More Horse Stuff

There’s always a surprise around here. Today’s surprise was a horse I didn’t know in my pens this morning.

Hello, I’m a large, black mare.

I knew that someone had come back last night after I went to bed, because the dog alarm went off. But I didn’t know who. It turned out to be the nephew and the stock trailer. I recognized Dusty, Remington’s buckskin buddy, but who was the black beauty?

I’m built like a brick house.

I finally figured out it’s Kathleen’s horse from the farm, T, who I’d only seen once before and who did not look quite so fine at that time. It turns out she’s here to get all checked out and such. How about that?

Look, I’m friendlier that Apache and Fiona!

Do you see how shiny she is? Her secret is living for 3 years in a herd of cows and eating grass (and cattle cubes). It works!

She seems happy to be around other horses, and they all seem to be getting along. And she is friendly under all that muscle.

Meanwhile

I didn’t go into detail about my lesson with Drew yesterday, but it was very enlightening to see how hard he is working to learn new habits and build good muscles.

Developing his back legs

He is now going over his little hill under saddle, backwards and forwards, and he is working on using a bit. He doesn’t like them, probably because he had a pretty uncomfortable one before I got him.

And he is developing patience.

We talked about the plan for him, and currently the thinking is to bring him back home at the new year to do ground work and grow to a more adult size. Then in some number of months he can get back for finishing. I’d still be bringing him in for lessons.

Canter practice

I got a lot out of watching Sara’s lesson on Aragorn, who had been feeling agitated for a few days after being spooked by a horse wearing a blanket. He was trying his best to annoy Sara, but she didn’t let him. We were impressed at how she kept her cool and fixated on getting the job at hand done.

Here I was trying to capture his red mane tips, but it didn’t come through.

We had a darned pleasant afternoon with our horses and our trainer.

Today was also pleasant. I walked Apache all over to build back our relationship. Yesterday he turned and walked away from me, but today he came up, eventually and we had a good walk. Fiona, of course, is the best. What a donkey.

We’re all good.

My bruises on my lower abdomen are swollen and painful. I hope it’s just healing. If it gets worse, I will have it looked at.

Fiona Makes a Friend

I was heading over to Sara’s horse playground today to get some poles for my playground. Fiona and Apache were in the dry pasture (unhappily). As I approached on Hilda the utility vehicle, Fiona began to walk away.

Maybe Suna will open the gate.

I noticed that there was a little bird beside her. How cute, I thought. Then I noticed it was going with her.

Let’s go over here!

I wondered why the heck she suddenly had a bird friend. Then, right before my eyes, I figured it out.

That blob above the poop piles is the bird catching a bug.

Yes, the little starling had figured out that as she walked, Fiona was stirring up bugs, making it easy to catch them. I was charmed as I watched them head out the gate and into the pasture. I guess that will be one sated bird!

While I was over at Sara’s, I watched her work with Aragorn on his playground. It was fun to see all the things he can do. Someday I’ll be able to side pass and all that cool stuff. I did get a nice preview of things I’ll learn in the future, which was a lot of fun.

Her serpentine setup looks much more legit than mine!

I looked to my right as she was riding and realized I was not the only audience member. There were many moos of applause, and I was happy to see Aragorn totally ignoring them, as he should.

That horse is fascinating.

I took all my poles (seen below) and put them in the round pen, for Apache’s future practice. I hope I have time to ride him and check it out tomorrow.

Sara’s fancy circle world, and my poles loaded on Hilda.

An Equine Visitation

Yesterday marked another milestone in working with all the new horses around the Hermits’ Rest and Wild Type ranches. Sara and Aragorn paid a visit to us. After the challenge I had riding Apache over there a couple weeks ago, I was really hoping this visit went more smoothly.

Everybody’s happy (even Vlassic, who hung around for the whole visit)

The lesson I learned was the ole Scout motto of “be prepared.” I thought I was doing a good job by heading out to open all the gates to our pasture, but I had not thought hard enough about the fact that horses are very observant prey animals. I figured Kathleen’s horses wouldn’t even notice Sara and Aragorn approaching and riding toward our barn…until the sound of thundering hoofs told me otherwise. At least it was pretty watching them run, especially Mabel, with all those legs. On to Plan B.

Who’s that cute donkey over there?

So, I told Sara to go on the other side of our fence, and I’d let her in our back yard, since dogs aren’t scary to Aragorn. I hoofed it on to the other end of our area, managed to shut the dogs into the house (yet another minor miracle), and opened the gate. Now, poor Aragorn was far from home, surrounded by weird things, like the pond, and getting distracted. After a bit of circling, Sara got off and led him (she had thought to bring a lead rope, so she was prepared!).

We got over to the horse pens with no further incident. Hooray! Then we were able to have a nice visit, discuss our training progress, our career progress, our families, and normal friend stuff. Since I rarely see others during the day, other than to say hello or goodbye, that was a real treat!

Aragorn is focused.

When it came time to go, I got to watch Sara ride Aragorn for a while, which was fun, since he’s so pretty and strong. I was more prepared for them to leave, because I shut my horses up in their pens, and shut Sara’s up in the outer pen (they had conveniently all come up to see what was going on, which was mighty nice of them).

Making circles.

I was able to go ahead and open all the gates, and Sara had a very smooth ride back home! I think we can do it again sometime! And one day, when I’m allowed to do more than go in circles and figure 8, I can go again, too (at least we’re doing well with the circles and figure 8, and I am happy to take our time).

On their way home

Other News?

At least here at the ranch, there’s not much other news. I needed this weekend to relax as much as possible in preparation for a hard work week, so that’s great. I do think a couple of the new hens have started laying, since I had four eggs this morning, and two were smaller. I hope the colored eggs start soon!

Artistic egg display.

Trixie comes back to work on Drew again today, I’ll get the start date for the pool tomorrow, and I think the other shipping container will show up soon, to complete the pen arrangement. All those things are good distractions from hurricanes, COVID, and other illnesses.

It’s always something, because that’s life! I’ll just do my best to be prepared and keep sending out that lovingkindness to the world.

A Horse Love Story with a Twist: The Whole Thing

[Somehow, most of this post got deleted when I went to publish it before. THIS is the real story!]

I’m excited to have permission to share this story! Yesterday I got to head out to a horse breeding and training facility in our area to visit Sara’s new love interest, a large Andalusian gelding named Aragorn. She met him last week and instantly bonded with him.

True love. (He has sweat marks from being ridden)

It’s a beautiful property, and we were surprised to see a beautiful colt on the road, prancing and dancing like a fairy animal. We said we bet he wasn’t supposed to be there. Sure enough, Glenn, the ranch owner, came running up to get the little guy. He was back in and coming into the barn to eat dinner by the time we got in.

That’s the culprit at right.

All the mares and foals just walk in and line up in stalls to be fed. All so well trained, and the foals were very friendly.

Dinner time!

Aragorn’s current owner bred him, so knows his history. Glenn told us lots about him and was very honest about why he is relatively affordable for a very well-bred European breed. He coughs when anxious, for example.

Getting ready to ride. These horses start our some other color, then turn gray. He looks like he was originally chestnut, like one of the colts above.

Once he got all saddled and we learned a lot about appropriate bits, Trixie showed up, and we watched Sara get a lesson in riding in the style Aragorn is used to. Sara is such a quick learner that I could tell Glenn was having fun telling her stuff and watching her figure out exactly what to do.

Teaching and learning

And, obviously, Sara had a blast as well. I got a lot of photos of the lesson that I’m going to send to her just to study her positioning and stuff, but my favorite pictures have to be the ones of Glenn gesturing, Sara working, and the two dogs who are exactly the color of the dirt, just sat and watched.

This may be my favorite

Just in case you are interested in what Aragorn can do, here are a few more pictures to click or ignore. To be honest, I just like looking at the beautiful setting of this ranch and its facilities. They are nice but not insanely fancy or anything. It’s “just right.”

Trixie has known Glenn a long time, but even she said she was learning some things watching him show Sara things, explaining the origin of the moves in Western dressage, and sharing history of equestrian sports. It was fascinating. And he is such a nice and generous man!

You can see the other geldings behind Sara. They were annoyed that their dinner was delayed.

The Amazing Part of the Story

After the “test drive” in Sara’s tack, we were just talking to Glenn. She asked if he did private lessons, and he said he hadn’t before, since he just retired from being an ER physician. Sara sat on Aragorn for a minute, thinking. Then she asked him, “Were you an ER physician in College Station 21 years ago?” He replied that he was.

When we were chatting (sorry for bad lighting)

She then asked if he remembered a blue roan paint colt named X that he trained. He didn’t quite remember, but said he could look it up. Sara said that was her colt she’d raised to work with before she married her children’s father. She mentioned her married name, and Glenn said that did sound familiar. So, we are pretty sure they met all that time ago when Sara had her precious colt that she had to later sell. Wow!

Back to Work

After we got over our surprise, Trixie got to work and adjusted the heck out of Aragorn. Just like with my horses, he ended up extremely relaxed. It’s always extra educational watching her work with a horse and diagnose where it has structural weaknesses and what could help it. Sara took a lot of notes.

Working on his neck

Meanwhile, I bonded with the dog and looked at all the other beautiful horses. I had no complaints whatsoever, and took lots of pictures of how they arranged their tack house, their tying mechanism and such, for reference when we get to setting up our new one.

Woof the guard dog has been busy guarding. He is very friendly to humans, though.

I knew Sara would like some “glamour shots,” so we went out and took some, even though Aragorn still had the sweat marks from her saddle pad. He is obviously fond of her already. They really had an instant bond, like he’d been waiting his whole life for her to show up.

At the end of the day, we all got to go take a look at the young stallion who was in the paddock next to Aragorn. He is most beautiful, like someone’s dream horse. They are hoping he will have a baby soon from a mare that was brought in to be bred.

I’m doing my trick. Where’s my food?

He’s been trained that he has to stand on that stump to get dinner, because he used to be pushy about his food. He was not thrilled that his food didn’t immediately show up, but he was gentle as a kitten, and apparently is a great riding horse. I’d love to see him in saddle!

The horsie gals.

We were pretty exhausted and sweaty by the time we were ready to go home, but had to take a selfie of us horse lovers in our unplanned coordinated shirts! We are a bit disheveled, but happy. I hope you enjoyed our love story with a nod to the past. I know you look forward to Aragorn coming home to Sara’s property and watching them progress in their skills.

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!

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.

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