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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.