10 Happy Things

First – cause yall know I like words – the caveat. I don’t believe things can make a person happy. Other people can’t make a person happy. Happiness comes from inside oneself. I’m sure you know somebody who “has it all” who’s totally miserable, and you know someone with “nothing” who is just genuinely happy to be alive. I strive to be the latter. Still, I can come up with 10 things I enjoy about life! These are in no particular order.

Living in Reno
This state rules, and this town rules pretty hard too. I got used to seeing slot machines everywhere pretty fast, but I’m still pretty gleeful when I can go buy liquor at any time of day on any day of the week. No more planning ahead! I’m particularly glad I live in Stead – the valley floor is all smogged up from the temperature inversion trapping crap down there. I don’t mind driving down to a thriving town to eat in great restaurants or shop at good stores, but it’s nice to be breathing cleaner air up here in the boonies of Stead. I hear the California Sierras are gorgeous, and I’m looking forward to packing at Granite Chief with the BCH this summer. And there’s all those good rides, all over western Nevada and eastern California! And as soon as I save up a grand (i.e. don’t spend it on the horse), I can take my husband to a once-in-a-lifetime meal at the French Laundry.

My husband
He rules. I rarely write about him, because this is my horse blog, not my Funder’s Weird Life blog, but he is truly my best friend. We have been together 9 years now, and it feels like forever, but in a good way. I say I’m lucky to have him. He says he’s lucky to have me. Maybe we’re both right?

My Dawg
Cersei is the best dog ever, hands down. Even when she eats a gallon ziplock of frosted mini-wheats, then farts all night and makes us think we’ve been attacked by biological weapons.

Dixie
Sometimes I get totally furious with her, and sometime’s she’s just perfect. This is one area where my general life philosophy of “live in the now” doesn’t always pay off – I get mad because I feel like I haven’t made any progress with that damn brain damaged yakmule, and I am such a horrible excuse for a horse owner – but then I think back on how far we’ve come, and I feel better about things. And I have it all written down, in case I ever doubt how crazy she used to be. Today, on the trail, I got off and led her a couple of times, then got back on. If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be able to calmly mount Dixie on the trail as another horse walked away from us, I would have never believed it. We’re getting there, we really are.

Memory of Champ
He was such a fantastic horse. I would have never considered buying Dixie if I hadn’t had so many hours with Champ. He was fugly, opinionated, trotted if you dared to make him go faster, and had the roughest canter I’ve ever felt. He had a heart of gold, though – he tried to figure out what this bumbling idiot on his back wanted, and he never quit and never got mad. I loved that horse so much, and I’ll always carry a torch for him. I feel lucky to have spent two years with him.

Cats
Our cats are wicked little brain-damaged monsters, and they bring us so much amusement. The Kitten plays fetch with a clear plastic tube, unless she loses it. The Crazy One yowls at the walls sometimes, and I think he thinks we’re hallucinations or demons sent to torment him. Both of them love Cersei, who is confused and disdainful about the little monsters. They are extremely funny pets.

Friends
I met some of my best friends through this blog. That really surprises me, on so many levels – that I’ve kept yapping long enough to have readers, for years no less, and that people think I’m cool enough to email, chat with, and meet up with IRL. Yall make me happy!

Being alive for 2010
My younger readers will be totally blase about this, but anybody my age (30s) or older will understand. DUDE! WE LIVE IN THE FUTURE! Where’s my flying car? Ok, there’s no flying cars, but the Internet is just as good. We made it through 2001, and we made it through 2009, and 2010 will be the best year yet.

Having a warm house
I glossed over it in my blog, but for two months two winters ago I lived in a house with no heat. There were no physical gas lines running from the street to the house. I didn’t realize the lines were cut before I moved in, and it took two months of wrangling to legitimately legally break the lease and move. I only took my clothes off to shower and change at friends’ houses, and I slept on the couch with a Cersei-puppy on my chest and a Fluffy Kitten on my head. It was HORRIBLE. But it was life-changing in a good way, too. I am a total wuss about being cold, but two months in a frozen house made me realize there’s cold and there’s cold. My whine level went down markedly. And now that I’ve lived through the house with no heat, I am so much more grateful and happy with what I’ve got!

Is that 10? No?

Digital music
Here’s another one that’ll date me. No more mix tapes! Freed from the tyranny of the radio! And nothing obsolesces – yesterday I found a mix CD from 2000. It sounded exactly like it did in 2000. I don’t miss cassette tapes one bit, not at all.

Ok, there’s 10!

Who hasn’t done this meme yet? Who wants to do it? It’s actually a lot of fun to list things that make you happy. I am terrible at passing these things along – I feel like I should give it to everybody I read, but then it wouldn’t be ~special~, so just comment if you are doing it, ok?

BLAH

Winter is blah! I am, surprisingly, not very cold or bothered by the snow, I’m just sick of the lack of sun. And the fact that my horse looks like a yak, so I have to be really careful to not let her work too hard and get too sweaty. And I can’t see the trails, so neither can she, so we have to go extra slow lest she step off a ledge and break her leg. It makes for some boring midday rides.

But the wildlife has been spectacular. When you last heard from us, we’d just seen yeti. Since then, I’ve seen coyotes three separate times!

Right before Christmas, I went out with S and the dogs, and she spotted a coyote on a hill about 30′ above us. The horses never saw it, and the dogs never saw it, and eventually we moved on and left it to look for rabbits. Then right after Christmas, we were riding down in the canyon and I spotted the remains of a peacock. Somebody in her neighborhood had a nice young peacock, but a coyote snatched it and ran down in the canyon to eat it. Nothing left but wing feathers and a few tail feathers. As I was driving down the hill back to the highway that day, a coyote ran across the road a little in front of me.

Then yesterday I went out alone with Dixie and Cersei, and ALL of us saw TWO coyotes. Dixie and I were coming up on a fork in the trail, where if we went left we’d go out further and if we went right we’d go home sooner, and we were gearing up to have a big disagreement about which way to turn, when she stopped dead in her tracks and stared straight ahead. I looked too, and saw a big coyote with a cottontail in its mouth. It looked at us for a while, then looked to my left, so I looked to the left and saw (presumably) its mate. The one on the left was smaller, so I’ll call that one the female. She stopped for a while and looked at all of us, then circled around to stay about 50′ away and rejoined her mate. Cersei, bless her heart, had been snuffling around in the snow, completely oblivious to everything, but she finally noticed them. She puffed up like a hedgehog and started jumping up and down, stiff-legged, barking at them. She started to run over to investigate them, but I called her back and she came. (Of course she came – she really is a remarkably good dog.) Everybody watched everybody else for a bit, then I turned Dixie to the right and we left them alone.

I’d been planning on going left and doing the Mines trail, but I kind of wanted to leave the coyotes to eat their rabbit in peace. I am a softie, I know. :)

Weather permitting, I have a big weekend planned, but I have moments of being totally superstitious and I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it!

Yeti sighting!

Yesterday we went out with S, Summer, and the dogs. I brought the camera – I don’t even bring it when I’m riding solo, because odds are I can’t stop paying attention to my mare long enough to take pictures.

We threw Christmas rump rugs on the horses – tree skirts!
Festive horse!

We saw carnivorous yeti!
Yeti!

If you can’t see them, click on the picture to make it bigger. You can see their poisonous horns, and you can imagine their slavering fangs and clawed hooves. Treacherous beasts!

There was another on the slope to the south. Clearly, they were planning on circling around from behind and eating the horses.
More yeti!

It was really beautiful out there.
S on Summer

Cersei had a wonderful time chasing Oscar (S’s young dog), but she is on the injured list today. The snow is old and icy and crusty, and her pads took a beating. She’s got pretty tough feet, but the tips of her pads are split. She is snuggled up next to me on the couch.

Dixie did pretty well with Summer there to keep her steady. I got really uncomfortable a couple of times and thoughts of our gory death flashed through my mind. :( We did the mines trail, but the actual canyon part of the ride has a couple of rocky sections. We didn’t want to take them over the rocks with the snow covering everything, so we cut up to the top of the hill and then back down to the sandy part of the mine trail. S fearlessly rode calm Summer sideways up this steep sandy hill, and hot Dixie went plunging up after him, but I couldn’t deal and turned her to go straight up the slope. Then once we got on top, she really got nervous, and we still had to get back down! S went back down the side, but I thought it looked way too steep, so Dixie and I went further along to where the slope was easier. It was pretty nerve wracking, but she stayed surefooted.

Went to Crysta’s Christmas party last night and had a good time! I met a gaited horse person, and some fun non-horse people, and made faces at the CUTEST baby girl. She thought I was awesome and stared at me nonstop. Then her mom handed her to me and she burst into immediate tears. As soon as I handed her back, she went back to staring and smiling at me. I was only acceptable from 2 feet away :)

I may sit on the couch and watch football all day. Happy Solstice Eve, yall! If I’m doing the math right, then Monday morning will be the actual solstice. That means today is the shortest day of the year, so I might as well nap on the couch, right?

Yetis and BBQ

I was AWOL from the internet yesterday due to excessive BBQ consumption.

The only truly outstanding food from the Memphis area – the thing we do better than ANYBODY else, and if you wanna fight about it, bring it on – is barbeque. Memphis, like every other city its size, has a bunch of good restaurants and wonderful local twists on regional and international classics, but we’re really most proud of our BBQ. I will be polite about anybody’s well cooked ‘cue – my momma raised me right. But my husband and I miss Memphis BBQ so much that we will have it Fedexed to us. His mom sent us two racks of ribs and two pounds of pulled pork from Central BBQ for Christmas! I get the ribs; he gets the pork. Two of each so we can dive in the day it arrives, and save the rest for the actual holiday. Yesterday was Cue Day, so I ate a whole rack of absolutely perfect ribs and then sat on the couch in a blissed-out daze all afternoon.

Pre-Fedex, I met the trimmer at S’s and got Dixie’s feet fixed up. He, like Aarene, has a horse that paddles on one foot and wears toe unevenly on that foot. And he saw the bruising, but agreed that if she’s not lame not to worry too much about it. I volunteered to trim her in between his visits. I still want him to come balance her up perfectly every six weeks, but I’m going to work on the obvious stuff.

I did learn something cool – he said overgrown bars were making her back lateral quarters and heels flare out, and I could see what he was talking about when I looked at the sole.

Dixie is a pretty nicely put together TWH. I was noticing yesterday and today how she naturally tracks up perfectly – you can really see it in fresh snow. Just at a normal, uncollected, slow walk, her back feet land perfectly in the tracks left by her front feet. Usually, that means that at a faster gait, if she’s “tucking her butt” correctly, her back feet will overstride where her front feet were by a couple of inches. Not that I would know – I don’t have a very good view of her back feet from on top 😉

Today we made a bold expedition down to the end of the road and about a quarter mile in the snow. She kept a close watch for yetis. When we turned around for home, we had a fight about how fast she’d zoom home. Then I managed to quit fighting and relax and half-halt over and over again until she slowed down. And she actually did! Yay us! I was still in the “don’t fight with her” mindset when we got back to the driveway, and I did not tense up and anticipate her falling down the slope on her forehand and breaking in to a trot. I stayed loose and asked her to go slowly, and she did.

One day we’ll actually condition again. For now, we’ll just do mental conditioning. It’s all good.

The sun went down behind the western mountains today at 3:51 pm. It didn’t get really dark for an hour after that, but still! I can’t wait for the solstice.

And the grooming – clicker post

After the ride, I wanted to take pictures. But Miss Thing had some seriously nappy frizzy mane hair – getting snowed on and frozen really didn’t do it any favors. That meant Show Sheen, which comes in a Horse-Eating Spray Bottle, which means either a fight or clicker training. I was certainly not going to spoil a perfectly nice day with a fight, so clickery it was.

I don’t usually use an actual clicker with Dixie. I know I’m losing some amount of subtle benefit by using a tongue-click instead, but honestly, I’m not very coordinated. I’d rather get the timing perfect and use an imperfect tongue-click than be constantly dropping stuff, trying to click the handheld clicker, and missing the perfect moment to mark. I’m a work in progress.

The Show Sheen was half-frozen, so it made an interesting noise when I shook the bottle. I c/t’d her for touching the bottle several times. Then I pointed it away from her and squirted it a couple of times – got some ssssssh squirting noises and a few of those quacking noises spray bottles sometimes make. Dixie jumped to the end of the lead* and quivered, head all the way up. I held the bottle up and urged her to look at it and touch it, and went back to c/t for touching it with her nose.

*The interesting thing is that she wasn’t actually tied up. I just loop the lead around one of the cleats on the side of my truck – she rarely pulls, and when she does pull loose, she walks 10 feet away and nosedives for the alfalfa. So even though she was scared, she wasn’t terrified.

I repeated squirting away from her and c/t-ing for touching the bottle a few times, then I started holding the bottle up near her mane. She yanked her head up, but didn’t move, so c/t. Touch the bottle, c/t, hold the bottle up, c/t. Eventually I squirted her and clicked before she had a chance to go ballistic – once I’d done it once, the battle was won.

I got that whole unruly mane absolutely coated in Show Sheen in minutes. Of course I kept clicking – at first it was a click for every single squirt, and a bit of “touch the bottle” every now and then, but she calmed down to where I could squirt 3-4 times before I c/t’d. Then while her mane dried, I picked her feet and packed some goo in the crevices of her frogs, then brushed out the mane and took pictures.

I like to write about clicker training every so often in case somebody’s sort of “on the fence” about it. Yes, if you get good at it and really enjoy it, you can happily incorporate clicker training into every single aspect of your horse care. But you don’t have to go whole hog. I suppose if you do not ever feed treats, it’s not a good training tool for you – but it can work for anybody else.

When I was first getting into clicker training, I wasn’t sure about frequency and timing and stuff, so that’s why I just described the whole Showsheen session. You don’t want to bore the horse with an hour of “touch the bottle,” and you don’t want to move too fast and scare the horse, or positive reinforcement will cease to work. There’s a lot of times where I’d get some good early stages of “touch the bottle” but then I’d push too fast with the later work. She’d get really scared and shut down mentally, and I’d have to put the evil spray bottle away for another day. But horses are forgiving and greedy, so we’d keep coming back to it.