Saturday, May 30, 2009

Johnny Eats A Bento Lunch on the Trail!

Yes I did make my horse a bento box lunch, or snack really, and yes he did enjoy it. There. That's the alpha and omega of this story, but as always, it is beta-gamma-delta etc. that contain all the mishaps.

A beautiful morning, sent from heaven unaltered, just as a glimpse of what heaven may be like if there is one: sun, cool breezes, bird song, and everyone looks pretty including of course John:

So I decided to pack a lunch and try for the Long Ride. This would involve crossing County Road 1 and following a bike path several miles to an entry to a huge state park trail system which has been luring me since I moved to the new barn.

I packed bento box lunches for both Johnny and myself;

His has carrots, grapes, and a granola bar; mine has fried rice, pink grapefruit, and peanut butter pretzels.

I was rushing through this preparation process due to the fine morning; in our climate, weather can change drastically within minutes, not even hours, so I wanted not to miss the golden ride time if at all possible.

So I made it and he was in a fine mood and off we went. I put on his bear bells which are mostly decorative although (a) we both seem to enjoy the jingle, and (b) there have been bear sightings all around town this spring.

Here's a little video of the bear bells and walking:

And here we are gaiting out a bit:

We had a terrific ride and we ate our lunches without actually killing each other so that's a plus.

John did attack his bento a bit before I offered it to him, but he's a horse after all. The expression 'hungry as a horse' does have bearing.

The sky was so infinitely blue!! Like you could just have floated up there and gone swimming or flying in blue forever.

I am going to work on my horse bento technique. I believe I may be the only person in the universe who is making horse bentos. That would make me either the coolest person in the universe, or the biggest idiot. I know where my vote's going!!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Johnny Goes Camping!

Three days of riding and taking care of Johnny's every need! Minnesota Trail Riders Association sponsors these group camping trips and you can count on group rides plus individual rides as you wish. We arrived at Foothills Horse Camp near Backus MN on Friday at around 1 p.m. and I got John settled with some hay and water on his tie line, got the dogs watered and bedded down in the trailer,

and went in search of someone to ride with. Right away I found a new friend Linda, and her cute young Quarterhorse Peanut. We agreed to tack up and ride out together in 1/2 hour. Neither of us knew the trails and both of us are directionally challenged but there was a map and it turned out fine.

Paul our camp host had created an obstacle course for us to warm up our horses - he had observed that some horses have trouble with unfamiliar things on the trail. So John and I, and Linda and Peanut tried it out:

It involves walking your horse across a tarp covered with beer cans, closely placed barrels to pass through, a platform to cross with step down onto a black tarp, and a platform teeter-totter. John got a big thrill out of smashing the beer cans; he kept wanting to go back through. I am sure he is the kind of guy who would pop packing material all night long.

At night I was able to lie in my sleeping place over the gooseneck of the trailer and observe John in his various sleeping postures: standing, down with chin resting on ground, down flat out with all legs sticking straight out, etc. I woke up about every hour to observe him until about 5 a.m. the first night when I opened my loving eyes to observe: no horse!

Panic, heart pounding, I clamber down out of my sleeping loft and by "clamber" I mean crash down into the dogs' water bowl and various other objects, scramble for clothes, project myself out the door, only to see a calm horse in the dawn light 5 feet from me. John looked up like, Oh, are you awake too?

He had somehow slipped out of his halter, which was hanging by the leadrope from the tie line. So it wasn't my knot coming undone, which I always expect.

later that day I was telling someone about it and I said, "There was John, standing naked eating, just as calm as you please." And someone who had overheard this said, "Which guy is John?" Thinking I was describing a man who was perhaps inebriated, which would be entirely plausible because some people interpret horse camping as PARTAAY!! Which is fine; they are usually sooo tired from riding that they can only drink and holler until about 10 p.m. and then everyone staggers off.

One young couple got engaged on this trip, and they were sort of cute but sort of odd too. They talked a lot about having sex while out on a trail ride, in fact the very ride where they got engaged. They pointed out deer stands where they had 'done it', and these were flimsy platforms up in trees with no sides to them. The groom-to-be was very quiet, and looked dumbstruck, like a dump truck of sex had backed up beeping into his life and begun unloading, and it is impairing his judgement. The bride-to-be was a YEEHAW rider, a type I have met before on these trips.

YEEHAW riders like to run their horses down steep embankments while shouting Yeehaw; they like to gallop off and gallop back doing the same; they believe their horses require stern discipline, whupping and cursing. Can you tell how much I love these people?!

But the most fun thing about these MTRA trips is all the diverse horse people. and all the beautiful horses. Here's a picture of two cute Appy butts for PonyGirl:

And here are some more fellow riders:

These two matching Tennessee Walker mares were so cute; their owners were wife and husband and had matching pommel bags, boots, saddles, everything. Here's the head of one of their mares so you can see the prettiness:

It was quite a time! John did his rushing downhill and close following tricks, showing me we have some things to work on, but he refused nothing: deep water crossings, heavy brush crossings, down trees, deep mud, ATV's, nothing fazes him. I feel so lucky to have him in my life, and so humbled by his generous heart. I'm not worthy.

But after 3 days of this I was so ready to come home and take a shower!! The buildup of bug spray, sunscreen and dust is aggravating after awhile. And Johnny was thrilled to get back to his green pasture - he left me holding my treat at the gate - he was so done! - and pranced out into the evening sun looking like King Horse, shaking his mane.

Happy Memorial Day! Hope everyone has a chance to relax and think and enjoy their horses too.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Hot Wind and Mares in Heat

It was the weirdest day at the barn: a hot wind like the meltemi blowing at gale force, bending big trees and making the barn walls shudder. Two or possibly 3 mares in heat. All geldings perturbed by one or the other or both of these phenomena.

John was sacked out asleep when I got there, but when he finally got up:

...he immediately sniffed the wind and raised his face in the crazy-lips-mouth bare teeth universal salute to the scent of a mare. I didn't get a picture of it because I didn't expect it to last so long as it did.

This evening I have been packing for the upcoming horse camping trip with Minnesota Trail Riders Association. If all goes as planned we will be riding Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday. I will have those strange night of sleep in which every 15 minutes I wake up and look to see if John has departed for another state or just gone off to steal someone's food. Thanks goodness he has some white; I look for that in the moonlight if there is any.

I am also packing food for myself, which is hard because I know there will be some item I develop a violent craving for, which I will not have brought along. Somehow riding a lot all at once stirs up weird pregnancy-like cravings. Last time it was a Chunky candy bar that would have saved my life but instead I died of needing one. This time I have 4, no less, but I'm sure they won't appeal to me...nevertheless I may manage to make my way through one or 3.

Anyway I am glad that John feels secure enough at his new barn to lie down and sleep in the pasture; here you see his buddy Firzie watching over him:

If I can I will catch some video of Firzie's magical floating trot. 3PennyJane has given me this homework assignment!

Hope everyone has something nice planned for Memorial Day weekend and that we will also's strange that it is such a happy holiday - long weekend early in summer! - and the reason for it is so mournful really.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lovely Ride with a New Friend

On Monday afternoon John and I got to ride out with John's pasture-mate Firzie and his lovely owner. This was a first for me: riding out with a companion at the new barn.

It happened by accident. I was there tacking up, Firzie's owner arrived and we just decided to go together.

This horse is in his early 2o's and in a sort of retirement; they have had a long happy career together of dressage, eventing, and hunter/jumper shows.

Firzie does not do more than he wants to these days, so Patty rides him to his wishes rather than hers; she said, "He gave me so much for so many years, and all that time I was telling him You Must Do this!! so now, he gets to choose what he wants to do."

Mostly I was struck by the fact that he has not been an easy horse for her. He has apparently been spooky, difficult to travel with, a refuser to drink strange water, a hot reactor to change at all times, and yet she just stuck with him and still does. His retirement is with her, with easy jobs and excellent care, in gratitude for all he gave her for so many years.

Today I saw John and Firzie actually playing, and I saw what she had described about her horse in his showing days: "an Arab who looks like a Lipizzan and has a stallion attitude". Firzie can trot without hardly touching the ground!! Amazing loft to that gait. John was just like an ant in comparison: scuttle along and gait.

I am so impressed with the way this horse and rider have decided upon each other, no matter what. This is a great horse and owner relationship. I haven't seen one quite like this in all my days of horse craziness.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pony Tails

Lytha of Horse-Crazy American in Germany has inspired me to try to keep John's tail cleaner because she likes Baasha's tail to be snow-white. Well John won't make that standard, partly because his tail does have some black hair in it. But yesterday I gave him the Pony Tail treatment with a shampoo, cream rinse, and Show Sheen detangling. This took about one hour and he practically fell asleep during the process.

We then went for a 2 hour trail ride to dry it and show off to the birds, flies, and guinea hen gang that had mobbed the yard by the time of our return:

I don't think I've ever been this close to guinea fowl before. Let me tell you they make some strange noises. It's like a whole shelf's worth of Random Avian Sound Effects got bestowed upon them at the creation, in return for their awkward pin head appearance.

This is apparently a gang of Guinea thugs who wander the farmscape looking for trouble or bugs; they were running down the road practicing their sound effects as I left.

And I made this little movie of John in his new paddock, so that you could see his body condition. In return for being boring, it is very short:

His belly has lost that aggravated puffy look; behind the ribs where he used to have a bulge, he now is concave. His coat is shiny and bright, and his eye is cheerful again like when I first bought him. This is from 3 weeks at the new barn, and different hay, different feeding schedule, and also just spring finally arriving.

Have a great weekend everyone!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Horse's Mouth: Equine Dentist Visit!

Sunday was Dentist Day for Johnnie and my new boarding barn mates. Finally I got to meet some of the others who board at this lovely quiet place. What a nice group of ladies. We were united in admiration of our equine dentist. The photo above is of his traveling rig. The horses go in the back and rest their heads or necks in a padded collar; a single stall has been narrowly walled in the middle to hold them up when they're sedated.

Our dentist is a vet who specialized in equine dental care, invented most of his own tools, and covers a wide area. He is also single and owns a 4000-acre horse and cattle ranch in South Dakota - "All the single ladies, put your hands up!" He remembers a lot of info about each client and each horse even though there are hundreds of both in a given year of his practice. And he wears hot looking jeans and cowboy boots.

He's been doing my horses' teeth for some years now, and I've noticed an interesting phenomenon of improved personal hygiene on dentist day, among my horsegirl friends. A touch of lipstick takes the place of chapstick, or the cleaner jeans appear. There have even been hopeful paper plates of chocolate chip cookies. But so far no senorita has become his senora over the grinding of equine molars.

He's delightful to talk to and we had a nice chat about retirement. I made my little gallows-humor joke about my fully invested retirement fund which has taken such a beating I may be teaching until I'm 273 years old. I said, Anyway no reason to retire as long as you are having fun!

And he said, And every day, or really every horse, is different and challenging. Every horse's mouth is different, and they will surprise you: the best bred, best cared for horse will have a terrible mouth, while a woolly muddy old heffalump will have gorgeous dentition. You just never know!

His eyes were just sparkling when he talked about his work. That's the way it should be for everyone!!

Here's John getting his points ground down:

Johnnie has "a very nice mouth" and doesn't need too much work; indeed I won't get to see our dentist friend for two years now unless I happen upon dental day.

The horse before John had a tooth blow up and there was blood, pus, stench, the owner almost fainted, the trailer door flew open and her white face appeared as Dr. Charming unfolded a chair for her to sit in the breeze and watch the clean-up. After me was an owner who was just praying that her aged horse's molars could last out another year and not be pulled; they were loose in their sockets last year at this time.

John is strongly affected by anaesthesia even though Dr. HotRanch uses 1/2 the usual amount for him; so I waited until I saw this little expression:

before I could leave.

It was a really interesting day and I just love knowing all of John's teeth are smooth and in good shape. He did have a pocket of some weird business going on in the front upper gum. Dr. DreamGuy said this might go away with the post-work bute he gave. And today I couldn't find it but I don't trust my skills as John doesn't really let me explore his gums the way he lets Doctor Slowhands do it.

So Happy Trails to You our much-admired Equine Dentist!! We'll put our lipsticks away for another time...sigh.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"In our end is our beginning"

Montana has a new owner. You might remember my experiences of trying to sell him and having various misadventures, of moving John to a new boarding situation and deciding on the spur of the moment to leave Montana behind.

For the past 2 weeks I have been in an emotional stew wondering what should happen: should I sign over ownership to the former barn's trainer and let him become a school horse? I've never thought school horses have the most enviable life. Some of them have personalities that suit the work, more or less; I never could believe Montana has that personality. Should I just move him as my husband said "Get him out of there!!"? Should I temporize, pay another month's board and buy some time to think?

A solution has appeared out of heaven and it seems to be perfect. On Friday Montana was duly purchased, and he became the longed-for new partner of a lovely young woman who grew up with horses but has been horseless for 10 years since her mare was tragically hit by a car in a freak accident. She has been working at my former boarding barn as an assistant riding instructor and 'paying off' rides on the barn's young (rank) horses with chores etc. Kind of an equine Cinderella situation. Montana will be her handsome prince. She loves dressage and jumping, so does he. She wants to show; he's great at shows. She has time and love to give, he has an infinite capacity to be loved and snuggled.

This solution would have appeared to both of us sooner if it were not for some disinformation which...I won't go into, but all of you who know barn bitchery can fill in this blank.

The next day there appeared on her Facebook page an entire photo album named "Montana Love". She feeds him peanut butter granola bars so he will be in high cotton. From his royal wardrobe of excess tack and etc. I was able to supply her with all she needs to start pampering His Highness in his accustomed style - everything has to match, everything has to be expensive, everything possible must be burgundy.

Today I will go out to ride John with a guiltfree heart for the first time since I insanely purchased him (when my husband was taking a few riding lessons and I jumped on the rationalization). Endings and beginnings. All those times, "...In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean Horse of our courage".

And by the way, how about that Kentucky Derby yesterday? Mine That Bird looked like another species of animal altogether as he flew past the earth bound pack to win by 20 lengths. And he did not look tired after! Just happy. 50-1 odds. "Bets I Wish I Had Placed" department.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Twisted X Boots OMG!!

Well Ponygirl endorsed these boots a few months back and I filed that away, but just last month I bought some. Oh my dear heaven, what comfortable boots from the get-go, and I walked around all day in them and just kept thinking they were more and more comfy every step.

I can't say enough good about these boots. You won't believe it - the old timey "Hush Puppy" feeling in a western swank boot? yes. Love it.