The Mud of Spring

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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On Wednesday I went to the barn to find the mud lot truly living up to its name. I could not be more grateful that Steen comes to the gate to meet me now, because even walking into that soup of muck that covers the ground from fence to fence would be difficult. On Wednesday I got Steen pretty well cleaned up, but when Brian and I arrived at the barn last night, we discovered it was all to no avail. This is how Steen looked when we pulled him out of the mud lot. Lately I've been letting him graze while I groom him because he's losing weight again (he doesn't like the round-bale hay he g...

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One Year In

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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Saturday was spring-vet day. Steen got his vaccinations, and was exceptionally well-behaved for the vet, always nice, particularly since many of the other horses at the barn are a far cry from easy to handle.

This weekend was also the one-year anniversary of my purchase of Steen. I'd say it has been a pretty satisfactory year. Last week I put a saddle on him for the first time in months and just had the nicest, mellowest ride in the indoor arena. He kept his trot slow, smooth and beautiful the whole time. He is also more and more obviously attached to me, always meeting me at the gate now while other people have to go out and wade through the muck to get their horses. One year in, I still think I made the right choice when I wrote that check and am even more excited to see where we are next time late April rolls around.

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Spring Cleaning

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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Today the quality of my time at the barn made me think repeatedly of a comment my friend Katherine made when I brought her out to meet Steen last summer. At one point I handed her a hair-brush and asked if she wanted to tackle the snarls in Steen's mane. After a few strokes she said, "Wow, he's just like a really big my-little-pony." I laughed and said something like, "Yeah, except you can ride him." Today I wasn't laughing, or riding. Today my gigantic my-little-pony resembled less the mint collector's specimen kept on a shelf above the reach of children and more the constant companion of a careless or absent-minded child after having been forgotten in a place like the muddy driveway, where it has been run over several times by slow-moving vehicles and possibly worried by a stray dog. Today I felt like the remorseful owner who later finds said neglected toy and after a few minutes...

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Firsts

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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When we woke up this morning, it was 30 degrees out, which is about what we've come to expect here this spring. So, I let things warm up as much as possible and was pleased to note that the sun was at least shining when I arrived at the barn.

I went to get Steen out of the pasture and again he came straight for the gate when he saw me. When I had some trouble undoing the chains, he tried to help me open them with his upper lip. While this was not effective, it was quite entertaining.

Once I got Steen out of the pasture and began leading him up to the barn, I had an epiphany. It was nice out. Granted, I was wearing at least two layers of clothing on most of my body, but the sun felt warm and pleasant and the breeze didn't have a knife edge on it. So, I decided to let Steen graze in the newly sprouted outdoor arena while I groomed him. He seemed glad of the ...

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Sprung

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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Today I arrived at the barn and did something I hadn't done for a while. Instead of going to Steen's stall, I went out to the mud-lot. There I found Steen, rather dirty but seeming quite at home. As soon as he saw me, he left the hay he was eating and came straight to the gate, even though the mud between the bale and the gate was deep and he clearly wasn't too excited about stepping in it. That was very nice, not only because I didn't have to get my boots dirty but also because it was more than a little gratifying on an emotional level. I thought that my relationship with Steen had improved significantly over the last few months, but it was nice to see it so obviously and immediately manifested.

I took him inside and we easily fell back into our pre-stall routine. Other than some general snortiness at the wind and some initial nervousness about the changes, he calmed ...

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Grief

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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A couple of days ago a horse at my barn died of colic. This horse happened to be Steen's best buddy in the stall-horse herd. Yesterday I went out for a ride, and Steen's behavior made me wonder (as I often do) at how closely horse emotion can be related to human emotion. It is obviously clear that horses experience feelings like jealousy, curiosity, fear, and affection. Every horse I've ever interacted with has demonstrated its own complex personality. But one thing I've never much encountered is grief in horses.

I was not thinking about the deceased horse when I arrived at the barn, but shortly after bringing Steen out into the aisle I noitced he was unusually withdrawn and still, often staring blankly into the distance or into the (now empty) stall where his friend used to live. He wasn't nearly as interactive as I've come to expect in recent weeks, not as playful o...

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Dumped

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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Well, it happens to all of us from time to time. Yesterday, due to a string of fairly unintelligent choices on my part, I fell off my horse.

It was my first fall indoors, and I must say plopping off into the deep sand of an indoor arena is not bad at all. Also, as ever, falling off bareback is a consistently less painful experience than falling out of a saddle. Perhaps it is because the whole thing happens faster, without clinging and disentangling from stirrups, etc.

Anyway, I blame the whole thing on the spring. Had I not gotten hot, decided to take my jacket off, decided I'd rather not dismount to hang the jacket up on the rail at the edge of the arena and so attempted the maneuver bareback, I'd have never been reaching forward towards Steen's front end, my balance way off to the side and my other hand merely resting on, not even gripping, his mane when he...

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Weathering the Winter

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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My barn average is definitely down the last few weeks. For one thing, I've been working a lot, and for another I've discovered that days where the high is less than 5 degrees, the trip just isn't worth it. Even going bareback doesn't help on such days. It is just too cold to be bearable, much less enjoyable.

Lately my rides have mainly been trying to focus on teaching Steen that getting ridden is no big deal. You would think he'd have figured this out by now, but he still is significantly more restless with a rider on his back than with a person standing next to him. Of course, I haven't used a saddle in months, so I am at least sure his restlessness isn't due to any fit issues. And while he is not bad, he just isn't genuinely relaxed either, and so I'm trying to do rides that mainly include non-demanding forms of walking, trotting and standing.

Of course,...

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A Winter Ride: In Numbers

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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  • degrees above zero when I left the house this morning: 11
  • articles of clothing worn: 17
  • miles from my house to the barn: 15
  • other people at the barn: 0
  • horses loose in the aisle when I arrived: 1
  • seconds it took for the unheated toilet to steal all my saved body warmth: .025
  • utensils used to groom Steen: 6
  • times hands became completely numb and needed to be shoved into armpits to warm up before I could complete the grooming process: 3
  • tails skipped brushing due to extreme coldness of hands: 1
  • pieces of tack used to ride: 1
  • major arteries delightfully close to Steen's nice warm back while riding without a saddle: 2
  • minutes spent riding: 30

Steensick

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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Although I spent the holidays in Tucson and did a fair bit of riding both Jak and Rojo, I have definitely noticed that working with other people's horses just isn't nearly as great as working with my own. I missed Steen actively, just about daily, the whole vacation. After about two weeks away, I was quite happy to head to the barn late this morning. In spite of quite a bit of ice around town, the road to the barn was good. I found Cathi and Teri in the barn, and Steen outside, rather upset because some improvements to the stalls meant he was getting a late breakfast. I went outside and let the herd loose, and was amused to see the orderly way everyone filed into the barn (even lining up to wait their turn to get through the door) and into their respective stalls. It never ceases to amaze me how much horses sometimes resemble children.

Steen is looking pretty good. H...

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