Thursday, April 22, 2010

50+Horses Moving To Life+Horses

In the last year I've had a lot of fun writing my blog on 50+Horses.  However, as I go down this road I find that I've got so much more to share and the words "50+" are restricting me from sharing some of my incredible stories with those -50. 

Sure I want to share my experiences of being a 50+ rider, but I also want to have the ability to spread out and share tales of those I meet along the way regardless of their age.  Thus changing the title to Life+Horses allows me that flexibility.

You can now dial into my blog at and catch up with me, my horses and whatever else is happening around here.

I appreciate all of you who have commented and followed me the past year and hope you'll join me at my new 'barn',

See you inside!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Time at StarHop

In the past week, while our dog Hank and I have had our morning ritual of "throw the ball and I'll bring it back" in our front (summer) pasture, I've observed our grass grow almost 6 inches in less days.

Spring time has arrived at StarHop, our little ranch nestled on the west side of the Cascade foothills.  Although we had a 24 degree night a few days ago, everything here is blooming and growing. 

This includes the grass in our unused pastures, rich and high this time of year.  Word up here is to avoid turning your horses out on this beautiful, shiny, lush green grass due to its high sugar content and the risk of foundering.

So yesterday morning my husband and I had our annual conversation about whether it's time to prepare to move our horses to the summer pasture. 

Our preparation for this event starts about 6-8 weeks before they're relocated with brush hogging the summer pasture.  We cut and let the field dry, allowing the cut grass to settle back into the soil.  When the weather warms up around mid-June and the current cut grass starts to dry we'll move the horses to their summer pasture.

Waiting to cut it will mean another week's time before my husband and his tractor can get out in the field.  Another week's time will mean another 6 or so inches growth, equaling the grass almost being a foot tall.  We've found the higher the cut grass, the longer it takes to decay or not decay at all into the soil, leaving it cut and rotten on top of the newer growth.

So today, as I write this, I look out the window at my husband on his tractor, brush hog behind him, cutting the summer field.  I can smell the sweet grass through the open windows.  I can hear my wind chimes lazily ringing in the breeze and sometimes catch the sound of my husband singing his heart out to his IPod.   Periodically I also hear the pop/crunch/bang of rocks as they get caught up in the blade of the brush hog.

He drives our little tractor, or what I refer to as "The Little Tractor That Could".  Not very big, this tractor represents my husband and I, doing the best we can with what we have.  I like to think it signifies the support and love we have for each other.

This tractor represents the new washer, dryer, range, dishwasher, carpet and flooring I was supposed to get when we moved into this house.  But on one of our morning weekend, "State of The Union" coffee discussions, the need for this tool became a higher priority.  Although five years later, my new appliances and flooring are just now starting to come on the front burner again, I don't begrudge this purchase.

The tractor makes my husband as happy as horses in the pasture do me.  And as I see him out there right now, closer to the house, still singing away at the top of his voice, I have to smile.  That is one happy man and his happiness makes me happy.

The only down side was when the roll bar of the tractor caught on a tree branch while he was going underneath.  I watched as the limb snapped off, hitting him in the back of the head.  As he sat there motionless, I ran out, cell phone in hand in case I needed to get help, to find all was well, (heavy sigh of relief)!

After a break for lunch, he bravely returned to finishing up the job before the day was over.  The pasture now looks smooth and clean as my husband finishes the last few passes before he calls it a day.

Another spring of preparing to move the horses onto the summer pasture started today.  There's something special about this right of passage into spring - the tractor running, my husband singing at the top of his lungs, the open windows and sound of wind chimes in the breeze.  It's like hay in the barn for winter, that contentment and warm feeling that all is well with the world.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sharing the Wealth

I've made a decision that I feel is the right one, but yet it kinda tugs on my heart strings.

I've decided to half-lease Champ to a young rider at our barn.  I feel good about this decision but it also kind of makes me a little sad too.  Sure, Champ's still my horse - but now I'll be sharing him with someone else.  Now there is someone else riding my horse, grooming him, interacting with him.  I'm no longer his prime person.

Why did I decide to do this?

For starters I may be 'retired' but I'm not turned out to pasture.  I hold a part time job, have ongoing commitments, new opportunities popping up (which I could never entertain when I worked full time), and two horses at home who also need my attention (see my Post, "Sometimes It's Right Underneath Your Nose", 2/21/10).

After being retired for 90 days, I find myself averaging about three rides a week on Champ.  Although I stop in and check on him as often as I can when I don't have time to ride, Champ's been sitting idle in his stall an average of four days a week.  As much as I'd LIKE to get out more often, I CAN'T and the fact that he's sitting there makes me feel terrible - it really bugs me.

Yes, I could bring Champ home, save the board costs which I budgeted into my fiscal plan when I decided to retire.  But I love this barn, the people, and the facility.  Now that I'm retired it's wonderful to have some place off the ranch where I can always go to - where I'm always welcome.  Even if I'm not riding I'm still part of it.  If I leave the barn, I can always visit but I will no longer be part of it.  I'll be a visitor, not a member.

Enter Katie.  In her teens, she and her sister share a horse which they used to board at our barn, these days they haul in each week for lessons.  I know this family and they know me.  They take incredibly good care of their horse and tack.  Both are well respected and awesome young riders.  This year, they find themselves competing in the same age division so sharing their horse isn't an option.

Both Katie and I take lessons each week from Hero Trainer so the "message" to Champ will continue to be consistent.  We ride different disciplines so Champ will continue to get to mix up how he's ridden.  Since I learned the hard way how easily bored Champ can get, this will be good.

Katie took three lessons on Champ to see if they got on well together.  I came up to observe a lesson but caught her at the tail end, taking Champ back to his stall.  I heard Champ had tried a few tricks with Katie but she was onto him like a bee to honey.  What I saw made me smile - a young rider cooing and loving all over a horse and a horse happily accepting of the attention!  Good stuff.

Sharing the wealth is good karma.  It's good for Champ - who will be in good hands, well taken care of and ridden by someone who knows what they're doing.  It will be good for Katie - who now has a horse to ride in this year's show season.  It will be good for my horses at home who will benefit from having more time spent with them.  And it will be good for me - who will no longer fret about not having enough time to get up and ride Champ every day.

And you know what?  I'm thinking Katie and Champ just might have a very successful season!  It will be fun to stop by a show and cheer the two of them on!