Archive for July 2011

Guest Photographer   2 comments

I’m not the only one around here who likes to take pictures.  Some of the boarders enjoy recording the doings around the stables, too.  Here’s a nice shot, forwarded by boarder Merissa, that shows their colt Colby being saddled for the very first time.

As usually happens with a nice colt that’s been handled a lot, it was a non-event.   You can see one ear is slightly concerned, but Colby was a Very Good Boy.

She also sent this picture.  It’s a bittersweet feeling to see it.  This is probably the last picture ever taken of all four dogs together.

All of them in a row, intent on the unseen ball.  It’s a great shot.

Today is hot, muggy and unpleasant, and little Xena has taken up her favorite cool napping spot; behind the toilet.  I can’t help but think how interesting it would be if someone asked to use our bathroom — and sat down to find her intent doggy eyes watching them.

It might get quite an interesting reaction.


Posted July 31, 2011 by stablewoman in Horses, Pets

Getting Our Feet Wet   Leave a comment

I hadn’t had Bella out in a few days, so I got up a little earlier and took her to the round pen.  She wasn’t really enthusiastic . . .

But after that we went for a walk, which she likes to do.  Near the end of our stroll, I took her down to the water.  She hadn’t been in since last year; it was too deep to risk scaring her. 

She hesitated a moment, watching Xena splash around, but when I went in, so did she.

She seemed to enjoy it.  Notice the splashing.

I often see articles about getting your horse into the water, horses with water phobia, and crossing water.  Apparently there are quite a few horses out there who refuse to get their feet wet.  That’s very, very seldom a problem here.  I can’t remember offhand a horse that didn’t end up crossing the river happily — unless the rider also had a phobia.  If you’ve got a good, safe spot to get wet, and other horses that like water, it’s pretty easy.

Especially in hot weather.

We had an incident a few days ago in which a horse jumped into deep water and ended up separated from its rider.  I won’t say more, except that no one was hurt, to avoid possible embarrassment to all involved.  But much the same thing happened to me long ago. 

It was nearly forty years ago, in fact, when I was riding my first little Welsh mare, Telstar.  She was about twelve-two, but a delightful ride for a small person.  Which I was — then. 

Anyway, we went out with a group to make our first crossing of the river.  Telstar was used to crossing small streams, but she’d never seen a real river before.  She hesitated on the brink, watching the other horses cross.  When I urged her on, she rared back, squinched her eyes shut (I swear!) and jumped.  She appeared to have the intent of clearing the whole thing.

Naturally, we landed in deep water, and she wallowed and scrambled for a few seconds while the water washed back and forth over my lap.  But I managed to stay in the middle, and we went ahead and crossed.  She never showed any fear, then or later, of getting in the water.  But I have to say that riding while dripping wet and sandy is No Fun at all.

Actually, neither is walking in wet sandy shoes, which is why this morning’s stop at the river was the last thing on our walk.  Horses and dogs don’t have to walk back to the pen in squidgy wet shoes and socks.  They’re just lucky that way . . .

Posted July 30, 2011 by stablewoman in Bella, Horses, Kern River

Sundown   3 comments

Along about sunset is the time when this place comes to life, in the summer.  Few people who work are able to make it out to ride in the early morning.  Bakersfield’s long warm evenings aren’t too bad, if you don’t mind a little sweat.

I caught a group of riders working in the round pen last night.

Good horse-and-rider pictures are even harder to take than good horse pictures, but I do like the one below. 

Doesn’t it say everything about the relationship between horse and rider?

Later, Xena and I went to look at the river.  It’s down even more; not a ripple of current.

She still seems to be looking for her brother.  Luckily, dogs are usually pretty philosophical about such things.  At least she’s got Gena and Spanky still.

Posted July 29, 2011 by stablewoman in Horses, Riding

A Strange Visit   1 comment

A fireman came to our door today.  Not all that unusual, but it’s usually after there’s a fire in the river bottom.  This one had received a complaint.  Billy and I looked at each other with, as you can imagine, an “uh-oh” expression.  But no; the complaint was about the fire department.  Someone — and he named a name — had called them to complain that the lights and sirens of a fire truck going by had caused their horse, stabled here, to go berserk, break a leg, and have to be put down.

There were two troubles with this story.  One, we had no boarder by the name he gave — and never did.  Two, we had definitely had no horses break a leg and be euthanized.  We’d have noticed a little thing like that. 

Could it be, we asked, that he had the wrong stable?  No, the caller had named our stable specifically.


Someone trying to make trouble for us?  I can’t see how that story would.  Someone making trouble for the fire department?  Not with such an easily checked story.  It’s just strange.  Well, if nothing further comes of it, we’ll just call it one of the weird things weird people do.

Thank you to the people who’ve expressed condolences for Nip’s death.  We’re missing him a lot.  His sister Xena is hanging around here more than usual.  They were pretty much inseparable.

I’ll always remember the three of us exploring the river together.

Posted July 28, 2011 by stablewoman in Pets

Not a Good Day   7 comments

I was sitting around after lunch yesterday, when Gena, Spanky, and Xena, the border collies, came piling through the dog door, wet and muddy from the river.  That was a sure sign that Andrew was back from gathering cattle in the hills.  They’d left, as usual, at four o’clock in the morning, to beat the heat.

A few minutes later, Andrew came in.  He had tears in his eyes.  When a twenty-one year old cowboy comes in with tears in his eyes, you know there’s trouble.  “Nip’s gone,” he said.

Nip had gone that morning, with the other three, to help move the cattle.  Andrew had seen the dogs kept well hydrated — there were water troughs in plenty.  There was little sign of a problem when they loaded up to come home, but when they got there, Nip collapsed and died very quickly.  It was probably heat stroke.

The other dogs are fine; they went out with me on a ride this morning and chased every rabbit and squirrel in sight.  The other dogs that were working that day are fine.  What went wrong with Nip?  Perhaps there was some weakness of heart or lung left from his bout with Parvo.  We’ll never know; we buried him next to his brother Chunk, who died of Parvo.

It’s hard to lose a dog.  They have such distinct personalities.  There’s Gena, with her anxious, humble expression, and obsession with retrieving; the vocal Spanky, whose yips and whines seem to be attempts at speech; and doughty little Xena, who’ll nip a cheeky steer a hundred times her size on the nose, but whose ambition in life is to sleep in every chair in the house — and the bed.

With Nip, it was his penetrating stare.  He always seemed to be trying to figure out what was going on in his world, and what he should do about it.

The rest of the dogs won’t go out until the weather cools again; but it’s hard on them not to do their job.  They love to go out with Andrew; they have to be penned up to keep them from pursuing his truck out the driveway.  A border collie without a job is not a happy dog.  For now, though, they’ll have to be content with an occasional early-morning workout with the sheep.

Good-bye, Nip; you’ll be missed — not least by your little sister Xena.

Posted July 27, 2011 by stablewoman in Pets

Bella’s Mask   1 comment

One thing you can say for pony Bella; she has eyes like the proverbial hawk.  Often, when I am pottering around on the patio, I hear her fluting little whinny.  It’s easily translatable as “Where’s my carrot?”  And it’s a fairly long way down to her pen.

Lori ordered a fly mask for her on-line, since I’m not equipped with a credit card.  It’s a small pony/weanling size, but still just a little large.  It’s a long-nose version, since the main idea is not so much protection from flies, as protection for her li’l pink nose from the sun.  She looks pretty funny in it.

Notice the pink ribbon.  Even the horses are getting into breast cancer research.  I’m glad she’s a filly; it would look even funnier on a colt.

We have twelve loads of hay coming in today.  We’re getting close to our eight hundred tons.  Usually it would be nine hundred, but we’re buying a bit short and hoping for better prices next June.  The price of cotton is way down, so we’re hoping everyone will plant alfalfa.  That’s what usually happens.

Posted July 25, 2011 by stablewoman in Bella, Horses

Kern River’s Down   Leave a comment

The first horse and rider crossed it today.  Of course, it was boarder Annie and her seventeen-hand, unflappable Standardbred Clyde.  I’ll bet you wouldn’t want to try it with a short horse.

The dogs and I went down to our usual spot to check it out.  I could wade in a bit farther (without dunking my camera), so I was able to get a little different angle.

Here we’re looking due south.  You can see, in the center, a little hole in the willows.  Through it the main branch of the river is barely visible.  You can also see Gena retrieving a tennis ball.

This is looking upriver, to the east.  There’s a willow tree down, slowing the current.  There’s no water moving through this spot right now, so there’s willow fluff floating everywhere.  And . . . Gena’s retrieving the tennis ball.

Here’s a picture looking west, or downriver.  Gena didn’t make this shot.

That’s because, just as I took it, she nudged me firmly in the back of the legs and dropped her ball for me to throw.    I was about to get a shot of a damselfly, but it took off when I jumped.  Darn.

The river should continue to go down, now that the snowpack is pretty much melted.  That’ll be nice for horseback riders, as it won’t be necessary to ride a couple of miles upriver to cross at the weirs.  It won’t be so nice for kayakers, fishermen, and tubers, though we should have enough water in the main channel for tubing.  It’s pretty safe in our stretch of the river — but still, you have to use common sense.

Me, I’m not getting in more than knee deep.

Posted July 24, 2011 by stablewoman in Kern River, Pets