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Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas is Sunday

Between work, which has been unusually busy for the end of the year, and getting ready for Christmas, blogging just kind of takes a back seat. The back seat in a bus. The back seat in a very long bus. I am actually off work today but I am sitting in my office waiting for the UPS mans so one of my daughters has a little something to unwrap on Christmas morning.

Okay, the shirt. Kira hates this shirt. I am hoping Santa brings me a few more.Don't look to close. A tag is hanging out!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ebony continues on in her classes

Wow! Two weeks have flown past. Where does the time go? In this case it went into a BIG project at work and the Christmas season. Just lots and lots of things to do. I am not complaining. It is nice to know I have a job to come to tomorrow and I love the Christmas season, so no complaints at all.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ebony Goes Back to School

It takes a long time to figure horses out. Once you think you've got them figured out you learn that you really have no clue. Ebony came to us from Carly. Carly had Ebony trained very very well. Then we get her. Now we were used to Beamer and Mariah. They have very different personalities than Ebony. Beamer and Mariah consent to being pets. They stand patiently while people hug their necks, scratch their backs and generally love on them. Ebony, not so much. Unless there is food involved.

Christmas is Coming

This has always been one of my favorite Christmas songs. Enjoy and Merry Christmas

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ranch Sorting - Chapter 1

What a fine looking pair! We had just chased the final cow through the gate. Looks like Mariah still wants to keep chasing them.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ranch Sorting - Prologue

Last Saturday I was doing a lesson with Carly. Well, technically, Mariah was doing a lesson with Carly and I was watching and learning. I have really got to work on my hands. I am not keep them down near her withers consistently. *SIGH* Still so much to learn.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Great Escape

Thursday morning started like any other school morning. We had had breakfast and Kira was waiting at the door for the bus to come, Kumi was getting her lunch together and I was just getting ready to step into the shower. I stuck my head out of the bathroom door and Kumi said my horse had run off. I went back into the bathroom to look out the window expecting to see the horses running around the backyard. No horses. I stuck my head back out of the bathroom and Kumi was putter her coat on. I asked her where she was going and she said, some what more emphatically, YOUR HORSE ESCAPED. What...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Promotion Saturday

Last Saturday, 11/5/2011, was promotion Saturday at Westernaires. It is a nerve racking day for most girls. It is the day that you find out what team you will be on fro the coming year. The powers that be look at equitation skills (there is test the riders take in September where judges grade their riding skills), their diagramming points, participation and everything else that you do at Westernaires and decide what team you move to.

You can move laterally or you can move up. You move laterally when your scores indicate you need a bit more work and you move up when your scores indicate you can handle the next level. So Kumi got a slip of paper with a number on it that told her she moved to

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Hat and the Tag

It was snowing here the other day. I always wear my cowboy hat when it snows. I got into the truck and caught a glimpse of my reflection in the rear view mirror. There was a white tag hanging down next to my ear. Very strange. I have never seen that tag before. I looked a bit closer and discovered it was not a white tag, it was my hair. Damn.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

2011 Annual Show

Annual show has come and gone for another year. All the costumes and flags are packed away until next summer. Always a bitter sweet time. Promotion Saturday is this Saturday. Kumi will be moving to a new team. Will she be in White Division for another year? Will she move to Red Division? We will let you know.

That is Kumi in her final ride as a Shadow Ranger. She got to carry the team flag in serpentine.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Busy Busy Busy

I cannot believe that the last time I posted on my blog was September 26th! Wow! So you might be wondering what was going on that kept me away for so long. (On the other hand, you may not be wondering at all but I am going to tell you anyway because its my blog.)

First up - Injuries. When last we spoke (okay, when last I typed and you read) there were a couple of injuries in our family. I am happy to report that the injured parties are fine. We gave up trying to keep a bandage on Ebony and settled for keeping it clean and some antibiotic ointment on it. It worked find and the leg healed up nicely. In fact, she did so well we splurged and got her a nice new pair of shoes. Very nice. They are a low profile shoe in all steel. She rather likes them and shows them to whomever is willing to look. (Which is usually us as we try to clean the mud out of them.

I am fine as well with the single exception of not being able to raise my big toe. The Doc says that it is some nerve damage that will probably resolve itself in 18 to 24 months.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Just for Fun.

Somebody got a new horse at Westernaires!!

If you look closely you can see that they threw some hay and provided water for the little guy. Glad to see the owner is caring for the horse.


We had a couple of injuries this weekend. One horse and one non-horse. Saturday was a Westernaires day. We had to be thee at 6:30am and didn't leave till about 2:30. Long day. Especially since the day before was a grooming night so we didn't get to bed until 11:00 and we had to be up at five to feed and load up the trailer. But we were the very first trailer to show up so we got the best sparking space. That is kind of nice.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Feeding Time

I feed the horses in the morning. By rights, I should make the girls get up and care for their horses but I like the early morning feeding. It gets me up and gets me out for some exercise. I also get to enjoy some pretty spectacular sunrises. It is also pretty entertaining.

The horses know what time breakfast is served. All three of them are lined up at the fence staring at the back door just waiting for it to open. When I get to the gate all the noses come over the fence and start checking my hands. I am known to bring carrots out with me in the morning. Not every morning, but they always check. Once satisfied by either munching on a carrot or having confirmed I have no carrots (or the occasional peppermint), they walk around the barn and into the stalls to supervise preparation of their breakfast.

They watch intently as I set about setting up breakfast. First step, get down a hay bale and count out the flakes. Currently it is seven flakes. I think they are learning to count. I can feel their eyes on my back as I stack the flakes up for easy distribution. Next I open up the grain bin and start measuring out the grain. They are totally focused on me now. They are making sure I get it just right. If Mariah thinks I am not moving fast enough she starts running her teeth up and down the bars are the stall. When I glance back at her she tosses her head at me and says, "Hurry Up! I am HUNGRY! By the way, you are a 1/2 ounce short on my grain, , make sure you correct that before you serve me."

The next step in the ritual is to take the grain out. Beamer is the first one there. Beamer and I are working on where his nose should be. In my opinion, his nose should be about three feet away from me until I set down his bowl and step away. In his mind his nose should be in which ever bowl is closest. Negotiations continue. And they are going in favor of my opinion.

Next bowl down is for Mariah. She prances around tossing her head until I set her bowl down. Finally Ebony gets her bowl. From the first moment I walk out the door until I set her bowl down she maintains a low nicker. She walks around calmly and is not pushy but you can tell she can't wait. While the three of them are eating I spread the hay around the pasture and start mucking while I wait for the next ritual of the morning feeding to begin.

Beamer is getting extra rations. We are trying to get some wight on to him before winter and its proving to be tough. He is low horse on the food chain so he gets pushed of the hay easily. I spread the hay around such that no one horse can control all the food and that helps. We are also giving him twice the grain we give the other horses. And he eats slow.

The mares just hork their grain down as fast (and messy)as they can. Then they start looking for more. Then they start looking at Beamer. Ebony has learned, very quickly I might add, that she is not allowed to eat B's grain. She finishes her grain and heads for the hay. Mariah thinks that if she can't see me, I can't see her. So she starts to walk towards B. B pins his ears and swings her butt towards her but Mariah just ignores him. If I stay out of sight she will stick her nose in his bowl and the two of them will stand there and eat B's grain. B doesn't like this very much but is a gelding to do? The mean old mare just can't be beat.

But I don't stay out of sight. As she starts walking towards B, so do I. She sees me and walks past B to a hay pile. She throws a look my way that says, "See. I wasn't going to eat his food. Honest. I just wanted this hay over here." This morning she actually trotted down to the feeder when I came out. As soon as I turned around I heard trotting feet and turned around to find Mariah trotting towards B. I went towards B and she trotted on past to a different hay pile trying once again t make it look like that was her intention the whole time. Every morning its the same thing. Whenever she thinks I'm not looking she heads for B's bowl.

I enjoy mornings. I really do.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Building a New Driveway

One of the projects hanging over my head has been to build a new driveway to the back. We have a very steep hill from the street down to the back. Look at the fence rail in front of the bush. That gives you some idea about how steep the hill is.

So how does one go about building a driveway? I have no idea.

But, I have a tractor!! I have dirt. I have a large pile of broken up concrete.

Westernaires Starts a New Tenderfoot Class

Kira joined Westernaires. Her induction was August 26th and September 10th was her first ride. Here she is on the rail.

Friday, August 26, 2011

How to catch a horse

There they are, the three Musketeers. The three of them get along pretty well. As long as food is not involved. Then Beamer gets pushed to the side until the "ladies" are done eating. In the picture above all the food was gone so they could be nice to each other.

Monday, August 22, 2011

White Olympics 2011

Westernaires White Olympics was this past weekend. Westernaires is divided into three divisions, Red, White and Blue. Blue division is the entry level riders. They don't do any shows but they do have an inter club competition for horseman ship. Next year, early in the summer, watch this blog to see how Kira does in here first inter club competition. White division is the middle level and Red division is the top. Red division travels to a lot of places for shows and they have their big show in November. If you go to the National Western Stockshow here in Denver you have probably seen Red Team doing their show. Kumi is in White Division and every August, just before school starts, white division puts on their big show for the year. It is a two day event and it is judged.

The show starts with White Grand Entry. The kids have to try out for the team and Kumi made it. This is Kumi and Beamer in their post position for serpentine. The show takes place at the local fair grounds so sometimes the backgrounds for pictures are, well, less than photogenic.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Rain Clouds

I took this picture from my cell phone. This was a practice ride at Westernaires one evening when the sky was filled with dark clouds. The sun found an opening and the resulting contrast between the bright sun and the dark clouds was spectacular. I'm afraid my cell phone camera didn't do it justice.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fall is sneaking in

Little touches of fall are in the air. On the 11th we had our first morning below 60°. The evenings and nights now have a cool edge that is really quite pleasant but bodes of things to come. Soon the deep green of the trees that has invited us to sit in their shade (and invited the horses to a snack) will be replaced with the reds and yellows and browns of autumn (and the horses will still snack). The mornings will begin to sound like "school mornings". As the air grows colder in the mornings sounds carry father and are crisper and the mornings sound different. Ever since I was a kid, it is a difference I have always noticed most pointedly at the beginning of school year. The girls start back next week, Kumi as a Sophomore and Kira in her first year of middle school (7th grade). It wont be long until a light jacket is appreciated as you go out the door in the morning yet you can still ride in short sleeves in the afternoon. It is a interesting time of year as our little slice of the world prepares for it winter slumber.

Sunday was a good day. I got to ride Mariah by myself. I love riding with my daughters but I don't get to do a lot of drills with Mariah when I'm having fun with the girls. So it was just Mariah and me. We started with drills to work on collection and maintaining a gate. She is doing much better and feeling much more controlled. We were trotting in a nice controlled slow trot in a straight line and she was doing a fair job of holding her pace. So I urged her up into a lope and away we went. She is fast! It was a blast. I still need to work on her breaks. But once I did get her stopped we went up and down the steep banks of an empty pond. We argued over stepping on the concrete bridge (I won). We argued over snacks. With the grass being as high as it is, she figured out that she only needed to drop her head a little to get at the seeds on the top of the grass so she won as often as she lost. And maybe best of all, when we were working on or circles, she cued off of my seat for the direction I wanted her to go. That is a pretty cool feeling!

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, Christmas is 131 days from today.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Happy Birthday

Kumi celebrated a birthday yesterday. Beamer got all dressed up for her Westernaires to help celebrate. The picture is not the best because there was hay nearby. Happy Birthday to Kumi!!

Speaking of hay, the great free feed experiment is over. It failed. They were up to two bales a day. For three horses, that is a lot of hay. The neighbor came over and asked when Mariah was due she had gotten so fat. So we are back to tow feedings a day. I am contemplating some NibbleNet feeders. Actually, I am thinking about making my own to cover the feeder. I have an idea that might work really well. Trouble is, me sewing skills are not nearly good enough to match my grand designs.

What really ended it was the cost of hay. It has gotten expensive. I have it delivered because I do not have a trailer to haul my own. It cost me $8.00 bucks a bail. When you need 150 bails that adds up in a big hurry. Could be worse. I hear Texas is paying about $16.00 bucks for a bail. Part of California have been paying upwards of $20.00 bucks per bail. ANyway, two bails a day was both expensive and too much food.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Horses and Vacations

So you have horses and you want to go on vacation. If you are boarding your horses go and have a great time. If your horses live in your backyard then owning horses and going on vacation almost become mutually exclusive terms. I know one guy who raises Desert Arabian's and he and his wife took seperate vacations for 20+ years!

Well, we wanted to go on vacation so we needed to figure out what to do with the horses? On one vacation my Mom and Dad were kind enough to come over every morning at about 7:00 am and again at 6:00pm to feed the horses. Interestingly, Mom and Dad had planned a vacation for exactly the same week we did this year (they claim it was a coincident but I'm not convinced) so they were not available.

Its summer vacation for the schools so one of Kumi's friends who has fed in the past was not available to feed this time. What to do? Kira to the rescue. She really wanted to take the horses on a trip. So I got on-line and searched for horse friendly bed & breakfasts in Colorado. There were several. We chose one just outside of Winter Park. Kira wanted to go to one near Pikes Peak but with temperatures in the mid to upper 90's, I wanted some place cool. At 9000 ft, the temperatures were cool. It felt wonderful. We even needed a blanket at night!! I loved it.

The horses loved it too. We've had an unusual summer in that we got hit by monsoon rains. Normally, we are good for an afternoon shower that cools things off. Not this year. We had about 10 or 11 days in a row where it just poured. (It even flooded our basement again but that is another story.) We went on our vacation the last week of July. Normally, by that time of year things are starting to dry out. Not this year. This is what the horses found when they got out of the trailer.
Lush green grass that tickled their belly's, inside and out. (Do you see the little scratch right next to Ebony's eye? Trailer accident. A few days before we left on vacation Ebony came up lame. She was limping bad. I took her to the vet to rule out joint problems which she did. Ebony needed shoes. All that rain made her feet soft and when things dried out she bruised her feet. All four. I took her to the farrier for a set of shoes. I backed her out of the trailer and when her back feet were on the ground she decided she needed to rear back. She smacked her head on the door frame of the trailer. It must have hurt something fierce because when I got out she curled her upper lip up and wrapped her head around me with this look on her face that said, "OW! OW! OW! OW!" Poor horse. She didn't seem to believe me when I told her it was her own fault. Go figure.

So over to the farrier we went. He found the right size shoes and went to work. When he was done with the first foot Ebony wouldn't put her foot down. It really hurt. But when she did put it down she discovered that that foot felt better. She was eager to get the next foot done. And the Next. And the next. She winced with each hammer blow but when it was all done the farrier was scratching her back and said she should be much more comfortable with the shoes. At that very moment Ebony heaved the most contended sigh I have ever heard a horse heave. She didn't limp at all as we loaded her back in the trailer and headed for home.)

So where was I? Oh yes, happy horses. We let them into the pen and they set to work. Beamer is our flower child. He was at peace with the flowers.

Ebony enjoys the tall grasses.And all three of them enjoyed laying around for a spell. We didn't ride them that hard. We stayed on the property (some 30 acres) and mostly walked to give Ebony's feet a chance to recover. (If you look closely you can see that Mariah is actually eating while she is lying there.)

No, the horses did not eat all that grass in that pen. Our horses live on an acre that they allow nothing to grow on so they get hay. This much green grass could cause problems so I mowed the pen and shoveled out the clippings. Yes that's a lot of work to do when one is supposed to be on vacation. On the other hand, I slept quite peacefully knowing I would not have to deal with three cases of colic in the morning. I would let them into the adjacent pen for a few hours each day to let them enjoy the green, lush grass.

I rode Mariah a lot and made some progress with getting her to collect. I had the most fun at a small wooden bridge. She did not want to cross that bridge. She would stand in front of it and dance. I used light hands and feet to keep her focused on going forward. When she finally went forward she launched herself across that bridge. It was only about a 6' bridge and I think only one foot actually touched the bridge. So we turned around and went the other way across it. This time I got two feet on the bridge. By the end of the second day she was crossing the bridge at whatever pace we were doing. Pretty cool.

Once while crossing the bridge heading for the barn she decided she was done for the day. She made a break for the barn and did not appreciate me turning her around. She decided to buck. That is a first for both her and for me. I have never been on a bucking horse. I am proud to say that I have not fallen off a bucking horse (yet)! I stayed on, got her head pointed back to the bridge and way we went. She was fine after that. I am glad her heart wasn't really into bucking me off or we might have had a different outcome.

Anyway, we had a wonderful time. We did nothing. We cooked steaks and Smoores over a camp fire, we watched movies, sat in a hot tub and went out to eat once or twice. It was so very relaxing! We all loved it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Been a while

Things have been busy. We have been trying to do some work around project house and then it started raining. Every day for about the last two weeks it has rained. Not little showers like we normally get. No, it pours. I am really afraid of what is going to happen to my barn when things start to dry out. Too much water has run towards it which means water has gotten under it. I have some concrete floors and our Colorado soil has bentonite which expands. It expands enough to break things.

I did complete one project before the rain started, a retaining wall. Here is the before:
And after:
That was a project well done.

I mentioned a while back that I was putting the horses on free hay. That did not turn out as well as I had hoped. Mostly because hay is now at $8.00 per bale and the horses would go through 2 plus bales per day. Ebony and Beamer still look ribby and Mariah developed a terrible hay belly and she looks bad.

Okay, not totally bad, she looks kinda cute with the hay highlights in her mane. Note that the picture conveniently does not show her hay belly.

I think I insulted her the other night. We are working with Ebony on longeing. She is a pistol. One of the hardest things to learn is how to hold and control the longe line. When the horse you are trying to train is a brat it makes it all the harder. So I put Mariah on a longe line and let Kira longe her. Mariah is great. I had fun longeing her for a while and moving her back and front feet around. When I took off her halter she let me scratch her and then she took off at a dead gallop. Tore across the yard. She bucked, she leaped she stopped and snorted. It was pretty funny. I love my horse.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Wedding in the Family

My niece is getting married. Hard to believe. It was just a few months ago that she was 9 months old and we were baby sitting her. Now she is the bride to be. So I made them a set of wedding pens. It was a bit of a family affair since I had some help with the embroidery. Here is the finished set.

Here is how its done:
Step 1 - Select the kit to be used and cut the pen blanks to length. In this case the blanks are emerald green and amethyst to match the wedding colors. The brass tubes need to be set into the blank so the blank is cut to that length.

Step 2 - Get creative. I wanted to incorporate the wedding colors in both pens. The Bride's favorite color is purple so I put a green end on hers. The Groom's favorite color is green so I put a purple end on his. I cut a piece of brass plate and glued it between the colors. A little epoxy and a night spent in clamps produces the blank.

Step 3 - Drill the finished blank to accept the tube.

Step 4 - Mount the blanks on a pen mandrel, mount in the lathe and turn. This was nearly complete when my chisel caught and the blank blew out. That means the blank shattered and flew all over the place. Fortunately I was wearing a face shield so while I heard pieces hit the shield, none actually hit me. That would be nasty. The lathe is turning at nearly 3200rpm so when those pieces come off they come of with enough speed to cut. Its easy to recover from, I just used my chisel to clean the tube off and cut a new tube. I was glad it wasn't the piece with the brass in it. Those take longer to make.

Once the turning is done it is time to polish. I start on the lathe and then move to buffing wheels. They shine up really nice.

And I am happy to report that the Bride and Groom loved them!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stall Rest and rainy days.

Beamer got hurt. I have no idea how. He got a deep scrape high up on the inside of his right rear leg. Real high. Like just below the stifle high. There is nothing in the pasture or the barn that he could have scrapped it on. My only guess is that he got kicked. By Ebony. She has been asserting herself a bit lately and I saw her actually bite Beamer at feeding time the other day.

Well, B's leg was sore and the cut was a little deep so it was time for some antibiotic cream and a bandage. We got out the stuff and put a nice pad with antibiotic cream on it, wrapped that with brown cotton gauze and wrapped that with vet wrap. It looked pretty good. We stood back to admire our work and B picked up his leg. You know how they are, if there is something tight on their leg they have to pick up their leg and shake it. Our fine job of bandaging shot right down to his hock and stayed. Nuts. We tried again only this time we used tape to hold things in place. Again we stood back to admire our work (Kumi was helping) and again we failed miserably. Obviously I am a newbie to this whole horse ownership gig and my bandaging skills have not progressed. Frankly, I hope I don't have many opportunities to practice bandaging considering.

So we put B on stall rest for a couple of days. He wasn't real thrilled with the idea but what are you gonna do when somebody locks you into a stall? What was interesting is the other two horses. In one of my earlier posts I told you that we were trying to get hay in the pasture all the time. So far, it has been working out. Mariah is a bit heavier than I would like while Beamer and Ebony are still a bit ribby. And they are eating more. Time to order hay again.

Anyway, they normally spend all day camped out around the feeder. But when B was in the stall, the other two would go up and stand next to him. It was kind of cute. I tried to get a picture but they saw me coming and figured treats were in their future. They weren't but by then the picture has passed.

And then it rained. It rained as hard as I have ever seen it rain in Colorado. I sent these two pictures to the girls who had just finished giving the horses bathes a couple of day before the rain started.

How can you be mad at somebody who looks as happy as these two do?

On the down side, at 1:30 in the morning my phone rang with Kumi's ring tone. She had water pouring in her window. Really big nuts!!! I told her to go get towels and I ran outside and started the tractor. I had been doing a pit of earth work earlier in the day and I had (stupidly) left a ridge of dirt across a drainage path. It was just tall enough to create a pond t hat was deeper than Kumi's window well was tall so her window well filled up. The windows are poorly fitting and just let the water pour in. I used the tractor to scrape the dirt back and the pond immediately began to drain. Right towards the other window well that was also starting to fill. So the tractor and I headed around to the back of the house and cut a small ditch that channeled the water away from the other window well. It worked! I love my tractor. Not as much as my horse, but I love my tractor.

Now all I had to do was go in and clean up the mess. Which means taking everything out of her room, pealing back the carpet and dragging out the padding which is nothing more than a big sponge, vacuum out the water and set a fan to dry things out. This is the second time this has happened to us and I learned a lot from the first round. (Apparently not enough to actually prevent a second occurrence but as Scott Adams says, we are all idiots sometimes.) If you call Servepro and have them do the work for you, for a 12 by 12 room with relatively little water it will run you anywhere between $750 and $1500 to have them do the work. Insurance will generally not cover this as it was outside water coming in, more commonly known as flooding.

But, if you can do it yourself, you can get things cleaned up for around $300. The trick is to act fast. Get the walls wiped down immediately. Within the first 12 hours peel up the carpet and get the padding out. The padding cannot be saved so don't even bother. Next step is to get the water out of the carpet. A shop vacuum will not do it, they are just not powerful enough. You need something will real suction power like a carpet cleaner. I called Stanley Steamer and they came out and "cleaned" the effected area and it only cost $99.00 (it would have been less but that is their minimum charge). As soon as they are done, get to the rental store and rent a carpet blower. The trick here is put the blower UNDER the carpet. Just fold back a corner, put the blower on the floor and then fold the carpet back over the top of the blower. A clamp helps hold things in place. Turn the blower on and let it run for about 3 days. The carpet kind of blows up like a big balloon. Since its cheaper to rent by the week you can let the blower go for a whole week. By placing the blower under the carpet, it forces air up through the carpet and it is much much more efficient at drying things out. If you can get things done within the first 24 hours the chances of growing mold go way way down. The tricky part is to find a carpet installer who can then come back and relay and stretch the carpet for you. Unless you know how to stretch carpet, I strongly recommend you get a carpet installer to do this.

And there you have it, do it yourself disaster recovery. Not for everyone but certainly not as difficult as we are led to believe.

Oh, and I did learn my lesson this time. Since that window is a single pane basement window that is never opened, I purchased a piece of 1/4" Plexiglas and siliconed it into the window frame. The piece of Plexiglas that was 32 by 14 was $54 and I thought that was crazy and wasn't going to do it. But then I remembered what it costs to clean things up when water gets in and decided that $54 is pretty darn cheap insurance. Now water cannot get in if the well should happen to fill up again.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer is Nearly here.

Horses are strange critters. I am thinking I should change the name of my blog to "Horses are Strange Critters". Case in point - weight control. All winter long Beamer, the Arabian, looked good. He had healthy layer of fat and had no trouble staying warm. As we came into spring I cut back on the grain a bit within a few weeks I could play the Xylophone on his ribs and I am afraid that his hip bone will punch out of his skin. Same with Ebony. She cam to us in February with a health layer of fat and now I can count every one of her ribs as well. Mariah, on the other hand, is at the perfect weight. I can feel her ribs but I cant see them. Nuts. Someting had to change.

I decided that I needed to change the feeding regime. Horses prefer to eat about 25 hours out of every 24. It is much easier for us care givers to feed them twice a day. Great for us, not so great for the horse. Their stomachs are empty after about 15 minutes. There is a lot of research the indicates allowing horse to graze is by far the best way to feed them. Our normal feeding schedule was 6am and 6pm. This has worked well for us and the horses have been healthy over all. But we are now on summer schedule for Westernaires so this schedule does not work on Thursdays. On Thursday we have to be at Westernaires by 5:30 and ready to ride at 6:30 and its a two hour ride. When you have horses on a feeding schedule they get to know that schedule and they wait for you. They stand by the gate and stare at the house willing that funny looking two legged horse feeder to come out and feed them. When you interrupt that schedule they get cranky. Ever try to ride a hungry horse? Lets just say that they lack focus. Well, that's not true, they are VERY focused. On getting food.

After chatting with a few people I decided that putting the horses on free hay made the most sense (for the horse - terrible economic sense with current hay prices!). My local feed supplier had just gotten is some great little round feeders. I cannot handle big rounds or even large squares. This little feeder will hold a little over two small bales.

It took a few days to ease them into the idea that they will always have food around. They have gotten the idea and now they are working out the pecking order which usually means Ebony has to wait for a bit before she eats. I have also noticed that seeds from the hay settle to the bottom and Beamer loves those seeds. So he digs his head down to the bottom and munches on those. To make access easier, he pushes hay out on the ground. This works well for Ebony and Mariah seems to think it makes perfectly acceptable bedding for a quick nap.

So far, I am really pleased with the results. When we want to go riding the horses are much more attentive to us, much less focused on trail snacks. I worked with Mariah last night from 5:30 to 6:30 on collection and speed control and she was a different horse. She was really listening to me and we made good progress. After the ride was fun too. Usually when I take the halter off she dashes for the food. Last night she put her head against me for a good scratch. So I scratched her. I scratched her nose, her cheeks, her ears and her neck. For about 5 minutes I just scratched her. Her bottom lip went all limp which is horse talk for, " Ahhhh"

Here is a picture of the three of us as we headed off for a little ride. We had a ball. Mariah still has a bad habit of trotting off if I give her any slack at all. When she does that I turn her into a circle to slow her down and collect her. Once she was collected I put her back on the trail until I feel her pick up her stride when she shouldn't. So I circled her the other way. We did A LOT of circles. What made it fun is that we were playing follow the leader and I was in front. Beamer and Ebony were following so we were all doing circles down the trail. There was much smiling and laughter.

See Mom, I DO have a helmet!!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

Remember the picture from this post? Rain Rain Go Away I got to spend some time in the seat of my tractor and pull the box blade around the pasture. The rain held off and now my pasture is at least flat. I am not so worried about the horses getting hurt now. I also used the tractor to correct some drainage issues. All the rain caused a lot of erosion that collected along the grasses just outside my back fence. The pasture turned into a pond with heavy rains so I carefully cut the sediment out from under the fence and created a small drainage channel to allow the water to escape. I love my tractor.

The inspector came on Friday to inspect the panels I installed. Everything that I did passed just fine. What I didn't know was that the utility is requiring that the meter socket be changed so I got a correction notice for that. I am a little irritated by that because the county building inspector is enforcing something that is not covered by any code. In essence, they are enforcing a policy for a private commercial company. I am considering complaining about it but the inspector was actually doing me a favor. He could have passed my installation but when the utility came out to reseal the meter they would have made me change the socket and then I would have had to pull another building permit. So the inspector was actually saving me time and money.

My Mom and Dad came over for a little Bar B Q on Monday. I asked them to come a bit early so Dad could help run some wire and copper tubing up to the new evaporative cooler. I had purchased a new drill bit that is 162" long (three pieces each 54" long that couple together) so that I could drill a hole from the basement into the attic. It worked perfectly. So I hooked the copper tube to the end of the bit (it is designed for this!) and I crawled up into the attic. I had to crawl through some trusses and wiggle may way back to where the bit had come up. It was incredibly cramped but I did get a hold of the bit and I started to pull. Then Murphy came to visit. When I finally pull the last of the bit up through the wall there was no tubing connected to the end. Nuts. There was no real practical way to get the tube into the wall at that point so it was time to regroup.

Dad had a great idea. We could run the tube and wire down the wall next to the furnace flue. It was perfect because we had a reference point. I drilled a couple of holes in the top plate. One hole went in perfectly, the second hole was a nightmare. I have no idea what was up there but wood bits would not drill through. Fortunatly I had a long 1/2" twist bit and I finally got through. I assembled two section of my long bit and fed it through one of the holes. I started to drill and something did not feel quite right. I pulled the bit back up and Murphy had struck again - the bit had come apart and half the bit (the expensive part) was now stuck in the wall. NUTS! To make a long story short, we were able to find the bottom of the wall we were drilling through, cut a large hole in the bottom, retrieve the lost drill bit and pull the wire and tubing into the wall. We then enjoyed some very tasty grilled Italian sausage prepared by Kumi.

Saturday was a Westernaires day and it was weird. EHV-1 is in our state so Westernaires was in lock-down - no horses in, no horses out. Kumi had to rent a Westernaires horse for her class. But it was really weird to be at Westernaires and not see a single horse trailer. Kira and I did manage to get in a couple of days of riding. We stayed close to home because of the EHV-1 virus. We are staying away from the equestrian center since that is a place open to anybody with a horse. Better safe than sorry. I enjoyed every minute of our ride together. I am working with Mariah on speed control, collection and brakes. We are making good progress. Kira and I rode in a pair in a figure 8 and tried to keep our horses side by side. Its tougher than it sounds.

Kumi and Kira gave Ebony and Mariah baths. There is nothing quite so wonderful as a clean horse. They are soft and their manes and tails are fluffy. And they don't smell like sweaty horse.

This last picture is one reason why I love our new house. Here are Kumi and Kira after spreading the hay around. They were just goofing off and having a great time and afterwords, they were walking back to the barn arm in arm. One of those moments that parents treasure.

(Note: this picture was taken before the pasture was graded.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011


That's right, our barn was vandalized. By our horses.

Apparently, when I went out to feed the other morning (about 5:30am) I got a bit distracted and left on of the stall doors open a bit. About 4:00pm I got a text that said, "Naughty, naughty horses." Since it had been raining I figured that they had been rolling in the mud again. I was wrong. They had discovered the open stall door. It wasn't open very far but they had a fix for that. Simply push against the door until the bottom board holding the guiding wheel comes offthe post and presto, they're in.

Once in, they are staring at about 90 bales of hay. Yum Yum. I imagine the conversation between the horses went something like this:

Horse 1: WOW! Look at all that hay.

Horse 2: Cool.

Horse 3: Which one should we eat?

Horses 1 and 2: One?!

Horse 1: Lets try them ALL!

And so they proceeded to start pulling bales off the pile and sample each one looking for just the right bale.

Horse 1: This one is to small!

Horse 2: This one is to dry!

Horse 3: This one is not sweet enough!

After about 4 bales the grooming isle was so full of hay that they couldn't really get any more down. But they did manage to spread those four bales around pretty well. And then they pooped on it. At some point, the Arabian Bandit (as Beamer will hence forth be known) decided that that tantalizing smell of grain needed to be investigated and figured out how to open the grain barrel.

About 4:00 Kira went to check on them because it was raining and she couldn't see them. Ebony is usually forced to stand in the rain so if its raining hard we will throw a rain sheet on her to help her stay a bit more comfortable. (In Colorado the rain is cold and their summer coat will not keep them warm during a long, cold, rainy night.) She found Mariah in the grooming isle munching on hay. Ebony in the door of the stall with a bale of hay wedged in the door munching away and the Arabian Bandit with his head in the grain barrel contentedly munching away.

Oh-oh. To much grain is BAD for horses. Colic bad. Dead in 24 hours colic bad. I normally give each of them 1 quart in the morning mostly just to supplement the hay. I looked in the barrel and it looked like the Arabian Bandit only ate a few pounds but we had to be careful. Of all the horses to get into the grain, B was probably then best one. He does not take huge mouth fulls, he just nibbles his way through his grain. Takes him twice as long as the other two to eat his grain but that's okay.

The vet suggested that we exercise them a bit so we took them for a walk. We would have liked to ride but it had just stopped raining and the footing was a bit too slippery for comfort. So Kira and I put halters on them and spent the next hour an a half walking the horses around the neighborhood. It was kind of a nice walk actually. Kira and I chatted and I need the exercise as well.

When we got back we checked stomach sounds, all good. Though Ebony got in trouble. Ebony was brood mare and does NOT like an ear pressed into her side. She tried to cow kick me a couple of times. Tried. Enough said.

We put them back in the pasture and then one of the differences between kids and horses became apparent. If the kids had vandalized the barn, they would have cleaned it up. Instead, I was cleaning up the barn while the girls worked on school projects as this is the last week of school. I am bagging up the fouled hay, sorting out the clean hay and cleaning things up. All the while there were three horses following my every move. Ears up, eyes bright, looking very innocent and expectant, wondering when I was going to give them some more hay. The ran away briefly when I turned on a horse eating drill to drive some screws into the stall door guide to fix that.

Just before I went back in to start dinner, I spread out a small bit of hay so that I wouldn't have to deal with the said eyes and mournful faces of three horses who didn't get fed at feeding time. (It was just a small bit of hay and the vet said that would be okay.)

I am happy to report that all three horses were fine the next morning and the pasture was full of poop. No colic.

Horse people must seem really strange to the rest of the civilized world. Not many people find poop an acceptable topic for conversation.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rain Rain Go Away

It has been raining for a while. It has been raining for two and three days straight. That is very unusual for Colorado. We normally get afternoon showers and once in a while we get a day of rain. Last Wednesday a trash can was left out for a few hours after the trash men came by and in that short period it collected something over 2" of water. That is a lot of water! We need it. We need it badly. We just don't need it all at once. There was, and still is, some concern that there will not be a first cutting of hat this year. The second cutting was questionable. At least all the rain should help get our hay crop back to something that will keep hay prices reasonable.

I have come to hate the rain though. Mostly because the horses love it. Actually, its not the rain they love, its the mud. Here is Mariah.

What the picture does not show well is the mud in her main and the 6" of her tail at the very bottom that is a "mud club." Since she is a Morgan I can grow her tail REAL long. Long enough right now that it drags a bit. In the mud. Here is what the mud on her flank looks like.

Nice thick coating. Takes a while to knock it all off with the metal curry. Its even harder to get the mud off of her legs. A mud brush will not work, I need to use the metal curry. I hold it between two fingers so that I can't apply a lot of pressure but she still doesn't like it. I knock off what I can and then follow up with a mud brush. Usually, it's late summer before all the mud is finally off. That is one of the advantages of not being an owner of a show horse, I don't have to obsess over the mud. My oldest does. Her horse must be show groomed for parades. The ONLY advantage to shedding season is that the mud does come off easily and it takes a bunch of hair with it.

I haven't quite figured out why the horses like to roll in the mud so much. I have it narrowed down to two possibilities. First, the thick layer of mud keeps the biting insects off of their sensitive skin. Second, they like making their mommies and daddies stand there and groom them for at least a couple of hours at a time. Knowing how horses think, I am convinced that its the second reason.

Here is another reason I hate the rain. It creates horsy hell. This is the ground just outside the stalls.

What is lost in the picture is that most of those holes are as deep as the horses fetlock. About 6" or so. So all that mud get packed around their ankles and into their hoofs. Whats worse, when that stuff dries if gets nearly as hard as concrete so it is very treacherous for them to walk on. Once it dries a bit more I will take the tractor with the box-blade and smooth things out a bit. The whole pasture looks a lot like this.

The other bad thing about this mud is that it makes the hoofs more susceptible to bruising. The farrier came out last Wednesday, when it was pouring rain (LOVE my barn with the grooming isle!!) and trimmed. When we got to Mariah he was concerned about her front feet. Laminitis concerned. She showed a little inflammation near the white line and lot of discoloration on her sole. He wasn't convinced that it was laminitis because of the way the sole looked. The inflammation started at each bar and wrapped around the front of the frog. She is not lame at all, which was a good sign, but I called the vet.

Turns out, a week of standing in the mud softens the hoof structures a bit. I did a lesson on her and the only place to work her was on some hard pack. Mariah, being a go-horse, was trotting with determination, as she always does, and that. combined with the rains softened hoofs, was enough to cause some bruising. She is going to be just fine.

We are having a nice weekend, very sunny, and the pasture is drying out. Not quite dry enough to run the box-blade over, but better. In a couple of days it will be dry enough. In a couple of days, rain is back in the forecast. Nuts.

Friday, May 13, 2011

This and That

Well, life on the ranch goes on. Just to bring you up to date, here is what is going on.

Trailers: I put my two horse trailer on on May 2nd and sold it the very same day for only slightly less than what I was asking for. I was amazed! The proud new owners picked it up on the 6th. I did some of the financial two-step and our new (new to us at least) three horse, goose neck trailer came home on the 12th. I would love to load our tack in it but

RAIN: It started raining on Wednesday the 11th and it rained all day and into the 12th. When I went out Wednesday morning I was greeted with this:Those are icicles hanging from the eves of the barn.

It takes me between 20 and 30 minutes to muck things up (which is impossible when the entire field is muck) and feed the horses. By the time I was done, this is what things looked like"Those are now flakes reflecting the flash and surrounding Mariah as she munches happily on her hay.

Our back yard is that "wonderful" Colorado clay and the top 3" has basically turned into snot. Its actually a pretty good workout to walk around in. I hate it. Unfortunately, the horses love it. More specifically, they love to roll in it. And the have. Repeatedly. As the mud dries on their coats it attains the same basic structure as concrete. Ever try to clean dried concrete off a furry object? The only saving grace is that they are not completely shed out so the mud comes of somewhat easier than it will later this summer. It is the only redeeming grace for shedding season.

The vet is coming today to do spring shots. She is also going to check Ebony over who is looking a bit off. The vet asked me to put her in a stall and isolate her so we can check the goes-ins and the goes-outs. (Is she eating and drinking and pooping and peeing) I was not looking forward to doing this as it meant slogging through three inches of boot-sucking snot. The first step was to set up a stall to keep one horse in and the other two out. This is accomplished fairly easily by nailing a 2x4 across the opening at chest height. Actually, I nail one end and tie the other end off so if need to open it quick, I can. Next step is to go catch the horse. Not needed.

Ebony is the curious horse in the bunch. She saw me doing something in the barn so she figured she better come up and check things out. While she was coming up I got a few treats from the tack room. She stepped in to get the treats, the 2x4 came down and presto - isolated horse.

Last step was to get water in the stall for her. I filled the bucket at the spigot and brought it in. To keep it from falling over, I have a lead rope wrapped around the bars of the stall that we hang a water bucket from. It has a bull-snap on the bottom that I hook through the bail of the bucket. For those of you unfamiliar with bull-snaps, it usually takes to hands to open. So I set the bucket down and picked up the lead rope to get at the snap. Ebony put her head over my shoulder and tried to taste the lead rope. Then she tried to help me open the bull-snap. Her lips were all over the rope and my fingers. (In a nice way) I got the bucket on the rope despite the help. I'll let you know what the doc says.

A few days from now, when things dry up a bit, it will be time to take the box blade to the pasture. As the horses walk through the mud it leaves their hoof prints all over. Rather deep hoof prints. Up near the barn where they spend most of their time, they have churned the earth into a right nice mud pit. But as it solidifies once again into concrete it makes the footing quite treacherous for the horses. So I run the box blade around the pasture and it smooths everything out quite nicely. The only trick is to do it when its dry enough for the tractor to actually get some traction.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Good Neighbors

One of the "features" of our new house is a septic system. Every couple of years you need to pump out the tank to give the leach field a rest and get the solids out of the tank. Today was my day. Its the first time we have had to do this so it was a bit of a learning experience.

First step, figure out if you have a single tank or a divided tank. How do you figure that out? You are either smart enough to ask the previous owner (I wasn't) or you dig up both ends of the tank. Did I mention I have a tractor? At least digging up both ends was easy. For future reference, I only have a single tank. Good lesson.

Next step, find somebody who pumps out septic tanks. My neighbor, Bob, has lived in the neighborhood since he built his house there in the late 60's. Ask the neighbor. We talked a bit a figured out that he needed his tank pumped as well so we set up the truck to do us both at the same time. That worked well.

Step three, figure out how to get the truck into my backyard. You see, the hill into my back yard is to steep for most large truck to use. They can get in, but they can't get out. Thank heaven for good neighbors. Bob said the truck can use his driveway to get into my back yard. How, you may ask? Simple, there is a nice double wide gate between our yards. He lets us use it all the time to take the horses out into the greenbelt. (This will become a problem shortly, as you will see.) The truck arrives so I need to go open the gate. It has a chain around it as the horses figured out how to open the gate and get into Bob's yard for afternoon snacks.

As soon as the three horses heard the chain rattle they came a running, well, at least a trotting. They saw the gate open and the large rumbley scary thing behind the gate was not a problem. They split up, one from the north, one down the center and one from the south. I was running back and forth trying to shoo them off just long enough for the truck to get through. It took a couple of minutes but I did it!

20 minutes later it was time for the truck to leave. This time I decide to do it the easy way. A flake of hay spread out just enough that the three of them could each nibble on a pile and we had no problems opening the gate to get the truck out.

The only thing that really surprised me was the Beamer did not have his head in the middle of things. He usually does. When I am using the tractor I usually have his head in my face. Doesn't scare him at all. But he didn't like the truck. Maybe it was the smell he didn't like.

Oh, and there is a step four. I need to fill a 5 gallon bucket up half way with horse manure (preferably hot and steamy) and dump into the tank to get the right bugs back to work. At least I have a reliable source for horse manure. Unfortunately, it also seems to be an endless supply.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Picture Day

Saturday, April 30th was picture day at Westernaires. Here are a few pictures from that day.

This is Thing 1 in her White Grand Entry Costume.

This is the White Grand Entry team. One Boy. Smart kid.

This is a girl and her horse enjoying a quite minute between rides. It was cold that day. Really cold.

This is the Shadow Riders costume that they will wear for the shows.

And this is the Shadow Riders team.

Father Daugter Dance

The last day of April was a busy day. It started with Westernaires and ended with a Father Daughter dinner and dance for Girl Scouts.

Thing 1 was a sleep over birthday party so it was only Think 2 and myself. Here is a short video of Thing 2 and her friends dancing.

The video reminds me of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire". Remember the scene where Prof. McGonagall is teaching the Gryffindor's to dance? She tells them to pick a partner and all the girls jump right up and all the boys stare at their shoes. Watch the video again. How many dads do you see out there dancing with their daughters? Some things never seem to change.

The night was fun. We had dinner catered by Carrabba's Italian grill that was very tasty. Dessert was provided by the girls scouts in the form a cake decorating contest. We got to vote on our favorite cake and then we got to eat them. Nothing better than fresh homemade chocolate cake.

I did dance with my daughter and loved every minute of it. This is likely her last year in Girl Scouts so the next time I dance with my daughter may very well be the Father Daughter dance at her wedding.

The dads were then coerced into a game of musical chairs. I made it through the first round. At the end of the second round, just I was sitting down, this rather large bottom came flying in from out of nowhere and knocked me clean out of the seat. Wow. Full contact musical chairs. Didn't see that one coming. The rather large bottom was himself knowcked out in the third round.

When the evening was over Thing 2 told be she was so happy that we went. She had really wanted to go and she loved the time with Dad. Life just doesn't get much better.

Friday, April 29, 2011

New Trailer

I might have mentioned that we have expanded from a two horse operation to a three horse operation. Part of that expansion requires that our two horse trailer be magically stretched into a three horse trailer. I tried one approach but that just bent the fender.

(Side Bar, Tangent, Butterfly chasing, whatever you want to call it: There is a piece of angle iron that the front of the fender attaches to that got bent in my little fender bender. I figured that I could straighten it by applying a little ingenuity. I took off the old fender and the tires and backed the tractor with the back-hoe attached up next to the trailer. With close to 1500 pounds of break-out force generated by the bucket cylinder, I figured that I could straighten it out a bit. Nope. Pushed the trailer and the truck around a some, but the angle iron didn't move. I next attempted to coax it back to straight by applying some energetic blows with a sledge hammer. Nope. That is on stout piece of angle iron! The trailer is in the shop now. They have more (pronounced "proper") tools than I do so here's hoping they have better luck that I did.)

I thought about hooking a big chain to the back of the trailer and hooking the other end to a phone pole and seeing if I could stretch it into a three horse trailer that way. With is tough as that trailer is and with my luck being what it is, I probably would have pulled the phone pole over so I decided not to risk it. To much paper work if (when) something goes wrong.

Instead, I stopped by a local trailer dealer on the way home from work yesterday and came across the three horse trailer you see here. It was a trade in from somebody who took very good care of it. I ended up purchasing the trailer before they had even started cleaning it up before it was even listed as being available. It was such a good deal that I just couldn't risk losing it.

One of the more interesting features is the floor. The lady who used to own it transported some rather expensive horses so she had extra padding installed in the floor. It should be much more comfortable for our horses. Once they figure out it wont eat them. I am betting that the first time each of our horses sets a hoof on that floor they will back out immediately, possibly energetically. *sigh* Trailer training is always such fun.

I'm happy. The trailer will carry our three horses plus all the tack. It has two tack rooms.

My bride is happy. The price was such that we have enough money left to put some sliding glass doors in the back of Project House to take advantage of the view.

Thing 2 (the younger child) is happy because now we can actually take all three horses to places and go riding together.

Thing 1 (the older child) is very bummed. Its not a four horse trailer.

Hey, that's a 75% approval rating. Obama would kill for a 75% approval rating so I guess I'm doing pretty good!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

At the end of the School Year

The end of the school year is rapidly approaching, May 31st in fact. And all across America that means its time for the students to display their works of art and perform musical wonders for parents, siblings and grand parents.

We have art night which is always fun. All the hallways are decorated with works of art created by the kindergartners through the sixth graders. There is paper mache, pottery, paintings, chalk drawings, painted neck ties and more. It is fun to be there with your child as they take you around to see all the art they have created. Their eyes light up as their art work is admired and praised by us proud parents. It is also fun to see the other parents being dragged around by the hand by there very excited and proud children.

The sixth graders put on their traditional end of the year choir performance, "American Pop Forever". They sang songs from the 50's through the 90's. There were solos from "The Supremes," "Elvis," "Bon Jovi" and more. It was about what you would expect. And it was wonderful! The kids wore costumes from the various era's and pulled of a pretty good set of moves to the iconic "YMCA".

Kira is a flutist in the band. Last night was their final concert of the year for parents. I was very impressed with how far they have progressed since Christmas. At Christmas they were very mechanical and a bit off-key. For this concert they were enjoying the music more and less concerned about mechanics so they were much smoother. They played, "Don't Stop Believing" and you can tell they enjoyed that piece of music the most. They were loud and on beat and the music flowed. Here is a short clip of one of the songs. If you look closely, you can see Kira's forehead just above the music stand on the conductors left.

I have come to really enjoy the art nights and choir performances and band concerts. With all the troubles the world is facing right now, when I see the kids smiling and proud of what they have accomplished, all is right with the world. It seems to me that our future is in good hands.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Horses are Strange Critters

Saturday was, as always, a Westernaires weekend. The day was rather interesting from the beginning. We loaded Beamer and Ebony into the trailer and left Mariah home alone. For nearly eight hours. She did fine, better than the other two at any rate.

Kira is doing lessons with Carly on Ebony to help them come together. Kira has been riding a horse for just a couple of months and she is loping bare back. Comfortably and confidently. Kids are fearless. Ebony still tests her but Kira is patient and Carly coaches her until Ebony does what Kira asks. Its fun to watch because Kira's brow creased in frustration suddenly blossoms into a big bright smile. In one lesson Ebony would not pick up her right lead. She wouldn't even step up to a lope from a trot no matter how hard Kira kicker her. I got Kira a dressage whip from the trailer. Kira gave Ebony one pop with the whip and Ebony went right into the lope on the correct lead. Ebony's attitude changed from, "I'm not gona do it and you can't make me!" to. "Oh! You meant it. Why didn't you say so!!"

When we got to Carly's place for the lesson we unloaded Beamer without incident. Ebony is a bit trailer shy right now. She loads okay but she is very nervous while in the trailer. On Saturday when was backing out of the trailer and something spooked her. I did not have a good hold on the lead rope as I had just untied it from the hitching point. She spooked and shot out of the trailer backwards, stumbled and fell over backwards. It was a bit scary as I watched her rump hit the ground and she started to go over backwards and came down on her left side. Her shoulder hit and I watched as her head at the end of that long horse neck headed for the ground. Fortunately, her neck muscles are strong enough that her head did not hit the ground. She looked a bit surprised at finding her self on the ground and hopped right back up. I put her into the trailer a couple of times right away and she backed out of the trailer for slowly. I think she scared herself a bit because she was very careful and slow when backing out of the trailer.

After the lesson we loaded up and headed for Westernaires. Unloading at Westernaires went without incident, Ebony backed out slowly and calmly. And then things got interesting. First, you need to know that Beamer does not like Ebony. He chases her around the pasture and pushes her off her hay. Which is no problem since there are enough hay piles around at feeding time that she just finds another pile. Since it was our first time taking Ebony to Westernaires, we decided to walk her around the grounds to get her used to all the other horses and the activity all around. She was nervous and we worked a lot an getting her walk with her head even with whoever was leading her. She needs more lessons. The surprising part was Beamer. When Ebony walked away from the trailer he started winning and pacing. He did not want her walking away! What!? He doesn't like Ebony and now he can't stand to be separated from her!? I don't get it.

Later that day it was time for Kumi and Beamer to head to dressage class. I walked up with her to watch the class. About 5 minutes into the class my phone rings and its Kira. Now Ebony is having separation anxiety from her bully! She is pacing and pawing and just will not calm down and Kira is a bit nervous and not sure what to do. So I go down and do some more leading lessons with Ebony. She was better but there is still more work to be done. If I tied her at the trailer and stepped out of sight she immediately started pawing and whinnying for Beamer.

When Kumi got back we loaded up the horses and headed for home. The horses were unloaded without incident so we are hoping Ebony has learned a little lesson and trailering will be a bit easier for both her and us. (Besides, we absolutely do not want her shooting out of the trailer and falling over backwards again. No fun at all!) We were also hoping that Ebony and Beamer had discovered that they can actually get along. Nope. As soon as the halters came off and the hay came out, Beamer started pushing Ebony off the hay pile she had selected. Strange animals. But we love 'em anyway.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Busy Times

We have entered that time of year when time speeds up and there is never enough of it. It is the last four of five weeks of school and our schedules fill up until bursting and something has to give. Usually, we just run out of time for riding the horses. And that leads to a whole other set of demands on our time just deferred to a later date. Kira is preparing for a school trip to Washington D.C. (I have to have her at the air port by 4:15AM on Mothers Day). Her sixth grade class just performed their class musical, which was a blast. She is in honors choir so she has a few more performances and we have a bit extra work to do in math. Nothing major but it all adds up.

So, Kira has joined Lacrosse. They practice twice a week and have games on Saturdays. I got to go to here first game which they won 7 to 4. I did not get to go to her second game which they lost 13 to 8. Saturdays are Westernaires days so I have to take the horse(s) to the fair grounds. That makes it hard to get to her games. Fortunately, most of her games are very close to the fair grounds so I should be able slip over to watch. As soon as she gets her uniform I will post a picture of our Lacrosse star.

Kumi tried out for a spot on the White Grand Entry team for Westernaires and she won it. That means that at the beginning of every show Kumi and 17 other kids will present the colors and do a short routine. To get on the team the kids have to show a high level of horsemanship and control of their horses. They are expected to show a much higher level of coordination in there drill and they have to do their drill at a fast lope. She loves loping on her horse so she is having a grand time.

Kira did a lesson on Ebony last night and it was a good lesson. Ebony tested her and Kira was frustrated. But Carly talked her through it and in the end, Kira won. Ebony would not go into a lope no matter how hard Kira kicked her. So we got out a dressage crop. Horses are funny critters. Ebony ignored the kicks but when Kira popped once with the crop Ebony said, "Oh! You mean it!" and stepped up into a very nice lope. Kira's look of frustration turned into a smile pretty rapidly after that. Kira loves to lope as well and Ebony has a nice smooth lope.

I went for a ride on my horse last Sunday. It was crazy windy, the kind of wind that makes horses crazy. As I climbed up into the saddle I thought to myself, what am I doing? Mariah is a bit jumpy under the best of conditions and I am going to take her out into the open space where horse eating plastic bags and evil waving signs wait to devour her. So, being male with that gift all males have for ignoring common sense, off we went. We had a great ride. She was much more collected and controlled in her trot than ever before. I credit Carly for that. Carly told me in our last lesson that I need to expect more from Mariah and keep the pressure on until she does what I want. So I did. We did circles and figure eights for a while and she got the idea.

So off we went down the trail. The first small spook as at a plastic sign advertising a housing development. It was waving in the wind and she tried to side step it. I didn't let her and she knew what was coming next. She is not allowed to get past a scary thing until she puts her nose on it. She put her nose on it almost immediately so we proceeded down the trail that runs next to the ditch. The coyotes must travel along that trail pretty regularly because she was real jumpy the whole time. She didn't spook but I had to keep a short rein on her to keep her focused and calm. The next small spook was a steel sign with the name of the open space on it. It didn't wave in the wind but it is as tall as she is so it was obviously about to eat her. Again, she touched it with her nose with very little coaxing on my part but we spent about 20 minutes at that sign just trying to get her to stand quietly next to it. I will go back to that sign again for the practice.

The big blow up came in the place I least expected it. We were trotting along at a nice slow trot and all of the sudden we were side-passing at a lope. I am happy to report that my seat is sure enough that while I was unbalanced for a moment, I did not come off. Cool. So what spooked her? A dark spot on the trail where a puddle had been. There was no water, just dark mud. It took me five minutes to get her step over that horsey eating black-hole of death.

(Note regarding horse psychology. Horses look at the world by determining the answer to two questions. Question 1, will it eat me. They always assume that it will eat them until proven otherwise. Assuming the answer to question 1 is no, they ask the second question: Question 2, Can I eat it? It is amazing what horses will eat. The horses of people I know at Westernaires have eaten the following: Oreo's, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, live fish, cheese burgers and one likes Pepsi.)

We spent about two hours on the trail and working on some circles and figure eights and all of it was fun. It was so much fun I didn't even notice my knees were getting tired until I got off the horse and me knees almost buckled when I hit the ground. I held onto Mariah for a few steps until my knees remembered how they are supposed to work and then all was good. A good day of riding.

Project house has another project that is one step closer to completion. The new electric panel is set and some of the wires a terminated. This is the new wire waiting to be connected to the meter.
The board at the bottom of the pictures is just holding the conduit in place while the insulating foam cures. Once cured, that board will go away.

The next step will be to connect the new panel to the meter and then move the circuits from the old panel to the new. That will be an all day project so I am thinking Memorial day. Nori has to work, there is no Westernaires and no Lacrosse games so I will have the whole day. And I will need it. Moving those circuits from the old to the new means each one has to marked, a new piece of wire added to it and then connected to the new breaker. Its not hard, but it is very time consuming. And the price of wire doesn't help at all. I bought 50' of 12/2 romex wire (the kind of wire used for nearly all household wiring) and it was $62.00. $62.00!! That is over $1.00 a foot and that is just crazy! Ah, well... Such is life.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring Break

Last week was spring break for us. I took the week of and we had a bit of a stay-cation. I loved it but I think a few of the other family members felt a little cheated out of a trip. Sometimes its nice, REAL nice, to not have to worry about packing and driving and flying and activities that vacations usually entail. Sometimes its just nice to stay home and do not much of anything.

Monday was spent riding and dealing with the drama of pre-teen girls. My oh my. We had five girls of varying experience trying to ride two horses. It actually worked out pretty well. Beamer and Ebony were very well behaved and generally did what the rider wanted them to do. Mariah was a freak a usual but I didn't mind. She has really taught me balance. As to the drama, a sixth girl was invited but felt that she was invited out of order and was mad at everybody else. For the whole week. *sigh* That's all I think I'll say about that.

Tuesday was spent putting a new window in the bathroom. Just as winter was starting Kira went to open the window one night. We heard this terrible crash and ran into the bathroom to find Kira in the corner surrounded by broken glass. The windows are so old that when she went to open it the top of the pane fell out of its track and towards Kira. She tried to stop it but missed so she got out of the way. In accordance with long standing household rules regarding the breaking of glass, she did not get in trouble. It wasn't her fault and we were glad she was not hurt. Interestingly, it only broke the inside pane so we stuck the window back up and dealt with a cool bathroom for the winter. The new window is a vinyl frame and really brightens up the room. Plus, I was able to use the project to justify the purchase of a new tool (toy)!

I spent some time in my shop trying to unpack it and get it organized. It has been in boxes for nearly two years now so I am kind of excited to see it actually start to take shape. Mostly it was puttering with purpose.

We made three trips to the video store so we spent a lot of time being lazy and watching movies. We rented some good movies like "Inception" and a positively terrible movie "2010: Moby Dick". It was so bad it was fun.

I love watching bad monster movies. When Nori and I were first married we were living in a 350 square foot apartment that had a small video shop across the street. It featured a huge selection of fantasy titles of the ilk "Warrior Women from Mars". We were living on one income of $7.00 per hour and the movies were only $0.99 each which was about all we could afford. We played them a behemoth of a VCR that was a hand me down from Nori's cousin. We had the best time watching those movies. Good memories.

Anyway, Saturday was spent at Westernaries. 9am to 5pm. Kumi was selected for the White Grand Entry team which is limited to about 16 kids selected from about 30 or so that tried out. She was excited when she got the e-mail that she made it and I don't mind the extra time. There is so little of it left. She graduates in three years and then off to college. It was a beautiful day with a high of about 80°. I even got a but sunburned. (No mom. you may not scold me again!)

Sunday was a bit different. It snowed. Great big fluffy flakes. It was actually quite pretty and relaxing. As soon as the ground got wet enough to make some decent mud, down went all three of the horses for an extra long roll. So much for relaxing. Now we have mud to clean out of tails and manes and cheeks. Now, Kira was feeling a bit disappointed that we didn't go some place so she said all would be forgiven if I would take her to the pottery place. Pretty good hustle. So we went and painted pottery Sunday afternoon. We spent a couple of hours and just enjoyed painting and talking about nothing in particular. The results will be available on April 10th. If they look half way decent I will post a picture of what we made.

Since it snowed on Sunday it reminded me of a poem Kira wrote in 3rd or 4th grade. Its a bit out of season but here it is.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Trying to insert a video

I broke down and updated my cell phone. My Razor was about 4-1/2 years old, the battery was getting week and the girls were texting me more than calling me. Trying to return a text on the old style keypad was a pain in the fingers. (Thats my excuse and I'm sticking to it!) So I updated to a smart phone. It is the Samsung Galaxy S and I love it. The Android operating system is just too cool. I can talk to this phone and it understands me (though some might claim men aren't all that hard to understand in the first place). I tell it to search for something on Google and it finds it. We (the phone and I) are still trying to figure out how to dial somebody by name but we'll get it. One of the coolest things is that I can ask the phone for directions and it gives them to me. It doesn't heckle me and I don't have to stop, just press the microphone button, tell the phone where I want to go and it tells me how to get there. When it comes to texting its even better. It has an app called swipe that allows you to trace words on the key pad without ever lifting your finger. It is amazingly accurate and fast. But if that is still to slow I just press the microphone button and speak and it types what I say!

It also has and HD video camera built in that I had to try. Yesterday Westernaires held tryouts for white grand entry. When the white division sow comes along on Father's Day, the Grand Entry teams rides in first with the flags, US Flag, State Flag and Westernaires flags. The kids have to try out. They go into an arena and they have to demonstrate good control of their horses riding in pairs and with a flag. So here are a couple of videos of the tryout. They are really short and I am posting them more to see if I can than for anything else. One of them is rotated 90° and I can't seem to rotate it. Sorry, but know I know how I need to hold the camera to take proper video.