Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Adventures in Trailering

So there we were, coming home from NM, loaded down with a camper on the truck and pulling a 4 horse trailer, when we taken surprise coming over Raton Pass and hit snow in Trinidad! I called Phyl, as we'd arranged, and she sounded a bit concerned... Do you want to stop? Or just head home? Well, home involved 4 additional hours of driving, at night, in the dark and snow. We weren't all that fond of that option, so we headed on to Canyon City. We did capitulate, however, on taking her out to dinner and offered instead to pick up take-n-bake pizza in town.

Dave was driving - I knew there was a reason we'd saved the last leg for him! We toodled along, keeping an eye on the exterior temp as snow shifted to rain and back. We passed through one little valley that must have been extra cold as there were half a dozen cars slid into the median. It was around this time that we discovered Katharyn's truck is 2WD. Hruh?? Oh right, she lived in TX when she bought it!

But we got to Canyon City without incident, found the pizza place and placed our order. Called Phyl said we were on our way! Just 10 miles to go, how bad could it be?

Bad. The snow started coming down in that huge flaked, hypnotizing patern where your brain does its best to convince you that the truck is sitting still and the posts on the side of the road are going by on their own. Soon enough the road frosted over so that picking out driveable surface beomes a challenge, much less your own lane. Oncoming traffic was rare, but actually welcome because that was the only time we could see the other side of the road. It was around this time that we were really wishing the truck was 4WD.

All the road signs were plastered with snow, but finally the bilboards for the camp sites and rafting outfits at the Royal Gorge were unmistakeable. It was just beyond this, I knew, where we turned and then it was just 2 miles to her driveway. By now, though, it was hard to see OUR side of the road. Guard rails were our friends! It got pretty surreal when we said surely this is where we turn... Only to have to abort at last minute figuring that was another $%@*&^ Rafting outfit! Called Phyl again, concerned we'd passed it - but she said no, another 1/4 mile. Found it!

Hwy 9, now, is an even less used road. Someone was following us, but we let them creep behind as we weren't speeding up for anything.

One last hill (I thought) and the truck was starting to skid. It was exactly this time that we started cursing that the truck wasn't 4WD. Fish tailing, Dave just kept leting off the gas to regain control - but we were still climbing the hill and wanted the momentum. Also praying that the horses didn't decide to start freaking out and tossing the trailer around. Luckily they continued to be troopers and rode quietly throughout. Finally we topped the hill, crept down until the mass of mailboxes at her turnoff unveiled themselves out of the snowy blackness. Thank Goodness, seriously. We were all ready to be out of that vehicle.


Two weeks ago we had another adventure - this time coming home from the Toys for Tots event down in Denver. We took 3 horses (in our own trailer), and had stopped along the way to pick up a 4th. Stopping to drop her off back home, she helpfully suggested we take a different entrace to her barn to avoid all the sharp corners that I had struggled with earlier in the day. Only, the alternative route was dirt road, Translated: one long muddy mess.

We were beyond the point of no return (yes, really dear we are - we even walked back to check!) and we hit an icy patch after a muddy patch meaning the truck, even in 4WD-Low, couldn't get the trailer through the mud. GUH. We started to have thoughts of taking Erin's car to go to Sears to buy chains.

Since we had to drop one horse off anyways, we unloaded him. But still no luck. So we took them all out of the trailer -- and thankfully that lightened the load enough. I told Dave to just keep moving once he got clear and we walked the horses out to the main driveway.

Relating this story to Mike that night at home, he said "Good! You know more about the limits of your vehicle now." Uh Huh. Guess that's one way to put it.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Great Hunt

A couple weeks ago Dave and I joined a friend and trekked down to southern New Mexico for an SCA event. Katharyn had invited us - actually invited us and a horse to go down with her, since she was going to have an open space or two in her trailer. I hemmed and hawed about it for a long time, and finally fessed up that trailering horses for so far was freaking me out. Not to mention that it's difficult to take horses away while Ginger has lessons going on. So we ended up accompanying her and her horses.

For a 12 hour trip, the ride down went remarkably smoothly. We'd spent the night at Katharyn's the night before so that we could get up early (ehem.. 4am early!), get the horses in the trailer and get going by 5.

We didn't know much of anything about this event - a big part of the reason for going was to get together with Isabol, who as the Kingdom Equestrian Officer, is my counterpart at the kingdom level. We've emailed a lot, but haven't had a chance to meet since she lives in Las Cruces. Katharyn has been friends with Isabol for years -- in another Kingdom. So they were looking for a chance to see each other again, and heck - Katharyn was actually delivering a horse to her. Voila, we loaded up and headed for Artesia, NM, knowing very little of what to expect.

We pulled in at 5 pm on the dot to a private ranch. Unloaded the horses - being introduced to the absolutely most pernicous goat head stickers I have ever come across in my life! Bad news to let your lead rope drag on the ground there - and then try and lead away horses who were seeing freedom for the first time that day! Somehow we were just unlucky enough to unload in the only spot not de-stickered because the rest of the weekend we hardly saw any.

Looking around, it was immediately clear this was going to be a small event. One other person was scheduled to arrive with horses. That combined with Isabol, who didn't haul any of hers in, and Emma, the host, made for 5 riders. OK.

Camp set up fine - the bed assembled great. :-) We were really glad to have brought with us ready made cabbage burgers which we could heat up courtesy of the cutest little microwave in Katharyn's camper. Those eaten sitting around the bonfire geting acquainted with the half dozen other folks camping out made for a great evening.

Saturday was the event. In the morning we learned that the other equestrian had emailed a cancellation, so we were it. We saddled up Aramis and Minerva and took turns warming up. Isabol had said she'd work with me on jousting, so we did some of those basics. It was a special challenge because neither Aramis nor Minerva neck rein very well. Aramis is a Belgian draft, and Minerva a draft cross, so both are entirely capable of going where THEY want rather than listening to a rider. Being my first time riding either of them, it was a humbling experience. But we muddled through and after a couple hours of that we put the horses up for lunch.

David, meanwhile, had gone off to join the Archery folks. They had loaner gear, and he's been talking about trying it for a while, so took the opportunity. And what a day he had! They shot pretty much all day long, and I kept hearing comments to the effect that he was doing very well for what essentially was his first day.

They had quite the assortment of Archery contests going on. They had targets set up at 10, 20, 30 and 40 feet. The 30-30 contest had them shooting as many arrows as you can at the 30 foot target in 30 seconds. Without a doubt, however, most amusing event I watched was the charging bull. Yep, a bull profile mounted to a wagon, starting at 40 feet away charges towards the shooters who try to hit it as many times as they can.

Most of the time the pully / wagon system worked great... but not every time. I think Dave and his opponent ended up with like three false starts.

They eventually just dismantled the 30 foot target since it seemed to be so alluring to the bull! Finally they had their run, and Dave managed to get two arrows in - one as a head shot.

After lunch they started the Mounted Archery event. But with their own twist on the 'mounted' part. Boys and their toys, I tell ya.

They even so kindly reversed directions for the south paw.

And then the REAL equestrians had their go!

Aramis, deciding he needed to run away from the twang of the bow string

Me, on Minerva

Emma, our hostess, and her Haflinger Billy ran the course too!

I'm not sure any of us managed to put an arrow in the target or not, but it sure was fun to give it a try.

Later we all ran an obstacle course / quest, again including Emma and Billy. I've never ridden with someone driving before - they had an impressive amount of manoeverability with that cart!

Another evening spent around the firepit with food, drink and friends. Going to bed, the night before, we were rather conscious of the fact we had been seeing our breath fog up for some time. It was darn cold! And though we'd taken blankets to put between us and the airmattress, it still sucked all the heat out of us. That was a long cold night. The second night we were better prepared, having laid down an extra blanket AND both of our wool cloaks underneath us. That and the fact it must have been 20 degrees warmer made for a very pleasant sleep Saturday night! We really like our new bed!

Sunday we headed out at the lazy hour of 10 am, headed for Phyllis's place to over night. Managed to hit snow just as we crossed into Colorado. Uff Dah -- that too will be another post.


Saturday, December 19, 2009


So - Dave has joined the SCA Choir! He's been singing with them for a few months and had been putting a lot of effort into it. I giggle when I catch him practicing their pieces sitting at the computer, for they have a great tool that plays the selected harmony part and presents the lyrics in time as well. But he's really starting to hold his own, so to speak, so good for him. It isn't easy singing in the least, as the period pieces are generally in latin or another foreign language, and neither of us have participated in actual choirs before. I went to one practice with him, but it's at an akward time for me and I don't feel I have the energy to devote to it. But he's kept with it, and the director is very talented and has helped him come along really well.

They've performed a few times now, the most recent was last weekend at our neighboring barrony's MidWinter event. I asked Dave which was his favorite song and he said this one - Gaudete - because it has been the most difficult so far. It was published in a collection of songs sung in Catholic schools in 1582.

I videoed both takes of this song but the second was a much better performance... EXCEPT for the fact that I missed the first two beats of the song!! (GRRRR!). So my apologies for that. Also, this was held in a large concrete hall, thus the acoustics are terrible. Never the less, I thought it worth posting!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

No more stock tanks?

In my last post about Gibraltar, I mentioned our new waterers. We came across this product, "Whisperer Waterers" a few years ago at the Stock Show. We were intrigued for a couple of reasons. Maintaining stock tanks, year round, are a bit of a hassle. They need to be dumped periodically to be cleaned, and in the winter you have to install heaters, otherwise they freeze solid. It was really when I started analyzing our barn electric bill, and saw the enormous spike that we get every winter, that I thought a heater-less solution would be really great.

These waterers have a very simplistic design, and yet the manufacturer swore up and down that they are effective and very low maintenance. We went and visited someone else near by who had had some installed for over a year, and she had to agree - they just work.

Their simplicity is based on the fact that water is never stored in the bowl. Therefore there is nothing to freeze during the winter. Rather they have a sensor that detects a hand - or a nose - when placed inside the bowl. It's not a touch sensor, all the horses have to do is reach in and sniff the bottom, where they smell water, and Voila - the valve opens and water magically appears! The water continues to flow as long as the nose is down there. As soon as it leaves, the bowl drains to await the next demand. Beyond not having anything to freeze, no standing water means no algae buildup. And besides, wiping out this bowl is trivial compared with dumping and scrubbing a stock tank.

The valve is cleverly attached to a coiled hose, so that once you've buried the connection 5 feet down, should you need to perform maintenance, you simply pull the valve up out of the PVC pipe and work on it.

So like I said - we kept seeing them at trade shows, and then went to talk to the actual customer, and we decided we wanted to put some in before this winter. I called up the person -- it was SEPTEMBER! I know because she was busy finishing up at the State Fair that weekend. GROAN. This annoys me because of all the delays that eventually came to pass.

So as to spare you the pain, the short story is that after trying to negotiate a discounted price and failing, the woman offered to personally deliver the units so as to save shipping. OK I said. Only - huum. Took a very long time of not being able to coordinate schedules, and then a snow storm, and failure for her to followup with me... etc. Finally I managed to leave an irritated voice mail for her - and, what do you know? She arrived that afternoon to deliver some waterers! Oh, and at a discount also. OK, my temper was assuaged.

Until we figured out she only brought 2 units with her when I wanted to purchase 3. *headdesk*

Anyways, this wasn't until early November that we received them. Have I mentioned that we've had a very cold and snowy fall so far? So finding an opportunity to trench into the ground was looking difficult. But we had a couple of days early December which seemed better than any other, so Dave and Wayne set about installing them. Unfortunately the ground was still so frozen that they ended up finishing 2 and decided to wait until spring to do any more.

So the big question is -- will the animals drink from it? Well - yeah. I suppose most of the horses figured it out quick enough. Makes sense - it smells like water, someone showed me water in there yesterday, and hey -- in the time it's taken me to think about this there is water in there again!

Though it was not entirely without resistance. Shoshoni, I hear, would not approach this scary white thing for the life of her. As Ginger said - it was a case where she couldn't even lead the horse to water! What's more, when the water does start to flow it makes a teensey little gurgling sound. OH MY GOD THE MONSTERS ARE COMING! Well, that's Shoshoni for you. I am happy to report that her thirst seems to have eventually overcome her skittishness.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's the season of indulgences

Isn't it? Well, regardless, I indulged yesterday, and but good. :-D

The last few equestrian tournaments I've ridden in, have been awkward in that I keep riding different horses. Certainly it's a challenge that many riders face - needing to arrange access to horses, but for me it's been particularly frustrating, seeing as how I HAVE horses...

Just before the Champions tournament in August, Jordan came up lame. And though he was pretty well recovered, I didn't feel it was fair to put him through the stress that this type of riding puts upon a horse. So I rode Jack. And oh boy, what it was like to be reminded of just how great Jordan and I work together by seeing just the opposite between me and Jack!

Shortly after that we consulted with our vet, and he concurred that Jordan's arthritis has progressed to the point where he really can't be doing this riding any more. This is sad, though it's an issue we've been dealing with since I adopted him 8 years ago. He's got such great heart and dedication... I'm still working through that one. If it weren't for the issue that without consistent, low level exercise, his arthritis will get worse and worse, I would consider letting him just retire and be a pasture ornament. Alas - we need to figure something out for him.

Last October, Dave and I attended an event down in New Mexico with a friend. I was invited to bring a horse with me, as she had an open spot in her trailer - but again I was faced with the difficulty of taking a horse away from a weekend of lessons here. That and the fear of trailering for 12 hours straight led me to opt to leave my horses home and ride Katharyn's for the event. Our last event, just a few weeks ago, I took Jordan for using in the parade, but again for the competition Lady Nesta and I shared riding Bambi.

Riding is very much a partnership, and even though 2 of these horses were technically mine, I have not spent a lot of time riding either of them and ended up not feeling competitive in the end.

So I came to the conclusion that I wanted another horse - one that is mine. It was a bit of a nerve wracking decision. Folks say you have 10, what's so exciting about this one? Because he's to be mine, mine and all mine! Not since I adopted Jordan have I looked at any horse with other than our business needs in mind. But with this horse I don't want to have to worry about inconveniencing the lessons because I want to take him to an event. I want a horse that is sound, so that I don't have to worry that this riding is too much for him. And, getting one that LOOKS more medieval? Well, that's just a perk of going out to look for a brand new horse. :-D

I finally found a couple of horses on the Internet that were close enough by to start talking to. Unfortunately the weather has just been consistently terrible for about 6 weeks now -- lots of VERY COLD weather, usually just proceeded by a small snowstorm, so that we've had snow on the ground most of the time recently. And yet I didn't want them to slip away, so several weeks ago Dave and I went out to just meet this big beautiful guy.

OMG - I think he won us both over in about 5 minutes! So much so that I never even went out to see the other horses on my list.

We went back a couple weeks later for a ride. Since she doesn't have access to an arena, Kim, his owner, and I went out for a trail ride in her neighborhood. She's used him for trail riding for the past couple of years, and it shows just how comfortable he is being out and about. We crossed rail road tracks, we walked down the frontage road with the highway just 30 feet away and cars passing us on the frontage road. He just went on his merry way. I really had to laugh, the only time he got a little nervous was when I stopped in the field to adjust my stirrup length. Now THAT was outside of his experience! Back at her house I did a few little circles so that Dave could film him... You can totally see, this is one pretty laid back guy.

Last weekend she brought him over to our place - the theory being that I could try him in an arena, and my vet came out to do a vet check too. Well, once again it was terribly cold and snowy, but we went ahead with it anyways. Just as she arrived, however, Kim told me her other horse had been a bad boy and had busted down a fence, and all three of her horses went out for quite the adventure that morning! Luckily she got them rounded up again, but it was clear he'd had his little exercise for the day and getting him to strut his stuff for the vet was a bit of a challenge. LOL. He's not exactly in super-fit condition. However, we did get him to move out enough to realize he was really quite lame on his left front leg. OH NO! I'd never seen any lameness in the two times I saw him before - but then that's why I have the vet look at them since I'm no expert. But this was pretty noticeable. We just couldn't tell whether he'd just sprained it that morning out with his buddies, or whether this was a real concern.

So we put things on hold so he could rest for a week and try again yesterday. Still snowy, we got him back out in the arena yesterday and ran him through his paces. And he was hugely improved! Oh, yea!! Because by now I was pretty invested and it would have been very difficult to turn away.

So - the newly dubbed Gibraltar stayed the night. He's doing well

He even picked up on how to drink from our new automatic waterer right away. *snerk - this is somewhat facetious, on the other hand, horses too scared to drink from them has been a real concern these few weeks. But - that's another post*

There has been, as expected, lots of squealing and kicking at the panels - but interestingly for once this all seems to be coming from our horses. He's so unruffleable that he pretty much just stands there going -- "What's all the fuss about?"

I can't wait to start working with him. Hopefully with the holidays coming up I'll be at home more and able to sneak away here and there.