Colorado Family

I returned to my Colorado homeland amongst the worst storms and flooding in years. It seemed like a sign. I was looking forward to the fall splendor in the mountains and what I can see with the limited visibility is more like another Houston storm. Streets are blockaded, the entire county of Boulder is just “closed”.

I have not been here in over a year since I moved my mom back to Texas with me. I have been lucky enough to see Amber and her family several times but I have not been here. Lexi and Riley are both at the ages where they change a lot-two and four, respectively. Also, one of my last trips here, the family wolfhound suffered a horrific injury and had to be put to sleep. I had seen pictures of my new grand dog, Nellie, a female Irish wolfhound but had not met her.

Immediately, as I entered their home I was greeted by this huge, beautiful girl. I had owned a male wolfhound as had Amber, but this was our first girl. She was a wee bit shy. But she was huge! At least as big as either of our previous males, she measures almost seven feet (seriously!) from her nose to the tip of her tail. I don’t think she is done growing.

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Riley with Nellie

She also has a sweet, calm, loving demeanor. No matter if the kids were crawling over her or rolling along on our rain soaked walk, she was a champ. I saw a year’s worth of photos of the dog! It was wonderful.

The sun is starting to peek through, Lexi, Amber and I have all had pedicures, and I am looking forward to a couple of nice days with my Colorado family.

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with my grand dogs Bailey and Nellie

Continuing Education-A Bruno Story

Mr. Kid patiently observing his student, Bruno.

Mr. Kid patiently observing his student, Bruno.

When we got home from the horse show yesterday it was only about noon, but Lauren and I (and probably Feather) were wiped out.  Horse shows involve a lot of work, long hours, painstaking patience and manual labor.  And I am just talking about my part which isn’t even on the horse.  From start of show to close, it is a kind of nervous, frenetic activity.  I love the shows but am always glad to pack up and go home.

I started threatening Lauren in the truck while we were pulling the trailer home.  “You know, Bruno hasn’t been ridden since Thursday.”  It was hot, humid and mid-day.  Lauren had been riding hard for three days.  Riding Bruno was no where on the “what I want to do next” list.  But I also knew that come evening Lauren would want to go visit her boyfriend and Bruno would have gone another day without work.

We try to work all our horses (except Kid) at least three times a week.  Feather and Bruno get four trips.  Bruno was long overdue.  Dr. Criner was due Monday and if we didn’t want a crazy Bruno meeting her at the gate he needed to be worked.  The sky was overcast and threatening.  I think Lauren was praying it would rain and she would get a reprieve from riding but the rain held off.

About 3:00 pm we headed out to the barn.  She got Bruno cleaned up and ready to ride.  I got to clean the stalls and the barn while she got started.  I had to think it through, hum, riding Bruno and falling off or cleaning the stalls in the stifling humidity.  I went with the stalls.

Mr. Kid had followed Bruno out to the arena (of, course) so he was observing Lauren’s riding in my absence.  He said they were doing okay but that Bruno was still having trouble with his left lead.  Kid said he could still pull both leads on command at age 31 and had no idea why the big, young thoroughbred was having so much trouble.  “Youth, these days,  Mr. Kid, not up to your standards!”.

This is a stock picture-NOT BRUNO.  I moved three of the poles together to create one yard wide obstacle.

This is a stock picture-NOT BRUNO. I moved three of the poles together to create one yard wide obstacle.

We had set some caveletti poles for Jordyn and Snow to work on.  I moved them up so they were each 12 inches high and grouped three together (about 36 inches across). I asked Lauren to trot to them and see if Bruno would catch the correct lead over the jump.  He did!  It worked perfectly except for the first three times when Bruno thought the better plan was to go around the funny white poles stacked on the ground.  Or the next time when he thought he would just charge straight through the poles.  All good ideas but not what Lauren wanted.  Finally, he was consistently catching his left lead each time over poles. But we always have to take it a step further.

So, we reversed him and headed him over the poles moving to the right.  Bruno’s response was the same. First, avoid the poles, then scatter the poles, but whatever you do-do not jump the poles.  It is at times like this when you have heard the stories of the OTTBs that just jumped first time out perfectly, that make me wonder if we will ever get in the show ring with this horse.  He is definitely not what I would call a natural!

It was a good exercise in that there were no jump standards to direct Bruno through, just the poles setting a foot off the ground.  Lauren had to concentrate and focus to get the big horse to the spot she needed him to be in.  I would yell, “Turn him, use half the arena!”.  I would hear, “I am, he is just not turning!”  He is not unlike a freight train that once he is set on a path, it is a little difficult to change his course.

I did remind her that except for the last few weeks, he essentially had been off work for almost a year.  He will have to learn to accept her leg, for him to learn to feel her shift in weight, the subtle pressure on the reins and what it all means.

I think the best part of the day was just how we laughed.  This big, ol’steamroller of a horse was just moving down the arena.  Sometimes he was perfect.  Other times he just totally disregarded the silly white poles and sent them flying in all directions.

I challenged Lauren that I want this horse (who has been pretty much sound for at least a month now-I am knocking on wood here) to be in the show arena doing something before the end of the year.  Sometimes you just have to put your dreams out there and then make them happen.

The next weeks and months should be telling for our Bruno.  Absolutely nothing I saw yesterday would make you bet that this horse will ever win anything in the jumper arena.  But this horse has had a way of surprising us so hang on for the ride.  It may be a bit bumpy for a while. If we can channel all the energy and spirit Bruno has to offer into a responsive horse, we will be unstoppable. Today we are still picking up scattered poles!

Show weekend

Another show weekend, another chance to gauge Feather’s progression as she continues to move up in height at each show, getting a little more comfortable, getting a little bit faster each time.

I applaud our trainer Dev as we, his clients, bring not only all our own issues of confidence, ability and skill (and lack thereof) but also our equine partner who is also subject to great days and mediocre ones as well. What a cheerleader he is for us, keeping us engaged while also being a bit of a taskmaster as he forces one more try from a tired girl and a really hot horse.

Dev’s group range in age from some young walk-trotters onto those filled with junior high angst, onto the high school, college and finally the grown up set. Not that we haven’t all been known to trade personalities with the fresh high schooler competently running the ring, while we adults are sometimes too childish for words.

I guess it is all in a day’s work for a trainer but know these marathon three-day or longer shows must take their toll. We had a good weekend, prepared all these months as we followed Dev’s plan for Feather’s education. Sometimes taking longer to grasp our goal and other days, like yesterday, just having successive clear rounds, one after another.

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Feather racing for the finish line

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making it look easy

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that’s all folks

Thanks for riding along! Thanks Dev Branham for being exactly what my daughter needs in a trainer! Thanks to all the DSH riders and family, you make it fun. Thanks to my friends and family (including baby Kendyll) for always supporting us.

Jim is getting married (wait, he already is!)

Yesterday I got to the nursing home to find mom resting on her bed. Always my favorite, because I get to lie down beside her and rest my aching back, too.

She was pleased to see me and told me she was so happy I had gotten there when I did because she had just gotten some awful news. I never know what the news is going to be, from the home closing, to an awful storm brewing, to her not being allowed to go in her room, the results were always varied and never the same. Today’s catastrophe would be a new one.

Earnestly, she looked at me and said, “Jim is getting married!” Huh, that was a new one. I explained to her that she was still married to Jim so he could not marry someone else. Immediately, she became indignant (as she always does when I do not believe something she says). “Yes, he is and to a younger women!”. I could see that arguing this point was going to be of no use.

The rest of visit was spent going over the details of Jim’s marriage. Now, remember, she has not seen or talked to Jim since December of last year. With complications with their hearing and their health, I have been limited to reading her notes that Jim sends and reminding her about him and that he loves her.

But in her mind, Jim had been there at the nursing home with her. Breaking her heart with the news that he had fallen in love with another women! She went on to tell me that the women had children, but she had not really listened to him when he told he that part because who wants to know details like that about their rival (that’s what she told me!).

I tried a couple of times, unsuccessfully, to tell her that she was still married to Jim and he was not getting married to anyone else. She was not interested. Or not accepting that could be true. She told me he would not be available to drive her to the doctor next week so I better make plans to take her.

It was a brutal visit and sad. I can only imagine that after all this time apart she has come up with this as the only reason Jim would not be visiting her. Obviously, he had to have meet someone else.

I hope on my next visit she is off on a new kick and not worried about Jim and his new bride. What I really hope is that Jay and Jim can once again make the long trek to Texas again this fall and they can be re-united again.

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Feather and Lauren are off to a horse show tomorrow. I have reserved two stalls for the October Pine Hill show in hopes Bruno might be ready to make his debut in the ring. (OH MY GOODNESS THAT WOULD BE AMAZING!) But if not, maybe Snowney can come and he and Jordyn can enter the Halloween costume class. Any great ideas for a white pony and pretty little girl-I am totally okay with painting the pony rainbow colors or whatever it takes to have an imaginative and creative Halloween entry. Send me your ideas!

You’re in Big Trouble Bruno!-a Bruno Story

Bruno giving us a sly look after he is safely back in his stall.

Bruno giving us a sly look after he is safely back in his stall.

Last night, I got home to Roland making his monthly farrier visit. It was the first time he was having to do all the horses as in the past he has made separate trips to do Bruno. He had been there for well over two hours when I arrived. He was waiting for a patch to dry on Bruno’s bad hoof. I commented it looked like drywall tape and I guess it is similar.  Bruno had pulled off his specially sculpted cast and shoe about a week ago.  His hoof was looking pretty ragged.

Roland told me if it comes off again, I am to immediately duct tape his entire hoof and then put it in one of those boots that is used to protect the hoof when a shoe is lost.  Bruno’s hoof wall is still so thin, it cannot hold up to any type of abuse, even just walking around on soft ground.

It was another balmy day with heat indexes over 100 as we stood and held horses for Roland to shoe.  By the time Roland left, Lauren and I were both tired.  We might not have been paying a lot of attention to the usual details of closing the barn at night.

On clear nights, Snow, Mickey and Feather go out all night in main pasture.  Bruno is locked in his paddock, which is covered in case a stray shower heads our way.  To keep ol’Kid safe from Bruno pushing him around all night, Kid goes in the paddock in front of the main stalls.

We try not let any horse but Kid in this area.  As Roland told me, it is supposed to be a barn not a green house, but I have enjoyed planting climbing vines and hanging baskets full of flowers from the front of the barn.  Also, the cats have their food out which Snowboy would clearly eat (and did) when he had a chance.

Snowboy sneaking a snack of cat food!

Snowboy sneaking a snack of cat food!

We put Kid in his paddock, turned off the fans, locked the tackroom, closed the hay room, double checked the water troughs and went in to the much-anticipated air conditioning. Kid can be trusted not to bother anything.

This morning at my usual 4:00 am I let the dogs out the back of the house and immediately noticed the barn had all the lights on.  I rushed to Lauren’s room, thinking there had been some barn emergency I had been lucky enough to sleep through.  “Why are there lights on in the barn?”  I demanded.  She looked up sleepily from her bed with no comprehension of what I was talking about.  Then I got scared.  What if someone was out there?  Although, that would be pretty stupid, why would you turn on all the lights if you were planning to attack someone?

As I came around the corner of the house I saw Bruno looking at me from the gate (he was back-lit like a giant statue in the blazing lights of the barn).  However, he was on Kid’s side of the paddock, not his.  And what a time he had!  Sometime during the night he had gotten through the connecting gate of the two paddocks.  He literally reached in and pulled all my plants out of their pots and left them strung along the fence.  The cat food was a thing of the past.  We had bags of shavings stacked next to the main gate, just under all the industrial light switches that have a toggle switch instead of a normal up and down switch.  The bag of shavings was torn open and the lights and fans turned on.  Perhaps the industrial lighting switch company can use this in their advertising, ‘so simple even your horse can turn on the switches’.  I am not sure that is really an asset. I got the morning feed and literally had to drag Bruno back over to his side of the paddock and his own stall.  Apparently he likes all the attractions on Kid’s side of fence.  I guarantee we will be triple checking the chains on that gate tonight.  That’s after I have gotten all the plants re-potted and bought some more cat food.  Oh, Bruno!

Discipline

In a hundred ways, every day, every hour, there are times I must discipline myself. I am really good at some things and not so good at others. For instance, I have worked out a way to successfully wake myself up each day at 4:00 am without an alarm. Or whatever time I need to. I can just make my unconscious self do it.

Likewise, I am very disciplined about my barn chores. Everything gets done in a certain order and in a certain way. I am not so disciplined about my in-the-house chores. We have hard wood floors and I am good at sweeping. The rest of the cleaning I am not as apt to complete. But you will never find a horse of mine with a dirty water bucket.

Back in Florida, before I turned 40, not too long after Lauren was born, I got into a walking routine. It changed my figure, my size and my outlook. I was a little obsessed about getting my walk in, how many miles I had gone and what my total miles for the week were. I had a calendar that let you record those totals. I walked over a hundred miles a month at one point.

I came to Texas, had to give up my horses, became sedentary and gained weight. Okay, what is the point of this, you are asking.

I saw a couple of examples of discipline this weekend. One when I thought of Sarah, the horse trainer where Pixie is, I know she sets a schedule of what horses get worked when and very little deters her from that schedule. She remarked, when she had our previous pony Mimi, that Mimi did not like working in the dark. But Sarah had five horses to work and not enough daylight so they continued on in the early dusk.

The second one I saw was a family member who had quit smoking after years of doing so. He had successfully quit for over a month. But he had given in and was back to smoking again. I understand somethings, like alcohol and smoking, are not just a question of making a decision and sticking with it. Addiction is another topic.

My daughters and I are all on a diet. We completed the initial 24 day phase. We are into the “just keep dieting because in the end you will feel better, live longer phase”. It is a much more difficult phase. There is nothing hanging over your head to help you keep making good decisions. We have agreed to a goal weight weigh in for October 1st. I sent out a reminder to the girls today. I am about six pounds away from that weight. Lauren is pretty close. Amber and Ally are working at theirs.

For me to lose six pounds this month, means I have to look at everything differently. I have changed a lot of habits (a big one with Chik-fil-a) and another with my best friend, diet Coke. It is taking a lot of discipline.

I want to help my daughters. Help keep them motivated to do well and succeed. I know I have three bright, smart, talented daughters. Why is food such a difficult obstacle for all of us? It almost seems like the more you try to do the right thing the more weight you gain instead of lose. We are genetically pre-disposed to being a little heavy. Both my mother (yes, my tiny little mother) and my father fought their weight. My mom (along with her sisters) tried many different diets. My mother joined Weight Watchers in like 1976, lost weight to become a lifetime member and religiously weighed in every month of her life until she moved to Texas. Now the doctor wants her to gain a little weight and she just cannot let herself do it.

My father would struggle to get back his college football playing weight (225) and he would do so. It would sneak up on him and he would lose weight again. He had the discipline to get it done.

I want to lose this weight for the last and final time. I have a degenerative joint disease. I have one hip replaced and another that needs to be. All of me would be happier (more pain-free) if I was slimmer. I am going to do it this time. Something has just changed in perception of what I need to do. I had waited for this diet and now I am sticking to it. I want to be able to counsel my daughters and help them see the results I am having. We all have to get to our own point when we want the change more than anything else.

I can exercise a lot, but until I slow down the calories, it does not matter, just saying, for me. But I have found, when I do exercise, I am more engaged in my body and tend to treat it a little better.

Discipline, especially for ourselves, is the hardest. We are weakest in our own short comings, and grand in our illusions that this or that will not matter. I wish for all of us, especially my dear children, that this was simpler and more defined. I pray we all find the discipline to beat whatever demon has us entrapped.

Thanks for riding along on my weird diatribe I promise to get back to a heartfelt horse story next!

UnLabor Day Weekend

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Pixie just off the trailer at her new trainers

My goal was to have a nice quiet weekend, in essence , to have an unLabor day. But at the farm chores do not follow the calendar. Every day, horses need to fed, cleaned, sprayed for flies, feet checked and a million other things. First, we had to get Pixie, the German Riding pony, ready to go to Sarah’s for a month of training.

We met years ago, when she was a teen and I was new to Houston. Ally’s top appendix horse, Savannah (by multiple time World Champ-Rugged Lark) had moved here from Florida with us. Her stay did not last long. I was newly divorced and really not making ends meet. A very hard decision sent the mare back to Florida. Sarah and her mom, Sharelle ran a horse rescue in Alvin. If I was going to without my horses at least I could help them at the rescue. I worked in the Galleria and drove down to Alvin a couple nights a week. Sarah was a little older at the time than my 13 year old
daughter, Ally. I would watch Sharelle manage the 501.3 C business, always on the phone, hustling for feed, a place to put a newly donated horse and organize all the donators with correct adoptees.

I watched Sarah grow up during these years. She was home schooled to have more time for riding and training. I am sure my girls and many others coveted her life. Not having to go to school and riding endless horses every day. But the reality was much harsher. Sarah and her mom, got horses in each day, some nice ones that people turned in for the tax deduction. But often the horses brought in were sick, starving, some close to death. Sarah worked harder in those years than most kids ever work

Sarah rode barrels. She rode for the prize money. It was her spending money. She ran my horse, Kid, until he was 20 years old. She won the Gulf Coast Barrel Racing Association end of year prize. Then she retired him to me. Sarah has an incredible work ethic. She is successful because she steadfastly, calmly and concisely works each horse to get results.

Every horse in our barn except Bruno has been to Sarah. She always gets them back (or there for the first time) to a great work ethic. Mimi went to Sarah’s and came back a finished pony. We hope for the same results from Pixie. Sarah gets results.

After we dropped off the pony, we hurried to meet Ally and her extended family for Jordyn’s birthday lunch. Lauren left after we got home to go out of town for the rest of the weekend. I have my outside chores and am also trying to clean things up inside the house. I am pretty sure I could work all day, every day and never finish.

Mama Kitty, who we have never been able to catch will go the vet to be neutered. I think she has had at least 60 kittens. I hope I can get her there. Poor mama kitty- enough is enough. Her current litter is six kittens, all different colors and kinds. They were hiding in my car and started popping out as I backed up the car. I am going to park away from the house until we get this figured out. Hope I catch mama on Tuesday. No more babies!

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Mama Kitty guarding the entrance to old garage

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one of the darling babies poking her little head out