Tag Archives: horses

Wordless Wednesday: My Mom Made Me Wear My Helmet the First Time I Rode Sue

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Back in the Saddle Again

I know I’ve been saying this all the time, but what a weekend! This was a biggie. I got a new horse. I know, I know, I can’t believe it either. I can only explain it by saying this was meant to be. My poor readers, you have been forced to read horse related post after horse related blog post. Apparently this fact was not lost on all those in my inner-circle-of-Megan. My Fairy God Mother, Cathie called my Mom last week because there was this horse, a horse named Sue, that Cathie thought was perfect for me. Sue is a mare. And as you recall, mares have not been allowed on this Ranch since the early 1980’s. When my Mom told me about Sue, I immediately dismissed the idea. I’d never been allowed mares, why would I be allowed to have one now?
Well, I don’t know if it’s something in the water from our new well, or my Dad realized how much I miss having a ridable, dependable, Megan appropriate horse, but I was allowed to pursue the possibly of getting Sue. My Boyfriend and I went out to the Trainer where Sue was staying to meet her, and learn a little about her. Sue is an 17 year old retired cutting horse. And she was good at it, in her prime she was ranked 3rd in non-professional cutters. Robert Wagner (yes, the actor), owned her. She ended up being retired at age 12. Her last owners were dispersing their herd and wanted Sue to find a special home, because she was their special little mare. Once I saw her and got to visit with her, I understood why.

Sue saying hi!

She is breathtaking. I’m not just saying that because she is my pretty, pretty, princess horse. She really is beautiful. She is very sweet, alert, curious and SMART! Plus her confirmation and color is just perfect. She is petite, feminine and dainty. She even smells like new horse. Just a lovely little mare.

Watching Sue move through her paces.

After I met Sue and watched her move around the arena, I just knew she would be the perfect little girl for me. But would my Parents allow it? Making that phone call to my Mom, the one where I told her Sue was my dream horse, was sooooooo scary. What if they changed their minds? What if they wanted me to wait for gelding? What if they completely changed their minds and ALL horses were off the table?! I tried not to completely melt down when I called my Mom, I tried to stick to the facts, she was cow-type horse, she was my-sized, well trained, smart, well built, sound, perfect for exposing our cattle to a horse and rider (as Dr. Grandin recommend I do).
They said yes. Yes, Sue could come home, here to the Ranch. We could see if it worked. As long as I was committed to being back in the saddle. Ha! As long as I was committed to being back in the saddle!? Being horseback is more natural to me than walking! When I was a little girl, I couldn’t run, I galloped. Like a horse. All of my most vibrant and happy memories are horse related. Hair didn’t grow on the inside of my legs until my mid-twenties because I rode so much as child and teenager. Being around and on horses is my happy place. It’s what I was born and bred to do, five generations before me lived for horses and cattle. A very large piece of who I am was returning to me. I’m back.
This was Wednesday, when this all came to a head. When I got to send that text that said “it’s a go!!!!!”. I had to wait until Saturday until Sue came home. LONGEST. FOUR. DAYS. OF. MY. LIFE. I spent the week killing time. I cleaned my house. I cleaned my closet (lots and lots of western type jeans available!). I cooked for my Parents. I talked about Sue non-stop. My boss told me to go home early Friday, I’m sure, because I couldn’t shut up about Sue. Friday was the hardest day. It was the day that would not end.

My Boyfriend, the rockstar. And cowboy in training.

My partner in crime/boyfriend/legal counsel, plays in this band called Surrogate (they are really good, you should probably check them out). Friday night they played at a local venue because they were nominated for a Cammie, which oddly enough, is put on by my friends at the Chico News & Review. It’s a wonderful event, all kinds of different, local musicians and bands are showcased and honored. I think it is just awesome the CN&R supports all kinds of music!

Me supporting our local newspaper CN&R, and local bands! I’m trying to lead by example in hopes that the CN&R will support all local ag, like they support all local music! Hey, I can try right?!

Seeing that show couldn’t even calm me down. All I could talk about was Sue. I think my excitement was contagious. Sue was kind of a big deal. I finally had to take myself home at 2:00 A.M. because I was just too excited to stay in town with the Boyfriend, he needed sleep.
Finally. Sue got delivered Saturday evening. She was mine. She was here.

Sue’s first steps at her new home.

I spent the rest of my weekend bonding with Sue. We’ve been taking walks. We’ve been grooming. We’ve had treats. We’ve been taking walks with the Boyfriends (mine and her’s, Leo).

The Boyfriend, having his first ride on his new, old, horse, Leo. They did so well!

We are going to spend this week becoming friends. We are going for walks, we are going to graze, we are going to be groomed. After a day, Sue already nickers to me when I go out to her pen. This coming weekend, we will ride. Before we become a team, I want her to know we are friends, that this is her home, and she is loved.

Grazing and bonding.

I spent my weekend outside with my horse. I am sunburned. I’m covered in horse sweat, hair and dust. I’m exhausted. I stink. I’m sore. I am so stinking happy.

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Wordless Wednesday: A Horse Named Sue

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Before it Was Cool

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In an effort to get me to write more, my Mom sent me this picture. I must have been about 6, because I was riding my unicorn horse Sequoia. I called Sequoia my unicorn horse because he was a mustang from the BLM and at some point during his life he had run into a barbed wire fence which created scar on his face that reminded me of a unicorn horn. This was taken on one of the cattle drives we had. We would spend a week pushing the cattle up to the Plumas National Forest, where they would spend their summer grazing high country meadows.

Most of my childhood memories involve horses, cattle or the Ranch. When you grow up an only child on a large cattle ranch in the country, your activities do have a tendency to be limited. When I was a little girl, the Ranch was very old school. My Great Aunts and Grandfather were still alive and running the Ranches, that means everything was done just like their Parents did it.

My Dad was the ranch-hand during this time. Like all successful ranchers, my Dad was lucky enough to have a wife (my Mom), that worked in town. This was awesome because we had health insurance and a steady income, unlike most people in my Dad’s position.

One of the many unique aspects of my youth was instead of going to day care or having a babysitter like normal children with working parents, I had a horse. This horse made me an asset at an early age. Of course, to me, this was normal. Until I started school, I thought everyone had horses and cows. That cattle drives high into the mountains was what everyone did during their summers. It was quite a shock to my little 4 year old self when I realized I wasn’t normal.

By age 4 or 5 most ranch kids are professionals. We work, we have responsibility, we have jobs. I was no different. By the time I started Kindergarten, I had life experience that most adults would never have. From getting a piggy back ride from Mr. Clint Eastwood, to going on weeklong cattle drives twice a year.

My Great Aunt Mary lived on the same Ranch as we did during the winter. I had a wonderful relationship with her. I spent a lot of time with her, because she was our only neighbor. Instead of going out and playing with neighborhood kids I played with animals and old family members. She grew up during the Depression; therefore she saved everything from old mayonnaise jars to the twist ties that closed bags of bread. In fact we are still finding these “treasures” in our barns.

One item reminds me of Aunt Mary more than anything else, and that is maple syrup. Every time I see a bottle of it, I am instantly whipped back to 1986. Aunt Mary would save all of her empty maple syrup bottles for me and whenever my Dad and I worked for her in the summer, she would bring me cold water in an upcycled syrup bottle. To a hard working 4 year old cold, maple syrup flavored water is just about the best thing ever.

Recently upcycling has become trendy and green. A fact that never fails to amuse me since it seems like most farmers and ranchers were upcycling long before it was cool. Currently I battle with my Parents over old barn wood, I NEED it for my various pinterest projects and my Dad keeps trying to re-build corrals with it. It’s a vicious cycle of recycling.

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Wordless Wednesday: Horse Power

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Guest Post: What Breed of Horse Are You?

Most people think you simply cannot run a cattle ranch without horses, it just isn’t done! When I explain to people that our Ranch has pretty much stopped using horses, they are shocked! For us, it’s become easier and more economical to use ATV’s to work and gather our cattle. Our Ranches are, for the most part, rangeland that is easy to drive ATV’s on, so horses tend to be more work than they are worth.

People not familiar with horses tend to think you can just get on a horse and go. They don’t think about the vaccinations, farrier, the training,  the tack, the feed, the time, the supplements that you must provide to your horse to keep him healthy and happy. In stark contrast an ATV needs gas and an occasional oil change to keep it running. It is never cranky or hard to catch in the morning and they rarely buck you off.

When I was a child our Ranch had a huge herd of horses. We bred and raised our own, so in addition to the forty head or so of saddle horses, we also had a bunch of breeding mares. I have memories from when I was very little of horses everywhere on the Ranch, it was amazing! Now we are down to two retired geldings, whose main job is to be a pasture decoration. Of course if you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that my horse crazy is back, and I would give my left arm to be back in the saddle on a daily basis (for the record, I never ever, ever thought there would be a time when I worked in an office, fulltime, off the Ranch, away from my horses and cattle. Funny thing about life, I guess).

My dream in life is to own an Akhal-Teke horse, for three reasons. The first being this horse literally has a metallic coat, and for a girl obsessed with palominos, it’s like the zen of horse owning. The second is I would like to ride endurance (I already have the saddle). The third reason is my whole life I’ve been told that I am only to own gelded quarter horses. That is like the equivalent of telling me I can only wear cowboy boots for the rest of my life, not practical or realistic, and it’s just not going to happen. Plus when someone tells me that I can’t do something, I hear “Megan, you simply must do it! You must! You must! You must! Do it! DO it! DO IT!” That mentality has ended a lot of relationships for me, lol.

However, the problem with being the kid and not the parent (ahem, boss more specifically, Dad) on a ranch is you don’t get to make that decision for yourself. So until the time when I get to make decisions for myself, retire from my office job, and can have horses again, I won’t be writing too much about horses. I asked a friend of mine, who is currently in the horse world, to write a guest post for The Beef Jar.

 – Megan

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I am a Halflinger. Blonde, buxom, and not afraid of a day’s work, but I’d rather stuff my face with grain and take a nap in the sun.  To describe me in human terms, I’m a Type B personality.

As certain personality and physical traits are passed through families and nationality they are also present in horse breeds. Italians are short, boisterous, loud, loving while Germans are built large in stature with harsh personalities (I realize these are based generalizations).Thoroughbreds are fleet footed, sleek Type A personality types while a Quarter Horse is the dude kickin’ it on the beach smokin’ a doobie. Breed personality generalizations are a great place to start when looking for a horse. It will tell you if you will get along with a certain breed as a whole.

Endurance riding.

If you are a Type A personality that is easily flustered, a Thoroughbred or Arabian is probably not a wise choice. Horses like these are known as “hot bloods.” They are very sensitive and pick up on a rider’s nervous or frustrated energy right away. If you’re learning to ride or taking lessons and are scared, nervous, or frustrated, these horses will generally pick up on your feelings and what started out as a simple half-pass exercise will end up and epic battle ending with horse and rider drenched in sweat and shaking. You’ll want a horse that is naturally calm and level headed such as any breed of Stock Horse (Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, Paints, Criollos, Australian Stock Horses etc). If you’re a Type A person that is a go-getter, never gets nervous and is self confident a Thoroughbred or Arabian is a good personality match.

CC

A Type B personality might suit a hot-blooded horse well, because horses will feed off of the rider’s personality. This gives a hot-blooded horse a calm and relaxed leader to follow. A Type B person also may lack motivation which is not a good thing paired with a horse that is naturally lazy. They will feed off each other and nothing will get done, what started off as a simple half-pass exercise will end with the rider napping and the horse grazing (guilty). However, if all you’re doing is moseying down a trail, this is the perfect match.

I tend to love my Stock Horses, as a Type B I’m easily frustrated with “feather brains” and over-reactions. I love the calm easy-going personality of a Quarter Horse, Paint or cross. My horse CC is actually Paint/Thoroughbred. He has enough athleticism to do what I need and at the same time, I can ride him bareback in a halter down the road.

Another thing to consider is what is going to be your horse’s “job?” All horses need a job, whether it’s 100-mile endurance rides or looking pretty in your yard. Hot-Blooded horses obviously have a lot of energy and are great for someone who rides 5 days a week and is training hard. Quarter Horses or other similar Type B personality horses are great for the weekend rider. However, if you’re schooling 3’ fences a 14.2 hand Quarter Horse might not suit your needs on the other hand you may be a competitive Reiner riding 5days a week and showing every weekend at which point a Stock Horse would be perfect.

Based on your personality type and physical stature, what breed of horse are you?

Natalie Stoppani has a BS in ag communications from Chico State. She is currently looking for a job in the industry, so if you know of anything please let her know at swissgirldrivesatruck@gmail.com.  Please check out her blog and her ask her how you can help Gibbs, a horse she saved from a very sad life. 

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Dusty D

The first day of 4th grade can be hard. Especially if you are a county kid. Instead of spending your summers playing and bonding with your school friends, you moved to your family’s summer ranch to work. OK, work might be a slight overstatement, riding my horse and fishing was more like it. But this made me the ‘new kid’ almost every year. The beginning of every school year I would have to re-make friends and re-strengthen bonds. Normally this wasn’t a problem for me. I was very enthusiastic and outgoing, even as a child.

Potato race, we lost.

4th grade, however, was new territory. I was actually in an 4th/5th grade combination class. Having the big kids in the same class was scary. Ten and eleven years olds are cognitive, they realize their words and actions can hurt or have consequences. The one golden lining was my teacher was the State Veterinarian’s wife. I’d spent a lot of time with her and her husband the summer before, as he worked on the ranch. I figured I’d have a friend in her. And I did, actually too much so. As my Teacher was making introductions she stopped at me and exclaimed “Oh Megan! Boys and girls, I’ve known Megan forever! In fact my first memory of Megan is of her galloping through a pasture of wildflowers on her golden horse with her long blonde hair flowing in the wind behind her”.

Me and Dusty doing what we did best.

That was effectively a death sentence in elementary school. I could feel all the other girls shooting eye daggers at me. My Teacher forgot that I was the only girl in the whole school that lived on a Ranch. Horse fever runs rampant in girls that age. It was usually a hair-pulling, wait-listed mess, to even try and check out a horse book on library day. The fact that I had my own horse, that I could ride whenever I wanted, that matched my hair color was just too much for some girls. I was a marked girl, in 4th grade.

I was too lazy to use a real saddle most of the time.

Dusty D (my horse) was a Christmas gift. My entire, huge, extended family would always gather at my Grandparents house to having dinner and open gifts. All 9 or so cousins would play all day with the new toys Santa left us. Norman Rockwell had nothing on us. The particular Christmas I received Dusty, the adults would not let us play outside, and I was pissed because I got a roller racer (10 points if you are a child of the 80’s and know what that is), and my Grandparent’s house actually had a sidewalk that I could ride it on. The Ranch only had dirt and gravel, my new roller racer wouldn’t go on that, I was wasting precious new toy play time!!! Finally we were allowed to go outside, actually the whole family made its way outside and urged me to look around the corner of my Grandparents’ fence. There was a horse the exact same color as my hair, and he had a big red bow around his neck. He was mine, registered in my name. My little mind was blown. I got a palomino horse for Christmas.

I was a little overwhelmed to say the least.

Dusty was a dream horse. My Grandfather, Fletcher, said Dusty was too much horse for me. He was right, but Dusty seemed to know it too. Dusty was a perfect gentleman horse with me, but not with other people. Dusty was only two years younger then myself. I was seven and he was five, and barely green-broke, when he was given to me. We grew up together.

One of the many gymkhanas we attended. And won.

If Dusty didn’t like you he would crow-hop, toss his head, prance around and just generally be a butt. When I rode him we were a team, I could do anything on him, and did! We worked cows, rode in parades, went to horse shows, went swimming (even though my Parents said not to), rode around Indian Valley with a herd of other country kids.

He was my once in a lifetime horse, I doubt I will ever have a bond like that with another horse in my lifetime.
Dusty eventually developed a mild case of navicular when I was a teenager.

About the time he was retired.

I retired him to pasture pal and sometimes, when a little kid would come over, he would give little walks around the Ranch. Dusty died of heart failure on St. Patrick’s Day 2009, he was 25.

My boys

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Wordless Wednesday: Safety First!

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But They Do It On TV!

Did you ever notice how movies never show horses pooping? In fact the movies do not do a good job at all of depicting actual horse ownership. Most TV shows and movies make it seem like all you do is saddle up and go. Honestly, this is all fine and dandy if you are never going to be around horses, but does become a problem if you start spending time around horses.

I had a boyfriend in my early twenties that grew up watching a lot of Bonanza. He was pretty much a city kid, but became enamored with the Ranch. In fact, after he spent some time on the Ranch he asked us to start calling him Rowdy. Since “Rowdy” was spending so much time on the Ranch, my Parents had a belt made for him, with R-o-w-d-y stamped on the back. Rowdy found one of my Dad’s old belt buckles and an old pair of cowboy boots, and that was it, Rowdy was a cowboy, in his mind at least.

 

Before Rowdy lost his horse privileges.

 

Now Rowdy figured he looked like a cowboy, but he still didn’t have or know how to ride a horse. I started giving him lessons and we would go for little walking pleasure rides around the Ranch. Finally Rowdy felt like he was ready to “check cows” by himself. Since we had been riding almost every day for a couple of months, in pretty much the same place, I felt like Rowdy could probably handle a short walking ride by himself.

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I helped Rowdy saddle up my horse, Joe. Joe is the type of horse little girls dream about – he’s a golden palomino with a paint’s face. The type of horse that makes you feel like a cowboy. Rowdy and Joe walked off into the sunset and I went back to my chores. The Ranch is set up in such a way that you can see a good portion of it from the house. And unless you got in trouble a lot as a little girl for racing your horses, you would not realize this. As I spied on Rowdy and Joe on the mountain, I got scared.

Rowdy caught ‘city boy cowboy fever’ and had removed his shirt and was running Joe as fast as he could go, up and down the mountain (think The Man From Snowy River). Despite what you see on TV, cattlepeople rarely run our horses down mountains, we rarely full out run our horses, unless we are chasing cattle. It can be very hard on your horse to run down mountains, it’s a good way to hurt yourself and your horse.

I had to run to the barn, jump on an 4 wheeler and track down Joe and Rowdy to keep Rowdy from killing my horse. Needless to say Rowdy lost his horse privileges after that. Rowdy’s only explanation was, despite months of lessons, that is how the cowboy’s on TV do it. Sigh.

This story brings up two very good points. One, I’m not allowed to give horseback lessons to my boyfriends. Two, often people think what they see on TV is true.

Therefore I wanted to talk about something today that you never see on TV. Cleaning a horse’s hoof. This is a basic requirement of horse care. I was taught to clean out my horses hooves before and after every ride. If you don’t do this your horse can become lame. Rocks, mud and even nails can become stuck under their hooves, leading to infection and lameness.

Our horses are retired now. They go “barefoot” (that means we don’t have a farrier come out and put metal shoes on them), but they still get their hooves trimmed (it’s the same as trimming your nails) a couple times of year. I try and clean out their hooves as often as I can to keep them happy and healthy.

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This is a bare horse hoof (it needs a trim).

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This is a hoof-pick. I use this tool to clean out the horses hooves.

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A dirty hoof! Compacted with mud, rocks, and organic material.

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Cleaning all the nasty out of his hoof. This will smell if you don’t do it often. It’s very important that your horse has healthy feet and legs!

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That has to feel good! A cleaned out hoof! He’s having his “nails did” this week, so his hooves will look a lot better soon.

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My “Factory Farm”

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Our summer ranch. The oats I planted and farmed with no sprays, and a damn good dog.

The view of the summer ranch from the house.

Deer that live on the summer ranch.

My Dad making meadow hay with the same tractor as his Dad, on the summer ranch.

Winter ranch.

Wild turkeys on the winter ranch.

View of the winter ranch from above the tracks.

The cattle truck we use to move the cattle in between the two ranches. The cattle spend the summer in the mountains and the winter in the valley. That way they get two springs, avoid the valley summer heat and the mountain winter snow. And our ground gets break from the cattle – it’s empty 6 months out of the year.

Hoot dog moving the cows on the winter range.

The Sutter Buttes from the winter ranch.

Fire bellied newt on the winter ranch.

Poppies! Winter ranch.

Winter ranch.

View from my front door.

Factory farmed  babies on the winter ranch.

The boys.

Home.

The view from most of my childhood.

Bottle calf meeting the horses.

Behind the winter ranch. The view from the waterfall.

The summer ranch.

The winter ranch.

The snake that lives in my yard.

The winter ranch, see the bald eagle in the tree?

Winter ranch.

Winter Ranch, spring time. The field that was an airport during WWII.

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