Monday, February 25, 2008


Quite the eventful weekend. The weather was great, so that always helps.

Saturday was a long day. Got the boys fed, then worked on pushing the snowbanks back to prepare for the next dump of whitestuff. Got all the shavings unloaded and stored away. Gave the stalls a thorough cleaning and started manure pile #2, as #1 is drifted in. Pulled the hay wagon over to the hay guy. Sanded the driveway. Then the Neighbor Guy picked us up at ten and we headed off to Nolan's Arena for the first horse sale of the season. We did not take a trailer - we just went to see how bad the prices are. Grade yearlings were getting $50-$75. Most of these were registerable AQHA, but the owners don't want to spend the money to do it, so they have to list them as grade. Bred brood mares were getting $200. Good well broke horses fetched maybe $800 if they were lucky. The big one of the day got $2250, a dead broke 15 yr. old b.s. Paint owned by Sara's old trainer. WP all the way. If he had a little more white, he'd be worth five times that. He's gotten out of training and showing and has gone back to shoeing full time, so he sold all his show horses. Kinda sad.

Auctions are kinda sad at times, as you can tell when folks are selling truly good family horses out of necessity. But that thought is soon replaced by disgust at the sellers that bring thru the butt ugly manure encrusted non-halter broke crooked legged yearlings by the dozens. Fer the cry-yi-yi.

Sunday was just as busy. I got a path plowed to the gate and shoveled out the bottom rails so we can open it to go use the neighbor's indoor. Got the four-wheeler stuck real good in the process. Donkey and Nadia seemed to enjoy watching me work, so I gave them some scratchins after I was done. Both had burdocks pretty bad so I spent some time getting those out. Nadia (the percheron) is such a gentle soul. I got the brush and curry and she loved it. I was told by Neighbor Guy that she rides, but has horrible ground manners. I don't see it. She stood like a champ when I brushed her. When the hair was blowing in my face, I poked her in the hip to get her to move down wind and she pivoted. Humph. So I poked her in the shoulder, and she pivoted. More humph. Reached up to her poll and she dropped her head like a heavy rock. Humph. I brushed her everywhere and she just stood - no lead or halter. I think we'll be spending more time together this spring. Gonna need a big ladder to get up there, but I'm gonna try.

Sara went to ride Wyatt and she came back all smiles. He's coming along super. She rode him around the yard, and he never so much as blinked an eye at any of the horse eating boogeymen they encountered. If he saw something new, he wanted to go sniff it. Such a good horse.

I brought Hank in and brushed him up - he's shedding heavily. Tossed the saddle on and rode around the pasture in full redneck attire - jogging pants, cowboy boots, ski jacket and Elmer Fudd hat. Hey, my horse doesn't care that I look like a clown. I haven't ridden him in three or four weeks and he did great. We just plodded along in snow that is above his knees. He got a workout.

Sara had a lesson with her new trainer and Jin, so off she went. Her new trainer is very good and honest. If you and your horse don't have what it takes, she won't waste your time or hers perpetuating a dream. If you walk in and say "I want to go to World", but you are average open show material, that's what she'll tell you and that's how she'll work with you. If she sees potential, she'll encourage you to progress. But if you don't want to, that's ok too. Anyway, the lesson went well and the trainer was very happy with their progress. She has high hopes for the two of them, and she's not one to say it if she didn't mean it.

There are a few trainers in the area that are kinda snaky. They'll take you and your horse in, and after many lessons and money, tell you that your horse is good, but they have one for sale that is better. You can buy their horse for $$$, and they'll sell your horse to another client, with a commission, of course. And the horse they just sold you needs finishing, so now you pay the trainer for that, too.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Hank, and the History of Horses, Part 9

I guess the term green broke is subjective.

He led, he stood tied, he saddled, but he didn't like any of it. You could get on him, but asking him to move off wasn't always in his game plan. He was really green. I called that lime green, because he sure was a sour puss.

Could I have paid to have him trained? Sure. Would it have been better for us? Maybe. Would we have been better for it? Nope.

In hindsight, I don't regret anything we did with his training. It was good for me to be involved in the process, and I don't think I would have been satisfied with the results of a "trainer". In a crazy way, all of his devilishness brought us together, and I truly know him better than anyone could. So for the remainder of the summer we worked on the little things. I read tons of stuff from Lyons, Parelli, Anderson and applied their techniques to the best of my abilities. We went to clinics and learned lots. And we kept at it. There were times when I would have gladly have sold him for glue. Many times, actually. But I didn't. I was just as stubborn as he was, and I didn't want to quit.

I read a Lyons article about how to get your horse to walk off when he refused. The article described how you have to bump bump bump bump bump until the horse takes a step, then immediately stop bumping. The usual pressure/release tactic that all of the natural horsemen preach. I worked on this for some time, always getting a little more success, always quitting on a positive note. Then there was that one time that he just would not walk off. Bump bump bump, thump thump thump. Boy, my legs were getting tired, but he was having none of it. More bumping. More thumping. What happened next can only be assumed. There were no witnesses, and I'm still having a hard time understanding it. One second I'm bumping away, then the next I'm sitting on his neck. His ears were right in front of me, the saddle and it's horn were now behind me. My feet dangled freely, but the reins were still in my hands.

And he just stood there.

Sara was brushing Charlie at the other end of the arena, so I called her name. I'm sure she had to look more than once to assess the situation, but it wasn't long before she was laughing hysterically. I was feeling awfully helpless in my precarious position and didn't appreciate the laughter. I just wanted down, but having never dismounted from a horse's neck before caused me some angst. As Sara tried her best to help me thru her muffled guffaws, I attempted to dismount the usual way. My right thigh caught on the saddle horn as I swung it back. I slipped to the side and Sara tried to catch my fall. Silly Sara. We both toppled to the ground in a heap directly underneath that big stubborn horse who refused to move.

He looked down at us with an expression that could only be described as annoyed tolerance.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Goodbye, Christmas Tree

I finally decided to put the tree away. It's been undecorated for about 3 weeks now, just waiting for me to stuff it in the basement. Normally we disassemble it, stuff it into boxes and stack them in the basement, but this year we decided to keep the lights on it and stuff it into the root cellar. I thought I could tackle this myself and attempted this yesterday when Sara was not home. Typically things like this go smoother when we're not yelling at each other. I have to admit that I could have used her help. The first problem that occurred was trying to stuff both my fat ass and the tree through the door to the basement. No easy task. Since I was already started and I'm a stubborn old mule there was no going back. Once I got the two of us popped thru the door and headed down the stairs, we ran into another snag. One of the strings of lights near the top of the tree looped itself around the hand railing.

Six feet away from me.

No way to reach it.

We're stuck in the stairwell.

I tried to push the tree back up the stairs in hopes the lights would un-loop themselves, but that was the equivalent of a dog shitting out a pine cone. It wasn't going to go that way without help. So I decided to climb up the stairs, stepping through the branches of the tree, and unloop the snagged lights. My first step resulted in my foot getting tangled in another string of lights. I couldn't get my foot out of the tree, and I couldn't reach the snag on the hand rail. The thought of just laying down on the tree and hoping for death crossed my mind. After some wiggling, the bottom half of the tree just fell off. My foot was free, but I had no idea where my slipper went. I got the lights unsnagged from the rail, retreated back down the stairs, retrieved my slipper from inside the tree, and put the dissected tree back together. I was within three feet of the root cellar when I set the tree down to open the door. The base on the tree snapped. The tree fell over. And, in a final moment of defiance, the tree broke into two pieces again.

It's still in a heap on the basement floor.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Hank, and the History of Horses, Part 8

Hank came home on Independence Day, 2002. Symbolic or not, it's easy for me to remember.

I remember standing in the yard after we unloaded him. Just him and me. He was eating grass, looking around, eating more grass. I was standing there watching him, wondering What The Hell Did I Just Do. What level of dementia had I attained to decide to buy a horse? The real truth of it all was that I knew nothing about these big hairy animals, and who was I to assume I could take care of one? What huge responsibility had I just taken on, and worse yet, what would happen if I failed that responsibility.

I suffer from buyer's remorse. I enjoy having new stuff, but I go through a period of second guessing my decision to have the new stuff. Cars, trucks, lawn mowers; it's all the same. I wonder if I really needed it in the first place. I wonder if it was money well spent. I wonder if the previous item would have been good enough for a little while more. I don't think I looked at my new big screen tv for two weeks after we brought it home. Buying Hank caused a different type of buyer's remorse. It wasn't so much the expense of the purchase or the expense of the things to come (tack, boarding, vets...), but it was the worry if I could hold up my end of the deal.

A horse is not just a big grass eating dog. You can't just put them on pasture and throw some kibble at them every now and then. There are similarities in their care, but everything a horse needs is on a much grander scale than the needs of a dog. Food, shelter, and vet care are just the beginnings. Like dogs, they love attention, but you can't just stand in the pasture and throw a ball for them for ten minutes a day. They are working animals, and you have to give them a job to keep them occupied. Fetch is not a job. Whether it be riding or driving, a horse needs to be worked to keep it's mind sharp. Grooming, exercising, riding and basic care was staring me in the face and I wasn't too sure if I was ready for it.

Sure, we had horses for a couple of years before this, and I learned lots in that time, but having my own gave me a sense of responsibility that I hadn't felt before. This was A Big Deal. But we endured. I had to rearrange some of my priorities, but it wasn't tough. I had to rearrange my budget, but we made do. It was my job, from that day forward, to care for this big mass of muscle and bone. And it was going to be all right.