Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Walk Like an Egyptian

During my visit to Colorado I plan on attending the King Tut exhibit at the Denver Museum of Natural History.

In about the third grade I became obsessed with Egyptian history. I swear, if it wasn't for the horses, I'd be in the Valley of the Kings digging up some long-forgotten shards of pottery right now. I'm not sure why it's always fascinated me so, but over the years I've coped with my passion in a variety of odd ways:

1. When I was little my parents drug my entire family to Denver to see the Ramses Exhibition. Not sure my siblings appreciated it, but I sure did.

2. I had an Egyptian-themed bathroom. I will again (I still have all the decor).

3. The top item on my bucket list is to see the sunrise over the Great Pyramids at Giza.

4. I have an entire Mead notebook filled with Egyptian-themed drawings from grade school.

5. I can still name most of the main Egyptian gods and tell you the story behind them. For example, Osiris, lord of the underworld, was put back together by his lovely wife Isis after his brother Seth chopped up his body into a fourteen pieces and scattered them up and down the nile.

Isn't that a lovely story?

6. I tested out of 8th grade English so I could take "Advanced Archeology."

7. When I watch "The Mummy" I get mad about how inaccurate a lot of the history is, but thankfully Brendan Fraser's physique more than makes up for it....

8. People ask me where I'd like to travel to. One of my answers is the temple at Abu Simbel. Then I get weird looks, or just silence. Then I proceed to tell them that it is an Egyptian temple honoring Ramses II and his favorite queen Nefertari and it was relocated in the 1960's due to a dam. Then I try to explain that I'd have to be there 60 days before or after the Winter Solstace so I could see the light event on the inside of the temple (alignment with the sun to shine upon the far inside statues).

Then the people just shake their heads and walk away. I have no idea why.

9. In my community college honor's art class we built an Egyptian Temple. We had our photo in the paper and everything.

10. I'm going to this exhibit. Enough said.

All the cops in the donut shop say...


Monday, August 30, 2010

Someone Get Out Their Spatula!!

In case you have no clue as to what I'm talking about (which is probably par for the course, I'm guessing), the title reference is from the movie Run Fatboy Run. The spatula is the motivator.

And I'm going to need a motivator.

I'm signing up for my first 5K run! Eek!

The very first Prairie Fire Wichita Marathon is being held on October 10th. Of course I won't be doing the marathon, but I am going to sign up for the 5K.

That's 3.1 miles. Right now I can run 1.5 miles. So, it's a little over double what I can do now. Training is definitely in order. Strict dieting is definitely in order. Pain medication, after it's done, will definitely be in order. And perhaps a stretcher.

I'm posting it here, so I can't back out. I know you won't let me, right?

Right? Hello? Is anybody out there?

So I have about 8 weeks. I can do it. I know I can.

I'll just need to visit the wizard and ask for some endurance. Now where's that yellow brick road again?

Run Fatgirl, Run.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Weekend Rest is for Wusses

Yesterday was a gitter-done day:

1. Moose is basically halter broke now. He leads and I can put the halter on him without much ado.

So yesterday I put his fly mask on for the first time. He was pretty good about it. Even the velcro sound didn't bother him (which usually spooks the horses the first couple of times). He's a good boy!

B. I got new tires put on my car, washed it and got the oil changed. Do I hear "Roadtrip Time?!"

Russell and Sophie decide to run into it a few times while playing, just to make sure the tires are dog-proof.

3. Thanks to my sister, barn-kitty has a name! Meet Milton.

I shall love him and hug him and squeeze him and pet him and call him George Milton.

4. I decided now that Milton is somewhat tamed, I'd let him out of his cage and get used to being around in the house.

However, having a puppy and a kitten in the house leads to a somewhat chaotic environment.

Milton's not one bit afraid of Russell. In fact, most of the time he's the instigator.

See, if you floss way back here, your breath will be much better....

5. I clipped and washed ALL of the dogs.

I gave Russell a schnauzer-type cut (or tried to, anyway). Sophie thankfully doesn't need much clipping. Charlie got his usual three-hour grooming session. Everyone looks so purty now.

It's quitten-time at Tara,

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Breaking Moose

No, not that Moose. And I don't even want to know how that one's broken!

This Moose! My Moose :)

OK, here's my story (and I'm sticking to it):

When I got Moose, I asked to have his momma and him both come to my place so I could go ahead and get him halter broke before he got too big. Well, when he arrived, I had no idea...I mean...how can a two-month old foal even get that big?!

Thankfully my friend had the good sense to put a halter on him in the trailer, before he even had a chance to escape it's confinement.

So for about a week, Moose was halter broke.

I even led him around a few times, just teaching him to yield to pressure, etc. But then I got worried that he'd catch it on something, so one day, I took it off.

And I haven't been able to get a halter on him since.

Well, except for Thursday night. I did finally figure out how to wrangle a Moose. Thankfully he is friendly and he's more of a lover than a fighter, so all it took was getting a thick, cotton lungeline around his neck so that if he did try to escape I still had a good hold on him, but one that wasn't going to hurt him in any way.

So Thursday night Moose and I finally conquered the ticklishness of his nose and got his halter on.

Once it was on, he led very well. He's not against being worked with per se. He's just awfully ticklish on his nose :)

And that, my friends, is the story of how to halter break a Moose. Any questions?

Pssst. You can all wake up now.

I always like to keep my audiences riveted,

Friday, August 27, 2010


Tuesday I got home from my stuffy office at work to find an absolutely brilliant day. I parked my car over by the barn (had a couple of bags of grain in the trunk) and as I walked towards the house I noticed something was...off.

The gate that seperates the girls from the boys was wide open.

My first thought was "Oh crap, Moose is probably hurt." My worries aren't that anyone will get bred, but that my girls are a little rough on the boys. To put it plainly, they're pretty darned bitchy. They're like an estrogen gang--they only want their guys around for making babies, and the rest are chew toys.

Literally--Fabian has bite marks on his butt to prove it.

So, I seperate the girls from the boys, especially since Moose is such a little boy. For those that don't know, Moose is still a stallion, but they don't reach breeding maturity until six months, so he's still pretty safe at his four-and-a-half months of age. Fabian is a gelding, meaning that babies will never be in his future--he had that equipment removed long ago.

Thankfully when I found the herd they were all getting along very well and Moose didn't have a scratch on him. However, on this perfect day, they were standing so perfectly well together, with perfect lighting...the only thing I was missing was a perfect camera. So, with my phone, I got these few pictures of my horses--all of them together, which was kind of nice.

Here is a shot I call "Eddie's Kids." I wish I had been able to take it with a real camera.

Bambi, Paula and Fabian. I think you can tell they are all half-siblings on some level, or is it just me? :) Eddie was a great sire.

Here's Fabian, Paula, and Bambi again, but the flies were bothering them.

Darned flies. Fabian is looking much better now days. He had me worried there for a while. He wasn't sick or anything but just not thriving. And I want my horses to thrive....

Now the whole group: Moose, Fabian, Paula and Bambi.

White, brown, white, brown....

Then the girls:

When's the food going to be here?

I got so much done Tuesday night. I worked with Moose a bit more, then I gave Fabian, Bambi, and Paula the works: trimmed their feet, dewormed them, groomed them all up and clipped their bridlepaths and faces. I was a little tired when all was said and done, but it was a good kind of tired. The accomplished-feeling sort of tired. That wonderful sort of feeling when you know that your horses are cared for at the highest level you can provide for them.

And that, my friends, is the best feeling on earth.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

American Moose

Yesterday I got the email from UC Davis with Moose's test results. He is positive for lethal white, so he will not be going to France.

I'm not disappointed at all. Actually, I surprised myself: I'm pretty darned thrilled about it! Money comes and goes, but a great horse like this is truly rare. I had looked briefly for a replacement for Moose in case he did sell, but I just couldn't find a horse that I thought could be so competitive in both halter and performance classes like I believe Moose will be. He will be an incredible show gelding, and I'll burn lots of calories trying to keep him clean. It's a perfect match!

And honestly, between you and me, I love this guy. I really do. He's already a part of the family.

So, show season is on for next year: Paula in riding events and Moose will be shown in halter and lungeline. I'll keep working with Bambi and Fabian, but they're my pinch hitters :)

Heureux que Moose seront logés en Amérique,
~Le Désordre

And Now, Our Feature Presentation

Thanks to a reader's suggestion, I was able to finally get some video of me riding Paula. Keep in mind, she has only had a handful of rides, and I'm still controlling her through her halter only (bit is in her mouth but not attached to the reins):

This video made me realize three things:

1. Paula is even more awesome than I thought. We were really having an off day today, and after seeing the video she still looks better than I could have ever imagined.

2. I had previously thought that I needed to lose more weight to not look like a whale trying to ride a shetland pony. I was right.

3. Flies trying to invade your nasal cavity should always be cut from any video evidence, or else they just make you look like you're having seizures.

I'm not quite ready for my close-up,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


First and foremost, I'm going to pre-apologize for the blatent bragging in this post. You can go ahead and close your browser right now, if you'd like, because this particular writing is going to be a pure, unabashed, one-sided discussion of how much I truly love this horse.

You've been warned.

Monday night I knew I needed to get a ride in. Although it would be nice to wait for the cooler weather, on Tuesday we were supposed to (and did indeed) get a LOT of rain, so I figured it was going to be too muddy to ride.

After work on Monday, and after working with Moose a bit, I saddled Paula up. Actually, before I saddled her up, I swung the saddle up onto the railing by where she was tied up. I lifted the saddle up but forgot to remove my thumb before dropping it onto the railing. Then I said things that would make a sailor blush.

So, I wasn't quite sure how things were going to go. I'm not superstitious, but when you're out riding a green horse all by yourself, with no where to keep your blackberry so you just leave it in the house for fear that it will get crushed or mangled by your equine critters, and with not much time in the saddle in recent years, you tend to spook fairly easily. Should I ride? Is this a bad omen? Am I being cautious, or am I just a big chicken?

Wait, don't answer that.

I decided that my resolve to get Paula broke was stronger than any superstitious nonsense I could talk myself into, so we headed out to the roundpen and got to work.

*brag alert*

I asked Paula to start lunging. She had the bit on for the second time in her life, and today she knew just how to hold it in her mouth. She was comfortable and listening for my cues. I never once had to lift the lunge whip to cue her. I asked her to walk, then clicked and asked her to trot and she transitioned right into a lovely, smooth, collected trot immediately. After a few times around I kissed to her and she picked up the correct lead, maintaining her collected, calm gait, head level and still listening. Then we worked on more transitions--from lope to trot, trot to walk, walk to lope, lope to walk, etc. She never missed a beat. Both directions, she was absolutely on the mark every time. I decided to press my luck and when I asked her to whoa the final time, I then asked her to back (she was still on the rail, and I was in the middle of the roundpen). She backed.

I freely admit it has taken me forever to break her out, mostly because I'll take time off, for months at a time, and do nothing with her, but I also take my time making sure she knows what I'm asking for. Monday night I estatically reaped the fruits of our sporadic labor.

I went ahead and lightly bitted her (tied the reins downward to maintain a slight flex at the poll) and asked her to walk around and feel the pressure from the bit if she lifted her head. Then I asked her to flex and bend with the reins attached to the bit, and she began to quickly realize that I was asking her the same things I did from the halter. Her transition from the halter to the bit has been seamless, and she's responding with the same lightness as she does when riding her with the halter: my ultimate goal.

Speaking of lightness, I also rode Paula, still in the halter, but I did leave the bit on her to further facilitate our transition. I just hooked the reins to the halter instead. We continue to progress so nicely--she "listens" to my leg cues very well. We worked on our serpentines and pivots. She continues to back on cue (no reins).

What I was really impressed with, though, is that we haven't been trotting for very long, but I decided last night I would try a few collection exercises while we were trotting. I asked her to flex at the poll and lift her back while maintaining her gait and not only did she respond immediately, but she kept her position even after I released. I kept thinking to myself that I wish this were June instead of late August, because she's going to be ready for walk-trot classes very soon! She was just amazing. She listens to me at all levels--aurally as well as all our physical points of communication: through the reins to my hands, my legs, my shifts in body weight. You can almost see the wheels turning in her mind, asking herself when I cue her "what does this mean?" and then processing the results into a lovely, controlled action. And she is correct 99% of the time.

I am just so incredibly proud of this horse that I bred, raised, and now have the great honor of training. My fear of not being a good enough trainer to adequately utilize her talent is overridden by the excitement I feel for our future together. I really feel like we bond so well. Every lesson is a great experience for us both. Each time we get just a little closer to my goal of showing, and after every lesson she achieves her goal of getting a thorough rub-down with the curry and a bucket full of oats :)

If you happen to read this far, thanks for listening to me brag on my girl. I just couldn't hold it inside any longer. I blame it on my black and blue thumb....

Bust'n buttons,


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Boys

Since the post a few days ago was all about the girls, I figured this time I would feature the boys.

Fabian and Moose...they're good boys, and they get along for the most part.

That is, until Moose decides that Fabian is "mom."

Don't even think about it, kid.

Fabian isn't a very easy keeper, but I've managed to get a bit of weight on him, thankfully.

He could still look better, but we're getting there.

Moose has also lost a bit of weight with weaning and all, but he's doing fairly well, all things considered.

Until he gets into the sunlight, though. Then it's impossible to tell.

This is just one of the many reasons why owning a white horse can be difficult.

My future's so bright, I gotta wear shades,


Monday, August 23, 2010

"I'm Alive!" (aka, "I'm not old.")

Yes, I'm back. I'm alive!

After a whirlwind of a week, I'm back to blogging. It has certainly been an eventful and memorable week!

First, garage sale was a smashing success! Years ago I held a garage sale at our home in Tonganoxie and it was an abysmal flop, so I was a little hesitant to try one again. Well, between properly advertising in our local newspaper, putting up signs and a little organization it went very well indeed. I got rid of almost everything I wanted to, and a short trip to the Goodwill will take care of the rest!

While at Dad's house for the garage sale, I got my laundry done (not having laundry facilities is actually sometimes a good thing--I feel like a college kid taking advantage of any trip to her parent's house she can :)

Then I got an interesting email from a gentleman in France. He feels that Moose would be a perfect stallion prospect for his herd of splashed-overo horses, so we've made a tentative deal for Moose to travel overseas via a transporter in Quebec.

I stress tentative because Moose is being tested for lethal white. If he's positive, I doubt that he'll go. If he's negative, of course we still have to conclude our dealings, and as any experienced horse person knows, a lot can happen between now and then. So, it's sort of an exciting time right now. If Moose goes to France, it will be a sale, and I'll be down one less horse to feed, plus a friend's stallion (whom I'm a big fan of) will be promoted overseas. If the sale falls through, then I'll still have this absolutely wonderful horse to show. It's a very nice position to be in, especially after all the bad luck our little ranch has had over the years. However this all turns out, its certainly an exciting time for us.

Then this weekend, in addition to the garage sale, the rental mower was finally repaired and Dad helped me get all caught up on the farm's main yard work. We even got the horses' pens mowed and I trimmed along the fenceline everywhere, so other than some weeding and some work directly behind the house, things are looking good on my little farm.

Although I insist that I'm not getting any older, my dad insisted that we go out to celebrate my birthday yesterday (my birthday isn't for a while yet, but he won't have off work to go do anything). So we traveled to Wichita, went out to eat and went to the movies and saw 'The Other Guys.' I was a bit skeptical but it actually was the funniest movie I've seen in a very long time.

So now I've just got a few things to get in order to start preparing the place for winter, and a couple of other administrative items to get myself into school (apparently you have to offer your right arm and left leg to be able to get a second degree). Soon I'll be traveling to Colorado as well, to see family and take a nice little vacation.

I haven't been to Colorado since my brother's wedding two years ago, and that was marred from the sudden news that my dear mare had been dead for two weeks and not sure if I was going to get back in time to save Paula (which I barely got there in time, thank goodness). Before that, I can't even remember.... It's certainly been forever and a day since I got to go to Estes Park (pictured above), hike the trails in the Rocky Mountain National
Park, or drive up Devil's Gulch Road. I'm also planning on seeing the King Tut exhibit in Denver. Hopefully I'll get to see a lot of family as well, including my "little" brother who is almost 16 years old now.

OK, I just officially felt old.

By the way, I've decided I'm not getting any older, so this isn't a birthday trip. It's just a regular ole vacation. For regular not-so-ole me.

Last night, the waiter called me "Miss" rather than "Ma'am." I promptly doubled his tip. Dad promptly rolled his eyes.

Forever young at heart,

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Western Pleasure

I realized that some people who read my blog (the two or three of you out there :) might not have ever been to a horse show before. Or you might have gone to one a long time ago but aren't sure of the current trends. Or you might just own horses and never have shown. Or you might not have ever seen a horse in person in your entire life.

If that last part is true then immediately get yourself to your nearest stable. Even if you only try it once, being around a horse is an experience that must be had.

In any case, I figured I'd post an example (and what, in my humble opinion is an excellent example) of a finished Western Pleasure show horse. This is what Paula and I are working towards:

Training a horse to this level takes a great deal of work, talent, patience, time, and work. We might never get to this level, but this is what Paula and I are working for.

Western Pleasure has earned a bad name because many people try to take shortcuts and they end up with horses that lack forward motion and true gaits. This horse has obviously been well-trained to carry herself correctly. She is slow, relaxed, collected, and above all, has a good attitude about her work. I love this horse, and only hope that some day Paula and I will be out there in the arena, in our attempt to emulate this ideal.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Traumatizing the Girls

It was so gorgeous out today that I couldn't hardly wait until it was time to work the horses. I'm willing to bet that they wouldn't agree, had they known what was in store for them.

See, my girls live a pretty darned good life. For the most part all they do is hang out, eat, sleep and poop. I'm actually a terrible trainer in that I lack consistency. Real life unfortunately trumps consistency. I have a full time job. I take care of this farm pretty much on my own. I have responsiblities. I even sometimes desire a life.

So the girls get to relax a lot more often than not. They are healthy, well-fed, and my interaction with them usually involves neck scratches, whither scratches, and butt scratches. Occassionally they get fly-sprayed, or I put on fly masks or blanket them, depending on the weather and their needs. They get wormed and vaccinated according to a schedule, as well as their feet trimmed. They get a good grooming every few days and I try to keep them clipped up every few weeks.

As much as I hate to admit, most days these girls do not get worked.

Today was not one of those days.

Paula got to experience a bit for the first time. And I realize I have the saddle too far forward. This girl, with her long back, gives me fits at putting the saddle on. Anyway, it was fixed right after I took these pictures and of course, before I rode her....

See, I'm a bit of a freak (try to contain your shock). I break my horses out in a halter. I've heard it all--from "How do you stop them?" to "You're going to make them hard." Here's my philosophy for whatever it's worth: if I have to have a piece of metal in my horse's mouth to get the response I want, then I'm not teaching my horse like I should. They should learn to respond and be in total control without being forced into it by a bit.

But it's a fact of life that most people feel like they absolutely have to use a bit, so my horses are eventually trained to accept and respond to one. Also, in shows they are mandatory (for senior horses in particular--juniors can be shown in a bosal).

So Paula started to get used to a bit today. I didn't actually ride her with it, but she wore it for the first half of her training. By the time I took the bridle off her, she had figured out how to rest it comfortably in her mouth. Next lesson I'll bend and drive her in it so she can get the feel of how it pulls.

I rode Paula as well (in her halter) and we did lots of bending and serpentine exercises at the trot tonight. She's really so very smooth although we haven't even really started on collection yet. I am really looking forward to next show season!

And since I have no way of taking a picture of me riding her, here's a picture of me on her. See...I ain't pull'n yur leg!!

See, from this angle, her large ears seem to actually serve a purpose :)

Next up to be traumatized: Bambi!

She's not as far into her training under saddle as Paula is, since she's only two years old, but she's getting there.

Last lesson I sacked her out really well. Today I left the saddle in the roundpen so I could see how she felt about it.

This is how she felt about it:

Get. It. Off. Me.

Nah, it wasn't all bad. She was a little goosey at first.

Then a lot goosey. Hee haw!

But she soon calmed down and realized the saddle wouldn't eat her...tonight.

Then she settled right in. There's my girl!

Working hard to make sure my girls appreciate their days off,