Monday, August 29, 2011

Painting needs new home

My husband and I are having a tiiiiny argument about a painting in our living room. I hate it; he has an incomprehensible fondness for the thing. I want it gone, he's currently lobbying to put the damn thing in our bedroom, since we now have antique maps in its previous home in the living room.

I told him if it went in the bedroom, I'm sleeping on the couch in the living room. He's decided that it's not going in the bedroom.

He asked the kiddos if either of them wanted it for their bedrooms. Shockingly, they said no, so I guess taste isn't entirely genetic.

I even called his mother about this painting. After all, it came from his parent's house, so I figured they had some sort of attachment to the thing - or maybe it was painted by a great-grand-aunt and it was a family heirloom? The conversation went something like this:

"Hey, I have a really important question for you about that painting in the... yes, the brown one... yes, with the stream... So your mom and dad bought it off some street painter on a trip? .... And foisted it off on you? ... Hanging in the guest bedroom, huh? And then in the attic? ... So you were glad to get rid of it? ... No, I guess there's no accounting for taste, is there?"

I knew there was a reason I love my mother-in-law so much.

At first glance, you're probably thinking, "Oh, a nice woodland scene in the fall. What's wrong with that?" And then you look closer and notice that the stream is actually higher than the path. That is impossible - water always flows to the lowest point. Maybe this is an early attempt by MC Escher to mess with the viewer's head? If so, it's working. (P.S. Note that I even tilted the painting slightly to the left in a desperate effort to make the stream lower. No dice.)

And those "rocks" in the painting? I swear that close-up they look like a herd of armadillos. See? IT'S AN ARMADILLO!

Too bad I don't have a guest bedroom or I could torture my guests with it. We do, however, have an attic...

(Note: At this moment the husband is saying how mean I am to his painting. He says that it will melt in the attic. Oh, the HORRORS! But I've gotta get it out of my dining room... anybody want a slightly strange painting of a herd of armadillos? Free to a good home!)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mid-week critter - It's true what they say

You know how they say if you cut your hair, you look 10 pounds thinner and 5 years younger?

Here's Anie, pre-de-poofing.

And here she is, de-poofed. I'm pretty sure we got at least 10 pounds of hair off her! We left the hair on her legs, belly, and tail, for protection.

It took nearly a week to completely clip her. I tried just using the clippers, (Andis with #4 blades), but she had so much hair that it wasn't working very well. I ended up trimming her with scissors, then brushing her out, then trimming and brushing again, then perhaps one more trim/brush routine, before finally taking the clippers to her. I did this in small sections on her body, because she would get tired of me messing with her, and because after about 15 minutes the clippers would get warm. Despite daily brushings, she had some mats deep down in her 4-inch coat, which I felt really bad about.

She's also more active now without the poof. Her abscess has healed well and she's back to her old self! It's also amazing how quickly her coat is growing back in - even just a week after being clipped, she's got an inch of coat that needs daily brushing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I give up

There's just no point in looking at the forecast anymore. It's just too depressing.

And to add insult to injury, 75% of the state is in the worst drought in history. The last good rain we had at the house was in September 2010 when Hurricane Hermine came through around September 7... almost a YEAR ago. Since then I think we've had two small showers, less than 2 inches each.

I'm lucky - I have plenty of hay, and the boys have cool(ish) shady places. However, the pastures are burned crispy - the grass literally crunches when you walk on it. To save the pastures, the boys are only out on the track and have been since... I dunno, April? The grass will hopefully come back once it rains, but until then, it's a dry, brown wasteland.

Gah. I'm hoping for a nice tropical storm to dump 10 inches of rain on us. 15 or 20 inches would be even better. Temperatures below 100 degrees would be nice too, but I'd probably have to get out a sweatshirt - the mid-nineties sounds positively chilly!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Word gets around

When I feed the boys, I halter and tie Red so that Saga and Cash can eat in peace. Red gets his meager pittance, but has a haynet to keep him from boredom while Saga and Cash finish their food. When Saga and Cash are done, I take Red's halter off, whereupon he immediately spins around and heads over to polish off any remnants Saga and Cash may have left.

The other night, something entirely different happened.

I slipped Red's halter off and told him he was free to go, but he just stood there, eyes bright and ears forward, staring at me. He nudged my arm with his nose, and then stared at me again. I told him he could go again, but instead of leaving, nudged me in the chest. He was waiting for me to do something, but what? Hmm, I thought, maybe he wants his chest scratched? I stepped around to his left shoulder and started rubbing his chest, but he curled his head around and nudged me on the upper arm. I tried scratching his shoulder instead, but he pinned his ears and stepped back so he was facing me again. This time, he carefully reached out and touched his nose to my ear. And then very deliberately stood there, staring at me. Waiting for me to get it.

Apparently, one must be very specific in one's requests if one expects humans to understand.

"OH!" I said aloud. "You want your ears scratched!" I hastily removed his flymask and started scratching him behind his ears. His response was instantaneous - nose curled in ecstasy, head wriggling so I could get exactly the right spot. This went on for about a minute, first one ear, then the other, then the first ear again, and then... Red shook and walked off, without so much as a thank-you.

Clearly, after last week's experience with Cash, word has gotten out amongst the boys that if your requests are very simple and specific, the food-delivering human can be made to understand where to scratch. I am sort of wondering what will be next...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Shhhhhh... quiet please

PROLOGUE: The other day I discovered a new blog, Equine Insanity. I stayed up way too late reading the whole thing, and it really, really got me thinking about the boys, especially about Cash. I've had him for so long and I feel like we've got a connection - or at least, we used to. I think I gave it up when I retired him, and tried to distance myself from him, because I never knew if I was seeing him for the last time. Now he's home with me, but I haven't spent the time to reconnect... or maybe I'm afraid to do so because of his age. But thanks to the new blog, I'm inspired to try again...

When was the last time you really stopped to listen to your horse?

Yesterday the trimmer was out for the boys. When I went to bring Cash in, he walked away from me and then left the barn. Not wanting to give chase, I snagged Saga instead and we got him trimmed. As the trimmer was finishing up with Saga, I went back out to try to get Cash again. He was on the other side of the track, but he let me walk up to him and put his halter on, and then he followed me all the way back to the barn... and then stopped just before we got there. I touched his halter and asked him to come with me (I didn't have a lead rope), and he walked forward for two steps and then swung around away from me and the barn. His message could not have been clearer: I do not want to go in there.

Normally I would have grabbed his halter and insisted that he come with me, and he would have done so without a peep, but I something made me stop. He didn't want to go in the barn, but why not? Since the trimmer was waiting, I felt like I couldn't really take the time to explore the reasons, but I didn't want to force him to come in. Instead, I rubbed the itchy spot on his withers while I explained that I understood he didn't want to come in, but that the trimmer was there and needed to see his feet. I told him that we would not be riding, and that I would scratch all his favorite itchy spots and get him a few treats if he would come in for a little while. I felt like I was bribing a child to go to the dentist or something!

After a moment I caught his halter and asked him to come with me, which he did. I scratched him all over as I had promised, and it was the strangest thing - when I rubbed his left side, he yawned and made all sorts of funny faces, licking and chewing non-stop. When I did the right side - nothing. He looked away and I got the distinct feeling he was just putting up with it. So I went back to the left side and got the same licking and chewing - bizarre. He's never done that, although he usually makes funny faces if I scratch him.

What was he trying to tell me about not going in the barn? What's up with the left versus the right side of his body? I feel like there's something going on here, and I'm just too dense to see it.


After yesterday's experience, I vowed to take some time and really try to listen to what Cash had to say to me tonight. JD, Fuzzypony and I decided to go for a short ride after dinner, so I figured it was the perfect time to see if I could understand the situation better. I put his halter on with no problem, when led him over to our grooming spot. When I was selecting a brush to use, I dug through the box to find the softest horsehair brush I own. I don't normally use this one, but for some reason I needed it tonight. Cash seemed to not really want to be groomed, so I kept it as short as possible with just the soft brush and no curry. He seemed happy enough to have me pick out his feet, offering me each one in turn, just like normal.

The flies were bothering him, so I went to get the fly spray. However, when I approached him with it, he noticeably shifted his weight away from me, even though he didn't move a single foot. I waited for a few seconds to see if he'd change his mind, but his body language said it loud and clear: he did not want to be sprayed. I've sprayed him all his life, and he just barely tolerates it... I knew he'd tolerate it now if I forced the issue, but I decided that there was really no point. The flies weren't that bad, and we were just going on a short walk. If they bothered him a little, it wouldn't matter that much - and besides, he didn't want it. Well OK then, no fly spray tonight. He relaxed visibly when I put the bottle back.

I had decided to ride Cash in his old sidepull instead of the eggbutt snaffle he's been using. I figured maybe he was objecting to the bit, or the saddle, or heck, maybe just being ridden! when he wouldn't come in the barn yesterday. I showed him the sidepull and he amicably stuck his nose in it - exactly like he used to do when he was ready to go for a ride. I showed him the gel-filled saddle pad I like to use when riding bareback, and he dutifully inspected it and seemed to find it acceptable. Thus armed, I let him down the driveway to our mounting block (my mailbox), and tried to get a sense of how he felt about going for a ride. I didn't feel like he was super interested in going, but he also didn't object, possibly because Red and Saga were there too. I (gracelessly) climbed on, and we set off.

I concentrated on totally dropping the reins on his neck and letting the tension out of my legs, keeping them away from his sides. For the first 1/4 mile, he just sort of plodded dutifully on after the other horses. His head was low and his ears at half mast. Then, when we went past the Appy's house, he stopped and stared for perhaps ten seconds, looking for the Appy, who was nowhere to be found. And then he walked on of his own volition. From that point on he started wandering back and forth across the street, looking down driveways and peering through the trees. When the road ended and the trail began on left, he decided to go right. We have never gone right, so I let him, and he went to inspect some roses. After a moment, I told him we had to rejoin Red and Saga, so I picked up the reins and pointed him back on the trail.

He obliged me and I dropped the reins immediately, but he went back to plodding again for perhaps 50 yards. Then, suddenly, he was interested in his surroundings again. He veered left and right around the trail, inspecting trees and shrubs. He found an old pile of poop that he stopped to sniff. When we came to a steep spot in the trail, I grabbed his mane and let him choose how to scramble up it. I got a lot of branches in the face because I let him pick the way, and he was clearly choosing what was best for him and not for me. He stopped to grab a mouthful here and there, but was quick to pick back up again with Saga and Red. Maybe this was "misbehavior," but I suddenly felt like Cash was actually enjoying the ride, enjoying getting out and looking around and exploring, instead of just being a dutiful all-terrain-vehicle for me to sit on.

Suddenly, a guy on a mountain bike come up behind us with his dog. Cash spooked (in place) and I asked the guy if he could please wait while we moved off the trail. He kindly did so, and once he was past we picked up our ride, but the mood had been ruined. Cash was nervous. He'd been walking in the back quite nicely (unusual, since he normally jigs when he's in back) but now he was crowding Saga on the trail. Once again I dropped the reins and tried to relaxed, and just let him figure it out. He was kind of a mess for a few minutes - tripped on rocks because he wasn't paying attention, tried to pass on the edge of the trail - but he calmed back down on his own. As we approached home, he became more and more bold with grabbing a bite to eat, even though Red and Saga were getting further ahead. Eventually I told him that we really did have to go home, shook the reins at him, and smooched to him. He didn't seem to want to go back, but he obliged me and moseyed the rest of the way home.

Once back in the barn, I took his saddle pad and sidepull off and asked him if he wanted to be scratched. He inspected me for treats (I had none) and then reached around to his flank and began scratching himself. I nudged his nose away and scratched him instead for a minute or two. When I stopped, he almost immediately reached around to the other side and started scratching, so I changed sides and scratched him there too. He quite literally showed me (with his nose) two or three other places that needed scratching, and I made sure to get those as well. Then I stood there, arms at my sides, and asked him if there was anything else. He waited for perhaps ten seconds, then turned and shoved his butt in my face. So I scratched his left cheek, and when I was done with that, he shifted so I could do his right cheek. Subtle, that one. I once again asked if there were any other spots, and he maneuvered so that his withers were even with me, so I rubbed him there while he wiggled around, shifting back and forth, so I could get just the right place.

And then, without warning, he left. He turned and walked directly to Taran, who had been watching us the entire time perhaps 15 feet away in his stall. Cash draped his head over the stall door and immediately starting grooming Taran, right on the neck where I had been grooming Cash just moments before. Taran sort of half-heartedly groomed back, but it was pretty clear that Cash was doing the grooming and Taran was the itchy one. I stood there, mouth agape. How had Cash known what Taran wanted? He was facing the opposite direction from Taran when he had suddenly turned around, so it wasn't like he could see Taran... yet somehow, he had known.

So tonight, I listened to my horse. I learned that he hates fly spray (ok, I knew that, but now I REALLY know that), he likes his sidepull, and that if given a choice, he enjoys exploring on our trail rides. I learned that he has no problem telling me where he wants to be groomed, if I will but listen to him. I also discovered that he has empathy for another horse - Taran couldn't come join us to be groomed, so Cash left me and went to groom him. I learned, once again, that I am very fortunate to be able to spent time with an absolutely amazing animal - and that despite being together for 15 years, there's still an awful lot I have to learn about him.

If you listen to your horse, if you let him have an opinion, what does he tell you?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Beware the fridge

About two weeks ago, I hired a friend-of-a-friend, MG, to come over a few times a week (when she has time) to do a little extra cleaning for me. I can keep up with dishes, laundry, and vacuuming, but things like dusting ceiling fans, mopping the hardwood floors, and cleaning out the fridge often elude me. So I didn't feel like I needed a cleaning service, but I needed some help.

And let me tell you, this is turning out to be one of the the best decisions I've made. I positively LOVE it - I come home from work and it's like a treasure hunt. Last week I was washing my hands at the kitchen sink, looked up, and went "OH MY GOODNESS!" MG had cleaned the kitchen window, and suddenly I could see that we had Pastures! With Horses! And Trees! I didn't actually realize the window was so dirty, but wow, what a different.

And then the next morning I opened the microwave to heat my chai and IT WAS SPOTLESS. It was like a little present - I had no idea that MG had cleaned it, but it looked so nice! I sent her a quick little thank-you text, 'cause I want her to know that what she does is noticed and very much appreciated.

As it turns out, MG has a wicked sense of humor. This week I asked her to tackle the fridge and its science-experiment-like contents. So I'm at work and I get this little text message:

MG: Do you wish to keep this tasty tidbit? MMMmmmmm :P

[She had attached a picture of a Russel Stover chocolate egg left over from Easter. I mean, I sort of vaguely remember putting it in there... maybe???]

Me: How embarrassing... If u find any new life forms in there, just put the lid back on and leave them on the counter :)

MG: Nooooo! You should see some of the VERY creative things I find in my own fridge... :)

Me: Oh good I feel better. Maybe we can donate them to science?

MG: Yes! Especially those things that have started their own HOA and shopping malls. I SWEAR that my sourdough starter now has its own tax base...

Me: A coworker has a kombucha scoby in her fridge. Grossest-looking thing EVER. Even worse than slime molds in the sour cream. And if the starter has a tax base, I hope the collection goes to pay for the electric bill for the fridge!

MG: Unfortunately I can no longer even open the crock!!!

Me: Oho! They have sealed off all outsiders! Elitists!

MG: Exactly... hence my concerns regarding a late-night overthow of the current regime (me). I can see it now... and it won't be pretty!

Me: Bolt your door! Sleep with a firearm!

MG: Firearms do no good against yeasty masses... Blowtorch, perhaps?

Me: Oooh good idea! There's one in the workshop. :)

MG: Now I can rest easy at night, knowing that come morning I will still rule over my domain AND that there will be fresh-baked bread for breakfast, should there be any *ahem* uprisings.

Me: Uprising. Ouch.

A clean fridge AND some comedic relief! What more could one ask for?

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Crappy" weekend

Saturday morning, I looked out my kitchen window, and there it was in the back corner of my yard - I'd been piling it higher and deeper for far too long, and I really needed to do something about it. I mean, there's really only so much sh1t you can put up with before you just can't take it any more. Besides, the sh1t was really going to hit the fan if I didn't do something about it, and soon.

So I got my sh1t together and posted an ad on Craigslist: Free manure, delivered! I'd tried getting rid of the stuff by having people coming and getting it themselves, but most folks just seemed to crap out, even when they said they'd be there to pick some up. I did have one lady who came over and I gave her all the sh1t she was willing to take (which sadly barely made a dent in my giant pile), and told her to come back if she ever wanted more, as there was plenty more where that came from.

Anyway, I got a call pretty quickly from an interested party, and after we shot the sh1t for a while, I got his address and we agreed to a delivery time.

Now it's one thing to load a truck full of manure when you're using a (borrowed) bobcat, but do you have any idea what a sh1tty job it is to do by hand, in 100+ degree heat? It was windy too and I literally had sh1t on my face by the time I was done. I took a quick shower before heading over for the delivery, and sure as sh1t, I was right on time. The guy and his wife were so excited to get some compost for their garden - "Now that's some good sh1t!" the wife kept saying. It's good to know that the next time I find myself neck deep in sh1t, I have people I can call on.

Of course, now it's Monday and the horses just keep producing more to add to the pile... I guess it's just the same old sh1t, different day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mid-week Poof

Anie hasn't been featured on here in ages, mostly because she doesn't do anything terribly interesting. At night, she guards the house. During the day, she sleeps. We finally managed to convince her to come in the AC, since our daily highs have been 105 pretty much since May.

In the morning when I'm done with the horses, Anie gets a quick groom with the slicker brush, and then she trundles in to snooze for the next 12 hours on the cool tile floor in the hallway.

Did I mention that she snores? Loudly?

When I get home from work and put Elias out, she usually just blinks sleepily at me and takes another snooze. Then around 7 pm, she decides it's time for guard duty and goes to stand by the door until we let her out. This arrangement seems to be working well for all involved.

WARNING: Icky wound picture. If you don't want to see it, don't scroll down.

This morning when I went to groom her, I noticed a pinkish fluid all over her chest. I couldn't see anything immediately wrong, so I brought her in and got out the scissors. MC was over to ride early, and she used to be a vet tech (among many excellent skills!) so she did a very neat trim job to discover an absolutely enormous abscess that had formed on Anie's chest. The pinkish fluid was liquid draining from the abscess.

No, she's not dead, she just fell asleep at the vet's office while she was being clipped.

I managed to get Anie an appointment at the vet, where they clipped the area. The abscess itself is alarmingly large, but because her fur is so thick, we could barely see it until we'd clipped the area. The good news is that it's draining well and isn't infected, so it must have ruptured during the night. She never showed any signs of distress - was still eating and drinking - so I never would have known if it hadn't ruptured. She's on antibiotics for the next two weeks, which she thinks is great, since I dip the pills in peanut butter for easier eating.

As to what caused it, when we were clipping her we found some mesquite thorns in her coat. She must have gotten one stuck, poor thing. The vet asked if I'd ever considered clipping her, and I said I had but explained the reasons why I decided not to (namely, sunburn and bugs). The vet said she understood but was concerned that we might have problems in the future with foreign matter getting embedded in her coat/skin, and because she has so much hair, I might not know about it even though she gets groomed daily. I've pulled matted burrs and foxtails out of her coat before, and every day she has twigs, grass, small rocks (not kidding here), and other stuff in her coat that I groom out, so it's definitely a problem. A friend found a pair of highly-recommended Andis clippers for me, and I'll be picking those up on the way home and working on her new hairdo tonight. Should I do a mohawk? ;)

Alas, I guess we won't be having any mid-week Poofs for a while after this.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Last Wednesday morning, I noticed that Reddums wasn't quite himself. He didn't come up for breakfast (gasp!) and was standing on the east side track looking... sort of distracted. I watched him while I took care of morning chores, and he didn't actually seem to be in any sort of distress - no lying down or looking at his sides or limping or anything. He just looked funny.

I went out and checked his feet (nothing) and listened to his gut sounds (disturbingly faint) and checked hydration levels (normal). I shooed him up to the barn where he got a drink and ran Saga off his alfalfa - in other words, he acted completely normal. I was a bit concerned to have to leave him but dutifully headed to work anyway, and when I got home he was completely fine.

Well, this morning I figured out what was causing the problem:

Why yes, that is in fact a half-digested plastic carrot bag.

About a month ago, I left Red unattended in the barn aisle for a few minutes. He took the opportunity to knock over several bins of brushes, throw the fly spray bottle across the aisle, and eat the remainder of a bag of carrots. At the time, I couldn't find the bag, so I figured it had blown away as it was rather windy. What I never thought might happen was that he had also consumed the bag itself. Jeez.

I always had him figured for such a smart pony, too.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mid-week stretchy critter

As part of her stint as an indoor kitty, Maddy discovered that she liked being held upside-down.

When held this way, she had a tendency to go completely limp and boneless. It's sorta like holding a fuzzy slinky.

And then she discovered that she could do the best stretches evar in this position. I'm sure this pose has a name... maybe she's channeling Isadora Duncan?

What can I say... my critters are strange. Good thing they're cute too!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dressage lesson 7/29

At the rate I'm going, I'll never get the vids together from the dressage lesson, so I might as well post what I've got while it's still more-or-less fresh in my brain.

I started off on Saga, and we worked on tempo. In a nutshell, I've been running him off his feet in an effort to get him to reach for the bit instead of curling behind (which he is good at). Instead, I slowed him waaaay down to what felt like a Western trot - but I had to do it all by using my core and slowing my posting with more "hang time". Shockingly, by riding him with my body instead of slowing him with my hands, he came round with his poll being the highest point of his body (yes, that was sarcasm). I merely had to use a slight half-halt on the inside rein and a little inside leg to get him to circle, he was super light and balanced. We then worked on nudging him ever-so-slightly forward into bigger, more active steps. I don't feel like we made much progress into the bigger steps, but by the end we were keeping a consistent tempo instead of rushing around, and my abs were feeeeeling it!

We also did a bit of left lead canter. I am hollowing my lower back too much, which results in a "scooping" action with my seat, and pushing my shoulders forward a bit. I visualized making my lower back flat by tightening my abs and sitting on my hip pockets, and then lifting my chest up right below my bra strap (interesting imagery, but hey, it worked!) Saga was lighter in front than he's been in ages, and very steady in the tempo. Looking at the video, it looked kinda disorganized, but maybe I'm just used to watching him run around? I dunno, it was definitely different.

Fuzzypony was having a super-hard time with Reddums, so we switched horses. Red was very stiff to the left, and he also generally has a hard time slowing his trot tempo down without gaiting. It's challenging to get him to trot cleanly from the walk without shuffling a few steps - envision trying to get your car to go from first gear to third without revving the engine too much or stalling out. It's a sweet spot to make it work. There's the same problem going from trot to walk - if you ask just a smidge too hard, he slams on the brakes to downshift instead of doing it smoothly. Anyway, we worked quite a lot on keeping him soft to the left, which is especially difficult because I tend to hold less steadily with my right hand than my left. All of my horses are steadier on the left rein than the right, so I know it's me rather than the horses, lol! I also did a little sitting trot, which was described at first as "too busy," but tightening my core made all the difference in keeping me from slithering around. The big take-away from this for me was that I need more core strength and a slower rhythm on every horse I ride. Lots to work on for sure.

Fuzzypony and MC both ended on good notes and I think had good rides overall. We definitely want to get Carol out again next week (she's booked this week and besides, the highs are around 108 every day this week). We did an hour lesson for the three of us and I think that in this heat, at our level of fitness that's about right. I'm looking forward to the next ride!