Saturday, May 11, 2019

May-be May be not

Now it’s May. It’s warmed up, which I am grateful for. The apricot tree has bloomed and the peach tree is blooming now. Best peaches I have ever had in my life came off of this tree.

Pig can't come in the house because he isn't house broke and he's mean to me and the dogs. Pig can't be lose in the yard, because he's mean to the dogs and they bloodied each other, so pig was locked in the shed alone. I felt bad for him because I know they are social animals and he's lonely and isolated like me, so my heart really went out to him. I finally talked TheMan into making him a little yard of his own.
...with a ball and a wallow
 So  now he has his own little  yard ....

...and some pig legos.
I think pig is happy now

  Heath and I drove to California the end of last month to watch one of my granddaughters get baptized. It was a happy day. I watched another play softball and totally enjoyed it. I miss those little league and gymnastics days of my kid’s childhoods.
We went to visit Heath's bestie, his sheepherding trainer and Heath got to play. He had such a good time he wore himself out and fell asleep standing up in the car.

We put two small lambs in a kennel in the back of the Blue Roo and brought them home to raise. They currently live in the empty chicken pen with a tunnel to the over grown garden next to Pig’s play yard.
There is plenty there to graze off for now. I'll figure something else out for later. The Maremmas are certainly glad to see them

Before my trip down to Calif. TheMan helped me get a ton of stuff out of my old milkroom/tackroom. Huge hornet nests had to come down, garbage that was inexplicably stored in there thrown out, my large cow stanchion and the broken freezers, etc. It’s not finished but at least my tack is in there now. I still need to fix something to  hang up all my bits, hang the bridle racks and put a couple of panels up inside so Mister can access the shade and shelter of it without getting into my stuff, and a couple of panels outside so we can eliminate the gate which I cannot open or close, which keeps him trapped in the small corral and separated from the shelter. That way he will have plenty of room to fart around in, but will also have the option to go inside out of the sun or the weather if he wants to, and I can access him. As it is right now, I can't even get him to the tack room because the gate between them is so heavy.

Yesterday TheMan agreed to saddle him for me, as I have become extremely weak again. Just brushing him down, getting his boots on and applying fly protection completely wore me out. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get my spurs on, but I did. I got him into the round pen, as he is one 25 year old gelding that actually needs to be worked down as he is too fresh to just get on and ride. He played for a good long while, bucking, bolting, farting and doing rollbacks, until he decided he was done and I climbed up on my mounting block and got onboard.

Heath had a fabulous time, although he ran ahead to every spot of shade he could find. His tongue looked a bit like a shovel, but as we were only going to walk aways, I didn’t worry too much. We only went as far as the first closed gate, which is all I can do anyway. It was about a mile plus down the road. Just the perfect distance for both Mister and Heath to learn to conserve their energy in the future.

My phone is broken so I couldn’t take any pictures of our ride, but it was beautiful, with the butterflies flitting around the tall green grass backed by the dark blue snowcapped Steens mountain. There is just something about being horseback that renews me.The connection to my mount, the awareness of his every movement, what interests him, his own satisfaction of being out in the world as well as the feeling of oneness it gives me. It passively works all my muscles and is the most effective and enjoyable way to rehabilitate me from the ravages of this disease. I can feel it in my back and shoulders and just barely in my legs. The more I ride, the stronger I will become. It will also help me deal with some of my balance issues and leaves me with the same uplifting “runner’s high” other athletes enjoy. I spent my entire life on horseback until we moved here and disease and injuries took their toll. I haven’t completely given up yet. The sun was shining and it reminded me to wear a hat and sunglasses next time, which I hope is very soon.

I have a wisdom tooth and another tooth requiring some surgery on my mouth (thanks to autoimmune and medications) so I might be laid up for a bit recovering. My short term goal is being able to lift my saddles again, like I was just beginning to be able to do after pushing so hard for 5 months in California last year. My long term goal is to gain enough leg strength to be able to mount and dismount again from the ground so I won’t be limited in where I go, by gates around the ranch. Meanwhile, Heath will finally be getting the exercise he has always needed as a young dog.

Bruno was a little stiff so I put him on turmeric which seems to help quite a lot. While I was gone, TheMan said he got real bad and he was out ofthe mix I make for him. When I got home he could hardly walk so I quickly made some more, but he wasn't any better the next day. Then I noticed a large red spot on his inner thigh he was licking so I figured he had a hot spot. I sprayed it as best I could but couldn't see much. Then it swelled up REALLY bad and he had an angry red patch the size of a dinner plate, without hair all of a sudden. I got an e collar on him and sprayed the area again. I went to touch it and it was very painful. Next morning, the swelling was down and he was much improved and it's looking more and more like he had been snake bit. He is recovering nicely from it now, whatever it was and Mr Potamus hasn't had any seizures since I put him on CBD so I am hoping that its what is making the difference as the seizures he had were both violent and becoming frequent.

So now I'll be waiting to heal from my dental work so Heath and I can go riding again. Til then, have a good May!


Thursday, November 1, 2018

There's No Place Like Home, addendum

So, here we are, back in my favorite town. The Heathen and I are living with friends who are taking good care of us and pouring God's love out on us. We couldn't be more blessed. It looks like it might be awhile before we have our own quarters so we are enjoying a room in their home, with what stuff I figured we can't live without, spread all around least what isn't in the Blu Roo.
Speaking of which...

Well. Let me start at the beginning.

I informed my doctors in Idaho that we were moving to California. They provided me with an extra month of prescriptions, to give me time to get established with new doctors where we would be living. When I went to fill my pain prescription (which is the most important as I am completely unable to function without pain relief) I was informed that California won't honor the prescription from out of state. I had one days worth of pain control left. My pharmacy in Oregon was kind enough to make several calls, and the closest place I could get my prescription filled, was 7 hours away in Reno, Nevada. So I had Roo's oil changed as I knew the trip was going to put us beyond the mileage it had to be done and I didn't want to void his warranty. I had that done, hosed him off, filled him with fuel and we were off early the next morning. We didn't make it in time for the Reno pharmacy to contact the prescribing physician so we were promised they would fill it "first thing in the morning".

TheMan met us at my brother's in Reno (a 5 hour drive for him). Heath was shocked and totally unable to contain himself upon seeing him when the door opened. He was so excited and had absolutely not expected such a fantastic surprise. We went out and had dinner and he went with us to the pharmacy the next morning. Thank goodness. It took phone call after phone call to every conceivable person and place to get it done, and finally, I got my 1/2 my meds at 12:30. I guess "first thing in the morning' means something different than what I always thought it meant. The other half of the meds, I just gave up on. I was pretty much a wreck and unable to make the 7 hour drive home so I went back to my brother's for another night. I was in a considerable amount of pain as I cannot lay down and had already spent one night sitting up on a hard couch trying to sleep. I finally discovered a small chair he had that did recline a bit, so night #2 wasn't considered comfy, but was a huge improvement.

We left early in the morning, expecting to make it home by 3 in the afternoon. After several hours we were a few miles N of Bishop on 395. I looked in the mirror and saw what looked like smoke. I checked my dash, but no lights were on so I figured maybe it was exhaust or something. A couple of miles later, the oil light came on. I panicked, thankfully we had just reached a turnoff to a rest stop so I took it.

There was a van full of guys that looked to just be getting ready to leave. Roo had started sounding really bad the last few yards before I stopped and turned him off. I asked if any of the guys knew anything about cars and dialed TheMan. I didn't realize I was shaking, until they pointed it out and Heath was alerting me like crazy and was pretty much beside himself as well, as he's never seen me like that. I don't think that I have ever seen me like that. The guys came over, opened the hood, looked at the engine, noticed an oil trail all the way down the drive and oil puddling under the car, running out past the tire. They were very kind and considerate and made every effort to assure us and help us to feel more secure.
They were kind enough to help me find my insurance papers, my registration, and all my other stuff I might need. They spoke to TheMan for me as I was too shook up, one guy, an off duty CHP took pictures of the oil and the engine for me and sent them to my phone in case I needed them. He told me step by step what I needed to do next. They have no idea how much their kindness meant to me. I could not possibly express it in words, so an old lady hug had to suffice.

The dealership finally sent a tow truck. We waited for almost 5 hours, out in the middle of nowhere, to be taken back several hours almost where we started, to a dealership in Carson City.
It was nearly dark by the time we got there and I got a rental to drive home until things were resolved.

I went to the first motel I could find, as I can't see to drive in the dark and I was both physically and emotionally exhausted. The lady at the desk refused to rent us a room because of my Service Dog.

I calmly expressed my understanding that "faux Service Dogs" are a problem,  but assured her my dog was legitimate. She asked for papers. I explained that there are no papers and if someone has them, it's a red flag because they are purchased online. She seemed as if she already knew that.
Anyway, to make a long story short, she was rude and condescending, refused us a room on the grounds that her "clientele" expects a pet free environment, some "future client might be allergic to dogs", and I should just "go down the road and find someplace that allows pets". I was already frazzled and exhausted so I told her I would go, but would be filing a complaint and she said "go ahead".
I never experienced discrimination before, but now I know how that feels, and I can tell you, it's devastating. I've since filed a complaint and asked a couple of agencies in the city to make an effort to  inform businesses of ADA laws.

Ugh! Rant over. It still makes me upset.

Anyway, moving forward, Roo is currently going under the wrench and having major surgery to see what is wrong with his engine. I am praying for a rapid and complete recovery, then I have to make the stupid 7 hour trip BACK to pick him up and return the rental car. I'm not wanting to do it. But I don't see much of a choice. Maybe some kind person will go with me. At any rate, I'll probably opt to sleep in the car this time, rather than deal with motels.

and now, back to my regular programming...

We are loving being back in our hometown. We've given a couple of riding lessons, seen grandkids and are somehow so busy every day, I haven't yet had time to visit anyone. There's no more isolation or being stuck inside of an empty house. I'm excited and hopeful and can't wait to see what God has waiting for us around the corner.

quail hunting

riding with friends

Right before the fated trip to Reno, Heath and I went to the PNW English Shepherd Gathering in Oregon. It was awesome!! Of course, due to the fires in N CA.  roads were closed and we had to drive 13 hours to the ranch, then 8 more to our friends' house where we were staying, before making the 45 minute drive to the gathering.

There were LOTS of English Shepherds and their owners. A multitude of dogs is something Heath had never experienced. He wasn't sure what to do with it, but when we participated in some of the activities, he was all about doing it. The setting was incredible, the views breathtaking.

Our first was a "barnyard chores" contest. He had to wait while I opened and closed a gate. Then we walked in and he had to wait while I went and got a bucket of feed, walked over and dumped it out, then returned the bucket to where I'd gotten it. Then we went to a pen of ducks and he was to act as my "gate" while I let them out of one pen into another, then move and be a "gate" again while I moved them back. All of these things he did flawlessly. Then we came to the next obstacle, which cost all our points because of me.
There were several straw bales stacked up with plastic eggs hidden in different places. there were treats hidden inside the eggs so the dogs could locate them. He found the eggs, which were large and slippery. I asked him to put them in my basket as I couldn't reach down to pick them up like the other hoomans. He got the first egg in, but the second was really slippery and he had to grab it harder. It popped open and he discovered it had a "creamy center". With great enthusiasm he located the other eggs in record time and I had to get someone to help me put them in the basket before he helped himself to any more of the contents. We all had a good laugh.

He did an excellent job herding ducks in the next challenge, only missing one.

Then he surprised me by doing a great job in his very first agility course ever.

All in all, it was a really fun, exhausting day.

The next morning we drove 1 1/2 hours into Washington to an incredibly beautiful herding facility to do some sheep herding.

Heath has no training, but he loves to herd. He was torn between staying beside me or working sheep. I couldn't help him as I am not fast enough to keep from getting run over by the sheep. He went in with his grandmother's owner who is a fantastic herding trainer, judge, breeder and competitor. He was too concerned about leaving me to work. Then my friend, his breeder, who knows him well, went in with him. He looked to me, I gave him the release and he began to work for her. He had a great time and I was tickled because we bo both had been getting kind of stressed, what with all the moving around and driving places we've been doing. In spite of the fact it was it's a really stressful drive for me, the weekend was all about Heath and he made the most of it. We both had a really good time with really good friends.

Then we drove the 8 hours back to the ranch then 13 hours "home" to recuperate. So one can see why driving 7 hr up to Reno for my pain meds was not something I was excited about.


It's been awhile, but now we are in Bakersfield for a few months. I've been training one of the partners and her mare and our first show is this weekend. It's been a lot of fun, staying down here with them and 4 of their little girls. Heath has been taking herding lessons from his new bestie, and the Maremmas, sheep and my old horses will be joining us in a week, so we are looking forward to some great adventures!!!

Heath prepares for Halloween

Her man showcases this years horseshow hubby line of clothing


It’s been some time since I posted and the reason for that is initially, I was waiting for things to fall into place so I had a place to live and a space for everything. Living out of a travel trailer for months wasn’t conducive to any kind of blogging and all my time was accounted for.

The second reason I haven’t posted is that I don’t like to write when I am in a truly bad emotional space, and that’s where I have been since the beginning of January. Some healing has gone on now, and I feel like I can safely share my thoughts and experiences without being overtly negative.

Moving to California was such a good thing for me. Prior to the move, I spent much time in a wheelchair, was unable to cook or keep house, walk far or stand up for any length of time. Life was tough, and the future was bleak and dark for me. I knew that I had to benefit down there, being close enough to acquire services that I desperately needed for my condition, such as massage, physical therapy, and just seeing people as opposed to being isolated all day every day. I had no idea how much better I would get.

I stayed with a wonderful couple for the first 6 weeks or so. They were partners in the business I was going to work for. I originally assumed I would only be able to do paperwork, answer phones and visually keep an eye on things. I had a wonderful time staying with this couple who became very dear to me and treated me like family. Slowly I was able to do more and the first time I went to the store without having to use the electric cart was a huge milestone for me. I slowly became stronger and more optimistic. A sweet neighbor of theirs invited me to go down to the equestrian center to ride her horse. I was only able to mount with great difficulty, and walk around the round pen at first, but it felt amazing. After a few ride I was able to do short stints of trotting, but was very aware of both my weakness and lack of balance. Nevertheless, being back in my hometown, being able to socialize, and knowing I could visit my family who were closely did me worlds of good, along with the wonderful healthy cooking and care given to me by my host.

One afternoon we went to their daughter’s home down the mountain and an hour away. She and her husband were the other partners. She asked if I could give her a lesson on her new horse as she was having some issues. We figured I could manage that if I had a place to simply sit. I was able to see a number of corrections that needed to be made in the horse’s movement and carriage, as well as a few positional and executional mistakes she was making. I walked back and forth for an hour, sitting in between while she rode. It was the best feeling to be doing what I am good at again. It’s impossible to describe or explain how lost I have been and how validating and energizing it was.

I was anxious for the Equestrian Center they were building to get funded and built so I could get my own horses down. We all kept thinking it would be anyway. All the plans were made, right down to the placement, grading, logo, etc. She had done her homework, checking out the demographics and need for the business, spent a year getting all the bids done, choosing the barns and corrals, getting the legal work done, registering the name, had the marketing campaign ready to go, plans for everything from landscaping, to activities. It was going to be a first class operation, we were all excited about it going forward and even had many people in the community ready to commit to bringing their horses in.

I moved into a travel trailer at their place, figuring it would only be a couple of weeks and I’d be heading back up the mountain and moving in. The funding was delayed. I continued working with her and her horse daily, pushing myself to exhaustion, but growing stronger because of it. I slowly started cleaning her paddocks. First one, then all three. She invited me to bring my horses down. I asked if the sheep and dogs could come as well and she agreed. By the end of November, both my horses, my dogs and sheep were all down in California. I was losing weight, gaining strength and getting caught up on what had changed in the horse business since I had “retired” 15 years earlier. As she offered to supply feed for the horses, I was able to purchase badly needed equipment that I had to replace, so I could give riding instruction at the new center when we opened. With plans for an indoor arena, I would be able to teach year round so it was worth the investment, plus we were hoping to pay off our credit card debt and medical bills with my income. That would allow us to pay off my car and replace our truck which is now almost 20 years old. I also had to live off the credit card to feed myself, which was more expensive than I am used to, as I couldn’t just throw anything together in a small kitchen with no counter space or storage. I lived on polish sausage, jalapeƱo cheese dogs and smoothies, as they were quick, cheap  and could be popped in the microwave. Many nights I didn’t eat at all, as I’d be so worn out in the late afternoon, all I could do was sleep. It was a good feeling, to be physically tired because I was doing something.
I was happier than I’ve been in so many years. It was a difficult way to live, but I knew it was worth it, as in just a matter of weeks, my life would change and God was answering all my prayers and dreams. I was riding again, not quite strong enough to post in my jumping saddle, but I was getting there.Everything I had hoped for was around the corner and we were just waiting for one more detail to get it all into motion.

my panels and feeders

Me and good ol' Mister

The lovely new, very large gelding

Going to see the lights at C.A.L.M. with all the grands
Breakfast with the grands in the travel trailer Heath and I stayed in

miniature golf with the grands and my son

Heath shocked to find he had the best golf score
Ice skating

Roller skating with the grands
Teaching the grands to ride with Mister

Heath's sleeping spot in the trailer

Teaching the grands to ride

Christmas cookies with Abs
vaulting lessons with grands

Her mare was exhibiting some behaviors that were problematic and potentially dangerous. It didn’t make any sense, as she was so generous when she was being ridden. She was willing and forgiving of mistakes and struck me as having an exceptionally good temperament. But on the ground she became a nightmare. She would  squeal and kick if touched wrong over her flanks, pinned her ears flat while being saddled and literally chased the farrier out of her pen. It didn’t add up. I kept insisting there had to be a physical cause for her behavior and implored the owner to have her checked for possible reproductive problems. What was discovered was surprising. Her blood work came back indicative of possible ulcers. It could have been hormones, although everything seemed fine reproductively. The most sensible and economical way forward was to treat her for ulcers, even though that was still quite expensive. She had been becoming increasingly more difficult to handle and something had to be done.

I was gone over Thanksgiving, having gone to pick up my car which finally had a new engine put in it. It had been over 2 months.
The owner, my friend, had picked up the tubes of medicine, but when trying to administer it to her mare, made the mistake of cross tying her first. The mare pulled back upon having the tube put in her mouth and panicked. She broke her halter and her reaction frightened the owner who lost all confidence and trust in the mare. I assured her I would be down the next day and would dose the mare myself. Meanwhile, we had been looking for a horse that was more suitable to her needs.

We found a lovely big gelding and had him shipped from Michigan. Meanwhile I medicated and worked with the mare and she got better and better. All of her issues were pain related. Her stomach had been so painful she could not cope. Stress was causing acid dumps in her gut, which was irritating the ulcers. She had some foot problems as her feet weren’t being shod correctly so there was much inflammation which showed up on x-rays. A chiropractor worked on her and found that the first two issues had caused many, many others and as she was adjusted, she was literally squealing in pain and lashing out, but much improved afterwards. Once the stuff was solved, they sold her to someone able to maintain her and keep her with a trainer who was aware of her needs.

The big horse was a challenge for my rider, as he was more green than she was used to, and pretty sensitive, but they finally clicked and did well together.

Long story short, things fell apart. Funding was not available to put in the center. Banks won’t loan to Equestrian Operations. There was no longer a job, a place to live, work or any hope for me. I packed up and Randy came back and hauled all of us back home, except my sheep which I was forced to give up.

Heath wakes me in middle of night with a request

Being subtle
feeling like I do

It’s been pretty rough. I’ve lost most of the strength I had gained. I have only been able to get on a horse once since coming back in January and my balance issues were severe. My legs were so weak I had no security in my seat. It has been a terrible set back. I gained back the ton of weight I had lost. Pain has been a big issue again. Barometric changes here are quite severe and there are no distractions. Depression has been a constant companion that I will probably have to battle daily again, for the rest of my life. I’ve had to reconcile myself to always being alone, as we are too remote to see anyone and everyone on the ranch is far too busy for me and don’t share any of my interests anyway. If I am unable to ride along, there is nothing I can do. We are deeper in debt than before I left, as I never had any income and the credit card got maxed out with living expenses and the equipment I required for teaching, which I was preparing to begin while still in Bakersfield, which I now have no use for. I am being hit with medical bills from CA the insurance decided not to cover. All the miles put on my car used up what was left of my tires so we had to buy a whole new set. I desperately miss my family and friends, riding, training, teaching, being able to get the medical help I need ( physical therapy, massage, etc) going to the gym, being able to get my hair cut, being able to get a pedicure (I cannot reach my feet).I miss having a hope and a purpose.  I even miss not having to fix every meal I eat, although the man has been taking a lot of that over again as my condition continues to slide back to what it was before, in spite of my efforts.

The big dogs had both developed fatty tumors a year or so ago. Once we moved back, Heath got sick with a cold and Potamus started having seizures. Bruno is exhibiting joint pain in his back and his feet. I put the Maremmas on CBD and the tumors have disappeared, the seizures seem to have ceased and both dogs are moving better. The vet gave me meds for Heath and he seems to be over his issues. He’s gained weight though. Too much. I will have to cut him back to keep him healthy. As for me…well, I don’t really care much anymore. I’ll focus on the house as much as I can, maintaining house plants now that I have plenty of time for them. Hopefully I will be able to ride Mister at some point, though I won’t hold my breath. I probably won’t be blogging too much in the future because I don’t like doing these kind of dark and depressing posts. I just thought I owed to it everyone to let you know what’s been going on.  Thanks for being there for me.

Til later,


Monday, July 30, 2018

Goodbye to The Alvord

We’ve spent the past 11 years living and working for an enormous working cattle ranch, which covers 250,000 acres of deeded and permitted land. It’s a 4 hour trip to the closest town of any size and 2 hours to the small town of Burns Oregon, which has a Safeway and one other supermarket, a ranch store and a Dairy Queen. There’s not much else, so we tend most often to take the 4 hour drive to Idaho. Because of the time involved and cost of fuel, we manage to make these trips only 4x a year. We coordinate groceries, Dr appt’s, errands and animal feed into one trip every 3 months. We often use the large livestock trailer to fit everything in. 

Cashiers at Costco used to raise their eyebrows at the amount of food we would buy but have since grown accustomed to us. Since there is sadly no pizza delivery, all 3 meals have to be made at home. Hardly any prepared or processed foods are purchased as it takes up too much valuable space. We have 3 upright freezers, 2 refrigerators and a large pantry. We buy flour in 50 lb sacks (for those days I want to save time and not have to mill flour to make bread), as well as sugar, brown sugar, rice and wheat berries (to be made into flour). I had dairy goats, a couple of Jersey cows, chickens, ducks, sheep, rabbits and a garden, much of our food was raised at home. I did a lot of canning which saved a lot of freezer space as well as for those nights I was too tired from riding and needed a quick meal at hand. I can soups, chili, shredded Mexican beef, beef and pulled pork for sandwiches, chicken and rabbit for casseroles, beef and chicken stock, vegetables, pie filling etc. It’s amazing the difference in flavor and texture between home canned foods and the stuff you buy in the store. The first 50 years of my life, I didn’t mind cooking when I had to, but it wasn’t something I looked forward to. Having all fresh ingredients actually made it fun and I surfed the internet always looking for great new recipes. And boy did I find some!

garden bounty

nothing beats homemade bread and apple pie

Jack Cheese
homemade butter pats
home raised chicken

I made all of our dairy products. Cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, whipped cream, ricotta, butter, ghee, etc. My Jersey cow gave amazingly rich creamy milk, and I actually had to use a spoon to scoop the heavy cream off of the top, as it was that thick.

I spent my days riding with the cowboys (up here they are buckaroos) and cowgirls (who are every bit as capable and rugged as the men). The ranch owner has 5 kids who were all homeschooled and have worked since they could stretch their toddler legs across the back of a pony saddle. It warmed my heart to see this small microcosm of what used to be typical America, where the family works, eats and plays together. The kids learn to rely on one another and instead of competition, there is camaraderie. They learned the convictions of their parents without the outside interference of peer pressure and societal corruption. They appreciate their family, friends, the value of hard work, the blessings of God and their place in the world. They are strong and capable, prepared to handle whatever life deals to them because they have support, encouragement, and the knowledge that their contribution makes a difference.

We gathered cattle out of pastures that were thousands of acres, sorted and separated pairs, gathered them into corrals for doctoring, branding or whatever else needed to be done. Some days were long, 11 hours or more in the saddle. It was beautiful out on the range, with deer, antelope, pheasant, coyotes, even a cougar, the occasional badger and other wildlife. From the reverence felt watching a bald eagle soar on the wind currents, to the delight of the song of meadowlarks, I never wished to be anywhere else.

When I’d get back I’d call in my sweet Jersey cow, and rest my head in her flank, relaxing to the sound of her chewing her grain and hay, the pleasant grassy, cowy smell of her and startling from the occasional swat of her tail. I’d strain the milk into jars and chill it, and fix dinner and do whatever other chores I had around the house before bedtime.

I had opportunity to do things I would not otherwise have been able to do. Helping to gather, brand, separate cattle day after day in a spectacularly beautiful setting. Enjoying my little flock of sheep and their Livestock Guardian Dogs, my chickens, Jersey cows, bottle raising up to 30 orphan calves a season, growing huge gardens, making soap, putting the rest of the world on hold.

break in!

Identity crisis?

The polar bears counting calves

 It was truly an idyllic life, but like all things, it must come to an end and the seasons are changing. God is calling me to something new. I will treasure this time and these memories as I step into the next chapter.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Show Time

Deviating a bit from my usual topics, my mind wandered back to my 30+ years of training horses and riders and I thought I would offer some of my thoughts.

As a trainer and riding instructor, one takes on a great deal of responsibility. Keeping a student safe, enhancing and growing their abilities both as horsemen and as individuals while promoting a safe, comfortable environment for the horses.

Spring and summer in particular, bring an increase in activities. There are lots of horse shows, play days and other competitions for which the kids work hard and have great expectations.

This is a huge opportunity for personal growth. Kids demonstrate their skills to a judge, an audience of peer/competitors, friends and family and the public at large. It can be daunting, but the opportunities for success are endless. 
Unlike other competitive sports, in which the participant performs individually such as gymnastics, or dance or team sports where they play a part of a greater whole, such as in baseball or soccer, a rider must be the leader of a horse/partner team, in a relationship where responses are fluid and often unpredictable. This requires great concentration as split second decisions and responses may be called on at any time, as in the event of a horse spooking off the rail because of the sudden actions of a spectator or something as common as a napkin blown by the breeze. The rider must be prepared at all times for such an incident, be capable of controlling the horse’s movements and reactions all while maintaining proper form, having spatial awareness to avoid hitting other horses (or even judges) and “covering” the mistake and the ability to remain focused on the changing instructions dictated throughout a performance. It requires patience, confidence, dedication and skill. Children, even at very young ages, do demonstrate the ability to exhibit these qualities. 

Youngsters tend to want affirmation and recognition and of course, to please their parents. 
Parents, who often invest a great deal of time and money into the child’s chosen sport, tend to sometimes lose perspective, which can place undue pressure on an exhibitor. Others, might not show up, which can be disappointing to a youngster. 
But the most common mistake riders, trainers or parents often make, is to put value on winning a blue ribbon.

Don’t get me wrong, winning is a praiseworthy goal, but is not always an accurate measure of success.

Winning placement is at the discretion of judges. Sometimes judges do a poor job. We are human. Don’t set your child up to find their worthiness as a competitor at the mercy of a stranger’s opinion.

Some of our most successful competitions were ones where my kids didn’t place well or even place at all. Showing horses should always be about personal goals. We always had a clear set of directives we wanted to achieve in each class. It might be as simple as remembering to keep your eyes up. Or learning to circle out of a crowded situation…or getting diagonals correct both directions, or nailing lead changes. It may even be having your horse remain walking calmly on the rail, when everyone else is cantering by, because he has been over reactive, or become “ringwise”, (ie: automatically going to the next gait when the microphone keys over the loudspeaker) .

Practicing this kind of showmanship takes great courage on the part of a rider, because they have to go against the flow and bring attention to themselves that may not be positive, but bring long term benefits to the partnership. I’ve had adult exhibitors struggle mightily with it. One had a winning horse that developed a habit of surging forward when the announcer called for a lope, particularly if there were horses moving up behind him. My directions to the rider, were to continue walking until at least 3 horses had passed them before quietly asking for the canter cue. She found it very stressful to do, as she was a highly competitive person. Imagine how much more difficult this can be for a young rider, who is just learning discipline and self control. But it works, and brings both good habits and perspective.

I always encourage riders to focus on a personal goal, such as remembering to ride deep into the corners. If they get no recognition from the judge, but they consistently did that, that is success. Doing so, teaches a horse not to cut corners and ingrains a habit into the rider that becomes fairly automatic. 

Attention to detail and concentrating on individual goals, brings confidence, consistency and character to riders, and helps eliminate show ring jitters, resulting in ever increasing wins in the show ring down the road.

Make sure parents and kids know what the goal is for each class, so the appropriate recognition can be given to both horse and rider.

Have a great summer!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Something In The Wind

So, it’s been awhile, but much has happened. Really.

As many of you who have followed along for awhile, things have gotten kinda tough. My health has been deteriorating and because of that, I have fought depression and a myriad of other maladies. The ranch, which was once an exciting place, where I was able to ride out on the range everyday, helping move cattle and seeing nature at its best, having my milk cow, raising our own meat and eggs, vegetables etc. has become my worst enemy. TheMan gets up and is gone to work before I am awake most days. Other than a quick lunch spent in front of the Waltons, I don’t see him again until after dark, when he eats dinner, usually with a western on, before retiring to bed. I can no longer ride, milk a cow, garden or do any of the things that brought me joy. I sit in a recliner, day and night as it is too painful to lay down. The pain is always present, it's never completely gone. Sometimes it's excruciating, other times, just annoying. But it's always there. None of the drugs have worked. I have failed every drug regimen they have so far. Pills, injections, infusions, waiting on new drugs hoping maybe the next one will work. Meanwhile, they are all poisoning me in some way. So I finally quit taking them, except for the painkillers, because I won't survive at all without those. The pain is already hard to deal with, when it's being managed. I don't even want to think about what it would be like without something to take the edge off. I have to admit, it's nice not having all the side effects, and not feeling like a pincushion from all the injections and infusions.

The loneliness here is overwhelming, as I usually don’t see or hear from another human being for weeks at a time, outside of the internet, and watching TheMan watch TV. There is nowhere for me to go, nothing for me to do, and no one for me to see here. Everyone on the ranch is busy doing their own thing, and I am no longer a part of it. Add to that, I am unable to effectively clean my own house, take care of my yard or my animals anymore. Everything is a  mess, which of course, increases my depression exponentially, as it is not my way to have things in chaos. My barn and yard at home, in California, were always organized, well run, beautiful and animals well cared for. Here a colony of 3 rabbits became my worst nightmare. Right after putting the buck in with the 2 does remaining after the big processing, I fell ill AND had to have surgery again. I did not realize TheMan never removed the buck from the colony. It never occurred to me that he would throw food at them, but not manage them. Picture, a few months later when I was able to go out, finding it overrun with rabbits and with hay and manure built up. 
I tried to catch and cull rabbits but after doing 5, I was unable to use my arms and hands for close to 2 weeks. I could not clean the colony myself because I am no longer strong enough. I tore the bicep tendon clean off of my shoulder, just trying to lift my old saddle. There is no one to help. No one. Things continued to worsen, along with the yard and house. My “milk room” a 16x16 structure that used to be my stallion’s stall in Calif. but became a multi use tack room, milking parlor, feed storage and chick brooder is now full of empty sacks and trash, along with an over abundance of feral cats. I am not a lover of cats. I am deathly allergic to them. This entire discovery added to the depression.

I became overwhelmed, and hopeless.

Then God moved.

He didn’t move away from me, He made His move. He moved towards me, and showed me He had been answering my prayers all along. Like the angel in the book of Daniel who told him he’d been sent weeks before but had been detained, He’s been working on my behalf all along.

Without going into too much detail, I was contacted by a client I had not spoken to in about 15 years, regarding a business venture they would like to undertake and they have a job for me.

I will be leaving the ranch, going back down where my friends and family are. The job will involve me in something I have always loved, the move will allow me to receive healthcare that isn’t available to me here, where we are living hours away from the nearest town. I can finally get physical therapy, massage, reflexology, there are Doctors close by…no more driving down 50 miles of gravel roads then an additional 3 hours over highways with broken ribs and collapsed lungs to see a doctor.

 I will be able to finally see my grandchildren grow up, as I have missed 11 years of their lives, being in a different state and only able to see them for a couple of days each year.

My friends and family will all be within a short drive. No more spending holidays alone. No more dreaming about them and not being able to see or speak to them, or share their joys and sorrows.

I will live where help is available. If I need help cleaning my house, I can hire someone. If I need help cleaning up the yard, I can hire someone. If I need help feeding, or managing animals, it is available. If I need to sell something, I can sell it. At the ranch, no one is going to drive 4 hours to see or pick up anything here.

I will be able to do more, be more active, get stronger. There are things to do with Heath. We can finally pursue some of the things I have wanted to do with him, such as: herding lessons, scentwork, rally obedience, agility, or whatever we find is fun for the two of us.

Our lives are going to change dramatically and completely. We still have to wait several months, but knowing there is hope, I can endure it. It’s like labor pains. They are all consuming and unbearable in and of themselves, but knowing they can only last a minute or two, and will eventually end completely, and result in great joy, so will this. The only thing that keeps it from being perfect, is that TheMan chooses to remain behind, on the ranch. At least until he is ready to retire, so this journey is just for me and the Heathen.

There hasn’t been anything in particular to blog about lately, but I wanted to share this with you all. Thanks to everyone for taking this journey with me, for your encouragement and friendship. Once we are settled in, I imagine blogging will become easier again and I will be much more reliable.

Til then, here’s some bits and pieces from our travels in April.

Heath is bored

Heath is miffed. A small Jack Russell stole his place, so Heath stole his bed
Teaching my cousin to do stained glass

my cousins' creek

pulling into Winnemucca

Hwy 20


My traveling buddy