I Find Ranch Citizens Fascinating

Another day of horse lessons has come and gone. And while my lesson with this innocent student was enlightening, I would have come away happy just having watched Sara.

I should have known friskiness was ahead when he galloped up to me this morning, mane and tail flying.

Apache was very frisky this morning, probably because a front came through.

I’m feeling kinda frisky here.

We started out sweaty at 9 am and ended up shivering by 1! I did round pen with him before we left, and ooh he was jumpy. And once we got to the training ranch, he was not interested in human agendas.

Ready for cheekiness.

He did ok until the trainer got on, at which point he decided he didn’t want to do anything. It was so fascinating to watch her work through his stubbornness. There was lots of backing and angry horse faces. I didn’t take pictures, because I was watching so hard. She did stuff I am not capable of yet. And eventually he did fine. I even rode him better than last time and dealt with his issues.

The dogs here would prefer you pay attention to them, please.

He’s not easy. He hurts and has been ridden poorly. By me. But we are progressing. I ended my essay with a smile on my face, happy with all my progress and the support I got.

This foal wants it to be their turn.

We were all glad for the lesson to end. But Apache was still antsy. I was glad to leave him to eat some hay and deal with calmer animals. That included Christmas the bull. Sure, he looks intimidating.

Yes, I AM immense.

I had no idea he was tame, but he came up to me and licked my hand clean, then requested that he get some pets on his forehead and between his horns. Then, his cow companion came up and wanted a turn. This love fest was just what I needed.

As always, I enjoyed Sara’s lesson as much as mine. She learned some really complicated bending stuff and I was proud of how well she did. And Aragorn, too.

I’ll ignore all the dogs.

Aragorn didn’t even notice the fake bull that had startled Apache earlier. He was concentrating and throwing in fancy dressage moves so he wouldn’t have to bend the opposite way from how he was turning.

Paying attention.

I was distracted by two things: a biting wind and cute animals. Between the dogs, the baby horses, and the donkey, I had a lot of entertainment! Who cares about the cold when you have ranch entertainment?

Carrying Heavy Objects Around

It appears my new exercise routine is moving barrels. I’ve now moved the nephew’s barrels many times. Today they became part of my new horse playground. I was told the old playground was on the septic field, so no plodding horses are allowed there. Okay!

It might be work; it might be play

The barrels are for a project, but until Anita’s house is done, I get to use them. I made two circles that can make a figure 8, with a central barrel, a slalom for trotting and turning around, and a jump thing. The last was not made of barrels. It includes my fine new horse jump making stands, in red, of course, combined with some of my wooden poles.

That, at least in my mind, is figure 8.

Both my poles, which had been in the round pen to annoy Apache, and the cones were dangerous objects, as well as heavy. There were healthy fire ant nests under the poles. Worse, there were entire nests IN the cones! That made them hard to move. But I did it.

The horses just watched and waited for their food. I got finished too late for actually using my fine setup!

The Equine Scholar Escapes

It was beautiful this morning, with spectacular fog over the creek.

Foggy morning.

The fog had cleared by the time I got out to feed the chickens. Of course, I checked the horses. Wait, one was missing. Drew was not in his pen. The gate was open! Someone busted him out. My guess is that their name both started and ended with T.

It was so bright outside I couldn’t see which horse was which.

Yep. Drew was out and interacting. I watched the horses interacting, and it was quite interesting. T chased Drew all over the place, pinning her ears back in classic mare mode. My guess is she is responsible for this.

It’s like he got shaved.

The buckskin buddies ignore Drew, as does Mabel. They tend to cluster away from him, like the cool clique in high school, while T is the bully.

Hey, friend. We will stick together.

Now, Apache and Fiona have been taking good care of Drew. This morning I enjoyed watching Fiona and Drew really playing. She created up and flailed her legs, but I quickly realized they were having fun. A minute later this was them.

Morning friends.

In the afternoon, I came out to check on them, I found Drew alone and forlorn and everyone else together. I went out to him and he came up for love, poor guy. But then, up came Apache and Fiona.

I’ll be your friend.

Each of them said hello nicely. Apache and Drew exchanged friendly nose touches and neck nips. Then came Fiona. There was a whole lot of mutual head flinging.

Love love love ❤️

Then my heart melted. Drew proceeded to groom Fiona from head to tail, gently nibbling her, inch by inch, as Fiona patiently waited.

You have some burs in here.

It was so dang sweet. Indulge my large collection of pictures.

Eventually the love fest ended, because Drew is still a kid. Vlassic distracted him and those two started playing! I got two pictures, though Vlassic is invisible in one. I’m glad Drew is used to dogs.

After work, I was able to work with both Apache and Drew, and all was well. These guys truly make my life better. No foreboding joy here, just happiness. I’ll keep focusing on what is good in my life, not endless contagious diseases and such.

The Equine Scholar Returns and Causes Trouble Immediately

It’s a big day! Drew is home from Colt College and ready to be a productive member of society. Well, actually he’s going to get a nice sabbatical while he eats, plays, grows, and practices what he’s learned so far.

I want to be a happy teen.

I managed to collect everything for both Apache and Drew and be ready to go on time this morning, then we got in a really good lesson, in which I succeeded in all kinds of trotting here and there outside of the round pen. The secret was that the trainer rode him first and dealt with his initial disinclination to follow instructions.

Look at us being happy.

I did fine after that and learned a lot about keeping him straight and paying attention. Such good progress! (Next there will be another struggle, because that’s how it goes).

Next I did all of Drew’s exercises myself, which gave me much confidence. I even rode him with much more success than last time. When we start back up, it should be easier. I won’t ride him at home, just do his exercises.

The final pre-departure requirement was trailer loading. He sure is better at THAT now. It’s a miracle! I learned how to load him from the outside using a long lead rope. That was a good trick. He entered and exited three times, which made Apache impatient!

Let’s go, already.

We made it home and everyone exited nicely. Drew is installed in the small fenced-in area as he gets used to the other horses. It all seemed to be going well.

So, we went off to Cameron in search of Timothy alfalfa pellets, which they did not have, so I got a little Timothy hay to tide Drew over. Oops. Lee is allergic to all grass, so I ruined his car and his breathing. But that was only part of it.

Let’s talk about me for a while.

When we got home I looked to be sure all the horses were okay, as usual. That’s when I spotted T way down the fence, holding her left front leg up. That looked odd. I quickly guessed that she had somehow gotten her leg stuck in the fence, which I thought was a safer kind for horses.

I ran down there to find that, sure enough, she’d gotten a hoof through a square of fence. The poor dear must have been messing with Drew and gotten caught. She was dripping with sweat. I did not panic and squeal, since I learned my lesson from the dog fight.

I tried to call Lee, but no answer. So I texted him to bring wire cutters, and ran back to fetch some myself. He met me with the cutters and I rushed back to T. I was a little concerned she’d hurt herself on the wire, but nope, it took one snip and she removed her leg.

She stood there a second, while I looked for blood. Then she walked off a little stiffly, but fine!

She is shiny with sweat.

T went straight to the hay, while I fetched a rope to take her for first aid. Well, she had a cut on her head, which I predict a young gray horse may have inflicted, but her leg is fine! It was very sweaty, but fine. WHEW.

No cuts. Just sweat.

I blocked off the second small pasture so there can be no more interaction across the fence. They can all still get to know each other at the pens. I’ll see what trouble Drew can initiate there.

T head. Her cut is to the left of her Star. She moved too fast.

All in all I feel lucky everyone is fine, other than Lee and his sinuses, and proud of my horse progress. Onward to the next phase. Back to work tomorrow!

Everyone Was Right – It Got Better

Some of you may remember that I had a pretty dismal experience with my little horse, Drew, last week, and I’ve been feeling like a crappy horse person with my paint, Apache, as well. I mean, I used to be able to ride him on long trail rides and take him places. Now I am confined to the round pen.

No round pen here, my pretty horsie backing up in the afternoon sun.

But, it’s not so bad. Yesterday I talked about doing much better with Apache. Today was another lesson on Drew, so Sara and I drove out to the trainer’s place…only to find we were an hour early. Oops. As hard as we all try, we keep getting our times and days confused. None of us is to blame, because each of us has been confused in different ways. You just have to laugh, which is what we all did.

The horse part went really well, though. Aragorn has made huge progress, and it was interesting to watch him today. I am getting better at understanding when he’s doing well and when he’s messing up on his complicated work. It sure was fun seeing him try to deal with a new and more complex pattern that was intended to keep him from anticipating what he was going to do next. Plus, it’s enlightening to realize that some of his issues are much like what I deal with on my horses, just at a higher speed. I was so fascinated that I didn’t take pictures, but my brain learned a lot, which is important.

Nope, not Aragorn. It’s Drew going sideways down a pole.

Next, we went and got Drew. I got to groom him and do his feet. Three out of four feet went well; one was a challenge, but I got there. We then marched right out and did the longe work that I was so bad at last time. Thankfully, I was not in such a difficult mental place today, so I did just fine!

Drew looking out of control in his canter, but he’s okay.

I really think I was so upset from the various things that were going on that I couldn’t focus. Today, I had focus, and got that little guy going around in his circles going both ways just fine. And if there was an issue, I just coped. Hooray for me. After that, I backed him up and down his little “hill.”

He backed up for me! Cinder the dog is proud.

We moved on to jumping! Yes, I got him running in circles over jumps. Sara was so fascinated that she didn’t take pictures. One direction went better than the other, but I eventually got him jumping over the right thing. Wow, that little guy can jump (over the wrong things). I never got scared, which was key, I think. I had a much better attitude, which of course passed on to Drew.

Backing up.

Finally, we did some walking with his shoulders in and haunches in, and I did fine with that…then the trainer got on Drew and showed us what he has learned under saddle. He is cantering amazingly well, which impressed both me and Sara. He’s young, though, and isn’t having to unlearn old patterns like Aragorn is. But wait, there’s more!

That lump is me, on Drew!

I got on Drew and rode him solo. Well, mostly we stood still a lot. He was not interested in having a different person on him telling him what to do. I persevered, though, and things got better. I’ll try again next time I go see him, which is on Monday, when I bring him home! I look forward to that. We have a lot of “homework” to do for the next few months as he grows and matures, including all these things we have practiced today.

At least my posture is good. This is a still from a video Sara took of me flailing away trying to get him to move.

I look forward to hanging out with my little bundle of muscle and working on our partnership. And I now feel like I can learn and improve…which is really all I want.

I’ll dream of the day when Drew and I can do this.

By the way, I know a lot of us are dealing with illness these days. You’re in my thoughts. It seems like COVID and the flu (and bad allergies) are everywhere right now. I know it’s hard. I know I’m tired of feeling trapped at home (even with a pool!). I canceled my next trip, too. Flights seem scary right now.

Have You Ever Had to Apologize to a Chicken?

Well, I had to tell our beautiful Easter Egger hen, Betsy, that I was sorry I’d been putting her down for so long. I was telling everyone what a useless hen she was, because she hadn’t laid an egg yet, and I’d had her a long time. I mean, even little Billie Idyl was finally laying.

How dare you doubt me? And look, I have pale ears, which means pale eggs!

But today when I went to look for eggs, she was in the box, sitting like she was going to lay! And she kept making those noises hens make when they’re working on an egg. I was all excited that finally I’d get a beautiful green egg. Nearly all of these hybrid chickens lay eggs of some interesting color or another.

I also have a fluffy butt.

An hour or two later, I checked back in and found a gorgeous blue egg…which I knew was from Blanca, the Whiting True Blue hen. And there beside it, was this little darling.

It’s darker than ivory, but lighter than tan.

That is a light brown egg. In fact, I’d gotten a light brown egg every day for the past three days, thinking it was one of Billie Idyll’s that was just a little darker than usual. Betsy HAD finally started to produce, along with the rest of the newer chickens, who think it’s now spring.

The new ones are on the right.

I’m sorry, Betsy. Now all four of last year’s hens have laid eggs, and good ole Star is also laying. They are going to be all surprised when it gets cold this weekend. But I’m happy to be getting enough eggs again that I can share them with Lee’s brother, who loves eggs almost as much as I do.

In other news, we still have interesting bugs, not only a wheel bug (I love those), but also one of these guys, a painted hickory borer (or a mesquite borer, but it matches the hickory one better on iNaturalist).

And in just a bit of horse news, Sara and I are feeling good about our horses. She and Aragorn came over today, and he was so calm and centered! He has made a lot of progress in his ability to come here to visit. He even trotted calmly and collected. What a guy. And Apache did extremely well today in the round pen. Sara was impressed and just smiled so much at me. I felt good. He’s still not good outside the pen, but he was doing his stopping and backing so well. I just wanted to acknowledge that improvement.

No horse photos today, but here’s where I wish I could ride.

Our animals are such a source of joy, and we really need it right now. Everyone seems to be getting sick, no matter how hard they try to stay safe. Traveling friends are faring the worst, and it makes me so concerned. The flu is also going around here now. Great. But all my family and friends who are struggling are finding support from their communities. I’ve had some good reminders of that lately and am very grateful.

Goldie has a head as big as at least SOME horses.

Who Needs an Attitude Adjustment? Me.

I’m anxiety prone, not someone who gets depressed often. But, I’ve been pretty down, what they’d call situational depression. I’m just riding it out and seeing what I can learn. I appreciate that suggestion from a friend!

Even the spa is trying to cheer me up. It’s green!

Yesterday I got it into my head to ride a bunch of horses and convince myself I don’t totally suck as a rider and leader of horses. I actually had a good time with Apache, and just need a bit more cooperation in staying on the rails at a trot. But it was fine.

Not too bad.

Then I took T over and saddled her up. I’m still not totally confident in my Western saddling, but I got it on.

You want me to do what?

I failed at bridling, however. Nope. She wasn’t gonna do that. So I put reins on her halter and took her in the round pen. She did better in there, calmed down a bit, etc. she did fine for mounting, though that was when I realized I hadn’t tightened the saddle enough. She did a bit of a jump when I asked her to walk, so we just sat there a while and breathed. We then had a reasonable walk, though my foot aids were not enough and she ignored the reins.

Still, I didn’t fall off or get upset, so I told myself it wasn’t all bad. My dismount was rather graceless, to say the least. The saddle fell down and I had trouble getting it off. The sweet girl was patient. Maybe we will do better after her feet are fixed and someone shows me a bridle she likes.

Why? Oh why?

Then I said, fine. I will ride Dusty. Maybe HE will let me walk around and do trails. Well, he did better with tack, but not with riding. He’d go about 20 steps then turn around and trot back to his friends. Repeatedly.

No amount of foot and leg helped. I ended up doing the reins the old way, so I knew it was time to quit. I’ll try again. Maybe I’ll get help from Sara or someone.

I did work today, and that was nice. And I saw a bug. Little things help! I’m hanging in there.

Downward Spiral of Confidence or Competency

I’ve been putting off writing about this for a day, hoping to get some insight into how my little brain works. One thing I know for sure, or think I know, as Lucy Barton in the books I’m reading would say, is that once I lose my confidence in one thing, I start screwing up other things. That’s how it’s been the last 24 hours or so. I’ve had lots of time to ruminate, however, so maybe I’ll find that I’ve had a good learning experience.

The source of my downward spiral. Who couldn’t love that face, though?

Yesterday was, for the most part, a pretty rough day for me and horses. The challenges just kept building and building all day. First, I went to get Apache ready to go to a training lesson. He just seemed to be in a very uncharacteristic bad mood. He didn’t seem to want me near, and kept coming at me with his teeth. He has only bitten me once, and that’s when I stuck my hand in his mouth quite foolishly. But, he acted like he didn’t want me around. Too bad, we had to do this stuff. Yep.

Mr Grumpy was all manners and goodness later, when he got a slight hoof adjustment.

He was all shifty and stompy when I groomed him. This is a horse who usually stands still and enjoys the grooming experience. He didn’t like being tied, no matter where I took him, either. At least he got into the trailer nicely and was not too hard to tie up, though the teeth came at me again. What the heck?

Once we got to the training place, he was fine, though, and other than truly not being interested in trotting, did well in the round pen. The trainer said she could see improvement in our relationship, which cheered me up some. She got on him to work on straightness and walk-trot transitions. Apache was not thrilled and was really not thrilled when he was asked to do shoulder-in walking, which makes sense, due to his internal issues, which I’d hoped to resolve a bit today, but that’s another part of the story.

Unhappy Apache not being allowed to curl in his neck.

I even got on him and practiced walking, trotting, then backing. I had some trouble at first, but in the end, I had an aha moment, and now that is really a nice thing to do, and we both seemed happy. This was the highlight of the day. The video below is what I was doing. Thanks to Sara for taking it.

I was being good at this!

Sara’s videos and photos really made me sad, though, because I can see what a little, old lump I look like in the saddle. Even when I’m doing well, I look pretty awful. No wonder I have to start over.

There’s a reason her arms are crossed. I look clueless.

Next, we took Apache back to the trailer to hang out while I did a lesson with Drew. This is where I did another thing that messed with my confidence. I tied Apache next to Aragorn with a hay bag between them. I guess my knot that Chris insists I use doesn’t tighten well enough, so Apache was too loose. It enabled him to show what a bad mood he was in by kicking poor Aragorn. We got a call from the trainer’s son saying the paint was kicking the white horse.

More lumpy Suna riding. Good news is his head is down and he looks more relaxed.

I was mortified and afraid the expensive horse had been hurt and I’d never be able to apologize enough. Sara went to move Apache and was upset about my knot, which she didn’t know how to untie it (it just unties itself once you undo the last pull, but I obviously suck at knots). I also feel awful about that.

Yesterday was already not a great day for me emotionally, since I was still pretty shaken up about Ted dying and the five or six other deaths I’d heard about that day (really, SO many people lost their mothers!). The Apache thing got me shaky.

Then, when I was asked to longe Drew over his hill, I just could not do it. Yes, I was unable to guide a horse going in a circle. I completely lost my ability to do this thing that I thought I knew how to do in my sleep. Well, I need to do it differently now, and hold the rope a certain way, move my feet a certain way, never nod my head, put my elbow into my stomach, and keep level with the horse’s rump. I did none of those things correctly.

Drew being longed properly.

I asked Drew to speed up too violently (I did it the way I’d been told to do with Apache) and was told I’d traumatized him. Then I went into a downward spiral of doubting everything I was doing, and being afraid to hold the rope. When Drew got out of control, I was told to draw him in, draw him in, and I blanked on what that meant I was supposed to do. It meant to shorten the rope and bring him closer. Makes sense NOW.

It was a total cluster of insecurity, loss of confidence, and incompetency. I have no idea how I will ever do anything with Drew other than pet him when I get home. He is so sensitive, yet so boisterous. It’s great, and he is wonderful, but I only have experience with a horse that is slow and ignores me. Versatility eludes me. I have lost my positive outlook. Where did it go?

I ended up pretty damned weepy and wondering what the heck happened to my carefully nurtured equanimity I’ve worked so hard on this year. I’m glad my step-mother called so I had to force myself to be cheerful for a few minutes. It’s always good to hear a few stories from Flo.

Of course, the trainer had kind words for me, and pointed out that all training is peaks and valleys rather than a straight incline, and that we all have our bad days, both people and horses. I know she’s gone through her own bouts of feeling incompetent and judged, so I appreciate her insight, even if it will take a while to set in.

I love this photo showing what all the horses are probably doing, at least mentally, while we analyze their behavior endlessly.

I did eventually get able to watch Sara’s lesson and see how she and Aragorn (who didn’t seem too badly injured and was happy to do his lesson) deal with straightness and transition issues, just at a higher level. Those folks who say the problems stay the same no matter what gait you’re working on are right about that.

Aragorn is making lots of progress and you can hardly see where he got kicked.

We decided that Apache will go in for some training next month when I go on my next condo sabbatical. He will get worked and I will get to stare at my favorite beach. It should do us both some good. The trips are truly helping to keep me on an even keel.

Whining Digression

What I suspect is actually bothering me is my regrets about my family and people who were once close to me. They really build up during the winter solstice period. Most of the year I am at peace with the fact that so many people I love and care deeply for do not reciprocate the feelings. This year I am down to ONE person biologically related to me for Christmas, now that my sister also no longer cares for me. Not all of this stuff is my fault. Or their fault. It’s all gray. I just miss them.

And I wondered why I was surrounded by circling vultures all day…

So, I will hug Lee, Anita, Declan, and Rollie on Christmas and thank the Universe for the larger community of caring folks who do surround me, even if I’m grumpy, sarcastic, negative, harbor unpopular opinions, and am just hard to live with. Most people are, to some extent. I’m smiling as I write this, so I’m not feeling too sorry for myself. What would that help, anyway?

Back on Topic

On the horse front, I’d expected to spend most of the day with them again, but Trixie forgot about our bodywork appointment. It’s all for the best, though, because I finished a secret Christmas gift, and Sara also got some work done. That’s the attitude we need. Sure, there are setbacks, but there are good things that can come from them.

Merry Christmas to all of you out there. You are a true gift to me! My gift to you is this pink evening primrose I found blooming in the pasture this afternoon. I took it as a sign of hope.

Miss T Insists on Attention

Today was simply heartwarming. This is why I love horses so much.

We had a good day

Trixie was coming today to work on Apache’s feet, which I’d forgotten to have done on schedule. So, she rushed over during my lunch hour to take care of it.

The Buckskin Buddies watched with great interest.

Trixie started working on Apache and his issues. There was T, watching so closely. She really wanted a turn. So we went over just to look at her beauty. Trixie says she looks very well bred.

Vlassic also wanted attention.

Since she wanted attention, T got her neck adjusted, which made her extra happy. She kept turning her head, licking and chewing, and even yawning. All signs of a happy horse.

I like this lady.

Apache has his feet in their best shape ever, too. His abscess has completely grown out, too. He’s still in attachment mode, too, very affectionate and loving.

One more cute story from today features Fiona. As Trixie was working, she asked if Fiona needed a trim. I said I didn’t think so. Then, I looked over at her. She was on the other side of the gate, also demanding attention. She looked at me and picked up her foot, banging it on the gate, twice.

Yes, she wanted a trim, please. And she showed me the foot that needed trimming most! She’s a genius ass! I hope that made you smile, too.

Being around happy, relaxed animals is the greatest therapy there is for me.

Being loved by people is good for us rescue horses, too.

Learning Fun for All

Today, Sara came with Aragorn in her trailer and picked up me and Apache. I was so grateful to be able to get in a much-needed lesson. We ended up having such a good and educational time, we decided to do it again next week.

Here we are, ready to roll.

We had no trouble at all getting Apache in or out of the trailer. I have memories of it being quite a struggle when he was younger. It helps me see that he HAS improved in many ways.

That’s why I love this quirky guy.

My lesson was first, and went really well. We did the round pen test, and he was judged much improved. He acted like his old self. His feet need to be trimmed, which might cause some odd behavior, so that gets fixed tomorrow.

Here we’re discussing turning.

Next we did really interesting work on walking straight next to the fence without pushing into me or curving his neck. The neck curving is the bad habit he’s developed when he tries to take control.

Here, he’s learning.
He got frustrated but stuck with it.

I’m learning so much! Eventually I got to try it and was beginning to figure out his cues and correct him before he tried to get in front of me. This is something I can easily practice that will improve riding.

Sara and Aragorn worked on straightness and bending necks too, just at a different level. Thus, our lessons were helpful for each other.

Working on bending.

She was also doing practice in transition to canter with correct positions. That was fascinating to watch. And sometimes Aragorn looked all fancy, even if he was trying to figure things out.

Fancy

I think Aragorn got tired. I know Sara did, but they made good progress. He looks much, much calmer, too. We are all getting better, even if I had to go backwards.

Sometimes the dogs wanted my attention so much that I got distracted, but that’s just fine. They remind me of our guys. The little corgi-like one, Maximus, reminds me of my corgi, Gwynneth, who ran fast and low like a heat-seeking missile.

So, it was a fine Sunday. I enjoyed football, cooked boudin dirty rice, and patted our animals. Harvey is much less swollen.

Katie Zapfel

Children's book author. Mom blogger.

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