Did the Policy Say Acts of God…or Acts of Dog…?

It started with The Magic Window.

Mmmm...tasty...or do I chase these?
Mmmm…tasty…or do I chase these?

After years of completely ignoring Shaun’s Giant Magic Window, Christmas has turned nightly TV watching into a vigorous aerobic exercise affectionately named “Save the Television.”

Bye Bye delightful Couch Potato-hood.

Can we claim we thought our homeowner’s policy stated coverage for “Acts of Dog” before we signed?

Christmas was severely malnourished when he adopted us.  We made the (in hindsight) disastrous decision to provide top quality dog food. His vision dramatically improved. How could this not be good?

Here’s how: he now understands we have a Magic Window.

He’s mesmerized.

I don't know what these things are, but they're in my house.
I don’t know what these things are, but they’re in my house.
Um. Do you not see the problem?  THERE IS A GRIZZLY in our livingroom!
Um. Mom?  Helllllooooo…monster dog in living room!
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What’s happening? Is that a cat? Why is it chasing a ball?
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Weirdest dog fight ever.
Uh. Oh.
HOLY CRAP!!!!
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Giant Seagull. I’ll bark ferociously and attack. Back me up here!

(We barely saved the TV from the eagle incident.)

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This dog is okay. She has puppies in her cave. Puppies good. My mom had soft eyes.

We tried Dog TV, mistakenly thinking he might enjoy watching dogs do stuff.  Disastor. Mega Aerobic Dog Tackling session.  Apparently we are a single dog family.

He has favorite programs:

  •  Anything on the Food Network. (Understandable?)
  • Grey’s Anatomy.
  • The Olympics

It makes me sad he doesn’t like to watch The Big Bang.  It’s my favorite.

There is one thing he loathes above all others:

geico-gecko
The Geico lizard. Copyright: Geico. Most Dangerous Animal on Planet. The only way to peel Christmas away is to turn the TV off first, then tackle.  It’s wrecking havoc on our reflexes.

The other night he woke me up at 3 am to go out.

He didn’t want to use the facilities.  He marched into the living room, plopped down in front of the TV, and turned his head to look at me, both imploring and impatient.

Turn it on please.

It took all I had not to throw the remote at him.  (Afterall, he might learn how to use it.)

I’m afraid he’s going to discover the computer…

Name the Buckskin!

Hi. I am The Horse Wtih No Name. No, I have not been ridden over the desert. Please do not call me "Buck".
Hi. I am The Horse With No Name. No, I have not been ridden in the desert, and I don’t mind being out in the rain. And I can remember my name, if I had one. A little help please…? p.s. I hate “Neil”.

First order of business:

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.

Oh, I'm just a normal cowgirl. Kinda made it to high point call back.  It was fun.
Oh, I’m just a normal cowgirl. Made it to the finals run in Nationals on a horse I barely know. Had a good time.

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?”

Carlos: “finals”

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?”

Carlos: “Yep”.

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:

Now you can see no name horse in action. What do we call him? He wants to know!
Now you can see no name horse in action. What do we call him? He wants to know!

Comment away!

Let’s hear those “I’m a bad *ss  – but handsome – dude who happens to be a real softie” names…

Murphy Monday: His Royal Indifference

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.

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Um. Nope. No trolls under this bridge. Right, mom? Right?

He doesn’t take after his super model mom.  Definitely does not work the camera. In fact…

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How Murphy feels about having his photo taken.

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.

Murphy was annoyingly indifferent to posing in the “hunter stretch”.

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Instead of a good hunter pose, I’ll dazzle you with my cuteness and these red leaves.
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Fine. I’ll “stretch”  behind. But honestly, I prefer leaning over my front hooves. That way I’m ready for any eating emergency. Instant head drop.
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Putting me in front of a pink bush and wiggling the lead rope will not make me drop my head. It will bore me so much that mom and Auntie Jane will have to leap at my mouth, to pry out the oleander leaves.  FYI, they don’t taste toxic…?

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:

Best you're gonna get, Auntie. Put me in front of the blue truck. I'll really stretch out.
Best you’re gonna get, Auntie. Put me in front of the blue truck. I’ll really stretch out. Hahahahahaha.

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.”

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I’m stretching…I’m lifting…really. This is it. Full coöperation. (heh heh heh)
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Thank God she’s done. Now I can stop with the llama-head and relax. Man my neck was getting tired. Mom. Mom! Let’s do the Beatles Abbey Road thing, K?

Gotta love the handsome boy.

And life is good…

Why My Shoelaces are Fascinating

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.

We call this the Infinity Arena....
We call this the Infinity Arena….who needs an infinity pool? We have horses to ride!

Riding in this arena feels like a cross between flying

Imagine being on horseback here...
Imagine being on horseback here…      (photo credit)

and riding atop of the Great Wall of China.

and riding here...at the same time. Except arena is wider...
okay….arena is slightly wider…but you get the idea.        (photo credit)

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?

There's a winery behind me too.
Obsessing over shoelaces. Will I ever get them tight?  (Um. No.)

Life is good.  The people are exceptional. The horses, fantastic.

And I have the Best. Shoelaces. Ever.

Murphy Monday: Fine. Are those Balloons…?

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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.

He’s definitely my nephew.  I bet he smells cake.

Murphy Monday: Dry Cleaning, Zebra Loaning, and The Crazy Chicken

Going to see Murphy turned into a Daisy and Jane Road Trip.

It was an unusual Daisy and Jane Road Trip.

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.

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Oh. So THAT’S how this gate opens…

This is our size-check photo.  Remember, he’s two. And Daisy 5’11”.

You can see the adult horse peeking out.

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My ears are forward because my mom is throwing grass in the air. GRASS. What is wrong with her?
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That vine is almost in reach…one more sneaky step…

We’re horse people, we have to see both sides:

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This is stupid. Take the picture.

He’s still the same little friendly foal who wants to see the camera lens. Give or take 1,000 pounds.

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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:

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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…?

If You’re Happy and You Know it Clop Your Hooves

Hudson developed a slight problem.

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:

  1. Master Obsesser
  2. Professional Annoyer

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.

Hudson yesterday: poised to swan dive into his Happy Meal.
Hudson yesterday: poised to swan dive into his Happy Meal.

Then his knee went all Pinocchio on me.

Problem? What problem?
Jane’s successful career launch.

How can he be SOUND?!?

Two things happened:

  1. I couldn’t handle the stress I was creating.  I was annoying myself.
  2. 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.

Copyright: Disney
Copyright: Disney

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.

It GAVE.

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.

Murphy Monday: Cinco De Murphy!

Murphy was born on Cinco de Mayo.

He turned TWO years old yesterday.

As part of his growing up and changing needs, he moved to a new facility, where he met a dumbfoundingly handsome horse, with whom he bonded utterly.

We have to admit, this new horse is extremely handsome. And very personable. Daisy could barely tear him away.

Murphy Mirror 2  years old

He’s huge. I think Daisy is 5′ 11″ tall. Murphy hangs his head over her shoulder.

Happy Birthday, Murphy!

Still the same curious boy who said, “Hey. It’s dark in here.”

We love you…

Murphy in tail

Happy Birthday Barbie!

This is Daisy’s mare, (and my niece) Barbie,  hopefully in order of age progression. She turned 8 years old on Sunday.

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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….)

Happy Birthday Barbie!