Monthly Archives: July 2007

Really — I’m not getting my hopes up

This puppy I’m being totally realistic about and not getting my hopes up over? Yeah. I’ve named her.

Registered name: SoftMaple’s Everlasting Love

Call name: Je t’aime (Pronounced zjuh tem — French for “I love you.” Will probably nickname her Jet, with the French J.)

That means we’ll have Pax and Je t’aime — peace and love. Get it? Okay, cloyingly sweet, but I still love the name Je t’aime.

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Puppy fever starts early

Torre and Hunter were bred for the first time on July 6. This is a natural breeding, so the breeding will be repeated as many times as Torre will allow it. Puppies, if she “takes,” will be due sometime in the first week of September.

I’m already visiting her site three or four times per day to check for updates!

Even if Torre has a litter, and even if that litter is good-sized, that doesn’t mean there will be a pup for me in it. Cathy has in no way promised me a pup out of the litter. My guess is that she will wait not only until there are pups on the ground but until she’s certain that all the pups are thriving and will survive before she pairs pups with owners. My guess is that I’ll hear one way or another around the first week of October.

In some ways that feels like an eternity. In other ways, it’s just around the corner. I feel like an expectant mother… I’m writing down potential names and making lists of things to buy and planning my child’s (erm… pup’s) future.

Jay wants another boy, but I’m leaning toward a girl this time. A little black girl. Oh, my estimate for when the pups were ready to go home was off. I bet the pups are ready to go to their new homes at the end of October or beginning of November.

I’ll have to arrange time off from work, if I get a new baby. (Is that pup-ternity leave?) One month minimum, but through the end of the year would be nice. Because of the rules for contractors at this job I’m working right now, it might need to be three months. Good thing this is a lucrative contract!

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Catching up!

I can’t believe I’ve let so much time pass without updating my site. So much has been going on; it’s just ridiculous that I haven’t shared any of it.

First, we’re moving. Theoretically.

I like to move. When I was growing up, we moved roughly every five years. I didn’t spend more than two years at one school until college — and my record there was 2.5 years! Renting is difficult with animals, so we own, but before I got married, I rented and moved every year or two. I get ancy living in the same place, even if I love the place I’m living in!

Jay knows that and hates it, but has accepted it. The whole moving thing came up in a bizarre way rife with misunderstandings (on my part). Initially, I was going to sell my horses, and we were going to move back to Memphis. But I just couldn’t do it. I can’t sell members of my family, and I love this area (and its climate) too much. So instead, our plan is to move to a less expensive place down south of Olympia, perhaps as far south as halfway between Olympia and Portland.

Our reason for moving there is three-fold. One, it’s within commuting distance of a city, so we can find work. Two, it’s closer to Leslie, Blue’s trainer. And three, it’s much less expensive than anything within a reasonable commuting distance of Seattle.

We had a great boost to our plan right away when Jay was told he could keep his job and telecommute. (He really loves his job, and I really don’t want him to give up something he likes.) But just this week, we had a wrench thrown into that. Word came down from the higher ups at his job that he can telecommute for one year, and then he has to either come back in or leave.

That news put the whole move on hold for me, because I don’t want to force Jay to give up his job. He hasn’t given up though. He put out feelers among his network about telecommuting jobs. He got some positive responses, but of course, he hasn’t had a chance to look into them yet. I’ll keep you posted.

So in the meantime, we’re in limbo. We’re not sure what to do about this house. It’s… a fixer upper. In my opinion, there’s a lot to do to get it market ready. According to our realtor friend, the market in this area is two to six months, so obviously, anything we can do to make the house more salable is a good thing. A friend of mine is married to a contractor, and he wants to come out and take a look at it. He may want to buy it as-is, then remodel and flip it. I’m more than willing to sell low in exchange for not having to do the work to sell it!

He’s not going to be able to get out here to look at it, though, until close to the end of this month. We really need to get it scrubbed, and then have our realtor come out and tell us what we must do before putting it on the market and what we could do that would raise the sell price.

Enough about moving. Second big piece of news: I’ve been working at a new job since June. It’s a contract gig, but they love me. The word through the grapevine is that they want to hire me. I’ll listen to their offer — really, I will — but it’s highly unlikely I’ll accept. Even with the mandatory breaks in service that contractors are required to take, this is a very lucrative contract. Being a contractor means that most weeks ar capped at forty hours and those that aren’t are paid overtime. And, I have to say, for me, a three-month break in service is a GOOD thing. I don’t want to work all the time. I work to live, not live to work, and the break in service is a chance to LIVE.

I absolutely love this job. I’m working with Learning & Development and creating training for the company’s call centers. I was brought in to work on a super high-visibility project, and it has resulted in my work becoming really well-known around the company in a very short time. It’s a great feeling! I was fortunate enough to be put on a team with terrific people that I adore. The culture there is soooo different from other companies I’ve worked for — especially Microsoft. This company is truly team-based and is all about customer service. I love this company as much as I hate Microsoft (and that’s saying a lot)!

Okay, there’s more, but it’s all animal related, so I’ll do a separate post.

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Catching up on the critters

I can’t believe I haven’t made an entry since April. Shameful, I tell you.

I’m not sure where to start. If you’ve read my other post(s), you know we’re moving, and that when the idea first came up I considered selling my horses. I’ve finally accepted that I’m not going to ride them, and they are extremely expensive pasture ornaments. So I started thinking about who I’d sell them to…

  • Blue would probably go to Monica or Kyra.
  • Guin is adored at Eden Farms, and I wouldn’t have any trouble selling her there.
  • Leslie would probably know someone who would take Rowan, and if not, she shouldn’t be too hard to place.
  • And then Princess… Maybe Kalisa or Lesley would like her?

Good plans, but the more I thought about it, the more problems I found.

  • Princess is going to be a tough one to keep sound, and there aren’t many people who are going to be willing to put the money into her that will be necessary to keep her pain free if they can’t ride her. That ultimately puts her in danger of being resold and eventually slaughtered. That is not acceptable to me, so I’ll have to keep her.
  • Rowan is my baby. I truly believe she’d be an excellent dressage horse or hunter, but I’ve seen the training methods used in both those camps, and I just can’t see sending my baby off to that future. I really don’t want to sell her.
  • Guin. Ah, sweet Guin. Out of all of my horses, this is the only one I would ride if I rode — and we’re perfect for each other. It would cost a fortune to replace her. So if I sell her, I’m making the decision to give up riding forever. I’m just not ready to do that, so I can’t sell her.
  • That left Blue. As much as I love him, he’s very sensitive, and he needs a more advanced rider. I can sell him, right?

I invited Monica and Kalisa and Kyra to come out and check out the horses. I was still hoping at the time that Kalisa might like Princess. At the same time I was talking with Leslie in Olympia about coming up to give Rowan her first trim. When she heard that Monica would be checking out Blue, she wanted to come up and give her approval.

So the big day came, and everyone had a wonderful time. (More on Rowan’s trim in a minute.) Monica and Kyra, under Leslie’s tutelage, worked with and then rode Blue. Kalisa and her kids played with and rode Princess (who is a doll!). Everything was great! Except…

It has been a year since Leslie and Blue worked together. He has been with me everyday of that year, and yet it’s clear that he is not as bonded to me as he is to her. He adores her every bit as much as she adores him. He let Monica and Kyra work with and ride him, but he didn’t connect with them anymore than he does with me. He is a one person horse. I realized then that I can’t sell Blue, because he’s not mine to sell. He belongs to Leslie, and I’m just holding on to him until she has room for him.

So four horses, and I can’t sell any of them. We’re stuck with each other for the long haul.

Blue is just in a holding pattern right now. Leslie will get him someday, and I love on him a bit, but I don’t work with him. I could move him out to Eden Farms, and Monica and Kyra would be happy to ride him day in and day out, but I just don’t want to do that. He’s Leslie’s horse, and I don’t want to risk something happening to him.

Princess is also in a holding pattern. I’d love to have a light rider come out and ride her a bit a few times a week. Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone I’d trust to do that. (And I don’t have tack for her either.) So she’s just eating her head off in retirement.

That leaves Rowan and Guin….

I promised to tell you about Rowan’s first hoof trim. We spent the afternoon outside with the horses, and it was a rather chaotic scene… Monica on Blue in the arena, Kalisa and Kyra grooming and tacking up Princess next to the arena, Kalisa’s two younger daughters flitting from group to group or playing on the tire swing, and finally, Leslie and I with Rowan, right in the middle of the action — about to attempt Rowan’s first hoof trim. (And did I mention Leslie’s dog running around?)

If you recall, I got Rowan as an unhandled, wild-as-a-March-hare yearling in April 2006. I clicker trained her for a month, and then got lazy. Leslie popped over in June of last year and we halter broke her (Rowan, I mean — Leslie was already halter broken) and introduced her to picking up her front feet. We didn’t touch the back feet at the time, because Leslie wasn’t sure she was reliable enough around her back end.

In the year that followed, I’d love to say I worked with her and put a fabulous start on her, but… um, no. I picked up her front feet in maybe half a dozen sessions scattered throughout the year, and I did a couple of sessions where I attempted to teach her to tie, but that was it. She’s a big lap dog, but she’s as untrained as she was a year ago.

Rowan’s feet have been caring for themselves quite nicely, so I felt no rush to get her trimmed, but I finally decided it was time. I love Leslie, and she’s both a clicker trainer and a barefoot trimmer so I asked her up from Olympia to help me.

Leslie positioned me at the end of the lead rope, about three or four feet from Rowan. She didn’t want me close because she didn’t want to risk clicking for her feet when she might be mugging me. So each time Leslie clicked, I had to rush up, feed Rowan, and then retreat to the end of the rope out of reach.

(Let me also add that it just happened that Kyra was having a problem working with her own yearling’s back feet, so in addition to all the other chaos, she was coming over to ask questions and we were yelling back and forth to Monica.)

Leslie began by picking up each front foot, wiping off the mud, and cleaning it out — and, of course, clicking for it. Then she did the back feet the same way, showing Kyra how to safely approach her own yearling and how to handle the kicking issue. Rowan, who hadn’t ever had her back feet touched, was an absolute champ — didn’t kick, lifted the foot promptly, and let her hold it. Leslie had just done the fronts, so I figure Rowan just assumed we wanted the same with the backs.

Leslie picked up all four feet with no real problems and decided it was time to trim. She started with the front right foot. Rowan struggled a little at first. She wanted that foot back! She even went down into a bow twice. (Okay, that was the CUTEST thing ever, and I wanted desperately to click her, but that would have been a bad idea.) Leslie held onto the foot, and she got it trimmed, though she had to stop twice and let Rowan have a no-treat rest period. (Rule for Rowan: Treats happen only when she’s holding her foot up calmly.)

Then Leslie did the other front foot. She stopped once, I think, during that foot. Leslie was really impressed that Rowan was letting her stretch the foot forward and put it on the hoof stand — she said moving the foot forward sometimes startles horses who’ve never done it.

Then came the back feet. She did the first back foot in a single session — didn’t even need to let Rowan rest. Rowan, who hadn’t had her back feet touched before yesterday, didn’t even struggle. It took all of five minutes. Last foot was equally as good — so good, in fact, that Leslie used a rear foot stand to make her own job easier.

Leslie said she thought Rowan must have had a trim when she was younger, before I got her. I reminded her that she wasn’t halter broken when I got her. Leslie shook her head and said this had to go on record as the easiest first trim ever. Man, I wish I had it on video. It was sincerely EASY. After the first foot she stood there like a pro.

After Leslie trimmed her, we put her in the little arena and ran her around a bit to check her movement. I *did* video tape that and pop it up in a file on YouTube, if you want to see her. It’s nothing exciting — just a two year old filly trotting around. She’s a pretty thing though: 1/4 Percheron, 3/4 Thoroughbred, seal brown, about 14.3 hands, will likely mature small at 15.1 or 15.2.

(I couldn’t get the audio to mute, so please mute it unless you want to hear my guests yelling their goodbyes.)

I had such fun with Leslie when she was here that I’ve been more motivated to work with Rowan. I’d really like to train her for classical dressage — think Spanish Riding School, not competition dressage — at least as much as I can without riding her. I’d like for her to learn to offer the various movements, and I’d like to be able to cue them from the ground without side reins, longe line, or other equipment.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading to figure out how to start her. One thing I’ve learned is that I need to be careful with her at this age. She doesn’t need to work on circles smaller than 20 meters yet. So thus far I’m concentrating on free leading. And since I’m working on free leading, I’m also going to work on stops and stays and coming when called and backing. Everything is everything (as Alex says)!

Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten to work with her since I started my new job. I’ve been working 16 hour days, and when I’m not working, I’m simply exhausted. Hopefully I’m past that now, and I can develop a schedule.

Leslie worked with Guin too. She’s a lovely mare, but she has a problem in her left front. We’ve had the vet out, but we don’t know anything definitive yet. We’re seeing if MSM, flax, and a low dose of bute once a day will manage the problem. If so, we probably won’t pursue it further. If not, the next step is nerve blocks and x-rays.

Guin doesn’t love arena work — of course the circles exacerbate her lameness, so who can blame her? — but she adores the trails. I haven’t ridden her out, but Wendy did, and she did great. She’s not at all spooky.

Leslie made me ride Guin bareback! She says that riding bareback is best for insecure riders because they have nothing to brace on. Of course, all we did was walk and turn and stop, but I got progressively more comfortable. I was going to do more riding on my own, but then she went lame, and I started the new job.

Oh — most hysterical thing I’ve ever seen. Jay and I went to the barn a couple of weeks ago to see how Guin was doing. We got there just as she was released into a paddock. TO m surprise, she “spooked” and cantered away from the guy who released her like she was feeling her oats — and then she turned and jumped a four foot fence! I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. Damn — that bute must be a heck of a pain killer. Too cute she was.

Finally, dogs. (Yes, dogs. It’s not actually all horses, all the time at the Alexander menagerie, though it probably seems it here.) Aslan and Pax are doing splendidly. We were thinking our next dog would be a Newfie, but Pax’s breeder is doing a breeding with a pedigree I’m very, very interested in. The dogs being bred are Torre and Hunter. Pax’s father, Jet, is Torre’s grandfather. And Pax’s mother, Gabby is Hunter’s mother. It’s by no means a repeat of Pax’s breeding, but it’s certainly all the “right” genes.

Anyway, Torre went into heat on June 29. If all goes well, puppies would be on the ground in mid-September. If there’s one in the litter for me, it would be ready to go home around Thanksgiving. Woo hoo!!

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