Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Di was the first person that told me the legend about horses-- indeed all barnyard animals-- being blessed with the ability to speak at midnight on Christmas Eve. It's a popular bit of folklore in Ireland and throughout Europe, and I think it's rather intriguing. If you want to read the history of the legend, just click on this link which will take you to the December 24th segment of the Holiday Countdown on Horse Channel:
The Curious Case of the Talking Horses at Midnight
I think this legend captivates me because I would define myself as a spiritual person. I definitely believe there are miraculous things that happen. Usually we're just too busy or too close minded to notice them. Now, does that mean that I'm certain that tonight at midnight Wally will begin conversing? Though I'm not above tip-toeing out to his stall late tonight to see if I can overhear him pontificating, I'll probably stay inside, snuggled under the thick comforter on my bed. Rather than risk the disheartening possibility that Wally will remain silent, I'd prefer to just continue to believe that maybe, just maybe, the legend is true. And wouldn't that be wonderful?
Of course, that then prompts the question: What would Wally say if he did speak?
Part of me thinks he'd say nothing profound. He'd simply chatter about his addiction to peppermint candies or how he relishes freshly baled orchard grass. But then there's another part of me that's confident Wally would utter what I'd love to hear most: That he's grateful he ended up in my backyard; that I'm kind to him; that he enjoys our trail rides; and that he regrets constantly grabbing things in his mouth (like the reins, the lead rope and my shirt sleeve), but he just can't help himself. To hear him reveal such sentiments would make my Christmas that much merrier.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
The other day, when it was pouring rain and Ron and I were outside, schlepping sandbags across the horse trail in an effort to avoid erosion, we both looked at each other and decided we resembled Sissy Spacek and Mel Gibson in the climatic scene from the 1984 film, "The River." The two stars, husband and wife, were fighting the forces of nature to keep their ranchland from being washed away by floods caused by a relentless storm. At least I had on my famed Goretex parka. Mel-- I mean Ron-- was clothed in only a corduroy shirt, jeans and his muck boots.
I gave him that pair of muck boots last Christmas. When he opened the box, he stared at the rubberized shoes, then looked at me and said in an odd tone, "No one's ever given me a pair of muck boots before."
Well, this Christmas he's going to open a box and discover a men's size medium rain suit. And he'll probably say, "No one's ever given me a rain suit before."
But much like the muck boots, he'll end up by wearing the rain suit more often than he'd like. And so it goes when you live your life around horses. Even Christmas gifts are influenced by the amount of time you spend tending to the beasties.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
For those of you who live in regions where winter comes on with a vengeance, you probably don't understand how devastating it is to Southern California when it rains-- hard-- for several days in a row. We're a bunch of cowards. We become overwhelmed with anxiety when the sun doesn't shine for a couple of days. That's because we simply aren't prepared for cold, stormy weather. Ever. There's too much asphalt and too little infrastructure so any amount of measurable rain results in flooding. And where it doesn't flood, there is mud. Everywhere.
Fortunately, I live on a hillside that's mostly granite and boulders, so I don't have mud. Instead, the water runs off in sheets of glassy wetness. And I also have several in-ground drains. But we've had so much rain for so long a period that my drains simply cannot escort the water off the property fast enough. That means that Wally's turnout is looking less like a sandy paddock and more like the Mississippi delta.
At least Wally's covered stall is cozy and dry... for the most part. When the wind blows, the rain comes down horizontally and blows inside the stall, so there are some wet spots along the inside panels. But otherwise he's quite pampered. Still, when I fed him this evening, he looked at me like, "I've had enough of this wet, cold weather. I am not happy. I would much prefer to get out, thank you very much, so will you please make it stop?"
Believe me, if I had any power over the weather, I would exercise it. If I could control the weather, it'd be perpetually 78 degrees. But then, where's the challenge in living in that type of climate? And when would I ever get the opportunity to wear my Goretex parka? After all, nothing says "feminine glamor" like Goretex.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
And then there's this intriguing display around the corner from my house. The people who live here own several horses, and this statue of a palomino sits alongside their driveway. Since the day after Thanksgiving, the palomino has taken on some Christmas apparel. And it has also acquired a rider. From a distance, when I ride past on Wally, it looks like a monkey. But once I got closer, it's obviously an elf. Either way-- elf or monkey-- when you stick some tinsel and a pair of fake antlers on a horse statue, it ends up being cute. Or at least provocative. I hope that Christmas has come to your town, too!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
But Wally looked so lackadaisical there in his paddock. I thought, "How high can he possibly be?"
I soon found out.
Everything was going fine until I passed a pile of overturned trash cans. Now, usually Wally is very ho-hum about such things, but today he acted as if each topsy turvy trash container was a portal to hell. The next sign that Wally was too high for his own good-- and my safety-- was that we turned the corner and headed past an open pasture where two gals were galloping their horses around the outskirts of a recently furrowed field. I glanced down at Wally's shadow on the ground and I could see that he was holding his tail aloft, sort of how John Henry looked when he pranced to the starting gate.
As one of the riders sped past me in the opposite direction, Wally began to snort and strut. Anyone who's been aboard a really high, rambunctious horse knows that sound: it's much akin to the snort of a fire-breathing dragon. Or a vacuum cleaner.
My options were limited. I could:
A) hop off and attempt to control Wally from the ground, as I led him with my bad arm for the mile or so it took to get home
B) go the discipline route and try to get his attention focused back on me (which would require me to take a tighter hold of his mouth, not a good idea with a horse who was already bubbling to the brim with energy, much like a bottle of champagne about to pop its cork)
C) stay on and rely on another one of my Rules of Engagement Related to High, Frisky Horses: "When in Doubt, Go Forward!"
I settled on Option C. And thus I rode home much like Neptune aboard a sea serpent, with Wally beneath me gallumping along at a rollicking canter with an arched neck, enflamed nostrils and a flagging tail.
I rode past my house and went straight to the arena, where Mr. Wally was treated to about 30 minutes of flatwork. We leg yielded diagonally across the arena. We sidepassed. We loped circle after circle after circle. We made numerous loops at the extended trot. My neighbor, Audrey, rode in on her mustang gelding and asked how Wally was today. I told her all about the near-explosion on the trail.
"You're so brave, Cindy," is what she said.
No, truly, bravery had little to do with it. I merely ran out of other options. (See: A through C, above).
Naturally, once I was satisfied that Wally was both tired and submissive, I left the arena and revisited the same exact trail route I'd taken earlier. You know, just to see if Wally would behave. Or maybe I was tempting fate. Whatever.
Fortunately, Wally was fine. He even waltzed past the cluster of over-turned trash cans without so much as flicking a sorrel ear at them. However, despite my eventual success story, I know that next time, when it's cool and breezy and Wally hasn't been worked in a couple of days, I'll stick to my rules.
Monday, December 8, 2008
That was what my vet said this morning when she handed me some additional meds to keep on hand for Wally. I had just whined that what I needed was a second horse for back-up, for days when Wally was-- for whatever reason-- out of commission. My vet's point was that the average horse is forever finding ways to maim or lame itself, so adding another one wasn't necessarily going to help me out. When I grumbled she added, "Welcome to the world of horses."
As you might recall, I spent a minor fortune on Legend shots for Wally, in hopes that it would stave off the arthritis in his hocks that made him a little creaky on some days. Perhaps that was accomplished. I can't tell yet. What I do know is that last week, once I had him tacked up for a nice trail ride, he was lame in his right hind leg. Not, "Oh my God, he has a broken leg!" lame, but definitely off at the jog. So we turned around and headed home.
I was in the depths of despair because not only did I really need a ride that morning to alleviate some pre-holiday blues, but I began to worry about Wally. What if he was never sound again? What if I had to stow him at my parents' place in perpetual retirement? What if I had to start shopping for yet another horse? What if... ?
I can make myself crazy doing that.
Fortunately, the whole incident seemed to be nothing more than a strain, the result, no doubt, of him running around during a turnout in the arena the day before. He'd acted like an utter fool, gallumping and bucking in huge ovals like he was trying out for lead bronc at the National Finals Rodeo. After 5 days of rest and a light longe on Saturday, he seems perfectly fine. I'm going to tack him up and ride him this morning.
Luckily, I always have plenty of horses in town to ride if Wally is temporarily out of service. There's a barn full of hunters at Sue's and my sister's horse, Topper, is happy to indulge me. But I want to ride Wally. I know every single thing about him: the way his hooves feel when they hit the ground at the jog, the way I can sit his lope like I'm in an over-stuffed recliner, the manner in which he struts down the trail like he's lead stallion in some phantom herd of fine mares. In other words, I enjoy riding any horse, but I want to ride my horse.
I'll bet most of you feel the same way.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
Other attributes of the typical short yearling uglies? How about a butt that's several inches higher than the withers, a stubby tail that's perpetually held out like a stiff broom, and a head that seems destined to be three times too large for the body. Wrap it all up in a fur coat more suited to a goat (is that a beard on that coat's chin?) and some winter time mud splotches, and you have a colt that hardly resembles the fancy, glossy-coated fairytale equine prince of just a few weeks ago. But I have faith. Fortunately, the Short Yearling Uglies is just a temporary affliction.
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Friday, November 28, 2008
I'm guessing that the way I felt at about 1:30 this morning is about the way Wally (or any other horse) would feel if they over-indulged themselves at the feed trough.
Because of my post-Thanksgiving "Uckies" I went on an extended trail ride this morning with my trail riding buddy, Natalie. It's become an annual tradition of mine: before and after every major feast day, I go for a lengthy ride. I suppose I'm doing some sort of dietary penance for the food I am about to gorge on.
My next seasonal event will be The Annual Parading of the Husband Through the Local Tack Stores. This is where I lead Ron up and down the aisles, pointing out, "I want this, Wally would like that, and I could really use this." He's required to take notes along the way as to size, shape, color and design.I have to do this, as humiliating as it sounds. Otherwise Ron picks up my Christmas Wish List and just stares at it. I can't blame him. Words like "bell boots" and "romal reins" boggle the mind of many a non-horsey husband.
But that shopping excursion can wait a few days. First I have to digest 1/2 pound of my Aunt Elaine's creamed onions.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I'm certain that mothers have a special intrinsic connection with their children. Yet my horses are my children, and I believe that I have nearly as close a bond with them as I would with any human offspring I might've produced. This manifests itself in an unwavering sense of protectionism toward my beasties. Wally may have his obnoxious side, but I love him dearly nonetheless. If anyone would purposely try to harm him, I'd fight them to the death. Or at least maim them with the nearest item of weaponry. A 1,000 thwacks with a manure fork comes to mind.
This motherly devotion to my horse's welfare is why I became so personally outraged when I heard the tale of Cheyenne, a cute AQHA sorrel mare owned by the assistant manager of one of the big feed stores in my town. Cheyenne's owner, Jacki, came home one evening to discover her pretty mare had suffered a horrific injury to her skull. The mare eventually lost her eye and nearly died from a massive infection. What caused the injury? Details are sketchy and there is some legal mumbo jumbo involved, but circumstances point to the possibility that someone intentionally harmed the mare. If you want to read how Jacki nursed Cheyenne through the ordeal, click on this link to read the story on Horse Channel:
A Thanksgiving Story of Survival
Fortunately, Cheyenne has returned to active duty as a pleasure and performance horse, albeit with only one eye. However, every time I think of that cute red mare having to endure the pain and stress associated with the injury, I reconnect with how devastated I would be if something happened to Wally.
So hug your horses tonight. And be thankful that they're safe and warm and kept safe by their Mom.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Adding to my gift buying worries is my ever present sense of anxiety over Wally. Hey, if I weren't worrying about him, I'd be fretting over something else!
I've come to the conclusion that Wally's sometimes creaky hocks warrant a series of Legend shots, which are not cheap. But I've used Legend on some of my performance horses in the past and I've always been impressed with the results. That hasn't always been the case with oral joint supplements (which aren't exactly cheap, either). Not that my math skills are anything to boast about, but I have determined that in the long run it'll be less expensive-- and hopefully more productive-- to stop buying oral supplements and go with the occasional Legend shot.
It's not that Wally's lame. If he were, I would not ride him. But there are days when I nudge him into a jog-- especially if I've ridden him several days in a row-- and I can feel that he's stiff in his hind end. Or for a few strides he'll take a short step with one hind leg. Fortunately, these symptoms are all short lived. But I want to keep them that way. I knew when I purchased Wally that he had arthritis in both of his hocks. Ideally the Legend injections will prolong his soundness.
I want Wally to last forever. Or at least die a peaceful death, with me by his side, two decades from now. I enjoy him that much. I love him that much. I depend on him to lift my spirits that much. How can I not do whatever is necessary to keep him comfortable?
But to budget for elective veterinary care at the holidays takes some financial juggling. Because I have an extensive list of gifts to buy, I hunt for things on sale. I prowl the aisles of discount stores. I make sure I have a specific list of possible gifts before I head out of the house, purse and debit card in hand. And I avoid malls. Completely. Why? Because I'm hopelessly drawn to displays of bright, shiny products. If they play any sort of tune, I'm mesmerized. Heaven forbid I wander through the seasonal decor department at Macy's. Everyone in my family might end up with a musical snow globe.
But at least Wally will end up with his Legend shots.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Since the winds have died down, Wally and I are being "treated" to an acrid odor of smoke that hangs in the air. There's no escaping it. I won't be doing any riding today; it wouldn't be good for either of us. I think that instead I'll clean my tack. That's always a good rainy day (or smokey day) project. Soon it'll be a better environment and better weather for riding. Winter, with its clean, crisp, cool air has to be on its way... right?
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Ironically, the winds are blowing the front line of the fire right up to the doorstep of homes belonging to two of my cousins and my sister. They all live in Orange County, in the areas of Anaheim Hills and Yorba Linda.
My cousin Jan and her husband were forced to evacuate earlier today.
Then my cousin Ann, who was out shopping, happened to hear that the fire had encroached upon her hillside home, so she tried to head back to pack her things and prepare to evacuate. Because of freeway closures she couldn't make it and paused in a Target parking lot to call home and give packing instructions to her husband and son. That's when she noticed that a big tree in the Target parking lot had caught on fire!
My sister Jill had was heading home from our parents' place after spending time with her horse Topper. She had her two dogs in the car with her. Again, the freeway was closed so she had to turn around and head back to our parents. That's about the time her husband-- who was at home-- heard a helicopter unleash a water drop directly on the roof of their home. Moments later, the sheriff ordered a full evacuation of the neighborhood.
In Southern California this time of year our seasonal winds combined with our drought-stricken foliage leads to wildfires. About anything can start the flames, from sparking transformers on electrical lines to careless campers. And let's not ignore the despicable deeds of nefarious arsonists.
But how, precisely, do you decide what to pack when you're forced to evacuate? Ron and I think about it a lot, especially since our home backs up to a dry hillside.
I figure I could always saddle up Wally and ride him to safety. And I'd have Ron grab our dog, Betsy, and an armload of important papers. But what else? Photos (naturally, those of my previous, beloved horses) would be a priority. And so would some family mementos. Yet otherwise, it's all just "stuff." As long as Wally and Ron and Betsy made it out safely, I'd get over the sadness. Eventually.
Oh dear. Did I just put Wally first on my list of Most Important Things to Save in a Fire, ahead of my husband? !?!
Friday, November 14, 2008
A) He'd grabbed hold of his big orange caution cone and was obsessively flipping it up and down. He can do this for a good 30 minutes before boredom ensues.
B) He'd concentrated all of his mental powers on trying to figure out how to remove his tail bag... and succeeded.
C) Two words: Prison escape.
D) He was trying to find the one fence post cap that's not quite irrevocably glued in place and turn it into a small, frisbee-esque horse toy.
E) All of the above
Fortunately, when I went outside I found him innocently waiting for me. There's no sneaking up on this horse because he either hears the back door crack open or sees the kitchen light go on. Wally is a little too observant of my behavior. If I think about it too much, I become paranoid.
He was looking over the fence, his ears up, his eyes bright and eager for the new day to begin... even though it was 4:15 a.m. and very, very windy.
I mixed up his beet pulp, his joint supplement, his pellets and his psyllium, added a good measure of vegetable oil and poured the gruel into his feed bucket. That made him quite content.
Wally seems quite well adjusted to the wind, being a California horse and all. But I am a California native as well and I, quite frankly, simply cannot adapt. There are wildfires blazing both north and south of me (we're quite safe) and the early news has tales of horses being evacuated from areas ravaged by flames. That puts my little windy predicament in perspective. Perhaps I shouldn't be so troubled by a quick-witted horse and a windy, moonlit night.
Monday, November 10, 2008
"I don't think I could put up with his obnoxiousness," was what I believe Natalie said at the time.
And yet Natalie is the one who began referring to my horse as "Wallydoodle." I think that's a rather endearing nickname. So she really does like him. I think.
If only she knew what I sometimes call Wally. When he's pushed himself a little too far into my space, or reverted back to his previous behaviors, I refer to him by some nicknames that probably shouldn't be printed here. The mildest of which is "Hoghead," a nickname I borrowed from a gal who used to groom for Sue years ago. She came from a western show barn where apparently the go-to nickname for any beastie that was being a pain in the backside was "Hoghead."
If you'd like to reveal your horse's nickname, you can click on this link:
Every Horse Has an Alias to go directly to this month's edition of HI Spy on Horse Channel. Leave your comments there and read what others have already written. Who knows. There may be other Hogheads among us!
Thursday, November 6, 2008
"Aha! We've come upon another stretch of that golf course fiasco. But this section even boasts a lake. Hmmm... I think I'll send a letter to the BLM about this plot of land. Just imagine how many mustangs could roam around out here. And I could be their herd leader. Yeah! That's one of the best ideas I've ever had!"
"Dang! It's time to head home. But I must admit that even I enjoy a good view like this. The breeze blows all sorts of interesting smells my way, and I can see the rooftops of lots of barns in the distance, where I know some of my friends live. So onward I go, back to my own house. And hopefully, back to a good lunch!"
Both Wally and I would love to read your comments. Just click on "comments" below!
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Besides-- not to make light of the dire problems our country currently faces-- neither of the presidential candidates addressed some of the most important issues that mattered to me as a horse owner. With that in mind, here's what I would promise in my campaign speeches if I were running for the office of Queen of the World:
1. Upon ascending to the throne I'd immediately appoint a Deputy Minister of Denim. Their first duty? To develop a pair of jeans that not only fit well but actually function properly for riding. In other words, no 1/2" thick crotch seams, no binding waistbands and no sparkling doo-dads or swirly embroidery on the back pockets.
2. No horse show classes will begin before 9:30 a.m. This benefits the horses, the exhibitors and the judges. No living creature should have to participate in any sort of aerobic activity before they've digested their breakfast.
3. Polo wraps shall be sold in sets of 5 and bell boots in bundles of 3. Hoof picks will be packaged by the dozen, like eggs. We're always misplacing these items, so why not stay one step ahead of fate and just get an extra one (or more) from the get-go?
4. All men will be required to demonstrate the ability to drive a tractor, hitch up a horse trailer and repair a fence line. Men might as well be useful as well as ornamental so let's teach them skills that are actually valuable.
5.There will be a resurgence in great literature and movies about horses, even if I have to commission such endeavors. The world needs more books like Black Beauty, The Red Pony and National Velvet. And who doesn't love a thrilling western movie starring good looking cowboys and even better looking horses? Heaven knows I do! And I'm the Queen, so my opinion is the only one that truly matters.
I know, that's only five proclamations. But it's a start. Once I become crowned as Queen I'm sure I can dream up a few more.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Where was Wally? He was cozy in his waterproof turnout rug, munching on a bucket of oat hay pellets and carrots. Wally has a perfect view of the entire street below him, but I believe he was too engrossed in his dinner to care that around 8:00 p.m. a large trolley pulled by a pair of blond Belgian draft horses came cruising down the street.
Since we've only lived here a year and a half, Ron and I weren't familiar with this holiday Welcome Wagon. Apparently the hitch is owned by the family that runs the sandwich shop and deli in town. During the holidays they deck out the horses and the trolley in twinkling lights, load up the seats with guests, and make a goodwill tour of the town. On Halloween the little lights strung around the trolley and draped across the Belgians' harnesses were orange, but I'm confident that in another few weeks they'll be red and green and some pine bows and red velvet ribbons will be added to the decor.
Even though we heard the rhythmical jingling of the harness chains long before the trolley approached, it was still quite a surprise to have the team of pale horses saunter past our jack-o-lanterns, our fire pit and our buffet of warm comfort food. It certainly isn't something you see every night.
"Happy Halloween!" the trolley riders called to us.
"Happy Halloween!" we replied.
And then the trolley and the Belgians clip-clopped further down the street, into the deep inky darkness of a late October night.
Now that was a memorable Halloween. And it was yet another example of why it's so great to live in a community with the nickname "Horsetown, USA."
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Just to keep the record straight, I can braid a hunter's mane and tail with the best of 'em. Truly. I can whip a wayward mane into 30 or 40 braids in less than an hour. I can even weave in a lucky charm, mid-mane, if desired. But I've never made any claims to being a body shaving genius. If you look closely at Wally's new haircut, you'd see why.
I could've just hired Casey, the local professional horse groomer. She's really not expensive. In fact, I've told her numerous times that she charges too little for her services. But I figured what the heck. My arm is doing better since the last surgery, and my sister has a pair of heavy-duty clippers that lie dormant year after year, so why not do it myself?
Well, after I paid $50 to have the clippers cleaned, the gears greased, and the blades sharpened, I was more than halfway to paying out what it would've cost me to hire Casey. Then I had to purchase clipper oil and a jug of blade wash to rinse the hair from the blades at regular intervals. Ka-ching! There went another dozen dollars.
I made sure I did the correct preparation. Wally got a sudsy bath and once he dried I saturated him with Show Sheen, so that the blades would glide through the hair. (Or so I'm told).
Then I began clipping. Immediately I discovered that Wally had his own "Don't Go There, Sister, with Those Big Clippers" zone. If I got within 10 inches of his head he'd begin to lurch back against the hitching post, threatening to bolt. Alrighty then. I grabbed the battery-operated smaller clippers, switched them to a comparable blade size (or so I thought) and clipped the Forbidden Zone. Unfortunately when I finished the entire Wally Project I could discern a definite line of demarcation between the two sets of clippers. Thanks to my clipper expertise, or lack thereof, I had a patchwork Paint gelding.
At that point I comforted myself by saying, "Hey, look, he's not a show horse. He's a trail horse. Half the time when I'm riding I only encounter other riders at a distance. Who'll notice? And, in a week or two, it'll all even out. It is hair. It does grow."
That's when I stood back and realized that I had yet to clip Wally's ears and the area surrounding his poll. He looked like he was wearing a hair hat. But there wasn't any way that Wally was going to allow me to advance any set of clippers in that direction. So I did what any woman would do: I summoned my husband.
"Honey," I said plaintively, "will you come out here and just hold Wally while I clip his ears?"
You have to appreciate how I winsomely beckoned Ron. The poor guy was totally clueless as to what "holding Wally while I clip his ears" meant.
A few minutes later, Ron was holding the stud chain at arm's length while I stood on a stool attempting to clip a moving target. Most of the time I was successful, which meant that tufts of orange hair rained down on my husband. Add to that the fact that every time Wally tried to dance away I'd call out over the motor, "Honey, tug on the chain more. More! No, more!"
Several times Ron spat out horse hair and declared flatly, "This is fun."
Did I ever promise him "fun" when we moved here and brought a horse into our backyard? Perhaps he misunderstood me. At any rate, Wally is now body shaved, for better or worse. Just don't look at him too closely.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Of course, I went home in a state of panic and searched online. Every western wear store that claimed they carried Posted jeans were selling out of them. As in, "We don't think we're going to be getting any more of these jeans, so sizes are limited." Naturally, those would be the sizes that I wear.
Monday, October 20, 2008
At that moment, the man aboard the taller of the palominos looked at Wally and said, quite seriously, "Is he a rodeo horse?"
I wanted to reply, "Now what gave you that idea?" but I was too busy bending Wally around my left leg to re-focus his attention on me. Instead I laughed, "No, he's just acting like a rodeo horse."
Wally's impression of Midnight: Champion Rodeo Horse only resulted in him having to work in the arena for 20 minutes. Once I got back Wally: Treasured Trail Horse and Pleasure Mount, I headed back home. Wally got a good grooming session by the dim light of an autumn sunset, and then he got his dinner. And once more, everything was right in his world.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
When you're young you are painfully aware of how Nature did you wrong. For me it was my thin, bony shoulders, my wider-than-what-seemed-appropriate hip bones, my Extra Large front teeth and my ape arms. Trying to find a pair of jeans that would be long enough for my coltish legs without enveloping my waist like a feed sack was also an ordeal. Fortunately, with age comes a bit of wisdom. I began to realize that my grandmother was indeed correct: "Ain't nobody perfect." About that time I also discovered that you can buy jeans in various lengths, providing you don't mind mixing cowgirl denim with cashmere sweaters and silk blouses. I also began to look around. Not to point fingers, but by the time I hit 25 I was fully aware that my peers were also stuck with their own level of gawkishness. What freedom! What comfort I found in acknowledging that they were imperfect, too!
It's the same way with our horses. When I was younger... Okay, up until a decade or so ago... It was always very difficult for me to accept any kind of criticism about my horses. Period. I loved them all, and I didn't want to hear from some horse show judge that my hunter had crummy jumping style or my pleasure horse was an iffy mover at the trot. I once had a black Dutch warmblood mare who, in my mind, looked like Black Beauty. She shone like polished obsidian. Yet one day I was sitting on her at the backgate of a show ring and some stranger asked me, "What kind of horse is she? Her head is so, so, so funky looking." I think what she meant was, "She's so long-earred and plain-headed she resembles a mule." I took great offense at that.
But now, whether it's because I've had the joy of riding so many horses or because I've judged a lot of horse shows (or maybe I'm just getting more mellow in my "mature years") I'm alright with the notion that no horse is perfect. They all have flaws, just like us. For example, Wally is a bit too long in the back. He tends to grow more toe than heel, a fact that keeps me familiar with my farrier. He's also a little parrot-mouthed, which means that Wally and I both have semi-annual dental appointments. Though I can accept and deal with these conformational faults--hey, at least he doesn't have to shop for jeans--I would like to change an aspect of his disposition. I'd like to make him more, well, more charming. More of a sweetheart. I'd like him to be the kind of horse where I could sit on the fence and he'd come over and rest his head on my shoulder. But instead, he'd be chewing off the sleeve of my shirt. Then again, I suppose if I changed his disposition, Wally wouldn't be Wally, and that would be sad. The world needs at least a few flashy red horses with pompous attitudes.
What would you fix in your horse? Click on this link to go back to Horse Channel, where you'll find the latest offering of HI Spy: Fix a Flaw Then you can leave your comments there. You'll also find it interesting to read what other horse lovers would fix in their own beasties. Once again, it seems, ain't nobody perfect!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
It's almost sad that Wally has become used to empty pizza boxes flying through the air. He doesn't seem to care much anymore when the branches of the trees surrounding his turnout paddock are waving furiously like kites tethered by the merest of strings.
"Ho-hum," Wally seems to say. "Another windy October day in Southern California. Now on to more important matters. When is Cindy serving the carrots?"
Of course, the advent of the windy season means that Ron and I are scrambling along our hillsides, double-checking to make sure our young trees are anchored to stakes and poles. Several times, while trying to push against a trunk while Ron straightened it in the wind, I felt like I was doing some weird mime impression: "Woman Attempting to Remain Upright while Facing Headlong into 80 mph Wind."
Meanwhile, property owners in the areas to the north, south and east of us were attempting to win battles against a crop of wildfires. If you live in Southern California, you know fire season comes every autumn. You sort of prepare for it. The only uncertainty is where the first flames will erupt. For a couple of days the network news was filled with images of people fleeing their homes. But there were also plenty of images of horses being rescued and then, fortunately, cared for at evacuation centers. Each horse wore a wide strip of silver duct tape all the way around its neck. On the tape was written the owner's contact information. That tactic helps eliminate the confusion when one horse's personalized halter is "borrowed" a dozen or more times to aid in rescuing other equines.
If you didn't catch Horse Channel's coverage of the first edition of West Coast Wildfires, 2008, you can click on this link: Welcome to Autumn
For now, the wildfire danger has passed, although we're still dealing with very hot, dry, breezy conditions. Personally, I'd just as soon transition directly into winter. Seriously. Rain and cold snaps I can deal with. I just snuggle into my parka, lace up my waterproof boots and drink a lot of hot apple cider. Wally, I think, would agree with me.
Monday, October 13, 2008
For most of the day I was teamed up with Kristin, a congenial young woman who served as my announcer. I'd worked with her before. Kristin is a kindergarten teacher, and I used to teach school, so during any lulls in the action (like while the arena was being watered) we'd share anecdotes about the classroom. I always find it interesting that schoolteachers, in general, are very verbally expressive. We like to chat! Plus we're very positive by nature, forever acting as cheerleaders for our students. I think that's how I approach judging: I truly want the riders to put in a good performance. I'd like everyone to get an "A".
Kristin had competed earlier in the day in the other arena, under the other judge, who happened to be Meg Schulman. She is a USEF "R" (large R) judge, which is a testament to her skill, training and experience. In the past I've interviewed Meg for Horse Illustrated, so naturally I had to make use of this time together and get some interesting quotes and insights from her for future use in the magazine and on Horse Channel. Meg is a genuinely nice lady. She is also expressive and articulate. She probably would've made a wonderful schoolteacher!
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Friday, October 10, 2008
Wally has a propensity for growing long toes and not enough heel. Many modern day American Quarter horses and Paints are prone to this predilection. In fact, when I bought Wally, his ex-owner told me three times, "Have your farrier take off lots of toe every time." How do I know she told me this three times? I counted.
I stay on top of it. Wally gets shod routinely every six weeks, which makes a considerable impact on my horsekeeping budget. I tried stretching farrier appointments to 7 or even (*gulp!*) 8 weeks, but Wally's toes got long and I didn't want to court disaster. Or a vet bill. So for the last few shoeing sessions, his feet look awesome. He's sound, he's comfortable, and I'm happy... if a bit poorer.
Yesterday I rode Wally on a long trail ride, all the way up to the golf course and back, and then down through the neighborhood. I figured he should have a nice, cushiony bed instead of sleeping in The Great Outdoors as usual. So last night I decided to put Wally inside his big covered and matted pen.Since I removed the divider, which once separated it into two smaller pens, the enclosure is quite roomy: 32 x 16. I also had heavy-duty wire stretched across the inside of the pen to make it even more secure, since Wally has a tendency to scratch himself on the fence rails and roll vigorously when he lies down. Plus I bedded it heavily.
To make certain that he didn't get the wire stuck underneath any of his EXPENSIVE SHOES when he rolled or slept, I put bell boots on all 4 of his feet. That way, I figured, he couldn't possibly yank any of those shoes off.
I came out this morning-- the first brisk morning of the autumn, I might add-- and my husband presented me with a slightly tweaked horse shoe.
"Is this Wally's?" Ron asked.
I believe the answer was obvious.
You know, there was a moment last night, during the application of the bell boots, when I considered slapping a round or two of duct tape across the heels of Wally's shoes, just so the wire couldn't possibly get underneath them. But did I do it? No.
"What's the likelihood that'll happen," I thought. "I mean, seriously, he's wearing bell boots that go all the way over his heels and to the ground."
Next time, I'll listen to that little voice in my head, the one that warns me about Wally's proclivity for mischief.
And thus I made a frantic, plaintive call to my farrier this morning.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
But now that I have Wally I'm coming to appreciate yet another aspect of mares: they don't need their sheaths cleaned. Boy horses, on the other hand, require some frequent maintenance in a very sensitive area. And, quite frankly, since I spent so many decades with mares, this is one area where I'm not anxious to get up to my elbows in my work. (If you know what I mean).
Twice now I've had to summon Jennifer, my vet and friend, to sedate Wally so he could have his sheath cleaned professionally. That was the only way to get it done because Wally had decided that he was not going to let anyone get up close and personal with him. Yet over the last couple of months I've slowly been working up to doing the procedure myself, without sedating Wally at all. Since he trusts and respects me-- most of the time-- I felt like today was my chance to forge ahead with the ol' bucket of warm soapy water.
I was so proud of myself, and so glad that I'd saved myself another vet call this winter for Wally's semi-annual sheath cleaning, that I wanted to tell someone. But who? I mean, it's not like I could run into the house and tell Ron. He'll muck Wally's corral for me and unload feed, but he's really not interested in comprehending the definition of "smegma." Trust me on this.
And thus I add "Sheath Cleaning" to the list of Things that Make the Average Non-Horse Person Cringe. In my mind, the list would be:
1. Expressing pus from an abscess (distemper related or otherwise)
2. Handling the placenta after a mare foals
3. Sheath cleaning
4. Mucking a stall 24 hours after a parasite-infested horse has been dosed with a de-wormer
5. Participating in the after care of a recently gelded colt
Yup, that about sums up the gunky side of horse care. And people say the horsey lifestyle is glamorous. Ha!
Saturday, October 4, 2008
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Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Because of my recent car accident (see my last blog posting), I had to be shuttled to the show by my mom. And then Ron came and picked me up. It was a long day, so I'm glad I didn't have to drive all the way home after dark. It's probably good that I don't have any judging assignments until after the start of the new year, because I'll have time to get completely healed from my surgery and re-charge my energy.
Yet even though I'm tired, I had a great time. I shared the judge's booth with Nancy Frost, a well-known USEF judge who also trains at L.A. Equestrian Center. The arena Nancy judged held the jumper division, the "advanced" medal finals and the classes for the older junior riders. I had the walk/trot division, the "intermediate" medal finals and the novice rider classes. During any free moments, we chatted about horses (duh!), changes in the show world we've witnessed over the years, and which horse or pony we'd seen that day that we'd like to take home. There were quite a few of those. But then, Wally might get jealous. And I couldn't have that!
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Friday, September 26, 2008
Why this set of circumstances?
Well... On the way home from my doctor's office on Wednesday I rear-ended a truck on the freeway. I wasn't on my cell phone. I wasn't eating or drinking anything. I wasn't trying to switch CDs and steer at the same time. I think I was just distracted. And overwhelmed. And exhausted.
It had been a rather tortuous time at the doctor's office. First I had to sit with the representative from the company that manufactured the implant I have. She fiddled with her computer, getting it to "talk" with the computer I have in me to adjust the settings. Then I got the joy of having the stitches and staples removed. While it was a relief to be rid of them, I began to feel like a horse having its mane pulled. Every so often I couldn't help but say, "Yikes!"
On the way home, the adrenaline that had been coursing through my body began to subside. I was cruising down the freeway, looking forward to getting home so that I could groom Wally and put him to bed. But as I neared my exit, I realized that the big truck in front of me had stopped. I slammed on my brakes-- I was driving my husband's near-new Toyota SUV-- but I knew instantly that I was not going to be able to stop in time.
Fortunately, the man in the truck was not injured. In fact, his truck didn't appear to be damaged much at all. But the Toyota's hood was crumpled like an accordion. In the horse world, I'd compare it to riding a dainty, narrow-barreled Thoroughbred in a crowded warm-up ring and then, while cantering, body slamming into a warmblood. A warmblood that was standing still.
After we exchanged insurance information, the man drove away in his truck. Meanwhile, my husband's SUV limped to the side of the freeway until it could be coaxed onto a tow truck. It's being stabled at the body shop in town until it's remodeled. And trust me, that will take a while.
So, like I said, it's a good thing that Wally doesn't mind being a bicycle. Yesterday I rode him over to Sue's and sat on him while I gave a private lesson to one of my students. And tomorrow I'll probably do the same thing. I've also been riding him to the stack of mailboxes that serve my neighborhood. I hop off, unlock my mailbox, stick all of the correspondence in my saddle bag, climb back on and ride home. It's all much like a modern day Pony Express if you think about it.
Honestly, if I could figure out how to carry home a bag of groceries on Wally, I'd do that, too. There really are hitching posts outside several of the little markets near me. But I'm afraid that milk would be churned into butter by the time Wally carried me back to my house.
So getting the car fixed and back in the barn-- I mean garage-- will be very, very nice. Wally agrees.