Fall is making a brief appearance this weekend here in North Texas. The wind is HOWLING today and I have a suspicion that we may lose more of the roof off the old barn. Owning property with outbuildings is not always glamorous. The fox hunting season is kicking off soon and we will be celebrating the beginning of the season this weekend. I’m SO excited!
Onward to updates from around the farm over the past week or two.
One of the last toads of the season. This guy/gal was in the dog water bowl and I thought he was too cute!
I have been nagging and nagging Boot City to finish the road gate as part of our pets-in-traffic prevention program and he FINALLY got it done! I LOVE it! It is the fanciest gate ever! The frame is 8″x2″ and the whole thing is 14′ wide so is very stout and yet very modern. The hinges he used are super heavy duty so it opens and closes smoothly and evenly even though it weighs more than 500lb. The automatic opener still needs to be installed, but I’m fine with the manual open and close for now.
These days it is very difficult to get a photo of the muppies that isn’t blurry! We let them in the house in the mornings and evenings and they play and play and play! Animal and Annie Sue went to the vet yesterday and they were 30lb and 25lb respectively. They will be BIG dogs!
Muppy play time.
We have a handy man/contractor doing some updates to the house right now and his first project was to replace the door from the breezeway to the garage. The door was in poor shape when we bought the house, but was made tremendously worse by the dog pack we have had during the past few years. Jessie did the door in and the entire bottom half was missing! The new door is metal so no worries about it getting giant holes in it, just scratches.
The new man door from the breezeway to the garage.
Last week at this time the 14 day forecast was pretty amazing with most days having highs in the 80’s. Sadly the weatherpeople were mistaken and now the forecast is for more crazy hot and humid weather in Texas. Bummer!
Enjoy the farm update!
The roof that landed on my horse trailer and Boot City’s flatbed trailer. Boot City got it all cleaned up within 48 hours because he is amazing.
One of myriad damaged trees.
The power company putting a new pole in our back pasture and re-hanging the wire that was torn down when the pole was knocked down by a fallen tree.
The Muppies are mobile!
The muppies started talking this week, too. OMG are they cute!
I will preface this post by stating that my husband is the handiest human being on the planet and I’m forever grateful for all of the things he does to support my ridiculous horse habit!
You may recall a couple years ago we built some runs off the stalls on the new barn. All of the runs and a paddock have been completed for over a year, but Boot City had some sort of what I referred to as gate-o-phobia; fear of building a gate. We had a need for at least six gates plus a couple of it-would-be-nice-to-have-a-better-gate-here spots so agreed that we would take some time off work around the 4th of July holiday and do some honey do items around the property. Gates were clearly at the TOP of the list!
I don’t know why Boot City had a phobia of building gates, because the finished products are all very lovely and functional gates. If you aren’t a horse person or someone who has an understanding of the need for good gates, this may sound silly to you. Gates are vitally important with livestock. Weak or poorly made gates can break and let animals into spaces where they don’t belong or (much worse) hurt them. A horse that eats too much of certain types of feed can get life-threateningly sick. If you have multiple species of animals there are some feeds that are fine for one animal and dangerous to another animal. Or animals can get out of their enclosure and onto a busy road. I think you see my point.
I wish I had photos of Boot City’s gate designs, but all I have are photos of the actual gates.
The first gate goes to the paddock where Sterling is currently convalescing. We had originally planned to put the gate on the other corner of the stall run next to it, but this created an alley that horses would go in and try to kill each other. One horse in the small alley is much safer. This gate has a unique (to me anyhow) hinge that is connected on the actual post. It’s a pretty slick design and results in a very minimalistic look, which is what Boot City was going for when he chose them. You cannot add this kind of hinge later, it has to be planned for when the fence is built because the pipes are welded onto the metal post and the hinge is essentially a ring dropped on said post. It was originally planned to be for the gate to the stall run, but the plan design change affected that, too. Our next long weekend project is to finish the fence that you can see isn’t doing much other than attempting to convince a horse to not step over it. Thankfully most of my horses are lazy and they haven’t busted out yet.
Gate #2 is next to Gate #1. Boot City was NOT happy about using this hinge as he thinks they don’t look as good as the one connected directly on the pole, however they do allow for more adjust-ability in how the gate hangs. I think it looks just fine. Sometimes I forget how artsy Boot City is and he cares quite a lot about aesthetics. The bottom of the fences and the gates is about 18″ off the ground, high enough that a horse that lays down and sticks a leg through the fence shouldn’t pin the horse’s leg and cause it to panic. Safety first folks!
Both Gates #1 and #2 were built from oil field pipe and sucker rod. Very basic, but nice clean lines.
The third gate he built is between us and our neighbor. We had long abhorred the gate that was in place and the posts had COMPLETELY rotted out so we decided to just go a head and rebuild a portion of the fence and build a new gate. This gate would be practice for the one that he will build to go at the end of our driveway to keep out the riff raff (and keep IN the damn dogs).
This gate is the inspiration for the design of the gate he will build at the end of the road. We won’t use the exact same type metal frame and unfortunately our driveway entrance isn’t wide enough to do the same type of anchor post with hinge, but you get the idea. I love how it is modern yet fully functional and uses very basic materials. This one was designed by Bercy Chen Studio LP in Austin and the photo is by Mike Osborne.
This is the gate in progress. The frame is 4×2 steel tubing and the inside is a 6 gauge horse panel. He trimmed the panel to fit inside the frame and then welded it exactly in the middle of the 4″ tube. This gate will be very sturdy and look lovely!
Beerhounds help build gates, dontcha know?!
The fence hasn’t been finished so I don’t have a photo of the full setup, but here is the completed gate right before Boot City installed it on the hinge. I definitely felt a sigh of relief that the horribly shoddy gate, that was also about 2 feet longer than it should have been to be stable, is gone. You know what they say about good fences, they make good neighbors.
The finished product!
The gate is installed and once this fence project is complete Boot City will embark on building the driveway gate. It will essentially be the same design, but use 6×2 steel tubing rather than 4×2. It’ll also be somewhat longer so may require some type of stabilization in the center area. I’M SO EXCITED TO BE ABLE TO LET ALL THE GOATS, HORSES, AND DOGS RUN FREE AROUND THE HOUSE AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Boot City and I both took some time off work this week to get some stuff done around the farm. Usually when we do this we get distracted and hardly accomplish anything on our to do list, but we did really well this time! Lots of gates built, arena sand delivered and some purging of Boot City’s metal collection.
Little Mickey is quite the snuggler. He has no idea that he only weighs about 5lb. He acts like he is a 70lb pack leader! So funny!
Casey is spoiled and gets 24/7 turnout, mostly because he is so well behaved and not a fat kid. He often has chicken buddies while he grazes during the day and the other horses are in their stalls.
Simon. Just because he is a lovebug and so cute.
It has become somewhat of a tradition for one of my hunt friends to host a gymkhana the weekend before the 4th of July. We were blessed with moderately cooler temps this year and had much fun!
I got a truck load of sand for my “arena” and the dogs and horses took full advantage of the sand pile. There was much dog wrastling and horses rolling!
It is never easy to see them go, but its time for these boys to move on. Boot City took them to the goat sale this morning. I always tell myself that they end up in a home similar to ours and get good lives.
It is the LAST day of June! How did that happen?! Summer appears to be here for good for a few months. It isn’t blistering hot just yet, but it is quite warm. Boot City and I are taking some time over the next few days to do some pretty major farm improvements. Hopefully some will be blog worthy!
This is what Dickens thinks of mornings when he doesn’t get to go outside.
Harriet is right in the middle of her heartworm treatment. She is handling it like a champ. Dogs who are having the fast-kill treatment have to stay calm and quiet to avoid getting their heart pumping too hard. As the worms in their heart die, they get pushed out into the bloodstream and if the heart gets to beating too quickly it can kill the dog if a worm gets lodged in just the wrong place. It appears that Harriet gets this and when she is allowed to come outside she is very docile. She doesn’t run and play with Dragon and Dickens like usual. She may feel a little under the weather, but she seems more like she just knows she needs to mind her p’s and q’s. She is a wonderful little dog!
The dogs LOVE to eat my horses’ Muenster Milestone feed. They like it so much they get in empty bags just to lick the bag. Weirdos.
We got some good rain last weekend and early this week. We had been a few inches behind average at the start of June, but according to my Farmlogs app we are pretty much caught up to average.
For a little while this was a FULL rainbow. I never tire of seeing rainbows, they are such happy things.
Since all my riding horses are pretty much lame except for Coco, she has been getting LOTS of rides lately! It is really paying off and she has made a ton of improvement in the past few months. Fingers crossed she will be ready to do a real course at a real show by the end of the year with lead changes and everything!
She does make happy faces, too! I think she enjoys her job and hanging out with me. She definitely LOVES her some treats!
Dragon and Dickens are both sighthounds, which means they are bred to hunt by sight. This instinct is much stronger in Dragon than in Dickens, but he certainly joins in when she goes on the chase. Lately they have been chasing the cat, which means the cat has been actively avoiding coming in the house or being around the house in general. We lost Tarzan and Marby last year so it makes us very sad that Sabrina doesn’t feel safe in the house. I don’t think the dogs would hurt her, but it isn’t fun getting chased every day. She disappeared for a day or two and we worried the worst had happened.
She showed back up in Boot City’s shop and it appears that she may becoming a shop kitty! We have moved her kitty food to the shop and Boot City has made a bed for her. Hopefully she will feel safer there and stick around. We love our Sabrina! Plus this might keep her away from the busy highway which is where the other two cats met their demise.
Do you have fun weekend plans? I’m sure lots of people are going on trips for a long weekend since the holiday is Tuesday. Be safe and have fun!
Boot City and I love dogs. We REALLY love dogs. This past summer I was able to talk Boot City into fostering dogs for the Fort Worth Animal Shelter. The way it works is you identify a dog that you’re interested in fostering, confirm it is eligible for fostering (some dogs have major health issues that need more funds to treat and are only eligible to be adopted or rescued) then pick up the dog and take it home. The Fort Worth shelter works with a few are PetSmart locations to find dogs new homes. Fosters can drop off their foster dog for the day to stay at a PetSmart and potentially find a new family. Meanwhile the dog gets to live in a home with people and possibly other pets making it a more adoptable animal than if it were living in the highly stressful shelter environment.
Our first foster dog was Quila. Or, as we like to call her, Quildabeast. She had an upper respiratory infection, was pretty chubby and an older dog so could be high on the list for euthanasia should the shelter get too full, which it often does.
Quila was an amazing foster dog. She was loving, got along with all the other animals, figured out the doggy door easily, was generally perfect. She got adopted on her second trip to PetSmart. We were sad to see her go, but so excited for her to get a family! Then, just a week later, we were notified by the Shelter’s foster coordinator that Quila had been returned to the shelter. We were so disappointed for her! The family that adopted her said that they were moving and couldn’t keep her. Who adopts a dog a week before they move and then returns it to the shelter because they can’t keep it?! Boot City had fallen a lot in love with Quila, so she was our very first Foster Fail. Foster Failing means you adopt the dog you were fostering. 🙂
This event led Boot City and I to have a conversation about our dog collection and Christmas. How many dogs is too many? Should we rearrange where they live during the day? What do you want for Christmas? What does Christmas have to do with our dogs? This is what Christmas has to do with our dogs; I have a family friend who has long had Whippets. I have always loved her Whippets and have always wanted to have one of my own. Boot City has become close with this family friend and learned that they were breeding their Whippet and would have puppies available in November or December. Boot City was getting me a puppy for Christmas! I haven’t had a puppy since I was in high school! By adopting Quila our collection had risen to 8 dogs, so we needed to discuss and confirm the future of our pack size.
We agreed to continue fostering until we got the puppy, but no more adopting. We had two near misses for another Foster Fail, but both dogs got adopted to wonderful homes. On September 7 our puppy was born. He was the runt of 10 puppies. They were all given adorable British names. We had the option to change his name, but it fits him perfectly so we opted to keep it.
Meet Dickens! This is his 5 week old photo.
He came home for good on November 4. He is the cutest, sweetest, most fun puppy ever! He’s been pretty easy as far as puppies go. Potty training is going well. He gets along with the other dogs, other than trying incessantly to play with Bunny who has zero interest in playing. We are in love! Look forward to lots of future pictures of him as he grows up!
Most husbands are somewhat handy at wood working. Mine is decidedly not very handy at wood working; his speciality is working with metal. Therefore many structures that would be made of wood at a wood worker’s home are made of metal at our home. This makes for some VERY heavy duty bridle racks and saddle racks that you could hang a sofa from. Most recently Boot City stepped up to make a stall run for the “bed-ridden” Coco Chanel during her 6 week layup.
We had planned to have stall runs on all four stalls on the “new” barn from the get-go, but time and funding are not always readily available so nothing happened until there was an express NEED for a stall run. We did a great deal of internet research about design; how far apart should the pipes be, how far off the ground should the lowest rung measure, how heavy duty do the pipes need to be and all kinds of safety and convenience research.
Human nature is to repeat what we know worked in the past. My parents had runs off the stalls on their barn in Montana so that was the basis for our design. We altered it slightly by putting fewer pipes and having the bottom rung further off the ground to prevent trapping legs. We beefed up the size of the frame pipes and opted for 1 1/2″ sucker rod for the bottom 3 rows. This is the finished product plus horse.
Coco outside in her run on the first night it was open for business.
Boot City is all about building things to be very sturdy. This time around he put posts in the ground at least every 8 feet and in the case of invasive tree roots he put them even closer so as to not have to harm the roots.The closer the poles in the ground are to one another the sturdier they are because there is less room between bracing for the horizontal pipes.
Poles in the ground. I promise that all of them are nearly perfectly straight. Boot City doesn’t mess around.
The whole project took about three weeks from start to finish. I really and truly thought it could be done in a couple days, but that was unrealistic wishful thinking. The concrete had to set for the poles in the ground to be sturdy enough to weld on and the measuring and levelling is extremely tedious work. Boot City finished the fencing late on a Wednesday night and Coco will be forever grateful. The plan is to complete her neighbor’s stall run in the coming months, but emphasis is now on putting in a property gate, updating fencing by the house and finished the “nursery” AKA the paddock fencing for Coco and her new foal come March.
Boot City and I live on top of a hill. A very large and rocky hill. Our friends like to tell us how delightful they find our driveway. Truly delightful. The primary reason that our driveway is so very delightful is due to laws of gravity: what goes up, must come down. This is true not only for our driveway, but for other parts of our property as well. All farmers and ranchers are constantly battling erosion of some sort. We aren’t actual farmers or ranchers, but we do have an ongoing battle with erosion. When the rain comes down, it has to go somewhere and so down the hill it goes. Generally after a hard rain most any loose dirt and rocks from our driveway have found their way to the highway by our house. I’m confident the county road crew loves us the most.
For the past nine years we have lived on our happy 10 acres we have been working towards improving the land and increasing the amount of grass that grows. Improving the soil is all about adding organic matter and nitrogen. The combined efforts of the chickens pooping, the goats pooping and the horses pooping have done wonders to increase the amount of organic matter. We try to compost as much as we can, but sometimes that sh$% just has to get spread around. Boot City has also gotten to justify his schmancy new 65 horsepower John Deere all in the name of grass and soil improvement. This allows him to dig up the soil, plant seeds and fertilise when necessary. And this spring has shown the fruits of our (mostly his) labor better than any other.
So much so that after an especially hard rain this past weekend there was a great deal of evidence that we really need to work on creating our very own mini-creek for the water to go down after such hard rains. As it is now, the water running down the hill just takes all the organic matter we’ve worked so hard to accumulate with it!
The top of the hill on the back of the property. You can see how fast the water moved down the hill and created it’s very own path through all the beautiful grass. We have the beginnings of some rocks set down to prevent all the dirt from eroding with the water.
Further down the hill there isn’t any grass growing in this part of the water flow for a couple reasons. The first is that there are a lot of trees so very little sunlight gets in and the second being that every hard rain just washes away any grass that has started to grow.
Towards the bottom of the back hill the grass had gotten to be about 12″ – 14″ tall. When I walked the property the morning after the rain I was somewhat surprised to find how it had been completely flattened by the water runoff. This was a prime opportunity for us to identify the low spots and plan for adding rocks and other solid barriers to slow down the water and to prevent the topsoil from being eroded.
Flat grass! Boot City has already moved some dirt to change the layout of the hill and alter the pathway of the water. Now, to add more big rocks.
In the back, right before and at the largest back pasture (about 5 acres) the grass is thick, tall and lush. It’s that perfect spring green that makes anyone associated with agriculture and animal husbandry smile and take a deep breath. Along the path of the water runoff it had gotten completely flattened and looked like a big green walkway. Again, indicative of where to plant more large rocks!
You can see the water path towards the back of the pasture.
Last, but not least, this is where the water collects and runs to lower ground on the neighbor’s property. Last year, in the fall, there was a similar large storm and the water runoff collected so much debris that by the time it got to this spot it took down the fence!
The endpoint of the “River”
Now we mow, mow and mow some more (and by we I mean Boot City mows) and collect rocks from other parts of the property to add to the future “creek”. Maybe by fall we will have a genuine little waterfall to share!
So, there we were. The right saddle and size had been identified and were unavailable. I did what any savvy saddle shopper would do and I got in touch with the dealer for the brand I wanted to buy (Antares). I told him of my predicament and he made me feel a million times better when he told me he could get a Spooner. We were back in business! He did explain that the off-the-rack saddles Antares makes fall to the back of the manufacturing line behind custom orders, but he could get one in my size. I was elated. This was all happening around Christmas and New Years and the French don’t work during the week before and a week after a holiday so he wouldn’t know until the second or third week of January when the saddle might be available. No worries. It had been a few months since the this whole quest had begun so what was a few more weeks? Plus, there was an Antares meeting at the corporate office in the U.S. in January so surely that would offer the best possible scenario to get production news.
It was while I was in NYC for a fun weekend celebrating my horsey bestie’s 30th birthday that I got the text with the good news. Spooners were in production and he expected them to start arriving “in a couple weeks”. Surely I would have my new saddle before February! There were a lot of exclamation points in my texts on this day because I was so excited! There was a light at the end of the tunnel!
A couple weeks went by with no news of Spooners. Then another week went by and some other, more normal sized, Spooners arrived and now there was no prediction of when or if my 18″ would make it into production. To sooth my disappointment I started perusing used saddle websites again. I found one really lovely 18″ used Antares on the CWD used saddle webpage. I even put a deposit on it and had them take it off the website. It was getting closer and closer to the weekend I was going to show in my first “A” rated USEF show and I really wanted to have my new saddle before then. The Antares rep was going to be at said horse show for all four weeks (I only showed one of the four weeks) and he had pretty much his entire saddle inventory with him. I consulted with my trainer and we agreed that it would just be best for me to ride some of the saddles he had to get a more solid idea of what I needed and then I could get more serious about finding the right used saddle without having to kiss a bunch more frogs and send them packing back to their owner when they don’t fit.
I arrived at the show all giddy and nervous about my first “A” show as much as about finding a saddle. My division was fairly early in the morning so I showed in my borrowed saddle. Once my first division was done I went to pick up a saddle to try. It was a brand new Antares. 18″ seat with a 3A flap meaning the flap is longer than normal and more forward. It felt good, but my trainer felt that the forward flap was more forward than I needed. She advised to go back and see if he had an 18″ with either a normal length forward flap or a long but not forward flap. I returned with another brand new 18″ Antares with a 3 (long) flap. Both saddles were significantly more $$$ than I had budgeted so I was working really hard to not fall in love. Saddle #2 was a bingo! Trainer liked it. I liked it. I think Sterling liked it. I even showed in the second division I competed in the second trial saddle. Then, I did what any sane woman with an obsession with riding horses would do. I called my husband. He had all the right answers. Of course I should buy saddle #2. If I don’t buy it I’ll have to try however many more saddles and spend hundreds of dollars shipping them back and forth. Clearly it made sense to buy the saddle that my trainer liked and felt was the right saddle for my horse and me. I’ve never won the lottery, but I can’t imagine it is much better than your husband giving the go ahead to buy a schmancy new saddle.
Here she is in all her glory:
My beautiful brand new Antares saddle. BEAUTIFUL!
What made this saddle “the one”? I mentioned in previous posts that my horse is on the skinny side. Thoroughbreds are notoriously narrow and often have super high withers making them difficult to fit. Thankfully Sterling isn’t on the narrower side, but he’s definitely narrower than a warmblood. He is also not super tall at just 16 hands. I have about a 30″ inseam so when I ride Sterling I ride with a shorter stirrup than I would if my horse had a bigger, rounder barrel. This shorter stirrup pushes my butt back in the saddle. I don’t have extra long femurs, if I had extra long femurs I would have needed the saddle with the long AND forward flap. As it was the long flap is best. The bottom of the flap should hit the rider’s leg in the middle of the calf and the rider’s knee should have room to spare at the front of the flap when the stirrups are the correct length.
Here are some pics to demonstrate this gobble-de-gook:
Saddle fit pictures are kind of humiliating and make one feel like they should stop typing and go do some sit-ups. Anyhow. The flap hits just at the fat part of my calf like it should.
Some squats might help, too. There are a few inches in the back of my derriere to allow plenty of room to sit back before a “big” jump.
The other side. Isn’t it pretty?!
Last, but certainly not least.
I’ve had my new saddle for nearly two months and I still love it. The previous saddles I had ridden left dry spots on Sterling’s back and this one leaves one big uniform sweat spot on all parts where the saddle should be touching him. My leg feels more still. It’s just too bad that the new saddle doesn’t fix all my riding problems like counting strides for me out loud and zapping me when I lean too far forward before a jump. For now I’m just delighted to be done saddle shopping.
Sterling and I have attended a couple regional circuit shows in the past few months with our friends Caitlin and Lexi. Caitlin regularly shows in the “A” shows with her seasoned show horse, Sundance. Lexi is an off the track thoroughbred (OTTB) who needs miles at shows. The regional circuits are great for that sort of thing. You get all the trappings of any horse show, but the overall ambience is more relaxed and the jumps are much smaller. In our case Sterling and I both need the miles!
At the first show we were Reserve Champions in our Division. Woo hoo! We weren’t able to show in our Division on the second day of the show because we wanted to get home at a reasonable hour on a school night. We were facing the same issue at the second show, but came up with a solution that turned out to be one of my best show experiences to date!
Sterling and I currently show in a 2’6″ division. We could probably go higher, but until I get better at my position and finding distances in lines, the smaller jumps are better for us. At the most recent show we attended there was being held a Mini Hunter Derby and the jumps were 2’6″ and it was the first class on Sunday morning. I mentioned the idea of entering the Derby to my trainer so we could show on Sunday, but not have to stay for our regular Division. This show was HUGE, too. There was no way my Division was going to show before 3p which would have had us getting home at around 9p. WAY too late for this old lady! Our trainer agreed that it was a good idea and off I went to enter the Derby.
I kind of knew what a Derby was when I entered. I knew the course would be slightly more complicated and I knew that the rides would be scored. What I didn’t know, or at least had forgotten, was that the top few would come back to do what is called a Handy round. The Handy round is intended to be a bit more complicated and requires more quick thinking and responsiveness from the horse. The course require things that wouldn’t normally be on a hunter course like trotting to jumps and hand galloping.
Because I was one of the last entries I had to ride first. One of my most favourite things about Sterling is that he (knock on wood) never spooks at jumps. It seems to never matter how much stuff they put on the fences he just jumps over them like a champ. This combined with his uncanny ability to save my behind when I ride him to a horrendous distance make him worth his weight in gold. My goal going into the pen was to get all my distances and actually count the strides. I accomplished my first goal and counted strides for about 70% of the time. I was beyond ecstatic! I’m sure I was lit up like a Christmas tree as I rode out of the arena.
For your viewing pleasure here is the video. Caitlin and I video each other’s rides at shows so we can go back and actually see what we did. It’s pretty awesome. So thanks to Caitlin for recording this momentous occasion! Click the link below to view.
It’s been a little while so I don’t remember what my score was exactly, but I think it was around 73. A perfect score is a 90. I was pretty happy with my score and my ride. Then I had to hang out for another 44 rides to find out of I would be coming back for the Handy round. Going into this it truly never occurred to me that I even had a shot to make it to the Handy round. Lo and behold I made it into the top 10! The cutoff score was 72. Whew!
Our Handy round was awesome. There were no lines so I didn’t have to worry to much about counting and Sterling handled really well. The only things that really needed improvement are the kinds of things that get better with miles. Our Handy round score was a 76 and when it was all said and done we got 6th place. 6th place out of 45 entries in our very first Hunter Derby! Look out 2015 because Sterling and I are hitting the horse show trail!