Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Friday, December 24, 2004

Gift Horses

Our intent has always been to get a total of 7 lesson horses to have a full 'set' for 6 student lessons with one extra. We have the 4 now, so this spring one of our tasks is to pick up 3 more. But then a few weeks ago an friend sent out an email announcing that an acquaintance of hers had a horse that would go to a good home for free. Well, gee, we aren't quite ready for this but we can't exactly pass by an opportunity for a free horse either. So I read her message closely. Fortunately she was explicit that the horse was not suitable for beginner riding lessons because he'd figured out that he really didn't have to obey beginner riders. So it was an easy decision this was not the horse for us. Never the less, it did raise the discussion that getting horses may happen sooner than this spring if the situation were right.

Barely a week later another friend sent out a message saying that she knew of someone who was trying to sell his 4 horses. He was selling his property where the horses lived. They hadn't been ridden for a long time. He was even considering donating them to a non profit. Based on all of this info I thought we'd pass as well, except that the person who'd sent the message followed up with me saying that he also had a 4H horse trailer that he might be interested in selling as well. Well now - that changed things.

So I called him and found out that the horses were quite young (6 - 12 years old), and the trailer sounded very nice. At the time he didn't have a price for either, but he was in an extrordinary hurry because he was in town only for the week. So we sent David over Tuesday to do a preview. He came home with pictures of horses and trailer. He observed that the trailer probably was nicer than we wanted to buy, but the seller still would not give him a price. So we started thinking about what we might offer to him for all of the horses and trailer. Ginger and David went back on Thursday to ride the horses. They were clearly not in a riding frame of mind, and one was not catchable. But the horses were healthy and very friendly. After all this they finally got down to talking turkey, and the guy said he wanted $3,500 for each of the horses! This is so far outside of our range it was rediculous. He even said he might make a deal for the horses and trailer all together - and the deal was still more than twice what we thought we'd offer. So, no go there. We just wish we had pushed harder to get a ball park price in the first place.

They say things always come in threes, so I'm waiting for our third opportunity any day now!


Monday, December 20, 2004

And so it continues

David finally completed the wiring in the east end of the barn! This process involved digging up a junction box just outside the main door, only to discover that that particular junction wasn't the source of the problem. So there is yet another underground break in the circuit. I noticed that he didn't bother with any more excavating.

During this process he was able to discover what the lone light switch that was mounted up high - about 12 feet up - was for. We'd wondered about it, but due to its location hadn't been able to flip it back and forth to observe the effects. It's just as well, because the effects weren't observable - because it turns the waterer heaters on and off - and since they weren't hooked up... You get the picture. Having a switch for the heaters seems handy - no need to run power to the devices that combine our horses' noses and water if it isn't necessary. Strangely enough (and yet par for the course), he wasn't able to find an equivalent switch in the other end of the barn. Well, that was because they never got around to putting in the switch - they just closed up the cut ends of the wire into a junction box in the tack room and left them.
And, would you believe, the electrical issues weren't the only ones.

One of the waterers, instead of sitting on a concrete piling was supported only by a 4" diameter piece of PVC pipe. This looked funny, but would have been satisfactory if the pipe wasn't also too short. This meant that the water valve below the waterer was not within the insulated / heated area of the waterer, so it too froze. That whole waterer and pipe had to be pulled, rebuilt, and backfilled. He also found numerous other plubming problems leading to leakage. So a bunch of plumbing repairs later... we now have 4 completely heated and plumbed waterers! Only 4 more to go on the other end of the barn. Dave has already dismantled a couple of them, but it looks like they are going to have to stay that way until we return from spending Christmas in California.

As for the ones up in the small barn, we've just shut off water to that barn altogether and will adress later as well - by digging all those fitting up with the tractor. Based on the quality of work we've seen in the big barn, we'll be better off getting rid of everything and starting from scratch anyways.


Suddenly some of the pieces have fallen into place regarding a slight mystery we encountered shortly after moving in. When we first started overhauling the stalls, we were prepared to find mice nests underneath the stall mats. And we did, a bunch of them. What totally freaked me out, though, was running into salamanders! Big ones - or at least big in my estimation. We're talking black and chartreuse spotted salamanders, some 5-6 inches long. Aparently they are the incredibly common Tiger Salamander. Salamanders are supposed to be nice creatures. But they totally grossed me out. I'm fine with lizards and even snakes, but these look slimy and squishey, and just gave me the heebey jeebeys.

My co-worker Mike was altogether too interested in hearing about my salamanders. He helped me identify them based on my description. He suggested that it was strange they were hanging out in the barn since they like water. Ah ha - perhaps we should have investigated for leaking waterers back then. But I suspect that at the time we just didn't want to know about that potential problem!

Anyways, Mike has a pond that he put into his back yard a while ago. He started saying that he'd be happy to add some salamanders to his pond, and that all I had to do was put them in a bucket and bring them to work with me. Yeah right. I have a 45 minute drive to get to work. Like I'm going to sit in my car for nearly an hour with those things trying to crawl out of a smooth sided bucket into my seat!

Mike came out the next weekend and collected his own salamanders, thank you very much.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

Looking for a ride

We've got the horses, now it would be nice to be able to get them out on the trail. We don't have any trails within walking distance of our place. Ginger actually tried riding down the street one day; she said that, while it was possible, it wasn't easy and there wasn't much to see when you got there. So we've been shopping for a horse trailer.

The first question was of what size. Smaller trailers are cheaper, easier to store and pull. However, obviously, they transport fewer horses. So how many horses would we want to move at once? Since Ginger intends to take classes on trail rides occassionally, that would mean moving a lot of horses at once. A 6 horse is about as large as we would consider. But anytime we wanted to head out and do a ride personally we wouldn't likely want to manoever a 6 horse trailer around, so we figured we'd get a small one too. But 2 horse or 3 horse? I figured that we would want a 3 horse, because there are three of us and we'd have a lot of reason to take 3 horses at once.

The second question is straight load or slant load. This determines whether the horses are loaded two by two, parallel to the direction of travel, or if they are loaded then shifted 45° so that they span the entire width of the trailer, side by side. As with many other topics, every horse person you talk to has a different opinion. Some say that horses are more stable standing at 45° to the direction of travel and thus more comfortable. Others suggest that slant load trailers give horses less room. After having done a limited amount of trailering both with loading CHR horses that were adopted out, but also in moving Jordan around, I've been much happier with a slant load. This is good, because regarding decision #1, there is no such thing as a 3 horse straight load trailer.

So began the search for a 3 horse slant load. Since Jordan is 17 hands tall, I want to make sure we get a tall trailer (7') so that he is comfortable. (I've loaded him in shorter trailers before, and it worked, but it wasn't exactly a great fit.) We want a gooseneck hitch, rather than bumper pull because they are easier to pull. Dual axel, small tack area and lighting inside are generally assumed. Regarding steel vs aluminum, or step-in vs ramp, windows vs open sided - we really aren't picky.

I collected a list of about 5 websites that list used trailers for sale, and I've been hitting them every few days. And I've had a heck of a time finding a used trailer with these specs. I started asking around why, and a friend theorized that 3H trailers are really popular now, so people are selling thier 2H to trade up for a 3H. Certainly sounds reasonable, because there seems to be lots of 7', 2H trailers out there - for way cheaper than 2/3 the price of a 3H. And yet, I am still determined not to settle for a 2H.

Then I returned from working in Albuquerque for the week to find that David and Ginger had had new thoughts. If we bought a 4H trailer, we could still get 8 horses to a trail head in two trips. Any trail ride for a class of students would necessarily be close to home so this would be acceptable. And we could use the 4H even if just 2 or 3 of us want to go, so this plan allows us to satisfy all needs with purchasing only one trailer.

So basically we've been all over the map so far, and now begins the search for a 4H slant trailer! Oddly, with one initial search on the for sale websites, it seems there are also more 4H slants for sale than 3H slants... Wish us luck.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Horse Antics - First Snow

As my parents were trying to get an early start the morning they left from Thanksgiving, we decided to put off turning the horses out until after they'd left. I kind of regretted that 30 minutes later, since the horses put on such a show of frolicking in the snow. This was the first morning that we'd turned them out and there was appreciable snow in pasture - about 5 inches worth. They usually are eager to leave the barn and get back to pasture, but this morning they all just kind of stood and had to take in the scene for a few moments. Then Jordan plopped right down and rolled all over. He swished his head through the snow even - imagine an equine equivalent of a snow angel. Then he stood up -- and laid right back down on his other side. When he got up, all the snow packed into his coat made him look just a leopard appaloosa (like in this photo):

Romeo, ever #2 in the herd also pawed around looking for a place to roll. But as soon as he got his belly down on the ground he seemed to pause and reconsider, because he then immediately stood back up. Wasn't such a great day for making angels after all I guess.

Back up, Romeo and Jordan started running around and bucking. They even reared up and pawed at each other a couple of times. It was very amusing, and I kicked myself for not having the forethought to take the camera with me.

But that was nothing compared to my stupidity for not having it with me the second morning - when we got a complete repeat performance from each of them!


Monday, December 13, 2004

Ice, Ice Baby

It began, predictably, with the water tank in the pasture freezing over night. With the weather continuing to worsen, we ended up bringing the horses into the barn for a few nights. We figured we could always bust up the water in the tank in the morning, but overnight it would be good for them to have free access to their auto waterers in the barn.

Until we looked, and the auto waterers in the barn were freezing! So we manually thawed those every night, and broke up the stock tank every morning. This went on for another 3 days or so until we got around to getting a stock tank heater. Oh, what a luxury that was.

This all came to a head the weekend before Thanksgiving. As my parents were coming to visit, or more specifically my Dad, Dave planned to have Dad help him over the holiday addressing the auto waterers. Dave discovered that not only are they designed to have thermostatically controlled heaters to prevent freezing, but in fact all of the waterers had a heater - they just weren't hooked up. Seemed like a simple matter, and after about a few hours of poking around (including having to fish out various tools from the bottom of the 4 foot pits below each of the waterers) they managed to make a number of diagnoses before it was Turkey time. Generally, they felt the electrical work was pretty questionable in nature and would have done bunch of it differently if they had the time. Alas, if only it were that simple. Friday we made a trip to Home Depot for a large collection of new fittings and gadgets, and Saturday they went back to it. They finished up the 4 waterers in the East end of the barn and called that good enough.

The storm actually hit Saturday afternoon, so my parents made plans to head back south early Sunday. Fortunately there wasn't too much snow in the morning, and their trip was uneventful. However, that evening when we brought the horses in again we noticed that 2 of the four waterers were frozen. Moreover, Monday morning Ginger and I went to feed the horses and discovered that the stock tank was frozen as well! By this time none of the lights would turn on in the barn, and the electric fence charger wasn't doing its clicking thing. I was heading to work so I called Dave and brought him up to date and left.

It was the next day when he filled Ginger and I in on the details: Seems that one of the two power lines that were run from the house to the barn is, in fact, dead by the time it reaches the barn's circuit panel. And, in order to make it appear that all 8 circuits were in working order, someone has jumpered from one of the working circuits to the other 4 dead circuits, so that all of the electric components on those circuits were getting some unpredictable and variable voltage. This made them work - but just barely, and if the right circuit tripped then most of them also went out. (At this time Ginger and I kinda gave him the blank stare and he translated - "this is bad.")

It was clearly time to back off and start contacting those individuals involved in certifying the electrical system in the barn - something that was completed just prior to us getting possession.
So here it is, two weeks after that discovery was made and not many answers have been found. Dave has contacted the electrician and the county inspector, and of course neither are willing to admit that the barn was in this condition at the time they inspected it. We certainly didn't do it, but the sellers were in the house probably for a week after the inspections were done, so who knows what happened.

Dave has since resumed working on the waterers because we really can't allow them to freeze, and he has located yet another place where there is an underground break in the line, so last night he was busy putting up conduit (huum - novel concept there - conduit!) over the barn aisle so as to get power from the working quadrant to the dead quadrant.

Oh, and then there was Saturday morning when we were giving another set of friends the tour, and we found that the small barn was half flooded because the fittings left behind when the seller took those waterers with him had frozen and busted. Oh yea.


Sunday, December 12, 2004


You know that theory? A body at rest tends to stay at rest? Seems the same is true for posting diary entries.

Not that I'd say I've actually been resting for the past 5 weeks. To catch up; all three of us got new cell phones, I've traveled to Albuquerque for a new project where I dragged my coworkers up for dinner with my parents, my parents came up to join us for Thanksgiving (where they both rode horses, for the first time in my lifetime), then I went back to Abq again. Just finished our Christmas letter today - well, at least it's printed. And, got a major upgrade posted today as well. And, we've had a couple of other adventures going on, but I'll sign off now to go develop those stories.