Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Monday, July 25, 2005

Lance... and Baseball?

Now don't get all in a twitter - I'm not about to suggest that Lance Armstrong pull a Michael Jordan and give his hand a try at another sport, like baseball. (Though rumors are that he might try the sport of Politics?)

Nah - rather last night Dave and I were leaving Brian's house where we got our final fix of the Tour de France coverage, (we don't have cable, so we're stuck watching vicariously through Brian's DVR) and we were discussing going to France some year to catch some of the tour in person. I'd brought it up earlier and we all agreed that it probably wouldn't be very satisfying - seeing as how for so much of the route the riders are passing at 30 miles an hour. The only stages where they are slow enough to really get a look at would be the mountain stages - and those are the places that people camp out for days to secure their spot.

Anyways, as we were leaving I told Dave that it'd probably be just like watching baseball live and how I like it so much better on TV.

But Dave cracked me up by responding that it would only be like baseball if they pitched each pitch in a different ball park! So - yeah - probably not the best excuse to travel to France. Guess I'll need to start thinking up a better one.


Bigger stacks and, would you believe, a bigger tarp?

So, because of our most recent experience tarping a hay stack, we decided to try it again - with an even bigger stack. Yes, we went ahead and purchased a year's supply of hay from Len, a guy down the road who knows our neighbor Tom quite well. So, of course we needed to tarp that hay to protect our investment. I was thrilled - we could yank that huge hay tarp off of our measley 1/2 stack and put it to real use.

Only, Dave had to rain on my parade by telling me our tarp would be too small for this stack. Excuse me? It's way fricking huge, how in the heck could it be too small? Well, specifically, it's too narrow for the way this stack was built. Grumbling, I went to Murdoch's with Dave to see what they had. We were theorizing how we could get a second one and lace them together side by side. But that would put the seam right along the top of the stack - exactly where we wouldn't want it. So we thought we could get a role of plastic and over-tarp the seam - but then the problem is how do you keep that secured in place... It just seemed like a losing battle the more we talked about it.

So we bought a whole new tarp - 33 x 48 feet - counting on tarping a really big section of the stack well enough for it to sit over the winter without any additional protection. We made arrangements to meet Len over there 4:30, so I could catch up with them on my way home. After folding the tarp just right, Len lifted it to the top of the stack using his tractor.

Wind, you might imagine, is one of the trickiest problems in deploying these tarps. Len was quick to instruct Ginger and Dave to just sit on it until he and I had at least the corners anchored.

It took 3 hours, but I think we can all rest assured it's as well protected as we can hope for.

The big tarp covered 75% of our stack, or there abouts. We were still having discussions as to exactly how far down the stack belonged to us when we left - unfortunately Len was already gone so the discussion was mostly moot. The big tarp fits great - all the way down to about 2 feet off the ground on both sides. We used our other tarp to double tarp the top of the rest of our stack and then some. Dave was absolutely correct, our original tarp barely reached from one top edge to the other, so it really wasn't appropriate. But still, it's better used there than at our place (not to mention it's out of my hair over there, so that alone is useful!)

We finally got some rain yesterday! So we're curious to run back over and see how our tie-down job held. However, we're off on vacation in just 3 days to sail the Virgin Islands and yet we have an unbelieveable list of things to do before then... so the hay may just have to sit tight for a few weeks.

As will this blog, since I doubt we'll be able to get the internet from the boat. Though that thought certainly is amusing... maybe the ports down there run wireless hot spots?


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Full House

We had our second party tonight - this was a (x) co-worker of Ginger's whose brother's in-laws were visiting from Ireland. None have ridden before, so Shalin asked if they could come do a BBQ and then let all 6 of them ride. Again, this doesn't fit into our actual business plan, but what the heck, we're flexible. Dave and Shalin, whose been out to ride with us before, were the extra wranglers to help keep things under control.

Just as I got home they were coming out of the arena to do a little bit of a trail ride around the property. With Dave and Ginger up too it was our first time ever to have all 8 horses out and saddled up at once!

I suppose one of these days we'll quit running out with the camera everytime we do something new with the horses... but for now we're just such proud parents. All the ponies behaved very well for their maiden group outing.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A guest of a different ilk

We got our first (unofficial) kennel customer this week! Actually, call it a co-worker who had a dog-sitter bail on him, but hey, we're not picky! So lucky us we get Zoie to spend the week with us. She's a doll.

She's also a Great Dane. She comes to the office every few weeks. Note that our office really isn't much larger than her kennel - so you can imagine the stir she causes. She's no trouble, mostly spending her time under Paul's desk - or as of this week - under my desk. But the first time you're sitting at your desk she walks up behind you and sticks her head over your shoulder to see what you are up to is a bit of a double-take moment. Make that the first several times.

Most of us learned quickly from Patrick's mistake. He'd just met her and he threw out his arms and kinda made a feignt at her. For the rest of that day she barked at him every time he came in sight, much to his chagrin. He wondered aloud to me if she was afraid of him. No - I said - you offered to wrestle with her and now she just wants to play! And she doesn't give up easily, either.

I was in Atlanta last week when Paul brought Zoie over. The first few days were pretty rough. She was unhappy being alone, and howled over that. Ginger was afraid our neighbors to the south would be disturbed by the noise and report that we'd started the kennel early, so she was out there a lot to try and calm her down. By Friday morning Ginger was about at her wits end, so I packed Zoie up and brought her into the office with me. This worked great - other than the fact I think Zoie thought that Paul would be here so she got really excited when we pulled into the parking lot. But the main thing is that she's a social girl and there are lots of peoples here to talk to, so she is quite content.

Over the weekend we learned a new trick - we take her down to the barn when we need to muck stalls, and just close all the doors so she can romp all she wants. She loves it. She'll run into any stall and drink out of the automatic waterers which are just the right height for her. She's not fond of being shut into a stall, but we think it's amusing. She just stands right up against the door to watch us.

First few times she was down, though, there were still horses in the stalls. Oooh, didn't like that! I guess she isn't accustomed to seeing animals bigger than she is. We're working on acclimating her.

Ranch Dog training in full swing.

Monday I brought her back to the office with me. I drive an Outback. While she can stand up easily in the back, she can't raise her head much above the top of her back. Since I'd rather have her lay down anyways, that's fine with me. Well, this morning she was restless, and ended up hopping over into the back seat. Once there you'd think she'd lie sideways across the seat. Nope, she prefers to brace her butt against the back of the seat and stand facing forwards. How in the world she manages to balance like that I don't know because at that range she's way too big for me to see in the mirror, and I am, after all, trying to keep my eyes on the road. Fortunately after a few commands and vague hand swishes she usually will turn and lie down.

But I went to get her pillow out this morning when I got to the office. Of course at that time she wouldn't stay in the back seat but hopped over and was very eager to get out. I managed to keep her in the car while pulling the pillow out from under her, but she was still poised to come out when I reached up to close the hatch back. She got the picture, and backed right up out of the way. When I saw what she'd done, though, it was all I could do to not drop my lunch and computer and ther various other things in my hands -- she'd pushed her butt back OVER the back seat so that it was now sitting on top of the seat and her back legs pointing straight out forwards! It looked so rediculous I just stood there cracking up. I actually had my camera with me... alas, she didn't sit still long enough for the shot.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Hanging out the Shingle

We had a few tasks this weekend, which is terribly satifying to say that we actually completed all of them! One was to put up the sign. The sign that we've been saying would go up since we moved in. Then we had the county approval headache, and didn't want to get into trouble putting up a sign if we didn't have authority to do those businesses. Then we were going to just put up the Sun Pony Ranch sign, with the intent to add another one for the Doggie stuff later. But then the sign guy told us it was much cheaper to just do one sign and we were only 2 weeks away from getting approval for the kennel at that time anyways - so another delay.

Then - amazingly, I had several difficulties finding a sign person to do it. Our original one went out of business. So I contacted 4 others with a completed sign layout, specs and everything (since the guy who went out of business had been so helpful in working these things out!!) and of the 4 only 1 ever responded. Like the sign business is so lucrative they can afford to ignore new customers?

So, what d'ya think? Worth 1000 words?

We hope so, and then some! Actually by Sunday we already had our first email inquiry - so it's doing some good.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Stacks and Tarps

Last year we had a bit of trouble with the whole buy enough hay to last over the winter thing. (See here and here)

This year we've started a little earlier. Primarily we were interested in finding someone close enough who would deliver the hay to us by stacker wagon. Stacker wagons go through the fields picking up bales one at a time and ... well, stacking them. Stacks are then offloaded leaning against each other and form large more or less neatly stacked bales. But, if you can get a stacker wagon to drive to your place, then you can get a nice stack of hay delivered right into place!

Sounds great. We called our neighbor when he started cutting. Turns out he sold his property to his neighbor, but eventually we got through and placed an order. The price they came back with was a little steep - $5.25, but we had never shopped delivered prices, so we decided to get one stack and see how it goes. They came over and dropped off the stack against the back side of the barn. Amazingly enough, a stack is big enough that it was too tall to fit even uder the tall section of the barn eaves, so Dave and they guy had to knock several bales off as the stack was being put into place. It ended up being about 10x10x14 feet tall, or 160 bales.

So there we were - a small fortune in hay standing behind the barn unprotected. Rain being the enemy of hay, we knew we needed to get it tarped quickly. Ginger and I set aside time after feeding one evening to do this.

Unbeknownst to us, the hay tarp we just bought at auction is enormous. Gigantic, even. Like 15' x 150'. I knew the dimensions... but really didn't comprehend what they meant. We struggled and wrestled the thing up. Ginger climbed to the top of the stack via a ladder, only to discover that stacker wagons don't stack bales as securely as we do when we do it manually. So here she was up on a 14 foot stack of bales that swayed about everytime she moved. So I was running around the base of the stack trying to manoever the tarp from there while she held it steady above. Meanwhile the sun was going down and the wind coming up. We sortof got the thing on and quit.

A few days later we knew the tarp needed to be adjusted, so Dave and I proceeded to shifting the entire tarp 90 degrees so that it started on the ground, up and over the stack and ended at the ground on the other side. We then proceeded to tie it down securely. I had planned on getting a picture of stack after we'd tarped it - and make it a blog entry titled "Craziest tarped hay ever". We just kept running twine and tying it off.

Too bad 3 days later wind in combination with our tarp blew down our main support pole, and 2 days after that the top half of the stack, encased in the tarp, fell over. It was another 3 days before we went to go untangle the whole mess. We moved the fallen bales in front of the barn under the overhang, and retarped the remainder of the stack.

To say the least, all this mess made us rethink the wisdom of having stacks of hay delivered. Either we needed to get a whole lot smarter about it, or we'd end up doing just as much manual shifting of bales and paying more for that priviledge.

The morning that we were to clean up the fallen stack a guy pulled into our driveway with quite a story. Seems he used to live in our house with our neighbor back when he was building the place. He's done hay for years but is again looking for regular customers. Dave and Ginger went to go speak with him last night... and may have a very interesting solution: we buy more or less a year's worth of hay - 1200 bales - at $3.50 a bale, BUT leave the majority of it stacked over on the guy's property, (properly tarped). Then we can go pickup loads whenever we need them! This really sounds ideal so we're pretty enthusiastic. We'll have to keep you posted on how this arrangement goes, keep those fingers crossed!


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Best Things in Life?

We love all 7 of our horses. Each of them have their own strong points and weak points; particularly endearing points and obnoxious points. But when it comes down to it, what we need are horses whom we can put beginner riders on and rest assured that they won't do something to frighten the rider. We have 3.5 of those. Sort of.

Harley, Shoshoni, and Romeo all do really well with kids. Rest assured, they aren't the follow nose to tail type horses. Each will test the rider in their own way and somedays be more of pills than good lesson horses. The first day of a beginning class - particularly for kids - is always chaotic to the point of being hilarious. Even with a couple of helpers to grab horses and put them back in the direction they are supposed to be going, we often end up with the entire class breaking down as Harley is standing in the center of the ring doing nothing. Shoshoni not standing still and probably spinning in circles. Romeo is ususally quite good - though has a tendency to want to go much faster than the rider wants. I like to look at it saying that anyone who learns to ride on our horses is going to really learn how to ride - not just how to sit on the back of a horse.

You may note that Jordan isn't in the list above. He does fine with beginner riders - but the rider does need to be able to keep a presence of mind if something unexpected happens. Like - don't start yelling. Jordan's not fond of yelling.

Ginger has a policy of accepting riders at 8 years old, and has on a few occasions agreed to accept them at 7 after speaking with the parent. I didn't truely appreciate the distinction at first, but let her set her policies. After witnessing a few 7 year olds on the back of a horse, I've come around. They quite simply lose their minds. Perfectly sane little girls turn into paralyzed lumps of sand who have no ability to comprehend language.

Ginger frequently instructs riders as to which hand to hold the reins in. That they confuse right and left is actually little surprise - because I know I do it all the time! So I asked her why she doesn't use inside and outside directions instead - meaning towards the inside of the arena vs the outside of the arena. She said that isn't any better. Apparently when you haven't spent as many hours taking lessons in an arena as I have, those directions aren't any more intuitive. The crux of the problem really comes to light, though, when Ginger starts asking "Show me the hand that is holding the reins." And they get that wrong.

So you can imagine, keeping a presence of mind isn't the little ones' strong point. Not when they are sitting 6 feet off of the ground to start with. So Ginger isn't putting small kids or timid beginners on Jordan anymore.

So we're down to needing another beginner horse. Since we already have 3 horses who are for intermediate riders, and we arguably have no intermediate riders, I've been pushing that we really need to sell at least one or two. I relented and agreed that if we could find leasers for them that we could then have the best of both worlds, thus:

Then our friend Jay called and asked if we might be interested in an older, light ride horse who would be good with kids. His friend Vicki had just such a horse, and unfortunately had been considering putting her down because she couldn't afford to keep all three of her horses and didn't really have a use for her. But, she has such a lot of life left in her, her vet convinced her she needed to find a home where she could be put to some light work. Voila, looks like a match made in heaven. We spoke with Vicki and then went to meet the horse last weekend. Vicki's willing to let us try her out for a month or so, and then give her to us if it works out. So after our trail ride on Monday, we stopped at Vicki's place and picked up Missy / Misty / Penny. We're contemplating changing her name but as she's a loaner just yet we haven't decided one way or the other.

Since we don't have camp this week due to the 4th of July holiday, this is a perfect opportunity for us to work with her and help her acclimate before we throw her to the kids.

Oh, and we got her home yesterday and put her in the welcome pen where she could sniff noses with the horses in both of our pastures. Jordan is in LOOOOOVE. Again. And it appears to be mutual since she was putting on quite the display for him. She's 25 years old! Not only is he gelded, but she's spayed - something fairly unusual for a horse. Someone needs to tell both of them that they're living in a dream world.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Hitting the Trail

Happy 4th of July to everyone! We decided to take the day off for a change, and it was a very welcome respite.

First thing we got up and loaded up the trailer to go for our first trail ride. I've had Jordan out on trail a handful of times, but we've never been the big trail riders. The times that I have gone I've gone with our friend Jay. He's always told us that he'd be willing to go anytime we were, so we called him up and asked if he wanted to take us out on the 4th.

It took us longer to get loaded up and ready to go than we thought it would. All of the horses loaded fine - it just plain old took longer than we anticipated. Good thing we were aiming to be at the trail head 30 minutes before our scheduled meeting time... becuase this way we were in fact only 9 minutes late.

Jay had warned us that the parking lot was a little tricky - so we drove by the day before to scope it out. Tricky didn't do it justice. We could not imagine trying to get in there, turned around and parked - with TWO horse trailers no less. Certainly not if there were other cars there. That was one of the reasons we wanted to try and be early - to beat Jay and his trailer if nothing else ;)

Alas, that didn't happen, which is just as well as Jay was able to help coach Dave into getting turned around and parked. Dave is getting the hang of that trailer - it's a 4 horse slant, so it's about 28 feet long. But without a lot of practice it'll still take some time before he's fully comfortable. There is just something about the fact that your cargo are your horses and you'd rather not jostle them more than necessary that adds to the pressure.

Jay invited his frequent riding partner - Vicki - to ride with us as well, so the 5 of us headed out together. The weather was spectacular, and the trail was perfect for out first time having the ponies on the trail (in other words - it was a "Green" trail).

All of our guys (Jordan, Shoshoni and Rio) were eager to get out. You could just see it in their eyes as they got off the trailer. So, there was quite a bit of trotting and wrestling to keep the horses from running up over the horse in front of you for the first 20 minutes or so... but by the time we stopped to take the pictures above they'd all settled in pretty well. Later we agreed to all try a canter, but since Jordan was leaping and bounding rather than cantering we kind of put a kabosh on that. Actually it was pretty amusing, most of the horses could canter in time with Jordan's trot anyway. Considering that we had 3 arab types and a little quarter horse, this isn't all that surprising.

On the way home we stopped at Vicki's house -- to pick up a new horse! More on that tomorrow.


Friday, July 01, 2005

Party at SPR

I gotta hand it to Ginger - she seems to know what people want when it comes to horse-related service offerings. It has been part of our plan to offer birthday parties and allow people to bring their party to our place, providing their own refreshments, and then spend some time pony riding. Visions of a dozen 7 year olds danced in our heads.

So - though we hadn't yet advertised this service anywhere, someone contacted Ginger a week or so ago looking for essentially this exact thing. Seems he and his wife invite their grandkids out to stay with them for several days every summer at "Grandpa's Camp". This year they had 10 grandkids coming, aged 5 to 14, and they were interested in trying some riding.

We had to scramble a little bit - finishing the mowing around where we thought we'd set up the picnic table on the hill above the arena. And oh yeah - needed to buy a picnic table!

I was a bit delayed coming home and so they were in full picnic mode by the time I drove up. All of the kids had matching T-shirts on that they'd decorated by drawing on them. Very campish. Grandpa and Grandma were cheerful and friendly, clearly enjoying sheparding the kids around. Ginger brought Shoshoni around to be petted, then saddled up Shadow and Harley.

While we don't put novice riders on Shadow alone, he does very good with kids if he is being led. And on the ground he is one of our most approachable horses since he really does like the attention. Good old Harley is the champion of followers, so regardless of where Ginger took Shadow - walking or trotting - he just follows along behind unattended.

Actually, at one point I was amazed to watch as she brought them both back in to switch riders, and the one on Harley, who was one of the younger ones, was just wailing on Harley with his legs and flipping the reins around. I guess it was good his legs hardly reached the bottom of the saddle and thus realistically resulted in minimal wailing -- but still I was amazed and greatful to see Harley just absolutely ignoring him.

Everyone got a short turn on each horse and then they were loaded up into their cars again. I caught Grandpa as he was getting in - he said they were all so excited and had a great time. I do forget what it's like for people who don't have access to horses just what an impression they can make in a short while. It felt great to be able to provide them that chance. Then he grinned and said - just three more days of camp before he could send them all home!