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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