Jan 202017

By Patty Wilber

This time last year we were just back from our crazy adventure in Chile, and we had at least made our Christmas cards.  This year we didn’t venture so far afield and we have not gotten around to making any cards…maybe by Valentine’s day.

We did go to the Half Moon Ranch, in the Dragoon Mountains though, and I have to say, it was a true break from real life! Miriam found it and seven adults, one wee human, nine horses and two dogs went along. We ate way too much–we divvied up dinner and breakfast preparations and had really good meals–, and we drank, rode, hiked and played games!

Miriam, Justin and Ruby!

Here is the link if you want to rent it yourself (which you might after seeing the place!) This text in the link says only six horses allowed, but we’d read eight (and brought in one extra, in case you are counting).  There was actually space for two or three more, if they liked each other.

We loaded way too much stuff (because there was room), fueled up our “new” (2004) truck, and hit the road on Wednesday.  It was over 400 miles, so it took nearly seven hours to get there, but how fortunate we are to have the truck and trailer, horses that can be ridden under all sorts of conditions, the time and the money to make such a trip.

The ranch house was comfortable! The canyon was lovely, and there plenty of riding and hiking (and eating) opportunities to keep us busy!

View from the back porch!

The corrals were ok. Plenty big enough, but not great fencing.

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Jan 112017

By Patty Wilber

Why do horses lie in the mud?

That is a rhetorical question, although I suppose there may be a real answer.

It was a rainy December at our place.  This is the second year (of 20 that we have lived here) that the precipitation was not snow in December.  The other year was 2015.  I wanted to cut and paste a graph of the temperatures for the month, but the best I could find in my 30 minute inexhaustive search was this link on Accuweather showing the actual December temperatures in 2016 compared to the historical average. Mostly, it was warmer. (Surprise, surprise!)

So, with rain, we get mud.  And for whatever reason, horses like to roll in, lie in and get covered in mud. I read some article suggesting that in winter one should not brush that stuff off!  (Or ride your horse in winter at all, which may give a clue to the nature of that writer.)  But, if you don’t curry it off, isn’t the loft of the coat compromised and won’t they be colder despite the mud layer?  Anyway!

I also looked up mud and horses on the Internet to find out why horses like to lie in the stuff in winter (it is not to keep the bugs off–there are no bugs) and found that some authors thought that muddy ground prevents horses from lying down.  Apparently, our mud is not muddy enough to deter reclining. Nothing that I came across had an explanation for why the horses pick the wet, not the dry, spots for their siesta-ing.

Indy (bay): “the mud is warm. i like the soft  feel on my legs.” Me: “I dispute the warmness of the wet stuff.  Surely with evaporation it is cooler than the dry areas!”  Indy: “huh?” Me: “There is a drier spot up a bit! If you laid there I would not have to chip the chunks off you!”

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Jan 062017

By Patty Wilber

The trot.  The trot is a two beat, diagonal gait. The right front and left hind move together and the left front and right hind are a pair.  The trot is generally intermediate in speed between the walk and the lope/canter, and horses usually choose walk, trot, then lope/canter if they asked to speed up.

(Lope and canter are both three beat gaits with the lope the slower, western version and canter the faster English version.)

 Height and stride length are related, but skeletal structure, musculature,  and connective tissue flexibility have a big impact as well.  Here is a nicely trained horse with a skeleton painted on it.

For a nice discussion of form and function–well, I couldn’t find the one I wanted–it showed all sorts of conformations and then what that conformation could do well–like how jumpers could curl up their front legs and extend.  I think there was something about gaited horses and reiners, too…Maybe in America’s Horse? So you are on your own for that.

Now on to the amateur filming hour done like this.  Me: “Hey, _________ (insert horse name)! Let’s go to the round pen and get some trot video real quick.” Horse: “do i get to warm up?  will u at least brush me?”  Me, mumbling: “What do you mean warm up?  It is just trotting! And ok I will try to knock the big chunks off.”  Horse, tossing its mane (or head for the mane deficient): “fine.”

Once in the round pen, said horses quickly figured out that I was not paying close attention as I was trying to video and keep them moving at the same time.   Lucky you can cut out the bad stuff and slowing the motion down 4X means a short clip of 7 seconds turns into 28. which is more than enough!

I might have to do a video on bad lunging technique.  LOL!

So, here are some trotters, in slow motion.

Mojo.  Fjord.  14.05 hands. Fourteen years old. Fjords are pretty blocky but they are nice movers!

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Dec 302016

By Patty Wilber

Two thousand sixteen was a good horsey year.
Not a one of my charges put me on my ear!
I had some good colt starts with minimal drama,
and ended this year with the fun mustang, Mama.

We have a good group that lives here full-time,
and we wouldn’t even trade them for a truck load of dimes.
There’s Mojo the Fjord that belongs to the Shinnick’s.
I didn’t want boarders, but if they left I’d be heart-sick.

Roger on Mojo and Mary Ann on Cometa

We’ve got the old man, a real Spanish Barb,
he’s coming on 20 and is a bit of a lard
butt he’s calm and and he’s steady as he’s always been.
Mary Ann rides him, but it won’t keep him thin!

Cometa, summer 2016

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Dec 232016

By Patty Wilber

I chose Merry Christmas as the title because we happen to celebrate Christmas and because I put Christmasy head gear on the long suffering equines, but HAPPY HOLIDAYS, too, since we have Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanza and probably some other big holidays I know nothing about this time of year.  I did a little looking and the timing seems to be related, primarily, to the solstice.

The horses were all very tolerant, if not exactly ecstatic, about my Christmas Head Gear Efforts.

“HEY!! look! pat h. has her puppy named jax out!”

Cometa: “we are standing here with these silly hats on and, i, for one, would rather be taking a nap! let’s get this done!”

“10-4, boss!” (L to R) Penny: “Merry Christmas!” Cometa: “i seem to be wearing swedish girl’s hair and a santa cap…happy santa lucia day?” LT: “i have gloves on my ears. what’s that mean?” and Indy, “i have mini reindeer horns AND a tiny santa hat…over one ear. this is fun! happy happy holidays! ‘holiday’ originated from ‘holy day’, so that works, right?” Everyone looks at Indy (after the photo was snapped), “how’d u know that? u are the baby!”

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Dec 162016

By Patty Wilber

Mary Ann and Roger, whose horse Mojo, the Fjord, lives here and who lease Cometa, do a lot of work at Walkin in Circles, a horse rescue.  We got to talking about how to decide when a horse needs to be euthanized.


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Mary Ann at Walkin in Circles with Rudy and a horse whose name I have forgotten. Gasp.

Roger and Mary Ann riding Mojo and Cometa.

That conversation triggered the memory of Gilda Radner’s character Emily Litella and the “Youth in Asia” skit!  I could not find a link to it so I contacted my brilliant niece who (I hope I got this right…) manages the Saturday Night Live youTube channel, and she confirmed that the skit was not available to view.  BUT then my equally brilliant spouse suggested finding the script.  Here is the link to the script I found. I didn’t verify that this version is 100% correct. I copied and pasted what I found, below (which is not nearly as funny as the live skit…)

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Dec 092016

By Patty Wilber

What is the best way to sell a horse?

The obvious stuff is to tell everyone you know, advertise on reputable and appropriate sites, have a nice photograph or two and a video, and choose the right price.

I think the two hardest parts from the above list of five are finding the right place to find the right buyer pool and picking the correct the price.

Too high…that is easy to figure out, but too low can also deter lookers.

I read a story a long time ago (most details have leaked from my brain) about a horse blanket company.  They allegedly made some of the best blankets in the country, and they were really inexpensive. Sales were not that great.  So, they increased the price by some fantastic amount, and blankets shot out the door! Apparently, people felt the lower price was so low that the blankets couldn’t possibly be good.  The higher price was more in line with perceived  quality.

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Dec 022016

By Patty Wilber

Thanksgiving is my Dad’s favorite holiday and it is one of mine as well.


Dad and Mom, Thanksgiving weekend, 2016

It is not bogged down by gifts!  It is bogged down by food!  The beginning of the holiday poundage gain.

One nice thing about our Thanksgiving is that most of my family gets together at my folk’s house in California.  We hang out for a couple of days, play games, hike, visit, and well, yes, we do eat.

We have Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday with friends and family.




Apparently, the conversation was appalling! (Amy, Mark (son) and Erika (goes with son))


There was general goofiness combined with eating (background). (Kathy (sister), Mom and me)


Dessert. This pie almost wasn’t made, but then, there was a collaboration between my sister and brother! I gave tips on how much liqueur to add.

We usually hike on Friday to work off Thursday’s food so that on Saturday, we can go for Dim Sum where we order everything and act like a bunch of vultures.  I will spare you vulturine pictures.  Here’s the hike instead.


The attendees: Front row: spouse Jim, brother Mike, me, niece 1 Laurel, niece 2 Maryann, Dad. Back row: son Mark, significant other of son Erika, wife of brother Tina, husband of sister Chris, sister Kathy, Mom. We missed daughter Maegan and husband Rick this year!


And I can always find something odd…A sprouting cow pie!


Very nice view in Sunol Regional Park, where we hiked.


A very big dead eucalyptus tree! It seemed even bigger in person.

We left the balmy climes of the Golden State on Sunday to fly home to a less than enchanting cold front in the Land of Enchantment.

But, it is still good to be home!


Dancer contemplates our ride in the snow on Tuesday. She finished up her Introduction to Riding lessons here and headed home on Thursday!



Nov 252016

By Patty Wilber

We flew out to Missouri to hunt white tail deer last weekend.

Truthfully, we went to visit Jackie and Craig and we got to hunt on their farm as a huge added benefit.  What a fine time we had!

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They have a really nice lodge, designed by our nephew!

In my copious (uh two times with my own elk permit; two times as a elk spotter for Jim) experience hunting elk and javelina (never even saw a live one), we walked or rode, and I have  really enjoyed the looking. Good thing, because my harvest percentage is a big fat zero and I have only taken one shot, which, obviously, missed.

Deer hunting was from a blind and I wasn’t sure I’d a) be warm enough and b) be able to sit still that long.  I really don’t sit still very much.

Well, the blind had a little  propane heater, which we only used once, and it turns out I CAN be still (if I am not freezing) because it also turns out that when you are still, you see stuff.

Like squirrels.


See the red bushy tail? When I was a little kid, we lived in Missouri and my parents and grandfather used to squirrel hunt. (We ate them, in case you were wondering.) I had a collection of squirrel tails and the red ones were my favorite.

And turkeys.


I clearly needed something better than a camera phone that would only zoom 4x! The turkeys came in various groups, but this one and it’s buddy, came within 40 yards of the blind. One flock of 25 came boiling out their roosts in the trees sounding like a jet bursting out of the forest!

And we saw quite a few smaller birds: eastern blue birds, cardinals, bluejays, tufted titmouses (titmice?), nuthatches, red bellied woodpeckers and downy wood peckers.  Most were very close (but not close enough for my phone camera!!)

There were no deer Friday morning.

Mid-day, we toured the 400+ acres in blaze orange. We carried a gun just in case, but the three does we saw only showed us their long white tails.


Craig and Jim.


Me, Craig and Jackie

 We went to a small cave.  Jim went in and found the bats!

Friday evening, from the blind, we saw deer.  I had an any-sex  permit, so we passed up our first group of does to see if we could get a buck.  No luck on bucks.

No deer on Saturday morning, but Saturday night, I had a shot at about 175 yards.  That is pretty far for me, and I got nervous.  I lined up pretty well according to the cross hairs in the scope, but not well enough, and I missed. Craig was watching from his blind and thought he saw a stumble, so we looked for sign in the evening and again Sunday morning.

Nada, but we did see frost flowers.

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Frost flowers only occur when there is a hard freeze when the ground had not yet frozen.  The cold causes plant stems to split.  Water oozes out and freezes. Capillary action brings up water from the ground which tries to ooze out, but it freezes.  The result is ribbons of ice that curl around the plant stems!

There was still time to hit the blind, and a small deer came out.   I had it  at about 80 yards.  Apparently, the gun and I were in disagreement about where it was to shoot.  It was Jackie’s gun and she had sighted it in, but clearly, I needed to target shoot myself.  I missed so badly (or the deer was deaf with an overall sensory deficit) that the intended freezer-filler barely even flinched.

At that point I was a bit paranoid about another bad shot and besides the deer was so little and cute.  It may well have been a button buck since  it was all alone and the does tend to travel in herds.

So, we named it Lucky, and I took a picture instead!


Happy Day after Thanksgiving, everyone!

Nov 182016

By Patty Wilber

When Dancer, a Paso Fino cross, arrived last month, she jumped out of the trailer, flattened her long, black-tipped ears at life in general and tried to double barrel a dog to drive home the point.

“Oh dear” or maybe more accurately, “Holy sh**”, I thought.

Six weeks later, I am nearly ready to send her home because she has done SO well!

She is an unusual horse in that she really does seem to hate a lot of stuff.  At first she wouldn’t even talk to me! I could barely halter her because she would not let me touch her ears or poll.  Try slipping a bridle on. Ha! She still tries to kick her neighbors about 10 times a day. And she really doesn’t like being petted.  Cuddling?  Forget about it!

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