What lives in your trunk?
I am sure you know exactly what I am talking about. Now if only car manufacturers could install a flip-up saddle rack, we'd all be a lot happier.
My trunk's live-in occupants are pretty few compared to some trunks and back seats that I've seen. Even so, grocery shopping always requires a bit of planning. The brown bag, two coats, and boots live in my trunk. I go straight to the barn after work, so it's easier to just store that stuff in my car.
What lives in your trunk?
I hate to complain about our cold. Our heat though? I'll gripe about that all day long. Sixty to seventy days of triple digit weather sort of gives you that right. It was in the low eighties last week; my boys were dying. Yesterday? it dropped down into the 30s with an arctic wind. I don't know how you all do it.
I had yesterday off, thank you, President Washington, so I was able to head to the barn in the morning instead of after work. It was so cold though that I waited until it warmed up to the 40s.
My typical winter barn attire includes a long sleeved t-shirt, breeches (regular weight), and a vest which I frequently ditch while I am tacking up. Yesterday, I had to wear my one and only thick pair of socks, my regular breeches (I don't own winter weight), and a jacket! I even zipped it up and wore gloves while I was grooming. I felt like that kid on A Christmas Story.
I was so worried about the cold that I dug out a fleece cooler and left it near my saddle rack in case either horse got sweaty from our ride. I've been hosing them off the past two weeks; it's been that warm.
I finally warmed up enough to hang my jacket up, but I quickly replaced it with my vest. And even though it was zipped to my chin, I was still a bit cold as I walked up to the arena. By the time we got to work, I warmed up just enough to stay mostly warm.
Even with a solid 30 minute ride, both boys came out of the arena warm and dry. I didn't need the cooler after all. The whole week is supposed to have cold weather though, so I think I'll leave that cooler right where it is. I might still need it after a late afternoon ride.
The main reason that I left my last barn of more than five years was so both horses could have even bigger living areas than they had before. And it wasn't like their last stalls/paddocks were small either. While neither boy could get up a gallop or anything, they could play pretty hard. At the ranch, they can gallop. They can also woohoo or amble. Just being able to stroll from here to there all day long seems to prevent any build up of excess energy.
Even with all of that room, Izzy has adopted one particular section of dirt right next to a fence as his sleeping area. I'll admit that the footing there is softer, but that's primarily because he has spent a lot of time digging and rearranging the dirt.
Over the past two weeks, I've caught him getting stuck when he rolls or takes a nap. He's dug quite a big hole (just to the left of the photo) that he likes to lay in. The problem is that it's rather difficult to hoist your 1200 pound self out of a hole once your legs are higher than your head. I recently had to rescue my brown turtle by rearranging his legs to give him better traction. Another day, I waited anxiously as he grunted and groaned but finally heaved himself upright.
Sometime during the night or early hours on Sunday morning, Izzy laid down in or near his hole and got stuck. By the time I showed up on Sunday morning, he had managed to right himself but not before gouging up his right hind and left front legs.
As soon as I saw the damage Izzy had done to his legs, I texted the ranch owner. She came out and looked Izzy over with me. I cold hosed his legs and then walked him out while she looked for any wonky steps. Other than having two hot and swollen legs, he looked fine. He was eating happily and looked sound at the walk.
We locked Izzy in the far side of his turnout and hashed out a plan to encourage him to sleep somewhere else. Today, the ranch hand will drag all of the soft dirt to the middle of the paddock and re-stabilized the fence, lifting it out of the dirt in the process.
Why Izzy needs to sleep right next to the fence is a mystery to me. Sometimes, I think they like to hurt themselves just to spite us. I am pretty confident that the swelling will be down by the time I get out there this afternoon. And in two or three days, he'll be good as new minus a bit of hair.
Next time, Dude, get up on the right side of the bed!
I am not even kidding. I almost didn't ride yesterday afternoon. It was 71℉ at 4:00 in the afternoon! Since I don't blanket my boys, they have full on, polar bear winter coats. When I went to get Izzy, he was sweating. It's January. What the heck?
It seemed silly to waste such a lovely day however, so I saddled up anyway. I know I've been filling this space with My Horse Is Now Awesome types of posts, but I have to add another one.
Even though the gardener was using a wood chipper to dispose of some piles of leaves, Izzy only gave him three seconds of a hairy eye-ball, and then shrugged it off.
Since he was so relaxed and already kind of sweating, I made the executive decision to keep things at a walk and trot. Feeling that he was ready to be pushed a little though, we did all of the walk and trot work from Second Level (except the turn on the haunches).
He's got a sweet shoulder in, and his travers is way better than Speedy's! We did those fun little 10-meter half circles, and for the very first time ever, I was able to get a baby trot lengthening.
When we were finished, he was actually drier than when we started. I think some clouds rolled in, and we picked up a small breeze. Either way, I decided to make sure he got a good drink that evening by giving him a dose of electrolytes with his dinner bucket. It was supposed to be in the 30s over-night.
Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, will be here for another clinic this Saturday. I sure hope he keeps it together, but if not, I know how to help him put his brain back in. And if I can't, Chemaine knows how to kick his butt even better than I do!
After all of the fires that have plagued California over the past few months, you might not remember the two we had here in October that killed at least 30 horses. I wrote about them here and here. Out of the Cottonwood fire, a stallion named The Boss and a mare named Rias were both saved. The Boss was severely burned, but is still alive. Rias, also badly burned, turned out to be in foal by The Boss.
A few weeks ago, against what seemed like staggering odds, Rias delivered a very healthy and very spunky filly. Meet Ember.
The local media was so excited to hear about such a cutie-pie being born after such a disheartening tragedy that as soon as they caught wind of the birth, they swooped in to tell her story. Watch one of the news videos here.
Over the weekend, Cecile invited me to come visit Ember. Holy moly is she ever a pistol. As I entered the stall where she was napping, I walked around her very carefully so as not to startle her. I shouldn't have worried. The second she realized she had company, she leaped up and jammed her face into my leg, chewing on my clothes and boots. Within no time, she was whirling and launching her little hooves at anything she could connect with.
She kicked at everyone and everything in her vicinity. She chased off Cecile's dogs and then gave momma a whack just to demonstrate that she could. Even though we were there for more than an hour, she barely suckled. She'd dive in a for a quick sip and then charge around shoving her way into everyone's space.
She is definitely a spitfire. Ember suits her well!
Winter finally showed up yesterday. I hope I am not jinxing anything, but we finally got a little rain. I know the rest of the country is probably sick of winter by now, but as usual, California's been languishing in (mostly) dry weather. And in some areas, like mine, our temperatures have been quite pleasant.
All of that changed over the past two days. We were hit with extremely high winds and record rainfall, for here anyway. We saw 0.75" officially which was a record for the date (according to Miles Muzio, meteorologist). Various parts of town saw a bit more, up to 1.08" in downtown Bakersfield, and Ventura County, home to the recent fires, saw more than 2".
I got to the barn hoping for massive puddles; we really need the rain. While the horses were standing in some goop, most of the ground was fairly solid, with deeper puddles only in the low places. As always, the arena footing was excellent with only a slight puddle.
Knowing that a second wave of rain was due to hit, I saddled quickly and got in a ride. It was not a perfect ride, more on that in a day or so, but at least we got some work done before the next storm hammered us. As I was feeding and watering, the skies grew black as thunder and lightening raged overhead. Thicks drops started to fall. As I pulled out of the driveway, a late afternoon deluge hit dropping another .25" of rain on my side of town.
Here's hoping (not hoping?) it's dry enough for a ride this afternoon!
I have never before been as sick as I was over this past month. Sure, I've dislocated my kneecap, sprained my pelvic bone, and had pneumonia, but I've never been kept out of the saddle or away from the barn for more than a few days. After dislocating my knee, I rode a 50 mile endurance race less than two weeks later. Give me a case of bronchitis, and I am out for a month.
When I got to the barn on Saturday afternoon, no one even looked at me. Speedy's head remained buried in his feed tub, and Izzy stood with a hind leg cocked, resting in the sun. For a moment, my feelings were hurt, but then the happiness of finally being at the barn won me over, and I smiled.
I puttered around doing chores that at first felt foreign, but then the familiarity of the routine took over. As I glanced at my calendar, the empty squares stared at me accusingly. I uncapped my Sharpie marker and slowly began crossing off the missed days of December.
After filling feed buckets and sweeping out the tack room, I grabbed Speedy's halter and my grooming bag. While not as vocal as usual, he still came up to the fence to greet me. It was like seeing a long lost friend. He nosed my hair and face and then rubbed his head up and down my hip like he always does.
I reached out a bit tentatively and stroked his face in greeting and then ran my hands over his body. To my astonishment, Speedy had his full winter coat. Even though I had ridden him for a few minutes the weekend before, I hadn't noticed his annual polar bear coat. It felt so strange that even without me there to keep things rolling along, Speedy had winterized without me.
I tacked him up slowly, giving him extra pats to remind him of how much I had missed him. As we walked towards the arena, I smiled wistfully when I realized that his December Gotcha Day had slipped by me unnoticed. Ten years ago this month, Speedy joined our family. It's been a decade. He's been with me nearly half of my adult life.
Not that he cared about any of that. He was just happy to get to work, and we had a good ride. While we aren't exactly where we were three months ago before his hoof injury, it won't take us long to get there. We actually cantered for the first time in 3 months. And even though he was a little sassy, I know that he enjoyed himself.
As of Friday, I get two weeks off for Christmas. Hopefully I'll stay healthy so that I can enjoy them!
I swear that it is not usually this dangerous here in sunny California. If you live here, you already know about the raging wildfires that swept through the Ventura area last week and throughout the weekend. If you don't live in California, it's been a bummer of a week.
Spurred by ferocious Santa Ana winds, wild fires roared throughout Ventura County. The area hit the hardest is characterized by low mountains and canyons. These are the kinds of conditions that make it frustratingly difficult for firefighters to reach.
Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, lives and trains in Moorpark, a community just a few miles southeast of the largest fire, the Thomas Fire. She spent several days evacuating horses from Ojai and nearby towns. Her barn, CastleRock Farms, brought in some evacuees even though they're on watch as flames still threaten to head their direction.
Even with volunteers arriving from all over southern California to help, many, many horses perished over the weekend. Besides homes, numerous barns and facilities were leveled.
My Facebook Newsfeed was filled with friends and acquaintances asking for help in evacuating their animals and family members. It was heartbreaking to read about their fear and loss.
I am sure we'll hear more about the devastation in the next week, but for now, please send good thoughts to Ventura County; they need it.
There isn't a horse owner out there who doesn't appreciate a barn stacked to the rafters with freshly delivered hay. I don't have to buy hay anymore, but I still love the sight of a two story tower of the green stuff. Our last delivery of the year came last week.
There are currently nine horses at the ranch, including my two, but there are usually eleven. There is a TB mare who is out for training, but she should be back before winter. Another one belongs to the neighbor, so he's not a regular resident, but he does stay with us when the neighbor travels out of state.
As such, we have enough horses to warrant buying hay in bulk, but not so many that we have to do it all year long. This load of alfalfa will be the last until summer. We already had enough grass hay to last through the winter.
The latest load of alfalfa is some of the prettiest that I've ever seen. It is super fine with nary a coarse piece. In an attempt to plump Speedy up before winter, the ranch owner has already opened the new stuff to see if she can tempt Speedy into eating every morsel. He tends to turn his nose up at the stemmier pieces.
When the hay was delivered by our local procurer of baled green stuff, he shared that this particular hay came from the very same load that he just sold to the US Olympic team. We're trying to get our hands on the hay analysis that was required by the Olympic team. Ranch owner and I are both curious to see what it shows.
Thanks to the ranch owner, I know my boys are getting the absolute best hay that can be found this side of the Rockies. Now all that's left to do is ride them!
On Sunday and Monday, high winds swept across California, igniting wildfires in several large communities including Santa Rosa (north of San Fransisco) and Anaheim Hills (Los Angeles). Two large fires also struck Bakersfield, both within an hour of each other.
The first began in the south of town, burning several homes, but more tragically, approximately 20 horses were also killed. The second fire occurred along the river in Oildale. At least 5 horses were killed in that blaze. Thanks to the quick thinking of several firefighters, many horses were let loose, ultimately saving their lives.
The fire in Oildale decimated an entire boarding facility, including the owners' home. A call has gone out to help this family get back on its feet. If you would like to help, here is how you can do that.
For the victims of the Jackson Fire
Several friends have asked if my own equine family is safe, so I wanted to assure you that yes, we are fine. This is a terrible tragedy, and every horse owner in town has hugged their own ponies, thankful that they are safe. A barn fire is an owner's worst nightmare.