We need a name for the above buckskin. What should we call The Hunk who also happens to be a knock out? Suggestions?
We knew you’d help.
Second order of business:
Catching up with Bella:
As you know, Phil went home after the trial period. Hudson had nothing to do with this (If I keep repeating this statement, it might be true?), other than pointing out Phil might be a tad timid for a rope horse.
Bella has shopped for months, while practicing on the spare rope horses that belong to friends. Somehow, she STILL managed to make it into the national team roping finals. Without owning a horse, or even roping off the same horse. For us wanna-be dressage queens, that’s a feat equivalent with catch-riding a bunch of different level dressage horses, and qualifying to ride in a National-Level Grand Prix.
She found her horse two weeks before Nationals. The above buckskin with no name.
Bella is a competitor. With a capital C.
I asked Bella if there was a live feed, so I could watch the roping. She said she’d text me her competition numbers, but timing was inexact, since they run one hundred teams an hour.
Pause while Jane tries to process that statement.
“Um. How many teams ARE there?”, I ask.
“Twelve hundred or so, I think, was the last count?”, Bella replies.
Or twelve hours straight of roping. For three days.
2,400 horses and riders? Holy crap! I try to picture this. Fail. Turn the image into sprinkles on a cake. Much better. Now I can visualize the odds.
Strangely, the odds make me hungry.
Focus, Jane, FOCUS.
She’s doing this on a horse she’s known less than 10 days?
Carlos, Bella’s boyfriend and my adopted brother, texted me the above photo on the last night of competition:
Carlos: “high point entry”
I immediately texted back.
Jane: “Thanks. What does that MEAN?”
Jane: “Thanks. What does THAT mean?”
Carlos: “Good run, they could win.”
Holy crap. I really really really need to go to the gym. In this lifetime.
Jane, still not sure I understand: “Uh. So she made it into the elite group that competes to win the whole shebang? The national title?”
Man of few words.
I think about the variables involved: two horses, two people, one random ticked-off steer determined NOT to be caught, and probably around 6 seconds for the two horses, two people, two ropes, and one ticked-off steer to come together at speed.
It feels physically impossible. So much could go wrong. You aren’t relying on only yourself and your horse. Off by a fraction in timing, communication…a rogue steer…partner misses, you miss…it all happens.
Out of 1200 teams, they made it into the elite high point teams, despite a rough first day of competition: all her points were scored on day two. Day three, she’s qualified for a shot at the national title.
(They didn’t win the title, but they did rank very high in the finals!)
We are SO PROUD of you, Bella!
Bella and Carlos, at team roping practice:
Let’s hear those “I’m a bad *ss – but handsome – dude who happens to be a real softie” names…
We have a lot of updating to do on several fronts. But let’s start with Murphy!
Height check. Ridiculously, none of us has a stick. But he’s roughly the same height as Hudson, which makes him 16 hh at 2 1/2 years old.
He doesn’t take after his super model mom. Definitely does not work the camera. In fact…
I had begged Daisy to let me take some pics of him. I might have even wheedled and promised takeout from the Crazy Chicken afterward. (“Jane! He’s like three different colors, has a winter coat, and I can’t get his socks white. No. NO.”)
I promised an unfailing recipe for sock whitening, and I’d bring the ingredients. It got me in Daisy’s Jeep with my camera bag.
I guess we haven’t decided what color we’re going to be yet. But hey, white socks, right?
Shots of him moving in the round pen went equally well. Floppy ears. Big blue truck parked in the background. Did not capture his stellar lofty movement.
At least we can see his other side:
Fine. It’s clear he’s found some way to communicate with Hudson about, “Real men do NOT pose for photographs with ears forward and head lowered. Do a tenth of what you usually do, in front of the busiest possible background. Good to go.”
I surveyed The Potential New Training Facility with the Trainer. She’s vibrating with happy energy. We were standing in the parking lot, from which you can see practically the entire property. It’s a privately owned breeding barn, no boarders, complete with fully functioning separate barn to lease out to Trainer. The lease details are worked out to everyone’s satisfaction. All that remains is her signature. I can see she’s already in virtual moving mode: unpacking things in her brain, arranging horses and gear.
This is absolutely the right place. Her business had quickly outgrown my boarding barn. She’s good. Makes me happy that other people see HOW good.
Facility has everything she needs in a good training barn. Huge arena, excellent footing, incredible owners, hot walker, turn outs, a ginormous (covered, lit) round pen….and the holy grail of Training Barns everywhere: hot/cold water wash racks AND washer and dryer. Oh, and full size fridge and freezer. (No more ice trips!)
Man oh man. I’m happy. But also a bit sad. I’m going to lose the Hudson-Vision that’s run in the background of all my barn days. That was a perk, but definitely not a deal-breaker. Obviously, I’ll still see him.
“What do you think?”, she says, correctly reading my dropped jaw to mean this place is AWESOME.
“I think it’s fabulous”, I say, without an iota of hesitation.
We’ve already checked out the feed: top quality. Paddock water troughs cleaned weekly. Stall auto-waterers are huge, not the chin dippers, and cleaned out bi-weekly. Place is immaculate. Horses are drop dead gorgeous. Healthy, obviously well cared for.
“Any issues?”, she says, hoping she hasn’t missed anything.
“Just one that I can think of?”, I say, gazing lingeringly at the property from the parking area. “You realize we’ve stood here for 45 minutes, just staring, right? Do you think we will ever go to work?”
We both crack up. I continue.
“I think we’ll park, and then spend at least 30 minutes checking the tightness of our shoelaces. Right. Here.”
“Wanna risk it?”, she says, clearly understanding I just said: where do I sign up?
“I’m good with shoelace obsessing”, I say.
We crack up again.
That was a few months ago.
We’re all moved in. Everyone is happy. There’s a winery across the street. We’re surrounded by grape vines and apple orchards. Since its private property, no rider has misused the fantastic standing offer by neighbors to ride along the rights-of-way that cut through the vines, orchards and fields. TRAILS.
I took these cell photos yesterday morning, from the parking lot.
Riding in this arena feels like a cross between flying
and riding atop of the Great Wall of China.
Who cares if you missed a cue? LOOK AT THAT VIEW. (There may be a few horses taking advantage of this.)
Check out the orangish row dots at lower right. Wine grapes. Hills of them. Maybe Hudson could use a teeny tiny bit of training after all?
Life is good. The people are exceptional. The horses, fantastic.
This out-of-control, wildly bucking, primal flight-panic moment brought to you by The Two Year Old Who Will Not be Fazed.
And Daisy, who took the picture of Murphy’s first time under saddle, complete with, yes, it’s touching him…The Girth.
(Hudson is still certain The Girth will kill him, even when it goes up one hole every 15 minutes.)
Daisy saddled Murphy, removed his halter, and waited for typical two-year-old reaction.
She’s still waiting.
Murphy is captivated by a birthday party just off-screen, complete with helium-filled balloons waving spookily in the wind. Or not spookily at all, if you’re Murphy. I think he’d carry one in his teeth.
We didn’t get lost, eat junk food, do a Mafia exchange for a baby goat beneath a deserted freeway underpass, or accidentally drive through anyone’s broccoli, because we missed the mare wearing a bikini.
Actually, the goat/Mafia/broccoli was a Daisy, Bella and Jane Road Trip. Three of us together somehow sideswipe the universal Road Trip trajectory potentials. Weird things happen. Like goat payoffs.
A new RT trajectory formulation started the second Daisy picked up her keys.
She said: “We’re leaving the back open for Mike, he’s bringing me the Zebra because he’s moving. But it’s a loaner. I don’t get to keep it. Even if it’s a forever loan.”
Daisy rolls her eyes at the stupidity of loaner Zebras vs. non-loaner Zebras.
Well, duh. Zebra’s Are Forever.
“Do you care if we pick up my dry cleaning on the way?”, Daisy asks.
“No. I’m good with dry cleaning.” I pack my camera bag into her Jeep. Zebra? I rack my brain. Who’s Mike?
We’re driving. Her cell rings. The Jeep answers. I love technology.
“Hey Mike.”, Daisy says, “You have my zebra?”
“I’m still stuck in traffic”, Mike says via the Jeep, “and it’s not YOUR zebra. It’s on LOAN.”
“Whatever”, Daisy says.
“I’m bringing you some throw pillows too. You can keep those.” says Mike, “or throw ’em.”
I’m feeling the need for a zebra. And some throw pillows. Maybe even dry cleaning. I wonder how I can get a Mike. My life would be seriously improved by a guy who would drop off a zebra and some throw pillows while I visited my horse.
At some point while Daisy is in the dry cleaners, my throat starts to close up and I realize I’m having an allergic reaction. Daisy comes back with garment bags, and I ask her if I could be allergic to this plastic thingie on the dash. She snatches it and throws it out the window. Ta Da. Problem solved. I start breathing again. Daisy deals. I love Daisy.
I probably would have talked about it until I croaked.
We catch up on all the important stuff, like the backstory of Zebra rights (I don’t bother to ask if the zebra is a sculpture, photo, painting, or live zebra that will be clopping around Daisy’s kitchen when we return, rummaging in the vegetable drawer in the fridge.) Work, Murphy, Barbie, life, Hudson.
I pay zero attention to the route. Rolling hills. Grape vines. Wineries. I have a vague idea where we’re going. It’s not all that far from this incredible bakery on the square in Healdsburg? Which I’m certain I could find blindfolded in a hurricane. Or if Daisy stopped the car now and shoved me out.
We wind down the road through vineyards to the barn. Here and there paddocks interrupt the acres of wine grapes, the paddocks gradually taking over. Very South-of-France-ish. Olive trees. Is that lavender?
I see Murphy on a little hill. Oh thank God. Standard horse ID test: I can still pick him out of a crowd from a moving car. If you can pick ’em out in a drive by, you are definitely still their Auntie. I’m flooded with relief. I missed him.
This is our size-check photo. Remember, he’s two. And Daisy 5’11”.
You can see the adult horse peeking out.
We’re horse people, we have to see both sides:
He’s still the same little friendly foal who wants to see the camera lens. Give or take 1,000 pounds.
After not quite enough time annoying Murphy by draping my body over his, smooching his muzzle, and asking a thousand times if he remembers Auntie Jane (face it, it’s never going to be enough time, right?) we have to pack up and go home. Oh well. I’m looking forward to meeting the loaner zebra.
Daisy says, “Hey, wanna stop for a salad at The Crazy Chicken?”
Unfortunately this activates the rarely used science center in my brain. Which, once it gets going, won’t stop until it feels it has exhaused all analytical conclusions: Is there such a thing as a sane chicken? Would someone ever name a restaurant, in which one eats chicken, “The Sane Chicken”? How about “The Well-Adjusted Chicken”? “The Perfectly Normal Chicken”?
I imagine ordering a chicken salad in front of my friend the psychotherapist. “It’s okay! This chicken is certified wacko.”
“Sounds great!”, I say, hoping Daisy doesn’t notice the long pause.
I think we can easily see how Road Trips with any combo of Daisy, Bella, and Jane turn into wormholes in the space/time continuum, rushing us past Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny, Buster Posey, and The Goat Mafia, only to drop us off at…The Perfectly Normal Chicken.
Excellent salad. Yummy insane chicken.
I meet the Zebra:
Definitely worth four years of Daisy teasing a good friend for hanging rights. Even as a loaner.
I’m about to start bugging Daisy to loan me the loaner Zebra. The good news? This could become very “Who’s on first…?” if someone else starts bugging me to loan them the loaner zebra. Eventually everyone except Daisy will forget where it originally came from, and she can claim it back. Forever.
Daisy? Thank my logic center. (It likes cake.)
Did you know there’s a bakery really close to your new barn…?
His right knee got a bit bigger, with arthritic changes normal for an older horse. His soundness level didn’t change.
I’m seriously over qualified for two careers:
If I had either of these careers, we’d all be boarding at Jane’s Fabulous Barn of Many Horse Wonders, for $50 a month. Because I could afford the tax write off, and I would love to see you all every day.
Hudson tried to launch my new careers. He banged the arthritic knee on the one lonely 6′ section of pipe fencing, while messing around with his pasture mate.
No heat, no swelling, not lame. Slightly bruised. Fine to the touch in three days. The bump on the knee began to grow, in a “Hey. Is that bigger today? Nah.” sort of way. He’s still sound.
Exhibit A: The problem knee. Attached to the problem leg he likes to stick through fences. Because the dirt on the other side is softer.
Weird, huh. He looks like his normal, big-boned self.
Then his knee went all Pinocchio on me.
How can he be SOUND?!?
Two things happened:
I couldn’t handle the stress I was creating. I was annoying myself.
Hudson’s chiropractor, a competitive roper and fantastic chiro, sighed compassionately at my anxiety, picked up Hudson’s leg and bent that knee to full flexion. Hudson didn’t blink. It didn’t hurt.
The joint is that mobile?? I instantly saw the possibility of an obsessionless future. One in which I wouldn’t be afraid to hand walk, ride, pony or touch Hudson.
I called our vet, Jamie Kerr, and made an appointment for lameness exam and possible x-rays. (If you’re going to do it, use the best, right?) Jamie spent most of his life preparing and riding in the Tevis, or vetting the Tevis. He’s seen every possible lameness on the planet. Hopefully even non-lame lameness.
I worried (surprise!) that it would be a little tricky to explain why I wanted a lameness exam on a sound horse. Meghan, the clinic’s office manager, was also wonderfully compassionate.
Oh good. They’re familiar with nut cases.
If it looks like an arthritic calcium deposit, walks like an arthritic calcium deposit, and creaks like an arthritic calcium deposit, it should BE an arthritic calcium deposit, even if we don’t want one, right?
This is the good part of finding oneself in the middle of Chaos Theory.
It didn’t walk or creak properly. He DID have Pinocchio Knee.
Jimminey Cricket. The knee was lying.
Jamie has to be the kindest vet in existence. Before the physical exam, he asked me Hudson’s age and history, explained it looked like an injury common in older race horses, cow horses, and over-used brood mares. I think he expected what we all expected: calcification of an arthritic joint.
After the physical exam, it seemed to me that Jamie was cautiously excited. He had me press my finger on the point. I’d been afraid to press it hard. Hudson had no pain reaction, and my finger went in about half an inch.
Bone doesn’t give.
Jamie x-rayed. I don’t think either of us could believe the image that came up on the laptop. A nearly perfect knee-joint, with tons of fluid padding between the bones, and only very minor arthritic changes that Jamie had to point out to me.
No flashing arrow that said “Your Horse Has Arthritis, Stupid”.
The Pinocchio Protrusion didn’t show up on any of the x-rays.
It’s chronic soft tissue inflammation. With no heat.
My older horse, who spent all his life in hard work, has the joints of a nine-year-old.
Jamie said, “How old did you say he was, again?”
Hudson is going to be 24 in seventeen days.
I had to break the bad news to Hudson: “Jamie says no more galloping, no fast starts or stops, and no dressage circles. Nothing with sharp turns. You get to do trail rides, walk, trot and lope. But only in big arcs or straight aways”
I think all he heard was “no circles”, as he raced off into his paddock, bucking and joyful.
This is Daisy’s mare, (and my niece) Barbie, hopefully in order of age progression. She turned 8 years old on Sunday.
Barbie is Murphy’s mom, for those just joining us. She needed to be retired early, but shines on: she is a wonderful mother. This is a mare you’d want to have a foal by. She was very strict with Murphy, saving humans a lot of work, which is probably partly why his manners have remained decent into the terrible two’s.
She’s one of my favorite horses of all time. I just love this horse. Barbie is an eye magnet. You can’t help but want to watch her. (Stare, produce cookies, groom, hug, massage, dream….)