Friday, November 28, 2008

Too Much Thanksgiving

I don't know if I need a bran mash or a dose of psyllium in my feed. But I think I ate too much at Thanksgiving dinner. It didn't look like I put that much food on my plate, though, so perhaps it was that I ate too much of stuff I don't normally consume. I mean, how often do I eat sweet potatoes cooked with an upper crust of Wheaties and pecans?

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

Don't Mess with My Horse

I don't have any children. I like kids, but for various reasons-- including medical problems-- I never foaled... I mean "had"... any of my own children. Instead, I have horses.

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.
You can leave your comments here, by clicking on "comments" or at the conclusion of reading the story about Cheyenne.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Now Accepting Applications for Lead Pony

It's time for Cowboy to get some exposure to life off the ranch. Otherwise he'll end up being another uncivilized young horse that is ill-equipped to deal with the Real World. The easiest way to introduce a young horse to the various stimuli found out on the trail is to pony them alongside a trustworthy, seasoned horse. My problem? I'm currently lacking a suitable lead pony. I first attempted to pony Cowboy off of Wally. That ended up being a fascinating study in equine behavior. Wally was giving off definite vibes that HE DID NOT WANT TO BE A LEAD PONY. And Cowboy was reading Wally's body language. Then I had the inspiration to pony Cowboy off of Topper, my sister's sweet but sometimes silly Thoroughbred. As you can see by this photo, things started out well. After all, Cowboy lives in a paddock next to Topper. He perceives Topper as his uncle.

Topper says, "Huh. Last time I was anywhere near a lead pony situation, I was the creature being ponied. Somehow, I suddenly find myself in a freakish alternate universe."
Naturally, I had to experiment a little. So I asked Topper to jog, which prompted Cowboy to trot. And then Cowboy began bucking and playing, which incited Topper to join in on the festivities. There I was, leading a rambunctious colt while sitting astride a free wheelin' 16.2-hand Thoroughbred. Rodeo Queen I am not. I pulled Topper back to a walk, settled down Cowboy and rode straight back to the barn. Strike Two in the Search for an Appropriate Lead Pony.
I then began hunting around town for a suitable horse. As I've related before, there are plenty of horses that are being sold cheaply in my area. Some are even free to good homes, simply because the economy is so bad. But unfortunately, as much as I'd love to give a needy horse a good home, I really didn't find any horse that would work for Cowboy. And then I mentioned to Sue (my trainer friend, at whose place I give lessons) that I was in desperate need of a lead pony. That's when she offered up Ringo, her husband's semi-retired mounted patrol police horse. He's been a lead pony before, and is quite the Steady Eddie on the trails. Ringo can even come live at Cowboy's house, so they can get acquainted before they go out on the town together. Stay tuned. I'll let you know how that goes!
You're welcome to leave your comments by clicking on "comments" below.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christmas Crunch

I know. It's not even Thanksgiving yet. But I'm already feeling the budget busting pressure that comes with the Christmas shopping season.

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.

You can always share your thoughts by clicking on "comments" below or emailing me at:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Secondhand Smoke

The wildfire that stampeded its way through large swaths of neigborhoods west of me is finally being brought under control. My cousins and my sister were permitted to return to their homes last night. Property around them was destroyed or damaged but all of their residences were fine.

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

Wildfires: Too Close for Comfort

Remember those winds I wrote about in my last posting? And remember those fires I mentioned? Well, both the winds and the fires grew in intensity. In fact, I can stand in Wally's turnout paddock and see a crimson glow reflecting off a huge cloud of smoke. The scene resembles a volcanic eruption. Though the fire actually started just a couple of miles from my house, the winds are blowing the threat away from me.

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? !?!
Feel free to share your thoughts and comments by clicking on "comments" below.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Wally in the Wind

It's a little after 4:00 a.m. and I am wide awake. As the weatherman predicted, the winds started howling just after midnight. I slept until the sound of palm tree fronds scraping against the side of my house woke me up. Regardless of how air-tight my house allegedly is, there was also an unmistakable, ever-so-slight whooshing sound creeping in around the windows. That woke me up, leaving me to lie in bed and wonder just what Mr. Wally was doing outside in his paddock. He's such a mischief maker and odds were he certainly wasn't asleep in the wind, either. The choices were:

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.
Regardless of your weather conditions, you're welcome to contribute your thoughts by clicking on "comments" below.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What's in a Name?

Yesterday my trail riding buddy Natalie and I hauled our horses to nearby Irvine Park. It was a perfect day for riding: mild temperatures but with a cool breeze. Overhead, the sky was pristine blue and polka-dotted with white clouds. While we were tacking up, Wally was being... Wally. I don't find his behavior the least bit annoying. Comparatively speaking, Wally has come a long way since I bought him. But I guess in comparison to Natalie's sedate grulla gelding, he was a little antsy pantsy. Plus he insisted on holding something in his mouth-- lead rope, reins, my shirt sleeve-- until I could get the bridle on his head.

"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

Another Episode of "The Wally Cam"

It's a lovely November morning. There's a cool breeze blowing but it's an otherwise sunny day. So I snapped on one of my favorite western blouses, saddled up Wally and grabbed my camera as we went for a ride. Here's Wally's take on the trip:

"After what seemed like an endless walk up a long, winding trail, we reached Nirvana. Look at all that grass! I understand that this is something you silly humans refer to as a 'golf course.' What a ridiculous waste of perfectly good grazing land. Why, I'd make good use of that pasture, as if a little NO TRESPASSING SIGN would stop me. In fact, if someone did try to stop me, I'd just claim that horses can't read."

"We took a different trail around the hilltop and came upon this open area. I can sense something in the bushes. Coyote, perhaps? Jackrabbit? Or maybe a feed delivery truck? A horse can only hope."

"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

If I Ruled the World

Do we have a new president yet? I sure hope so, because I can't take one more day of endless political TV commercials let alone the one-sided political diatribes that flood my email's inbox. Enough already!

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.
Have any idea what you'd do if you were Queen of the (Horse) World? Just click on "comments" below or email me at:

Sunday, November 2, 2008

How I Spent Halloween in Horse Town

On Halloween night Ron and I walked across the street to our neighbor's house. She hosted a small outdoor potluck because several of us live on a steep incline, and the trick-or-treaters are reluctant to slog up the hill, sacks o' goodies in tow, to knock on our doors in the dark. So instead we gathered in the front yard of her house at the bottom of the slope. We dined on my chicken chili, someone else's homemade pasta salad and another person's fire-roasted hot dogs. A row of tables were set up and each of us contributed a bowl of candy so the neighborhood kids could stop by and grab a few handfuls while we busily chatted away and stuffed our faces with adult fare.

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."

Wally and I hope you had a fun time on Halloween!