And I know I am preaching to the choir ...
To say this has been a busy work week would be a grand understatement. I am a 5th grade teacher. That should be enough said, but just in case you don't have kids, there are only 8 days of school left. We are trying to wind the school year down as the kids are winding up for their summer vacation. Think about Halloween, Easter, Christmas, and a birthday party all happening on the same day: that's what these past few days have felt like.
My barn time has been very limited this week: I had a lesson on Monday, the boys saw the chiropractor on Tuesday, I had an appointment on Wednesday, there was a school event on Thursday where I worked from 7:00 a.m. straight through until 7:00 p.m., which brings us to Friday afternoon.
On my drive home, all I could think of was a chilled margarita and silence. But as I looked at my car's thermometer (sub 80), I knew that I couldn't skip a third barn day especially on such a pleasant afternoon. I waffled between needing to ride and needing to just relax. By the time I pulled into the garage my decision was made; I would do a short ride only.
Tobias, cutest dog ever, greeted me with a hopeful, but resigned expression. Hubby was going to his nephew's baseball game which meant Tobi wasn't going to get an evening run. I didn't really want to ride anyway and Tobi needed some fun, so my afternoon was set: he was going with me!
As soon as I made the decision not to ride, my afternoon got a lot better. Tobi jumped into the backseat eagerly, and we headed off to the barn. He has turned out to be an excellent barn dog. He seems to know where the property line is, and he is developing a respect for the horse zone. He's not allowed in any horse pens or the arena. He is also not permitted to chase Little Red Hen. He needed a few reminders about the rules, but overall, he enjoyed himself without causing any trouble.
Tobias hanging out in the barn.
I turned Speedy out while I cleaned both stalls. Tobias ran around the barn checking out any poop piles I had missed. By the time I had finished cleaning, Speedy was brought back in and Sydney was turned out. Knowing that Tobi would love a walk, I popped up on Speedy bareback with his halter (with my helmet, of course) and took Tobi for a "walk" around our section of the neighborhood. Tobi was quite happy about the walk and Speedy seemed to enjoy the rambunctious company. By the time we got back, Sydney was ready to come in.
All sense of being tired and cranky had long since vanished. RM, my BO, came out with a Smartpak box that I knew was my latest order. I pulled out my new Passier laced reins and Speedy's new fly sheet. I gave the reins a quick conditioning and tried out the fly sheet. It was a perfect fit!
This is the whitest it will ever be!
Tobi and I puttered around a bit more, but after an hour and a half we were both ready to head home. He got his afternoon run after all, and I drank my margarita in silence. Ponies can really fix whatever's got you down.
We're heading to the cabin this morning for a quick overnight visit so you won't hear from me until Monday. Have a great weekend!
A little bit of California Barn Life ...
The neighboring property has/had chickens. Over the last year the chickens have either escaped, been killed by coyotes, or simply succumbed to some other chicken ailment.
I am not particularly fond of chickens, and if the truth were told, I am a little afraid of them. It's a long story involving a rooster and a little girl. You can probably piece it together. I do, however, very much like eggs for breakfast, and I also like that chickens are excellent at pest control.
The neighbor sort of gave up on chicken husbandry which left the sole survivor free to roam and make her own way in the world. She has decided that our barn fits her lifestyle quite well, thank you very much. My barn owner calls her Free Range, while I call her Little Red Hen. I taught kindergarten for seven years and couldn't resist the obvious moniker.
Anyhoo ... Little Red Hen, LRH for short, spends her days cluck, clucking in and around the barn and yard. A few weeks ago I found an egg shell fragment in Sydney's feeder and wondered how on earth it found its way there. Remember, I am afraid of chickens and not particularly knowledgeable about their comings and goings. A week or so later, I found an entire egg in Sydney's feeder, although it was cracked and oozing. All of I sudden I connected the dots ... hen ... eggs ... doh!
From then on, I started paying close attention and kept my eyes open for other eggs. LRH has rewarded my diligent searches with the occasional egg. Once I knew where I might find them, I began to check daily for her little offerings.
Saturday's egg was probably the best find. When I arrived at the barn, I carefully poked through Sydney's feeder in search of an egg, but LRH hadn't been in the mood. I rode him, rode Speedy, and was preparing to fill Sydney's beet pulp bucket when I saw a freshly laid egg nestled in his hay. It was still warm to the touch and was super clean.
I know it seems silly, but I have very much enjoyed searching out LRH's eggs. Each one she leaves is gathered gratefully and carried home gently to be eaten for breakfast. Her little presence at the barn has added a delightfully fun element to my routine.
Thanks, Little Red Hen. Keep 'em coming!
This one didn't make it.
This is the first unbroken one that I found.
And the very next day there was another ...
This one was laid on Saturday as I was getting ready to head home for the day.
Sydney isn't bothered by her presence at all.
Even when she REALLY make herself at home!
Having a week off between Winter's cold and Summer's heat is a true blessing. Not only did I ride both boys nearly every day, but I was also able to catch up on some barn chores. You already know that I cleaned the tack room
; here are two other chores that needed doing.
First, I had to rearrange what was under the left hand tarp.
This is what needed to go there: my summer supply of pine pellets for bedding my stalls. It's not quite enough to get through the summer as Home Depot didn't have a full pallet of 50 bags; they only had 32.
Pine pellets - stacked and ready ...
Funny how the tarp looks almost identical to how it looked before I stacked the pellets!
Buying and stacking my pine pellets for the summer was one chore that I had saved for Spring Break. The next job I tackled was cleaning my endurance saddle. I find it sad that I truly can't remember the last time I rode in it. It has surely been more than a year.
I didn't think to take a before picture as the saddle was simply dusty. After cleaning and conditioning it though, I remembered what a pretty saddle it actually is and wished that I had a before picture to show you.
right side ...
This saddle is designed for the rider that desires a balanced equitation seat. It is built on their famous endurance tree with their unique suspended ground seat. Padded with Tucker's Gel-Cush™ Padding, it comes with English Stirrup leathers, Trail Glide™ stirrups and English billet rigging. Also features the Equi-Balanced Tree, 1/2" Wool Felt lined skirts & beautiful master craftsmanship. It features English-styled strategically positioned knee rolls with padded flaps.
... left side
I have enjoyed this saddle immensely and don't feel ready to part with it. If you are interested in the Tucker Equitation, they're having a great sale on this saddle. It normally retails for around $2100, but it's on sale for $1445 at Tucker Saddle Sales
with $7.99 shipping. Quite a deal if you're in the market. Horse Saddle Shop put together this helpful video.
While our tack room is quite nice, it is not dust free nor climate controlled. I decided to bring the saddle home along with the leathers, stirrups, girth, pad, seat cover, and cantle bag. We have a windowless utility room at home that stays a pretty dust free. The saddle will certainly weather better there than in the tack room. If I think I want to use it, I can always schlepp it back out to the barn, but I don't think that is going to happen anytime soon ...
I know it's a shame to let such a nice quality saddle sit unused, especially when I know several people who would very much like to have it. It took me a lot of soul searching before I was willing to part with my other Tucker saddle. I liked that saddle a lot, but I couldn't see two saddles sitting around gathering dust. I am not interested in doing any long trail rides right now, but who know what I'll be doing in the next few years? Good pieces of tack are worth holding onto.
For those of you with extra saddles sitting around, how long do you let them sit before passing them on to a new owner?
I love it when other bloggers post pictures of their horses' stalls, runs, and turn outs. Even more than those photos, I love pics of their tack rooms and trailers. I've discovered that what I think of as normal horse-keeping is anything but. Everyone does it differently.
Below is a "sketch" of my BO's barn. I think she did a lot of the design herself. It's a very cleverly planned barn that suits our hot climate quite well. The heavy line represents the roof. The two stalls on the left side have a wall at the edge of the roof that is about 8 feet high, but it doesn't touch the barn roof. This is the windy and hot side of the barn. This creates an "inside" that extends as far out as the cross ties wall. The right hand side of the barn doesn't have a wall, but the stalls are longer and the roof covers a bit larger of an area.
Each horse has an "inside" and outside run. The wall at the cross ties is about six feet high and solid. For the hay cube and grain bin storage areas, the wall is a heavy gauge wire so that air can pass through and the horses can see each other. No horse shares a wall so there is absolutely no bickering, fighting, biting, or kicking.
Each run has two access gates: one is under the roof near where each horse is standing, and the other is in the farthest, diagonal corner from each horse.
The hay cube section is completely open to the outside so you can drive a vehicle right up to unload. Between the the hay cubes and the cross ties there is a short wall (3 feet?) with a human-sized pass through gate for easy access. The tack room is completely closed in with its own roof which keeps out the dust and makes it cooler since it's actually "double-roofed." There is a large, swinging door on both sides of the tack room. The grain bin area is also open on the backside to allow vehicle access when necessary. I did a video when I first moved in that you can check out here
On Monday, Hubby needed me for a full day appointment so my planned rides were postponed. I did have enough time in the afternoon to tinker around at the barn though. My side of the tack room was pretty dusty so I decided to move most everything outside and give it a good sweeping. As I started moving stuff, I noticed that the Daddy Long Leg spiders had set up quite a community along the ceiling and corners so they got the boot.
I forgot to take a before picture until I was partway done moving stuff out. Here they are.
Right side ...
Yes ... all of this is mine with the exception of that rickety cloth covered shelving unit. I do have stuff in there, but we need to replace that thing. I am not sure how it's still standing! I didn't move it out as I am not sure it would have made the journey. Our bridles are hanging on the inside of the tack room door.
Once the floor was swept and the ceiling de-spidered, I hauled everything back in. Sweeping and moving stuff served a second purpose: Sydney got a really long turnout which I think he enjoyed. After the tack room project, I moved on to the stalls so Speedy got his turn to roam as well.
Now that I look at the photos, the end product doesn't look as good as it did in person. All of those tubs in the shelving unit had been covered with a layer of dust which is now gone. The blankets were also covered with dust which I beat off with the broom; they look better, too. I rearranged my mountain of saddle pads so they're no longer about to topple off as easily. If nothing else, I got a good workout and Sydney got some time to wander around and play. Some days, nesting is just a peaceful thing to do. And after my semi-stressful Monday, it was a good way to spend some time at the barn.
It is fall, but only just barely. Our recent highs were in the 70s and low 80s. I hosed Speedy off just a week ago; it was that warm. It's gotten a bit cooler, and rain is predicted, but I am still wearing short sleeves. I am not really complaining as it's nice to ride in a short sleeve top, but it would be nice to see your breath and hear the leaves crackle beneath your boots at least occasionally.
Here are the best fall Images that I could find around the barn ...
There is some purpling in those distant trees.
There's a tiny bit of yellow in that tree in the background.
The mulberry tree in the middle is losing its leaves.
This is the most yellow tree on the property.
California's Central Valley does have four seasons, but only one of them is clear and distinct: summer. Our hot season easily runs for six or seven months. Spring and fall might last a month each with winter lasting three months at most. We're all ready to see something different. How about some clouds at least?
It's been more than 6 months since we have had any measurable amount of rain here in Bakersfield. There's been a prediction of a chance
of rain for several days. It finally arrived. As I was saddling. But of course.
Before the rain came though, the clouds grew ominously dark. and the wind began to gust. Since Sydney hadn't been out since Monday, I took the lunge line out with me; he needed it. I sent him around to the left where he gave a couple of bucks and asked to canter. To the right, he started to get that I-am-about-to-go-crazy look so I shortened the line and insisted that he step under with his inside hind.
Sydney doesn't lunge well to the right so I used some of the ideas from the video I posted the other day. Did you see the video? If not, you can catch it here
. Anyway, I kept the line short and also kept my right hand high (the inside rein) and "pushed" him over with the slack end of the lunge line. The result was very similar to the lesson we had on Monday.
By keeping my hand high, I was able "lift" his inside shoulder which kept him from falling in on me as I lunged. I have never thought to do that before. I was also able to control his ribcage more effectively by pushing his hindquarters sideways so that the inside hind truly crossed in front of the outside leg. It proved to be quite an interesting exercise.
Once he seemed more relaxed, I hopped on. I could tell he was still quite tense so I returned to our old circling exercise: inside hand planted on my thigh, outside leg sending him forward, switch the bend over and over. Just as I thought
we might be getting somewhere, Ineke came walking down the street with Bailey, one of our barn's horses. He had been at JL's place getting his feet done. Sydney turned into a giraffe.
As soon as I got Sydney's head back into our atmosphere, the thunder began to roll. The next moment brought pelting rain. It took me less than half a second to realize that this ride was over. By the time I opened the gate and walked the few feet to the barn, it was pouring.
Alas ... that time of year is upon us: the desire to ride and school is there, but the weather will do its best to foil my good intentions. At least the arena might be dust free for the weekend!
A California "storm."
I moved over 4,000 pounds by hand this weekend. No, I am not kidding. My neck and shoulders can bear witness. Both are screaming at me, and their language leaves a bit to be desired. I didn't get a before picture, but image all five bags back on the pallet and then stacked 8 layers high.
The pallet started with 50 bags.
I unstacked each bag and set it on my tailgate. Once there were five bags on the tailgate, which was one layer from the pallet, I climbed down to the ground and placed the five bags onto a pallet in the barn. Each bag weighed forty pounds. I placed fifty bags on my tailgate, 2,000 pounds. I then placed those same fifty bags on the waiting pallet, re-stacking them in the same way that I took them off the first pallet. That's 2,000 pounds again. In total, I moved 4,000 pounds.
I am on the last layer.
50 bags of pellets, 40 pounds a bag, ready for the winter.
You're probably asking, what kind of pellets are they? They're pine pellets. I use them as bedding in my horses' pens. I typically spread one bag in each pen each Sunday. Here in the central valley of California, we don't worry much about the wet, instead we fight the dust and hard ground. The pellets provide some loft to our sandy footing, and they help absorb the wet from urine. They also help reduce the dust, especially if they get sprayed down with some water.
The last pallet I bought lasted a bit over 6 months. I got that pallet at a discount, but each bag still ran $5.00. For this purchase, I had a rebate card from Lowe's so while these pellets were actually more expensive, I only paid $3.82 a bag. That's pretty cheap for stall bedding!
First things first. Thank you so very much for refraining from offering advice the other day. Even more thanks go to those of you who kept your criticisms to yourself. Seriously ... thank you. To those of you who commiserated, I really appreciate that you were willing to share your same feelings of suckiness; sucking collectively is far better than sucking alone.
And with that ...
I had THE BEST ride on Sydney on Saturday morning.
During the school year, both boys get ridden about 4 days a week. When school is out, they each go 5 days a week. I try to keep my weekends free so that I can hang out with Hubby, but Friday's weather was so unbelievably hot that I chose to do barn chores instead of ride. It was so hot (and unseasonably humid) that Bakersfield earned the national extreme temperature for the day - 106℉/41℃. No kidding.
From the Bakersfield Californian
We tied Death Valley's high temperatures, and it was only 93 in Las Vegas!
So instead of riding on Friday, I squeezed in quick rides on Saturday morning. The weather was seriously improved and almost felt cool. It was 68℉/20℃ when I headed to the barn at 7:00 a.m.
Speedy and I went through our usual practice from our Wednesday lesson. We've been doing some one loop serpentines from the Training Level 3 test. They're fun to do, and Speedy seems to enjoy them. It's also a good way to practice our sideways movement, especially left leg to right right.
When I get to C, I do the other half of the serpentine, H-X-K, and go back to A for more. I also like to throw in a change of direction across the diagonal to reverse the direction of the serpentines.
But on to Sydney!
I really took JL's advice to heart and started asking for more. From the walk, I asked for "quicker" which meant a few taps of the whip. No biggie. Sydney marched forward happily. When we moved on to the trot work, I again squeezed and said, go! Sydney happily gave me more energy. To slow down, I simply sat back, with no rein pressure, and Sydney dropped back into the walk. We did some 20 meter trot circles, both left and right, asking for more activity than we had the other day. Again, no biggie.
Since all was going so well, I decided to use the long sides of my "dressage court" (it's 20m by 45m) to work on maintaining a steady rhythm without the circle. I couldn't have been more pleased. We trot the long side and focused on balancing and slowing for the corners. After tracking left for a lap or two, we crossed the diagonal to repeat the exercise tracking right. I was so proud of how happy and relaxed Sydney was in his work.
And best of all? I truly didn't give a damn what I looked like. It was the most fun I've had in a while.
Pitons back in place ready for a summit bid up Mt. Self Doubt ...
I kicked some serious butt on Sunday. I already mentioned that I was going to be on poop patrol for the next few weeks because my Barn Owner has gone to Sweden. Pretty cool!
She has a live-in house sitter (HS) for the duration who is sharing the chores with me. HS is doing the morning feeding as well as cleaning when it fits her schedule. I am doing the rest of the chores. Of course, as soon as BO left, the temperature hit the low 100s (38 ℃). She's probably wearing a coat in Stockholm!
On Sunday I ...
- cleaned all four stalls which if you'll remember are actually large, open air pens. I also spread bedding in my two stalls and hosed them down.
- hosed down the barn aisle.
- turned one horse out and rode the other three horses which requires the removal and replacement of four fly masks and three fly sheets. The fly mask/fly sheet thing is a job in and of itself!
- hosed down two horses, not my own.
- watered the arena which requires the set up and removal of two large sprinklers that are connected to two very long and heavy hoses. I first watered the area where I planned to ride. After riding, I watered the rest of the arena and then dragged the hoses back to my preferred riding area so that they were ready to go for the next day.
- swept the cross tie area and tack room.
- fed my boys their beet pulp and tossed them some afternoon hay.
And after all of that, I went to the gym and ran over two and a half miles and followed it all up by cooking dinner! Who said Sunday was a day of rest?
Mosquito and Vector Control
Bakersfield is an agricultural community and according to Wikipedia, Kern County is the fourth most productive agricultural county in the USA. Kind of hard to assume anything else with a name like Baker's field. Really. That's how the city got its name. Colonel Baker had a residence and a field that was used as a stop-over by travelers. Baker's field became Bakersfield.
We have excellent access to all things grown or raised, but that also means we get some of the pests that accompany those products. Mosquitos are of particular concern to our county leaders. As such, our county has developed a vector control program. The Vector Control Program provides for the surveillance, mitigation and educational outreach regarding animals that are capable of transmitting diseases to humans, which includes involvement with seasonal plague surveillance and response to ongoing and emerging vectors.
Mosquito Abatement Truck
Jimmy, our mosquito guy
I don't know a lot about the program, but I thought I'd share what I do know since the mosquito guy was at our barn this week and was nice enough to answer my zillion questions. Essentially, each driver has an assigned area that he is responsible for monitoring. Our guy monitors areas of the northeast along both sides of the Kern River. He deposits mosquito fish into the ponds and standing water that he finds near the river. He also adds mosquito fish to water troughs, abandoned swimming pools, and any other place where he finds standing water.
The mosquito fish are free.
Mosquitos lay their eggs in quiet water, but the mosquito fish eat those eggs which helps to reduce/eliminate the mosquito problem. Mosquitos are of grave concern here in California as they are vectors of the West Nile Virus. Kern County has had a fair amount of human and equine cases of West Nile, but I can't say how our numbers compare with other counties. Here are the known cases in Kern County since 2007.
West Nile Virus Cases
To give you an idea of the size of Kern County, it's pretty big, here is a map of California with Kern County shaded orange and Bakersfield and nearby towns shaded in red.