUD. Freaking mud when it should have dried out. Why does this bother me so much? Well, because it won't go away and I can't keep my horses cleaned up, and any number of issues that comes with mud in close proximity to trying to have a life with horses. UGH!

I have a run-in shelter stall to the side of our barn style garage set up for my two Spotted Saddle Horses aka Tennessee Walkers. The area they have to move through to get to the run-in stall is the problem. I was going to post a photo but we changed out computers last week and my IT guy (husband) hasn't decided which photo program he wants to install since the Kodak photoshare we had isn't up to par. me, the mud problem is more than just an annoyance. I'm thankful each day the horses haven't had a leg wound this year because it would not be pretty trying to keep it clean. Last year at about this time Spirit ripped open his back leg and I was tending to that into August but there was no mud.

So, I realize the weather can't be controlled. Most years the mud dries out by mid June when the rains have usually calmed. Unfortunately this year, the rains keep coming. They're not nice summer showers either. They're gully washers as we like to call them around here.I have been trying to get the property manager (husband) to agree to put something in the mud prone area so I can have piece of mind. Finally, I think he's relented because he's probably tired of hearing me rant about it. We are talking health issues here as well, for us, and the horses, is what I've been explaining to him.

I looked up Geotextile fabrics which I'd read were great for the base of a muddy area. The stuff sounds super! I presented the information to the grounds keeper (husband) who was intrigued by the idea. He then estimated the cost of the Geotextile fabric and the two layers of different size gravel (recommended) and informed me we were looking at $2000+. He insists he can order in 40ton of smooth bank run rock to lay as a base and get a good result. He also informed me that to do that project, the mud needs to dry out and he needs to get the tractor, with blade, in there to smooth it out before laying out the gravel. He has also told me he just needs to cut out the gigantic sycamore tree next to the corral fence, which would allow for sun to dry out the mud. He's been meaning to do that for a couple of years. It's a huge tree and does need to go because if any of it falls, and we've had limbs drop, it could take out a number of fencing sections in the corral area and front field as well as the roof of the run-in stall and garage itself.

How does something as simple as mud turn into a big ordeal?

I've almost quit looking at the long range weather reports, brings on a sense of dread. Lately, I only look to the next day. I think the property manager and grounds keeper have decided to go with the tree removal and the 40tons of bank run.When asked my opinion I said as long as I get the horses better footing and rid of that horrible mud, I'm game for just about anything right now.

To end on a positive note I found this quote by Mother Teresa which I have now adopted as my own life quote:  "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

FYI...You can't do the Heimlich on a choking horse!

While the title was meant to be amusing, I actually saw someone ask, on an obscure forum, how to do the Heimlich on a choking horse. I often shake my head and wonder where common sense has gone but I also thought maybe the person was as freaked out as I was when it happened to my horse, Spirit, a few weeks ago.

In short, Spirit, my nine yo Spotted Saddle Horse, was eating some hay cubes. I usually put out a small amount of Alfalfa-Timothy hay cubes to get my two horses to come in from the front field in the afternoons. Plus, I have to use hay stretchers and hay cubes have been my choice for about a year. My other horse, Bo, ran up behind Spirit, startling him. I didn't think anything about it until I saw Spirit walking and coughing. I didn't panic at first because he's coughed before, figured he was just clearing out some material. Then, when he walked into the run-in stall and continued coughing I became concerned. It got worse. Mucous and gunk started coming out of his nostrils. I knew nothing about choking. I've been involved in many horse emergencies over the past seven years but choking was not one of them. I admit, I panicked. I felt helpless. I didn't know what to do. I tried to soothe him but he couldn't clear the debris. Obviously, he'd probably sucked down a hay cube when he was startled. I ran into the house to see what my emergency book said about choke but this time it wasn't much help. I ran back out and tried to keep Spirit calm. It was hot, he was hot, so I sponged him off with cool water. At the time, I didn't realize he could still breathe, unlike humans when we choke. I was afraid he would pass out right there but I noted his breathing continued. After about thirty minutes things calmed down. The hay cube must have moved down. I took the opportunity to run into the house and look up "choking horse" online. I found a very informative, to the point article by Bob Brusie, DVM, Preventing Choke in Horses. I was relieved after reading.

What I learned: Most choke cases resolve themselves within 30-45 minutes. If you call a vet,by the time a vet gets there the episode would have ended. It all depends on the obstruction. You can use a gentle stream of water from a hose to run in the horses's mouth if he'll tolerate it. This helps to stimulate the horse to swallow and move the object down if it's food. I've since purchased a 50cc large animal syringe to have on hand. If you feel a knot on the left side of the horse's neck, below the throatlatch, you might be able to dislodge the object by massaging. You'll need to watch the horse for at least the next 72 hours because it is possible the esophagus has been stretched and may not be back to normal. There is a possibility of another incident. Water down all food you believe my be a problem to make it easier for him to swallow, dry pellets, hay cubes, etc.Surgery is rarely needed. Sometimes a tranquilizer will relax the esophagus enough to allow the obstruction to move on down.

I also asked my personal vet, when I took my cat for his monthly steroid injection, for his thoughts on choking horses. He said in his experience, 95% of the time by the time a vet can get to the farm call the incident will be over.  Again, it depends on the obstruction. Horses can still breathe while choking so asphyxiation isn't a problem. He agreed that a water hose would be fine but it was his suggestion of a large animal syringe to control a smaller amounts of water and might be more acceptable to the horse. You don't want water getting into the lungs then you'll have a pneumonia problem within a few days.

This incident made it clear to me, once again, when you're a small time horse owner you'd better be prepared for any kind of emergency. You can't pack them up and take them to the ER. If you call a vet you may not get one for a very long time at least that's how it is in the area where I live. Oh, and this happened on a Saturday afternoon so fat chance getting one of our local vets. It just ain't gonna happen. On this occasion I was very thankful for the internet!

I realized I need to make an appointment to probably have Spirit's teeth floated because it's been quite some time. It's one of those things I put off because he has to be sedated and I really hate that but better to have healthy teeth than an hour or so of me being uncomfortable. 

From now on the hay cubes are soaked for 30-45 minutes before putting them out. I don't want to take a chance of a choking episode like that again! I'm thinking about finding another kind of hay stretcher. There are many different products out there these days. I decided I don't necessarily want to be soaking the hay cubes every day if there are alternatives.

If interested in learning about dealing with a choking horse I found Dr. Brusie's short and informative article here at the following website:

Friday, June 10, 2011

He's Still The One and We're Still Having Fun after 29 years!

My husband and I are celebrating our 29th year of marriage today, June 10, 2011. It's still hard to imagine but even after all these years and all the trails and trials we've taken together, we're still the best of friends and I wouldn't trade him for anyone or anything. He's always been by my side. He's always been my support system. He's always been there for me. We were very young when we got married, he was just 20 (today is also his 49th birthday) and I was 21 but somehow with God's blessings, we've made it this far and he's Still THE ONE I want whispering in my ear....

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rufus returns...again and again....

Now I'm beginning to wonder why dear Rufus, the adorable lab who belongs up the road, has decided he likes our place better than his own home. Could be they keep him tied up all the time?? 

Yesterday evening Rufus showed up again.This time he was dragging a shredded rope tie which was still attached to his collar. Obvious he'd spent time chewing through it. In all our years of living in the country, the dogs we've had have never chosen to live anywhere else beyond their home here. They've always been around our house, on our property. Granted, they have ventured off into the woods but they've never chosen to stay with another family up or down the road. So, since Rufus seems to escape, and always ends up here, I have to wonder what they're not giving him that he finds so pleasing at our place. 

I've come up with two probabilities. Rufus seems to have a form of separation anxiety and has a need to either be around people or at least other dogs that accept him. When Hubby and I were doing our chores last night the pup had to be right where we were. He laid in the garage where Hubby was working or he followed at my heels as I watered my flowers. He waited politely outside the fence when I fed the horses. He has even been refraining from chasing the cat since I reprimanded with stern "NO's" last night. I kept watch until after dark and no sign of his people to fetch him. Nope. Rufus stayed here. Hubby said Rufus barked throughout the night. I must have been tired, I didn't hear it, but then I've gone to putting cotton in my ears lately because of all the storms we've had.

I'm not calling Rufus's people any more.They know where he is.They have to drive by our house to get out of the holler. It's sad, really, The pup just wants a secure home and it appears his people aren't home much, don't care much, and obviously seem to have no clue as to how to bond with their dog so that he wants to stay at their home. I've decided to just let it ride. If Rufus is here when we feed our dogs, he's getting some food too. Maybe his people don't feed him much. He doesn't look starved, he's thin like a young pup but no bones showing.

Sometimes people get adorable pups for their kids and then when the cuteness grows into all paws and a big body, well, they're not so adorable anymore. I'm not trying to be judgmental but  if I have a dog,or any animal, I've always been responsible and caring towards them. My conclusion is that they're really not trying too hard or Rufus would be their Clifford and he wouldn't choose to run down here whenever he's loose. I tried not to feed him anything for a long time but I can't not feed him when we feed our dogs. Just doesn't feel right. In my view, it's as if a child were running the neighborhood but felt safe at my house. I sure wouldn't feed my own kids and not give that child food....anyway for now, we seem to have three dogs instead of two.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Back around Mother's Day a visitor showed up at our place. A young, lively, sweet, black lab. Adorable. His tag said Clifford but I started calling him Rufus, for what reason I don't know. It just seemed to fit. 

We tried to get Rufus to go home over the course of many days, actually, as it turned out, the entire month of May.The address on his tag located his home at 1/2 mile up the road, last house on our cul-de-sac, well, out here in the country it's just a plain old dead end road. Rufus seemed to have decided that he preferred spending time with us and our two dogs, Maggie and Lucy, both of whom are "fixed". He simply appeared to enjoy their company.

My main concern in the beginning was he had no idea about horses. He barked at them. He went out into the field with them. They charged him. My guys do not care for dogs in their field. I was concerned the horses would run him down. I sure didn't want an injured, or worse, dead, neighbor dog on my hands. His people didn't show up all day. I figured such a nice dog, with a collar and tag, someone would be missing him. My husband, son, daughter-in-law and I even drove the UV up into the valley to shoot pistols that first afternoon. Now, our dogs scatter when they see us with our pistols and realize we'll be shooting targets. They disappeared. Rufus?  Nope, the silly boy followed us up the valley and sat with us the whole time we were shooting! We were all amazed. The gunfire didn't faze him one bit. 

Eventually that day I decided I should call the phone number on the tag. Got a machine. I left a message. No one ever called me back. The next day when Hubby and I were out grooming the horses, the kids from Rufus's family came riding their bikes down the road, calling to him, and he loped like the big footed pup he is out to meet them. He followed them up the road. I figured that was probably the end of it. Not so fast.

A couple days later, Rufus showed up again. Happy and bouncing all over the place appearing very thrilled to see me, or maybe just a person in general, not sure. As I went into the corral area to groom the horses before letting them out into the field for the afternoon, Rufus decided to follow me. Maggie and Lucy stood back with concerned faces. If they were verbal, I'm sure they were saying things like "Dude, you'd better get yourself out of there...Man, Lucy, you see what he's doing?" "Oh yeah. He ain't coming back out alive if he goes any closer."  Well, that's what I think they'd be saying.

About the time I turned to brush Bo, Spirit reared up, which he never does when I'm right there with him. He never had in the past. Looking behind him, I see Rufus. Spirit pivoted and with both front feet flailing nearly clocked Rufus on the head but the dog scrambled out under the fence quickly. I can imagine Maggie telling him, "You know kid. if you'd listened to us in the first place...." It was at that moment I decided if Rufus was going to hang around, he was going to have to learn my rules. No barking at the horses. Dogs stay outside of the fence. And, I was going to call the owners one more time. Funny, his tag was now missing but fortunately I had written the number down near the phone in the house. Again the machine. Again, no one called me back to claim their dog. Later that evening his family stopped in front of our house in their vehicle and yelled for "Clifford". The woman yelled out to me, "Sorry!" and they were off down the road.

This pattern continued through May although sometimes Rufus's family didn't come fetch him, or at least I never saw them. In the mean time I taught Rufus to stay outside the fence when I went in with the horses. I learned, he's actually a smart pup. He sits and waits for me to come back out whenever I'm feeding or letting the horses out into the field. I'm impressed. I pat him on the head and tell him "good boy". He seems happy to have that little bit of attention and proudly follows me back to the house. For the most part, Maggie and Lucy seem annoyed by the intruder and spend much of their time moving away from him when he tried to lay down near them. It was comical.Whenever I'm outside, Rufus was my shadow.

OK, it was looking on the surface like maybe the family didn't really want their dog or I had dialed the wrong number.The next to the last weekend in May, Rufus was at our house continuously from Friday until Monday evening. Hubby and I were discussing the possibility of another dog in our family but Hubby was honest, and said he didn't really want a third dog. So, I decided to drive the UV up to Rufus's family's house and see if I could talk to anyone personally, since they weren't returning my calls. 

When I get there I'm finally able to talk to an owner. She told me they'd been looking for "Clifford" all weekend. Calling to him down the road, in front of our house, but he never came to them. Our house does sit a good distance from the road and we have fencing along our property line. But, I honestly don't know how they missed him. I told her he'd been camped out on our back patio and porch, but I have an idea she thought we might have been keeping the dog in our house. She told me that last winter Clifford ran away with their other dog, ended up a few roads over. The woman who found Clifford kept him in the house and wouldn't give him back. Somehow in the story, the pup ended up in Springfield, Ohio, which is about three hours away. I assured her we were not keeping Clifford in the house and that I wanted him to be with his rightful family especially since there are kids who seem to love him. She apologized and said they'd try to keep him home. I explained about the horses and told her Rufus, um, Clifford, had really been no problem but again, I wanted him to be with his own family I stressed we really didn't want another dog. I was relieved to see his family did want him, they were just having a hard time keeping him home and were going to work something else out. 

I also discovered why poor Rufus was scared at night and barked...A LOT! He stayed inside with the kids at night at his house. At our house, he was outside. It was apparent he was scared of lots of things. When he wasn't barking he was laying near our dogs or at our sliding glass back door looking in at us.

Rufus is just a pup, maybe not quite a year old. He jumps and chases butterflies! How could you be mad at that? I didn't mind so much having him around but he did add some chaos to our little pack. He chased Buddy, the cat, which is not acceptable. Buddy soon learned to make himself scarce or stay indoors. You could feel the disturbance in the calmness of our own little pack when Rufus was around. They knew Rufus didn't really belong here. When he was gone, calmness returned.

Rufus was back yesterday for the day. I just accepted him like a neighbor kid who decided he wanted to spend the day at the neighbor house because there was someone to play with and someone to pay attention to him.There's only one other house between our place and his place. He seems to end up down here after his people leave for work in the mornings. When I went outside, Maggie looked at me as if to say "Not again."  But all three went running up in the woods in the morning. Then spent the afternoon under the deck where it was cool. Some time in the late afternoon Rufus's family must have stopped by to pick him up because he was gone. Haven't seen him today. As long as the little guy minds his p's & q's around here, and has manners, which, for the most part he does, I don't mind him visiting. I just hope his family realizes what a sweetheart of a dog Rufus, aka Clifford, is because he deserves a good family. 

Yes, I've become attached to the adorable pup. What can I say?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It's Kentucky Derby Time!

I am not fond of horse racing in general but every year I find myself drawn in to the drama of the Kentucky Derby and The Triple Crown races. I admire the horse athletes so I leave it at that. After Eight Belles, I swore I was never going to watch another Derby, or horse race, on TV. again. The next year I found myself drawn in one more time. Finally, I gave in to the fact that it's the horses I enjoy watching. It's become a guilty pleasure. 

I suppose this Saturday around 5 pm I'll be tuning in to see who will be the next big media story in horse racing for this year. I can't enjoy my own horses in this ultra wet, mucky, muddy, rainy period,and that part of my world doesn't look to get much better in the near future.

To anyone who enjoys this guilty pleasure, It's Derby Time!

Reunion Part 2

Tuesday proved to be a bad weather day. I couldn't leave my homestead due to high running creek. Spent the day keeping debris from clogging up the drains so we wouldn't have our own disastrous flood into the horse stall area and garage. The ranch itself had high water. Weather looked good for the following day.

Wednesday and Thursday were absolutely gorgeous Spring days! They've been few and far between in the month of April this year.I was excited to go back over to the ranch and work with my old horse buddies. I honestly hadn't been this excited about horse related activities in quite some time.

The two afternoons were spent with groundwork, leading and riding. These horses hardly ever get beyond a trot in the riding lessons. My philosophy was always, work with them like they'll be worked with during the programs. Besides, I was only there this week so in my mind my focus was simply on exercise. If they'd developed too many problems since the four years I'd been absent, I wasn't going to have the chance to work correcting too many bad habits in two afternoons.I worked with four horses, and Lori worked with four others.

On Wednesday I worked with Dani and a horse the barn calls Dinky but I refer to as DeeDee. I never liked the name Dinky when I met her four years ago. She was newly brought in just before I resigned so I'd never worked with her much. I was told DeeDee was former barrel racer mare. Both Dani and DeeDee did fine with my leading and ground work. They both tacked up nicely. DeeDee did have a cinching issue so I slowed the process down even more. She wanted to anticipate being cinched up tight, quickly, but I showed her I wasn't going that route. Now, just because I do it that way doesn't mean the next person won't come in and do it the way DeeDee anticipates. Dani,a Halflinger/Icelandic from appearances, was always a solid ride. She does have a "go" issue sometimes. But, if the rider remains consistent and firm, Dani will engage. Dani just needs to know the person up there means what they're "saying". She will test the rider. It's something she's always done. She actually does better with adults. More than one lesson rider became frustrated with Dani. DeeDee did like to surge ahead quickly with an easy "kiss" and not even a leg squeeze. I worked with her a little on that and when she smoothed out she was a very nice ride. I can understand the startle factor though, for a new rider who might get that surge. The only thing I could do would be to explain my findings on my review. Whether the staff paid attention or tried my suggestions, I knew that was completely out of my control.

Thursday brought another fine Spring day. Warm, sunny, cool. Lori and I had two hours, four horses to work and the barn to ourselves. Seemed almost like old times without having to worry about stall cleaning.

My first pick of the day was a horse named Sissy. I have never worked with Sissy, she was a newly, donated horse to the riding facility. She is a nicely built, about 15 h QH mare who had also come from a barrel racing background. She is a people pleaser for the most part. She was very good with grooming, tacking and the necessities. Her main quirk is apparently being herd bound. She goes a little spastic when she's in the arena alone. I was able to keep her mind on what I was doing with her and over a period of about 20 minutes she settled and didn't worry so much about being the only one out there. Sissy seems like she would be one of the better schooling horses although she had an instantaneous get-up-and-go with the gentlest of urging. Didn't take much. I wondered how the current staff would work on that. Hopefully, they'd read my evaluation and take my suggestions to heart. Speckles, one of my past favorites, a little Appaloosa pony-size fella who is way too smart for his own good was my last "student".

When we'd worked with Speckles in the past his issues were based on who was working with him. If he thought he could get away with a little nip, he tried. One time, as I was cleaning a front foot, the little bugger reached around and got hold of my upper arm with his teeth, to which my response was to put my body weight into him and he fell into the wall. I'm not a huge woman, but I have some weight on me. I recall he looked at me with a rather puzzled look, ears moving back and forth. I honestly never had that kind of problem with him again. This day he seemed eager to get out and do something which worked in my favor. I tied him, leaving a length of lead rope hang to the ground. Went to get his tack and saddle. When I walked back toward the arena, I couldn't help but laugh when I saw Speckles standing there twirling the lead rope like a lasso. Yes, we'd allowed him to do that and he'd remembered. We realized he liked to twirl the lead rope so we had encouraged it. At the end of our programs we'd give him the lead rope and he would twirl it around just like he knew what he was doing. The girls would laugh and applaud. Speckles always enjoyed the attention. I'd forgotten he could do that little trick. However, obviously the new staff group didn't find it as cute or entertaining because they said he had a habit of grabbing the lead rope. Oh well. I would leave a note letting them know it was something we'd taught him a few years ago. At least they'd know what it was all about when he did it. From then on Speckles complied nicely. Rode nicely and listened fine. I had no complaints and couldn't see much of a problem. Maybe Specks just needed to get out and go, period. 

The afternoon ended much too quickly. We wrote up our evaluations and hoped we'd helped out. We laughed about the fact that at first we thought we were getting into some kind of wild horse mess from the information we'd been given. We decided the horses just needed handling and riding after being idle since October. Maybe the staff just wasn't use to all the horses. Hopefully they'd see our suggestions as helpful. OR, they'll read them and say we were a couple of crazy old ladies who didn't know what the heck we were talking about! Whatever the outcome, it was an enjoyable week and renewed my confidence. Now if the rain would just stop so I can work with my own horses!

The only thing I heard later was that the programs went well and that Lori and I were appreciated for coming to the rescue that week. We were rewarded with boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. Honestly, Lori and I both agreed, our payment was simply spending time with some of our old horse friends and that had been enough reward.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reunion-Day 1

April has not been a pleasant weather month. There were a couple of pleasant days last week, amid the storms. During those two gorgeous days, I was invited to help with some old equine friends at the riding stable I'd worked at for three years. I hadn't been back or seen the horses in four years. It was a happy reunion for me and I wondered if some of them actually remembered me. 

My good friend, Lori, called me and said she'd been contacted by the camp manager, who knew we'd worked with those horses in the past. Seems the ranch horses (it's a Girl Scout camp with a year around riding facility) were wired up, and acting up, needing some handling and riding before the Spring programs were starting the following week. Lori had worked at the facility a year longer, but she left about six months after my departure. We both had the intentions of devoting more time to our own horses. 

The facility is under a new equine manager who was on maternity leave. The three other staff members seemed to be at a loss as what to do with the horses, and one of the older staff women was on vacation, from what Lori understood. Lori was told the horses had problems from bucking, bolting, resisting leading, rearing...sounded like a wild bunch of untrained horses.During our phone conversation, we both wondered what we might be getting ourselves into, yet we knew most of those horses and couldn't believe they had become that bad. We wanted to find out for ourselves.

Monday evening it was threatening rain again, and had been raining off and on all day. We've been in a terrible rain/storm pattern since the beginning of April. When I pulled into the ranch driveway Lori was out in the field trying to see who would come to her. I got out of my truck and walked over the the gate. My first impression was how fat the horses all looked. Guess they'd been eating well all winter.I grabbed the halter and lead Lori had left outside the gate for me and walked into the field. 

The Fat and Sassy bunch were hanging around the hay feeder. I think both of us wanted to see if the any of them remembered us. Trimmer, Kleo, Ginger, Dusty and Dani were in this field. All horses we had worked with in the past. Lori haltered Dani. Ginger walked over to me and I let her study me a moment, to see if I could tell if she remembered. Well, she didn't seem interested after the initial sniff. I was just getting ready to halter her when she turned and walked away. At that moment, Trimmer makes a big run and all the girls, except for Dani, took off with him to the far side of the field. Well, fine. I sure wasn't going to chase them. Lori and I walked Dani out and figured we'd grab one of the horses over in the other field. Just as we were out the gate, here they come galloping back up the field right to us. We figure they must have had a little conversation and said "OH, now we know who they are..." I know, that's far fetched. But fun to think anyway. Ginger stood at the gate so I slipped inside again and put her halter on. We quietly walked back out while the other horses turned away again. Hay being more interesting at that point evidently.

There was suppose to be a list of the horses and their current problems, we didn't want to waste time on the ones who didn't really need too much handling or riding. We looked around the office but didn't find much in the way of a list. We did find some written pages from the staff over the past week. Reading over it we were wondering what was going on with this bunch. Surely, only Spring fever? The horses were always full of themselves in the Spring. Maybe that's what the staff were seeing. Maybe they weren't quite in tune with the horses yet since they were all new to the facility. In all honesty, Lori and I were both going to be very cautious until we figured out what was going on with the horses.

I'd put Ginger in her stall for a few minutes so I could gather her grooming supplies. When I walked into her stall she eyed me quietly but didn't move back or turn around. I took her out into the arena. Fortunately, they have an indoor arena because the rain started pouring on the roof about that time. Ginger's eyes got wide but I just kept walking her around the arena. The wind was blowing too. But Ginger and I had a history. I knew her quirks. She'd been my project horse. I knew if she gets her mind on the person handling her or riding her, she focuses. After about fifteen minutes she calmed down. I don't do lunging. I just don't. I don't see a point to it. I prefer close handling, walking and in hand training. Lori likes to lunge with long line and at liberty. To each her own is my view.

After our initial getting acquainted again, I tied Ginger, let her stand there with the loud noise of the rain pounding on the roof. She moved around a little but nothing that seemed out of the ordinary. I only remember one time when she pulled back and broke a halter. It was during a very windy day too.I watched and she seemed to be soothing herself. The first change I made was her saddle. The saddle Ginger had been assigned was one I hated for her 5 years ago. I tried it on her because I didn't want to seem like someone trying to tell the new manager what she should do. That saddle would have dug into Ginger's shoulders had anyone got on her with it. I pulled out a Wintec I knew I had used in the past. Fit Ginger beautifully. I did suggest on my evaluation that I thought the assigned saddle was too tight and maybe that caused some of Ginger's riding issues.

Ginger was fine with tacking up. No bridling issues. I walked her around with the saddle on. Tightened the girth three different times like I always do. No problems. She did have a problem standing to be mounted. This disappointed me because it had been one of her issues I had finely worked through with her. We spent about 15 minutes on that until she finely stood quietly. I use a mounting block. I'm also fatter and sassier than I was five years ago and felt no need to be pulling on her back. I'm also out of mounting practice. Our initial ride was just as I remembered Ginger could be. Light and responsive. Good stopping and going cues. When I urged her into a trot she did throw her head up,which was one of her habits in the past. I'd checked her bridle before riding and it seemed in a good place. But, after a few more stops and starts into the trot, Ginger's head tossing ceases. Always that initial "I don't wanna..." for Ginger but I can see how that would frighten a young girl never having ridden before. Most of the programs are only geared for beginners anyway and they don't often go beyond a walk and steering.

I rode Ginger for about 30 minutes trying to recreate what I remembered we did with the girls during the riding programs. Ginger showed no resistance and was fine with everything I asked of her. Dani had been a not issue so Lori was working with one of the new horses,one we had never worked with. Maxi supposedly reared up at a gate, bolted, and wouldn't listen to her rider. Lori said Maxi lacked some confidence but showed no signs of reacting anywhere near the wild thing we'd read about even with that loud rain still pounding down on the arena roof. Lori has been riding much longer than I have and is much more attuned to that part of horsemanship. I still consider myself and OK rider, I listen to the horses and use my own sense with them.

We finished up that evening by writing out our evaluations on the horses we'd worked. I was pleased with Ginger. I was completely relieved she wasn't as bad as what I had been carefully anticipating. Then again, when I was with Ginger I had my expectations from when I had worked with her in the past so I think that worked favorably on my part.

We decided we'd meet back on Tuesday evening for Part 2 of our reunion.