Tuesday, March 22, 2011

really? It's meant to snow and storm all weekend. Mountains?

As you may have gleaned from the title, something happened that involved all of the above and so much more.  Let me enlighten you.

Snow bound/horseshow bound mom rang up the other day and said she wanted to take the urchins to the snow for the weekend and would I come over and stay for the weekend?  Just Friday and Saturday and come home on Sunday.  And she would have the stall cleaner guy come in on Saturday to do the stalls in the morning, but sorry I would be on my own on Saturday night and Sunday.  Well, ok, since Steve has decided he must never have a day off from work I figured I might as well go to a beautiful part of the state and get my horse fix.  Off I went.  In the pouring down rain. 

Now for those of you in Outer Mongolia, when it rains and is cold it usually means that it is snowing and freezing in the Sierra Mountains.  All that is a natural nature sort of deal, but with it comes the purely outrageous phenomenen of jerkism on wheels.  Jerkism drivers are around everywhere, but their appearances in times of vile driving conditions are horrible.  They prove themselves by driving way too fast or slow and generally make your life miserable by doing stupid stuff in their BMW's or Cadillacs.  For whatever reason these are the autos of choice to be a real jerk in the show.  Like you've spent way too much money on your car to be bothered with the Golden Rule and what not.  If you have one of the above cars and do not consider yourself a jerkism driver, ask yourself these questions.  1.  Do you drive fast enough for everyone?  2.  Do you keep your ski rack on your car in the summer?  3.  Do you pass erratically on blind turns then brake suddenly?  4.  Do you plant your 35 mph self in the fast lane at all times?  A yes to any of the above qualifies you to be a jerkism driver.  Get a grip.

Anyway, as I was saying it was raining as I made way to wine (whine) country and I found myself thinking that driving up to the mountain to a snug get away in the snow sounded insane.  Cast your memory to the tale of the Donner Party...  Happily, snow bunny mom is insane at times and after assuring me it would all be fine, piled herself and the offspring into the car and zoomed off.    Uh yup.  So she made it as far as the beaucolic town of Colfax, which is roughly two hours over and up the road.  In the middle of gold country.  And, yup you guessed it, some jerkism driver had managed to create a real fuster cluck and the roads were closed and everyone was being turned around, even snow bunny mom with 4WD.  Yup.   Turned back and too far to go home and outnumbered by the cops to go forward.  Meanwhile I was at the casa thinking neener neener, and I told you so, neener neener.  And because I have these moments I naturally assumed that snow bunny mom would cede to defeat and bring her self home and try again another day since it was forcasted to storm and snow and blow and be generally unpleasant all weekend.  Well what on earth was I smoking?  Snow bunny mom returned to the roadways in the a.m. and proceeded up the highway to the snug get away in the snow.  Really?   And immediately got herself snowed in with no way home till Monday at the earliest.   Good job she had such valuable and reliable and flexible help at home wasn't it?  You betcha.

While it was snowing and blowing in the mountains, it was raining and blowing in the flat lands.  And while the chill factor was negligible to the Sierras, wet and cold is still objectionable.   And after that huge build up, that is the worst that happened to me all weekend.    Except for the part when I took myself off to Santa Rosa to visit REI, and then off to Petaluma to visit Shirley.  And all that was good fun and I didn't get lost or anything except for trying to out guess my phone navigation system and earned an impressive 95% fail rate of being in the correct lane for turning one way or the other.   Fizzle.  At any rate, I did manage to find my way to both sites I planned to visit.  Then I programmed the phone navigation system to take me back from whence I came.  Demons live in the nav. system of my inappropriately named "Ally".  As I was saying it was storming and there were even jerkism drivers here as well, and I blindly followed the little voice in my phone through roads I never knew existed through areas that should have been closed to traffic and in a hair raising hour later I found my way back to casa drenched and in a bit of a foul temper.  Just a bit.

I took my withered self down to the barn to clean up the messes the horses had made in their rooms and trudged through the much and mire to dump their messes in the pile outside which meant getting wet and thoroughly disgruntled.  Then I fed their greedy, self involved selves their evening nosh, put their jammies on and bid them goodnight.  huffily. 

On the up side Steve had made his appearance at Casa snow bunny, and we went off to the local pub for burgers and vodka.  The local pub is everything you could hope for in a local watering hole.  Lot's of locals, generous drinkies and good food.  They even had the little hooks on the underside of the bar top from which you can hang your coat or purse and settle in for a long evening of imbibery and a viewing of local color.  It was a perfect ending to a bleak and dreary day.

Sunday morning came a little too early for my liking.  And a barn full of messy horse stalls and messy, hungry, restless horses awaited my attention.   Some days you think you will never get everything done.  You work and work and still there are more things to do.  This was one of those days.  To make it worse the wall clock in the barn is impossible to reset to accomodate the time change we experienced a week ago (Hallelujah Brothers) so I just couldn't sort it out in my mind and I kept thinking I was getting a lot done since I'd left the house at 7: 30 by the clock on the microwave,  which had been reset, and then arrived at the barn and milled around doing stuff for what seemed like hours and hours untill I glanced at the clock and saw that only one hour had passed since I left the house.  And so I fooled myself into thinking that I was really setting a blistering pace until at last I was done and realized the barn clock time was an hour behind the real time and in fact I was slower than molasses.  In my defense I did get all the horses turned out in rotation so they could soak up some rain intermixed with inextricable moments of blinding sun.  And even rain in the sun and it was mystical and surreal.  And what ever.  I limped back up to the house after the morning exertions and collapsed on the couch with the Jack Russells and yes, the Great Dane and everyone muscled each other around to gain the prime nesting spot on the sofa and settled in for a much needed spot of nap.  Well the Great Dane didn't get the couch because she is the size of the couch, but she paced endlessly back and forth swabbing my face with her tongue on each pass to assure that I didn't actually reach nirvana and so it went for a good long time.

I  arose after my face had been thoroughly drenched, and in the audience of the caged rat took a shower and prepared myself to go on another outing since there were now periods of bright sun interspersed with some rain, but nothing like the day before.  My mission was to find a wheel for the rat.  The rat is named Jerry.  It is gray and has a white spot on its tummy and is pretty cute for a rat.  I don't mind rats and mice if they aren't trying to scare the ever living life out of you by doing the rodent leap at your person from a dark corner.  So anyway the rat didn't have wheel and I just can't get my head around the fact that caged rats should have a cardio wheel so there you are.  And I found myself back in Petaluma looking for a pet store that was open on Sunday and had a rat department.  And I was successful and I ignored the voice in my phone and made my way back to the rancho without any drama.  If I could have managed a happy dance, then this would have indeed been the time to perform it.

I'll spare you the drudgery of evening chores, but they were performed in a satisfactory time and manner.  And I was able to go off to the local market for an opportunity to select a nourishing repast from the deli, went back up to the house and settled in for an evening with David Tutera on "My Fair Wedding".  And since the snow bunny was snowed in I turned the heat way up to 62 degrees and  curled up under a load of blankets and dogs and zoned the evening away.

Monday morning Gil arrived to clean the stalls and I fed the horses and escaped to the house after that and drank coffee and surfed the internet till I felt I could face the day.  I went back to the barn and lunged some horses and ponies and turned others out, and talked to snow bunny on the phone and ascertained that she was going to come home at last and she did and we had a good ole time recounting our various adventures and generally had a good time especially since the farrier came (a different one from the one before if you are a faithful reader) and we played who do you know for awhile and examined some horse feet and hemmed and hawed for a time.  Later a child came over to take a lesson on the pony I had lunged and bathed earlier in the day.  And finally all the chores were done, and the mother and I went back to the house and had a "Hot Apple Pie" concoction which contains hot apple cider and Tuaca.   A few of  those will do some  real damage should you be so inclined to drink too many.  I resisted temptation to drink myself senseless and drove home to Steve and a little din din at the local Taqueria and that was that.

Snow Bunny mom turns back into Horse Show Mom next Wednesday, and I shall make my way back to casa costa lotta for another few days of horse stuff, but Gil will be there to do the stalls, because I haven't really improved my stall cleaning times, that will be a good thing.  And we'll just carry on from there.  And if anything interesting happens I will regale you with tales of the stay.

Squidgy may have another house/horse sitting gig in the works.  This too may provide fodder for blogging, so stay tuned for more adventures.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Squidgy gets another job...unbelievable.

The ski bound mother of several episodes ago called and requested my help at her place whilst she took herself off to Twin Rivers in central California for a horse trials.  With her were going the offspring she whelped and two of the now three ponies currently in residence.  Because there was now no cat, the danger of any animals finding themselves in mortal peril seemed to be Nil.  I'll stop right here at firmly state, that 1. I didn't kill the cat and 2.  Nothing died that shouldn't have. 

So the "now renamed horse show mother" requested my appearance the night before she planned to leave so she could get me up to speed with the news that there would be four horses and one pony that needed my attention.  Two of those horses required actual hand walking and care.  One of them had colicked earlier that week, and prior to that had managed to damage itself from being alone and tried to jump some unattainable height over a fence in a pasture not meant for jumping and had a litany of injuries and maladies that will bore you stupid and it doesn't matter anyway.  The other one was recovering from a bad tendon and had realized that he was on the mend and the danger of having to go back to work was imminent so he managed to incubate an abscess in his right front foot.  The abscess info. will just have to wait for a time when I can give it the spot light it deserves.  Just know that they are crippling, involve farriers and vets and $$ and a really unreasonable amount of care and time.

Lemme tell you something.  Hand walking horses is not that much fun.  God invented Euro-cisers for a reason and that reason is that horses have very little regard for the insignificant human gamely holding on the rope which is attached to a head collar which is meant to give the illusion of control when handling horses.  Allow me to state, categorically, that if a horse decides to be afraid, has a tantrum, insists on a different direction at a different and much accelerated speed you have no chance at all of maintaining any control at all.  Period.  Now you can employ the use of chains and all the other devices meant to give you the upper hand, but should the notion cross the mind of a beast weighing over a thousand pounds and said beast has the brain the size of a walnut...well just accept you are toast.  Anyway.  While the reasons for hand walking are many, for our purposes, the horses needed hand walking because (wait for it) that was the only exercise they were allowed!  Imagine the possibilities.  For perspective, imagine you have spent months and months and months getting yourself in shape; you have worked out for hours a day - every day and you have muscles rippling and your coat is shiny and you can have all the food you want as long as it's what ever the current fad is for feeding and you are full of energy and are raring to go.  Then let's imagine that you sprain your ankle, or your hamstring, or quad or something that makes you limp.  Suddenly you locked in a 12 x 12 stall with no activity at all except for twice a day when some idiot shows up to take you for walkies.  um um um  Using your human imagination visualize a kite on a string or a run away train...you get the idea.  So anyway as I was saying hand walking = no bueno.   And yours truly had not one but two to contend with. 

Now that I've regaled you with what can happen let me just pop the bubble and tell you that both horses were pretty good and marched around the arena with me 500 times each twice a day and the worst that happened was when the Great Dane involved herself in the walkies and encouraged the bad jumper to just move along a little more vigorously by jumping up and down and snapping at the heels.  Really such rudeness.  The Great Dane then was locked in a stall.  Bad dog.  Sorry but that's about it for the walkies bit of the weekend.

Two more horses...One had just been racing her little heart out at a track in southern California only the previous week and needed some "down" time.  Racehorses are made fit to race others of its kind for many furlongs and trained to come out in first.  And this involves a lot of speed work and high energy feed and little else.  So when a race horse is through racing, it needs a little time or a lifetime to unwind.  Essentially it needs to learn that it won't have to run like mad every time it comes out of it's stall and that it can learn another job.  So it just has to chill.  Part of that regime may include being turned out.  You know all those pastures of emerald green with miles and miles of board fencing and all the mares and babies that are turned out together to romp and gambol?  Fantasy.  Well for the most part.  I've seen those fields and they are in Kentucky.  And they belong to Sheiks and stuff.  Anyway your new off the track thoroughbred (OTTTB) will likely not have seen a pasture since it was a yearling because it will have been in training to run and run and run. And when it is not running it is standing in a stall.  And it may be slightly crazy.  So now you have this horse and you turn it out and it goes nuts.  If it doesn't damage itself, it will scare the ever living daylights out of you if you go anywhere near it.  It will run and buck and rear and spin and charge and generally make an ass out of itself, but it still out weighs you and it still has a teeny tiny brain so you have to be mindful of these things and hope someday it will tire and you can put it in a stall until the next time.  Happily this new horse did none of those things and just calmly walked out, waited while I took the halter off and politely walked away and then rolled in the mud.  Sweet little thing.

The last horse belonged to the horse show mother.  And he too was off the track, but was a little further along in his rehab. and could be ridden and worked on the lunge line.  But he had some little quirks like biting and kicking and weaving.  Weaving you say?  Like with a loom and what not?  No, I say, not like that at all.  More like dancing.  But usually only with the front legs.  So the horse stands and then begins to shift his weight from one front leg to the other in a rhythm.  The really good ones cross their legs and never break the tempo.  It's annoying.  So anyway this horse had all those fun traits, but I like him anyway and since my fitness isn't what I'd like it to be yet, I opted to lunge him.  His name is Kilo.  He's gray.   Lunging.  So you put some sort of a device be it a halter or a bridle on the horse (a bridle is what I used)  then you  thread a long rope through the rings of the bit over the head and attach it to the other side of the bit with a snap.  I also used a surcingle which is a strap which goes on the back and buckles like a girth.  It has lots of rings and doo dads on it that you can attach stuff to that also attaches to the bit or what ever and give you slightly more control and makes the horse work in a frame that you'd like to adopt whilst you are riding.  So then you, the horse and this load of equipment will  make your way to the lunging area and the horse will go around in circles with you in the middle holding on the of the rope.  You will ask the horse to walk, trot and canter for hours and hours, or so it will seem while you dizzy yourself in the middle.  And that's about it.  Of course being a horse the opportunity will present itself to misbehave and kicking out a you, turning in on you and just plain breaking away from you will occur.  Not too much you can do about that except constant vigilance.

And finally we have the pony.  Ponies are smaller that horses, no surprise there.  This also means they need smaller girths, bridles and the like.  But most of all if you plan to ride one it is a good idea to have a bridle and a girth that fit so you don't endanger yourself any more than necessary.  Happily the pony in question had a bridle.  Not so happily there wasn't a girth in the joint that was small enough for it.  So what I had to do was put about 400 saddle pads under the saddle and find the shortest girth I could and then cautiously hop on board and balance like I was walking on a mattress.   So you may think that riding is just sitting while you are taken for a ride.  Well the taken for a ride bit is true, but there is a bit of motion too.  And while I was perched on top of 400 saddle pads, the saddle itself was just not tight enough to minimize the sway.    So I tried to stay in the middle, stayed on and the pony was exercised and I dropped my cell phone somewhere in the process and the event was over...for the day.  And that was Thursday and I repeated all the above for the next two days.  And it was good.  And I got paid.  And I didn't kill anything, or lose anything. 

Friday night I went to dinner with horse show moms parents.  It's so rewarding to spend a couple hours with your friends parents.  You get a lot of ammunition for one thing and then you get a lot of insight as well.  Lemme tell you something horse show mom, I know things you don't even want me to know now.  What a heady feeling of power.