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 cal...

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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 situat...

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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'v...

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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...

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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 coup...

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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, particularl...

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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 w...

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Piper’s Progress

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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We've been in a good riding pattern since we got back from South Dakota. It's been fun getting to know K's new horse a little, and the weather has been wonderful. We've changed our ride combos and gone back to riding Steen and Nevada together, then switching to Laredo and Piper. This is mostly because Nevada has continued to be unsettled and a bit explosive lately, and having Steen nearby supports her in a way Piper's presence does not. Piper and I have transitioned to the outdoor arena, which is a much bigger space. It's positioned so it has a view of the stall herd, the feed lot herd, and the pasture herd, plus any activity going on near the barn. I have been looking forward to getting Piper out there since the footing is not as deep and the environment is more stimulating. I thought it would help her feel more inclined to move out.

Spreading the Fever

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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On Wednesday, we had a fun job. Our barn owner asked us to be there when K's new horse arrived so we could oversee her introduction to the herd. We headed out a little early, said hi to all our ponies, then rode Steen and Laredo. Both the guys were great. They were fat and happy after their time off in the big pasture. Steen felt willing and peppy as we dabbled with some of the concepts from the clinic. We had a nice long ride. When we finished up, we closed Steen and Laredo into the winter lot (much to Laredo's chagrin) and brought Piper and Nevada up to the barn. We groomed the girls and hung out until K arrived. She was followed shortly thereafter by a horse trailer.
We put Nevada and Piper out with Steen and Laredo, a...

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Four Days in South Dakota

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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It had been a couple of years since Brian and I attended an entire horsemanship clinic. We've been watching videos, reading, and continuing to grow in other ways, but the immersive experience of thinking about nothing but horses for several days running it definitely a special kind of boost. When we saw Buck was going to be in South Dakota, a reasonable 10 hour drive from us and at a time of the year we could both take some time off, we decided to go audit. The clinic consisted of two classes: Foundation Horsemanship in the morning, Horsemanship II in the afternoon. This seemed perfect, as Brian and I each have a green horse we're working with, and also a more advanced one we're trying to bring along. To add to the excitement, during our drive out Brian's student, K, who's been riding with us for quite some time now and leased Aiden for a while, found a horse she was pretty interes...

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