Thursday, August 29, 2013

Siera passes the Toughest Test.

This morning I thought I'd take Siera and Morris for an early morning ride.  My weekend was starting to look a bit busy so I thought I'd grab some time while I could.

Give Morris a morning romp and give Siera another solo workout.

The humidity was 100% according to the weather site and I could see fog laying in the low spots.  I wondered if I could get Siera into the creek valley and look for spider webs with dew hanging on them.
This used to be a favorite thing of mine to do with Badger.

Now I know that it is totally unfair and non realistic to ever try and compare any other mule in my life to Badger.  He was just that different and that wonderful ... we were so connected, I swear he knew what I was thinking.

Anyway, off we went.  Morris trotted happily along as Siera strutted her stuff...her gait nice and smooth.  I had expected some refusals in leaving home, but it didn't happen.  Perhaps because she liked Morris's company?

The air was very heavy and dense, the scent of ragweed was extremely strong.  We'd reached the bend in the long Peterson driveway when I noticed that Morris was wheezing.

Oh crap.  I hadn't taken him on an early morning ride in such a long time that I'd forgotten how he had allergies to ragweed.  
I dismounted and tried to figure out if I should just quit my morning ride and turn back home or...

I looked at Morris.  He didn't want to quit.  He moved up next to me and put a foot on my leg.
I know what he was asking for.
A ride.
A ride in the saddle.

I sighed and ran a hand along Siera's neck, then picked Morris up and put him in the saddle.  Morris quickly tried to find a good spot on the little Stonewall Saddle.  Siera picked up her ears and turned them back to Morris and I.

I asked her if it was good with her.  Right, as if she'd answer.  Siera stood like a statue.
I remounted and adjusted Morris in my lap.

We traveled on.  Siera neck reined almost perfectly down the old ridge road.  We road up to the 'Grumpy Tree'.

I also think of this crazy looking tree as the 'gate keeper' to PeeWee's Valley.

Part way down into the valley a 2 does came crashing down the hillside and across the hill road in front of us.  Morris and Siera curiously watched.  
We rousted turkeys out of their night nests.  They came crashing down and flew overhead in their horrid lumbering fashion.
Morris and Siera just watched.

I let Morris off by leaning over and letting him jump to the ground.  He either led us or followed us depending on his mood.  
We crossed the creek where Morris got a drink.

I dismounted in the valley floor and walked over with my camera to take some shots of Blue Lobelia with the morning dew on the flowers.

Siera dropped her head and grazed on the long grass.  Morris did the following.


Pretty bold move for a dog around a mule.  But Siera knew he was there and didn't mind.
[I knew that this dog and mule were good around each other before I tried this on a ride.  Siera is extremely tolerant of Morris at home ~ so I was not worried about her having a bad reaction with him on the ground.]

I took some shots of the wild flowers and as I was ready to remount, Morris put a foot on Siera's front leg.

I stared at the two of them.  That was Morris's signal to Badger that he was tired and wanted Badger to stand still.

I praised Siera and put Morris back in the saddle.
We rode home through the early morning light.
One dog, one mule, and me.

Siera had just passed the toughest test I've ever known for one of my mules.
She passed the Badger Exam.

Oh yes, I compared her to Badger this morning and she filled some very big hooves.  She will never BE Badger.
She will be Siera.

And I think if I have a mule after Siera, that mule will also have some huge hoof prints to fill.

There was a lump in my throat and a wee...bit of a tear in my eye as we finished the ride.

Life just doesn't get better than this.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Leading and Following, Siera learns

Here is the driveway we have to take now to get into the woods where we ride.  The area of woods near us has been so damaged by this year's flash floods and wind damage that it may take me most of the fall and winter to re-claim my old mule trail.

Siera is in the lead here.  Note the ears.   She is watchful.

Here Opal is in the lead, Siera has relaxed and is letting Opal do the scouting.  She is thinking that any mule monsters will knock off the old lady mule first and she will be spared.

We ride the 'back valley' trail and Siera leads there.  She decides that she wants to go up the steep hill and go towards home.  I turn her briefly up a steep deer trail and then come back down and take the overgrown ridge road.
Hubby and Opal wait patiently.  Younger mules often think they can 'get one over' on the rider by trying to take a short cut.  We generally let them know that the short cut is not always a very nice way to go.

Siera settled down and stepped out then, weaving between branches, her reining skills back in place.

We rode to the 'old' section of the woods where the undergrowth has been shaded out by the canopy of old trees.

It was cool and nice there and everything seemed to have a green hue to it.

It was a nice spot to rest the mules and let Siera think about standing still.

It was also a good place for her to practice standing still for photographs.

She did very well.  She got a bit anxious of course when Opal and hubby rode off.  But that is expected when two mules ride together.  [Badger however was not like that!  He simply didn't care for other mules at all!]

We let the 'girls' graze some in the open field before heading back home.

Siera's biggest challenge was not to 'race' back home and to follow behind Opal quietly.

She did well.

I am very pleased with her.
As I said before, as a groomed trail mule, she'd perform fantastically.  Most would call her a fine trail mule.
She does very well with company.

But I don't consider her finished or experienced until she's had about 5 yrs of 'my' kind of riding on her.
That means she has to work on patience although that will come with maturity.   There are other things, but that too will come with time and wet saddle blankets.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mule Ride

A fine day.  Riding with hubby and two fine mules.
Stopping on the ridge and talking while the animals cooled down in the nice breeze.

Exploring the Back Valley Woods, watching wildlife from the saddle.

Spending time together.

Scenic views from the saddle.
Pretty woods.

My day couldn't have been more perfect.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Opal Wants to Get Caught?

Oh darn another mule related post.

Well with the good weather that is what I've been working on in any free time I have.

My work with Opal over the past few yrs has really paid off.  
She was the impossible mule to catch unless you liked to try and run her down or keep herding her into smaller and smaller areas.
It was very frustrating.

When my husband told me I could begin riding her when Badger fell ill, I decided that I didn't want to spend 30 minutes or more trying to catch her just to go for an evening ride.  In fact I was convinced I could get her to let me catch her.  
Or, so I thought.

She has even progressed to the point that she will let my husband catch her.  

Yesterday I went to catch Siera for her daily dose of work.  I am putting in the time and effort like I did for Badger years ago and that requires lots of hands on time.  Not always riding, but always doing something.

So I walked into the pasture with a lead rope and halter over my shoulder.
This long eared shadow appeared at my side.
Note the tilted ear as I tell her that I appreciate her and after I am done with Siera, she can get groomed.

Apparently that wasn't good enough, so she thought she'd try my other side.

I did get Siera first and we did a bit of halter work.  She can be pretty amazing.  We walked up to a large tarp in the yard that we had spread out to dry, the wind tussled it up.

She looks terribly concerned.  Never blinked an eye.  However the septic tank cover that we'd dug out was sure to eat her.  She is pretty leery about anything with holes it seems.  After a bit she decided it was no big deal and I groomed her.
Yes her face is oddly colored if you notice.  That is not dirt, but one half of her face gets very light while the other side stays dark bay.

Opal did get to come out.  I groomed her and let her work on the yard a bit while I sat on the picnic table.

Fred was not to be left out and decided he needed to be caught also.

Fred can always be convinced to come if I take Opal away from him.  He loves to hate her.  Can't stand it when she is out of his pasture.  Can't seem to stand her when she is in his pasture!

Mules, you gotta love them!

I'm sure that anyone who has equine can understand how nice it is just to spend some time with your critters.

Thank you Opal for turning out to be such a nice beautiful mule.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Siera wants practice

Bet some of you thought that I'd given up on her.  No, she just had some time off.

Last night 'we' both got a lesson in lead line patience and paying attention.

Siera hates leaving her friends.  I've already established that she is a bit herd sour.  But not the rearing, bucking, head twisting kind of herd sour that I have seen in some equine.

She'll walk 7 steps and then lock her legs while I'm trying to get her out of the pasture.  She twists her head and looks back.  Or worse ... backs up.  
I found this rather irritating last night as I was trying to get her out of the elder mule pasture.  She wasn't happy with Opal following alongside her.  She was rather displeased and kept looking over her shoulder at the far off Molly and Mare pasture.

Now I don't want her thinking she can back up and pull me when she is displeased.  I did get around her and make her move sideways in the direction I wanted.  
But I want her to walk with me without any fuss.

Using a 'Come Along Halter' made out of a kids lariat works well for teaching her not to back up or resist.  It is similar to a 'war' bridle in a way and used correctly is very humane.

Now the flip side to this is that she never has issues if she is with one of her other pasture mates.  She comes along fine, and leaves home fine...but, mostly I have to ride alone.  99% of my rides are solo.  
I could take Opal and Fred and have no issues, but Siera is really one fine mule.

So we will learn to come along together.

Last night we just worked on walking up the long driveway to get the mail and then stand around and be patient.  
Siera pulled back once.
I stood quietly and then watched as she assessed the pressure on her nose then stepped forward to tons of praise.

I took the mail and fluttered it around her.  It was boring.  She yawned.
I shook the mail, flapped the mail, put the mail between her ears.  I'm sure she thinks I'm just an idiot.

I want Siera convinced that she can never pull me around while on lead.   So far she has not, but prevention is the key.
More walks are in order.





Thursday, August 22, 2013


I know, in June we were complaining about all the rain.

But suddenly it stopped.  No rain for days.
It was getting rather dry here.

This morning in came.  The rain should have come a bit more gently, but I guess we'll just take it right?

When the lightening stopped and the downpour eased up I put on a slicker, boots, and wide brimmed hat and decided to go out and take a look around.

I guess I am never disappointed when walking about in the woods.  I found these tiny beauties on a log in the neighbor's pasture.  

I went to the creek and saw that the water was up from the day before but not flooding.  The water was running harder and it was brown from mud.

A fog hung over the water.

One thing I did notice though.  The amount of leaves that have fallen are quite startling compared to just days ago.

I know the end of summer is approaching.
I'm not sure I'm happy about it.
Although there is nothing I can do but enjoy the changes of the seasons.

And...keep finding surprises that Mother Nature likes to leave for us.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Siera's Diet & Exercise Routine

I knew that last Sunday would be my last day that I would be able to ride Siera for a week.

I was working and then off on a visit to another part of the state.

So I put Siera in with the 'elder' mules.  
She acclimated right away.  She decided that the 'elders' were not her cup of tea and went to the fenceline to see if she could see her herd mates.  And most important of all, see the mares.

My husband told me when I arrived home today that my silly mule has really been trying to buff herself up for me.

I got curious and went out to see her.
The older mules were walking under the apples trees trying to coax some apples to fall for them.  They were quiet and nonchalant.

However, Siera was pacing the fence line.  I walked down through the pasture to see if I could get her attention.  
I did.
She walked up to me.  Then turned and began to pace the fence again.

I stood back and watched.  Siera no longer had the huge hay gut she had 2 weeks ago when she got ill.  I could actually see muscles moving.  My mule had lost weight and put on muscle!  I know this was occurring before I left town for 4 days.  But being away from her and coming back ... was startling!

She probably will be a bit harder to ride off from the farm when we have at it again, but I imagine she'll do better as she is stronger and not so heavy.

No worries, she is eating and drinking normally, just exercising a bit more than she used to!

Friday, August 16, 2013


Grand children make you all gooey inside.

That's just a fact.
Babies and grand kids do that to me.

For some reason babies really make me all soft and mushy in the head.
Even an icky diaper doesn't bother me.

Then there is Lily.  8 yrs old and a bundle of interesting-ness.  I haven't seen her in a few years, but here she is happy to have Grandma go to the playground and go sliding and swinging with her.

Lily learned to knit [not from me] and crochet while I was with her.  She is determined to make her baby sister a scarf.
I believe she'll get it done too!

I just got back from a visit with the newest Grandchild to enter the world.  
I got all gooey.
And I sort of wanted to stay and play.

I have to come back home eventually though right?

Looking forward to doing this again.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Oh Dear FedEx

I must say that the FedEx Customer Service people are rather pleasant.

I tracked a package all the way to 'the front doorstep'.  When I looked for said package there was none.
There was no package at my neighbor's house [they sometimes do that] or at the only other two places on my road.

No one is home at the old farm and no one is living at the little shack this summer.
So the mystery deepens.
Where was my package delivered to?
What sort of shape is it in after 3/4" of rain this weekend?

FedEx CS told me on Saturday that of course they couldn't find the package until Monday.  This morning I recieved a call from a 'Tracing Agent' who wanted to know if I'd found my package yet.

Nope I had not.  I'd checked with most folks ... all of 7 places on my ridge and no one had seen a package.  However 3 people had seen the FedEx truck.

I impressed on them that my package had been shipped with special delivery and that this is the 3rd time that special deliveries had been messed up.
The regular guy Dave [yes I know his name well, I see him where I work and sign him in daily]... knows exactly where to deliver.

So the Agent called the terminal, had them stop the driver and told said driver that the package had to be retrieved today and delivered today.  I had told her they were Wedding Photos that I am delivering tomorrow out of town.

The Agent assured me that the package would be given to me today.
I think I believed her.

I must mention that Blurb who did the photo album books has credited my shipping fees and is anxiously awaiting the outcome also.
Their Customer Service answered my issue within 10 minutes.

I will be heading out tomorrow, bags packed, computer and cameras in tow to do another 'shoot'.
This will be of my new grand baby Elena Ruby.

Oh Dear FedEx, please find my package!

Because after this trip I'll have another 'special delivery' and I need you to not leave my package somewhere else!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday Rain

I'll just let the shots of the day speak for me.

Corn silk:

Gooseberry in black and white:

Morris my assistant:

Relax with a mule.

I won't go into too much detail about yesterday morning's frustrations about FedEx not delivering my package to the right place...and me looking and calling all neighbors trying to find my son's Wedding Book.
I talked to FedEx Customer Service and they will have the driver find it and deliver it to my place on Monday.
That is the best that can be done.
Blurb Customer Service refunded me my 'Special Delivery' rate. They want an update on the package asap.
All in all, I was pretty hot.  Today we are expecting quite a bit of rain and I hope the books are protected wherever they are sitting.

Anyway, a very important thing to remember is NOT to work with an animal when you are angry.  So I put off working with Siera until late in the afternoon when I'd calmed down.
No use getting all riled about something that is way beyond my control.

Siera has a habit of tossing her nose while riding.  This is the way she used to communicate her dislike I thought of what we were doing.
So yesterday I changed to a very mild 'gag' bit with a noseband.

Yes.  Siera started 4 yrs ago with a Snaffle bit.  She works very nicely in that until she doesn't want to.  She will stiffen her neck and no person can move her nose...not me at least.  

Regarding bits.  I only know that sometimes I have to to try a few different things before we find a good fit.  Each animal is different.

Anyway, she loved the sweet iron bit and played with it while we rode.
Yesterday was our best ride to date.
She had almost no head tossing, only twice while riding up the driveway and away from home.
Loose rein, no head tossing, neck reining, standing still...standing still for dismounts in the woods, on the road, and in a mule eating soybean field.

Last year she was positive that soybeans would EAT her alive.  Also certain tall grasses.
She is a slow maturing mule? 

If I were to take Siera out on groomed riding trails with another animal, people would see her as a broke, broke, broke riding animal.  And I have to admit, she really is well behaved.

Yesterday we reined through the dense woods doing serpentine moves with a loose rein.  She is now getting to trust me that I won't put her in a bad situation and I trust that she will take care of me over rocks, logs, and poor footing.
What a great place to arrive at.  

Siera and I have started to work as a team.  What a heady boost to my 'inner' spirit to have finally arrived to that place.

There is nothing in the world quite like having a big animal understand what you are asking and do it willingly...and without a word being spoken.
Just body language.

What a perfect wonderful way to relax with a mule.


Friday, August 09, 2013

Siera's work out.

More exercise for Siera.

Yesterday we 'did' the woods again.  She took to the trail with only one head flip and an 'Do I have to?' attitude.

I don't expect perfection so didn't get after her.  She will get used to the idea soon enough that we'll do what I want.

When we came out of the woods we took to the side of the gravel road.  She has newly trimmed hooves and I didn't want her to get sore.
She resisted walking in the grass at first, but relented without much of a fuss.

She is still thinking about her friends at home while we are out and lets me know with an occasional head flip.  Some people get just plain ugly on their equine for this behavior but she doesn't do it relentlessly ... the more I ride her, the less she tosses her head.

That however is her way of saying 'Okay, I'll do it, but this is my mild protest.'

We practiced standing still again.  I do swear many folks don't practice this enough.  I like a mule/horse who will stand still while I am either talking to a neighbor or just looking at scenery.
That is part of becoming a Mule Tripod for photographs.

Mount, dismount...
Mount, dismount...
Stand still.  
All things I value greatly in a ride.
Siera does excel and standing like a rock when I remount.

Yesterday's ride and walk were about 45 minutes.  We are slowly working up to this and none of the exercise is strenous.  She is handling it well.

On our way home we cut through a combined oat field.  I encouraged Siera to strut her stuff.  She wasn't as smooth as she would be on a nice trail, ... and her paso llano gait was a bit rough to start with.

She smoothed out towards the end and even did a nicer job the second time we did it. 

I'm happy with the way Siera is coming along.

For me, there is no 30 day wonder to get a broke mule. 
Siera is 'broke', not 'finished' and not my broke.
Broke for me is something that takes years. 
It is a relationship and trust and knowledge and...
connection that is very deep between rider and mule.

That is Broke.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Whirlwind week.

Just a few from the hike on Sunday.

Fungi...surprised I found this, it has been so dry...

Lots to update.

Two days ago I became a Grandmother again!  To Elena Ruby Mathein.  I hope to see mom, dad, older sister and Elena next week.

I feel rather Grandmother-ly today.

Monday, August 05, 2013

First Ride this Year ~ Siera

I never...okay...almost never give a mule a year of for no reason.  But due to my work schedule last year and ... well...
I did it.  I left Siera unridden since last July.

Everything on lead has been going very well, we've taken lots of small hikes with and without Morris.  We've gotten the mail, we've looked for patches of fall wild berries and ducked through some trails in the woods together.
All of these things went well and Siera has shown no lameness at all.

In fact part of the day she walks around her paddock and keeps circling ... she is doing nice light exercise for herself.  I laughed and told hubby that in a few weeks she may even be up for a long easy trail ride!

I took her from her paddock and we saddled up.  She was quiet and seemed rather relaxed.
Our first test was going to be 'going up the driveway' and leaving the farm.  She has always been a bit sour about that but she wasn't bad!

She'd walk a few feet and stop, I'd give her a kiss to get up.  She'd go forward.  In years past she would balk and back up, sometimes we'd have a bit of a go 'round.  I'd have to slap her with a rein.

Not this time!  I never had to touch her with my heels!  I just kissed and she'd move forward and when she hesitated I just kissed again.

[Siera walking with her head and neck cocked to 'listen' to home...I didn't get after her for this as she was moving forward, I don't expect perfection and as long as she is doing what she should, she gets no reprimand!]


She kept looking back over her shoulder for the first 1/4 mile.  Then suddenly she decided to go past the 'triangle' [where the road splits 3 ways] and see what was up ahead.  I sat back and enjoyed the ride.   
Siera's attitude about riding has improved, her reactions have improved, her attitude has improved...and somehow she decided to neck rein with ease.  [I'd been working on that over a year ago...she must have thought about it on her lay off?]
Siera is gaited.  Her mother was Peruvian Paso and it really does show when Siera gets up and strutting.  She can gait at 12 mph.

Our ride was very short.  We worked on standing still and relaxing.  She can do this for almost 2 minutes at a time.  I don't know if anyone else does this, but I think standing still is such an important part of training.  Of course Opal knows know that when she hears my camera start up ... she is to stand still!

Siera gets her feet done today and we'll be taking more daily short rides and more practice at standing still...and perhaps visiting with neighbors.

The rest of my day was spent with Morris.  We went hiking.  Well, we went rock climbing in our dry gulleys.

 The rocks in these places are fantastic!  While hiking I found 12 iron concretions!  What a mother lode!
Here's a shot of some of them, not quite in focus, but the light was very poor.

I left some on a boulder in the bottom so that when the neighbor kids come hiking next time, they can 'find' some too.

Rest area while rock climbing:


Yesterday's morning dew on flowers:

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Ahhhhh, Morning All!

It is cold this morning!  Brrr!  50 degrees cold!  I still would like it to a bit warmer at sunrise!

This is predawn this morning looking through the yet developing corn.  It should be tassled out and have ears, but that is slow in coming.

Yesterday evening we moved Bart and his ladies into another area for grazing.  These Dexters do such a nice job of cleaning up weeds as well as grazing grass.  They all seemed content.

After a supper of fresh zucchini, bacon and eggs...and toast [I know breakfast for supper]... I took Morris and went for an evening walk up the road to watch the sunset.  We'd had beautiful clouds all day and poof, they were gone come sunset.
I found the prettiest sky in the east though with the layers of colors quite beautiful.

Miss Siera seems to be back to her former self.  No lameness at all.  We've had a few hikes together and today...I think I'll tack her up and take her for a short ride.
Here she was patiently waiting under the Hickory tree for me to do chores.

She enjoyed her brushing and pampering.  She is absolutely fantastic with her lead rope manners, but can get a bit frustrated when she is tied up and not accompanied by a human or other animal.
She just stood there and watched the activity in the yard.  Good Girl!

The farrier comes tomorrow for his regular visit.  She is on his list.  Also on her list is a nice haircut!

Hubby got his post pounder thingy that attaches to the skid steer all set up just about.  Now if he gets the last part out.  New wooden fence posts are going up on the farm!  [See how technical minded I am?]

I've made a deal with the nieghbor girl [and her parents].  I am going to start mentoring her in all things mule.  She was too shy to ask me and her mom said something about wanting lessons.
I'm not going to do lessons for money.  Why do something I can do that causes me to feel good and paid for it? 

If I can get a young girls [girls if her sister joins in] interested in mules/horses and be safe with them, it is a win win situation for me.
We will be doing this much like the 4H program.  It isn't just about riding.  It is about learning colors, parts, sickness, care, foot care, grooming, cleaning tack, and safety above all else while handling the animal.

I'm pretty happy about it.
Our schedules will be haphazard at best, but I am looking forward to it.

So on with my day.
Siera is waiting for a short ride to the ridge.  

She has no sign of any leftover side effects from her crisis last Monday.
I am so grateful!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Siera's Big Little Adventure

Thanks to some of my Blogger friends who have equines, this includes Dancing Donkey ...[Her donkeys often hike with her and I have done the same with Eddie back when he was weaned.  So with a nod at both of my blogging animal friends...]

I have been inspired to go ahead and use Siera's down time to 'walk' with her and hike with her.
Many "trainers" don't use this method, they train in a round pen.
This is an extremely useful tool to use as you will see when you aren't riding.

Next adventure out, I may just let Siera carry our water and a lunch.  Morris and I would be grateful to have a 'pack' mule to lead.

I decided to take Siera to the BIG Scary Creek.

Morris went with us to give Siera encouragement.

The donkeys all came out of the woods to wink and talk to Siera.  These are my farm clowns, always giving their unadulterated opinion on anything.

Morris trotted happily ahead.  He wasn't so much interested in the equine, he wanted to get onto the 'hill road' and down to the creek.

Siera had a few hesitations.  She would stop often as a herd sour mule will do.  But she didn't fight me.  I instead went sideways up a hilly bank and over some logs.  She'd follow and stop...and look again.

No braying, no pulling back...but the resistance got weaker the further from the Meadow we got.
Of course her old gang was up in the Merry Meadow making noises.
So I thought this would be an excellent test to see if she was going to through a fit, or listen to me.

Good girl.  She listened!

I didn't take any photos at all during our hike down through the brush, I was concentrating on Siera and she was working with me.

However, she has a history of absolutely refusing a small stream crossing.  She will fight it, refuse, back up and try everything NOT to put her feet in a small creek.  A large stream?  No problem!

So we got to the creek and...

She climbed right down into it and followed me.

After all, if Morris the little bitty dog could stand in the creek...certainly a big mule could, right?

The creek has some delicious beautiful green grass growing in it!

All in all our little hike went fantastically.

I have to thank my blogger friends again.  Without reading how they do it...I may never have thought of exploring this with Siera.

What a great way to spend time, bond, and do 'scary' things together.

Once you are used to it, it really isn't hard at all.