Saturday, April 30, 2011

My neighbor and I worked with Sassy in his arena yesterday. Well, I sat and held the baby while he worked with her! We didn't ride her, just a ton of ground work. She's definitely rusty and could use a little more respect work, but she is absolutely unflappable. She doesn't get worked up if she gets spanked with a whip and she acts like someone just taught her to accept a tarp yesterday. I think her unspookiness is her best asset. Anyway, here are some pictures of her moving yesterday. She is a pretty mare. I hope someone takes a liking to her before I decide I like her too much and don't want to sell her!

Monday, April 25, 2011

It sounds like most of my blogger friends also had nice weather this weekend! We did too! On Sunday, it was sunny and pretty warm, so in addition to getting together with family for Easter, I was able to plant some irises that I'd had in a bucket all winter, weed my flower beds and get out to the barn to play with horses.

I worked with Sassy because I needed to know how she is going to be if anyone comes to look at her. And I'm happy to report that I have had two people call about her in addition to the 3 "looky-loos" who just texted/emailed about her and never contacted me again. Unfortunately, one person and I had a disagreement about her eye color and whether or not it meant she was going to go blind (she's not going to go blind, there is nothing wrong with her eyes), and the other never called me back after saying she needed to discuss her with her fiance who was the one interested in her. Although that person would have been a very good match for Sassy, as it seems she has a lot of training experience (I looked her up and found an ad featuring an off the track thoroughbred she retrained for barrel racing listed for $20,000 - whether or not she'll get that, who knows, but she sounds like she knows what she is doing).

So, no one has come to look at her, but I think it will happen, so I wanted to check her out myself. The only thing that I've done with her for the last year was have her feet trimmed, and lead her down the road from our cow pastures to my horse pasture. I was pleasantly surprised last fall when we did that because we had to lead her through my husbands shop area with tons of strange equipment and stacks of pipe. She didn't bat an eye at all that strange stuff, where as Pumpkin was very leary and suspicious of it all.

When I went in to get Sassy, she met me at the gate. I haltered her easily, led her out and held her for a second while my other horses freaked out about something and took off for the back pasture. Poor Sassy really wondered where they went and why they were in such a hurry, but she just danced a little and settled down. She was really good as I tied her to the rail and started grooming her. She stood well. I checked her feet and decided they needed a trim. I only did her fronts because I didn't want to spend too much time trimming - I wanted to get to trying to saddle her. She has really nice uncomplicated feet. They are balanced, nicely shaped and easy to trim. I've also never seen her sensitive on gravel, even after I'd just trimmed her this time. She was very good while I trimmed her, although she did test me by trying half-heartedly to take her hoof away a couple times.

Then I saddled her up with my training saddle. I untied her just in case she wasn't good about it. I threw the blanket up on her back expecting her to act like and old broke horse, and she did! I threw the saddle up the same way and she stood perfectly still. No issue with cinching up. She was great.

Then I took her out in the yard and used my training stick with a string attached to touch her all over and see how she took having the string tossed around her legs and over her back. I also slapped it on the ground near her hind feet very hard unexpectedly, and she stood stock still and relaxed for it all.

I asked her to move off and walk around me, she did so calmly and walked. Stepping it up to a trot was no problem. She changed directions with ease, although there were a couple times when she got confused about which direction she was supposed to go when I stepped in front of her, but with consistent asking, she figured it out without a fuss. I had to push her very hard to get a canter out of her, but I did get a few strides in both directions, and asked her to stop before she quit (didn't want to make an issue out of it since the footing was kind of slippery - just grass in the wet yard). I was surprised by how good she was, how much she knew, and how it didn't seem like she'd had a year off at so young.

Then I figured I should see how she took a bridle. Her previous owner said she used a snaffle on her, so I got out Chico's bridle. She didn't want to be bridled and stuck her nose up in the air as I tried to slip the bit in her mouth, but she didn't move her feet at all. I worked at getting her to drop her head for a while then slipped the bit in. She wasn't perfect but I think with very little effort she'll take to bridling easily. Once the bit was in, she stood and mouthed it for a while. I asked her to flex laterally with the bit as I stood at her side, and she did so very lightly on both sides. She flexed very well, and held her head to the side playing with the stirrup on the saddle.

I wasn't planning to ride her because the ground is still pretty soft and I didn't have a safe enclosed space to try her out in, but she was so good with the lunging under saddle even (didn't blink and eye at the saddle), and she was so soft in the mouth, I figured I'd try her out. I tried to flex her head lightly to the inside as I mounted, but I'm not sure she understood that. She did not stand very still for mounting and we circled around a few times before she stood. That would be one fault I found so far. She needs more work to stand still for mounting. Once I was up, she was okay, but seemed like she didn't really know exactly what to do with her guiding force no longer on the ground. She was calm, and moved forward when I squeezed with my legs, and flexed lightly to the bit, but getting good movement out of her while steering was a little shaky. All I did was ride her around the yard and try to get good small circles out of her in either direction, and she was getting better about it and paying more attention to me toward the end before I dismounted. She didn't want to stand still when I asked her to whoa and dismount, but she wasn't that bad...just a little fidgety, but I'm not sure I can blame her too much...I think my other horses would need a reminder about being polite when ridden/handled with all the fresh green grass in the yard.

I really was pleasantly surprised by her. The other problem with her is that she did not stop mouthing at and playing with the bit the whole time I had her bridled. I'm not sure she's very used to wearing a bit. That's the way she acted anyway, even though she did flex nicely to it.

I decided that I wanted to try to get some nicer pictures of her for her sale ad, but my nice saddle was at our house stored in the garage, so I led her down the road away from the other horses and up to our house. She was very well behaved at a time of the year when even the best horse can be a little herd bound! She was a little fidgety and slightly nervous for about a minute once we got up to our house, but she stood well while my husband held her and I changed saddled. Then we got pictures of her in our yard standing and being ridden. She was a little fidgety and chewed at the bit as though she didn't know what to do with it, but other than that, she was great.

I have relisted her with the new photos and increased her price. I think she is worth it. She has got a great temperament, pretty good ground manners, and a LOT of potential for the right person who can put some miles on her. Plus she is just a super cute mare with flashy color. She is definitely green, but my neighbor and I are going to work together to get some additional miles on her in the next couple of weeks. I need help because I have the baby with me, making it hard to do anything myself. But working together, we should be able to get her going. Plus my neighbor has a round pen and arena. We still haven't gotten our round pen set up. Soon though!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Selling horses

Wow, I really jinxed it when I announced that spring had come. Yesterday and over the night we got 9 inches of snow!!!! And it is still snowing. I went out to take some neat flowers in the snow pictures, but I couldn't find my flowers! Only the tall tulips had parts sticking out.

I dug down a couple inches to find the tulip buds resting snugly waiting for the sun to come out.

Isn't this sign ironic now?

So, I listed Sassy for sale a couple days ago. Selling a horse is the hardest thing ever! I've never done it before. And I'm not even attached to Sassy. I didn't let myself get attached because I knew I didn't have time for her and couldn't keep her. Even so, I still care about her well-being as an animal that deserves a decent life. So, thinking about all the possibilities of where she could end up in this poor horse market makes me shudder. But we can't feed her forever if we aren't going to use her, so she must go. She has unique color and a nice temperament going for her...unfortunately, she doesn't have the training level that will fetch a good price and guarantee her a safe future (if there ever is a safe guarantee for ANY horse once they leave your hands). She is 6 years old. She was started as a 4 year old, worked with a lot, and given about 30 rides. Then her owner got ready to head off to college, so she sold her to my nephew, who is 20 years old. He rode her once, bareback, then got a motorcycle and never looked at her again. She stood out in the pasture the whole summer of her 5 year old year. Now she's 6, and still green. My nephew said that she is not the deadbroke horse that he needs. Of course she isn't...she's only been ridden 30 times, and now she's had more than a year what kind of price do you think I can get for her? Even if she was practically free, is anyone interested in this market?

Well, right after I listed her, I got 3 responses. One via email and then 2 people texted me (texted!!!!). What? I didn't expect that...guess I'm old fashioned! But if you are seriously interested, wouldn't you give me a call instead of text me? Almost every one of those people asked if she bucks or rears...well, she never bucked nor reared during her initial training and 30 rides, and I told them so. I told one person to call me to discuss a possible sale, and she said she would right after she picked her son up from school...did I hear from her? No. The other texter said she would be available to talk on the phone after 3pm. I called her at 4pm and left a message. Did I hear from her? No. The email person never responded to my answer that the horse had never bucked nor reared. I also did a little background research on the two people that contacted me over my phone. I punched their numbers into Google. I found a bunch of listing that they had placed to sell various horse related items and horses. One person listed a well-bred horse, stating that she needed to sell her because the horse needed about 2 more months of training to get her to the teampenning horse that she needed and she did not have the time to do that because she just had a baby. That horse was listed for sale in March of 2011. So, now this person is interested in Sassy who I clearly stated was still very green? Weird. The other person had about 5 horses listed for sale in the last year or two, all between $400 and $1000. I suspect she may be a dealer/trader and be looking to make a buck on Sassy. I feel terrible thinking of where she might end up if she went to this person...but if I'm too picky, I'll never get her sold and I'll have to feed her another winter! What do I do? I really have no actual proof that these people are dishonest or have selfish intentions. And of course, by writing this on my blog, I'm spilling it all out to the world about my suspicions...but I never misrepresented Sassy in her ad, so I'm not worried, and if these people are really interested in her and have good intentions, they will not be offended that I looked them up. And anyway, I'm sure I'll never hear from them. It's easy to inquire about a horse via texting, but not so easy to actually declare that you are truly interested by calling me.

I had wanted to work with Sassy a bit this spring before I listed her for sale and get some really nice pictures of her saddled and being ridden, but alas, the weather has not allowed for that! I wanted to do this in my round pen, but we have not been able to get it set up. The ground is still too wet to work (I want to put a good sand base down), and then there is the little problem of all the snow. Ugh. Has anyone else had this much anxiety over selling a horse that isn't even their own?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring, um, wait, not yet?

I've had a lot of fun taking pictures of the same place in the pasture as my header photo is. It is a neat way to keep track of the arrival of spring, and also the differences in timing from year to year.

And then, it snowed yesterday morning, so I had to capture it.

Saturday morning:

Sunday morning

By Sunday afternoon, the snow was pretty much all gone. Doesn't it look like we may now be at the same place as the header photo? The maples are all budded out. So a difference of April 3rd 2010 to April 17th 2011, that is two weeks later exactly than last year!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring is late

So this picture was taken on April 9th 2011, while the picture in my header was taken April 3rd, 2010. It is the same area of the pasture although not quite the same angle. The trees in the background are the same - budding out in the header picture, but not quite yet in yesterday's picture. See how late our spring is?

But I'm ready! When it finally warms up, I've got the flowers, peppers, and tomatoes started!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lovely crocus!

The crocus in my woods is out in full flower! It's so pretty against the brown leaves.

In this little stretch of wood edge I have many crocus, daffodils, and irises planted. Only the one crocus is up so far but there are many more poking through. I just need a few days of warmer weather and sunshine...and penned up chickens!

I love my chickens, but I'm a bit mad at them right now. They won't stay out of my flowerbeds and they've been eating off all the tiny buds coming up! I know I'd have more flowers if they'd quit picking them off. They were also dustbathing and digging big holes in the mulch in one flowerbed so I had to put wire over the top of it. We've been having this problem only because we hadn't finished the chicken yard fence yet. It was mostly up, but one stretch still needed wire. We had to abort construction last fall due to bad weather arriving. And it wasn't an issue in the winter since the chickens were blockaded in the coop to keep them warmer. And even on nice days when I let them out, they didn't venture far in the snow. But now with the snow gone and my delicate spring flowers coming up, I can't have them running loose (although them loose sure decreases the feed bill). Last night we finished the fence. So now I am looking forward to more flowers But I did notice one particularily able hen outside the pen this morning...I think I'll be clipping some wing feathers later!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring is here? (tentatively spoken, with fear it may snow again!)

I am happy to say that the snow we got on Friday has melted off today thanks to 50 degree weather! It took over a week for the previous snow to slowly disappear, but thanks to it finally feeling like spring, this snow disappeared much more quickly! So, sorry, no flowers in the snow pictures! But I took pictures of my spring-y flowers anyway! I hope you enjoy these!

Tulips peaking out!

Daffodils finding their way out of the leaves along the woods.

I planted a bunch of springtime bulbs in this little stretch of woods out in the backyard. It receives a lot of sun in the spring before the trees leaf out, but then not much later. I figure it was perfect for spring bulbs. And I love to see some life and color showing up out there before the trees actually leaf out and things turn green. While the beauty of spring bulbs is fleeting, they come at a time of year when we so desperately seek something alive outside!

Wren waits patiently while I take pictures.

Another of my favorite signs of spring are pussy willows! Their presence is even more fleeting than the spring flowers. I picked a bunch to keep in my house. They dry beautifully and make very pretty decorations.

I almost forgot to mention that I spent most of the wonderful spring afternoon with my horses. I need to get caught up trimming them. I'm trying to get on top of it so I can do them myself like I used to. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten to them all winter, so they are all a little long, but not as bad as I suspected. The only horse I trimmed in the winter was Cody and I only did her front feet because I saw she was developing a crack and I wanted to get rid of it before it got worse (it was only about an inch long at the time and happily, it seems to be gone now).

So, I trimmed Catlow (all four), and Pumpkin (just her fronts). Catlow has THE hardest hooves ever. They are dark grey and super thick. I always have a hard time getting the nippers through her hooves, and since I had a hard time when I did Cody (I was so weak! I'm so out of practice!), I was sort of dreading doing them. However, we just got a new pair of nippers for the farm to use on the beef cows that need to be trimmed (I trim the cow's hooves too). They are compound hoof nippers, not just plain straight nippers. The way the joints are arranged gives added leverage when you squeeze the handles. There is supposed to be 18X more leverage than regular nippers! I figured they would do the trick on Catlow's hooves, and they did work well, however, the joints were so new and stiff that I still had difficulty. Although without them, I probably would not have been able to get through her hooves at all! But they are also thicker and quite a bit heavier so I was getting a workout just maneuvering them into position on the hoof. After the first hoof, I was already tired (I am SO weak) so I had my husband standing nearby to lend a hand and squeeze the handles whenever I became fatigued.

I didn't need his help when I did Pumpkin. Her hooves are so tiny and cute! I've never trimmed hooves that small before, nor mule shaped...they are just different shaped than horses.

It really was nice to spend time with Catlow. I haven't in so long, other than the brief scratch as I walk through the pasture as I do chores. She is such a quiet, honest horse. She would make the best kids horse, because she always does what you ask. She never tries to think up ways to avoid doing something or to try to get her way. She's not mischevious. She really is almost boringly honest. Unfortunately, she is very insecure. She gets very nervous ridden by herself. When ridden with other horses, she is almost perfect. Her only other fault is that she sometimes would rather not be with people and she's not very affectionate. Her affection is very subtle. And training-wise she does need finishing, since I've only been riding her for 2 summers (and then couldn't ride last summer). I don't know how I'll have time to finish her, but it doesn't really matter. She is one of my "heart" horses. She'll always have a home with me.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Never ending winter

This photo is from this morning. Winter is never ending here!

I can hardly believe that my header photo was taken on April 3rd(only two days from today!) and it does not look like we'll be anywhere close to that this year. The trees are not starting to bud out yet. However, my crocuses and daffodils are poking out! Spring WILL come! We must just be patient.