Feb 23, 2010

Every morning at my house, there's a slim window of quiet. It may occur at 5:34, it may happen at 7:48. It's a pristine time for me-I can hear the birds chirping outside from the branches of the big black jacks in the yard. I can hear the baby calves bawling, announcing that their hunger has yet to be satiated....little farts are gluttons, they can never get enough it seems. The first pale yellow rays of sun have begun to kiss the windows on the east side of our house, they turn the old blinds a warm amber color as they strengthen with the rising of the sun. Our themometer mounted to the frosty glass of the window on the porch reads 22 degrees, and the cold temperature is further supported by the array of ice crystals that have formed in the mud all around. Intricate patterns of them glitter like jewels in the premature sunlight, adorning the track of a foot print from a gloriously dirty mud boot.

Birds always seem to announce the arrival of spring...mocking birds and red winged black birds especially. Red winged black birds were always plentiful at my parent's place growing up, the memory of being a young girl laying in my bed in the early morning hours listening to their cries is never far from my mind. I'll never forget listening to their calls as I made my way to our little barn, making my way down the little dirt road. Every child should have times they can sit and think, put their bare toes in the mud and just ponder their existence. Sitting in the damp grass, my bare feet in the dirt, I decided many things growing up. Things that I liked. Things I didn't like. As I look back, I'm thankful for a raising that gave me an appreciation for quiet times and birds in the mornings, no matter what time that quiet comes.

Aug 31, 2009

A good friend of mine told me once that cowgirls wear many hats. Some wear that of a mother, a wife, a home maker, a career woman, a Christian, a sister, an aunt, a steward of the land, and care taker to her animals. Along with those sundry titles goes a sense of responsibility, and the need to learn how to prioritize when and where to wear those hats.
I know for me, I've been a daughter, a sister, a care taker of my horses. The past five years have seen me become a wife and a mother as well. The changes in our lives can come gradually, marked by time, something we ourselves can watch after a substantial step back to get an appreciation for what has tangibly transpired in our own personal time line. More often than not, the changes that occur aren't the friendly, easily remarked upon times that are so easily accustomed to...they're harsh, unforgiving and more of a struggle than most of us let on. Life possesses so many erratic tendencies that it's only true constant is change itself. Just as you settle in and things seem to "make sense", things seemingly up-end themselves, and with never a thought or notice otherwise. Learning to deal with those changes is what makes the core of a true cowgirl. A mother may be looking at her child as they struggle with their first "big horse", knowing full well that it's only a matter of time before the cues become smoother, more fluid. Softer hands, a gentler touch--thinking ahead. Watching their eyes light up with pride as they begin to accomplish more and more every day, whether it's leading their horse by themselves or simply getting their boots on the right feet that morning.
I know as a mother I want my kids to enjoy what I do; to love the same things that make my heart beat a little faster. Being raised in the country as I was, having the ability to play outside, get dirty and covered in grass stains...that's priceless for me to be able to give that to my kids. I'm more driven now to get Smoke started and finished on the barrel pattern, so that by the time Jolie is old enough to ride a big horse, she'll have one waiting for her. If she decides when she's four or five that she'd rather be a ballet dancer, or a softball player, or a swimmer, I'll take up with whatever suits her, but the horses will always be there if she decides to go back to them. I want my kids to have every chance they can to do the absolute best that they can if they decide they want to ride, rope, play basket ball, show livestock-just whatever floats their boat!
I think that's where the ability to prioritize comes in...learning when to put the kids' wants/needs ahead of my own, and to recognize when it's OK to have have time for something for myself. Everything works in cycles it seems like-Jackson spent last summer and all of this summer really learning to ride as I stepped back from competing. This summer was somewhat out of necessity, aside from just having our baby girl, my poor horses can't seem to stay sound these days. I know that things happen for a reason, so I'm trying to step back and look at the bigger picture. There's something here--something that God is wanting me to do different. By not spending time on either of my horses, it makes me wonder what God has planned for me. I suppose being patient and praying about it will help...of course, wrapping them both in bubblewrap can't hurt either!

Aug 4, 2009

Thoughts on a cool morning...

A cool morning is always appreciated around my house. It usually evokes two emotions for me, and has since I was about 15. When I first open my eyes and take in the world around me, I'm more than 100% content to laze around in bed and literally just lay around in the cool morning hours. Nothing makes for better sleep than a cool morning just before the sun gets to showing his face. The other emotion is the one I should follow more often--the urge to go catch a horse, and do something constructive!
This time last year I was getting up at 5 a.m. every morning to catch my barrel horse , and work on conditioning him. We'd ride the fence line of our little place at a long trot, building his wind a little more with every stride. A snaffle bit and split reins went along way to relax him and take some of his anxiety away about life in general. He's a laid back sort of feller most of time anyway, but when it would come time to saddle up, he became a worry wart. He never made a nuisance of himself, but he was apt to push on the bit and hollow his back out, blow a lead change on a circle, just little niggling things that drove me crazy. We went back to basics-stopping straight on a loose rein, flexing, keeping an arc from nose to tail as we loped a circle, backing without hesitation. Sidepassing, stopping without throwing his head straight up in the air was my biggest obstacle--it drove me crazy when I would ask him to slow down or stop!
For years he'd been ridden in a tie down no matter what-don't get me wrong, I'll still crack one out and put a horse in one if I think it's really necessary. I used one on him after I first acquired him, but as time has gone on, I've tried to teach him that he CAN travel without one. That he doesn't have to look for that noseband ever time he goes to stop...that it's easier to follow his nose when I ask him to give than to do things on his own and muscle through a turn like a musk ox! He was just as nice and broke as they come when he first came to me, but he just didn't handle like I wanted him to. I'm proud that he'll lope off with his head low, that a bump of an outside leg will tip his nose toward whichever leg I bumped with, and that I can run him without a tie down now. He's a more responsive, softer, thinking horse now. Before, he didn't think, he responded, and it was usually rough! The way he's built makes him rough to ride at a trot, so long hours of long trotting allowed him to learn to carry himself differently, to not ride like such a lumber wagon! He still has his moments where he wants to do things the easy way, but the longer I have him the fewer and farther between those moments become.
My boy is standing out in the pasture under the pecan tree as I type; he's sidelined for the foreseeable future with yet another "ouchie" as Jackson calls it. Just through the thick part of his left hind heel bulb, it's an odd place for a cut. Every time he put weight on that hind foot (which he does all the time now, thankfully!) it spreads the wound apart. It's healing well, my darlin' husband has done a wonderful job keeping me supplied with all sorts of powders and potions to keep Woodrow on the mend. I'm so thankful to have him--he does all he can to spare me any sort of hurt any time any of our horses are hurt. I tend to be a tad emotional when it comes to the horses, they're like my big four legged babies. I hate feeling helpless when it comes to them, when it's so obvious that they're hurting and don't know how to ask for relief.
As Woodrow makes his way out from under the pecan tree I can't help but smile. As he stood dozing, the other geldings ambled away from him, intent on finding more tender shoots of grass to munch no doubt. When he woke from his nap, he jerked his head up, realizing he stood alone-and he trotted off. No limping, no bobbing of his head or hesitation to stride out across the trap. He's resigned himself to thrusting his head through the fence, stealing bites from our yard of freshly mowed grass....once again, in the shade. He's a happy sort, it's never hard to spot him. Look for the closest shady spot, and you'll find him. He's my faithful steed through and through-I believe he would eat rocks if I offered them from the palm of my hand. A short whistle and a "Ro Ro...come on!" will bring him to the barn lot as fast as he's comfortable with. It never fails to bring a smile to my face, he's as predictable as the day is long. When it comes to matters of the feed bucket and his belly, make no mistake, that feed in the trough is worth all the grass in the pasture to him! He's always up for one more bite of whatever it is that you might have...
And he's not above lipping at pockets for treats! He learned quickly that Jackson will bring treats just as long as he would stand at the gate with his head down where Jackson could pet him. I love to watch Jackson with the geldings. All four of them become different guys when he comes around...their heads drop, ears come up, and for a minute or two they even stop their fighting. Looking for apple flavored horse treats, bites of carrot and pieces of cattle cake are all that's on their minds when the little man is around.

Jul 15, 2009

I'm one of those people that has to believe that God has a sense of humor. More than that, I think I believe that so that I can justify thing to myself sometimes....that being said, I'll relay my tale.
I realize that with all things considered it could have been much worse, but what happened is still so disappointing and disheartening. I spent seven or eight months watching my belly and Woodrow's grow bigger-mine from my baby girl's rapid development and Woodrow's from his constant consumption of grass and hay. I was happy to turn him out and give him a break for awhile, a good lay off never hurts a solid, finished horse like him. More often than not, they're all the better for it when you bring them back from their little vacation. As it was, I had been a nervous wreck about things--I'm the type that like to be on one everyday until I think they're "ready", then I'll relax things a bit and go on an every other day basis to keep a horse legged up. With Woodrow that's always worked best for him, once he's in shape he really is able to stay in condition with just the most minimal amount of riding you can imagine. It's really handy in a situation like mine, when a "minimal amount" of riding is all he's going to get at times. I was extremely hesitant about the whole thing, but the more I rode him the better he got. He was soft and responsive, more so than when I had been running and competing on him last winter. His feet weren't in the best shape, but his feet are always a tad on the shoddy side, no matter how often Jason gets under him to trim or shoe him. I suppose that's just part of him.
He came back so quickly and easily that I was elated! I wasn't too far behind myself, just a little "off". Not riding at all, let alone competing would be hard on anyone, so I was so happy with how we were doing. I had been praying--night and day, day and night that I'd be able to sit in the middle of him and ride him as best as I could. I truly believe the good Lord had heard me, and it was apparent to me, at least, when ever I was on Woodrow. We were just in a groove, man! It was great. We placed at the little Warm Up that the round up club had last weekend, and I knew exactly what I needed to do to be able to jockey him to a win...I had to sit up, hustle him and stay IN THE MIDDLE!! I had been on my knees every day, every night, just asking for whatever it was that I needed to be able to stay with my horse. I wanted it desperately, it was so close, I knew it was within reach if I just asked someone who could really help me.
We had someone coming to look at my filly Monday evening, and it was bothering me a little. I was excited that someone was interested in her, but was still a little melancholy at the thought of actually selling her. Jason went out to catch her, with my phone in his pocket. He'd been using my phone to field all of the numerous calls we were getting about Barbie, so he didn't want to miss any of them while he caught her for me, before I gave her a good grooming. It seemed like forever before I heard from him--and when he called the house, I automatically knew something had to have been amiss. He was hesitant to tell me, but did his best to tell me that my horse had hurt himself some how. Immediately tears filled my eyes...I could tell from the tone of his voice that it wasn't the sort of thing that would be fine and wasn't going to bother him at all. As I walked out, I could hear the water running, coursing it's way down Woodrow's left hind leg. A think ribbon of water snaked it's way through the lot, a testament to how long Jason had been hosing him down for me. I raised the chain latch on the gate, watching as Jason moved around from side to side of the horse, trying to soak his foot as best he could. I made my way towards them, all the while chewing my bottom lip to fight back the tears. When I was a teenager I was never very emotional at all, but as I grew older and had our kids something in me changed. My emotions don't obey me now as they used to, it's near to impossible for me to hide how I'm feeling and keep things safely under the surface. The dirt under my feet had lumps, orangish-brown blood clots. As I caught a ragged breath, I realized that he'd been hurt for some time, and I hadn't even known. His left hind foot was sporting a good sized cut just about his right heel bulb, just through the "meat" for lack of a better term. It was tender, he was none too thrilled with Jason's attempts to spray scarlet oil on it, or to wrap it with gauze and vet wrap. As the evening sun bore down on us, it hit me. I had spent weeks trying to get him in shape again, trying to discern whether or not we were fit to compete again, or whether we would just be donating! It was bad enough that my poor guy stood there in obvious pain, shuffling back and forth from foot to foot, but to realize that the entire process was going to have to be repeated again, and at an even slower pace this time was almost too much.
We turned him out with our nurse cow as the prospective buyers pulled in our drive way. To their credit, they're nice people, and I can honestly say I wouldn't mind if they took Miss Barbie home. I'm thankful they showed up when they did. I had to hold what little composure I had left together, rather than be a big blubbering baby as we tried to talk about Barbie. The depression over it all didn't catch up with me till later, but as I fought with it I realized how much worse it truly could have been. I was thankful it hadn't been any worse, and that I had a husband who could take good care of him for me. I know things happen for a reason, so I'm trying not to dwell on it. It seems like I'm doing just the opposite by laying it all out here for the veritable world to see by putting it in a blog, but really it's more like I'm purging it from my mind. It's hard to talk to people and not show how disappointed that I am. It's the time of year that everyone is going somewhere or doing something, and want to know when you're up, what you're headed to next. I just have to hang my head and smile a little, knowing that my horse is right where he needs to be, munching grass and on the road to recovery. This break with him will give me a little time to ride Smoke, who desperately needs it! He has a tendency to be a snot head if given the chance, and here lately he has done his best to act as though he has no manners what so ever. Smoke was loping a pattern last summer before he was put on the back burner, maybe now is the best time to bring him back to the forefront!

Jul 13, 2009

So this past weekend has brought about a change or two, to say the least. My filly that was my pride and joy and *futurity prospect* is now on the market, and I'm back to entering a can chase or two. That being said, here's the dish on my filly--
2006 Sorrel filly, cute as can be, super athletic, extremely smart! Has had groundwork done, stands to have her feet trimmed, but hasn't been started under saddle yet. I wanted to give her plenty of time to mature, ha, I guess it may have just been too long! Her full pedigree can be seen at: http://www.allbreedpedigree.com/lch+checkersgal
I'm pretty bummed to be selling her, but she's so nice she deserves to go somewhere where she'll be appreciated and worked with every day. She has too much potential to stand around in my pasture being bored every day. Give a holler if you might be interested, or if you know of anyone that's looking, she's priced right for her type. She's got the breeding and the build to excel at just about anything if you give her some time. Barrels, poles, roping, even the broodmare band--she has bloodlines that aren't a dime a dozen! She's my "Barbie Doll"....

I entered a little jackpot Sunday evening, sort of an acid test to see where me and ol' Woodrow were at! We did extremely well on our first two barrels, but, uh---I just about fell off coming out of our second barrel. Lost my reins, which made it nearly impossible to set him up with a good pocket for our last turn...as such, we blew by it real wide, causing us to sabotage what could have been the winning run for the entire jackpot. As it was, (HA HA HA) we won the 3D even with our awful run. Now, if I can just keep my rear end in the middle of my saddle, we'll be golden!
It was a great feeling to have that first one over, since it's been over seven months since I had been entered anywhere at all on him.

Jul 6, 2009

*Pen Riders and Totem Poles*

It's hard to whistle if you're smiling. Did you know that? Too hard to pucker! I run across that problem from time to time, as I did this afternoon. My husband was supposed to be home in about fifteen minutes, well, give or take a customer or two that wanted to visit. All four of our geldings were penned up in the lot behind our little block barn, a result of their arrogant and what some might call "rude" behavior in the last few days. Well, to be honest, that "some" would be my husband, and he didn't perhaps call it rude behavior, he um--called it lots of things, rude being one of the kinder terms! With the onset of cooler weather and a touch of rain in our last few days, our boys took a liking to their freedom on their little patch of grass. Coming in at night to eat a meager supper of wheat mids had even become less popular than it had before in their little bunch, what with the grass being so green out past the catch pen...
Long story short--they all get a day or two worth of dry lot! I love to watch them, the dynamics of a group of horses is something I could study and comment on from now on. The little idiosyncrasies of each one, where he is in the pecking order, basically, who's the boss!

The herd numbers four these days, my two blue horses, Jackson's "big horse", and my husband's spitfire of a sorrel bronc. As it was when there were just two, it was an even keel. Smoke and Sorrely were fairly amicable to one another, each had his own feed tub and they liked it that way. They had plenty of grass, a shady spot that fit both of them standing nose to tail--life was good!! Then I added a barrel horse to the herd...that threw a kink in the works! He had been a tad higher on the totem pole at his last home so I heard it told, but you'd have never known it to see him out with Dumb and Dumber! It was the most horrendous squealing fit you've ever heard the day we turned them all out, so bad in fact that the newest addition hurt himself with in the first ten minutes of being added to the mix. He eventually secured his spot in the pecking order, but not without taking his share of scrapes and kicks along the way.
Our son's horse gets thrown in with the other three from time to time, just to let him get his fill of grass between his dry lot sessions. He has a better outlook on being a good kids' horse when he's not too revved up on good green forage, so he spends some of his days in the barn lot from time to time. "Romeo" is not one to take an insult lightly, he makes no bones about his spot at the feed trough, and will remind the others just where his spot is as he uses teeth and hind feet to reinforce that point, much to the dismay of those on the receiving end of those teeth or hooves!

As I walked out this afternoon to catch and halter all four of the geldings, I had to smile. I had been whistling as I walked from the house to the barn, and my barrel horse had heard me. He stood with his ears up, standing right by the gate, waiting for me. He's always the first to be caught, especially if there's a feed bucket involved. Even if the other boys decided to throw caution to the wind and ignore the sweet smells of a feed bucket, Woodrow is ever so dependable, making his way into the pen for a bite of feed before the other guys realize they're missing out. He ambles across the pen towards me, as I sort out which halter I'll use on him for the day. I've slowly but surely started to get him back in shape, he's had quite a lay-off since I got pregnant and had our baby girl. Close to six months, so he's had a good break.
He's the low man on the totem pole as far as the herd dynamic goes, so he's always eager to please when it comes to the humans in his life.

My husband's sorrel gelding and my own blue gelding were cowboy's horses, adept at the finer arts of being a pen rider's horse at a feedlot. Both are excellent examples of what "having a job" can do for a horse, and by that I mean they have both put in countless hours with Jason in the saddle, daylight to dark and then some, unloading trucks, pulling sick cattle, dragging the occasional chronic that just didn't quite make it. There's no tougher proving ground for a horse than a feedlot, in my opinion. In the drier days, they learn to tramp through the dust that's always thick in the air, and in the wet days they work in mud that can come up to their knees. They learn to handle their feet on wet concrete, to sidepass to a gate, and how to walk in a bunch of cattle with their head down and their ears up, staying calm and quiet as they go. I've always heard it said that patience is a virtue, and for a pen rider's horse, truer words have never been spoken. Saddled before daylight as the massive feed trucks rumble past, they munch their hay or grain with a hind foot cocked, barely noticing the ruckus going on all around them.

Cattle bawl as they hear the sounds of the routine they've come to know; tractors and trucks that bring them hay and feed make their ways down the concrete and gravel alleys that border the feed bunks that will soon be teeming full of all sorts of bovine dietary concoctions. Distiller's grains, ground alfalfa, molasses, corn, all in the name of a pound of gain. Cattle know no holidays-they can't read a calendar or a clock either, for that matter. Every day is the same to them, especially when it's feeding time. In the western world there's always been a term, "Ride For The Brand." Well sir, when you work at a feedlot, that's not the exception, it's the rule. Trucks with grain arrive to unload at five in the morning, trucks to haul cattle away don't show up until 12:30 at night. Cattle that show up at three in the morning stay in a quarantine pen for an hour to settle, then are worked an hour later to keep them from getting too stressed in the heat of the day. People ask, "What's that smell?!?" as they drive by...the answer that comes from the mouths of the folks I know is always, "Money."
I went out to *doctor* on Woodrow this morning. He's doing better, putting weight on his hind feet, getting around just fine. He will limp if he gets out of a walk, but that's not too big of an issue for Woodrow, he's a laid back kind of guy. After I gave him his "medicine" this morning, I wondered to myself if he would be as good when I brought him back from this layoff as he was the last time. I just hope he comes out of it sound--it looks so gnarly!

I have always been one of those that thinks a horse that is in good physical shape is much less likely to injure themselves. That being said, I wish that was the same for people! When I'm out of shape, I tend to stay in the house and avoid doing much that will get me hurt in the first place, but horses don't get that option. When I first started riding again, I'm not sure which one of us was in worse shape to tell the truth, me or my horse!! Too many months spent lounging, not doing quite as much "cardio" as we should have I suppose! His lay off was a direct correlation to my own...although I'm a full time, stay at home mom, I did take a form of maternity leave that most folks never even think about.

I took maternity leave from my own passion--my horses. It was hard for me to walk into the tack room day after day, looking at my saddles and bridles as they quite literally sat and collected dust all those months. Riding was not banned by my doctor, nor was it something I or my husband felt was a danger to me or our baby. As the months passed, our baby and my belly continued to grow, to the point that it was becoming cumbersome to lift myself into the saddle on my own. That was my biggest indication that it was indeed time to scale back on my hours in the saddle. I continued to be very active even after I stopped riding, taking care of bottle calves and pitching in to do my fair share of the chores that go right along with a herd of roping calves and our saddle horses. I only stayed in on the coldest and nastiest days, when my common sense over ruled my desire to be out and about. As I got bigger my balance went haywire, so anytime it was slick from mud or ice, I stayed inside. A good girlfriend of mine had broken two bones in her foot when she was not quite seven months pregnant--a result of flip-flops and railroad ties around a parking area at a favorite tack store. I took that occurrence to heart!!! No flip-flops for me, not for the entire nine months that I carried my baby girl.

I suppose more than anything, this little set back has been a wakeup call. It made me get back on my other horse. My "B-String" as a good friend called it, all though it seems ironic that my B-String could be as good or better than my A-String, if I'd get my rear end out there and put the hours into him. Smoke had an even longer lay off than Woodrow; he'd been put on the backburner as I competed on Woodrow, and after I got pregnant he was usually too fresh to fool with. There's no time like the present to literally get back in the saddle, on our way to becoming a team again. :)