Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I'm gonna figure you out yet.

So pretty!!

With winter rapidly approaching, we are trying to squeeze in a few more trail rides with the horse beasts. Sunday afternoon we loaded up 2 horses and headed out to the sandhills because it is close, and some nice easy riding. I woke up in the morning thinking that I was going to bring George, but when it was time to go, I COMPLETELY wimped out and brought Cash instead. George probably would have been an angel, but I think I need someone else to try him out there first.
Also, I reached a major milestone in my trailer phobia. I caught both Duke and Cash who both realized something was up, and decided to be a holes. “Hey look how fast I can run!” “Look at my beautiful extended trot!” and my personal favorite “chase me around the round bale feeder! This is so much fun!” But I caught the creeps and managed to load them into the trailer all by myself. It helps that the husband really worked on their trailer loading since the spring. They both hopped right on up and let me secure them. I didn’t even get nervous or panicky! This is a huge step for me even if it seems really small for everyone else.
We got to the trail head and there were a few other trailers already there. I mean it was a perfect day, why wouldn’t you want to be out riding? I brought along my Circle Y, park and trail saddle. I’ve been on the fence about if I want to keep it or sell it. I’ve been mostly riding in it this summer. And I think I am going to keep it. Not only is it a nice saddle, it has some sentimental value to it. It was my first ever ‘real’ saddle that was purchased for me. I’d previously ridden in other peoples saddles. This one was mine, it was picked out by me, for me, in my size and I was the only one who has ever really ridden in it. It was also a gift from the owners of the barn I used to manage. And by gift I mean it was a ‘thank you for busting your ass 7 days a week for us out here and not complaining about not getting paid much money’ gift. I worked hard for that baby so I’ll be damned if I want to just sell it for a couple hundred bucks. The problem with the saddle, and all western saddles for that matter is that I suck at putting them on. Not only are they heavy, and bulky, but I NEVER know if I have it in the right position. An English saddle is a piece of cake. Toss it up there with one hand. Adjust it the pad. Tighten the girth. Mount up. And away we go. I’ve ridden Western probably more than I’ve ridden English, yet I struggle. Every. Single. Time. The process goes like this. Stare at saddle on the rack. Pause and take a deep breath. Grab saddle by the pommel with one hand, and the cantle by the other hand. Bang stirrups into absolutely everything in the near vicinity of my person. Walk towards horse, place saddle on the ground. Adjust saddle pad, tell myself it’s probably too far forward/back. Verbally remind horse to stand still. Look at saddle sitting on the ground. Take another deep breath and let out a big sigh. Say out loud to whoever is within earshot “Western saddles are too heavy!” for the 10,000 time.  Pick up saddle, realize I didn’t put it away correctly last time and struggle to put the cinch and rear cinch back on the little cinch keeper strap. Place the cinch, rear cinch, stirrup and breast collar over the horn so I don’ t have to deal with those getting in my way of putting the saddle on the poor beast standing in front of me. Pick up saddle. Lift it to my knees, then up to my waist, then up to my chest. Waddle over to the horse awkwardly and try to set the saddle on top of the creature who has mysteriously grown about 5 hands taller within a matter of moments. Struggle, but try to be as careful quick and quiet about it as possible. Look at saddle sitting up there and smile. Think about how it didn’t actually kill me even though I was positive it would. Walk over to the far side of horse, pull down stirrup, breast collar, and cinches. Pull out latigo which got stuck under the saddle, like it always does. Make a ‘tent’ under the pommel and then go back to the near side to start the process of cinching up. Get the latigo through the rigging a couple times then go to tie my knot.  Stuggle. Curse and say “why is this strap so darn thick?!” Stuggle some more. Get the knot tied. Worry if cinch is going to cut horse in half because I feel like it is super tight. Worry if it is too loose and I am going to end up underneath horse at some point because I feel like it isn’t tight enough. Stand back look at saddled horse. Realize saddle is a bit too far forward/back and restart the process. Every. Single. Time. Thank goodness I have a horse that can deal with me. Of course as a pay back he decides to be a bit of a creep on the first half of our ride.

Each time I ride Cash, we start to understand each other a bit better. I had been riding him with spurs on because EVERYONE, especially his previous owners said he needed them. That is a bit of a problem for me.  Obviously the problem of my spur straps matching my breast collar, headstall and reins isn’t the problem… because CLEARLY I have the entire matching set. The problem is I don’t really know how to use spurs. With Piney I started using them, but all I had to do was slightly roll the rowel up his side, and he would move out. Piney also had a big barrel so I could always have contact with his side if needed. Pistol never needed spurs because he was almost perfect.  I would think to myself “move out!” and he would read my mind and we would go. Cash, is the smallest horse I’ve ridden in quite a while. He’s not Princess Rainbow Sparkles small, but he is smaller. I felt like when I tried to use my spur on him, I couldn’t ever make contact. Basically I didn’t know where my leg was. I didn’t want to just start wailing on him and run the risk of sticking my spurs straight into him so I struggled with getting him to listen to me. Wearing them on him, especially when he acted up and everyone around me shouting “spur him! Make him go forward! He needs to listen to you!” caused major anxiety in me, and then that traveled right down into Cash. So on Sunday I left my beautiful sparkly spurs in the trailer and rode him without them. He’s buddy sour. Like panicky, I’ll die without my buddy, we need to turn back now, buddy sour. He is also a horse that likes to lead the pack. So shortly after we started our ride, we got a bit ahead of the husband who was blazing his own trails for whatever reason and Cash lost sight of him. His reaction... SPIN like he was a fricken reining horse and try to go back to his buddy. But we talked it over, and I was able to get my leg on him and have my leg actually be effective for a  change and got him to continue on his merry little way until about 5 minutes later when he was certain he was going to die of loneliness again and we did the dance all over. He kept testing me. Which is something that his previous owners said he would do. But he started to realize that I’m not going to fall for his stupid crap anymore. And by the end of the ride he was actually fun to ride. Being able to feel confident in using my leg really helped. He was an ass when he realized he could buffalo me which clearly made me feel like an absolute beginner rider. That feeling is the worst. I’d even said aloud more than once that I am “getting rid of him”. Usually said after a particularly awful moment together.
But once I figure him out, and I am figuring him out, we will make a good team. I just know it. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

home again, home again.

My friend bought this shirt... and it still makes me giggle.

I made it back in one piece and now I need a vacation to recover from my vacation. Isn't that always the way?  I spent Thursday morning packing up the rest of the things we needed for our adventure while my husband finished up some work for his job in the house. We loaded the horses up without incident and hit the road at about noon. We crossed the entire state of North Dakota and ended up at the ranch we were camping at early in the evening. We unloaded the horses, and tucked them into their corrals for the night and went to visit our friends. And they feed us the best darn ribs I've ever had in my life. Life was good.
The ponies accommodations for the week.
The Badlands have received much more rain than usual this summer. The trails were pretty wet, and the temperature wasn’t supposed to be extremely hot, so we took a ride later in the day. We rode with our friends, and then a few of the other people we were camping near. We ended up having a larger group. All the horses were being pretty well behaved… except mine. Cash was being an idiot and started to buffalo me. Clearly, he is testing me to see what he can get away with. And me being a big chicken with zero confidence was letting him test me. At one point, his buddy Duke was a little ways ahead of us and as we were going down a hill that wasn’t extremely steep, but it wasn’t exactly flat either. He dropped his head and started humping up a bit like he was going to buck. Fun. I got him out of it, and we continued on. But he did it again later, after Duke went on ahead to open the gate. At that point I was shaken up, and he was prancing around like the ground was hot lava, so the husband and I decided to split off from the group and head back to camp. We had already ridden through some pretty sketchy areas so I was done for the day. The ride back to the ranch was pretty un eventful, except for the horse eating culvert. He didn’t blow up or anything, he just kind of hopped to the side and then continued on his way.
"I gotta be first! I gotta be first! Why am I not first?!"

We stopped to wait for the others to catch up and to take a breather.
Our ride for the day.

 I was riding him with spurs on, which is what his previous owners told us he needs. But the problem is that I can’t tell where my spurs are when I ride. When I gave him a little kick, my spur never came in contact with him. I am going to try him again with no spurs, and then with a pair of bumper spurs just to see if I can get him to listen a bit better. When we were riding around after we got back. He decided he was done listening completely after I tried to ride him away from his buddy. He is really buddy sour. So we have some work to do. Clearly. We did end on a good note. And as much as I wanted to just let him loose into the badlands, I put him back in his corral.
I was the only one in our group wearing a helmet. And I was the only one in the campground wearing a crash vest. After the husband and I split off from the group and went back to camp, my friend had told some of the people that they were riding with that I sometimes feel embarrassed to wear a helmet and crash vest when I ride (and I do feel embarrassed sometimes). The response she got was "Why? She's smarter than any of us!" That seems to be the general response I get when I wear my gear. I don't know why I feel so embarrassed about it.
I'm gonna ride my horse... but first. Let me take a selfie. 

Best show in the West! Well, that's what they keep telling me.

Friday night we headed into town to the Medora Musical. All about the history of the area, and about Harold Schafer, the person who rejuvenated the town and turned it into the awesome little tourist town it is! P.S. he was the inventor of 'Mr. Bubble' bubble bath... The more you know right?! Also North Dakota Attorney General was in the audience, just down a few rows from us. That was pretty cool. They announced it during the show. North Dakota isn't that small where we all know each other.. which I KNOW people probably think about us.. I honestly would have no clue what he looked like, or that he was there if they hadn't announced it.

 After all that fun and excitement we headed into town to the Little Missouri Saloon. Of course I would pick the table that had saddles for stools. I mean, why not right? It's not like I hadn't spend enough time in the saddle yet. My husbands cousin was bar tending so we got to briefly visit with him. 
Who knew that saddle horns were perfect purse holders? I bet that's what the old cowboys used them for...

Saturday we went riding with a smaller group. We also took an easier more relaxing trail. The trail we rode on Friday wasn't super challenging, but it wasn't exactly an easy walk in the park. Cash seemed to be happier in a smaller group. He also loves to be the leader. Once we got out front he was great. He did have his moments though. At one point he decided it was no longer safe for the group to continue on. I talked him out of it. Later on after we got through a gate we stopped to have a bit of a breather, and he just kept dancing in place. He has no patience for just standing still and it really pisses me off. But all in all, he was ok on the ride.
I look super awkward when  I ride western. But at least I look kind of proportionate on him.
Clearly I am impressed with him. 

Saturday night we got dumped on with rain. Absolutely dumped on. We huddled under our friends awning on their trailer until it stopped. There were lakes all around us now. So glad I brought 28 pairs of cowboy boots, but not one pair of muck boots...
Got some rain coming in...
North Dakota Traffic Jam.
So Sunday we decided to skip riding. Everything was way too wet and we didn't want to risk it. The little store that sold shirts with the ranch’s name on it was open and they were serving beer and bloody mary’s. We happened to run into the people that sold us Cash at the little store. She said that he was always a bit stubborn and would test you until he figured out that you were the boss. Obviously something you wouldn't tell someone buying a horse from you… But they said he had been with them last year on their trip to Medora and he was fine once he got out in front of the horses. She said she did have a bit of trouble with him being an idiot until she figured him out, and let him know she was the boss. But he was one of her favorites to ride. We got to chat a bit more about him and we asked a few more questions and she was upfront and honest.
She also said that he always had a little bit of a shorter stride up front. She had had her vet look at him, and they couldn't find anything wrong with him. Similar to when we had him in for a lameness evaluation. He just has a strange short stride. But speaking of lame horses. I was beyond horrified at some of the horses being ridden last weekend. I mean it’s none of my business… but I watched one horse limp back into camp, which if my horse went that lame on the trail… I’d be walking next to him on the way home. We watched another horse that had been cold hosed the night before, being ridden out of the camp the next day… head bobbing, 3 legged lame. And then finally on our way out of the ranch when we were headed home, we saw a large group of horses headed out on the trail. The last horse was visibly lame, and the rider called out to the group “Did you bring any bute?” It’s really not my place to judge, and it isn't any of my business, but when my horses are THAT lame, I don’t ride them. Not on the flat prairies of eastern North Dakota, and absolutely not up in that rough terrain of the badlands. But I don’t know the horses history, I don’t know anything other than what I saw. But when you see that it’s hard not to judge, and my judgyness came from my concern for the horse.

When you have a few hundred horses and their people camping together you are bound to run into things that upset you. Friday night we were sitting around the fire  at around midnight when a guy came out of the darkness and asked if we were using the 3 corrals by our horses. They had just rolled into camp and needed a few more stalls. We didn't need them, so told them to take them. Right before we called it a night, we checked on our horses, tossed them some more hay, and checked their water. I happened to notice that the new horses didn’t have any hay or water. I figured that they maybe drank over at the other campsite, and ate hay in the trailer. Well the next day rolls around, and by noon the horses still didn’t have any hay or water… that’s 12 hours without hay or water. About 3 o’clock their owner brought them some hay… but still no water. Later in the day they were given some of those big rubber feed pans with water in them. You know the kind that a horse can finish water out of in about 3 seconds. On Saturday we had had enough and ratted the people out to one of the owners of the ranch. When the owners of the most "unfortunate" looking ( I say that in the nicest way possible as they were the ugliest horses I've ever seen in my life!) appaloosas came to give their horses more hay, she yelled over to them that they needed to have water in front of them as the day was getting hot. The next day or so they had hay and water in front of them most of the time, but by Sunday afternoon and Monday, no hay  and no water. While again, I don’t know the story of these horses or owners we were kind of thinking that maybe they were new horse owners. They appeared to be well to do, but just maybe didn’t know much about horse keeping. The horses were in wonderful condition… they were ugly as all get out… but they were in good shape. So we weren’t sure why the horses weren’t being fed or watered as often as ours were. 
I wanna live here... better start buying lotto tickets. 
My Happy Place.

So that's that, and I've been home for a few days now, but I am ready to go back. Why can't I live out there? Oh yeah.... that whole employment thing.... and the expensive land prices... oh yeah... that's why...
That cell phone tower was the first thing Theodore Roosevelt built when he lived in North Dakota....
I kid, I kid....