Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hobo and Tuna

Around the middle of December my husband remarked that he'd been spotting a cat hanging around our place when he went to feed in the mornings.  I didn't spot him, probably because Hank goes out with me at night to feed.  We figured this cat belonged to a neighbor but as the weeks progressed it became apparent that it had moved in.

We decided the new cat would be our "barn" cat.  We told ourselves if it wanted to live here it must fend for itself.  We set it up with a cozy bed in our outbuilding, behind the wood pile where it would be safe, gave it water and that was that.

You see, we have a cat, an indoor cat.

Tuna is a strange cat.

In all these years I am the only human she tolerates, not likes - just tolerates...which frustrates the rest of the family (but makes me feel pretty special).  :)

Yet, Tuna has always adored Hank.

Hank can do no wrong.

Tuna is not a lady-like cat.  In my opinion, if Tuna was human she'd be a Roller Derby Queen.

As the holiday season started to come to a close, we named the outside cat Hobo.  And then (suckers that we are) we started to feel sorry for it.  After all, it was so sweet and friendly.  We broke down and fed it, telling ourselves that Hobo was now "our" cat.

Only after we fed Hobo did we notice the "botton" on its rear end.  Hobo was a HE and if HE was going to live here, HE was going to need to be fixed.  So off to the Vet we went with "our" new cat, to make HIM an IT.

$260 later Hobo came home "fixed", with all the necessary blood test taken and initial shots.  Well gosh, we just couldn't put the poor thing back outside and he seemed so we decided to let him live inside.  As soon as Hobo arrived home Hank parked outside his crate, which I left Hobo in for a few hours to acclimate.

Hank and Hobo quickly became friends and we felt so charitable about our decision.

But Tuna had disappeared, nowhere to be found.  In the late evening she appeared, sniffing the recovering Hobo who was sleeping off his surgery.  The sniffing startled Hobo, who jumped up, sending Tuna back into hiding hissing all the way.  The next morning Tuna again appeared and the two met in the utility room.

...and there was such a ruckus - the likes of which I've never heard as the two entered into a horrible cat fight.  Running from the kitchen I yelled at the two felines without any success.  I called on Hank, telling him to break the fight up.  The scuffle flew through the pet door and out into the garage.  I opened the door and sent Hank out after the two to break it up.  Truly, if it wasn't for Hank's assistance I believe the two would have fought to the death.

Hobo is back outside and seems happy, showing up in the afternoon around feeding time and following us around the barnyard to be petted.

Tuna watches him from inside.  Hobo returns to the vet next week for his booster shots, probably going to cost us another $100.  Pretty fancy barn cat, huh?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Happy Horse = Happy Me

Elvis has been in training with my friend/trainer (Frainer), Rachel, for 3 weeks.  She puts a training ride on Elvis twice a week and I take a lesson once a week.  That can be changed out to more lessons or more rides as needed.  In addition to my lesson I also ride 3 or more times a week.

We've been working on adding some additional gaits to Elvis's movement - as in faster gaits.  We now have a slow AND fast walk as well as a slow AND fast jog.  We also have a smooth transition to a slow lope vs a leap forward.  I'm happy to see the new speeds and to know that his Western Pleasure foundation is still intact.

Elvis is learning to stand quietly tied for long periods of time.  In this picture he has just been called on for starting to paw (via my tossing a handful of dirt his way).  I interpret the look on his face to say that he doesn't want to be in trouble and indeed those handfuls of dirt aren't needed much anymore.

I've asked Rach to expose Elvis to as much as possible so that we will have a safe, versatile future. To date Elvis has been ponied off of and poined other horses.  He's been ridden in a busy crowded arena with people jumping and horses near him bucking and carrying on.  He's going to meet some cows in a few weeks and I hope he will be out on the trails in the near future.

It's been fun watching his spots increase.

Yesterday I noticed he now has more spots underneath his saddle and they are creeping up on his neck.  He even has a white spot coming in around one of his eyes.

I can tell that Elvis likes going to work.  He's much happier when he's ridden often.  He likes having a job.

I find myself getting in better and better shape from riding.  Having someone else riding him has reduced the pressure I felt of having to get up and ride when I don't have time.  It's a good feeling knowing your horse is happy.  Happy Horse = Happy Me!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Into Training

Somewhere along the way my life has become more complicated than it used to be.  My commitments have increased and I find I'm not able to ride as often as I feel is needed.

Although my visits to the barn are frequent, the rides have become less.  And that means my boy sits in his stall which induces pressure for me to try to ride every day, which leads to frustration that I am not able to ride every day, which leads to resenting other commitments - a part time job that at times can be almost full time, caring for my family and taking care of animals at home, not to mention taking care of the home itself.

Just look at how often I've recently posted on this blog and you can see the tale of someone who would love to have more time to write but can barely find a moment to herself.

I found myself awake at night, feeling frustrated about not riding and also asking myself, what do I REALLY want to do with Elvis? Elvis is a talented horse in both Western Pleasure and Dressage. He is a dream at Showmanship.  But I ask myself, do I want to go down the show road in 2014?  Not sure.

I miss sorting with my Cowgirl Pals.

I miss riding all the trails up around Cabin Creek not to mention the John Wayne/Iron Horse Trail which is only 1/4 mile from our cabin. Sigh...I needed some advice from someone who knows me and knows my horse.

Enter my friend and trainer, Rachel Koehler, whom I refer to in my Posts as my Frainer.

Growing up "just riding", I started taking lessons with Rach in 2008, learning how to ride our daughter's show horse Champ, whom I inherited after she headed off to college.  Champ had buttons and I had no clue how to operate such a horse.  Here I am at one of my first lessons (not pretty, look at my concentration (via my tongue hanging out!)).  That was FIVE years ago.  I was a very green, novice rider (and 50 pounds heavier)!

I met with Rach a few days ago.  And just like the good friend she is, she listened as I laid it all out.  I shared my frustrations about not getting up to ride and uncertainty about which direction Elvis and I should take. I asked for her collaboration in helping Elvis and I down our future road.

Together we formulated a plan.  With Rach's assistance we will start exposing Elvis to various environments including sorting (yipee!), roping (which he proved to be a natural at last spring), trails and shows.  Rach will help me out by putting rides on Elvis, alleviating my frustration of not getting up to ride as often.  She will work on his top line and expose him to ponying other horses, standing tied quietly, etc.  She will take those first rides when we try various disciplines (after all I AM 50+).

Elvis is going into training, will get ridden more often and exposed to various environments.  I will continue taking lessons and with Rach's guidance further my skills.  Elvis, Rach and I will try out various disciplines and see what fits best.  Happy world has fallen back into place again.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Catching Up

Happy Holidays and New Year!

The last time I posted was November 11th.  I have tried since to write Posts but have been met with multiple challenges which have been frustrating to say the least.

The internet connectivity to my office, which is the tack room in our barn, is mostly to blame.  It has been sketchy after some unusually strong (for us) thunder and lightning storms this past summer.  One storm in particular was something of the likes I've never experienced.  After that particular storm our router no longer worked.  We replaced it and since then I've had sketchy service in my office which is inside a metal barn.

Trying to work and write in the house is distracting so although I've been able to focus on getting my part time work accomplished, I found myself hitting a mental block when I try to write my Posts.

So here I am today back out in the barn.  It's a New Year and I am determined to get back to posting events that surround my life.  I just climbed up on my 3-step mounting block and sprayed the outside internet connector with WD-40.  This was J's suggestion - of course he is 6-6" not 5-3"...easy for him to do but a bit of a challenge for me!

Yet I've had a few bumps in my internet as I've written the above.  Windows ran a diagnosis and tells me my cables are bad - maybe we need to change out the cable that direct connects to my laptop. Since Windows ran that diagnosis awhile ago all has been well so here's an update on everybody:

Elvis:  Since Elvis entered my life it seems that I am always running, running, running - another reason why I don't post as much as I used to.  Elvis is doing wonderfully well and I can't even come close to telling you how much I love that horse nor the joy he brings to me.

I found a resolution to the naughty by being too nice issue.  I've never quite understood the concept of riding with my seat.  I've watched others do it but when I've tried in the past I just can't figure out what I'm supposed to do.

I finally had a breakthrough about a month ago when I was taking a lesson with my Frainer.  I found Elvis's response to my legs improved dramatically and we moved right out when I requested.  I find riding with my seat to be quite a workout and I can't do it for long so this will be one of my goals for 2014 - to increase my stamina (and stomach muscles) to be able to ride for longer periods via my seat.

Now that Elvis is "mine" I find myself no longer feeling like I am walking on egg shells - which was totally self-induced.  So calling him on certain behaviors is no longer an issue.  I don't have to do it often and I try not to nag but I am no longer hesitant to correct him.

I am blessed to have a horse that really only wants to please.  I've yet to have him do something really naughty and when I remind him who is the boss he falls right in line.

I am still so humbled to have been given this horse!  On a clear, cold night last January I was awake in the middle of the night looking out the window at all the stars when a brilliant shooting star flew across the winter sky.  I made a wish on that shooting star for a horse like Elvis and that wish came true.  I sit here as a believer in wishing on shooting stars.

Peeb:  One of the reasons I'm out in the barn is because today was the day where a decision about Peeb's future with us would be made.  Being a rescue horse you get what you get.  And we got a sweet 30+ horse who is a great companion for Bob, but we also got a horse whose care had been neglected for so many years that we are now dealing with the consequences.

Peeb had three teeth (at last count).  Although he still tries to graze and eat hay, he basically cuds it. Although we still provide free choice hay and pastures to graze on, we now feed both Peeb and Bob compressed orchard pellets and senior feed soaked in water twice a day.  We have come to call this feeding as "slop" which is actually what it looks like.

We have been able to keep a good weight on Peeb by feeding him slop.  He happily slurps it up.  But we ran into an issue with shoeing Peeb.  He has had issues trying to stand on three feet while being shod/trimmed.  His knees are in terrible shape and at last shoeing he almost went down multiple times.

I have an awesome shoer and the last thing I need is for Peeb to collapse on him so my shoer and I made an agreement that if Peeb could not be shod at this appointment today that we would need to make plans to put him down.  Unfortunately, his feet are in such bad shape that it would be cruel and painful for him to go barefoot.

I decided to butte Peeb for the past two days in prep for the appointment today and I'm happy to report that the butte helped!  Peeb was able to remain solid while his fronts were shod and his backs trimmed!  We have dodged a decision that although we know will arrive some day, it won't be in the near future as long as I can medicate him prior to being shod.

Bob:  It is terribly hard to watch Bob gallop freely in the pastures and know that he can no longer be ridden!  Our days of sorting cows may be over but Bob and I still have a special bond.  Bob is such a sensitive horse - so very focused on what is going on around him.  He is so different than any horse I've ever owned.  If you go back in my Posts you will see that I struggled with Bob.  It took a long time for me to "get him".

But "get him" I did.  Bob trusts me like no others.  He is a horse that would do anything I asked of him - he indeed has done that.  I am "his human".  When I'm out in the yard or working around the barn, there stands Bob - watching me intently.  He comes when called and always enjoys my company.  I love to go out and just stand with him in the field.  We communicate in silence, the only sound being his signature blubbering sighs of happiness of our being together.

Well that pretty much sums up what's generally been going on around here.  I've been posting for almost an hour now out here in the barn with no glitch in my internet service!  Maybe the WD-40 worked!  I look sure forward to coming back out here and writing like I used to.

2014 is the year of the horse and for me it is a pivotal point in my life as I entered the six-oh digits in October.  With a horse like Elvis the future is ours.  I have places to go and things to do this year that I could never have considered in the past.

Stay tuned, it's going to be a glorious ride!