The Long Spring

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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Yesterday we rode outside for the first time since last fall. Usually we manage to get out earlier than this, but conditions were muddy the entire winter (excepting short stretches when it was bitterly cold), which means footing was really bad in all the places we usually ride.

Friday afternoon, however, I found myself sitting on Nevada in the outdoor arena, enjoying the feel of the afternoon sun on my skin and the ability to gaze into the distance. It was my first time on Nevada outside of the indoor arena, and only her 3rd of 4th time riding outside in her whole life. I’d already taught my Friday lesson and was feeling a bit worn out from some work drama that unfolded earlier in the day, but we had a nice time mostly working on the basics.

Today, we graduated from the arena to the strip. This was Nevada’s first time being ridden in a space without a fence around it. I was a little ‘ready’ starting out. As quiet as she is, Nevada’s got some life at times. I thought there was a chance the new environment would bring her energy up some. It did, but she wasn’t nervous at all. We walked and trotted around for an hour with no drama at all. Of course things weren’t quite as refined as they are in the indoor arena, but we got a lot of nice little movements, plus some good trotting.

With these two successes under our belt, I’m really looking forward to pushing our boundaries a bit more.

Horseback Hours YTD: 38:00


A Different Ratio

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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A few days ago, Brian and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. I got Steen roughly one year before we married, which means I’ve had Steen almost eight years. In that time, while we’ve had plenty of other horses as well and I’ve spent lots of time riding them, I’ve always spent more time on Steen than everyone else combined.

For the moment, that has changed. Here’s my riding breakdown for 2016 so far:

This is the first year in recorded history I’ve spent the bulk of my saddle time on a horse other than Steen. Granted, it’s only March. There’s a solid chance things will shift back. Lately, though, I’ve been riding Nevada. Quite a lot.

For spring break this year, Brian and I decided to stay home. We didn’t work, but we also didn’t travel. We adulted a fair bit, doing things like yard work and getting my car to the shop and taking care of lots of the mundane tasks that always seem to get bumped off the bottom of the to-do list. But also, we’ve ridden horses every day except Tuesday. Which means, after tomorrow, I’ll have put eight rides on Nevada in nine days.

Things continue to go really well with her. Her strength and balance have improved a lot in short order. Her walk and trot are solid. We’ve got cantering working in both directions, her stop is awesome, and all in all she’s starting to feel pretty familiar when I swing my leg over her back. She’s got over 50 hours of total saddle time under her belt now, 16.5 of those with me in the last few weeks. Her foundation is starting to solidify.

The last few rides, I’ve been adding in more lateral work, including some shoulder yielding exercises I couldn’t get working with Steen until I’d had him for about six years. It’s interesting, how much a young horse can do when no one has ever taught her to brace or be afraid. When Nevada gets stuck, if I just give her a little time she always tries something. And if it’s not the right thing, she tries a different thing. She is the first horse I’ve ever ridden who has absolutely no defenses in place. She just has no idea that people can be unfair and harsh and confusing. She’d only been haltered a few times before she came to us, and since then only Brian and I have handled her.

To have a slate that clean to work with is pretty great, but it’s also challenging in its own way. I don’t want to be the first person who lets her down. Riding her is pretty different feel from dinking around on super steady Steen, who went through the ringer before he ever came to me, and who I have made mistake after mistake on while he patiently put up with my failures and progressed in spite of all the times I got in his way.

But spending solid time on Nevada has been super fun, too. A horse with no reason to be defensive learns very quickly. I can’t believe how far we’ve come this week. Hopefully the early spring it looks like we might have will stick around and we can get her out of the arena and into the world a little bit soon.

Horseback Hours YTD: 28:00


Me and Nevada

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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Nevada is Brian’s horse. He got her about a year and a half ago to train up as an eventual replacement for Bear. He got her started and going nicely. Then a combination of life and circumstances and a handful of rough rides got him a bit derailed. We figured out the saddle Brian was riding Nevada in didn’t fit her well, but the saddle we had that fit her better has too small a seat for him. He has a hip that gets super sore and inflamed in certain kinds of seats, so he basically couldn’t ride her. I rode her a few times in a different saddle and things went quite well. Brian had a new saddle on order so he figured he’s just wait for that. But right when it arrived, Nevada injured her leg.

All of a sudden it was early 2016 and the horse that’s supposed to turn into Brian’s main mount is still super duper green. While we have a saddle that fits both her and him now, the explosions caused by the ill-fitting one were pretty significant. Brian rode through all of the crazy stuff with her, but then came off Laredo kind of hard in the fall (his first wreck in years). All that combined with having several months of barely riding at all left him feeling a certain lack of confidence. We talked it over and decided it might be better for everyone for me to take Nevada over for a while – get her going nicely again and hopefully settled into a good place.

I have spent 6.5 hours on Nevada’s back this year, and they’ve been great. She’s really an incredible horse. I’m probably biased, but I don’t think it can be denied Brian did a fabulous job starting her. She’s super soft, has a great attitude, and has learned to learn really well. This makes her super rewarding to work with. Beyond that, she’s athletic, has great gaits, and is naturally a bit more on the forward side than both Laredo and Piper. I prefer horses with more life, so all this suits me just fine. No hint of whatever was bothering her a few months ago has surfaced, and we’re feeling more confident together each ride.

Her leg injury caused her to learn to carry herself just a bit crooked, and she doesn’t really want to engage behind on the left side sometimes. I’ve been building her up to bend and balance better bit by bit, and she’s getting stronger already. On Sunday we had a nice canter for the first time since last year. When I first put a few rides on her after the times she exploded on Brian, she’d gotten pretty angsty about moving out in general. When asked to canter, she’d careen around at top speed, throwing in some kick-outs here and there. I was prepared for that this time too. Instead she just went into a super smooth, balanced gait. We did a lap and I eased her down to a stop. So, fingers crossed the hardest part about this is going to be giving her back to Brian when the time comes. Here’s a little video of one of our early rides:

 

So that’s the Nevada update. I’ll do a quick run-down on everyone else too.

Steen

I’ve been able to leave Steen’s blanket off for a few long periods, and his itching is much better. He has stopped rubbing new bare patches and his coat is even growing back in places. Still, he’s not 100% over the problem. We had a cold snap recently. After a couple days watching him get notably skinnier every time we went to the barn, I caved and put his blanket back on. The itching came back a little over the next week, but now it’s warm and he’s naked again and he’s already improving. I do think he’s not going to be entirely over this until he gets rid of his winter coat.

They’re so comfortable together they even get the yawns sometimes. 

Brian’s been riding him quite a lot since I’ve taken over Nevada, and they’re getting along really well. It’s actually a pretty cool side effect that Brian suddenly has a reason to ride him regularly. Steen has always been so much my horse, and he’s a super sensitive, highly emotional fellow to being with. Anyone else riding him gets him flustered. Not to the point that he acts out or can’t do his job, but there is a level of refinement I get with him that Brian’s never been able to feel. That’s starting to smooth out now and they’re working well together. It’s neat to see. Here’s another short video of them riding without reins:

 

Piper

Piper is still a little off. Whatever she did to her shoulder in the fall seemed to recover, but now it seems a little worse again. It’s tough because she’s not lame, exactly. It’s more like she’s got kind of a general weirdness to her locomotion that is difficult to trace to any one spot or issue. She’s got no specific soreness or injury but something just isn’t right. So we’re mostly leaving her alone and hoping it will clear up on its own. The conditions in the pasture have been absolutely terrible for months. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to hope that as things warm up and the environment improves, she’ll do the same.

Laredo

Laredo is the big news. Nothing is 100% settled, but it’s looking like he might be relocating to Arizona to move in with my parents and become my sister’s main squeeze. Hopefully we’ll get the details squared away and get him shipped within the next few weeks.

Horseback Hours YTD: 17:35


The Phantom Itch

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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I was hoping to start 2016 with a clean slate, leave all the hiccups of last year in the dust, and get back into a better pattern with the horses. Unfortunately, that’s not quite how things have gone.

Right before we left for our holiday travels, Steen came up itchy. And I mean really, really, really inexplicably itchy. Like, you basically could not touch him without inducing “I need to scratch so bad” spasms that involved contorting in half and nearly knocking himself over.

Our vet looked at him, gave him a few big shots, and prescribed antibiotics and antihistamines. We then had to leave for our holiday travels, and were gone for two weeks. Our barn owner gave Steen his meds while we were gone. She seemed to think he improved in our absence, but we got back about two days after the meds ran out and I was dismayed to find he was just as itchy as before, if not more so.

I called our vet only to discover he’s having health issues and isn’t working. My barn owner did manage to get in touch with him via text. He prescribed two more weeks of the antihistamines at a double dose. It then took me over a week to actually get my hands on the meds (that’s a long, massively frustrating story that’s not even worth telling). In the meantime, Steen rubbed large patches bare on his haunches.

At this point I set about eliminating everything that could have changed recently from his life/diet/environment. Unfortunately, that wasn’t very many things. Steen has been at this same barn for seven years, eating the same hay (which they grow themselves in surrounding pastures), living in the same lot, and rarely leaving the premises. The one thing I did do was wash our winter blankets with a different detergent this year. (Rambo blanket wash.) Ironically, in years passed I always just used the same stuff we use to wash our own clothing.

Friday the 15th, I put him in a brand new blanket. The next day, we finally got the new meds and started those. We visited the barn morning and night for two weeks to give him the pills. He was still itchy. Very, very itchy.

The blanket swap.

Things I knew at this point:

  • his blood work came back normal
  • he had a clear fecal shortly before the itching started
  • there are no other itchy horses in our herd or at our barn
  • he has no symptoms that match up with any parasite known to the internet, other than itching
  • his environment and diet have not changed in years
  • antihistamines might help a little, but not much
  • dexamethasone does not help
  • the itching is everywhere, but he reacts strongest when touched on the hocks and in the groin area
  • his appetite is good, temp is normal, and his overall attitude and energy level are good
  • his skin is not dry or flaky
  • there is is no rash, no bumps or lumps, no swelling, no physical indicator of a problem
  • his coat is shiny and healthy and full, other than the areas he’s rubbed off

I got in touch with another vet, but she was on vacation. In sending her an email about his case, I wrote up a detailed timeline of everything that had happened. Reading it, I became increasingly convinced it had to be the blanket. I found a couple forum posts about people whose horses reacted to detergents and blanket washes. Several said it took months for the horse to fully recover.

I couldn’t bathe him because it was too cold and I couldn’t turn him out without a blanket for the same reason. (Steen, never inclined to carry much padding to begin with, drops weight at an alarming rate when not blanketed in harsh conditions.) So I had little choice. I kept waiting.

Fortunately, on Wednesday the weather took a turn for the warmer. I pulled Steen’s blanket. He’s been naked for a few days, and already he seems much better. Today I was actually able to groom him without causing him to shake and shudder and tie himself in knots.

Fingers crossed we’re on our path to an itch free future. After seven weeks of dealing with this, I’m hesitant to believe it’s really over. I suppose time will tell.

A photo posted by Robin (@aridingrobin) on

Horseback Hours YTD: 8:10


The State of Piper

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Piper came into our lives. Having her this long wasn’t totally the plan. My plan was to get her started in the spring, ride her a ton in the summer, and most likely sell her in the fall. If I kept her this long, I imagined it would be because I was enjoying having a younger horse to refine and and ride a bit harder than I can ride Steen these days.

The good news with regards to Piper is she’s a total doll. Her ground manners are impeccable. She’s sweet and soft and likes being around people. She’s green still, and can get tense in certain situations, but she handles her own anxiety well and calms down quickly given a little space and support.

The bad news is I put a lot less time into riding her last year than I intended.

But really, it’s not that the situation is bad. My reasons for not riding Piper have had little actually to do with Piper herself. Starting her was smooth. Every time she’s gotten a few weeks (or months) off because life got in the way, getting back on has been no big deal.

The same was true of yesterday when I climbed onto Piper’s back for the first time since November 1st. It’s crazy it had been that long, but first she had a minor shoulder strain, and then we were traveling. Since we’ve been back it’s been brutally cold, and I’ve had other horse issues to worry about (more on that soon).

I was ready for Piper to feel pretty rough around the edges. She didn’t. The first thing we did was walk some circles. Brian’s comment watching us: “I guess she’s been practicing those without you.”

We went on to some figure eights, and she was fabulous with those too. From there the ride continued to go well, though I could feel she lacks fitness and was a bit tight in the hind from standing around on ice in sub zero temps these last weeks. So we kept things short and non-challenging. My plan is to get her back in regular light work and build her strength back up so we’re poised for lots of good long rides when the weather breaks. Then I’m hopeful we can find the perfect people to take over her education some time in the summer.

That’s the plan, anyway. We’ll see how things pan out. Fingers crossed 2016 will be a little more conducive to following through than 2015 was.

Ride Time: 0:30
Horseback Hours YTD: 4:10

Piper is feeling a little disheveled after her first ride of 2016. #themane #palomino #horsesofinstagram

A photo posted by Robin (@aridingrobin) on


2015 in Review

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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I’m more than a little late on my year end post, which is pretty much indicative of 2015 as a whole. For me, it was the year that somehow happened without happening.

I realize that makes no sense. It’s not that nothing went down in 2015. It’s that so many of the things that did happen seemed unplanned or off track somehow. It was like everything I experienced or accomplished somehow canceled itself out in some way. Mostly, the year just felt so fast – like I simply didn’t have a chance to get focused on the things I wanted to focus on.

The Numbers

I suppose it was bound to happen, but after quite a few years of a steady increase in saddle time, 2015 led to way, way fewer hours on horseback for me:

Total saddle time in 2015
130 hours, 55 minutes

Here’s my chart of each year since I’ve been keeping track:

Here’s my breakdown by horse:

 

I’m keeping my goals for 2016 modest. I’d like to get Piper going again in earnest and find her a good home in the summer. Meanwhile, I hope to keep Steen is good condition. He’ll be 16 this year. I want to do everything I can to keep him healthy and happy as he gets older.

I’m not sure what my blogging goals are. I keep going back and forth between feeling like I should get back to this blog in earnest and thinking I might be done with the medium for a while. I guess we’ll just see what happens.


The Indecisive Winter

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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We’re well into December and it’s currently 53° outside. It’s been above 50° since I stepped outside in the dark this morning with Esti. We have had some nights that get below freezing, but that hasn’t been happening consistently. It’s also been rainy.

Which means we’ve basically had a perfect recipe for mud.

Oh, mud. So much mud. I have actually never seen mud like we’ve had this season. I went out into the pasture last week in my mud boots and came back with two inches of my fringe soaked and filthy. Every time things start to dry out a little, we get more rain.

I do not like mud. I’d honestly rather have a real winter with a good hard freeze and some snow. The mud kills my motivation to get out to the barn more than any other weather condition. Also, it’s shotgun season, so we can’t safely ride outside. All these factors combined means trips to the barn pretty much consist of a disgusting, difficult slog through the pasture, lots and lots and lots of grooming, and finally a ride in the indoor arena. Not the most inspiring of conditions.

On top of all that, Nevada cut her leg open somehow and Piper is inexplicably lame. Nevada needed quite a bit of regular doctoring for a while, but seems like she’s out of the woods. Piper’s issue seems like a shoulder strain – most likely due to the fact that she has been dwelling in a mud pit for weeks now. I don’t think it’s serious so we’re just keeping an eye on it and hoping it will clear up on it’s own. So, while everyone is mostly fine, it’s been a bit of a slog this season.

Our one exciting bit of news is Brian got a new saddle. The saddle is our first custom order. It’s made by Brian Costagno, just like Brian’s old saddle, but it’s a narrower tree and larger seat with just a little bit of fancy thrown in for good measure.

Yesterday it was so hot I needed to go take Steen’s blanket off. I played hooky from work and went out for a ride. I borrowed Brian’s saddle (just to test it out) and had a good little tool around the indoor arena.

In other news, our puppy isn’t so puppy-like any more. But she’s doing really well.

Horseback Hours YTD: 129:15


Summer, Take II

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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It’s the end of August, and somehow my brain thinks summer is just starting. I suspect said brain is going to be disappointed in the near future when I have to start wearing layer upon layer of clothing to comfortably go outside, and riding is once again done in a large, frigid building.

On the bright side, life is starting to feel more normal again. The puppy is now 14 weeks old. She’s at least mostly settled in. Also, Brian’s student, K, went through a fairly terrible experience purchasing her first horse. The horse turned out to be massively lame. Many vet visits determined the problems (there were several) were well-established and possibly not fixable. This lead to the difficultly of working out what to do with the horse, who will likely never be rideable. Then, when all that was done, K was right back at square one in terms of horse shopping. However, she pushed ahead. A couple weeks ago we went with her to see some horses, and her new gelding arrived on Wednesday. I think he’s going to work out well. We’re helping a little with the two of them getting to know each other, and that has helped us regain some momentum when it comes to the barn. I rode him when we first went with K to see him, and again on Saturday, just to check him out before K climbed on. He’s a pretty darn good guy. After I got off and K got on, I had a nice easy ride on Steen.

And today, finally, I rode Piper for the first time in longer than I care to admit. The good news is, she was awesome. The last several times I’ve been out in the pasture she has hurried up to me with this, “Pick me! Pick me!” look on her face. She seemed quite happy when I put the halter on her. During tacking and grooming, she was 100% chilled out at the hitching post. We started groundwork and she was fabulous. Her little trouble spot where the flag sometimes gets her bothered wasn’t triggering any reaction at all, and while I know I’m anthropomorphising and that’s bad, I swear she was happy to be back to work. She gained some nice weight during her time off. She felt solid and balanced beneath me when I got on.

We kept the ride slow and worked a lot on reantiquating ourselves with the basics. It was windy and the herds were all wound up for some reason, so there was some calling and galloping and craziness nearby. Piper looked from time to time, but none of this ever affected her energy. I kept having to remind myself, “This is a very green horse. She’s just had over a month off. She’s doing great, but don’t push it.”

So we rode for about 50 minutes and rattled through all sorts of exercises. One thing that’s kind of nice is it’s been long enough since I rode her that I can’t totally remember where exactly we were struggling or where I thought we were excelling. I was able to approach the ride from a totally fresh place of zero expectations (which is how I should approach every ride, really, but I don’t always succeed at doing that) and see what she had to offer.

Horseback Hours YTD: 89:335


Hiatus

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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I can’t believe it’s already late August. It’s been such a strange year. Life has been a bit bumpier than usual, personally and professionally and mundanely. We’ve had loss in the family, I’ve had persistent hardware, software, and ISP issues, and we’ve had our fair share of random problems like sewage backing up in the basement and the furnace inexplicably leaking water. I feel like every week I’m telling myself, “Things will settle down soon. Soon, we’ll get X, Y, and Z taken care of. And then we’ll be able to get back into our usual rhythm.”

I realize, of course, that my life is very, very good if the things I’m having to deal with are (for the most part) so banal. I know people who are currently facing genuine tragedy or failing health. I count myself lucky in the grand scheme of things. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel like most of 2015 has slipped by unnoticed, particularly as far as the horses are concerned.

A mud covered puppy having a ball with two of my parents’ dogs.

Last week we got back from a couple of weeks on the road. We took the puppy and headed for Arizona, stopping off in Texas both ways to spend a little time with Brian’s parents. It was a nice trip, and a great opportunity to get Esti exposed to new people and places, different dogs, and spending long hours in the car. She was fantastically well behaved for the majority of the trip. I think she learned a lot of important lessons. Hopefully she’ll be a more well-rounded dog for all she encountered. She sure is growing fast.

Esti – 13 weeks old

But between the puppy, life in general, and the travels, we’ve not had much time for the horses. We’ve been out to check on them a few times, and of course we know they’re watched over when we’re gone. For a while my student asked me to ride her horse twice a week, which I happily agreed to before realizing we were going to get a puppy. This meant I went multiple weeks during which I’d make regular trips to the barn but not ride any of my own horses.

However, last weekend I swung on Steen for the first time in six (!) weeks, and the first thing we did was walk some very nice no-handed figure-eights. We had a nice ride, followed by another one the next day.

K with our herd

Hopefully with the coming of fall (my favorite riding season), we can hit our stride and build up some momentum again.

Horseback Hours YTD: 87:45


A New Chapter

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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I’ve spent a lot of time with puppies. My family has always had dogs. Those dogs had several litters when I was a kid. In college a good friend of mine got a puppy and we shared custody for the first six months of her life. My sister had a Great Dane before she was done with college. My brother and his wife have a hound/heeler mix. The six months before I moved to Iowa, I lived at home and helped raise my mom and dad’s Australian Shepherd.

Since then, however, I’ve had a lot less to do with dogs. There are dogs around the barn, of course, and they are excellent for petting and saying hello to. We’ve house/puppy sat for friends a few times over the years. There was also the time a stray Border Collie wandered into our yard and we almost kept her.

While I love the house we live in, I’ve always thought it wouldn’t be great for a dog. I also always thought we’d only be in this house for a few years. But I’m starting to discover decisions you make in your mid-twenties about where you go and what you do have a way of becoming more permanent than you necessarily intended. Whether or not it’s what I would have picked given limitless options, Brian and I live in Iowa City for now. He has an excellent job. My business is thriving. We have enough leisure and resources to work with quite a few horses while still building our retirement and savings. While I want to move back west, the reality is we’d be walking away from a great life into a total unknown. Considering how many of our peers are un/under employed or neck-deep in debt, chucking it all and starting over feels reckless, to say the least.

Brian and I are both highly rational, highly analytical people. We don’t jump into big decisions. We don’t do anything without exhaustively weighing pros and cons. While this serves us well in many ways, sometimes it can lead to a sort of decision-paralysis when things are good. We’ve both wanted a dog for a long time, but there were always a lot of really good reasons getting a puppy wouldn’t be ideal. So whenever we’ve talked about a dog for the last many years, we’ve tended to end the conversation with, “No yet.”

Until this weekend, that is.

 

It’s puppy seasons, of course. Ranch dog litters have been popping up all over the horse sites I visit on a regular basis. On Friday after a trip to the barn I was scrolling down a Facebook horse page and there were just puppies everywhere. I said to Brian, “Wow. We could get a Blue Heeler, Red Heeler, German Shepherd, or Australian Shepherd. All from litters nearby. Your pick.”

I was mostly joking. But lo and behold, by Saturday evening, we had a dog.

Part of the decision came from how Brian perked up when I showed him the Aussie pups. Part of it came from me realizing there will always be a reason not to get a dog. Part of it came from the reality that I struggle not to sit at my desk too much, since my job is 100% sedentary, and I also spend vast amounts of time alone. I’m a highly introverted, extremely independent person, but in the last couple years I’ve learned even I can reach the end of my capacity for solitude.

Whatever our motivation for getting her, suddenly we have a puppy. Her name is Esti. She’s an eight week old tricolor Australian Shepherd. She’s not from the litter I saw on Facebook. She’s from a different one Brian found north of Des Moines. There were six pups still available when we contacted the breeder. We were able to drive over, spend an hour playing with the pups and getting to know their different temperaments, and pick the one we wanted. We also got to meet the parents.

Esti’s dad is gregarious and friendly. He comes from a well known show dog line. Her mother is focused and shy but also very sweet. She comes from a line of scrappy working cattle dogs from Oklahoma. While we wanted a stock dog and will hopefully someday have working dogs with real jobs, the reality is this one’s going to be more of a pet. Esti seems like a blend of her parents, emotionally, mentally, and physically. So this seemed like a good cross for us. We intend to dabble with teaching her things related to herding and working with livestock, but we don’t really know what we’re doing and will have limited opportunity for any actual work since we don’t currently have anything but a medium-sized yard full of squirrels. So it doesn’t really matter if she’s super gifted with instinct or not. Her real job is going to be hanging out with me in my office while I build websites, and taking me for walks a couple times a day.

So far, we’re very happy with our pick. Esti is adorable and sweet and perceptive and already very locked on to us as her family. Though I’ve spent a lot of time with dogs, this is the first time I’ve ever had my own. Two days in, it’s already a bit difficult to imagine going back.