Talk about Comfortable

Today, Trixie was supposed to come and look at Apache’s feet, but Drew stole the show. I had gotten both of the horses, in preparation for her arrival, and Apache was quietly waiting for us in his pen. As we walked up, we couldn’t see Drew. Where was he?

having his spa day

Yep, he’d decided to just take a nice nap on the warm sand. That’s a sign that a horse is comfortable with the people he’s around. The best part is that he didn’t jump to his feet when we approached, like most horses would. As prey animals, they are always alert.

Zzzz

The fisr thing Trixie did was check out the big paint’s head, because it seemed sore. Drew got up and watched that intently, standing close so I could rub him. Trixie remarked that Drew really seems to be a people horse.

Apache’s feet are looking great, by the way, and he’s looking more and more normal. He even shrunk a horseshoe size. As he was being a model farrier client, I realize that I had lost Drew.

It’s more cozy over here.

He shifted again and really fell asleep, with fluttering eyelids, and deep, deep breathing. That was one comfortable animal.

I feel safe here. It’s where my food lives.

We could not stop laughing as he kept snoozing away even when Apache was finished and left. His little lips were quivering like he was having a nice dream. Damn, it was cute.

Melts our hearts.

Once we finally got him up, he got some spa treatment, as Trixie massaged his gums like she had done for Apache. We think he liked it.

It tickled!

He then let his front hooves get trimmed, but still was no good on the back, so Trixie is gonna come tomorrow and work on his issues again. He still walks a little. Funny, and we want him all ready and happy for training.

I guess I’m in love with both these equine wonders. My heart swells with love when I see how much progress we are making together.

Chickens and Snakes

I heard a loud noise last night from the chicken coop, and this morning I discovered something had gone after Babette. Her head is a mess, but she seems okay. In case Bruce did it, I separated her from the others, except Star, who is still setting on her eggs.

Good news

But it is not all bad! Blanca, the True Blue hen, finally started laying yesterday! What beautiful eggs she lays. Sky blue! Now we’re just waiting on Betty the Easter Egger to give us some green eggs, and Billie Idyl.

When I was out fetching the horses, I spotted this snakeskin, most likely a rat snake. It has these cool ribbon-like segments, I guess from its belly. I’m glad Trixie liked it as much as I did.

Well, this was fun. My new laptop is also a giant tablet. I typed this from my chair, with the computer flat. I am fancy now.

My Spotted Comforter

No, I didn’t get a new bed covering. I’ve just gotten so much comfort from this semi-tubby, big-hearted paint horse. Today, this guy left me feeling 100% better after yet another day of surprises and confusion.

Just chilling

I hadn’t been riding too much in the past couple of weeks, because I really don’t think it’s a good idea to climb up on a thousand-pound animal when you’re having anxiety attacks, even if it’s your friend.

I’m your friend. I’ll just stand here, even without a lead rope. And yes, people commonly put the bridle over the halter.

I have been hanging out with the horses a lot, though, and they’ve all acted like they cared about me, with lots of rubs and hanging out. But Apache has been so sweet. He’s always looking for me. Today, when I went to get him to ride, because I was feeling better, both he and Drew galloped up, while the others hardly noticed. Sure, they probably wanted food. But it made me feel good.

They eventually got food.

But it’s today’s ride that brought me the most comfort. It was the kind of ride I’d dreamed of my whole life. My horse and I were trusting each other, paying attention, and having fun while working on new things. Wow.

He was paying attention to me, even when he wasn’t doing what I asked. That meant it was easy to correct things and start again. We trotted and walked and made our circles. We went into the dry lot I use as a mini-arena and we did all sorts of things. He started to do what he wanted as we headed toward the pens, but I was able to get his attention and have him do circles until he was doing better. I did real ones, which I hadn’t managed before.

I saw it.

We then went all over the parts of the front field where he used to go wild and eat grass constantly. None of that happened. We just rode where I aimed him.

What I saw while feeding horses.

But what truly comforted me and warmed my heart was what he did before and after the ride. Before starting, I had to shew both Granny and Fiona out of the round pen, and rather than start to graze or wander off, he patiently stood where I left him. And after I got off, he waited again while I messed with my helmet and stuff, then leaned his sweaty neck against me, like he was saying he had fun, too.

Sun sets over the ranch house.

I’ve got such a true and patient friend in Apache. He’s kindly waited for me to develop the confidence and skills to become partners and learn together. And I was patient while I waited for him to heal from his laminitis and hoof abscess. He’s paying me back!

And the sun sets on contented people and horses.

Yeah. Being able to find comfort and stability even amid tough changes, an endless pandemic, and divisiveness around every corner…that’s a treasure.

Apache Rocks, and So Do Rocks

I’ve needed a self esteem boost for a few days, but this morning Apache made me feel really dim, and I didn’t need any more of that! I went to get him this morning for a lesson, then noticed Drew was still in his pen. I went to release Drew, and saw Apache head out the gate to his pen, which I’d not shut. He then went through the gate to his little paddock.

I wanna go back out.

That’s okay, I thought. Then I saw the gate to the big pasture was open and Apache was trotting right through it. Sigh. Off he went to join the Buckskin Buddies. I went over to get him and he trotted away. One he galloped. But, in the end, he let me halter him, saddle him, and load up.

After that, all was well! Our practice has paid off! I was amazed at how well he did on the circles and figure 8s. Even when he messes up, I’m getting better at correcting. That’s important. Now we are refining techniques. Wow, that feels good.

If I’m so good, why didn’t I get anything from Dairy Queen?

And we started a slalom formation where I learn to bend and turn, speed up and slow down (transitions). I was really surprised at how far we got on it today. Of course, there is a lot to learn, still, but it was fun to get to start so soon! Then, the trainer told me what great progress we are making quickly. It’s rewarding to be figuring this stuff out, at last.

I wanna be free.

And Apache rocks! No grass eating all lesson.

Speaking of Rocks

Remember yesterday, when I found that we have a layer of light rock a few feet down? One of our readers, Trisha, mentioned that it may be an aquatic layer.

White rock

So, I went out to look at the rock up close, to see if I could figure anything else out about it. The layer is very thin and powdery.

This shows the layer.

When I touched the rock, it crumbled. It doesn’t hold together like limestone usually does. It falls into little chunks or granules, whereas the soil above it sticks together and is very clayey.

Clay

Also in our soil are large rounded rocks. They have a flint-like interior.

Rock on top of the clay soil.

Anyway, the white stuff seems to be a chalk, which makes me think there was some point in the past that this area was covered by water and supported something with shells, but not for too long.

Hunk of chalky stuff.

I saved the piece above so maybe I can get it analyzed. And I’ll try to figure out when we were underwater more recently than the Paleozoic period (this rock isn’t that deep).

A Little Trail Ride

This was a nice ending to a long day! Apache has been doing so well this week with his schooling and such that I said, “Yes,” when Kathleen asked if I wanted to go for a ride with her and Dusty. Apache hadn’t been out on a trail ride across the ranch in a long time, since before I started trying to ride him solo.

Look at me, I’m in the cow pasture.

I’d had the brilliant insight last week that a lot of his insecurities were because of both of us not being used to going out without another horse and rider. One thing my lessons have done is build confidence in us both. It’s still a work in progress, with one extra-annoying habit to break, but all that round pen work, circling, and walking the property has made a big difference.

I’m also losing weight, thanks to the dead grass and hay. See those ribs??

So, off we went. Dusty doesn’t enjoy leaving his man friend Remington, so he had to be walked a bit. But, once we got going, a good time was had by all, with Apache like his old self, confidently walking around and paying attention to my cues.

I didn’t get to go, so I brayed my ass off. Oh wait, I’m an actual ass. At least Suna refilled my water bucket.

There were a lot more grass eating episodes than I’d like, and once or twice he was reluctant to do what I asked. But mostly we had fun and got to forget about our stresses, challenges, and negativity.

I’m glad I took the chance. I see a glimpse of my enjoyable future riding with friends and family, and maybe even doing some Working Equitation with him. Hey, he can already walk in a circle, so he’d not score a zero.

Thinking of all of us today, the day so many of us got deep trauma. I’m so glad I got to see my kids again after being stuck in Schaumburg, Illinois!

Shameless Insects and Encouraging Horse Time

I took yesterday off. After some errands, I just sat and read all day. I’ll tell you what makes it hard to concentrate, though, and that’s the thought of MORE grasshoppers in my future.

Hey. We’re pretty comfortable here.

I was trying to read and talk to my family when I realized my chair had become the grasshoppers’ special place. Uh. Nice. As if we hadn’t had a plague of these already this year.

Rocking and rolling on my rocker.

Well I guess it was good, because I could get a really good picture of how the male twists around to manage his role.

He snakes his abdomen around. Huh.

I’m fine with no more lengthy experiences with grasshopper propagation. They kept going a long time. obviously I didn’t blog yesterday because it was not exciting here.

On Another Note

Let’s move on. Apache has been doing better with his schooling. He still sometimes wanders way off the circle when trotting. But today he did a whole circle without hitting a cone. I felt like he was feeling well, so we went into his grazing area and walked and turned and stuff. He was mostly good, and even his disagreements with me were smaller than usual.

We were heading back to dismount when we had a surprise. A skunk walked across our path and ducked into the red shipping container. Oops. Apache stopped very nicely and waited until the coast was clear. We calmly walked over to share the skunk news, and Apache was so good, we kept going.

After the ride. Super clean and sound horse.

He did his stopping and grabbing grass thing twice, but otherwise was just great, like old times. He went up to say hi to Goldie, walked all over the front pasture, up to the gate, and across the pasture where he often goes nutty, but he didn’t! We made it back, all sweaty but happy.

I feel pretty.

To thank Apache, I gave him a good bath. Ooh he finally got really clean and dander free. I even got him to hold his head still and let me wash it. I was amazed to go back later and find he hadn’t rolled yet!

Glad he didn’t roll on one of these velvet ants, since they are actually wingless wasps.

It’s so hot today that I can’t help do outdoor stuff like I’d hoped to. I’ll cram everything in from 6:30 to sunset, I guess.

Drew’s Clues

I’ve talked before about my concerns about my 3-year-old colt, Drew, and his issues with balance. He can’t get his back feet cleaned, because he can’t stay upright on three feet long enough. And he’s fine with the front feet. And he stumbles on his back feet when he’s running. Something seems wrong.

Can I hold him up with this? No, Fiona.

Today ended up being farrier day, because we had a schedule mix-up, but it all ended up fine. I told Trixie about my concerns, wondering if he was just lazy, as had been suggested, or if there was another reason.

Checking Drew out.

Trixie felt around and tried a few things. She agreed he has a problem. His pelvis is tilted, with one side higher than the other. That makes it hard for him to put weight on one side, and hard to bend the other side. I asked about how he clamps his tail down, and he said he was doing something to his sacrum with than (I forget what; forgot to take notes).

Perhaps this Vulcan mind meld will help.

Her theory is that he could have scar tissue or adhesions from being gelded in a popular way I’ll not describe here. That makes sense to me. So, she worked on him. He loved neck stretching but not foot work, which didn’t surprise me.

Ima fall down! Help!

Not much helped his pelvic area, though his head and neck felt good, from his reactions. Trixie will have to come back Monday and do some other stuff.

Do what you have to do, ma’am.

I’m so glad I paid attention to the clues he’s been giving me, so I can get Drew in better shape before he goes in for training. Luckily there is good news! Drew let his front feet get trimmed pretty calmly for a first timer! I’m proud of my little boy.

Meanwhile, Apache slept through most of Drew’s stuff and his trim, even though we had a few little showers. He was a model citizen and even stood perfectly for his back feet!

It is NOT sunny.

The weather is so weird. It’s so pleasant outside that I can sit and enjoy Lee’s pond after spending some time with the horses. It’s August. It should be 105, not 77 right now. And the grass should be brown, dang it.

Weird

A Date with Nature and Livestock

Nature’s creatures have nothing to do with human organizations, judgmental humans, or unnecessary drama. Their drama is, at least, necessary. So I dumped social media and went outside on this nice day.

It’s a nice day, because we’re in it.

Half the day I added to my collection of observations for our Master Naturalist group’s summer bioblitz. I missed the spring one by being in North Carolina, so I wanted to make up for it. Here, enjoy some things I found:

The rest of the time, I hung out with my animal friends. I’m sure if I had grandchildren I would not take so many pictures of animals.

Enjoy what really matters in life and let other stuff go. You’ll be healthier!

Two Good Horse Days

Though it’s been a little chaotic behind the scenes here, there’s a definite bright spot for me, and its name is Apache.

Who, me?

I’ve been listening to the things my trainer says and reading her stuff, and I’ve gotten a lot of insight from another horse person, Warwick Schiller, who stresses the importance of your relationship with your horse. He often talks about building the relationship on the ground first.

A circle on the ground.

I finally got the schooling circle built so I could practice my Apache homework. I got these little cones, then realized I had bought some old ones from Lakota’s owner. Sara gave me some good advice on cobbling my circle together, and it came out good. Plus, it’s easy to move or put away, like when the wind kicks up.

I’m supposed to pay attention.

I figured since my next lesson isn’t for a while I could spend a few days just working on connecting on the ground. Now that I have guidance on keeping him paying attention to me in the round pen, we are progressing well. We both have fun. He really likes following me around the pen wherever I go (with no lead).

I’m listening now.

But the best part comes when we go out. He has been walking beside me in that “partner” way. He walks beside me politely and doesn’t bump me. He doesn’t veer off to grab grass or be squirrelly. Nope. He only tried to eat grass ONCE yesterday and once today.

Happy us.

It’s been totally stress free. If he starts to rush, I just stop. Neither of us got worked up. Once he tensed up, and we just waited. We walked all the way down the driveway and around that circle in and out. His head was down and relaxed, he snorted, and he had a nice time. So did I. This stuff is working. I’m pleased. It feels like we’re starting from the beginning, but the right way. Yay.

Good night from Fiona

Very Happy Students

I’m really happy, relieved, and looking forward to the future now. You know I’ve been frustrated lately with my inability to communicate well with my dear horse Apache when he’s under saddle. Today I finally took the long-anticipated step of getting answers to my questions and start to improve the communication and make riding and learning fun again.

We went to our new trainer’s place for the first time, which was a learning experience in itself, since Lee had to drive someone else’s truck and trailer over there. Luckily, Apache loaded easily (more easily than I opened the door), despite the loud creaking sound the trailer door makes (I will get some oil). I had hay ready for him, but that made it hard for me to tie him up. While I was occupied with that, I heard a noise. Just guess who had voluntarily loaded herself?

I’m coming too, right? Photo and editing by Lee.

I asked Fiona to get down, and she looked all bummed that she could go with us. I think she had more fun at home. In any case, we made it with a couple of minutes to spare, then embarked on our learning fest. I was so ready to learn some techniques that worked better than the ones I was using before and to get some tips on keeping Apache engaged.

Hint: there will be much less of THIS going on.

I got all that, and more. It was a pretty learning-packed lesson for both me and Apache, even though I’d forgotten my reins (now I know how to make them out of my lead rope, which worked very well). I now know how to make the round pen work more of an exercise in mind and body for both of us, and how some of the things I learned before actually weren’t a great idea. Little modifications really helped.

And when I was riding, I got all the stuff I’d been trying to figure out on my own, explained so much better and more clearly. It was such a relief to get this information and try it out. I kept smiling with joy that I was doing things well and Apache was figuring out what to do more and more quickly. It’s such a relief to have a patient and reassuring teacher who frequently reminds me that this stuff will take a while, but will be worth it.

It’s very pretty where we went. And so many horses!

My hands and legs need retraining, so I’ll just keep repeating things the new way, which makes sense, so is quite worth it. I have great homework to do, as soon as I can make myself a cone and circle setup. I ordered some cones, but may have to borrow some until they get here. But hey, I know much more subtle ways to start, stop, turn and go in circles already. Oh and backing up. Yes! I can’t wait to get to practicing and to teaching Drew some of the round pen stuff I learned.

But wait, you know what was the BEST thing the trainer told me: Apache’s weight looks good! She said it more than once! All that hard work HAS paid off. Hooray!

Lee spent a lot of time looking at clouds. He said this looked like Hercules. He didn’t even notice the dragonfly.

I haven’t had this much fun in an hour in AGES. Neither has Apache, though he was ready to get that saddle off when we got home! Lee was darned ready, too. I think he really hopes the other driver will be available next time, the one who is interested in horse training.

When You’re Irritated, Go Outside

No matter how many times I try to convince myself not to care to much about my work, I keep doing it, and the way things are set up now, I really need to just roll with the changes. But, I’ll try to do that again, next time.

Goldie is rolling with the changes. Keep on rolling, keep on rolling, as REO Speedwagon advised.

So, today I made a point of going outside and enjoying a relatively cool August day with the animals. I did some excellent breathing, then went out to see how the horses were doing.

What, I’m supposed to be rolling? Usually you make me stop!

I got Drew out and tried to groom him. Oh my gosh, he, too, had been rolling. In the sand. While sweating. He was now an orange horse. He had clay-like clods in his mane that would not brush out. I got my exercise in!

I don’t know what she’s talking about. I look just fine…from a distance, backlit.

We went for a walk, which was fine until Harvey took off after him and he bolted away. Drew is very pretty when running. And he waited for me. I took a deep breath and we finished our walk. Then we went in the round pen, and Drew totally made up for running off. He has improved so much! At least I feel like I’ve taught him something. He slows down, stops, turns, and comes to me when asked.

I’m not so bad. Also, Fiona’s empty dish tastes better than mine.

Then I fetched Apache, who was much less filthy but more bothered by flies. I see why Drew was rolling in the sand. Both got fly spray, so they will be better for a few days. I put Apache in the round pen to see if he’d move better after some pain killer the night before.

Yep. He’s trotting.

He acted like normal Apache. He trotted around and around until I asked him to stop. He turned around when asked. He just kept going. I think maybe it’s just he abscess growing out.

Look, you can almost see my ribs!

We had a good walk, and when he started wanting to eat every time I stopped, I practiced starting and stopping after different numbers of steps. That made him think, and his head stayed up.

My head is up, geez.

Sara has me reading a depressing article on sugar in grass. It makes me feel doomed at slimming him down again until winter. I can’t let him out only between 9 pm and 3 am. Sigh.

I can’t help it. I was born this way. Or mismanagement. Or something. This is my bad angle!

By the time I did all this, I felt better. Keeping myself centered to work with the horses helped a lot! Animal therapy. I’d say it’s free, but horses are not cheap.

Donkeys are cute and cheap!
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