Thursday, April 18, 2013

The stuff of dreams

They are home!  2 horses in my very own backyard.  I'm not sure I ever could have imagined that it would actually come true. 

Everyone always asks me, "Did you grow up with horses?"  As much as I could living in the city.  I had cousins and friends with horses.  

“You can just sit on her, my mom will never know.”  We were two second grade horse-crazy girls sneaking out to the barn.  The next thing I knew, I was on the ground and couldn’t get up.  My friend’s horse, Taffy, did not stand still and I had suffered a spinal concussion when I fell off her.  Of course, our parents were furious and I was never allowed around her barn again!  But that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for horses; I often day-dreamed of coming home from school to find a pony in the backyard.  I collected Breyer's horses, read horse books, and sent away for AQHA posters which I displayed with pride.  The only thing I wanted for Christmas in the fourth grade was a real Stetson. (which my wonderful parents got me.)

 As I got older, I lost the Stetson and put away my horse collection, but my passion for horses stayed with me as I went to nursing school.  When life became too stressful I would rent a horse at a local barn for $12 an hour and ride the trails by myself.  Then marriage and family totally changed my focus and years went by with no riding.  I often thought of getting back into it when all my kids were in school.  When Robert got into kindergarten, Jim encouraged me to find a barn and take some riding lessons.  2 months later we were leasing Tia, and 6 months later we were horse owners.  

When it came time to move away from Iowa, I told Jim I would go anywhere, as long as I could bring Tia.  And so, a month after we got to Texas, she was shipped down.

Jim with Tia just after she came off the transport trailer in August of 2006.

I have been very fortunate to have wonderful friends help me out with boarding Tia over the last 6 1/2 years--Catharine and Karen.  They taught me a lot about horse ownership and operating a barn, and it's just good to have a few "horsey" friends.

Our first delivery of hay and shavings

15 bales of Coastal hay... should last about 7 weeks

Looking out of the feed room

General view of the barn

My thoughts, exactly.  I can get lost in our barn.

Stall mats

Stall with shavings.  One of my favorite smells... pine shavings.  Weird, I know.
Horse people are just that way.
So, once the barn was all set up, we just needed to add horses.  Since they are herd animals and Tia had never been by herself, I really did not want to separate her before we had a companion for her.  So, the searching began in earnest.  Our criteria for a new horse:  Bay (dark brown) or black, Tall (at least as tall as Tia), between the ages of 3 and 8.  I spent way too much  time searching the internet for prospects and also had a nearby trainer keeping her eye out.  I happened upon this ad:

I Rock the Line aka "Johnny" is a 2008 AQHA Black gelding by Rocked and Steady out of an appendix mare (Whatamos x TB mare). He is 16.2 hands and will make an excellent all-around horse for youth or amateur. He is broke to ride English or Western. You will not find a more gentle horse. One of the pictures below is of my daughter riding him bareback and brideless when they were both 2 year olds. He is a great mover and is very willing to please. He has been started in Trail and Showmanship. He is in pasture condition (we didn't blanket our horses this winter), but he will clean up nicely for the spring show season. He loads, clips, bathes, ties, and stands for the farrier. I'm only selling him because I don't have time for him and I've decided not to show anymore. Please call or text *** for more info. 

This is a picture of "Johnny" at age 2 that the owner sent me.

After narrowing it down, I drove to see him with my dad.  Here is how he looked that day:

Sleepy?  On drugs?  Whatever he was, he was very quiet.

The owner said, "bring your spurs."  Well, I don't usually ride with spurs so when I got on him
I found out why she said that... he pretty much would not move.  Being unfamiliar with him
I didn't want to get after him too much.  She did ride him with spurs and so I could see
that he did actually know how to walk, trot and canter.

One of the things that sold me on Johnny was that the owner's little girl would just put her hands up on either side of his face, grab on to the halter, and pull his face down for a kiss.  He didn't mind at all.  One of the things that sold Jim on Johnny was the fact that his name is really "Johnny Cash."  We made an offer for him on Sunday and they agreed to deliver him on Monday!

We weren't quite ready at our barn and so decided it would work best to take him over to my friend's where Tia was staying and introduce them there.

Just off the trailer

The next morning... all by himself in that great big pasture

Adjusting well... except for having to wear Tia's pink halter!

Even though horses are herd animals, introducing them for the first time can be tricky.  Adding a new horse to the herd can shake things up as they have to reorganize the hierarchy.  Fortunately, Tia happened to be the leader of the herd and since we were taking her away, we only needed to get the two of them acquainted... meaning #1 horse and #2 horse.  She let him know right away who was boss, but it never got ugly.  

First hello.

"I'll follow you around... lead the way."

"Who can run faster?"

It's hard to say who would win in an outright race.  He is younger and is 1/4 thoroughbred
(racehorse) but Tia is very big and powerful.  Probably for a short distance she would win,
but he would take over when she tired out.

After a mere 20 minutes they were settled in.

Ready to go home!

So once Tia and Johnny had spent a day together it was time to load them up for their trip to the new home.  I could hardly believe the day was finally here.  I think Karen was a little sad to see Tia go.

Tia knows to go on the trailer when I point.  I loaded her first because I was a little afraid
that if Johnny got on first she might think twice about getting on... not because she
didn't like him but because she didn't necessarily want to leave with him and go
away from her other herd.

Brand new blue halter!

I had loaded Johnny on the trailer for practice the day before, so I was pretty sure
he would go on, especially since Tia was already on.


Last one on is the first one off!

"This is the first time in three years that I've actually gone somewhere in the big
 red trailer!"  Little did she know...

Home sweet home!

Not quite as much grass on the ground as at Karen's but time will fix that.

Robert and some of his friends check out Johnny


First night in the barn

Not sure exactly what Johnny's living arrangements were before, but he seemed to like the new place.

So, what now?  Someone asked me if it takes a lot of time to have the horses here.  Yes.  Anywhere from 1 to X hours per day--I could spend all day with them if I had time.   I usually go out to the barn at about 8 am, feed them and then work with both on whatever exercises we are doing.  Right now it is a lot of groundwork for Johnny, who has turned out to not be quite as quiet as pictured above!  He was basically raised as a big puppy dog and did not know his boundaries and so was pushy and rude.  Although he is doing much better, he still has to be reminded at times... that you don't grab treats from people (we prefer to keep our fingers, thanks) that if you knock your water bucket over in the night then you have nothing to drink, if you slop all of your food out of your food bin then you have to pick it out of the shavings with your lips, and if you get in Carol's personal space without being asked then she will make you uncomfortable.  But, in case you are thinking that he is lacking... he is a beautiful horse with a quick mind and he is learning quickly.  He even knows how to take a bow!

In the evenings between 6:30 and 9 pm we bring the horses in and feed them, and if the weather is going to be nice (and/or no mud) then they go back out into the back pasture for the night.

Aside from working with the horses, I have been spending a lot of time working in the pastures.  Partly in preparation for getting the grass seed in, but also for the safety of the horses.  It's easy for them to get sore if they come down hard on a rock.

So I have picked up lots and lots of rocks.  I mean wagonloads of rocks.  And broken bricks from the little old house, asphalt, tile, branches, glass, pieces of pvc pipe, and garbage in general.  In retrospect, I should have been much more adamant that the workers clean up after themselves so we didn't end up with so much garbage to deal with!  I have some pretty deep callouses on my hands... I'm actually pretty proud of them.  I'd hate anyone to think I'm a "softie."  In fact, I have a whole spiel that I give when someone asks me if I "work out to keep in shape."  (I'll not include it here...)

This shows what I mean by rocks.  All shapes and sizes.  Some have been here for a
 hundred years and some were part of the construction process.  (Remember way back
when they had to put in a temporary drive because the neighbor insisted we not drive on
her section of the driveway?)  Well, all those rocks which should have been raked up and
hauled off ended up in our pasture...  &*^%$$#

This is how many rocks me and 3 workers got out in 2 days.  And there are many, many more.

The horses were pretty curious about all the stuff going on in their pasture.

The other thing we are doing is having sand put in their runs outside the barn.
 Hope to cut down on the amount of mud we have to deal with when it rains.

Sewer cleanout in the pasture.... horse hazard

Sewer cleanout covered with a fake landscape rock.... safe!

So the grass seed is planted.  It is a new type of pasture grass specifically for horse pastures that provides good nutrition but also stands up well to close grazing and lots of riding.  It is used on polo fields!  And we hope to do lots of riding.  So far, Jim, me, Joe and his girlfriend, Angela, have all had a go:

Up until yesterday, Johnny didn't have much riding going on.  I wanted to get some ground work done first to establish that I can move his feet.  I had a trainer come yesterday and work with us and I would be surprised if Johnny ever worked that hard in his whole 5 years of life.  She had him MOVING.  I wish I would have taken a picture!  He still has a lot to learn and I will probably have Krista back several times so that we can get Johnny to be as great a horse as Tia is in a much shorter period of time.

So, my dream of having my own horse on my own property finally came true!  I am one who this applies to:

I am very blessed to have a supportive husband and kids.  Jim has been 100% behind me all the way.  LY, Jim.  Without that support I would still be... just dreaming.