Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Moving Cows: More Fun With A Rodeo

I'm still waiting on my new laptop power cord... it should be here tomorrow. Gawd I hope so, I miss my laptop.

But, last Sunday, we moved cows. This time we called in some backup, in the form of my old friend S, his girlfriend, my newer friend K, and her boyfriend.

S, his girlfriend, and K, all had horses. K's boyfriend, J, didn't. I don't know much about the guy but after a (way too late) night Saturday hanging out and Sunday moving cows, I like him.

See, he rode Red. I'd like to say that I wasn't intending to be evil when I said he could ride Red. Yes, I find the imagery of other people on the little pony funny, but he's been behaving really well, and since Monkey was way too wound Sunday morning and I was riding Rebel, I didn't have any other horse that has been ridden recently.

Also, I had no clue that Red was going to go rodeo the instant J's ass hit the saddle. I gotta come up shouting for the kid, he stuck, and he didn't let him break completely in two again.

But I take no responsibility for him coming off when his girth wasn't tight enough and the saddle slipped when Red tried to jump out from underneath him. That one was all J.

Anyway the battle continued all day, and I think J actually enjoyed it. I feel just a bit bad, because I was pre-occupied, and didn't think to tell him to lunge him in a few circles before he got on. I've gotten on Red without that, but I'd also been working him for a few days when I did that, and the weather was nasty last week so he'd had three days off.

Some commentary about The Jackhammer, as S calls Red:

"He's not that bad."

"Ok, you told me he was round withered and the saddle would slip, but I didn't expect that." (Said when I rode up to him to check on him when I realized that Red had come cantering proudly by me, without J.)

"Oh god, that was my nuts..." (After a minor hissy in which Red managed to get J thrown forward into the saddle horn... poor guy)

"I almost wish he'd buck again... that's the smoothest gait he's got."

And somehow, after all that, he managed to remain polite. When he was telling me how "not bad" Red was, I smarted off with "So, you wanna buy him?"

He took a moment, looking at Red, with an expression that could have been taken for mental calculation on whether or not he wanted the horse but I took as an effort to not say something very rude, and answered me "He's too small."

I gotta admit, I busted up at that point.

We got the cows into their new pasture, no thanks to the llama, who decided to come see what was going on when they were coming in the gate... and when the cows ran decided it was fun to chase them... right back out the gate. I could cheerfully have shot her right then. Anyway it was mission accomplished, and plenty of laughs.

Day after tomorrow we go to the sale, and Red will find a new home. Hopefully his good ground manners and the bit of play I'm able to do with him on a lead (which Farmmom says is actually kind of impressive) will outshine any jackassery he pulls while I'm in the saddle. I'll spend most of the day outside working him on a lead and riding him, so that he hopefully won't be too bad in the ring.

Tomorrow, I'll work the hell out of him. We'll work on the ground until he's sweaty, then get on and work him some more. This will keep him from having too much excess energy, and make my job (making him look good... no small task when you're talking about Red, who has conformation, size, and under saddle attitude going against him) that much easier.

Hopefully it'll be enough....

Monday, April 26, 2010

Survival Seeds

So, over the winter I was contacted by a very nice lady from Hometown Seeds, asking if I'd link to their Survival Seeds packages. She offered to send me one of the packages in thanks, and I told her that I didn't endorse anything on the blog that I hadn't tried, but if she was willing to have it be a review rather than just a plug, I'd be happy to do it.

Hey, Farmmom gets a free garden this way.

Well, what with life being busy and waiting for actual spring, we hadn't gotten anything done with them, until now.

The other day, we started the cabbage, peppers, and tomatoes in a little greenhouse thing that we bought at El Marto Del Wal, so this will be the first post of many concerning these non-hybrid seeds.

In general, I have to say I like the idea of a garden that's renewable from itself. You may not get some of the fancier plants, but you also don't have to buy new plants and seeds every year.

For a SHTF planning accessory, I think it's a good idea, if you know enough about what you're doing to manage starting an entire garden from seeds. It's not that hard, but you do have to know that things like peppers and tomatoes are best started indoors in planters or the greenhouse trays you can buy. The kit comes with instructions, though, so most of the guesswork is taken out of it. For instance, I didn't know that we needed to start the cabbage indoors until Farmmom read the instructions.

Plus, the kit comes with a LOT of seeds. For what exactly it contains you can check out the website, now linked on the sidebar under "Other Stuff"... I think it would provide for a small family fairly easily, were you to plant all of the seeds.

Anyway, I'll get regular updates about germination rates and eventually what the veggies taste like (which will probably be a great excuse for mom to do another recipe post) and we'll save seeds from this year's plants to plant next year.

I'll try to get Farmmom, who is after all the gardener in the family and is actually doing the growing, to give some of her observations direct instead of them filtering through me, too.

And, just a note, also under "Other Stuff" you'll see a link to "Custom Cheap Vinyl Banners"... This goes to, who have also offered me free shit. I like free stuff, and upon looking around their website I decided that they seemed reputable, and for some blog swag, I'd do it. Once I get my chosen free shit designed and ordered and get it in, I'll do a review of that as well, and probably hold a couple of contests in order to give away some of the aforementioned free shit. I'm not endorsing their products just yet, mind, that'll wait until they get here and I'll be honest about what I think of them.

If anyone else wants to offer me free stuff- keep in mind that I love free stuff, as anyone does, and I will be completely honest about any free stuff you send me. If it's good, I'll say it's good, if it's crap, I'll say it's crap. I'm bribeable to the extent that you'll get a link such as are already there, but not bribeable enough to give a good review of crap to my readers just cause you gave me something shiny.

That is all.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dead Laptop...

The charging cable on my laptop is, for lack of a better word, fucked. So, I won't be blogging as much. Right now I'm borrowing Mamaw's computer...

In the interim, have a cute puppy picture... little miss Jezebel (or Belle) is truly a pocket puppy, for a while yet anyway:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Breed All About It: Lipizzaners

That's right, perhaps the most famous horses in the world, the "Dancing Stallions."

Just about anybody can tell you that a Lipizzaner is white, and does pretty things with a rider.

Except, they're not. White, that is. Lipizzaners actually carry one of those tricksy grey genes, being born a dark color (bay, black, brown) and gradually fading to that almost perfect white. Perfect enough, if you're watching from the sidelines. A very few of the breed do not have the grey gene, and will retain their dark color throughout their lives... The Spanish Riding School (associated with the Piber Federal Stud, the place where most Lipizzaners are born today) maintains a tradition of keeping a bay stallion at the school, believing that the lack of one would be unlucky.

The breed originated on an Imperial stud farm in Kladrub established in 1562, and Lipica, near the Adriatic sea, founded in 1580. Nearly five centuries ago... what history.

The horses were intended to be the aristocrat's horse, whether under saddle or pulling a fine carriage. They had to be intelligent, smooth gaited, and look good... the main concern for any aristocrat, at any time.

Lipizzaners are marked by their brands, on the left cheek, the brand of descent, usually an L denoting a purebred Lipizzaner, on the left withers, a letter denoting the bloodline of the sire (out of the six classical bloodlines) and a symbol denoting the bloodline of the dam (out of the same six bloodlines) and the left hip carrying the brand of the stud at which the horse was foaled. The Piber stud's mark is a P beneath a crown. The only brand on the right side of the horse is the foal registry number, and all brands, excepting the cheek brand and the hip brand, are covered by the saddle.

Bloodlines, as you may have guessed from the individual horse being branded with them, are very important. Most Lipizzaners born today carry their ancestor's names. Maestoso, Conversano, Pluto, Favory, Neapolitano, and Siglavy all live on in their names and bloodlines today.

Throughout the ages the Lipizzaner breed was tied to the Spanish Riding School at Vienna Austria. They were considered the best of the best for the Haute Ecole (or "High School"... the final training) in dressage, and the Spanish Riding school was, and is, the best of the best in training riders.

If a student passes the (stringent) entrance exam, they can look forward to riding without stirrups or reins, on a well trained horse controlled via a long rein by a more experienced rider, for up to three years, or until they have a perfect seat. After that, they are allowed to control their own horse, still under the eye of an experienced rider, until they master the Haute Ecole, no mean feat. After they have mastered, absolutely mastered, the art of dressage, which can take up to four years, they are allowed to train a stallion, from start to finish. Only then are they considered capable of representing the school in one of their famous performances.

The school uses stallions exclusively, partly from tradition, and partly from practicality. The Airs Above The Ground are so precise that a mare cannot perform them. Her center of gravity is in the wrong place to properly perform the Airs.

Once the Spanish Riding School performed only for royalty and their guests... today, they no longer have Imperial support, and so they perform for the public, to be self supporting.

The most stunning, and awe inspiring, movements performed by the riders of the Spanish Riding School, and some of what makes the Lipizzaner breed famous, are the Airs Above The Ground. These include the Levade, Courbette, and Capriole.

The Levade (pronounced le-vahd) is when the horse raises it's front end off the ground to about a thirty degree angle, and holds that position. More difficult than it sounds, especially with a rider.

The Courbette (cor-bette) begins much like the Levade, but with a greater angle, more like 45 degrees, and the horse proceeds to hop forward, without touching his front feet to the ground.

My favorite Air, however, is the Capriole (cap-ree-ol)- A mighty leap into the air, with a kick out of the hind legs at the peak of the jump. Beautiful.

Lipizzaners have far more to their history than intense schooling and great beauty, however. In World War II, the stallions of the Spanish Riding School were evacuated from Vienna, to St Martins, by their riders and stable hands. The breeding stock from the Piber Stud, however, was taken by Nazis to Hostau.

When St Martins came under the control of the US Army, General Patton discovered that an old friend, and fellow Olympic Equestrian, had taken refuge there with his students and horses. Alois Podhajsky, then the head of the school, put on a performance for Patton, and the American Undersecretary of War, Robert Patterson, who then agreed to place the stallions under the protection of the US Army.

When it was discovered, through captured German officers who feared that the iconic horses would be slaughtered for their meat, that the breeding stock from Piber was now at Hostau, Patton issued orders for a raid. On April 28, 1945, American soldiers accepted the surrender of the Germans at Hostau. Colonel Charles H. Reed, the leader of the raid, later reported that the surrender was "more of a fiesta than a military operation, as the German troops drew up an honor guard and saluted the American troops as they came in."

Only 250 Lipizzaners survived the war, but thanks to General Patton and every man who went on that raid, the breed survived.

You can read more about the history (and WWII rescue) of the breed here (this is the best telling of the story that I've found, including some pictures from the actual evacuation of the horses from Hostau and the performance the SRS put on for General Patton... more pictures of that here.)

All in all, quite possibly one of the most famous, and historically interesting, breeds. I'm quite fond of the breed myself, although I don't expect to be able to afford one any time soon. At over $5000 for a two year old stallion from the Piber Stud, they're a bit out of my reach... And I'll never run away to Vienna to join the Spanish Riding School, although I dreamed of it when I was younger. I'm about ten years too late to start learning the discipline of dressage to get me into that school, but I'll cheer their two female students (the first in the history of the school, admitted in 2008) wholeheartedly.

Still... I dream of riding the Airs, to this day. Probably, I never will, but a girl can dream, can't she?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Little Miss Attitude

We have a new puppy in the house. She is a 14 week old Miniature Schnauzer. We are still working on the name trying to see what her personality is and what will fit her. So far she is faster than a speeding bullet, and has the attitude of a prom queen. She thinks she is all that and a bag of chips!

She is doing well on the house training and she is pretty much Kennel trained so this is all good. She is a smart little thing that has Farmdad wrapped around her little paw and he is blaming ME for spoiling her!

The other dogs are being very careful with her as she is a puppy but they will grow out of that soon. She is only supposed to grow to 12 to 14 inches high so this gives you an idea of how small she really is.

She will be a girlfriend to Farmgirl's fuzzy pup and make some babies to torment others as much as they have tormented us!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Quick Update

Working with Red, so far going good. We've had two days of groundwork, which has always been his best point, just to remind him who's boss. Tomorrow we start riding... wish me luck.

Bruises, healing up. Oddly enough, they went yellow and green right away, but are now shading back to the black and blue area of things... go figure. Anyway they're not nearly as sore as they were, and I'm not even thinking about them much. You know you're accident prone when you look at your own leg and suddenly remember that you got stepped on by a horse last week.

Yesterday I got sunburned while I was spinning in circles with a cranky pony (he's working well, but he's still not happy, he's penned and everyone else is out) but thanks to my lucky genetics, I don't often actually get sore when I get burned. Mostly, it itches. Like crazy. I was somewhere between pomegranate and dark lobster yesterday evening, and other than the itching, the worst of it was somewhere along the lines of a scratchy t-shirt tag.

Still, until this one fades and puts another layer on my summer brown, I'll be keeping it covered, because until I get that base tan going good, more sun will just make the burn worse, and it could approach the levels of "so sunburned I can make a dent in my forehead with my finger."

Yes, I have been sunburned bad enough that my face actually swelled up. It still didn't hurt that bad (at least, my face didn't... my legs hadn't seen sun in a couple of years at that point at they were lobster red and very sore,) and I spent a couple of days weirding Farmmom out by making divots in my forehead, and drinking TONS of water and slathering myself in lotion, of course, before the swelling went down.

Anyway, tomorrow is an early morning, so I can get out to work with Red in time to be back before noon... we're having a visitor! I'll try to get a better post up soon, if nothing else another Breed All About It, or if Farmmom will oblige, some training pictures of Red.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Horse For Sale

I've come to the end of my rope with Red. You've all heard me talk about him, and I've been honest. He's a pain in the butt.

Yesterday, he became a far more literal pain. When we bought him he was sweet on the ground, wanting petting and attention. The longer he's around the other horses, though, the more bad habits he's picking up.

Yesterday, while I was walking all seven of the horses we have on that place back into the pasture, since the wind had taken out a stretch of fence and they'd decided to wander a bit, Moonshine, my buddy S's young mare, decided that she needed one of the treats I was carrying, coming around in front of me and stopping broadside. Well, she's been started on cows, and that's how you do it. As a result, I had to pause my march and get her to move. The other horses were behind and to the sides of me, all stretching their noses to try to reach the bucket and grab a bite.

All, that is, except Red. He'd been pushed and jostled aside by the larger horses, and relegated to the back. Apparently he decided to remedy this by being a little asshole and kicking his way through. He must've connected with a tender spot on whatever horse was behind and to my right, because I felt a mighty shove from that direction and the next thing I knew, I was down on the ground.

As much as horses hate unsure footing, and people definitely are that, being quite squishy in most spots and not all that stable even where they aren't squishy since skin and clothes tend to move, accidents happen, especially when there's a lot of pressure behind and not much room to maneuver in front or to the sides.

I got stepped on, twice from the look of the bruises on my lower leg. I'm sore and the bruises are still developing, and are tender as all hell, but I'm fine. The worst I suffered is maybe a hint of a bone bruise in the spot that I actually remember feeling.

But Red... Red has got to go. He's not for us, but in a one horse family, or perhaps with a gelding buddy, he'd do all right. He's not for a beginner rider, but would make an excellent project horse for an intermediate rider.

He's butt ugly, to be frank, but strong as all hell and has the stamina to go all day long. He'd make an excellent endurance pony, as I have seen him lope for three hours straight, blow for five minutes (about the amount of time in a vet check in an endurance race if I'm not mistaken) and be shifting and dancing with his rider, ready to go again. He just doesn't wear out.

Here's a picture of him with a classmate of mine in one of the shows at the college, more pictures can be taken on request if anyone is interested:

I'm asking $400, since that's about what I paid for him to begin with, and I'm offering him on the blog in hopes of finding him a new home without having to take him to auction. If he's not sold by April 29th, though, he is going to auction. I'll be riding the hell out of him until then, so he'll be reminded of the things he may have forgotten.

I don't expect to get an offer from this, believe me, but free advertising is free advertising. Contact me at my email address on the right if you're interested.