It might not be a glamorous lounge, but it's the perfect lounge for us. Stay tuned for more!
On Friday, I wrote about the beginnings of our new "Equestrian Lounge," if you can call a table and chairs a lounge. Over the weekend, we made some good progress, but it's not finished yet. After hauling over an old table from the ranch's back yard and even older chairs from all over the ranch, I got to thinking about getting some better chairs. As soon as that thought crossed my mind, I realized that I could get a new patio table and chairs at home, and take our old stuff out to the barn.
Other than being beige, there's nothing wrong with my table and chairs. The glass isn't cracked and none of the chairs are frayed. But. The truth is, our whole back yard and patio is nothing but the color of Café au lait - otherwise known as beige. I thought about it for less than a minute and realized that our patio set is getting older, and we're ready for something with a bit more color. I placed an order with Home Depot.
With a click here and a click there, a new table and chairs were on the way. I was able to pick up the table on Saturday which meant the old table is already at the barn. Four pretty new chairs should be here in about ten days. I ordered them in red, or as Home Depot calls it, Chili Red. When they get here, the old chairs will join the table out at the ranch.
In the meantime, I ordered a few other things for our lounge. Such as ...
When I went to Home Depot to pick up the table, I stopped by the gardening shop to buy some plants to fill in our "Zen Rock Garden." My thumbs aren't particularly green, but when properly motivated, I can usually keep something alive.
We added some succulents as well and then built a border all around our Equestrian lounge with the river rocks.
Then I raked and raked and raked to remove as many of the dead leaves and fallen sticks as possible. I doubt it will ever again be swept this clean, but for now it looks pretty inviting.
Once my new chairs arrive, I'll take the old chairs out to the ranch. For now, I am thinking of keeping both tables and chairs. We have the space, and who knows when we might throw a garden party.
While the lounge isn't finished yet, the bones are definitely there. With the new chairs and decorations, it's going to actually look like something. My husband surprised me by bringing lunch out on Sunday. It was really pleasant eating at the table and sitting on a real chair rather than hunched over an old tire with my lunch on my lap - something I've done plenty of times before.
It might not be a glamorous lounge, but it's the perfect lounge for us. Stay tuned for more!
The other day, the ranch owners' daughter was out at the ranch doing some gardening. When her daughter was younger, they were pretty involved in the southern California eventing circuit. They kept Hannah's horses at some pretty fancy barns that included lots of bells and whistles.
As we were standing in the shade of one of the ranch's massive sycamore trees, Melissa remarked that this would be the perfect place for a table, some chairs, a few solar lights, and fireflies. We don't have fireflies in California, so we would have to import them - she was joking of course. Fireflies don't stay put. She said it would be our version of an equestrian lounge. I immediately voted yes; yes to all of it!
I frequently drag a mounting block to sit on under that tree to either watch my horses graze, clean tack, or just to cool off in the shade. When the ranch owners came out to join us, Melissa ran the idea by them. They immediately agreed that it was a great idea and gave the thumbs up to all of it except the fireflies. After joking around about all the improvements we could make, we all decided to grab an extra table and some chairs from the back yard. In less than five minutes, we had our Equestrian Lounge.
While it's only a table and two chairs for now, I look at it as a blank canvas. Now that it's officially a designated "place," I am going to start combing the internet for ideas on what else to add to spruce up our new lounge. The first thing I need to do is grab the two extra chairs we have up at the arena that nobody uses. We have a huge log that we all sit on instead. Our lounge doesn't need any more shade, we have that the entire day, and there is already plenty of greenery.
The first thing I might ask for is to move the fencing panels to the other side of the horses' fields where there are already other panels stored. The shaded area we've adopted as our new lounge also sits on a natural berm. At one time, there was a plan to build a stone retaining wall, so there is a pile of round river rocks already close by. I might start laying them out to form a decorative boundary.
After I told the ranch owner that I'd been pining for a table and chairs, she asked why I never said anything. I responded that I am just a guest, and it felt rude to make any requests. She thought that was silly. Since she has made it perfectly clear that it's okay to ask for stuff, I have a few ideas that she might be willing to go for.
First, the panels. We'll see how it goes after that.
We experienced a somewhat rare treat at the ranch the other day, and it involved the sighting of a snake. The ranch is situated on the Kern River which means it's generally a bit too cool for our indigenous snake population, but we do occasionally see them.
As I was walking along the trail I've beaten down alongside Izzy's dirt pasture - it's deeply shaded by two massive Sycamores, I was startled by a long dark object. You know what should and shouldn't be in your path, especially if you tromp by the same spot 50 times a day. I stopped to take a closer look and discovered a California kingsnake on the path.
I am not afraid of snakes, but I do have a healthy respect for them. I instantly recognized this fellow (gal?) as a kingsnake, so I knew I wasn't in any danger; they're non-venomous. I've stumbled across more than my share of rattlesnakes over the years, so I've learned to be cautious.
Speaking of rattlesnakes, the two most terrifying encounters I've had with them have been while training for endurance races. In the first, I was with two friends cantering up Rancheria Road in east Bakersfield. My two friends were ahead of me. At the exact moment that I heard the tell-tale rattle, my Montoya did a 180 at a the canter. As I sailed off over her shoulder, I knew there was a rattlesnake ahead as I could hear it as I was flying through the air. I responded just like a cartoon character. My feet were running before my butt hit the ground. I didn't know exactly where it was in relationship to where I landed, but I didn't wait long enough to see. When the whole thing was over and we were all safely past, we laughed hysterically as both friends had seen my legs pinwheeling through the air as I tried to run even before landing!
The second scary encounter with rattlers was when one of those same friends was riding Montoya while I rode my black Arab, Mickey. We had ridden from my place (back when we had our own property) up through a deep and narrow canyon out onto a nearby ranch. Later that day, we retraced our steps and attempted to ride back through the canyon to get home.
The morning had warmed up quite a bit during our ride. As we approached the canyon, Montoya saw the rattlesnake before either one of us did. She again whirled away, hitting a berm in the process tumbling both herself and my friend to the ground. Both were unhurt, so my friend remounted. As we tried to again enter the canyon, Montoya spooked a second time at yet another rattler, unceremoniously dumping my friend again.
The canyon was the only way home. Montoya was a quivering mess by that time, so I got off Mickey, grabbed a long stick, and led us out of there on foot. There were dozens of snakes - or so it seemed, sunning on the rocky ledges all down that canyon. It was truly one of the most terrifying experiences I've ever had. Fortunately, the canyon wasn't that long, a couple of hundred feet, and we made it through safely. That was the last time we ever rode back up in there.
The kingsnake that I stumbled on was longer than any I've seen in a while. The upended water trough has a three foot diameter, and you can see that the snake is nearly twice that in length, which is not typical for kingsnakes. I leaned down and gently stroked its skin which didn't make the snake too happy. Like kingsnakes will do, it gathered itself together and began furiously "rattling its tail." There aren't rattles of course, but the snake still makes a bit of a noise which must be enough to frighten off a lot of predators who are fooled by the mimicry.
Not wanting to disturb the snake any more than I already had, I walked on down the path another 30 feet and took a seat in the shade on an old tire. I like to check my phone while I wait as one of my horses grazes out in the yard. As I was sitting there, nearly motionless, I heard a scuttling in the leaves behind me. I turned around and saw another kingsnake sliding through the detritus beneath the tree.
Now it definitely could have been the same snake, but the first one crawled into the leaves on the left side of the trail while this one came though a completely different pile of leaves at least 30 feet away on the right side of the trail. If it was the same snake, he or she was creepily fast and had to have been following me. It was so remarkable to spot even one California kingsnake in the yard that I of course texted the ranch owners who quickly came out to admire him (or her!).
California kingsnakes prey on rats, mice, birds, amphibians, and best of all, other snakes including rattlesnakes. According to Wikipedia, "The "king" in their name refers to their propensity to hunt and eat other snakes, including venomous rattlesnakes, that are commonly indigenous to their natural habitat. California kingsnakes are naturally resistant to the venom of rattlesnakes, but are not totally immune."
This kingsnake, or the pair if I really spotted two of them, is more than welcome to take up residence at the ranch. And if it is a pair, our fingers are crossed that we see babies later this fall.
Last June, I was urged to create some kind of marked arena so that I could improve not only my geometry, but the accurateness of the movements at Third Level. You can see that post here. To my surprise, having real corners truly did help improve my accuracy. It's hard to know if the shoulders are drifting or falling in when you're riding out in the open.
The water jugs that I used to mark the arena did an amazing job. What I most liked was how safe they were. All of the horses have either run them over or given them a good kick, and nobody ever thought they were spooky or threatening in anyway. The ranch owner's mare actually seems to use them for target practice.
A few of the jugs ended up with leaks, one too many kicks by an equine hoof will do that, but even half empty, they didn't tip over in the wind. One of them had drained itself dry but still stood upright. After nearly a year though, the letters eventually faded and/or fell off.
I've been wanting to replace the jugs for some time now, but with COVID-19 on the loose, water bottles were in short supply. This weekend, I found the bottles well stocked with no limits, so I bought six, half of what I needed, with the plan to buy another six in a few days. As it turned out, enough of my bottles were actually in sufficient shape that I just put fresh letters on them.
I replaced the cracked water bottles and the ones with no lids with my six new jugs. Then I scrubbed the dirt off the old jugs and recovered them with new letters. For less than $10, I have a freshly marked arena that will last me until at least winter.
This is a really cheap and easy, do-it-yourself project. Even though I covered my letters from top to bottom with packing tape, they're not water proof. If you water your arena or you live where it rains a lot, the letters won't last as long. The ranch owner treats our footing with a product that eliminates dust, so we don't need to water. If I lived somewhere wetter, I would probably try to spray paint the bottles white and use a stencil for the letters. If you try that, let me know how it turns out.
If you're interested in using water jugs yourself, or some other similar material, here's a pdf of the arena Ietters I created. Just download and print.
Considering that I live in a pretty "horsey" community, we're not exactly brimming with feed stores. We do have a Tractor Supply, but it's a 30 minute drive (or more). There are also two or three other feed stores to my west, but they too are a solid 30 minutes away. The river corridor, where my boys live, is home to at least a thousand horses. With such a concentrated group of equestrians, you would think we'd have more feed stores nearby. It's a good thing that the one closest to the barn is fabulous.
Fred C. Gilbert Farm and Ranch Supply is a short, ten minute drive from the barn. It's also directly on the way to the barn from work. For me, convenience trumps most everything else; within reason of course. It's also family owned and operated. Whether or not that's the reason for the excellent customer service, it keeps me coming back for more.
Even though I love Fred C Gilbert's, I hate taking the time to stop in. Most months, I pick a weekday when I think my boys need a day off, and I buy everything that I think I'll need for the entire month. That usually means two bags of this, two bags of that, throw in two of those, and maybe a small bag of that one.
The first week of the month tends to be pretty crowded as last month's feed is still in the rotation. Both horses share the rice bran, but the Senior CarboRaider is all Speedy's. The beet pulp is mostly for Izzy; Speedy gets a handful. They both get the peppermint wafers as well as the Horse Guard Vitamins.
About a year ago, maybe more, I started realizing that "stockpiling" posed some small risks, namely stale or old feed. Before I bring in the new bags, I always move my old bags and sweep the area clean. I then bring in the new bags and place them in the back against the wall. The old bags get placed in front. While I rarely keep bags for more than two months, it can be easy to lose track of which bag is oldest.
About 6 months ago I realized that it was possible to keep shuffling the same bag to the back, especially on a month where something is on sale and I buy three or four bags of the same thing. I keep a Sharpie on hand to make notes on my calendar, so I decided to start writing the dates on the corner of each bag when I buy it.
Besides helping me use the bags from oldest to newest, it also helps me know how many bags I should buy each month. As the seasons change, I feed more or less depending on my boys' needs that season. By noting the date I purchased something, I can tell how quickly I am using it. It seems like a good idea, and since I do that same thing in my own refrigerator, I was surprised that I hadn't done it sooner.
Anybody else have a system for feeding the old stuff first?
I've been boarding at "The Ranch" for more than three years. In all that time, I don't think I've ever introduced you to everyone who lives there. The ranch is privately owned and not a "traditional" boarding facility. The owners have very generously allowed me to board there, but only because they like me.
In the beginning, the horses who lived there all belonged to the ranch owners, but over the past year, things have changed. Besides my boys and me and the ranch owners, there are now three other ladies and their horses who call the ranch home.
You already know Speedy, of course, but I'll start with him anyway. Speedy's a 15 year old Arabian who has done endurance and dressage. I am not sure who is stuck with whom, but we're definitely a pair.
Izzy, frequently referred to as The Big Brown Horse, is an 11 year old RPSI gelding with a lot of Thoroughbred in his pedigree. We "dressage," but this space isn't called Not-So-Speedy Dressage for nothing.
When you come down the ranch's driveway, you'll pass by the arena first. The next thing you'll see is a small grass pasture and these two friends, Archie and Pixie, or as I like to call her, Pixie Pony. Archie is a retired jumper. He's in his late 20s, but he still gets ridden a couple of times a year, usually by beginner riders.
Pixie, his pasture mate, is a sweet older girl, but I am not sure she's ever done much in her life. She was broke to ride, but was just too spooky for the ranch owner's tastes. She's now a companion for Archie. I do have a funny story about her though. A year or so ago, a friend of the ranch owner had a horse who died leaving her other horse alone. The ranch owner offered Pixie up as a new companion. We loaded her up and dropped her off. As the trailer pulled out of sight, Pixie jumped the fence and chased after the ranch owner's truck and trailer. That was the end of any talk of Pixie being placed elsewhere.
As you continue along the driveway, Dollar's pasture is next. I think Dollar is a Fox Trotter, I have asked so many times that I would be embarrassed to ask again. He's nearing 30. He had been a breeding stallion for most of his life, but he's been retired now for many years. I make it a point to give him a handful of grass and a few kind words every day. He and Speedy get along famously, so I let Speedy graze alongside Dollar's fence line. Dollar loves the company. He is a stallion though, so he likes to remind Speedy of that fact every now and then. When Dollar gives a squeal, everyone can hear it.
Speedy and Izzy live in the matching dry pasture behind Dollar. To the left of them is where Speedy used to live with Willy, and later Rocky. There is a row of four amply-sized pens, each of which empties out into a large dirt pasture. This is where Rocky still lives. He belongs to an employee of the ranch owners; to make the explanation less complicated, they're consultants. Rocky is a Quarter Horse who is either 15 or 16 yers old. His owner trail rides and does barrels.
Living in the same row as Rocky is the ranch owner's current riding horse, All In, or Alli for short. I think she's also a Fox Trotter, and she's around 10 - 12 years old. She's been at the ranch less than a year, but she's quite a lovely lady. She is also really funny. She's the queen of side eye, mare glare, and let me put you in your place facial expressions. I think Speedy's a little afraid of her, which she likes just fine, thank you very much.
To the right of Rocky and Alli live Lucky the mule and Cami the TB. Lucky doesn't have much use for humans, but she is quite happy living with her TB girl friend. You can always tell when Cami is being worked or ridden because Lucky lets the whole world hear her braying. I actually quite like having a mule around as both of my boys see nothing weird about them when they see they see other mules at shows.
I don't exactly know how old Lucky is, but she's no spring chicken. I believe she was used as a pack mule. Now, she serves as a companion to whomever needs one. That's Cami right now.
Cami is a Thoroughbred mare who is around 12 years old. While owned by the ranch owner, she's currently being ridden by a woman whose own horse is struggling with soundness issues. Cami is a very personable and loving girl. She's also a nice mover.
All of which brings us right back to Speedy. Or close anyway. Living right in front of Speedy is our newest friend, Baloo the pony. Baloo is a 6 year old Welsh-Azteca cross that stands just over 13 hands. He's much smaller and finer than I would have expected from such a pairing, but he's adorable. He's very nicely put together with a super sweet personality. The other day, something spooked Izzy which got Speedy all in a tizzy which then sent Baloo sprinting around his field. Hilarious. Baloo was purchased just a few weeks ago by a woman whose older horse recently passed. She's very much a beginner rider, but so far, she's really enjoying her new mount.
We definitely have an eclectic mix at the ranch from ponies to mares to geldings to stallions to mules. We have show horses, retired horses, and trail horses. The thing I most like about boarding at the ranch is that all of the horses get to be horses. It's a very relaxed and happy place to be.
What's it like in your neck of the woods?
I see of a lot of dawn mornings in the summertime. It's so hot here May to October that you're likely to kill yourself off if you try to ride after around 11:00 a.m. Dawn in the winter is a whole other thing though.
I had a lesson on Sunday, but because of Super Bowl festivities, we needed to get it done first thing in the morning. That sounds great in a text, lesson at 8:00 a.m.?, but in real life, predawn grooming and tacking up is not fun. The sun doesn't even rise here until 6:54 a.m., but because of the nearby mountains, you can't even see the sun until an hour later.
As a Californian, my it's really cold meter runs on a different scale than what most of you deal with. Even so, 38 degrees is cold no matter where you live. It felt even colder considering that it was 70 the afternoon before.
With fingers stiff and burning, I powered through. By the time my lesson actually started, the sun had peeked over the mountain, warming us all.
It almost made me long for summer's warmth. Almost.
California's Central Valley is not known for being verdant and lush. It rains only in the winter, and only a few times at that. California's Central Valley is fed by melting snow, or runoff, from the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains. As such, valley farmers rely on a vast system of canals to water the valley's massive agriculture output.
Unlike a lot of the rest of the country, our green shows up in the winter only to turn brown and die by mid-spring. Winter grass, as we call it, is a welcome respite from the dry hills we see most of the year. Last year, California had a fair amount of rain which contributed to the 2019 wildflower Super Bloom. When you live in a state as water starved as ours, flowers are pretty exciting.
Our green period only lasts through the winter. Once the weather warms up, everything dies. Right now, my boys are loving the green grass. And even though both of them live in large dirt pastures, Speedy loves to get turned out.
While I ride Izzy, Speedy gets locked in the alley between the pastures. When I am not riding, I let him loose to wander where he may.
We have a new pony at the ranch, Baloo, and Speedy has taken a liking to him. He lives directly across from Speedy, so while Speedy was turned out on Sunday, he and Baloo spent some time visiting.
Izzy also enjoys the winter grass, but he still needs some supervision.
Spring is just around the corner for us, but its arrival always signals the end of the lushness of winter. In its place, we prepare for the arrival of the brown and yellow hills. We're not called the Golden State for nothing.
Oops. This got published by mistake. Since I can only delete it, not un-publish it, you get Friday's post a few days early.
With the regular flow of rain this winter, not something we've seen much of over the past decade, our arena has taken a real beating. Thanks to the ranch owner, we have excellent footing. It's so nice that even after a heavy rain, I can ride without fear of slipping or sliding.
No matter how nice the footing though, it needs an occasional drag to smooth out the inevitable ridges that form in the corners and along the long sides. We had quite a trench forming. On Monday, we decided that it had finally dried out enough that the DG could actually be dragged around.
Reggie, the ranch's fixer of all things, is an excellent hand with the tractor. We had a good chat about where the problem areas were - the long sides and the short side at A, and with that, Reggie set to work. He used the tractor's bucket to slice off the high ridge, and then he dragged the DG down into the channel that Speedy and Izzy had made.
I can watch the tractor all day long. That thing is hypnotic. I was itching to get up there myself, not that I've ever driven a tractor, but it looks like such a zen thing to do. Like vacuuming.
Once Reggie was done, I dragged out my meter tape, cones, and t-squares. I first built this dressage court last summer, and I've redone it a few times since, but I kept forgetting to bring the t-squares out to the barn. Man, do those things ever help!
Once it quits raining, I am also going to have to replace my letters. The weather has definitely left mine in less than readable shape. Good thing they're cheap.
Building a dressage court definitely takes a lot of time, even if it is made of water bottles, orchard poles, and pvc tubes.
Now that I have one though, I can't go back to just guessing. Having those letters and square corners has really helped my riding. Imagine how much better I'll get with fresh letters. Hey, I can hope!
I've owned horses for nearly 40 years. I just turned 49, so that number keeps creeping up. Better than the alternative as my mom would say. In all those years, I've only kept my horses at a barn that had crossties exactly once. The rest of the time, I've tied my horses to whatever was handy - trees, hitching rails, my own trailer, fences, and even old trailers. Sort of like now.
You've all seen one of my horses tied up to this old trailer about a million times. Someone once asked if Izzy could fit in there. No, I don't believe he would. It seems like such a nothing special kind of place, but over the years, I've turned this tacking up spot into home.
For Izzy, it's a great place to tie because he has learned to stand patiently at a trailer and eat. Every square inch of the back of that trailer serves a purpose. I can leave either horse there for as long as I need to, and I know they're safe.
Everything but the bridle and grooming bucket live there all year round. As the hay gets wet or dusty, I dump it out, but the horses usually empty it before that happens. The wood chips are an absolute godsend; they keep the area free of dust, and rain just percolates right on through, so no puddles form. Before the wood chips, A lake would form every time it rained.
The mounting block usually holds my grooming bucket, but it's also convenient for when I need to stand on it for braiding, clipping bridle paths, or medicating goopy eyes. We have a three-step mounting block in the arena, so this one just serves the barn.
The ranch owner had the wheel cover built to protect the tires from sun, but it was also designed to protect the horses in the event that someone decides to throw an impromptu temper tantrum.
The little trailer is parked next to the barn, but not too close as to make the area feel crowded. When I am ready to saddle, I don't need a saddle stand outside. It's 3 or 4 short steps from my saddle rack to my horse. When I sit on my little stool to put on boots or check my phone, I can keep my eye on whoever is tied up at the moment.
Probably best of all is that there are lights for outside and an electrical outlet for running my clippers. I keep a short extension cord with my clippers which gives me plenty of room. In all my years of owning horses, this is only the second time I've had an electrical outlet that didn't require 12 miles of extension cords. That and the wood chips have me boarding here for life.
Not only can I keep my eye on whomever is tied up, but Izzy and Speedy can keep an eye on each other as well. When Speedy's tied up, Izzy comes up to the fence to hang out with us. Speedy lives on the other half of the field, so he can't get quite as close, but the horses like being able to see one another.
While tacking up in a barn certainly has its advantages, I find that unless it's pouring rain, the little niche that we've managed to carve out serves us quite well. Besides, I don't think Bunny would come as willing into a barn as he does with just a little trailer. Anyone else? What does your tacking up spot look like?