Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vacation, it’s all I ever wanted

I have been absent from my blog because we’ve been away! And now we’re back. We spent a glorious NINE DAYS in Cook Forest, Clarion, PA. Everybody should take a vacation there, IMHO. Really.

I noticed in the July issue of “Horse & Rider” magazine, thier article on '50 States, 50 Rides,' the submission for Pennsylvania is Cook Forest. Really, this place is amazing. I want to work there, really.

We took the big boys plus April and Irene. The little guys went to White Fences Farm. I’m sure they felt that they had a vacation, too.

If you don’t have a horse, Ray Smith will fix you up with the best horse you’ve ever ridden. You’ll want to buy the horse. If you don’t ride you are a loser. No, really, you should ride. If you don’t there is plenty to keep you busy or otherwise occupied.

I’m going to post a run-down of our activities on a separate heading in case you are not interested in what we were doing for NINE DAYS.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Second Weekend in June

Another quick week while going into our long-awaited vacation! Thursday I made it to the grocer, it rained while I was there. No rain at home. We need the rain; it rains in town but not at our place.

Not as hot, either, the Moon is waxing.

I started doing laundry on Thursday night, trying to catch up on Friday, too. I went into town to buy cheese and soy yogurt (yum!) and stopped by Merhle’s place. I wanted to see where Lil Fred and Sprite were going to stay. He’s changed things around at his farm and I wanted to make sure their area would be fairly grass-free. They also will stay in the same stall but his stalls are larger than ours. They are pretty bonded now, but by the time we get back from our vacation they will be like Siamese twins!

Tom continues to work with Lil Fred and Sprite with the jumping routine. He’s added another set of jumps. This is helping Lil Fred with his form. His take offs and re-entry are much better than the frog-hop he’s been doing. Sprite always plows through the first set but clears the second. More work to do, but both are enjoying having a job.

Saturday morning we had an appointment in town to get new tires on the truck. The truck is now 7 ½ years old but has only 30,000 miles on it. Plenty of tread left but starting to dry-rot around the rims and flake off on the side walls. Not good for trailering my precious babies! It’s not the miles it’s the time spent. We then stopped by another grocery on the way back. You’d think we were starving, right?

We ate a quick lunch and loaded the boys up for a ride at another close-by park: Little Bennett. We parked in the closest trailer parking lot. Immediately we are visited by a hound dog, very friendly. She barks at our boys who are not impressed. I couldn’t tell which farm she came from; she was definitely not a stray. We heard a woman calling her, and I answered that she was ‘over here.’ I heard a car start up and thought she would come over to get her dog, she did not. She left! Eventually ‘Honey’ went home on her own.

We had a nice ride in the park, finding the new trail that was recently put in by mostly volunteers, but it is not done and ended abruptly. A hiker was on the dirt road, with a big camera/tripod assembly. He heard us talking, looking up into the woods but I don’t think he saw us. Amazing that horses can easily blend into the scenery and be overlooked. We’ve snuck up on people, too. My guys do that to me in the field. How can they be so quiet when they weigh, like, 1,000 lbs.?

We waited until he had gone around a bend some distance from us before we emerged onto the roadway. We took a partially mowed cutoff that led towards the river to water the boys, which they heartily partook, and stood chilling in the water. We didn’t even disturb the crayfish!

We meandered around the marked trails and eventually made it back to the trailer. A lovely time spent in the saddle on a beautiful June day.

We unload the boys and head out to the other town, the town that has all our tractor and equine supplies. We also purchase Electrolytes. We have some, somewhere in this place, but can’t find it and the boys need to get on the regimen before we have another episode like Memorial weekend. Let’s not repeat that, right? We choose the apple flavor variety and KC likes it, Skip, not so much. Usual outcome.

It rained, briefly, not even settling down the dust. We need more water, not theatrics like lightning and thunder and wind.

Saturday night I pulled all the ‘proof of purchase’ stickers off of the feed bags. These can be redeemed for cash, which we’ll donate to the local equine rescue group at the other end of our road. They do God’s work and have their hands full with the aftermath of other’s misfortune and the economic downturn.

I ended up with forty-two empty bags, and several hay-stretcher bags that have no stickers. He proposes that we have a small fire, shouldn’t take long. I grab the lighter and the charcoal lighter-fluid and head out to the burn pit. I also get the cardboard debris from the wash stall, plus the four boxes that the box fans came in.

Surprisingly it was not as quick as previously stated. And this fire was a hot one, with bright multi-colored flames, depending on the graphics on the bags. Allegedly printed with Soy milk, the flames were psychedelic.

While I was tending the fire, an Owl was in the tree next to the bins, hooting. Another was answering from the tree line that goes down the hill. Tom had heard it earlier this month and didn’t know what it was, screeching loudly at him during the day. Now I know. The smoke didn’t seem to bother it.

It took some time to burn all the bags and the lightning still flashing to the East. The Moon was up and the night was soft, I could hear the horses munching the flake of hay I had put out for them. The lightning bugs were flashing, too.

After the fire had burned down I visited with the big boys in their shed, watching the Moon rise, listening to them munch. Skip shares it routinely now. In the past there was only room for him but things are changing around here. He’s getting pretty mellow. Time has a way of getting away from me out there, I didn’t get back into the house until after 11:00 p.m!

I was up early anyway, feeding my little herd and the dog and cat, too. When I got back into the house he’d already had a shower and proposes we ride at the League – mostly shady if you plan your route properly with lots of watering opportunities.

We had a great ride, the boys were pooped but not over-heated. We did trail maintenance for several miles. I don’t know how riders were getting through some of these obstacles, are we the only people with clippers? KC was so tired, he just let the branches and leaves hit him on the neck and face. He was happy just to stand in the shade. Glad they had some Electrolytes in them!

Started raining, (lightning, thunder, the works), shortly after we got home. More rain than yesterday, we really need it, didn’t last long enough. When that cleared out we took everything out of the tack room in the big trailer, cleaned the saddles, Tom washed his saddle pad and both of our Weaver® mohair girths (love them!) I inventoried all the items and began accumulating items we’ll need to take and need to leave at home.

After dinner Tom mowed more, always mowing, but he lost his glasses when he ran into some branches (like on the trail!) and his glasses were completely destroyed by the mowing deck – like in a Cusinart – pureed eyewear!

Another beautiful June weekend is over, in a blink, and the count-down for our camping trip begins in earnest.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sheath Cleaning!!

Enjoying a serious heat wave here, so early in the year to have this heat with no rain. Pretty good stretch for bringing in the hay, which is lush, but glad to not be running the baler during these high temperatures.

The farrier was out on Monday afternoon to put new shoes on the big boys and trim the little guys. I rarely see this guy; he has the combination to the gate, usually just mail him a check. He was still there when we got home, hadn't seen him since probably October.

Hearing the predicted heat wave was on its way, Tom took the opportunity to reset the bricks in the low spot on the patio. I know he wouldn't want to be struggling with bricks in 90+ weather. It sure looks nice, too.

We had a short ride on Tuesday night, knowing the heat was slated to show up on Wednesday mid-day. And it did. Hot, hot, hot. We didn't keep the horses in, they do have shade, if they are smart enough to walk into it. They seem to be keeping their fly masks on, too.

Wednesday night I went to one of my horsey club meetings at the local library and he stayed home and mowed the lawn. He's always busy doing something. Made dinner, too, and the chicken was better than I can make it. Wish he would do that more often.

KC needs to have his sheath cleaned. I'm a bad mother and he is so neglected. I just never have the chance when the weather is perfect for this. Plus, we don't have a hot water wash stall. Cold water does not do well for this task.

We had another power outage at the office and the building was closed. The mall next door was also blacked out, traffic lights all out. We got to go home early and Tom also left early to meet me at the train station. I went to the grocer, he went to the hardware store, buying a fitting for the 'cowboy shower' to attach the 25 foot hose for a hot water bath. It was 98 degrees, breaking local highs for this date.

He finally got the belts and bushings for the tractor and installed these. Then we got a thunderstorm, hanging out under the overhang with the boys. Not much rain, lots of lightning.

The water heater was on in the big trailer, attached the hose to the cowboy shower, now is the time for sheath cleaning for KC! O boy. Let me say right now that he is a dream to do this to. When I groom him he lets it all hang down, prompting observers to say, " he really likes that!" Yes, he does! Skip, not so much. Skip needs to be ACE'd and even then he might cow-kick. Not KC. He really enjoys it. Really.

With warm water, the new cleaner, rubber gloves: we're ready! Tom didn't think it was a good idea to take pictures.

Following is the best directions for doing this task from Pat Harris - explicit, funny and informative - the best formula ever! Thank you!!

Sheath Cleaning

Stick my hand up where!? One of the joys of owning a gelding is periodic sheath cleaning. This is a mysterious topic to some, so Pat Harris wrote these instructions.

Step 1) Check to make sure there are no prospective boyfriends, elderly neighbors, or Brownie troops with a line of sight to the proceedings. Though of course they're probably going to show up unexpectedly ANYWAY once you're in the middle of things. Prepare a good explanation

2) Trim your fingernails short. Assemble horse, hose, and your sense of humor (plus, ideally, Excalibur cleanser and perhaps thin rubber gloves).

3) Use hose (or damp sponge) to get the sheath and its inhabitant wet. Uh, that is, do this in a *civilized* fashion with due warning to the horse; he is apt to take offense if an icy-cold hose blasts unexpectedly into his personal regions ;-)

4) Now introduce your horse to Mr Hand . What I find safest is to stand facing the horse's head, with my shoulder and hip snugly against the horse's thigh and hip so that if he makes any suspicious move such as raising his leg, I can feel it right away and am in any case pressed so close that all he can do is shove, not really kick. The horse should be held by an assistant or by your free hand, NOT tied fast to a post or to cross-ties. He may shift around a good bit if he's not happy with Mr Hand's antics, but don't be put off by that; as long as you are patient and gradual, and stick close to his side, he'll get over it.

Remember that it would be most unladylike of you to simply make a direct grab for your horse's Part. Give the horse a clue about what's on the program. Rest your hand against his belly, and then slide it back til you are entering The Home of the Actual Private Part. When you reach this first region of your destination, lube him up good with Excalibur or whatever you're using.

5) If the outer part of his sheath is really grungy you will feel little clods and nubblies of smegma peeling off as you grope around in there. Patiently and gently expedite their removal.

5) Thus far, you have probably only been in the outer part of the sheath. The Part Itself, you'll have noticed, is strangely absent. That's because it has retired shyly to its inner chambers. Roll up them thar sleeves and follow in after it ;-)

6) As you and Mr Hand wend your way deeper into the sheath, you will encounter what feels like a small portal that opens up into a chamber beyond. Being attentive to your horse's reaction, invite yourself in . You are now in the inner sanctum of The Actual Private Part. It's hiding in there towards the back, trying to pretend it isn't there. Say hi and wave to it . No, really, work your finger back and forth around the sides of it. If the horse won't drop, this is your only shot at removing whatever dried smegma is clinging to the surface of the Part itself. So, gently explore around it, pulling out whatever crusty topsoil you find there. Use more water and more Excalibur if necessary to loosen attached gunk.

7) When Mr Hand and the Actual Private Part have gotten to know each other pretty well, and the Part feels squeaky clean all around, there remains only one task: checking for, and removing, the bean. The bean is a pale, kidney-shaped accumulation of smegma in a small pouch just inside the urethra. Not all horses accumulate a bean, but IME the majority do, even if they have no visible external smegma.

So: the equine urethra is fairly large diameter, and indeed will permit you to very gently insinuate one of your slimmer fingers inside the urethral opening. Do so, and explore upwards for what will feel like a lump or "pea" buried no more than, I dunno, perhaps 3/4" in from the opening. If you do encounter a bean, gently and sympathetically persuade it out with your finger. This may require a little patience from BOTH Mr Hand AND the horse, but the horse will be happier and healthier once it's accomplished. In the rare event that the bean is too enormous for your finger to coax out, you might try what I did (in desperation) last month on the orange horse: Wrap thumb and index finger around the end of the Part and squeeze firmly to extrude the bean. Much to my surprise it worked and orange horse did NOT kill me for doing it and he does not seem to have suffered any permanent damage as a result ;-> I have never in my life seen another bean that enormous, though.

8) Now all that's left to do is make a graceful exit and rinse the area very thoroughly in apology for the liberties you've taken . A hose will be MUCH easier to use here than just a sponge and bucket, IME. Make sure to direct the water into the Part's inner retreat too, not merely the outer part of the sheath. This may require you to enfold the end of the hose in your hand and guide it up there personally.

9) Ta-da, you are done! Say, "Good horsie" and feed him lots of carrots. Watch him make funny faces at the way your hands smell. Hmm. Well, perhaps there is ONE more step...

10) The only thing I know of that is at all effective in removing the lovely fragrance of smegma from your hands (fingernails arms elbows and wherever else it's gotten) is Excalibur. Even then, if you didn't use gloves you may find you've got an unusual personal perfume for a while. So, word to the wise, do NOT clean your horse's sheath just before an important job interview or first date ;-)

and of course, there is that one FINAL step...

11) Figure out how to explain all this to your mother (or the kid from next door, or the meter reader, or whoever else you've just realized has been standing in the barn doorway speechlessly watching the entire process. )

Now, go thou forth and clean that Part :-)

Copyright 1999 Patricia Harris

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Long Days

The days are long; daylight goes until almost my bedtime, so time has a way of getting away from us.

The weekend weather was not as predicted. How do those guys keep a job? Fortunately we got some things done, and snuck a ride in, too! Both boys were stellar, both boys lost a shoe. KC is so dramatic, like I’m going to carry him back to the trailer.

It rained overnight Friday, but was mild and was quickly gone, barely laying the dust down. Everybody stayed out. They do have shelter, if they choose to walk into it.

It has been a wet spring, the woods are lush and the trails need pruning. Also, there are lots of downed branches and whole trees. We spent time stopped on the trail, trimming and sawing. Both our boys are great with limbs or branches hitting them, sawdust sprinkling their backs. The Poison Ivy and Skunk Cabbage is doing well, too.

Tom’s mother stopped over on Sunday. She hadn’t been out since October, being a fair-weather driver. We’ve done a lot to the place, inside and out, since then. She thinks we have too much ‘stuff.’ We’ve only bought three ‘new’ things: hay elevator, manure spreader, and snow blower. The hay elevator was $100; the snow blower is on deferred 18-month interest-free payment schedule, paid cash for the manure spreader. Everything else we’ve had for years. She also thinks we should not fence in the 10 acres on the East side.

I informed her it would cost about $6,000 in lumber alone. That’s why we must do the install ourselves. She thinks this is an exorbitant amount. Me, too, but that’s what fence posts and 16-foot Oak boards cost. I’d like to get started on this after we get back from Cook Forest. It is going to take lots of time, the sooner we get on it the better.

We need hay and hay is being cut and baled as I write this. The air in the neighborhood smells like perfume. We should get about 50 bales of this first cutting. That will make everybody happy and the barn smell great.

Tom continues to work with the little guys. He’s getting Lil Fred to jump the agility obstacles that we used for our dogs when we lived in the City. He is very athletic, jumps like a frog! Sprite, not so much. She plows through the jumps just like she plowed through the electric fence. She’ll get it, eventually. We need to build another ‘tire’ jump, big enough for them to clear.

Monday, June 6, 2011

And Then It's Monday

First Monday in June. The weekend proved a cooling trend with lower than normal humidity. Wow - what a huge difference that made!

Tom mowed late into the night on Friday night, making sure that all the weed's flowers were knocked down. Also able to pin-point the serious groundhog mounds going on in our unfenced pasture. We're going to bomb those suckers! Can't wait for that fun to begin!

Tom also is working with the little ones, jumping lessons. Lil Fred is extremely athletic and light on his feet. Sprite, not so much. She has as much respect for the rails as she did for the electric fence. She plows right through without lifting her legs. She's lost weight, but has not progressed in the 'lightness' realm.

We rode on Saturday at the closest park - We ended up trail clearing, too, the wet spring has almost obliterated the trails. And lots of branches down. Plus, both boys threw a shoe, within minutes of each other. With Skip you can't even tell, but with dramatic KC, you'd think he had a nail right through the frog. The farrier will be out on Monday.

Sunday was spent working on the patio project, straightening out the house, and playing with the horses. Now only one more weekend before our vacation. O boy!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Here is June – kind of happened quickly. May had 31 days, but they blew past so fast I can’t remember what is going on!

We are enjoying a heat wave that is just killing me! Have so many little things to wrap up, outside, but can’t get any traction. The heat is oppressive, I feel like I’m in a hot skillet with a spatula holding me down. Gravity feels stronger than usual. My jeans are wet, sticking to my legs. My hair won’t dry fully. I hate the feeling of sweat going down my spine. We went from rainy, cool to hot and humid. Allegedly it will subside tomorrow, dipping way down into the mid-80s. Really?

The boys are wet around the edges. I know they are uncomfortable. The chronic breeze is nowhere to be felt. The water in the buckets is heating up. The ground is shrinking.

I do hope it doesn’t stay warmer than normal for the rest of the season, like it did last year. It could be worse. It could always be worse. Some have no house, no electricity, no water, no job, but we always want something. Like Goldilocks, it just isn’t good enough. When the daily low should be the daily high, you know you’re in for it. Too hot to ride, really, and the boys need to get into shape as do we for our vacation in SEVENTEEN DAYS. Uh oh.

Tom mowed the unfenced pasture until he ran out of Diesel (again). He was also cutting paths in the field so we can go riding after work without falling into a groundhog hole. We HAVE to do something about them! They have to go, the holes filled in. So dangerous to the horses and the tractor. The mounds and compromised dirt is a sink hole waiting to swallow the tractor.

Been waiting so long for June, and it snuck up on us during the week.