Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Big Green Bird

Last week my daughter and I were having morning coffee when we heard a helicopter fly over our house.  It wouldn't have been an unusual event except that I could tell from the sound that it was flying pretty low to the house. 

I remarked that there must be an accident on the two-lane highway which is a few miles from our house.  The road is known for horrible accidents which sometimes require a Lifeflight helicopter and bring in various helicopters from news media that fly over our house in their circle as they report the event.

I could hear the chopper flying over our house.  Multiple times.  The sound got louder and louder until our house was shaking.  The china in the cabinet behind me was rattling.  The floor was vibrating.

We sat there for a few minutes while everything shook until I'd had enough.  I headed outside to see what in the heck was going on.

I walked out the door to be met with a large drab green helicopter circling right above our house and front pasture.  It was so close that I could make out the pilot wearing sunglasses. 

As I stood there the helicopter circled about five more times over our house and then dropped down in the neighbor's pasture right along our fence line, not more than 75 feet away, hovering about 3 feet above the ground.

I found myself standing in a rather irritated position with my arms folded across my chest.  Surely if I could see them, they could see me.  And if they could see me, they would be blind to not notice my stance. 

I was not pleased.

They continued to hover right above the ground as if they were taunting me.  Obviously my position wasn't sinking in.  I looked for a tail number or some type of identification.  But there was no ID I could spot on the aircraft.

Suddenly the chopper lifted back up and quickly flew off to the north, disappearing on the horizon.  Shaking my head, I returned into the house.

Yesterday I was working in my office out in the barn when I heard a helicopter approaching.  It sounded like it was flying low to the ground.  Once again I could tell it was flying around our house so low that the window in my office started rattling.

"Oh no!  It couldn't be THEM again could it?" I headed out of my office to take a look.

The Big Green Bird was back.

Round and round it flew over our house and barn so low that their circle wasn't very wide.  I could once again see the sunglasses of the pilot.  I made myself a little taller and returned to my "I'm not pleased" position.

Multiple times they passed above my head.  I looked over to see what Bob thought of all the racket.  He could care less, standing in his loafing shed eating hay.  Once I saw that he could care less I relaxed my stance and just stood there watching.  I again looked for any identification and confirmed that there was no ID that I could spot.

Eventually, I gave them a little wave and shrug of my shoulders in resignation and just stood there helplessly watching them go round and round.  A few more circles and once again, as quickly as they arrived they left.

I'd sure like to know who is flying that Big Green Bird and why they keep picking on our place? 

So, bring it on Big Green Bird!  Because next time you pay me a visit I'm grabbing my camera.  Maybe I'll also turn on the hose and spray you.

Ha!  Let's see how you like that!!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Gut Feelings and Trusting Your Instincts

I last left you happily planning my next sorting event with Bob.  I'd been off of him for 9 weeks, given him a consistent dose of meds for arthritis and a good place to bed down.  I had seen a positive change. 

In my Post I'd written about how Bob was doing much better.  And he was!

Yet my gut feeling and instincts had kicked at me regarding one paragraph.  That paragraph had woke me up and kept me awake at night.

"What happened to turn our world around?  Physically, not much really. Lots of space with comfy places to lie down and an arthritis supplement that is added each night to Bob's grain."

The truth of the matter was the Vet had not been able to identify exactly what was wrong with Bob.  Her deduction had been that he had not been lying down enough to rest his legs.

And in the darkness of night my instincts kept kicking at me.  Was that really the issue?  Was that causing those shaking knees, stumbles and front legs to collapse?

When I'd last posted you, I'd ridden Bob lightly twice in the span three days and what a joy it had been.  And during his down time a great bond had been established between the two of us.

Life was good.

Yet, last Friday after my Post, my antennas became raised as I watched Bob grazing in the summer pasture.

He was back to tripping and stumbling.

On that day I was committed to go to the local library with our daughter, who was in search of a particular book.  While she sought out her book I wandered around and came upon the magazine rack. 

I picked up the August Equus Magazine.  Fanning through it I landed on Page 51.  And there it was in black and white, an article regarding Structural Excellence in the Forelimb. 

The more I read, the more the hair stood up on the back of my neck.  I clearly recognized Bob's issues and knees in the diagrams.  But before I could finish the article it was time to leave.

Last weekend took me across Washington State.  I had shared what I'd read with my husband.  My instinct was that I really needed to read this article and that I needed to read it soon.

Bless his heart; he voluntarily stopped in EVERY location that had magazines to see if I could find that particular magazine.  But I always returned empty handed.  The September magazines were now out, replacing the August edition.

Yet on our way home, at the nearest feed store to our house, he whipped the car into the parking lot right before closing.  "Go check it out", he urged me.  I returned with the August magazine and headed to a quiet place to finish the article once I'd unpacked.

I read about horses being Over in the Knees (Buck Kneed).  These are upper legs and knees that stand out in front of the rest of the lower leg.  They cause every symptom I've had with Bob.  They depict how a horse can only be ridden for a short period before their knees get tired and tend to tremble and wobble from fatigue (been there).  How horses are prone to tripping and balance problems (been there too).  And how the severity can cause a horse to collapse on the forehand (rather not go there again).

I stayed up late researching the subject online, returning to spend today researching further.

Below is a picture I took the day after Bob fell.  Note his upper left leg/knee and how it is further out than the lower leg, the cut on his right leg from the rocks he landed upon when his legs collapsed and he fell into the puddle.  There is swelling on his right knee from when the right leg landed on the rocks (depicting how hard he fell):


I guess I could call the Vet back and pay the $600 for x-rays to confirm this condition.  She did the pre-purchase on Bob, his teeth in December and was here in June after he fell.  Yet she never noted any issues with his knees.  Is it really worth it to have her back to tell me what I believe I already know and for her to tell me that this can't be fixed?

I could go to my Frainer (Trainer and Friend) and ask her what she thinks.  She was there to monitor and support me when I located and test rode Bob.  She's been there since, giving Bob and I lessons, wanting to refine his canter and slow down his trot. 

Yet her motto to Bob's tripping and stumbling was that Bob "needed to learn how to pick up his feet".  In retrospect, all that cantering and trotting was probably the worst thing we could have done to Bob as I believe it accelerated his condition.

So although I won't deny I'm disappointed and sad that I will no longer ride this awesome horse, I don't take lightly how much I've learned from this experience nor how grateful I am for the deep bond we've developed.

As I said in my prior Post, it's not just about the ride; it's also about the journey.  Now I can add that it's also about your gut feelings and trusting your instincts.  One never knows it all.  There's always something to learn.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's About the Journey

You can't see him in the trailer, but that's Bob looking out at me.  On Monday I took my first ride on Bob since we fell on June 18th.

Sigh.  Bob and I have sure been down a long road together in the last year, all documented here in my Posts.  The loss and exit of the three other horses that lived here with Bob, which sent his confidence  sideways...which impacted MY confidence in Bob had us both struggling to find a relationship. 

And those darned shaking knees and front legs which suddenly gave out on three separate occasions resulted in my belief that our riding days were over.

What happened to turn our world around?

Physically, not much really.  Lots of space with comfy places to lie down and an arthritis supplement that is added each night to Bob's grain.

Mentally?  Lots.

A routine that starts with going out to greet Bob and spend time with him as part of my morning routine (my husband feeds Bob prior to leaving for work).

A morning hug.  With my arms around Bob's neck I bury my face into him and stand there for minutes.  Bob responds with his signature blubbering sighs.  Initially those hugs were the result of my sadness regarding our situation.  I think Bob was sad too. 

But these days those hugs convey the love I have for this horse.  Rain or shine, and as dirty as I come away after that hug, I wouldn't have it any other way.

After our hug I stand next to Bob while he gently lips my hair and face.  If he needs his fly mask, he willingly lowers his head so I can put it on.   I go over and open the gate to the 'summer' pasture. 

Initially Bob ran through the gate and galloped away from me.  These days we walk to the gate together and he stands next to me while I open it.  He waits a few moments and then slowly walks through.

I take spontaneous trips into the pasture to hang out with Bob.  I'll pet or groom him while he grazes.  Sometimes we just stand together looking out at the scenery.  He follows me around but I never leave until he's back to grazing.  I want him to know I'm not there to take him away from his feeding time.

And as corny as it may sound, from all of the above something changed in our relationship.  Something special happened. 

Bob and I bonded.  We've developed that silent communication.  I can read his thoughts and I know he can read mine. 

But so very special is the deep trust that has developed between the two of us.

So on Monday when I hauled Bob back up to the barn to take that first ride since we fell I found myself confident in riding him.  Go figure, I used to be a nervous wreck to ride Bob if I hadn't been on him for seven days.  But on this day I hadn't been on him for over 9 weeks and I was fine.  My only concern being that I didn't push or hurt him.

I was joined by my riding buddy from the barn.  It was just the two of us, alone in the arena.  I enjoyed walking Bob next to her as we went round and round catching up and laughing.

Things went so well on Monday that I hauled up again yesterday.  The arena was empty except for a trainer who was working a green horse.  They were having quite the rodeo while I walked Bob around before I got on. 

Bob wasn't so sure about this.  He figured if this horse was having such a rough time that something must be wrong.  His eyes bulged and he looked at me with a question in them.  He was asking me for confirmation.  I confirmed that all was well and I could see him visibly relax.

While the rodeo proceeded I got on Bob.  Now that he knew he wasn't in trouble like that other horse, he stood quietly while I hopped on, the frantic activity around us forgotten. 

As we were riding a horse in one of the stalls that aligns the arena started kicking the wall.  In the past Bob would bolt at the loud sound.  But today I felt him hesitate and stiffen in concern.   Again I knew he was asking me for confirmation.  I turned him slightly and asked him to move on, confirming all was well.  I was met with a relaxed horse and blubbering sigh of relief.

I will continue to ride Bob but will no longer take lessons with him.  Forget the confirmation, the shoulder falling in, how he can't properly lope or trots too quickly.

If all I ever do is ride Bob at a walk that will be fine with me. Because it isn't all about the ride. It's about the journey.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Update on Bob

It's dinner time.

Through the barn I enter the middle pasture loafing shed. 

The feeder where I toss Bob's hay is empty. 

The one acre pasture that serves this loafing shed is empty.

But three acres away, through the open gate into the summer pasture, I spot Bob.

He is at the very furthest corner of the summer pasture.

Happily grazing.  

He doesn't sense my presence.

I whistle. 

With ears pricked, he raises his head and turns to look in my direction.

I call out, "Bobbbb-Berttttt!"

In a quick spin he breaks into a full speed gallop towards me along the fence line.

Across the fence and neighbor's drive, the jet black Andalusian Stallion joins in the full speed race along the adjoining fence.

They are pals.

It's a beautiful blur of brown and black of Quarter Horse and Andalusian as they race side by side.

The Stallion reaches the end of his pasture rearing and bucking in frustration that he can't continue the race.

Bob hesitates briefly, breaking into a beautiful extended trot.

But with ears still pricked, he continues to make his way towards where I quietly stand.

As he approaches the gate between the two pastures he breaks into a jaw dropping slow lope.

And with his signature blubbering, slobbering snorts, he walks the last five feet to greet me.

I pour the grain I've been holding into his bucket.

He immediately starts eating, not minding the arthritis supplement that is interlaced in the grain.

Suddenly he pops straight up and runs full speed to the back of the middle one acre pasture.

Bucking and sunfishing as if he's in the rodeo.

His joy is my joy.

The show is soon over and oh so very stately, as if the rodeo never really happened, he returns peacefully to his bucket of feed.

As I refill his water tank and toss his evening hay I check out his front knees.

It seems I'm always looking at his front knees.

To see if they shake.

Because they have failed him in the past, causing him (and us) to fall.

But they are stable and quiet these days.

It's time.

And I can't wait.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Remember Those Trees?

Remember those trees that used to line our drive?

So stately and tall.

Even after January's ice storm I thought they were a beautiful sight.

Maybe it's was hearing them rustle gently in the breeze or their beauty when it was windy and wild.  I loved those trees.  They were a part of my world and I felt like they belonged to me.

But sadly, they didn't belong to me.  They belonged to our neighbor.  And the neighbor didn't feel about them as I did.

In May the neighbor paid us a visit.  He told us the trees that lined our drive had become ugly and were too damaged by the storm to be left standing.  They needed to come down.

And down they came.

It was painful to look at where the trees once stood.

I missed hearing the birds singing in them when I woke in the morning or hearing the breeze whisper through them when I went to sleep at night.  I reminded myself they weren't mine, they never were and I sadly adapted to their loss.

Yet, ever so quietly leaves began to appear on the ugly stumps.  Initially I chose to not pay attention to the little green leaves.  "Silly leaves", I told myself.  "Means nothing."

Yet with strength and dignity of a Survivor the leaves continued to appear.  I started to grin whenever I walked past them.  "Come on trees - you can do it!!" I told them.

And just as if they heard me, they continued to grow until they are now taller than I am.  The birds have returned to sing in their branches and the trees proudly rustle their leaves in the breeze. 

Remember those trees?  They are back.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Getting Ready for Winter

Seven months ago.

We had an ice storm.

The popping and cracking of trees around us sounded like gunshots.  We put Gus and Bob in stalls.  There they remained for five days.  They were not pleased with this (but they were safe).

The damage around us was incredible.  Tree limbs and branches were everywhere.

Before the ice storm we had already encountered multiple power outages lasting two or three days each.  But this storm took us to a new limit of no power (or water) for six days.  The "twins" (Honda 2500 generators) kept our fridge/freezer and lights working.  It ran our water shortly (twice a day).  The "twins" even allowed us to watch TV, giving us (a short) but comforting false reality that life was normal.

Extension cords from "the twins" ran through our house.  The wood stove was our only source of heat.  To keep us warm we closed off the dining and living room by hanging wool blankets over their entry ways.  By doing this we were able to keep the rest of our house (and bathrooms) warm and prevent pipes from breaking. 

We went through a lot of firewood last winter.

Spring arrived and the trees (still standing) came back.

Even if some of them look kinda goofy.

The road to our house has been lined with debris from the ice storm.  Firewood all there for the taking - for anybody who wants to cut it up and haul it home. 

So August and 85+ temperatures, that's what we did.

It's a good feeling to have the dry wood stacked and stored.  As odd as it may sound, it's time to start getting ready for winter.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Playing With My iPhone

Today I did what one is not supposed to do.

I played with the camera on my iPhone while I was driving!


Actually, I only played with it when I was on my own road where no other cars are around.


The road to our house.

I turned the camera behind my head and blindly took this picture.  Did pretty good, huh?  :)  Unless the weather is too hot, Hank The Dog travels with me.

I drive onto our property to find Bob happily grazing in one of our three pastures.  It was a long, wet spring and our fields are still green.  Rare for August.

I've been spending a lot of time with Bob.  He comes to me when I call his name or whistle.  I had just whistled out of my car window when I took this picture.  It felt good to see him recognize me and head my way.

But the temptation of the sweet grass was just too good to pass up and he continued to peacefully graze.

More on Bob soon.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Want Lots of Junk Mail? Join AARP

Today's Post is about 50+.

My retirement program from my former career gives me great benefits.  But shortly after retiring, I thought it might be nice to kick off my new life with the discounts from being a member of AARP.

What can I say?  I was a retired newbie and on that day I made a huge mistake.

I joined AARP.

A year later after receiving pounds of junk mail, most of it sensitive enough that it had to be shredded, I realized I had no interest in the "deals" being offerred. 

But I had lots of interest in terminating all the junk mail I was receiving from AARP.  The AARP program just wasn't for me or my shredder.

I did not renew my membership.

Mail kept coming.  Big thick vehicle, health, and life insurance offers.  Multiple warnings that I needed to HURRY and renew my membership.

I responded to the AARP membership warnings, kindly declining my membership and asking them to remove me from their mailing lists.

Mail kept coming.

I responded again to AARP, declining all the membership offers and pleading with them to remove me from their mailing lists. 

Mail kept coming.

I responded to all the junk mail offers, begging them to remove me from their mailing lists.

Mail kept coming.

I got creative with my responses back, using lots of different colored pens, highlighting the requests to remove me from the mailing lists.  I made beautiful responses.

Mail kept coming.

I started getting testy in my responses back. 

Mail kept coming.

Six months ago I called AARP.  The woman at AARP was very understanding.  She told me she was familiar with my complaint.  She told me she had removed me from all addresses associated with AARP.  She warned me that it might take some time before the mail quit coming but assured me that in about 3 or 4 months that it should quit.

Six months later...the mail keeps coming.  Yesterday another renewal warning for my membership and another big thick Life Insurance offer.

Today I once again called AARP.  The gentleman I spoke with was also very understanding and familiar with my complaint.  He quickly found me in the AARP computer.  (Go figure, I haven't been a member for 2 years but I'm still listed in the AARP computer.)

He said he wished he could delete me but the AARP computer program won't let him.  I asked him why and with a sigh he told me he didn't know why, telling me that based on the complaints he gets that he sure wishes he had that function. 

BUT he told me in a secret voice, he had "backdoor" ways to resolve the issue.

He warned me that there was still a lot of "pre-printed stuff" out there and to not expect the junk mail to instantly stop.

How did he resolve my issue?

He put errors in my address so that all the AARP junk mail should now be undeliverable.

And he made a note in the comments field that I'm deceased!

Sigh....time will tell.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Change in Weather

We had one of the wettest and longest springs in history.  We thought it was never going to end.

On July 8th I noticed a change in the sky as the sun was setting and ran out to take these pictures:

Summer started the following day.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Hometown Rodeo

My Cowgirl Pals and I got together yesterday evening to attend our hometown rodeo.  To the left is my Frainer (friend and trainer), Rachel.  In the middle is my long-time friend Stacy, the owner of the barn where I've ridden for years.  To the right is my bestest in the world sorting partner, Lisa.

As part of our County Fair, this was the first time the rodeo had been back in over ten years.  It was also the 150th anniversary of our County Fair which has struggled during these economic times.  We were there to not only support the Rodeo and Fair but to cheer on the family members, friends and neighbors who were rodeo participants this evening.

These gals, former members of our County 4H Horse Program are now all grown up.  They returned to their old riding arena to open the show with a spirit that lifted us all up out of our seats and had us cheering.

My Frainer's Significant Other, preparing for Steer Wrestling.

A local landmark, Mount Peak in the distance - a favorite place to hike.

Roping...which continued after the rodeo.

And as the sun started to set, the bull riding.

A great time was had by all.  As we walked back to our car with a bright red sunset glowing behind the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainer pasted with pink light in front of us, we commented on how special a home town rodeo is.  We both agreed, the bigger rodeos have their place, but there's nothing like a hometown rodeo to give one that warm, happy feeling of friends and community pride in where you live.