Saturday, September 24, 2011

Snotty Saddle Bums

First, thanks to all who commented on my Post regarding the loss of Bear who left us peacefully without any drama.  Today is a new day and although we find ourselves sad about Bear's loss we also feel a weight has been lifted because he is no longer uncomfortable.

When I purchased Bob last May, I put our Belgians, Gus and Bear, into a pasture together.  I then put Poco and Bob, our saddle horses - or as my husband likes to call them, "The Saddle Bums", into a different pasture.  Since that time our horses have each lived with a buddy.

Gus had paid no attention during yesterday's event with Bear, quietly eating hay out of the loafing shed feeder instead of wondering what was going on with his buddy.  Recently we had noted that Gus was aloof around Sunny.  Perhaps he knew what was to come.

After Bear left us we had haltered Gus up and brought him out to say goodbye to Bear.  This is something we have always done with our horses after their buddy is gone.  We believe it's important for them to say goodbye to their good friend and find closure.  Some people think it's silly, but I firmly believe that it makes a different.

After allowing Gus to say his farewells it was now time for us to move on.  We led Gus into the large pasture that the Saddle Bums have been using.  Although Gus and Poco have been good friends, Gus had not been in a pasture with Bob before although they've been fence mates.  If any altercations were to occur we knew there was plenty of room to escape until everybody settled down.

The usual meetings and greetings took place with Bob and Gus smelling each other along with a bit of pomp and circumstance, but that was all.  Gus was happy to quietly graze.  It would be interesting to see who became the alpha.  This morning all was well, but:

Those Snotty Saddle Bums.  Can you see them talking about Gus behind his back?

Whisper, whisper, whisper.

Gossip, gossip, gossip.

Us gossiping?  No, Uh Uh!  That wasn't US Saddle Bums!

Daaaaaaaaad!  Tell them to quit saying mean things about me!!!

It's Ok Gus.  Sticks and Stones (and your weight) could break their bones.  Saddle Bums that are Snotty don't get carrots but Belgians that are nice do.

No carrots??!!!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

You Will Know When It's Time to Say Goodbye

Like watching the sun set on a great day, we've probably all wanted to stop the clock and just be in the moment. 

That's how the last few months have been for us because as I wrote in my Post "Preparing to Say Goodbye" (4/29/11), the time has been coming to say goodbye to Sunny Bear (Bear), our sweet and cherished, third-time-was-the-charm, Rescue Belgian Draft Horse.

It could be tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe the week after.  We had no idea that it would be 5 months later. 

My husband and I have turned to each other and said the time was coming.  But the next day Bear would be doing better.  We'd say, "Soon, but not today."  Because "the day" was imminent, I didn't Post a picture of Bear on the front page of my Blog.  It was just too sad for me to put up a picture of a beloved horse whose life was on such a short string.

It is said, "You will know when it's time to say goodbye".

In the past few weeks Bear has become a bag of bones, regardless of how much or what we feed him, his hips and ribs are visible.  I watch him walk, he is feeble.  He stands out in the middle of the pasture unaware of his surroundings.

When I came out to feed this morning Bear was down.  I could see by the pile of dirt where his back legs rested that he'd been struggling to get up without any luck.  He periodically raised his head.  When I approached him he didn't seem upset about the situation.  He took carrots from me - I left a path of them hoping they'd encourage him to find the strength to get up and eat them.

And even though my carrot plan eventually worked, I went inside and made the necessary calls followed by a call to my husband to tell him what I'd done.  It's true, you will know when it is time to say goodbye...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Perfect Camp Site

Three years.  It seems so long ago when I first saw The Perfect Camp Site.

My husband had suggested we take a vacation to an area where he had hunted for years.  A few days before we left I had met with a retired co-worker who had offered me a part time job as a consultant for his company.  It was a once in a life-time opportunity that would allow me to retire in my mid-50's. 

There were others waiting in line if I didn't take the offer.  I took it knowing the opportunity wouldn't come around again.  We had left on our trip knowing that after almost 35 years I'd be announcing my retirement when we returned.  I still recall the joy and disbelief of that decision and how the world suddenly looked different as we headed down the road.

I recall the 8 hour drive and babbling about my decision and also about Champ, our daughter's horse that I'd inherited when she'd headed off to college.  I had never ridden a horse like Champ.  I didn't know how to work his buttons and was in the midst of taking lessons to learn how to ride correctly.  I was planning on riding in my first horse show and would be missing Champ and my lessons while we were away. 

On our first trip we had stayed in a little cottage on a lake.  The lake was beautiful but the cottage was run down and literally falling apart around us.  After a long drive and sleepless night, my husband had taken me into the mountains so that he could show me his favorite areas.

We'd come across this beautiful camp site.  I recall asking my husband to please stop and pull over so we could check it out.  I stood there in awe of the surroundings, intensified by my change in life decision.  We had pulled out our camp chairs and spent hours sitting in the silence of the woods.

When the time came to leave we didn't want to return to the run down cottage on the lake but we had no choice.  We made a pact to return the following year with our camper so we could stay in the woods.  For the next twelve months we talked frequently about The Perfect Camp Site.

Year 2.  With Hank the Dog we had loaded the camper on the truck and headed back to The Perfect Camp Site.

This drive had been somber.  I was retired and enjoying my new life but Champ had died six weeks earlier.  I was still reeling from the sudden loss. 

I had purchased Poco two weeks before losing Champ.  I'd bought him as a horse for my family and novice friends to ride along with Champ and I.  Now Poco was my only horse.  I had no idea where Poco and I were going.  I felt numb and lost.

We arrived to find The Perfect Camp Site empty and waiting for us.  Stepping out of the truck I felt my sadness falling off of me like old skin.

During our stay we never saw another person.  My husband told me were "cold camping".  No power with the exception of our quiet little Honda generator, no water with the exception of what was in the camper, no cell phone service, no fire due to fire danger.  We loved it.

We did find ourselves camp bound and if it hadn't been for the Red Ryder BB gun that my husband had grabbed as we'd left I think we would have gone stir crazy.  We spent a lot of time hiking, taking turns shooting the BB gun and throwing the ball for Hank the Dog.  When it was time to leave we agreed to come back again the following year.

Year 3.  This year we brought our 4-wheeler.

As we drove to our now familiar destination, I commented on the changes in the past year.  Still working part time and happily retired, but this year we once again had two saddle horses to ride thanks to the purchase of Bob at the end of May. 

Where Champ had been a challenge and Poco was steady, Bob was fun.  He pushed me a little and allowed me to grow.  As the miles passed by I was already looking forward to getting home and riding Bob.

During the past year we had often commented on how The Red Ryder BB gun had been a hit.  This year we had collected the tops of dog food cans so that we could make targets and have a little shooting competition.  With fishing line, magic markers and a hammer and a nail, we were set to create our targets when we unpacked.

As we neared The Perfect Camp Site we once again assured each other that we would be ok if somebody else was already occupying it.  We reminded ourselves that there were lots of other nice spots where we could stay.  But both of us knew that none of the other spots came close to The Perfect Camp Site.

We arrived to find The Perfect Camp Site once again waiting for us with open, although very dry arms.  We jumped out of the truck and turned to grin at each other.  We were back!

It was amazing how quickly we got unpacked and set up.

We set up a tripod for our targets. When the breeze picked up they sounded like a wind chime.

Hank the Dog, a typical Lab.  If there's water around he's in it.  We loved listening to the sound of the water in the little creek.  We could hear it gurgling inside the camper and periodically a fish would splash.  What a nice way to fall to sleep.

The Perfect Camp Site

Before we knew it the time had come to pack up and head for home. 

Goodbye Perfect Camp Site.  See you next year!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ladies Night #7: Final Night

Ladies Night #7:  The Ladies had all received an email earlier in the week from Rachel informing us that she'd split us in two groups and what time we should plan to arrive for our final Ladies Night.

I had been placed in the first group who were scheduled to ride in the mid-afternoon.  We were returning to Fiddleback Ranch which had been set up on this night so we could all try our luck at sorting cows.

On this cool day, the first after many hot ones, I hadn't planned well.  I arrived with just enough time to saddle Bob up and do some minimal ground work before we started.  I hadn't ridden Bob for over a week and he was pretty fresh. I'd also purchased splint boots for Bob the day before but hadn't had a chance to try them out on him. 

Bless this horse for his patience!  He stood quietly while my Cowgirl Pal, Kyle helped me put the boots on.  But when I went to lead Bob down to the arena it was obvious that he'd never had something like this on his legs before.  His first dozen steps were comical as he raised his feet high in the air and tried to adjust to their feel.  I was so grateful that he quickly adjusted to wearing them.  But that seems to be Bob.  He checks out what's new and once he's assured it's OK, he moves on.

Once on Bob, we lined up to wait for directions.

Rachel, our trainer and friend (Frainer) giving us a head's up on tonight's sorting, telling us to take our time and not hesitate to stop and make adjustments if our horses need it.  Two sets of cows are behind her waiting in pens outside.

In the above picture I can see that Bob has already spotted the cows in the pens behind Rachel.  I know this look!  It's the same one Bob has when he stands in our pasture and looks intently across the fields at the cows in the distance.

Now the other horses have spotted the cows...

Here they are!

We watch and learn from those who are in the pen with the cows...

Bob and I guarding "The Hole".  It's our job to make sure that the right numbered cow is the only one who gets through "the hole".  We must turn back the others who want to follow and also keep those already through from going back into the pen.

In this picture there are cows immediately in front of Bob.  They are trying to break through "the hole" and join their friends on the other side.  I have to laugh at how intense we are!  But our partner inside the pen is doing her best to move the right cow and we don't want to let her down by allowing the wrong ones to get through.

Moving our cow through the hole.

The time seemed to fly by.  Suddenly it was time for us to call it quits so the cows could take a break and we could get loaded up and on our way before the next group of Ladies arrived. 

There was a feeling of sadness as we all loaded up and followed each other down the road, waving out our windows to the second group who were now arriving.  As we broke off on our various directions towards our homes hands waved outside open windows and truck horns honked farewell.

Ladies Night 2011 - A definite success!