Enter Here for Surprises and Adventures

Hmm, the adventures thing may be exaggerated a bit, but I did get a new gate to go from our part of the property to the rest of the ranch. In addition, Chris smoothed all the dirt that had been disturbed when running the water line, and did a bit of grading, too. The chicken house area looks marvelous.

It’s all smooth now. At the rate the Bermuda grass grows, it will be covered in a week to ten days. Notice the feathers on the ground, which I mentioned in my previous post. It’s your fault, Bruce.

The highlight of the day was seeing this big gate that swings open mightily and allows me to easily head to see the horses. We had the gate already, so it didn’t cost anything. It’s very sturdy on the hinge side, since Chris drilled a big ole bolt through the roof support pillar. The other side is only temporary. The fencing project is not done, but at lease those of us who have to go into that pasture can do it easily (thus, Jim could drive the riding mower over the the horses to mow this morning).

I can now go from here to there without crawling under a fence or climbing over a fence and nearly knocking it over.

The entire family was pretty giddy about getting the new fence, as Lee shows here.

That man cracks me up. And there’s Alfred before I pulled those clumps of hair out.

Surprises and Adventures

I’ve used the new gate to go visit the horses twice already. Last night, I went to join Sara to feed them, and I got quite a surprise. In the field where the 18 cows should be, there were just three cows, each with a little white baby.

Who the heck are they?

These are not the 18s. First, they were afraid of me. Second, their ear tags were in the left ear, not the right. Um, where were my friendly cow buddies? Where was 18-1, bravest calf ever?

As I walked up to the barn, the Vrazels were driving by. They warned me of another surprise, a large cow and her newborn calf were in the pens. I said, hey, um, where are the 18s? Tyler laughed and laughed. “They’re in Oklahoma!”

Oklahoma? Yep, they sold them all and trucked them off when I was at work one day. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. Cattle ranching. Not for the sentimental. I am sure they got a HUGE payday out of those young cows, all of whom were due to calve in November. But still. Sniff.

On I went, and sure enough, there was a very large red Angus cow with a very small and shiny black Angus calf. I blurted out, “Hi, Sprinkles,” and Sara asked if I had to name everything. I guess I do. In any case, Sprinkles is cute as can be, and seems to have recovered from being sick and needing to be penned up. Mama, on the other hand, was mostly pissed off.

Sprinkles and I would like to leave, now.

She mooed and snorted and ran around until we left.

This morning, I came back to do some horse fun, around 9 am. It was NOT hot outside! But, dew drenched my shoes, since I wore the wrong ones. Sprinkles and Mama were still there. Between Sara’s dogs and Lakota having the utter gall to stand quietly tied to the gate, she was in a huff.

Lakota just stood there and ignored her. A real quarter horse! We proceeded head off down the race, to see how Apache would do. Sara rode Lakota, who plodded along like a livery stable horse and was generally uninterested in anything. I led Apache (hope to get riding permission soon). Here’s where it became and adventure, the good kind.

We walked all the way down the race, the place where he was refusing to ride earlier, and the place where he has been all nervous and pushy when we walked for the past month or two. Today, Apache walked beside me, not in front of me and not behind me. He stayed about two feet away from me. He did stop to get a mouthful of grass, but started right back up, every time. He did not crowd into me. He did not try to turn around. He did not rush ahead, or refuse to move forward.

He completely ignored all the “scary” parts of the path where there are big ruts. The scary tree got a nod. When all of the 19 heifers came thundering over to check us out and walk along with us, he and Lakota both looked at them, then kept going. The giant bull didn’t phase them. DAMN!

Sara and Lakota, with Fiona-bomb.

We then went on out to the big pasture where it floods (the bottom). We all walked and looked at stuff. Sara’s dogs came along, and no horse paid the least bit of attention. Even Fiona didn’t dawdle and pitch a fit. She followed right behind us cheerfully. Every time we went through a gate, everyone was fine. Even when Jim drove by on the lawn mower, they just stopped and looked for a minute.

WHO WERE THESE ANIMALS AND WHERE DID MY JUMPY HORSE GO?

I have no clue. Sara and I tried to figure out what was different. Well, we had Lakota instead of Spice…but Apache likes Spice. It was morning, not afternoon. He wasn’t starving. That’s all we could come up with. My attitude is the same (I am pretty calm even when he’s jumpy, to try to keep him calm).

We’re just in a good mood. What can we say?

I’m just going to have to accept that we had a wonderful morning, got lots of exercise, and ALL enjoyed ourselves (even Lakota, I think). I look forward to more of this kind of adventure and these kinds of surprises (but I do hope Sprinkles and his Mama go back to the pasture soon; she didn’t enjoy Sara and me pulling up some grass burs right next to the pen, either).

I hope you have some bright spots in your weekend!

A Fitting Tribute for a Fine Cow

You may remember that I wrote about how the Queen of the Wild Type Ranch herd, R45, had started going downhill, so she had to be harvested. She had led a long life for a cow, giving birth to fine calves and leading her herdmates for a decade and a half.

I was a great cow. I enjoyed my long and pleasant life.

I mentioned at the end of the article that her beef was not going to be sold, but rather donated. Yesterday, the Cameron Herald had a front page article about where the beef was going, to the local food pantry, all 400 pounds of it. Half will be handed out now, and the other half at Thanksgiving time.

If I were a cow, I’d be honored to know that I contributed nutritious meals for hungry people. She lived a good life and and had an honorable passing. Her memory will live on, which is quite something, for a cow.

Thanks to Sara and Ralph for coming up with this idea, and for inviting other local ranchers to consider doing the same.

I Competently Ranched

Actually, my neighbor, Sara, competently ranched and I assisted, but it felt darn good to achieve a series of competent duties.

As you may recall from yesterday, Apache reached over the fence and chomped into the tenants’ round bales, nearly ingesting some of the netting. We wanted to nip that habit in the bud.

It doesn’t take a detective to see the evidence of this crime!

So, we planned to put an electric strand along that stretch of fence. Hmm, there was already wire. It’s as if some large spotted horse had done it before.

So, this evening, I went to get the solar unit that was over by our shipping container. Smart me. I first checked for wasps. There was a Yellowjacket nest. When Lee came to help me, I got spray and removed that menace. Sara was relieved I’d thought of it.

Then, after dinner, I headed over to the horses, and we set up the whole system. It was teamwork! I identified which wire was which. She figured out how to open the screwdriver part of the Leatherman tool to pry it open to change the battery.

Competence! Note Big Red at back left, supervising.

We got it all hooked up, and in another stroke of ranch competency, Sara inspected the connection to see if Apache had re-damaged the wire since last night. He had! But I was there to turn off the power so she could fix it.

Sara is inspecting the fence. Apache has already figured out the power is on.

Ralph came by to see if we needed help, long after we triumphantly fed our animals. He was duly impressed! We did it.

Now, hooking up an electric fence may not seem like a big deal. But for someone who had never even been on a ranch property (other than caring for turkeys at the farm for sad children that Declan went to one summer), doing something without asking for help is a big thing. It makes me feel like I sort of know what I’m doing here! No more ranch imposter syndrome for me!

I’m just innocently eating this delicious, expensive hay. After this, it’s back to the old stuff, thanks to that darned wire.

Also, once again, we had fun. I’m just racking up the fun quotient for each day. Take that, stress.

Sunset Photo Shoot

Here’s another post high on imagery and low on content. Because I’ve been out as late as possible lately working with the horses, and because the dusty air has made for such pretty sunsets, I decided to do a fun exercise and take pictures of the barn residents and caretakers last night. Have fun with moody lighting and sweaty masked caretakers.

Excited about photo time.

Sunset and horse and donkey butts.

Hungry Apache.

Very clean Fiona.

Suna unable to get the light adjusted. But cute sloth mask.

Big Red insisted on her own photo. So dramatic.

Socially distant Sara, with Spice and Lakota.

This is how you have fun in the hot Texas summer of 2020.

Apache Love

Why am I writing about my horse relationship issues? Surely very few people who read my little blog are well-meaning but somewhat clueless horse owners like me. Well, the growth you achieve when working with horses (or other animals) spills over to all other parts of your life. I’ve become much more confident at trying new things, secure that mistakes will teach me important lessons, and like I’ve been saying all week, braver. (I’m still me, but I’m learning to love my little quirks and care less if the way I am isn’t how someone else wants me to be…that’s for later.)

On to yesterday. I almost didn’t go do work with Apache yesterday, because it is so damned hot, and I was feeling bad that I was bothering the neighbors. Then I told myself that spending time with my horse is one of the most important things I could be doing right now, so Mandi and I just waited until later in the day to take a walk.

Mandi is telling Apache to not be a dick. He’s not having any of it.

DAMN. After taking some photos of Mandi with Apache for some dating purpose or something, we headed off in a direction we’d never gone before. Now, bear in mind that prior to this, I’d never been able to take Apache in that direction farther than the big barn with the beef freezers in it. He has always gotten nervous, looked back at the other horses, and pranced around.

Mandi says, “Isn’t this the cutest little ass you’ve ever seen?” Note that she’s finally getting closer to shedding out.

Not today. He and I walked slowly and calmly down the driveway, with Fiona and Mandi following at a respectful distance (to be sure he wasn’t relying on Mandi, who was so busy on her phone that I’m sure she wasn’t sending him vibes). We walked, I occasionally let him eat some plants, we talked.

Standing on my tiptoes behind his giant belly.

I walked him to the big cattle tank/pond where he likes to eat the sedges, and he plopped his foot in the mud and munched away. We walked around the tank, and he didn’t even flinch when Fiona panicked due to not being able to see us and galloped to find us (a hilarious sight, I guarantee you). I never ONCE had to tighten the lead rope, and only once had to ask him to move over to the other side of the path (to avoid an electric fence).

When we got to the farthest I intended to walk, he looked longingly as if he wanted to keep going to the end of the driveway! Who IS this horse? We walked back, calmly. He was in no hurry to get to the other horses. We stopped to take some pictures. I dropped the lead rope and he just stood there, just as he’s been trained to do.

In other words, not only did he act like the “old” Apache, he acted BETTER. I’ve always wanted to be able to come out during the week and just walk around and hang out with him. I see now that I should have done what I did this week long ago (as Sara has repeatedly suggested and I resisted). It’s helped our relationship very much, and made both of us feel more confident. So, I say to Sara, “You were RIGHT!”

In this picture, we are hugging each other. Just resting in the shade and relaxing. It was really great. Photo by Mandi.

This weekend I’ll need to start riding again. I’ll stick to my plan of not using the bit again until his teeth are looked at (scheduled for the week after next). And next week I may try riding him alone, with Mandi, Sara, or Kathleen following along just in case I need them. The goal will be to feel safe to ride alone around the ranch at some point.

We’re on our way. Photo by Mandi.

Apache and I are on our way. Thanks for listening.

Brave Suna, Part 2: What Does It Look Like?

This is a two-part part 2. Looks like it will be two posts.

The Horse Part

Like a good optimist should, I got on that horse again today. I was a little concerned about my attitude, not because of Apache, but because I’d been reading Facebook and becoming more and more sad/angry/disgusted/insert other negative emotion here. So, I walked to the barn and put thoughts of calm, peace and love in my mind, buoyed by some deep breathing.

Sara and I had a backup plan today. She was going to ride Lakota, our boarder horse, and I’d ride Apache. If all went well, great (she predicted today would be wonderful). If it didn’t, we could switch horses (I am not competent to ride Spice, I’m told).

I don’t want to ride anywhere, now, Suna. (Photo from a few weeks ago, as you can tell by non-blue hair)

We started going down the Scary Row of Trees, where Apache has always tended to want to go back or rush. It took a while, but we got him calmly walking, did a bunch of practice circles, then walked in a serpentine formation all the way back. He did okay (not great), but he was paying attention. Everyone was brave.

So, I declared we would now try the race again. Brave! That lasted about 20 yards. Apache again was having nothing to do with walking down that path. I spent a rather exhausting 20 minutes where he simply didn’t do a darn thing I asked him to do. There was backing, turning, going sideways, head flinging, ear pinning. WTH?

See, we used to have fun.

Fiona, Lakota, and Sara just watched me patiently coax and prod, and urge him a LOT harder than usual. So, I got off again. I managed to only briefly lose my temper, so I consider that a success. Sara said I did way better in being patient yet persistent than most people. Probably those saintly natural horsemanship trainers would be more patient, but then, they would be better at “reading the horse” and figure out what’s up.

Sara got on Apache, and I walked Lakota behind them (so I got to hang out with a nice horse and get some exercise). I can’t say I was pleased, but I guess I was relieved to see that Apache acted the same with Sara, though she had more tricks she could do (because she would not fall off). She eventually got him tired enough that he went forward halfway down the race. She said that was enough, because he was still all worked up.

Cowgirl Suna on the fancy horse. Note that I am actually smiling, which is practically a miracle. You can see Fiona way back behind us. This narrow field is “the race.”

I got to a gate I could use to get myself up on Lakota, so I did get to ride him back. That was nice, and it was brave to get up on a new horse out in the middle of nowhere on a wiggly gate. He didn’t act weird or anything, and followed my cues just fine.

Western saddle, reins, boots, getting there.

Meanwhile, Apache never did settle down, though he did at least walk back. He was coated with sweat and only calmed down enough to walk in one circle at a calm pace, which we declared SUCCESS!

Once Sara dismounted, he was his normal self, although sweaty. As I gave him a bath, I realized I felt nothing but love for him, and curiosity about what was causing his problem. I wasn’t angry at all! I wish I had that attitude when my kids were small!

We’re all fine and happy now.

Interestingly, Sara had read a post from someone in a group she’s in who said their horse started acting extra barn-shy and strangely when a new gelding was introduced into the herd. So, maybe there is going to be a time of getting used to Lakota. Hmm.

So, what being brave and doing hard things the past two days has taught me is that just getting through a challenge counts as success. I am not going to give up on Apache, but will work through the issue, however long it takes, so we will both feel good about ourselves and learn a lot.

Will this attitude hold for challenges outside my immediate community?

About the Practically Perfect Palomino Pony

Here’s another fine thing that happened this weekend; we added a beautiful new friend to our little herd of equines, Lakota the Perfectly Perfect Palomino Pony. That is NOT his real name (I don’t know what it is, actually), and he is also not a pony, though he is of the smaller quarter horse type.

What’s that? Is that the sound of hooves? We are curious!

Sara, my horse partner and ranch neighbor, and I had debated this for a while, with her doing the most debating with herself. We only have so much pasture and don’t want to overload it. But, I have been promised fencing that will allow horses to hang out on our side of the ranch, which will help a lot with that issue.

Oh my gosh, that’s a horse! Oh my gosh, that’s a donkey!

Besides, Lakota is a horse who deserves to hang out with us. He already knows Spice, since they were owned by the same person for a while, and had spent time together in training, I think. He is beautifully trained by the same Parelli Natural Horsemandhip Method* trainer who trained all the horses we own, Kerri April, and used to belong to one of her family members when he was a fancy equine athlete. This means we don’t have to learn new ways to work with him; he’ll probably help train ME.

Mary and Sara chat as the horses check each other out.

Sara got Spice from her friend Mary when Apache’s occasional lameness issues made it hard for her to to the horsemanship activities she wanted to on him. Mary had found Spice to be a bit much too handle, but she loved Spice very much and only wanted her to go to a fellow Parelli-trained owner. Sara was it! I’ve enjoyed Apache, Sara has enjoyed Spice, and all has been well.

I have a star on my forehead.

Now Mary is moving to the suburbs and won’t be able to keep horses at her place anymore. She sold her others, but there was Lakota,** too old to sell as a consistent mount. She just wanted him to have a happy last few years. We said okay.

Lakota the Practically Perfect Palomino Pone, with the other guys behind him.

Now, Sara had never seen Lakota before, and was just happy to help out, since Mary said she’d pay all his expenses. We had enjoyed our old buddy Pardner very much, and he kept the other horses calm. We had hoped Lakota would be similar.

On Saturday, Mary and a friend brought him in their trailer. Sara took him and brought him down to the horse paddock. I could not believe what I saw. This may be the prettiest horse I ever saw in person, at least conformation-wise. He is built to be a barrel racer or other show horse. Compact and muscular (even at his age). His palomino coat is soft and shiny and somehow smells like vanilla.

At this point, I was saying, is this horse REAL?

Now, I’ve always been told that you get a horse based on personality first and looks second. DANG. He exudes peace and kindness, just like Pardner did! He is wonderful with people. How would he be with horses, we wondered?

This is the next amazing part. He went over to Fiona, who was wandering around looking well-groomed (briefly). They touched noses and sniffed each other. Hey. Hey.

Lakota: You seem okay. Amazing lack of burrs on you, donkey. Fiona: I’ll roll in more burs as soon as I get in the pasture, don’t worry.

When we put him in the pens next to where Apache and Spice were, he was all excited, as were they. He and Apache touched noses, then nibbled each other’s shoulders. Hey. Hey.

Spice jumped up and down and made mare noises. She recognized him! It took her a while to calm down, but soon everyone was standing nose to nose, happy as they could be. We left them alone to get used to each other with a fence separating them.

Hello, hello, hello.

Later that day, I got to ride Apache with the bit and bridle Mary conveniently sold to me, which was the same kind Sara was already teaching him with. I did not fail! I did it (and yes, I know there are other options; this stuff is all in Sara’s hands, not mine, since she’s training him).

After the ride, when everyone had eaten, we put everyone in the big pasture together. So much joy ensued that it brought happy tears to our eyes (yay, happy tears). They all ran around, then the paints showed Lakota all around the area. Then they suddenly realized they were in the GOOD grass and started eating away.

We’re all together!

It appears that Lakota is in good enough to do trail rides with us, though he has some heat issues and we will have to watch him. In any case, they all bonded really fast and don’t like being separated. That’s not bad. We are grateful to Mary for letting us share this grand old gentleman. He may not be perfect, but his introduction to our herd certainly was!

Hey, good lookin.’

*I do not endorse any particular natural method of training horses. I think they are all good.

**Why we end up with all these horses with Native American tribe names is beyond me.

Late Spring Bounty, Plus Drama, of Course

As the days grow longer and longer here in Texas, our harvest starts arriving. It’s lots earlier than in other parts of the US, where nothing’s ready until August, but hey, it gets hot here early.

Some Good News

This has been a great year, too, with the rain continuing to fall much later than usual. It’s raining now, in fact, and it’s only 79 degrees (too bad it was up to 93 at the end of our horseback ride this morning).

My shadow and the garden. Beans are to the right. Giant squash is in my shadow.

I think I’ve mentioned that our neighbor Tyler started a vegetable garden this year. Yesterday, as I was looking for chickens, I peeked in and saw a really, really big yellow squash. And Tyler is out of town.

So, this morning after putting up the horses and Fiona (who went with us on our whole ride and caused no trouble), Sara and I went in and harvested the giant squash and zucchini that were lying under the large, healthy vines. We have to hand it to Tyler, his fencing and netting combination have worked great to keep meddling animals, birds, and others out of his crops. We left him plenty of small squash to harvest for himself once he gets home.

Our buckets did not hold all the hugs squash, so I got creative. (photo by Sara Faivre)
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