Thursday, October 28, 2010

I can't leave well enough alone!

At the end of the summer Grace's mane was sun bleached. The more I looked at it the more it bothered me.

Yes, I know what you're saying; Grace is a "horse". She lives outside and the sun bleaching is natural. I should just leave it alone and let the color come back on it's own.
But Grace is not just a "horse". She is beautiful and her sun bleached mane was making me crazy! I tell her every day that next time I am going to buy and ugly horse, that way I won't feel the need to keep it beautiful year round.

These are the sun bleached ends of her mane, they were orange!

Her forelock looked like it belonged on a foal!
Since I cannot leave well enough alone, and I don't have children of my own to fake tan and enter in beauty pageants, I prepared to dye Grace's mane.
First I sectioned it:

Then I wrapped Grace's neck in a garbage bag.
Doesn't she look thrilled?

I pulled the sections through slits in the garbage bag. The whole intention was to prevent hair dye from getting on Grace's coat.

Now the hair dye. First let me say that I am a natural red head. I have never used a chemical dye on my hair. My hair color is more of strawberry blond, my particular shade does not come in a bottle. It never fails, every single time I am at the hair dresser, some stranger asks if I had it colored there. When I tell them its my natural color, they turn on their heel, storm off and never speak to me again.
So when it comes to hair dye, I am clueless!

Look at all that stuff! I had no idea that one needed a degree in chemistry in order to change their hair color. Impressive! I went with Lorel Excellence Cream, I knew I wanted a thicker formula to prevent dripage.

Ok, so here is the part where I really can't leave well enough alone. Remember the garbage bag?
I wasn't quite able to get up to the roots of Grace's mane with it on. The idea of the top of her mane not matching the rest of her mane was more than I could handle. So, I took off the garbage bag.

It was then that I realized that I did not have any Vaseline to coat her neck to keep the dye off of her coat. Right about that time, Grace shook her head. I'm still working to get the black dye off my white horse trailer.
Finished product:


Why I needed to keep the garbage bag on:

It's been a few weeks now and the dye has worked it's way out of Grace's coat.
Her mane still looks great! It should last through the winter.
When I showed my trainer, she said it looked great - followed by "what about her tail?"
Since I couldn't leave well enough alone, Grace's tail now matches her mane!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Grace - The Cow Horse!

I found out (again) last night the I have the coolest horse on the planet! We changed things up at cow practice and did 3 person team penning, without pens, in a 100 x 200 sq foot arena.

The cows hadn’t really settled yet when we started, all they wanted to do was run. When Grace and I peeled one off the herd to move it down the wall it took off like a shot, with Grace in pursuit. Halfway down the rail it turned in front of us, arcing across the arena in an attempt to get back to the herd. I kept my eye on the cow and allowed Grace to catch up to it. She cut it off on the opposite rail before it could reach the herd,sliding to a stop turning and her shoulder into the cow. The cow started back up the rail and then darted across the arena, with its eye on the herd safely tucked down in the corner. I gave Grace the go ahead to catch up to it. Once again she slid into the cow, using her shoulder to change its direction to get it back up the rail. She repeated the maneuver one more time before putting the cow in a corner at the far end of the arena away from its herd. Grace kept her eye on the cow like a prison warden, not moving away from it until I encouraged her to move back towards the herd to get another one.

In the meantime, I was enjoying the most excellent out of body experience. When Grace was stopping the cow on the rail, I was very much just along for the ride. I had no idea my little horse had that in her. I’ve been watching working cow horse videos this week, and every time I see a horse slide into a cow on the rail, sit down and turn it with their shoulder, I wonder how hard that is to teach. In the middle of her working that first cow last night, I felt like I was watching one of those videos, only this time I was in it, along for the ride. It was so incredibly smooth, and Grace was incredibly bold. There were times I thought we wouldn’t reach the rail in time, but Grace made sure that we did. In 10 years I’ve never felt this mare sit on her hind end the way she did last night. It really feels like I just went out and bought a working cow horse.

I hardly slept last night because I was still geeking out about the ride. Every time I think I know this horse, she blows my mind again. 13 years old and I am just now finding out that she is a cow horse. I wonder if she watches working cow horse classes on YouTube while I am at work. How else would a pleasure bred horse know how to turn a cow like that?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cows are my crack!

Hello, my name is Melissa and I am a cow addict!
I used to only chase cows once in a while, but then the barn that I haul into starting holding cow practice twice a week. It wasn’t long before I found that I couldn’t quit after only one cow. I mean, what if my first run wasn’t perfect? I had to give it another try right? Besides, for $25 I can take as many runs as I want.

$25, that number has a new meaning in my life now. I have a $25 a week cow habit. Stop and buy coffee on the way to work? No, that’s my cow money. I’ve stopped putting my money in slot machines. I can no longer give my cash to the casino, that’s my cow money. Of course if I won a jackpot, I would have months of cow money! But what if I lost the $25? That would be a week with no cows. I can only chase the dog for so long before she starts refusing to enter the arena.

At first I only went on Saturdays, figured I could get away with maybe twice a month. But then I started thinking about chasing cows during the weekdays. I would slow down when driving past a field of cows on my way into work. I kept thinking that if I turned the truck just right towards their shoulders they would move. The weekdays seemed endless, when would Saturday be here?

Yesterday I found out that I have hay coming on Saturday. I’m trying to figure out how to finish with hay in time to get to cow practice. It doesn’t look good. There are 18 tons that have to be moved off a truck and stacked. I have 2 that I am taking home, which means 2 trips, plus stacking time. Does Grace really need to eat this winter? Well, I guess she needs the energy for cow work. So maybe I could skip cows on Saturday, but go Wednesday night instead. I did tell my husband I wasn’t going during the week because it gets me home late. Maybe he wasn’t listening? I’ll just tell him I’m going out drinking.

My horse has been no help at all. I swear she knows the days of the week now. She jogs to the horse trailer on Saturdays, knowing what awaits her at our destination. When I unload her at the barn, the first place she looks is to the cow pen. When we get into the arena, she wants to walk right over to the cows; I think she trash talks them over the fence. As soon as the gate opens to let in the herd, her ears prick up, her eyes bright with anticipation. She no longer minds working close to other horses, just as long as there is a cow in front of her.

Grace has only gotten more broke since we started working on cattle. A few weeks ago at a Wednesday night cow practice (yes, I was there twice that week!) I noticed that she was not moving her shoulder fast enough. She would stiffen against my aids and miss the cow. We took a break from chasing the dog during the week and got down to business. I took a lesson and paid close attention to what my trainer was telling me. Before I knew it Grace was moving her shoulder off my leg and side passing across the arena, all on a loose rein. When we got back on cows this weekend, it all came together. She warmed up beautifully, excelling at all the exercises we practiced during the week. On my second run I had the chance to work a cow in the arena alone. After following it and then boxing it on the rail, we loped in a circle on a loose rein. It was one of the moments where it all came together at once. Grace was so good that I quit for the day on that second run. See, I can quit, anytime. See you at practice on Wednesday!