Ranch Dog Tales: Is Dots a Nevada Fuzzy?

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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Forgive the digression, but I wanted to go off on a mild tangent about dogs. Ranch dogs, to be exact. Fictional ranch dogs, specifically. These are fake dogs inspired by dogs I have known and dogs I have heard and read about. I'm talking about the dogs in my series of Western love stories. Those novels are set on a ranch in Arizona called the Tipped Z. Each title features dogs to varying degrees. And these dogs are perhaps the number one thing readers ask me about with regards to these books. So far I haven't ever provided a very thorough answer. Due to a recent resurgence in speculation on the topic, I am going to do so now.

Dogs and ranches

Anyone who has ever spent much time on a working ranch knows there are pretty much always dogs around. For me, the ranch I've spent the most time on is located outside Prescott, ...

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Oh hai 2019!

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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Well. It's 2019. We are 1.5 months in and wow. It's been a doozy. I think I can safely say I have spent less time with horses in the last eight weeks than at any point since I purchased Steen. The only other time that even comes close to comparing was my honeymoon, when Brian and I spent a month walking across Scotland and then attended my brother's wedding in northern England.  I had zero horse contact during that time. But at least we were having fun.

The dry spell has been painful

So far this year, I have been on the back of a horse exactly two times. Two! This is insane. But first I contracted the flu during our Christmas travels. This progressed into acute bronchitis, which left me able to do very little for about six weeks. On top of that, we had the polar vortex. That was INTENSE. I mean, I know I grew up in a desert and therefore perhaps I am not as resilient to ...

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Bareback Prescription

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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Winter has come on hard and fast, which is a bit of a bummer. I was hoping for a long, mild fall. Evidently the Iowa department of weather didn't get that memo. It's been unseasonably cold, wet, and snowy. Worse than that, though, is Steen took a hard kick to the belly. This resulted in a big swollen lump that alarmed me enough I had a vet in to look at it. [caption id="attachment_8219" align="alignnone" width="950"] This was the day I noticed the bump. I climbed on for a very brief ride just to gauge how he was moving and feeling.[/caption] Fortunately, it was probably just shy of being serious. Although it's super tender and has resulted in a bunch of extra drainage accumulating lower down on his belly, he mostly...

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Nagging Legs

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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After Piper left us, we lapsed into a horse lull. Part of it was just the sheer relief of finding her a good home at last. So many years of worrying came so suddenly to an end, and we found ourselves just wanting to lay low for a bit. There were other factors too. The weather in Iowa has been very, very bad. Work always gets busy this time of year. Steen has had his sunburn. But really, if I'm being honest, we were mostly just kind of out of energy for the horses for a little while. To add to our lower-than-usual motivation levels, our recent struggle (if you can call it that) with Steen and Laredo is they are both super duper broke. They are broke to the po...

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Sunburn Season: aka Paint Horse Problems

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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The first time Steen got a really terrible sunburn was in 2012. It was a surprise to me at that point that a horse could even get a sunburn in areas where they actually had hair. Although I grew up in Tucson, Arizona and my sister's Appaloosa has always had a tendency to burn the pink skin around his eyes and on his sheath, it wasn't until owning a Paint in Iowa that I learned how serious a sunburn can be. Steen is a tobiano. According to my highly unscientific measurements, he is 46%* white. The white hair is pure white. Underneath the white hair is pink skin. Although those white markings are literally part of what he was bred for, they're also surprisingly problematic. Steen has more skin issues than any of our other horses.

Turns out, white skin is vulnerable

The ...

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Piper Goes Home

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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It goes without saying that we get attached to our horses. In the past, when we've taken in projects with the intention of giving a horse a tune-up or filling in some gaps in their education, we've always managed to complete that process in a year or less. That's a short enough time that while we would become quite fond of those horses, they never felt integrated in our lives the way our 'keepers' do.
[caption id="attachment_7993" align="alignnone" width="612"] "Hi I'm Piper and I have the mane of envy."[/caption]
That was supposed to happen with Piper. She was supposed to be a horse we kept only briefly—just long enough to lay a foundation of groundwork and the basics of work unde...

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Our Bit vs Bitless Philosophy

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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Somewhat regularly, people comment on our hackamores in the context of the bit vs bitless debate. These comments range from curious to mystified to laudatory. They usually boil down to, "I can't believe you can / are you sure you're safe doing? / it's so nice you can accomplish ... X, Y, or Z without a bit." These comments always surprise me. They surprise me because they remind me how much the way I think about the tools I use to communicate with my horses has changed over the years. Because I, too, used to look at people riding, notice a piece of equipment, and think that tool had something to do with the way the horse was moving or behaving. I fell into that wormhole myself plenty of times: the one where I thought this bit could solve that problem.

It's true, I love the hackamore

It can't be denied we mostly ride our horses in the hackamore these days. The hackamor...

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Why I’m breaking up with Instagram

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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Instagram intrigued me from the very start. Long before I had a smartphone (or any desire for one) the one thing I felt I was missing was being able to see and share little square snapshots. When I finally caught up with the modern world and got a phone with a touchscreen, one of the first things I did was install Insta. And for a long time, I really enjoyed it. I posted. I liked. I sought out people to follow. I quietly did not follow people who did not produce content I found interesting. My Instagram feed became something Twitter and Facebook could never be. It was beautiful. It was peaceful. It was full of stuff I actually cared about, and nothing more. Well, that's all over now. Instagram has  aggressively rolled out ads and a "feature" called Recommended for You. These two changes have hideously altered my Instagram experience. I feel like a horde of drunken frat ...

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Things to do
When it’s too hot to ride your horse

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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Summer is here! Here in Iowa, it felt pretty late in coming. Worse, the honeymoon is already over. The sun is out. Temps are rising. Some days it's just too hot to consider climbing atop a warm, sweaty animal.

How hot is too hot to ride?

First things first. Generally speaking, you should be very careful with your horse if you add the temperature and humidity readings together and the total is 140 or higher. Also take into consideration your horse's fitness level, how long you ride, and how hard you ride. Older and younger horses are more vulnerable and need more recovery time. We've discovered that one of the most important factors is actually not the days, but the nights. Are temps dropping when the sun goes down? If so, your horse will cool down at night as well. Here in Iowa, we can get strings of days with no break in the heat. That's when you have t...

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Palate Cleanser

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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Between moving this  blog from Google's servers onto my own WordPress install and (somewhat ironically, I suppose) working through the process of backing up thousands of my old photos in my Google account, lately I am inundated with photos of the past. It is weird to see old shots of myself on Steen where both of us look significantly younger than we do now. This is possible because I've had him for a decade now.  Like, literally, in just a few weeks Steen and I will celebrate our 10 year anniversary. That is nuts. I don't feel old enough to have owned a horse I purchased after college for that long. I don't feel old enough to not actually look young anymore. [caption id="attachment_7665" align="alignnone" width="950"]Read more