Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Home Sweet Home

We were welcomed home by our very own Frosty the snowman built next to our door by one of Heide’s boys. Ian and I both slept well. Tiger nestled in between us, as he usually does, and Lady found her spot of run next to the bed and stretched out. After all the sleeping she did in the truck it was a wonder that she was quiet all night.

This morning, thanks to Heide doing the morning chores, Ian and I could move slowly to find our rhythm. I finished the laundry this morning and have sorted through a big box of mail – you can’t believe how much was junk!

As I was filling the Mr. Coffee and pondered what to make for breakfast I thought about how different living in the trailer had been and how I really liked its conveniences. Usually, when one goes camping, it’s home that has all the easy stuff and ones makes due in a trailer. Not so for us. Living in the trailer I cook/bake with a stove/oven that uses propane, which I prefer to home’s electric. The bathroom is not our only source of water (in fact, it’s our third) and I wash dishes in the kitchen sink, rather than the bathtub. We ate on real versus paper plates at a kitchenette table versus balancing meals on our laps or at our desk. Thankfully, like home the wireless broadband service we subscribed to from Sprint worked very well and this allowed us to work and generally stay in touch!

Lady has been reunited with her pups, Agnes and Bernie, who are Donna’s dogs. I do think she prefers to be with her people, leash or not, but now that we’re all home it’s clear that Lady enjoys running around our end of the road under her own steam to being on a leash everywhere she goes. We appreciate her flexibility and love to see joy in a way that only a dog can express.

The weatherman says we’re looking at six new inches of snow overnight and as much as another 14 inches by Saturday. That will lie atop the 16 inches that fell here last week. The wind will kick up so there will be drifts to deal with too. This is exactly why we hire a guy to plow our driveway and parking areas. He brings a skid loader and gets a 1000 square foot area cleared in less than 15 minutes. We’ll go to the grocery store sometime this afternoon to stock up and ready ourselves for the coming storms. Getting somewhere is not a problem since both our trucks are 4-wheel drive.

The horses and chickens are all fine and the barn is as tidy as it’s ever been. Thanks to Heide … she even took time to tidy the house, so we could just relax in our home sweet home.

E-I-E-I-O

Monday, February 26, 2007

Heading Home

Later today (Monday) we will secure things in the trailer, hook it up to the one-ton truck and begin our 35+ hour trek home to Minnesota. We’re traveling northeastward between two snow systems; one that dumped 12 inches of the white stuff on Auld Macdonald Farm, then blew it into three-foot drifts, and another that promises more snow on Wednesday. We plan to caravan with our trainer Tony and his co-driver. Ian has a co-driver too, but she has yet to be pressed into service. LOL We should arrive home Tuesday evening.

We have really enjoyed ours 2+ weeks in much-warmer-than-Minnesota, more-sunny-than-not Arizona. Our two horses taking Top10 ribbons two times each was an honor at such a large and competitive show. Scottsdale kicks off the 2007 show season for us. It's also nice to know that Ian will be showing horses in halter classes as well. I'm SO proud of him. We’re going to a horse show in Las Vegas in late April and may go to one local Minnesota show in late March, as a tune up before Nevada.

March and April will have us busy breeding mares; we have five we’d like to get in foal for babies in 2008. Our mares Thoroughbred Missy and Arabian Windy are each due to deliver purebred foals in May.

We like to travel, but we also like to return home to the farm! It’s never boring.

E-I-E-I-O

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Winning at Scottsdale

This morning I showed Trouble in the three- and four-year-old gelding AOTH class. Trouble is three this year. It was a sunny but cool morning and the stands were beginning to with weekend spectators. It was a fun morning watching Trouble as he was groomed. I almost never wear make up or decorative jewelry, but I get glammed up for the horse shows. When the announcer called for our class to begin assembling outside the gate, a small posse of GTC friends walked over to the Wendell Arena. Tony reminded me of the things I should do to get the best performance out of Trouble. He’s very positive as a coach and I’m always glad he follows me around the arena in case anything goes wrong – like a halter breaks – and also giving me guidance from the sidelines … all of which is legal and very helpful!

One of the many things I’ve needed to concentrate on is slowing down the process of showing Trouble. I tend to jump right in and forget that the horse and I are partners and that to be successful I must have him on board with how we are going to proceed.

Trouble was really ready to show today and he likes it. When we came in the ring he was high stepping, snorting, tossing his head and generally strutting his stuff. The crowd liked it. As we went to the middle to stand for the 3-judge panel I tried to be slower and set him up as well as I could. I think we did OK and again as we stood along the rail for final judging things seemed to come together. Later, as we walked back to the stalls, Tony said I looked competitive out there today as an amateur handler and that was nice to hear.

Trouble and I won a Top 10 ribbon and plaque. Ian videotaped my entire session and snapped one photo of me being awarded my ribbon. Nice! Winning at any horse show is very nice, but winning at Scottsdale is extra special because the competition is very tough. I am proud of all I've learned since I started taking handler lessons in June and I am even more proud of how Trouble has developed. Now that Ian debuted as a handler at Scottsdale both he and I can look forward to a fun showing season this year.

Tomorrow afternoon, the last day of the show, two-year-old gelding Fire Hawk TL shows again. We wish him well. After that class we can begin packing up the trailers and thinking about the long drive home. Tomorrow night we'll relax and watch the Oscars and we will begin our 32+-hour trek home to Minnesota on Monday. It has been a wonderful experience and one I hope that we can do annually.

E-I-E-I-O

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Top 10 again for Kiss

This morning under a blazing Arizona sun Ian made his debut as an amateur horse handler. Ian showed our seven-month-old gelding, AMF Xtreme Kiss, in the Half Arabian/Anglo Arabian In Hand Stock/Hunter Type Yearling & 2-Year-Old Geldings Amateur Owner To Handle class. There were 11 horses entered and I was surprised how many of them are pintos. Of course, the two-year-olds were bigger and more mature in look and behavior. This type of class pushes the judges to judge each horse on its merits rather than against its contemporaries.

Kiss’s sire is TF Xtreme and he is a purebred American Saddlebred tri-color pinto. Xtreme is a homozygous tobiano pinto, which means all his foals will be pinto patterned. Kiss’s dam is our purebred Arabian mare Windy, who is pregnant and due to deliver in May. The AMF in Kiss’s name stands for Auld Macdonald Farm.

Ian and Kiss entered in age order, so he was near the end of the 11 entries. They came in well, although Kiss was a bit resistant when Ian asked him to trot in a large circle to show off for the judges. Ah, well, that small hiccup behind the two trotted off again down the rail to fans screaming with glee. As I said the sun was blazing and there is no shade in that arena. Ian kept Kiss calm and the judging progress and that helped to retain some energy for showing. The two did a good job posing on the rail and again in the middle surrounded by three judges. Then we waited as the judges submitted their scores and the Top 10 numbers began being called, which they do in numerical order. Who would go? The announcer read “2153” and we cheered. I was so excited I pressed the video camera to begin recording again and didn’t remove the lens cover right away. LOL

Our trainer Tony said he’s never had a student win a Top 10 at Scottsdale on their first time showing!

Tomorrow and Friday I will school with Trouble. We show in the AOTH class on Saturday morning … pressure!

E-I-E-I-O

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Trouble comes to Scottsdale

Yesterday afternoon it began raining. It came in everything from cats-n-dogs to sheets and drizzles, but it never let up. West World, where the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show is held, has several covered arenas, but the halter classes are conducted in Wendell Arena, which is out in the open. The Arizona desert sand turned to a red sandy soup. The seating in the outdoor arenas left butts and backs with imprints, even those who tried gingerly balancing on chair edges got wet. Gone along with the sunshine were the warm temps. It dipped into the 40s last night, which is just as warm as it is in Minnesota today! The local weatherman said it would stop raining around midnight, but at 3 a.m. it was still tapping the trailer roof.

Today began chilly and overcast, and we rendezvoused at the horse stalls in fleece jackets and hooded sweatshirts. Tony and the Siddell family from Iowa, who also show during the year under the GTC banner, had already seen to breakfast and were beginning to groom the two geldings showing this morning; two-year-old Fire Hawk GR, owned by our friends at The Lake Arabians in northwest Iowa and our three-year-old, Lookin For Trouble. Tony was showing both in back-to-back classes, so both horses needed to be groomed and then ferried up to/back from the Wendell Arena. Ian and I were very pleased and thankful the Siddell family was happy to pitch in, as this left us to enjoy the classes as spectators.

Hawk and Tony joined 19 other horses in “Lake Wendell”, renamed for its newly formed puddles and swampy edges. Both handlers and horses tiptoed in to find footing in the less wet area before starting up their entrance trots. As you can imagine shoes were caked with mud and suit pants and horse legs were splattered up to the knees.

Hawk’s class was tough. To me, he looked great and he and Tony worked well as a unit. But, I’m not one of the three judges and sadly Hawk did not win a Top 10 as all of us working the GTC stables had wished.

As the sun broke through and warmed the stands Trouble and Tony came in the arena first in a field of 11 and that gelding of ours looked so handsome on his first pass that he brought tears to my eyes. I just love this horse! As I watched the class I wondered which one of all the good-looking horses would be eliminated? I tried to honestly assess each one with what I know about conformation and working attitude and I could not find fault with any, but Top 10 means 10 and only 10, one was going to go home empty handed. Would it be Trouble? I kept watching Tony and Trouble and I could not see how that well-oiled machine working so well together could be left standing without a ribbon.

As the class proceeded I stood at rail’s edge chatting with a man I’d recognized from shows in Minnesota. He agreed it was a tough class and that all 11 were worthy of a Top 10. As we gazed together trying to second-guess the judges he said, “Well, it could be that small black bay over there with Tony Steiner.” WHAT? I thought, my Trouble? I smiled and said, “I hope not.” That was when he realized we were looking at my horse. He smiled apologetically and said it could well be his horse, a dancing black beauty being shown by his wife because he wasn’t really in the best condition. Nice of him, but he’d spoken his mind and I took his comments in stride, after all, he’s not one of the three judges either!

In the end, the judges gave both of our horses and eight more Top 10 honors. Naturally, we’re thrilled and proud. When I gave Tony the conversation highlights as we walked back to the stalls he said that it’s hard for the judges to eliminate Trouble because there’s nothing wrong with him [conformation-wise] and when given the right cues by his handler Trouble does his job well. Then Tony patted me on the back, smiled and added, “You’ve got your work cut out for you in the amateur class on Saturday,” which is when I show Trouble in the amateur owner to handle (AOTH) class.

Tomorrow morning Ian shows seven-month-old Kiss in an AOTH class. Kiss and Tony won Top 10 honors last Saturday in the Half Arabian In Hand Stock/Hunter Type Yearling Geldings class. Kiss was also marked in first place on one of the three judging cards, which is a thrill to learn. Judging cards are posted for review so people can learn where their horses scored relative to others in the class. It will be interesting to see what Trouble’s marks were.

E-I-E-I-O

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thursday in Scottsdale

Today is sunny and in the 60s. It is cool enough to where a sweater or light jacket. I’m sure as the sun rises further it will be a lovely day. Lady and I have been for a walk and it is so much fun to see all the various work areas full of horses, trainers, riders and handlers. It’s also nice to hear birdsong and not to have to dress in layer after layer before going outside. Lady is enjoying sitting outside the trailer on our square of green indoor-outdoor carpet.

Ian is meeting with a potential client this morning, so he’s all dolled up. I cut his hair and trimmed his beard on Tuesday. He’s such a handsome fellow. Yesterday for Valentine’s Day we exchanged cards and cooked a very nice dinner of BBQ salmon filet with spinach & bacon salad. We had some pinot noir and finished everything with cheesecake. When we were at the grocery store we saw that Philadelphia Cream Cheese now makes a ready-to-eat cheesecake filling and decided to pick up a graham cracker crust and give it a try. It was OK, not to die for, but OK. LOL No great cheesecake comes easily.

The show begins tomorrow with youth classes. One GTC horse is a beautiful mare named Teyna Turner. She will be shown tomorrow by a teenaged Jen who is flying with her parents this afternoon. Our Half Arabian yearling Kiss will be shown by Tony on Friday. Ian shows Kiss on Wednesday morning. Tony shows Trouble on Tuesday and I show him on Saturday the 24th. There is another gelding, Fire Hawk, a tall, leggy chestnut, that is stabled with us and he shows this week too, although I don’t know which day yet.

We’ve found the local grocery store, dry cleaners, Lowe's and Target, and today after Ian return we will find the local Laundromat. I suppose we have one load, but it’s an important bunch of dirty clothes!

We went to Lowe's and picked up some flowers and potting soil to dress up the GTC stall area. Tony had already purchased wood chips and now it's dressed up. Some stable areas are quite exotic and beautiful. As the week goes on I'll send photos of some of our favorites.

Last night local TV was dumb so Ian and I watched some The West Wing final season episodes. When we lived in Spain this series didn’t air so we bought the DVD sets from Amazon when they became available. It’s so nice to watch the program without commercial breaks.

This morning just before I was completely awake I distinctly heard Bentley our Thoroughbred mare whinny. Sure, considering where we are it could have been another horse, but it really sounded like her. I like to travel but I miss being home too. It’s another week before we begin our trek home and I plan to enjoy every day.

E-I-E-I-O

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Monday

Today more people and horses arrived. The air was filled with the sounds of trucks working hard at pulling trailers, horses whinnying at new neighbors and dogs barking as they figure out new territory lines. The sun was out today with temps in the low 70s. That’s 70+ degrees improvement from last week in Minnesota!

Kiss was body clipped getting him ready for the show. This means his winter coat was shaved. His chestnut brown looks a few tones lighter and he should be quite eye-catching to the judges. Tony says Kiss will mature a lot from this show experience. He’s kind of thrown in at the deep end of the pool and expected to swim; the travel time is long, he is stabled away from home for two weeks, he is schooled in new surroundings and shown twice and each time with a different handler. That’s a lot for a young horse.

Ian and Tony built the frame that holds the Genesis Training Center logo canvas that marks the stall areas. Tony took all four horses for a stroll around the compound. Tomorrow each will be exercised in an effort to keep them limber. Kiss debuts with Tony on Saturday.

One of the other many pleasures of being the trailer is being able to easily do things like prepare a meal and clean up afterward in the kitchen! Usually when folks “go camping” it’s the other way around – you kind of rough it on the road … not us, living in the trailer is a luxury! It’s at home where I wash dishes in the bathtub and cook in a makeshift area. Ah, well, soon we’ll have the farmhouse renovated and will enjoy luxury at home and on the road.

E-I-E-I-O

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Coming to Scottsdale

We began our trip at 9 a.m. on Friday and arrived on the show grounds in Scottsdale, Arizona at 11 p.m. Saturday. A childhood friend, Reah, wanted to caravan with us for part of the way so that she could ferry her Honda CRV to Austin, Texas. We met Reah south of the Twin Cities and pointed south along I-35. After a few hours Reah asked me to spell her driving. Her CRV drove quite nice and we talked nonstop from Missouri until 1:30 a.m. in Oklahoma City where we bid Reah farewell. She got a hotel rom and I rejoined Ian and Lady in the truck and we headed west on I-40. At 4 in the morning at a truck stop in Clinton, Oklahoma we stopped for a sleep break. Actually, I had crawled into the backseat some hours earlier, allowing Lady to ride shotgun. At 6 a.m. Ian started the engine again and off we went. I popped back up front at our breakfast and gas fill-up stop. The Texas panhandle was foggy but the temps were finally bearable after the subzero of home.

In sunnier New Mexico the scenery reminded me of a John Wayne movie set with its sagebrush, straw-colored grass and thick green trees dotting the rolling landscape. The rock outcroppings got more and more interesting, as did the billboards touting dinosaur bone parks, and various Indian tribe-made pottery and jewelry. We climbed into Albuquerque and treated ourselves to a cheeseburger and fries lunch at a Route 66 diner on the far side of town.

We continued across New Mexico and as the sun set we gassed up for the umpteenth time since leaving home at a Hopi Indian-run truck stop. I didn’t note the time that we crossed into Arizona, but I did telephoned our trainer Tony who was about four hours ahead of us on the road. Tony hauled the four horses that Genesis Training Center will be showing here. We hauled hay and feed in our trailer. We brought our own supplies for a couple of good reasons; buying either at a horse show is really expensive, and it’s best for horses to maintain their regular diet to help minimize gastrointestinal problems.

The descent from Flagstaff to Phoenix is substantial under any conditions; pulling a 36-foot trailer makes it very interesting. Ian wasn’t familiar with the road and after 30+ driving hours was working hard at getting us safely through that last little bit. After a couple of wrong turns we arrived at Westworld in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale and easily found our rented RV spot. Ian backed the trailer into its slot and we three climbed into bed and slept. Ian commented that he hadn’t driven that many hours straight since his days driving tours from London to Nairobi.

This morning we rendezvoused with Tony and saw the horses. All looked good as we fed them breakfast and topped up water buckets. This is our yearling gelding’s first show and road trip and Kiss looks none the worse for wear. He will be body clipped tomorrow, as Tony shows him on Saturday. He’s had his face shaved but hasn’t had his entire body done. I’ve never seen it done, so I’m interested to see how it goes. Today is a rest day for all of us. The show starts on Thursday, and we came early so the horses and people have time to recover from the trip.

Today the weather was overcast and it did rain this afternoon, but earlier we were running errands in shirtsleeves, calling people at home in the Midwest saying how nice it was! I spoke with Donna earlier who told me it was 10 degrees, which must feel balmy after many days in the deep freeze. During our walk around the grounds we saw a hummingbird hovering near an acacia tree.

After getting clothes, food and other supplies put away, I baked a pan of brownies (I had to test the oven LOL) and have a loaf of oatmeal bread baking in the bread machine. We’re having broiled steak and salad for dinner with a glass of wine.

Ian’s hooked up the wireless broadband so his laptop has Internet access and we can stay in touch with clients (and you, of course).

E-I-E-I-O

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Cold weather sucks!

Today the HIGH is 9 below zero (Fahrenheit) and the wind chill is around –19! Outside it looks picture postcard perfect with clear blue cloudless skies. When I walked to the barn to feed breakfast the skin on my face stung from the cold. OK, THIS is why I don’t like living on the frozen tundra! And the horses, bless their hearts, are braving these temps like champs. All have very thick coats of hair and munch on 1800-pound round bales of good quality hay and sip heated water. They’re actually in better humor than I am about the climate, as all come to the fence line for pats, scratches and rubs.

The house is cold at 60-some degrees. It just cannot maintain warmth in the deep freeze. Until we finish its renovation in the warmer weather, we will have to manage with the various drafts and freezing floor. The corn stove is doing its best and it is cozy when we snuggle in bed. Tiger and Lady have joined us the last couple of nights when wind chills bring temperatures to –30.

We have a new water heater, changed from propane to electric. It works great, but the water lines froze last night, so we’re waiting on the basement heater to get that running again. When the water and the temperature are right I look forward to taking a shower! As I write I am dressed in layers that include snow pants, a lap blanket and my beaver hat!

The hens continue to produce an average of nine eggs a day. We have a small group of people who buy a dozen here and there, so we’re not stocked to the gunnels having to make quiche, omelets and souffl├ęs. They have heat lamps in the coop, which is a screened in area inside the barn. Some hens have snuggled so close to the lamps their feathers have singed. Donna gets fresh produce scraps from an organic grocer and they feast on that regularly in addition to the egg crumble feed from the mill.

Lady’s puppies are 11 months old this month. Last summer, Donna took one of each, Agnes and Bernie, and our trainer, Tony, and his family bought another female they named Si-Si. Lady enjoys seeing these three pups regularly. They rip and run and play until all are winded and then they start over again. Si-Si was spayed last month, Bernie was neutered last week and soon Donna will make a date for Agnes to be fixed too. Lady was spay shortly after the pups were weaned last year. We had lots of surprise babies on the Auld Macdonald Farm last year and we’re trying to exert some control. We hope the other four puppies are doing well in their homes too.

On Friday we’re planning to hook up the trailer and begin heading to Scottsdale, Arizona for the big horse show. It is mostly sunny and in the 70s there today! I’m looking forward to that. Heide is taking care of the animals while we’re gone (Lady comes with us) and if there’s anything she can’t handle Donna is just down the road. We’re thankful for them both.

E-I-E-I-O