Only One Sails

We buried a horse today.

Not a random knot head. But a favorite horse. A part of the family. So, my world changed today with his passing.

My folks bought Sails five years ago, thinking he would make a good heeling prospect for my older boys. Sylvis didn’t really get along with Sails, because Sylvis was too impatient. Sails bucked him off during their first ride.

Cyris did some heeling with the horse, and really liked him. But he seemed tentative to get into the steer on the turn. We came to the conclusion that at some point in his life, he had had a bad wreck. So, Cy switched ends and started heading. That worked out much better. He tried to start him on calf roping, but he just didn’t like the rope in his face. Again, I think he had been in a roping wreck.

Sails was a big, deep gelding, with plenty of power to turn a steer. At first glance, there really wasn’t anything special about this horse. He was a red roan, with tri color mane and an expressive face. He was a gorgeous specimen. But physicality doesn’t determine more than beauty to me. It doesn’t factor into my criteria for becoming a favorite horse.

Those go beyond what is visible. And he had plenty of those traits.

He was a gentle creature, never at the top of the pecking order. Usually at the bottom. He didn’t stand up for himself. But in the last year, he started defending his favorite pen-mate, Whiskey. He and she were buddies. Inseparable. In fact, he was a hit with all the ladies. I think it was because he was so mellow. But he did get protective of his little harem and didn’t want the other geldings around the girls.

Sails had heart. Before my folks bought him, he had several owners, most only for a few months. I never could figure out why so many people gave up on him so quickly. When he got to our family, he was underweight by about a hundred pounds. And he had a defeated look to his eyes, almost as if he expected to be shuttled somewhere else in a few weeks. Within a few months, he had gained what he needed, and then some, thanks to my dad. And he was perkier. The whole time we had him, he gave his all any time we asked him to do something. About three years ago, he ended up with an abscessed tooth, which had to be removed surgically. It took about a year for him to recover.

Sails was a big chicken. That may seem odd to count that as a reason to make a horse a favorite, but for such a big guy, he was scared of everything. And then, after he spooked, he seemed to laugh at himself for being so silly.

I loved riding this horse. I felt safe on top of him. And was he smooth. His trot barely moved you in the saddle. And his lope was like a rocking horse. He was the one I took to my breakaway clinic in March. You could run reining patterns on him, chase cattle, or rope. Garris was getting him ready for reined cow horse events for this fall. Their last lesson was awesome, and Garris is now questioning if he wants to pursue that event without Sails.

You might be wondering what caused his death. A belly ache. That’s a simplistic answer, but it’s true. Saturday afternoon, I noticed him lying down, getting up, and kicking at his belly. I watched him for a little while, then gave him some Prevail (banamine). I waited an hour, and he went back to eating. So, I figured it was just some gas and didn’t worry about it. I put him in his stall that night, because it was supposed to rain. Then next morning, his stall was devoid of any fresh manure. And he had pawed a trench in front of the door.

Sunday morning, eight a.m., I called the vet clinic, knowing I would get the machine. I left my message, set my time for half an hour, and waited. And watched my horse.

If my vet didn’t call within thirty minutes, I’d call his cell phone. Having that number is something I appreciate, so I don’t abuse it. I have only called him on his cell once before, for a cut-foot emergency. Just as I was dialing, he called. I explained the situation, and he said he’d be right out.

He did a rectal exam and found him severely impacted. His turds were terribly dry. But he had gut sounds. So, he tubed the horse with water then oil then more water, all he could tolerate. But there was an obstruction somewhere. He did what he could, offered medicine with strict instructions, and basically told me if he didn’t get unbound by the morning the only option was surgery. To the tune of about $12,000.

Now, I loved this horse. But I can’t justify spending $12, 000 on a surgery that MIGHT relieve the problem. There is only about a 60 percent chance of it working, and whether your horse survives the surgery or not, you still pay the fee. And there is no guarantee that the surgery will return a horse to its previous level of performance.

So, I followed the instructions. I medicated him as directed. I offered him water every time I went the barn – every two hours all night. And I prayed for a bowel movement. I never thought I’d ever want to smell or see fresh horse turds. But in those hours, I would have wept to see him lift his tail and push out some poo.

It didn’t happen. At five a.m., he was standing up, his head alert and he drank. I was so sure he was turning the corner. When we went out an hour later, he was stretched out and groaning. I gave him the last dose of xylzine and ace, then I texted the vet. I wanted to chat with him before he got to the clinic. In my heart, I knew what needed to be done, but I wasn’t ready to actual say it.

He came out within the hour.

The harder phone call was to my parents. I hadn’t mentioned the belly ache, because I was sure he was going to survive it. They didn’t make it over in time to say goodbye to Sails. It took them about two hours to get to my house, about a half hour after the vet had already left.

We won’t know what actually caused Sails’ death. It could have been a twisted gut from something as simple as rolling in the dirt to get flies off his back. It could have been a fatty tumor on his intestines that caused a bowl to form, making it hard, then impossible, to move grass and hay through. It could have been something else, like a cancer. Or he could have swallowed a piece of twine from the pasture.

No, I don’t throw my twine on the ground. But previous owners did. Not just the big orange kind, but the tiny little strings from round bales. We are forever picking them up, but they are embedded in the ground. It would be easy for a horse to eat some strands of that and have it bind everything up.

All we know is that he couldn’t move his bowel. Ultimately bacteria built up and started leaking into his gut. He wasn’t bloated yet, but it was a matter of time. The craziest part of this whole thing was that he had gurgling gut sounds even this morning. Nothing about this presented as it should have.

I asked the vet if I should have called him Saturday night. He told me, based on what I explained, that he wouldn’t have come out. It sound like a generic case of colic that resolved itself.

I stayed hopeful until this morning, when I looked into Sails’ eyes. He was fading away. He was grinding his teeth, a sign of pain, and his back legs were twitching. His body was breaking down. He was giving up. It was time for me to let him go with as much dignity as we could allow him. Any faithful companion deserves that much.

So, Garris and I hugged each other as we nodded for the vet to give Sails some pain medication. We needed to get him out of the barn and to the big pasture, if possible. It was asking a tremendous task of this horse. But he did it. Did I mention this horse had heart? He walked himself to his final resting place. He chose where to stop once we got to the pasture, because he wanted a few bites of grass. Even in his last moments, he gave us a laugh. And the vet allowed Sails a few minutes to munch. He explained what would happen, and he asked if we were ready.

I nodded, of course, but I wasn’t ready. I had said my goodbyes to Sails before the vet arrived, because I knew. But it wasn’t enough. I kissed his forehead, told him he was a good boy and that I loved him. And I told him it was okay. Garris hugged him, said goodbye, then we stepped back and hung onto each other.

 

Putting down a horse is not an easy task. You have a thousand pound animal who is in pain and dying. You have to get that animal from standing to lying. It isn’t gentle. It isn’t graceful. Frankly, it’s a shocking and awful thing to have to witness. In fact, it’s heart wrenching. I’ve watched it before, and I really didn’t want to this time. But Garris needed to. It was part of his process of saying goodbye. So, I watched the vet give the first shot, which dropped Sails to the ground with a thud. I watched as he gave the second shot, to ultimately end the life of this beautiful animal that I loved so deeply.

I had hoped he would just lie down in the grass so that it wouldn’t be scary or traumatic for him. Sails was already dying. His gums were turning black. He hadn’t drank in hours. And he hadn’t passed any bowel for over a day. Something was fatally wrong. Short of an ungodly expensive surgery, he was out of options. But I think he knew we were trying to help him. He seemed resigned to his fate and didn’t fight anything. I only hope he didn’t have any fear when the shot hit his system.

I held Garris and let him cry. I told him that it was okay. That Sails was okay. We heard the sucking sound that horses make when they are releasing the last air in their lungs. An awful sound that you never want to hear. I told Garris it was okay. It was normal. I told him when the sound stopped that Sails wasn’t in pain any longer. And he had been in pain for two days.

When I looked at my Sails, he was dead. His eyes were still open, staring vacant into the sun. His big body was still, only his mane moving with the wind. I told him again that I was sorry and I would miss him. And then my stomach lurched, and I threw up. Wretched. I couldn’t believe he had to die.

Then I called Joe, who has a back hoe, and asked if he could bury my horse. Luckily, on this day, he was able to come right over. Within an hour and a half, Sails was beneath the ground. He was at peace.

Garris piled some big rocks on top of his grave and is planning on etching a stone for him. I’m so thankful Sails was able to walk far enough that we could bury him in the pasture, within sight of the house and the arena. It feels like he’s still with us this way. Some might think that morbid, but this way he’s close enough for me to walk out and sit and talk to him when I’m feeling lonely for him.

I couldn’t watch the actual burial. Garris needed to. But I just couldn’t. So, my dad and I sat on the front step and just talked until it was done.

I’ve cried all day. I can’t stop. This is the part that sucks about loving your animals. When you have to let them go, it tears out a part of your heart. In time, it will get easier. The numbing pain in my chest will get better. The hole in the corrals will start to feel normal. And I’ll start riding someone else.

But for now, I’m allowing myself, and Garris, to wallow a bit in our grief.

He didn’t want to do anything today. But I gentle forced him to ride the two young ones. Remy is two and bucked me off last week. Hard. So, she needed another ride. And Cougar is four.

Garris fought me a bit, but once he was horseback on Remy, I watched his mood lighten. He had a good ride on her, and on Cougar. And it was good for both of us to get out of the house. It was a gloomy day, to suit our moods. And it’s finally raining.

I didn’t force too many tasks or chores today. Frankly, I didn’t feel like doing anything either. Tomorrow, life will have to return to some form of normal.

Even the horses know something isn’t right. Earlier, when Sails was lying down, two of the mares refused to come into the barn. And Whiskey is looking for him. She actually looks sad. Some people say that animals don’t feel but I disagree. She is looking for her friend. Tonight, when I went out to check everybody, Peppy sniffed my coat. Then she kept sniffing it, licking it gently, then rubbed her lips on it. I realized that I was wearing that coat earlier in the day with Sails. I’m sure she could smell him on the jacket. And then the tears started all over again.

As I turn out the lights in the house tonight, a type of peace settles over my thoughts. Although I hate the outcome of the day, I know Sails couldn’t have lasted on his own for more than a few hours. Those hours would have been brutally painful for him as his body shut down and he struggled to breathe. As it was, with pain meds, his stomach muscles twitched. His legs moved. It was agony watching him.

I will always wonder if I made the right decision to forego surgery. I will always wonder if I should have called on Saturday. I will always wonder exactly what caused this in a vital and healthy horse.

But Sails knew we loved him. The last five years, he had a home, not just a temporary living arrangement. I made sure to brush him and comb out that gorgeous tail and mane before the vet arrived. And we kept part of his tail, to put with a picture of him. I took pictures of him. We told him how handsome he was. And how much we were going to miss him. I hope he took some comfort in our actions.

The corrals are little less colorful tonight. They are a little less quirky. And a lot less Sails. After all, there’s only one of him, and the world is a little less without him in it.

 

My Bucking Horse

I got bucked off today. Hard. The two year old I was riding didn’t appreciate having to work BEFORE breakfast. She let me know just how hard and efficiently she can buck.

Normally, she is a doll. I’ve been riding her for several weeks. And sometimes I forget that she’s young and green. Today, she reminded me.

I wanted to ride before the heat settled in like it’s been doing in the afternoons. So, I climbed on the first horse shortly after eight. He did fine. And the two year old, Remy, watched from the fence. She seemed calm where she was tied, waiting for her turn.

I could tell she wanted to go to the grass, so I just kept trotting her until her head dropped and I felt her body relax. When I asked her for a lope, she kicked up a bit, but that didn’t worry me. I got after her, and boy did she bury her head. The jumps got bigger and stronger.

I stayed on for about six jumps, but by the time the reins were out of my hands, I was way out of the saddle. I hit my tail bone on the horn twice. My legs are covered in bruises and welts from slamming against the saddle, which happens to be my dad’s old saddle, from about 1960.

My biggest worry was getting kicked by her on my way down. I landed face first, wrenching my back and shoulders, and I think I hit my head. I’m still spitting sand out of my mouth, 12 hours later.

When I caught my breath, I looked at the corner of the arena, and Remy was calmly eating grass. She got what she wanted, so she was happy. I wasn’t.

I crawled over to my hat, picked it up, then slowly stood up. My hands shook. My legs screamed. And my pride was gone. Not to mention, my courage. When I thought about it, I realized that had I gotten severely hurt, no one would have looked for me until Sunday, when Garris gets back to my house. I could have laid in that arena for days and no one would have known.

The last time I got dumped by a horse was several years ago, a few months after back surgery. Cy’s calf horse decided to test me, and I ended up breaking a couple of ribs. It was a couple of years before I climbed back on a horse after that one.

Today, I’m more disappointed than mad. I’ve been working toward a goal: trying to get myself ready to compete in breakaway next summer. This feels like a sign that I need to step aside. Quit riding the horses and just be happy being mom.

I’m not sure I want to ride by myself anymore. And I won’t be riding the young horses. I’ll leave them for the boys to deal with. I may even get a couple ready to sell.

It was a long, slow walk to the corner of the arena. I grabbed Remy’s reins, gave her a couple of good smacks with the ends, then walked back to Fritz. I didn’t try to get back on. I could barely walk. Did I mention I think I broke my thumb? Even if I could have gotten back in that saddle, I’m afraid if she had bucked again, I would have gotten hurt.

I texted Garris and Cyris and let them know. Then I tied Remy up, saddled, inside the barn. She stood there the rest of the day. She didn’t get turned out when the other horses did. She went without food all day, and I turned her into a pen about four o’clock so she could drink.

As the day has gone on, my body has stiffened up and ached more each hour. The bruises on my legs are getting more purple and bigger. The welts are turning into hard lumps.

I am thankful that all I have are some bumps and bruises. But now my confidence with the horses is gone again. I had been building it up all summer. I felt good on Remy, and the other horses. I felt like some of the old ‘me’ was returning. Now, I’m ready to accept being a spectator.

 

Brotherly Love

Garris spent last week in Dillon with Cyris and Regan. Cy called a few weeks ago and asked if Garris could spend some time with them. He wanted to show Garris some of the things he’s learned and experienced while living over there: doctoring cows in the Big Hole, riding colts, floating the river. Basically, he wanted to give Garris a few days of what life might be like in a few years for him.

So, we made arrangements. Cy and Regan picked up Garris on their way home from Manhattan. Garris checked in with me every couple of days. I cut him some slack. He’s normally supposed to call me every night, but a few nights were late ones, without cell service. When he did call, he sounded happy and excited.

He did some different kinds of riding than he normally does. He rides horses almost every day, but mostly in an arena, keeping his horses in shape for either roping events or reined cow horse. The riding he did with Cy had a different purpose. They rode their horses to get someplace. Or to train young ones.

Of course, they did some roping too. In fact, the first day Garris was over there, the two of them went to a local jackpot. Garris ended up winning his #5 roping and had the fast time of the day. He bought dinner that night!

As a mom, I was so happy that Cy extended the invitation. There is such a big age difference between Garris and his brothers (6 and 8 years), that for most of his childhood, he was just the annoying little brother. He tried to tag along with his brothers, and they tried to get away from him. His brothers had other friends and were able to do things he couldn’t, and that frustrated Garris. I always thought we should have had one more child, so that Garris had a sibling close in age to him. I think that he would have been a more content child. But I couldn’t talk my ex into my logic.

Now that Garris had turned 16, he’s definitely entering the ‘young man’ phase of his life. Cyris is 22. They have more in common now than they did when Cy was living at home. Both of them enjoy horses, roping, and hunting. They have similar goals in life. Similar senses of humor. And similar social skills.

It doesn’t hurt that Garris looks up to Cy. He minds his brother better than he does me.

When I drove over on Sunday to pick Garris up, Cy told me it had been a good week. He said that Garris had been quiet, almost silent for a lot of the week. I couldn’t tell if he was joking or serious. Normally, Garris can’t be quiet to save his soul. But Cy said he was a big help to him riding horses. And doctoring cows. Regan told me it was nice to have someone around who pitched in on chores. Without asking. If only I could get him to do that at home!

By the end of the week, Cyris told Garris that if he decided to go to Dillon for college, he’d be welcome to live with them. He’d have a place for his horses and a safe place to live. That makes a mom’s heart burst.

Just yesterday, Garris told me that he and Cy had a lot of talks while he was over there. Just hanging out kind of talks. About college. About rodeo. About life in general. And I’m sure they talked about things that neither one of them is going to tell his mother. That’s okay. I’m happy just knowing that as brothers, they are both maturing to a level that they like being around each other. Cy actually wanted Garris to stay longer, but it just didn’t work right now for that to happen.

Garris starts high school rodeos next weekend, so his practicing has to step up a bit this week. Plus, I’ve only got him another full week before school starts. My list of summer to-do’s barely has a dent in it. Maybe next summer he can spend a little more time with his brother, depending on what he’s got going on in terms of a job.

Yesterday, I had to go to Bozeman for a doctor’s appointment. I asked Sylvis ahead of time if he’d like to take Garris out to lunch. My treat. He said sure, so we found his new apartment, I left them with some money, and crossed my fingers they wouldn’t kill each other.

Sylvis hasn’t had the greatest amount of patience with either of his brothers, but especially with Garris. Part of that is the age difference. Eight years is a lot of time to forge a sibling bond. Part of that is their personalities. Sylvis is a perfectionist. Always has been. He wants things his way and gets very upset if other people do things differently or skirt the rules. Garris is more laid back. He gets by with what he has to do and tries to avoid perfection in most things. Neither way is better than the other, but it’s tough to find middle ground.

For a lot of years, Sylvis was very tough on his brother. When he helped Garris practice his roping, Sylvis was militant about form and style. When he had an opportunity, Sylvis would take cheap shots at Garris about anything and everything: clothes, jokes, weight. It got to a point where Garris really didn’t want to be around Sylvis because of the way he treated him.

Yesterday, however, was a different situation. I was gone for about two hours. And when I picked Garris up, both brothers were kidding around. They were smiling and laughing. Garris told me on the way home that he had fun. They had gone to a Japanese restaurant that Sylvis likes. Then they drove around Bozeman, with Sylvis showing Garris some places he likes to go. And Garris said that Sylvis was trying to just be a brother.

So, this mom is feeling very good about where each of her boys are, and how they are interacting with each other. They may never be best friends. I know they won’t always see eye-to-eye or get along. But at least they are each trying to move past child hood pettiness and jealousies. Because Garris has grown up and matured over this past year, each of his brothers is starting to see him as a person and not a pest.

That can only bring good things for these three brothers.

 

 

Remy the reined cow horse

 

This past weekend, Garris showed our new two year old, Remy, in a reined cow horse show in Townsend. He has been riding her almost every day for about three weeks, and she’s been doing awesome. She’s so chill and willing to do whatever is asked of her.

He’s been chasing the calf dummy on her – at a lope. She hasn’t quite figured out when she needs to stop after he throws, but she’s tracking it well and isn’t afraid of the four wheeler. The one thing I had to say ‘no’ to was when he dallied up. I explained to him that we are taking things really slowly with Remy. She’s only two and she’s still growing. I don’t want to damage her legs by pushing her too fast too quickly. So, for now, he only gets to do breakaway. By next summer, maybe he can begin the process of training her for tie down.

A lot of what he’s been doing is just loping lots of circles on her, getting her comfortable at different speeds. At first, he just let her run as fast as she wanted. Then, the week he was gone, I rode her. She was like a runaway train. She charged into the corners without any control. So, we had to have a talk about speed and gait control, especially with young horses. After an initial pout on his end, he accepted my advice, and now she’s a treat to ride.

She stops well, especially for a two year old. She collects her back end and tucks up under herself. She backs up nicely. And he’s been doing all sorts of obstacles and different maneuvers with her: sidepassing over a log, forehand turns in a small box of logs, pulling a log with a rope, draping a slicker over her head and shoulders, and opening a gate.

By the time she’s four, she is going to be absolutely amazing.

But back to the show. We weren’t sure if we were going to haul her over to Townsend. Right now, I am still waiting on my trailer, which won’t be here until the end of August. We had two otpoins: a 1964 Krabo two horse trailer or a 1978 WW steel stock trailer. The two horse is a great little trailer, but most horses won’t step into it, unless they’ve been used to small trailers. We got Remy in it once, but the morning of the show, she refused.

I asked Garris how badly he wanted to go. If we were going, we would have to take the stock trailer. Now, I don’t have an issue with stock trailers. This particular one was the trailer my folks pulled when I was growing up. But at the moment, it has no jack and the coupler is held together with a steel pin. We have to jack it up using a car jack. I didn’t really want to use; I don’t think it’s safe in its current condition. (I have parts ordered and someone to work on it, but I’m still waiting.)

Garris said he wanted to show her, so it took us about a half hour to get the trailer hooked up to the pickup and everything transferred from the two horse to the stock trailer. Remy loaded right up, and we were off. Garris drove the whole way to Townsend and did a great job.

Once there, I got him entered, he warmed up Remy, and we watched while my folks showed in their classes. The two year old class was one of the last classes, and there was one other horse entered, shown by a professional trainer.

About five minutes before he had to go in, Garris was told he had to box a cow. Up until then, we thought he only had to track one. He wasn’t worried, but he hadn’t worked any cows on her.

In the RMBA club, each class consists of a reining pattern, trail work, and cow work. Each part is judged and the person with the most points at the end is the winner for that day.

Garris ran a good pattern. Remy didn’t lead into the arena well or pick up her feet very well, so that cost him points in trail. But every other obstacles was outstanding. The cow work turned out decent. For never having worked a cow on her, Garris took her through those few turns like a pro.

For those who don’t know, boxing a cow means taking it across the short ends of the arena, turning it at the corners, under control. It’s the simplest task in reined cow horse and is reserved for young horses, green horses, and novice riders. Basically, for anyone who is learning how to do the event.

At the end of the day, the trainer had more points – but only three. They had the same score on the cow work. The other horse beat Remy on the lead in and with his feet.

Sunday, Remy was the only horse in the class, and she improved overnight in all three areas.

Garris was very pleased with how they did and is even more excited about competing in reined cow horse events this fall. He wants to get Remy into some lessons with his favorite trainer, Tye McDonald.

He won’t be using Remy for high school events, because the kids have to box a cow, run them down the long end of the arena, and circle them both directions. Remy’s not mature enough for all that. But Garris has a couple of options of horses he can use.

For a spur of the moment decision to compete, the team did very well indeed.

 

Check out some of the videos from the show

 

Happy Birthday America!

On July Fourth, we celebrated the birth of this country with a family cook out. Garris was with me this year for the Fourth, and even though it fell on a Wednesday, he wanted to celebrate the day on the actual holiday, not on one of the weekends. Like he said, it just isn’t the same. He and I spent several days getting things ready.

He ran the weed eater, cutting down grass and weeds, and making a nice spot for the fire pit and lawn chairs. He picked up dog poop. We moved tables and chairs from the barn to the fire. We cut down tree branches.

And I spent a good day in the kitchen, making potato salad, devilled eggs (a must whenever Cy comes for a meal), baked beans, and fruit salad. I even made ‘weaved’ bacon so we could try a new s’more recipe, using those bacon weaves instead of graham crackers. I baked cookies.

Thankfully all three of my boys were able to make it. Cy and Syl both arrived at the same time. When Cy and Regan drove in, the Lee Greenwood song, ‘God Bless the U.S.A.’ was blaring from the radio. They made quite the appropriate entrance. My folks drove over. Regan’s folks drove over. And Colleen and Johne made it. In all, we had about a dozen people chilling around the fire.

Garris had chosen his outfit with great care. He had on an American flag-themed tank top, with a short sleeved button shirt, also adorned with flags. We had found a pair of red, white, and blue flag swimming trunks and he had a flag bandana wrapped around this camo bucket hat. No one could claim he was anything but patriotic.

We had hoped to get his pool up by the cookout, but with his still-healing wrist, we just weren’t able to get it out of the barn in time.

Once the fire was ready, folks started roasting hot dogs and sausages. The smell of searing meat filled the air. And the sound of easy conversation and laughter completed the dinner. Everyone loaded up on their favorite foods. Helped themselves to drinks – both adult and kid friendly. It was an easy way to get us all together.

As we sat in the late afternoon sunshine, I felt a peace wash over me. A thankfulness about the life I am so fortunate to live. Not only do I have a beautiful home, with stunning views of the Tobacco Root mountains, but I am free.

Sure, I complain about taxes and about the less-than-perfect situation of the world. But I can do pretty much anything I want with my life.

And I don’t know anywhere else in this world where that statement is true.

While many Americans look at this day as an excuse to miss work, or to have an extended weekend, or to over drink, I have made a point with my kids to stress the reason for this day. We celebrate our independence, and the sacrifices made by men a couple hundred years ago to ensure that independence.

Some years, we spend this day at a rodeo, another tradition in my part of the world. It’s considered ‘cowboy Christmas’ during this first part of July, where rodeo cowboys can win a considerable amount of money, due to the sheer number of rodeos available to enter. But, I have always preferred staying home on the Fourth. We avoid the crazy drunken drivers. We avoid the over-zealous crowds. And it’s just a way to reconnect with everyone, especially since my older boys are no longer at home.

We weren’t able to shoot any fireworks last night; too much wind. And since everyone left by nine o’clock, Garris didn’t want to do the fireworks with just the two of us. Can’t say that hurt my feelings any. I always get a bit nervous shooting exploding, flammable things off. I worry about unintended sparks starting a fire. And after last year’s lightning strike, I was more than happy to forego the fireworks this year.

One of the best parts of the evening was seeing all three of the boys goofing off together. They were having a roping contest in the barn, and I think that’s the first time in about four years Sylvis has picked up a rope. Then, Cy pulled Sylvis around in a big feeding sled, while Sylvis tried to ‘surf’. Of course, he flew out of the sled on a turn and scraped up his arm on the gravel. That’s when the game ended.

And, of course, the three of them had to wrestle, with the two older boys picking on Garris. But now, size wise, Garris can pretty much hold his own.

I hated to see the evening end, but it had to. I was just grateful for the time spent with everyone and for the opportunity to host the cookout. And for my annual gratitude prayer to the powers that be for seeing fit to place me in this gracious country. Despite the political climate and turmoil currently boiling in our nation, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.

Every year, when I listen to a patriotic song list and get a refresher course in the history of our nation, and our flag, I tear up. I think about so many generations of men dying for their right to independence. Dying for a new country’s birth. Dying so that future Americans could live free.

For me, the Fourth of July isn’t about fireworks or partying. It isn’t about snagging an extra day off work. This day is about remembering where this nation started and the sacrifices freely given to ensure this nation would survive. It’s about the promise of a country where everyone is created equal and everyone has the same opportunities to achieve their dreams.

And I am proud to be an American. For one day, there was no talk of politics. There was no debate over hot-button issues currently happening. There was no conflict between any of us. We simply enjoyed a beautiful day together, celebrating the fact that we all could.

Happy Fourth of July 2018!

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Cookout chat with Dad and Johne
Cookout
Cookout

 

Check out a few more pictures of the party prep at Twitter: @jodiicenoggle

 

All Dogs Go To The Neighbors

I recently had to stop at a neighbor’s house and talk to him about his dogs.

Now, understand, I love dogs. I have four of them: a border collie, a Saint Bernard, an American Staffordshire terrier (small pit bull), and Garris’ beagle. Yes, it’s an eclectic pack of canines, but they are each part of my family.

When I bought this place, we only had the beagle. He has a habit of running off when he has the chance. And, being a hound, his nose gets him in trouble. Before we had a pen for him, he would escape. I could tell when he was going to run. I’d let him outside to do his business, and he’d turn around and give me this look. Then, his little legs would start churning and a god-awful mix of howling and baying would come out of his throat.

No matter how hard or how long we called, he would be gone for hours. More than once, I figured he was dead: hit by a car or shot by someone. But so far, he has always gotten home. About a year ago, I started a new rule. Any time Cody has to go outside, he has to be on a cable. He can’t be in the pen with Brees, our Saint, because she beats him up. There is just something about him that sets her off. Twice, I thought she was going to kill him.

But I digress.

The day we started moving into this house, late 2014, an older black lab dog showed up at the back door, wagging her tail and acting like she belonged there. She didn’t have any tags. And she really wasn’t causing any problems. But I didn’t need someone’s dog around. So, I shooed her away and watched her waddle to the nearest neighbor to the north.

Day after day, she showed up. And day after day, we ran her home. Then her visits started becoming more sporadic, and I figured the neighbor finally clued in on the fact that his dog was becoming a pain.

Then, about a year ago, a second dog started showing up. Every morning. A black and white mix would be running through our pasture, or into our barn, or through the horse pens. Once, I even saw him clear over at our arena.

So many times, I started to call the neighbors about the dogs. But I didn’t want to cause a stink. I tried very hard to be neighborly. Until about two weeks ago.

Every morning, there is fresh dog poop at the door to my Quonset barn. I either have to step around the fresh pile of poo or scoop it up and get rid of it. Did I mention we already have four dogs? Have you cleaned up after four dogs, one being a large Saint Bernard?

The other day, I had had enough. In one week, the male dog had come into my barn, chasing my cats; he had gone into the grain room and pilfered a bag of treats, which he ate and left the bag outside the barn; he was in the horse pens. Again.

The same day, the old black dog was back at the house, doing her evacuations at my front door.

I had to go to town that day, so I stopped at the neighbor’s house on my way. He met me at the driveway. I’m guessing he heard me yelling at his dogs earlier, and he definitely was on the defensive.

But I smiled and kept the opening friendly. I told him I needed to talk about his dogs. I asked, “Were you aware that your dogs at my house all the time?”

He fired back with, “Were you aware that Garris throws rocks at my horse?”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed. The horse he was speaking about is an old horse that was given to them by some friends. He’s very friendly and hangs out over the fence with our horses. In fact, when our horses go to the pasture to eat, this white horse cries and runs his pasture because he’s so lonely. Both Garris and I sneak him horse treats. And Garris even thought we should give him hay during the winter. I didn’t go that far, but my point is that Garris has always liked the horse and been concerned that he isn’t cared for very well.

I know my son is not perfect. But the idea of him throwing rocks at a horse just didn’t jive with who he is. He is a rodeo kid. His horses are his partners. And besides, there was no reason for him to throw rocks at this old horse.

But, after I regained my composure, I told the neighbor that I would talk to Garris. And if he did, indeed, throw rocks, I would put a stop to it. He told me he had video of the rock throwing and that his sons had both seen Garris doing that. I did tell him it didn’t sound like something Garris would do, but I said again I’d ask him and talk to him about it.

He then accused us of dumping things over the fence. Things like tin and fencing supplies and twine. He said he took pictures every time he had to ‘clean up our messes’. I reminded him that those things were on his property when we bought the place – three and a half years ago. I thought at the time, who would put a horse out in a pasture with rebar and tin and all sorts of garbage lying around. My horses would cut their feet in a heartbeat. And the ‘piles’ of garbage have sat on his property the entire time we’ve lived here. I probably have pictures of the garbage in the background of shots of the horses.

I don’t dump anything on my neighbors’ properties. And I get after my boys for leaving twine on the ground. We always hang up the twine we cut in the barn. And the weekend before I stopped, Garris and I had spent an entire afternoon picking up twine in one pasture that the previous renters had left. I always worry about horses eating bits of twine and getting an obstruction in their colons.And every month, something else pops up from under the ground. Something that we didn’t throw there. And I’m sure that’s what is happening at the neighbors: things are making their way up from the ground. Things that have been buried for possibly years. But it’s easier to blame someone else, especially if your dogs are being naughty and you want to shift the focus onto something else.

But I re-directed our conversation back to his dogs. I told him that his dogs were at my house, in my barn, and in with my animals. I told him that some of my horses were very expensive, letting him come to the conclusion that if his dogs caused any injury or death, he’d be shelling out a huge pile of money. Anyone who has ever bought a performance or rodeo horse knows just how much money goes into their training, feed, transportation, let alone the initial purchase price.

I asked him, nicely, to please keep his dogs at home.

Of course, he claimed that his dogs never left the place, ‘unless they’re chasing cats’. When I told him that they chased cats inside my barn, he just shrugged. And he claimed that the male dog ‘always’ went with him. And he asked me specifically when the dogs were at my place.

When I told him around ten o’clock that morning, he blamed his kids for not keeping an eye on the dogs. I really don’t care whose ‘fault’ it is that the dogs are wandering to my place. I just don’t want them there. I should explain that I have about 30 acres. He must have around 20 – plenty of room for his dogs to stay on his property.

He also said his dogs ‘would never chase horses’. Well, if they chase cats, they’ll chase horses. And once dogs start, it’s almost impossible to get them to stop chasing other animals. And I will not sit back and allow anyone’s dogs to run my horses around their pens or through the fence.

Then, he went into a ramble about how he and his wife had just divorced and how he was struggling. For a half hour, I listened to him tell me WAY more information about his life than I ever needed to know.

He promised he’d keep his dogs home, and I left. I honestly felt good about the stop. I hate confrontation and was dreading having to talk about the dogs. But I felt once he got his hackles smoothed back down, that it was a productive talk.

Four days later, both dogs were back at my place. The female was doing her duties. The male chased cats directly in front of me and into my barn. I picked up the biggest rock I could find and pelted him with it, yelling at him to get.

Now, I’m marking down on the calendar every time I see his dogs on my place. And I told Garris to start taking pictures if he sees them here.

I really don’t want a neighbor battle over this, but I really am tired of his apathetic attitude about his dogs. Too many people move out of town, buy a few acres, and then think everyone’s property is part of their dogs’ right to roam.

I don’t allow my dogs to run. I had a dog pen built the summer after I bought this house. By that time, we had the border collie and the beagle, and they needed to be outside. I spent money, hired a fencing company to put up a secure pen, and I have kept my dogs at home. (With the exception of our wayward beagle.) But the difference is, I don’t knowingly allow him to run free. And when he does escape, he gets his little hiney beat when he comes home.

Once, last summer, Brees and Hooey broke the chain on the dog pen gate. They got out while I was gone, but were in my field when I pulled in. As soon as they saw the truck, they ran to me. We fixed the gate, and they have not been out since.

One of the neighbor’s arguments was that my dogs were over at his house all the time. LIE. If Brees ever got out when his dogs were at my place, he would have dead dogs. She is very protective of her property and her people. Hooey goes out with me for chores, but he doesn’t leave my side. And Stella, the pit bull, doesn’t stray more than a few feet from the patio. (Her eyesight is compromised so she sticks close to her safety zone.)

I am done being neighborly about dogs. We are putting extra wire up along the fence this weekend, filling in the holes that his dogs keep sneaking through. And I’m contemplating getting a camera for the barn. But I know the next time I see his dogs in my horse pens, the sheriff will get a phone call. I’ve given the neighbor fair warning. I’ve been accommodating. I’ve been more than fair about this situation. When it comes to protecting my animals, I will be ruthless.

I do understand that dogs can get out. They can run off. They can get distracted. Like Cody. And if his dogs’ visits were simply occasional mistakes, I wouldn’t have said anything. But they are at my house on a daily basis. I’m within my rights to expect him to keep his dogs on his property.

There is a nuisance law in Montana that, in a nutshell, gives property and livestock owners the right to defend against nuisance dogs. Dogs that chase, harass, worry, or injure livestock can be killed by the livestock owner.

Now, I’m not a violent person. I have a gun, but I rarely shoot. I don’t like inflicting pain on anyone else – person or animal. But I will defend my horses against a nuisance dog. If I don’t, then who will? Most of my horses don’t like dogs and will strike at them. If they connect, my guess is that dog would end up dead.

And who knows? Maybe Brees will suddenly find her way outside the pen the next time one or both of these dogs visit. She might take care of the situation for me. Either those dogs will finally learn to stay home, or they might never make it home again.

 

Floating Bone Fix

A week ago, Garris had wrist surgery. He had been complaining of wrist pain for about six months. When he had an MRI done, the film showed a floating bone in his wrist, at the ulnar styloid process. The big knobby bump on the outside of your wrist.

When he was in third grade, he broke that wrist during wrestling. They set it, and we forgot about it. Either the bone didn’t ever heal properly, or he re-injured the bone somehow. Let me think – he’s constantly flying off his horse, getting clotheslined by calves and goats, getting bucked off, etc., etc., etc. Mom votes for re-injury.

He had this MRI visit in April, and the surgeon was ready to schedule the procedure to remove the bone. Garris told him he couldn’t do surgery until after the rodeo season was finished. I’m not sure what the doctor thought about the response, but it didn’t surprise me. So, he toughed it out for another month and a half, until his state rodeo was done.

The next week, he was in surgery.

Now, our situation is a little complicated, because of the divorce. Garris is on his dad’s health insurance, but he has his own card. Since the surgery was scheduled during my week with Garris, I took him to the appointment, but his dad insisted on being there too. In fact, he told me I really wasn’t ‘invited’ to be there. You can imagine how well that went over. I will go to my son’s doctor’s appointments, especially when they fall during my weeks with him.

His check in time was 1:15, so we went to Bozeman early to do some grocery shopping. He couldn’t eat before the procedure, so we checked in early, hoping they might get him in a little early. Surprisingly, it worked. They took him back to his little cubby, had him put on his gown, and they took all his vitals. The anesthesiologist came in to talk with us.

When she pulled back the curtain, she looked at Garris, then at me and said, “Wow! A bit of a family resemblance.”  Both he and his oldest brother look a lot like me, especially with the red hair.

She explained everything very well, answered our questions, then we were left alone to wait.

After a few minutes, his dad came through the curtain, complaining that we had checked in early. To be honest, I didn’t think he was coming to the surgery. It was an outpatient procedure, done at the surgery center. It was a low-key, non emergency situation. So, it really wasn’t imperative that we both be present. I had already signed the check in papers. And since Garris was going to be with me for the first four days, I had made arrangements for his after care.

The surgical nurse retrieved Garris and walked him to the surgical suite. We each went to the waiting room. I had brought my laptop, thinking I’d get a couple of blogs done while I waited. After only twenty minutes, the nurse called us in to speak with the doctor.

The surgery went very well. He removed the styloid process and showed us the ‘after’ xray. He was confident that would solve Garris’ pain issue. After another few minutes, Garris was in recovery. The nurse walked us back, and Garris was smiling from ear to ear.

“That was fun!” he insisted.

Whatever happy juice they used worked really well. It took longer for him to wake up than the actual procedure took. The doctor stopped in again. The nurses went over paperwork. We got Garris dressed. Put his arm in a sling. And started out the door.

Naturally, a downpour had started, so I had to retrieve the truck in a deluge of raindrops. Garris got in the truck, propped his arm on a couple of pillows, and off we went.

I had wanted his dad to pick up the pain pills, so Garris and I could just go home. I didn’t want to deal with a big store while Garris was still wobbly. But his dad said he couldn’t. So, we grabbed a quick bite through a drive-through and headed back to Whitehall.

The rain followed us all the way home. We stopped at Whitehall Pharmacy, got his pills and a couple of other things the nurses suggested. We finally got home around five o’clock. I settled Garris onto the couch, set him up with ice and a big glass of water, then did chores while he snoozed a bit.

He decided to sleep in the recliner that night, so I gave him a pain pill, forced him to take a big drink of water, and told him to yell loudly if he needed something.

Thankfully, his wrist only hurt the first night and day. He only took pain pills at night. We spent the weekend watching stupid movies. He slept a lot. I dropped him off at his dad’s house Sunday night, with his pain pills and instructions.

He comes back to my house tomorrow morning, and then next Thursday he gets his stitches out. I’m so thankful and relieved that he seems to be healing quicker than was expected. Originally, we thought he’d be in a cast for about a month. If everything looks good at his appointment next week, he’ll be able to start doing whatever he can tolerate. He just won’t be able to lift much at first.

I’ll be glad to get my riding partner back. My very own private laborer. My teenager. I know this is the last summer I will have him home. Next year, he’ll be working. I’m actually happy that he had the surgery this year. After all, it gave me more time with him. I will do everything possible to make this summer as fun as possible. And to make it last as long as it will.

He’s thankful because he’ll have a great scar on his wrist. And some girl, somewhere, will ask him about it.

Mostly, we’re both happy that he should be pain free in a few days. And then life can get back on track. He’s anxious to get back to riding his horses and practicing up for fall rodeo. Without any pain, he should improve in his events. And that’s the whole reason for fixing this floating bone.

 

My Chosen Sister

A couple of weeks ago, I had to get the oil changed in my pickup. I normally take it to the Chevy dealer in Helena, because that’s where I bought the truck, and I have an oil change service with them. I invited my friend Colleen to ride along with me, so we could get in some shopping and lunch. Basically, I just wanted to spend the day with my bestie.

When I was married, we lived across the road from each other and had more opportunity to spend together. We walked several times a week. When our boys were all small, we took turns driving them to school and picking them up. And we usually made a weekly shopping trip to Butte.

Now that I live about ten miles away from her, we don’t connect as often. Life has just gotten more complicated. But whenever possible, we get together at least for a quick lunch every few weeks.

While we waited for the pickup, we sat and chatted. And it was like we had seen each other every day. We had plenty to talk about, but nothing was strained or awkward because we hadn’t been able to get together lately.

Paul, the service manager, always takes really good care of me. He appreciates that I drive from Whitehall, so whenever he sees my name on the schedule, he makes sure to get a guy on my truck right away. I had an additional request that day, so it took a bit longer than normal.

On his second trip to the waiting area to visit with me, he offered us a ride, pointed out some close restaurants, then asked if we wanted a loaner. We had already decided we were going to Café Zydeco for lunch, and it was too far to walk.

I looked at Colleen, and we both kind of shrugged our shoulders and said, “Loaner.”

“Are you two sisters?” he asked.

We both laughed, and I started to say no. But Colleen had the perfect answer.

“We’re not sisters by blood. But we chose each other.”

How awesome is that! That’s exactly how I feel about her. She knows all my secrets. All my fears and hopes. She knows me better than probably anybody else does.

And her answer touched me deeply. I don’t have a sister, just an older brother. But she grew up with two sisters, whom she isn’t close to. For her to think of me as a ‘better’ sister than her family ones made me tear up.

I’ve had a couple of friends that I felt almost as close to. But we’ve lost touch through the years, and it just isn’t the same as it once was. With Colleen, our birthdays are only two days apart. We both had similar marriages. And we both had similar childhoods and married life. We have a deeper connection than I felt with the other women.

Colleen and I share the same type of humor: dry with some self-deprecating comments. We share frustrations and goals. We share a world and political view. Mostly, we share our lives when we can, knowing that anything one of us says will go no further than that conversation.

When I was going through my divorce, she was one of the few people I leaned on. I was able to vent with her and do some wallowing, without feeling like I was bringing her down.

She and I are able to be honest with each other, even when it isn’t an easy topic. Years ago, when Garris was probably four or five, I sent her boys home while they were playing at our house. She called and asked what happened. I told her that the four older boys had convinced Garris to put his head through a noose. Even though nothing happened, I scolded her boys the same as I did mine. Before I had a chance to say anything more, she let out a little scream and apologized for her kids’ part in that game. She punished her boys, and I punished mine. And they never treated Garris like that again.

And she was my boys’ second mom, too. They knew if they were at her house, they minded her the same way they did me (probably better). And I expected her to be their mom.

On any given week, one of us was feeding at least one extra kid. Cyris and her son Ryan were best friends all through junior high and high school. Ryan graduated a year ahead of Cy, but they remained good friends. And even now, they talk or text regularly. Cyris is in Dillon, and Ryan is in Butte. And I’m guessing that they keep each other’s secrets the same way that Colleen and I do. Which is pretty cool, when you think about it.

We don’t feel the need to brook our statements or to try to be more like the other. We are each just perfect in the company of each other.

She has made me a better person. When I have dark days, I can text her, and she can tell just from my writing that something is wrong. And I think about what she would do in situations where I’m unclear. She is a wonderful friend, mother, and woman. She is much more spiritual than I am, and sometimes I ponder that influence in her life.

We tease a lot that we are going to hell when we die, because we do gossip about people. And we tend to speak our hearts, rather than worry about being politically correct. But I guess if I do end up burning in flames, I’ll have good company!

I wasn’t blessed with a sister growing up, but I have certainly been blessed for the last decade having this woman as my best friend. She’s seen me through good times and bad. We’ve commiserated about our husbands; we’ve vented about our children; and we’ve supported each other during medical scares and health crises. But we’ve also celebrated together when our kids did something great; we’ve made shopping trips into day adventures; and we’ve shared life hacks that we found invaluable. She’s seen me at my worst and, she still counts me as a friend. I can’t relay just how fortunate that makes me.

My best friend. My confidant. My chosen sister.

One Run

Today’s post is a perfect example of what rodeo moms are willing to do for their kids. It’s Saturday, June 9, and I’m sitting in the Baker grandstands, waiting for him to make his tie down run.

 

Garris was attending his first high school state rodeo this week in Baker. From my place in Whitehall, the drive takes about six and a half hours . I had made reservations in the one available motel months ago, thinking he was going to qualify in three events. At the end of the spring season, he had qualified in two events, but was only going to compete in the calf roping.

Now, he has held his own this year competing against older, more experienced, and bigger boys.

But realistically, he just wasn’t set up to do that well at state. The boys can max out with 70 points. Garris went into state with 50.

So he and I talked about my not going to the rodeo. By the time I stayed five nights in a motel, bought fuel for the trip, bought meals and other things during that week, I just couldn’t justify it in order to watch him make two calf runs.

He told me that he wanted to come to the rodeo, but he understood my reasons for staying home. So, I made a compromise with him. If he made the short go, I’d drive over on Saturday morning and watch him compete.

He agreed to that. And I figured I was safe. Like I said, he’s a good calf roper, and in another couple of years, he’s going to be the one to beat. But I really wasn’t looking forward to driving that far by myself. Plus the fact that I would probably see him for a total of about fifteen minutes during the week.

During the first go, he had a 13 second calf run, good enough for eighth. That bumped him from 25 to 21 in the standings. I figured he’d probably do about the same for the second go.

Last night, he called me at nine o’clock to tell me that he won the second round with a 9.8. That shot him from 21 to 9 in the standings, which meant he made the short go.

“You’re going to make me drive to Baker, aren’t you?” I asked.

“Yep. A deal is a deal.”

So, I went outside and shuffled some horses around and got hay ready for this morning, so it would be a little quicker for me today. I got up at four, fed horses and dogs, grabbed my cooler and some water, headed east.

A couple times today, I was afraid I was going to sleep, so I cranked up the music, drank enough water to make me need to pee, and kept moving. I made a couple of stops, and the trip took me right at six and a half hours.

I pulled in the Fallon County Fairgrounds with about two hours of sleep, and found my son, then I settled into the grandstands for the short go.

I’ll let you in on a secret, I made reservations for Rock Springs last night. I don’t want to jinx Garris by assuming he’ll do well today, but I didn’t want to wait too long and all the rooms be rented out.

Last night, my mom asked me if I was still going to go to watch. Of course. I made Garris a promise, and I keep my promises to my kids. Even if it means I get two hours of sleep, then drive for six, to watch one calf run. I didn’t hesitate or try to get out of it.

Honestly, I laughed about it. Only a rodeo mom would do this kind of crazy thing.

When his run finally came, he missed. No excuses. No big reason why. He ended up eighth overall for the year. Not bad for a freshman who came in at number 25.

When I saw him after his run, he was almost in tears. He knew going in, that he had to catch to have any hope of making it to Rock Springs. It looked like he was a little tight and a little late coming out of the box, so he got outrun. He was packing two loops, but his second loop was a desperation throw. I told him I was proud of him for doing as well as he did. He had the fastest time of the weekend and was the only freshman to make it back to the short go. Out of 16 boys, seven were seniors, six were juniors, two were sophomores, and then Garris. That was an achievement just making it to the short go.

And my drive home? Long. I stopped for a burger in Miles City, then a couple more times to pee. But I was home by 9:30. I fed horses, then dropped into bed. I spent Sunday attending a graduation party for Regan and messing with my new horses.

 

Today, June 11, when I picked him up from his dad’s, he was still upset with himself about the miss but he seemed like a more determined roper. He’s decided to sit out football this next year so he can focus on his roping. And he wants to try and add three more events.

Sigh. That means more nerves and more practice time for this mom.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, today we’re outside of Deer Lodge, so he can tie some new calves with a few other boys. Kayle Berg, with Red Eye Rodeo, invited them to meet at his big red barn and tie the little buggers. Garris jumped at the chance. And asked if I could drive him over.

Of course. That’s what this rodeo mom does.

Musical Horses

To continue from my previous post, since purchasing my three new horses, I have spent the last two weeks playing musical pens.

I had to deal with one of my older geldings not wanting to share ‘his women’ with the new gelding. Sails is a sweet roan gelding that I’ve been using for breakaway. He is mellow but kind of a chicken. He is usually in the pen with Peppy and Whiskey, two mares. But this summer, he’s gotten very possessive about who he allows near them.

When J2 unloaded my three horses, I put the two mares together in a pen and put Cougar in a separate one. Later in the day, I put Cougar in with Remy and Gin, thinking that would just simplify my work. But Sails wasn’t having any of that. He reared up and started striking across the fence at Cougar, who didn’t help the situation by charging toward the fence.

Ultimately, I put Cougar back in the pen by himself. But then Sails didn’t even want the two young mares next to the fence by Peppy and Whiskey. Long story short, I had to haul around about a dozen heavy horse panels and make a ‘buffer pen’ to keep the horses from fighting over the fences. In this past week, I’ve created twice the number of pens I had, by myself since Garris has been at his dad’s getting ready for his state rodeo.

Once I finally had enough pens for everyone and was sure no one was going to hurt themselves fighting across the fence, I had to figure out how to graze everyone.

We’ve had so much rain this spring that I have grass everywhere. Not only in the pasture but also in the middle part of my property, between the house and the barn. In the past, I’ve put up a single electric fence pen, to try and eat up some of the grass and give the pasture a chance to breathe. This year, with this many horses, I’ve had to get creative. I’ve got horses panels, electric fence, and am utilizing all sorts of funky barriers to get the grass accessible to all these horses. Thankfully, no one has tested the barriers very hard yet.

But I have to make a cheat sheet before I go out each morning, to put everyone in the best spot. Right now, the two young mares are in the old goat pen, where the grass is a couple feet high. Sails, Peppy, and Whiskey are in the big pasture. Ote and Fritz are in a big electrified pen. Cougar is in a horse paneled pen. It takes a good half hour to get everyone to their respective spots, get the electric fences going, and make sure no one is going to throw a fit.

Then I have to figure out where to put everyone once their grazing time is up.

I have definitely gotten my workouts the past couple of weeks. And I’m pleased to say that they have eaten down some of the areas of tall grass. Sure saves on hay when they can eat what’s on the ground!

It will be easier next week, once Garris is back at my house for a couple of weeks. The musical horses will continue until the end of the grass. So, I’m hoping we keep doing this well into fall.