Wednesday, December 30, 2009

10 Happy Things

First - cause yall know I like words - the caveat. I don't believe things can make a person happy. Other people can't make a person happy. Happiness comes from inside oneself. I'm sure you know somebody who "has it all" who's totally miserable, and you know someone with "nothing" who is just genuinely happy to be alive. I strive to be the latter. Still, I can come up with 10 things I enjoy about life! These are in no particular order.

Living in Reno
This state rules, and this town rules pretty hard too. I got used to seeing slot machines everywhere pretty fast, but I'm still pretty gleeful when I can go buy liquor at any time of day on any day of the week. No more planning ahead! I'm particularly glad I live in Stead - the valley floor is all smogged up from the temperature inversion trapping crap down there. I don't mind driving down to a thriving town to eat in great restaurants or shop at good stores, but it's nice to be breathing cleaner air up here in the boonies of Stead. I hear the California Sierras are gorgeous, and I'm looking forward to packing at Granite Chief with the BCH this summer. And there's all those good rides, all over western Nevada and eastern California! And as soon as I save up a grand (i.e. don't spend it on the horse), I can take my husband to a once-in-a-lifetime meal at the French Laundry.

My husband
He rules. I rarely write about him, because this is my horse blog, not my Funder's Weird Life blog, but he is truly my best friend. We have been together 9 years now, and it feels like forever, but in a good way. I say I'm lucky to have him. He says he's lucky to have me. Maybe we're both right?

My Dawg
Cersei is the best dog ever, hands down. Even when she eats a gallon ziplock of frosted mini-wheats, then farts all night and makes us think we've been attacked by biological weapons.

Dixie
Sometimes I get totally furious with her, and sometime's she's just perfect. This is one area where my general life philosophy of "live in the now" doesn't always pay off - I get mad because I feel like I haven't made any progress with that damn brain damaged yakmule, and I am such a horrible excuse for a horse owner - but then I think back on how far we've come, and I feel better about things. And I have it all written down, in case I ever doubt how crazy she used to be. Today, on the trail, I got off and led her a couple of times, then got back on. If you'd told me a year ago that I'd be able to calmly mount Dixie on the trail as another horse walked away from us, I would have never believed it. We're getting there, we really are.

Memory of Champ
He was such a fantastic horse. I would have never considered buying Dixie if I hadn't had so many hours with Champ. He was fugly, opinionated, trotted if you dared to make him go faster, and had the roughest canter I've ever felt. He had a heart of gold, though - he tried to figure out what this bumbling idiot on his back wanted, and he never quit and never got mad. I loved that horse so much, and I'll always carry a torch for him. I feel lucky to have spent two years with him.

Cats
Our cats are wicked little brain-damaged monsters, and they bring us so much amusement. The Kitten plays fetch with a clear plastic tube, unless she loses it. The Crazy One yowls at the walls sometimes, and I think he thinks we're hallucinations or demons sent to torment him. Both of them love Cersei, who is confused and disdainful about the little monsters. They are extremely funny pets.

Friends
I met some of my best friends through this blog. That really surprises me, on so many levels - that I've kept yapping long enough to have readers, for years no less, and that people think I'm cool enough to email, chat with, and meet up with IRL. Yall make me happy!

Being alive for 2010
My younger readers will be totally blase about this, but anybody my age (30s) or older will understand. DUDE! WE LIVE IN THE FUTURE! Where's my flying car? Ok, there's no flying cars, but the Internet is just as good. We made it through 2001, and we made it through 2009, and 2010 will be the best year yet.

Having a warm house
I glossed over it in my blog, but for two months two winters ago I lived in a house with no heat. There were no physical gas lines running from the street to the house. I didn't realize the lines were cut before I moved in, and it took two months of wrangling to legitimately legally break the lease and move. I only took my clothes off to shower and change at friends' houses, and I slept on the couch with a Cersei-puppy on my chest and a Fluffy Kitten on my head. It was HORRIBLE. But it was life-changing in a good way, too. I am a total wuss about being cold, but two months in a frozen house made me realize there's cold and there's cold. My whine level went down markedly. And now that I've lived through the house with no heat, I am so much more grateful and happy with what I've got!

Is that 10? No?

Digital music
Here's another one that'll date me. No more mix tapes! Freed from the tyranny of the radio! And nothing obsolesces - yesterday I found a mix CD from 2000. It sounded exactly like it did in 2000. I don't miss cassette tapes one bit, not at all.

Ok, there's 10!

Who hasn't done this meme yet? Who wants to do it? It's actually a lot of fun to list things that make you happy. I am terrible at passing these things along - I feel like I should give it to everybody I read, but then it wouldn't be ~special~, so just comment if you are doing it, ok?

BLAH

Winter is blah! I am, surprisingly, not very cold or bothered by the snow, I'm just sick of the lack of sun. And the fact that my horse looks like a yak, so I have to be really careful to not let her work too hard and get too sweaty. And I can't see the trails, so neither can she, so we have to go extra slow lest she step off a ledge and break her leg. It makes for some boring midday rides.

But the wildlife has been spectacular. When you last heard from us, we'd just seen yeti. Since then, I've seen coyotes three separate times!

Right before Christmas, I went out with S and the dogs, and she spotted a coyote on a hill about 30' above us. The horses never saw it, and the dogs never saw it, and eventually we moved on and left it to look for rabbits. Then right after Christmas, we were riding down in the canyon and I spotted the remains of a peacock. Somebody in her neighborhood had a nice young peacock, but a coyote snatched it and ran down in the canyon to eat it. Nothing left but wing feathers and a few tail feathers. As I was driving down the hill back to the highway that day, a coyote ran across the road a little in front of me.

Then yesterday I went out alone with Dixie and Cersei, and ALL of us saw TWO coyotes. Dixie and I were coming up on a fork in the trail, where if we went left we'd go out further and if we went right we'd go home sooner, and we were gearing up to have a big disagreement about which way to turn, when she stopped dead in her tracks and stared straight ahead. I looked too, and saw a big coyote with a cottontail in its mouth. It looked at us for a while, then looked to my left, so I looked to the left and saw (presumably) its mate. The one on the left was smaller, so I'll call that one the female. She stopped for a while and looked at all of us, then circled around to stay about 50' away and rejoined her mate. Cersei, bless her heart, had been snuffling around in the snow, completely oblivious to everything, but she finally noticed them. She puffed up like a hedgehog and started jumping up and down, stiff-legged, barking at them. She started to run over to investigate them, but I called her back and she came. (Of course she came - she really is a remarkably good dog.) Everybody watched everybody else for a bit, then I turned Dixie to the right and we left them alone.

I'd been planning on going left and doing the Mines trail, but I kind of wanted to leave the coyotes to eat their rabbit in peace. I am a softie, I know. :)

Weather permitting, I have a big weekend planned, but I have moments of being totally superstitious and I don't want to jinx it by talking about it!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Yeti sighting!

Yesterday we went out with S, Summer, and the dogs. I brought the camera - I don't even bring it when I'm riding solo, because odds are I can't stop paying attention to my mare long enough to take pictures.

We threw Christmas rump rugs on the horses - tree skirts!
Festive horse!

We saw carnivorous yeti!
Yeti!

If you can't see them, click on the picture to make it bigger. You can see their poisonous horns, and you can imagine their slavering fangs and clawed hooves. Treacherous beasts!

There was another on the slope to the south. Clearly, they were planning on circling around from behind and eating the horses.
More yeti!

It was really beautiful out there.
S on Summer

Cersei had a wonderful time chasing Oscar (S's young dog), but she is on the injured list today. The snow is old and icy and crusty, and her pads took a beating. She's got pretty tough feet, but the tips of her pads are split. She is snuggled up next to me on the couch.

Dixie did pretty well with Summer there to keep her steady. I got really uncomfortable a couple of times and thoughts of our gory death flashed through my mind. :( We did the mines trail, but the actual canyon part of the ride has a couple of rocky sections. We didn't want to take them over the rocks with the snow covering everything, so we cut up to the top of the hill and then back down to the sandy part of the mine trail. S fearlessly rode calm Summer sideways up this steep sandy hill, and hot Dixie went plunging up after him, but I couldn't deal and turned her to go straight up the slope. Then once we got on top, she really got nervous, and we still had to get back down! S went back down the side, but I thought it looked way too steep, so Dixie and I went further along to where the slope was easier. It was pretty nerve wracking, but she stayed surefooted.

Went to Crysta's Christmas party last night and had a good time! I met a gaited horse person, and some fun non-horse people, and made faces at the CUTEST baby girl. She thought I was awesome and stared at me nonstop. Then her mom handed her to me and she burst into immediate tears. As soon as I handed her back, she went back to staring and smiling at me. I was only acceptable from 2 feet away :)

I may sit on the couch and watch football all day. Happy Solstice Eve, yall! If I'm doing the math right, then Monday morning will be the actual solstice. That means today is the shortest day of the year, so I might as well nap on the couch, right?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Yetis and BBQ

I was AWOL from the internet yesterday due to excessive BBQ consumption.

The only truly outstanding food from the Memphis area - the thing we do better than ANYBODY else, and if you wanna fight about it, bring it on - is barbeque. Memphis, like every other city its size, has a bunch of good restaurants and wonderful local twists on regional and international classics, but we're really most proud of our BBQ. I will be polite about anybody's well cooked 'cue - my momma raised me right. But my husband and I miss Memphis BBQ so much that we will have it Fedexed to us. His mom sent us two racks of ribs and two pounds of pulled pork from Central BBQ for Christmas! I get the ribs; he gets the pork. Two of each so we can dive in the day it arrives, and save the rest for the actual holiday. Yesterday was Cue Day, so I ate a whole rack of absolutely perfect ribs and then sat on the couch in a blissed-out daze all afternoon.

Pre-Fedex, I met the trimmer at S's and got Dixie's feet fixed up. He, like Aarene, has a horse that paddles on one foot and wears toe unevenly on that foot. And he saw the bruising, but agreed that if she's not lame not to worry too much about it. I volunteered to trim her in between his visits. I still want him to come balance her up perfectly every six weeks, but I'm going to work on the obvious stuff.

I did learn something cool - he said overgrown bars were making her back lateral quarters and heels flare out, and I could see what he was talking about when I looked at the sole.

Dixie is a pretty nicely put together TWH. I was noticing yesterday and today how she naturally tracks up perfectly - you can really see it in fresh snow. Just at a normal, uncollected, slow walk, her back feet land perfectly in the tracks left by her front feet. Usually, that means that at a faster gait, if she's "tucking her butt" correctly, her back feet will overstride where her front feet were by a couple of inches. Not that I would know - I don't have a very good view of her back feet from on top ;)

Today we made a bold expedition down to the end of the road and about a quarter mile in the snow. She kept a close watch for yetis. When we turned around for home, we had a fight about how fast she'd zoom home. Then I managed to quit fighting and relax and half-halt over and over again until she slowed down. And she actually did! Yay us! I was still in the "don't fight with her" mindset when we got back to the driveway, and I did not tense up and anticipate her falling down the slope on her forehand and breaking in to a trot. I stayed loose and asked her to go slowly, and she did.

One day we'll actually condition again. For now, we'll just do mental conditioning. It's all good.

The sun went down behind the western mountains today at 3:51 pm. It didn't get really dark for an hour after that, but still! I can't wait for the solstice.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And the grooming - clicker post

After the ride, I wanted to take pictures. But Miss Thing had some seriously nappy frizzy mane hair - getting snowed on and frozen really didn't do it any favors. That meant Show Sheen, which comes in a Horse-Eating Spray Bottle, which means either a fight or clicker training. I was certainly not going to spoil a perfectly nice day with a fight, so clickery it was.

I don't usually use an actual clicker with Dixie. I know I'm losing some amount of subtle benefit by using a tongue-click instead, but honestly, I'm not very coordinated. I'd rather get the timing perfect and use an imperfect tongue-click than be constantly dropping stuff, trying to click the handheld clicker, and missing the perfect moment to mark. I'm a work in progress.

The Show Sheen was half-frozen, so it made an interesting noise when I shook the bottle. I c/t'd her for touching the bottle several times. Then I pointed it away from her and squirted it a couple of times - got some ssssssh squirting noises and a few of those quacking noises spray bottles sometimes make. Dixie jumped to the end of the lead* and quivered, head all the way up. I held the bottle up and urged her to look at it and touch it, and went back to c/t for touching it with her nose.

*The interesting thing is that she wasn't actually tied up. I just loop the lead around one of the cleats on the side of my truck - she rarely pulls, and when she does pull loose, she walks 10 feet away and nosedives for the alfalfa. So even though she was scared, she wasn't terrified.

I repeated squirting away from her and c/t-ing for touching the bottle a few times, then I started holding the bottle up near her mane. She yanked her head up, but didn't move, so c/t. Touch the bottle, c/t, hold the bottle up, c/t. Eventually I squirted her and clicked before she had a chance to go ballistic - once I'd done it once, the battle was won.

I got that whole unruly mane absolutely coated in Show Sheen in minutes. Of course I kept clicking - at first it was a click for every single squirt, and a bit of "touch the bottle" every now and then, but she calmed down to where I could squirt 3-4 times before I c/t'd. Then while her mane dried, I picked her feet and packed some goo in the crevices of her frogs, then brushed out the mane and took pictures.

I like to write about clicker training every so often in case somebody's sort of "on the fence" about it. Yes, if you get good at it and really enjoy it, you can happily incorporate clicker training into every single aspect of your horse care. But you don't have to go whole hog. I suppose if you do not ever feed treats, it's not a good training tool for you - but it can work for anybody else.

When I was first getting into clicker training, I wasn't sure about frequency and timing and stuff, so that's why I just described the whole Showsheen session. You don't want to bore the horse with an hour of "touch the bottle," and you don't want to move too fast and scare the horse, or positive reinforcement will cease to work. There's a lot of times where I'd get some good early stages of "touch the bottle" but then I'd push too fast with the later work. She'd get really scared and shut down mentally, and I'd have to put the evil spray bottle away for another day. But horses are forgiving and greedy, so we'd keep coming back to it.

Semi-Annual PSA

Ok, I swear I will calm down about Dixie's feet unless she actually, you know, goes lame. They're fine. I know where the room for improvement is. I have a good local trimmer, and some great internet trimmers, and a rasp. She'll be fine.

Today I rode for a bit and took (and even printed!) some pics for her upcoming brand inspection thing. She looks like a yak, but at least she has a nicely combed fluffy mane. But that's another post - this is my PSA post.

If you haven't read it before, please read Animals in Translation. Your library probably has it, and if not, it's available used on Amazon for under five dollars. When else will you find a truly useful horse item for under five friggin dollars, yall?

There are tons of books that do a very good job of explaining horse behavior. There are lots of free scholarly articles about horse anatomy. This is the only book I ever read that really helped me understand how they think - not herd dynamics, and not vision and flight response stuff, but how their little brains process what they see. Temple Grandin has a convincing argument that animals perceive the world in a similar way to how autistic humans see the world. She didn't write a horse-training book - she's worked with cows way more than horses - but I've developed such a kind understanding of what horses go through from her book.

I am afraid I'll misrepresent something if I try to explain the book, so I'll just tell you about my ride and how it could've gone differently.

Dixie was peacefully snoozing in the snow when I got there. The other horses were standing guard as normal, and it was just her turn to take a nap. She was pretty pleased to see me, and walked about halfway to meet me! That's unusual for her - usually I have to walk up to her and hold out the halter, then she sticks her nose in it and follows me politely. I led her out of the gate and she got very excited. I walked her around and let her nose the earth moving equipment, the muddy gravel, and the snowy areas for a while. Then I saddled up, mounted, and we rode out.

It took a long time to get out of the gate. She needed to stop and stare way more often than usual, and she had to drop her head and nuzzle the snow every few steps. She wasn't trying to panic and turn around for home, and she wasn't terrified - just very inquisitive and unwilling to barge on ahead. When we got to the road, I asked her to walk down the cleared muddy gravel road, instead of on the verge where we usually walk. I didn't want her to step in a hole I'd forgotten and feel trapped and freak out. She really wanted to walk in the snow, and we kept renegotiating. She kept doing the very strange nuzzle the ground and look around thing.

We moseyed very slowly down the road to where the trail branches off. I knew we weren't going to get far, but I asked her to walk off into the snow on the trail (like she wanted to do all along!) We got just a few strides off the road and the whole thing got to be too much for her, and she started getting nervous. I asked her to turn around and walk home really calmly, and she did. I had to half-halt like 17 times in a row at first, but then she settled in to a nice calm fast walk home.

Here's what I saw today: The exact same place we've been riding, almost every day, for the last three months. There was snow, but all the landmarks were clearly visible, and the road was even uncovered.

Here's what she saw: Something completely different. An alien world covered in alien white stuff, and a road that didn't look or smell or feel like the road she's used to.

I could've gotten mad, because the damn horse was so complacent about the damn snow that she was laying down in it! And we barely got out of sight of her buddies! This trip was so close to home that there's just no WAY she could really be afraid! Argh stupid hateful yak of a horse, always ruining my fun!

But I didn't get mad. As soon as I led her out of the paddock and she started acting so peculiar and curious, I realized I wasn't seeing what she was seeing. Horses don't generalize well, and they don't seem to remember the way we do, and it was a different world for her. She was used to the snow in the pasture, but that didn't generalize to snow outside of the pasture. Nothing smelled the same. Nothing looked the same. Everything was covered in white stuff that didn't taste like anything. Even the road, which might have been familiar, was wet - a state she has never before seen it in.

Once I looked at the day from her point of view, she was a fantastic companion. She wasn't scared! She got nervous when we walked into the snow, but before that, she wasn't even remotely upset about it. She needed a lot of extra time to process what she was seeing and smelling and hearing, but she wasn't upset. That is a huge improvement for us. I am so very happy with both of us!

Anyway, the book does a really good job of giving you a paradigm to view your horse's behavior through. Temple Grandin is, of course, a human, so her book isn't any more infallible than anyone else's. Nobody will ever know what horses really ARE seeing, smelling, thinking. But Grandin's "thinking in pictures" paradigm holds up pretty well to my real world experiences with real live horses, and I bet it would hold up to yours too.

Monday, December 14, 2009

OMG, she's going to give me ulcers

Today the snow had mostly melted so I went up to ride. Last week S had some guys come dig water lines to the pasture troughs, and they got slowed down by the bad weather. There's a backhoe and some 5' deep trenches. I led Dixie around and let her bite the snow and stare at the enormous holes and piles of dirt, then got on and didn't really go anywhere. She was pretty nervous because everything looked completely different, and I didn't really care if we went anywhere - just sitting on her was enough.

Then I took some hoof pics. And now I'm totally wigging out again - she has huge bruises on her soles. I can only assume the huge bruises have been there for ages. I never wash my horse's hooves before taking pictures, and I don't use trimmers who trim sole, so this is the cleanest they've been since the day she was born, probably.

Her frogs aren't eaten up with thrush - they're pigmented. I dunno if some white hooves have pale frogs, but Dixie's feet have pigment on the heels and frogs. I did squash a lot of goo in all the cracks in her frogs, and I'll keep doing that every time I see her.

Also, she's about 7 weeks post trim at this point. She was supposed to get done Friday, but it was too cold to trim. The trimmer said he tried on Thursday and the hooves he tried to trim were so cold they were brittle, so we rescheduled from last Friday to this Thursday. If you notice that they're still lopsided, that's why.

Egads, bruising.  LF solar.

RF sole bruising

I really don't think the bruises are a new development. Her diet hasn't changed, her activity level has gone down in the last couple of weeks, and she's not standing on frozen ground - the horses hang out by the gate, and it's layers and layers of packed, usually dry, manure.

Is this old bruising that is just now growing down to where I can see it? She's been here about three months, and she was ouchy on rocks when she first came - all flat-footed from that farrier in Ohio. Is it bruising that's currently happening? I really don't think so, but it's possible. She is an amazingly stoic creature, but she sure acts sound now.

Should I treat it, i.e. boot her? I was planning on getting boots early in '10, maybe the trim cycle after this. I think her feet are almost stable, and I hate the thought of buying boots and having them not fit four weeks later. Should I expect abscesses? Ugh, I've only ever had one horse blow one abscess. I do not intend to let anybody go digging around in her foot - I think they're like blisters, and they'll pop when they're ready to pop.


Here's a more cheerful picture! Her coat around her eye is darkening up. I suspect it's an adaptation to the increased light up at this elevation, but I have no real idea. She used to have a brown face with black-tipped ears, but she's definitely got black hairs around her eye now.
Her eye's darker

I let her eat scraps out of the wheelbarrow while I took those pics.
Pretty picture

I take pictures of this view a lot. The fog down in the valley (i.e. all of Reno/Sparks) was the thickest I've ever seen.
Fog in the valley

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Everybody likes a little dog!

I'd rather have a little dog than a little shop, any day. (Any Dr. Who fans in the house? Anyone? Sigh, probably not.)

Sometimes a little dog has a little stick.
"Come and get my stick!"

Sometimes a little dog has a little tumbleweed.
Death to tumbleweeds

Sometimes it's a headless little dog!
Headless Dog!

And sometimes it's a very serious very snowy little dog.
Frosted Dog

She lives! And thrives!

Today looked like my Big Chance to visit Dixie. Look at this stupid forecast!



I put on my Frozen Southerner outfit, with minor changes, and headed out. I wore a different pair of wool socks today, and I tried the very thin black wool/spandex glove liners. Both were failures. I have one pair of expensive Smartwool socks, five pairs of cheap and ugly - but extremely effective and comfortable! - Costco wool socks, and three pairs of very pretty and soft wool/silk blend Costco socks. Do not fall for the wool/silk blend socks at Costco. Yes, they come in rose and blue and heather grey, and ooh they feel soft, but they aren't all that warm and they don't have very good elastic properties. Also don't buy those super-thin glove liners I linked in the comments to yesterday's post. Also not very warm.

I managed to keep my momentum up and got up the mountain to where Dixie lives without any problem. S's neighborhood is all 15+ acre lots, and she lives at the back of the development, so it's a very low traffic road. Good for riding, bad for snow removal. I slid gracefully into S's driveway and was delighted to see that Dixie had watched me drive up and was ambling closer to the fence. I fed her some Frosted Mini Wheats (because I left the apples in the truck and they froze solid - D'OH!) and scratched her face for a while.

She lives!

There you go. Four inches of snow, two run-in shelters, and no blankets. Horses really are tough!

I should measure her and buy her a blanket, I suppose. The only situation I really worry about is a cold hard rain, which is extremely rare in the hills where she lives, but there's no harm in having a waterproof light blanket on hand. Surely she's smarter than a turkey and will go in a shed if it starts raining... but I don't want to count on that.

I took a fuzzy-yak picture for my mom, but it's not very impressive. Her head looks like a goat's head, and her legs look like an airbrushed unicorn on a license plate, but you just can't tell how thick the hair on her body is here.
Fluffy horses

Here's a slightly different angle of a view I post a lot, looking down the hill into Reno. Look at that frozen fog inversion layer crap!
View into town

I thought to take a picture of Tempus's Weird Foot too, for Lythia. I was telling her that Tempus had an injury to his coronet band as a 2 year old, and his hoof wall has grown out weird there ever since. It doesn't bother him at all; just looks kinda funny.
Tempus's hoof - for Lythia


I had to put the chains on to get back out of S's driveway and down the hill. Here's the theoretically-plowed road:
Driving back out

I might try to get back out tomorrow - depends on how much snow we get tonight/tomorrow am.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Gear test

Last night we went to Sierra Trading Post and upgraded my cold weather clothes. I got two pairs of fleece-inside long johns, two pairs of glove liners, and a Columbia ski jacket (at ridiculously low prices, too.) Today I tested it all out.

I drove off up a gravel road, put on the chains, drove back out to the paved road, took the chains off, and came home. Needless to say, it was not as easy as I just made it sound. It was horrible. But I got it done without needing to beg for help from passersby, and more importantly, I never got cold. I got hot, actually, but all the synthetic stuff wicked away all the sweat and I didn't get chilled once I started driving again.

Then I came home and taught Cersei to dig in the snow. Got a lot of pictures, and I'll post the good ones later. Again, I got totally covered in snow, but I wasn't cold. I had to take off an outer glove to work the camera and that hand got chilly. It was sunny, calm, and in the low teens, so not the worst conditions Nevada has to offer but not the best either.

Monday, December 7, 2009

WD 09 Day Two

It snowed all evening. It snowed all night. We had 10-12" when I woke up in the morning! Then it kept snowing, all day - finally stopped around 5 pm.

We were pretty sure that going anywhere was foolishness. My husband worked from home - a good plan, according to his coworkers who DID drive in. I carefully observed people in our complex all day, driving out in their little cars without chains or snow tires, and I think it is actually possible to drive on snow. I am planning on trying to go visit Dixie tomorrow, but the road up the mountain that she lives on might defeat me. It'll be an adventure!

I called first thing and the horses are just fine. S gave them lots of extra hay and nobody's shivering or unhappy. I have to trust that she knows what she's doing, and that horses really ARE evolved to live in cold weather. If I had property, with Dixie at home, I would probably try to bring her in the house to warm up.

Here's a video of Cersei in the snow:

Cersei loves snow from Funder on Vimeo.




And another. (I <3 my lil' dog!)

Cersei playing in the snow from Funder on Vimeo.



Here's the enormous tractor that plowed the parking lot in the afternoon.

Snow TRACTOR plows our parking lot from Funder on Vimeo.



Reno area people, how was your big snow day? Zach, did your school get cancelled?

It's going to be below freezing (lows near zero F for the next two nights!) and then another storm is coming later this week. This is the most protracted White Death I've ever been in!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

White Death '09

So I rode yesterday, and got way too cold, and really need fleece long johns. And I went to a Christmas party with a horsey gift exchange, and my red halter with lighted blinking reindeer antlers wired to the crownpiece was a huge hit. But the most important thing I have to talk about is SNOOOOW!

Tonight: Snow likely. Cloudy, with a low around 19. West wind between 10 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. Total nighttime snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible.

Monday: Snow. High near 26. South wind 5 to 10 mph becoming east. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 7 inches possible.

The most snow I've ever seen in my life was about 8" when I was in college in Virginia. This is mind-boggling. And it already snowed like an inch on us (none down in Reno) this afternoon. Snow pictures tomorrow!

(I hope my horse is warm. I'm sure she is, she's hairy like a yak and she has two huge shelters available, but I can't help but worry, a tiny bit.)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Plans and feet

Here's why I never post any bold riding plans: Plans change.

Earlier this week, ~C and I decided to ride Palomino Valley today, and S and I were going to trailer across the highway to Hungry Valley for a (slight) change of pace on Saturday. S was going to take Tempus, the gelding, because neither of us think it's a real smart move to put my hussy in a trailer with Summer. The catch with Tempus is that he has some nerve damage in his face from a long-ago pasture accident, and he can not deal with stuff touching his face - like rain or snow. When the NWS put a chance of snow in the forecast for tomorrow, that nixed our Hungry Valley ride. I was still on with ~C til her truck made some very disturbing noises this morning, and then that was off too.

I have nothing but respect for the type of people who can say "Ok, next week I need to do 30 miles in five days of riding, so it'll be 5 miles Monday, speed work Tuesday, off Wednesday..." and so on. I am not, and will never be, one of those people. I try not to plan more than two days ahead, and I don't like to box myself into a corner, where, say, if I don't ride tomorrow I won't get to ride for the next three days so I have to ride tomorrow even if it's pouring down rain. I was hoping to do a long ride today, but since it didn't happen, I'll do a long (>5 miles) ride tomorrow or Sunday.

Riding:

Dixie was in raging heat, so I figured we'd do a shorter ride at a faster speed today. And the Garmin was actually charged, so I got lap times and everything!

She is, unfortunately, a lot like me. She can walk at a good clip for miles and miles, but she doesn't have the muscles or stamina to do faster work yet. I don't think I'm pushing her too hard by asking for short faster days, but feel free to let me know if you think I'm doin it wrong! Our totals were 3.87 miles in 1:14, average of 3.1 mph.

We did our usual stop-and-go warmup for 20 minutes, then we headed out down the trail at a nice fast walk. Then we were attacked! We rounded a corner and a covey of quail exploded across the trail in front of us, all flappy feathers and blood-drenched talons and weird whirring noises from their robotic innards. Dixie froze, all on her own! She jumped a bit, but she didn't try to run. It took a LONG time before she felt ok to move on, but eventually we did.

Our first speed lap was .4 miles at 5.9 mph average. She mostly racked. Then a .2 mi cooldown, then a .2 mile speed lap at 8.7 mph - rack and canter. A long half-mile cooldown to get her thinking again, with just a few strides of trot here and there, then a little more fast work. She was getting tired at this point, and I had to ask her to continue instead of asking her to slow down. .15 miles at 6.4 mph of foxtrot, baby - a gait I'm getting very fond of - then .15 miles at a fast walk, then a final .15 miles of foxtrot at 7.4 mph. Then I dismounted, took off her bridle, loosened her girth, and hand-walked her home for the last half mile. She didn't sweat too hard, and she was lightly blowing but not out of breath.

Feet:

Dixie's getting trimmed early next week, and I had the time and inclination to take pictures today, so these are my December '09 "before" pictures. I saw some very interesting things, and I really welcome any comments or hypotheses about them. Here's the whole set. It contains more views than what I'm linking here, so click over if you want to take a closer look.

Front feet, side view. Right is clubby, left is long-toed. This is the posture she usually stands in, and I suspect it contributes to the growth pattern.
Closer view, side

Right front solar. Pretty balanced, clefts are a little deep because the heels are a little long. White line could be tighter in the quarters.
Right front solar

Edit: Lythia noticed I got these pictures wrong

Here's the left front solar. The Weird Thing is kind of subtle in this picture. Bars look kind of long here, but maybe that's retained sole? This is the right front again!
Left front solar

Edit: Here's the left front, with the weird wear pattern and long bars.
Left front Weird View!
Left front asymmetrical

Her toe is totally worn asymmetrically! And it's worn on the OUTSIDE, not the lateral side! Here's my guess: she paddles. But does she paddle with the left foot only? Because the right toe is worn pretty evenly. Also of note: the bars really do look long in this picture.

Here's one more picture of her left front. This is from ground level, looking toward the back - I don't have a clue what the Latin would be.
Left front

Weird stuff I see here: The whole medial wall looks weird. Something's off about the line of the wall. There's some ridges on the medial wall, but her coronet band at the medial quarter isn't "pushed up" like I'd expect to see. If you look through the hay, you can clearly see how the lateral tip of the toe is worn more than the medial tip of the toe. This is SO WEIRD to me!

I'll point this all out to the trimmer next week, but I'd love to hear yall's thoughts on it. How do you think this should be addressed? What's going on here?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Exceptional!

I just had the best ride ever on my totally awesome mare! She's coming into heat, which makes it even more surprising - but we did it!

Did the mines, with the detour behind the pueblo house - 4.58 miles in 1:29. We had a very slow start! Once we got down in the canyon and turned the Magic Corner for home, I started really working on half-halts. I knew she wouldn't want to pay attention to me, so I didn't ask for any lateral stuff or let her speed up - she'd have really checked out mentally. Just move out, then slow down and collect up, then stretch back out and repeat. When we got up to the better footing, we picked up the pace. She'd speed up and slow down from the softest lightest cues from me. It was so cool! Felt like we were dancing, or like I was holding her hand.

I will say that it wasn't any kind of relaxed ground-covering trot. She'd go faster or slower, but she wasn't sure what gait she wanted so she kept bouncing between a trot, a rack, and a canter. Oh well - nothing's perfect, and it didn't spoil my ride at all.

I was going to meet S when she got home and go back out for another mile, but I just couldn't. Dixie had done so well, and I really wanted to end on a good note. I fed her an apple, cooled her off, and let her go back to dozing in the pasture.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Two years of the world's best dog

Today's Dixie's day off, and mine too. My back still hurts a bit from the Invisible Swordsman bolting thing and I feel kinda crappy. Took a long nap today so hopefully I'll be fine tomorrow. I looked back through my archives (dear god, I've been writing this thing for a long time!) and I thought last year's post deserved another look.

Cersei's been in my life for exactly two years. Here's the story of how I got her, and here's a hot-off-the-iPhone current picture. Still looks pretty cute when she sleeps, but she definitely doesn't fit on my lap anymore! Here's to about 15 more, little yellow dog. :D

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Brrrr!

I got cold today. S and I were going to meet up at 3 and go do the Mines and get back before it got too terribly dark. I planned to wear my very warm but very cumbersome Carhartt coveralls, so I didn't wear any leggings under my jeans. Leggings + jeans + coveralls is 0 degree wear, not 30 degree wear!

When I got out there and tacked up Dixie, I realized it wasn't very cold at all yet. If I'd put on my coveralls, I'd have gotten pretty sweaty before the sun went down. I decided I'd rather freeze for 20 minutes than roast for an hour.

We did the standard full-length Mines trail, no extras. I am all confused, though, because the GPS said it was 4.35 miles. Every other time I've ridden the full Mines it's been right at 4 miles. It is a mystery! Anyway, 4.35 in 1:37, average of 2.7 mph. I wanted to get her back without any neck sweat - just a slow relaxing ride.

We took two of the dogs - S's young one Oscar and my Cersei. They did the butt-tuck high-speed run in a huge circle around the horses, nonstop, for THREE MILES. Cersei is sacked out on the couch now - a tired dog is a happy dog!

I kept gently working the reins and easing out the length, and I got Dixie to stretch out and keep her contact with me. It was pretty cool! :)