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!

Watermelon Fun Overload

Today we had some old watermelon to dispose of. Usually I give melon to the chickens, who immediately go into a pecking frenzy. Today it was suggested that I see if Fiona wanted some.

This looks suspicious.

She sniffed it carefully. When I broke off a piece and offered it to her, she delicately took it between her lips, then went to town chomping. But, when I set it back down, she went up and touched it, but switched back to grass. Maybe it was too cold for her.

Brr. It’s cold!

Hmph, I thought to myself. I’ll see if any of the other horses appreciate it. I conveniently forgot I’m not supposed to give Mabel treats.

Hey, what’s this??

Lucky for me, Mabel didn’t get much of it. Dusty, one of the Buckskin Buddies, must be familiar with watermelon, because he chowed down big time. Much smacking and melon tossing went on, and I was completely charmed by his happiness. Here he is picking it up for better chomping.

This is fun.

The chickens did get to enjoy some, too. They eat it down to the rind.

Watermelon is for chickens!!

Okay, I’ll close with a happy picture or two. This is the first Ruby-throated hummingbird I’ve identified here at the Hermits’ Rest. All the ones I usually see are black-chinned ones. But, they’re migrating right now. What fun!

Oh, I just keep seeing cool things. That’s what I get for writing from the porch.

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!

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.

Donkey versus Dog, and Other Ranch Sights

Maintaining my detachment from things out of my control is a challenge right now, so there are LOTS of nature walks going on. The benefit is that you get to see drama, birth and death, and beauty throughout the day. This morning, for example, I went out to do the usual chicken feeding and horse moving while it was still relatively cool out. That meant all the animals were frisky, especially the dogs and equines. As I was trying to give Apache his daily hay, Goldie was “helping,” as usual. She made the mistake of getting between Fiona and the hay, and Fiona finally connected with one of her kicks, and got poor Goldie on the side. Much yelping occurred.

Goldie may even be taller than Fiona at the shoulders.
Perhaps too extreme of a close-up, but it’s worse than it looks here. But, Goldie is fine and her usual cheerful self.

Fiona has been warning Goldie and the other dogs to keep back by flattening her ears and back-kicking (to the extent that I no longer stand behind Fiona when dogs are around), but she’s just so fascinating to Goldie, who is her match in size, but not in bulk. Carlton has learned to keep his distance. I’d like to say Goldie has, but the photo above was taken AFTER the kick.

There’s always someone kicking, scratching, or biting someone else around here. That’s how they maintain their pecking order (literally, in the case of the hens). I also got to enjoy watching the beautiful swallows figuring out their pecking order from their morning launch station. There are always dozens of them sitting on east side of the house each morning as they get those insects.

Lee is always telling me how observant I am, and I know that just comes from a lot of practice going on hikes and entertaining my younger son with all the different bugs and flowers we saw. Anyway, this morning was one of those sparkling mornings with lots of dew. Also some of the really ephemeral parasol mushrooms that appear and quickly fade away were up. They are so delicate that they tremble at any slight breeze.

A little later in the morning, it was Lee’s turn to want to get some nature walking in, so I accompanied him. We went over to the dam, and found all sorts of interesting things. The MOST interesting is that there are dozens of baby catfish in the overflow area. There are so many of them, and I know that water will dry up way sooner than our other ponds, so I think I will try to catch some and transfer them.

Look at all those little guys!

When I was young, my mom caught some baby catfish in Noonan’s Lake near Gainesville, Florida. She put them in our goldfish pond, and we watched them grow and grow. By the time we moved away, they were a foot long and we loved to try to drop food straight into their huge mouths. The goldfish were also really big. Dad did a great job on that pond.

When we turned around to go back, after enjoying the fishies, I saw lots and lots of insects on the velvetweed. At first I thought there were three kinds, but when I uploaded to iNaturalist, I realized I saw juvenile and adults of the same insect, the eastern leaf-footed bug. There was a stink bug of some type, too, but I failed at taking its picture well enough to ID it, as you can see below. Well, and there were zillions of differential grasshoppers, zzz.

Well, that just shows you what you can find if you look hard and are patient. Focusing on the teeming life all around you reminds you that you are just a small part of the big picture. And watching the animals handle their disagreements with no hard feelings is a good lesson for us, too. Now if I can just maintain that feeling of oneness with the Universe, detachment from unhealthy attachments, and goodwill to all!

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!

Going Cuckoo over Gloomy Beauty

It’s time for another post with mostly photos. The rainy day brought a lot of sights, from a bird and insects I’d never seen before to animals dealing with water. That’s right, the title of this post isn’t an insensitive ableist phrase, I actually saw a cuckoo!

In the center is a yellow-billed cuckoo!

I knew we had them here, but I’d never seen a cuckoo before. It must have been recovering from the most recent downpour. I read that these birds are called storm birds, because they tend to sing after a storm. This one wasn’t singing.

Close up.

The other fun part of today was enjoying the wet animals. Poor Fiona thought she was trapped in one of the pens until Apache walked over and showed her it wasn’t a lake.

I’m outa here!

Here are some other images from around the pens.

Here are my insect finds. most are new to me, but not the fire ants. They messed up my foot night before last.

I’ll close with more moody weather photos. It was a pretty interesting day after all.

This Made Me So Happy

You’ve probably read that I’ve been having some trouble with my Paint horse, Apache, and having him not responding well, with him having an abscess, etc. it’s seemed like two steps forward and one step back. One reason I got Drew is to have a horse I can enjoy riding without struggle.

I’m a good guy!

Now that we have everyone over at our place, I wanted to try riding Apache here. But I did some tests on him.

I started the day with the horses by just walking him around in his little pasture. I wanted to see what Drew would do. He followed us around curiously. So, I took the halter off Apache and put it on Drew. He walked with me just great! He had very good manners. Apache followed, but didn’t force his way between us. It was great!

I was good.

After a hot afternoon of raking huge piles of grass and putting them in the front-end loader’s bucket (don’t ask why), Kathleen and I wanted to ride. I warmed Apache up on a nice long lead, and he was okay, not great. But still, I put his saddle on, in addition to his pretty new side pull bridle.

I’m all dressed up now.

While we waited for Kathleen to get help with her persnickety old saddle, I got on and rode Apache around, to see how he would do. Um. Wow. He was fantastic.

Happy human and horse. Note I do have my helmet on.

We rode over by the cows, checked out the pond, crossed the driveway, and really bothered the poor dogs. But wow, he did so well. He didn’t act upset or nervous. He then stood quietly at least ten minutes while I talked to Kathleen and Dusty.

I had fun, too.

Fiona was also good. When Kathleen and I were out, she didn’t act up or run like a crazed ass. And she came right in when we were done.

I was proud of Apache for helping Dusty and Kathleen figure stuff out, but at one point he’d had enough of mosquitoes and did not want to keep going. I listened to him and got off. He was so happy and friendly and good.

I’m looking forward to my chiropractor experience tomorrow!

We both seem relaxed and happy. Plus, Drew was calmer this evening, too. We are all making progress. I was almost in tears after the ride. I have my horse back, and my new fellow is a real peach.

PS: we watched Apache and Remington mutually grooming for a long time this afternoon. It’s just so nice to see how well all these equines are adapting to their new surroundings and herd. Sometimes things actually work out well! All good.

The Big Day: Apache Comes Home

I’d been waiting a long time to get Apache and Fiona on our property, so I can hang out with them more. What with the three new horses this week and all the work getting things ready, it’s been busy around here, but today topped them all! Everyone agrees this was the busiest day we remember. Lucky for us, there was also fun.

I mean, who couldn’t have fun in THIS get-up?

Before I could go get my guys, a few things had to be finished, so I got drafted from my heat recovery reverie to finish mowing Apache’s grazing area as far down as possible. I do believe that was my first riding lawnmower work, but I did good, and apparently the tractor made me look sexy (musical reference).

My fine mowing on left, what it was before, on the right.

Finally, recharged with Gatorade, I walked over one last time to the other horse pens. Speaking of exercise, I got over 16,000 steps today. Six miles, not counting horseback. Anyway, we loaded Apache with his hay net and lead rope, and put Fiona’s halter on so she could carry it. Sara tied it up real well.

They have no idea they’re moving to new pastures.

I rode Apache and Fiona followed, in her own fashion. Sara opened the gate for us and waved farewell. Sniff. She promised to keep feeding Big Red for me. But, now the paddock can rest and recover, so it’s all good.

I was proud of how Apache did fine passing a lawn mower, barking dogs, and hidden scary objects, but one thing concerned him. There’s something near the mailbox for the cabin that reflected brightly and made him stare. But, eventually we made it to our property and I turned them out.

Home at last.

After eating a bit, Drew called to them, so they went over to meet him. It was a very successful meet and greet.

You’re okay, so are you, and you, too.

Meanwhile, Remington and Dusty were getting saddled up, so I guess everyone wasn’t too tired to ride. (I was, but I wasn’t about to miss any fun!) Drew did not like being in his pen, and got all worked up. He knocked down his temporary gate and went charging around. Luckily, I’d just decided to close the exit gate, just in case.

So, while Kathleen rode around happily on Dusty, I held on the Remington while we made the executive decision to put Drew in with Apache and Fiona. I have no photos, but they got along okay, once Apache kicked Drew to establish his dominance. Still, Drew ran and ran. You know, why not? The poor guy hadn’t had many opportunities to run around before.

Lee took this nice picture of me. I’m all covered up because I’d been in the sun all day.

When Kathleen got off, she said I ought to ride Dusty. So, I clambered into the Western saddle, grabbed the split reins, and walked and trotted around, mostly watching Remington, who had some issues.

Yee haw.

Dusty was fine, and eventually we had a nice time out looking at stuff with Remington, who had learned his lesson. He will be lots better after the chiropractic work on Monday.

There is a lot of tack on this horse.

By the time we were done with riding and putting things away, everyone was tired, even Lee, who helped a lot in the frantic preparations.

Horseback chatting. Thanks to Lee for the pictures!

Kathleen and I both took soothing baths tonight. We both got a lot of sun. I will be ok, I did have sunscreen on. She’s really red, but is a good tanner. Whatever, I bet we are out again tomorrow, even if we are sore.

What a day of fun and new things! When I checked the horses in the evening, all four plus Fiona were peacefully grazing. No one was running around!