Horse Adventures

Winter Doldrums

If you are one of the millions of people not lucky enough to live in our beautiful Idaho valley, you are missing out on a winter wonderland.

A winter wonderland that has overstayed her welcome, in my humble opinion.

A measurable snow storm is rare enough in our area that we still rejoice at the first flakes, and delight in the snowman-making and frolicking that takes place if the fluffy whiteness actually accumulates on the ground.

Occasionally a winter inversion will even make for some pretty sunrise photos.

Snowy Morning

We got snow here in the valley between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and it was really fun.  We played and played in the snow, built snowmen and had snowball fights.  Then that snow kind of melted, until last week, when we got a major storm.

The snow was still fun then.

Batman, being the master of comic relief in our family, loves to run and “trip” in the snow, falling face-first in the powder with a squeal, then rolling around and around screaming “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

Batman in Snow

Winston is always happy to add to the show, bounding around and around and up and down, jumping over Batman when he falls down and generally being a big goofball.

Winston Bounds

Of course, he can also be the sweetest boy sometimes.  Notice how he is trying to twist his mouth around to pull off Annabelle’s glove.

Snow Winston

We played in the snow every day for the first few days, and the kids even got to enjoy a “snow day” last week when Annabelle’s school shut down due to the big storm.

All that was still pretty fun.

Batman got to spend lots of time doing one of his favorite activities:  helping.

After I shoveled the driveway and sidewalks after each snowfall, he would take the shovel and move impressive amounts of snow around on the long gravel drive in front of our house.

Put your body into it

He shoveled several large areas in the front of the driveway until they were completely clear.  While those areas were not necessarily expanses that needed to be snow-free, his effort was remarkable nonetheless.

Got a Job to do

At first, when the cold snap hit, Annabelle and I continued our normal routines.  We rode in the indoor arena where Freckles lives even when the temperature hovered in the single digits.

This is when something happened that I never thought I’d witness.

Annabelle asked if we could please quit riding.

She was so cold that day she didn’t even help me get the horses unsaddled, and sat shivering in a chair covered up with someone else’s horse blanket until we were ready to leave.

She gave up

That was almost two weeks ago, and it was the last day we rode.   Since then, even taking care of the horses has been a challenge.

Grumpy is breaking in his new pink blanket from Santa Claus (on top of the two he was already wearing) because he was shivering in his hairless splendor.

New Pink Blanket

Spice has icicles on her whiskers.

Spice is Frosty

Reno’s mane and forelock are tipped in fine white frost in the mornings.

Reno is Frosty

Our dining room sports a four-wheeled hose reel that contains the equipment we use to fill our horses’ water tanks, since the heater in the tack room cannot keep up with the sub-zero night-time temperatures.

Hose Reel

Even Toby-The-Old-Man-Dog has deigned to join us in the house a few times to warm his frozen bones, a move that is pretty much unprecedented in his thirteen years with our family.

Of course, who wouldn’t want to warm up on a Dora comforter?

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The snow still looks pretty from some angles.

Snowy Landscape

But the many consecutive days of below-freezing temperatures have left the roads in our small town still ice-covered and treacherous for driving.

To add insult to injury, the pipes in poor Desperate Hubby’s office have frozen solid.  Because the owner of our office complex is an absentee landlord residing in sunny Mexico, we have been unable to come to an agreement regarding the $500 or so it will cost to thaw-out said pipes.  In the meantime, our office resembles a sauna, with two space heaters keeping the mercury at around 90 degrees as DH tries to initiate the thaw on his own.  Sheesh.

Admittedly, the unseasonably cold weather is not without its merits.  I have finished all my accounting updates for the company and already submitted our books to the CPA to get our 2012 taxes prepared.  My home office is looking lovely (if I do say so myself) due to the amount of effort I have devoted to the makeover and subsequent revamping of my filing system and supply storage.  The company’s national and state licensing was renewed well before the due date, and I have responded to the half-dozen or so inevitable requests for additional information in a very timely manner.  I’ve even cleaned out and re-organized our pantry.

So the time spent waiting out the weather has not been wasted.

But still,  I am ready to be done with this ultra-cold weather.  I want to ride my horse and run outside and do all the stuff that we generally take for granted year-round here in our lovely state.

So snow and sub-zero temperatures go away. Come back again……next year.

Snowy Face

Categories: Horse Adventures, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Blanket Clip, A Broken Arm and A Brand New Space for Mama

Well, we have officially wound down our Christmas school break and 2013 New Year festivities here at the flats. It was at once a quiet and eventful three weeks here in the country.

Some of our activities weren’t all that different from the way we regularly spend our days.  Annabelle and I spent a fair amount of time riding, as usual.  She made full use of all her new pink items on Grumpy.

He looks pretty handsome in pink, no?

Blanket Clips….

One of the problems, though, of being a dedicated winter rider is that if your horse has a lot of hair, like Grumpy, and you like to do a lot of loping, like Annabelle, you can easily get your poor pony too hot.

See, she’s going so fast she’s a blur. Oh wait, I just don’t know how to use my camera in low light.  That’s the problem.

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But she did get poor Grumpy awfully hot and sweaty.  When that happens to your mount and it is really cold outside, you need to spend lots of time walking them around and drying them off to make sure they don’t get sick from being chilled.

Annabelle finds that part of riding pretty boring.

As an alternative, you can clip off some of said pony’s hair so that they don’t get so hot in the first place.  One of the most common winter horse-haircuts is called a blanket clip.  You basically shave the parts of the horse that are covered by his warm winter blanket so that when you ride him (without the blanket, obviously) he doesn’t overheat.

Auntie Kris was game to give it a go, so she started clipping away.

Kris Clips

Our initial foray into the world of blanket clipping was not very pretty, as the only clippers that Kris could readily lay her hands on were no match for the thick thatch of fur the our Grumpy was sporting.  We only got a bit done on each side before we had to give up for the afternoon.

He ended up looking a little……mangy?

Left Side

So the next day Auntie Shane came to the rescue with her big, strong, sharp clippers.  She made short work of finishing up the haircut.

Those are Clippers

When it was all done, Grumpy looked much more symmetrical.  But not really any happier.

Seriously Dudes

He did stay much cooler during his rides, though.  Thanks aunties!

Broken Arms……

OK, this title is a little deceptive.  Nobody in our household actually broke their arm (or arms, thank god!) during the vacation.  But one of Batman’s friends at school did.

So Batman, being the empathetic little tike that he is, adopted a “Sympathy Broken Arm.”

He came home from school one day and insisted that his arm hurt “really, really bad.”  So daddy had to fashion a sling for him out of two Harley Davidson bandannas.  Or some such thing.

Note the look on intense sympathy-pain on Batman’s face.

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Batman wore the sling for three days and three nights straight (yep, you read that right….he slept in it).  The only time he took it off was when he went to play with the kid who had the actual broken arm.  Then he would wear it over to school in the car, remove it before going inside, and replace it immediately upon being picked up in the afternoon.

Notice that the sling is on his (dominant) right arm.  He ate, wrote and performed all other activities left-handed.  It was pretty darned impressive, if you ask me.

Then yesterday, out of the blue, Batman announced that his arm felt better.  I removed the sling.  Batman wadded it up in a ball and threw it in the corner of his room and hasn’t spoken of it since.

A Brand New Space for Mama

Now to the good stuff.

Since we moved into the wonderful old farmhouse we are happy to call home a little over two years ago, there has been a room in the back southwest corner that has been, well, lets just, multi-purpose.

When we first moved in, it was a guest bedroom with a desk in the corner for my little “office.”  When we moved the big bed out of that room for Annabelle to use, we filled up the space with a treadmill that my in-laws generously donated.   Along with boxes of junk, pictures, broken things and stuff that I just couldn’t find any other place to store.

This is what the room looked like after I cleaned it up a bit following the holiday.  Yes, that’s right, after I cleaned it up.

Just a corner

That is the little corner where I sat to write my blog, pay bills, work on my memoirs and all the other interesting stuff that keeps me at my desk for pretty much every waking moment of my life (according to Batman, at least).

For some reason, (I assume it was the same temporary madness that has always overtaken me with the excitement of the impending New Year), I told Desperate Hubby that I wanted to clean the office out over our break.  We could move the treadmill next door, I told him, to the room occupied by the Skinny Pigs and the forty-four plastic totes of toys that Batman no longer plays with but refuses to get rid of.  I could put up some curtains, maybe slap on a little paint, and make the southwest room a respectable office.

DH was surprisingly amenable to that idea, but I think it was because he had forgotten how heavy the treadmill was and how it had taken three grown and crying men to get it down the hallway and into the room in the first place,

Nonetheless, one afternoon after Christmas when we girls were out riding our horses, Daddy and Batman managed to remove the treadmill from the office and hang the curtain rods I had procured from our nearby Wal-Mart.

Then the kids and I got to painting.

Little Van Goghs

Of course, even with the painting in process, the room looked quite a bit worse before it started to look better.

Did I mention it was really messy?

Messy Space

I worked on it off and on this week after the kids went back to school, and yesterday I proclaimed it finished.  Well, almost finished.  When I put our actual family pictures in the frame on the wall it will be finished.

Looks much better, yes?

Mamas New Office

I had space on the far wall to hang a print that had been sitting on the floor for months since I had gotten it framed.

Other side of Wall

And I even ordered a little buckle holder so that I could get my old trophies out of the cardboard box in our storage shed.

I need to show this picture to Freckles so that she can see there are three available empty slots.

Room for More

I love my new office.  I can just sit in here for hours at a time and play solitaire on the computer and enjoying the ambience.  I mean work.

It probably won’t really improve my writing any, but it definitely adds to my mood when I’m doing it.  It’s amazing what a little time and three trips to Wal-Mart can do.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Pony Rides $1….uh….50 cents?

The kids and I had a rare free Saturday yesterday, and we decided to take advantage of it by going for a little ride at Eagle Island.  This ride was special for me and Annabelle because Batman had decided to accompany us.  His participation in equine activities has always been sporadic, and the time between his rides has grown greater and greater over the past months.

Annabelle was, as always, eager to show off her riding prowess, and she wasted no time in planning how the day would evolve.  When we discussed horse assignments she volunteered to ride the pony and let her brother ride Grumpy, as the pony had not been ridden for a couple of months and she was “a lot better rider than her brother.”

We caught the horses, and I saddled Reno first.  After I lunged him around for five or ten minutes I thought he would be safe for her to climb on.  She mounted up and started trotting him around in small circles, bending his head and bridling him up to get him to listen to her.  All seemed like it was going well, but I watched carefully for several minutes before I went back to saddling.  I knew the pony could be fractious after time off, and it was a cold winter day out there.

I was on the other side of the trailer removing mud from a less-than-thrilled Grumpy, and  I kept glancing  around the corner to check on progress.  At first, Reno seemed pretty compliant.

After about ten minutes though, I heard an alarming sound…..kind of a yelp/scream from my little girl.  I rushed around the trailer just in time to see her launched off the back of the little black bastar bad boy and land on the frozen ground on her back.

Then this.

I ran to my baby girl, who was actually crying.  She has been bucked or fallen off of more horses than most children her age will ever ride, and she almost never cries.  So I was really mad at that pony.

I got Annabelle up and asked if she was all right.  She answered in the affirmative, but made it clear she wasn’t getting back on.   After a long hug and quick check of body parts, she trudged off to get some grain in a bucket so we could catch Reno.  He has proven on more than one occasion that he enjoys a little freedom now and then, and it is almost impossible to catch him when he’s on a rampage.

I tried though.

He ran.

And bucked.

And ran some more.

He's Off

Although I knew I wouldn’t likely catch him without the grain, I couldn’t stop myself from chasing him.  I tried to head him off by jogging around the side of the horse trailer, where Spice was tied rearing and bucking in place from all the excitement.

Reno was thinking about running me down when suddenly Annabelle appeared behind him, rattling the bucket.

The pony screeched to a halt and his entire demeanor changed.

He turned and walked calmly to my now-smiling little cowgirl.

Who is the most forgiving person on the planet.

She patted him on the nose and said “Good boy Reno!”

There was no talk of cancelling the ride from any involved party, so we carried on with our plans.  I got Spice and Grumpy saddled, and we loaded up and headed for Eagle Island.  We decided en route that Batman would ride Reno, since the pony is always a perfect gentleman on the lead line, and Annabelle would regain her composure on her trusty Grumpy.

When we finally got on the trail it was a beautiful ride.  Although we are in the depths of winter, there is plenty of wildlife to be seen at the lovely state park.  We saw several blue herons, and the kids marveled at their long wing spans.

We even saw a heron sitting in a tree along the river.  I had seen them on the ground many times, but I had never before seen one in a tree.  It was pretty cool.

We stopped after going through one of the many gates we had to pass to take a photo of the team.

And speaking of wildlife, one of the funniest moments of the ride was an encounter between Winston and a big flock of geese sitting in a field.

Winston looked at the geese for a long time trying to figure out what to do.

He finally talked himself into approaching the flock, and moved toward them cautiously.

Batman was beside himself with excitement.  All ride long he had wanted nothing more than to “catch a bird” to take home to daddy.  Although he has gone hunting a few times, I don’t think he has the concept that you have to actually shoot a bird to capture it.  He was sure that Winston would catch a goose for us, and that it would be “the PERFECT PRESENT for daddy!!!”

Winston wasn’t so sure about that.  One of the geese honked at him, and he turned around and high-tailed it back to us.

We laughed at him for a while, and when it was apparent that he was not going to approach the birds again we started to walk back down the trail.

Suddenly the crazy dog got a flash of inspiration, turned around, and took off for the birds at a dead run.  He ran right into the flock, who took flight at a leisurely pace.

The geese in the park are so used to dogs that they glided only about ten yards away and landed again.  Winston was so proud of himself that he didn’t care if the birds actually flew away.  He returned to us wagging his stump of a tail and smiling with his whiskery face.

He is a funny dog, that one.

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Before we got to the trailer, we had one more gate to go through.  Unlike all the other gates, this green metal swing gate could be opened and closed while on horseback.  Annabelle was intent that she was going to do it herself.

Because she had been planning on riding Reno, she was not wearing her spurs, so she had to work hard to get Grumpy sidled over so she could reach the locking arm.  I asked if she needed help.  You can guess the answer.

Got the Gate

When she got the gate unlocked, she swung it wide so that Batman and I could pass through.

Batman waited placidly for his sister to maneuver the gate.  He was disappointed that we had not “caught” any birds, and he was ready to get in the truck.

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After we passed through, it took a while for Annabelle to get Grumpy side-passed over and to where she could shut the gate.  I asked again if she needed help, and she said “NO MOMMY! I can do it myself.”

She shut and locked the gate all by herself, and rode smiling over to resume our trek.

I know she is my daughter and all, but dang she is cool.

Once we got the horses loaded and climbed back in the truck, the cold and activity took its toll on four-year old Batman.  He fell asleep before we hit the main road and although I know he must have been roasting he slept for the entire 45 minute drive.

Gloves and all.

It was a fun winter day.  We all appreciated the fresh air and relatively moderate temperatures, and it is always rewarding to do a physical activity with the kids.

So remember, we offer pony rides…..

……..with a 50% discount if you have good insurance.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thanksgiving 2012: A Life Bursting With Blessings

As we near the end of the long Thanksgiving weekend, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on just how much I have to be thankful for.  Our weekend has been packed with activity, and we made a conscious effort this year to try spend the long Thanksgiving holiday in celebration of the things that make our life so very wonderful.

Of course, I am first and foremost grateful for my wonderful family.  My children have brought immeasurable joy to my existence, and I say thank you every single day that I was bestowed with the honor of playing a small part in the raising of the three wonderful girls that came into my life through marriage, and then further blessed by the birth of my own two little miracles later in life.  Hali, Hana, Sami, Annabelle and Zach are truly the lights of my life.

My husband, Desperate Hubby, also occasionally known as Greg, is my rock.  He is my best friend and my biggest fan, and while we have our occasional differences of opinion, he is generally quick to see the light and come around to my way of thinking (love you, hon).

Outside of my immediate household, I also have a lovely extended family.  My siblings are all close enough for the random and highly enjoyed visit, and my husband’s family reminds me of how important a parent’s caring and love are to a healthy and happy life.

My network of friends is a treasure, and I am so grateful for the support, guidance, nagging and motivation they offer me on a continuing basis.  Without them I wouldn’t know where to send my kids to school or when they are too sick to go there; I wouldn’t have started riding again, and definitely would never have had the confidence to embark once more on my beloved sport of horse showing; I wouldn’t have the motivation to write, either, or spend a night every month shooting guns.  Whether I see and talk to my friends once a day, once a week, every quarter or even every few years I always come away from the encounter enriched.  Thank you friends.

So, you ask, how did our family spend the weekend celebrating what we are thankful for?

It will come as no surprise and Annabelle and I spent the majority of it riding our horses.  We warmed up on Wednesday with a ride in the indoor arena at Lucky Run, then on Thanksgiving Day we explored the BLM land south of Kuna, taking our new horse, Freckles, out for our first-ever trail ride with her. She was fantastic.  Despite her somewhat diminutive size, she walked at least twice as fast as Grumpy, a fact which delighted Annabelle since she got to spend a lot of time trotting.

We climbed to the top of a large hill and spent a few minutes looking all around the valley.  It was beautiful.

The Highest Point

Of course, being that it was Thanksgiving Day, Annabelle spent quite a bit of time eating.  As she rode.  She’s a good multi-tasker, that one.

Snack on the Trail

I took lots of pictures of Grumpy and Freckles together.  Despite his reputation for not really enjoying the company of other horses, Grumpy seems to have an affinity for our pretty sorrel mare.

Thanksgiving

DH and Zach spent Thanksgiving Day preparing for a hunting trip.  Batman has become absolutely obsessed with hunting since Daddy went away for a few days earlier this month on a deer hunt.  We have heard of nothing else for weeks.

This is how he arranged his bed while Daddy was gone.

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Note the hunting clothes hung carefully beside the hunting magazines and the contract from Daddy promising to take him hunting below. I am not exaggerating about him being obsessed.

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When we went to enjoy the Caldwell Downtown Christmas light display, we waited in line for the kids to get balloon animals.

Batman chose a red dog.

Which he turned into a deer immediately upon our arrival home.  He did this whole makeover entirely on his own.  I kid you not.  I was impressed.

Note that he created, specifically, a Whitetail.

Reindeer Now

The day of the big Thanksgiving hunt was Saturday.  Annabelle and I were headed out to ride our horses again, and the boys were off to the Sweet/Ola area to hunt for birds.  Batman was dressed in his entire hunting outfit, literally from head to toe, by 8:00 a.m.  I had to feed him his breakfast because he refused to take his gloves off.  Seriously.

Batman has been acquiring hunting gear since he took up the idea of going with Daddy a few weeks back, but he has been storing said gear in his “Hunting Suitcase” because “You can’t wear it if you’re not actually hunting, Mom!”

He was so excited to see it all put together that he stood on the toilet in the powder room admiring himself for quite some time before he would join us for ham and eggs.

Looking in Mirror

He did insist that I take this special photo of his “Hunting Headlamp” attached to his “Hunting Hat.”

Hunting Headlamp

When breakfast was finished, the boys headed out.  They spent several hours hunting in the Montour Wildlife Management Area, where DH estimates they hiked at least three miles, up and down hills, with Batman working his way through thigh-high brush and weeds.  It rained lightly almost the entire time.

DH had Batman walking behind him for safety, and every so often he would turn around and say “You okay back there, Bud?”  Batman always had a big smile on his face, and his reply was always the same.  “Yep!  We’re still hunting, right dad?”

They paused for lunch around noon, and you can see how happy my baby boy looks.  Almost as happy as old Toby, who is sure that Zach is going to drop that ham sandwich any second.

Hunting Sandwich

Right near the end of the day, the hunters were successful.  They shot a quail just as they were leaving the area to head for home, and Batman was ecstatic about cooking and eating their kill.  Sadly, DH made the mistake of leaving the quail on top of his workbench momentarily when he went in the house to change his shoes. This gave Winston the Maniacal Bird Dog the perfect opportunity to grab it.

As Annabelle and I drove down the driveway returning from riding, we were greeted by the site of Winston running as fast as he could away from the garage, frantically chewing and swallowing what looked like a bunch of dead feathers while he glanced furtively over his shoulder.  The look on DH’s face when he walked out into the garage a second later was really priceless.

All told, though, the hunters had a wonderful time together, and I am sure they will be spending many more fall and winter days out in the field.  As soon as I buy Winston a shock collar, that is.

The highlight of our Thanksgiving was, of course, the time we spent together.  On Friday the older sissies came over for the afternoon, and we were all very excited to see them.

They had an olive wearing/eating contest with their younger siblings.  I’m pretty sure Annabelle won that one.

Olive Kids

I briefly channeled Martha Stewart when I made a Cheesecloth-Covered-Wine-and-Butter-Basted turkey.

It turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

Yummy Turkey

We all had a wonderful day together, and it was a great reminder that the most important things in life aren’t things.  They are the relationships we share and the memories we make with all of those we love.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend everyone.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | 3 Comments

Look Out Reiners….Annabelle Wins Her First Check!

After a successful summer of showing the wonderful Smart Chic Dot Com, graciously shared with her by our friend Kris Troxel, Annabelle was pretty spoiled.  So was her mom.  All we had to do was get to the show and meet up with Chic, who was always perfectly schooled and ready to perform, throw on Annabelle’s little saddle and go.

With Chic’s late season injury, we were faced with two choices.  Annabelle could sit out the last two shows of the season, or we could try to get her own horse Grumpy ready for her to take to the show pen.

Annabelle had been riding Grumpy all year, so he was fit and ready to go as far as his conditioning went.  Problem was, Grumpy wasn’t “schooled up”.  Prior to joining our family about a year ago, Grumpy hadn’t been shown or schooled much for a couple of years.  Even for a veteran show horse like Grump, it is asking a lot to go out and pack a kid around the arena without time to practice and get back in the show groove.

Moreover, when I had schooled Grumpy in a training show early this spring, he had been a bit fractious in the pen: show fresh and full of himself.  I had visions of any parent’s nightmare: Grumpy running off or otherwise misbehaving with his tiny rider, scaring her, and maybe even ruining her love for showing.  I had decided that we would wait at least a year before letting Annabelle attempt to ride him in a competition.

With the last two shows looming, though, I gave my little girl the choice:  do you want to start practicing on Grumpy for next year and spend the winter getting ready, or do you feel that you can go out and try to show him now?

You probably have to think hard to guess what she said.

Our biggest challenge with Grumpy was Annabelle’s size; more specifically the shortness of her legs. While Grumpy is certainly an accomplished show horse, he was accustomed to being cued largely by the rider’s legs, and with my baby’s legs barely making it past the saddle pad, Grumpy either couldn’t feel or didn’t understand when Annabelle was asking him to spin.  He just wouldn’t do it.

The week before the show, I thought hard about how Annabelle could get Grumpy to spin.  I realized that if I could make him turnaround for me without using my legs, so could Annabelle.  I rode him one afternoon, and worked on getting him into the turnaround using only the reins and a tap on the neck with Annabelle’s little pink whip.  While hitting in front of the saddle is not allowed in the show ring, I figured that if Old Grump was properly schooled beforehand, he would spin without the whip too.

We didn’t have a lot of time to practice before the first show, but Annabelle and Grumpy did a bang up job.  Grump was quiet and calm, and the duo looked adorable out there loping around the big pen at the Idaho Center Horse Park.  Although they didn’t get their spins as well as we had hoped, the team earned Annabelle’s first actual horse show check, along with a beautiful set of white polo wraps embroidered with the Idaho Reining Horse Association logo.

Boy was my girl excited!

Scan0004

Before the date of second show, we practiced more.  Annabelle worked on her timing and cadence in cueing for the spins, and Grumpy picked right up on the change.  By the time the last show rolled around, Grumpy was spinning like a champion in practice.

Annabelle was pretty excited to be showing Grump again.  They looked just fantastic all dressed up, with Annabelle in a new show shirt (thanks again Auntie Shane) and Grumpy sporting the new white polo wraps that the pair had won together in their first outing.

Don’t they look cute?  The spots on the picture, well, they were dust on my camera lens. But you get the idea.

What a Picture!

Their performance literally brought tears to my eyes.  I had been so worried that Annabelle was going to have a hard time adapting to showing a different horse, but those worries were all put to rest by this pretty go.

Annabelle and Grumpy SRRA November 3, 2012

Annabelle and Grumpy improved on their previous score by a whopping 6.5 points and earned first place in their class.  I was so proud of both of them.

The duo is keeping up their practice even though the season has ended.  Annabelle rushes out to ride after school, and just yesterday the two of them mastered a few flying lead changes.  It was pretty cute to watch.

We will be forever grateful to Chic for teaching Annabelle what horse showing is all about.  Under his kind tutelage she learned not only how to show, but how much fun it can be when it all comes together.

Chic continues to convalesce in his comfy pasture in Nampa.  He foot is still a little sore, but he has a great appetite and can move pretty fast across the paddock for a cookie. Keep him in your thoughts and prayers, that he continues to improve and get more comfortable every day.

Oh, and Andrea Fappani…….watch your back!

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GSSHA Show #4

A couple of weeks ago Annabelle had her final Gem State Stock Horse Association show for the season.  She was excited, even more so than usual.  We had just returned from our trip to Seattle, and my little cowgirl was anxious to get back in the saddle.

We met Auntie Kris out at Lucky Run for a little practice on Friday afternoon. Batman was very excited to see the lovely Ms. Kristi, who he blushingly calls his “girlfriend.”  She was sweet enough to let the kids “help” her do some of her chores.

Check out Batman’s outfit.

No, I did not dress him. But apparently I did let him leave the house that way.

hs Helping Kristi

Once the wash rack was clear, the kids started in on Chic.  When he was all scrubbed up Annabelle wanted to clean his feet.  Look how he is standing there…..his foot resting so the kids can work on it.

hs Wild Chic

It took them quite a while, but Chic never moved once.  What an awesome horse he is.

hs What a Good Boy

Saturday morning dawned bright and clear.  We were up early and started our drive over to Ontario by about 6:30.  The kids ate McDonald’s pancakes in the car on the way over, so they were all fueled up for the day.

Batman burned off a little of his extra energy by doing an Olympic Gymnastics impression on the rails of the warm up pen.

If they ever let four-year olds who wear “Disney Cars” pull-ups and cowboy boots into the Olympics, Batman has a great shot.

hs Batman Swings

Annabelle calmly trotted Chic around the warm-up pen.  She is getting pretty comfortable with this whole horse show scene by now.

hs Warming Up

I tried to talk my little diva through her pattern one last time, but she just said “Mom, I know what to do!”

Famous last words, but we’ll get to that in a moment.  She didn’t really want her picture taken either.

hs Pretty Picture

But I had to keep taking it, because she was wearing another beautiful new shirt that Auntie Shane had gotten for her.  It was pink snake-skin, with a rhinestone collar and French cuffs.

I don’t think I have ever seen a cooler horse show shirt.  I’ve sure never worn one.

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When it was finally her turn, Annabelle walked Chic calmly into the pen.

hsReady to Go In

And then she did her pattern.

Well, half of it.  She forgot one circle.  Other than that little detail, though, her performance really was great.

Chic ran down and stopped like the World Champion he is.

It was beautiful.

But short.

You can watch it here.  It only takes a minute.

Annabelle and Chic, Gem State Stock Horse Association Show #4

When Annabelle came out of the pen she was beaming.  She didn’t realize that she  had forgotten part of her pattern.  I told her she did great, with that one little hiccup.

She thought long and hard about it.  Then she said “Well, that’s not that big of a deal is it?  They will still give me a good score, right?”  I told her I wasn’t sure about the Little Buckaroos Class, but in the big kids’ classes they would give you a zero for missing part of the pattern.

Annabelle was horrified. “A zero!?  Just for forgetting a circle? That doesn’t seem like THAT big of a deal!”  I laughed really hard, then told her not to worry about it.  I have messed up more patterns in various types of horse shows than many people will ever run in their careers.  “It happens to everyone,” I told her.

She was relieved.

After the show as over we hung around for a while.  We chatted with Auntie Kris, who was kind about the mishap and reassured Annabelle again that pattern hiccups happen to everyone.

Kris was showing her pretty bay mare Sally, who seemed to enjoy her new role as a hackamore horse.

hs Auntie Kris

We stopped by Jerry Vincent’s tack trailer to check out a different saddle for Annabelle, since hers wasn’t fitting any of the horses very well.  We didn’t bother getting Chic undressed all the way for his fitting.  His fly sheet hung around his neck like a scarf.  He didn’t care though.  He’s very secure in his manhood.  Well, gelding-hood I guess.

Chic is Draped

Jerry very kindly let us trade the saddle in for one that fit both Annabelle and Chic better.  Of course, I forgot to take a picture of it.  But it’s really cute.

We drove home from Ontario happy.  Although Annabelle did not win her class on this day, she still took first place in the Gem State Little Buckaroo Division with her three first place wins in the previous shows.

She doesn’t know that though.  She thinks it is all for fun.  I am trying to postpone for as long as possible her realization that she is actually competing with her friends out there.

Because it really is all for fun.

Thanks again to Auntie Kris for sharing her awesome ride Chic, and Auntie Shane, who once again contributed most everything that my daughter was wearing.

You guys rock.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Kids Are Funny Creatures | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Bon Voyage to the Fiechters!

I first met my friend Christine a little over a year ago.  As I started to write this story I had to go back and check my horse paperwork for the exact date, because it seems that I have known her for much longer than that.

Christine was referred to me by our mutual friend and veterinarian, Billy Maupin.  She had a pony that her sons had almost outgrown and she was thinking about selling him.  I had mentioned at the veterinarian office that I was looking for a horse or pony for Annabelle.  Billy put two and two together, and Christine gave me a call.

I almost didn’t go to look at the pony because he was more money than I wanted to pay, but out of respect for Billy I made what I thought was a courtesy call to check him out.  I liked Christine as soon as I met her, and I thought Reno was the cutest little black pony I had ever dreamed of (literally, but that’s a story for another time).  To my happy surprise, Christine offered to lower Reno’s price to my exact maximum budget (without me even asking) and a deal was made.

Reno and Annabelle hit it off immediately, and it was hard to tell who was happier, my little blond girl or her fuzzy black new best friend.

Annie Rides Reno

I sent Christine a few follow-up photos so she could see how well Annabelle and Reno were getting along, and a couple of months later we arranged  to go ride together in the Boise foothills.

That ride was the beginning of a great friendship.  We rode together many times over the course of the next year.  As Annabelle says “Mom, we wouldn’t know ANYWHERE to go if it wasn’t for Christine.”

We went for long rides together at Avimor.

Christine and Annabelle Dog I did a couple of rides with Christine and her friend Valerie too.

Avimore 2

Christine is one of the those people who can best be described as, well, competent.  I know the word competent doesn’t sound very glamorous, but it should.  Annabelle soon refused to go with me to any new place to ride without Christine, because Christine always carries a gun and she never, ever gets lost.

She is also quick to take charge of any situation, and to help as needed to get things ironed out.  Like adjusting Annabelle’s saddle before descending down a steep trail, for example.

Christine Fixing Reno

After we had ridden together a few times, Christine invited me to join her Ladies’ Marksmanship Group, a small group of women who meet monthly to practice shooting handguns at a local range.

Although I hadn’t shot for years, I felt comfortable going with Christine. She helped me load my gun, set up the target, and reminded me of the proper grip and sighting sequence to be able to hit what I was aiming at. Sometimes.

Just look at her. You can tell she knows what she’s doing!

Christine Shoots

It wasn’t long after I met Christine that she mentioned in conversation she and her husband Mark and their two boys, Logan and Cole, were avid sailors.  She told me that she and Mark planned to spend their retirement on a sailboat, sailing in the Bahamas.

A few months after that, Christine casually mentioned that they were thinking of moving their sailing adventure up in time.  From that conversation forward, it seemed that every time we spoke the sailing date was scheduled to arrive sooner and sooner.

I knew that this whole plan was real when Christine put her lovely horse Loretta up for sale, and sold both the mare and her horse trailer early this spring.

Christine really loved this horse, so when she let Loretta go I was sure there was no turning back.

Christine Loretta

The planning process for taking on an adventure the size of the Fiechter’s is mind-boggling.  Christine methodically began the process of making lists and spreadsheets; selling excess belongings and learning the basics of home- (or boat-) schooling for Logan and Cole. Her husband Mark began the arduous and time-consuming task of traveling to Florida to check out boats for sale, while still continuing to work at his long-time engineering job at Micron Technologies.

Through it all, Christine made time to keep riding with me and Annabelle.  Once she sold Loretta, she began riding my mare Spice, and we continued to go to our old haunts together, with Annabelle on Reno and me nudging along old Grumpy.

Rocky Canyon Christine

On each ride we would get the update on progress toward the trip.  My respect for Christine grew and grew as I slowly began to understand the complexity of the undertaking this  family was preparing for.

I have never known anyone who completely turned their life upside down to follow a dream.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  I do know people who did that, several of them, but not people like the Fiechters.

The Fiechters are some of the most conservative, responsible and pragmatic people I have ever met.  The fact that they are willing to disrupt their structured, predictable, and carefully planned life for this adventure speaks volumes about their dedication to following their long-time aspiration.

That dedication is something that I find awe-inspiring. I am thrilled to even know people who are just so freaking cool, and even more thrilled to call them friends.

The other thing I find extraordinary about this plan is how much it involves the whole family. The Fiechter’s two boys, Logan and Cole, are wholeheartedly on board (couldn’t resist, sorry) and are so very excited about experiencing the world as few people ever get a chance to do.

Besides their home, school and friends, two things the boys have to leave behind are their beloved guinea pigs, Snowy and Zoe.  Christine emailed me a month or so ago and said that they needed a temporary home for the girls.  After a quick consultation with DH I said yes.  I held off on telling Annabelle and Zach for a while, since I knew they would bug me non-stop, and sure enough, once I sprung the good news they pretty much nagged me ten times a day about when their new house-guests would be arriving.

Zach calls our house-guests “Skinny Pigs,” and has done so since he first heard their names. Annabelle tried and tried to get him to say the name ‘Guinea Pigs’ correctly, but she finally gave up on trying to correct his grammar and  has taken to calling them Skinny Pigs as well.  Just like me.

This last Sunday the Fiechter’s came over to deliver the girlies.  My kids had decided to get rid of Zach’s bed (italics intended) so the guinea pigs could sleep in the same room with them.  If you have read my blog much before, you already know that Zach has refused to sleep in his own bed for several months anyway, and instead sleeps on the end of his sister’s queen bed.  Like a dog.  So getting rid of his bed was not as big of a deal as one might expect.

Here is a picture of the cage sitting where my little boy’s bed formerly resided.

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And here is a picture of the kids holding the pigs.  They are the first thing the kids play with every morning and the last thing they say goodnight to before bed.

Kids and Piggies

If you have never been around Skinny Pigs before you are missing out.  They are the funniest little pets I’ve ever seen. They are totally tuned in to their humans, and figure out right away who does what.  When I walk down the hall, Snowy stands up on the bars of her cage and squeals at me.  It sounds kind of like a cross between a ground squirrel and a mouse, and occurs in rapid succession until I stop in and say hi.  Or better yet, deliver a couple of carrots or grapes for a snack.

We are thrilled to have the pigs for the time their real humans are traveling.  Being the planner she is, Annabelle has already procured a verbal contract with me to purchase her and her brother their own Skinny Pigs when Snowy and Zoe return home.  I am sure, since she is now in kindergarten, that a written contract will be required once she learns how to write all the words.

I stole the Skinny Pigs real owners’ pictures off of their blogs.  They really are super cute kids.  And extremely smart.

Here is Logan.

Logan

And his brother Cole.

Cole

Our Marksmanship Group held a little goodbye party for the Fiechters last week at our friend Katie’s house.  Seeing the genuine respect and support that was exuded for this wonderful family by each and every person there made it obvious that I am not alone in my strong admiration of my friends.

There were not one but two cakes.

Party Cakes

Thoughtful gifts.

Mark and Christine Gift

And much camaraderie shared.

Christine and Mark and the boys set off today for their grand adventure.  Their house is packed and will soon be rented out.  Almost all of their belongings are in a storage unit awaiting their return.

My friends will slowly make their way to Florida, where their 37” Hunter Sailboat, Truansea, awaits them.  Isn’t that an awesome name, Truansea?  Sometime in late fall the family will set sail for the Bahamas.  For at least the next year they plan to live aboard the boat and experience a side of life rarely seen by us mere mortals.

I am so jealous.

But I am also happy that they are planning on documenting their travels in a blog. It is already up and running, at www.truansea.com.  I encourage you to follow their adventures too. I think we can all learn something from people with the courage to so passionately pursue a dream.

Mark and I share a favorite quote, which he has on his blog page and I will steal and put here.  I think it best sums up the spirit of the days ahead of them.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

Fair winds, my friends.  We will surely miss you.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Travel | 3 Comments

Camping at Bull Trout Lake, 2012

My family and I have just returned from our 2nd Annual Camping Extravaganza at Bull Trout Lake near Stanley, Idaho.  This year we camped for five days.

THE PREPARATION

It takes a lot of stuff for a big family to camp for five days.  It was piled outside.

Piles of Stuff Outside

It was piled inside.

Piles of Stuff Inside

My brother-in-law Mike was joining us in our camping adventure for the first time, and he came over to meet us and caravan for the two and a half hour drive.  He was a little taken aback by the sheer quantity of stuff I had assembled for our trip.

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He said something like “I thought we were just going for a few days.  No one told me that you were MOVING there!”  What a smarty-pants.

So I got back at him.  I made him load all the stuff.

Mike Loading

We had rented a travel trailer for our trip this year, so once we got that and the pickup loaded to the gills we were ready to head out.

Travel Trailer

Of course, we took all three horses.

Horse Trailer

We made it to Stanley in good time and got the horses settled in first thing.

Horse Settled In

Batman immediately started whining that he wanted to watch movies.  Our travel trailer was equipped with a small television, and he demanded in increasing volume that I put a movie on for him.  He said he was soooooooo booooooorred!

Instead I set up the badminton net and gave him a racket.  He started hitting the birdie back and forth across the net all by himself.

He never mentioned the TV again.

Batman Plays Badminton

Annabelle pursued her own interests too, putting a halter on Grumpy and climbing on him bareback.

Annabelle rides Grump

We sat about preparing camp.  It took no time at all to get everything set up.

Trailerville

Uncle Mike put up his tent and sat outside in peace and quiet for a moment.

Mike Tajmahal

In a couple of hours Brother Rob and Mel arrived with Benson and Emma.  They had so much stuff stacked on the top of their car they called themselves the Clampets.

Rob hummed the “Beverly Hillbillies” theme song while everyone helped unload.  Well, just for a minute, anyway.

Unloading Rob

Rob carefully raked the ground where he had decided to set up the tent.

Rob Rakes

And a group effort eventually got everything set up perfectly……

Robs Tent Takes Shape

right on top of a giant pile of biting ants.  We talked about moving the tent, but finally decided to just take action.

Mel sprayed and sprayed the fly spray we had brought for the horses.  I guess it worked, because they never complained about the ants.

Ant Problem

WE MAKE NEW FRIENDS

About the time we all got settled in we saw a huge beautiful motor home towing a Jeep pull in to the campsite right across the trail.  It was truly a sight to see.

Piper's House

I thought for just a moment that our friends the Points were surprising us and arriving with her mom and dad in their travel ensemble.  But then I noticed the Texas plates.  Nope, these were strangers.

But not for long.

In just a few minutes a beautiful little girl came skipping over looking for kids to play with.  Three year old Piper was absolutely adorable.

Piper Looks

The kids took to her right away, especially Annabelle.  She introduced her to all the horses and her toys.  Piper seemed interested in the horses, but she was clearly a little scared of them.

We were ready to head down to the lake to let the kids swim, so we invited our new friends to go with us.  We were even going to let them ride in the Redneck Limo, but for some reason they decided to drive their own car.

There's the Limo

When we got to the lake we found a nice little spot near the beach to park, and the kids piled out.  Uncle Mike immediately started earning his keep, coaxing the kids into the cold mountain water like the Pied Piper.

Mike Pied Piper

Speaking of Piper, she did try the water, but as I mentioned, it was really, really cold.  She curled up on her Mama Donna’s lap instead.

Piper and Donna

After the kids were suitably frozen we all headed back to camp for some dinner.  Piper and her Papa, John joined us for a while longer.  We had learned that our new friends were traveling the country full-time in their luxury coach.  John is an attorney who specializes in securities work for independent filmmakers, and a sought-after speaker who travels all around the US to address groups and help them with their legal and financial needs.

John and Donna have full custody of Piper, who is Donna’s granddaughter.  It was obvious that the couple doted on the little girl, and I was impressed by how well-adapted they all seemed to life on the road.  Of course, Piper is always on the lookout for friends to play with.

And she sure found them here.  She was at our camp first thing in the morning, ready to play.  She joined right in with the big girls in hauling water for the horses.

Piper Carries Water

She even helped the kids gather firewood.

Piper Flying Pig

I told John that I was going to saddle Reno, and asked if Piper would like to ride.  “I don’t think so.” he said.  “She has never been near a horse before and I don’t think you will get her on him.”

We worked up to it slowly.

Piper Helps Groom

It took a little coaxing but eventually we got it done.  How cute is this?

Piper Smiles on Reno

Once we got her on, we couldn’t get her off.

Piper and John Reno

And her adventurous spirit even rubbed off on her Mama and Papa.

John looked perfectly at ease on Grumpy.  Well, except for the barrel racing saddle and short stirrups.

John Rides

Donna had done quite a bit of riding in her younger years and she hopped right up like she had been on a horse yesterday.

Donna Rides Grumpy

We walked around the campground loop and talked.  Donna and I discovered that we had a very similar background. She had been working at Apple Computer during the same time frame as I had been at Ascend, and we shared stories of the highs and lows of the Silicon Valley hay-days.

Piper and Benson trailed along behind, holding hands.  They were adorable.

Benson Piper Walk Back

We had so much fun visiting with our new friends, but they had to leave for a lecture in Boise so we bid them farewell.  We hope to see them again someday on their travels through.

LIFE AROUND CAMP

We quickly settled into a routine of sorts around camp.  Like home routines, the camp days were delineated by mealtime and planned daily activities.

The early morning campfire was always a welcome sight when I emerged from the trailer.

Morning Campfire

The kids drank hot cocoa and the adults coffee.  Winston ran around trying to eat off of everyone’s plates.

Speaking of eating, Desperate Hubby was the primary food preparation guru.  His assistant Mike helped too.

Nice Bacon Cookie!

Breakfasts were bacon or sausage, with huge helpings of hash browns and eggs cooked to order.

Dinners weren’t too shabby either.  It makes me hungry just looking at it.

Dinner is Served

A couple of nights Aunt Mel took charge of dinner.  Her spaghetti was just delicious.

Mel with Spaghetti

Uncle Mike’s table runner provided a touch of class to our little camp kitchen.

Pretty Table

Which apparently Uncle Rob thought we needed, since he didn’t even trust us not the eat the bait.

Worm Cooler

The kids had several camp chores that they carried out with remarkable enthusiasm.

They were in charge of hauling water for the horses three times a day.

Carrying Water Back

And gathering firewood.

A Whole Tree Boys

By any method necessary.

Bring some Firewood

One day they found this giant stump and worked for what seemed like an hour to get it back to camp.  It was really, really heavy.

Flying Pig

When they finally got it back to camp and sat it down Batman made an observation.  “It looks like a Flying Pig, mom!”

And the Flying Pig it was.

Triumphant Pig

I thought it was so cute that I demanded the Pig be spared from the fire, and Pyromaniac Brother Rob reluctantly agreed.

The Pig served a very useful purpose as the Camp Drying Rack for the duration of our stay.

Flying Pig Rack

And then I made Desperate Hubby save room for him in the back of the truck.  The Flying Pig now lives in the gravel bed in front of our house.

Really.  Come on by and you can see him.

Flying Pig Loaded

At night all the kids settled down in our trailer with us.  After the first night they were so tired that they actually went to sleep peacefully with no fighting.  It was heavenly.

The boys shared a bunk.

Boys Sleep

As did Emma and Annabelle.

Girls Sleep

Desperate Hubby got his own bunk because it was too small for us to share.  I slept in the teeny tiny bunk above his.  I didn’t mind.

Daddy Sleeps

BATMAN GROWS HORNS

I have to take a second here to tell a funny story about my little boy.  We really tried to be good about putting bug spray and sunscreen on all of the kids during our trip.  But we obviously missed Batman’s face on the first evening, and he got two very symmetrical mosquito bites on each side of his little forehead.

Zach Grows Horns

By the second night Batman sported two large bumps on each side of his skull.  He pointed out the bumps to me and I exclaimed “WOW!  You must be growing horns!”

No more thrilling words has my little boy ever heard.

He snorted and tossed his head.  He proudly told the other kids about his sprouting horns.  Benson was so alarmed that he said he did not want to sleep with his cousin.  Not if he was going to grow horns, that is.

Poor Benson didn’t calm down until Mel took him aside and told him it was just a joke.

But it wasn’t a joke to Batman.  He carefully felt his horns every few minutes to see if they were growing.  He made me lift him so he could look in the tiny mirror in the trailer. He was positively ecstatic about the horns.  He told tales of how large the horns would grow, and refused to wear a hat because the horns might poke through.

After a day or two he became concerned that perhaps the horns weren’t growing after all.  He was disappointed about that.  It wasn’t until we got home and he looked in the bathroom mirror that he sadly said “Mom, I don’t think they are horns after all.  They are just bug bites.”

When his dad got home from work that evening he said “Dad, I am not growing horns after all.”  Desperate Hubby feigned surprise.  “Really buddy.  No horns huh?”    Batman said no.  In fact, he said “Dad, even if I asked Santa Claus for horns I don’t think I would get them.  I am not meant to have horns.”

It was a somber evening for Batman.  But he’s recovered.

WATER DOGS

The kids and men spent a great deal of time lakeside.  Bull Trout Lake itself was freezing cold, so they searched around until they found a nice little lake down the road that was much warmer but without the moss and icky stuff that resides in a lot of warm lakes.

It was beautiful there, too.

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Our Swim Master, Uncle Mike, wasted no time getting the kids in the water.

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And Winston.

Winston Swimming Lessons

After Uncle Mike hauled Winston out in the deep water where he couldn’t touch he let the poor traumatized dog swim back.  Amazingly enough, Winston was still willing to go in the water after a stick.

Over and over and over again.

Fetch Winston

The fetching looked like so much fun to the kids that they got their own sticks.

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And thus was born an amazing and fun new camping game.

Kids That Fetch

Zach Swims

We threw the sticks out for them over and over, further and further.  Safely ensconced in the comfort of their life vests they fetched again and again and again.  It was a wonderful way to wear them out.

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Every kid fetched.

Annabelle Swims

And Benson even took the game up a notch by walking on all fours for a remarkably extended period of time.

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With all this time at the lake there was a little actual fishing that went on.

Batman Fishes

And a couple of fish were caught.  Batman loves to hold a nice slimy fish.

batman loves fish

Actually, this is might be the same fish.  Maybe they only caught one.

Rob with Fish

Anyway, the lake provided hours of entertainment.

BUT WE PLAYED OTHER GAMES, TOO

They included, as previously mentioned, several Badminton tournaments.

Batminton Tourney

A little Horseshoe action.

Horseshoes

Intellectual stimulation was provided by the occasional game of Checkers.

Everyone Checkers

And hours (it seemed like) of BB Gun Range Practice, supervised by Uncle Rob.  He is a police officer, you know.

Batman Shoots

The kids hardly ever beat him.

BB Guns

Annabelle loved to shoot Emma’s pink BB rifle.  She was pretty good, too.  No empty can was safe around our campsite.

Annie Oakley

And we can’t forget Uncle Rob’s famous rock juggling.

Rob Juggles Rocks

And of course I would be remiss to leave out our nightly campfire entertainment, provided by Desperate Hubby after he finished his cooking and cleanup chores.

Campfire Entertainment

Even with all this campsite fun, we did have time for a few major excursions away from our campsite.

TRAIL RIDING, KIRKHAM TRAIL

I was itching to get out on the trail, so on our first full day we saddled up the horses and headed out to the Kirkham Trail Head.  We had three horses and four riders, so Mel and I took turns riding Spice and walking.  I really needed the exercise, so I wanted to walk most of the way.  So did Mel, but she was a good sport about it.

First Day Ride

The ride started out well enough.  The beginning was mostly flat ground which wound through the marshy area near the creek.  Spice wasn’t crazy about the little wooden bridges that crossed the marshy areas.  They weren’t more than two feet wide, and had no rails.

Scary Bridge

We had to cross two of these bridges to get to the high country.  We got Spice across the first one but I could tell she was pretty nervous. When I led her across the second one she panicked and slipped off the edge, pushing me partly into the murky mud below.  It was icky.

One Muddy Shoe

We soldiered on, with me trying not to think too much about the return trip and crossing the bridges again.

The trail was breathtaking once we started to climb.    We went through acres of burned down trees whose skeletons stood like sentinels guarding the new baby trees growing up.  It was a little eerie.

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Up on top we could see forever.  If we would have kept going on that same trail we would have made it all the way to Lowman.

Hillside Trio

We had been riding for a couple of hours already, though, so we turned around and headed back.

Toward the bridges.

I was leading Spice as we got to the first bridge and she made it across OK, but she was considerably agitated by the unknown elements lurking just under her feet as she clonked across the wood.

As we started to cross the second bridge disaster struck.  Spice walked carefully, but stepped just off the bridge with one hind leg.  That leg immediately sank in the deep mud.  The mare panicked and floundered, pulling the reins out of my hands and falling off the bridge with all four legs, bolting away from the bridge through the muck.

I caught her and held on to her beside the bridge.  I told Mel to go on across with Grumpy and Emma.  Then disaster struck again.  Grumpy, who had made every prior crossing with the aplomb he has shown as a superstar trail horse, started over the bridge.  Emma was scared, and I am not sure exactly what happened, but Grumpy fell off the bridge too.  He floundered trying to get to his feet in the deep mud.  Emma fell off.  Right under his feet.

I am usually very well composed under adverse circumstances, but in this case I lost it.  I started screaming, watching my 10-year-old niece on the ground next to the shod scrambling hooves of a 1,000 pound horse.  Grumpy is smart, though, and careful. Somehow he managed to miss stepping on Emma.

We all re-grouped.  I decided that there would be no more bridge crossings that day.  I took Spice and walked up and down to find a place to cross the creek. Once I found it, it took me about twenty minutes to convince Spice to cross.  She was trembling all over with fear from the bridge, but she is a veteran water crosser.  Once I got her in the creek she stopped for a nice drink.

Spice Finally Crosses

Then it was Grumpy’s turn.

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It took quite a bit of coaxing but I finally got him across too.  He jumped the whole thing in one big leap.

Then it was time for Reno.  I walked back over the bridge to him.  I attached the long lead rope I had been using to lead the others across the creek to his bridle. As I started to lead him toward the creek he took off, marching across the bridge all by himself, with me following him.

He is such a cool little horse.

This is how it's done

We made it back to camp safely, exhausted from our ordeals but still grateful for the beauty we had seen that day.

So we decided to do it all over again.

TRAIL RIDING, BENCH CREEK TRAIL

This time we couldn’t talk Emma into going along.  I can’t say that I really blame her.

It was just us three girls that headed out.  And Winston.  At least nobody had to walk this time.  Except Winston.

Second Ride Posse

This time we headed in the opposite direction, to the Bench Creek Trail.  Another rider we had encountered the day before talked of the beautiful views from the top of the trail.  He told us there were no bridges to cross this time.

He was right on both counts.

The trail started out flat, then wound high up on the ridge of a mountain.

2nd Ride Trail

The terrain was so steep that the trail was a zig-zag, going from one switch-back to another up the side of the mountain.

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Once we got to the top though, the views were nothing less than spectacular.

But a little smoky.

Up High Smokey

Of course we had to pose.

Top O Mountain A and M

All of us.

Top o Mountain A and P

Our ride home was without incident.  It was one of the most beautiful trails I think I’d ever seen.

Until the next day, that is.  When we embarked on

THE EPIC HIKE, WARM SPRINGS TRAIL

The horses were tired a little sore from their strenuous climbs the previous two days, and even Winston wasn’t interested in doing another ride by day three. With all the hiking and swimming he had done he was Dog Tired.  Har har.

Tired Winston

I had one more trail in mind though, and despite going for a five-mile run after our trail ride the previous day, Mel was more than happy to humor me by agreeing to go for a hike.  My experience the other day trekking along with the horses made me remember how much I like to go for nice relaxing hike, so I was thrilled to head out.

Heading Out Hiking

When we set out on a moderate climb up the side of a mountain, we had no idea of the wonder we would soon experience.

Hiking the Trail

We’d hiked about an hour or so when we saw a few butterflies. A few turned into many.  Many turned into hundreds of thousands.  They covered acres of meadows on the side of the mountain  It was breathtaking.

Butterfiles

They ranged in color from a bright orange to a more mild version of that same color.  Every one was beautiful.

Mel Butterfly

We stared and stared at them.  I had seen the migration of the Monarch Butterflies in California before, and this was a similar phenomenon.  Although these butterflies were the same color, they were much smaller than a Monarch and they were spotted rather than striped.  Whatever they were, they were simply beyond words.

Closeup Butterfly

Beautiful.  Just beautiful.

Butterfly Closeup

After we played with the butterflies for a while, we continued our hike.  We came upon a huge tree that appeared to have been felled by lightning.  The base of the tree was so big we could actually sit inside it.

Lightning Tree

Se we did.  The bright orange vibrancy of the wood was truly a work of art.

Mel Lightning Tree

We hiked further.  Past bushes with a mysterious red fuzz growing on them.

Red velvet vines

More fallen trees.

Mel Fallen Tree

And lots of beautiful flowers.

Pretty Pink Flowers

We crossed a couple of streams.  One small, one bigger.

About to Cross

We hiked into a high mountain swamp to examine hundreds of lily pads floating serenely in a pond surrounded by tall, tall trees.

LilyPads

We finally walked back to the campsite in the heat of the afternoon.  Mel’s GPS watch showed we had hiked just about 6.5 extremely steep miles.  I was sweaty and tired.  My breath came in heaves and I felt like my legs might collapse at any minute.  Mel trotted along the trail as if we were just starting out.  She is a goer, that girl.

We walked into the camp to see the unexpected sight of the children giving poor beleaguered Winston a bubble bath. That’ll teach him to wimp out on a hike!

213

Rob and Mel headed out that evening for home.  We woke up early the next morning to a light drizzling rain.

The kids sat under the camper awning playing with their pet worms.

Final Morning

We loaded up the camper and the horses and headed home.  The smoke that had been a beautiful plume in the previous four days now pervaded the valley.

Smoke Plume

We made it past the fire controls near Banks and home in good time.  The kids were tired and ready to be back.

But Batman said what we all were thinking.

“I can’t wait to go camping again, mom!”

Categories: Horse Adventures, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country, Travel, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Oh What a Weekend!

It was one of those rare, relatively unscheduled weekends around the Desperate Household.  We had a couple of fun things planned, but weren’t so scheduled that we couldn’t enjoy some down time too.  We have been so busy lately that a relaxing interlude sounded perfect.

This is how it all shook out.

FRIDAY NIGHT – THE WEEKEND BEGINS

Annabelle and I started out the weekend by going to the Friday night performance of the Snake River Stampede.  The first person we saw when were entered the Idaho Center was our favorite friend Kathy the Coffee Lady.  It was like our own Snake River Stampede welcome party.  She is so wonderful. 

Then we made our way our seats.  Our tickets were right by the bucking chutes, which gave us a great view of the cowboys putting their rigging on the bareback and saddle bronc horses, which Annabelle found just fascinating.  A big thanks to Grandpa Vernon for the awesome tickets.

SRS Mom and Annabelle

Annabelle was naturally quite enthralled by the Mutton Busting, where kids between the ages of about 5 and 8 ride bucking sheep.  She said that since she can ride Reno with no saddle or bridle she was pretty sure she could ride a sheep too.  I agreed.

SRS Mutton Busting

Another big highlight was the Snake River Stampeders riding drill team.  When the lights went out and the lighted riders entered the arena Annabelle just said “Wow!”

SRS Stampeders

My pictures didn’t turn out very well, but you can get the general idea.

Annabelle was completely engrossed in the rodeo as she sat patiently waiting for the event she was most excited about – the barrel racing.  That girl does love speed.  After the barrel racing we watched a couple of bull riders and then headed out to beat the crowd from the parking lot.

We had to get home and get to bed so we could wake up early the next morning and go ride our own horses.

SATURDAY – DOWN THE DUSTY TRAIL

We tried to get an early start, since it was going to be a hot day, but somehow wrangling three horses, two kids and one wild puppy always seems to take longer than I think it will.  By the time we caught a recalcitrant black pony, got the dog kennel in the pickup, and persuaded the dog to get in the kennel instead of the kids’ booster seats, the temperature was already pushing 80 degrees.  We drove to the Eagle Foothills, and proceeded to get ready to ride.

Annabelle was in charge of the grooming chores.

TR Brushing Grumpy

Batman and Winston hung out together and watched sissie and I do the work.

TR Batman an Winston

Finally we got mounted up and headed out.  I was pretty tired and a little crabby by the time I even got a-horseback, what with the pony-chasing, dog-wrestling, kid-herding and heat exhaustion I had already faced that morning, but I was determined to make a go of it. 

Batman looked pretty cool in his Spider Man sunglasses and hat.  That cheered me up a bit.

TR Spidey Rides

Annabelle of course loped up ahead and waited for us to catch up.  Over and over again.

DSCN4853

After a few minutes on the trail I started to relax, and the hectic morning fell away from me. This attitude improvement was greatly aided by the spontaneous bursting-into-song of my little Batman.  We were riding quietly along, and suddenly out of the blue my baby started belting out Barney tunes, followed by a rousing rendition of “Wheels on the Bus.”  It was the cutest thing I ever heard.  He just rode along, smiling and singing.  It almost made me cry, it was so precious. 

After about 45 minutes we made it to the top of the first hill.  This is the place where Batman normally demands to turn around and go back to the truck.  For some reason, though, this day he wanted to keep going. 

His sister even convinced him to try to ride with no hands.  He was game for that.

TR Look Ma No Hands

He even tried it going down the trail.  This was a major accomplishment!

Especially since he doesn’t use stirrups.

TR No Hands Down Trail

We stopped after another half hour to give Winston some water and take some pictures. 

This is my posse.  Am I lucky or what?

TR Whole Gang

We eventually made our way back to the bottom of the hill, with one hot dog and two tired kids.  We had ridden for over two hours, which is a long, long time for Batman, especially in the 80 degree plus heat.  I was so proud of him!

We made our way home, and rinsed the horses off with the hose before we turned them loose.  Of course, the first thing they did was roll in the dirt, covering themselves with a fine layer of dust that clung to their wet coats.

After five hours wrangling, driving and riding their ponies, the kids now wanted to play horses, naturally, so they turned on the slip n’slide and hosed themselves off too.

Then they rolled in the dirt just like Spice and Grumpy. 

Nice.

TR Rolling After Bath

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and doing a few chores around the house.  Desperate Hubby had his first real band gig on Saturday night, so he left around 6:30 to go set up.  The kids and I were asleep early.  The ride had worn us out.

SUNDAY – DINNER WITH TAMI

We got around slowly on Sunday morning, cleaning up the house and listening to tales of Desperate Hubby’s return to Rock Stardom.  He was very happy after his first band performance in almost five years, and it made my heart smile to hear him so excited.

The kids and I headed out to do some shopping for a dinner date we had with our dear friend Tami.  Annabelle doesn’t totally understand the idea that I have known Tami since I was just a little older than she is now, but that is how long we have been friends.

She still looks exactly the same as she did in high school!

Tami Smiles

Batman wasted no time in convincing Tami that she should play basketball with him.  Despite the fact that it was blistering hot outside she happily agreed.

Batman immediately started showing off with his one-handed throw.  He actually made quite a few of these, which was amazing. 

Batman Shoots

He learned the shot from his father, Batman, Sr.

DH Shoots

Batman pulls out all the stops when he’s trying to impress a pretty girl.  You gotta love his form.  And his basketball uniform.

Batman Form

Desperate Hubby cooked us an awesome dinner of Black Pepper Seared Ahi, Garlic and Bacon Potatoes, green beans and perfectly cooked steaks. 

Then Tami and the kids did the dishes.  By hand.

My kids didn’t even know you could do dishes without putting them in the dishwasher.  But they thought the whole thing was super fun.

Tami and Kids Dishes

Tami had brought homemade peach/berry cobbler and ice cream. It was fantastic! After eating about a pound of that, the kids were all sugared up and ready to play. 

DH and I sat comatose in our recliners and listened to our dear friend count to ten over and over again, then say “Ready or not, here I come!” and race around looking for the hidden children in closets and under beds, until the kids were finally tired enough for me to brush their teeth and herd them toward night-night.

She is a gem.  Thanks for coming over Tami. We love you and you can move in anytime.

Oh what a great weekend it was!

Categories: Horse Adventures, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | Leave a comment

Batman’s First Trail Ride

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and Horsecrazy and I had planned a wonderful little trail ride together to celebrate.  Desperate Hubby had agreed to watch Batman while we girls went out for a few hours.

I made us all a filling breakfast of Eggs Benedict with a side of fried potatoes and onions, which actually turned out pretty well, although Batman pronounced it “gross” and had a frozen waffle instead.

After breakfast I tried to take a little nap.  It was Mother’s Day after all, and I was tired from getting up in the wee hours to write a Mother’s Day post for my blog.  I settled peacefully back into bed at around 10:30, and relaxed for 4.3 minutes until Batman slammed the bedroom door open and clamored into bed with me.

I tried to act like I was asleep, but soon I could feel my little four year old slowly crawl across the covers until he was laying right on top of me.  I was trying not to laugh, and I succeeded until I felt the soft breath of his breakfast waffle exhaling onto my face from a distance of about a quarter inch away.  I opened my eyes and he was staring intently at me from point blank range.  “What are you doing, Momma?!”

I could see that my ‘nap’ was over.  “Just getting up buddy.”  I yawned.

“Where are you going?” Batman demanded.  I told him that sissie and I were going for a ride, and he started to cry.  “Don’t leave me with Daddy!  It’s boring.  All he does is lay in his chair and watch TV!”  He did have a point there.  DH really wasn’t in a position to be left responsible for entertaining a four year old at this early point in his rehab.  I saw visions of my afternoon spent horseback fading.

Suddenly inspiration struck.  “Do you want to go with us and ride Reno, Buddy?”  “Yes!  Yes! Yes!” he shrieked. He jumped off of the bed and ran to tell his sister the good news.

I wasn’t sure if this was the best idea I’d ever had.  Batman has shown little interest in riding thus far in life, and when he has gotten on a horse he hasn’t lasted longer than about five or ten minutes.  I was happy he wanted to try, though, and I felt better about spending Mother’s Day with both kids rather than just one.  I decided to go to Eagle Island since it was close and accessible and flat.  Most importantly, we would only be about half an hour away from the car even at the farthest point along the trail.

Desperate Hubby sighed with happiness when I told him I was taking both kids.  He settled a little deeper into the recliner and wished me good luck.

When we arrived at the parking lot I was happy to see we were the only riders there.  Our horses are calm and well-trained, but I had my hands full with the kids and maniac dog as it was.  I didn’t need any further distractions.

Horsecrazy immediately set about telling Batman how to groom his pony.  She was actually kind of bossy about it.

I have no idea where she gets that.

Batman Learns to Brush

It didn’t take too long to get all saddled up and ready to go.  I planned to lead Reno behind me, and of course Horsecrazy could manage herself and Grumpy just fine.

Batman Trail Ride 1

We started out with a short jaunt down the north side of the river trail.  Batman was really having fun.  The river was extremely high and fast, and had flooded the trail a little several places.  Batman’s favorite part was walking through the water.

After we reached the end of that trail we turned around and walked back toward the south side of the island.  We were about 45 minutes into our ride by the time we passed back by the parking lot and I figured Batman would be done by then.

I was wrong.  He wanted to keep going.  I was elated.

I took this picture as we headed down the trail.  I would like to say that I was being creative and artsy by taking this picture in this format, but actually a button had accidentally gotten changed on my camera when I took it out of the case.  It turned out pretty good anyway.

Down the Trail

We rode to the Warden’s House so that Zach could see it.  I posed them for a picture together.  It was really sunny, and I hadn’t noticed the camera setting yet.

Warden's Houe

By that time Batman was ready to head back to the car, so we were finished.  He had ridden for almost an hour and a half when it was all said and done.  I was so proud of him.

Horsecrazy continued her horse lessons with directions on unsaddling the pony.

Teamwork Unsaddle

Winston the Maniac Hunting Dog Puppy ran around joyfully, checking out the marshy area around the parking lot that was flooded from the high river.  He was having a wonderful time.

Joyful Winston

The kids were both hot, so after the pony was unsaddled they wandered off to find some shade.   While I was busy unsaddling the big horses they decided to follow Winston’s lead.  Literally.

I turned around and there they were.

In They Go

It was kind of funny, but they were both wearing leather cowboy boots that weren’t really designed for water wear.  I tried to get them to come out of the reedy pool.  They just laughed and ran further.

I cajoled. I threatened. They just splashed and splashed and pushed each other down in the shallow pond.  Finally, I did what any reasonable mother would do under the circumstances.

I told them there were snakes in the water.

I’m not sure if they believed me or not, but they did come out.  I’m don’t know who was wetter, them or that damn dog.

Everybody's Wet

It didn’t really matter.  They all had to ride inside the car.

The kids’ boots were full of water.  They dumped them out, then walked across the gravel in their socks, leaving wet footprints all the way to the car.

Emptying Boots

I strapped them into their booster seats, their wet clothes immediately soaking everything they touched and their sandy little feet leaving smears and footprints on the vinyl seat backs in front of them.

All the way home I had to answer questions about snakes.  I don’t really know anything about snakes.  But I made stuff up.

It was the best Mother’s Day ever.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | Leave a comment

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