Double Blessed

Look closely-double rainbows over my farm!

I vow to live more gratefully

To complain less

and accept more

To be aware and appreciative

of what I have

The good health of my family

the continued soundness

of my horses and wellness

of all my animals

It looks like my momma

will be coming home

to place she’s never been before

to live out her days in Texas

Lots of big decisions

Lots of changes in our lives

So I must

do better, live harder

be more joyful

you don’t get a lot of chances

to find the double rainbows

sometimes on tropical islands

they appear

but twice this year

the double rainbows have shined

over my little farm

with peaceful, shimmering rays

lighting up the afternoon skies

something good must be in store

something good coming my way

I am ready to receive

and give back more than I have

Please show me the way

Saddles

My dad on his custom Justin saddle (in red vest) on his quarter horse, Waverly

When I was a girl, there was no question about what saddle I would ride in-it would be the saddle my father rode in, the saddle made for him.  As he was well over six-feet tall and I was maybe five foot four at best, the one concession made was to add extra holes to his stirrup leathers.  I still have my father’s saddle.  It was made by H. J. Justin of the Justin Boot Company who was an acquaintance of my fathers in 1955.  It has a silver plate on the back of the cantle proudly displaying that fact.  I have spent a lot of time over the years, saddle soaping that saddle. I have ridden horses in four states in that saddle, broken bones falling from that saddle but loved all the times I have spent on the back of a horse riding in my dad’s saddle.   

My dad in the saddle that is mine now and yes, those are all riders stretched out behind him.

It was a rite of passage in our family to be strong enough to lift the saddle, by yourself, up onto the horse’s back.  It is a solidly built western saddle and weighs over 50 pounds.  When I got my first horse at age 11, I had to use a step stool and really get some momentum going to get the saddle up onto the horse.  I was a competitive swimmer and had pretty good upper body strength but don’t think I got that saddle on from the ground up on the horse until I was at least 14 years old.

I remember when we moved to Sugar Land, Texas and Ally was about 12 and Lauren was seven.  Ally’s best friend Amy, stayed with us for a while and they all practiced lifting the big saddle.  Amy got it on the horse first, then Ally and years later Lauren finally was able to throw the big saddle up on Kid’s back.  Maybe that is part of why Lauren moved from western riding to English.  From the beginning, Lauren could saddle her own horse, English, and get to the work of riding.

Since those days there have been lots of saddles, including lots of Christmas saddles.  Lauren got her first English saddle the Christmas of fourth grade.  She had just gotten Mickey that fall.  She was so proud of that saddle.  Looking back, it wasn’t that nice of a saddle, it was a Kincade brand, but it fit her and Mick and it was hers alone.  I think Lauren has morphed through seven English saddles.  Only three have been new, including that first Kincade.  A couple she saved her money for, religiously hiding it from me and herself (in case she might spend it on something else), waiting for the right saddle to come along.  The best saddle Lauren had over the years was given to her by one of her best friends.  It was probably the nicest gift she has ever gotten.

The saddle thing is more complicated than just what is pretty and the most popular brand, it has to be a certain type based upon discipline, for instance hunters may use a different saddle than jumpers, and the saddle has to fit the horse and fit the rider.  As Lauren’s abilities changed, the horses she was riding changed as well.  What fit the quarter horse type Mickey, pinched the broad backed Irish Sport Horse but was too wide for the high withered Leo, the thoroughbred. 

When our vet came to do the work on Leo, one of the first things that was apparent was his saddle was constricting his ability to move his shoulders.  I know, this stuff is complicated!  We have been looking for a saddle that is adjustable to the horse so Lauren can use the same saddle at least with Mick and Leo. 

Spending a rainy Saturday, working our way home from Ally’s we visited a few rural feed stores.  Often, people bring saddles in for consignment.  In Texas, that usually means a western saddle.  But tucked away in the corner of the little town tack shop was what we quickly identified as the French saddle, a Marcel Toulouse.  It was Lauren’s size and it had an adjustable tree (so that it would fit all her horses with a simple turn of a screw)  other saddles required you to turn the saddle upside down and remove and change the gullet that dictates the size of the saddle.  The saddle appeared almost new.  It had Sprenger stirrups that retail for over $200, just for the stirrups.  The total price of this saddle was not much more.  We asked the owner about the saddle and he told us some rancher’s daughter thought they would show their quarter horses English and then had gone off to college. BINGO! 

What a thrill.  I can only hope that one day Jordyn, Lexi or one of Lauren’s children has the opportunity to ride in this fine saddle.  I hope that this is the “good one” that she will keep a long time.  I mean Marcel Toulouse is not Johnny Justin, at least in rural Texas, but to us, it was a pretty magnificent find.

Marcel Toulouse saddle-not a H. J. Justin but pretty awesome for us.

And More Rain

It seems like months since a week ago when Feather finally loaded into Sarah’s trailer and rode off to her barn.  We have had horrible weather weighing in with over eight inches of rain in one week (you might get that as a snowfall-but as rain, it is insane).  It has been hard week just keeping up with the wet stalls, standing water and mud to our knees. 

One of the barns in North Houston, previous home to our trainer Dev, our friend Amy and others was totally engulfed in water. 

Horse awaiting rescue from horrible Houston rains.

Thankfully we were not as challenged here but things were definitely bad.  If we are lucky we will use our arena in a week IF it stops raining today.  It has already poured another couple of inches earlier today.Our horses, except retired Mr. Kid, are working athletes.  And as such, need continual physical fitness.  No one has been ridden since last Saturday or even moved from their stall except for a short time last night.  We are lucky to be in the summer lull of the season, although it is a busy time in other areas of the country.  No one gets too excited about horse shows in 100 degree Texas weather.  We would welcome some 100 degree days and that usually constant southern wind about right now. 

I am going to wade out to the barn and get the horses their dinner.  Maybe they can get out for a while again tonight.  And if it can stay dry overnight, maybe tomorrow we can start taking some rides around the horse trailer that is still surrounded by water. 

Lauren said she was okay with no more rain until next year.  I am inclined to agree with her.

 

Love

Two-year-old Riley hugging his baby sister Lexi

While pouring rain continued, Amber with baby Lexi came from Denver to stay with Ally and baby Kendyll as Luke returned to work. I am so grateful they could be here. Work was exceptionally crazy this week so I saw little of the girls and their babies. I should have tried harder. But the time I did spend it was so amazing to watch them with their own families-sharing love and being terrific mothers. How did they learn that? I don’t know but am so proud of all of them. They certainly had their trials like when Ally was feeding Kendyll, Amber was addressing Lexi’s four new teeth that were hurting her mouth and Jordyn decided she had to have milk-NOW. Jo dumped the full gallon of milk down the inside of the refrigerator. She howled in frustration. Baby Lexi took up the call fussing about her teeth and baby Kendyll just continued to nurse anchoring Ally to her spot on the couch. Jordyn has been the light of the Taylor family from the day she entered the world. Lauren and I, my mom and Jim and certainly Amber’s family find her an entrancing child. From this position of family focus to a new big sister is proving to be a little bit of a stretch for Jordyn. I bet she has cried more tears this week than ever before in her short life. But I know she will come to love and care for her sister and share the limelight. Amber left last night with Lexi. Of course, the plane was delayed due to the weather. When they arrived in Denver, big brother Riley and dad, Ryan, were on hand to greet them. In what was nothing but a pure and simple explanation of love, Riley ran to his baby sister, Lexi and threw his arms around her in a big hug. Lexi, not even a year old, embraced her brother as well. They stayed glued together for a few minutes, maybe reassuring themselves that their sibling was home at last and going to stay. In the end, love is feeling of knowing your family is there for you. Nothing could be more pure than these two kids holding each other tight in the big Denver airport. It does my heart good to see this love expressed by my grandchildren. In a world of so much heartbreak and sorrow, love is alive and well in the hearts of these children.

Rain

The endless rain is taking its toll

on my little farm

no way to ride

no way to train

really no way to even walk to the barn

without boots to my knees

Stalls are soaked

horses are bored

we need shavings, feed and hay

but getting supplies to the barn

except by wheelbarrow is impossible

last year we fought the drought

this year we are swimming in mud

little puppy girl, Gia, is not tall enough

to cross the pasture of water

I know it will pass

it always does

but the days of mud and water are

hard, long ones for us

it would be okay to stop soon, God

and this time no snakes when you are done

OTTB-One Month Update on Joey

A month ago, we went and picked up Joey, the six-year-old thoroughbred that Sarah rescued from a very bad situation where he was covered in fungus, was at least 400 pounds underweight and had a serious cut to his pastern.

Sarah had started Joey on the right road, but he still has miles to go.  In the month since he has been at his new mother, Caroline’s barn, Joey has had countless baths to help treat his coat.  He has been fed enough bags of grain to feed an army of ponies.  His coat and weight have been helped by the Nu Image and Amplify products.  He presents a stunning before and after picture, already in just four weeks.  But nothing we have done or not done, has changed Joey’s demeanour.  He is the kindest, sweetest, most level-headed guy you could ever be around.  No matter the weather, the kids (and there are a lot of them) or anything he has been asked to do, he does it whole heartedly and with joy.

We stopped by this last weekend and Jordyn just walked up to the big guy as he stood in the barn alleyway.  She clamped her four-year arms around his front legs and gave him a huge hug.  He just looked on as if amused.  Caroline, too, seems quite taken with the man.  She said he completes her barn (shades of Jerry Maguire) and as she had a big thoroughbred previously that lived out his days with her, perhaps it is like Ol’George is back with a new youthful spirit.

Caroline hasn’t started him over jumps yet, but I will be campaigning for that on Saturday when we plan to meet.  I cannot imagine he will not just take the jumping in stride as he has everything else we have asked of him. Our farrier, a veteran of many thoroughbred race tracks, was suitably impressed with Joey’s pedigree.  I, personally, had not realized how big he was, or at least remembered it correctly.  I will bring the measuring stick this weekend but expect him to reach at least 17.1 or 17.2 hands.  He is already almost 1200 pounds and could carry another hundred or two hundred pounds easily.

This is the joy of the Off the Track Thoroughbred (OTTB).  Their pedigrees can be traced to kings but many are abandoned and forgotten, but when they connect with you and are given the food, attention and care they need, they give back in spades.  Visit www.OTTBdesigns.com or www.afterthefinishline.org for more on these wonderful horses.

I remember sending the original picture of Joey to Dev, our trainer. 

Joey-before and today

He stated he liked the horse’s hip but was not impressed with straight slope of his shoulder or shortness of Joey’s neck.  Well, Dev will need to look again at this marvelous transformation that Caroline is enacting.  I said before we might as well call him “Groceries” for all he will eat, but now we can call him “Handsome” as well.  We hope the folks at OTTB Designs get in some new stock soon, because this guy will be heading to a show soon and we want him decked out right!

Grandkids

Riley with sister Lexi

I am a grandmother again, four times now.  I have baby Kendyll and Jordyn from Ally and Luke.  I have Riley and Lexi from Amber and Ryan.  That’s a lot of blessings.  I don’t know when I will have them all together but hopefully this fall or on a family vacation next summer.

Lauren being the youngest of my girls, and the one without children, has become a better person from her time with her nieces and nephews.  While there certainly has been a reinforcement that baby planning is a necessity, it has also shown Lauren that she is good with kids and they are attracted to her.  Jordyn would rather be with Lauren than me, most of the time.  However, there comes a time in every visit when everyone gets tired and the prize for acting most like a two-year old is a tie between Jordyn and Lauren (okay, maybe Granny is a contender also). 

Riley, back in Denver is ever-increasing his vocabulary.  He told his dad the other night, “you not charge me, Mommy charge me”.  That was not met with a happy note from dad.  Amber had received new books in the mail from Riley’s other grandmother.  Amber told Riley that he had a surprise at home.  “Is it baby Kendyll?”  No, Amber told him.  “Are you getting me a baby brother?”  Definitely, no!  Sorry Riley just some books.

Amber and Ryan took both kids to the local water park.  It was really the first outing that Lexi at almost a year of age, could participate in and enjoy.  Amber said she absolutely squealed with delight as they rode the lazy river in an inner tube.  Very little is a good for the soul as a child’s boundless laughter.

After three days on Granny’s farm and before we returned Jordyn to her mother, we sent her in for a serious scrub down in the shower.  After getting her hair clean and conditioned we left her to play in the water with her toy horses.  She yelled out at us to ask if she could have some plastic cups to play with.  Lauren tossed a couple of Tupperware bowls over the top of the shower and Jo broke out in wild giggles.  You never know what will make them laugh. Lauren commented, if I ever need to make Jordyn happy I will throw a plastic bowl at her.

For me, the grandkids are a new opportunity to do some right in the world.  To try to teach them to be fair, to be happy, to not take life too seriously, to love animals, enjoy the outdoors and play hard.  With baby Kendyll, I get the chance again.  I know everyone talks about this whole grandchildren thing, but honest to God, I never dreamed I would love them as I do.

Jordyn and Kendyll-both asleep

Feather Goes! Yes, She Loads

Anticipating Sarah coming for the last several days has been difficult.  I have had plenty to do and think about without obsessing over if Feather and Sarah would successfully come to an agreement about loading in the trailer.

Obviously, there is Ally and new baby Kendyll to think about.  This morning when Ally was alone for a few minutes, Kendyll decided to choke on her breast milk and turned a bad color of purple.  Ally leaped out of bed (c-section be damned) and tried to get the baby breathing right again.  In what felt like a lifetime to Ally, but was actually just a few moments, the nurses came, the baby took in a deep breath and all was well but it was very frightening.  We saw them this afternoon and all is fine and baby is doing great but Ally has something new to watch and worry about with her new baby.

Yesterday was hay day again.  While I did a lot of the driving, Lauren had a hand in loading over 170 bales of hay.  Just as one set of friends left, another came.  It was a blazing hot Texas day.  The first 80 was just us women, loading hay and working hard.  I was driving one friend’s SUV with the trailer attached.  Four-year olds, Jordyn and Abby were in the in back with the lady’s seven year old.  She asked Abby and Jo if they lived in Fulshear (a nearby town).  Abby answered for both them, “no we live on Earth”.  Can’t argue with that, can you?

This is day three with Jordyn and we love her dearly but neither of us are used to non-stop four year-old fun.  She has ridden all the horses but Leo.  She has played and played.

Work has its own challenges right now with budgets due.  So, lots going on in addition to worrying about Feather.  But I did worry.

Sarah got here in the heat of day.  It was noon and over 100 degrees.   Sarah visited with her old horse, Mr. Kid.  She scoped out the best plan for loading Feather.  She backed the trailer into the paddock and it was on.  No gloves, no chains, no lunge ropes, nothing we had tried just a rope halter and lead rope.

It was a little gratifying (for the first ten minutes) that Feather didn’t just immediately load up.  It showed that Lauren and I were not just idiots that couldn’t handle a horse.  When she still hadn’t loaded and stayed in the trailer an hour and a half later, no one cared about gratifying.  Sarah just took her up, one hoof at time, rewarding the positive and tapping her with her whip when she backed off the trailer. There were a couple of crazy moments, like when Sarah had gotten her in the trailer but Feather had spun around toward her and was coming at her like an all-state defensive end.  There was some quick scrambling on Sarah’s part.

But in the end, Sarah stood by the end of the trailer.  Feather, with the lead rope loose around her neck, walked herself forward, into the trailer  on her own.  She stood quietly as Lauren and Sarah got the slant closed.  My heart was pumping hard as Sarah finally put the truck in gear and drove away. Feather will stay for a week and have these lessons reinforced.  I am so happy that the future is still bright for this promising mare.  And happy that patience and repetition earned its own reward.  Mickey, however, has not stopped neighing for his girl, Feather.  It will be a long week for him.

Thanks for riding along on this incredible journey of my life.  Keep us in your prayers, especially baby Kendyll and Ally.

Victory!

Welcome Kendyll Paige

Baby Kendyll Paige

Kendyll Paige Taylor, at eight pounds, two ounces joined our family this afternoon.  Delivered via C-Section, she came safely and lovingly into the world.  She looks a lot like her pretty sister Jordyn Grace although she seems to have more hair and it is darker.  Ally looks great and Kendyll is already nursing well and settling in to life on the outside.

Her other grandma, Dodie, and I stood with are arms linked, tears rushing from our eyes as we gazed at Kendyll and Ally peacefully lying together an hour or so after birth.  We were both overwhelmed with the bountiful blessings that God had bestowed on us.  Thank you dear Lord for what you have given us.  May we be good ambassadors of your love and spirit to this little child.

Feather goes to Training (we hope)

My friend, the talented Sarah Petty, is coming to get Feather on Saturday (unless Ally is in labor and we will re-schedule). While the original plan had been to get Feather to Dev’s for advanced under saddle work, with the trailering and behavior issues, Sarah has graciously offered to do some interim lessons so that we can then move on to the Dev plan later.  You have to load in a trailer and accept basic things in the barn before you can move on to doing great things in the show ring.

Sarah grew up (literally) working horses.  I cannot begin to guess how many horses she has ridden in her life although she is only in her mid-20’s.  Sarah was the one that convinced Mickey that walking forward was a good plan after he showed up in her family rescue so many years ago.  She has a commanding spirit and a gentle soul and if anyone can convince Feather that loading in a trailer is a good idea it will be Sarah.  I just hope we get Feather to go along with the plan.  If we can get her into Sarah’s trailer than Sarah can slowly and consistently work with her to re-load and adjust to the trailer as needed.

Prince with Melissa on board.

I hope so much that this is a success.  Feather’s relatives are synonymous with success in the eventing world.  Pictured is her cousin Prince that Melissa McMaster took from a youngster to being one of the top eventing horses in the country.  We hope Feather grows up to be just like Prince but she’s gotta go in the trailer first.  I will send an update on Saturday with the progress.  This mare has a date with destiny and I believe we must gently urge her forward so she can find her own place in the show world.  I suspect that when Feather meets Sarah, she will think she has returned to Melissa.  I think she will respect Sarah and her time with her will be invaluable to her future.  Thank you, Sarah-I pray this works.