The Roland Report

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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It's been a big summer where we keep our horses. We went from having an adequate dry lot and one small pasture that doubled as somewhere to ride to having a much larger dry lot and a few new acres of grass to play with. The extra space has enabled us to put in some very helpful improvements. Chiefly, these are a hitching post, a round pen, and an arena. The round pen and arena have been a huge help with Roland. In his defense, he has never yet done anything under saddle that would have made my younger self think I needed either of these spaces. But I turned 40 last year. I will admit I am much more reluctant to fall off horses than I used to be. When I was younger,  I didn't have the faintest idea that old in...

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Making Cinches

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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When my friend K picked up her horse Roland about a year ago, he was a super skinny four-year-old who was taking his time to mature. The times I rode him last summer, I used the itty bitty cinch I used when I was starting Piper. When I started to prepare for riding Roland again this year, I realized that old cinch was no longer going to work. This guy has grown. He's closing in on 16 hands and has put on some serious girth. But naturally he's still not quite thick enough that the cinch I use on Steen will work for Roland too. (Steen's cinch is very old and quite stretched out and a bit long for him anyway.) We have some spares but nothing that was right. So I needed a new cinch. I started looking around at options and mentioned it to K, who then realized the cinch she bought last year for Roland is also now too small. Beyond that, K's husband M is starting to get interested in r...

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Steen and the Big Field

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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It's been a good summer of riding so far. Since the weather finally turned, I've been managing very consistent light rides. One fabulous change is that our friends K and M were able to purchase the field next to their existing house and pasture. It was a soybean field last year and corn the year before that but they've started the process of converting it to grass. This will quadruple the amount of space we have to work with as far as the horses are concerned. This deal has been in the works since before we ever even moved the horses. I'm not going to lie; the two years it took to get things over the finish line were painful.  We knew getting this land would change everything -- from the layout of the dry lot to our tack-up area to how we use the pastures. Not knowing if it would go through or not had us hanging in a protracted limbo. But that stage is finally behind us and that me...

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Borrowing Fitz

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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The weather has mostly cooperated the last couple of weeks. That has meant we've been able to manage consist light rides. I have ridden every single day in June so far. (Three days! ) And even though conditions didn't allow riding for the first half of May, I managed nine rides in the latter half of the month. It is almost is starting to feel like riding horses is something I do again. But Steen is definitely not a youngster anymore. I've been keeping our rides light and easy with at least ten minutes of walking before progressing to anything faster. We haven't cantered at all this year because last year he was hit and miss in that gear. I figure we'll test it out after his fitness has improved to stack the deck in our favor. But even with how careful I've been, Steen seemed dull and low energy when we rode on WednesdaRead more

The Year of Slow

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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It has been well over a  year since my last post. And part of the reason I haven't written anything here is because things with the horses have been a bit tough. I knew leaving behind amenities like an indoor arena would mean we would ride less in the cold. What I didn't fully foresee was how having only grass footing available would mean a lot of days when the weather would permit riding but the ground would not. Between the winter, the wet, and the logistics of helping to care for and manage horses for the first time since I moved to Iowa (instead of just boarding them), you could say last year did not go quite as planned. To sum up: I haven't spent so little time in the saddle since before I got Steen. Read more

Finding new tricks

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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When we first moved the horses last year, I was very pleased to find that Steen was bombproof at the new place. He was happy to truck around the unfamiliar spaces and up for anything I threw at him. This was after I'd scarcely even seen him for six weeks due to COVID. He had good energy and was happy to listen. We had some really great riding for quite some time. But something started to shift as the year progressed. By the end of the summer I realized Steen was experiencing some intermittent pain. On my vet's recommendation, I started him on meds to help with mild arthritis. But around this time he suddenly became spooky and jumpy. I would swing into the saddle and it would feel like he was ready to explode from the first step. He never did anything huge. But he had a handful of big spooks and he ran off with me one time. He hadn't felt so unpredictable in years. I couldn't fig...

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A New Project

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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In 2020, just about every major aspect of our lives changed in some dramatic way. And that made the year feel weirdly static. Forward wasn't really on the table. We were just trying to get back to a place of stability. Moving our small herd to a piece of land that had never previous housed horses was a lot of work. It was good work, but it was both physically demanding and logistically complex. We wanted to make the best use of the space. This meant striking a balance between the impact horses have on their surroundings and making sure the horses themselves had what they would need to stay healthy and happy. There were adventures in buying hay, designing and building feeders, and learning how much turnout our  little pasture could support. Mistakes were made. But we were actually feeling quite prepared by the time winter rolled in. The cold months were a little more quiet in terms ...

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A Different Sort of Transition

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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Well, we're 2.5 months into 2021. Last year when I set the very modest goal of enjoying our horses, I did not realize how big a challenge that would end up being. The derecho meant we were moving (twice) and house-shopping in the midst of a pandemic. It was hard to make the horses a priority most of the time. The apartment we lived in for fours months while we were trying to get our life back in order was less than ten minutes away from the farm where our horses now live.  It was also a basement unit with almost no view of the outside. It had an apartment overhead that housed four college students. To say it was not a totally relaxing environment will suffice. As a result, we found ourselves escaping to the outdoors every chance we got. And we were lucky that we had a long, mild fall.

Nobody's Getting ...

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What Doesn’t Kill You

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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2020. What else is there to say? It's been a year of change for everyone. In our case, we adjusted decently well to the new restrictions put in place by the pandemic and threw ourselves head first into the work of building a new space for the horses on our friends' land. As of early August, we had four happy horses and an optimistic outlook for the rest of the year. Then August 10 happened.

Hello, Derecho

Personally, I've had enough of learning about new extreme weather events via the expedient yet traumatic experience of living through them. In the case of the day in question, a derecho hit Iowa. I had never heard of a derecho. I certainly didn't know one was coming. I happened to break out of my usual routine and spend the morning with the horses. Then I drove home, stopped at a fruit stand to buy a melon in response to a random impulse, and got back to the house we'd ...

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A Big Change

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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2020 has been full of surprises for a lot of people. And we are no exception. Living through a pandemic is an intense experience. Like nearly everyone not on the front lines, I find myself bouncing between horror and gratitude, fear and boredom, frustration and uncertainty. I have felt impotence over my inability to influence the course of this disaster even while appreciating the clarity with which I can suddenly see my own life and priorities. Bottom line: We are lucky. Although we've seen big shifts, we are okay.  Brian isn't going to his office for now, but his job still exists. My business has experienced some upheaval, but it's still alive. We don't have family in the area, so we're not struggling as much with social distancing measures as some people. Our lives don't actually feel all that different, day to day. But we've had one huge change, and it's to do with the horse...

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