before the rocking started

Yesterday was a beautiful summer day, and much of it was spent with Cierra and Harmony. We did some work on the pasture, mowed weeds, and restocked the hay. Brad has been working with Cierra on trailer loading for a while. She was doing awesome, loading great, staying alone, windows & doors closed etc. No issues. It was time for a mini-trip up to our house.  It would be Cierra's first trailer trip since we brought her home close to a year ago. She did so well, and really enjoyed her visit at our house. Just look at her...


...she looked around, trying to understand why our dogs were barking at her...


...and wanted to play follow the leader when our son rode a bike near her. She was enjoying her visit, and the lawn, and the fresh smell of the pine trees. She was relaxed...


...so we loaded her up to head back to the farm. I don't think she was ready to go. We heard a couple loud whacks accompanied by the infamous, it's never a good thing, rocking...how quickly things changed.

Somehow her tie down came loose, and we think she tried to turn around. Cierra smacked her head, broke a bar off the window, and the inside window, and bent a manger divider bar. Ouch!! She had a nasty U shaped gash about an inch and a half wide/tall, close to her right eye :( poor baby. Things were going so well, she was completely ready. It's such a shame. I have pictures of her injury, but I can't bring myself to post them - they are icky.

After the mishap, Cierra acted fine and loaded right back up without hesitation. She was her usual sweet self, being helpful, and following the boy who doesn't like horses and liked her nasty gash even less, around the pasture. At first we tried Tricare, but the gash was still seeping and wasn't looking any better. We called the vet. She came out early Sunday evening and sedated, cleaned up, glued, and put six staples in Cierra's head to hold the cut closed. We were instructed to give her Bute for a few days, and an oral antibiotic for 5. I sure hope she heals up okay, and the wound doesn't get infected. I posted a picture of her head, after the vet came and stapled her. Be warned tho, it's still not a pretty site...if you want, scroll down to see her injury.

Cierra is fine (she's semi-sedated in the last picture) and could care less. I would rather go back to the beginning of the mini-trip, before the rocking started. I like the other pictures better. You too? Scroll up. If only it was that easy.


head tossing

Last week while adventure riding at White Mound, Nemo began to do something very uncharacteristic - toss his head. Not just a few times, but consistently. We thought maybe he got stung by a bee, or something flew up his nose. Brad checked him several times, but didn't see anything. Nemo stopped tossing his head while we took our rain break, but started up again as soon as we were back on the trail. Off and on again, he would bob his head (vertically) stretches at a time. We had quite the ride, full of distractions - and since the tossing stopped, we didn't think much of it.

Imagine our surprise when Trainer Patty called to say she wanted the vet to come out and check Nemo as soon as possible. After our trail ride they had ridden him in the indoor a couple days, and he was perfect. The first sunny day they headed outside, and he began to toss his head again. She knows Nemo well, and knew he wouldn't choose to do that for any other reason then something was wrong. They put a fly mask on him, rode him outside and he stopped tossing his head.

Needless to say we were worried. We wondered if he might have the beginning of uveitis? His breed (Appaloosa) and coloring make him more susceptible. I started Googling his symptoms,  which just fueled my worry. What if he was suffering from the painful Head Tossing Syndrome? While my head was running rampant, my practical husband reeled my "what if's" back in, as there was no need to get all worked up on the unknown.

We so wanted to be there for Nemo's appointment. Timing and distance make vet appointments at the Trainers hard, but at least we knew he would be in good hands.

Brad promptly got a call from our vet after checking Nemo out, as well as from our Trainer. Nemo's eyes are fine (whew) but he was suffering from allergies. The sun was compounding his discomfort by further irritating his nasal nerves, a form of photo sensitivity. Tossing his head
while elevated, was a way of relieving the pain. Vet Dave put him on an antihistamine, and he is to wear a fly mask while outside. After a week of letting things settle down, they will begin to try backing him off the fly mask & antihistamine -  and see if there are any reoccurring symptoms. The vet said this could be an isolated incident. Time will tell.

Nemo was a really good boy for Brad when we rode last week. He did everything asked, and no sign of tossing. The fly mask really helps, here is the big guy ~ stylin'


Sunday Stills ~ The Letter B

Focused on bits:








there's a new fair in town

Technically Horse Days is in a different town & state - but close enough. It's the first annual and there is a lot of fun stuff scheduled! Among the many are Five Grandstand Events including:

Two PRCA Rodeo Performances. These contestants are competing to qualify for the NFR in Las Vegas this December. Come see why the PRCA is the best Rodeo circuit in the Country.

Two Days of Professional Horse Pulling Competitions. Teams from around the Midwest and as far away as MS and LA are coming to Horse Days to Compete for one of the largest cash purses in Illinois' history of Horse Pulling.

The Finals for the Ultimate Horsemen's Challenge Extreme Cowboy Race. The plans for the obstacle trail course promise to be one of the most challenging ever designed for this event. You won't want to miss this event.

Our daughter's close friends parents are the organizers, she will be living & working the fair with them. We are planning to go for a day, just not sure which one - there is so much to pick from!!
Should be a good time, join in the fun if you are in the area!


adventure on the trail

One vacation day, four young horses and a mixed bag of weather turned a Friday afternoon trail ride into an adventure! On the ride was Koda & Nemo, the most "experienced" trail horses of the group (at the ripe old age of four), Trooper, a five year old Haflinger-Paint mix, who had little to no trail experience (nor did his new owner), and the baby of the bunch was Rasta, a 3 year old Fresian-mix who had never been out on a trail - all in training.

None of us humans had ever been to White Mound County Park either, but we knew other riders who had. One trusted source said they wouldn't go back there camping, because the  trails weren't long enough and only took an hour. After hearing that, I called and talked to the Park Ranger (again) and he assured me they had about 7.5 miles of varied terrain and had no idea how anyone could ride them in an hour. He was super nice, answered all my questions, and asked that I call him back after our trail ride to let him know if we had any suggestions. Camping is one thing, an afternoon ride is another. We decided to give White Mound a try.

We arrived to find a quiet scenic park, quickly got unloaded and tacked up. We saw a couple horse groups camping in the distance, but didn't run into any of them (or anyone else). My kinda place to ride.

Nemo & Koda's Hitched Butts

Rasta chillin' upon arrival
The park was beautiful, a haven for butterflys. They fluttered around everywhere. Wildflowers were blooming and scattered throughout our ride. Coneflowers and Black-eyed Susan were plentiful, and around every bend. We also saw a lot of butterfly host plants like Dill, no doubt intentionally planted.

Nemo is in the lead, followed by Trooper, Rasta and Koda

We started out by doing a loop right off the horse campground/unloading area, and yep - it took about one hour. We ended right back where we started. The horses were all well behaved. Young Rasta quickly found his feet, what an expressive (and tall) horse he is. So funny watching him look around, and wonder. We were all glad Patty was the one riding him. His first trail experience may have been different otherwise. Rasta needed a confident rider who knew him, to keep his young mind at ease.

It began to rain pretty hard after that first loop. We took cover under a tree, and eventually moved under a very small park shelter with two benches - enough for four people and four partial horses. It was cozy.

Nemo's rainy face, under the shelter
The rain stopped, and we headed out to explore the main trail that winds around the perimeter of the park. It was pretty, with varied terrain. We rode into/out of the woods, through prairie's and up/down hills.
Nemo & Brad, and yes - Koda's familiar ears
The rain made for a new experience - slippery muddy hills. If it hadn't been for the rocks, it would have been impossible to maneuver. Twice we all dismounted, and two-by-two we picked our way down the steep winding slopes. For some reason both times Koda & I were last to slide, I mean walk, down the hills. Probably because Trooper was on forward march most of the ride, Brad was frequently up ahead trying to figure out which paths to take, and you can't have the baby in the back during scary stuff.

We were spread apart on the muddy hills for safety reasons, at any given time two riders were out of site. It was kinda scary. There were times when Koda would slide past me, he looked at me worried, but waited. There were times when I would slide past him, that worried him worse, but he waited. I was SO proud of Koda! We made it down the hill together. It could have gotten ugly for any of us, but it didn't. The horses all behaved amazingly well!

The trails were well marked once you were on the right one, but the crossroads (of which there were a lot) were impossible to tell which direction to go. We were lost more often then not. It was pretty funny, all we could do was laugh. We had a trail map, but it wasn't accurate - how did we know? They told us...and then we found out first hand. Brad is a walking GPS unit, Troopers owner is an avid hiker, and Patty & I - well, we gave our input when all else failed. What really helped was using the sun as a guide.

Three quarters of the way into the ride we took another trail loop where we suddenly came upon a huge fallen tree. Brad hopped off Nemo, handed him to me, and went to clear enough of the branches so that we could dismount to lead the horses through the gnarly mess. We didn't turn around, because that would have made us lost-er.

Nemo and Brad, on the other side
It was our turn to pick our way through the trees. There was an overhanging branch that caught Koda's saddle horn just as we were about to maneuver through the worst part of huge fallen tree. Patty was behind me and yelled "you're snagged" just before a good sized branch snapped loose, with a super loud crrrack! Once again I was so proud of how my boy handled another scary situation. He held it together, even when the branch snapped wicked loudly above him. We were in a tight spot, with no where to go. I continued leading him off to the side as much as I could. He picked his feet up high, while choosing where they best fit in between the large branches. All the horses did great, no one jumped or panicked, and we all made it through. Whew.

We had checked the map and knew that path wasn't a horse trail, so we didn't take it - but, the marked horse trail we were on looped into it. When we made it out, we discovered we had been on it afterall. We eventually made it down to the road, and took that back to the trailer. The trail crossings didn't make any sense, the bugs were coming out and sun would be setting soon. Over four hours later, the trailer was a welcomed sight We had some pretty tired horses, and riders - but we all had a fun experience! 

I was reminded:
- Paddock boots and muddy hills don't mix
- Can't count on cellphone GPS, we had no reception on the trail
- Maybe my horse does trust me after all
- Keep my trail camera on auto-mode, no time to mess with settings
- Pack snacks, even if you think it might only be an hour
- Adventures are fun!

I will be calling the Park Ranger to let him know we really enjoyed the park, and the flowering trails were beautiful, but they seriously need to mark the crossroads. Had the horses been acting up/worse weather - it could have been a much different experience. For any local folks, White Mound park is a mini-version of Governor Dodge - without the crowds & trail bikes. It's great for day trips, not sure if I would suggest camping there. The horse sites are pretty close together. Regardless we all agreed we would go back. I can't wait!!


Sunday Stills ~ Macro Pics or Extreme Closeups

Beads of water on my Elephant Ear leaf

Colorful Contrast
Nature Center in Vail, CO

back to paradise

We had an emotional start to summer, a simple "are we going to see you guys?" text from our friends was the catalyst to our annual summer trip to Colorado. We started traveling there many years ago for kids hockey, which evolved to traveling there for friendship - and the much needed respite back to paradise. To quote a friend "If you don't believe in god, you haven't seen Colorado in the summertime"...the best way to experience it is on horseback.

Heading up the mountain with Kym (on Clint), Brad (on Cash) and I'm riding Dobie.

Brad & I giving the horses a break

Riding through Bear Hollow is surreal, and smells soo good!
No sheep this year, so it remained lush.

Kym taking Daisy on her first ride on the mountain, she did great!

Brad & Cash playin' around

What goes up, must come down
It is fun to ride different horses, I don't get to very often. Both Brad & I enjoyed riding one our ranch favorites, a Hafie named Diesel - who is appropriately named. Every time we visit the ranch they have more Haflingers. No surprise, they do so great on the mountain trails.

Brad & Diesel
These pics were all taken while riding at our friends ranch, called Vail Stables. I went to grab the link, and just discovered WE are on their website riding through Bear Hollow lol!! wait I also found us here bad picture of me, but look at those flowers! What the heck, we are on this page too! I am sure the photos frequently get changed up, but that was a fun surprise. We didn't do the Elk Springs ride this year, it's also gorgeous and has the coldest spring water you'll ever have the pleasure of tasting!  Take the time to mountain ride if ever in the area, you won't be disappointed. We've ridden some of the other ranches, and while all are pretty and have there own unique flair, Vail Stables view's are second to none - and I'm not just saying that because they are our friends. It's true.

On our last day, we hit the trail shortly after Derek arrived from Arkansas. We tested his horse skills and Cynthia showed us a few trail games she plays with the horse camp kids...that was a fun ride!

Heading up the mountain with Cynthia, Brad and Derek

Our vacation was shorter this year, one week passed so quickly. We are so glad we decided to stay an extra day for the http://www.lanefrostchallenge.com/ in Eagle, Co. Watching it open air with the mountains in the background, together with friends, was a highlight! We cherish our Colorado memories, and look forward to our next trip back to paradise...

Mid-mountain ride, looking East


color me sweet

When we met Cierra as a baby, she looked like this...

...after a few visits, and clipping, we were surprised to find a much darker girl...

...Cierra came home with us. Over the winter she grew a warm coat...


...we weren't sure what color she would be in the spring. Cierra turned a pretty dark smokey black color...


...but that didn't last long. Cierra started getting lighter from the bottom up. Anyone care to explain that to me, I would think horses get lighter from the top down...


...we are enjoying her summer look. These were taken a few days ago...


...it's fun watching Cierra grow, and change the many color shades of sweetness!!



Sunday Stills ~ Sunrises and Sunsets

I was planning a sunrise trip this morning over to the other side of the farm where we horseback ride, but it was raining. It did clear up later in the day, below are the view's I enjoyed from home with our teenage son. The colors intensified, and so did the "really mom, put the camera down and get in the pool before it's too late - I thought we were swimming" something I've cherished for years, that too soon will be just a memory. Of course I obliged, but you get the picture.

Sunset colors wrap around, viewing south.

Sunset reflections

a second ride

It was late morning when we arrived to ride Koda & Nemo for a second time this week. They are still at the trainers, which limits our rides for various reasons. The reality is summer is almost over, therefore we are being pro-active in getting in a second weekly ride. I am happy to say we accomplished that yesterday.

Koda slinking over to me, yep it's time to go to work.
I was happy Koda came to me in the pasture when I called him, albeit slowly. Can't really blame his slow-mo, it was really hot yesterday. We usually ride in the evenings when they are already back in their stalls, and it's starting to cool off. It was nice to ride midday, and have more time to groom. I got to condition and brush Koda's long beautiful mane & tail. I haven't figured out who enjoys it more. 

Of course that meant Brad & Nemo were well into their ride before we even got out to the arena. Not only do they move faster in general, but Brad isn't one to socialize until after they ride. I snapped a pic of them before I mounted. You'll notice Nemo's head is still pretty high, but he has really slowed down and is getting better overall.

Brad & Nemo loping
Altho I am making progress with Koda, we aren't there yet. I am still working on having the confidence to correct his naughty/disrespectful behavior before it grows. I got an earful yesterday, and while I fully understand what our trainer is saying - and why - it's still hard for me. Sigh. 

On a more positive note, our turns, spins and side passes are improving. Still a ways to go, but I love doing them! I don't think Koda minds them either. He continues to be fun to stop at a lope, and really gets his butt under him. Sometimes he ends up doing a little slide :) It would be fun to learn to slide, but it sounds like an ordeal with the boots, shoes etc. He would be good at it, maybe someday down the road.

The past couple rides I worked on learning to see & feel the correct lead at a lope. Something I've never been able to do. It gets old having to ask/be told. It doesn't help Koda's counter canter is pretty darn smooth. I intentionally cued a counter canter, and that helped me feel the difference when starting out. Earlier this week Trainer Patty suggested we do a fast stop on one. Koda's right leg swung out, that visual and uncomfortable feel made even more sense. It helped his front leg has a white pastern. When things are going smooth, I am trying to see by glancing down at his shoulders. The feel just isn't there yet, but I am trying. How do you tell if your horse is on the correct lead at a lope?