Monday, July 11, 2011

Been awhile

I haven't blogged for awhile, but now that my wife is back from touring the world, I have a little spare time so here is an update on what's been going on with Flash and me.

In mid April, Annette and I and Flash went to the Alisal guest ranch in Solvang, California.  Annette's horse, Jackson, couldn't make it because he was still off, so he stayed home.  After the 4 hour trip up to Alisal, Flash settled right in amongst the wrangler horses and the cattle.  The next day was our first ride for Flash.  I was expecting a private ride because they don't want to mix their herd with an outside horse which is understandable.  I was shocked and a little nervous when the wranglers put Flash in right behind them, with Annette and about 5 guests behind us.  The last time a private horse was allowed to ride at the ranch with other guests was over 10 years ago, and it was apparently a disaster.  People say their horses can cross water, be around cattle, deal with wildlife,etc., buy it never turns out that way.

Well, we started out and after 100' we had to cross a large stream.  Flash negotiated it without a problem.  He was fine at the walk and trot, but when it came to the first lope, Flash got very excited.  He wants to be first, and I had a hard time keeping him from running over the wrangler's horse.  The wrangler was good though, and realized Flash wanted to lead so he let us, telling us where to turn and when to trot and when to lope.  Flash was really, really happy.  We even came to a bridge crossing a damn, and the wrangler wanted to go first, but his horse balked, so Flash led the way.

The next day we encountered cattle on the trail.  I had no idea how Flash would do, but he was in the lead and trotted right thru them.  At one point, two of the cows tried to get by on the right and I moved Flash over.  He went on auto pilot, and cut and herded the cows away from the other guests and off the trail.  He loved herding cattle up there; after each time he would come back to the group, head lowered, ears forward, licking his lips.  Now he has me looking for cutting clinics along with everything else.  Riding Flash at the Alisal was a "bucket list" thing, and it far exceeded even my best expectations.

While Annette was traveling in France, I signed up Flash for another sensory/parade clinic in San Diego with the same instructor that Annette and I had gone to several months ago, (see "Where is Jackson?").  This time he was a totally different horse.  He had a slight melt down just before the lunch break when another horse next to him went on a bucking spree and almost hit him, but after doing three rodeo 360's, he came back under control and we went to eat.  Part of the problem was that Flash was used by the instructor as the "demo horse", and was always put next to "problem horses" during the parade/formation riding.  The same thing happens when we go to our posse trainings, and both Flash and I get a little tired of being the "model".

After the lunch break it was back in the arena for the sensory portion.  While one of the instructors demonstrated each obstacle on her horse, (he refused to do 3 of the obstacles), Flash decided to take a nap.  He lowered his head with me on him, closed his eyes and went to sleep.  After the 15 minute demo, the course was open for everyone to try the obstacles with one exception: the Chinese kite on the ground with glitter and long tails flowing in the breeze was just there to walk by, nothing else.  As we broke up, none of the horses would come within 15' of the kite, but Flash walked right over to it, put his head down, and picked it up in his mouth.  I had to make him drop it as he was scaring the other horses.  He basically was sleep walking through every obstacle.  Not one of them even bothered him, and not once did he ask, "where is Jackson"?  At one point, the instructors put long pillow type cases over their bodies, covering their heads, with long sleeves sewn in so they looked like dancing pillow cases with arms.  Most of the horses got within 8', but no closer.  Flash on the other hand, walked right behind one of them and pushed them with his nose.  Scared the instructor who turned around and tried to spook Flash by flapping her arms and wrapping them around his neck.  He just stood there and said "whatever".  He redeemed himself from the last clinic.

On July 2nd, we had a posse deployment at a local park, (approximately 200 acres), where a fireworks show was scheduled in the evening.  There were over 6,000 spectators and "easy-ups" everywhere.  Every time we would stop, 30 to 40 kids would run up to the horses, kicking beach balls, waving flags, and screaming.  All of the horses were good and let the kids pet their faces.  Flash doesn't like his face being pet, but he tolerated it to some extent.  After a few minutes he would move his head away to avoid all the kid contact.  At one point, two of the other horses were starting to act up and get antsy, so the Captain asked me to take them for a walk until they calmed down.  I thought, "here we go again", being the model horse.  Well, the three of us rode over to the far side of the park where we came upon a group of developmentally challenged kids and young adults.  The group leader approached me and asked if she could have a couple of the kids take pictures next to Flash.  I said yes, and the next thing I knew, she was pushing a wheel chair bound young adult right up to Flash and spun the wheel chair around right next to his front legs.  Flash didn't even flinch, and where earlier he got tired of the kids touching his face and moved his head away, this time he lowered his head and put it on the shoulder of the young adult.  I think horses just know a lot more than we give them credit for.

The day ended fine, and when the fireworks show started in the evening, all of the horses did great.  Well, I promise to blog with a little more regularity.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Just another day for Flash

Today was posse deployment for Flash and me.  After his sensory experience in San Diego two weeks ago, where he had to be next to Jackson all the time, I wasn't sure how he would be.  I decided before we left that I wouldn't worry about leaving at a certain time, finding a place to park, getting him tacked up in the posse gear, or all the sensory he would be exposed to.  If it wasn't so early in the morning, (leaving at 0700), I would have had a glass of wine first.  The bottom line was that I was relaxed and guess what?  So was Flash.

The deployment today was at a regional park in Chino, California.  Every year at this time, Civil War buffs do a reenactment of famous battles fought during the Civil War.  These reenactments are held at various times throughout the US.  Those participating really get authentic with the dress, way of life, living style etc. of the 1860's.  There are Union camps and Southern camps, horses on picket lines, army tents from the period, farriers with old forges, and soldiers that look as if they actually fought in the Civil War.  There was even one person there that looked exactly like "Buffalo Bill".  Along with this are about 500 Boy Scouts camping in tents for the weekend waiting for their "history lesson".  And spectators, maybe 2,000.  Mothers with baby strollers and umbrellas, dogs on and off leashes, ATV's racing around, airplanes flying overhead, and kids, hundreds of kids; all with cap guns or rifles, running along side of the horses shooting at them.  Oh, did I mention all the vendors?  Period flags being sold everywhere, food stands, "easy ups" every 10 feet, people trams driving back and forth, music on loud speakers playing "When Johnny comes marching home".  Also the marching drums of the Union soldiers as we rode by were somewhat distracting.

There was 9 of us today from the posse.  We split into two groups, or so we tried.  When the first group of 5 left to go one direction, the second group of 4, (which was my group), were supposed to go the other direction.  Flash and Scout were the lead horses, but Scout was not too brave today.  Scout insisted on going with the other horses, and it wasn't until Flash took command and went the other direction that Scout decided to join.  The only time Flash spooked was when the door of a motor home that we were walking by flew open, and a miniature dog jumped out.  Flash just planted his feet and I laughed at him, told him he was a bad dance partner.

All the horses did really well.  The main sensory event was when the reenactment of the battle took place in a large grass field, (approximately 3 acres).  There were about 12 replica cannon from the period, all of which were firing VERY loud blanks that literally shook the earth when they were set off.  There were about 75 Union soldiers backed with a cavalry unit of 6 horses, and about 45 "Rebs".  Our posse group was right next to the battlefield, about 75' from the large cannons.  The "battle" lasted about an hour with hundreds of musket rounds, (blanks), being fired by the foot soldiers, several cavalry charges with the horses, and about 80 to 100 discharges of the cannon.  Smoke hung heavy in the air and the South was finally driven back.  The entire battle took place right in front of our horses.  We stood in a line on our horses for over an hour, and not once did any of the horses even flinch.  Pretty impressive I thought.

It was a very good day for Flash and the posse in general.  Absolutely nothing bothered him, other than the motor home dog.  And not once did he ask, "where is Jackson"?  Just a typical 8 hour day; but we were both glad to get home, me to my wine, and Flash to his herd.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Where's Jackson?

Flash and I had three outings in a row two weekends ago; all between rain storms.  In a way it was like three day eventing, only difference being it was  in Flash's and my world.

Day #1 was on Friday when I fed Flash at 0530 and left with him in the trailer at 0645 for a 4 hour trail ride in a nature preserve in Irvine Ranch.  There was a total of 10 horses, none of which Flash knew.  He was very good and didn't care if he was in front, in the middle or in the back.  The only time he expressed his opinion about anything was when we stopped to open a locked gate and had to wait for the docent to unlock it.  He thinks that stopping means turn around and head back.  We discussed it over a sharp slap of the reins on his haunches, and he decided it was best to go forward.  On the way back the group walked on a concrete road which went over a swift creek running about 60' wide and 18" deep.  I decided to take Flash off the road and down the embankment to cross thru the water instead.  There was no hesitation in leaving the other horses.  We went down the embankment and he walked right into the water.  There were 3 large pipes about 2' in diameter which the creek flowed through under the road.  Flash walked right up to them, checked them out, and continued walking over the boulder strewn creek bed and out the other side.  Good boy.  We got home just before the first rain storm hit.

Day #2 was Saturday.  Up and feeding at 0500 and leaving at 0600 for a posse training day in Chino.  The training was "emergency care for a horse" put on by an outstanding vet.  It was 4 hours in the classroom, a break for lunch, and 4 more hours of hands on training.  The vet wanted 6 "demo" horses for the group to practice on, and Flash volunteered to be one of them.  Good boy.  I put him in a strange stall surrounded by strange horses during the classroom portion, and he didn't even blink.  The hands on part consisted of using hoof testers, wrapping bandages, pulse and respiration check, gut sounds for colic with a stethoscope, dental check in the mouth, and of course the old favorite, temperature taking.  Flash just stood there while he was wrapped and unwrapped, had his gums checked, was twitched, and had a thermometer placed up his rectum numerous times.  I think he even liked it because he was "dropped down" most of the time.  Typical gelding.  One good thing was that the vet checked his dental work and was really impressed with the doctor who had done the work several months ago.  We finished the day at 1600 hours and got home at 1730 just in time for dinner.  The entire day was spent dodging rain drops.

Day #3 was Sunday.  Day of rest?  Not for Flash and I.  Up and feeding at 0430 and this time leaving with both Flash and Jackson at 0600.  We were out the gate and down the block when Jackson remembered that we had forgot Annette.  Back to the house, picked up Annette and her coffee, then off to San Diego, (2 hour drive), for a sensory clinic before the next rain storm.  When we got there and took the horses out of the trailer, I could tell that Flash was a little hyped up.  He normally excels with in these clinics, but today was different.  Things were ok until the group of about 15 horses in the arena had to trot down the rail about two horse lengths apart.  Jackson doesn't do well in an arena setting with other horses, so his trot became VERY extended.  Annette maneuvered Jackson to the inside and began passing other horses.  This upset Flash and he kept asking, "where is Jackson going"?  I kept holding Flash back until we were cantering in place, both of us getting upset with each other.

We then lined up in columns of two to march into the other arena where the obstacles were set up.  Annette and I were the leaders or the "guide".  Jackson didn't like being stirrup to stirrup and kept moving away.  "Where's Jackson going?" asked Flash. " Don't worry, you know how to do this", I said.  But worry he did.  When we got to the other arena and started doing obstacles, Jackson took the imitative and went first.  Flash became more upset when Jackson was leaving before him.  At the obstacles Jackson was really good , this being his first time.  He would study and diagram them, then formulate a plan of attack, reconsider and evaluate, then eventually go through, most of the time. Then he and Annette would leave for the next obstacle and Flash and I would be left behind.  Normally Flash would care less being the alpha horse of his herd, but today was different.  Soon as Jackson left it was "where's Jackson?" "He's right over there", now go through the obstacle.  ":No, I need to be near Jackson".  "No, go through the damn obstacle".  We played this scene over and over.  Flash eventually went through every obstacle the first time, never balking, but always asking, "where's Jackson?"  Other horses had trouble crossing through the tray of water or over the baby crib mattress or popping balloons.  Flash seemed to say, "alright, I'll go through, but where is Jackson?"  The only obstacle he didn't do was the pole on the barrel.  Flash has done this before several times with no problem, but not this day.  His only concern was "where is Jackson?"

It was not a good day for us.  I was upset with the way Flash acted, and Annette was upset with the way I was acting towards Flash.  She told me he was just having a bad day.  He's tired and this is the third day in a row for him she said.  All valid points, but I knew he could do better.  I just don't understand why he needed to be near Jackson.  It's always the other way around. Flash wasn't insecure, I don't know what his problem was.  If anybody out there has any ideas, please let me know.

Several days later I went down to Home Depot and bought two trash cans and a 10' long PVC pole to practice the barrel thing with.  I set it up in our arena, tacked up Flash and got on him.  He walked right over to the pole on the trash cans, sniffed it, then knocked it off the cans with his nose.  I got off, put the pole back up, got back on Flash and approached the pole.  Flash just stood there calmly while I picked up the pole.  Then we walked in a big circle around the trash can with the pole on top three or four times, just using my legs to turn him.  We changed directions while holding onto the pole and did it four times the other way.  Never once did Flash ask, "where is Jackson?"

Funny horse, full of compost.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Happy Birthday Mom!!!!!!!!

Happy Birthday Mom.  This is my card to you, but I had to have Pops help me write it.  When I use my hoofs on the keyboard, it doesn't work too well.  I wasn't sure what to get you, so I talked with Flash and Kalvin and they had a great idea.  They both said I needed more practice on obstacles, and the one they suggested was that pole on top of a barrel.  I told Pops he could ride me someday in a mounted patrol event if he could run to Home Depot and pick up a pole and something to put it on.  I thought maybe trash cans turned upside down would work.  Barn green to match the property, yes?

Anyway, here's my birthday gift to you.  I love you Mom.


Mom's birthday gift from me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The bridge to nowhere

I spent all day Sunday building a bridge.  Annette calls it the bridge to nowhere.  Here's how it all began.
The bridge to nowhere.

Six years ago Flash and I decided we wanted to join a mounted patrol group.  Well, Flash was young at the time, so me, being his guardian, decided that we should join a posse or mounted patrol unit.  I looked and researched several different posses and it came down to two choices, Riverside County Sheriff or Chino PD.  Both had tests for the rider and mount in order to be accepted in the posse.  One of the tests was for the horse to be able to walk calmly across a 4' wide bridge 8' long.  I wasn't sure Flash could do it, so I set about building a wooden bridge with left over wood we had from when we built our house.  I built this bridge in front of Flash's stall while he watched me.  I used a nail gun, threw lumber around, yelled a bit, all the while Flash was watching me.  He wasn't scared, just curious.  I wasn't sure how he would react once I asked him to cross the bridge; but I figured it would take several hours of training to get him to walk across.

When I finished the bridge, I used my tractor to haul it out to the arena.  I tacked up Flash and walked him out to the arena, and while I was closing the gate, Flash walked over to the bridge and started to chew on it.  My plan was to walk him across the bridge until he felt comfortable, (it might take an hour or so), then I would get on and ride him across the bridge.  I figured this could take several hours.  He walked across twice, then walked backwards across the bridge.  Four minutes had gone by.  I got on him and he walked across the first time , no problem.  I had spent several hours building this sensory device, wondering if Flash could handle it.  After 5 minutes we were done.  That was the last sensory device I spent time building.

I kept the bridge next to the arena.  Why I don't know.  I couldn't just throw it away, I had spent a lot of energy building it.  I used it several more times for training.  Once I put old tires underneath it so it would be unstable when Flash walked across.  No problem, he thought it was an amusement ride of some type.

Flash forward to Sunday.

I decided to move my bridge next to the pasture over a natural water course which runs through our property.  With the tractor it didn't take long.  The bridge is built on two 4x4's with 2x12 boards on top.  Pretty simple.  One end of the bridge went into the slope below the arena, while the other end was raised up on two concrete blocks.  Why does that matter asked Annette?  Because it has to be level.  Women, sometimes they ask to many questions.  Flash and Jackson watched; they both understood.  It didn't take long to level the bridge.  When I finished I decided to give it a test and got Flash out.  He walked right over it with no problem.  When I put Flash back in the arena, Jackson tried to push his way out through the gate.  I yelled at him and asked him what he was doing.  "I want to cross the bridge too Dad".  Alright.  I put a halter on Jackson and led him to the bridge.  He started to walk across when all of a sudden one of the 4x4's split in half.  Jackson finished crossing the bridge, but I thought "Oh shit, do he get cut or hurt himself"?  After all, I had done this without Annette's permission.  Jackson was ok, but my nerves were shot.  I told Annette later what had happened.  "Don't worry dear" she said, "the couch in the barn is clean, you can sleep there tonight".

The next day I went down to Home Depot early and bought supplies for a new bridge.  This one is done right, with 4x4 posts sunk in the ground with concrete and 5 2x6's running length wise for support, braced every 12" with 2x6 blocks.  The top is 2x12's, 40" long.  Today was test day.  Both Flash and Jackson went across, no problems.  Neither horse was scared, and no more compost was made.  That was enough for today.
The new bridge.
Flash checking out the load bearing capacity.
It held us both.
I'm done Dad, it's time to eat .

The bridge still goes nowhere, but I have plans to add steps up the side of the hill to the viewing stand.  I wonder, can I get the horses to stand on the raised viewing stand?  Better wait until Annette is in a really good mood or intoxicated on wine.  I can't seem to get "horse challenges" out of my mind.

His foot is fine.

I haven't blogged for awhile because I've been busy working, both at home and my part-time job.  I've had several inquires on how Flash is doing so I guess it's time to update and turnover my "compost pile".

Flash is doing fine.  We missed one dressage lesson two weeks ago because we thought he may have an abscess.  He was having trouble putting weight on his right front foot and couldn't trot at all.  I took Annette and Jackson up to the lesson, and when we came back, Flash was at the pasture gate, ticked off that he couldn't go.  When Annette put Jackson away in the pasture, Flash chased him around for five minutes, letting Jackson know that he is not supposed to leave without Flash's permission.  His foot seemed fine then.  Flash was definitely upset; either because he couldn't go, or the fact that Jackson was in Flash's "stall" at the front of the trailer.  Maybe both.

I worked the next day, (Sunday), and when I came home I decided to longe Flash and see how he was.  Well, I haven't longed Flash for at least 6 years because there wasn't a need to.  He used to be wild when I first got him and had to longe him before I got on.  There were several occasions when he tried to drag me around the arena.  On this day he started out fine at a walk for 30 seconds, then decided to trot half a circle and then go into a canter.  When I told him he was on the wrong lead, he bucked, farted, picked up the correct lead and took off .  I held on because I knew he wanted to have a tug of war.  I was right, but was ready this time.  After a few more bucks he went into a nice canter.  We then changed directions and he was a good boy.  After 5 minutes we stopped.  Flash was still snorting, ready to go, so I walked up to him and asked him if he just wanted to run around the arena.  He just looked at me and said, "what do you think?"  I took off his halter and said "go".  He turned as he "flew out of sight", a twinkle in his blue eyes, full of delight.  We played "chase" games in the arena for the next 15 minutes.  He would run and I would chase him down the rail.  If I got closer than ten feet he would shift gears and leave me in the dust.  When he got to the corner, Flash would turn and prance towards me.  When he got close he would say "haha" and take off again.  After the 15 minutes, I walked over and picked up the halter, and Flash came right over to me.  I put the halter on and asked if he was done.  Flash nodded his head yes, and said "thank you".  His foot was fine.  No sign of an abscess.  I think he just tweaked something.

This last Saturday both Annette and I took a lesson.  Flash was really good.  I wasn't sure what to expect since I had only ridden him once the past week.  The lesson was hard as usual, 50 minutes of NON-STOP trot and canter in both directions.  Gayle, our trainer, asked if I wanted a break half way through.  Me, being macho, said no, I was alright.  I didn't want to tell her that my thighs were killing me and my right calf was cramping.  That's not to mention I couldn't close my fingers because of the arthritis in my hands.  I just grit my teeth until my crowns fell out.  Look how tough I am. Not.  Flash felt it too.  Near the end he started to transition down to trot from canter without permission because he was getting really tired.  He was good though, and when I asked, he immediately went back into canter.  I've never seen Flash so happy to see Jackson when Annette and he walked into the arena for their lesson.  Yes, Flash's foot is fine.

This next week will be an interesting one for Flash, if the weather holds and it is not rainy.  On Friday Flash and I are going on a 4 hour trail ride with a group from Irvine, (limited to 10 horses).  It goes through the hills of Irvine Ranch, following an old Wells Fargo stage coach route.  On Saturday it's up and leaving the barn at 0600 for posse training all day, (emergency medical aid for horses), put on by a local vet.  She wants 8 horses to stand still for three hours while we practice bandaging.  We'll see.  On Sunday it's up again early for a 2 hour drive to San Diego with both Flash and Jackson for an all day sensory clinic.  Not only do I have to get up at 5 to feed the horses, I need to run back and forth to the house every 10 minutes to slowly wake up Annette.  She did promise me she would go to the clinic, but I think she is secretly praying for rain so it will be cancelled.  It's not that she doesn't want to do the clinic, she just doesn't do well getting up early.  It's a process, but she's getting better.

I'm looking forward to the clinic because that is what Flash and I really like.  Tarps over his head. walking under a parachute while other horses hold it up, walking over mattresses, crossing over a teeter totter, going thru a "car wash", dragging a trash bag full of cans, shooting a paint ball gun off his back, pushing the "battle ball" around, smoke bombs of all colors, fire crackers, popping balloons, and his best friend "air man".  This and more.  I'm also interested to see how Jackson does; though I suspect he will do fine.  He has a really good head.  I went to this clinic 3 years ago and it was great.  In the afternoon there was a contest, voluntary only.  It was a timed event going thru 4 obstacles.  You could trot or canter between obstacles, but had to walk thru the obstacle itself.  The first obstacle was a "trash pit", just like it sounds.  The second was walking up to a bunch of balloons and popping three of them.  The third was the "car wash", (walking thru streamers of various sorts attached to an overhead frame).  The last was walking across a king size mattress, then back to the start as fast as you want.  This, by the way, is staying on and with your horse the whole time.  Most riders completed the course in 3 or 4 minutes; some a little faster, some a little slower.  Flash, well he is just a tad bit competitive; somewhat like his owner.  We finished the course at a full gallop, scattering instructors everywhere,  Our time; 29 seconds. 

I sure hope it doesn't rain.  It makes my compost too soggy.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A long week

This past week has been really long.  After spending 5 days in Coeur d'alene, Idaho watching my 8 year old grand daughter compete in a big gymnastics meet, I flew home on Monday to nice weather.  It was fun watching my grand daughter compete, but it was 5 long days driving back and forth from the hotel to the meet in ice and snow with a rental car.  I have a real appreciation for all you bloggers  who live in those conditions.  I don't think I could do that.  I got up at 4 in the morning to drive back to Spokane, Wa. on Monday, caught a 7:45 flight back to Ontario, Ca., then drove home in time to feed the horses Monday evening.  When I turned onto our street, I saw Flash standing in the middle of the pasture.  When he heard my car he looked up, which he sometimes does.  However, this time he looked at me and trotted over to the fence.  I stopped and got out of the car and walked over to the fence.  Flash put his head half way over and let me give him a kiss.  The first time he's ever done that.  I guess he's getting sentimental in his old age, (he turns 15 in two months).

Tuesday it was back to work at 5 in the morning.  Luckily it was the only day I worked this week.  On Wednesday I rode Flash in the morning and he was really good.  It had been a week since I last rode him, but he was bent and forward, at least forward for him, and all our canter transitions were on the correct lead each time.  We worked hard for 45 minutes, and when we finished we were both tired but happy. Annette wasn't feeling well and was coming down with a bad cold or the flu, so she stayed in the house.  I came in around 2 PM to check on her, and she was sound asleep on the couch, curled up in a little ball with blankets around her.  She never does that so I know she was hurting.  I started a fire for her in the fireplace and then went back outside to trim trees.  At 5 I fed all the animals and came back up to the house.  Annette was feeling a little better, but still weak.

On Thursday I thought I would ride Flash again, getting him ready for our dressage lesson on Saturday.  I tacked him up and walked to the arena, but when I got on him I could tell he was off.  I'm not very good at knowing when a horse is off, but this time I could tell that he had trouble putting weight on his right front leg.  We walked for about 10 minutes and he seemed a little better, so I asked him to trot.  He could barely move.  Flash is very stoic, but I could tell he was in pain.

I asked Annette, (my own on-site vet), if she could take a look at him.  She came down from the house and after he took two steps she told me to get off.  She checked his right front leg and the tendons were fine and there was no heat.  I iced both front legs, (which he wasn't sure about), gave him some bute and put him away.  That evening I had a posse meeting, so Annette fed the animals.  She checked Flash and felt a little warmth in his coronary band.  She called me and said she thought he probably had an abscess in his right foot, and that tomorrow morning we should soak it in epson salt and warm water.  I then remembered that about 4 months ago our farrier found the remnants of an abscess in one of Flash's front feet under the shoe.

When I got home from my meeting, Annette and I discussed how Flash may have gotten an abscess.  His turnout area next to his stall is 12' x 24', but near the entrance to his stall, the soil is very muddy when it rains.  I put wood pellets down to absorb the water and urine, but over the years it has turned to muck when it gets wet.  It's so bad that when you step in it, your boot comes off trying to get out.  It's no wonder he hasn't pulled a shoe going in and out of his stall.  When the barn was finished, I didn't spend a lot of time preparing the turnout areas because I didn't know what I was doing.  That was 8 years ago.  I guess now is the time to do it right.  I'm not sure if Flash even has an abscess, but it all makes sense; and what the heck, I have nothing else to do on Friday.

Of course Annette and I go to bed last night and I can't sleep because I start planning on how to fix Flash's turnout.  I keep asking her questions: What should I put down for a base?, What should go on top of the base?, Should I take down the gate panel to get my tractor in?,  How many yards of DG, (decomposed granite), do I need?, and so on.  Annette has all the answers, but doesn't want to share them with me because she wants to go to sleep.  What nerve.  So I stay awake until 2 AM planning tomorrow's job.

Up at 6:30, feed all the critters, and get to work.  First I soak Flash's foot.  He doesn't like it and gives me a hard time.  So Annette comes on scene.  Flash knows not to mess with her.  On with the boot and stand still and eat your hay for 25 minutes.  I keep him company and listen while he vents about Annette putting a sloshy boot on his foot.  Yeah buddy, I know the feeling.  Then it's out to the pasture with his herd, and I take down the gate panel and start digging out all the old "yuck".  There are huge holes next to the entrance of his stall.  Finally after 30 minutes I get down to the hard pack, and the area looks like craters on the moon.
I put all of the old stuff in the compost piles and put in two tractor loads of "blend", (a mixture of pea gravel and sand).  At first the horses didn't notice the gate panel down.  After the second load of blend I start to back up and there is Flash, supervising.  I almost run over him.  Then comes Jackson and the two donkeys.  The next thing  all of them are in a 12 x 12 stall, holding  an ad hoc meeting on whether or not I am a licensed contractor.  The heck with this.  I pull my tractor up to the entrance of the stall and out jumps Jackson like he is shot from a cannon.  He is followed by both donkeys.  Flash sticks his head out to see what the commotion is all about and decides it is time for his hydraulic snack on my tractor lines.  I finally get him out of the way, put the gate panel back up temporarily, hook up my dump trailer and head down the hill to pick up some DG.  On the way out Annette tells me that she has calculated that we need 3 cubic yards of DG.  She knows her math.

Extra DG for tomorrow's project.
Back home at 1:30 and I start to dump the trailer full of DG, but the battery on the dump trailer is dying.  The DG is wet and heavy, but I finally get it dumped after using a battery jumper.  Now I've learned from the morning session what happens when the gate panel is down, so I put all the horses and donkeys away in separate stalls.  Two hours of leveling and compacting, and Flash has a brand new turnout.  Me, I have sore shoulders and a very stiff back.  An all day project, but somebody is happy; I'm just not sure who.
Flash's renovated turnout.

As I stand bent over admiring my work, Annette shows up with two glasses of wine.  What a gal, one for me, and another one for me.  Flash, he must be feeling better.  He's racing Kalvin up and down the fence line between bites of hay.  We'll see how he is tomorrow morning.  He does have a choice; either a tough dressage lesson or rattlesnake avoidance training with the mounted posse.  But that's another story.
Flash eating with Kalvin.
My two glasses of wine.

Friday, February 18, 2011

She did it again.

I never write more than once every two days.  Now I find myself, intoxicated on a bottle of Pinot Noir, doing an up-dated blog in less than an hour.  I will now attempt to drink and write.
Very good Pinot

When I last blogged about an hour ago, I explained how my wife always surprises me.  Well, at dinner tonight, celebrating my ---birthday, she has cards and a gift for me to open.  The gift was the cowboy shirt which she had bought me earlier in the day.  I helped pick it out, but thank you dear.  Two cards, one from her parents, (who are very generous), and one from her.  I open her card, which is VERY generic, and inside is a piece of paper.  On the paper is a reservation for the Alisal Guest Ranch in Solvang, California.  Three nights.

Let me explain.  Go on "Google" and look up the "Alisal".  You'll see why I'm excited.  Annette and I went there about 7 years ago for her birthday.  It was fantastic.  At first glance it may seem expensive, but add in what you get for two people, and it's not bad.  Beautiful rooms or cottages with a fireplace, no TV, fantastic dinners and breakfast, (2) two hour horseback rides a day, (on really good horses), golf on your choice of 2 private courses, or tennis.  Alisal is a 10,000 acre working cattle ranch, one of the top-rated guest ranches in the world.  It's near the coast of Central California.  When we ride, we usually go in the advanced group, (because Annette is advanced and I just follow along).  Many times we have our own private wrangler, and we'll spend 2 hours loping across green hills, through herds of cattle, and totally off trail.  The scenery is unbelievable.  We will see new born deer, eagles, and mountain lion tracks.  We went 7 years in a row, but not last year because I had a knee replacement and was not riding.  We never like going back to the same place twice, but Alisal is different.  When I pull into the entrance, I totally relax.  Nestled among 200 year old sycamore trees, a creek and lush green grass, are cottages where people stay.  Across the driveway is a lush pasture where the owner's horse has two acres to himself.

The "head" wrangler is Tony, a true western "western" cowboy.  Tony has gotten to know us over the years, and because of Annette's riding ability, always assigns us horses that are special.  One year Annette was allowed to ride the owner's horse, Rusty, who even the other wranglers are not allowed to ride.  I got to ride Malcolm.  Malcolm could not be caught that day, and when Tony found out, he was ticked to say the least.  He "ordered" Malcolm to be brought in immediately.  Great, I get to ride the pissed off Malcolm.  It worked out alright.  One time Tony put me on "Wedge".   Wedge was a cross between a draft and a quarter horse, but was rarely ridden because even the wranglers didn't like him.  I spent the entire two hours keeping Wedge from loping and taking off with me.  By the end of the ride though, Wedge and I became friends and he even trusted me.  When we got back Tony smiled and asked how Wedge was.  I said he was a little bit of a handful.  Tony laughed and said, "Wedge has lope on the brain".  Tony and the wranglers are great though, and they do a fantastic job of matching rider with horse.

This year Annette didn't book our usual cottage.  She got us an upgrade on the creek.  Lord am I spoiled.  Also, she is trying to make one of my dreams come true.  I've never had a "bucket list", but if I did, it would be to ride Flash at the Alisal.  I asked Tony about this two years ago, and he said the policy was no, but that since he knew how well Annette rode, anytime we wanted to bring our horses we could, just let him know in advance.  We would have to pay for our own private ride though.  I would be in heaven with the three things I love; Annette, riding Flash, and the Alisal.  She's emailed Tony, just waiting for a response back.  I'll keep praying.

The bottle of wine is gone; the wind is howling, the rain is pelting, the dogs are yelping and the horse are, hopefully sleeping, dreaming of Alisal like me.  Thank you for the very special day Annette.  Enough compost for the night.

She's too good to me.

Today has been a really good day.  You see, it's my birthday, and Annette can't do enough for me.  She took me to breakfast after buying me dinner last night, bought me a nice cowboy shirt at the tack store, and then braved the cold weather and rain to go on a trail ride with me.  Now she's making a nice turkey soup which we'll have a nice wine with, then fresh apple-mountain berry crumb pie.  A perfect day for an old man.  Breakfast was good.  There's a chain called the "Original Pancake House", and they have old fashion classic waffles which I love.  It's hard to find them anywhere, most places just serve Belgian waffles.  The only two places where I have found them are the Pancake House and Harry's Cafe in La Jolla.

Annette's always been too good to me.  I admit I'm spoiled with her love and her cooking, (after all, that's all a guy wants), but she's always surprising me with her laughter, her wisdom and her compassion.  I would be totally lost without her.  She's the one that got me involved with horses and bought Flash for me.  I'll never forget that day.  It was in the evening and we drove by the barn where she had a horse boarded and where we both took lessons, (dressage lessons for her, horse mounting lessons for me).  As we drove by, we saw a new horse in one of the round pens.  Annette said we should stop and see the new horse and find out who the owner is.  Well, we walked in and there was this beautiful paint with blue eyes looking lost and confused.  Annette said maybe you should put a halter on him and put him in a stall, he might be more at ease.  I said that's a job for the owner, not me.  She said, "you are the owner", now go put your horse away.

Annette's always pulling surprises like that.  A few years ago I was complaining about having to unload my utility trailer full of dirt by hand.  I think I've unloaded that damn trailer by hand over a thousand times, back breaking work with a shovel.  I used to do masonry and concrete work on the side, but when I turned 59 and had to unload that trailer in 30 degree weather at 10 PM so a pool contractor could have the dirt by 6 the next morning, that did it.  I said a few choice words and vowed to buy myself a dump trailer.  Problem was I couldn't really justify it on my retirement salary.

Annette had heard and seen my frustration.  Christmas was just a week away and I put off all thoughts of any type of trailer.  Christmas morning came and we were opening gifts when Annette handed me a small box.  I opened it up and inside was a very small "match box" trailer.  Cruel joke I thought.  Then Annette said, "do you know what that is?"  I said "yes, but is it what I think it is?"  She said "you want a trailer, here's a check, go get a trailer.  Merry Christmas honey".  I bought myself a dump trailer December 26th.  It's the best Christmas gift I've ever had.  Annette's parents were here at the time.  I think they thought their daughter had lost her mind.
The best Christmas gift.

My wife is wonderful.  I can't say enough about how much I love her.  How she tolerates me I don't know.  Maybe it's my easy going demeanor; or maybe my patience and tolerance.  Or maybe it's the compost of all three.  Whatever the reason, I'm one LUCKY man.  I love you darling.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The weekend is near,

at least my weekend.  It's great to be semi-retired.  Right now I'm just working Monday and Tuesday day shift with basically no supervision.  That is until I get home.  Then I have too many supervisors; a wife, three horses, two donkeys, two dogs, three rabbits, a cat, and 11 chickens.  And they all have chores for me.  I love it though and wouldn't change it for anything.  Monday was a rough day.  I left for work at 0530 and didn't get home until 1900.  I had two search warrants to write and a victim that wanted them done two weeks ago.  Plus I had three supplemental reports to write for the Chief, so I was busy.  When I got to court in the late afternoon, the district attorney wanted me to add some additional information on one of the warrants.  He asked if I had a thumb drive.  I did, but was afraid to use it in front of him.  After all, I just found out what a thumb drive was 2 weeks ago, let alone trying to use it properly.  Remember, I'm old school and don't learn too fast.  Where was my wife when I needed her?  Probably washing Jackson's tail.  Well, at this point I was so nervous that my tail needed washing too.

Anyway, I fumbled my way through it, got the judge to sign it, filed it with the court, went back to the station, and faxed it to Yahoo.  I left for home, but the traffic was terrible.  When I got to the ranch it was dark.  As I drove up to the gate, I could hear the donkeys braying.  I parked the car and ran into the house to change into my barn clothes.  Just as I was starting to walk down to the barn Annette drove in.  As she got out of the car she asked, "do you want any help?"  I said "ok", and she said "sure?".  Now, I know what that "sure?" means, so I said it was alright, I'll take care of the feeding.  Besides, I felt guilty because she had to do everything this morning, and now that is was dark I wouldn't be able to muck so she would have double duty the next morning.

When I got to the barn I could hear the horses running in the pasture.  They were ticked.  Especially Jackson who feels he needs his blanket on when it gets below 50 degrees.  Flash could care less.  I guess grays have more sensitive skin.  He's like his mom, (Annette), who has a temperature variance of 10 degrees, (68 to 78 degrees).  I love them both though.  Since it was so dark in the pasture, I brought them both into their stalls to put the blankets on in the light.  Flash was a pill, he kept trying to turn away so I couldn't get it over his head.  I solved the problem by throwing it on top of his head and over his face so he couldn't see.  Then he thought it was a sensory game and stood still until I got it all hooked up.

At this point Annette made a cameo appearance to put on Jackson's blanket.  I don't do well with Jackson's blanket, too many straps that have to go a certain way.  For me, putting on his blanket is like trying to use the thumb drive, I get nervous it will be wrong and I always screw it up.  And when I do it wrong, Jackson tells Annette and I feel so stupid when she tells me it's not difficult at all.  Annette did his blanket in 30 seconds and headed back to the house.  I put the hay out in the pasture, let the horses out and re-stocked the hay cart for tomorrow morning for Annette. 

Evening chores being done, I went back to the house.  When I walked in, Annette had cut fresh bread from the bakery, seasoned it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and toasted it in the oven.  Next to the warm bread was a glass of pinot noir.  I really love that woman.

Today was much easier.  Hardly any paperwork, so I had time to blog.  No need to go to court.  I should be home by 1630, way before it gets dark.  All the supervisors should be happy except for the one here at work who hopefully doesn't read my blogs.  It's MY Friday!  I don't have to be back to work until Monday.  That means I can move compost over the next 5 days, or do more blogs.  One and the same.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

California Peace Officer's Memorial

It's almost that time of year again.  Every year in early May, police officers from all over California meet in Sacramento to pay tribute to those who have died in the line of duty.  The families of those that have died during the past year are honored by the Governor and other dignitaries, as well as their fellow officers.  It's a very sober and awe inspiring event, attended by thousands of police officers from departments around the state.  Caravans of hundreds of police cars travel from Southern California and from Northern California to meet at the steps of the State Capital.  We honor not only those officers that have recently died, but also those that have given their lives to protect others for over the past 160 years.  On the Memorial website, it lists all the fallen officers, and in most cases, how they lost their lives.

Maybe I'm a little morbid, but I find it fascinating to read how these officers died.  One of the first entries is about Sheriff James Barton from Los Angeles County, whose "end of watch" was January 23, 1857.  Sheriff Barton had formed a posse of 7 deputies to bring to justice a notorious outlaw gang that was killing and pillaging near San Juan Capistrano, (close to where I live now).  After two days of riding, the posse ran into an ambush of over 100 outlaws in a valley near San Juan Capistrano where Barton and three others were killed and mutilated.  Three of the deputies escaped, made their way back to Los Angeles, and formed another posse of over 100 men.  Over 100 criminals were eventually apprehended, several of them hanged "on the spot", the rest brought back for trial.  When Flash and I ride on the trails and valleys near San Juan Capistrano, I can't help thinking what it would be like to be a mounted officer in those times.  I think Flash feels the same.  Maybe I was born 200 years too late.

One of the fallen officers on the Memorial is Louie Pompei who died over 17 years ago, trying to help a victim during an armed robbery of a grocery store.  Louie didn't want to get involved, (he was in plain clothes at the time, working a drug task force), but when the suspect began to "pistol whip" a handicapped box boy, Louie intervened.  He identified himself and shots were exchanged between Louie and the suspect.  Louie never saw a second suspect behind him who shot him in the heart.  Louie Pompei was one of my trainees, one of the best officers that Glendora PD ever had.

I've always wanted to attend the Peace Officer's Memorial, mostly out of respect for Louie.  It never worked out until 2 years ago when one of my close friends, who still works at Glendora PD, talked about the mounted units from around the state that attend the Memorial.  I vowed to myself that Flash and I would go, I just wasn't sure a retiree could ride mounted in the Memorial Service, and what department would I represent, (Glendora or Chino where I am a volunteer posse member)?  I talked with the posse Lieutenant at Chino, and after he talked with the Chief, they said I could go and represent their department.  Glendora doesn't have a mounted unit and I felt they may have concerns with me representing them and not being a current police officer with them.

Color guard.
Well, Flash and I trailered to Sacramento, (a 10 hour drive).  When we got there, Sacramento's mounted unit sergeant, was fantastic.  We had come a day early, and he gave me the key to their facility so I could come and go when I wanted.  Flash was worried when we arrived.  It was early evening, and all of Sacramento's horses were put away in the barn.  I parked my trailer next to the arena where I was going to sleep, and put Flash in the arena.  The door to my trailer was only 3' from the pipe rail of the arena.  That whole night Flash had his head right by the door of the trailer, trying to look in and see me.  Neither of us slept that night.  The next day over 100 mounted units arrived from around the state.  We all tacked up, mounted our horses, and rode four abreast through downtown Sacramento, over freeways, under freeways, across bridges to a large lawn in front of the State Capital.
The lawn in front of the State Capital

The only problem was that all the other units had at least 2 to 3 riders and I was the odd man out.  Flash was the last of 104 horses, so we brought up the tail.  He did well until we got to the grass area in front of the Capital.  The grass strip is about 30' wide and 100 yards long with two lanes of traffic on each side.  Well, 103 horses made it onto the grass, but there was no room for Flash and me.  Flash had two feet on the curb, waiting for the rest of the horses to make room, when a young child came up to me and said, "officer, you better move because the metro train is coming down the track".  Sure enough, here comes the train, something Flash has never seen.  I got him on the grass, turned him towards the oncoming train,(10' away), and said, "Flash meet the metro train".  He was good, barely moved.  Then we had to stand in line for 40 minutes while hundreds of motorcycle units and police cars with lights flashing drove by in front of us.  At that point Flash had enough and would back out of line, turn around, go back in line, stand for 5 minutes, poop, then repeat.
All the units passing by in front of the horses.

On the way back to the stables, Sacramento PD let us in between two of their officers and horses, and Flash was much better.  We even rode through "Old Town" on the way back; 4 abreast, taking up the whole street.  Pretty impressive except for the lone friesian pulling a buggy with passengers who at the sight of 100+ horses coming straight at him thought it was safer by backing up onto the sidewalk to the dismay of his driver.

It was quite experience for Flash and me.  We both learned alot.  I think maybe I would like to try it again, but only if I am with other riders that I know.  I would do things differently, like be near the front, dress in "formal" class A's, and pay a tribute to all of those that have given their lives.  To them, I say "THANK YOU".

No plans for today-----sounds good to me.

I only work part-time now, just 2 or 3 days a week, and usually it's real easy, (just drive a golf cart around and unlock a few doors at the college), not much "police work" at all.  However, things have changed over the past two months.  Our Chief wants to make us a real police department, doing our own investigations etc..  We have three full time officers and about 7 part-time officers, (one of which is me).  All of us have about 30+ years each of real police experience.  The problem is, we don't have the money or resources to be a real "city type" police department.  Instead of working in "real time", we are working basically circa 1960.  We get by with what we have to do, and rely on Irvine PD for anything major -- until a few months ago, when I was asked to write a search warrant for death threats via. email.  They chose, (picked on me), because I was the only one with search warrant experience.  It was 15 years ago when I wrote my last search warrant, and that was for sex crimes, not some computer type compost which I know nothing about, (my wife will confirm that).  That was also LA County, not Orange County with a different set of procedures.

Anyway, I set forth and wrote the search warrant, (took me about 5 hours with my typing skills).  Then I had to go to court and file it with the DA, then a judge.  I was nervous as hell, but now I am good friends with several judges and feel a lot more at ease.  I think they feel sorry for me because I am easily 30 years older than other police officers they deal with.  Since that day, I have probably written 5 more search warrants and the Chief has now made me his part-time, unofficial department investigator.  Same pay, but that is ok because I really love doing investigations.  I did forget though about the stress involved dealing with victims, suspects, and administrators, some of which are the same.

I worked the past two days and the lieutenant has me assigned to a satellite campus about 8 miles away.  It's nice because nobody bothers me and I can get reports, memos, and search warrants done in peace.  That's what I did Monday and Tuesday along with dealing with victims, suspects and both AT&T and Yahoo legal departments.  Finish at three and rush home to feed by five, thinking the whole time that tomorrow will be a day to do whatever I want, especially ride Flash who has had three days off.  Sounds good to me.

On the way home the "change oil" light on my car came on.  When I get home a package from UPS had arrived containing new wheels for the muck cart which has two flat tires.  I've tried telling Annette to push it anyway, but she says it is too hard with flat tires.  I said the ground is frozen with ice, it should roll easy.  She says, well never mind what she says.  I do the evening chores, thinking tomorrow still won't be too bad.  Annette gets home, I give her a hug and a kiss by the fire which I have started for her, and hand her a glass of wine.  "Honey" she says, my "maintenance" light on my car came on three weeks ago, so can you take it in and take care of it?  Tomorrow?  Sure dear, but I wanted to ride Flash some time tomorrow.  Well, she says, I need to use your saddle and I want to ride Jackson, so why don't you ride in the morning when it's 38 degrees and the wind is gusting at 50 mph, and I'll ride Jackson in the afternoon when it gets warm and the wind has died down.  Sounds good to me.  But then I say, "I have to change the wheels on the muck cart".  Maybe you can do that before we feed when it's 25 degrees out is her response.  Sounds good to me I say.  I'll make us waffles while you do that.  Sounds good to me.

After breakfast, which was really good, I head down to the barn to tack up Flash.  I go to put his halter on and he looks at me and says "you got to be kidding, feel that wind and cold, I'll get crazy if you put that on me".  Sounds good to me.  We get in the arena and I do as my trainer tells me, which is walk on a loose rein.  Flash is a little wound up, (I think he wanted waffles too), but as soon as I pick up the reins, he bends his head and begins to work.  Blew me away.  He could have been a little more bent, but is was really good for him.  We worked for about 40 minutes and he was a good boy.  Even got the correct lead on the right, or maybe I just asked the correct way.  Probably the latter.

I drove down the hill and took care of Annette's car while she rode Jackson.  When I got home, I put new tires on "her" muck cart.  I came back to the house and Annette gave me a hug and a kiss by the fire she had built, it was too early for wine.  "How about I make a nice dinner then we go to yoga together?".  SOUNDS GOOD TO ME.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Two Training Days

Yesterday Annette and I took Flash and Jackson for a dressage lesson with our trainer in Riverside.  These lessons are always hard and Flash and I are usually exhausted afterward.  It was no exception yesterday.  We spent the first 15 minutes getting Flash to bend immediately when I pick up the reins.  My trainer told me there are only 2 positions with the reins: on the buckle or accepting contact and bending using his body.  He likes being on the buckle and resists at bending and using his back.  Times, they are a changing for him.  And I have to learn how to give and release when he accepts contact.  Such a fine line for two males to follow.  However, half way through the lesson it was working, and it was a really good feeling for both of us.  After an hour lesson I hosed Flash off, tied him to the trailer with a hay bag next to him,and went to watch Annette and Jackson.  I checked back about 30 minutes later, and Flash had his eyes closed, dozing in the warm sun.  It was a long day; we left at 10 in the morning and didn't get home until almost 5 in the afternoon.

Today I got up at 5:30 am and went down to the barn to feed.  It was 32 degrees with frost everywhere.  Annette elected to stay and bed and dream about getting a new saddle for Jackson.  Actually, I had to get Flash ready for mounted patrol training.  We left at 6:30, drove for an hour, and arrived at the training facility, the first ones there.  I like to get there first because parking is really tight and it's difficult to maneuver my trailer.  The training, (this time in a western saddle), starts out with formation riding for two hours, and then two hours of sensory training.  Most of the horses are pretty good at a walk, but when we pick up the trot, a lot of them blow up, and their riders lose control.  We don't usually try canter, because it becomes total chaos.  I usually try to get next to a horse that has a good head with a good rider.  The problem is that people forget the movement commands or speak too softly, so Flash and I have to lead in the difficult movements, like doing a "wedge" and moving people off a wall, or the rail in this case.  Flash was really tired when we got there, but he was a good boy; and when I picked up the reins, it took him only a few seconds to start working correctly.  He looked out of place with the other "head high" horses, but the lieutenant was pleased.

After a short break we started doing the sensory.  It consisted of walking by balloons, thru a flare pattern,  over tarps, thru a "car wash" while at the same time a ground person had a gas powered leaf blower with caution tape attached to the blower end pointing it at the horses from three feet away.  None of it bothered Flash.  At one point I picked up a trash bag full of empty soda cans and put it on his neck, under his belly and on his back while the person with the leaf blower walked all around him about 2 feet away trying to spook him.  He just said "whatever".  Then they started up the "air man" who is Flash's best friend.  While all the other horses wouldn't come closer than 20 feet, Flash walked right up said, "hey buddy, I missed you".
Flash and his "air man" buddy.
Flash with the "battle ball", another one of his favorite friends.

We ended the training with shooting shot gun blanks near the horses while a police car was a few feet away with the lights and sirens going.  I think the siren bothered Flash a little, because it took him a minute to walk up to the car.  But when he did, he put his nose on the closed window and seemed to be admiring his reflection in the glass.  Another long day though.  We didn't get back home until 3 in the afternoon.  Flash rolled and decided to make more compost.  I decided compost was a good idea, and wrote this blog.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Stylish blogger award, you got to be kidding

Well I just checked my blog comments, and I was overwhelmed.  I had 6 comments, all of them positive.  That's far better than when I go to work.  Being a police officer for 34 years, once in awhile I hear a negative comment, so it's good to read positive ones.  A special thanks to Shannon from "a work in progress" for nominating me for the "stylish blogger award".  I really appreciate that and will be motivated to write more.

Now for 7 things about myself:
1) I'm a semi-retired police officer, 62 years old, who is relatively new to the equine world.
2) I am married to a wonderful woman, Annette, who is the only person who can put up with me other than my mother who passed away 10 years ago.  My mother warned Annette about me before we got married, and she went thru with the vows anyway.  Crazy.
3) I live in the coastal mountains of Southern California, about 60 miles north of San Diego.
4) I couldn't even spell dressage when Annette explained it to me, but being the dutiful husband, I attempted to learn, (slow process for a 62 year old male).  I enjoy dressage and think the communication and connection it provides with my horse is better than any other discipline.  However, Flash, (my horse), and I really enjoy mounted patrol work also.
5) I have three adult children and 6 grandchildren.
6) I enjoy good food, and boy can Annette cook, but now I am being told to watch my cholesterol, so bye    bye good stuff.  Flash is happy though, less weight for him to carry around.
7) I'm enjoying life now more than ever.  Entering the equine world with my own place and barn, meshing that with post career police work and a wonderful wife and a great horse and family, it couldn't be better.

At this point in my "blogging" career, I'm new to it and only follow a couple of other blogs, all of which have already been nominated for awards.

I have to say this about dressage shows though.  When I compete, mostly at schooling shows, I get to wear my "class A" police uniform.  Some of the comments are really funny.  One very young rider, (about 9 or 10), turned to her Mom when I rode by and whispered, "Mom, why are the police here?"  At another show, I was almost attacked by a female stalker who wouldn't leave me alone.  Even with Annette standing there, she wouldn't leave.  I finally had to hide in the bathroom until she left.  The last time I competed was about three months after a full knee replacement.  I get a little tense tacking up even though Flash tells me to chill.  Well this time I got on the mounting block in full uniform, swung my leg over Flash, and immediately my breeches got hung up on the cantle.  At the same time I heard a loud rippppppp.  Annette heard it too and told me to just sit down.  I couldn't, the breeches were really hung up on the cantle, and I was suspended about three inches above the saddle.  Now I'm really embarrassed and so is Flash, so he decides to walk away to get  away from all the stares.  I must have been some sight.  My whip is dangling from my left hand, I don't have the reins, my butt is on top of the cantle, (talk about a weggie), my wife is walking after Flash to get him to stop, and onlookers are offering assistance.  It turned out alright though.  I placed first in the developmentally challenged police officer category, ( the only entry).  I cherish that blue ribbon.

Shannon, thanks again for the award. I'll try and write more often, it's just in the past week I have been working on writing search warrants, (not nearly as much fun as blogging); but filled with just as much compost.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Back in the saddle again-----------

Just not correctly.  Well, after two weeks of non-stop rain and Flash healing from his soft tissue injury, we finally had a chance to take a dressage lesson this past weekend with our trainer in Riverside, Ca.  The weather was beautiful, warm, (about 80 degrees), and windy.  It had been about 6 weeks since our last lesson and only two or three chances to ride since then, so my expectations were not high.  The two times I did ride Flash in our arena at home, he was sluggish and stiff, and a little bit out of shape.  After a half hour, both he and I were exhausted.  The lessons with our trainer are intense.  Usually 10 minutes of walk to warm up, then a good 40 minutes of non-stop trot and canter work.

My wife and I trailered Flash and Jackson up to the lesson and she rode first because she makes those decisions.  Besides, I'm the designated photographer and had to take photos of her lesson.  I tacked up Flash real fast, tied him to the trailer with a hay bag to keep him company, told him to stay out of the wind, and not to bite the airplanes as they took off over his head from the small airport next door.  Then I went to photograph Annette and Jackson in their lesson.  Flash was real good.  He just sat there eating his hay.  Once Jackson called out to him, complaining about having to bend and not being able to canter right away, and Flash just called back and said, "Chill dude, you'll get your chance".

Annette ended up having almost an hour lesson, and then it was our turn.  I got on Flash, did a little warm up, then we started to work at a forward, bent walk.  Almost immediately my trainer started correcting my body position: elbows into my side, left shoulder back, heels down, chest out, look straight ahead, not down, too much outside leg on the left lead, not enough inside leg on the right lead, keep your hands still, thumbs up, firm outside rein, no, too much firmness, lean back, watch that left shoulder again, it's coming forward.  At this point I have to tell her, "hey, I'm a guy.  I can't multi-task.  Isn't it time to pick on Flash?"  She said "No", Flash is doing the best he can with the rider he has".  It was not quite like that, but pretty close.

Flash and I are just at training level.  He doesn't really have any aspirations to go higher, but our trainer is talking about first level and what is needed.  I listen.  Flash just blinks his big blue eyes and says, "Dad, just try to find some spooky sensory stuff, something that will hold my interest like walking under a multi-colored parachute, pushing a battle ball with people behind it, doing the teeter-totter bridge backwards, or just chill'n with my best friend, "air-man", flapping all over me".

Well, half way through the lesson my body position gets better and Flash and I start to click as one.  He is stepping under at a trot, really using his back.  At canter he is nice and bent and "popping" into each stride.  Then our trainer wants to work on immediately going into canter at a walk.  Well, Flash doesn't immediately go into anything unless it is to tell Jackson to get away from his hay.  But we try.  The first time was a no-go.  The second time my trainer said to ask immediately and reinforce it with a hard tap of the whip.  Well he did it, correct lead and all.  And he learns real fast too.  The third time I just asked with a little slide of the leg to the back, and he shot off like a cannon.  The left lead was better than the right, but it gives us something to work on.

Our lesson lasted well over an hour.  When we finished we were both extremely tired, but happy.  My wife said Flash looked like a warm blood towards the end of the lesson.  I asked her if I looked like Steffen Peters.  She gave me a blank stare and said, "you've been sniffing too much compost".

It's good to be back in the saddle.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Equine Justice Court

The crime scene is our pasture here at Aspen Meadows.  It is fenced with 3 rail vinyl fencing.  Three of the sides have electrical tape on the inside of the top and bottom rails.  The fourth side has chain link fencing attached on the inside with no electrical tape; however, a black wire is buried slightly underground to carry the current from one side to the other.  Today I was grooming the pasture, (because I am anal about that), and I discovered the black wire pulled up and some of the chain link bent at the bottom.  Being the designated "Pasture Police Officer", I immediately knew that a felony had been committed.  Based on several "donkey facts", both Tuffy and Finessa were arrested on suspicion of felony vandalism and placed in stall-a-tary confinement, pending a court trial.

The presiding judge was Jody's Lucky Devil, aka. Flash.  With his piercing blues eyes and equine wisdom well beyond his years, nothing can get by him.  The defense attorney was none other than the infamous Twistn Turbo Esq., better known as "fast talking Jackson".  The lead prosecutor was Kalvin Kline, an attorney with PSG background.  A handsome 17h warmblood is he.  The jury pool was limited and consisted of 1 cat, 2 dogs, 2 rabbits, and 7 chickens; however, better than most juries found around here.

The trial was swift.  The evidence presented by the prosecution was overwhelming:  donkey prints by the pulled up black wire; donkey poop along the fence line; and hair strands on the chain link which DNA analysis showed was a 99% match to Tuffy and Finessa.  Halfway thru the trial, both Tuffy and Finessa "rolled over", (which they do every day), and pled "no contest".  The Honorable Judge Flash pronounced sentencing, ( 1 day more of confinement, but credit for time served), and restitution for the damaged property.  If there are no financial means available, then both donkeys shall do "hard labor", with a length of time to be determined at a later date.

Court was adjourned, the jury thanked for their time and effort, and the case was cleared.  Or was it?

BREAKING NEWS.........from ENN, (Equine National News).  A governor with "donkey lineage" has just commuted the sentencing on both Tuffy and Finessa, stating, "They are such good little donkeys, it's not fair they be incarcerated".

The President of the property, my wife Annette, says I should just go out and buy some 6x6 lumber to put along the bottom of the chain link fence to reinforce the chain link and cover up the black electrical wire, putting an end to the donkey's juvenile delinquency.  Or maybe it was my juvenile delinquency she was talking about.

Back to my own private dementia  and my compost pile.  Pop's out.