Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wow! What a Sunrise.

Normally my commute to work is rather mundane, but this morning had one of the best sunrises I've seen. There was a huge, crisp and bright sun pillar shining up from the horizon. These aren't horribly uncommon, but this one was a doozy. See, we live in an area that is ripe for meteorological anomalies.

(WARNING! Weather Geek-Speek to follow): With that big body of water to our east and that nasty wind from Canada to the northwest, we can see some exciting occurrences. All that cold air arrives via the jet stream, which, for the most part goes west to east. But often it slides north into Canada before making a hard right and heading down into Wisconsin. When that cold air hits the warm air that hovers over Lake Michigan, those two air masses of different temperatures get mad at each other and snow is created. Ok - that's not entirely accurate, but you get the jist. Anyway, while we're not in the snow belt that is created by these battling air masses, we are allowed a peek at the beginnings of the fight. And that's what created this morning's awesome sunrise. Accompanying the cold Canadian air from the northwest was a band of high cirrocumulus clouds, yet the eastern horizon was clear. (Something that we see often enough is the stacking of cloud banks over Lake Michigan - they come in on the prevailing west winds, hit the warmer, moist air above the lake, and want to hang out for a while. It's like they're afraid to go to Michigan. I can understand.) Conditions were just right where the ice crystals formed by the freezing of the warm water vapor above the lake came falling back down. As the sun was peeking up from the east, the light bounced off of these ice crystals and created a big pillar of light. In addition, the bottom side of the cloud bank was illuminated in a brilliant mix of purples and pinks. It sure was a nice start to another cold winter morning.

I really need to carry a camera with me.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Winter Sucks!

I awoke today just like any other day. Put my long underwear on one leg at a time. Or tried. It always seems that one leg is turned inside out, making reinsertion in the dark difficult if not impossible. Grabbed my sweatshirt, put in on backwards. Tried again, got it right. Slippers went on the wrong feet.

Just a normal morning.

Started the coffee and glanced at the trusty indoor/outdoor digital thermometer. It read -0.0. That's Minus Zero Point Zero. Just how unapologetically unoptimistic could that thermometer be? Minus Zero? Minus? Talk about starting the day on a negative.

So I added another layer of clothes before heading out to feed the boys. I know, I know, there are two mares out there, but I call the outside critters The Boys. I have a need to keep things simple in my advancing age. The snow was squeaky cold. Twelve nostrils were blowing steam, waiting for breakfast. Two nostrils were frozen shut. Those were mine. Checked over the boys as I fed, looking for ice cuts on their legs, feeling for warm armpits, looking for any signs of cold. Heck, they can handle this weather, why can't I?

I think the answer is simple: they have no concept of time. Us humans know that winter is just starting, and there are at least 75 more days of this crap. Many of which promise to be worse, much worse. Those days will be followed by 75 more of cold, wet, slop and mud. Then we get what seems to be a flash of warmth and green, and the whole process starts over again.

How's that for optimism?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Remember This Little Guy?

It's been almost three years since we picked up this little feller from way over in the far western part of the state. We bought him without ever meeting him. We saw pictures and had some low-quality video from Sara's dad. He graciously took time to go see him for us while visiting Erin, Sara's younger sister who lives in Minneapolis. I remember all of the time Sara spent looking for a new show prospect. The hours surfing the net, the close scrutinizing of photos and videos. How Sara kept coming back to this little guy. I remember how we took the videos and pictures to our friend Dale, a local trainer, to ask his opinion on which horse he felt would be a good prospect. And this little yellow horse kept surfacing near the top of the list.

We hooked up the steel dinosaur and headed west to pick up that little horse. He was everything we expected. Calm, mild mannered, nice conformation. Granted, he was at that awkward and lanky late yearling stage, but you could tell he was going to come together well. We tossed an old blanket on him and he loaded right up. Stood like a champ for the four hour ride home. Unloaded in the dark like he'd done it many times, but this was only his second trailer ride in his life. Settled into his stall amongst all the seasoned Paints and Quarter Horses like he knew it was his new home, and he approved.

Watching him grow into those knobby knees and those long legs was fun. He took everything in stride and never got wound up about anything Sara threw at him. He did anything asked of him, and did it willingly. That first summer was spent showing him at the local level in classes like halter, showmanship, in-hand trail & lunge line. It was then that he learned he liked those classes - he could sleep during the lineup. He loves to sleep. It's one of his favorite things. When not showing, the rest of his time was spent learning new things in the arena and going on longs walks. Walks down the road and walks in the field, getting him accustomed to cars and trucks and tractors and semi's.

Late in his second year Sara started him under saddle. Again, he took it in stride like he knew this was his job. His training proceeded slowly with lots of walking and bending and softening. He picked it all up like a champ, and continued to learn into his third year. That next summer was spent at the local open shows in an array of walk/trot classes in addition to the showmanship and halter classes. He did well, holding his own against much more experienced horses. He became one of the horses to beat in the showmanship classes. His placings thru the year qualified him to go to the Wisconsin State Horse Council's Challenge of Champions which was held in late September. They walked away earning 5th in Western Pleasure. Not bad for his first year of riding.

That winter they focused on getting his lope and canter down. He learned and worked hard and tried harder and got it down just right. They had to get it right, because his fourth year was going to be a big one. They went on to show at the breed shows this past summer on the Wisconsin Paint Horse Club circuit, and they ended the show season with a winning record.

I'm a very proud husband when I can say that Sara is the Wisconsin Paint Horse Club's Amateur Rookie of the Year.

The also earned the title of the Reserve Champion Novice Amateur All-Around, just being out of first place by two points.

But one of Sara's proudest title is that of Grand Champion Novice Amateur Showmanship.

In addition, she was awarded with the following titles from the WPHC:
Reserve Champion Amateur Geldings at Halter

Reserve Champion Novice Amateur Western Pleasure

Reserve Champion Novice Amateur Hunter Under Saddle

Reserve Champion Novice Amateur Huntseat Equitation

Reserve Champion Novice Amateur Western Horsemanship

All of this from that knobby-kneed little blue eyed yellow horse. And from all of their hard work and dedication. And for never giving up.

I am so proud of the two of them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Little Things

A good thing happened to me today, and it made me think about all the little things in life that make me smirk. I'm not talking about puppy dogs and butterflies, but I'm talking about those things that are unexpected and funny. Maybe even those things that make you say "yes!" and do that nifty gesture that pro bowlers do after getting a strike - you know the move.

Here's my short list. Feel free to share your own:

Extra change from the soda machine.
- What joy an extra 10 cents will bring!!!

The aggressive minivan driver getting cut off by the old lady in the Lincoln.
- Minivans, especially the ones with soccer ball decals on them, are inherently evil and a danger to the common man.

Everytime a coworker trips up the stairs by my office. Double the fun when accompanied with a spilled coffee.
- It's stairs, people! It's simple: Foot up, foot forward. Other side. Repeat.

Dogs pooping in the font yard.
- Don't know why, but I'm greatly amused when I drive past someone's house while Fido is laying a steamer on the lawn.

Expiration stickers on licence plates placed in a random collage.
- These people are glue-eaters. The sticker even comes with instructions for speshull people like them.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Enjoyed the 4H horse show at the county fairgrounds this weekend. One of the classes was a fun one called costume class, where you dress up anyway you want and hope you catch the judge's eye.

One of our horseless-horse 4H'ers took Hank into this class. She dressed up as a nurse, he was her sick patient. The pics tell it all.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Meeting the Big Boys

Well, we think his name will be Kirby.

We introduced him to the Big Boys pasture on Sunday. First we led him around the fenceline to show him the boundaries:
Then we introduced him to Hank & Wyatt over the fence. Hank wanted to eat him, Wyatt wanted to play. Honky wanted nothing to do with this "thing" in her pasture.

Once they got to know each other they settled in nicely.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Meet Kirby! or Willie! or Buster! or Little One....

Yep, I'm the Best Husband In The World.

I bought Sara a horse for our anniversary. It was easy, really. She had been looking for a new project, and this one came along at precisely the right moment (read: I hadn't a clue what else to get her).

He's 18 months old, nice and stocky build, and nice and quiet.

We picked him up Tuesday nite. He's never been on a trailer but walked right in. He hauled quietly and stood quietly when we stopped for gas. Sara worked with him a little last nite and he's a quick learner.

Should turn out to be a nice little horse. Just gotta find him a name. He came to us named Diego, and we're not too keen on that one. Any suggestions?

Dog Days of Summer

Ok, I've been lax. I need to make more time for the blog, but hey, it's SUMMER. I'm not huddled in the house in front of the computer hiding from the frozen tundra. I'm outside doing summer stuff, like mowing lawn. Of which I have too much. So this last weekend I made the decision to re-do some fencing and make a pasture bigger to eat up some of that never-ending lawn.

We currently have two large pastures. That's not enough for proper pasture rotation. When completed, we'll have three pastures and a dry lot. Hank and Honky will probably live most of their time in the dry lot (fatties), with the young athletic types out on any one of the grazing pastures. I'm hoping that this will be a better plan than the one currenlty in place. This should allow for the pastures to have greater time to "rest", allowing the grass to grow and the manure to dry up so I can drag it out and hopefully keep the fly population down. All of the fencing that faces the house will now be wood post and rail, and the rest will be electric.

Excavation for the new barn is underway. The new driveway and parking lot are starting to materialize (less lawn!). All of the topsoil has been scraped off to the side and all the fill has been hauled in. We are just waiting for the dozer to come and smooth out the clumps.

Looking from the house toward barn:

Looking from shed across parking lot:
Looking west up barn aisle:

Parking lot & stalls:

Spent a day and half this week hooking up the water line to our well and trenching in new water lines. Everything was buried at 7' to ensure nothing will freeze. The water line and electric conduit have been roughed in, and the new hydrant was installed behind the big shed. The barn is scheduled to be delivered next week, but we just got a letter saying they bumped us back a few days. Still trying to find the reasons behind that.

Much like everyone else, this summer has been flying by. With shows, 4h kids, the building mess and all that damned lawn we haven't gone on as many trail rides as I would have wished.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What Goes Bump in the Night?

Ok, last week I had a creepy dream that I was walking in the kitchen in the middle of the night and I saw someone walking in the yard. All I could think was that it was a burglar headed for the shed. It freaked me out so much I woke up and went to go look out the window, only to find it was 5:30 and time to feed the horses.

Kinda forgot about it.

Then last nite I woke up at 3:19 and heard a car coming down the road, slowing like it was gonna pull into the driveway. I layed there looking out the window, watching the headlights on the grass along the road, waiting for them to sweep across the lawn. Right about then I remembered that spooky dream. The car slowed to a stop right in front of the house, and I bounced outta bed to get a better look. The car pulled off right away, and there wasn't much to see. It didn't stop long enough for anyone to get in or out of the car, and it wasn't the mailman. More heebie jeebies. So I shook it off, called myself nuts, and layed back down. But I couldn't stop thinking about that dream from the other night, and I just layed there listening for any noises out of the ordinary. I thought about where the baseball bat was, where the gun was, where the spotlight was...

A few minutes went by, and a car came up the road from the other way. Sure sounded like the same car. It droves past the house and slammed on the brakes, tires squealing. Luci growled at the window. Well, I got up in a flash and headed to the kitchen window. I didn't see a thing, not even tail lights. So I thought either killed the lights or went in the ditch. I grabbed the spotlight and headed outside, shining it at the tack room, up and down the road, at the gates.... Everything looked normal. No car in sight.
I layed back down, followed by Luci. All the windows were open, so I was sure that between the two of us we'd hear a prowler if there was one. Finally got up to feed at five. Saw nothing out of the ordinary.
Normally a car slamming on the brakes would make me think it was avoiding a deer, or worse, a horse. But that creepy dream kept gnawing at me.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Some videos from the shows

Western Pleasure (2nd place):

Hunter Under Saddle (2nd place):

Energy Conservation (1st place):

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Let it show, let it show, let it show....

Ahhh, the show season is upon us. This has resulted in no time for me to post, so here's a re-cap of the last month.

Sara and Jin started off the year at the Silver Classic open show at Heartland Stables in Custer. After a hectic morning of arguing with a truck that hates wet weather and pulling in just as the show started, they ended up doing very well. Senior High Point winner of the day in fact. They got 1sts in showmanship, junior horse walk trot, english equitation, and a handful of other classes thru the day, placing in 11 of their 13 classes. And not least important was their 3rd in egg and spoon, a goofy class where you balance an egg in a spoon and ride around as the judge tells you to until all the participants drop their eggs. Silly, yes. Fun, yes.

The next weekend we were off to the Wisconsin Paint Horse Club APHA show in Jefferson. No egg and spoon there. This was serious stuff. This is where you show for points, not little $2 ribbons. The points go on the horse's permanent record, and earning points raises the value of your horse. That is if you were going to sell it. Anyway, there we are, small fish in the big pond. The big fish are world champs, or if not yet, soon to be. The big fish seem to have unlimited wealth to buy them the best horses, trucks, trailers, saddles, show clothes, custom spurs, chaps, and bits. We have a good horse, a used saddle and tack, a dented truck and a bit from Fleet Farm. And undaunted as they were, Sara and Jin held their own against these fish earning a 1st in horsemanship, 2nds in english equitation and hunter under saddle, a 3rd in western pleasure, and 4th in showmanship.
Not. Too. Shabby.
A highlight of her day came when one of the big fish trainers complimented her horse. She smiled so big I thought her head was gonna crack. It was a good weekend, then we found out that they won the Novice Amateur Weekend Highpoint. That made it a really good weekend.

Two weekends later we were back in Jefferson for another two day show. This was a much larger show, being dubbed the Paint-O-Rama. This drew the best APHA horses from a 4 state area. Many of them were using this show as a warm-up for the upcoming Pinto World and Paint World shows held later this month in Oklahoma and Texas, where the best in the nation compete. Again, Sara and Jin did very well with a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in showmanship, a 2nd, and two 4ths in western pleasure, and a 2nd and 3rds in hunter under saddle. Taking second place to horses of the caliber that were there is a huge accomplishment. Getting a first in showmanship was huge for the two of them. It's one of those classes that Sara just loves to do, and her hard work payed off that day. These placings resulted in Jin earning his first ROM's (Register of Merit with the APHA) in Showmanship and in HUS.

Luci goes with us to the shows. Her job is to guard the trailer.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hungry Honky

It seems Honky may be learning a habit from Hank that I don't mind one bit. When I feed in the morning, Hank likes to give you one of his classic "gruff-fuff-fuff-fuffs" as you near the fence with his grub. He's got a super low voice, and it always makes me smile to hear it. Well, Miss Honky Tonk started to try her version of that this morning. But it comes out like "Wheeze. Wheeze. Wheeze. Saaawwww. Grunt. Wheeze....."

Makes me smile even more.

Bad Ass Feet

I forgot to mention that the farrier came out last Friday to work on Honky Tonk's feet. Her fronts were in real sad shape. She was way over on her front right, and she favored it when standing. Jodi was able to take about a 1/4" of heel off of that foot and set her down and a more realistic angle. You could see that Honky appreciated the change almost immediately. Her left front was trimmed so short that Jodi couldn't do much with it except shape the toe a little. That foot is really flared out to the side. We'll have to let the fronts grow out and work on re-shaping them over the course of a few months. Her rear hooves were in better shape, and Jodi touched them up a bit. I told her that when we tried to pick up the back feet, Honky would just kick out, but Jodi wanted to give it a try and see if she could get Honky to give her foot. She took her time and Honky dealt with it well. I gotta say that our farrier is a brave little thing. She kept saying that Honky Girl is so much better than other donkeys that she trims. When a donkey kicks, they don't give a warning like a horse does. There may be the slightest flick of a tail, then WHOOSH, your hat goes flying. Jodi says that you can't even feel their muscles tense up like a horses. They just shoot a leg out and you hear the wind it created. If you ain't hurtin', it missed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Honky the Donkey, pt. 2

Honky settled in well. She was quarantined in the small pasture away from the boys for almost a week. She is eating and drinking just fine, and her poops are normal. I gave her a dose of Safe Guard Saturday morning and took her for a walk down the road and around the farm. She leads well enough, but stopping and staying stopped is a work in progress. She's an explorer, for sure. Traffic doesn't bother her one bit, and I sure got the looks from drivers as I walked my ass down the road at six in the morning. We have two plywood cutouts of deer in the back yard that she wasn't too sure of, but we took our time and she realized they weren't going to eat her.
Saturday afternoon was set aside for a good ass-washing. Sara tackled this with some help from a friend and her daughter. Honky didn't seem to enjoy herself, but she didn't put up too much of a fuss. They got all the matted mud and dust and who-knows-what off of her and she's soft and fluffy now.

We introduced the new girl to the boys on Sunday. Sara led her around the little pasture while the boys were locked in the big pasture. She minds electric fences well, so I'm not too concerned about her trying to be an escape artist. Wyatt was acting like a goof; running the fence line and doing laps in his pasture (nice lead changes). Hank was mildly curious, and Jin was uninterested after just coming home from his big show. We let the horses meet Honky one at a time, with Wyatt coming over first. He just wanted to play with her, but she wanted none of that. I have NO fear that she can hold her own with the nastiest of horses. She's got a flying double-barelled kick that almost breaks the sound barrier. It amazed me that Wyatt didn't take one in the kisser. We had to boogie from the pasture because she kept trying to hide behind us, and when Wyatt would come over she'd let off another two shots at him. Much too close to me for comfort. They settled down after a few minutes and munched on their hay piles, but Honky Girl never left an eye or ear off of him.

Then Hank was led in and Wyatt was led out. Hank just stood at the gate alternating looks at that THING, us, and the green pasture he just left. After a few minutes of that show of patheticism, Sara went out in the pasture and led him from the gate. He kept his distance from Honky, but quickly saw she was eating HIS hay, so he sauntered over. She fired off another round of both barrels in the air just below his chin, and he had to show off his acrobatics as well. Hank's a big boy, but he's got some moves. Heels straight up, mud flying, twisting, farting. But it was all for show. Honky was unimpressed and went back to eating his hay.

After Hank came Jin. We had to wake him up first. He sleepwalked over to the fuzzy new thing, dodged her flying heels, and proceeded to eat Hank's hay. Honky Girl ran around him a few times which must have pulled him from his slumber. Would you believe that boy has some really good cow skills? He herded her right into a corner in no time, then relented after she fired off a round at his head again.
Yesterday we decided Hank and Honky could be pasturemates. At first he had to show off his arobatics, but after a while he settled down and stood by the fence watching me mow lawn. As I made each pass, I noticed Honky was creeping her way closer to Hank. In no time she was standing right at his side like best buds. Looks like she found a friend.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Thanks to both Heather and Jen, Sara got her birthday present!!!

Meet Miss Honky Tonk Girl:We aquired (rescued?) a sad sack case of a donkey from an Amish farm down the road a bit. She's a sweetheart, but she doesn't come without concerns. Her feet are in saaaad shape. She's about 5 or 6 or 10, and I'll bet her feet weren't done more than once. They trimmed her up last week, and did a horrific job. They told me she was all slipper-footed when they got her, and they just got around to trimming her last week. I didn't ask how long they had her. Didn't matter, as we just wanted her outta there. In addition, she's got a nasty underbite, a horribly matted and filthy coat, a cut across each knee, and sores under her halter (as you can see in the pic). But we'll knock the dust off of her and get her some good worming and shots and see how she finishes up.

Checking out her new home:

The boys were NOT amused:She'll stay in quarrantine until next week, then we'll introduce her to the boys. She got a half tube of ivemectin, and I'll follow that up with a few days of Safeguard. I've been dusting her with flea/mite powder just to be safe, but she just needs a good bath, which we'll do Saturday. I'll be sure to get more pics!

She's got one heck of a bray, and she's not afraid to use it. The neighbor across the 40 made sure to let us know how loud she is.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Bonita came to us for training on March 15th. I say "us" because I feed her and lead her around and brush her sometimes, but the fact is that Sara does most of the training. I suggested that it would be a good idea to keep a journal of the progress.

She is 6 years old and green broke. You can ride her, but there was really no control up there. She's a sweet horse who just needs to be finished and given direction.

I'll add to this post in reverse chrono style, so start from the bottom:
Monday, 5-3 - To get you all up to date...

Bonita left our place on April 19th. She wasn't quite ready, in my opinion, but we worked it out so that her owner would ride her several times during the week and I would visit once a week to check up on her progress. I warned her owner that Bonita would tell me if she wasn't following my instructions. Sure enough. Bonita "told on her". So I fixed up the rough edges and talked with her owner about how to keep her horse going smoothly, and gave her a detailed list of things to work on.

I did some cantering under saddle for the first time. Bonita did well - no fussing. She'll just need more cantering under saddle so she becomes coordinated and soft.

Bonita's clinic was the first weekend in May, which was the whole purpose for her coming to me. When I visited the clinic the trainer had everyone working on one basic maneuver so I knew Bonita would know how to do it. It's what we had been working on all month. Bonita did great. She was quiet, not nervous or worried. The trainer didn't spend too much time with Bonita and her owner because he had so many "problem" horses to help along. I told her owner that no advice from the trainer was a good sign that she was doing things correctly. The only problem that Bonita gave her was not standing still for mounting. Her owner had to figure this out on her own or ask the trainer for help. I wasn't going to step in during his clinic. By the end of the weekend, her owner learned how to get Bonita to stand still while at the mounting block. The clinician also taught her and Bonita a thing called the "pick me up" trick, where you tap her hip and she side passes toward you as you are waiting on the mounting block.

We'll see Bonita on and off thru the summer. She's got a huge outdoor arena to ride in, and she's invited the boys to come over to ride for the day.
Wednesday, 4-16 - Another trail ride, and this time Andy & Hank came with us. Bonita was a completely different horse today than she was yesterday! We led the horses down the road a bit and then got on. When Hank was anxious to get going, Bonita stood quietly until I said it was ok to walk. She walked with her head down & a loose rein. If she raised her head to look around, I just needed to pull back on one rein to remind her to put her head down and she would respond. The llama guy was hauling manure with his very noisy tractor & the llamas were running across their pasture (they're kinda cute when they run!). Bonita lifted her head to watch the funny looking thing. I let her look for a second, then the show was over, and I asked for her to put her head back down. And she did. Hank was ready to do some trotting, so we trotted a bit. Bonita had a nice relaxed & collected trot, not too fast, and she was steady (no speeding up the farther we went). Of course we were trotting faster than Hank & when we got too far ahead Bonita wanted to break down to a walk. A little bump & cluck and she was trotting again. I decided to stop & let Hank catch up to us. Bonita stood quietly and we waited for Hank. We got to the cross road & turned around for home. There were a few times when she would speed up her walk, but some strong tugs on the reins reminded her to slow down and relax. We practiced stopping a few times as well. It took a little bit of effort to get her to stop, but she stopped and stood until I told her to go again. We rode all the way home and Bonita handled the traffic well. This was a much better day than yesterday! Overall Bonita did her job very well - relaxed, loose rein, head down, no rushing, moving off of leg pressure, no spooking (even when she saw the group of deer running across the pasture), not worried or nervous.
Tuesday, 4-15 - The trails opened today so I took Bonita for a walk. We went by ourselves. I had the saddle & bridle on, but I lead her most of the way. She was a bit leary about leaving the boys behind, but she came along with me alright. I reminded her to put her head down and she'd relax. She was good with the traffic, no worries about that. She walked along nicely, even past the llamas without any fuss. I got on her and rode a ways. She was doing good, but I could tell she was a bit nervous. We got to the cross road & I asked her to stop. That's where her nervousness got the best of her. Standing still was not what she wanted to do! She went backwards, sideways, forward & every which way. When I got her feet stopped for a few seconds, I scratched her neck and got off. Now it was a little easier for her to stand still, but yet every time she moved a foot, she was firmly reminded to put it back in the spot it came from. We stood for a while, then crossed the road and practiced standing quietly once more (we were pointed towards home this time). She started to relax some so I decided to get back on. We were back to the nervous horse who couldn't stand still. She knows she can't go forward, so she goes every other direction that she can. After getting her to stand for a minute, she'd get mad and start pawing, then the dancing around. And she got strong with her head & tried to pull the reins out of my hands. Sorry have to stand longer now! When she settled down, I said it was ok to walk for a bit. We practiced stopping and standing several times as we headed back home. Stopping was hard, standing still was even harder. I had to get more aggressive & more creative in how I got her to stand. But every time she gave me what I wanted, I relaxed the reins & gave her a scratch. We were approaching the llamas again (and it was getting dark) so I decided the lesson was over & I hopped off and lead her back home.
Sunday, 4-13 - After having the entire week off, we are back in the swing of things. Her owner and a friend came out to watch. Bonita was unfocused when we started, and a few strong reminders were needed to get her attention back to me. Ground work was solid - pivots, sidepassing, lounging...all good. Got on to ride & she was good with everything. Nice relaxed trot, nice circles, good with the crowd of horses in the arena. When we had more room, I did some side tracking with her at the trot. She'd make a nice dressage horse! I was done having fun so I told her owner it was her turn to ride. She wasn't too sure about that idea, but & I told her she had to ride her horse sooner or later. She got on and I showed her how to control Bonita's head by getting her chin to her shoulder. Easy to do at a stand still, but I made her do it at a walk - and keep Bonita's legs moving. After awhile, she got the hang of it and Bonita was doing her job. Her owner calmed down and had a good ride.
Monday, 4-7 - Headed off to the barn with Jin & Bonita in tow, but ran into an owly boarder who didn't like the idea of sharing the arena. Decided to keep the peace and walked home and cleaned stalls.
Saturday, 4-5 - Today was Andy's day to work Bonita, so I'll let him write it: Bonita's owner came over to ride, and she ended up getting a lesson on Jin. I wanted to work with Bonita and see how she was with a new face working with her. She did everything really well from the ground. She minds her space, doesn't rush, and if she needs a reminder that you're at the end of the rope, she remembers quickly. I worked on her pivots and once I asked the right way, she did them just fine, both ways, front and rear. Lunged her a bit - she likes to hop into the trot but she'll go back to the walk when asked. Loped really nice and in control to the left. The right was a little rushy at first, but she calmed down shortly and was loping nice. Got bored with that so I hopped on. She gives her head nicely and flexes all the way to my foot and holds it there on a loose rein. Walked her around a lot in the arena - them long legs cover ground. She responds to leg cues well, but I would usually have to remind her with the rein that I was asking for a turn. So: leg on, nothing. Outside leg with bit of inside rein reminder, and whoosh, she turns. Release, and she stops turning. Nothing unpredictable. You can sqeeze her pretty hard before goes up into the trot, but if you squeeze and smootch, she'll pop right into it. It's initially rushy, but a coupla half halts and she settles right in. I like that she'll stay in whatever gait you ask until you tell her to change, regardless of how many circles and direction changes you put her in. She'd need the occassional bump when she'd pass the big outside door, but after a few reminders she forgot about slowing by the door. Got bored with the arena so we headed outside to the big scary world. Walked around the tractors and wagons and stuff; she didn't bat an eye. Walked around the round pen where a youngin was getting a workout and calling to her friends; she didn't bat an eye. Went up and down the big sand pile; she didn't hesitate one bit. The barn owner came over and said I could ride in the big pasture with the woods, so off we went. Just point her in a direction and go. We got about 300 yards from the gate and she realized she was the only horse in sight, and she paused, but I kept her head forward and asked for a walk. Did some trotting out in the open, and she was a little rushy, but stayed under control. Went through the trees and branches with no problem. The creek crossing gave us about 20 seconds of hesitation, but kept her head forward and kept bumping. She sniffed the water twice and crossed the first creek. She didn't even look at the second creek. Rode along the highway and she was fine with the semi's and Harleys. Blazed some trail until we ran into some thorny stuff, so we had to back out.
I had a blast, and really enjoyed the ride. Thanked her owner for letting me take Bonita for a test drive and headed home.
Thursday, 4-3 - A nice workout today. Some quick groundwork. Some lounging.....lots of cantering trying to get her to relax. Got on to ride and worked again on lots of steering at the walk and trot. The arena door was open and there were dogs coming in and out as it was getting dark. Guess dogs look pretty scary when they appear out of the darkness. She "had a moment" & I had to pull her head around while she was spinning in circles. After that, we had a little trouble getting her to focus on work when we passed the open door. Decided to gather up the reins and try some lateral work. Got her two-tracking real pretty at a walk and trot. She was finally figuring out that she has to work even harder when she doesn't pay attention! She forgot about the open door and we ended the session on a good note.
Tuesday, 4-1 - Back in the swing of things after a long weekend off. Bonita was tied while I rode Jin and Andy rode Wyatt. She stands quietly for as long as she needs to. Her turn to saddle up. Did a lot of lounging, and a lot of cantering on the lounge line. She needs to learn to relax some more, she thinks every smooch to her means she has to start racing. Stops are getting pretty good on the lounge line. She needs a little help with bridling without having a halter on - she's too looky-looky. Got on to ride, worked on steering with leg pressure and rein pressure (neck reining). Very good at the walk and getting pretty good at the trot. Needs some reminders yet at the trot to stay slow & relaxed. Head down is great, bending is great. Stops are getting good. Would like to see her tuck her chin and lower her head at the stop and backing up. Pivots on the hind and fore are excellent, sidepassing is going great (one way is better than the other - but, hey, she didn't know how to do that two weeks ago!). Oh, and she's learned how to stay out of my space when jumping over the creek on the walk home!
Thursday, 3/27 - Bonita has a visitor tonight. Her mamma came out to see her and to ride Hank. At first Bonita didn't want to be caught. This is a new trick for her. I had to chase her around for a little bit, and gave her a crack on the butt a couple times. Funny how that works to catch a horse. Saddled up and walked over to the neighbor's. Was tough to get her over the creek, but at least she didn't jump on my like last night. Overall, Bonita did really well tonight. The stick & rope does not cause her issues any longer. She was quiet and relaxed on the lounge line....just a few times she started trotting when I didn't want her to but she got over that fast enough and was relaxed afterwards. Her canter is still speedy, but she is more coordinated. I didn't tie the reins tonight. I used her regular bridle that Jenny will be using with her. Got on to ride, she took a step or two forward so we'll work more on standing still until I say go. She was quiet and relaxed for the entire ride. I started with working on her pivots and sidepassing. Wow! You would never have guessed that she was just introduced to sidepassing two days ago! She did well trotting around with her head relaxed on a loose rein and she kept her speed fairly consistent. A tug on the reins would keep her from going too fast. Her whoa is pretty solid, her head comes up & I will work on that. There was only one time when she lost her focus on me. Then after a little bit of kicking, circling and yelling, she quickly started paying attention again & didn't lose her focus for the rest of the night. We attempted cantering. Man, can she trot fast! The arena is just too crowded for her long legs to get going, but she did try. Went back to trotting and practicing our leg cues. She does speed up some with the bumping, but will soon get better about that.
Wednesday, 3/26 - After our challenging session last night, Bonita was much improved. Kept her feet still for the stick & rope twirling, but still a little bit of trouble on the lounge line staying at a walk when I say walk. I concentrated on fixing her head tossing a little bit. Every toss of her head would result in her head being pulled towards the middle of the circle. Worked well enough and she kept her focus on me a lot better. Tied her reins up & lounged her at the canter. I think she's ready to ask to canter under saddle, but I won't do that tonight. Riding went pretty well. The cats grabbed her attention a couple times, but she is learning to not worry so much about that kind of stuff. Worked on pivots and side passing. It's coming a little bit easier than last night. Pivoting her shoulders has gotten really easy for her. She gets stuck sometimes with disengaging the hindquarters and needs a big kick to get moving. Lots of circles and leg cues for steering. Lots of trotting and trying to maintain one speed. Not too much of a workout tonight since she did much better than last night.

Tuesday, 3/25 - Worked Bonita after two days off. She is doing much better with keeping her feet still for the stick & rope twirling! Also much improved is moving her hip and shoulders so we started asking for a side pass from the ground. No, we don't use the rail to "cheat" & block her forward movement. We'll learn it in the middle of the pen so she doesn't need to be reminded to keep going sideways and not forward but she'll get there. Lounging is going well. Starting off the walk and trot was much more relaxed, but after I ask for a canter she gets a little excited and doesn't want to relax again. Had to remind her to maintain a walk without breaking into a trot. There was lots of head tossing at the canter so I lounged her with the reins tied again. She doesn't fight the reins anymore at the canter and hopefully soon will start to relax. Riding started off well. Just a bunch of walk, bending, trotting & circling. Put out a tarp and she didn't blink an eye at it. We were trotting over it with no hesitation. I did lots more trotting & circling and Bonita started to think that it was time to be done working. Um, nope, not until I say so! She lost her focus and started worrying about barking dogs. Um, not a good idea. I gave her something to really worry! Had to do some yelling & kicking, but she was smart enough to pay attention to me again. So we continued our trotting & circling and I decided to start working on steering with just leg cues. She did reasonably well at the walk and trot, but would sometimes think it was ok to veer off towards the gate. Um, nope, ain't happening! Got her focused on me again and did more trotting & circles. This girl will learn how to work & pay attention to her rider. When she got the hang of the leg cues, we worked on her stop. Walk four steps. Whoa. Back 18 steps. She always likes to take an extra step or three after I say whoa. Um, I have different ideas! She'll learn what I expect when I say whoa. At the end of the lesson, she was stopping on a loose rein, even if it wasn't the immediate stop that I'd like to see.

Saturday, 3/22 - planned to ride today. Did the same ground work routine & she was a little more relaxed than last night. I lounged her with the reins tied. She did excellent at the walk & trot - she's learning to keep her head consistent through the transition. Introduced cantering with the reins tied (with a lot of slack). We'll have to work on that some more. She was accepting of the new concept and tried, so that's good. She did really well being ridden. Worked on some extended trot, then slowing down to a jog. Worked on whoa & backing up...not as good
as I'd like yet. Worked on pivoting & disengaging the hindquarters....she's accepting that pretty well. Her biggest problem is getting too worried about other things going on around her & not keeping her focus on work. We had a little bit of a challenge with that when the tractor started up, and then again when some horses were led through the arena.

She'll be off of work for Sunday & Monday.

Friday, 3/21 - went over planning to do ground work only. She did much better with the stick/rope, and with being relaxed on the lounge line at the walk & trot. Calmed down easily after cantering too. Whoa is getting better on the line. Tried sidepassing from the ground...went ok. She gets worried with trying new things and the stick being tapped on her hip/shoulder. Helped the 4H girl a little bit...wanted to show her how to get her horse bending & giving to the bit so I jumped on Bonita bareback. Not sure if she has ever been ridden barebark before! She stood at the mounting block for me to slide on. Did a great job of being soft & flexible to show how bending & giving should be done. (4H girl is another challenge!)

Wednesday, 3/19 - First visit for Jenny since she dropped off Bonita. Did the usual ground work. Still very sensitive to the stick & rope. Showed off some ground tying skills. Lounged at w/t/c in both directions. Bonita was much more relaxed today while being lounged. Did her best to stay in the requested gait without rushing. Put the bridle on and tied up the reins. She did fairly well. I only worked her until I saw her relaxing & dropping her head at the trot. She was able to maintain a nice frame for about half a circle today. Got on to ride. Noticed a huge difference in her softness to the bit and bending. Lateral flexion was so much improved from Sunday. And vertical flexion was very impressive - there is actual flexing vs. nothing on Sunday. She drops her head with a soft reminder from the rein cue. Bending to the left (her stiff side) was noticablely better today. No rushing into the trot, she maintained a relaxed gait and was able to keep her head down.
Nice bending - lateral and vertical - at the trot as well. Needs some work on her stop. Jenny thought she was stopping good, but it wasn't good enough for me. If I say whoa, those feet better stop moving instantly. Tried getting Bonita to move her shoulders over and she was trying hard (without over-reacting). Got a few nice cross overs.

Monday, 3/17 - Did ground work as usual. Still needs lots of time with the rope and stick. And keeping her feet still. Worked on moving her hips and shoulders independently. She is very soft (or would it be considered "sensitive" & "reactive"?) to my cues. Lounge line work was better today. Cantering is still uncoordinated, but she'll settle down soon. Didn't ride at all today...didn't even have the saddle on. We focused on giving to the bit, making her really soft, and getting her to drop her head. I tied the reins - through her front legs & up over her withers. If she has her head in the right position, she won't feel any tension on the reins. Most of the time her head was up and the reins were tight. She need to figure this out for herself. I just asked her to walk until she started to drop her head and tuck her chin. When she was relaxed at the walk, I moved her up to the trot. Still high headed and rushy. Eventually she found the spot where the reins gave her a release and she was able to maintain that position for a few strides. Changing directions proved a bit of a challenge for her with the reins being tied. It was the appearance of the stick that made her get worried. Her front feet came off the ground just a bit and she kept backing up. It could have been worse, but she regained her composure and changed directions as I was asking her to do. After lounging, I untied the reins and worked on getting her to drop her head using a rein cue & she did very well. Good enough for the night.

Sunday, 3/16 - Walking across the pasture was much better - no excitement this time. Same routine as Saturday. She doesn't like to keep her feet still for very long when we are working on the ground. Quite antsy. She has some issues with the rope & string touching her and swirling around her. Needs lots of the friendly game. Lounging is similar in that she doesn't want to relax & wants to keep her feet moving - go go go. We worked a lot on just walking. After some over-reacting tantrums from Bonita, she did settle down and walked calmly on the lounge line. Also did some trotting - trying to get her to relax at the trot. And some cantering - kinda wild, legs all over the place! She's not very coordinated yet going that fast. Got on to ride. Same thing as Saturday - stiff, not completely bending or giving to the bit. Did a lot of walking and lateral flexion. Tried vertical flexion & got very little, she just wanted to back up with her head high & her nose out.

Saturday, 3/15 - Bonita arrived. Loaded well, hauled well, unloaded well. Walked across the pasture - turned into a Diva! Flippin her tail, jigging around, tossing her head. Got in the barn and she settled down. Did some ground work, then rode. Noticed she was very stiff going to the left. Didn't want to give to the bit, but steered around ok. Rushed into the trot, tossed her head a little. Overall, very high-headed & unbalanced while being ridden.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Happy Birthday!!!

A whole bunch of years ago Sara was born. Then a bunch of years after that, she met me. A bunch of years after that, we wed. Years later I find myself writing about it here.

I wish her a happy day, and can only wish that she's half as happy as I am half the time which to say is twice as happy as most folks are all the time.

Tonite we celebrate by going to the local horse club meeting. I know, it's not a night on the town, but we have our priorities. Maybe we'll share a glass of wine after. If I can stay awake that late.

I've been told that her birthday present from me will be a donkey. An ass from an ass. Isn't that sweet?

Friday, March 14, 2008

To My Readers:

I thank you. The both of you.

I must first apologize for not having anything new in some time. Sara started this blog for me because she knows I like to ramble on in script, and I have been sorely unproductive. For this I am sorry. It's not that I don't have anything to write about, it's just that I don't think I have anything interesting to share. Trust me, that thought has been locked in a box and hid in the back of the closet. Never to be thought again. Somewhere behind Sara's shoes. The count of which, I may add, has grown exponentially in the last few years. See, I was blessed with not having married a Shopper. She's very low-maintenance, in fact. Another one of the many reasons I married her, and another one the many reasons I think she's perfect.

Anyway, back to the sudden increase of shoes. Sara works for a large retail chain in the corporate office. One of the perks of this job are these strange occurrences called Sample Sales. I, being a man with a certain level of self-imposed ignorance, had no idea what this is. After seeing her arrive home with two jumbo-sized garbage bags full of plunderage, and wondering how mucho dinero said take cost me, I was let in on a secret known to the retail world as Sample Sales. These glorious events are held once the coffers in the purchasing department are filled to the rim. Salespeople from all over the globe send samples of their wares to the buyers at her company. The buyers give the items a cursory glance, then toss them into a bin where they are eventually piled high with loot. The bounty is priced at ridiculously low prices and offered to the employees. And when I say ridiculously low prices, I am not being ridiculous. I think they give the goods monetary value just to keep the riots quelled. It's hard to riot when you are waiting for change.

So Sara shops. Sara see shoes. Sara searches sizes. Sara seizes sandals. Sara stuffs sackfuls....(I can't help myself).

The two overstuffed garbage bags I mentioned contained findings that cost $29. If my memory serves me, they contained seven pairs of shoes, four pillows, two comforters, five picture frames, a small child, and a rowboat. Not bad.

Recently she came home with a pair of Justin Ropers. These retail for around $99. She had to give $2 to make them hers. They are identical to mine that I paid $79 for on sale. I remember how happy I was that I found them for such a good price. Two dollars. I'm still shaking my head.

Shoes are plentiful at sample sales, and strangely enough, always seem to be in her size. So she buys them. And why not, I say. When you can get Benjamins for Washingtons, do it, and often.

So Sara has become a Shopper. A Super Sexy Sandal Snatching Sample Sale Shopper.

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.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hank, and the History of Horses, Part 7

They called him Rain.


I wasn't too keen on that name. A big strong guy like him should have a big strong name. I would always chuckle silently at the names of the two Belgians we'd see at the Breakfast on the Farm - Jim & Joe. Simple, strong, to the point names. Simple, strong, to the point horses. Nothing frilly, either in name or duty. They did their job, and did it well. I suppose if they had been named Moonbeam and Dweezle I may have never taken those wagon rides. Just wouldn't seem right.

So Rain needed a new name. I never gave much thought to the possibility that I'd have to name my new horse. I didn't have a cute name all lined up - I just thought the one he'd been given would suffice. But Rain was too granola for me. Was he a Jim? A Joe? Too early in our relationship to tell.

Not only did I need to find him a new barn name, but his proper name had to be chosen as well. Turns out old Rain had never been registered. His purchase included his breeders certificate, but no one got around to picking a name and sending in the few dollars it would take to officially register him with the APHA. So the daunting task of finding a proper name became mine, and I was a bit, well, daunted. I mean, look at these registered names that horses get: Man-O-War, Smart Chic Olena, Scotch Bar Time, Zippo Pine Bar, Mr. Ed. That's some catchy stuff. So now I'd have to do the same. Heck, I thought just a regular old name was gonna be tough.

A lot of these horses are named by making a crafty combination of their parent's names, so we started digging into his pedigree. His sire was Skyler Poco King. His dam was Hank's Spotted Babe. Ok. Now what? Nothing there seemed like it could be combined, twisted or distorted into anything that rolled off the tounge, like Zips Chocolate Chip. Hmmm.

Digging a little deeper we found that his grandsire was none other than Hank A Chief, the famous APHA stallion. He was big and stong. He looked like a Hank.
Hank. Strong. To the point.

We also read that Hank A Chief was owned by Hank Weiscamp, who was known to be extemely stubborn and thick headed. You either loved him or hated him.

So Hank it was.

I came up with Hank's Rainy Sky for his proper registered name. I know, it's still a little dreamy, but I wanted to incorporate his old name into the mix somehow, and this seemed to work well.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Nasty cold today. Windchill is -45* . White out conditions.

Climb out of bed, get bundled up, go make sure the horses are upright. Huge drift at the gate. Wrestle with it to get it open. Get the atv stuck in aforementioned drift. Curse. Push, pull, heave until it's free. Try to hook up the plow to clear the drifts from the driveway, only to find that the plow bracket on the atv is iced over. Curse. Get screwdriver, chip ice off. Start pushing snow, get several facefulls as the wind whips it all back in my face. Curse at my iced over glasses. Head to work on desolate, iced roads. Arrive to find there is no heat or power at work. Curse. Amazingly, we have power to our computers, so they want us to stay.

Curse, curse, curse, curse curse.

Should have stayed in bed.

Hank, and the History of Horses, Part 6

Early summer of '02.

I don't know if it was the heat, but it was about this time when the delusions started about getting me a horse. Spending time with Charlie was fun, but no matter how much scratchins or brushins or luvins he got fromme, he'd never be mine. He was Sara's, as Sara was his. No breaking that bond, no sir. Add to that weekends at the barn were a flurry of activity. There was roping practice, team penning, trail riding, and bunches of horse related things going on. I started to think that as long as I'm there, I may as well join in the fun. But then reality would sink in, and the advent of another boarding bill and all of the accompanying expenses would make me quit that idea real quick.

I let this thought go in and out of my head for a few weeks, then mentioned it to Sara in passing one day. It wasn't the first, and sure wouldn't be the last time she questioned my sanity. I told her I enjoyed my lessons, I enjoyed the time spent with the aloof mount named Spencer, I was at the barn all the time anyway....

So the search began.

I didn't have many criteria for my new horse-to-be. I just knew that I wanted a gelding. And a stock type, not one of those leggy TB types. And oh yeah, he had to be a black & white Paint. Other than that I wasn't very picky. Sara watched the local ads. She surfed the internet. There sure were a lot of nice horses in my price range, but none fit the bill. Oh well, it looked like I may be horse-less after all.

Then one Saturday she called to me from the kitchen. She found one. Four year old black & white Paint. Green broke. And he was local. We made arrangements to go visit the next day.

He was as described, and then some. Solid. Stocky. Broad. Bulky. Calm. Personable. Flashy. Mischievous. Mutton withered. Toed in. The good still outweighed the bad.

His owner was very honest and up-front. He had a wreck the previous fall where the saddle got under him. It took some time, but he was ok with saddles again. He had a stubborn streak, but with patience, could be asked to work through stuff. When asked how his gaits were, she said she hadn't asked for anything above a walk since his wreck. Little gun shy, it seemed.

But I liked him, and he seemed to like me. Sara saddled him up and rode around the little pasture. I don't remember what was bigger - her eyes or her smile. "He's Smooooth", she said. He seemed to know the basics, but he needed finishing. We talked for a bit with the owner and said we'd be in touch. I went back to say goodbye to the horse, and as I reached up to pat his neck he grabbed the front of my t-shirt with his mouth.

Little shit. I knew we were going to get along just fine.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


It has been cold. Of the unbearable kind. I'm talking temps less than zero for a high. And that's not wind chill, folks. That's what the thermometer says.

Temperature is a funny thing. It's all relative (and I hate that saying). But it's true. As Fall rolls in, we complain and whine and pout about the first 40 degree day we get. Then Oh My, it drops below freezing and we have to scrape our windshields. Oh My. More pouting. What I would give for 20 degrees above zero right now. I would welcome it like won money, or better yet, like free beer. Forty degrees would shock my system too much and probably force a stroke.

You see, we acclimate. That first 40 degree day seems horrible because of many reasons. Physically, you have to harden to it. You have to brace against the wind, and your body has to learn to fire up that furnace and start producing some heat. You have to wear that ever-confining coat and those clumsy gloves.

It's also stressful on a psychological level. It's the end of warmth, of comfort. It's the beginning of long hours indoors, held captive by the cold outside. The days are shorter, the nights are forever. This all wears on a person.

But there is a strange serenity to the frigid wasteland of winter, especially during the early hours before sun up. During those times that I'm forced to cover myself in four layers and venture out, I like to just stand in the yard and listen. There are so many things you can hear in winter that go unnoticed at other times of the year. Down by the road you can hear the power lines sing. You hear the horses milling about, tossing their hay, looking for the tasty chaff. The fencer and it's patient click, click. The buzz from the yard light. Your own footsteps. That creaky hinge on the grain room door. Sometimes the stars are so bright you swear you can hear them, too. But not much else. You don't hear crickets or birds or wind rustled corn fields. No tractors, no impatient cows. Just quiet.

I'm not saying any of this to make myself feel any better about these crazy cold mornings. Just an observation.