Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ode To The Elderly

I should have known today was just going to be one of those days.  Now, as I sit here at the island in my kitchen, with a glass of Moscato and Pat watching some random movie in the background behind me, I'm realizing that no good deed goes unpunished, my horse is a bastard, and Absorbine Liniment Gel is God's gift to my knees.

It's been miserably wet here the last few days, we went from a numb-your-lungs deep freeze and a fresh  4" of snow this weekend to 50+ degrees and monsoon rains yesterday and today.  Everything is a sloppy, flooded disaster, and with board coming due on Friday, I decided I needed to go check on Cleveland and take him a fresh turnout blanket to swap out the one he's been wearing since the cold hit and was probably soaked through with the recent downpours.  They're calling for temperatures to plummet down into the twenties again tonight for the foreseeable future, so dry clothes on the ponies are a must.

I bailed out of work two hours early, partially because I couldn't stand having nothing to do, and partially to beat traffic up to the barn.  After packing my truck with Cleveland's new (old) blankets, I ran inside to see if my crippled boyfriend (who has been recovering from emergency surgery last weekend) would like to go visit HIS horse.  Please keep in mind, Cleveland is HIS horse because it conveniently worked out that a friend had a big, "manly-looking" older horse that needed a full-time turnout situation due to his arthritis, and I needed something that I could call "Pat's horse" to guilt him into not bitching about my horse habit.  Cleve fit the bill.

Anyway, Pat wasn't feeling up to sitting in my truck for that long of a ride to see HIS horse, so I ventured off on my own up to Goodrich with a quick pit stop at Tractor Supply to pick up another bag of SafeChoice to top off Cleveland's grain bin.  In and out in ten minutes, a personal record for me, I was back in the truck and over at the barn within 15 minutes.  Everything was right on schedule for me to get home before traffic picked up.

Now Cleve is one of those been-there-done-that horses, having been bred and foaled at the Two Square ranch in Santa Rosa, New Mexico by the great Hollis Fusch (read Mr. Fusch's story here).  He spent most of his traceable life out west on various ranches in New Mexico, Wyoming and Texas as a ranch & rope horse.  Admittedly, he's seen much more than I have, and I respect him for that.  He's flawless on the roads and trails, and I know I can trust him with the newest of riders, from the smallest kids, to my greenhorn boyfriend.  He's truly one of those horses that's worth his weight in gold to me, and at 16.1 and easily 1,300 pounds, that's a lot of weight.  When I sold everything and left White Lake, Cleveland was one of the last three I kept.  He's a kind, quiet, gentle soul and will do anything he can for a cookie, and since his body is starting to slow down on him, we take it easy and the extent of his daily work load consists of walking from one end of the pasture to the gate for grain, cookies, or scratchings or the monthly intoxicated trail ride with my friends when our schedules permit.  I don't worry about Cleveland.

After gathering up "dinner" for Cleveland and his roommate, Leonard (the homeowner's horse), I pulled Cleve out and fed Leonard, then I practically drug my old, lazy-ass horse back around the house to my truck where my groom kit and blankets were waiting.  I had this planned out perfectly in my head.  No joke, I'd worked on the logistics of this plan since lunchtime: Feed the moose by the truck, pull wet blanket, brush down thoroughly, pick feet, apply dry blankets, return the moose to pasture, get home before rush hour, make dinner, feed crippled boyfriend, do homework, get to bed early and hope for 10 uninterrupted hours of sleep.  In my head, this was a brilliant plan...I really should know better.

The first few parts of my brilliant plan worked out as I'd hoped, and as I was returning Cleveland back to a screaming, pacing Leonard (who was thoroughly convinced he was never going to see another horse ever ever ever again), I stopped by the grain room off the house and told Cleve to "stand".  To Cleveland, being told to "Stand" normally means "Hey, asshole, don't move ok?  Eat grass for a minute, I'll be right back".  I remembered this, and since it hadn't been that long since I messed with him, I assumed we were still on the same page as far as single-word commands go.  We weren't.

Unbeknownst to me, someone, at some point in the last 2 weeks, taught my super-reliable, golden-child of a horse that "Stand" really means "Channel your inner three year old Arabian!", because before I could even utter a "whoa", the old, semi-crippled bastard had transformed into a hybrid cross between a llama, an Arabian, and a runaway Lear jet with four-wheel-drive capabilities and was galloping across the back yard like a raped ape.


Now no one has EVER asked Cleveland to gallop in the time I've owned him, and I'm pretty sure I've never seen him offer anything more than a laxidasical lope when turned out in the field, so the fact that my old fart of a trail mutt suddenly took off like his ass was on fire shocked me for a minute.  Then the good old thought of Oh, he's just a little fresh with the wind and the weather, one of the chickens must have startled him, he'll run out of steam in the next 20' or so, took over and I watched for a minute, entertained with the idea that the dinosaur has the ability to move that quickly.  And then he kept going....and going...around the corner of the house and towards my truck in the driveway.

Oh shit....

Now the first train of thought when a horse heads for the driveway is "Get in front of him & wave something big and scary to make them turn back!", which is an absolutely absurd idea, but you know we all think it.  When the Reality-Train comes chugging back down the tracks to your brain and you realize there's no way in hell you're going to outrun a damn HORSE, the next thought is usually "Get grain! Or...something that sounds like grain!  Yeah!  That'll work!  Hell, even a goddamn BUCKET will work at this point, right?  My horse likes grain and he knows his bucket!"  Fortunately for me, I still had the grain buckets in my hands and as I rounded the corner of the house shaking the buckets frantically and calling out "Whooooaaaa Cleve..." in my best I'm-not-panicking voice, he slowed to that laxidasical lope up the hill of the driveway, and finally came to a stop at the road.  Ears flicked back at me.

Okay, we're good.  He's done now, he wouldn't leave the property.

Cleveland looked left.  Then Cleveland looked right.  Then Cleveland looked back at me as I hiked my painfully out-of-shape ass up the hill of the driveway in my winter tall boots (which are most definitely NOT meant for hiking), huffing and puffing like I'd just run a 5k and really wishing I'd stuck with my New Years resolution to get back into shape.

Jeez, he could at least turn around and start walking back this way.  That asshole is going to make me walk all the way up this hill?!  That's the last time he gets an extra quarter scoop of grain!

Cleveland looked back at me one more time, turned left out of the driveway and picked up that nice, slow laxidasical lope and headed up the road.

Are you KIDDING me?!

Now, I've seen my share of panicked horses, this was not a panicked horse.  This was a horse on a sight-seeing adventure, and enjoying every minute of it.  His tail was straight up in the air, along with his head, and he bounded along the dirt road like a cracked-out carousel horse.  And as I made it to the top of the driveway, and watched his bright blue blanket and safety-reflective halter bounce up the road in no big hurry to get anywhere, I had that fleeting moment of clarity and some very entertaining thoughts, in hindsight, thanks to the little voice of reason in my head:

Do I go all the way back down that long-ass driveway and get my truck and chase him down in that?  I've got lead ropes in my truck, I could lead him back out the window of the truck, he's quiet enough, he'd probably be okay with that.  If not, I think Dad can put a new side mirror on fairly cheaply if he rips it off.  Might be worth it, but it's probably more expensive to buy a mirror for a Mountaineer than an Explorer.  I knew I should have bought an Explorer instead, its such bullshit, its the same truck!  But if I go back, I could lose sight of him in the meantime if he goes into a yard or behind a house...shit.  Someone'll be pissed if I have to drive through their yard to find my horse, plus its so damn muddy, and the all-wheel drive isn't working on the truck, Dad'll be PISSED if he has to come tow me out of someone's yard because of a horse.  Do I tough it out and chase him on foot?  Good LORD my sides hurt, what the hell happened to me running five miles a day for fun?!  WHY did he have to turn left and go uphill?  Right and downhill would have been soooo much easier!  Damn these boots I HAD to have....they're so warm though!  ...Seriously, how far is this bastard going to run!?  Why couldn't he have been herd-bound?!  Herd bound would be REAL nice right about now!  Is that a school bus?  Are you kidding me?!  Ugh, at least there's no other traffic.  Aw, that bus driver is awesome for stopping, she must have horses.  I wonder what kind of horses she's got.  Hopefully they're herd-bound...

These are the thoughts I have in crisis-type situations.  And to think, I took an Adderall this morning to help me focus.

Cleveland kept this game up for a solid five-eighths of a mile, and finally came to a stop in front of a local veterinarian's farm/office.  Head up, tail raised, he blew one big snort at nothing, then dropped his head, turned around, and strolled back at a walk to meet me on my path up the hill like he was coming in for a forehead-scratching.  Cussing him up and down, I grabbed his halter, and we started our hike back down the hill to the driveway.  I waved my silent thank you to the bus driver as best as I could considering I had a horse in one hand and empty buckets in the other, so if she's reading this: I'm sorry, I really wasn't showing you what color buckets I had, thank you for stopping, and I hope your load of kids enjoyed the show.

Cleveland and I walked all the way back to his pasture and a now-frantic Leonard like nothing had ever happened.  I turned him back out, removed his halter, and pat him on the neck to let him know I wasn't holding a grudge and that I understood his old-man-shenanigans and his victory lap of freedom was simply him expressing that he wasn't quite ready for full-blown retirement yet.  In reply, he blew a snot wad on my jacket, and wandered over to the round bale feeder with a now-content Leonard.

I hiked back up to my waiting truck, pulled out of the driveway towards home, decided my new plan for this evening was going to involve wine, Aleve, and some liniment for my now-throbbing knees, and called Pat to tell him what a goddamn ungrateful, sonofabitch, renegade asshole HIS horse was.

I should have known today was just going to be one of those days

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Horse Owner's Guide To Facebook

I've had a Facebook account since 2006, and I like to think that I managed to evade the drama and gossip of the internet for a peaceful 5 years.  I kept my "friends" limited to my close personal friends and a few select business contacts, and life was good.  But partially through this blog, and partially of my own stupid quest for adventure, I've discovered an entirely new world in the last six months...the Facebook Horse Owners.  Now these people are a special breed, I'm learning, and my GOD do they all have an opinion!  Not only are they nearly incapable of intelligent conversation, they're all thoroughly convinced that their way is the only way, and God help anyone who wants to try and tell them otherwise. 

Now I thought for a long time that this particular group of gems was located only in my home state of Michigan, but through extensive research, I've realized that this particular breed of Facebook user stretches as far and wide as the Equus ferus caballus itself (that's the scientific name for a horse).  Regardless of your locations throughout this world, chances are you can look at your local Facebook Horse Group and pick out each of these characters:

The Administrator - These folks should be nominated for sainthood.  They spend more of their time refereeing fights and banning spammers trying to sell shoes & purses than they probably do enjoying their own horses.  Often, you wonder why they even bother to moderate the group at all, since it seems to be a lost cause.  There's generally a high turnover rate for this position as the title-holders get fed up and worn out quickly, and then pass the torch to the next unsuspecting victim. 

The Breeder - This person constantly promotes their unproven and unqualified stallion with shitty pictures and minimal information to supplement their $150 stud fee, usually in inappropriate conversation threads regarding responsible breeding. 

The Rescuer - The person that has to voice their opinion about slaughter and plug their own rescue in every thread on the group.  Often, they solicit donations and mention their website in comments that have nothing to do with rescue, seemingly in hopes that people will donate just to make them go away.  You can also usually find them in "Horses For Sale" groups commenting on listings while undercutting the owner's horse by promoting one of their available horses for half the price. 

The Asshole - Typically a man, this person is usually not heard from unless the topic is highly controversial.  It is then that this person will fire off an ignorant comment to counter everything the rest of the conversation's participants are saying, stirring the pot just to get a rise out of people.  He also generally has a pro-slaughter opinion and blames the rest of the group for the horse overpopulation problem, causing an even bigger outrage.

The Professional - Often found by their constant spewing of their credentials, you can pick this person out simply by looking for the phrase "as a professional in the industry" in every one of their comments.  They generally solicit useless information that no one asked for, and tend to bring an annoying undertone to every conversation as they constantly try to one-up every other participant in the conversation with stories of how they did it better, faster, or cheaper because they've been "in the industry for x-amount of years".  They firmly believe their way is the right way, and will happily tell you how wrong you are at every opportunity. 

The Adolescent - This is generally a minor child with a computer and minimal parental supervision. They constantly flood the group page with seventeen pictures at a time of "The most wonderful horsey in the world, MINE!" all of which have been photo-shopped with annoying hearts and caption bubbles for no reason other than to annoy the rest of the group members.  They bring no intelligent thoughts to the conversation, yet feel the need to voice their input in every thread about how much they love their pony.

The Sheep - This person generally has good intentions, and comes to the group looking for help and advice regarding a specific training issue or medical problem.  Unfortunately, instead of seeking out a qualified professional (like a trainer or vet), they tend to blindly take the advice of whomever answers their question, whether they've given sound advice or not.

The Shady Dealer - Often seen stalking multiple "Horse For Sale" groups, this person attempts to make a living off of the misfortune of others and promising a good forever home.  They will take as many free horses as they can, keep them for several weeks, then appear on a different sale group advertising that same horse for several hundred dollars and claiming they "didn't click". 

The "I NEED HAY" Owner - This person will beg and plead for information regarding any available hay for sale.  Other owners will flood their posting with options and contact information, and rather than call the listed phone number, the "I NEED HAY" Owner will ask a hundred questions of the group members. They will also want the hay delivered, stacked, and paid for by someone else at a great price. 

The Horse Shopper - This person will post that they are shopping for a very vague description of a horse, with no listed budget, and after asking for pictures and videos of every response for weeks, will finally post that they will be ready to buy in six months. 

I hope that this guide has been helpful at pinpointing the type of people you come across on a daily basis.  It is my hope that in the end, we can all band together and eliminate these people from Facebook and make the online world a better place for all of us. 

And then I'll have to find something else to bitch about.