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Sunday, February 27, 2011

A flury of Activity

The last entry glossed over about 6 months of real world time. A lot happened in that time that plays into keeping a promise.

You can see from the picture of Mariah that we bought her in the winter. We had moved into "Project House" (that's what I started calling the new house) in July of 2010. We closed on it in June but there was a little work that needed to be done.

House Work
Before we could live in the house there was some significant updating that needed to happen. The house had been built in '72. We do not think that the carpet had been changed in that time so the carpet had to go. The walls, of course needed to be painted and the kitchen just did not work. So we went to work. We pulled all the carpet out and loaded it on a borrowed trailer. (*sigh* I hear reality starting to line up for another check.) We tore the old kitchen out and what could not be salvaged for work shop cabinets went on the trailer. All the windows had poorly installed wooden shutters that came off and went onto the trailer. We hired a painter and they came in an repainted the entire upstairs of the house. That single change completely changed the feel of the house. I think we were all a little uncomfortable about the house but painting the walls a basic off white really brightened up the house and made it feel much better. And not all the walls are white, we're not that bouring. We have a nice purple accent wall in the master bedroom and Tira-Toes bedroom is light green on top, lavender on the bottom with a brown accent stripe. It looks really good.

The old poorly refinished brown kitchen cabinets were replaced with new natural maple cabinets that look wonderful. Technically the kitchen is still not done. I need to do a little work to install some cornice boards and finish the toe kicks. Trouble is, the shop is not up and running so I do not have access to all my tools yet. Hopefully by the end of this summer it will be done.

We had cement cutter come and cut a new window into the basement wall. We needed an egress window for the basement. That night, we got robbed. We had most of our stuff in the original boxes so the thieves came in and took all the stuff in boxes. They also cut the lock on the borrowed trailer and stole it too! We have always wondered what happened to the load of trash on the back. Anyway, State Farm worked with us and the replaced everything that was stolen. I might be able to save money by going to a different insurer but over the years State Farm has always done right by us.

We needed one more bedroom so we partitioned off the basement space and added a bedroom and a couple of closets. It is one of the nicest bedrooms in the house. A bit cool in the winter because of a poorly thought out heating system but a small radiant heater makes it comfortable.

Project House is now home. There are still projects to be done, but its home and it feels like it.

Horse Barn / Shop
Now that the house is livable, we need someplace for the horses. There were a few requirements for the barn: it had to have two stalls, a tack room, hay storage and a work shop for me. We decided on a barn that is 24' by 50'. The first 20' is the shop area then it steps down 2' and the rest is equestrian space. There is wall between the two sections to keep the dust out of my shop. Its is your basic pole barn construction and we love it. We have a place to stand and groom that is out of the weather.

Now, we almost did not get our barn. Our property is zoned A2 - agriculture up to 10 acres. We are 0.93 acre. Our property is 150' wide and 280' long. I was looking into building permits and when I read the zoning for A2 properties I realized I had a problem. On an A2 property there is a requirement that a building housing live-stock be located 75' from the side property lines. I could put one sheet of steel down the center of the property. I contacted the county and they told me I would have to ask for a variance and explained the process to me. We drew up our plans and submitted them to the county. I get a note a few days later saying they could not support my request for a variance because I had not explored all of my options to their satisfaction. Basically, they felt like I was not entitled to a shop. I was a little perturbed. So I called them up and asked them, "If I move all the bikes and mowers and motorcycle and the like to the barn for storage and put my shop in the garage, would they approve it?" They changed their mind and said they could support the barn/shop after all and they gave me a hearing date. $325.00 and 15 minutes later my variance was approved. We get to build our barn.

Fences
We now have a place to store our hay and a place for the horses to get out of weather. Now all we need is a way to keep them in the pasture. We had chain link fencing on three sides so all we needed as something across the front. We looked around a bit and decided on vinyl three rail fencing. The fencing guys came in the morning and by the end of the day we a fence a man gate and vehicle gate. And it looked good, much better than just going with more chain link fence. We are ready for horses. I called the hay guy and he brought out 150 bails of timothy and stacked it in my barn.

Side note on chain link fencing and horses - turns out the horses discovered that chain link fencing is a great place to scratch those itches on the butt. Every morning I would go out and some portion of the the fence would be leaning out. I would grab the pole and straighten it back up but those little steel posts can only take so much bending before they just break. There was only one solution I could think of. Off to the local ranch supply and a few dollars latter I have all the supplies I need to install an electric fence. It took about a day to install and I have not had to straighten a fence post since. The horses figured it out very quickly and we have not had any problems.

For those of you still interested, the tally:


Daughter: $900.00 for horse

Dad: $100 dollars for horse
$950 for trailer
$550 for receiver and hitch.
$300 first months boarding
$450 for saddle, breast collar and cinch
$120 for saddle pad
$200 for headstall, reigns and grooming supplies
$75 for miscellaneous sundries such as muck rake and bucket and the like.
$200 for trailer training
$1200 for four months board.
$50 for grain (Grain! Are you kidding me! Why do hay burners need grain! Next up - nutrition)
$1800 for about 6 months more of board.
$50 for 6 months of grain (we figured out a reasonable ration)
$1250 for knee care
$2300 for Mariah.
$3600 for a year of boarding.
$325 for variance request
$28,000 for a barn
$1200 for fencing
$500 for electric fencing (I have a lot of wire left over)
$900 for first load of hay

Home improvement projects are not included cause, lets face it, we would have had to do those no matter where we moved.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Finding Our Second Horse Mariah or How Not to Buy a Horse

The arrogance of guys sometimes surprises me and I'm a guy. We have had one horse for over a year now. If ridden him for a total of maybe 5 hours but have spent a fair amount of time grooming him. We have learned how to get him into the trailer and hauled him back and fort to Westernaires without any troubles. I am now a horse expert! (Anybody hear reality lining up to administer a full body hockey style reality check?) We have a new house and it is now time to find a second horse.

We actually have few criteria for a second horse. We want a horse with enough training on it so that The Instigator's friends and other non-horse type people can ride it. We want one that is healthy and sound (well, duh!) and we want one we can afford. And since we are horse experts now, our vast knowledge and a vet check is all we need to find the perfect horse. (Reality is skating a bit faster now and starting to line up for that reality check).

My niece found a Craig's Listad for a chestnut Morgan. Cute pictures, nice description and, most important to me, the price was right. So we hop into the car and off we go to see her. Here is a picture taken the first day we met her.


Not the best picture for conformation but since I didn't know anything about conformation (and I am the self-proclaimed horse expert!) its the best I've got.

I think we all fell in love with the big brown eyes. Her barn name was Squiggy. I hated it from the moment I heard it. All I could think of was "Laverne & Shirley" and the two guys known as Lenny and Squiggy. So not going to have a horse named Squiggy. But I digress. Squiggy was trained in dressage and had actually won two or three (sorry, don't remember the exact number) of blue ribbons. She obviously had some good training on her.

The owner brought her into a stall and we saddled her up and its time to ride. The owner put a unique piece of tack on the horse that I had never seen before. I asked about it and she told me they were draw reins. They clipped to the D-ring on the saddle and had a short piece of elastic that clipped to the bit. Thus tacked up, we headed off to the arena to ride. The owner hooked up a longe line and longed her a bit in each direction. She was very well behaved and collected. So The Instigator hoped on her back first and away they went. Squiggy was very well behaved and responded nicely. I got on and rode and she was well behaved for me. Tira-Toes rode her and had not a single problem either. We are VERY much licking what we see.

We decided to go ahead with the vet check. The owner was nice enough to transport the horse to the vet we were using for the vet check. She passed with flying colors. Really, the vet struggled to find anything negative to say. The worst thing he could say is that she has a very slight paddle in her front feet as she moves. So we decide to buy her.

The day we go to pick her up I ride her again. We didn't put the draw reins on her at first and she was a bit ill-behaved. That should have been a warning (reality is skating faster now) but we put the draw reins on her and she was a perfectly collected perfectly behaved horse. We took the saddle off and the owner wanted to show me something. She was starting to train Squiggy to pull a carriage. So she hooked up the long lines, ran then through a training surchingle and I got to drive her around the arena. I have to admit that that was a blast. I don't know why I enjoyed it so much but it was fun. She turned easily to cues and controlled her gait. I was really pleased with the horse and glad we bought her. So we took her down to the trailer, the owner loaded her up and Squiggy officially became Mariah. We headed for home. (Ominous skating sounds in the back-ground)

There were no problems getting her home and out of the trailer. We were still boarding at this time and there was a stall right next to Beamer so we put her in. She was nervous, as yo would expect, but no major issues. The next day we let her run around in the arena and roll and just generally get used to her surroundings.

After a couple of weeks, I decided it was time to ride her. The owner had given us her bridle so I put that on and she stood perfectly calm while I did. I did not have a saddle but I did have a bare back pad and since I was not going to do anything other than walk I figured that would be fine. Never mind that this would be the first time in my life I have ridden bare-back. No problem, I'm a horse expert, right? (skate skate skate) I put it on, cinched it down and lead her into the arena. I took her over to the loading blocks and got up on her back.

BOOM! Reality unloads a full body reality check right on me. As soon as I sat down on her back she took off. I wasn't ready for it and the next thing I know I am sliding off and headed for the ground. Since it is a cold January day, the arena, already wet from snow, is frozenhard. I land on my hip and right forearm and it HURTS! (I also think I hurt my shoulder in that fall. For about six months after that fall I could not use my right arm to lift more than maybe five pounds straight out in front of me. I couldn't pick up a gallon of milk. My shoulder blade moved in strange ways that shoulder blades don't normally move in. It didn't hurt unless I tried to pick something up so I never went to the doctor. Don't tell my mother that. She'll scold me. Now, a year later, I am happy to report that my shoulder is essentially back to normal.)

I takes a moment for me to collect myself before I stand up but I do get up. I limp (boy does my hip hurt) to where she is standing, collect the reins and lead her back to the loading blocks. I get back up on her back and she takes off again. But this time I'm ready so I do not come off again. But I quickly learn that I have no meaningful control over her and I jump off her back. Since this was a planned evacuation, I actually land quite neatly on my feet. Our first ride is done. And now, I admit it, I'm a bit scared of getting back on her.

It was not to long after this that it was time to move the horses to the new house. So we load Beamer right up into the trailer and go get Mariah. We take her to the trailer and she will not get in that trailer. She wont go near the trailer. Rather than force the trailering at this point we take Beamer to the new house and then I go back for Mariah. I am going to have to walk her back to the house. We have to be out of the barn today. Fortunately, the new house is only about a mile from the barn so it is not a bad walk.

I had a good plan for getting her home, I was going to walk her along the ditch road to avoid going up a very busy street. We walked all the way down the ditch road, a much longer walk than expected, only to be met with a locked gate and no way around it. Nuts. We walk all the way back to the barn and now our only choice is to walk along the busy street. My one mile walked turned into about a 3 mile walk due to that little detour. Oh well, I really do need the exercise. I am happy to report that we made it home with no further incident. We now have horses in our back yard. Pretty cool.

A few days later I took her to the trailer and tried again to get her into it with no success at all. None. Not even an attempt by her to put a foot it. Hmmm... I may not be the horse expert I considered myself to be. I need help. Its time to find a trainer. Again.

Now, for those of you still keeping tabs, this is where things are standing on the terms of the promise:

Daughter: $900.00 for horse

Dad: $100 dollars for horse
$950 for trailer
$550 for receiver and hitch.
$300 first months boarding
$450 for saddle, breast collar and cinch
$120 for saddle pad
$200 for headstall, reigns and grooming supplies
$75 for miscellaneous sundries such as muck rake and bucket and the like.
$200 for trailer training
$1200 for four months board.
$50 for grain (Grain! Are you kidding me! Why do hay burners need grain! Next up - nutrition)
$1800 for about 6 months more of board.
$50 for 6 months of grain (we figured out a reasonable ration)
$1250 for knee care
$2300 for Mariah.
$3600 for a year of boarding.

And this does not include the house and some of the things that had to happen there. More on that next time.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Big Decision

As previously mentioned, getting over to the barn on a regular basis was proving to be much more difficult than we have anticipated. No small part of the problem was that our daughter did not like to be there alone even with a cell phone. I can't fault her for that, she does have a very good head on her shoulders. And we really did not want her there by herself so when nobody was around, either my wife or I would stay with her. This, of course, was part of the problem since our schedules tend to be a bit busy. Something needed to change. The questions was what. The answer was where the horse lived.

We were living in a patio home at the time and we were ready to move into something a little bigger. Our original plan had been to look for a bigger house with a little more yard and more storage space plus room for a wood shop. We modified that a bit and decided it was time to look for a horse property. We wanted something close to where we were living so that the girls could still go to the same schools and keep their friends. The girls have good friends, the kind of friends you want your kids to have. They are delights to have over, their parents are friendly and we did not want to have them start all over at new schools if we could avoid it. That was the first decision we made about a new house and that one decision and our budget greatly reduced the number of properties that were available for us to look at.

If we had been willing to move down to Elizabeth or north towards Brighton we could have purchased much more land than we ended up with. But school was important so we looked closer to town. There were only about a half dozen properties available in the area that we wanted to be in. There was one I loved that had a nice brick house, a beautiful shop space a few lean-toos and set on about an acre and a half. Very nice even though the pasture space was a little small. But at $500,000 it was well out of our budget. Another house we looked at was so trashed inside that we just couldn't even consider it. Sometimes you just cannot see past the mess to see the potential.

We found another place with a tiny house on two acres. We really liked the way the pasture and barns were laid out but man was that house tiny. We actually put an offer on it but they didn't want to give us time to sell our house. In the end, we lost out on that house. Probably for the better because that house was 1,200 square feet with no basement. The search continued.

Late in our search a hose came on the market. We went and looked at it and it was a riot inside. Outside it was a nice brick house with detached garage that is threatening to fall over. At least the house was sound. Inside, each room was a different color. And none of them pastels. The living room was orange-red shag carpet with peach paint on the walls except for one wall that featured a very ugly poorly applied wood veneer. One room was dark blue with dark blue carpet. It was so dark that when you stepped in you would duck because it felt so small. And this house had ceiling that are nearly 8' tall! The bathroom was bright green over beige tiles (green does not complement the Asian skin tones of my wife at all). One bedroom was baby blue (remember that these are not pastel colors. These bright in-your-face kinds of colors.) The other bedroom was bright yellow on the bottom with this ugly muddy brown wall paper on top. This room also featured 12" floor tiles stuck to the ceiling. With Liquid Nails.

The basement is a walk out basement and it was fairly wide open, more that enough space to build a third bedroom. A wall runs down the center of the basement. The space on one side of that wall was painted green and on the other side it was divided into the laundry room and an open space. The open space was blue and the laundry room was yellow. Very yellow. At least the basement bathroom was a rather plain white.

It sits on a slight hill that overlooks most of the Denver metro area. It backs up to open space that will always be open space and is open for horse back riding. There was no barn but at least the property was fenced with 5' chain link fencing. Here are a couple of views from the back deck:After much discussion, we ultimately decided that this house would work for us and we made an offer. We knew we were buying a project house but we had been in our old house since November of '92 and we had left the equity in the house. We had a enough funds available to buy the house and do the projects we needed to do. We made the offer in March and were able to lock in a fairly decent mortgage rate but we would not be able to close until we sold our house.

As it turns out, we had fairly good luck on that front as well. We sold our house in fairly short order but they needed to delay the closing until summer which was fine by us as this gave us a little time to sort out a small problem that moving our hose to our new backyard presented. Horses, being pack animals, need a companion. There are several options for companion animals like goats but I didn't like that idea much. Nothing against goats, its just that if you have only one horse then only one person could ride at any given time. Given that my daughter has friends and she does not like to ride alone, it made sense to get a second horse so that she can ride with a friend. So we started looking for a horse. This time it was not the friends at Westernaires who helped us look, its was family that conspired against us.

Up next - what the wording in horse ads REALLY mean or how not to buy a horse.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Routine Emerges and Beamer Gets Hurt

So where were we? We had just learned to get Beamer into the trailer easily and consistently. Life was settling into a bit of a routine albeit and difficult routine. The barn we were boarding at was only about 10 minutes away but it was proving to be extremely difficult to get The Instigator over to work with her horse on a consistent basis. Try as we might, it always seemed that two nights a week was all we could do. At the time, we did not recognize that the universe was conspiring against us.

One night I was getting ready to take Tira-Toes to gymnastics when my phone rang. The Instigator was on the other end and there were tears and fear in her voice. Beamer had tripped and his knee was bloody. Rats. I was able to make arrangements with another parent to take Tira-Toes off to gymnastics and off I went to the barn.

I found the instigator standing with the barn manager and they had rinsed Beamer's knee with an iodine and water mixture. I asked what happened. The Instigator had taken B for a walk. At the end of the road was a bridge over a large irrigation ditch. We had been over this bridge several times so it was not unknown to the horse. But, being an Arabian, this day he spooked as he got to the far side of the bridge. Being a klutzy Arabian, he tripped when he spooked and went down on his front knees. God has a special place in His heart for new horse owners and He likes to make sure we know exactly what we have gotten ourselves into early on so B's knee landed on a sharp rock and cut it open fairly bad. Here is a low quality picture from my cell phone.


So we load him into the trailer with a little fuss and its time to head for the vet. A vet. Slight stumbling block here. We don't have a vet yet. The vet we used for the vet check was to far away to become our regular vet so we ask the other owners around the barn who they use. Golden Animal Hospital emerged as the leader. They were close by so off we went. Timing in these kinds of accidents is everything and our timing was, as to be expected, bad. We called the vet to let them know we were coming but since it was our first time to go there, we didn't know exactly where they were and that lead to a couple of wrong turns. We did get there but after 6:00pm which kicked us from normal hours to emergency after hour care. We were not about to let the knee go until the next day so in we go.

The vet looked at the knee and didn't think it looked to bad. She started to wash it. She took a large syringe and filled it with a water based cleaning solution and squirted it into the open wound. B didn't like that much but stood patiently. The vet sat back on her feet and said, "Hmm." I knew something was amiss instantly. I said, "What?" She was concerned that a lot of the water she injected into the wound did not seem to come back out. She was afraid that the wound was deep enough to have punctured the knee capsule and was concerned that an infection in the actual knee joint was possible. Know, given the little I knew about horses then, I still knew that was bad. The vet gets an IV bag of penicillin. She places one needle in one side of the knee and places another needled in the other side to which she hooked up the bag of antibiotics. The idea is that we would flush the antibiotic through the knee capsule to clean it out. We spent three hours squeezing that large bag and only managed to work about a quarter of it through the joint. My arms hurt for three days after that!

The vet decides that we have done enough so its time to stitch the wound closed. First, she gives B a sedative. He snores when he sleeps. Then she set to work and stitched the knee up. While the sedative wore off she taught us how to properly bandage the knee. We would need to keep in bandaged for about 2 weeks before the stitches came out and then a couple of weeks of stall rest to make sure the knee healed properly. The vet finally sends us home with a little stock of bandaging supplies and a rather large bottle of antibiotics. 18 tablets a day for the next ten days is a lot of pills. Mixed with a bit of applesauce was the only way we could get him to take them.

We had a great time with the bandaging largely because the horse hated it. He stood quietly while we did the bandage and that made it easier. But we had to apply the bandage very tightly to minimize knee movement. So when we let him go he had to try and figure out why his knee would not bend the way it was supposed to. Very amusing. Well that was our first experience with the vet. And our tally at the end of this little adventure is thus:

Okay, so the tally stand thus:
Daughter: $900.00 for horse

Dad: $100 dollars for horse
$950 for trailer
$550 for receiver and hitch.
$300 first months boarding
$450 for saddle, breast collar and cinch
$120 for saddle pad
$200 for headstall, reigns and grooming supplies
$75 for miscellaneous sundries such as muck rake and bucket and the like.
$200 for trailer training
$1200 for four months board.
$50 for grain (Grain! Are you kidding me! Why do hay burners need grain! Next up - nutrition)
$1800 for about 6 months more of board.
$50 for 6 months of grain (we figured out a reasonable ration)
$1250 for knee care

I am pleased to report that B's knee healed fine. There is not even a scar. He did not develope any infections and there have been no lingering issues. Except he is still a klutz.

Last summer, The Instigator gave B a bath. She spent and hour washing and drying and brushing. He looked pretty darn good. She took him back to the pasture and let him go. He went into this beautiful extend trot that only Arabians can do. Head high, chin down and tail almost straight up. With a freshly cleaned main and tail he look good. Really good. And then he tripped and fell down. He rolled over and popped right back up with a look on his face that seemed to say, "That was planned. I'm fine! Nothing to see here!" The look on my face said, "Damn! Time to call the farrier for a trim."

And one more thing to note at this point. I am starting to learn something about myself. I am discovering that I like horses. I have learned that they each have a unique personality. I have learned that I like riding a horse that is not part of tourist trail riding string. Who knew.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A weekend at Stock show

National Western Stock Show ended about one month ago. Stock show is fun. It can be stupid expensive (nachos $9.00 plus $2.00 for small scoop of guacamole plus $2.00 for a small scoop of sour cream. $13.00 for nachos?! Well ,they were tasty and they did feed four of us so I guess its not all bad.) but there are some good deals and its fun. This was the first years we were there as exhibitors.

My brother in-law and his wife have two daughters and four llamas. The have been showing llamas with their daughters for a quite a while and one of the shows they always did was National Western. This year they were officially empty nesters. To ease the transition into empty-nesterdom they invited my daughters to show their llamas at the stock show this year. My daughters were a little unsure since we have horses and we know even less about llamas than we do horses! But they were game and they said yes.

So off to stock show we go. The first day was just move the llamas into their pens and clean them up. If you think grooming your horse is a chore, try grooming a llama. You will never complain about grooming your horse again. Ever. No matter how much mud they roll in. To groom a llama for show you start by blowing out the coat using a livestock blower. (Actually this blower is REALY cool. So cool, in fact, that I bought one for my horse. No matter how much I brush the chestnut mare, I cannot get all of the dust out of her. This will help. It can also be used to dry your horse after a bath.) Before you turn on the blower make sure you are wearing a dust mask. Also make sure that you are not standing anywhere near somebody who as already washed their llama. The dust comes off in clouds. If that dust settles on a clean llama, well, lets just say tensions run a bit high at show time.

After fifteen or so minutes of blowing its off to the wash stall. National Western has great wash stalls for the animals, they are all supplied with heated water. So you break out the shampoo and get to work. Ever seen how sad a wet cat looks? That is pretty much what a wet llama looks like. They are pretty tiny animals when their coats are all wet. Anyway, a half hour later its back to a dry stall, out comes the stock blower and you set to work drying your soggy llama. After about another half hour of drying, out come the brushes. I think they spent about two hours brushing the llamas. So it took most of the day to groom two llamas. And this was the basic grooming because all were were showing were performance class and public relations. The folks where showing in the top level show classes easily spent three times the amount of time brushing that we did. In fact, they spent every free minute brushing out their llamas. Those llamas have to be absolutely perfect. And after all that brushing, they looked, well, perfect.

Since we weren't showing in the top show classes we had time to wonder around. We found The Instigator a knife, Tira-Toes needed new boots so we found those, I found a sign maker and we had some decals made for the trailer. Once I get the trailer clean, we will put our horses names on the back of the trailer and under Beamer's name, we will put the Westernaires team names he has been through. We munched on nachos and mini-donuts and drank fresh squeezed lemonade. The next day was show day.

Now this is the first time we have shown any animal any place and the first time we have ever done more than just look at the llamas from across the fence. We didn't really care if we won or lost, we were just having fun. Turns out, we didn't to to bad.

The Instigator was showing a llama named Tazo. Tazo was, shall we say, a bit distracted. Out of a class of five, he finished 4th, 5th and 4th. Better than we expected and The Instigator had fun and said she would do it again next year. She wants to to better next year because the 4th place ribbons are pink and she hates pink. Here is The Instigator and Tazo and their ribbons.


Tira-Toes had bit better luck. Her llama, Doc, was more focused. So out of a class of four or five, she placed 3rd, 2nd and 2nd. This was good enough for her to reserve champion or second place over-all. Not bad for a first show. While the judging was going on she had wondered over to the ribbon table and was admiring the purple (okay, the lavender ribbons but to the average guy, that's purple) ribbons for champion and reserve champion. She wished she could get one of those so it was a pleasent surprise when she did. Here is Tira-Toes, Doc and their ribbons.


So we would like to say a very special and heart felt thanks to Uncle Dale, Aunti Gretchen, cousins Mariko and Midori at at Okashi Llams for sharing their llamas with us.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What Was I thinking!!

Why is it that we so often fail to learn the lessons life attempts to teache us? My youngest gets mad at me with alarming frequency. She turns her “angry eyes” on me. Those eyes are so earnest, so full of emotion and so cute that the next thing to happen is I laugh. I don’t mean too, it’s just that she is so darn cute that I can’t help myself. Even though I know what happens next. Well, angry eyes plus laughter makes her really mad and tears spring to the angry eyes, she jumps up and storms off to her room and closes her door with authority. After a while she calms down and comes out of her room to scold me for laughing. I promise not to laugh again and guess what. I fail spectacularly.

Here is the set up. We are on our way to have dinner with the in-laws. We are driving along the north side of a local lake that is surrounded by open space that is open to horses. Without malice of fore thought, I say to The Instigator (oldest child), “We should take the horses up here and ride!” Mouth shuts down and brain engages. Tira-Toes is taking riding lessons, her allergy shots are working and she is starting to really enjoy riding. I know that she would would like to ride horses with me more often and I feel like she is left out of a lot of things because we don't have enough horses. Man, I would really like to include her this emerging horse culture at our house.

Brain dies. Mouth re-engages and the following words pour out. “Do we need another horse… Or two?” Immediately from the back seat is joyful outburst of, “YES!!” with fist pumping. Oh-oh. They heard me. Those words actually left my mouth. It gets worse. I just happen to know that my trainers brother is selling a horse he has been training. The horse is well trained and his asking price is a real bargain giving the training it has on it. It is a ten year old gelding. And it is a paint. Dang! They heard that too! They are really starting to get excited now. Why can't I get my mouth to stop moving?!

But I have a trump card, my bride. My wonderful bride who is ambivalent about horses will save me. She will talk sense to me and the girls. She will be sane. She betrayed me! From the seat next to me I hear my lovely, rational, sane bride say, “That is a good idea.” What! Please tell me she didn't just say that. She thinks for a minute and says that she thinks we only need one extra horse because she doesn’t think she would ride that much due to her allergies. [Side bar – I let my bride read this before posting only to see her smile from ear to ear. She “casually” mentioned that if she can change her meds around a bit, she too can start allergy shots and then she WILL need (note need, not want) her own horse.]

So a quick call to the trainer to verify the horse is for sale and what the asking price is. I tell her what is going on and she chuckles. She proceeds to tell me that something very similar happened to her when she was young. They got one horse. She won a horse through Westernaires. They got another horse. They now have ten horses, three Shetland Ponies and three calves. I am doomed.

It reminds me of a joke: A guy walks into a bar, orders a beer and starts to cry. The barkeep brings the beer and asks why the guy why he is crying. The guy says that he became a millionaire today. Well, the barkeep is surprised. The barkeep figures that becoming a millionaire would be reason to celebrate. The guy looks at the bar keep, wipes a tear from his eye and says, “I used to be a billionaire but then my wife and daughters discovered horses.” I am so doomed.

So this Friday I may take the day off work and we’ll go ride horses and figure out if a third horse is a good idea (it’s not and at the same time it is). Odds are I will lose this and we will end up with three horses. Now if I have three horses and we want to take them riding in the fore mentioned open space I need to be able to transport three horses. I have a two horse trailer. I am so, SO doomed.

Monday, February 14, 2011

When did I know I loved my horse

This post is a little out of sequence but Jane at The Literary Horse asked for our story about when we knew we loved our horses. I have not yet introduced our second horse, Mariah, and I will introduce her and tell you the story of how she came to live with us a bit later. But for now, here is a brief bit of the story.

Mariah is a Morgan. She likes to go but she is a nervous kind of horse. She spooks easily, tends to be head shy and takes a few steps to catch when I go to get her for a ride. The first time I got on her after we brought her home I got on bare back. I was nervous and she was very nervous. The end result was that I ended up on the ground and she ended up on the other side of the arena. She did not run away when went to get her so I took her back to the steps. She stood quietly while I got back on and then she decided to go. In any direction she chose. Discretion being the better part of valor, I jumped off and that ended our first riding experience. I would not be on her back for several more months (five if I recall correctly).

During that period, I got a trainer and learned to do ground work. I did that for a few months and then it was time to get on her again. This time I had a saddle. Even so, as soon as I got on her she started to test me and I had very little control over her. She never tried to buck me off, but she did try to see if she could get me to slide off. I was frustrated to no end and even talked about trading her for one of my trainers already trained horses.

But I continued to ride her. And each time we rode I gained a little more control and became a bit more comfortable with my seat and her speed. Each time I got her to collect a bit more and control her speed for a few more steps. And then I stopped being scared and started having fun. She started to come to me more, something she had never done before, and let me scratch her ears. We were starting to connect. And that is when I knew that she was my horse and that I was not going to get rid of her. We were going to learn to become a team together. Besides, how could you not love a face like this?

Got Horse, Got Tack, Whats next...

Well we now have a horse, we have a way to transport said horse from point A to Point B and we have the tack required to ride the horse. Life is looking good. I have since come to understand that when life is looking good, the other boot (usually cover with muck and mud) has not fallen.

I thought it would be a good idea for Beamer's mom, The Instigator to do a few lessons with her new horse just to get acquainted with him. Grammy thought this was a good idea as well so she treated The Instigator to a few lessons. There was a trainer that several of the boarders at the barn used and they all thought she was great. Se we hired her for a few lessons. Yet another lesson learned the hard way. We didn't know anything about her or her methods, we were relying entirely on hear-say around the barn. The first lesson didn't go to bad bit I was starting to suspect that this trainer was better with horses than with people. By the end of the second, and last, lesson with her I was sure. Now The Instigator had not been riding long so she had not built up certain muscles and callouses yet. The trainer kept her on the horse for nearly two hours. I finally had to call an end to the lesson when I saw tears in The Instigator's eyes. Just what I need. A trainer who drove my kid to tears for no apparent reason. These were just basic riding lessons. That was the end of that.

The Instigator was doing well riding Beamer so we decided it was time to take him down to Westernaires and introduce him to the madness and mayhem otherwise known as the owner's parking lot. Now the other boot falls. Did you know that it takes a while for a horse to learn to trust a new owner? Did you know that some horses will refuse to get in "that large scary cave where lions live on wheels", otherwise known as a trailer, until they trust you? I know that now. We did manage to get him into the trailer in not too much time and get down to Westernaires. It took us two hours to get him in the trailer to come home and we were the last trailer out of there that night. We were a little perturbed, to say the least.

Time for a trainer. We went back to the first trainer since we really didn't know anybody else to turn to. She was able to get the horse into the trailer fairly easily. But she couldn't teach us how to do it. After several weeks we were no better off. Beamer would get into the trailer for her, but not for us and we were not making any progress. Then one day while we were working on trailering, a new trainer showed up at the barn. She was there to work with somebody else and saw us trying to get the horse in the trailer. It was not going well and she took mercy on us. She came over and showed us how to get the horse in the trailer and explained a bit of what she was doing. Her method was a bit different than the first trainer and with a little explanation behind us, we at least had chance of getting the horse into the trailer. In the end, instead of taking over an hour to get the horse in the trailer, it ended up taking us about a half-hour to get the horse in the trailer. Better, but still not right.

So one Saturday we were trying to load the horse and friend of one of the other boarders showed up. She saw us struggling to get the horse into the trailer and asked us if we needed help. I politely said now, that we needed to work this out for ourselves. She said that she was a certified Parelli trainer and she could help us. So I said okay. She didn't do anything real different than the other trainers had done except she provided a much better explanation of what we were doing wrong and how to fix it.

The first two trainers basically took the approach that you drive the horse and work it hard enough so that the trailer becomes a safe place to rest. But we were working the horse so hard that he was no longer thinking. This trainer got us to all calm down and then showed us how to apply pressure to the horse by tapping lightly on the flank to encourage the horse to step forward. 5 minutes later the horse was in the trailer. We backed the horse out and The Instigator and I tried. Took a bit longer, but we got the horse into the trailer. That young lady moved away within the week but she did give us some good direction and peak our interest in Parelli.

Now this whole adventure lasted some three or four months. It was no small source of frustration for us and even after or brief experience with Parelli methods, it was still not perfect. He would jerk his head up and back and it was by the grace of God alone that he never managed to split his head open. But during this whole time The Instigator was continuing to work with Beamer. She was riding and grooming and doing round pen work. As we gained a bit more confidence in ourselves and Beamer came to trust us a bit more the trailering challenge resolved itself. All we have to do now is walk him to the back of the trailer, toss the lead rope over his back and tell him to step up. He steps right into the trailer and stands calmly.

So what did learn from this. Talk to potential trainers. Trainers need to do two things well. First, they need to be able to train a horse. This one is pretty obvious but you need to know how this person works with horses and have they trained enough horses to really know what they are doing. Second, and more importantly, they need to be able to train you. Horses learn fairly quickly if you are consistent and patient. Most of us are neither consistent nor patient. And that is where a good trainer really comes through. We lack consistency and patience because we do not know what we need to do. When a horse does something we don't want it to do and we don't know how make it stop, we get mad and do the wrong stuff that usally makes the situation worse. A good trainer can show you what to do and explain why you do it. Once you know that, when the horse acts up, you know what to do and it is so much easier to remain calm.

Okay, so the tally stand thus:
Daughter: $900.00 for horse

Dad: $100 dollars for horse
$950 for trailer
$550 for receiver and hitch.
$300 first months boarding
$450 for saddle, breast collar and cinch
$120 for saddle pad
$200 for headstall, reigns and grooming supplies
$75 for miscellaneous sundries such as muck rake and bucket and the like.
$200 for trailer training
$1200 for four months board.
$50 for grain (Grain! Are you kidding me! Why do hay burners need grain! Next up - nutrition)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Second Pound of Flesh

saddle.

Yep, time to start looking at tack. The previous owner sent us home with Beamer's bit and we had purchased a halter and lead rope. So we have a bit. No headstall, no reigns, no saddle, no saddle pad or blanket, no grooming brushes, water bucket, nothing. Zip. Nada. Nil. We live close to Colorado Saddlery and we have a small feed and tack store down the street. We went to Colorado saddlery where we found a grooming kit, a nice leather headstall, reigns and a whip for lunging in the round pen. Not bad.

Next we are off to the tack store with the horse, just to make sure things fit properly. We start to look at saddles. The deal was that I would get the first saddle, a fairly basic saddle, and she would save up and buy the saddle of her dreams later. So we found what we thought was a nice little synthetic western saddle by King Saddles. (This decision will come back to haunt me in the not to distant future.) Did you know that cinch straps do not come with the saddle? Well I didn't. Do you know how much a cinch strap costs? Basically, how much do you want to spend but we found one that fit the horse, will do the job but was not overly flashy. Doing good. My next lesson follows immediately, "Dad, I need a breast collar." A what? Off we go to look at breast collars. Leather. Nylon. Full bling. No bling. Tooled. Do you know how much breast collars cost? Well, they're a lot like cinches that way, how much do you want to spend. Beamer's mom found a nice nylon green one, her favorite color, and she was happy. (This turns out to be yet another decision that will prove to be less than perfect as time goes on. *sigh* Steep learning curve.)

Next we found a good wool saddle pad. I invested a bit more in the pad since that will be next to the horse and I wanted the horse to be comfortable. We also found a muck rake, a muck bucket a water bucket and a hoof pick. We load everything into the truck and head for the ranch. So here is where things stand now:

Daughter: $900.00 for horse

Dad: $100 dollars for horse
$950 for trailer
$550 for receiver and hitch.
$300 first months boarding
$450 for saddle, breast collar and cinch
$120 for saddle pad
$200 for headstall, reigns and grooming supplies
$75 for miscellaneous sundries such as muck rake and bucket and the like.

I am beginning to suspect that I may have gotten the short end of this deal. It is just a glimmer of an idea at this point. but it is definitely starting to grow. One the other hand, the smiles of ones daughter sure make a whole bunch of crazy things seem better. So here is what the final ensemble looks like.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tira Toes says Hi!

Hi, I am the youngest two legged member of this horse loving family and getting horses was as much a surprise to me as it was my dad. I knew that my sister loved horses. If you walk in her room there are horse posters and about four shelves of horse figurines. When she first filled those shelves I knew that she was going to get a horse. No doubt. She soon started to look around until she settled on a 12 year old Polish Arabian named Beamer. Before I knew it there were daily trips to the ranch where Beamer was being boarded. Not too soon after, it was coming to the end of my fourth grade year and there was talk of us moving away to a house where the horses could be just in the back yard. Summer before fifth grade came and I was busily shoving things in to cardboard boxes. I was still in shock that the only home that I had ever known was slipping through my fingers like quick sand. We moved to a house just five minuets away from the old ranch. It was about a month or so after moving before we settled in to our new house. In between houses a series of events happened. The most drastic was being robbed. We also lived with my dad’s parents, I went off to summer camp, and my sister visited her best friend in Kentucky. Soon, we were settled in and life was going back to normal. So here I am now. I’m now eleven and am anticipating going in to middle school and declaring my parents officially OLD. Life is going great with the horses. Oh, I almost forgot about daddy’s little girl. Mariah. She is the newest four legged member to our family. Mariah is about eight years old and is a Morgan. She is the laziest horse I’ve ever seen. She is so soft and has a will to go, but we all love her anyway.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Promise takes its First Pound of Flesh



trailer.

How not to but a trailer. Go to Graig's List. Search for Horse trailer. Get dad to dome along (he has a hitch, I don't) and look at trailer briefly. Hand over cash. Hook up trailer and drive away. But that is how I bought my first trailer. It needed new tires and the paint was shot but the rest of the trailer was in reasonably good shape. Besides, we needed to get the horse home and then we needed to get it down to Westernaires so we needed the trailer. It was subsequently named "The Rolling Turd" but that is a tale for another day. The name came from the fact that the trailer was (<- note strategic use of the past tense form of the verb) brown with a white top. I was built in 1972 and it is short with a fairly low roof (which also plays into the trailer saga in the not to distant future). My daughter horse, which we will meet in the next post, is only 14.2 hands high and an Arabian so the small trailer fit him fine.



We hooked up the trailer and headed of to pick up the horse. He loaded right in for the owner and we brought him back to the ranch. He had his own stall and settled in fairly nicely. We were feeling pretty good.

But now I have a trailer and now way to pull it. So off to the hitch store with our little Toyota V6 4x4 pick-up. New receiver hitch installed, a little wiring (no trailer breaks) and I am good to go!

So here is how things stand at this point:

Daughter: $900.00 for horse

Dad: $100 dollars for horse
$950 for trailer
$550 for receiver and hitch.
$300 first months boarding


And we just got the horse to our barn. So what's next? Well, now that the horse is home, she needs to be able to ride the horse. And to ride a horse, you need

Monday, February 7, 2011

“I Promise” or How I lost at “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader”

I promise. Two simple little words spoken in response to a question from my oldest daughter. It was one of those incredibly stupid things that parents sometimes say before their brains fully engage. My oldest wanted a horse. Bad. She was constantly begging us to get her a horse. Since we lived in a patio home in the city a horse did not figure into our plans. So in a stroke of brilliance I said to my daughter, “I promise to help you own a horse if you can buy it.” Now, I knew enough to know that a horse with any kind of reasonable training on it would be between $2,500 and $5,000 in our area. My daughter was eleven at the time and that is a huge sum of money for a kid to come up with. I was safe. Yeah, right.

My oldest daughter is in Westernaires. For those of you that do not live in the Denver metro area, Westernaires is a youth organization located in Jefferson County, Colorado. The members range in age from 9 to 19 or until they graduate from high school. They ride in teams that range from about 20 to 50 kids on a team (there is one team right now with 78 girls!). They ride mounted drills such as forming propellers, the Mariners Cross, thread the needle and the like. They start drills as young kids at a trot and progress to doing all drills at a lope. My daughter joined it when she was 11 as a way to be near and ride horses consistently. Pretty good deal actually, $25.00 annual dues and $10.00 per ride to rent one of the over 100 string horses. There are between 800 and 1,000 kids in the organization at any given time.

It is also a great social organization for the parents. You make friends and have a couple hours every Saturday to chat. Well, my “friends” heard that my daughter was looking for a horse and one them pointed out an ad for a horse. A Polish Arabian gelding that was selling for $5,000 but had been marked down to $1,000. I agreed to go look at the horse.

The lady who owned the horse had already decided not to sell it but then she met my daughter. She liked my daughter and spent several days horseback riding with her. Turns out, the horse was amazingly well trained and a temperament that makes him patient with first time riders yet willing to go for an advanced rider. Dang. A great horse. When a “knows nothing about horses” type like myself can recognize a good horse its time to call in the vet for a vet check. He passed with flying colors. My daughter had $900 saved up and I am faced with a choice. Take the legalistic way out and say she doesn’t have enough money or give her the final $100 and honor my promise. I says to myself, “Self, how bad can it be to own a horse? Not all that bad.” So I loan her the money and as a good father and a good Christian, I honor the promise. She bought the horse. It’s in her name! It is her horse. Here is Beamer's new mom meeting Beamer for the first time.

Okay. Now it’s time to take the horse home. How do you get a horse home? A trailer. But I am a city boy and I have no trailer. I have never towed a trailer. The thought of backing a trailer scares me. But I promised. So off to Craigslist to search for a

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Welcome to my (our) Blog

This is just what the internet needs, another blog about horses and their owners.  A bit about myself and my family.  I am a city boy.  Born and raised in the Denver metro area.  Graduated high school in 1980, married in 1982, divorced in 1984, remarried in 1987 and still married, earned BS in electrical engineering in 1991, had first daughter in 1996, had second daughter in 1999, earned MS in electrical engineering in 2004. 

In 2001 my bride was diagnosed with breast cancer.  That began a three year journey that included a bilateral mastectomy two rounds of chemo, two sets of breast implants and some lingering health issues that continue to make life interesting.  She has been cancer free now for about 5 years and the prognoses is good.

We still live in Colorado area and we love our seasons.  If we couldn’t live on a beach (preferably in Tahiti!) we wanted to stay near the mountains (love to ski).  We enjoy the blessings each season brings; the blossoms of spring, the lazy summer afternoons, the crisp fall air and apples and the snows of winter.

Let’s see, my oldest daughter has just started her first year of high school and my youngest daughter is finishing her last year in grade school.  I am so NOT ready for that.  As long as one kid is in grade school I am still young.  Once she starts middle school I will have to face the fact that I am no longer 20.  (Given that I was 37 when she was born I should have realized that I am not 20 quite some time ago!)

My lovely bride is a pharmacist.  I normally like to say she deals drugs on the corner but I get smacked when I say that.   She enjoys making beaded jewelry in her spare time and who knows, she may grace these pages from time to time.

The idea for this blog actually came from my ex-boss.  As I would relate to him with latest exploits of horse ownership, he would simply laugh.  At one point he suggested that I should write a book.  As I am sure anybody who owns horses knows, horse ownership is a story that takes the lifetime of a horse to write.  As we have only had horses for a little over two years, we are nowhere near the end (I hope) of the story.  So how to tell a story that is still unfolding?  Why a blog of course!!

Comments are always welcome.  All I ask is that you keep the language clean.  My daughters are my editors so I would like to keep this a family friendly blog.  If you feel the burning desire to flame me please, be creative!  Really creative.  Here is a great site for generating insults: Shakespearean Insults   Rude and offensive comments will be deleted.

Know that you know a small bit about us, it it’s time to talk about the events that led to this blog.

I was not raised with horses.  They were fine for the occasional trail ride but beyond that, horses were nothing more than large animals one sometimes saw while driving from point A to point B.  But then we had children and children often change the plans we make, usually rather drastically and never in a direction that we would normally choose to go.  And that was where things started.  The obvious first question is how did a city boy end up with horses.  Simple.  I said,