Sometimes I wonder if I’m meant to have horses. Given my tendency to clumsiness, maybe not. Here’s the latest: On March 26, just as the days were getting warmer and the fields were getting greener, and Bill and I were looking forward to washing all the winter mud off our horses and saddling them up again, I broke my foot. I wish I had a cool story – maybe something involving a rodeo and finally giving Moonshine her day in the sun – but the sad truth is, I slipped on a used puppy pad. Yep, that’s it. We have an old dog in kidney and liver failure who is a bit incontinent, so we keep puppy pads by the back door. I hadn’t picked one up out of sheer laziness; I stepped outside, over it, to let the littlest dog out, and when I stepped back in, I forgot all about the darn thing and stepped right on it. Turns out they’re pretty slippery. We went to the emergency clinic (it was Saturday, of course – all emergencies happen at night or on weekends) and the PA on duty said it was just a sprain. On Monday the radiologist called and said it was definitely more than a sprain. By Wednesday my foot was in a pretty pink cast and I was on crutches. (After about a week on crutches I switched to a knee walker – a wheeled walker you put your knee on like a scooter. Much better than crutches!) I wasn’t allowed to put any weight on that foot until the orthopedic doc gave me the okay on April 27 – now I can stand on it (on both feet, not just that one) but still can’t walk on it. The doctor says at my next appointment I may get the okay to walk on it. Two months off the foot all together. Two months of SPRING. What bad luck!
And you’ll note it was my right foot…no driving. I also cannot go anywhere with uneven ground: for instance, to the barn. I certainly can’t go into the barn with a horse, since I wouldn’t be able to maneuver out of his way if necessary. Can’t feed them or water them or even pet them! Poor Bill has had complete responsibility for all the farm chores all this time. Except when he traveled on business, then my poor dad had to take over. I never thought I’d miss feeding horses in pouring down rain, or shoveling stalls, or scrubbing buckets…but I sure do now. I can’t wait to be on two feet again. Even after I’m allowed to walk again, I suspect I’ll baby my foot for a while and probably won’t be riding for another month to be sure.
If any of you have broken a foot or leg, I’d love to hear your recovery story/advice.
There was a slight chance of rain and the sky looked a little darker than usual for 5 PM but as I headed up to the barn to feed the horses I had no idea I was about to be trapped. I poured feed into buckets as the spigot was opened changing the light drizzle to a downpour. Our horses don’t seem to care about being wet but I rushed to get them in so I could remain as dry as possible. Our barn has a metal roof that seems to magnify the sound of rain so it sounds like hail. Soon the rain was followed by hail and the wind whipped through the open center aisle as I took cover in the hayloft. I wasn’t going anywhere. Fortunately, the storm lasted only 10 minutes which gave me time to think about how often this happens to me in east Tennessee. We sure get a lot of rain here. I learned a long time ago to always bring a phone but no one could hear me over that racket so I resorted to texting to let my family know where I was. And then I just sat there and watch the rain and muddy torrent of water rush down our hilled pasture. I need to work on erosion control.
Of course, I also needed to put out a few round bales of hay so once the rain stopped, I hopped into our tractor and made my way downhill in the newly slick mud. Interestingly I had almost no control in two-wheel drive going downhill. I know the key is to keep moving (though not too fast) but the front tires acted like snowmobile skids. Going uphill was no possible in 2wd, even with the rear axle locked (so both tires would spin at the same time). If you like in a place with clay soil and some elevation, don’t let anyone try to convince you that you only need a 2wd tractor. We use 4wd in our tractor very often. For more information about that, click the 4wd tag on this post.
Have you been trapped in your barn or shed by storms like this?
Although we’ve been to lots of horse shows over the years, today marks the first day we’re participating in an event class. Specifically, I’m running Romeo in the barrels. Here I am the morning of the event, nervous and realizing I wish I had spent more time practicing. But I promised myself I’d do this and I know it will be good experience for me and Romeo. He is experienced so he mostly knows what to do. It’s a matter of me being able to give him the right cues at the right times.
Having never been to a show as a participant, I’m amazed at what goes into preparation. If you’re a regular participant, you already know this but you can’t really just load and go. That’s especially true for the first show of the season. There’s tack to clean, a horse to clean, making sure…well, let me make a list:
Check horse trailer for wasp nest. (I almost learn this the hard way last year)
Check tires on horse trailer for proper inflation and dry rot/wear
Clean tack (watch for wasps!)
Assemble grooming kit for show grooming
Locate Coggins papers (can’t trailer without them)
Find my bumper spurs (and straps)
Run through a list of all tack needed and load into tack trunk
Charge camera batteries and remember to bring them
Get cash for entry fee, class fees and concession stand (we’ll be there a long time)
Load hay and a bring water bucket
Bring lawn chairs (sitting on the ground gets old)
Bring umbrella (chance of rain today)
Optional but maybe bring a cooler and sodas
That list may not look bad but some of those things take time, like cleaning tack. I’m glad the show isn’t until 3 PM because I need some time to run through this list.
“All the pretty horses come running to her. Even the dust devils pray, they’ll catch her eye.” This is one line from the lyrics of a song called “Green and Dumb” by Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. The song is based on the hit movie and best selling novel (author Cormac McCarthy) by the same name. We find ourselves being drawn to songs about horses and the horse or cowboy lifestyle and this has always been one of our favorites.
Thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can hear the full song below. Update: sorry – had to pull the song sample since the company that provided it, Lala.com, is no longer operational. You can hear the full song in this music video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvK-PhKGHi8
Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers is one of our favorite bands. Their songs remind us of our southwestern heritage and the romanticized cowboy borderlands in Arizona.
As a horse-person, do you find yourself collecting songs about horses, too? If so, what are your favorites? Have you heard the song above before now?
We have a few other favorites I’ll bring up in later posts.
Hey, it hasn’t been a month yet. I forgot I shot this 21 second video wishing you a Merry Christmas and I don’t want it to go to waste. Mikki found some horse reindeer ears on sale. Turns out the lights work on only one of them but they’re still cute. Our poor horses put up with the brief humiliation. The “ears” affix to their halters. No horses were harmed in the making of this video. We hope you had a great Christmas and that 2010 will be an awesome year for you and the horses you love.
I thought Valentine was limping a little when I let him out of the barn this morning. As I watched him throughout the morning, it seemed to me something was wrong. Although he is more of a loner, this morning he wasn’t eating when I put out hay and he just stood there next to the other horses looking sad. And he seemed to be standing funny but it’s hard to tell with him. He’s such a big Walking Horse, with dominant hips. Worried, I haltered him, walked him up the muddy hill to the barn, and hosed off his feet and legs while he ate grass in my back yard while I had a look. Everything seemed normal. So I dragged him away from the yummy grass and took him for a walk down the street. It’s not the first time. In fact, I do it pretty frequently to exercise the horses and to keep them familiar with things that otherwise might spook them, like the neighbors barking dogs, cars and tree stumps. After a nice walk I was able to determine that he’s walking normal and there is no swelling and no visible lacerations. Maybe he was just still from being in the barn all night. He drank a normal amount of water, ate all of his overnight hay and his poop looked okay. After returning him to the barn for further observation, I noticed he was eating hay, though I gave him the best we had.
I did notice it’s time for a hoof trim and some new shoes. I want to check into those shoes that are slip-resistant on pavement, too. The street in front of our house has some elevation and Valentine seemed to slip a little on the smooth pavement.
Incidentally, in the photo above I am not holding the lead rope correctly. I figured this out eventually, that you don’t want the rope wrapped around your hand because the horse can move suddenly and then the rope would tighten around your hand. There are times when the safest thing to do is to let go of the lead rope and you can’t do that when it’s tight around your hand.
So do you take your horse for walks down the street?
A belated Merry Christmas to all (and if you don’t celebrate Christmas, we hope you had a great day, too). We’ve been busy this Christmas season and I have to admit we didn’t hang stockings for our horses or do anything really special for them this year besides feeding them peppermint horse snacks Christmas day. We did give (and receive) various horse/western gifts. How about you? Did you do anything special for your horses this year? Any interesting horse gifts?
I didn’t realize how much I took it for granted but I learned this week that east Tennessee has a luxurious amount of oxygen. Business took me to Denver last week and since Colorado is a long way from Tennessee, I had to fly in the day before to be there in time for a morning meeting Wednesday. As luck would have it, frequent readers Laura and Rich live in Denver and it just so happened there was a window of opportunity for me to meet up with them for a quick ride, barn tour and dinner. So I left home in my barn jeans and favorite riding boots, hoping that the smell of the farm on my boots wasn’t too strong. I’m not sure I notice it as much anymore but surely my fellow passengers would. Surprisingly, going through security was easier in my boots. No untying of shoes; just slip off and back on at the other side.
Now we live what’s called the western lifestyle on our farm but everything is definitely more western out west. Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona…it’s easier feeling western out there and that heritage is reflected all over the place. The Denver airport had western-styled shops, the entrance to the airport had a giant blue bronco, reared up and angrily staring at travelers entering the airport grounds. It’s eyes even glowed red. The local magazines spoke of rodeos and even my hotel had a western theme. I had been to Denver before but that was before horses were a part of our lives and this time I felt more welcome.
Laura met me at the barn and introduced me to my borrowed ride “Socks”, a gelding who was calm enough to use in a youth equine program. Many thanks to his owner, whose name escapes me but who interestingly visits east Tennessee once a year not 30 minutes from where we live. I hope to reciprocate with a Tennessee ride with her next summer. Laura lent me her 16 inch saddle which fit me perfectly. We tacked up and headed out. We tested the horses in a large outdoor arena and once we were satisfied with their disposition that day, we headed out past the barn. I lucked out again with the weather. Laura and Rich tell me the weather can fluctuate a lot this time of year and on this day it just happened to be 75 and very pleasant. Perfect riding weather. Laura and I toured the countryside, avoiding prairie dog holes (which are quite large). Only two scary things attacked us: man hole covers (why do they use suck threatening devices?) and a jogger, if you can believe it. I saw her in the distance and warned Laura but once the horses realized something was sneaking up on us, they became unnerved. I didn’t mind and was expecting it. With horses, no matter how experienced the horse is, the rider must be prepared for reactions to things the horse perceives as a threat. And Laura is far more experienced than I am so this was no big deal. In fact Laura suggested the right response, which was for us to turn the horses so they could see what was coming up behind us. The jogger even came over gently so the horses could sniff her.
The beautiful sun set over the Rockies so we put the horses up and headed out for dinner. Rich wasn’t able to join us for the ride (darn work getting in the way of recreation!) but we met up for dinner at a restaurant serving tapas called The 9th Door in downtown Denver. Tapas is an appetizer style meal where you order a bunch of items and then share. It’s a lot fancier than any meal I’ve had where I live and I appreciated the unusual dining experience.
I love it when I can combine my love of horses with a business trip and this was one of those rare opportunities to do so. Thanks to Laura and Rich for an afternoon of fun and fellowship and I hope Mikki and the kid can come out to meet you both on a future visit. We’d love to reciprocate if you’re ever in east Tennessee.
I know you’ve heard it before: “X is my life,” or “He eats, breathes and sleeps X.” Well, I’m hear to tell you that horses have actually become our life. Occasionally, work or sleep or some other mundane thing intrudes, but generally everything we do in some way relates to the fact that we have horses.
This weekend, for instance, we drove all the way to Knoxville (about an hour) to rent a chipper/shredder at Home Depot on Saturday. We spent about six hours collecting fallen trees and branches in the pasture and sending them through that terrifying, but oddly satisfying, maw of wood death. Then on Sunday, we drove the hour back to Knoxville (missing church, btw) to return the behemoth within our 24-hour rental period. We are both so sore we can hardly move and have stuffy noses from the dust, and our bank account is $150 lighter (not counting the gas to drive up there and back twice) – but about 27 tons of deadfall is now nice neat mulch. Of course we want our pasture to look nice, and that’s probably why most people would spend their Saturday clearing it out, but frankly, we could have left all that stuff indefinitely. That’s a lot of hard work, and the “natural” look is best for a pasture, don’t you think? But our horses walk through the woods out there all the time, and we’ve been concerned for their safety for months now. So once again, we devoted a weekend to horse maintenance. Last weekend…well, I don’t actually remember last weekend, but past weekends have included putting up hay, fixing fences, fixing barn stalls, clearing weeds in the pasture, driving to the city to get horse supplies – oh, and actual riding, once in a while. Our weekends coming up will include installing a new outlet to plug in the stock tank de-icer, building out the unfinished stall for Romeo, fixing up the old barn for hay storage, installing an electric fence…and that’s just what has to be done before winter.
I wish we had known ahead of time how time-consuming horse ownership really is. On second thought, maybe it was better not to know.