Monday, July 28, 2014

bad always follows the good.

I just called to schedule Pistol's last trip to the vet. The old man has been losing weight and condition and no matter what we've done, nothing has been helping him. Top that with his heaves that absolutely nothing our vet has recommended has helped him. Steroid shots, Dex, pasture only, watered down hay, hay in a slow feeder, SmartBreathe, etc.
So he has a week left with me for me to snuggle him, and make him feel as loved as I possibly can make him feel. And next Monday morning he will go in to the vet one last time.

I know that it's the best decision for him, but it's been the hardest decision for me.

first horse camping trip of the year.

I’ve often been asked why I love North Dakota. When you don’t know much about this state I think I could understand why you would wonder why I love it here. I think of it as a hidden gem that not many people know about. But North Dakota was voted the happiest state in the entire country… I think we were also voted the number one state with the highest binge drinking, so I’m not sure if those two things go hand in hand… Fargo, ND is also being written about in many different places as being an excellent place to work and live. I mean we have the lowest unemployment rate in the entire country. Everywhere you look there are ‘now hiring’ or ‘help wanted’ signs. Jobs everywhere for everyone!
But when most people think of North Dakota they think about how flat it is. And how boring it is.  And how cold it is. But what they don’t realize is that we have some absolutely GORGEOUS state parks. And our absolutely gorgeous state parks have horse campsites, and horse friendly trails.
But I mean yeah. I guess this is pretty flat and boring. It's not the mountains that some of you readers have...but I'll take it.

Friday night I dropped off our dogs at the kennel, and then we loaded up the horses and headed to meet our friends at Fort Ransom State Park. It is about an hour and a half away from our place. It’s funny though, as you start getting closer to the park, it’s like you aren’t even in North Dakota anymore, there are hills, valleys, and TREES! I kept saying that it was like we were in Virginia. We checked in at the ranger station, which was located in and ADORABLE little old farm house, and we purchased our season pass and season horse passes.  Then we headed to our campsite to get set up. 
I got new boots a few weeks ago, and I haven't' taken them off since.

We rolled up to our campsite, and unloaded the horses into the corrals we had reserved for them, got them fed and watered, and then started to set up camp for ourselves. We were on vacation, so we all maybe stayed up a bit later than necessary around the fire, having adult beverages, but hey, we were on vacation. I checked on the horses a few times thorough the night, to make sure they were fed and watered, then finally hit the hay myself.
Got up early fed the ponies, realized I was kind of still tired, with a bit of a ‘headache’ so I went back to the trailer and slept for a bit longer. Then finally when everyone woke up, and we had some brunch we, then saddled up our ponies.  

I had brought along Yellow Horse, now known as Cash, for me to ride. I saddled him up and he was a bit ‘up’. My friend could see that I was getting a bit nervous about riding so she hopped on him. He tried to pull some crap with her, but she wasn't having it. She rode him around and then handed him back to me. She and everyone else, decided that he just likes to buffalo me to see if he can get out of work by being a creep. She told me to call him out on his crap, and he will be fine... and we were.
"Hi! I am the cutest!"

One thing we've noticed about him, is that he has a really weird gait. No one can figure out why he does it, but he just walks really, really weird. We had him at the vet for a lameness exam and nothing was raising any red flags. He has shoes on his fronts, because he was completely lame without them after a little gravel road riding. He wasn't bobbing his head, or showing any signs of soreness. He just walks really weird. Maybe I’ll try and get some videos, so you nice folks can maybe help diagnose him. Anyways hopped on and away we went on our first adventure of the day.
The trails were absolutely beautiful. They were hilly, and winded around trees. Right when we got started though, we came up to a little wooden bridge. I internally panicked, but I pushed Cash towards it, and over he went across it beautifully. He was like “This ain’t my first rodeo lady.” We actually had to cross over several more on that trail. We spent the next couple hours riding up and down hills, through valleys, and across wide open areas. Unfortunately I forgot to track that ride, so we aren't sure how far we went but we were thinking we went at least 5 miles but probably more.

After I ride, we went back to the campsite to unwind a bit, and have something to eat. The boys, who stayed up much later than we did, went to their beds and took naps, my friend saddled her horse back up and went riding with our camping neighbor. I just sat and relaxed in our beautiful campground.

Later that evening, we all saddled up again and went back out. BEAUTIFUL night for riding. Not too hot, not too cold, hardly any bugs, and a nice gentle breeze. This time we did 3.80 miles.

Our neigbour came with us for a while on one of her Spanish Mustangs. This little filly was related to Hidalgo!


Love this one of the husband and Duke.

The boys looked at this grass land and were complaining that it was a waste and that they could bale it and make so much hay... 

These are our neighbors from home that we camped with. How lucky are we that it turned out our closest neighbors are awesome and love horse camping?

Once we got back to camp, we had some dinner and all hit the hay pretty early. We were all played right out. Perfect night for sleeping too, it had cooled down quite a bit after the sun went down.

When we woke up in on Sunday morning, I wasn't sure if I wanted to ride. But we all decided that we were there with the horses, we might as well ride while we could. We are taking our horses out to the Badlands for Labor Day so it wouldn't hurt to try and get them in shape. Another great day for riding. It was cloudy, and a bit cool so we rode in sweatshirts and light jackets, which was perfect. I’d rather it be a bit cool than too hot. This ride we did about 3.80 miles. 

"Cross this bridge? What, like that's hard?!"

I was the only one wearing a helmet in my group. But not one person made a snippy remark, or made fun of me. In fact everyone said they totally respected my decision to wear one. 
I don't know what to do with my hands when riding western... So I awkwardly place them like I am holding on for dear life...
We were almost back to the campsite at this point... all the horses were being douches. 

After we got back from our ride we packed everything up let the horses take a little rest, and then headed home. I can, in all honesty say that riding in Fort Ransom was some of the most beautiful riding I’ve ever done in my life. And I can’t believe that it’s so close to home. There are plans to bring George out there. As I really think the hills and different scenery would really benefit his fitness.

The chance to ride out there totally makes up for the awful winters we have ;-) 

In closing I am attaching this picture of me, that proves, I am the coolest person on the face of the earth... and yes, I was totally posing like an idiot on purpose...

Monday, July 7, 2014

get back in the saddle.

 Finally got some time in the saddle this weekend. I admit, I’ve been putting it off, and putting it off and putting it off. My confidence is at an all-time low, and the longer I was out of the saddle, the less, and less confident I was becoming. Excuses?  I have tons of them as to why I didn’t want to ride.
I’d ridden George a while back, not long after he came home from the trainer. And he was perfect, especially with me being as anxious as I was.  But he still has me a bit shaken up. It didn’t help that his attitude got increasingly worse once we sent Duke to the trainer for 30 days. He decided that a hostile takeover of the pasture was in order and he was just an ass around all the other horses. Duke came home last Monday, and George has been put back in his place and is much sweeter than he’s ever been.  He’s quite pleasant, and friendly to be around. But of course he has an abscess that we are dealing with, so riding him this very second, is out of the question.
So we had planned on riding on Saturday, but with temperatures in the upper 90’s with like 100% humidity, we decided that was just cruel to everyone involved. So we sat in the ac all day long and did absolutely nothing. When Sunday rolled around. The temperatures were about perfect for riding. So the husband and I decided to trailer the horses out to one of our favorite spots to trail ride, the Sandhills in the national grasslands.
I planned on riding the new yellow horse, due to the fact that George was out of commission and I’d rather have a friend of mine with more confidence take him out on the trails away from home for the first time. Yellow horse hoped right up into the trailer, and then Duke calmly followed. I gotta say, horses that are easy loaders, are so, so, sooooo much better on my trailer anxiety. When I first started trailering horses I was fearless, and only dealt with horses that would hop right into the trailer. I didn’t even think twice about loading them. Then a freak accident that sent me to the ER to have my head stapled back together changed that and now I am hesitant, and freaked out of being in a trailer with a horse, let alone tying one up, and securing the divider. But the two monsters we brought are nice compact little horses that happily load, and fit nicely in the trailer.
We got to the trail head, and when we pulled up there were a few pickup trucks with flatbed trailers and ramps. People riding 4wheelers, great I thought. Just fantastic. That’s what I need to run into on the trail my first real time out for the year on a horse I’ve never ridden before. But I put that in the back of my mind and unloaded the horses. I tied Yellow Horse (He doesn’t really have a name yet… is that bad?! We just can’t decide what to call him!) up to the trailer which of course freaks me out, because I always have horses that don’t tie and I worried about him freaking out.  He was a champ and stood calm as could be while I groomed him and sprayed him down with fly spray. (anyone else dealing with monster flies that are immune to all and every fly spray this year?!) I kept singing songs in my head to keep calm, and tossed the saddle pad up on his back, and he kept standing there calm as could be. Next was the saddle. I opted for one of our western saddles with a rough out seat. Figured it would keep me locked in a bit incase things went bad. I kept singing and reminding myself everything was going to be fine. Fumbled with cinching him up, I always fumble cinching up western saddles. Also I suck at knowing where exactly to put a western saddle, on a horse and had to have the husband re adjust my saddle. I’ve been riding for how long and I still need help? I mean seriously.

Next up came the bridling portion of our adventure. Little side story here. When we got Yellow Horse, the people selling him said he rode in a tom thumb, or snaffle. Well when we brought him home we tried him in a tom thumb and he was a nightmare. Pistol is ridden in a tom thumb and we have never, ever had an issue.  So we hauled him off to the trainer the day the hubby picked up Duke. They tried a few different bits on him as well as riding him out on the trail, just to make sure he was good to go.  They have him in a Jr. Cowhorse bit, that he worked the best in out of all the bits they tried. Everyone that rode him said he was a nice little horse. Duke also got shining reviews from everyone at the trainer. Duke was almost sold this spring, but after his boot camp, and the wonderful reviews from the trainer, he will be staying with us. Anyways back to the ride yesterday. I slipped the bridle on no problem and then it was time to head out on the trail.
I being a safety nut, strapped on my helmet, as well as my crash vest. Hey, I’ve never ridden this horse, let alone ride him far away from home, in a place he’s never been. I really need to stop defending myself for wearing a helmet AND crash vest… But it’s a force of habit I guess. Not everyone wears helmets around here. Especially not out on the trail. I never did. Even last year when I rode Pistol for the first time out in the sandhills. I’m just a bit more cautious now I guess.
I hopped up into the saddle and remarked about how easy shorter horses are to get on. I think he is 15hh but feels like 12hh compared to all 16.3hh of George or 16hh of Pistol. And like that we were off. I kept telling myself it will be okay. Riding is fun. The people that rode Yellow horse at the trainer said that he doesn’t have any buck in him, but what would they know, they rode him once! So I kept myself guarded. The trainers also said that he needed to be ridden in spurs. So I wore mine.  I don’t have much experience with spurs. In fact I don’t even think I’ve earned them yet. I rode Piney in them, but I knew that horse like the back of my hand.  I didn’t have to use them on Yellow horse most of the ride as he followed nicely behind Duke, never getting too far behind. 
Tried to take a picture of the single piece of grass he had sticking out of his mouth like a farmer....

The whole ride I was a bit nervous. But started to feel a bit better as we went along. I think once I get myself sorted out, he is going to be a great little trail horse for us to have around. He did get a bit nervous which about set me over the edge, when husband and Duke were out blazing their own trails. Last year, I would have been able to handle the situation better, but yesterday I was a bit wound up.
We got back to the trailer, all in one piece. And I tied him up and started to untack. Just then a big group of guys on 4wheelers, and dirt bikes came racing up. Yellow horse just looked over like “oh hello people!” Not even barely paying attention. I was a fan of that behavior. As I was taking off the saddle one of the young men came up and mentioned what nice horses we had, and that he hoped they didn’t spook them when they pulled up. He made some small talk, and then asked nicely if I would mind using their cameras to take a few pictures. Of course not. So I took the pictures and as I walked away, I heard him tell the group that they would push their bikes back onto the trailers, and not to start them back up again. I’m assuming that he said that as courtesy to the horses. Which I though was very considerate. 
"Oh, hello motorcycles!"

So all in all, the ride went well. Hopefully riding will get easier for me. I know it will. I just hate how my mind is making me feel about horses. I love riding, but the fact that is scared me to the point of being sick to my stomach. Not cool.