Dan was home on a Saturday in January and he treated us all to some horseback riding in our friend Brian Nate's indoor arena. Brian and Becca had this arena built in the fall and it is amazing! The crew built the thing in 2 weeks, all with precut, prefabricated pieces. It took awhile longer to get all the inspections, approvals, and installation done on the lighting and water as well as get the tack room constructed, but it was fully up and running for a roping Brian hosted on New Year's Eve.
The arena was constructed on land just east of Brian and Becca's and our houses. There used to be a strawberry and raspberry patch out there and I planted my potatoes kind of behind where the trampoline is. All the kids were fascinated with the construction and would often hang out on Brian and Becca's tramp to watch the workers.
I took these pictures out my kitchen window.
People always ask if we miss the view of Rocky Peak. Sure, but it's totally worth the trade-off, having a place to ride in the winter! Brian has been so generous to let many people use the arena.
We keep our 3 horses with the Nate's horses about 8 miles outside town on the West Side Road. When we want to ride them we have to drive out and separate our horses from the herd, get a halter on them, and load them up in the trailer. Surprisingly, in the 3 1/2 years we have lived here I have never been with Dan when they've gone out to catch horses. I just always wait til they get back to the house to saddle up the horses. So I thought I better go and document this whole process.
Our 3 horses are Bart, Apache, and Zippy. Zip got hurt in the fall of 2010 while getting into a horse trailer. She cut her leg pretty bad and has never healed up properly. She hasn't been ridden in almost 2 years and she's gotten a little wild. Dan decided that since he wasn't going to be able to ride her, he would breed her to Cowboy, one of Brian's studs. She has gotten so unruly that they couldn't even catch her to preg check her in the fall. Brian says she's pregnant, though, so we should have a colt in the spring around April. Lily is super excited, even though we keep reminding her that she can't ride it for 3 or 4 years until it gets broke. (I always feel funny saying that, "broke", because it sounds grammatically incorrect. But that's the way the ranchers say it.)
Here is Zippy in all her maternal glory:
Dan bought a little bumper hitch horse trailer about 2 months ago. It's just right for our needs right now, it fits 3 horses and hitches up to our Suburban. It's also really handy to load up wood from the wood shed to bring and stack on the front porch. Dan was super excited to finally be hauling his own horses in his own trailer at his own convenience.
So off we went to the West Side to catch the horses. It's a bumpy ride once you get onto the ranch because the ground is covered with frozen cow pies and horse manure. And they are hard as rocks!
The kids sit in the truck and watch all the horses gather around while Daddy tries to catch them. Anytime a vehicle pulls up to the herd, they all think it's feeding time so they hover around the vehicle. The kids often stick their hands out the window to pet the horses.
So, when catching horses, the first thing you do (and by you, I mean Dan) is calmly approach the herd with a halter in your hand. Let the horse smell you or if it's familiar with you, pet its head. This is Genuine Illumination, one of Brian's horses that is ready to be broke. Dan wanted to bring her in to do some desensitization training.
If the horse spooks or trots off, as Genuine Illumination did, it's time to bust out the grain bucket.
The grain attracts the horses, and once you get the bulk of the herd interested in the grain, you can take the bucket and separate out the horse you're after. In this case, Apache, who gets a nibble straight out of the bucket.
Once the desired horse is distracted by food, they're not too hard to get a halter onto.
Genuine Illumination calmed down relatively quickly and Dan got a halter on her without a fight.
The next thing you have to do is get all those grain-grubbin' beasts out of your way so you can get back to the trailer. It's hilarious to watch ranchers and the noises they make to get the livestock to do what they want!
Notice Dan making a loud blowing, shooing noise, almost like giving a zerbert to the air.
Then it's time to collect the grain bucket and lead the horse to the trailer.
Genuine Illumination is 4 years old and has only been in a horse trailer maybe a half dozen times in her life. Dan was concerned that he might really have a fight on his hand trying to get her into the trailer, but he just climbed up there and urged her in.
Voila! Or Wah-lah! if you're not a Fancy Nancy type.
It's pretty amazing that 3 horses can fit in that trailer. Especially with Apache who is looking even more pregnant than Zippy, even though he's a gelding (castrated male)!
One sad thing that happened while we were out catching the horses is Dan finally broke the news to Amelia that her horse Mouse died last winter. You may remember Mouse, he was 20+ years old and as gentle as can be. He simply died of old age. Amelia would ask about him all the time and for awhile we just said he was out on the West Side (which wasn't totally a lie, he just wasn't alive on the West Side). Dan was waiting until Lily got a different horse so that Apache could become Amelia's horse and she wouldn't be horseless and distraught.
But she was still pretty sad.
We assured her that he was much happier up in the pastures of Heaven, running around with Jake and Hank and Lucky, all our dogs who have moved onto a happier life.
Amelia's melancholy didn't last too long. We made it back to the house and unloaded the horses into the arena. The first thing that needed to be done was to remove horseshoes. Horseshoes are essential to have on your horse when you're riding outdoors to protect their hooves from rocks and other debris, so they wear them all summer long while they're out to pasture (grazing on a hill somewhere rather than in an enclosure being fed hay). But when the snow flies and the horses are brought into the ranch, having shoes on can be a problem. The snow freezes and creates little ice balls inside their hooves, causing a lot of pain.
Dan had been meaning to take the shoes off the horses since about November, but he didn't have the right tool for awhile. He finally got the tool, some kind of plier looking things, and was able to clean the ice balls out of the horses hooves and pull their shoes off.
Because the arena has fresh dirt in it without a bunch of huge rocks, the horses were safe to ride without shoes.
Next up, curry the horses. Before putting on the saddle blanket and saddle you need to brush the horse to remove old dirt and caked on sweat. Mack really likes this part.
One of Brian and Dan's favorite things about the arena is the tack room where all the saddles are kept. Before the arena, the saddles were mostly kept in Brian's two horse trailers and a shed. Having them all in one place now makes it much more efficient when saddling up. There are tons of saddles there, belonging to several of Brian's family members and us. Ain't it a purty sight?
I didn't get any pictures of Dan saddling the horses because I was too busy taking pictures of Amelia and Mack climbing on the gates and rolling in the dirt.
Mack even managed to roll right through a pile of manure.
You can bet he and his coat both had a bath that night!
Amelia is finally brave enough to stand right in front of Apache and pet his nose.
It had been awhile since we'd ridden the horses so Dan jogged around the arena a few times with Apache to get him warmed up and make sure that he wasn't going to be rowdy.
Then commenced the horsey rides.
I think Mack likes to hold the lead rope even more than he likes being in the saddle. He's too small and slow to do it on his own so Lily helped him.
When a horse is wearing a halter and being led by a lead rope, there are no reins like when they're wearing a bridle. Mack insists on having some reins to hold, so Dan tied some of the leather straps on the saddle together.
He was perfectly satisfied!
Amelia took a turn leading.
When Mack finished riding he wanted to open the gate and was a little frustrated that he couldn't pull it out by himself.
It was meltdown city after that for Mack and Amelia. I was able to snap a couple pictures of Dan and Lily riding before I took the younger kids back to the house.
Lily has just about outgrown her saddle, so we'll be on the lookout for a bigger one maybe this summer. Sadly, Lily isn't nearly as enthusiastic about riding as she was a couple years ago. She gets easily frustrated when she can't make Bart do what she wants. And sometime in the last two years she has gotten a little timid around horses. Since the only thing I know how to do with a horse is get on and trot, Lily doesn't get the opportunity to ride unless her Dad is home and doesn't have a million other things he needs to get done. Combine the infrequent practice and Lily's personality (very short attention span, no competitive spirit, just a desire to have fun without hard work) and she isn't as horse crazy as she was when we first moved to Cokeville. She still never turns down an opportunity to ride, so maybe there is hope that we can rekindle her interest. She wants to compete in the kids rodeo this summer, but not riding barrels. She wants to do calf riding. Just hold on for dear life, that's all there is to it! We'll see what happens...
We love owning horses. Dan would like to spend a lot more time riding and training, but at this season in our lives time is limited. Someday Dan hopes to buy some land and build a house where we live right by our horses. I want to get enough of a clue that I can saddle a horse on my own and go for a leisurely ride in this beautiful Wyoming countryside.