A Horsey Honeymoon – Part V

This is the last post about our honeymoon and it’s all about our last day on the ranch.  It was that cool.  We started the day as usual; delicious hot breakfast at 8:30, and then down to the coral for a ride.  This wasn’t just any ride though, it was the cattle drive.  The first part of a cattle drive is finding the cattle.  We got to ride through natural mountain bluffs and through the woods without a trail.  Our wrangler encouraged us to spread out, and look for cattle. If something looked interesting I could go take a look.  Clay thought it was fun to get behind our wrangle and moo, and I found some logs to hop over.  I could have done that all day.  Eventually another group found the cattle and we all met up with them for the big drive back to the farm.

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The whole herd waiting to head back to the ranch. Not very exciting except for when the bull kept trying to get busy. Down boy, down!

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That’s Clay on Brutis.

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The actual drive. I’m in the pink with the straw hat. Cattle drives would be much easier if all the cows would just stay on the road. (I totally wanted to bring that buckskin draft cross home)

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Once we got back to the ranch the real work began: tagging and branding the calves. It was hard to watch much less participate in but Clay was great at it. Once again revealing his true cowboy nature.

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This didn’t hurt the babies, although he did lift him a little too high.

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One of the best pics of the week…imo

 

After the calves were taken care of we had the choice of driving them back out again or taking a nap.  We took a nap.  Then we got all dressed up for a cocktail party at the owners house.  The house was gorgeous, the booze free and we’d already drunk our complementary bottle of champagne while getting ready.  After cocktail hour we headed to the saloon for dancing (mostly on the bar) and to play pool.  I drank too much and told the owner I was going to come back and work for him.  And truly I was less homesick as I was ready to ship my animals out to the ranch.  Ranch living is definitely a style that suited us.

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Our besties for the week. Kyle and Alisha…best wranglers ever!

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Um yeah…I mentioned the free booze right??

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This gigantic stuffed cat was the first thing you see in the owners house.

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View from the owners house.

 

Boot Scooting Boogie

Boot Scootin’ Boogie

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Totally sober dancing on the bar.

 

saying goodbye

Saying goodbye to Banjo

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I was so sad to leave the ranch I cried. I wish I could magically go back for an hour or two every week to get my fix.

 

 

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A Really Good Lesson

My lesson last night was so good I couldn’t stop thinking about it and decided I had to write a post about it.  A small but spectacular thing happened.   I looked down at my hands at one point and they were correct.  My outside hand was an inch from the withers, my inside hand was about two inches from the withers, my thumbs were up and they were in front of the pommel.  So simple, yet I’ve been trying to get to this point for almost 2 years now.

When I first sat on my very green mare 2 years ago and decided I wanted to learn dressage, my hands were quiet.  Very quiet.  So quiet they never moved.  My trainer would say “wiggle the inside rein”, “squeeze the outside rein”.  What??  What does that even mean.  Even now I have to remind myself to have some play with my fingers every few strides.  Luckily I’m to the point where when my trainer says half-halt, I’m already half-halting, or when she say shorten your reins I just had the same thought.  Timing is everything.  This is probably related, but last night was also the most steadily connected we’ve ever been.  I had much fewer moments when there was slack in the reins.

Not surprisingly, once I figured out my hands, they became much less important than my seat and my leg.  So yes I have a good connection, but now I need consistent forward.  Prior to last night I could get away with using my heels, or using what I can only describe as leg flaps, not really a kick, not really a squeeze either.  This only works for a few strides and it makes her tense and unbalanced.  So I have some homework…dropping my leg below the knee, keeping my toes forward and squeezing with my calf.  This position is not natural for my body but so much more effective that I can’t argue with the result.  We started first at the canter and oh my.  Suddenly Savy seemed to melt and spring forward at the same time.  She was relaxed, correctly bent to the inside, on the outside rein and oh so wonderful.  It’s amazing what tiny differences can make 🙂

Day in the Life – A Regular Day at the Barn.

SmellI breathe a sigh of relief as soon as I pull up to the gate and punch in the passcode.  The dirt feels good on my hands which are clammy from typing all day and too much Curel lotion.   Bonus points if there’s a horse being ridden in the arena or even if someone is hand grazing.  I keep my windows up so the flies can’t infest my car and I gather all of my riding gear.  I step out of the car and get my first good breath of the farm – horse, hey and manure all rolled into one addictive scent.   Immediately I feel happier.  Usually one of the barn cats greets me half way to the barn, and I stop to pet them, balancing on the gravel in my 4 inch heels.

I go straight for Savy’s stall and sing her full name as a hello….Savannah Rain.  Her head snaps up from her evening hey and she looks at me with bright eyes and perky ears.  Hello pretty girl.  I can tell she is happy to see me and it makes me feel all warm and mushy.  Sometimes I even get a nicker and I melt.  I change from skirts and heels to breeches and tall boots.  My hair goes back in a pony tail and I wheel my saddle cart out to the aisle, stopping to get treats.  Savy is waiting for me at the door to her stall, dinner forgotten.  Sometimes after a really tough day I’ll go straight into her stall in my work clothes because I can’t wait for a hug.  Those days she tries to follow me out when I go to get changed.

Savy loves to be groomed, and unlike most 5 year olds, stands like a statue.  I start with the rubber curry, going in circles picking up dirt and hair.  Then I go for the hard brush and flick all the dirt off.  I finish with the soft brush which makes her smooth and shinny.  Savy gives a big sigh.  I pick up her feet, one by one, cleaning out the mud and the pebbles.  She always lifts the last foot before I ask.  We’re partners like that.  I spray detangler in her tail and get to work brushing it out.  She has lots of shavings in her tail and I smile because I know it means she was sleeping, and it’s so adorable.  I move to her face with the super soft sheep hair brush and she looks at me suspiciously.  She’s not sure about the sheep hair brush, it’s new and it smells weird.  I tell her it’s ok and she lets me brush her face, following the flow of her hair and the curves of her face.  She closes her eyes and lets me brush them.  We take a few moments and breathe together.

BelongI tack up.  First the saddle and then her bridle.  She makes a nasty face when I tighten the girth.  She is not a fan, but the moment passes as quickly as it came, Savy likes her job.  I snap my helmet, pull on my riding gloves and grab a whip on our way out.  We walk briskly to the arena.  Perhaps my favorite moment ever is the first moment I sit in the saddle.   We walk with purpose around the arena, surveying the yard and street, and stretching our muscles.  I let my hips and lower back move with Savy and it’s better than a massage.  We pick up a trot and get to work.  I post in rhythm with her movement.  Letting her impulsion lift me out of the saddle.  We move into a canter and I concentrate on moving with her and remember the quote “hips like a harlet, shoulders like a queen”. The ride is good. We both work up a sweat and breathe hard.  Afterwards we ride through the green fields to cool down.

Savy follows me into the barn and turns around in the aisle without me guiding her.  She knows the drill.  I give her a handful of cookies, or carrots or sugar and tell her she did an awesome job.  Off comes the bridle, and saddle and boots.  If it’s hot she gets a shower, which she weirdly does not like.  She gets more treats.  If it’s super hot I stand with her in the aisle and let the industrial fan blow right on her chest.  She follows me into her stall and I give her one last treat.  She usually tries to follow me back out again.  I put my cart away, pull off my tall boots, put on my heels and tell Savy I love her as I’m leaving.

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A Horsey Honeymoon – Part IV

Although riding was the main attraction, we had fun doing other things.  We got to raft down the Colorado river.  That was pretty cool.  The rapids were pretty weak, I don’t think anything got to even a 3, but it was still beautiful.  And cold.  Apparently water that was snow the day before feels like ice water…duh.  I think this is a good time to mention that it was pretty cold on our honeymoon.  June in Colorado is definitely not summer, and after the winter we had I was not happy to see snow.  Also, 60 & 70s feels way colder in the semi-desert, high altitude climate of the Rockies than it does in the Ohio River Valley.  On the plus side I got to wear all of my cute jean jackets.

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rafting 2

rafting 3

rafting 1

 

Friday evening found us in Steamboat Springs, a gorgeous little ski town that hosts a weekly rodeo.  We ate, we drank and we watched crazy cowboys get bucked off.

Steamboat by river

I really do miss wearing my cowgirl get up….it’s way more comfy than my office skirts and dresses.

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First you get bucked off…

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Then you get chased.

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I’m glad Savy doesn’t throw out bucks like that!

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Just found this pic and had to share…hilarious!!

July Training Update

7.14A training update is long, long overdue.  Mine and Savannah’s relationship under saddle has greatly improved.  She actually takes me seriously now and doesn’t try to bully me or evade my aids.   She listens to me!!  At least for the most part.  Connection is still an issue but it’s getting better.  I made a lot of progress before the wedding insanity happened, but since then I’ve lost a lot of ground.  Two months off will do that I guess.  Lucky it does seem to be coming back pretty quickly.  Which is a good thing since Savy and I are going to our first rated show in August.    We have only 4 weeks to prepare.  I was ready to back out after my first lesson since the wedding but Nicole seems to think we’re ready.  If it’s terrible then it’s terrible and I can use that as motivation.  Savy and I will be doing training 2 (most likely) and Nicole will be doing first level.  I am definitely more excited about watching Nicole ride her in the big ring.

7.14 2My videographer is off strike and back on duty.  I suppose now that we’re married he doesn’t have an option anymore 🙂  Still, he sacrificed his Saturday morning to come watch me ride in circles and he took a video of us practicing training 2.  It’s really easy to see exactly what my problems are with connection in the video.  I use my hand too much when I should be using my fingers, I let the reins get too long at times, and I really need to start using my core more effectively.  We lowered my stirrups a hole in my last lesson and it’s made a big difference in my seat, but I need to work on stretch down through my hips/heels.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHIpVzdkhIU

Overall I don’t think it’s terrible, but it’s not show ring ready.  We need to work on our halt, and I don’t think I ever touched the rail at E during our 20 meter circles.  Savy was counter-bent after C going left and I would have liked more stretch in the stretchy trot.  She jigged a bit in the free walk but that’s not normal for us.

 

A Horsey Honeymoon – Part III

We did a lot of cool things on our honeymoon, but the coolest was the trail riding.  We rode to the top of a mountain.  Seriously.  To the top of a mountain.  We were fairly vertical near the top and surprisingly I was never afraid.  Banjo took care of me.  Clay seemed totally comfortable horseback.  He also got to experience trotting, cantering, and spooking for the first time.  He’s a regular cowboy now.

We shot shotguns…I want to say a 20 & 22 gage.  I shot whichever had the smallest kickback and a rifle.  Both were fun, but I liked the rifle better.  Speaking of kickbacks, I sported a nice bruise on my arm for about two weeks.  I didn’t hold the gun right the first shot, but it’s not the kind of mistake you make twice.

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I actually hit a clay pigeon on my second try!

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He looks an awful lot like a cowboy here!

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I had no idea Clay could shoot, but he hit most of his clay pigeons.

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I look pretty good holding a shotgun 🙂

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Heading up the mountain

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Cute butts!!

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Dork. The photographer was a fan of jump shots.

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Top of the mountain!

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Pack camp. Roughing it luxury dude ranch style.

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It was freezing! And we had a wind storm with winds up to 40mph. Pack came was on a beautiful natural bluff, and we got served dinner from and open fire. Not too shabby.

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Us with one of the owners. By the end of the week we felt like one of the family.

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Yes those are winter jackets and wool hats. In June. But I do miss that hot breakfast every morning.

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Bacon. We ate obscene amounts of bacon.

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Our first day we took an 1 1/2 hour ride to Jakes Lake, where we had steaks cooked on the fire and cold beers. Clay ended up spending a lot of time fishing there with our wrangler throughout the week.

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Yes there was live music.

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Our wrangler and us in yet another jump shot. I really like this one though.

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Double butt 🙂

A Horsey Honeymoon – Part II

The ranch was all at once enchanting, charming and vastly stunning.  A wildflower lined bubbling brook (it really bubbled, I’m not just using a cliché here) meandered through the property leading to an almost shocking view of the mountains and valley below.  Our trail rides consisted of rugged, rocky, steep and curvy sections followed suddenly by a natural mountain meadow.  Wildflowers were everywhere.  I seriously wouldn’t have been surprised to see fairies flitting from bloom to bloom trailing pixie dust.  It was that kind of magical.

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Bubbling Brook

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This little bridge actually got ice on it one night….but it was my favorite spot on the way to our room.

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Our view 🙂

 

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The first morning we woke up to the sound of this little guy mooing outside our door. Apparently he got lost.

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There were cute places to sit and enjoy the scenery all over the ranch.

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Picnic area and mess hall…aka food.

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Coral and barn. The horses hung out in the coral during the day and were turned out in a 40 acre pasture at night.

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Steer head for practicing roping. A skill which surprisingly would have come in handy.

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Hugo the donkey saying hi and getting scratches. He also followed us on our first trail ride of the week. Donkeys are now a must for when we get a farm.

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Baby goats! We got to bottle feed them and it was all fun and games until I got pooped on.

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Adorable miniature horses that my horse Banjo was terrified of. Actually the only two things that scared Banjo wasapples and miniature horses.

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When we were lucky we got to watch actual cattle ropers practicing in the arena. This is an equestrian sport I have no experience what-so-ever with so it was really interesting to me.  Oh, and the footing in the arena is made from volcanic rock.  How cool is that??!  I was really nice too.

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Don’t worry. They use little helmet type things to prevent the cattle from getting sore from the ropes.

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Now for the backend…This seemed to be the hardest part. Just love those mountains in the background.

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The cattle had surprisingly cute little trots. Cattle dressage anyone…?