Alice Takes a Tour Through…Is That an Orc…?

Alice went down the rabbit hole, and missed the bottle marked “Drink Me”.

Maybe it's a good thing Alice didin't Drink Me. She might have come back with a catapillar
Maybe it’s a good thing Alice didn’t Drink Me. She might have come back with a giant caterpillar. (FYI, this would not have stopped us from bedazzling and riding said caterpillar.)

Unable to go through the small door, she took a left somewhere in the tunnel and got lost. Presumably she wandered through Lórien, had a chat with Gandalf, spent a little time in The Shire…

Who cares about one ring to rule them all? SHADOWFAX.  How we know this was meant to be? Look, there’s a buckskin right next to him. 

Alice popped back out of the rabbit hole with a Friesian.

(And possibly an elfin archer. I figure she stashed the archer somewhere.)

Straight out of Lord of the Rings, if we pretend he will gray out:

We think the White Rabbit stole her flip-flops.

We all call him “Shadowfax”. No one will ever know his real name, because none of us care.  Shadowfax is AWESOME.

Hudson is modeling stellar trail behavior. Shadowfax is going to be a trail Friesian. Hudson’s left ear: “Dude. Turkeys. Fun to chase”. Hudson’s right ear: “Jane, stop eavesdropping, so impolite.”

Shadowfax has spent his life as an Arena Flower. Going outside the giant sand box was new and scary. Alice rode him in a bridle, and wore footwear for the first few, “getting to know your newly leased horse”, rides.

After hanging with Hudson and the rope-horse crowd that warm up on the access road, Shadowfax settled down, and Alice went back to the back to the hippie-chick self we all know and love.

Bareback in a halter.

Ready to get down in The Shire.

It was weird to ride with a horse that towered over Hudson. He’s usually the biggest guy there. Alice said “I think they’re the same height.  Look at their withers.”

Hey, look at that. They are.  But Shadowfax’s NECK and HEAD are up in the stratosphere.

“Is it strange to have NECK in front of you?” I ask.

It makes my teeth ache, that tall neck, right there, ready to up and smack you in the face at first spook.

“Yeah”, Alice says, “It’s a little hard to get used to.  I feel like I can’t SEE.”

She holds up the reins, mimicking a little old lady peering over the steering wheel.

Carlos has teased the crap out of Alice. In addition to the unseen stashed archer, she’s come home to ‘anonymous’ gifts.  Gifts with which she may appropriately ride into Middle-Earth: glow in the dark sword, plastic bow and arrows, a lovely shield, a slighty dented tiara…

Oh. And us!

What Do Horses Think About?

So we do not have to strain our puny human brains attempting the mind-melds horses find so normal, Hudson has filmed this short video to answer that question on a personal level:

(volume on, if you want his audio track)

In Which We Witness Stewardship, and Riders Move Out

I learned a lot, standing in my barbed wire corner and watching.  The riders had to herd the cattle through a lot of open acreage, then through two narrow (for a herd) gates, after which the land opened up into major open acreage again, just when they needed the  herd to go left.

Not easy.

The first rider brought in a smaller clump of cattle through the first gate, began to push them through the second, then went ahead of them to keep them from veering out into the open acreage again.  I mentally dubbed her the Point person.  (I have no idea what this is in cattle speak. Bella, Kimber…anyone…does this job have a name?)  After turning her cows towards the pens, she came back and took up a position to block cattle from the sea of open land, and push them off to the left.  It was a wait.

Imagine being the person relied upon to quietly turn a hundred cows or so, after they’re pushed through the gates.  Sure, help would be handy…as soon as a rider could get through the rest of the herd without spooking them!

The idea is to walk the cows in quietly, both for their sakes and yours. I’m guessing (despite what we see on TV) dealing with a herd of panicked, running cows would be incredibly difficult.  I often saw the riders stop, quietly reposition their bubbles of space, wait, check everyone else’s position, and then start walking again.

To get a sense of how aware cattle are, and how easily they can be spooked:

These cows were part of the first group coming through gate 1. I was quite far away, using a zoom lens.  Time to move to position #2.  Stopping cows is bad.  Slowly, quietly, I turn my back, pick my way up the hill through gate 2, and move into a far corner, using the point rider as cover.  The minute I stopped looking at them, they started moving forward again. Given the choice, horse and rider is what the cows will register, not person way back against fence post with one giant eye.

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Git Along, Little Doggies: Cattle Drive

From the shouts, bellowing, mooing and general commotion, it sounds like the cows are being driven in from the right side of the property.  The riders turned off to the right through the gate, going out.  I kept staring in that direction, looking for cows.

The fog lifts momentarily, and I see…a  yellow tractor.  No cattle.  Huh.

I’d been keeping my eye on a far away hilltop on the left.  Some cattle were nicely silhouetted on the very top of the hill against the lightening sky.  I am waiting for the moment when the light volume turns up enough to make the silhouettes pop.  That might be a nice picture.

I check the far away left hill-top again.  Ugh.  Foggy, gray, uninteresting.

Waiting for “the moment” is the sucky part of photography.  It’s easy to miss when you have the attention span of a single cell organism.

I accidentally shoot my toe in a clump of grass and throw in a blurry shot of barbed wire.  Great. Jane: Photographer.  I check the mountain top again.  I know!  I’ll shoot the mud.  I wait.

I can vaguely make out a horse and rider on top of the above mountain, and I wonder if it’s still the same ranch, or a different one.  The group definitely turned right, not left, at the bottom of the hill.

I click.  The light has upped to a sepia tone.  I like the itty bitty horse.  Bonus, when I get home, I realize it’s Hudson and Alice!

The bellowing is getting closer, and the human shouts clearer.  I think I hear “H” noises. Like hit hit hit, hey hey hey, and hup hup hup. This makes me think of little league and kids behind home plate calling out: “HEYYYYYY  Batter batter batter…heyyyyy batter batter batter!

Figures are appearing and disappearing in the patchy fog.

This where 20 pictures are worth 20,000 words:

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There’s still more!  Tomorrow….

Into the White: Cattle Drive

Something large and dark sweeps over my head, completely silent.  A great horned owl! HUGE.  Too dark to get a photo.  Drat.

There’s a glimmer of light behind the hills.  I wonder how long it will take the sun to rise above the crest.

Bella’s high-tech method of packing-in water:

The fog is shifting.  A few tendrils circle the colder areas around the barn.  The sun rises, illuminating the fog from below, behind the hills.

For a few minutes, before the fog shifts again, we have incredible light.

Dinero, waiting:

I hear familiar jingling and creaking behind me. People are starting to mount up. Someone is ribbing Alice about the hearts on Hudson’s butt.  She says cheerfully, “I’m the token Hippie!   Peace and Love to cows, dude.”  Everyone cracks up.

Behind the barn, the fog is starting to move back in with a vengeance.

When I remarked later how well the horses worked in plain snaffles, Bella explained.  A cattle round-up isn’t the controlled (!) environment of a roping arena, where curb bits are appropriate.  You can get into iffy situations with a jumble of full-sized cows very quickly. “Sometimes you have to get on their {the horses} faces, when a situation is developing, and you need to get out immediately.  A curb would be very painful. Kinder to use a plain snaffle.”

Practical.  The rider is going to be processing a very big picture, while the horse might be focused on an entirely different piece.  In an emergency, you’d have to grab them: even the best trained horse is excited, and might not instantly respond.  You need that attention NOW to be safe.  Thoughtful horsemanship.

It had been cold, but not bone chilling.  With the fog dropping again, it’s incredibly damp-cold.  I’m glad for my 16 Michelin Man layers.  Out they go:

Continue reading “Into the White: Cattle Drive”

O Dark Hundred

I’m just starting my lesson with Jane Savoie, after a perfect warm up, when an electronic rooster crows horribly in my left ear drum.  My eyes fly open, and it’s pitch dark.

Aw, c’mon.  Who set the stupid alarm?  And why the horrifically annoying electronic rooster that crows loud enough to scare the neighbors?

I wanted that lesson with Jane Savoie.

I roll over, close my eyes, and climb back on Hudson.

Hudson…Hudson….?  CRAP.  I leap out of bed, grabbing my jeans in the dark, bang into the dresser, and trip over my shoes.

It’s five am. On a Saturday.  The Saturday.

Today is the cattle drive!

Continue reading “O Dark Hundred”

Hair Today…

Our Holiday Horse Parade goes visiting today!  Go see Aarene at Haiku Farm for the full joy of the season.

Hair today and gone…maybe next Tuesday?  Please?  Hang on, let me clean my glasses.  Whew, glad it wasn’t hair on the screen.  I am SO itchy.

We body clipped.  Bella clipped Dinero, and Alice and I traded off clipping Hudson: in my case to learn to clip, and in Alice’s case, to practice.

Bella showed me how to adjust my massive 900 lb Heineger body clippers (gift from a friend who swore she was never, ever, clipping a horse again), how much pressure to apply, and other details.  Once I got “it’s like waxing, you have to stretch the skin”, I did better swaths.  Hudson didn’t move a hoof.  I did three nice long swaths up his neck before my body clippers went: chunka chunka chunka.  I fervently hoped I was doing something wrong.  (My mid-size clippers died a permanant death last week.)

I handed them over to Bella: she shook her head, and turned them off.

Great.  I now have a partially bald horse, and 2 dead clippers.  The remaining pair would be appropriate for body clipping an elderly hamster.  Note clipper size in relation to the AA battery pictured:

I open my mouth to wail. Before any sound can come out, Bella hands me her second pair of body clippers, and her second pair of medium size clippers.  Note to self: try to keep awe in control, and file “backups are good” in brain.

Continue reading “Hair Today…”

Holiday Horse Kick Off, and We Contemplate Body Clipping

TLH Annual Holiday Horses Parade!

With thanks to Cyndi from Living a Dream:

I’ll post ’em as they come in!

I bought a sparkly snowflake headband for Hudson (whoohahaha), as soon as it stops raining, he’s going to don it merry and bright.

Body Clipping

Alice and I are going to take body clipping lessons from Bella on Sunday.  Dinero and Hudson are going to get a trace clipped.  Alice and I are going to share clipping duty on Hudson.  It should be a blast, uneven, and very tiring.  All in all, totally fun.

I tried to explain clipping a horse to Shaun.  “Imagine clipping a car”, I said, trying to get across the enormity of a clip job.  “Now imagine clipping a car that’s chatty, hungry, bored, antsy, has an itchy fender, and is certain you have food. That’s ‘body clipping’ in a nutshell.”

Bella offered to clip a design on him, if I drew one.

I’m still in revenge mode (for the kick).

Continue reading “Holiday Horse Kick Off, and We Contemplate Body Clipping”

In Which Planets Align, Alice and Jane Go On the Trail, and Have A Blast

A miracle occurred:

  • Alice had a Wednesday off
  • Jane had the same Wednesday off
  • The ground dried up after three big storms had hit in succession
  • Even though its November, the temperature is trying mightily to hover up near 80 degrees.
  • Bella texts Alice: “Wed off?  Take the rig, take Dinero, go for a trail ride.  Maybe Jane…?”
  • Alice texts me: “Wanna go on trail on Wed?”

I have my moment of knee-jerk half-emptiness:  I haven’t been on a real trail in so long…I’ve probably forgotten everything.  Certainly the finer points of etiquette.  Can I do this on Hudson, on a trail I’ve never ridden?  Will he spook?  Will I be a total moron?

Oh for Pete’s sake.  There won’t be any giant purple people eaters.  It’s late enough in the season (and likely too close to the coast) that mountain lions will have moved inland and rattlesnakes would be far too cold to show up. It’s not like I can’t ride.  And I’ll have plenty to hang onto. I can borrow a western saddle from Bella: I want a thick pad on Hudson for a long ride.  My saddle fits, but a dressage pad isn’t made to disperse weight and provide a comfy trail ride for the horse, even with the extra fleece half-pad.

(Ideas, anyone?  Thin line pad?  I find foam shifts, and gel gives ricochet action for the rider.)

To combat my inner Eeyore, I took aim, and leveled one of my favorite quotes at myself.

If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?  And if I am only for myself, then what am I?  If not now, when? ~ Rabbi Hillel

The Rabbi had a good sense of personal/global balance.  I’m onboard with Rabbi Hillel.  If not now, when?

I text Alice back: YES. You pick trail.  We go.  🙂 Exciting!!

I text her again later: Um.  You may have to babysit me a teensy bit.

We go to Point Reyes National Seashore; to ride the Bear Valley trail.  “Wednesday” becomes magical: this trail is closed to horses on weekends and holidays.  Alice and I discover we have identical check lists for a perfect relaxing trail:  wide enough for a truck (we can ride near each other and there’s still bonus room for spooking!).  It’s shaded.  The trail winds on gentle inclines under a canopy of California rainforest-type foliage: tree branches arch and meet overhead, a stream meanders along, the hillsides are stuffed with ferns and mosses of all kinds, it’s gorgeous.  It ends at the ocean.

Perfect trail for an If-Not-Now-When? ride.

We pull into the parking area.  I know where we are!  When Shaun first moved to California, I stupidly planned a picnic here so she could have the fun of standing directly on top of the San Andreas Fault.  (1906 earthquake, anyone?)  It’s what we do for fun in California.  I had to throw myself between her and the car, and wave a deli sandwich under her nose to get her to come back to the picnic table.

There’s a couple of other rigs neatly lined up: the park has perfect rig parking.  There’s even a fresh, clean, water trough near the trail head.  They like horses here.  Morgans dot the hillside, on the Park’s Morgan horse ranch.

We’re backing the horses out of the trailer when The Giant Purple People Eater arrives.


Continue reading “In Which Planets Align, Alice and Jane Go On the Trail, and Have A Blast”

Awry Airlines Takes a Seriously Good Detour

Shaun (who is getting better by the day!) had been out of the second hospital for a few days when Daisy invited us over to dinner.  She bought a house, helped us in the hospital, closed escrow, and moved all in the same weekend.  Daisy gets the extreme talent award.

She simultaneously texted Shaun and I.

Daisy: Dinner Friday?  My house?  Low key.  Just us.

Shaun: Y.  Time?

Jane: No. S just out of hospital, still can’t eat.  Rain check?

Daisy: Do you guys ever talk to each other?

Shaun: no.

Jane: no.  your point?

Daisy: Obviously you are not in the same room.  Talk.  Get back to me.

We collide in the hall: both looking down at our phones.  We look up at each other.

“Daisy…”, I say.  “…invited us to dinner Friday”, Shaun says.

We talk at the same time: “I said no”. “I said yes”.

Continue reading “Awry Airlines Takes a Seriously Good Detour”