Off into the Sunset

Literally. Today was long. I kept working and learning all day. I was in the tack room learning until well after dark, but when I’m learning horse stuff, it’s invigorating. I just soak it in.

Riding at sunset

Tarrin took some photos of me riding Drew at my lesson, which was late in the day, thanks to a crowded schedule (all that rain messed things up for everyone). The sunset was pretty, though.

Happy trails to us.

The photos are useful, though, because they help me see where I’m doing well and where my techniques could use some work. Drew and I both are leaning too much sometimes! No wonder the saddle slipped at one point!

We’re working on it.

That’s the thing, though. Even if I keep bringing up my age (the autumnal years, riding into the sunset), I know I’m staying younger and more mentally astute by keeping on a learning path. We all need to have something that keeps us engaged and active, right? Studies have shown…and all that.

I’m glad Tarrin and all my horse-loving friends share their knowledge so we can all learn from each other. Off we go looking for the next sunrise.

I need a nap first.

Barrel of Fun

My day has already been made! Playing with my little Droodles has lifted my spirits as my nasal passages flow (I feel better, though!).

Was it just the sight of a donkey in the sunshine that cheered me up?

I don’t want to push myself again and slow down my recovery, but it’s a pretty day and I need to work with the horses despite the fact that it’s still sopping wet here. So, I walked out into the soggy pasture to do some bonding.

Drew came up to me, of course, so I practiced asking him to back up at liberty (no halter or lead rope). It’s something Apache does well, so why not try? He needs to do his backing exercises…and he did great! I was so proud.

There’s that barrel

Then I spotted the rogue barrel that had blown into the pond. It was finally in a spot where I could get to it, so I brought it up to high ground. It occurred to me that I could leave it there as a toy. Drew read my mind.

Hmmm.

I was charmed and entertained as Drew checked out that barrel. He sniffed it, licked it, then pushed it around for a while.

Whee.

Then he picked it up and stood it upright. We both enjoyed watching it roll around until it settled.

I tried to make it a video but it didn’t work.

He must have spent five minutes chewing on the holes in the barrel and seeing what it would do. I love how curious that guy is!

I ended up filming him pushing it around, and had to laugh when Apache joined us and had no interest in the barrel. I happen to know he does like barrels, so I bet he plays later!

I do wish I’d remembered to turn the phone sideways. Sigh.

Once Drew went back to eating, Apache got to practice backing up and walking with me. He was not at all into it. He is so incredibly dirty, too. I will be doing a lot of grooming next week. I’m almost up to it, but need to be able to breathe better.

I hope you enjoy watching my boy have fun. Happy Sunday.

Autumn of Life Is Here

When the fall color arrives here in the middle of Texas, it’s subtle, and you don’t see it coming. I love this season and take comfort in the quiet beauty of our cedar elms and oaks as they prepare to lose their leaves for the winter.

I see some orange and yellow out there.

Today dawned sunny and crisp, but not cold. It was a welcome relief to see the sun for the first time in many days, and even more welcome was the sight of the new pond finally completely full and draining to the other side of the dam. After four cloudy, drizzly days, we had a large front move through overnight that brought enough rain to fill the drought-parched tanks for the first time since last spring. I guess the drought is over, at last.

It’s full!
I keep you healthy

The way this season has crept up reminds me of how I’ve been moving into the autumn of my life and not realizing it. I’ve been lucky to be very healthy since we came out to the Hermits’ Rest and have been growing stronger and more capable thanks to working with the horses and other animals.

Realistically, I am old.

But this illness that came up last week has been a very unsubtle reminder that I’m not a young person anymore. A cold that I’d usually just power through over a few days has made me weak and tired. I didn’t expect that at all. I keep trying to go out and get things done, only to feel worse and fall asleep for a few hours. I’m not bouncing back.

I am glad that it’s been so wet and muddy out, because it the weather had been good, I know I’d have been trying to force myself out to work with Drew, who needs me on him and working with him. But our working area is a little lake right now, and I am barely able to maneuver across the muck to get the food buckets for the poor horses. (They are not suffering; in fact, I think they are enjoying the pleasant temperatures and the abundant hay.)

And the horses have puddles to stomp in.

As I’m pulling myself out of the depression episode and feeling my mortality more than usual, it’s taking effort to not go into reflective mode and dwell on goals not achieved, mistakes made, and errors unaddressed. The sun’s helping me remind myself that I’m still able to learn new things, be kind to those who’ll accept kindness, and forgive others.

I should do more looking at reflections and less reflecting. This is the creek, with water at last.

While it’s true that I notice my memory failing and don’t know how much longer I’ll be a useful member of society, I do have confidence that no matter what, I’ll be able to enjoy each new autumn when it arrives. It may just be different from now on as I go from the autumn to the winter of life.

Seasonal Greetings

Yesterday was US Thanksgiving. I didn’t blog, because, thanks to still being sick, all my energy was taken up with cooking. I’m glad to report, that with some help and good cheer, the meal came out great and everyone in our little ranch community had fun.

Lee could not help, as he had a giant dog on his lap. (Joke)

It rained all day again. We aren’t getting much each day, but it’s helping. Between the dismal weather and my throbbing sinuses, I didn’t want to be out much, anyway.

Dismal

Today I’ve felt a little better, so I went to the Red House to remove fall decor and make it look Christmas-like, since that’s the thing people do nowadays. I discovered the new wardrobe had arrived for the second bedroom. It’s rather large. Some rearranging will be needed.

There are now king sized pillows on the big bed, too, though I need to exchange one of the shams’ pillow for the new ones. New ones are pretty lumpy and would be better for shams, but I got too tired to switch them out. Darned cold. In fact, I fell asleep after writing the previous sentence. I’m tired

Otherwise it’s looking subtly like winter holidays are coming. Or perhaps it’s kitschy. I did my best. Maybe we have a guest this weekend. Still wanting a couple of “test guests” before going all out.

So far, the best suggestion I’ve gotten is to leave a few books out. That’s a good idea. I can leave some of the novels I’ve read and a couple of Texas books.

Fake books don’t count.

Time to go home and rest and drink plenty of fluids. I’m thankful for you readers and friends. You make my life richer.

Penney Goes Ballistic When I Sneeze

Here’s a new development! As you may know, I’ve been sick for a few days. That’s made me a bit sneezy. (The strep throat is way better but it’s pretty obvious I have come down the the common cold, a thing I haven’t had in a long time!) The dogs have been taking good care of me, and I appreciate it!

Always ready to serve, Suna

However, just recently, I’ve noticed the strangest behavior in Penney the Neurotic Bitch (she’s a female dog). If I sneeze she goes into panic mode, running around and whining then literally leaping into my lap.

Must save Suna!

Now, if she just jumped into my lap, it would be fine. But no, she climbs up my torso and glues herself to me, shuddering, whimpering, and worst of all, licking any skin she can get to. It’s like having a licking tornado in your lap.

And there’s the pawing, too. She scratches my delicate old-lady face.

Once she’s up there wriggling and writhing and pawing and licking, it takes forever to calm her down. It’s gotten to where I run into the bathroom or somewhere safe when I think I’m going to sneeze, to avoid the onslaught.

I’m smiling, but it’s not actually fun.

I think she thinks I’m hurt? Or the sound scares her worse than even thunder? She doesn’t go into a panic when I cough or blow my nose (my current secondary pastimes after typing and crocheting). I’d love to hear your theories on this! In the meantime, no sneezing for me!

I Can’t Breathe, but I’m Happy

Finally, the strep symptoms are fading away, but I think I also have a common cold or something causing me to be rather stuffy nosed. That, I can deal with. I took some decongestant and felt all right the rest of the day (and I got nice soft tissues, so I’ll survive). And not only that, I’m in much better spirits. Hooray!

My feathers are no longer so ruffled.

The day started out pretty fun, as I tried to help out Declan as he figured out how to move round hay bales. There’s a first time for everything, and the two of us managed to figure it out (me with ideas, principles, and horse moving, and him with actually wrangling the tractor and hay).

I think I can, I think I can, says Declan

There was a lot of horse moving involved. They were fascinated when we moved the hay ring and had to try to see if they could knock it over. Then they were extra fascinated when the new bale came in (after Declan heroically figured out how to stab the rather unstable bale with the hay forks so it could move).

Let’s see if this thing rolls.

Once the bale went down, we realized it needed to be set upright, but the horses were having none of that and began eating as if they had never seen hay before. Mabel was especially excited, but at least she moved out of the way. Droodles stood in front of the bale like a statue, but once I asked him to move, he was a good boy. That impressed Declan.

Mabel demonstrates why you have to remove the hay net. She made it into a hat.

We were very proud of our ranching selves once everything was set up and the intense munching began. Maybe now Drew won’t keep eating in the bur field (he had a solid bur tail when I went to groom him). And next time we’ll be like professionals.

This afternoon was Tarrin’s monthly visit to the ranch. We were disappointed that the promised sunny day didn’t appear, but when we had a few sprinkles, we were rewarded with a rainbow that ended in Sara’s horses. I always knew there were attractive horses at the end of the rainbow.

Worth the rain!

Let me tell you what, there are two reasons I am so happy today, and their names are Drew and Apache. My horses lifted me up today, and I lived up to their encouragement and did pretty well, myself. Tarrin and I were both pretty darned pleased by the end of our lessons. We are having success!

Drew showed no signs of backsliding after getting back here and having two days off due to my sickness and the rain. He was lovely to watch when Tarrin rode him, and when we moved into the round pen, he and I made a lot of progress. We are figuring each other out and enjoying it at the same time, I think. I petted him and praised him so much! Plus, the new saddle felt great. I forgot all about it, which I figure is a good sign.

By the way, I’m majestic.

Apache, though, oh my goodness. The bodywork he got last week seems to have made a huge difference in how he feels. He was so calm, relaxed, and cheerful for his whole lesson…seemed like a new guy. Tarrin says his rear end really looked better, with no dragging of his hooves, etc. He could move sideways way better, even side passing adequately. I was right that it was hurting him, I guess.

Who’s this? Why is this in my Apache section? Well, it’s Apache’s mother, Nytengale! Sara found this picture today. You can see how he got his bay good looks.

Riding him was so much fun. He was so responsive to everything I asked him to do! That’s what I’ve been trying to get to with the horses. It takes me learning how to ride, the horses learning what they need to do, and getting everyone healthy and in shape. Tarrin’s so right that a pain-free horse can learn better and definitely in the case of Apache, they can listen better.

I’m not kidding, though, Apache seemed to be enjoying himself as much as I was. We are turning into a team. I think that’s good for both of us.

Oh, Germs

My strep symptoms are NOT going away as fast as I’d like. Oh well, it rained off and on all day again, so I couldn’t have done much other than work, anyway. At least I didn’t have to talk much.

Since I took no pictures today, let’s play spot the snapping turtle from last week.

Other than thinking about project lifecycles all day, the highlights of my day were finding some snow geese in the sky and having a good talk with my dear friend, Mike. He reminded me once again that he will listen to me. Of course, when I’m all overwhelmed with negativity, I never remember to call my support network. Maybe my first tattoo should say

Remember your true friends

Tomorrow should be a good day with sun and true friends and horses. Come on, antibiotics, kick in! Back to Starburst: the blanket.

Hello from Strep Land

No wonder I feel bad! Lee took me to a very nice urgent care place in Temple where I told them I was pretty sure I had strep, but to check for other stuff, so they did. I don’t feel like I have the flu (that I can remember since I haven’t had it since flu shots were invented).

There’s always plenty of crafting to do while waiting one’s turn in the car. I ain’t going near sick people if I can help it. And of course I masked to keep my germs to myself.

Yep. I have strep, which I’m pretty sure I made myself vulnerable to when my mental health drained me. At least it’s something you can get fixed. So good ole Penicillin is fighting the bacteria. Whee. And today I’ve rested rather than running around in the rain and cold all day like yesterday.

Carlton and Goldie entertain me.

I want to be better so I can work with Drew a lot. Poor guy probably wonders what’s going on.

Huh? Who’s gonna feed us? Suna has no backup. (Answer: eat that hay)

Luckily, Lee has been feeding me, and I’ve been cozily watching football and getting Thanksgiving nails. I probably needed a break, anyway.

I bet I’ll be fine tomorrow and able to work and do my chores. There’s a lot of poop to shovel from when the horses escaped.

Thanks to all for your incredible support and kindness over the past few days. It’s helping me get back on track! I know some of you are also struggling and want you to know I’m thinking of you, too.

Clever Equines (and Saddle Stuff)

Hey all – thanks for all the support from yesterday’s post. I sure appreciate the empathy and ideas. You all rock.

Today it’s rainy and cold PLUS both Lee and I seem to have come down with something. I haven’t been sick since LONG before COVID, so this is a surprise. It feels like strep throat (isn’t COVID, says my test), but of course it came on after the local clinic closed for the weekend. We did go out for a very nice dinner Thursday night in the “big city” of College Station, so maybe we ran into a germ there.

The original plan for today was to have horse lessons for both my guys then take Drew back home so it could be another horse’s turn to go into training. Instead, things took a different turn. I went out to feed the chickens a bit late, due to the sore throat, only to see a whole lot of horse poop everywhere that isn’t fenced in for the dogs. Then I heard a greeting nicker. Mabel was saying hi from the little pond.

Well, hi, Suna. It’s a bit chilly out here.

That explained the horse poop. I went to check the gates and was a little startled to see someone blending into the front-end loader.

I’m using this tractor as camouflage.

Yes, the side gate had been opened by some clever equine. I was relieved to see the equine I usually blame for these things (Apache) and Fiona standing under the shed to keep out of the wind. Whew. I only had to wrangle two horses in my sickly state. Even better, Dusty and Mabel had decided it was too cold for them and were already coming back.

That grass was good, but we want shelter.

That was the easiest horse herding I ever had to do. They just walked back in. From the looks of the poop piles, they’d been out all night and were done. Of course, they pooped right by the tack room, in front of the hen house, etc.

Lee and I then hurried over to Tarrin’s to get Drew, but it had started to rain there by the time we arrived. There was no chit-chat or ceremony as we let him in and headed back. They got more rain than us, at least so far. But my boy is home and got the expected greeting of sniffs from everyone but Apache, who had to remind him he’s in charge. Apache needs a new boss.

About the new saddle

I got more questions than I expected about the new saddle I got for Drew. The reason I got a new one when I already had a fairly new one is that we are concerned about keeping Drew’s back healthy. Because he was ridden by large people when he was very young, he has already developed some arthritic areas. He also has a narrow torso and short back (basically, he’s a small horse). So, a standard saddle probably isn’t best for him.

Tarrin recommended a type of saddle made by DP Saddlery in Alabama that is good for both short-backed horses and those with back issues. The cool thing about their Quantum line is that it is a blend of the two most common ways of building saddles. It’s like the best of both worlds. It also comes in lots of different sizes to fit different horses and riders, so I could get one with shorter stirrups and the correct seat for my size.

My black saddle with short fenders covered in flowers.

So, there are lots of kinds of saddles, but in the US, most are either Western or English style (there are Australian ones, side saddles, and such, but these are the main two). A Western saddle is, generally speaking, built on a rigid and sturdy wooden frame called a tree, which is then covered with padding and leather. They usually have a saddle horn to stick your rope on, longer stirrups, and more covering of the horse. There are many variations, depending on what you do with your horse (roping, barrel racing, general ranch work, etc.) but they look similar. They are tough!

Parts of a Western saddle, from Horse is Love. See the link for more info. My saddle lacks the back housing and the rigging dees.

And English saddle is smaller than a Western one and built on a flexible tree with a lot of padding (flocking). It doesn’t have the saddle horn or the long stirrups. It’s used for jumping, dressage, and many other activities.

The parts of an English saddle, from Horse is Love (follow the link for more info)

My saddle (as well as the first one I had) is a hybrid between the two types. It’s their Quantum model (the link explains all the features, so I’m not gonna do it here). The top has all the expected appearance of a Western saddle, including decorative tooling on the leather, a horn, and a padded seat (mine is called a Western dressage seat). The underparts are English, though, and it’s fastened on with an English cinch instead of a Western one (uses buckles). I could have gotten a similar model with Western rigging (as they call it) but that one was sold and the one I bought was the closest to my ideal that I could get without special ordering, which would take months.

A Western saddle would have leather under the seat, not the pads you see here.

This hybrid saddle doesn’t touch the spine of the horse at all, and has padding where it does touch. Plus, it comes with a giant allen wrench that lets you make the saddle wider or more narrow.

The magic tool came with no instructions. Geez.

Tarrin adjusted it a few times yesterday to find what works best. As it gets broken in, it can be adjusted more, too. That is a very cool feature.

That silver circular hole on the right is where the adjustments are made.

Combined with the new dark gray saddle pad I got, Drew should feel as comfortable as possible, given that he’ll still have a big ole person up there.

Here’s the saddle, the new pad, and my old cinch that happens to work, but is slightly large.

I better like this saddle. It’s an investment, but if it saves future doctor bills, it may pay for itself!

Since I feel so sick, I think I’m going to go read all about saddles at the links below. You can, too, if it’s remotely interesting to you.

References

DP Saddlery – this page tells you how the saddle I got adjusts.

THE 8 PARTS OF A WESTERN SADDLE YOU SHOULD KNOW, Horseislove blog. This is really informative! It shows you how the trees work and how saddles are constructed.

THE 15 PARTS OF ENGLISH SADDLE YOU SHOULD KNOW, Horseislove blog. Also tells you all you need to know!

Dealing with People Like Me

Advice for me, too

For the first time in a few years, I didn’t blog for a while. I’m not back because people were clamoring for me to write (in fact, no one said anything at all about it, which is perfectly fine). I’m back because I figured out some stuff about my mental challenges that I thought might be helpful for others. What prompted it was a lot of introspection I did after seeing some of these motivational posts in social media.

Oh yeah, Nikki? Really?

My mental issues tell me that no one wants to see the unmuted version of me. It’s been backed up all my life by folks telling me I’m too sensitive, too judgmental, too negative, too…blah blah blah. And thanks to having this extra-unpleasant “rejection sensitivity dysphoria” (RSD) deal, when I hear something that sounds to my extra-sensitive ears like a criticism or put-down, my limbic system kicks in and goes into defensive mode. That guarantees I’m going to overreact and piss someone off. Nope, no one really does want to see the unmuted version of me! Consequently, I do try to make myself smaller, to avoid subjecting other people to my unregulated self.

Break!

And this week, after being told how negative I was, I fell into a deep well of self-criticism. And when I asked for help and support, I felt criticized for not asking for it appropriately, and was informed that when people tried to help me, it made it worse. You can see how a downward spiral might ensue, even when I knew in my head that I was being criticized for basically being who I am, which I can’t change as much as I’d like to. Being told not to react to things that trigger me the way I do is like telling a tree not to have bark. Well, yuck to all that, right? (Note that I know the person I was talking to was not intending to be mean. This is just an example.)

So, I was wondering how I could have the reactions in my head that my mental challenge makes me have but mitigate it somehow. One thing I thought of was for people who are forced to talk to me when I have an RSD episode to not add criticism about my reaction on top of my reaction. For example, if I react to something by hearing in my mind that I’ve been told I’m the most negative person in the world, an unhelpful response would be, “No, I just said you were ONE OF the most negative people I know.” Yep, my mind heard an exaggerated view all right, but pointing out that I heard it wrong just makes me feel worse.

I wonder what would happen if the response was empathy rather than added criticism? What if my reaction was acknowledged, but not critiqued? I was thinking something like, “I know what I just said was hard for you to hear. Just remember I care about you, warts and all. Let’s look at what I was trying to tell you, not how it came across.” I feel like that would give me a chance to get past that initial reaction and be more realistic. Who knows?

Break

I have to acknowledge, though, that just like I have no control over reactions that aren’t conscious, other people can’t, either. That’s how people end up where they each build on each other’s issues until there’s some bad result. Talking to each other and trying to understand each other’s struggles is a good way to start, though.

I’ll keep working at it, but no, I don’t think I’ll be subjecting my unmuted self to many of the people in my life. It’s just too much for them, and I honestly don’t blame them one bit. Some people are hard to deal with, and I am one of those. That’s something I have to deal with!

(By the way, in my mind, I’m a cheerful person who laughs and jokes around a lot and has a lot of fun – I wish I could expose THAT version of me!)

It’s not necessary to try to make people you are fond of like you back!

In my heart, I know that the work I’ve done here at the ranch has been good for me. I’ve felt much better about myself as I’ve been finding the beauty in my surroundings, treasuring kindnesses I experience, and working to be as kind and caring as someone like me can be. And of course, hanging around with animals who help me so much has made life much better.

The main reason I write this blog is to have a record of the good things that come through my life, like the nature, the travel, the uplifting people, and the things I learn. It may just be me talking to myself and trying to convince myself that there’s good in this messy world, but it helps. So, I’ll still be here blogging about horses, dogs, birds, and flowers.

Here I am, looking happy because I’m able to ride Drew and he likes his new saddle and pad.

You get to react to what I write however you choose to. I’m fine with that. I’m prickly, so I’m going to rub folks the wrong way, make poor word choices, and look at things from my RSD perspective sometimes. Oh well, it’s me. Who among us isn’t prickly in some way?

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