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What to do with all of this extra oxygen

What to do with all of this extra oxygen

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.

Colorado ridingLaura 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.

Big Texan Horse Hotel

Big Texan Horse Hotel

A friend of mine is getting ready to take his first solo car trip across the U.S. While planning his trip, he came across the Big Texan Steak Ranch and Horse Hotel and sent me a link because they have horse stalls for traveling horse owners. We’ve driven across the U.S. multiple times now and recall seeing all the billboards for the Big Texan (eat this giant steak in an hour and it’s free!) but never paid attention to their equine features. We don’t plan on traveling to Texas with our horses but if we did, this looks like a fun place to stay! They have (from their website):

  • 20 “Texas Size” Stalls 12′ X 12′ (Sand or Dirt)
  • A 60-foot round pen
  • 4 Gated Runs Complimentary During Day Use
  • Secondary 6-foot Perimeter Chain Link Fence
  • 55 Room Motel open 24 hours
  • Truck & Trailer Parking
  • Giant steaks!

I’m sure there are others but this is the first time I’ve ever seen mention of a “horse hotel”. Do you know of any others? Have any of you ever stayed at the Big Texan?

By the way, if you have 12×12 stalls in your barn, you can impress your horses by telling them their stalls are “Texas Size”!

For more information on the Big Texan Steak Ranch and Horse Hotel, visit their website:

Vacationing with horses on my mind

Vacationing with horses on my mind

Saddle in the sunset

I just got back from a mini-vacation to the west coast that involved visiting family, spending a few days with a good friend, a couple of days of driving across the desert southwest and even some horseback riding. My thanks to Mikki for doing all the horse chores herself and to the Kid for keeping her company while I was gone. I’m sure there is a trip for her coming up that will have me in the barn doing all the chores alone for at least a few days.

Wherever I go, I usually bring a camera. Hey, I like to take pictures. I also knew I’d be driving (riding as a passenger, actually) across Arizona and California and thought I’d be able to snap some photos of horses and horse property along the way. I ended up spending a good deal of time with horses on my mind. Over the coming days, I’ll post about some of the interesting things I saw/did, horse-related. One of the funny things I noticed myself doing is wondering how my horses would like it where I was visiting. I have this habit of thinking about what it would be like to live in the places I visit. I’ve lived in both Arizona and California so this wasn’t much of a stretch. Except this time I wondered how I would get my horses there, where we would put them and what we’d have to do to keep horses in that climate. Oh, and how much it would cost to have horses in these places.

I had the opportunity and privilege to hang out with Gary and Jennifer, friends of my step-son Chris in Maricopa, Arizona who showed me just how different it was managing horses there compared with what’s common in Tennessee. For example, hay isn’t cheap in the desert and the hay available locally in Maricopa was of poor quality. Instead, they feed their horses pellets made from alfalfa and molasses. Also, this time of year, horses in the low desert don’t really need much in the way of shelter. In fact, most of the horse property I saw there didn’t include any overhead shelter. It just doesn’t rain there much and it doesn’t get very cold. And boy is it dusty! The dust is fine, like powder. I’m not sure if I prefer thick dust or the slimy red clay we have here in Tennessee.

Saddled horse

One thing I realized on this trip is just how many people have horses in Arizona and the desert portions of southern California. I just never noticed it before. It’s kind of like buying a car and from that point forward noticing how many of those you see on the road. One of the neatest things about owning a horse in the desert is the sheer amount of space in which to ride. You could ride for days through state or BLM land on horseback. Gary and Jennifer were gracious hosts, allowing my step-son and I to ride a couple of their horses. This was one of the highlights of my trip. It was freezing cold, the sun was going down fast and Chris and I got to ride off into the sunset on “our ponies,” singing “Should’ve Been A Cowboy.”  Except for the temperature, it was perfect. The sun went down and the stars lit up, one by one. Chris and I shivered in our boots but it was worth it. How many people got to ride horses into the sunset in the beautiful southwestern desert today? Not many. I will remember that ride fondly for some time to come.

A couple of other horse observations during this trip:

  • Desert horses seem to enjoy eating dry grass and tumbleweed.
  • Desert horse manure dries fast.
  • Desert horses seem to enjoy eating their own manure.
  • I prefer horses that neck-rein.
  • It’s exciting riding a horse in the dark.

More on this later but I do want to say thanks to Gary and Jennifer for saddling up their horses and entrusting one of them to me. Thanks to Chris for humoring me by agreeing to ride horses in the cold and dark.

How to Travel When You Own Horses

How to Travel When You Own Horses

California or bust cartoonI was out of town for twelve days and left poor Bill to take care of the horses while I was gone. I returned with my dad (my mom arrived when I left), so we wanted to take our company to places around our cool new hometown. Some of those places are a “fer piece” from our homestead, so it brought up a question we’ve been skirting around since the arrival of our equine adoptees: What to do with the horses if we’re gone overnight?

The simplest thing to do is to leave them in the pasture with plenty of food and water and let them fend for themselves. I know people who do this, but I can’t. I know they have been fine out there every single day, but I couldn’t live with myself if something happened and no one was around to take care of it. But it is an option.

What I’d prefer to do, because it’s the least complicated and least stressful for the horses, is have a friend or neighbor come by while we’re gone. We’re still cultivating friends here, and while there are some mighty fine people here, and we like them a lot, we’re just not comfortable imposing on anyone that way yet. In a lot of places, there are companies you can pay to do the same thing…kind of like horse-sitting.

Another option is to board your horses. If we were to be gone for any length of time – say, a week – this is probably what we would do. That is, if we found a place close by our house. And if we actually owned a horse trailer, which we don’t. But that’s another option for those of you in a sizeable town who do own a trailer.

The most fun option and the most complicated is to take your horses with you. There are many “horse destination” vacations across the country. Some are simple campsites where you drive your horse trailer in, ride off on a trail in the morning and stake your horses next to the campfire at night. Kinda like the wild west. Others are ritzier – nice hotel, fancy barn, and paddock for the horses. A riding vacation sounds wonderful to me, but again we’re missing the all-important horse transportation device – the trailer. Sigh. Someday, though.

Our travel plans are further complicated by the fact that we have three dogs, a cat, a goat, and a lizard. So when we took Mom and Dad to Shiloh Battlefield on Saturday, we were obliged to rush halfway across the state in the morning and return, yawning, at 3:00 a.m. to let the sleepy horses into the barn and let the dogs, whose eyes were floating and legs were crossed, out. Ah, the glamorous life of the pet owner.