Mowing, Controversy, and More Horse Stuff

I was trying to create a funny essay yesterday when I wrote about our property not being mowed yet, but it sparked some Facebook controversy. Some people were thrilled and others were appalled that we were doing it. I don’t know why I was surprised, since mowing is always controversial! Like so many things out here in the country, you have to sometimes decide who is a priority and who needs to sacrifice for the greater good. In this case, the safety of our elderly residents and visitors has to come before some flowers, mice, and such.

Shredder, attached to tractor! We can ranch now!

We need to have the area by the house mowed short enough that we can see snakes and holes that pop up randomly. I don’t want my sister or brother-in-law falling or getting bitten. We let things go a lot longer farther out, and luckily they can’t get to ALL my dewberries, ha ha.

In any case, we are really grateful to our young neighbor, Tyler, who is quite mechanically inclined and strong for getting the riding mower belt back on so the brother-in-law can mow. Jim’s happy about that, and is all decked out in his hat, mask, and other protection.

Goodbye sunflower jungle

Meanwhile, Lee’s in the tractor shredding. He’s shredding high, just to knock the tops off the thistles and their kin (don’t worry, there is PLENTY on the roadside for many, many birds). Speaking of birds, the hawks and eagles are quite happy he’s shredding. He had a caracara (Mexican eagle) watching quite intently yesterday. I see a couple of hawks have joined in, too. Buffet time!

Shredding away. Don’t worry the flowers will not die. Next week they’ll be blooming like the dickens.

But honestly, we don’t have too many mammals that don’t live underground in the area we’re mowing, because the rabbits have learned to go elsewhere to avoid the dogs, and we have mouse predators up the wazoo, both flying and barking. Plus, they will come back, believe me.

The area will look nice for the dinner we’re having tonight, where I hope my son and partner will join us!

The Horse Part of the Story

Have you noticed it’s always something with the horses, especially Apache? I have. Sigh. Yesterday afternoon, I headed out to try riding again, took him out of his paddock, and started grooming him. I got to his back, and he startled. I thought maybe he saw something or was surprised by Ace arriving. I started again, and he moved away. That was odd. He was acting like the curry comb was hurting his back. Just the day before yesterday I could groom him just fine there.

I’m always having trouble, but I’m a great friend!

I called Sara over and demonstrated on the other side. This time he curved his back downward to avoid the brush. So, Sara, who knows a lot more horse stuff than I do, did a test with her hands going down his spine, and whoa, did he react right at his withers (shoulder area). Obviously, I was NOT going to ride him. Poor guy!

Instead, I took him into the round pen where he patently ignored me, not at all like his usual self. He sort of moped around and tried to eat. We walked around together, and he was fine. Next, I took him out and put a long rope on him, something I don’t do often because, clumsy as I am, I always trip on the rope and get tangled. But, I wanted to try him in big circles, to see if he’d walk better that way.

As soon as I asked him to walk, he started out really close, so I waved my carrot stick thingie at him to encourage him to walk further out. Yow! Instead he took off like some kind of green colt. He launched into a canter, bucked and farted numerous times, bucked, started to gallop, and generally acted most unlike his usual self. He stopped when I asked him to, though, but when I signaled to walk in the other direction, he reared and went off like a race horse.

Both Sara and I were thinking it was a bit dangerous, but I just waited until he settled down into a trot and stopped him. He was quite wound up, and blowing through his nose. I honestly had never seen him like this since I met him, unless he was out playing!

Sara suggested I give him something to do to make him think and not wallow in his emotions, so I had him walk over telephone poles on the long lead, walk up and down the poles with me on the other side of them, go over our little jumps, and eventually walk calmly down the driveway. He seemed to be having a lot of fun with all those activities, so I considered that a win and we went back.

I do this because someone trained me to. I think it makes me look cool.

I’m going to have to ask Trixie, our farrier and horse body work expert, what could be wrong with him. Maybe he twisted his back rolling (they are all rolling a lot right now, due to flies)? Maybe he has worms, again (can’t wait to move him out of that paddock and all the old poop)? Maybe he’s a diva? Sigh.

On to the next horse, how about it? Sara has been working with Ace, who has a very interesting personality. When he knows what he’s doing, he’s amazingly cooperative and follows instructions like a dream. But, when he gets confused and doesn’t know what to do, his go-to response is to buck and run. That doesn’t sound like riding would be fun, to me.

But, yesterday he made great progress, and Sara decided to get him used to someone on his back. I was the photographer, and got good pictures of her putting weight on his back, stepping up, and finally getting on. He was quite fine with the whole person sitting on his back concept. Way to go, Ace!

I like standing here and not moving.

He’s not as fine with reins and bits, and whenever Sara asked him to move forward, he’d back up. My uneducated theory was that he was trying to get away from the pressure by moving backwards, not realizing the pressure would stop if he just went forward. Horse brains are very interesting. I think she got him to take one step forward. But, on the other hand, there was no bucking, spinning, leaping or running off! I declare it to be quite successful for a first try! I’m sure she’ll make a lot more progress today!

See, I did move. In circles, backward! It’s a start!

Chicken News

Believe it or not, someone asked me what I was going to do with the baby chicks when they arrive on Wednesday. I had a couple of ideas, which I want to run by the nephew, but my current one is to make them a little area that includes the white nest boxes. That would provide shelter and a roosting space, plus room for chick food that the older chickens can’t get to. Star would be able to eat grown-up hen food, too, and I can easily give them water.

The idea is to use the door as a chick guard, but Star could get out and wander if she wanted to.

Soon enough, I’ll be able to let them all out. I do have another idea involving the cage we used for the guineas, but it needs some rain shelter. We’ll see, as Lee’s dad always said.

And, the moving egg laying saga continues. Springsteen has decided she likes the corner where Bertie Lee is laying. I found two eggs there yesterday, definitely not from the same hen. Oh, chickens.

Bertie at left, Springsteen at right (her eggs have a pink tinge)

I’m looking forward to another nice day at the Hermits’ Rest, plus the Zoom wedding. How pleasant it is to have positive plans! Hope your plans are positive as well.

Pet News, Some Good, Some Not

There’s been a lot going on in the pet department around our ranch community. The first is good news, which is that right now there are two puppies to enjoy over at the neighbors’ house. They use Australian cattle dogs as working animals, and the elderly matriarch (Tess) is no longer able to do much. So, they decided to allow their breeder friend to get puppies from their youngest female (Jess) and one of the breeders’ unrelated males. The two female pups and Jess came home from the breeder’s house this weekend, and I got to enjoy them. They are so soft at this age!

Bess is the one with brown on her, who’s on the go. The other one’s a real snuggler, so her new family will enjoy her!

One of the little cuties has another home, where she’s going in a week or so, but we get to enjoy the other one (Bess) and watch her grow. Nothing like a bunch of rhyming cattle dogs to brighten the neighborhood! They now have 5 generations of the same maternal line at their house.

Other nice pet news is seeing how well Ace is fitting in with the other equines. We caught him touching noses with Fiona yesterday, which was so sweet. Immediately afterwards, though Apache broke up the love fest. I guess Fiona is HIS lady.

Hello, little buddy.

The amusement we’re getting out of the paint horses shedding continues. There are interesting areas of white in the pastures. When you get up close, you can see they are horse shaped, if that horse happened to be rolling on the ground. Spice left one where you can actually see her brown spots and her white ones, like a map of her coat. I couldn’t photograph that, since we were wrangling three horses, but I did get a picture of one from Apache, which is all white. Poor Spice will get brushed out next time I’m back at the ranch, since she looks like Apache did last week (since Sara hasn’t been riding her, she hasn’t had her usual amount of grooming).

It’s like Apache made a snow angel with is hair.

The sad pet news is that we appear to have lost Gracie Lou, Kathleen’s little white dog, and Vlassic’s favorite companion out here. She just never came in Saturday. We can’t keep her fenced in, because she’s so little that she slips through the gates, but she always has come in and asked to go nap in her bed in Kathleen’s room, and of course, to eat.

Gracie joined us last April.

We put a notice on Milam Touch of Love and asked all the neighbors (all four of them!), but no one has seen her. I went up and down the road and didn’t see any evidence of foul play, either. She just vanished. Maybe she encountered a hawk or a coyote, or a big cat, but only the hawk makes sense, because she disappeared in daylight, AND the harrier’s been around. Lee’s favorite theory is that she was sniffing on the side of the road and someone picked her up, thinking she was lost of something. She is very friendly and will jump into cars.

So, we’re hoping someone realizes we are looking for her and brings her back. She’s always been such a tough ranch dog, and more of an outdoor animal than indoor. It seems weird for something to get her after she survived the farm in Yorktown for so long, as well as our place for over a year! Keep your fingers crossed she turns up again.

A New Supporter!

Let’s end this on a happy note, though. I’m going to have to get those knitting needles warmed up again, because The Hermits’ Rest blog and podcast have a new supporter! Thank you to Kathleen Caso of Hearts, Homes and Hands for becoming a monthly supporter! She’s hoping to share podcasts about the ranch with our home-bound clients, who enjoy listening to stories. I enjoy telling stories, so THAT all works out. And then, if they want to see pictures, they can look at the blog. Great idea, right?

You, too can support us for as little as dollar a month by signing up at https://anchor.fm/sue-ann-suna-kendall/support – or just keep reading and listening. I’m happy to have all of you around!

Still Working on Horse Feet

I’m working on horse feet in more ways than one these days. Animals have a lot to teach us, both scientifically and intuitively.

In science news, we learned a lot about horse feet (hooves) with Trixie’s latest visit, and we learned that Fiona loves Sara more than we ever realized. She spent a long time leaning on Sara and asking for hugs.

My feet are fine, I’m just spreading love — Fiona

Trixie has most of the damaged area of Apache’s feet trimmed off, but we were all shocked to see how much hoof separation he suffered. It’s scary. Laminitis can be deadly. We’re lucky we still have him.

The black crack shows damage.

We also talked about how he always does a little buck and stumble when transitioning to a canter (which explains my lack of cantering experience). Trixie did more chiropractic work in his spleen area. As always, Apache was a trooper and relaxed happily when it was over.

Whoa, I feel better.

I got to watch a little of the work Trixie did on Ace. He wasn’t used to what she did, but he got a pretty funny look when he realized he felt better!

What are you doing?
Sara listens to Trixie explaining what good shape Ace is in.

Trimming his feet was a bit difficult, because it had been a while since his last trim, and I heard Ace’s feet were a bit sore yesterday. Today he was walking fine, but I didn’t see him run. it just shows how important horse feet are!

Apache has never had such fine looking feet before!

So, yesterday I went off and rode Apache alone again. He was feeling okay, but didn’t want to walk on the hard driveway. I don’t blame him. It was pretty challenging for a number of reasons.

First, it was really windy, which often gets the horses on edge. Second, our dogs were out, barking and chasing cows, which puts me on edge. And third, Fiona was in a mood. A really annoying mood.

Once we got near the front cattle tank, she acted like she was full of beans. She ran up and down the sides of the tank, ran back and forth in front of me and Apache, while braying endlessly, and kept doing sudden turns and pivots. Once or twice would have been fine, but she kept it up for ten minutes or more.

I tried to be good. But I love grass.

Apache had already been a bit of a handful, focused on grass and not me. I was a little worried she’d spook him. So, I stopped him and breathed deeply. He just watched Fiona acting like she had a bee up her butt. I counted that as a win.

It was still a challenge to get Apache to pay attention to me. He would duck his head, spin his feet, and do what he could to avoid my instruction. I kept asking, then resting, then asking, and finally, I could feel him settle down. He walked back to the barn calmly, like nothing had happened out in that windy pasture. I learned a lot. I can trust Apache even when he’s antsy, and we can get through weird days. Whew.

All’s well as long as us horses and people keep learning from each other and moving those feet.

The Student Becomes the Teacher

I remember, in my youth, the first time I became a teacher of linguistics in addition to being a student. It was a gentle introduction, since I co-taught with one of my professors, but it really did me a lot of good. They say that you really start to master a subject once you teach it, and “they” (whoever they are) are telling the truth! The stuff I learned when teaching interested college students about linguistics, as well as teaching grumpy engineering students about rhetoric for engineers sticks with me today.

Here’s a shameful admission: the ONLY writing class I ever took after high school English was reading the textbook for engineering rhetoric a chapter ahead of the students the first time I taught it. Yep, I taught myself technical writing. That seems to have worked out.

What? I can’t believe you never took a class. Also, I still don’t love this food.

I watched this phenomenon of the student becoming the teacher play out yesterday, when we went out to play with the horses. Sara had already worked with Ace in the morning, so today she saddled him and put a bridle on him. The bit was a new surprise for him, but by the end of the day, he could eat grass with it. He’s no fool!

What the heck is going on here? Does this saddle make my butt look big? Photo by Sara.

So, I brushed tons of hair off Apache, then got him all saddled up, while Sara took Ace to the round pen for some groundwork (that’s when you teach a horse to follow your instructions while running around). I started groundwork using a rope, but she was doing it “at liberty,” which means you’re in the pen with a horse who can do whatever it wants to (including, one hopes, what you ask it to).

It was quite an active scene, with Ace running and bucking and doing the kinds of things a horse who’s learning will do. Meanwhile, I decided it would be a good opportunity to help Apache keep focused on doing what I ask him to do, no matter what’s going on around him. We did patterns and turns, and different ways of approaching obstacles, and he did an impressive job of not paying much attention to Sara and Ace.

Ace was making progress, but not finding it easy to settle down, being burdened with all this new paraphernalia on him. He truly did not want to calmly walk in a circle. So, we tried having Apache be his role model. We walked calmly around the outside of the round pen, while Ace and Sara walked on the inside. Sure enough, Ace matched Apache’s mood and pace, and we walked in both directions just fine. That was the perfect time to stop the lesson, while success was happening.

I also stopped to look at flowers. These two types of verbena look very different right next to each other!

I was proud of Apache for being a good teacher. Both horses got their reward when we walked to the end of the driveway again, me mounted and Sara alongside of Ace. Then we enjoyed a grazing break again. That was also good practice. It’s nice that these two get along so well.

We’re friends, so we don’t bother each other.

I know it’s really good for Apache to be the calm, reasonable role model for the first time in his life. I can tell he enjoyed doing it, and he didn’t even realize that yesterday was the second time we ever rode without another person riding with us. Score!

Plus we had a big ole full Passover moon! Photo by Lee.

That’s it for today’s horse report. Don’t worry, I won’t be writing about Ace progress every day, even though his owner says this makes him “famous.” But, Trixie comes today, so we may need a foot report!

Apache Has a New Buddy

I’m pretty wiped out, but I have to share the fun and work that happened today in the horse department. Sara has been wanting a horse to work with while Spice isn’t rideable, so she talked to our friend, Sheila, who owns a horse Sara worked with 7 years ago, when I first was hanging out here. Sheila said she’d be happy to send the gelding over for some fun.

Our old pal, Ace.

Ace is a huge, black solid paint gelding (that means he has the pain gene, but isn’t all spotty). He’s so tall Sara has trouble putting his halter on. He has one blue eye and tiny bits of white on him. Not only is he gorgeous, but he has a great personality.

Big and beefy!

Sara said he was happy to see her, like he remembered her. And he wasn’t too hard to load, either.

There he is in the trailer! Photo by Sheila Sager

Once he got to our horse area, Sara called me so I could see him. He was so calm and nice.

See his blue eye?

I wonder if he remembered being here before? He and Apache still seem to be buddies, that’s for sure.

Hello old friend! Photo by Sara Faivre.

Later, Sara and Ralph brought a lot of square bales they’d bought nearby. This will keep us in hay for a good while. But, we had to get it off the trailer! Oh my.

Half the hay is off.

I’m not the strongest city girl in the world, and it was not easy to move it all. Plus it’s the first hot day of the year. We reminded ourselves we weren’t racing and let ourselves rest.

She is a lot stronger than me! But tired!

We did it! We had another challenge, because some of the bales came apart. But Sara had great ideas, did some skillful trailer maneuvering, and we got all the broken ones safely over by the horses.

Lots of hay.

As tired and hot as we were, we were going to do some fun activities with our new friend! We are taking it slow, since Ace is gentle, but doesn’t have much experience under saddle. So, we took Ace and Apache on a nice walk down the driveway.

Excellent grass over here!!

It was fun, but both Apache and I were sweaty. He’s losing his winter coat, so every time he bumped into me, more white hair got on my arms, my shirt, and my watch. It was pretty filthy.

I got a snack! Yummy sow thistle!

He’s had these extra-long winter hairs, and today they got all tangled up and coming right off if I pulled them. They resemble a dish scrubbie or something. I must say I’ll be glad when all the hair is shed.

In any case, the horses had a nice time grazing, while Sara and I rested. Ralph even brought us some cold beverages to enjoy. What a great way to bond with horses and enjoy a Saturday!

Such a fun guest!

As we were leaving, we fed the horses their grain and supplements. We of course gave Ace some, to make up for the wormer he got earlier. Well, he didn’t think much of our beet pulp and toppings. We think he didn’t like the garlic. It was really funny watching him dig through the bowl trying to find something palatable. He ended up dumping the bowl upside down and looking very disappointed.

The food at this establishment does not meet my standards.

I can’t wait to watch as Ace learns new things with my ranch buddy, Sara. I always have liked him, and am amazed at his gentle spirit. Sheila has done a good job with him!