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Mountain Music

EvenSong Paints on the trail

Updated: 2017-10-14T03:11:04.990-07:00


Meet: Charlie Brown and Fizzwinkle


After RT, our longest staying resident is Charlie. Which is funny, because, originally he came for a year "or so" off. Owner Heather had purchased him from the Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue, and brought him with her from Delaware when she relocated to Washington.  She was bringing him along in her chosen discipline of dressage, but Charlie developed arthritis in his knees.  The barn where she was boarding didn't have the availability of much turnout, and Charlie was getting pretty stiff standing around. So he came here where he would have 24/7 pasture turnout. The hope was that Heather and Kyle could purchase their own place in the next year or so, and Charlie would return home as a "husband horse."As gorgeous as his gaits are, Charlie's personality is even more brilliant.So Charlie came to EvenSong in the spring of 2013, and immediately settled in to a routine of good grass and freedom to move.He's gotten a little shaggier, but no less handsome!*****************************Fizzwinkle, aka the Fizzwinkler, Fizz-Bottom, or just Fizz, came to us in a very round-about way. Sarah is one of my oldest friends from the blog-o-sphere. I think I found her blog, Food for Founder, when I was searching for information on slow feeders, back about 2008-ish. It was from there that I "met" many other bloggers around the US and beyond (Sarah, herself, being from the lower mainland of British Columbia, Canada).  And that was the inspiration for this blog.Tess and Fizz wowed 'em in Showmanship classes!In 2010 Sarah went on a six-month research trip to New Zealand, and a young gal named Tess farm-sat for her. Not long after Sarah returned, Tess was offered her older mare back (having sold her when she moved up to a younger horse for eventing). Sarah realized that Tess didn't need a second horse to support while she was in college, so Sarah bought Fizz, promising her a good home forever. Fizz moved to Farcical Farm, to keep Sarah's horse Tonka company.Tess doing some early eventing on FizzFizz loaned to another young rider. Fast forward a couple of years, and Sarah finds it necessary to sell the farm and move to the [slightly bigger] city. Having lost her beloved Tonka, Fizz was in need of a retirement home...and I had just begun to post on FaceBook that t we were going to turn our attention to retirement boarding! Sarah contacted me, and arrangements were made for Fizz to immigrate to Ellensburg in the fall of 2013. As much of a lover as Fizz is with humans, she's very much an alpha mare with her pasture buddies.With my granddaughter."A little to the left?"Currently paired with part-draft gelding Comet, she definitely rules the roost![...]

Let Us Take a Moment Out to Curse Mother Nature


 The same nasty storm that dumped copious amounts of water on California last week, dumped the frozen version on Oregon and Washington a day or two later. What did us in here at EvenSong was the wind.  We were getting steady winds of 25-30 mph, and 40 mph gusts. It was very localized: 20 miles away in Ellensburg they got the snow, but very little wind. Interstate 90, just north of us, however, had drifting and white-out conditions that shut down east-west traffic across the state for most of a day. The "back" of my barn faces the usual prevailing storm winds to the northeast, but because this storm came from the south, the wind-blown snow came right on through all the open run-ins on the south!  Poor Babe.It's hard to tell where the stall ends and the paddock begins!When the wind did finally shift to the north, drifts started piling up everywhere.Digging my way out to the compost pile.Looking back at Sonny through that same drift.In front of the house.Looking north up the driveway. Those are five foot tall posts on the right.During the first storm, I plowed the driveway out four times in 48 hours.This week I had tried to keep it open, but after two plow jobs immediately got obliterated, I gave up and decided to wait until things calmed down before trying again to clear the way for a trip to town for groceries, feed, and bedding. That plan changed when the LP delivery truck driver decided to try to bull his way in, and buried his chained up rear tires in the snow I had already plowed to the sides of the drive. He had called for a tow truck to pull him out, but I checked our gauge, and we really did need the gas. So for the third time, my little blue tractor got put into action. Got him into the tank just as the tow truck showed up, and nearly got stuck himself! Once they were done, I decided I may as well get my trip to town done, since I could get out. What I didn't count on is the storm completely filling in the driveway in the two hours I was in town. This was as far in as I got. Allan and I carried in what groceries couldn't stay in the truck overnight, in single digit temperatures and continued gusty winds. Grain, shavings, and already frozen food waited for the next day.Assessing the three foot drifts in the driveway, with snow piled high on either side from previous plowings, I broke down and created a path through the adjacent pasture--less snow, because there were no trees to stop the wind, and more open space into which I could plow what snow there was.For now, this will have to do. The wind has stopped, so I'll whittle away at the driveway over the next few days.In the arena, snow is piling up--not only drifts that formed from the wind pattern around the barn, but also what I had to pile there to clear paths to the driveway and house."Intrepid barn manager conquers Mt. EvenSong!"Kate sees a distinct advantage to this state of affairs: we won't be working here any time  soon![...]

Retiree Introductions


For Christmas this year I posted on FaceBook portraits of each of our eight retirement residents with sleigh bells and Santa hats (plus Kate and our barn helper's young mustang cross).  I thought about adding information on their respective backgrounds, but decided it might be more appropriate for a blog post. And since there's not much riding/training going on mid-winter, here ya go! Back in 2012, Allan and I decided that we didn't want our retirement income to be subject to the whim of the young horse market. Also, the market being what it was (and is), we didn't want to bring any more babies, no matter how cute, into the equine world.To quote a post I did at the time: "Little RT has done so well in his retirement with us (he's still going strong at 32), and Mama Misty is looking good at 25.  Even good ol' Corky did well, in spite of his seizure disorder, until we lost him at 29.  I've long admired Melissa and Jason of Paradigm Farms, so I have decided to venture into the realm of boarding.  But for a specialized market:retirees (or possibly rehab)."Corky at 25"Neither Al nor I really want a bunch of silly teenagers in and out at all hours, we're 20 miles from town, and we really don't have access to any trails in the immediate neighborhood.  Plus the insurance for your typical boarding stable is outrageous.  By sticking to retirees, I don't need to worry about people riding on the property, nor corralling other peoples kids (been there, done that)--keeping track of other people's horses, on the other hand, seems like a great way to utilize our place." First, and oldest, resident: Royal Tardez, 1980 Arab GeldingI first met RT's mom and her mom when Bri was in middle school, 23 years ago. She took lessons on one of my horses until they found RT. Then I was pleased to be able to support the family's "first horse" experience.  With his girl, Bri, dressagingThey even did a bit of jumping back in the day!After Bri went away to college, and then the big city, her Mom had a hard time finding an inexpensive boarding option that would cater to his "Royal" needs. The last place refused to separate him for feeding, so when Christie called us she was desperate: he looked like a dairy cow, all hip bones and ribs! I drove across the state in February to pick him up. He settled in to life on the farm just fine!Mr. Studly claims Misty as HIS!His first job on the farm was babysitting our last weanling, Jackson.Also, an occasional grandkid lesson.But, mostly, he hangs out, eating mush (he's down to four molars that don't even meet in the middle!). (Photo: August 2016) At thirty-six-and-a-half, RT is still going strong!**************Next: Mighty Misty Blue, 1987 APHA gray overo mareI originally bought Misty for two reasons: i wanted a quiet horse for Allan to ride on the rare occasion that he went out with me.  I also wanted a mare that I could breed for family-friendly, 4H type horses. When we got her at 10 years old, she had already had five foals and was really only green broke. Misty over the years gave us seven more foals. Plus taught a couple of grandkids how to ride. She earned her retirement after having Jackson at 22. Our second foal, Pete.Misty and Maddie, 2005Misty and Grandson Mike built quite a partnership over the years.And Misty has continued her teaching with Grandson Brenden.Mostly, these days, she just hangs out with RT. Rather that make this the never-ending story, I've decided that I'll break these introductions down into pairs. Next up: Charlie and Fizz[...]

In Which a "Blog Hop" Restarts My Writing Pastime


Okay, then. Long time no see! The ease of FaceBook has stolen me away from blog-land, but Aarene at Haiku Farm has started a "blog hop"--which I am taking as a personal challenge to re-activate Mountain Trail Music! This will also serve to update some of you that don't "do" FaceBook.If you want to play along, I'll leave a clean copy of the questions in the comments.Here's the directions:Answer the questions (below) on your own blog, and leave a link to that post in the comments here.In your post, invite readers to answer the questions on THEIR blogs, and link those blogs to yours AND to here.Let's see how far this can travel!Pictures!  Let's see lots of pictures of people and horses!*  Introduce yourself!HI! I'm Laurie and I consider myself "horsaii." Been addicted to horses for 55 years or so, doing everything from dude strings in the Sierras, to grooming for an Olympic eventer, to managing a 60-stall show barn, to breeding family/4H Paints, and most recently, offering retirement board for show and family horses. And just about everything in between!My first horse, Shadow, 1969"Holy Smokes," approximately 1975, Doylestown, PA*  Introduce your horse(s)!Kate (APHA "Canticle") was foaled in 2005, our fourth year of breeding Paints.Raised here on the farm, I have done all of her training.We've ridden all over the Eastern Washington Cascades. She's a grandkid horse: And sometimes she even fills in as a therapy horse: Of the ten babies we bred, Kate is the one that still remains at EvenSong Farm.She is my "heart horse" and will stay here as long as I am able to care for her.(If she outlives me, she will go to my daughter's home.)*  What's your favorite horse sport?Since Kate was four, we have been competing in mountain trail events.It's not your mama's arena trail class!    *Do you cross train in other activities?Kate and I (and my other mare, Maddie, now in a new home)have been dabbling in western and cowboy dressage for the last year or two.   I've also been know to hang out with a few endurance folks. *  Who else in your family rides?My grandkids all ride...unfortunately, it's only during the couple of weeks that they visit "Grandma's farm" each summer. My one Paint broodmare, Misty was who the older boys started out on, but Kate came up through the ranks to take more and more responsibility for the youngest one, as Misty's navicular started limiting her activities.Mikey & Misty, 2005 (Maddie in tow)Delaney & Brenden, on Kate (with Mom and Grandma), 2009Mike on Kate, 2010Delaney on Kate & Brenden on Misty, 2016  My daughter rides with friends when she can.Hubby Allan used to ride with me on occasion, but hasn't since this anniversary get-away in 2010.*  What's your proudest equestrian accomplishment?In spite of the fact that 90% of the photos in this post are of Kate and I (and I'm super proud of our partnership), I think I'm even more proud of the progress I made with Maddie over the last 15 months or so. Five years ago, after three years of successful green horse experiences, Maddie and I had a wreck, right in our own back yard arena. She bolted, and in the ensuing "unscheduled dismount" I wrenched my back, not to mention pummeled my confidence. For the four years following that, I was afraid of her, and she knew it. Every time I tried to start back up with her, all she had to do was pull a green horse stunt, and I would get off and not try again, sometimes for months.  I finally sent her to a trainer for spring and summer of 2015. He taught her lots, and never got any hint of a bolt, but he never did "click" with her--partly, I think, because he demanded things of her, and Maddie is the kind of mare than needs to be asked, with a good explanation of how and why. When I got her back home last fall, my goal was to ride, to quell the queasiness in the pit of my stomach and establish a partnership again. Then I would decide if I would keep her, or put her o[...]

Life Happens (Third catch-up post)


 This is a long post, but mostly pictures (some of which you may want to fast-forward through).  Happier times:  Pat, on "Rambler" and me, on "Kate,"  at a poker ride in 2011.The one bit of disappointment that came up during the spring of 2014 was that my good riding buddy Pat and her husband had decided to pull up stakes and move to Arizona to be closer to their kids.  They quietly put their farm on the market, and were surprised that it sold in just over a week!  Suddenly, Pat was in a whirlwind of preparations for a farm auction and a big move!  She had no time to ride. Shortly before they were to head south, but when most of the packing was done, I decided to drag her out for a "farewell ride."  Knowing she wouldn't want to lose an entire day, we chose to stay fairly close to home, and ride at the local "Wild Horse Wind Farm."  It wasn't one of my favorite spots, as there are few trees, but Pat had a little xeroxed map from the visitor center, that showed a four-mile loop that was just about right.I drove, we got the trailer parked, saddled up, and headed out.  The so-called "trail" petered out less than a mile from the start of our ride, but we were in fairly open sagebrush and had the little topo map and the wind turbines to guide our bush-whacking, so we kept moving.The "trail" we thought we were following started out in the trees, but soon disappeared. About 3/4 of the way around the loop, we were skirting a dry creek bed, headed for what was labeled "the old cow camp."  (A long time local later told me it was a moonshiners' camp, hence the name "Whiskey Dick Creek.")  We had spotted the remnants of an old fence line in the brush on the west side of the draw, so we stayed to the east, side-hilling as we scrambled through the brush.  Pat was leading, on her young horse Chief, and as she cleared the last bit of heavy brambles to break into the grassy clearing that was, we assumed, the cow camp, Kate tripped.  As she jumped forward to regain her balance, I could distinctly hear, uphill from us, the sound of old fence wire pulling through the brush.  I don't know how much of that barbed wire raked its way across her left hind hock, but after her third jump, I semi-voluntarily dismounted as she made her way down to the flat.  By the time she reached the clearing, she was free of the barbed wire, but it was obvious from the blood that we were in big trouble.WARNING:  GRAPHIC PHOTOS!If you're at all squeamish about blood you might want to skip quickly over the next 3 or 4 pictures.***************Waiting in the shadow of a turbine for Pat to return with the trailer.  (That's the soaked "dressing" we tried to fashion from a couple of kerchiefs around her ankle, not hide!) We tried fashioning a dressing out of two kerchiefs that Pat happened to have, but the bleeding was too much.  By the time I had it tied together, the fabric was saturated with blood and too slippery to stay in place.  Surprisingly, Kate was not lame.  I could see what turned out to be her extensor tendon loose in the wound, but it is not essential for movement.  We were maybe 300 yards below one of the ridgeline roads that service the wind turbines, so we started walking out, letting Kate set the pace, and rest when she needed to.Cell service was spotty, but at the top of the hill we were able to get through to 911, as well as home.  We never did see the sheriff's department, but Allan was able to get in touch with folks from the riding club on FaceBook, and we had several offers to help.  Also contacted the on-call vet in town (it was 4th of July weekend!) and arranged to meet her at her clinic.  Pat walked out the two miles to get the trailer (we were afraid her young horse might not like leaving Kate, or that Kate might not like being left).  I stripped off her saddle and Kate, Chief and I waited i[...]

Walla Walla May Be in a Valley, But It's the High Point of Our Year! (Catch-Up, Part 2)


After announcing my retirement in March, after 15 years at Lincoln Elementary, spring was a bit of a whirlwind, what with gearing up with Kate, and winding down at school.  The last two years, the Walla Walla competition had been the weekend before school got out, but this year the date got moved!  I had to ask to use my saved personal day on the last day of school, usually a no-no.  My principal was understanding though:  "What am I going to do, fire you?"  So I said goodbye a little early to my colleagues and parents and 464 kiddos, and packed up the trailer.The Cowboy Mountain Trail Challenge is what got me hooked on mountain trail competition almost three years ago. Put on by a group a friends who call themselves the "Wild Cowgirls," it is a well-organized, well-run, user-friendly competition, with lots of choices for horse and rider.  Two main options, the "Cowboy" and "Cowpoke" divisions, provide greater or lesser levels of challenges, as well as speed.  My first two years I was happy to stay at the Cowpoke level, for initiating Kate and my experience. In 2013, Kate won the "Ranch Mare" three day sequence, and I felt like it was time to move up.With the goal of the regional championships in mind, I decided to try the Cowboy division, to push our limits as much as possible.  The biggest issue here was that I did not feel comfortable with loping Kate out in the open yet, so I would automatically be dinged for that expectation whenever it came up.Friday's course was along the Walla Walla River.  We had a few problems here and there, and, as expected, lost points on one lope request, but overall, I was pleased with Kate's "try."Looks impressive, right?  Well, we were supposed to lift one end of the pole and swing it like a gate to enter the corral.  She never did let me put it back where it belonged!Once in the corral, I dismounted and "branded" the plastic cow, while Kate stood ground-tied.  I've not done much of this before (the ground-tying), so we practiced for a while before the class.  It took a try or two, but once she stood, she stood quietly. This was a series of obstacles built into this ridge along the river.  That's the judge watching us from behind.The "waterfall" to the left of the photo is coming from a wooden chute above us.  Kate was dubious, but crossed the bridge, then the "creek", and then went under the waterfall.  (On Sunday, however, we were to circle the rock right under the cascade, and she didn't do as well.) Saturday was on the new course the Wild Cowgirls have built--more open and inviting.  Kate was somewhat antsy, waiting her turn, but that translated to two very forward and willing runs.  She was being a bit of a putz about her side-passing (she often is), but we dealt with it.After side-passing fairly well to pick up the rope, Kate's job was to back up, pulling the hide up towards the pulley at the top of the stump, then lower it back down to the ground.  She did this really well, but then refused to return the rope to it's notch (the side-passing thing!).This jumble of logs, stumps and rocks, down a gully, was no big deal for Kate.That was followed by several navigation-type obstacles, where we had to maneuver around, over, and through various trail sequences.I was worried that Kate might refuse to step up on this huge stump, but she never hesitated!She really had to umph to get up there!Her trot here was so strong, I missed the turn to the next obstacle! Rider error!Sunday's course was back at the river, but the photographers didn't have as much time on the course, as they were busy trying to burn everybody's CDs to take home at the end of the day.A couple of riders in front of us there had been some sort of problem, and Kate got impatient waiting for her turn to "shoot" the bear [hide], but then we headed upstream to more obstacles.  I think by Su[...]

AWOL...Time to Catch Up! (Part 1)


For any of you who don't follow me on Face Book:  I'm still alive.  And kickin'!  It may be that I've lost all (or most) of my readers after over a year and a half, but I'm going to try to bring this blog back to life.  So here's the down and dirty, Readers' Digest version of my life for the last two years.In the fall of 2014, Allan and I decided it was time to officially strike off in the "retirement boarding" business.  He retired from his long-time, frustrating job working in elder care (the management was frustrating--he LOVED his senior folks!) to hold down the fort at home.  He did the majority of the feeding, mucking and general up-keep at the farm, and re-awakened his long-time love of photography, keeping a nearly daily picture log of goings-on at EvenSong Farm.  Most of our boarders live somewhat far afield, so they appreciate the ability to "check-in" with their ponies.Biggest thing to accomplish was finishing the barn.  We also used some inheritance from my mother to start a structure meant to end up as a shop/garage/machine shed/run-in stall.  Allan and I set the posts over several weeks, then my son Maxx stayed with us on and off over several weeks in the late fall of 2013, and built the roofs.Needed the BIG guns to set the BIG posts!We had to reset these a couple of times, as we got pretty severe winds that knocked them akilter.Ground was so tough by the barn that the holes ended up being twice the required size!  That's a LOT of concrete!Maxx, up the ladder, securing the shop trusses.Roofing goes on the barn addition.Hank loaned us the use of his hay "squeeze" and man-basket to finish the shop roof structure.  Also, at times, his foreman and son for extra hands.Roofing goes on the shop.The barn, finished except for some additional siding, high up on the front, trim and finish work.The shop would wait for its siding and electrical until 2015. But the roof I had promised my horse trailer for three years was on duty.Christmas break that year was VERY peaceful, and Allan and I enjoyed working together so much, that I made the decision to retire from my 15-year career in education at the end of the school year.  That timeline changed slightly when a colleague at another school announced that she was pregnant with twins, and arrangements were made for me to cover her maternity leave until Christmas break 2014.  But as of this week, I am officially a "retired school counselor!"After a successful novice-y 2013 season in competitive trail competitions with Kate, I had big plans for 2014.  Retirement would allow me to make longer trips for clinics and competitions, so I set a schedule that I hoped would take me to the regional and national mountain trail championships at Eugene, Oregon in October/November 2014.We started early in the spring with a three day event (during spring break) at Bonina Ranch, near the Tri-Cities, in central Washington.  It was a challenging weekend in many ways:  I was not feeling well, the weather was atrocious, and Kate had to work cows!  She hates cows!Next up, the Kittitas Valley Trail Riders worked with me to put on a mountain trail clinic at EvenSong!  We invited multiple-time world champions Mitch and JoLinn Hoover, from Oregon, to teach the two days of group lessons.  We had two fun (if blustery) work days to finish up as many elements of my trail course as possible.Bob and Jerry took charge of building the two bridges.Putting the finishing touches on the water obstacle.The crew working on the tire steps.Criss-Cross  logs ready to be placed.The clinic itself was wonderful.  With only twelve riders, and two instructors, everyone got lots of personal attention.We started each day in the arena.Then moved out to the course.  It was a bit blustery.Mitch coaches as we go down the "grand staircase."On the first day, the[...]

This Paint Is A Saint! (mostly)


 CANTICLE"Kate"It's been a busy summer, and Kate has done herself (and me) proud!In the three weeks between school getting out and the start of haying season, Kate and I managed to get out to two mountain trail events!The first was the Cowboy Mountain Trail Competition, put on by the Three Wild Cowgirls, in Walla Walla.  Barb from the Trail Riders went with me last year, for one day only, and I was hooked!  I love the 95% natural obstacles (no pool noodles or stuffed animal mazes), and the ability to choose the level of challenge you and your horse are up to.  And the group of people that compete at these affairs is always great!Teeter-Totter Bridge.The creek was part of each day's course.  They are allowed to drink, and in fact we are encouraged to let them, just as you would do out on the trail during a long ride.Coming up the "switch-back."Through the stumps.Down through the mud bog.Up......around......and back down.The end.It's a three day competition, and you can ride in as many classes as you/your horse fit the parameters.  In other words, you could spend a lot of money!  I chose to do the Ranch Mare series over the three days, with a "warm-up" in "Old-Timers" on Friday.  I made and then corrected some mistakes in that first class on Friday, and Kate ended up winning the Ranch Mare class for the day, with quite a healthy lead.  I wish that I could have afforded to do another class on Saturday and Sunday, because, by Ranch Mare many of my competitors had had the chance to do the course two and three times.  I ended up with a fourth and a third on those two days.  What was really NEAT! was the last day's ride:  Kate did a perfect round as far as I was concerned!  Forward, no blatant errors, good attitude, just an overall great go!The nice thing was that the first day (when we did get a "practice run") we had a good enough lead that by Sunday, even with the third and fourth the other two days, Kate held on to a one-point lead for the three day series!Champion Ranch Mare(Love this picture so much, I'm putting it in again!)Shanda (and friend), Kate's partner, and Lana in the background (two of the three Wild Cowgirls)Cups (an option instead of ribbons) for each individual day's go, and the captain's chair, complete with CMTC logo,  for the series (that's Kate's new and improved bridle)***A few weeks later my friend Barb and I headed down to Goldendale (catching up to Debby, who had gone down the night before) for one of a series of competitions at C.B.Mello Arena. We started out in the open in-hand class, mostly to let Kate have a look at the course.  She was so willing and forward that she ended up winning the class.Tire Two-StepLog and Rock MazeCampsiteWater Obstacle, complete with Ducks!That's my foot, stepping over my obstacles.  Kate's going, with or without me. Then came two under saddle classes. We had a few glitches here... The pleasure class was more ACTHA-like, with pool noodles and pink flamingos, which Kate handled okay.  The second was called "Ranch Horse" and was more natural obstacles.Waiting our turn.  Sunburn city for both Kate and I! Many of the obstacles in the pleasure class were the same as the in-hand class: the campsite, the log/rock maze, the water crossing. Over the hills, and through the criss-cross logs.  Here was one we had done very nicely in Walla Walla--carry the bucket of water to a barrel and empty it--only a little farther.  Suffice to say that Kate and I both got just a little bit wet.One obstacle in both classes that I didn't get any photos of was a horribly muddy, knee deep bog.  In the first go, Kate had other footprints to follow across the narrow direction of what used to be a pond.  She looked hard, but didn't hesitate.  The second go, she was the [...]

The State of Things at EvenSong Farm


Long time, no post, huh?This has been probably my toughest year at school, child and family-wise, and I haven't had the energy to keep up with much other than basic farm chores all spring.  Here's one of several up-dates I'm going to try to get posted, now that school is out, and before we start baling hay. *****  Since I've decided that breeding is no longer an economically nor philosophically good choice for me, I have refocused my attention on building a retirement farm for horses whose owners feel that their equines have earned a pleasant life after working hard for them.  Although I have only found one permanent boarder, I have had the privilege to welcome a few very nice horses for either lay-up, R&R, or semi-permanent board.You might remember Teddy and Cheyanna, who were with us briefly last spring.  Then Indy came for the summer months.  She a retired barrel racer that earned her Mom the "Rookie of the Year" status at the NFR as a teenager!  Indy's second career was as a broodmare, then her Mom decided she deserved some "golden years."  She went home to Mom's smaller place over the winter, and returned again in April.  Last fall, Vermont and Africa came to stay with us, while their Mom concentrated on finishing her Masters, finding a new job, finding a new home in a new city (where the new job was), and finally finding a place for the horses to relocate to.  They all headed to Walla Walla in April, just before Indy returned to EvenSong Farm. Also in April (a busy month!), Charlie came to join us.  Charlie's Mom used the "off the track" Thoroughbred for dressage, and watching him float around the pasture, one can really see why!  But he has developed some arthritis in his front knees, and she wanted to give him some time off where he could move around (and eat) full-time.  So he's here with us for a couple of years, until Mom and her Hubby can get their own place.  Then she'll bring him back slowly as her other half's easy riding trail horse. Last, but certainly not least, there is our long time resident, Royal Tardez--RT.  He's our longest term retiree, having come here over six years ago, when his Mom and "Grandmom"  needed a place where he could get the "royal" treatment he demands.  It's hard for me to remember that he's not a member of the family:  I gave lessons to his Mom and him when they were both about 14.  Here's a shot eating his 33rd birthday breakfast in April.*****So here's where we stand now. Charlie has been in a pasture on the north side of the barn, keeping Indy company while she's been on dry lot. Last month we had a bit of a scare, right after pulling Indy's shoes for the first time in several years: it was hard to tell if her gimpy gait was due to her thin flat soles having to adjust to barefoot, or if the lush spring grass was overloading her system. Once the heat was out of her feet, I started hand-grazing her for an hour for a few days, then increasing her time to a couple of hours in a small grassy paddock.Yesterday was the first day that everybody was out together(more or less).  I put Indy out with my girls in the "diet" pasture for four hours, first thing in the morning, when sugar content of the grass is lowest (the mares stay in at night, mostly because they're all "big-boned" like their Mamma.) Maddie and Indy paired up right away, having been together when Indy first arrived for the summer. RT, who considers himself "herd stud," worried for a bit, then relaxed when the girls settled into grazing.Then Charlie, who was now all by himself on the north side of the barn, needed to join the gang. ( I had introduced him to RT a week or so ago, and once RT finished establishing his superiority in the hierarchy, he just ignored Charl[...]

Spring? Farmin'--and A Windy Day in Washtucna


Spring break is here, even if spring hasn't made an appearance yet.Finally got my garage/shop plans finished, and approved by the county!  Lumber package delivered. Bulbs that Pat delivered in a grocery bag are starting to sprout--guess I'd better get them planted...More baby trees! [from Plants of the Wild]Rented tiller doing a job on the sandy end of my arena.  Also chopped up two pastures for re-seeding.Home-made drag--didn't work as well as I'd hoped.Added some weight and it was a little better.Sandy, supervising.Seeding with broadcast spreader loaned with the purchase of seed.Adding more seed.In amongst all this farming, I actually got in a little bit of horse time.  Pat and I hauled down to Valley View Training Center as often as possible during February.  The first time I just took Kate, and she was very good--none of the "airs above the ground" that we usually get the first time out in the new year.The next time I took Maddie along--didn't ask much of her, just a little bit of relaxed longeing, and then asked her to stand quietly while I worked Kate.  Not only did that not work out so well, Kate also dug a hole to China while she was tied waiting for me to finish with Maddie!So the following weekend, they both had a lesson in patience...I have used hobbles on Kate before, but not in a while.  Once she tested them a bit, Kate was pretty good.  Not particularly happy, but good.Maddie, on the other hand, has never had an initial session with her legs hobbled, so we went to the center of the arena, put them on, and then stepped back to let her explore the experience.  Maddie's always been very sensible when her legs get tangled in anything, so when she stood like a rock I figured that was that.  But when I mounted Kate and began a little work with her, Maddie tried to follow us.When she tried to step forward, and couldn't, she started to lose her balance, forward towards her nose.  It took her a couple of hops to regain it, but by then she figured out that she could hop on around the space a bit.  Unfortunately, the limitations of the hobbles meant that to maintain her balance, she had to "gal-oop" forward.  She completed four circuits of the arena before deciding that was too much work.  (Pat's green little horse, Chief, handled it quite well, though his eyes got pretty big when Maddie came barreling down the side of the arena towards him; I hopped off Kate to stay out of the way.)  Once Maddie got stopped, I started working Kate again, beginning at the same end of the arena as Maddie.  But as I moved away, Maddie once more gal-ooped along--but this time less than a quarter of a lap.  Then she positioned herself in the corner, facing out, where she could keep an eye on us, but made no further effort to follow.Once I had worked Kate a bit at the walk and a little jogging, we practiced our ponying, and called it a day.The next weekend, both girls stood quietly without the benefit of the hobbles.Maddie worked very nicely on the longe, with no fuss about saddling.  She also stood quietly at the mounting block while I bounced up and down, then laid across her back and stood in the stirrups.  If I'd had my helmet on I might have gone ahead and climbed on, as she showed no hint of her past issues about mounting!  But by the time I retrieved my brain bucket, I'd had enough time to over-think the prospect, and decided that it was not the day to push my luck.  I went on to work Kate instead.  Significant thing here was that Kate and I actually got into the lope that day--off-balance and dis-jointed, but we did it! The following week we got it again, but Kate attitude was lousy.  I'm not sure if it is just that she feels so awkward, that I'm not sitting it well, or if the [...]

Summer Synopsis


Okay.It's the end of the year and I've largely neglected my blogging duties both here and on the KVTR club blog since last spring.  I managed to put together a club video for the Christmas party, so I uploaded it to that blog by way of catch-up, and made a resolution to do better this year. Guess I need to do something similar here, to catch you up on Kate and my doings, as well as EvenSong Farm happenings over the last seven months.Several occurrences conspired to confound my summer.Zoe Mary (Taylor) Phillips, 1922-2012In June, my Mother fell again, fracturing her hip. She was still suffering the after-effects of two compression fractures in her back from June of 2011, and her spirit and body decided it was no longer in her to continue the fight.  My kids and I made a quick trip to Northern California, and were with her for her last two days on this earth.  She passed quietly in her own home less than a week after her fall. After returning to the Kittitas Valley, I had less than a week to prepare for the arrival of the grandkids prior to summer camp at Lazy F, west of Ellensburg.  In the past I have volunteered at this Methodist camp, but the last few years I have simply escorted Brenden there.  This was Delaney's first year to attend, and Lazy F has a great way to transition kids to sleep-away camp:  Grand Camp, where grand kids and grand parents attend together.  Michael and Brenden both started camp this way, and Delaney did fine as well!  (She's already made it clear that she ready to attend on her own next summer!)  Meanwhile, Brenden was out on the edge of camp, in teepees, for an "explorers" session.Brenden, 9, in blue, flirts with the girlsworks with his team on the challenge courseDelaney, 5, climbing the rock wall!After camp, it was back to Grandma Laurie's farm for some horsie fun (and a little ranch work) and a trip to town for 4th of July fireworks.Mowing the pastures, and moving "stuff."Learning to saddle up on his own.The maze hones steering skills.Kate looks thrilled....Not.  But she takes good care of her precious cargo.Getting on by himself,and off.We can do this, Grandma.  Quitcher worrying!Kate's extra lead rope was to prevent eating-on-the-job, but please also notice Delaney's blue pearl necklace--the height of equestrian fashion! Then I sent the kids home with their Mom, so that Grandma could get busy with a very late haying season, thanks to our late, wet spring.First load in my barn!We were haying nearly to August, when we're often done before Grand Camp and the 4th!  Because of my commitment to neighbor Hank to be available to help in the afternoons driving the baler (in exchange for my own supply of hay), I can't stray too far from home for the three weeks or so that we're haying--so no club rides (which are always all-day affairs).  So I pretty much hung around place, working on various projects. Sandy helping move gravel.Mowing.The irrigation system worked all summer, with only a few minor glitches.  This shot was in early October, when an early frost turned everything to ice.While the ground was soft, after that last sprinkling, I started expanding the little pond into a more complex water obstacle......digging some "creek beds" and building some little hills to climb.I rebuilt our back porch--Started out to just replace the decking, but the joists were pretty well shot, too, so I redid the whole thing.There's always fencing to do.  I'm slowly upgrading all my field fencing to 2X4 horse-safe mesh.Unfortunately, I never finished drawing up my plans for the garage or barn addition, so neither of those major construction projects got under way, though I did do a little bit of prepping, so hopefully I can get my drawings in to the county this[...]

Another Very Good Day


Okay, so I know I've been AWOL for awhile.  It's been a busy summer, and there really is a composite post waiting to be finished on all the various goings-on.  But if I wait any longer for that post to finish itself, this one might not see the light of day.*******Last weekend, to bracket our summer of grandkids and projects and experiments with Maddie, with another trail competition, Kate and I took off across the state to Hooper's Crossing Ranch, in the middle of the Palouse (just a bit upstream from the Palouse Falls State Park), for a mini-clinic and "Cowboy Mountain Trail Challenge."Keith Danielson was one of the big winners at the Walla Walla "Wild Cowgirls" event, including the sportsmanship award, as he is just a natural helper and encourager to many competitors.The three and a half hour mini-clinic on Saturday was in the arena, as Keith did not want to give us an unfair advantage in the next day's competition on the outside course.  We did use a few portable obstacles, and a lot of poles and barrels to practice our body-control skills and build the trust between us and our horses.I spent a fitful night, first on the back seat of the truck, and when that didn't work, about midnight I moved into the trailer tackroom, laying down a "bed" of saddle blankets under my sleeping bag.  Kate, on the other hand, behaved herself very well for her first night away from home ever.  Of course, she had a full, slow-feed haynet, so she managed to keep herself occupied.The next morning, when we went out on foot for the course walk, I just about died!  Some of the various obstacles were HUGE, and some were things neither Kate nor I had ever attempted.  I didn't have the money to post-enter the in-hand class, to give her a confidence building introduction to the challenges--and the hill side of the course was so steep, I would have been exhausted afterward anyway.One thing that surprised me (and was a little discouraging) was that the "non-pro/pleasure" class was over the exact same course as the "pro/open" class (the youth class did use a slightly easier adaptation of a few obstacles).But folks encouraged me to give it a go, and said I could just skip or simplify any obstacle that I felt I needed to, for training's sake.So I got up my gumption and determined that Kate and I would at least give it a valiant try.First obstacle: Across a somewhat elevated bridge, with a 5-second stand-still half-way across.  Almost no one did the full five seconds, so at about 3 seconds, when Kate started leaning like she might step off to the side, I went ahead and walked her off.  She got counted down for not being quite centered on the bridge.Turn on the forehand.   Kate had done this very well in the clinic...until she caught her pastern in the ring once and flipped it a bit.  Then she didn't trust it anymore.  In the competition she again didn't trust it.  We got a couple of decent forehand turns, we just didn't keep our forelegs in the ring.Two turn-arounds each direction.  It was big enough that Kate didn't fall off (as she sometimes does), but we need to develop more shoulder control (and less rubber neck).We trotted over three logs,... then walked over this big one.  It was all supposed to be loped, but we're still working on that, and decided not to shake things up so early in the course (several others did the same).Into the water box...or not.  This surprised me, as Kate is usually so good about water.  It just didn't look right to her.  (She did cross it later in the course, the other direction.)After exiting the water box (she went around) they were supposed to jump the log, onto a box, jump down a level, do a turn-around, the jump down to the side.[...]

A Very Good Day


Okay.  So school is out for the summer (though I do have to go in for a couple of half-days in the next two weeks).  It's time to catch up on what's been going on around here.With the advent of decent (though not always "good") weather, twice weekly KVTR rides have resumed--unfortunately, I haven't been able to do the mid-week rides until now, and getting stuff done around here (spring is a busy time) has also limited my joining up on the weekends.  I did get out for a couple of local poker rides, two weeks running.Checkpoint at the Silver Ridge Prize Ride.Looky who's leading up the mountain at the Roslyn Riders Poker Run!  We had a bit of an head-shaking, hoof-stomping discussion when I first asked her to go to the front (away from her trailer buddy, Rambler), but once there, she chugged right along.  Although she was happy to see him at the checkpoints, I never got another argument about heading out from him again.Looking back towards the Kittitas Valley from Cle Elum Ridge.***** Last weekend was my big splurge for the summer:  fellow KVTRider Barb and I loaded up at O:dark:30 and headed 200 miles southeast to Walla Walla, Washington for the Wild Cowgirls Mountain Trail Challenge.  I have wanted to attend this event for several years, but fate delayed my going.  This year I was determined to compete, even if it meant putting the expenses all on plastic.  Barb going along and sharing gas made it all the more do-able.  This is a three day event, but neither of us is set up for camping, so we planned on a one day sojourn.  Originally we planned on Saturday, but Barb (and another gal who thought about going) had a prior obligation, so we shifted to Sunday--which ended up being a blessing:  Saturday was COLD and rainy, Sunday was sunny and pleasant, getting up into the 70s by afternoon.The three hour trip was uneventful (not much traffic at that hour on a Sunday morning) and we had plenty of time to get the girls settled in before the course walk.  There was a very nice warm-up area, with a good variety of obstacles, including...a teeter-totter bridge! something neither Mouse or Kate had done before (Kate had the chance a couple of years ago, but wanted nothing to do with it at the time).  There was a teeter-totter on the course map, so we did some groundwork on the warm-up challenges, and after a hesitant first try, Kate survived the trip across the teeter-totter.  When I came back saddled, she tippy-toed across the first time, then figured she had it conquered and never hesitated after that.Mouse is just coming 4, so Barb took her in the "Junior Ranch Horse" (basically novice, limited to 3-4 year-olds) class, on the easier "cowpoke" course.  Kate being older and more experienced, was entered in "Ranch Mare" and "Old-Timers" (50 and older rider).The only thing I didn't like about this facility was that the layout in the narrow strip of land between the creek and their pastures prevented us from watching or taking photographs of each other (or the other riders' runs, for that matter)--They sent riders out from the warm-up/staging area, a half-dozen or so at a time, when it was their turn to compete.  There wasn't enough time between our classes for either of us to leave our horse at the trailer and go out on foot.  So we splurged for a CD of pictures taken by the husband of one of the "cowgirls," and he didn't get very many.Barb and Mouse coming out of the first obstacle, a trench  with a muddy bottom.  (Kate managed to skirt around the mud both times!)Mouse stepping up on the 3 foot round stump to start up the hill.This was Mouse's first time at any sort of event, and she handled all the other horses an[...]

A Somewhat Casual Competition!


After spending two weeks recuperating from her hives episode, I had plans to work Kate regularly over the last week, to have her ready for the spring Trail Challenge at the Appleatchee Riders facility in Wenatchee.  But the best laid plans...Wind, rain, and other pressing projects (farm related, that need to get done at the right time) all conspired to keep me off her back.  I know Kate was disappointed.  By the time I finished the new brace posts and rehanging the main arena-to-barn gate, there was barely enough time to give her a bath.  And once I had her in the wash area, I realized her feet were in dire need of a trim before we went anywhere!  So, following these two tasks, as the darkness gathered (mind you, this is nearing 9:00 PM), I put her up for the night and loaded the trailer.Next morning, we met friend Debby and her little mustang mare, Wendy, and headed out.  Arrived right at 9:00, when the office opened, and got the girls settled in, signed up, and started getting ready.  Deb hollered that they were doing the beginners' course walk, and though I was pretty sure I had the route down, I walked along to hear any questions.  Then went back and was putting my boots on when I realized they had started the class!  Then Deb let me know that I was "in the hole"!!  Quick put Kate's bridle on, and started a very cursory warm-up, especially considering I hadn't been on her in two weeks.  Then it was our turn. We're off!The maze:  3 (out of possible score of 5).  There was a little bit of rubber-necking, but she got through without touching a single pole.I think the judge deducted points here for not trotting to the next obstacle (though that was listed as part of the following effort).  There was only about 50 feet to generate a trot, and I DID get about a step and a half right before slowing down to walk the logs...The walk logs: 4.   We then trotted fairly briskly (for Kate, mind you) to the next effort.The bridge: 4 .  Kate walked right over, so I'm not sure what the judge counted her down for.The turn-around box: 3.  These three photos make it look better than it actually was.Kate had trouble with this one last year too, and actually started off pretty well this time, then got a little flustered, bumped the log, but then finished okay.Maybe if we actually practice...The blow-down: 5.I picked the toughest route through I could find, for extra points......and Kate never took a misstep.The car wash: 5,  Like it wasn't even there.The mailbox: 5.  Kate actually got me too close, with barely enough room to open the door.  But the judge couldn't see it from the angle she was observing.  Otherwise, Kate stood like a rock.The gate: 4.The only reason I can figure we were marked down was that everyone else pushed the gate away from themselves, so maybe we did it backwards.Kate did it very nicely, however, sidepassing over to the gate both for opening and closing.The "trail ride": 3.  I'm not sure if Kate was confused by a bunch of cross-country jumps that were nearby, or reluctant to leave the rest of the horses, but she wandered a bit, heading up the hill.Once she had these trot-overs to focus on, she straightened out......and trotted the rest of the way up the hill.Then she had a little fuss about getting me up close enough to the vertical pole to ring the bell that was there.Then back down the hill......with a quick snack on the way.  Poor starved darling!Around the tires at a trot (not an obstacle, but we later went and clambered over them a time or two).Final obstacle, ground tie and pick up feet: 5.  I've never really ground [...]

A New Venture: Guests!


 Big news at the farm this weekend: All three sprinklers going...STILL!Everybody's going out together for about five hours a day at this point.  (RT gets to mow the house lawn the other 19 hours.Life's pretty boring at our place, until....Who's here?!?Meet Teddy [Bear] and Cheyanna.Teddy is a 24-year-old Thoroughbred-Dutch Warmblood cross, retired jumper, and he looks it.  After two days, I finally got curious enough to put a stick on him:  16.3!  His owner did some eventing on him, after he finished a successful career as a Grand Prix jumper.  His legs, unfortunately, show some of the wear and tear of that profession. Cheyanna is a bit younger, but had a shoulder injury a couple of years ago.  She was moving pretty good out in the pasture, and her owner thought maybe she might return to light duty next year...or not.  I think mostly she's here to keep Teddy company.With the lousy market, and the ethical question of bringing new babies into the world, I have pretty much given up on the idea of breeding any more equines here (though someone suggested I have the perfect set-up for, thanks...).  Little RT has done so well in his retirement with us (he's still going strong at 32), and Mama Misty is looking good at 25.  Even good ol' Corky did well, in spite of his seizure disorder, until we lost him at 29.  I've long admired Melissa and Jason of Paradigm Farms, so I have decided to venture into the realm of boarding.  But for a specialized market: retirees (or possibly rehab).Neither Al nor I really want a bunch of silly teenagers in and out at all hours, we're 20 miles from town, and we really don't have access to any trails in the immediate neighborhood.  Plus the insurance for your typical boarding stable is outrageous.  By sticking to retirees, I don't need to worry about people riding on the property, nor corralling other peoples kids (been there, done that)--keeping track of other people's horses, on the other hand, seems like a great way to utilize our place.Pretty well settled in after all of ten minutes.I also have another gal that may want to bring out an older gent that has seen some rough times, along with her pregnant mare.  That'll make the rotation a bit trickier, as I don't like to put horses directly across a fence line from each other--I always keep an empty pasture in between.  I'll have to watch the grass really closely, as well, to make sure they're not stressing it too much. We don't have the room to put everybody in one big herd, like they do at Paradigm (they have seven separate "herds" on very large pastures), so I will probably just keep each owner's boarders together and as a by-product, avoid the brief, but real risk of introductions.For right now we're only looking at pasture board for the summer.  If I could get the last wing on the barn, I'd look for longer term horses. But this gives us a chance to try out the proposition for awhile, with minimal extra labor.On the work front, I'm just about done replacing another run of the blasted high-tensile field fence.  This is on the north side of the barn, parallel to the driveway.  It means I have three 1.5-2 acre pastures that I consider to be totally "horse safe."  That's where Teddy and Cheyanna will be rotated through.  If the other two horses come, I'll have to judge which two are most respectful of the fence, and use one of my south pastures.The roll by the tractor is ready to splice into the stuff that's already leaning against the posts; then I'll stretch that first 250 foot section.  The two rolls in front are for the 200 foot remaind[...]



It's spring.The trees are budding, the birds are chirping, and a farmer's heart turns to... ...irrigating!I switched from gated pipe (above) to sprinklers six years ago now, as it was a little more efficient and a little less labor intensive.  But it's been a steep learning curve, and every year I've had one or another major issue with busted pipes or my recalcitrant pump.So every year I dread the first start up.I tell folks that I'm just letting the farmers , who make a living off of their hay crop, have first dibs on the water when it starts up, but I'm just stalling.  I don't want to know what problem will reveal itself at the first pressurization of the system.So.The KRD [Kittitas Reclamation District] has had water in the main ditch for two weeks now.  I've been working on replacing some smaller, part-circle sprinklers that I had originally installed at the ends of my main lines with cam-locks for my bigger, sturdier Nelson sprinklers--more radius and more dependable (the return mechanism on the smaller ones had started to hang-up and get stuck in one spot).  That done, and the onset of another major development (to be blogged after it happens tomorrow, I hope), I could no longer put off starting the pump--itself always a major PITA.First try:  primer pump is sucking air--no prime.  Usually, I end up taking the little hand pump apart two or three times before I manage to get it working right.  But just for jollies, I decided to just try tightening down the bolts that hold the leaky gasket in place.Second try--we got prime!  Start up the pump.  This usually takes a couple or ten tries before we get sufficient flow in the main pipe to sustain the prime.Woo-Hoo!First try and the system is filling!Just as a trickle of water starts to appear at the sprinkler heads, I hear an odd sound, over-laying the whirr of the pump.  Hmm.  I've heard that before...YIKES!  The flow of water from the weir into the sump that my intake is in is too slow to keep the pump supplied!  It's been sucked down to almost nothing!I quickly run to the gate on the main ditch and open it wide.  Hank is drawing water for his pasture from this same weir, and balancing the two out-flows is tricky.  But I get water flowing both directions again, and restart my pump--primed, first try; output steady as the system again fills itself.WE GOT SPRINKLERS!!!Total elapsed time: half an hour!  A record!  And really, no major glitches.  I had left the ball valves on two sprinkler-less risers open, which was stealing water pressure, but once they were closed, the system was up and running!And still running two hours later when we hit the sack.And STILL running this morning when first we opened our eyes!  On school mornings I usually change sprinklers at 6 AM (with chores) and 6 PM (before dinner).  That's another rationalization for not starting things up 'til a little later--I'll probably only have to do one cycle of irrigating before school's out.  In summer and on weekends I can switch sprinklers at 5-6 AM, 2 PM and 9-10 PM, and move through the cycle a little faster.  So I headed out to move the sprinkler heads to the next station.  Al commented on my way out that it looked like frost on the fence.... Think:  mini-ice storm.Thermometer read about 33*F.  The moving water kept the system from freezing up, but, along with the fence, the sprinkler heads were coated in ice.  Also the grass, which made walking crunchy and a little precarious.Wow.  It's May 5th!  (Happy Cinco de Mayo!)  What's with this?!?Oh well, jus[...]

Kate on Steroids


Had to skip today's KVTR ride, as when I let the girls out last evening, I noticed a large swelling on Kate's belly, remarkably similar to the symptoms of the  [suspected] bite on her udder three years ago.
 This one was more on the flat of her broad tummy, about as big around as a dinner plate, and maybe an inch thick.  When I checked it again this morning, there were two more, though smaller.
Into the vet we went.  Dr. Joan was happy it wasn't an edema, which would have required more detective work to determine the cause.  Because they were all fairly hard, she decided they were hives.  She found one spot that was actually draining, and she suspects that Kate was bit by something--much as was our best guess three years ago.  A shot of steroids, and I'll give her some bute starting tomorrow, to reduce the inflammation.
The swelling has already gone down this evening.

Now for this week's mountain trail horse training segment:

He forgot Kate's spots!

After the Storm


I had a beautifully written, logical, witty, wonderful post all written about my last couple of weeks...And Bloger lost it!While I try to regenerate it, here are some photos from last night, following a nasty thunderstorm system that blew through the Valley the night before.Usually one of the dirtier horses.Just-had-a-bath horse.Supposed-to-be white horse.But the filthiest of all?Hooves down winner was old man RT. Left sideRight side Back side. Who me?[...]

Spring Break Catch-Up


Well, actually, I would be hard pressed to call it spring.It rained (a lot).It sn*wed (a little).Besides the fiasco at the clinic with Maddie, and Kate and my trip to Valley View Training Center for a warm-up session, the only riding I managed to sneak in between storms was this trip down to the east side of the Columbia River with Pat, and her older gelding, Rambler.Off we go.We parked near Wanapum Dam, and departed under numerous high tension electrical transmission lines.  This fallen ballast ball (to keep the lines from swaying too much in the wind, as well as make the long spans of wire highly visible to aircraft) was like "ho-hum" to fuzzy Kate, who touched it once with her nose (before I could get the camera out) and then was like, "Yeah?  So?  Are we going now?".Off in the distance, against the dark coulees, we spotted these huge white birds.Pat wondered if they were pelicans, and as they drew neared it appeared that was a good guess.Once overhead (they circles us several times--we're not sure what they were looking for), Kate noticed them, even though they were still quite a bit above us.Kate also took note of lots of ducks and geese in the River.  This was probably her biggest worry all day, though she never did much more than look.We couldn't tell if this nest were occupied.  A month ago, when the River was lower, other members of KVTR were able to wade out to the island, and found a pile of rotted fish heads at the base of the pole, so it's been home to someone (ospreys, Carol?).Although she kept a sharp eye out for waterfowl, Kate willingly waded into the shallows, and drank a bit, as well.We made it to the old trestle for the Milwaukee Road rail line.  On the opposite side of the river is the beginning of the "Iron Horse State Park," a several hundred mile rail-trail that extends west across the Cascades to the outskirts of the Seattle metro area.It was a pleasantly boring first outing of the year for Kate.  I much prefer the forested regions west of home, but it'll be awhile before the late sn*w we've had melts up in the Cascade foothills, and the footing improves enough for riding.  In the meantime, the high desert to the east will have to do.*****The next day was also nice.  Nice enough that I turned everybody out for a couple of hours.  At least little RT got one of his mares back, for just a little bit.At first, the girls were intent on eating the sparse new growth.  Suddenly, they realized they had room to run!  As far as the list of chores I had for break,  I didn't get much accomplished.  I did get everybody's feet trimmed up, except for Mama Misty, who I'll get this weekend.  I re-potted my one house plant, which has manged to survive in spite of me for 7 years, and re-hung a couple of gate latches which had become awkward when I lined the arena gate with mesh fencing to facilitate Sandy's enlarged dog yard.And speaking of the arena (and I did), one bigger chore that wasn't even on the list came to mind as I transferred manure from the barn to the compost pile: my arena footing has gotten quite compacted lately.  So I drug the drag around and around for a bit and loosened things up. The older, north end.  This has had some sand added.  It's where I set up my round pen, when needed. Unfortunately, this ends up creating another chore, especially at the newer, south end of the arena, above the retaining wall--ROCKS!  The 6-8 dump trucks of fill dirt I acquired (for free, including delivery, so I couldn't complain) was r[...]

Medical Update


One of my favorite pics of the girls, summer 2005.Maddie and I headed into Valley Vet Clinic yesterday to get her teeth done (reason for the original appointment) and check to see if there were any physical reasons for her ongoing, sporadic and unpredictable behaviors.When Dr. Mark Hayden palpated Maddie's back, she showed nearly zero response.  None.  Compared to Sunday and several other recent days when she visibly shrunk away from my touch.  (I think Dr. Mark is beginning to believe I'm imagining it all...) He checked her ability to flex her head and neck, and found nothing of significance, though she was just a bit hesitant lifting her neck straight up.She was slightly "off" on her left front, on a tight circle, but there was no swelling, and it did not worsen with flexion, so he attributed it to a two-year-old injury in that foot. Maddie's eyes were clear of any cataracts or uvietus, and her blink response was normal.  She was a bit overdue for her teeth and had some points that were starting to irritate her cheeks.  (I wish now I had had him do Maddie's teeth earlier, but I didn't want to do it right before the clinic, when I was trying to get her legged up.)  Hopefully her mouth will be considerably more comfortable now.One unusual thing that we noted was extreme tension in her jaw--Dr. Mark was barely able to open her mouth wide enough with the speculum--we're going to keep an eye on that.  With the hesitation to lift her head up, I think I'll get a chiropractor out to check her out (though last year when we were having similar problems, he didn't find anything significant--maybe I am imagining all this.)Considering that these problems seem to crop up every spring, I'm starting to wonder about "female problems."  Dr. Mark and I discussed ovarian/hormone possibilities, but with only one very old gelding on the place (who was her weaning time companion, so not a "boy" in her eyes) my mares rarely show obvious heat cycles.  I may try her on some mare/calming supplements, before considering anything as drastic as Regumate or an uterine marble.All-in-all, it was both a positive and a frustrating visit:  there were no big problems and we decided on a couple of little issues to address; but on the other hand, we couldn't pinpoint any particular physical reason for Maddie to be acting the way she did.  Is this all a behavioral problem?  Have I created holes in Maddie's training that are coming back to bite me now?Maddie will need a couple of days for her jaw to feel a little better, following the work done yesterday.  I'll look into getting a chiro out here soon, to check her neck, jaw and poll.  And I went ahead and ordered SmartPaks' "Smart Mare" herbal supplement--it should be here next week.  Maddie will need a week or so, I think, for that to effect her system.  The first local ACTHA ride is at the end of April, so I'm thinking Miss Maddie will have a little time off while I get Kate going.It will NOT be all summer, though, like last year. Although I'm sure I will have some butterflies the first time I step up onto her, I am currently (sitting comfortably in my computer chair) not feeling quite the trepidation just thinking about it, as I did last year.Maybe because I didn't actually hit the ground this time.  Maybe because I'm determined to work through this.Madrigal, yearling glamor shotI'm not ready to give up on my Maddie yet.[...]

Kate Saves the Day


Hauled Kate down to Valley View's arena this morning, and met up with Pat.I needed to get back in the saddle, after Sunday's fiasco.For just a moment , I thought about taking Maddie, too.  But not quite yet.  Her vet appointment is tomorrow, then we'll see.Who's ridin' with us, Ma?It's my buddy Chief!I'm ready, Ma.  Let's go!I didn't think to tell Pat to shoot with the light behind her, so these riding photos are all a little weird for light.  But...I RODE THE DANG HORSE! Lots of inside heel, as she wanted to drift in towards Chief (though the couple of times they did get close, she would squeal and get all girly at him).And, really, she wasn't a dang horse at all, especially since it was her first ride since October.  I did have a few butterflies at the start, but Kate was her usual laid back self, and as we trundled around I relaxed a bunch.  She is SUCH a different ride from Maddie, but I guess I needed that right now.That's all back brace and down vest out there in front of me.  Really. Spent about two hours, lots of walking, some jog, a bunch of circles and bending lines, and forehand and hindquarter turns, and some standing around practice (while Pat and I jabbered).All in all, it was a good ride, and good for me.We set a date to get out on the trail Friday morning, if the weather cooperates.******I sent an email to the clinician yesterday morning, expressing my discouragement  in no uncertain terms.  When I got back from riding this afternoon there was a response from her.She was apologetic.  She says she didn't recognize me in different clothes. (I had on blue jeans both days, the same black barn jacket, the same Purina emblem insulated vest, same boots, slightly different watch cap; the only thing that was different was my flannel shirt, which was only visible when it got warm enough to take the jacket off, and then the vest was there.)  But, you know what, I'm beginning to believe that may be the case--because all the times I spoke to her on Monday, it was like she was not talking to anyone she had every interacted with before.She said she was worried for me, and that was why she wanted me off Maddie.  And because of the context, there was no way for her to know whether I was capable enough to go on from there--heck, we'd been mounted for less than 10 minutes, and I don't know that she observed me at all until Maddie spooked--but it would have been nice of her to check in with me on that.  This spook, though identical in nature to last year's, was less intense--this time I managed to stay on her, and she stopped (with Gary's help).  And last year I DID get right back on and work through it with Maddie!She did offer me a full refund, saying "I am sorry I did not live up to your needs.  I usually do pretty well at that, but... if you feel I failed you then obviously... I did."I feel better today (thank you, Kate), so I will exchange another email or two with her, and then move on.  Maddie and I have work to do.  Maddie leading the KVTR group out of the mountains, summer, 2010[...]

The Day After


Thanks, everyone, for your support. 
Madrigal, 3 weeks old
I'm a wreck today.  I went back to the second day of the clinic to take photos for the Club, and got more and more upset that I wasn't participating.  I also saw some minor glitches in the clinician's teaching style (focusing on a few riders, and missing problems that others were having), but bit my tongue.

But what really torked me off was that, through the course of the day, she never once acknowledged me, or asked how Maddie or I was doing.  One other participant thinks she may simply not have recognized me without my distinct B&W horse, but I made a point of asking a few questions, and interacting with her on several other occasions.  And I had my name tag on, at least until it warmed up enough to take off my jacket.  I'm not quite sure I buy that explanation. 

Another rider that was looking to build confidence with her horse felt that the clinician not too subtly suggested that she needed to sell her horse, rather than work through the issues they were having.  Yet the two greenest riders in the group, both on fairly green horses (one less than 3 years old!) were encouraged to keep giving it a go.

I was hoping that this clinic was going to be the confidence boost to get Maddie and I back on the right track.  Instead, I feel shot down. The curt way she dismissed me yesterday makes me feel like I was abusing my horse by even being there, and endangering the other riders.  Though she did offer me a refund for the second day, there was no offer to let me bring another horse (not that Kate was anywhere near ready) nor reassurance that maybe I knew anything at all about what I am doing with horses.

Instead of gaining confidence and trust in each other, Maddie and I are left with a bad experience, not even addressed, let alone worked through.  I'm back to where I was a year ago--afraid to get on my own horse.  It remains to be seen if I can get on Kate this week.

Yesterday I was discouraged and frustrated.  Today I'm pissed off.  In both instances my head was/is pounding and my stomach still rolling.

I'll keep you posted about the vet visit on Thursday.

No Good News--Now What?


 Today's session of the KVTR clinic started off well enough--just dang cold (27*).  There were 14 horse and rider teams, but the arena was large enough to accommodate us for the ground work.  (the clinician split us in two groups for the afternoon ridden work.) We started with several different back-ups. Maddie wasn't crazy about this one, but she caught on quickly, so all I had to do was step towards her with my hands spread out and she would back away from me.   I have to admit, the girls are allowed to get into my space way too often.  Maddie learned about "bubble space" pretty easily. She was a little stiffer with the hand on the nose method, but, again, figured out what I wanted right away.We did a bunch of leading work, with the horse's neck even with us, and driving them forward with our off hand.  Though the clinician asked everyone to bring a "training stick"  (a la NH), I was hesitant, 'cause Maddie is so reactive, and has never responded well to any kind of pressure from my dressage whip.  Barb quickly recognized this in Maddie's wide eyed look, and told me to chuck the stick and just use the end of my lead.  There was a little bit of over-reaction, but, again, Maddie figured it out quickly and we did a bunch of really nice "crazy walking" (stops and starts and turns on both forehand and hindquarters).As we were wrapping things up, I asked Barb what she thought about how touchy Maddie is across her topline--she has been really tight and doesn't like me palpating it at all.  The clinician agreed it might be good to get an equine chiropractor to look at it and get some advice.  This brief interaction was to come back up later.With that, we broke for lunch, and then saddled up for the afternoon.Maddie and I were in the second group of riders, so when she gigged a bit after I mounted, I chalked it up to having nearly two hours of standing around since we had done our groundwork warm-up.  Because the clinician was having us doing all sorts of stretches and pelvic adjustments, she had us working with side-walkers to start.The couple of times that Maddie started to rush, Gary just circled her, and she settled again.  Both of us were pretty relaxed, but alert.Then, all hell broke loose!Near as we can figure, just as I was raising an arm to stretch, Gary started to circle Maddie to the left.  I think maybe she spotted my hand in the air above her--and she's never much liked things above her.She freaked, and did her skitter off to the side maneuver.  Then, I think she got further flustered by the confusion of having two of us to listen to.  She totally lost it. It was exactly what had happened last summer, that I have been trying to blame on the string cinch I had on her at the time, to accommodate for the Tucker's dropped rigging.As it was, I think having Gary on the end of her line saved my bacon.  If he hadn't gotten her straightened out and stopped, I think she would have careened on around the arena, most likely losing me in the process.  Because I didn't have to worry about getting her stopped, I just grabbed the saddle horn and some mane, and rode it out.  It wasn't pretty, but I stayed with her 'til she stopped.The clinician happened to be just to one side of us when all this happened, and she slowly stepped up, taking the lead from Gary, and coaching both Maddie and I to "Breathe!"Once she was at Maddie's hea[...]

No News Is Good News


Well, I have no photos to post, but they wouldn't have been much different than last post:  Maddie and I have made two additional trips down to Valley View Training Center, to work in their small indoor arena.
Both trips were amazingly boring!
Which is good!
We walked, we trotted.  We even did a lazy western jog.  We were a little hesitant entering the "corner of doom" at first, but we went.  And then we went more willingly.  Then we trotted through  it.  We [both] thought about loping, but I chickened out, and settled into the saddle, and Maddie came right back to me.
We stood with one leg (Maddie's) cocked, while a silly young Thoroughbred romped crazily around us.
All-in-all, very boring.
Which was nice.  Very nice.

The weather has been somewhat unpredictable:  atrociously windy and cold.  I would have liked to have gotten in two rides each weekend, but one was all we managed, so again, I'm not pushing her too much.  Hopefully, we'll get in one more this Saturday, before the clinic on Sunday/Monday.  Then, I'll be back to tell you how educational it was, and how far Maddie and I went on rebuilding our relationship.
But hopefully, the riding part will be boringly relaxed...

And Off We Go!


Got in two good rides, last weekend and today.  Pat and I trailered down to Valley View Training Center, about 10 miles, with my goal being to get both Maddie and I back to work:  not only are we both out of shape from the winter, but we both have left-over confidence issues from the wreck last June.Although Maddie was okay two weeks ago for west-side-guy, there had still been a couple of moments when she threatened to freak, and I got that nasty churning feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I am determined to build us both up, physically and mentally, to be ready for the KVTR Clinic on the 18th and 19th of March.Last week the most I could convince myself to do was walk around the arena--constantly reminding myself to breathe!  There were two other riders besides Pat and I, and a couple of people and horses putzing around in the cross ties just out the back end of the arena.  Maddie was on alert most of the time, but, other than getting stalled a few times, she was cooperative.Today...We trotted!Pat and Rambler and Maddie and I had the whole place to ourselves.Maddie jumped a little as I mounted, but I stuck with her (she had moved too far away from the mounting block for me to retreat to safety), and she settled again quickly.  The corners of the arena were full of goblins, which made for some gawking, but since Pat had already been working for a bit when I got there, she just stood and watched while we worked on getting past the sticky spots.Took a deep breath and nudged her up to a gentle jog.  Maddie was ready.  Around the outside, and some big circles and such.  She would occasionally get bent the wrong way (bringing her haunches in) but a quick circle to re-establish the correct bend usually did the trick.  Then we played follow-the-leader with Rambler for a bit.At one point I had the fleeting temptation to move her up to a lope, but decided I didn't need to push my luck.  We'll take whatever time we need to keep going in the positive track we've gotten started. The weather hasn't been helpful--last weekend (when I had three days to work with her!) the wind was so bad that Monday was the only day we worked.  Yesterday was our local 4H tack swap, and by the time Pat and I got back from town, the wind was blowing again.  This morning, we managed to hit a two-hour window between gray skies and spitting snow, when the sun actually came out for a bit.Maybe next weekend I can get out with her both days--AccuWeather sounds hopeful.  I've paid for a month of haul in to Valley View, but Pat's starting to talk about hitting the trail.  We'll see...[...]