Friday, November 28, 2008

Entertaining Gabe

Sometimes we just like to play with Gabe. No work, no expectations. Just a little play time. He has a couple of bleach bottles in his paddock. They have stones in them. He likes to shake 'em and crush 'em and toss 'em. He even has a couple of balls out there to play with. Because it's not just a paddock, it's a toy room!

And he LOVES the attention. He loves Kayleigh. He loves every body. Can you believe it's the end of November, in the Midwest and my kid is in SHORTS? Crazy global warming.

He even loves his water!Splish splash! He isn't one of those dainty lip drinkers. He dunks his face in the tank...this summer, he'd dunk past his nostrils and blow bubbles.

Don't get too close to Gabe and his noodle! He will whack ya with it. Wow. He's dirty. Why do I always get the horses who LOVE their mud baths? Ugh.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An award

Look what Nuzzling Muzzles gave to me!

You know what's funny about blogs? I've "met" so many wonderful horsewomen through their blogs, and I would LOVE to go riding with them or just sit down for a cuppa (or a beer!) and talk horse for hours. I have a few 'horsie' friends near me, but in some ways our horse philosophies are very different and at times, those philosophies can create a bit of friction. Not too much, mind you, but sometimes it's hard to keep my mouth shut when one of those friends keeps doing the same silly (or dumb) thing over and over and over again and then wonders why her horse won't behave for her. I just keep my mouth shut and compliment her new boots/chaps/saddle pad/bridle.

We horse people are an interesting bunch. You either get it and love it, or you don't. It's a way of life, and ultimately, the way we treat and train our horses reflects on our own lives and how we treat those around us.

Reading Nuzzling Muzzles' progress with her own horses, and how she responds to the trials she faces in their training, speaks volumes to me about the kind of person she is. She's the kind of person I'd love to go for a nice, long, relaxing trail ride with.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A mini barn-raising

What we have here is an almost completed run-in shed for the Gabe-ster. You know, the one he has made nearly impossible to build because he keeps stealing tools and various other supplies? Or just gets in the way and makes a complete pain in the butt of himself?

Robert is now calling him "Your big toddler." Because that's what he is. A great big, curious, pain in the patootie toddler! But he's such a cute toddler!

All that's left to do is put on the roof, paint the sides and throw about six inches of crushed rock in there. We are using SunTuf for the roofing. I picked dark green panels and they are opaque to let in a little bit of light. I think horses are more likely to use a run-in on their own if it doesn't look too much like a great big cave...light helps make it more inviting. Because the panels are a polycarbonate material it's cheaper, and lighter, than steel roofing. Plus, tons easier to install! It's rated to handle the snow/ice in our area and also warranted against hail damage, which is a bonus! The sides will be painted barn red.

We expect to get it done Thursday or Friday. Gabe is already checking it out and I've busted him chasing the chickens out of his new house. I guess he doesn't like visitors!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The dangly bits

I've always owned mares. Gabe is the first gelding I've had of my very own. Most of my friends have geldings, my family had geldings when I was growing up and I know what a pain in the bottom gelding hygienic care can be. With mares you just hose off their girly parts, pick the gunk out from their udder and you're good to go. No fuss, no muss.

Geldings, they pull all their boy dangly bits up where you can't get to 'em. You either have to wait for them to hang their boy bits out in the breeze so you can grab and go, or, you have to have a vet out to use pharmaceuticals to encourage them to dangle for all the world to see.

We were working on Gabe's run-in shed again today and he presented the perfect chance for me to check and see how clean his boy bits were. Standing there next to me, content with a good scratching and lots of attention, he dropped and relaxed. So, I did what any opportunistic gelding owner does, I reached out and grabbed his boy bit to check for a bean and look for general boy part health.

And Alexis squealed with shock and horror. "Mom! I can't believe you just grabbed his PENIS! Oh, gross! Don't you dare touch me with that hand! Ewww!! You have PENIS germs on your hand!" Sixteen year old girls are so funny and so easily grossed out.

I couldn't help it. I laughed and asked her if she would hold it for a second so I could pick some smegma off it. She squealed again and gave me that "Oh My GOD! Mom you are so gross!!!" look.

He was nice and clean, but really didn't care for me messing around with his parts too terribly much.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Things I LOVE about fall and winter:
1. Cooler nights
2. Cooler days
3. Frost on the grass in the morning
4. Snorty, prancy horses
5. That unmistakable smell of fall leaves
6. The sparkle of ice on tree limbs in the morning sun
7. No bugs
8. No 100-degree, 99% humidity days
9. A crackling fire in the fireplace
10. Fuzzy, soft, fluffy horses

Things I HATE about fall and winter:
1. Short days
2. Early darkness
3. Frozen water troughs
4. Frozen, pitted, hard-to-walk-through paddocks
5. Mud
6. Mud
7. No grass
8. Very little riding (see #1, #2, #5 and #6)
9. Icy roads
10. Power outages

Monday, November 10, 2008

The 6-foot menace

Robert called my horse a great big, toddling brat. More than once. He even threatened to sell him for glue. *gasp!* Poor Gabe was dubbed a turd, a brat, a rotten brat, a spoiled toddler and a snot.

Why would my big, sweet horse garner such awful monikers?

Because he was being all of the above.

We are building a new run-in shed in Gabe's paddock. Saturday Robert and Alexis (my teenager) meticulously measured and staked out the spot where the new run-in is to be built. Robert, who is becoming more and more a horse person every day, realized he couldn't leave the stakes out there in the paddock with Gabe and asked for suggestions to protect the beast from the stakes. I was impressed that he realized all kinds of awful things could happen to a horse left in a paddock with a bunch of wood stakes sticking out of the ground. I suggested inverting used gallon bleach bottles over the stakes to make them more visible and less dangerous.

I thought it was a pretty good idea. Robert and Alexis cut all the tops of the bottles so they would fit over the stakes, slipped a bottle over each stake and considered it good.

Gabe considered the whole thing a brand-new toy. Within minutes that big brat had every. single. bottle. pulled off the stakes and smashed. He smashed them flat with his teeth and with his feet. He tossed them around a bit and tossed them into the air. Once the bottles were flat and no longer fun, he proceeded to yank out every stake out of the ground and toss them willy-nilly around his paddock.

Oh, he had GREAT fun destroying all of their hard work! They were none too pleased with my big goof ball and the name-calling commenced. I think he even got called a steak at one point!

So, back out we went the next day to start on the run-in. Gabe would NOT leave us alone. He was in our faces, resting his head on our backs, nuzzling around in our hair, trying to grab sleeves and coats in his teeth and being a general pain in the butt. He even managed to steal a corner measure, a hammer and a level and take off with them, like a rotten little toddler. Do you have any idea how hard it is to swing a hammer when you have a horse right behind you trying to STEAL the hammer? Ugh.

So, that bugger got tossed out of his own paddock for being a way too curious big ole pain in the butt. I think he was a bit peeved that we kicked him off the playground and he threw a little bucking fit.

But I love him anyway. If he wasn't such a turd, he wouldn't be so much fun!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Frustrated and angry

I am angry. Very angry. I really try not to judge people for their lifestyle, but when their animals are suffering, then I can't help but judge. And be angry.

Earlier this summer I called animal control on my neighbors and made an anonymous report about the condition of their three horses. I never heard anything about the report and the horses are in WORSE condition now than they were over the summer. One fairly young paint mare looks absolutely horrible, she looks more like a walking skeleton than a horse and she has heaves. I've seen what these people feed their horses, I know what kind of conditions they live in and I am completely NOT surprised this poor mare is in as bad condition as she is. The two ponies are a bit better, but not much. I think that if they weren't easy-keeper ponies, they would look just as bad as the mare.

In the past I have tried to casually bring up horse care and feeding with the owner and she's pretty much of the mind that horses can be treated like cattle: Feed 'em whatever, they'll get by. They feed no grain, which isn't a big deal if your horses are in good weight, and they feed round bales, which is fine if the bales are quality hay. These bales are black on the outside, and me (being probably more nosy than I should be), stuck my hand in one of the bales as far as I could go and I pulled out a fistful of black, moldy, dusty, crappy hay that was more weeds and rot than edible substances. They kept their round bales lined up near a fence in a pasture I ride in, so it was pretty easy to check 'em out. They haven't had ANY round bales anywhere on their property for a couple of months, so I don't know if they switched to squares or what. Hay isn't hard to come by this year, but you do have to make an effort to get it, for this family, "effort" is a four-letter word. Their pasture is 100% dirt and weeds, so I know the horses aren't getting any nutrition there. I am afraid to bring up horse care/feeding with these neighbors again. They could be vindictive if they found out I reported them this summer and I worry about my critters being the target of that vindictiveness.

Their horses are fenced in barbed wire, four strands. The two bottom strands are no longer connected to the T-posts in most spots and some of it is just stretched out in the pasture. God. My heart skips a beat or two whenever I see those horses out there walking around the downed wire. I've seen barbed wire wounds...they aren't pretty. They can be absolutely devastating. They have junk, rusting vehicles and various other crap in their pasture. Their yard looks like a used parking lot with two of the vehicles barely visible behind the overgrown weeds.

Okay, so my oldest daughter is friends with this owner's daughter. They are both 16. They used to be really close friends, but a falling out over a boy changed that and they are just casual friends now, they still talk, but I don't see the girl as often as before. Yesterday Alexis (my daughter) tells us that the bad owner's daughter told her the paint mare can no longer be ridden because of the heaves (I'd guess because of her absolute lack of weight, too) and the girl is getting a new horse.

A Thoroughbred. Off. The. Track. The girl NEVER rides, and she's not a very good rider and not a very good horseperson. She obviously doesn't have a very good horseperson to learn proper horse care from if her mother let's their current horses get to the state they are in now. This is a disaster waiting to happen. I can only imagine how bad this poor animal is going to look after he (or she) is in their custody for a month or two. If they can't keep weight on easy-keeper ponies, a Thoroughbred is going to starve to death. Or, she's going to get seriously hurt or killed. She is NOT a good rider. Not at all.

I am pulling my hair out. Obviously animal control has done nothing. I don't know who to call next for the current situation. I really DON'T think I'm overreacting in this case. I know skinny horses and I can definitely tell a skinny horse from a nearly-starved horse. They are nearly-starved, not just skinny.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Where'd the sun go?

I HATE this time change. Hate it. I have exactly 20 minutes of semi-daylight left by the time I get home from work in the evening. This means no riding, no playing with my ponies. Hate it. I can go pet my ponies or give them mini-massages while they eat, and if I hurry home really fast, I can actually see what color they are! Once again, another season of riding on weekends only. Gah. The weather is perfect, comfortable with a bit of a nip in the air and the smell of fall in my nose, and I can't ride because it's too dark. I've thought about one of those mining hats with the light on the front, but that doesn't solve the problem of the horse not being able to really see where he/she is going.

I may, however, have found a solution. Robert and I have talked about putting some lights in around my arena so I can ride when it's dark. But we'd have to run electric and put up poles, and well, between trenching for an underground electric line and hiring an electrician to come in and hook it up to the box at the house, it's a couple thousand, and honestly, lights aren't THAT important at this point.

These are my possible solution. Not terribly expensive and no electric required! The no electric thing also fits into our attempt to live more "green" and work our way towards self-sustainment out here in the boonies.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Gabe vs the Mounting Block

Gabe met the new mounting block on Saturday and after a couple big-eyed snorty looks at it, accepted it just fine. He wanted to eat it more than anything. He licked it a few times, sniffed it and went on with his business.

I spent some time walking up and down the steps, leading him with me and having him just stand next to it while I leaned over him. He didn't want to stand still so soon as he felt weight on his back, he either swung his butt out and away or tried walking off. We spent about 20 minutes working on just standing still before I could lay over his back without him walking off or wiggling around. Progress!

I did this all bareback with just a halter and lead and he was very accepting. He does, however, have a bad habit that will be broken immediately. I've mentioned before how very mouthy he is: He chews on the lead rope while tied, he swings his head around and swipes his saddle pad, he manages to get the longe line or long reins up into his mouth while I'm working him and chews, chews, chews the bit the entire time I'm working him. I'm thinking about investing in a new copper snaffle with a roller to keep his mouth occupied. He even tries to get the bridle into his mouth when I pull it over his head and I busted him chewing on his sheet last week. The turd. When he and Chief are having "conversations" over the fence he likes to grab Chief's halter and just not let go. This is not a good public relations move for him in Chief's mind!

While I was leaning over his back he kept reaching around and sniffing my butt and using that top lip to "snuffle" around...he didn't bite, but I'm pretty sure he would have if I hadn't kept an eye on his antics! Just lifting my foot and moving it towards his nose got the muzzle off my butt.

So, it's a start and the mounting block is the perfect height for him.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Mounting block extraordinaire!

When I asked my overachieving husband to build me a mounting block, I imagined something kind of like this one: He is not the kind of man who does anything half-assed. When he heard "mounting block," he thought something far different than what I had in mind. We weren't on the same "mounting block" page. I thought I had explained to him pretty much what I wanted "like, a few steps that I can stand on to get on."

Okay. Maybe I wasn't very clear in my instructions, that happens a lot.

I must say, while my new mounting "block" isn't exactly what I expected, I am not unhappy with it at all. In fact, it makes a lot of sense for a horse that won't stand stock still while mounting. Have you ever had one of those horses that likes to shift forwards or back, and you have to climb down off the block (or bucket, as I've been using), move the thing, and try again?

Yup, I won't be doing that anymore with this king of all mounting platforms!
It's two and a half feet tall, and the platform itself is 2.5' wide and about 3' long.

The girls like it and Kayleigh seems to think it's her private sunbathing platform and new clubhouse. It's quite roomy underneath! (Please ignore the state of the swimming hasn't been closed for the season yet and is quite icky.)

Those who know me well know I don't have very conservative tastes when it comes to colors for my horses. I'm all about the purple. I have purple wraps, saddle pads, half chaps, a crochet fly thing for the horses' ears and even a purple dressage whip! So, of course, I had to have a purple mounting platform. There was no question about that. Kayleigh and I spent about an hour giving it two coats of paint.

Ta-da! All ready for use!