Happy Holidays!

There were hoof prints in the mud in front of the barn.  It was ten in the morning and I’d arrived to take Dancer to the arena for training with Kat. “Who took the horses out?!”  And it wasn’t just one that was out.  They are all barefoot now for the winter so it was not possible to tell which ones.  As I grabbed Dancer’s halter and headed out to the paddock, I thought, “It rained at 7pm; a lot.” Whoever took the horses out must have done so late at night or very early in the morning, as the prints were made after the rain.  Then I thought, “Oh oh.”  A quick glance towards the hay revealed that Stan’s neatly piled stacks had been knocked over and restacked.  The top of the bale had been “vacuumed.”  Sonja, who feeds in the morning, had clearly reset the meds because they were sitting neatly, too neatly, on top of the bran and pellet can, but the bungey cord was undone.  Sure enough, the can was down to it’s last quarter.  On closer examination, the hoof prints left a trail all over the staging area – up the hill side, on to the grass.  I don’t know if it was me or Stan who left the stall door unclipped, but one of us did.

Dancer was at the bottom of the paddock taking a mid morning nap.  Was he worn out from the night’s adventures?  He didn’t get up as I approached and only got up when I insisted on it.  It was a good bet that Jackson got the lion’s share of the pellet, but clearly Dancer had a belly full too.  And what about Velvet?  She was “napping” also.

This has happened before, but in the past the can has not been full.  That night they consumed about forty pounds of pellet and bran.  Top priority for the day became finding a solution where by this would never happen again and solution I did find at Orchard Supply after about five hours of driving around and shopping.  It wasn’t until the necessary storage unit/meds feeding station had been secured that I realized I might actually  have a colicking horse, or horses, on my hands.

It was five p.m. by this time and almost dark.  Jackson was the biggest concern.  He was showing no signs of distress, had gut sounds, normal heart rate and voracious appetite, but sub normal poops.  I walked him, let him graze a bit, then fed him warm mash with a cup of mineral oil and left him locked in a stall at Quail, finding, at Quail, that Allison, who had fed, had put Stoney’s blanket on in a “creative” manner.  “Allison, we need to talk blanketing.”  “Why, did I do something wrong?”  “Yes.”  “Well you didn’t ever tell me how to put on a blanket.” “If you didn’t know, why didn’t you ask?” ” Because the phone was low on battery.” “OK, can you come to the barn tomorrow morning and learn how?”

Next text was to Meera with the news that her birthday ride might have to be cancelled, to say nothing of the caroling on Sunday also, and went home to a night of fitful sleep, with the cell phone next to my bed.  By eight a.m. I knew Jackson was OK because I had not heard from Jan.  Not only was he OK, but, Jan informed me when I arrived, that he’d pooped up a storm.  She’d filled two muck carts from his stall that morning.  Forty pounds is a lot of pellet!

“OK Rachel, you ride Jackson and Jackie you ride Stoney.”  Rachel glared at me.  “No, I’m serious.  Jackie is not up for bareback or ponying.  You have to ride Jackson and pony CG because I don’t know where Meera is!”  At this point I get a text from Meera that says, “Am I supposed to go to Campo?”  To which respond, “No! we need another rider at Quail.”  She says, “So I go to Campo?”  Savannah, also on the thread, though not riding because she has Tex the mini at the Christmas parade, says, “I think she means Quail.”  At this point Allison, who I’d forgotten about, shows up for her blanketing lesson.

Meera does arrive, gets on Jackson, Jackson, happy to finally get the heck away from CG who has been menacing him all morning, is as eager to head out as a race horse. Meera says, “WAAAAHH!” Eager to not start her birthday with an injury, hops off and hands Jackson over to Rachel.

When we arrive at Campo, Kelly and Sara have Dancer and Chavali tacked up and are working on Velvet. “Who is going to ride who?!”  Sara’s hand are placed indignantly on her hips.  She taps the toes of her left foot for emphasis. “Yeah” says Meera, “there are six horses and five riders.”  I said, “are there?”  I had one beginner student, who was seven, tell her mother that I didn’t know how to ride at all.  These girls know I ride, though they often forget it.

Kelly did not want to ride in the fluffy and Sara did not want to ride CG up Rhus Ridge, or back down and she slides forward on to her withers, which is painful, so I rode Intrepid and Rachel ponied CG until we got to foothill college where CG was allowed to go on her own with the lead rope tied up around her neck.  We proceeded across the college grounds in fits and starts, first Dancer spooking at a barking dog, then CG deciding she wasn’t going to follow after all but stop to graze.  Somehow we did make it to Moody and even managed to catch CG before she crossed the street on her own, but now it was Sarah’s turn to pony the pony, while I rode in front to give Dancer confidence.  Kelly is a very experienced rider, but even so it was clear taking the lead on Dancer on a trail he was unfamiliar with was proving more than she had bargained for.

I don’t know how they horses behaved going up Rhus Ridge.  I do hope they got a good canter in.  I was hanging on to CG’s tail, wheezing pitifully and doing my very best to go as fast as possible as she was furious at being left behind.  We tried her solo again as we headed towards Hidden Villa.  Not to be left behind again, she shot up in the line behind Chavali and stayed there all the way down to the last river crossing in Hidden Villa.

Dancer snorted and snuffed his way through all the new smells; goats, chickens, sheep; as he minced his way along.  You could feel Stoney’s frustration build.  What on earth was this numbskull doing in the lead! Even though we ended up on familiar trail, we were riding the opposite direction from what Dancer was familiar with.  He would trot, but not much more.  The ground was springy from the rain; horse heaven.  On the last good canter spot, off they went.  Rachel held Stoney back a bit, but he was so full of suppressed pep, he caught up in half a second.  This was more than CG, who was now being led by me, could take.  She started bucking on the end of the lead top and pulled herself free, managing to run full speed with her head tilted to the side so as to keep the rope free of her legs.  I hollered at Rachel to turn and come back to me, in part to slow CG, but also to give Stoney another turn at the run, which he obviously needed.  Rachel made it half way to me when Stoney decided to turn back. Rachel said, “Oh no we can’t!” To which Stoney replied, “Oh yes we can!!!”, turned on a dime and was off like a rocket.  Rachel thought he wasn’t going to be able to stop, but every now and then he does precisely what his Quarter Horse breeding has designed him to do.  We did get the message and put Stoney in front and Dancer in back for the rest of the ride home, with Cowgirl being led by Sara.

We are an hour later than planned getting back to the barns.  The girls head off to Meera’s sleep over while I finish up at with the feed.  Another text comes in.  It’s Allison.  “Are you at the barns?” “Yes.”  “I have something for you.”  “OK, I’ll meet you at Quail at five.”

Allison’s car is already at Quail by the time I arrive.  She’s standing in the street waiting for me holding and contraption that looks, from a distance, like a mini guillotine.  It’s a bit warmer; one for Campo and one for Quail.  Allison informs me it is also very good at warming your hands.  We set it up in the hay room and she gives me a demo.  I didn’t get home till six.

This morning was Christmas Carol Sunday.  It was supposed to rain, so I’d delayed the start of decorating by an hour.  It didn’t rain, but I would have been on my way early anyways.  There were going to be four riders, which meant leaving the car at Quail and biking CG over to Campo. On my way into Peet’s to fill a couple thermoses with hot cocoa, I get a text from Lainey.  “I can come!  See you soon!”  Oh crap.  That meant getting Stoney also, who, as it turned out, was covered in mud, and biking Stoney, Dante and CG over to Campo.  I can’t believe no one has ever taken a picture of me doing this.

Jan met me at the paddock.  In the past couple of weeks Cowgirl had been down in the dumps; creaky and unhappy in the morning.  Jan said, “What did you guys do yesterday? Cowgirl was feeling great this morning!”  I bet.

Mr. Jensen has asked that we not put Stoney in a stall, which means putting Dancer in a stall.  Dancer may be inexperienced on trail, but he is no fool.  He saw Stoney coming and he put himself in a stall.

Even if we start decorating at nine, the girls are not done by one, when we need to leave for the ride up to Westwind.  Kate and Sara, having been overnight at Meera’s party, showed up late.  Kate said, “I went to sleep at midnight, but everyone else stayed up till three.” Sara’s eye’s looked glazed over.  Mikatrin didn’t show up till almost noon.  She is a notorious foot dragger.  Before I could express my discontent, she stuck a sheet of paper in my face: Deck the Halls (Horse Version) – Fast away we are galloping, fa la la la la la, la la la la; Hail the new ye mares and stallions, fa la la la la, la la la la – all six verses converted to equine sensibilities.It’s about time!  Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah to me!  I thought this was going to come from one of the older girls, but no, the nine year old had at it.

Only moments after Mikatrin arrived, the gate in the fence opened again and Victoria peeked her head through.  “Am I not feeding today.”  I said, “did you check your email?”  If she has a new phone, she has not told me so there was no way to text.  An hour behind schedule, with two sleep deprived assistants, one puzzled seven year-old (Serena’s younger brother) wandering about and Lainey obsessed with spraying pink snowflakes on Chavali’s butt, I’d lost all hope of getting the horses even partially decorated.  But the arrival of Victoria, who had with her her friend Shannon, changed all that.  Not only did the horses get decorated, the girls actually practiced all the songs and developed a plan.  The day wasn’t turning out so badly after all.

After her exciting romp the day before, Cowgirl should have been feeling a little mellow; not so.  The ground was just too perfect.  The ride up to Westwind was a little too lively for comfort, though Kayla, who has the makings of a serious equestrian, figured out about half way that if she could get CG trotting a few seconds before everyone else started trotting then CG would not be able to bolt.  It was a little tricky co-ordinating getting Kate, Lainey, Mikatrin and Serena all trotting within seconds also, but they did it.  Thank you Kayla.

I’m not sure the singing was as much tun as they expected.  The horses wouldn’t stand still, it was hard to hold the caroling books while on horseback and nearly impossible to turn the pages while wearing gloves, which both Lainey and Kate were doing, though Kate was also wearing only a tank top, which was a bit of a puzzler.  Kate and Lainey did get to sing into microphones, which they enjoyed and the “echoes” in Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer were perfect, though nobody except Kayla’s mom and grandma seemed to be listening.  The girls and horses did, however, look spectacular.

Oddly enough, the girls had the best ride home ever; very tired at the end of it, but a very good ride.  Why?  I really can’t say.

I guess this post doesn’t have much of a point other than, “Oh my goodness, what a busy weekend!”

Barn Lighting

Kate, Lainey, Serena (who does not like her picture taken), Mikatrin and Kayla









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