Saturday, June 29, 2019

When I ride...

I am like the kid who rides a dragon.
The magic of the world opens up to me.

My spirit is suddenly free.

Something wild calls me...


And we can fly with unbounded joy

until I have to return to


Friday, June 28, 2019

What have we learned?

Saddle view from Sunshine's Back

Molly and I went for a 'sunset' ride on Tuesday night. Monday evening we worked with Sundance in the round pen.

Monday night Molly learned an important lesson. While working with Sundance she dropped the dog food bag that made crinkly noises between the back legs of the mule. She immediately bent to pick it up.
Sundance was startled and swatted with a hoof as she darted away.

No real harm had occurred but Molly did get her arm brushed by a hoof edge. We talked about that for a moment and Molly said she understood that she should have just stood for a moment and not tried to grab between Sundance's legs.

I had Molly lunge Sundance around the pen and placed the very very scary dog food bag in a spot that Sundance would have to eventually go over.
I told Molly that she wouldn't mess any training up at all. But since Sundance suddenly had an issue with one thing that was going on, we wouldn't saddle her until she figured out that the dog food bag wouldn't eat her.

Molly worked with Sundance who first jumped the bag, then later trotted over it, and lastly Molly got her to stop with a foot on it.
Lots of praise.
While working, Sundance did show the classic signs of thinking about what she was learning. Molly showed an uncanny ability to work with Sundance.
This young lady had never been in a round pen before.
We ended the session with more grooming and a bit of grazing in the yard. I let Molly handle her for all of that.

See. Sundance had been pretty much handled by Rich for most of her young life. She was to be Rich's mule. And Sundance could be a handful at times so I sort of backed off from handling her until this last fall when I realized that Rich would probably never get back to working with her.
The changes in this young mule have been astounding.

The small herd can be in the forest and all I have to do is start a series of whistles. Sundance comes at a trot or lope to my whistle.

She literally begs to be caught and worked with any time she sees me in the yard or her pasture out back.

Sunshine is not quite as attentive, but I must say that the red headed sisters are very people oriented. There was a time when Sunshine [the older sister] didn't want to be caught. However since I have been constantly doing things with all of the mules ... it seems all are eager to be handled.

So Molly and I saddled up Sunshine and Siera for our sunset ride. Off we went along the back roads on the ridge. The biggest challenge for Molly and Siera was to not leave Sunshine and I too far behind. Siera is gaited and walks as fast as Sunshine can jog.
Molly did a great job. A few times I told her to let Siera go ahead and stretch her legs but then turn around and come back or make Siera wait for us.

Molly did...
Not a great shot by any means. But you get the idea.

We sat and watched the sun go down where the gravel road meets blacktop. Then we turned towards home.
I could hear machinery that sounded like a large tractor just over the hill. It sounded as though it were coming towards us.
I asked Molly to bring Siera into a hay field and turn her so she could watch the tractor from a 'safe' distance.
Siera has had issues with loud machinery before and I wanted to avoid any accidents.

I lined Sunshine up next to Siera and sat still. Sunshine glanced up at the huge monstrous tractor and dipped her head to sample the hay under her hooves totally unimpressed by the size of the tractor and the large flatbed of round bales it was pulling.
However, Siera's eyes kept getting rounder and larger, her neck tightened and she started a bolt. I held my hand up and amazingly she collided with my open hand and stopped wide eyed.
Molly sat the bolt perfectly without losing her balance and calmly brought Siera back to watch the tractor move off.

At that moment, I felt that Molly was going to be an amazing rider some day. This was her fourth time on a mule and she'd had no prior experience. I do not believe I've ever seen anyone as talented as her at her age. Yes, I have really good animals for her to learn on, but she never lost her cool or her balance.

The rest of the ride was rather quiet and colorful.
Molly and I unsaddled the mules and treated them with some grass from the yard.

Molly came in the house afterwards to tell Rich what she had learned. The two of them talked about mules/horses/training/riding and skills.

The farriers came out yesterday to trim the herd for me. Sundance used to have a habit of not wanting to stand quietly for them. She also would not put her foot on their stand to allow them to rasp her hoof.

I'd been working on that for a while now. Every day I catch her and clean her feet and have her bring her front legs forward while I pretend to rasp them.

When finished with the red heads the farriers did comment on how nice Sundance had behaved.
What did I learn?
Hoof work pays off.

This month has been a whirlwind of mule riding and training between all of the other things I have going on.

I'm diggin' it. It has been nice to have my interest in working with the animals sparked again.

However leaves on Monday to spend the rest of the summer before she heads off to college at her Grandmother's. Can I say that I am going to miss her?
Oh yes.
I will.

What have I learned?
I still love riding and training.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Sundance in Training...

I know this has been a long drawn out effort for training a mule. Sundance is 10 yrs old now. So many things have interfered with getting her under saddle that the last 5 years have flown by.

She was supposed to be a project for Rich. I didn't want to train another mule. I'd worked with Badger as my very first full blown project in 1998. Sunshine in 2002 and Siera in 2006.

Anyway. Cancer, stroke, and other health issues took away Rich's desire to work with Sundance. I thought she was too wild and crazy at first to work with. However since she is here, I decided that she should be useful. So last year I started working with her. She made great progress and then...winter happened. The round pen got filled with large square bales for the winter and the training there stopped. I had good intentions of all sorts of work with her...but didn't.

Now we start up again. And the intense human contact has made an impression on all of the mules.
The red headed sisters always come to the gate and stare at me when they see me outside. Sunshine is the older of the two and has years of riding under her girth.
Sundance evidently loves the challenge and work. She will spot me anywhere and find me.

Even in the forest she hears my footsteps and comes on the gallop. She reminds me in a way of her half brother Badger. Her sister Sunshine is very similar. I've been blessed with some very fine mules in my life. Sundance may be one of those special ones and I may not have known it.

Here she is at the gate with her sister. Demanding to be noticed.

I made her wait though until I was ready.

In the round pen I just decided to start treating her like any mule I'd take riding.
No ground work first.
Brushing and picking the feet.

Blanket and saddle. This is the second time she has had a saddle on. She twitched her body when I brought it out but then stood still as I put it on her.
She really is not sure about having a snaffle bit in her mouth and kept inching backwards.
I did not have her tied, she was at Liberty and could have chosen to bolt away. However I stood quietly and spoke to her, explaining how I felt she needed to trust me on this.

She took the bit and let me adjust the straps. The bit and bridle really bugged the crap out of her. So I added a few jugs with rocks to her saddle and asked her to trot around me.
She shook her head and bunny hopped in protest. She went faster, slower, faster, then stopped and became a mule statue.

I put the crinkly dog food bag on her next and she listened to it as she walked around and then stood quietly again.

I attached reins and we worked on feeling the bit on one side and another and giving to the bit. It only took a few minutes for her to figure this out. I stopped as soon as she responded.
I then put a foot in her stirrup and laid across her, first on one side, then another.

A huge thunderstorm started moving in so I decided to end our session. I unsaddles her and did it as if she were a seasoned mule. She just stood quietly.

I'm looking forward to another session hopefully today.
One thing I have going for me, is that I am not like a paid trainer. I don't have a time limit on her work. I don't have to produce results in 30 days. I can take my time and do it how I like.

I will be moving the herd back to the forest so they have lots of shade as the weather is turning very hot and humid.

I'm pleased with Sundance's progress. They say you need to train them very young. I'm thinking that Sundance is more like her sister and half brother Badger. They needed time for their mature brains to kick in and accept things.
This work would not have gone well when Sundance was two or even five years old.

I guess things happen for a reason.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

I like Jersey Valley

Jersey Valley is one of our local county parks. It had an earthen dam that failed during the extremely heavy rains last August.

The park had a nice little lake stocked with fish and a wonderful hiking trail that went around it with new trails being developed.

This is a view a few years ago that I took on an early morning walk with Morris. I am standing on the dam looking across the lake as the sun comes up on my right.

I don't really have good before and after photos as I just went out this week to check it out. The steep entrance road to this park gets closed often in the winter.

Morris and I went there after his first brush with death and the diagnosis of Kidney Failure. I wanted to take him to his favorite hiking area.

I went out there on Wednesday afternoon with Charlie after bringing Rich home from our 'adventure' to Vernon Memorial Hospital.

I took this photo to show Rich the change in the little man made lake since the spill way had been breached last August.

I am standing where there was a fishing dock at one time. I looked around and decided to go see where the flood waters broke through the dam.

Here is a photo from the breach point looking up at the park Pavilion and playground area.

I turned around and took a shot of a gent and his grandson walking through what used to be the spillway and following the stream as it now flows through here.

The 'new' look is pretty interesting. Charlie and I headed down the stream to explore the rock debris field.

We found this little falls falling into a deep rock pond.

Just above this water falls is where I took the photo of Mr. Morris on our last hike there together.

I followed the debris field and was able to walk along the West Fork of the Kickapoo River.  This stream empties into the watershed that flooded Readstown. Hard to believe, but if one looks at a map and follows the downward flow of water it is pretty obvious.

The dam was put in place for flood control.
The big question now is will the dam be replaced?

From visiting there a lot of the people are finding the re-modeled Jersey Valley quite interesting. The rock field is fascinating with its mix of rocks.

I found the fishing dock wedged up against trees. Amazingly, it actually held together fairly well.

This wasn't the first time it had gotten loose from its moorings, but it was certainly the first and only time it had left the man made lake.

I met some folks who were sorely disappointed in the lack of repair which I found interesting. The repair will be expensive and with more harsh rains? Would it even hold?
I liked the lake too. I like the hiking trails around it.

Some folks think the county ought to just redo the trails and leave well enough alone. Though I must admit I am conflicted. So many people enjoyed the nice little beach and most days in the warm season there would be canoeing, kayaking, and fishing occurring on any given day.

In a couple of years the rock debris field will be overgrown as Mother Nature remodels yet again.

But for now, I'm going to keep going back to one of my favorite places in Vernon County.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A bit of Infrared Photography

I went to a favorite spot of mine where I can stand on a closed bridge and view the stream below. I have to admit that the lighting was not really fantastic for taking photographs.

But that is why I enjoy Infrared. I'd brought along my Olympus OMD EM 5 which is an older camera to try out some filters. Infrared can be quite complicated. A converted camera is the best but I'm still a bit hesitant to take the old Oly and send it in for conversion.
If you want to read about it here is a link by LifePixel. Converting your camera...

I thought I'd compare my tiny pocket camera that I'd purchased from KolariVision to a non converted camera with just filters.

So I put the 720nm filter on the Oly and set it up on a tripod. Using this filter increases the exposure times greatly.
With the white balance ... not correctly done in camera... I learned more about that later, the shot came out like this:

Eww! Nasty reds and pinks.
But I had hope. I took a lot of shots.
I dropped it into the Olympus Program called workspace and went looking for a correction on the white balance.

Well, this was neater! Odd colored sky, off white foliage, blue reflection with a burnt sky and stream. I noted here that the wind blowing had left the tree tops with a blur. That is okay, I was experimenting.

I did some channel swapping for some 'false' color and ...

This really did appeal to me. Now everything looked like it was from another world!  The reflections were cyan and there was some pink from...who knows where. I could colorize it to my whim or leave it. Some of the details are a bit fuzzy as it was a 15 second shot and the wind blew leaves and grasses. But that was okay.

Then I thought to see how it would appear in black and white.

Oh yes. Now this I really like a lot. I liked it better than any of the other versions including the nice color shot that is very ho hum.

Then I took out the converted Canon ELPH which is a pocket camera. I stuck the 720nm filter on it and...

Well, I think the converted camera speaks for itself.


my favorite shot of the morning taken with that little point and shoot camera....

I think hands down, a conversion is best.

Now to go ahead and send the camera in!

That will take some more consideration.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


What I wanted to write was all about 'stuff' and things that are irritating me. But I won't do that here.

It is said that you shouldn't air your problems in the public eye. I see too much of that on Facebook and social media. Got a problem with someone? Make a statement on Twitter, FB, or somewhere else.
I'm not into public shaming.

However I sort of wish I could do that. Unfortunately once you let the cat out of the bag and it becomes public on the internet, ... it doesn't ever really go away does it?

I have a sense of right and wrong. Deceit and truth. Lies and secrets, white lies actually do more harm than good.
I've even heard a new term called the *Fiblit*. It is often used with those folks with dementia who ask over and over for something or in some cases need a small Fib to get them through the day.

Fiblits are a different matter.

Maybe that is why I like animals so much. They can't lie. A dog will always tell the truth about someone. A mule won't lie. If a person has done something to them, their body language will speak volumes.
Another thing. Animals have a great way of forgiving too. We can learn a lot from them too.

That's all I will say.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Wonderful Saturday

The morning started like any other except that Molly had asked if I wanted to go riding.
Well, of course I did! Mornings are the best time to go for me on the weekends. In the afternoons there are guys that race around with loud 4 wheelers and I just don't think mules and loud machines would mix well.

Not a great shot, but I just took the camera and pointed behind me. Molly's mount is Mica. She used to be a roper/heeler and team penning mule but has now retired into a life of quiet trail rides. We didn't use her for about 5 years and I pulled her out of retirement and found that she was excellent for novice riders and as a rock solid dependable mule in all situations.

I rode Siera. Molly wanted to ride her. But Siera can be funny on her first trips away from home. She can be obstinate and when it comes to black sucking mud, she will sometimes prepare for a down right refusal to move through it.
Putting a newer rider in that situation is not a good idea.

And I knew my chosen route had mud sucking holes that the 4 Wheelers had created. [No photos of the mud sucking route nor the creek crossing that was similar to the swamp of Sorrows ~~ Movie reference to The Never Ending Story]

My hands were totally full of convincing Siera she would survive the black muck holes of death.
We had to cross the valley floor but the 4 Wheelers and made deep ruts in the already saturated valley. Instead of trying to cross to the other side, I walked Siera upstream on solid ground to the snow mobile crossing.
Less stress for her and probably safer too.

We finally made it to my favorite destination. The Back Valley, The Lost Valley...well, the 4 Wheelers have beat down a trail there too. However I took Siera upstream and she didn't mind at all. At one time it would have been a bit of a fight. Not any more. In fact she was being Miss Perfect by this time.

Maidenhair Fern Hill

I was pleased as this was her second ride away from home this year. Too many variables in my life had to get straightened out before I could take the time to ride again.

As we left the Back Valley we had a steep slippery trail to go up. I told Molly that these guys could do it easily, just let Mica have her head and lean forward, keep your balance, and trust her to do the proper thing. 

It was a hard incline for both mules, but once we got on the old logging trail, we let them catch their breath.

Mica is aged but in much better shape than she was in last year. Both mules are a bit soft in muscle and endurance but that is because they don't get ridden enough. I am aiming to fix that.

We eventually made it back to the first valley. The Black mud sucking valley of ruts and black water and muck. 
When I crossed the creek I offered Molly the opportunity to ride Siera. She didn't hesitate. We swapped mules and I rode Mica the rest of the way home.
Siera knew the way home up the camp road and was not going to offer up any resistance.

Molly had met Siera the first day she came to visit and fell head over heels for her. I have two other teens girls who have done the very same thing with her. Siera is that kind of mule. She loves attention. 

Molly beamed all the way home. 

I took Molly home and told her that around 3pm I'd be taking Sundance out for her next training session. We took a vote and decided to start calling her *Sunny*, Sundance and Sunshine are just too much of a mouth full.
Sunny, it is.

The funny thing is with Sunny and her sister, it that they are the two that were born on this place and raised here. Both out of my slightly nutty but fun mare Cheyanne who is no longer with us. Both mules are extreme people mules.

In one respect it almost makes it a bit harder to train Sunny. She doesn't want to trot around the round pen. She wants to hang out with the human.
Trainers like those that they can force into lunging and moving. 

Sure I can lunge her. But then I can also work with her a bit differently and use her human trust in other ways.

Put strange things on her back. Toss balls around. Ask her to follow me over killer tarps. Kick a ball.
All with a curious attitude at first then a Ho Hum attitude.

Crinkly Mule Eating Dog Food Bag. At first it was a mule eater. After a while it was a grooming tool. Legs, stomach, ears, back and then a neck decoration.


Finally. A saddle. And a jug with rocks in it to make annoying noises as she walked.
Look at the jug, walk, listen to the jug. 

Ho Hum.

I let her trot the pen with the saddle to feel the back of it bouncing around. I'll use the back girth next so she can feel that. Then add a breast collar and crupper and perhaps a britchen.

I stood in the stirrups on each side and laid across her. She just sighed.

And that was the end of the session.
I was pleased. I recalled watching a video of an old mule/horse trainer who commented that in truth training the animal should be as about boring as watching paint dry. You don't want snorting bucking and challenges every step of the way. I agree, but to me it isn't boring. It is more about watching her reactions and body language to everything we are working on.

I put things away and she followed me. if to ask...

What's next?
Admittedly, this was to be Rich's mule to train and I kept holding out the hope that he'd get interested in her again.

But she is doing so well.
I am simply awed by her calm attitude.

Let's hope it eventually translates to trails!

Friday, June 14, 2019


Well, I finished clipping the manes of the mules. Tah Dah!

Sundance is dealing with strange items resting on her ears. Yesterday we just spent an hour dealing with plastic pipes on her head, straps of leather, a cardboard tube that she thought was neat to blow into and make noise.
She takes a bridle just fine, but isn't quite comfortable with hands and objects touching the base of her ears.
I didn't force clippers on her, but used scissors instead, we will eventually work up to the clippers.

She was calm and cool yesterday and not the panicked mule that I'd had the day before. We revisited some of the things I'd done in the fall. She recalled all of that work.
I need to make time every day now.

Lil' Richard has been trimming and fertilizing the 'lane'. I dislike mowing it so I thought I'd use him to trim along the fence and the hillside. It is working out well. I have to rake his deposits out, but it works out quite nicely for the both of us.

Fred, who is now about 35 years old enjoyed some time with me in the yard after his grooming and clipping yesterday. He is still doing well for his age, but has slowed down and his hips and back are showing age as well as the grey hair on his once very mahogany colored face.

He is not one mule who likes getting caught, but he was pretty compliant yesterday.

Teslin is still here and she enjoys her time out in the yard. She tends to 'think' about wandering off once in a while. Yesterday afternoon she surprised me by playing with Sven for a few minutes.

Mica got her mane roached last night also. She was her usual quiet self. But the trim makes her long ears and neck stand out much nicer.

She has taken Fred's place as the Novice Rider's learning mule. She is much taller than Fred, but is in some ways more compliant than he was.

After supper I caught up Siera and took her out for a sunset spin.

I had forgotten how comfortable my hand made saddle was. It always felt too heavy to put on her before. Um. I guess working out has really helped with that. It wasn't much of an effort to put it on last night.

And we watched the neighbor plant corn.

It was a great equine day!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Mixed Bag

A horrible shot of Charlie, but evidence that now the two dogs are tolerant of each other.
Charlie was a bit put out by Teslin taking over that side of the couch. He preferred it when she would lay in her cozy little bed or go upstairs. She has quit going upstairs now and prefers our company.

She has decided that Charlie's food is better and has gained a pretty good appetite. Teslin will come and stare at me when she wants dry food. She has free feed food in her own bowl. That is fine with me. When Miss Picky eater is hungry and she gets food.
Both dogs went with me on a long walk yesterday. Mistake. Don't let Tes off leash, she has a way of deciding to take her own way and wander. My son said she isn't deaf, but she is when I call her.
So she was put on a leash and our hike was rerouted towards home. Coming through the meadow ... I had to carry Charlie. The grasses were so thick and hip tall on me.
Note to self. Stay out of the tall stuff with the dogs.

I took an afternoon to start to clean all of the saddles and gear. I sat on the porch Sunday with the dogs and cleaned 5 saddles and oiled britchens.
After pulling a tire off the zero turn mower, I took it in for repairs and then spent the evening trying another first.

Rich has always roached our mules' manes. So I decided to use the clippers this year as I'd used scissors last year with okay results, but it took forever.

So there is Sunshine with her Shaggy Messy mane.

Clipped! And I did her ears too. She looks much better. I used an old set of clippers on her. I asked Rich why he had quit using them. He said something about not cutting or some such thing. I thought I'd find it's manual and well...

Holy cow! I fixed them, cleaned the blades, oiled it, and then used the clippers on Sunshine! I even watched videos on YouTube to see if there was an easier way to clip. I followed a video and it worked out better.

Siera was a cakewalk. I used the large clippers on her. I'd taken them apart and cleaned and oiled them also. See? I am learning!


Last night I caught up the youngest mule. Rich said she hated clippers. I put her on the tree and turned on the quiet clippers. Sundance lost her mind. I know Rich had twitched her in the past to do it. But I am in no hurry. I left Sundance tied to the 'Naughty Tree' while I put everything away.
I was going to have to calm her down and we'd take our time regarding clipping.

Sundance and I went to the round pen and worked for a while. She decided that the goat in his pen was a mule-eating transmorgifying monster of some sort. Eventually she walked over and stared at Sven who just talked to her through his pen.

Sundance thought he was okay to look at. But I was still the enemy and I was NOT going to touch her at all. This was my own fault for not properly dealing with her clipper issue. But at the same time, it opens up a door for us to work together. She was doing so well last fall and it fell apart last night.

I worked with her and as soon as she turned, dropped her head, and walked to me with a kind look in her eye...I praised her and then took her back to the pasture after a short time grazing in the yard.
I let her loose in the pasture and she decided to glue herself to me.

I think I was forgiven. Her sister, Sunshine thought she'd like to get caught again.


I think I am glad I didn't do a vegetable garden this year. I'm hoping to spend a lot of time working with Sundance. My goal is to have her under saddle this summer at some point.

Here is where we were last year when I had to end our lessons in the round pen.

~~ This is where the large square hay bales are stored for the winter. I dislike having to use this space but hopefully I'll work something out soon enough.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

My Doggy Vacation ~~ By Teslin

I acted all sad and unhappy when my 'Dad' left. He is a good guy but I know when he comes to the Mom house I think he may leave me for a doggy vacation.

This time was really different. Morris wasn't there. A little black doggy with a funny face was there instead. 

So my Dad left. At first I decided I would just wait for him to come back and watch out the window. 

I got tired of that and took a nap. Then Charlie said we could walk around and look for Dad.

Charlie isn't so bad after all. He is little but seems pretty nice.

And I even went and sat next to the Rich guy. He talked to me and asked me if I was okay. I wagged my tail but wasn't sure I wanted to be petted.

Well now. It seems that Dad is letting me have my own vacation. I did a lot of walking around the yard with Charlie and then we both laid down on the porch and watched the Mom person water plants. I decided that maybe I better make 'nice' with her since she seemed to be in charge of the Food Things.

I like food stuff. People food is much better. I've never seen a human beg for kibbles and that is a fact.

When the Mom lady sat on the couch [Charlie was sleeping on the porch], I borrowed her phone to see if Dad had texted.

I looked at the thing called Facebook and had seen where he posted that he was starting an adventure. I couldn't hit the like button or reply. I'll get the Mom person to help me.

It is nice to be able to spend time outside sniffing things. I met Sven, the goat. Not impressed. He has no ears and eats grass for real. 

The Mom has a great big huge monstrous pony too that eats grass in the yard. I stayed away from him.

I stick by the Mom now. I follow her into the bathroom and keep near her. I think she thought the fact that I pushed the bathroom door open was pretty funny. She laughed.

I ate food on the landing. Charlie leaves my dish alone up there. He just sits and watches.

Then later I had my 'good' stuff. Charlie ate his food at his feeding spot and I ate my 1/2 can at the same time. Charlie didn't even come over to take any.

So maybe Charlie isn't so bad after all. The Mom is still pretty nice and Rich guy is pretty nice too.

So while Charlie chews on his bone, I'm going upstairs for a nap.

Maybe this won't be so bad of a vacation after all!