Thursday, May 30, 2013

Joey's New Home

DF Touch of Mojo, "Joey," came to us in March of last year.  He had been living in a herd setting and not getting quite enough groceries, and hadn't seen the world beyond his birth place or been handled very much.

Joey soon after arriving
. Over last summer he became fat and glossy, and learned about bits and saddles and maybepossiblysomeday--trusting humans! 
I ponied him out on the trail with faithful ole Blaze, and Joey loved the sights and smells--and water!
hmm, fun!
I had some personal drama end of last year and the first few months of this year, and I had to come to that sad decision to pare down my herd. I had never known what my exact intent with Joey was, beyond getting him fat and healthy and on his way to being the great little horse I knew he could be. I started searching for a home for Joey, but it was a long process, with lots of "tire kicking" and enthusiastic phone calls and emails that rapidly petered out when it came down to making any real decisions. A few nice folks actually came and checked him out, but he wasn't the right match for them. 

Things began to settle down for me in the last couple of months and in my mind I had pretty well stopped looking for a new home for Joey. There was still one ad for him left posted, and a nice lady, N, called a few weeks ago, very interested in him. I was skeptical as usual but N and I had a few extended phone calls chatting about Joey, horses, and Arabians in particular. She understood the Arabian brain, loved it, and was ready for another companion for her mare, after losing her 32 year old Arab gelding 6 months past. I could tell she was not only an Arab fan, but an incredibly conscientious horse owner, which was only confirmed after meeting her at her home.

I decided to take a chance, so my husband J and I dropped Joey off to N yesterday. She has a beautiful little barn and acreage in the shady foothills of Grass Valley. 

Walking up to the new digs.,
Joey's new barnyard 
N was thrilled to have him home and we put him right out to meet his new pasture mate.
Joey's new pasture mate is a gorgeous blue roan half Mustang mare who threw one good left hook at Joey before they headed off up the hillside together to graze busily and ignore humans.

Here comes Isabella, Joey's new boss ;-)
 Meeting for the first time
 hmm, let's see if we can be friends..
 Left hook not pictured, but here Isabella takes Joey back up the hill to their grazing spot 
 Re-homing a horse is bittersweet, no doubt. Joey taught me quite a bit in the last year, including some of my own limitations! He and I never quite clicked personality wise but he is a smart, sweet, gorgeous boy and deserves a golden future. I am happy for Joey and N, and excited for their future together. N and I exchanged all our contact information and will be keeping in touch.

Happy Trails, Joey boy!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Out of Whack

I joined N and Willow at the lake Thursday a.m. in high spirits, with all my extra boot bags and this and that, thinking I was doing a last longer test ride with all my trail accouterments before heading to Run for the Gold ride down south next weekend. Actually I did not have all my tack, having forgotten my pommel pack at home. It's a rather essential but also well tested item of tack. I had washed it the day before and there it remained, clean and dry--and on the porch. I've now concluded carrying your keys, phone, water bottle etc in a side boot bag is incredibly inconvenient and annoying. Especially if you don't re-zip the boot bag. Fortunately I caught that one as my phone and camera teetered dangerously out the gaping zipper, and unfortunately our ride only lasted about 4 miles total anyway. A mile and a half of chatting, a weird step, a 1/2 mile of concern and serious Desire's left hind leg scrutiny, and a 2 mile walk back to the rigs. I felt her take the occasional very faint odd step, and N thought she could see something weird about the left hind, boot or movement or something. It was all pretty faint and intermittent, and then N noticed that Desire's right hip was higher than her left! So clearly she was out of whack, and most likely the odd steps were compensating for whatever was going on. Still sometimes she looked completely up under herself and sound as I hand walked her the couple miles back up the trailers. But that hip was definitely wrong.

I got on the phone when I got home and miracle of miracles, got through to D, the chiropractor I had out to work on Desire last fall and she even promised to be out the next afternoon! That's incredibly good turnaround for getting a horse service out to where we are in the foothills. Upon seeing her, D promptly agreed Desire's right hip was higher, and she also quickly discovered a few of the ribs on her left side were out as well. Matter of fact she put Desire's hip, back, ribs, shoulders, and poll area back into place!  I have had massage and chiropractic done on Desire multiple times in the last year but she seems to get herself out of whack pretty often. We theorized she had thrown things out of place on the violent spook that had thrown me a week or so before, though I had ridden her since and hadn't noticed the hip or any weird steps. That's the thing about horses, so often there isn't a clear cut answer right off the bat! I don't mind continuing to get Desire adjusted if she needs it  but I also would really like to know the underlying issue that is causing it to happen over and over, and also about some of her other balance/hind end issues. The vet is coming out Tuesday to do spring vaccines and I'm going to have her draw blood and test for EPM and anything else she thinks might be possible, if anything. Xrays/ultrasounds to check out it's looking like in her hind end, maybe? D also said she had never seen a horse lift the opposite hind hoof when you lift a front hoof, like Desire does with both fronts. Neither of us can figure if it's pain or habit or what. She also sort of falls out from under herself when I'm setting her front hooves back down during trims, even setting them down slowly, she sort of jerks and catches herself. Weird.

After the adjustment her hips looked even and she moved out looking even, no weird steps or compensating that I could see. Which is great! But I am still suspicious something else is up, and will investigate it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Love & Luck

A friend and former coworker lost her beloved mare yesterday to a trail injury that at first seemed simple and in the end was tragic. I knew the mare as a filly when she and the gal were first bonding and coming along together and they had a great relationship that had budded into a successful endurance career. My heart just breaks for her. Another experienced endurance rider lost his horse and is recovering from a fall from the Tevis trail this week as well. It's such a knife edge that we balance on, riding horses and going out adventuring in the wilds, it's amazing what we get away with, how lucky we generally are--and so tragic when it goes wrong. My best wishes and prayers for all that have been injured, lost, or suffered loss in the last few weeks. 

I wanted to spend time with my own horses this morning, so Blaze and I cruised to the top of the ridge. After a few hot days the temperature dropped significantly again last night; today is easily 20 degrees cooler than yesterday, so I climbed most of the steep ridge on foot, listening to Blaze clop clop in his Renegades behind me.

Cute lil Blaze
 Had a couple good strong uphill trots, though mostly he wanted to canter, and I might have let him once..
 Just about to the top, taking a breather but hey, pricked ears! Get the camera!
 I trimmed Blaze's hooves after I got back and when he was done I left him to snooze in the cross ties and fetched the filly out to do her hooves. She was *really good* today, eyeballing everything suspiciously as ever--her mother's daughter to the core!--but there was no melodramatic spazzing and I timed the few corrections I needed to just right, which doesn't always happen but did today and made for a thoroughly positive experience all around. I totally spaced checking her height while she was out, oops!
We still match :-)
 Snotty filly face, but there is her pretty head and long mane 
 Not bad badonkadonk for a 2 yr old Arabian! She and Blaze sprint the hills in the pasture at least a few times every single day and her muscles are pumping up all of a sudden 
 Good filly getting her trim

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Spooky Stomp Around the Neighborhood

Desire really marches through life, putting her hooves down like she means it, grabbing ground and just generally getting 'er done. Unless she is spooking sideways, or backwards--or eating. Kitted out in all 4 Renegade boots she is particularly loud, especially on the few miles of pavement I covered today getting in an 11 mile ride from home. 

She kinda has big head at this  angle but it's a *pretty* big head, so there! 
 I tried out my new very blue Just Chaps half chaps from The Distance Depot on this ride and they were great. I wasn't really aware until I was half chap shopping but apparently I have short calves; I have tried a few pairs since my Terrain chaps died, only to discover the new pairs were all too tall and skinny. The Just Chaps are very light, it was getting into the 80s by the end of our ride and they didn't hold unreasonable heat, as they shouldn't since they are essentially 3/4 colored mesh. I think technically you would say they are too short for me, as they are maybe an inch below the actual bend in my knee, but then I am used to things being too long, so my perspective may be skewed. They sit comfortably on my legs, anyway, and didn't rub anywhere or unzip. There are pretty secure straps at the top and bottom to prevent unzipping, actually. Overall I'm happy with these chaps so far!
 Cruising out
 I've been working outside on the property a lot in the last week which uses different muscles than my usual riding and gym muscles, so not even a mile into the ride I could feel how stiff I felt in the saddle and hopped off to stretch out and walk for about a mile. Desire has a great big walk on her and (mostly) doesn't spook when I'm on foot and I felt much better back in the saddle after warming myself up, too.
As for the ride itself, what can I say, there was a lot to spook at out there! I realize now that I usually ride Blaze on this neighborhood ride, and there's a reason for it. There are about 2 miles of pavement involved in the ride (not fun to spook about on), as well as countless barking dogs, most of them large and in Guard mode, not all of them contained. Today was really bad for that actually, aside from the endless barking contained dogs, a spot that usually has one loose dog today had 4 loose Pitbulls that came charging out past their gate, across the road at us and stopped within inches of Desire's heels as I roared at them and circled around to chase them if necessary  They did it on the way out and back, of course, but fortunately were deterred by myself and the owners screaming at them. I'm riding all roads, pavement or dirt, so there is of course traffic, including four wheelers and dirtbikes. Blaze is generally quite unimpressed by most of it, except donkeys and baby animals, but hey we all have our Thing(s). He will walk or stand quietly wherever I want when a vehicle passes, while today Desire danced around and swung her butt out into the road if I stopped or grew a foot and pranced sideways when I let her just walk with the car coming. Basically our 11 miles around the neighborhood is a lot of walking and a lot to look at, with relatively few safe places to move out and blow off steam. A well suited 11 miles for Blaze, not Desire!

 Between spooking, a handful of sustained trots, and clapping her Renny's down like a percussionist, there was grazing. As much grass/weeds as she could conceivably stuff into her mouth at once, generally! No boot issues on our spazzing about, just a spunky mare who was still chewing, pulling and jitterbugging as we headed up the hill for home.
I tore apart my saddle and washed the breastcollar and saddle packs, as well as the usual girth, splint boots, boots, and pad. I even oiled my saddle as it was getting rather sweat crusted and stiff in spots. Kind of funny, we had some electrical and well pump issues earlier in the week and when I was cleaning up my tack today the hose suddenly died like it did the other day when the pump went. My denial today was instantaneous. No, it can't be, the pump is fine, that didn't just happen. I finished hanging up and organizing things, made sure Desire was fly sprayed and enthroned with groceries, and only then went to investigate, my heart in my throat. Fortunately it was just the big storage tank filling taking the water pressure, Phew! Home ownership is rarely boring and the little water scare really only made me more grateful to hop in the hot shower and shed the horse, sweat, and sunscreen afterwards!

While we didn't have the best ride ever it's always good to spend a beautiful cool morning in the saddle and I'm quite pleased with my half chaps! I plan to spend my Saturday afternoon in the shade of the big oak tree with my dogs and a good book. Hope you are all enjoying your weekends too!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

You Can Leave Your Hat on--and one sneaker and your iPod

If you ask Desire, the trails we ride are dark and full of terrors. Just look:

There are weird stumps, and a giant tower with circling fighting/flirting hawks, and there is water over there AND..

There may be grass here but there are also skitterings in the bushes and roaring water I'm staring at..
 Fine I won't complain on this one, that is a decent mouthful for the road
 Really, A road..a culvert..flowing rushing have to be kidding! Who makes this stuff up.
Pavement, pillars, construction, road crossing..
There isn't photo evidence of the zooming mountain biker coming down the backside of Sycamore Hill behind us..

view climbing Sycamore Hill
The biker was actually quite polite and I told him I'd put her off the trail and he could pass. I was already walking so I turned her to face the bike and parked her just off the admittedly narrow trail. He went by slowly and she danced in place and snorted like she was going to squirrel over top of me to get away, but didn't. So call it a win?

Then there's the Sprinkler. The sad thing is, the Sprinkler already caught us in the morning, on the way out from the trailer. It barely goosed Desire and she sort of surged forward but it didn't unseat me and I went on my merry spooky way. I'm still trying to convince myself that the first Sprinkler was at a lower house and by the time I came back theirs had gone off and a house higher up the path had turned one on. Because I honestly thought I was past The Sprinkler, or I never would have picked up a trot up the hill past the last of the houses on the way back. But I did it. I picked up a nice brisk uphill trot, smiled at the surge of power from Desire--and then felt that power melt away from beneath me as my body automatically scrambled for any way to stay on--legs, arms, whatever--but No, there was no sitting this. The Sprinkler arced out of nowhere, 10 feet in front of us, and Desire simply slammed on the brakes and popped it into reverse for a good 20 feet in one movement, backing down over the side of the drop off and stopping abruptly to graze nonchalantly. I must have curled to protect my right side--read ankle--because while my right sneaker popped off and went flying, I hit and skidded on my left forearm and well down my left hip and thigh. The red dirt and scrapes on my arm told the story, but I was mostly concerned with collecting my shoe, my fortunately unscathed iPod (listening to NPR in one earbud, like a gangster), and my smug horse. She tried to spook up on me as we walked past the Sprinkler but I snarled at her and remounted. As we trotted off the Sprinkler turned off, so either my swearing or my body hitting the ground attracted attention from someone, or maybe a timer did it. It's hard to see up in the little yards and shaded view-hugging houses, so I'll just pretend no one saw it go down.

I haven't come off of a horse since shattering my right ankle 3 1/2 years ago, so I think I had a bit of a euphoric adrenaline rush going to be back up in the saddle immediately, unbroken, laughing and swearing in equal parts. I checked her papers just now to be sure and Yep--Desire turns 17 years old this summer and still is one nervy little wackadoo sometimes. Just goes to show some horses are themselves for life! She has seen a lot of world and a lot of trail in various states, had some good endurance experience, and I honestly don't think you could school her out of her Spazzy inclinations. Fortunately she's also a fun mare, forward and Git R Done in the best ways, and a natural endurance horse in behaviors.

But really, why drink when you can eat..
 Chastised mare, done at the trough 
We cruised a nice 13 miles including the Hill in about 3 hours, and Desire was a stinky, foamy, sweaty, nasty mess afterward. She drank and ate well as usual, but never peed. I've actually remembered to pack my sponge lately and cleaned her up a little at the trailer but the flies were CRAZY and my dirty scratched arm was stinging so I loaded her up and got out of there. I stopped at the feed store on the way home and grabbed fly spray and a bag of Elk Grove pellets; I usually get it in barrels but need to get mine and refill them, so a 50 lb sack of Sunshine mix it was. At home Desire got a Quench and joint supplement dosed pellet mash, lots of fly spray, a fly mask, and a pile of hay. Such queenly treatment, so many extra groceries, it must be worth the constant near death experiences to her after all, or so we hope!

Moments like these make the spooky ones worth it! 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Housework and Horse"work"

I have been struggling with creativity on my post titles lately; I keep trying to use "tails" and "tales" in some clever way for a post title, which in itself should tell you just how impaired my creativity is at the moment. Fortunately said impairment is thus far limited to typing, as we've been quite creative on the home front lately. This past week we installed a new hardwood floor in the kitchen:
We also*finally* cleaned out and redid the long planter box running along the side of the porch that has mostly been a weeds/large dog hangout station since we bought the place. It is now currently full of lovely rich dirt and will soon play host to whatever shade-loving plants we decide upon. We are also in mid-repair on the corner of the lawn next to the planter bed where a single small plastic pond liner had been sitting, now turned into 3 small ponds with a waterfall effect, soon to have a retaining wall and and some landscaping in to complete it:

Working on the home base is always a good thing, but so is riding horses! Yesterday morning Desire and I headed to the lake to meet N and Willow. 

My dignified mare..
 Where we live in the foothills, only about 20 minutes haul from the lake, we often have different weather than down in the valley. I had heard about fires burning a few hours north but up at our house there was no visible sign of the fires. At the trail head the sky was mostly blue, but looking out through the tress over the lake: Smoke!
 N said the smoke was pretty bad where she lived; it's scary that it's barely May and it's already so dry, with fires, heat, and wind already making headlines. I'll freely admit I'm not adjusting all that well to getting stuff done in the near 90 degree temps. The forecast calls for a 20 degree drop and a chance of showers in the next few days though, just enough to really confuse everyone's systems!

Yay, Willow is arriving!
 Peeking Willow and N's awesome new tights
 Out on the trail the sky started out blue but smoke was obscuring the foothills looking out over the lake. Not good! Still the trails were beautiful as always..

 The spillway is really flowing! 
 Desire was *starving* this whole ride and could barely be bothered to walk or trot for the trying to eat
 Yes I am bribing her with a carrot to get anything besides listening-to-spillway-roar-behind-us ears--semi successfully, I might add
 Neither of the mares drank until we climbed back up to the visitor center but was only about 11 miles in 3 hours, so not an unreasonable span. Still there was a lot of sweaty, foamy, stinky grey mare to go around!
Desire is still shedding out the very last of her winter goat disguise and the combination of shedding hair, sweat, sunscreen, fly spray, dirt, etc we were both covered in...well. Most of the time I am okay with being grungy especially when dressed and prepped for the occasion but there are still moments that it's all a bit much. Also, the flies are particularly bad all of a sudden and Desire has already started getting little sores on her back and belly from the bug bites. Apparently it's time to up everything to full summer heat and bug protocol! But wait it's going to rain in 3 days..

Ah, Northern California :)

 Moving the hay net in the trailer manger uncovered this contribution from our chickens. Omelette anyone?