more than photos

We do more with Hope than take photos of her. Throughout the months, we have continued working on daily handling and desensitizing. For various reasons, in various ways. Safety is at the top of our list. For her, for us and for those who help with her care. 

We felt Hope needed some fine tuning on putting her rear legs down nicer etc. Our Farrier recently had back surgery. We want all our horses to be really easy for him to trim. Not just pretty good. Because we asked, he suggested using a rope to lift and desensitize her legs further. Not just our hands. He mentioned we are probably lifting/picking her legs the same way every time, and he does it different. Good point. Leg placement/adjustment is also part of showing conformation. Everything should be done with ease.

We never did end up using the rope lifting suggestion. We do (still) make sure to change up how and where we lift her feet. Ropes of course are wonderful and useful for a lot of different training. Hope doesn't seem to take issue with wiggly ropes. In fact she likes some ropes a little too much. As with most youngsters, she frequently tries to put lead ropes in her mouth. This is something we continue working on. 

Our vet was out for Spring shots and said "she is still looking fancy". He 
was really impressed with Hope, more so with how she acted. In preparation for shots, Brad worked on desensitizing. He started using prickly brushes and progressed to poking her with a small screw driver that was sharp, but not too sharp. It worked! She didn't even move when the vet did a blood draw. Hope taped at 574 lbs.


If interested, here are some clips of Hope learning (day one):

moving hip away from pressure
2/13/24 (11 secs)

other direction (11 secs)

rope desensitizing (6 secs)

start to lunging (22 secs)

My skilled hubby recently whipped up a bridge. A good first step to upcoming trailer training. The very next day a swinging gate appeared in our arena. It will be useful for his show practice. They no longer allow rope gates in Ranch classes. 

I watched him walk Hope through the gate the first time with little to no resistance. She briefly paused, then walked through both directions. I don't have any visuals. I think I was holding my breath in anticipation of what might happen. I told Brad that Hope is going to make him look like a world class trainer lol. He is doing a really good job with little Miss Hope!

new arena obstacles

second evening session
3/25/24 (20 secs)

other direction (17 secs)

All the training continues. Including morning walk-a-bouts. Walking off bridge, paying attention, standing still, me leading etc. The following day Hope met the dreaded tarp. I walked into the arena in the morning to find Tank helping out. Apparently, this was a big improvement over her first reaction 
(backing up) to the tarp.

3/26/24 am

On the other hand, Brad's cat Purr was not as helpful. She decided to play with the tarp, diving under it etc. Great for unexpected trail training, but it was a little too much to start off with lol.

3/26/24 pm

I kicked the animals out of the arena and helped. We ended the first day with Hope putting her two front feet on the tarp, standing still. She willingly walks across the tarp for both of us now, and stands on it. I can tell she is not 100% sure about the weird slippery crunchy randomly lit thing that moves.

We can't leave the tarp out, because my other horse likes to pick it up and shake it all over. Hence the white patch of tape. Some peoples horses never grow up. Sigh. I wonder what Hope would think about Koda and a flying tarp. We will leave that lesson for another day.


springy thoughts

Spring is such an interesting time in the world of nature. In more ways than one. We never really know what weather will show up. It seems most of us are getting a mixed bag. In our respective corners of the world. 

We had spotty snow for a couple days. A bit of on again/off again snowflakes. I enjoy snow more during Winter months. Rainy weather is the name of this weeks weather game. Making it harder to enjoy the woods with four legged friends. Nothing a towels can't mend. So far we've been walking between the raindrops. 

3 amigos wanting to sniff around the woods

Grand dogs Jameson, Remi, and our guy who always has a full Tank of 

sharing a good smell

a common start to our walks (8 secs)

tic, tac, toe, three dogs in a row

same trail as above, a couple days later

Tank was pouting and had to catch up lol.

Tank has large stick challenges (10 secs)

 and small pieces of prized wood, that are never eaten

(Tank places, stares and dares to move

On the plant frontier, my garlic has been up for weeks. I am growing four varieties this year! From cloves shared and traded among friends. Raised bed gardening was a game changer.

the promise of flower seedlings

It won't be long and I will also start veggie seeds indoors. Some seeds saved from last years prized plants, others purchased. We like to try growing a new thing or two each year. This year we are trying to grow potatoes again. They will do better in our sandy soil, than they did in our clay. They will be grown in the ground.

hanging on

Nature offers so many things to ponder. Messages? Like the leaf above. It landed in a pine tree and even the strongest winds have not knocked it down. After passing it day after day, I stopped to snap a photo and think about it. Haa ha! My 4 year old granddaughter (a 5th generation Aurora!!) current favorite saying is "let me think about it". She is wise beyond her years.


My old metal wire frog used to sit on a large rock, watching over our pond. Now he sits on a stump all year and watches over my mom's memorial area. It might get a water feature. Someday. 

Remembrance Crocus in the photo foreground are starting to bloom. Although closed up that day, due to cooler weather. Brown ground will give way to green. My moms crabapple tree will blossom. The trio of lit Winter trees that flank her bench will go into storage, and be replaced with planters. Plants I started from seed will flourish in them, and be butterfly approved.

The promise of Spring.


hope in her eyes

Allow me to gush for yet another February catch-up post about Hope. More focus on her demeanor and expressive eyes. 

eyes are a sponge for the soul

I am pretty sure you've figured out t
he day this girl was born, she stole our hearts. 

Hope less than 12 hours old

Since the glorious much anticipated day that Cierra graced us with Hope, she has been watching us. Observing. Taking in information about us and the world that surrounds her. With those big sweet eyes of hers. 


I finally got a photo of Hope peering between the bars! This has been going on her whole young life. Every single time we see her watching us, it makes us laugh and thank our lucky stars. She is such a funny girl.


Once in a while we get the "Mr. Wilson" look, where you see nothing below eyes over the top of a fence, or in this case bars. If I ever get that photo, I will share. Hope usually lowers her head between the bars and watches our every move from in between them. Of course with age her vantage point has gotten higher. She is going to be one year old soon! I can't even believe it.



Hope leaves her food to interact with us. Gasp! My Koda is the complete opposite. Very food driven. He loves food more than any human. 

After I pour out Hope's evening grain, she requests nose kisses before starting to eat. It is
the sweetest thing!


here comes hope-n-love

2/13/24 (20 secs) warning; sound of loud wind


I absolutely love shooting with late Winter light!! It is so varied and there are more "special light" opportunities most anytime of the day.

I thought about cropping photos to focus on Hope's eyes, beautiful thick multicolored mane or cute fuzzy ears. I decided instead to share photos more or less as taken. Always with minimal processing. I may zoom to frame and focus on the lovely separate parts of Hope. Someday.

those eyes!


growing up and filling out

I have said it before and I will say it again, I have never met a horse like Hope. It is hard to explain in words. Who knows what she will be like when she matures. So far her personality remains unchanged. An uber sweet smart trusting horse that loves being with people. She makes my heart and eyes swell. I am so very grateful she is part of our family. 

All of our horses are special to us, but there is truly something different and uniquely special about Hope. I can feel it, and see it in her eyes.

Hope at 10+ months 2/17/24


hope and her herd

This set of mid-February photos look more like Winter, but were all taken on the same days as my last photo postLet's start with Cierra. Without her, there would be no Hope. 

Cierra still keeps a watchful eye on Hope.

If we were younger and knew a second foal would turn out to be just as precious as her first, we might breed her again. We aren't getting any younger and Brad plans to un-retire Cierra and show her. Hopefully this year. Besides, Six family horses is more than enough. 

What is the most number of horses you have owned at one time?


Just curious. We get a shocked look from non-horse people who ask the common question "how many horses do you have" and we respond with "we have 6 horses". Always followed by "Wow!"It is really not that many. I think. Technically 3 are Brad's, 2 are mine and 1 horse belongs to our daughter. 

Still such a good Mama

As for Hope, she has everyone's attention. All the horses are well aware of where Hope is at all times. One of her favorite things to do is stir the pot, 'er herd. It is almost guaranteed to happen when the dogs and I reach the end of the pasture path, and Hope can no longer walk with us.

end of pasture path (22 sec)

Cierra is at the top of the pasture hill

Many times she takes off at a full run to the top of the pasture, and races Cierra (and sometimes Nemo) back to the shared dry lot fence. Other times she runs by herself, takes the corner into the dry lot and busts out into silly moves. Trying to get others to join her. Sometimes it even works.

Hope and Cierra


Hope out runs everyone

Perhaps the full grown horses allow Hope to outrun them. Knowing it is not worth the extra effort. 

Other times, Hope takes a peaceful accompanied stroll back to the herd.

Hope and Cierra heading back
(Nemo waiting far right)

Our herd frequently hangs out together, split by a hot fence. Mostly in the sunny afternoons. Koda usually misses out.

Nemo & Cierra, Hope & Harmony

Our oldest girl is doing a commendable job of being Hope's pasture buddy. Hope is frequently glued to Harmony's side. She shares every.single.thing with Hope in the pasture, even when she would rather not. She is very patient with her. I've never seen Harmony get mad at or be mean to Hope. Even when she tries to stir Harmony up. Which is hilarious!! Harmony usually replies with "whatever" and sometimes gives Hope an occasional ear pin. Rightfully so. 

Harmony (24 yrs young)

We are fairly confident Hope will eventually rise to the top of our mare pecking order. Time will tell.


hope in february

Catching up with a plethora of things. I'm still on the struggle bus. I went from cold stuffiness to allergy stuffiness. Yippie. Life doesn't wait for any reason, so I'm getting on with it. Smiley face. Smiley face.

In February, I took SO many photos of Hope. It is hard to choose. Here is the first set of our Hope and joy:

2/12/24 (all photos)

Hope at 10+ months


exploring in spring

Spring gives me the itch to go looking for waterfowl. To see what I can see. Photography + Birds + Water = Reflections. All things that bring me joy. 

I didn't go birding at all last year, because of my circumstances. I was going to head out alone on Saturday. I decided to ask Brad if he had any interest. He agreed to come with, so I switched birding locations. YAY!! I stick pretty close to my truck when I am solo on a photography outing. Not nearly as much fun as experiencing and sharing sights. Exploring nature area's with my guy, makes me very very happy!!  

We went back to a SNA (State Natural Area) where we found gobs of swans in 2022. I wasn't expecting to find many floaters this time. After all it is early season, or so I thought. The gobs of swans were spotted March 15th, 6 days later than this year's hike. 

Interesting to see the difference. This year the waterscape is completely thawed.

Bakkens Pond

We explored a completely different area of the SNA and discovered we could walk out on a looong dike. It weaves between one of the pond areas and marsh wetland. It was too cool for school! Except for dodging Goose poop and the surprise dead carp. One, two, BLECH a whole pile of dead bodies!!! Thank goodness the massacre was only in one short span. I screamed like a girl when I almost stepped on a carp. I was trying to avoid looking at the pile of dead fish. Lets just say Brad had a good laugh. 

we walked on flattened marshy grass

The majority of the walk was like heaven. Cool breeze, warm sun and lots & lots of sparkling water. Ahhh. My favorite kind of hiking weather! We more or less had the SNA to ourselves. There were a couple vehicles coming/going in the parking lots, but we didn't run into anyone while hiking. Unless you count a pair of Canadian Geese.

gate keepers of the dikes let us pass and floated away
(Canadian Goose)

We spotted a few birds in the distance, like this gull:

Pairs of swans were incoming at a distance:

After walking deep into the SNA, we found two smaller flocks of swans. Canadian Geese were scattered just about everywhere. Always.

Tundra Swan

my favorite swan photo of the day


Don't fall off your chair, but I decided not to shoot with my beloved 70-200mm lens. I figured it was bright enough outside and the birds would be further out. I was right. I used my 100-400mm "wildlife" lens, with no extenders. The quotation marks are because a true wildlife lens starts at 400mm. I just don't think the off brand wildlife lens are sharp enough. Yes, I am a bit of a snob when it comes to sharpness. The good Canon wildlife lenses are stupid expensive. So, I continue learning to shoot with what I have.

All I can say is 'eh. This lens is not as sharp IMO. Although all these photos are shot handheld.  A monopod would have helped with this heavier lens. Whoops! I am rambling camera speak. Back to the bird outing:

 note to self: remember to change focal points

stretching always feels good

We were far enough away that the swans were aware of us, but did not seem bothered.

One flock

reflections make me trigger happy

We got to the end of the dike and found a small but powerful sparkly waterfall.

bubbly view from the top

Of course, we took twosies ~ or tried ~ before turning around and heading back. I was hoping we could walk all the way around, but that would require waders.

See what I have to put up with?!!

Brad's twosies are better than mine

There are a few houses with a view that border part of the SNA.

I would never get anything done if this was outside my windows!

How many swans do you see in this second flock?

We drove to another parking area and took a much shorter second hike. It was pretty and a bit less windy, but there wasn't much to see floating. The area below is where all the swans were in 2022. I photographed them from a walking path in the tree line below (left). The only open water that year was closer to that shore. 

view from another dike

across the pond from where we hiked in 2022)

We discovered several other new paths/areas to explore this expansive SNA further in the future. It has so much to offer, a unique gem!


Jameson & Tank were waiting at home to go on their daily walk. I had no desire to haul my camera again. I sure wish I had. A big bird with a large wing span flew off a branch, not far above my head. No clue how I didn't spot it! All I could do was watch as the bird flew in a low-ish arc, up and away. It had white-ish under wing feathers. It landed across the neighbors field. Boo hoo! Because of the flight pattern, I think it may have possibly been an owl. 

Call me crazy, after finishing the dog walk I headed back out to that area without them. This time I hauled my camera & binoculars. Just incase. No big bird was spotted, but it was worth it. Mr. Bluebird hopped every two fence posts allll the way down to the path with me. Lol! It was really funny. I really think he is a returning resident of our nesting box 2.

Eastern Bluebird (male)