Friday, May 29, 2009


Tomorrow will be the last day for a whole month that I'll be able to see Kachina freely, as I have been. Mostly, my trouble is trying not to be selfish and ignoring what's best for her just because I want her close. Plus, I have to remember that her intended future is that of a performance horse; I have to give her the best shot at reaching her potential, and that's just not going to happen if she's sitting in a stall getting treats and pets from me (she'll still get them on Saturdays, though!). It really is like sending your kid off to college.

Even though I've made my decision, and I believe that it was the best one for Kachina, tomorrow will be bittersweet.

Sunday, Mom and I will be trailering her to La Grange. We'll probably take our time and make the drive somewhat leisurely, so I'll be sure to take lots of pictures of me and Kachina's first road trip together! Of course, it'll probably be very uneventful (that's a good thing, though, isn't it?).

On an unrelated note: If any of you are following Kachina's Twitter you probably know that my grandfather was taken to the hospital last night. As of Midnight they hadn't found what was wrong with him, so they were planning to do a CAT scan. I don't know anything else yet, but I'm hoping there will be some information soon. The results may affect Kachina's trip to La Grange, obviously.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What Would You Do?

So, I'm facing a tough decision regarding Kachina -- probably the toughest decision I've had to make since buying her -- and I only have until this weekend to make it.

The situation: Donna and Tony are going out of town for about seventeen days starting next week. Fancy is going to be boarded at another place, which leaves Kachina alone. I can't be there in the morning to feed her, due to work, so I'll need to board her somewhere as well for that time.

At the stable down the street, where Maverick stays, it would be about $300 for just those two weeks. The trainer I apprentice with said that he'd board (not train) her for a month for me, because I'm in his program, for $300.

The problem: If she's at the stable with Maverick, I can see her just about every day, same as now. However, for the same price I can have her with my trainer -- whom I trust and can evaluate her potential as a cow horse -- for a longer amount of time. But she'd be in La Grange, two hours drive away without traffic, and I'd only be able to see her on Saturdays when I go up to train.

Either option costs the same.

So, what would you guys do? Would you board her at the more expensive stable for two weeks, but be able to see her every day? Or would you put her with your trainer, who is an old friend of the family and who you trust, get her evaluated and, possibly, give her a little nudge on her road to being a penning horse (but I stress, she won't be getting official training -- I can't afford it right now. Just advice, and getting familiar with the work), but see her less often.

The kicker is that I have to decide by, well, tomorrow. Donna and Tony are taking Fancy on the third, which means that if I move her to La Grange it'll have to be Saturday.


(And just so you guys don't think I'm a total flake, I had a plan to board her at the stable in Richmond with Rico and Gypsy weeks ago, but it fell through, so this is a last minute thing. I do plan things ahead, I swear!)

Edit: Thanks for the advice, guys (and keep it coming, I love hearing your opinions)!

I think I'm going to take her up to my trainer, at least for this month, since I have to get her out rather quickly. I'm just trying to think of it as a sort of "camp" -- she'll go for a month and be away from me, but she'll be exposed to new things and learning under the professional care of someone I can trust. Then, when it's over, we can continue working and learning together.

Jeeze, it's like sending your kid off to college or something!

Indian Pony

Taken with P's phone.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Since a few of you asked, I scrounged up some pictures of Sage.

This was Sage when she was younger; two, according to my mom. Her mane was a beautiful white that darkened as she aged. (One of her foals, Billy, changed color drastically as well; he went from a coal black foal, to sorrel, to pure white, to a silvery coat similar to his mother's):

This is Sage at five. You can see how the red came into her mane later:

This is my mom playing around on Sage. If mom looks freakishly short, that's because she is. Seriously, I'm 5'5" and I can pretty much eat soup off her head. (ok, some of it is also bad lighting, but she is really short!):

Mom and Sage warming up before a parade. They rode in the Black Cowboy Parade every year, and they often dressed up. My favorite picture is of Mom dressed up in traditional Native dress, riding Sage bareback. It hangs on the wall (it's big, no way to scan it!). A salute to our Native blood! Not sure about the hat-and-jacket combo in this picture; mom usually had much better fashion sense, I swear!:

And a bonus! I stumbled onto this picture of my grandmother and grandfather and instantly loved it, so I decided to post it too:

(by the way, the horse in that picture is Billy Chico, the sire of Sage's aforementioned foal, Billy)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Memorial Day, to me, has always meant more than remembering just military heroes. It's a time to reflect on those who have helped me become the person I am, or given me the opportunity to lead the life I do, and who have made the roads I take easier by paving the path ahead of me.

I have a long list that includes both humans and animals, as my experiences with both have helped to shape my view of the world today. They're all equally important, but since this blog is ultimately about horses, I felt inclined to talk about my first equine teacher.

I've mentioned a horse named Sage in this blog before. Sage was my mother's horse, a red roan Appaloosa mare that she bought as a filly for $125.

Sage was a true, classic Appaloosa, right down to her Indian Shuffle. She's the reason why I love the breed -- and horses in general -- and to this day I still secretly crave an Appy (well, maybe not so secretly; just don't tell Maverick and Kachina!).

She was the ultimate teacher: patient, loving, wise and, when she needed to be, firm. A horse of all trades, she often went from being a baby sitter in the morning, a barrel horse in the afternoon, a parade horse in the evening and a ranch horse the next day. It was on Sage that my mother won over 300 barrel racing trophies -- sometimes competing in two or three gymkhanas a day! My mom and Sage were very close to going pro, but she got pregnant with my older sister and rodeos just sorta fell by the wayside.

I have a picture of me at ten-months-old, bareback and alone on Sage, while my mom lunged her around the round pen. She was that good. That was how I started riding, and Sage was my first partner.

Sage and my mom had the kind of connection I can only dream of having with a horse. Mom would leave her untied to do chores, and Sage would stand where she was put. When she wanted her, mom would whistle and call her name, and Sage would perk her ears and trot off after her. Mom could lunge her at liberty in an open space, even in the middle of a park or out on trail. I remember times, as a kid, when I was on her back in the round pen while my mom cleaned stalls. She'd call out "Woah" and Sage would stop, then say "Turn. Walk," and she'd make an about-face and start walking in the opposite direction.

The most amazing story of their bond, however, was on the day that I was born: Mom was six months pregnant with me (yep, I'm premature), and riding in a parade. She went to get Sage from the arena, when she discovered that a boarder's stallion had gotten loose and jumped the arena wall to get to Sage. Mom ran in to get her when the stallion attacked her; Mom was kicked in the stomach and she was in so much pain that she couldn't stand, she could only crawl away as the stallion reared and stomped. Then, to her horror, Sage attacked the stallion, giving my grandfather enough time to jump into the arena and carry Mom out while my Grandmother and help secured the stallion and Sage.

Both Mom and I nearly died, I'm told; obviously we all made it out fine -- except the stallion; he was shot -- but I can't help but think that it would have ended differently if Sage hadn't stepped in to defend her "herd."

Many people don't believe me when I tell them that story, and that's fine; Mom has the scar to prove it.

Unfortunately, the area where I live isn't hospitable to horses. The city was building a new freeway, and they wanted to use the land where our stable was to park their trucks and equipment. They did everything they could to push us out of there. Finally, they muscled my Grandmother enough that she was forced to sell to the city, and that meant selling the horses. Mom couldn't sell Sage, so Gramma made the hard choice; she sold her when my mom was away.

I'm told that Sage was sold to a man for his grandchildren, and she taught them how to ride. Then she was given to his nephew, and taught his children. When it was time to retire her, she lived in their pasture until the end of her days. Losing her broke my mom's heart, and I'm sure it affected Sage as well, but I can't think of a more fitting life for such an amazing horse.

My mom couldn't ride horses again until I bought Maverick. She told me that he was the first horse she loved after losing Sage. When I bought Kachina, she told me that she was Sage reborn -- something I took as a glowing compliment.

I'll have to dig up a picture of Sage and scan it. She really was beautiful, ratty tail and all!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

OT: Calamity Jane

Yesterday, as I was getting gas, a guy came over to me and wanted to demonstrate some "Top Secret" NASCAR cleaning product on my truck. I had a few minutes to kill so I humored him, although I already knew what would come of it.

He sprayed and scrubbed and sprayed and scrubbed, but the spots he labored over looked no different than when he's started. Frustrated, he tried to explain that, probably, it just needs to sit on for a while before it gets scrubbed off, so he tried waiting a few minutes with no improved results.

Finally, unable to watch his frustration and confusion swell any more than it had, I explained to him that, while I was sure the product he was promoting was indeed amazing, my truck has been through mud and dust and gunk and all sorts of nasty environments, it's hauled hay and horses, and probably hasn't been cleaned for, oh, four or five years (save for a rinse at a Solar Car Wash back in November). He was baffled. Poor city creatures know nothing about a ranch truck.

A ranch truck, like its equine and canine counterparts, has been everywhere and done everything. Like a good ranch horse or ranch dog, it can preform the difficult tasks that trucks half its age and twice its cost balk at, takes care of you in situations when it should, by all means, fall apart, and wears the dirt that comes from a good day's work like a badge of pride.

This is my ranch truck: A 1990 Ford F-150 Lariat fondly known as Calamity Jane. Calamity was/is my first vehicle, passed down from my grandmother after she bought her newer F-250 that I've named The Honker (although I think she was always meant to be mine; she was bought on my birthday, after all!). She's been a patient teacher and a reliable partner, even if she drinks gas like there's no tomorrow and drifts a little. One of the best things about her is that she gets instant respect from the other cars on the road; no one wants to tangle with a real truck!

She's in amazing shape for her age. Her rear end is definitely her best side.

This bumper sticker was left over from when my grandmother owned her. It's proven not to be true, since I have helped a few people move. Notice the spiderweb? That's Calamity's second favorite accessory. The first is the little dream catcher that hangs on her rear view mirror.

This sticker was part of a care package P gave me one birthday. Calamity can often be heard blaring Johnny Cash, Willie, or The Highwaymen. But what makes this sticker extra special is the dog Kelli and I co-own, who often rides shotgun in Calamity, named Cash.

Paco Collars do, indeed, rock. They're all handmade, latigo leather, with techniques based largely on horse tack. A little urban, a little western, a bit hipster and punk, you can definitely find something for everyone there. They're the best collars on the market -- I should know, I help make them! (If you go to the website, keep an eye out for the collars named after Cash and Maverick!)

I love to pick my niece up from school with this one! You wouldn't believe all the dirty looks I get from the elementary school moms.

I'm proud to be a gypsy! Some of my favorite clothes and accessories that I own come from The Junk Gypsies. They're a little pricey, but definitely worth it. When I have the extra money (which is rarely), it's my favorite way to spoil myself. Well, that and books. I bought my grandmother a matching sticker for The Honker, so now we look like a little troop when the trucks are parked together.

A little love for Rico. What can I say? I love the little Pistolero!

I got this sticker when I first bought Maverick and transferred him to my name. I always said that I'd put it on my first car, so there it is. I'm since no longer a member; I didn't keep up with my dues. But one day I will be again! (Hopefully I'll get a APHA sticker too one day, jeeze!)

Calamity's newest "tattoo." Kelli bought this for me; she has a matching sticker on her car. Now we also look like a troop when our cars are parked together. I'm going to take over the world with gypsy cowgirls!

My favorite sticker, and probably the one that sums me up the best. No truer statement has ever been said.

Because they do. And, often, they drive them better.

Can you tell I love my horse?

That's Calamity. I have a superstition about naming cars: I feel like, if you give them a good name, they'll take care of you better and longer. I haven't been proven wrong yet.

Maybe I can get P to let me take pictures of Grandaddy ("G.D." for short and, yes, she is a girl -- or as female as a car can be) and Greased Lightning ("G.L." -- he's a boy) to post up, too.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Those of you who have been following Kachina's Twitter probably know that I received Kachina's paperwork back from The Sun on Thursday. I was super excited at the prospect of finally registering Kachina after such a long, up-hill process.

Unfortunately, I called the APHA this afternoon and they said that The Son wasn't authorized to sign any paperwork for the horses; he never bothered to fill out the required paperwork to get authorization, which would require sending in death certificates and such. Seeing as how it's taken nearly five months to get him to put a signature on paper, I don't see any chance of him actually finding a death certificate, filling out the paperwork, calling the APHA and getting registered. I asked the woman what I was supposed to do, seeing as how the original owner was deceased. She told me that there were two owners listed -- the old man, and his wife -- and to her knowledge, the wife was still alive and she told me her name.

So, in a desperate attempt, I Googled the wife's name. After some investigative work that would make Sherlock Holmes proud I found her address and phone number! And, as it lists her husband and son's names too, I'm positive it's the right person. I'll call today after work and see if I can get her to sign the paperwork instead.

Wish me luck! Let's hope she's easier to work with than her son.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lazy Days

As the weather gets warmer, I've been content to just spend the day being lazy with Kachina. I feel a little guilty, since this would be the perfect time to start schooling her, but I also really enjoy just spending time with her without any pressure. Then I realized that I am teaching her; she's learning very subtle, but vital, life skills that only come when we spend this sort of time together.

She isn't head-shy about her ears any longer; in fact, she sort of enjoys having them stroked. She let me braid the bit of mane along her bridlepath, dangerously close to her ears, without a fight, something that would have been unheard of a month ago (although she didn't like me spending too much time there fiddling with my makeshift rubberband). I'm tempted to braid feathers in her mane and really make her look like a little Indian Pony!

Before, she wasn't too sure about my habit of kissing her muzzle, but now she actually puts her face close to mine and asks for kisses. Sometimes she'll even put her face against mine and blow softly, in a sort of horsey kiss of her own.

When I groom or scratch her, she will crane her neck around to lip at my hair, back or hip. At first I was concerned, believing that it was best not to let her get into the habit of mouthing me, least it turn into nipping or biting. But I had to realize that lipping is not nipping; there's absolutely no malice or brattiness in it, and she's incredibly gentle and happy while doing it, with her ears floppy and her eyes soft. So I figured, how hypocritical of me would it be to expect her to stand still and let me groom her when I'm not willing to trust her enough to let her do the same? So now we groom each other, and she's extremely sweet and careful about it, and I try to be as well.

At feeding time, she's learning to be patient and polite when getting her grain. She will walk behind me and throw her head excitedly (and probably in an attempt to hurry me up), but she's starting to get the idea that trying to stick her head in the bucket before I clip it to the fence just means it'll be that much longer until she gets to eat. Then, when it's clipped, she's perfectly willing to let me back her up and stand patiently until I release her. The goal is to have her back up on just vocal command and wait until I say it's ok to eat. Call it the dog trainer in me.

She still does not like the fly spray.

She's learning to pick up all four feet without being haltered and tied, which she's willing to do, but sometimes she loses interest before I'm done and walks off. Ah well, we're making progress! My goal is to get her to stand still without a halter and lead, long enough for me to work with her (i.e., braid her entire mane, brush her down, pick her feet, etc.).

Pretty soon we'll both have to work on the harder, "big horse" things; she'll need to learn how to walk, jog and lope, take off on the right lead, back up, flex at the neck and poll, pivot on her rear and her front, grab dirt when she whoas, rollback, rate a cow, give to the bit, sidepass, work on a loose rein, ground tie, so on and so forth. But there's plenty of time for that. For now, she's learning more important things.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mother's Day

My mother and I have a tradition of making, not buying, gifts for each other on special days. For Christmas last year I gave her a charcoal drawing of Sage, an Appaloosa mare who was my first teacher and babysitter, and with whom my mother had a particularly close, deep, and almost mystical connection with. The year before that, I gave her a handmade plushie of Maverick (my first adventure into sewing which, amazingly, hasn't fallen apart yet).

I've been so busy lately that I haven't had time for any art; the last time I drew anything was last July! So I knew I wanted to draw my mom a picture for Mother's Day, and Kachina was my muse!

It was meant to be just a sketch, but she's so colorful that I couldn't resist messing around with it in Photoshop. Now, after a week, it's finally done! Well..that's not true, I'll probably fiddle around with it between now and Sunday, since I never seem to be satisfied with the completion of a project. But let's call it done anyway!

To anyone who has ever cared for, and loved, another living thing - human, animal or flora - Happy Mother's Day! I hope you get everything you deserve and more!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Birthday Party

Yesterday we threw Kachina an improvised birthday party, complete with a grab bag of birthday goodies that she got to open.

She, of course found the apple first, and made quick work of it (and the apple-flavored receipt that I forgot was in the bag -- oops!).

Then we passed out carrots to Kachina and Fancy. Even Odin joined in the celebration!

The biggest hit were the Oat & Honey bars (Maverick loves these too)!

Finally, I had bought Kachina a Jolly Ball because she loves to paw and mouth at things. But Odin decided that it must be for him, and very happily carried it off.

Ah well, I'll find Kachina a more horse-appropriate gift. Any suggestions?

Despite the gray weather, it was a lot of fun to make a celebration out of Kachina's birthday. P took some great pictures too. I'll post them as soon as I get copies. Here's to many more happy, healthy birthdays together, Kachina!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Special Day

Today is a very special day! No, not Cinco de Mayo; today is Kachina's birthday! Everyone's favorite painted pony is now officially two-years-old and, although she's technically a filly until she's four, to me it's still a big stepping stone for a horse. Now it's time to introduce more of the Big Mare concepts she'll need for the real world. Not to mention that it's extra-special because it's her first birthday that we've spent together. It's just too bad that it's so rainy and ugly out -- not good picture taking weather.

Now the issue is To Start or Not To Start. I'm from the old school teaching of "Start 'em young and easy" -- meaning start a horse around twenty-four to twenty-eight months, but start them very slow and light, with no pressure and no strain.

Of course, there's also the thought that horses shouldn't be started until they're four, five, six-years-old to ensure that their joints and bones are all set and strong. This makes a lot of sense, and I certainly want to ensure that Kachina lives a very long and healthy life. I've been giving her calcium supplements for just this reason.

There's also the fact, however, that she's going to (hopefully) be a performance horse, and as such I need to be sure that she has a fair shot against the competition. That means allowing her the time to learn, train and practice. Most penning horses are started early.

You can bet I've been talking to as many people as possible -- trainers, competitors, veterinarians, old-time-cowboys, English riders and just your average horse person -- to learn about their experiences and get their advice on the subject, and I'll continue to do so. If anyone wants to share they're opinion, I'd love to hear it (just be nice, of course!).

Besides all that, Kachina's growing up big and healthy! I measured her weight Sunday and she's almost 700 lbs! I don't know if that's normal for a two-year-old, but when I first got her she was only about 500 lbs. Way to go Kachina!

Hopefully the light will allow me to take pictures of her, and show off how much she's changed since I first saw her in December. The difference is amazing to me. It's like I came to visit her one morning and she was suddenly a horse!

Hmm..what to get her for her birthday?