Sunday, January 30, 2011

I got a chance to ride my horse yesterday for the first time in a while. It was a beautiful morning. And by that I mean warm, cloudy, and just barely raining. I'll take what I can get. I decided to ride with my bareback pad. I got a Skito pad a while back (for $10!) and it works perfectly to put cushion between his back and my bum. The bareback pad has some cushion as well. We had a lot of fun, just playing in the field, tuning up a few things here and there, and then we went down the driveway and into the trees, but not down the road. I don't trust him, or my balance, enough to do that bareback. Tonka did stumble going downhill once and I was surprised how little it bothered my balance. I just don't think I'd stay on one of his huge sideways spooks. He hasn't done that in almost a year, but I have some fear issues associated with it, so I'm sure I'd get all tight every time he looked at something funny, and that wouldn't be a good thing. No sense taking risks anyway - I can't afford any more medical bills.

I think this week I'll walk & ride with Tonka, and later start taking Scout along. He could definitely use the exercise and experience. And I think the weather is supposed to be halfway decent, so it may be time to start making a commitment to work with Scout every day.

I need some feedback from you all. I mentioned before that I can't find boots that are good for walking AND riding. The Ariat terrain boots I have are awful (but maybe only because they're old). Would you ride in loosely laced walking shoes? Or do you think it likely my foot could get caught in the stirrup even if the shoe comes off? Does anyone have suggestions for comfortable riding boots? I'm talking about walking many miles in them, so they have to be supportive and comfortable. I like the look of the men's Roper Horseshoes. Anyone have any experience with those?

What I'd really like would be some STI breakaway stirrups - then I could wear whatever shoes I want. But they have a HUGE price tag.

What would you do?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

This morning we didn't have time for a long walk but we went 2.5 miles. I love my EveryTrail app on my phone for tracking distance.

I realized this morning that what used to be my "skinny" jeans (I'd only wear them some days because they weren't very comfortable) are now my comfy jeans. Love it. All the hard work and dieting is paying off, slowly but surely. And my back isn't near as painful now as it was a couple months ago.

Tonka still seems sore, but the walking is helping. His hind end is super short-strided when we start out but he's more normal by the time we get home. I think if we keep up the daily walks I might be able to ride him next week without feeling like I'm hurting him. Weather permitting.

Tonight I'm going to the Mustang Club meeting in Spokane. It's at Perkins on Mission and Argonne at 6pm if anyone would like to join us. We'll probably be planning some trail rides, and of course talking about Mustang Days. You don't have to have a mustang to join in the fun!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My computer has gone on strike. John's going to have to wipe it and start over from scratch this weekend. I'll be able to back up and save the stuff I want to keep, but I'm sure it will be a very slow process. I'm not looking forward to it.

I just today grew a brain and realized I can use John's computer to check blogs and write a quick post and look up information on enrolling at University of Idaho.

I'll start with the school idea - I think I mentioned I've been looking for a job. Unfortunately my skills are in a limited area (office work, customer service work - not something I'm extremely keen on anyway). Also, there are lots of college students around to fill entry level jobs, and many employers are looking for college graduates for anything requiring any kind of intelligence. I never got around to going to college, other than one logic class where I had a lot of fun and passed with a 4.0. I'm thinking of starting at U of I with the intention of ending up in Rangeland Management, or possibly something else in the college of Natural Resources. I also like the idea of their pre-vet program but I have a few reservations there. Now I just need to find out if I can go to school without it costing me anything. You never know, it could happen.

In other monetary news, our business is... changing. We have some huge decisions to make and I have no idea how our lives will be structured in 6 months. If we could both go back to school that would be best, but I don't think they pay you to go to school, and we have a lot of mouths to feed (and a mortgage payment).

I've got to run out the door but I have to tell you real quick - Tonka has been really lame from the EPSM, and I decided to get him back on a fitness schedule. (I need it too, of course). So today I walked 4.5 miles with my best horse and my best dog, both of them on leads at times, and working on Huckleberry's off leash manners, and they were awesome. Nothing like splitting your attention between two very intelligent boys to keep your mind off your troubles. And I'm a firm believer that exercise and fresh air is good for mental health! Very much so. We had fun.

Edited to add a couple pics of our walk today.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

This morning as I sat and drank my morning coffee I watched my boys at the trough. They're so fun to watch. Tonka was rather annoying with the "I'm not touching you" game while Cisco got a drink. Then he chewed on the edge of the trough for a while, yawned a lot, lifted a hind leg and switched his tail. (I think these were signs boredom and of pain - I didn't give him his special feed yesterday.) Scout tried to irritate Cisco by nosing and nibbling at his flank, then he gave up and they all stood and dozed in the sunshine. That's about all the horse interaction I got today, other than a quick hello as I fed.

Those of you familiar with rain rot or rain scald or whatever you want to call it, does this look pretty much like what you'd expect to see?

Are big lumps like this normal?

I worked outside for over 6 hours today and now that I'm inside, I'm getting more and more sore. There's a lot of moaning and groaning going on in this house right now.

The sun was shining all day, and I needed that so bad. I got my horse chores done and I decided it was time to tackle barn demolition again. So I started a fire. Which was tricky since it rained buckets all day yesterday. My little fire grew and grew I kept feeding it all day until it turned into a huge pile of embers as the sun went down.

Liam and John worked with me, and they got the lean-to part of the barn torn down, saving the good siding for me to build a shed with later.

Katia did a bunch of housework without being told (much) and helped throw a little wood on the fire. But you could see her girly squeamishness as she picked up the wood. She's deathly afraid of spiders. And maybe she doesn't like dirt as much as the rest of us do.

India spent the day mousing, which (as you can see) involves a lot of excavation:
Huckleberry was plumb tuckered out from being overseer all day. He also made sure he was available for company anytime I took a break for a minute to let the fire die down a bit.

It was a great day. Which we all needed. Some things don't need to be blogged, but this has been a very, very difficult week. Nobody's going to die or anything, so don't you worry. :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What a HUGE relief. Soxy is going to be fine. Well, for now... The vet thinks it's the same old thing it has been - most likely a sinus infection but possibly a guttural pouch infection. Her lungs sounded great, heart was great too. He said she looks very healthy and alert, and he doesn't think her problem is painful. So we treat it, again, with antibiotics. He said he'd get back to me on a dose for goldenseal and echinacea too. I hadn't thought of giving her echinacea but I already started with the goldenseal, but probably too low a dose. I know when I start to get a sinus infection it clears it up. Have to be careful though because it can be hard on the liver, and we haven't run bloodwork on Soxy.

I didn't realize how stressed I was about this until I was halfway home and I suddenly felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my chest. I'm glad she's going to be around for a good while more.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The vet thinks Soxy may have pneumonia. It sure is different from the other times, but I was so focused on her past issues I didn't give a whole lot of thought to whether it might be pneumonia. It occurred to me, but I thought the gurgly noise would be more in her lungs. Which it might be, I don't have a stethoscope. So off to the vet we go tomorrow afternoon. Luckily my driveway is clear and I only have one flat tire on the trailer (I swear we find EVERY stray nail with that thing). I'll change it real quick in between appointments tomorrow.

Today we took my son to a behavioral optometrist. It was pretty fascinating. He did about an hour and a half of tests with the doctor. The doctor will study his tests and put together a treatment plan, and we'll see him again tomorrow morning to hear all the juicy details. I am really excited that there may be a solution to Liam's aversion to reading. He kept complaining that his eyes or his head hurt as we got further into the tests, and some of them even made him nauseous, so I'm really hoping there's something in his eyesight that can be corrected and will allow him to enjoy schoolwork more. Heck, if it makes him sick no wonder he doesn't like it.

Speaking of sick - I'm sick tonight. Hopefully a quickly passing bug. I want to ride this week! Now if only the weather will cooperate.

And speaking of weather - Katia and I went for a drive today and decided to go ahead and go through this:

Probably a dumb thing to do, but the water wasn't moving fast, the road was paved (not soft - no getting stuck), and it looked shallow. It was deeper than it looked, but we were okay in our big pickup. The flooding on our own place isn't bad at all, but it's pretty bad in the surrounding areas. Lots of melt and lots of rain at the same time turns farm fields into lakes. John said he couldn't even count how many deer he almost hit tonight. They're probably all flooded out of their normal homes, poor things.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cisco got it! I knew he would, he's a smart boy. It seems he doesn't really like to touch the target, or he doesn't really understand why we're playing this game, but he knows now that touching the target gets him a reward.

I'm trying to edit a video of our first tries... We've had nothing but technical difficulties with the camera today. This video may be too big but I'm going to give it a shot. (Don't mind my scowl, somehow my face stuck like that. My poor horses probably don't know what to think. I need to make it a goal to soften my expression a LOT.)

Note that I make an attempt to not click and treat when he's crowding or mugging. The point here isn't that I'm rewarding him for anything yet, I'm just showing him that the click is connected to the food. But I don't want to click when he's doing something I don't like. When he's sniffing my right hand he's checking out the clicker. That's okay, I like curiosity, but it was kind of like mugging too. He wanted to know if it was food.

I'll try to get some video of the next step tomorrow, but it might be raining all day so we'll see...
Cisco doesn't get clicker training. I think he understands that something interesting is going on, but he's not sure what, and he doesn't like my target.

Tonka understands too well, and I'm not moving things along fast enough for him, I don't think. It all just feels so awkward, when I know I could just ask him to do the things and he would do them, without the clicker or the food. But he wouldn't be as excited about it. The excitement kind of gets in the way though... Blah. I wasn't all that inspired by the results today.

Scout - he didn't even come to play. He watched us work for a while and then went to go eat hay and didn't come when I called, so I figured he didn't get to play today.

Bella - She kept me company while I scooped load after load of poop into the wheelbarrows. (That's what happens when you leave the poop for when the weather is better). She's good company, and cute as heck the way she watches with such interest.

Soxy - She's sick again. Shit. Sorry, but the situation warrants a bad word or two. I just took her off antibiotics 3 weeks ago. Usually it's 3 months before the problem comes back. Now it's both nostrils, not just the right, and I can hear her breath bubbling through her snot. I told Liam we might have to have her put down soon and he said, "NO!" So I'll start antibiotics and bute and call my vet on Monday. I'm not sure this is fair to her. I think it's painful. I've picked out a burial spot for her. I've loved on her a lot today. I'm sure she feels that I'm upset, but she still loves the attention.

I think I'll go try the clicker with Cisco again before it gets dark.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Today was a crazy day! I never even saw the horses, other than a glance in the dark as I fed before dawn and long after sunset.

My son had his student led conference this morning and it was a lot of fun. He didn't really enjoy having to show us the details of all the work he's done over the year, though.

Then we ran some errands and went to my sister's to keep her company before her MRI today. She's having some disturbing visual problems and headaches. The doctor talked her into getting it checked, since one of the most common places for her cancer to metastasize is the brain.

We did some more running around, I dropped Liam off with John, then met my sister and her husband at the hospital where I so recently had my MRI. I eventually remembered to call my daughter to tell her I'd be home late, and she answered the phone in tears. She'd sprained her ankle at school and they just sent her home on the bus! I think she didn't want to draw attention to herself but I wish she'd have called me. I could at least have picked her up and saved her the long, slippery, steep walk down our driveway. I think she was in a lot of pain by the time I called because of that walk. I rushed home, after stopping off to pick Liam up but he didn't want to come home, so it was just Katia and me. She was feeling better by then, had iced and elevated it. So I got her more comfortable and made her popcorn and we watched a movie together. When she gets up and hops to the bathroom her ankle starts hurting again. But then she admitted she never took any ibuprofen so I got her some. Hopefully that will help with the swelling and inflammation.

My sister called and said the lady who did the MRI told her she didn't see anything to worry about. That is awesome news and will make it much easier to wait through the weekend, but we still have to wait for the radiologists to look at it.

Liam and John came home, and Liam had had an great day at John's work. They were there for about 4 hours and he kept himself occupied, didn't interrupt when John was with a customer (after the first customer and a reminder how important it is that he not interfere). He wrote some paragraphs about how much he enjoyed himself. That kid, he amazes me. He can have some really rotten days followed by totally angelic sweetness. I don't get what changes him, but I enjoy the good times to the fullest! (Although he's insisted, "No more kisses mom." Darn it.)

Tonight I went out to feed and it was warm, silent, windless, and bright with moonlight. Beautiful. I hope this weather holds through tomorrow. I'd really like to spend some good time with the horses. Good night!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

As I mentioned, I've decided to give clicker training a more thorough try than I have in the past. I ordered a book - Clicker Training: Colt Starting the Natural Horse, by Leslie Pavlich. I already had the clicker and the carrots. :) Today I joined the clickryder group on Yahoo and of course the first post I read was about a horse throwing a fit and biting his owner. My big worry about clicker is that it will cause bad behavior. We'll see...

Scout's day one with the clicker (before I got my book or reviewed clicker info)- I did too many things, I realized a little too late. Probably part of the problem I've had in the past. But I did communicate that the click meant carrot, and I did a lot of click and reward for him backing a step (because as I said, I don't want him turning into a pushy butt-head).

Scout's day two with the clicker - doing less, correctly. I clicked and treated to remind him what it was about, then I held out my "target" which was an empty water bottle. Being the inquisitive guy he is, he nosed it, I clicked and treated. He mugged my pockets, I ignored him. I held up the bottle, which interested him enough to stop the mugging, touched his nose, clicked and treated. The only time I corrected him was if he mugged me in a way that seemed dangerous, I'd flap my elbow, hands in pockets. No hitting. It would be a long process to type all the repetitions, but it didn't take long at all, and he wasn't mugging me, but was following me around, touching the bottle. My only complaint is that he was trying to bite the bottle. I decided not to click and treat for that, but to take the bottle away and present it in a way that would help his nose touch it before his teeth, and reward the nose, not the teeth. I think it was great progress and I'm surprised at how quickly he quit mugging me.

In the past I never tried just ignoring the mugging, I always flapped or pushed or said NO or something to discourage it. Which probably kicked in a play drive. These boys love to play bitey face or "I'm not touching you!" and it can go back and forth forever. Interesting that just standing there ignoring it was WAY more effective. I learned something new today. I love it!

Now I'm going to go out and do it with Tonka or Cisco, whichever volunteers first. Tonka already knows the clicker and is very much wanting to come play when he hears it. Cisco is going to love it, he's so incredibly smart. This is fun!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The boys had too much fun today.

Except for poor Scout. I was leading him.

He wishes he could join in the fun.
(Do any of you have horses with that blue rim around the eye? Three of mine have it, all red based with dun factor. Just curious how common it is.)

I had decided to take Scout for a walk, and then I decided to just take him around the perimeter of the property and check the fence so Cisco and Tonka could come along. I don't think the boys go out there very often judging by how excited they got about it. Especially the deep snow in one of the ponds. Tonka couldn't resist a couple good rolls there. It was a fun and refreshing little outing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I just couldn't decide which photo of Scout I wanted to post, so I posted them all. He was saddled and I was attempting to convey the idea of standing still to him, but he wasn't getting it.

"Hey look, my friends are over there!"
"I'll just come stand with you, okay?"

"I'm not having fun at all."
I decided that today I would definitely get out and spend time with the horses, and trim Scout's feet, which were way overdue. So I left Tonka to his business and got Scout out. I figured if I had to trim him, he might as well wear a saddle. I had some idea of having him do a few round pen exercises, but there was ice under the snow in a few spots so we just did a little slow groundwork on the lead line.

He's pretty much completely accepting of the saddle, other than wanting to chew on it. I watched him like a hawk while I saddled him and gently dissuaded him from that idea, and he quickly stopped thinking about it. I think the saddle may fit him better than it does Tonka, just judging how it sits on him. I didn't feel around under the tree or anything, but this is going to be his saddle so it better work!

I probably could have climbed on for a very nice ride today had conditions been right, but that wasn't my aim for the day, and with the ice it would have been a bad idea.

Toward the end I started introducing him to the clicker. I've ordered a book and I'm impatient to get going! He enjoyed the carrots but I think he's confused about what it means, although it did liven up his interest in working with me, which is GREAT! The funny thing is that Tonka heard the clicker and came running. He stood at the fence and watched very, very intently while I unsaddled Scout. So I saved him a carrot and gave him a click and treat when he came to me in the pasture.

He got some ideas about ear-pinning that I had to speak to him about. We often have this discussion. I think I must inadvertently allow it when I'm feeding and not watching him, so he needs a little reminder sometimes. I slowly but firmly drove him away and followed along, driving him, until he'd gone through the gate into another area to stand in time-out.

Here's a good illustration of Scout's willingness to put up with punishment.

Tonka: "Hmm, where shall I bite you?"

Tonka: "I'm going to bite you right here"
Scout: "Your breath smells like carrots."

Tonka: "Last chance, I'm going to bite!"
Scout: "I wish I had a carrot."
He will eventually move, slowly, after he's been bitten pretty hard. He's tough to motivate, which is a large part of why I ordered the clicker training book.

And here's my crazy pup. The eyes!
(You should click to enlarge to get the full effect)

Devilish Dog

He looks so innocent here, but he's trying to hide behind the tree so I won't come take his stick. He much prefers keep-away to fetch, but he'll give it up if you make him.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I am having trouble seeing from trying to read a couple blogs in white type on a black background. I wish that didn't give me so much trouble! I hate to ask people to change their look because I want to read, because it seems kinda selfish, but otherwise I can't read, so I may have to start speaking up and asking... I got a comment from Chloe with a very interesting looking blog - but I can't read it, darn it.

Which isn't the point of my blog post. I've been meaning to write about my plans for the year. I could call them resolutions but I don't like that word. And as another blogger wrote, resolutions are basically a way of saying, "these is my worst flaws," and sharing them with the world at large is a bit hard. I don't like to get that personal. But here are a few things I AM going to do this year.

I am going to get more fit, which for me has a lot of different aspects. I have to lose weight. I've been doing a good job of that slowly over the last couple years. I'm about 40lb lighter than my heaviest weight. That's about the weight of a saddle! I hope to lose about 20 pounds this spring, or possibly more, but we'll see how I feel at that point. I also need to work on flexibility and core strength. This will help in my riding but will also help in my overall body pain. Mainly it's in my back but I've been having big trouble with my left hamstring lately. Another part of my fitness plan is to work on my balance. It all ties together...

Other things I will do this year include several camping trips with the horses. I plan on doing at least two days of the John Wayne Trail ride. I'm also going to spend a weekend at Lakeview Ranch up near Odessa. Other camping destinations may be Escure Ranch near Sprague and Farragut State Park up by Sandpoint. I don't have dates planned yet.

I am going to work on my riding, taking some lessons. I have a huge amount of room for improvement. I should do a whole separate post on that... Maybe I will.

I am going to start Scout under saddle. I still hate the idea of splitting my time between two horses though. Every time I think, "I'm going to do such and such with Tonka," I remember that I also need to do it with Scout, and it's a lot of pressure and makes me not want to get started doing it with either of them, in case I don't have time to do it consistently with both. Dumb, really, but there it is.

Speaking of Scout, today I met a colt born of one of the mares that came from the same adoption Bella came from. They look similar, with the sabino markings, big wide blaze (this colt had more of a bald face) and roan in the flanks. He was not as fat as Scout, which I thought was appealing. I can't feed them less in this cold though (8 degrees right now). They're from separate HMAs but I think there must be some crossovers between the herds, they all seemed so similar at the adoption. This colt will be started under saddle soon, and riding in organized rides by April. I won't be in that much of a rush. :)

I may also do a short pack trip into the mountains somewhere, but that's not a must. Although I think it would be a great experience if I do get to do it.

I also plan on going to at least one adoption as a volunteer with my mustang boys. There's supposed to be one in Lewiston this year.

My sister wants me to buy, borrow, or beg an appaloosa and go on the Chief Joseph trail ride with her this year. I couldn't put that much time into another horse. Conditioning and the long ride through Montana. I love my horse. I would love to do this with him! But not with another horse. And they only allow appaloosas. :(

That's all I've got so far...

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

You'd think with the kids back in school I'd have all the time in the world to blog, read blogs, eat bon-bons and lounge about in my pajamas. Somehow I haven't been spending much time on the computer though. Between cooking, cleaning, driving around, exercising, and reading my book, which is rather absorbing (Tolstoy again), I don't have a lot of extra time on my hands. Weird how that happens - no set plan for the day and all the sudden it's full of stuff to do.

I finally made time to play with Tonka today. I trimmed his hooves over the last couple days (the lazy woman's way to trim). I've also been medicating his rainrot (?) as best I can in the cold without clipping him. I think today was the third day I put Vetericyn on it. I talked to my vet about it and he said, "I don't know why that stuff works." Basically he doesn't put much stock in it. But it doesn't have to be rinsed, which is important in this cold weather. I just spot treat. The only area I "clipped" was on his flank. I cut it rather long with scissors, but short enough that I can get close to the skin more easily. His neck I can't clip in this weather, so I just do my best to find all the little bumps and get stuff rubbed into them. I still think it's weird that he got rain scald only on the lower part of his neck, under his jaw, and on the lower part of his flank. I never see him with lots of wet that stays long in those areas. It usually drips off before it gets there. But even so, my vet thought that's what it was (just a phone conversation, he didn't see it).

In this picture you can see where I cut his flank hair:

Anyway, back to the exciting fact that I actually got my horse out today. I think he enjoyed himself. We didn't do much, just some real easy circles to get him moving and then a leisurely ride around the field. He totally cracked me up when we were done. I had set my hat and his lead rope on the table and I was thinking I wished I didn't have to get off to get them (too low to reach). I rode in that direction and when we got there he picked up my hat, so I asked him to bring his head around and I grabbed it. No luck with the rope. He totally didn't understand what I wanted. At one point he picked it up but then he dropped it off the table. After that he tried putting his hoof up on the table to see if that's what I wanted (luckily it's sturdy and anyway he didn't press down). I got down and tried to make what I wanted more obvious, but no go. I'm thinking this might be something handy to work on though. Would be nice to have my horse hand me stuff I can't reach. But it might create a monster! He's already a mouthy guy.

I also got to put my new breastcollar and cinch on my saddle. I got a screaming deal on the breastcollar. It's the shape I like, with plenty of room for his shoulders to move, and it's the right color. The cinch was a gift, a wide string roper cinch, luckily without those pesky Smart Cinch buckles (they make it hard to put my cinch buckle in the keeper on the saddle when I'm not riding). But I did want to cushion the bite of the cinch rings, so I got these "Cincha Ring Safes" made by Colorado Saddlery. They're even better quality than the Weaver Leather ones, and they're the right color too. I got a screaming deal on those also. Now I'm having doubts about them though. They're bulky and when his leg moves back his skin and muscle fold over them. Here's a picture:
I'm too tired to think straight now, so I'm going to bed!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Some photos from the last day of 2010.

Tonka is blissfully happy as he eats his breakfast goodies.
India is waiting for him to drop some and/or leave some leftovers

Huckleberry is mousing

Snow is hard to photograph, but it's fun to get down on the ground and lay in it while you try for something good.

I don't know why I like this one, but I really do. I think I like the macro setting on my new camera.

The end.
Of the year anyway. Long live the new year!
May it be filled with wonder for all of you.