Friday, December 31, 2010

Pony Rides

She had matching antlers, but they wouldn't stay on.
A few days ago a couple of my friends brought their kids over to ride Morrissey. Of course, since the children are all young, the plan was to have me lead them around. I was confident enough doing this because her former owners used Morrissey for their small children pretty  often. When they brought her to me, they had the kids crawling all over her and sliding off of her backwards. As a very cautious person, I won't let anyone interact with her that way, but it did happen safely on at least one occasion.

Just to be safe, we had an adult walking next to the kids or riding with the kids the entire time. Everything went perfectly for the majority of the day. I led Morrissey around in wide circles in the arena for at least 45 minutes. The kids all got several turns, then of course there was a spooking incident. I can't imagine what it was that scared her. We were passing the same roping dummy we'd passed each time, but this time it was scary. She did two little fat-horse hops, one in each direction. One of the kids on her back was slipping so I grabbed her off and got her out of the hoof zone. The other kid held on like a champ. His father got him off quickly. I was really upset. One of my biggest fears is my horse hurting someone, especially a child. I didn't let the spook end the day. I lunged her without incident by the scary dummy several times and made sure the kids weren't too afraid to pet and interact with her. Both of them want to come back and ride again, so thank goodness they aren't scarred for life.  I know that no horse can ever be completely bomb-proof, but I really want Morrissey to be as close as possible.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Christmas

Happy Holidays everyone! My break has been great so far. When I've had time, I've been at the barn working with Morrissey on ground manners. She is a smart girl, because she's got most of it down. Backing up has been the hardest thing for her. She still doesn't do it in a straight line, but at least she is going backwards.

At first, I was afraid that the training was hurting our relationship a little. She wasn't as eager to see me as she used to be, and she seemed quite a bit less affectionate. Regardless of her pouting, I stuck to my guns and I'm glad I did. Today when I was with her, she was her normal sweet self, as affectionate as ever. I can tell that my new leadership role is earning her respect and her trust. I was leading her by the terror-pigs and one of them snorted loudly. She normally would have jumped a mile, but I placed my hand on her and she barely even flinched. I left feeling accomplished!

In goaty news, I've decided to start making handmade goat-milk soap. My doelings still aren't born, much less in milk, but I'm going to start none the less. My first batches will be made with water. When I get the hang of that, I'm moving on to milk. My dry, itchy, winter skin can't wait!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lesson Success

Today was my first lesson with Morrissey. It was so fun. My instructor's name is Dot. I can't say enough positive things about her. She really took her time with both of us until we really understood. It was such a relief to have someone there to help me. I realized for the first time just how often I have felt lost when handling Morrissey. She is such a different horse than my last horse (thank goodness) but she tends to throw me for a loop. For example, the door on Morrissey's stall is tricky. When I lead her into the barn, I always feel like I'm fumbling. She is usually a bit spooky because of the low roof and the proximity of the piglets and I'm usually trying to get her to position herself correctly to get her in the door safely. It is difficult to explain, but it has been a slight point of frustration for us both. Dot watched me fumble through it and within seconds had the whole situation fixed. All I had to do was switch sides and have her back down the hall a few steps. Something so simple, and yet it never dawned on me.

Dot uses Natural Horsemanship and Centered Riding. I have a book on Natural Horsemanship that I've been reading and working on pretty often, but apparently I'm a visual learner, because having Dot show me really helped.We spent most of the time teaching Morrissey to respect my space and to pay attention to my cues. Dot and I both agree that Morrissey is a left-brain extrovert. I don't know much about Parelli, but I'm really interested in what the program will suggest for her in the future. For now I'm going to get her some toys for her paddock and work with her daily for half hour sessions until Dot and I have another lesson.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Winter Break Here I Come!

Preparing Misty for a Show
Winter break is only a day away! I'm so happy to be wrapping this semester up, that I'm celebrating with a riding lesson. My new instructor's name is Dot. She is very affordable, and she'll come to my barn for the lesson. You can't beat that! I am really looking forward to actually riding my wonderful horse. All we've done lately is ground work and lunging. I haven't decided if I'm going to document the first lesson with photos yet. I'm not sure if I want anyone there watching during the lesson. I tend to have stage fright about riding in front of people. I don't know how I stand in front of 30 students each day and talk for hours, but I don't want to ride in front of even my closest friends and family. So crazy! I could take the photos myself, but I need to pay attention to my lesson more. Either way, I'll post how it went.

My First Set of Triplets
I have officially sent in the deposits on my new dairy goats. One of the doelings will be coming from Brushy Creek Farms and the other from TLC Farms. Both are local farms with wonderful animals. I have a list of 3 or 4 does at each farm that could potentially be my goats' dam. I'm so curious about which one I'll get.  I joined the South Central Texas Goat Club, and as soon as the girls arrive I will be joining the American Dairy Goat Association. My first Goat Club meeting is in January. I'm not sure what to expect, but I'm very excited. I found some fun old pictures of my first herd of goats to share. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Problems with Piglets

Morrissey has moved. I love the new stable, but she's not so sure. Since the move, she's been pretty spooky. It all started with the piglets. Two adorable piglets live in a pen near her stall. Morrissey is not a fan of piglets, or the mare in the pasture next to her, or the barn, or the water hose, or the arena... but we're working on it. She is so afraid of the pigs that her front legs quiver when they snort. Sixty percent of the time she stands alert with her nostrils flared and then snorts as loud as she can in their general direction. I managed to capture a minor example for you. The video doesn't do it justice.The noise reminds me and my husband Chris of a scene from  Jurassic Park.

video

 It has been strange for my usually reasonable mare to spook at everything. Last week was a week a frustration for us both. Having her jump around while I was leading her that first day really shook my confidence. Luckily, the owners at the stable are so helpful and encouraging. Mike, one of the owners, has gone above and beyond and really helped build my confidence back. Today I lunged her on my own and then groomed her and had a great day. Hopefully there will be many more to come.
Putting my deposit down on goats has been a definite step in the farmish direction for me. Horses seem to be very suburbia- friendly, goats are not. I've been researching goat nutrition for days and it looks like I'll have to eat my words about Tractor Supply. Apparently they have the best free choice minerals in town. The suburban girl in me can't believe I'm going to be preparing my own feed mix one day, but if it is best for my goats, I'm willing to do it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Trails and Happy Tails

My Future Baby Goat's Mama
I've decided to move Morrissey to a different stable. It was a really hard decision to make, and hopefully I've made the right one. The new barn is more affordable in the long run, and closer to my house. I will also have much less competition for the resources available (the arena.) There are things I will miss at my current stable, but I think moving is the best plan for now.

In dairy goat news, the new stable has a perfect goat pen that I can afford to rent. So I've selected two different Nubian breeders in my area and I'm putting reservations down on two doelings. They should be here by summer. I'd like to get a milker as well, but having a goat to milk every morning and night is a big commitment. I'm not sure I'm ready for that just yet.


My family was with me on the horse, but they all think I'm nuts to be looking at goats as well. What can I say? Teachers can be goat showing horse riders on the side... can't they?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Blankets and Manners

Today is a cold day in Houston. Morrissey is toasty warm in her new blanket. I got it on sale from State Line Tack with free shipping. It is water proof and medium weight and so far I like it. I really wish they had cuter things for horses though. I'm not a complete girly-girl, but when it comes to horse accessories you've got prim and proper English or rough and tumble western. I'm neither, but I usually go towards prim and proper. The plaid is cute enough.

I've been off of work for Thanksgiving break, and I've taken the opportunity to work with Morrissey on her ground manners. This is both good and bad. She needs the work, she can be a little pushy on the ground, but I need to work on riding her. I've only mounted twice and now I'm avoiding even trying. I bought a mounting block and I haven't even saddled her up since it came in. I'm ashamed to even type that out! I tried lunging her with my new lunge line and whip. It didn't go great. She bucked and kept making her circles smaller. She knows she can get one over on me. I've got to get my confidence back up for sure. I've contacted a few people about lessons. We'll see if I can afford them.

I really love Morrissey, she's got such a sweet personality. She is so different from my last horse. I love her meeting me at the gate when I come to see her. She doesn't love to work, but she does love to interact. The one thing I learned with my first horse KK is that you can fix bad manners, but you can't make a horse like people. I'm so glad that isn't what I'm up against with Morrissey.

Things at the boarding stable have been so-so. The young man who runs the place is awesome, but he has a lot of friends around constantly. One of them made a rude comment the other day. I'm a teacher and I'm used to the way that some young people can act, but the stable isn't work. It is the place I go to relax and enjoy myself. It is really important that I can do those things there for the money I pay. Also I'm wondering about the care that Morrissey is getting when the young man is out of town at rodeos, the past two days she was turned out in the cold with no blanket. I have a sneaking suspicion that the bucking situation on the lunge line may have had to do with her being fed sweet feed instead of her very small portion of oats.  I've spent the break shopping around to see the stables in my area. I think I've found a good one. More on that later...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vet Visit With Coli

An imperfect picture of my imperfect Coli
Coli is my ten-year-old English Bulldog. She is the one dog I have that is not a rescue and not a pug. I bought her from a breeder when she was a puppy. I was only 18 years old at the time. She has been with me for so long I hate to imagine what it will be like when she isn't. Since Bulldogs have a life-span of eight years, I'm forced to imagine it more and more as she continues to age.

Like most bullies, she has always been sickly. She's had ear problems, allergies, elongated soft palate issues, mammary tumors and Cushing's disease so it really is amazing that she is still doing so well.Today I took her to the vet because of a cyst she has. I wish we could just have it removed, but Bullies don't typically do well during surgery so we'll only put her under when absolutely necessary. The vet said everything is good with her, especially for her age which is music to my ears.

Even with all her problems, and all the money her problems have cost over the years, my Coli is such a great dog. Unless you've spent time with a Bulldog, you just can't imagine how odd and wonderful their personalities are.  As an animal lover, I hate to see dogs suffer because of their pure breeding, but I wouldn't want breeders to completely stop breeding them either. Despite their health issues, the world would be worse without them.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dreaming Big

I've been wasting the day away searching for farm properties in my area. It is crazy how many suburban-y/farm-ish properties there are available near Houston. The problem is that my husband and I are not currently planning on moving. We've barely been in our house for a year, and we are pretty happy here. It would be crazy to move.
The more time I spend at the barn, the more I'd like a barn of my own. I really want to breed Morrissey. I'm still considering stallions. I don't know why, but I really think I should look into getting  a miniature donkey. (there is a breeder nearby!) Words can't even express how much I'd like to get a herd of Nubians to show and make cheese with.
I could probably manage to board all of the above, but it would be expensive and I'm not real sure if the man who owns the stables where I board would be cool with my menagerie. Another problem would be milking. It would be difficult to drive all the way to the barn, milk the goats and make it to work on time. I'd also get pretty dirty, and where would I store the milk during the day. Who would milk for me when I went on vacation? So many questions.
So much has changed since I made the leap and bought a horse. Chris and I have gone from thinking about a new sedan to considering new trucks and jeeps and stock trailers. I really have no idea how big this is all going to end up being... but I hope it involves some goats.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sniffles

I've had a cold for the past five days which means I've been going to bed almost as soon as I get home from work. I'm finally getting better, so today I went out to see Morrissey. She was happy to see me and my apple peace offering. The time changing means it gets dark at 6:00 pm. I'm worried about what that means for my barn time. Hopefully, I'll get used to it soon.

This week it has been just me and the dogs. I've been seeing them less since Morrissey came along, so that was nice. It is hard to give attention to all four dogs, but Chris and I manage. I'm still sick and getting tired so all you get is a photo of Dupree in a hat.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Goats

Today I was offered a goat. Most people would be shocked to know that I did, in fact, turn this offer down. It was a former 4H project Boer goat. For those of you not as well-versed in goat terminology as I am, a Boer goat is a breed of goat commonly used for meat. I call them meat goats, though they are not the only breed used for meat. In my past dealings with goats, these are the white ones with brown heads that you don't get attached to, since their owners are going to either auction them or eat them in a matter of months.

Since they are rarely long for this world, the Boers I've met tend to be... less than tame. Typically, I would have purchased this goat just to save it from being eaten. The owner was selling it for over 100 dollars and that is a little rich for my blood. Under 50 and I might have had myself a goat. From what I understand the goat is already older than the preferred eating age, so hopefully someone will buy it for a breeding program. I'm going to worry about it none-the-less. If you want a pricey meat goat, let me know.

I'm not one to judge, but I can't imagine why someone would want to eat a goat. To me, eating a goat would be like eating a dog. It makes me shudder to even think of it. Obviously, all my goat dealings have been of the dairy variety. As much as I couldn't eat a goat, I have no trouble eating goat cheese. There are few things in this world as delicious as goat cheese. My goat breed of choice is Nubian. I love Nubian goats with their long drooping ears and crazy personalities. Since they are a dairy breed, Nubians are typically bottle fed as babies. Bottle fed goats are tame and docile and like big floppy-eared dogs. As you can see in the photo, they are adorable!

In high school, four of my six show goats were Nubians. I was quite successful in the show ring with my doe Misty. We even got Reserve Grand Champion at Houston Livestock Show. I fully intend on starting a new herd, as soon as I can find a place to board them. I'm finding that while horses are not a problem, not a lot of suburban areas are fond of goats.

Side note: I was also offered a fancy mouse to add to my class pet collection. I accepted. The number rises...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Muddy Riding

Living in Houston, you never know what the weather is going to do. Two days ago, it felt like the middle of summer. Today could only be described as a soggy winter day. Winter or not, I headed out to the barn after work with guests in tow. My father, my sister and a family friend all wanted to ride Morrissey and I was happy to take them.

I was a little nervous when I felt how cold it was this morning. Horses tend to get pretty frisky when it gets cold, especially on the first cold day. I had nothing to worry about though, she behaved perfectly. The only issue was her saddle slipping. It was so hard to find a saddle that fit her, in the first place. Now the saddle fits fine, but I can't seem to keep it in place. You can see it slipping a little in the photo. If anyone knows any tricks for keeping it in place let me know!

I didn't ride today. I'm still too nervous. When I
was in high school, my horse bolted and I fell off. It was one of my first riding experiences, and it
scared me pretty badly. The horse wasn't well-trained and I was too inexperienced to handle her. I ended up becoming phobic about riding. Thankfully, I'm no longer phobic, but I'm still really nervous. So far, I've been able to mount and dismount Morrissey while she was being held, but I haven't done much more than that. I've only had her for 3 weeks and the first week we didn't have a saddle that fit her. I'm working on it slowly but surely.

I think I'd be able to move forward with my riding if I had an experienced horse person there to help. I took a lesson before I bought Morrissey just to make sure that I could get on a horse without freaking out. It really reassured me to have someone there who had control of the situation. Being a suburban girl, I don't really have friends with horse experience. When I get the money together, I'll get more lessons for sure! You might think that buying a horse is a bad idea for someone who is pretty afraid of riding, but I'm so glad I did. I love having a horse. I'm having so much fun!

In other news, I found out that one of the horses at my boarding stable is a stallion. Maybe I can talk Chris into letting me breed Morrissey after all!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Horse Shoes!

Today, I took a half day off from work to get some shoes put on Morrissey. Her feet have been really tender for the past couple of weeks and she had a chip in one of her hooves. Luckily, my farrier Bruce, says everything is ok and she'll probably only need the shoes for a couple of months.

I left work at 11 and ran some work related and personal errands before arriving at the boarding stable. I was only 15 minutes late, which is something considering the appointment time changed a few times. My husband and my father were nice enough to come to the appointment with me. I think they both thought it'd be a little more like a vet visit and a little less like a pedicure.


This was the first time my husband had ever seen a hoof trimming. For me, it had been quite a
while. I had a horse when I was 15, over ten years ago. It was cool to be able to use the same farrier that I'd used with my last horse. He does a great job and has fair rates. He is good with horses. Morrissey was really well behaved. She hasn't had shoes in over 5 years, but she stood perfectly. I'd never seen shoes put on a horse so of course I took some pictures. She looks great with her new shoes!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Animals

My current menagerie is quite small for me. I've got three Pugs, Louie, Dupree and Petey, and an English Bulldog, Coli, who live in my house with my husband and me. I've got a class pet, an albino gerbil named Squirrel, who lives at school during the week. Last but not least, I've got a gorgeous Haflinger mare named Morrissey who lives at a boarding stable near by.

I can hear you thinking, "Aside from the four dogs, that seems like a reasonable amount of animals." and you are quite correct. This is where my husband comes in. Chris is a wonderful man. He is British and handsome and practical. Chris is the finance manager in our household. He is usually very successful at reining me in. If not for him, I'd be penniless and up to my ears in animals of all shapes and sizes.

Currently Chris is explaining to me daily that breeding Morrissey is not a good idea right now, and that I should not ask if there is a multiple horse discount at the stable. He has no idea I've already found two possible stallions and emailed their owners about
prices. He doesn't know it yet, but tomorrow he'll be patiently explaining that right now is just not a good time to get a couple of goats since we haven't even had the horse for three weeks.

It isn't that I'm an out of control animal hoarder. I've been suppressing my farmish tendencies for years. Before Morrissey, I hadn't owned a hoofed animal in ten years when I had a small herd of dairy goats and a horse in high school. Getting a new horse and being at a barn everyday has opened the floodgates. I remember how much I love this lifestyle and how lucky I am to live in a place where suburban areas and rural areas are so intermingled. I am hooked.

Suburban Girl with Farmish Tendencies

My name is Jamie. I'm 29 years old. I'm happily married, with no children. I teach 4th grade English near Houston. I'm a suburban girl with farmish tendencies. People who enjoy a rural lifestyle are known by many names. I live in Texas so a local and polite term is 'kicker'. Of course, every person is a unique snowflake but for simplicity's sake I'm going to use dreaded stereotypes.

Stereo-typical kickers live in rural areas. Some raise animals or crops. They are usually a little conservative. They enjoy country music and general things of that nature. Again, as I live in Texas, there is no shortage of this type of person. I'll go out on a limb and say they are plentiful. I have nothing against these people. I try to be open-minded and tolerant of everyone, no matter how different they are from me. Kickers are fine with me. Be that as it may, I am not one of them. I like indie rock. I'm as liberal as they come. I want to drive a Prius. I like living in the burbs. I like having a Sephora and an Apple store only minutes away. I can do without a tractor supply, I buy all of my tack online anyway.

If you had to pigeon hole me, I'd go well in the suburban category. I've lived in subdivisions my entire life. My houses have all been track homes with reasonably small yards complete with mulch rings around the trees. I've had normal suburban dogs and cats, but there has always been a little problem. I'm not completely suburban because, I've got farmish tendencies.

These tendencies started young with a desire to own and spend my time with livestock. At age five, I became obsessed with horses and it only got worse as I got older. Goats, rabbits, pigs, horses, chickens, turkeys, ducks, sheep, cows and even emu. The list of animals I can't eat because I consider them pets is getting worryingly long. If I haven't owned them myself, I've spent considerable amounts of time with them. I'm well educated in hay selection. I know and can identify all the most popular breeds of cattle. It goes beyond just a love of animals. I'm not satisfied with just owning the farm animals. I have to show them or breed them or sell them. As a child I designed countless graph-paper plans for my ideal barn. My fondest dream is to become a dairy goat farmer and produce organic specialty cheeses.

Don't get me wrong, track homes and mulch rings around trees are not my highest aspirations, but they are comfortable and familiar and I honestly prefer them to living way out in the country. Consider this blog a window into the life of a woman straddling two opposing worlds. Let's see which side I end up on.