Horse Trailer Make Over

Back around 2014, my Jeep Grand Cherokee – which had been part of my life nearly 11 years to the date- began a slow downward spiral towards death.

Here’s a news flash, if you haven’t figured this already:  I’m not made of money. Running out and buying a new vehicle was not an option.  That’s part of the reason I had that Jeep for nearly 11 1/2 years!  Of course, there were limitations to it.  For starters, it was a V6 vehicle, and did not even have 4 wheel drive.  I had been stuck in the winter on the hill to my barn more times than I can recall.  The trailer hitch on it was used more for pulling me out of places by the tractor than used for me pulling anything with the Jeep!

So, as February 2015 rolled around and the Jeep was dying out almost every time I started it, I had 2 options – either keep chasing phantoms or submit to the fact that the Jeep was no longer a rock solid vehicle, and get something new.   The Jeep’s slow demise was the result of a mouse infestation.  They destroyed the car.  I know exactly where they got in, but I have no idea how many of them there were.  I found at least 3 nests in the car once I pulled it all apart before it was scrapped.

Anyway, I started car shopping knowing my Jeep was on it’s last leg (or wheel??).  Having a vehicle that could haul was primo important for me, so I paid particular attention to towing capacity and weight ratings.

Towards the end of February, I found a new -to-me 2006 SUV to buy, and half of my hauling woes were resolved. The other half of my hauling needs was a horse trailer.  The trailer we had for 10 years was just a little 2 horse.  Clearly there was no way I could haul my driving horse and pony anywhere in a trailer that had no room for a cart!

So, my bright idea was to get a bigger horse trailer that I could fit the cart into. Once again, I’m not made of money.  Buying a new trailer – or a super awesome aluminum trailer – was not an option.

So, it wasn’t much, but I found a old trailer within my budget, and the rehab began.

Meet the 1997 Featherlite Steel 16′ bumper pull stock trailer.  I purchased it right at the end of June and my husband and I ganged up on it and started getting to work. Project Trailer Makeover had begun. July 3, 2015

trailer1
Thar she blows.

18 years of weather really did a number on the hull.

Of course, I wanted something that could fit Luke’s cart, while still falling within the weight capacity of my car.  I hoped a Featherlite would be a good choice for that, because the weight was right– after all — it is “featherlite” for a reason. But of course I also wanted something pretty, shiny, and attractive looking.  I hoped I could make this trailer meet those “requirements” too.

So, with a complete makeover inside and out in mind, we got to work.  I started with a power sander on the outside, and my husband started with a power saw to the inside.

trailer2

The inside of the trailer measured 68″.  Luke’s cart was 66″.  There would be no room for error!  The only problem was that the center gate sat on a frame that was 3″ wide on both sides, leaving me only 62″ of space to fit a 66″ cart through!!!   Hence, the power grinder.

I needed the trailer to be something I could handle myself for all my future adventures with ponies & carts.  I knew the dimensions would be tight, but I also knew the trailer should suit my needs for the next decade easily, or longer.  I just needed a few modifications to the inside – which included making the crazy heavy center gate a whole lot lighter and the kickplate to latch it closed easier to manage.

18 years of rust made the kick plate far too difficult for me to deal with. My husband cut the center gate apart and notched the metal to allow room for the cart to clear, while I sanded away.

trailer3

After completely sanding it and removing trim and anything else I didn’t want on the trailer – I actually found some of the original color!  Holy cow, I never would have imagined it was so bright red!    And clearly you can see the rust.  No worries, we had a complete makeover plan in mind.

trailer4

07-04-2015 After completely sanding and power washing the trailer on day 1, I masked it off and prepared it for painting while the work on the inside continued. While I painted, my husband installed a plywood sheet to replace the removed portion of the center gate – making the gate a few hundred pounds lighter!  He also installed new bolts for the kickplate, so I could push the gate closed by hand instead of literally kicking it.

trailer5

Picking colors was no easy task.  I wanted something to match my car, and I also wanted to add a glitter coat to it, so it would shimmer and sparkle.  I then decided, rather last minute, that painting the trailer just ONE color was too boring.  My glittery trailer needed to be THREE colors, which made for triple the work (not to mention cost!) in picking out 3 colors that blended with each other and looked good with my car all while giving me the look I wanted. Well…….

trailer6

Yea, the roof turned out pink. Nope!  Not what I intended.  This was a case of “well, it looked good on paper!”  I was displeased with the colors once I saw them mixed, but I paid for the paint, so it was going on, like it or not.

trailer10

Inside, you can see the plywood center gate.  I also made a set of ramps for cart loading ease, and we did a test fit of the cart.  It fit!  Barely, as you can see- there truly is NO room to spare (well, OK, there was an inch of space on each side). trailer11

July 5, 2015

trailer7

Roof painted (pink….), and the middle color is now on, along with the first coats of the bottom color. Yep… still pink.

trailer8

The front isn’t any less pink.

July 7, 2015 In the first 3 days, we put in almost 26 hours of work onto the trailer.  July 6, my husband went back and did another couple hours of continued painting of the bottom color.  The color was starting to shape up and either I was just getting used to having a pink trailer, or it was starting to look a bit more like I had intended.  I just kept telling myself once the clear coat & glitter go on, it would look nicer (and the glitter and eventual graphics would  hide some of the pink!).  

trailer12

Still in need of continued paint, clear coat, glitter, and graphics, but maybe it is starting to come along.
Below; Final application of all colors and touch up complete.  In addition, the handles on the back gate and side door were all painted black to add a little contrast. July 19, 2015: trailer trailerfront

2 weeks later, (partially due to weather and the number of coats of paint it took to get that red shaped up right), the clear coat (with glitter!!!) was ready to be applied.

07-25-2015    Paint finally completed, clear coat and glitter applied.  For the first time in 3 weeks, the painter’s tape was finally removed.  Some minor clean up to do here and there, and still have to apply graphics and do the wheels.  It is coming along!  Still have to pad the inside gate as well.

trailer1 trailer2

I have to admit, although the glitter was a calamity of failures during application that ultimately ended up taking up nearly 10 full hours of the day to finish, I am extremely happy with how it came out, and I really like how the glitter sparkles when the sunlight catches it.  It doesn’t show up quite as well in cell phone shots, but it does look rather nice in person.

The work continued right on into August.  We applied the graphics, and I am really happy with how they look, although not totally happy with how they actually went on.    Oh well.  It was definitely looking better and better every day. trailer 08-01-2015b trailer 08-01-2015

The wheels got a makeover, too.  I sanded them down to remove the rust as much as I could.  I found they mostly had just surface rust and the powder coat paint was peeling off in large pieces.  I painted them black with rust stop paint and put wheel covers on them.

trailer 2

Still have a couple more “doo dads” to put on the outside and replace some lights, and finish up with the center gate and give the interior a quick paint job, too, but essentially it’s done.  The whole trailer is about 85% complete, and has been used now a couple times for showing with Luke.  I am over all happy with how it turned out, and once complete, it will be for sale.  I will be looking into getting another trailer to rehab in the near future to resell.  It’s been fun!

trailer

Although this one was a lot of work, I learned a few ways to improve my work ease for the next one (like don’t use red!!!!), and may possibly try sandblasting a future project trailer for an even better paint job.

*the red paint was so thin it took 5 coats to produce full coverage.  It was crazy!  The pink went on in a single coat and a 2nd coat just for good measure.

There is still more work to come, so stay tuned for more photos!

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Horicon Marsh

I needed a bit of a break from “reality”, with dilemmas over the horse trailer, Chewbacca and future goals – it’s all a bit stressful!   I don’t get away often at all. It’s been more than a year since I had any type of vacation, so to me just a “weekend getaway” is a real treat.

So, I treated myself–  to 24 hours with just my camera and the beauty of nature!  I figure this must be what Heaven looks like.  Sun, blue skies, green grass, and beautiful flowers and animals and nature everywhere.  I visited Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin – one of 25 Federally protected marshes in the U.S. (including the Everglades).

In some of the spots of the marsh – especially when I went there in the middle of night to look at the stars- I couldn’t even hear traffic and barely saw city lights.  I listened to the coyotes and the crickets and during the day – the birds!  Oh my the birds!!!!!   It was wonderful … and speaking of the Everglades—- photo trip 2016 might just be starting into the planning stages.  I’m not kidding!  After seeing a small taste of the beauty and wonder of nature at Horicon, it seems like only the Everglades would even be able to top that!

For now, I am happy to share some of my photos of the marsh.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them!  I have over 80 photos all together, but chose just a small handful to share here.

Please click on the photos to make them larger for better viewing.

Geese

Above, a flock of geese coming in for a landing – you can see more geese and sandhill cranes in the field below.  This was at about 5:30am Sunday morning.

Below, a flock of American White Pelicans takes to flight over the marsh, around 6am Sunday Morning.

Pelicans

Bald Eagle  Juvenile Bald Eagle

Above, an adult male American Bald Eagle, and a juvenile Bald Eagle, around 4 months of age.

Below, a barn swallow

Barn Swallow

Sunrise on the Marsh

Above, dawn at the Marsh.

Below, an adult Black Crowned Night Heron on the left, and a juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron on the right.

Black Crowned Night Heron  Juvenile Black Crowned NH

Doube Crested Cormorant

Above, Double Crested Cormorant with a bullhead carp in its mouth

Below, a field of black eyed Susans, I just thought was pretty.  ;)

Field of Susans

Great Blue Heron 2 Great Blue Heron

Above & below, my “usuals”, Great Blue Heron and a Great White Egret.

Great White Egret

Green Heron

Above, a Green Heron with a crawfish for breakfast.  Below, a muskrat.

Muskrat

Spotted Sandpiper

Above, a spotted sandpiper and below, a yellow headed black bird.

Yellow Headed Black Bird

Enjoy!

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More Photo Outings, a Horse Trailer Project, and a touch of bitter irony

 

As the title of this post suggests, I’ve been busy!

2015 is turning out to be a year of changes in more ways than I could have imagined, or wanted to.  There was really only 1 major change I wanted to make to my life this year, and instead of that, it sort of seems like everything else is changing around me without my permission.  :/

Of course, for starters was Chewbacca’s lameness.  He is doing OK day by day, but he is definitely not sound.  I don’t imagine he ever will be truly “sound” again, but I’d at least like to see him more comfortable than I think he is.

Retiring him was not on my list of things to do in 2015…. maybe by the end of 2017 I would have probably pulled out the big “R” for Chewie, but I was not expecting to do so at the beginning of 2015 – and especially not due to lameness.  Of course with that change, came the other changes of selling Chewbacca’s equipment.  I love driving the ponies & minis, and really am looking forward to having more of the little ones in the future, so I sure don’t need the big, heavy equipment of Chewbacca’s.  Some of it has sold already and I have interested parties in the rest, so we’ll see.

Besides that was my decision, after buying a new vehicle that can haul, to sell the horse trailer we’ve had for 10 years so I can buy a new one (well… new to me anyway), with the intention of hauling by myself to shows & events.  I realized long ago how relying on other people to “help” with my equestrian endeavours was a very bad idea, so I’m trying to rectify that.

In my vision of a perfect world, I would get a trailer, and load up Luke or Jesse and go to shows, events, and maybe even the National Drive all by myself.  My trailer would also be painted up to match my car and glitter like a bass boat.

Well….  the reality of it all isn’t exactly what I envisioned, but it’s still coming along.  I did get a suitable trailer.  I had not one, but two, nearly brand new trailers lined up to buy.  After the first one fell through because the seller lied to me about it even being available (12 hours before I was supposed to go see/buy it), I was assured over and over by the 2nd seller of the next nearly new trailer that all was in good order and it really did exist, and he honestly did have a title to sign over to me.  Well, 2 days before I was supposed to go get the other new trailer, that fell through, too, because he did not actually have a title for it.

So… that left me falling back to my original plan, which was to purchase an older, but more affordable, trailer and paint it.  Which I did.  A friend pointed out the trailer locally that was for sale, and I ended up buying it.  Is it new?  No.  It’s 18 years old.  It is pretty?  Not really.  But it is functional, and I’m working on the pretty by giving the trailer a major makeover inside & out.

Ironically, I’m not actually sure, after doing all this, that I will be driving either Luke or Jesse next year for various reasons.  Lets face it, they aren’t getting any young either.  They’ve both been shown extensively, and are at the peak (or plateau) of their training.  I doubt I will be putting out the $$$ to show at bigger events farther away, and other than trying to attempt to do the National Drive in Lexington this year (or maybe next year….), I’m not even sure why I felt getting the new/used trailer was even justified.

I would like to think about finishing out this year with Luke and Jesse and be done with driving both of them next year and in turn get a new, younger pony to train/bring along, and eventually sell.  But I do have other major changes to think about instead of new ponies…. at least for a while.

How’s that for irony?  All the effort to get a trailer, for horses I might not even keep driving past this year……  hm.

And what about this trailer?  Well, I am starting a different post which will be a progress post on it, and I will put it up when it’s done.

In the mean time, I’ve also been keeping busy with getting out and taking photos.  Some of my better shots of 2014 and the early months of 2015 have been shipped of to the Wisconsin State Fair.  I’m hopeful for a good showing, so fingers crossed!

I definitely do feel like I am improving in my photography every time I go out.  I’m getting better at finding new things to photograph, and have been taking photos I am quite proud of in the last several months.  To what end, I’m not sure – I would like to sell photos on a professional level, or even better, to submit (and be accepted!) to magazines as a stock photographer.  We’ll see – I guess everything happens as it is supposed to, exactly when it is supposed to.

And speaking of photos, here are a few to share.
I have definitely been in macro mode and loving it!  Insects are so much fun to photograph and I have been trying to some new macro techniques to get better and better.

fly1

I almost have the screenings of his eyes in perfect detail on this fly.  I need to get closer and more magnified!  Yes!

japenese beetle

Japanese Beetle on a thistle flower.  So much fun to photograph insects- they glisten and shimmer, and are just beautiful!

milkweed beetle

Milkweed Beetle on a leaf.  Just trying out a technique that I’m pretty happy with so far, I just need to get a little better with it.  Nice detail, though!

And then, I mounted up the “big lens” (aka my bird lens) and went off for another photo shoot this 4th of July weekend that involved an amazing sight the likes of which I have never seen before!

When I first visited a heron rookery (community nesting grounds) earlier in the year, I found about 30 nests in the tree tops, and I thought it was truly incredible!  I had never seen so many birds in one small location all at once before, and to watch the Great Blue Herons, Great White Egrets, and Double Crested Cormorants come and go from their nests was just super cool!  I got very very close to that particular rookery, as you could walk right up to the trees the nests were built in, but when my husband pointed out this lake with “something” in the middle of it, I never in my life expected to see this, just 15 minutes from my home!!!

What are you are looking at below is a man made “island” in the middle of a lake – a lake closed to boating or fishing or swimming.  In fact, there is pretty much no human access expect for the forest preserve people who maintain this structure.

On that structure are hundreds and hundreds of birds! This massive rookery is home to over 1,000 Double Crested Cormorants, Great White Egrets, and Great Blue Herons, and to top it off, there were dozens of American White Pelicans hanging around, not to mention diving terns and I even found an osprey!!!!!

rookery1

Below, are around a hundred or more Cormorants, and a couple Egrets.  Both of the above and below images are 5- shot panorama images I combined, because the number of birds was just too great to fit into a single image!  Of course, making a panorama does automatically make the images a little smaller.

cormorants

Below are some shots of a couple of the pelicans and a couple Cormorants in the “herd”, too.

What a truly amazing experience to see all those birds coming and going and flying and fishing.  Such an amazing variety all in place, I almost didn’t know what to photograph first!  Who would have thought even up here in Illinois, you can have such splendor right along a highway!

pelican pelixans

Below are an osprey and a Great White Egret.  Unfortunately the osprey was facing the sun and it was overcast, both double negatives that don’t make a right in photography, so the shots of my osprey did not come out well, but I was not going to pass up the chance to photograph it anyway!

ospreyegret

… and now, I leave you with a dragonfly sticking its tongue out.

dragonfly

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Debilitating Diagnosis

You may have seen in my other recent posts that I have been giving Chewbacca a lot of time off.  Due to either weather or time, once we got back into work for the 2015 season, I was working him 1 day a week.  2 at most.

We started out the year well, back in Mid-March, by April, Chewbacca was working with Luke in tandem once a week.  By early May, I noticed something wasn’t quite right with Chewbacca.  I thought a weeks’ rest would help.  Then 2 weeks.  Then 3 weeks.  By late May, Chewabcca had worked once, mostly at a walk.

He was vaguely unsound in the back end, and seemed almost lethargic when it came to working or even free-play time in the arena.  In fact, I noticed some alarming symptoms just from him standing in the barn aisle for grooming – he would start dozing off.  I know, who would worry about their horse dozing off while being groomed or tacked up, right?  I just knew Chewbacca well enough to know it wasn’t normal.

The last horse I had that would appear to be “dozing” was Tate – a buckskin with the worst case of navicular disease my vet had ever seen.  Tate would wince and squeeze his eyes shut not because he was sleepy, but because he was hurting.  Pain often makes anyone sleepy and dull.  Whatever was going with Chewabcca wasn’t right and it was happening pretty fast.

I consulted with a vet, who did not give me input that I wanted to hear.  I went with my gut, and instead of just randomly giving Chewie bute without knowing why (he already lives on a daily aspirin supplement and was still lame),  I took him in to the local equine hospital for a further workup.

My suspicion was confirmed.  Chewbacca is predominately lame on the left hind, but also in the right hind.  His left hind is just overshadowing the right because it is worse.  He didn’t flex horribly bad, but he did show lameness and he showed concerning left hind weakness on neurological exam.

Based on symptoms including fetlock swelling and suspensory thickening and presentation of lameness, an ultrasound of his (worse) left hind was done and a diagnosis was confirmed.

Chewbacca has been diagnosed with suspensory ligament desmitis.  His suspensory ligaments, from the branches over his seasmoids and up the back of both cannons is degrading.  He has small tears throughout the ligament, and a loss of tension and cohesion.  It is a mild case right now, but it is very clear that Chewabacca – who I have to say is kind of wimpy about injuries- is uncomfortable.

This is a condition that can be supported and my goal is to keep him happy and comfortable.  This is a condition that will continue to degrade.  Eventually, Chewbacca’s fetlocks (which have been dropping already) will drop to the ground.  Eventually, he will no longer be supported by his own legs.  Eventually he will not be able to remain comfortable, or walk properly.  Eventually, he will be put down due to this.  Whether that is in 1 year or 10, who’s to say.

However, although he is only 16 years of age, I had to take into consideration the recommended lay up time of 6-12 months, his age next year, and the work load or goals I have for him, and with all that in mind, Chewbacca has been officially retired from all work.

In the last 5 years since I purchased Chewbacca, he has gone from a former barrel horse to a low level hunter and dressage horse to rocking it as a driving horse.  Chewbacca has a gentleness, a wisdom, and a kindness that are unparalleled.  He knows voice commands so well that I am fairly sure he speaks English fluently.  He has done shows, clinics, a Civil War reenacement, trails, flood waters, learned tricks, cantered up steep hills and skidded back down them, mowed down corn and a garbage can in a corn maze, and even got the giant beach ball stuck under him and the cart once.  He’s tackled obstacles from barrels to a bowling alley, and tackled tandem driving like the tried and true, willing and experienced, gentleman he his.

He never put a foot out of line, and has always been willing and happy to do whatever I asked.  I have many wonderful memories, and thankfully the photos and videos to boot, of all the fun things I’ve done with him over the years.  Sadly, even though I am getting a new trailer soon, Chewbacca will not attend the National Drive like I hoped.  I won’t be hitting the trails with him again, nor will he ever be hitched or asked to work.  As Chewbacca is the last large horse I ever want to have, his harness and cart will be sold, but a few keepsakes like his lime green brow band will stay with me, and probably end up buried with him someday.

Chewbacca has had  274 hitched drives in the last 4 years.  He has trotted 275 miles on the blacktop and just as many or more on the trails.  He has been in the ADS Whip magazine twice, and has been an unimaginable gift in my life.

Obviously there is no question, he has earned his retirement, and I sure do hope to keep him comfortable for as long as possible.

So, here’s to Chewbacca, for a truly amazing 5 years together.

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Bird Photos, Driving Videos, and Horse Update

I may have an addiction to photography.

It’s possible.

I am going to actually attempt to do something worthwhile with my photos.  I have been toying with the idea of setting up an online sales site, but before the month is out (assuming the rain holds off), I am going to take a large collection of prints, both loose, matted, and framed, over to a craft show combined with a carnival and car show local to me.  It’s a big event that gets lots of people, so I will hope for some sales of my nature photography.

I love getting out and visiting new parks and marshes and wherever else I can find to walk and take photos.  It makes a perfect “non barn day” thing to do, and it is peaceful.  I love taking in the beauty of the world.

It is way too easy to flop on the sofa and lock yourself inside, running the A/C and watching Tv and forget that life actually happens outside.  Any day I can be out looking for new things to photograph is fine by me!

In some ways, I am “discovering” the world around me, because I am almost always finding new species to photograph that I have not before seen.  In fact, nearly every single time I am out, I am finding something new, whether or not I actually get a picture of it.

Most recently, I was out taking macro images of insects and looked up to see a pair of cedar waxwings in a tree not even 40 feet from me.  Unfortunately the macro lens is meant for inches, not feet, so I did not get a photo, but they stayed around for a while and were neat to see.  Totally new for me.

I am getting better at recognizing the calls of various birds, and I definitely know when I hear a call I have never heard before! I am eager to take a bit of a road trip and venture way way way up into Northern Wisconsin deep woods, or even in Minnesota and see what I can find.  It is possible I might go on a weekend before this summer is out.

I know it sounds a little cheesy maybe that we really are blessed to live in a beautiful world, but it is true!  I suppose the more I am subjected to less-than-wonderful elements of life, it makes me appreciate the wonderful things I get to experience every day!  It’s the only way to stay sane!

Here are some images from other recent nature walks, including several new varieties of birds and bugs for me!

bluebird

Above is an American Blue Bird and below is am Eastern Towhee, which from what I found out, is a rather uncommon find for the area!  First time seeing/photographing either of these little critters.

eastern towhee

Not exactly a “new species” for me to photograph, as you may recall that I tried twice going to a known Eagle feeding  & nesting site in Wisconsin to get “good” photos.  I’m afraid I failed twice…. but not this time!    I was walking along a nature path, in the “usual place”, that I have gone to literally dozens and dozens of times over the last 2 years.  There is a known Bald Eagle nest right over the path, and I have never once seen it active or in use, but I have always been told it is.  In fact, people see me walking around photographing birds with my huge lens and ask if I have seen the Eagles. My answer is always no.  Never.  Not once.   Someone stopped me on the trail and said “they’re there now!”.  I was quite sure by the time I walked nearly a mile down the trail, they would be gone, but I lucked out!  I looked up and this was looking down at me!

baldeagle5

The other one was in the nest, and before too long, they both took to flight and did several laps.  They got pecked on a little by those pesky red wing black birds, and it was quite the site!  My first, and probably only, time getting nice photos of American Bald Eagles! baldeagle1 baldeagle2 baldeagle3  baldeagle6 baldeagle2baldeagle4   Things get smaller from here, because I have switched into summer macro mode!  Get ready for the bugs, because here they come!

Damselfly

Above is a blue damselfly that I tried a different photo technique with. I am pleased with how my first attempt came out and will look forward to trying more of this technique in the future, as it is very useful for bugs.  The image above was created with 3 images combined together, so I could get the whole insect in focus.  I missed a little of focus on the end of the wings, but not bad for the first try! Below, a single shot close up of a dragonfly. Dragonfly

The vast majority of my photos are what is often referred to as “SOOC”.  Straight Out Of Camera.  That means I do almost no editing to my images.   Essentially, my photos are unmanipulated and what they look like when I click the button is what they look like on your computer monitor right now.  I have dozens and dozens of bug photos from any one shoot, but I am just sharing  a few of my favorites.  I often do not have the time to sit and “Photoshop” images until they “look good”, so I prefer to get correct images SOOC, as it saves time for me when I put them on my computer.

hoverfly milkweed leaf sawfly larva

Above is a sawfly larvae.  I thought he was really cute with his bald little yellow head and pin point black eyes. Below, even cuter yet – a weevil!  It reminded me of an elephant or a miniature anteater.  I thought it was adorable, and I was really lucky to see it!  I’ve never seen a weevil before.

weevil        weevil weevil2

And of course, I will never pass up a chance to photograph a Monarch butterfly, especially when it flies right in front of me!

monarch

And, in horse news… I did finally manage to get videos done of Jesse’s two trail drives.  These were his first two trail drives off property. The first one was a nice little get together with several other mini drivers, including Dixie’s former owner!  The trails were beautiful, groomed, and included bridges and plenty of places to get moving out.  It was a lovely workout and I believe we did somewhere right around 5 miles.  Jesse proved his inexperience and impatience in groups.  He kind of dances around and rears at shows, too and did a little of that on trail as well, but it wasn’t awful.

Then, a week later, I met up with a small group of riders that I had never actually met before.  They all have driving horses as well, but chose to ride that weekend.

For our second trail drive, we travelled out of state, and once the riders were all together, over 40 minutes late, we were off!  The trails were immediately rocky and unkempt, randomly full of deep sand and very hard for Jesse to pull through.

The group I was with enjoyed walking and doing a lot of stopping and standing.  We did 3 miles in 3 hours.  Jesse was irritated by the constant stopping and standing around.  Whenever oncoming horses (spooking of course at him) refused to pass, Jesse got perturbed and spun and danced.  We spent the first 20 minutes of the drive stopping and standing to “practice” whoa in place along the narrow, rocky, and slightly hilly trail, while oncoming horses refused to pass. It was an interesting experience to say the least.

Suffice to say, Jesse and I are used to a faster pace.  The riders I was with were none too happy with Jesse’s antics about standing still, but I was also none too happy with having to stand still for anywhere up to 20 minutes!   The riders felt Jesse wasn’t a good driving horse because he was not standing well.  I had a hard time standing too – mainly because I like to work my horses a little!

I guess some people just enjoy a slower pace…. I consider all of my horses well broke to drive.  There is nothing you can’t do with them.  But I will admit – we are not “stander-arounders”.  That isn’t to say I gallop the whole time or try to set some new land speed record everytime I am out, but we do move!

The riders I was with stopped up and down hills and blocked the path of the cart, congested up the trail as they stood around with passing horses freaking out, and seemed not to understand that it was hard for Jesse to stop going down a rocky hill with a person in the cart!  He’s just a little guy after all!

I personally thought that was alarming considering they were all drivers, and had driven pairs and trained driving horses – I guess just to walk and stop!?

Suffice to say it was a difference of opinion and I did not appreciate the snide remarks about how my horse was trained.

After I got home from that drive, I took Luke out for a quick trail drive that was more like what I am used to…

I can’t wait to get a bigger trailer so I can haul Luke out to trails, too – and I may just go by myself!!!  I am working on the bigger trailer.  Sale pending on the current trailer, and I am have honed in a beautiful trailer as a replacement!

So that’s what’s up with Luke and Jesse.

How about Dixie, you ask? Well, Dixie just turned 20!  June 13, 1995 was her birthday. Dixiebaby    Dixie20

There she is as a little nugget of a newborn and then chowing down on her very own carrot cake slice for her special birthday.  LOL! Dixie has been enjoying full on retirement since 2012, and semi-retirement since 2008 when she was 13.

We actually bought her when she was 11, and after we got Luke, and I was still riding, there just wasn’t a whole lot of time for her.  I drove her again in 2010 and took her on some road/trail drives.  Dixie has always had some attitude, and off property jaunts were not to her enjoyment.  She was quick to let everyone know that, and would spook, rear, and fight tooth and nail against going.

The time she bolted us both out in front of a truck, was the final time I ever drove her off farm.  I put her back into retirement  after that and bought Chewbacca shortly after.

Dixie did a little work once again in 2011 when I worked her in tandem with Jesse, and that stopped around the middle of 2012. I basically stopped driving Dixie all together because she was just not what I want in a driving horse.

She doesn’t breath correctly, and she is lazy as could be.  She is terrible off the farm, and pushy and rude.  She is great in the arena, and perfect for beginners and children.  She’s been yanked, pulled, and bounced around on (she is broke to ride) over the years and does great with kids.

Since 2012, she has been hitched maybe 3 times and all for kids and has been perfect.  That’s is what Dixie is good at.  Of course at 20, she definitely deserves to be retired anyway.

So, that’s a whole lot about everyone except Chewbacca.  Where to begin with Chewbacca?

Chewbacca is wonderful.  He’s that sweet, calm, kind, and special horse that you just feel so blessed to know every day.  In his former life, he was a barrel horse (a slow one, albeit), then learned to jump with me and played with some low level dressage work and basic  dressage foundation then he learned to drive in 2011.

He has done English showing, and driving showing and has done 3 combined driving style events.  He has been hauled to parks, clinics, and events for trail drives, shows, and civil war era reenactments.  He is truly an all around horse!  Chewbacca rocks.  He’s just awesome.

This year Chewbacca has learned tandem driving and has pretty much been working better than ever.  By that, I mean, his vocal cues are nearly 100%.   Forget bitless, at this point, Chewbacca can probably drive reinless…. while blindfolded.  He’s everything you want in a good, solid, broke broke broke driving horse.  There is very little he hasn’t seen or done at this point in his life.

He has hundreds of drives and hundreds of miles on the trails, roads, and arena.  I know – I’ve kept a Chewbacca diary of every single drive I’ve ever done with him, including ground drives from when he was in training to drive.

Now, Chewbacca is definitely a been there done that and rocked it type horse.  He has never been an enthusiastic horse.  He’s never had good impulsion.  In fact, our last-place lowest dressage scores of every show we’ve ever been in have primarily been because he lacks impulsion.  Chewbacca is so quiet sometimes you have to wonder if has a pulse.  He’s a chill dude that has always been agreeable to doing anything, if not enthusiastic about it.

He has always done things at his own pace his own way.  But he’s the type of horse that you let him do it his own way – give him the lines, let him have his head, and he’ll work out what to do. Honest. Willing. Tries.  You can’t ask for a better horse.

We started out this year in March, going strong working 2 days a week due to weather.  By the end of April, he was getting worked tandem for the first time with Luke and was working 1 day a week due to time and weather.  By the first week of May, something just wasn’t right.

What happened?  Chewbacca didn’t want to move forward at all.  He went from a 2 to a -2 in impulsion.  He was so slow it was just not like him.  I talked to a vet, and gave Chewie almost 2 weeks off.  He is on aspirin, and he was no better off,  In fact, the next time he was hitched, he was practically lethargic.  He was barely moving and is stiff and off in the hind end.  It is very vague and very unlike him.  In fact, he was actually grunting with exertion at one point when he was asked to back up while hitched and again while just in the barn aisle.  I almost thought just walking down the barn aisle at one point looked too hard for him.

2 more weeks off – that’s the whole month of May and into June, and he was no better.  I hitched him for 3 minutes to get video to show the vet, and Chewbacca is going in for an appointment for a work up Thursday.  He is acting so mellow it’s alarming, and he is not currently sound even for just arena playing around.

He plays hard when I let him loose, it’s possible he did something and tweaked himself.  It’s also possible that Chewbacca’s working days are over.  There is a lot that goes into the decision of retiring a horse, and all of those factors are on my mind – everything from the horse’s comfort level to work to finances to long term expectations.

To be honest, I am leaning more towards retirement the more I think about it.  I guess we will just see what happens tomorrow.

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Photo Outings Get Better and Better

I can’t believe it’s been over 3 weeks since I last posted.  I swear, I’m still here!  Just busy, busy, busy.

I hate to say it, but my driving hours are dwindling a little.  It can be hard cramming a photo walk session and driving multiple horses!  I’ve definitely been staying busy, though!

Of course the horses have been busy working!  Since my last post about Luke and Chewbacca, the boys were learning to work in tandem at the beginning of May. I am very proud of myself for being able to safely and successfully hitch them.  They’ve only done the 2 workouts.  Weather and help &  time availability has kept me from driving them tandem, I just can’t do it without a second person right now.

Luke has been keeping busy working as usual and Jesse has been off the farm for his first trail drive at the end of May!  Both the show in mid-May and the marathon course open-drive event at the end of May were canceled due to rain, but a small group of minis got together for a drive at a local park, and since I have a truck & trailer, Jesse and I went!  He was a good boy, just one little temper tantrum!  Jesse (and I) did our first “real” bridges – crossing over water several times, and did a total of 8 bridges (4 bridges twice)!  Video is coming if I can ever get the computer to cooperate.

Chewbacca has been getting consistently less and less work.  Not because I don’t love him, but because I think he can use a little break.  His hard life of working 2 days’ a week you know ;)

In the mean time, some dwindling driving time has been compensated by more and more time out taking photos.  I am hoping to start up an online photo website soon, and I am looking into my options.  I sure would love to be able to sell my photography as prints, canvases, and more… and maybe earn a little “new horse trailer” money while doing it :)

Some of my latest adventures has resulted in these photos:

Goldfinch 05-10-2015 (3) Goldfinch 05-23-2015

Above, male goldfinches. Below, a female goldfinch

Goldfinch Female 05-23-2015b

This is a Hummingbird Hawkmoth, freshly emerged from his cocoon.

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This little bird is a nuthatch, a new species for me to find & photograp

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This is a Baltimore Oriole, also a new species for me.

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This one is a red headed woodpecker, and yes, you guessed it – my first time finding one of them!

RedHeaded Woodpecker 06-01-2015e

Rookery 05-17-15a Rookery 05-17-15d Rookery 05-17-15h

Above are images from a rookery (community nesting site) of Great Blue Herons and American Cormorants.  How cool!  You might notice 2 baby herons sticking their heads up in the nest in the photo above, left.

Below, I got a whole scene of action with 4 Sandhill Cranes, an Egret, and a couple male redwing blackbirds on the attack.  You can see the black bird swooping down and out of the frame as he pecked at the cranes!

Sandhills 05-25-2015c Sandhills 05-25-2015e Sandhills 05-25-2015j Sandhills 05-25-2015k Sandhills 05-25-2015n

My first time (finally!) managing a photo of a swallow in flight!

Swallow 05-17-15a

Below, a red bellied woodpecker – even though it has a “red head” you can really see the huge difference between this woodpecker and the red headed woodpecker above.

woodpecker 05-16-15

This little mouse-size bird is a House Wren, and I am very proud of this catch!  It was so tiny, I swear it was the bark on the tree moving.  Again, another new catch for me!

wren 05-16-15

Below, these are male yellow warblers!  Also a new catch for me!

Yellow Warbler 05-25-2015b Yellow Warbler 05-25-2015c

Yet another new catch for me, below, an Eastern Towhee.  I LOVE getting out and being able to spot, and photograph new species of birds for me!  Cool!

Esatern Towhee 06-05-2015b

Below, a couple of butterflies, all also new for me to photograph.  Top left, a Pearl Crescent.  Top Right, a small blue butterfly (yes, that really is the common name).  Bottom, a small copper butterfly.  (apparently they were feeling very creative in the butterfly naming department that day).

Pearl Crescent Butterfly 06-05-2015 Small Blue Butterfly 06-05-2015 Small Copper Butterfly 06-05-2015b

Lastly, a turtle — I have no idea what species, but it was well over 12″ long and a good 8″ wide.  It had pretty eyes.

Turtle 06-05-2015 Turtle 06-05-2015_1

Till next time!

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Rain, and Photos, and Proud accomplishments

Well, it has been pretty rainy here the last week and this week and … yea, next week too!  My plans with Jesse for showing this weekend are probably going to be washed out, unless something drastic changes with the weather.  The show was supposed to be outdoors and include a cross country class.

The organizer told me that in the case of rain, the cross country would be canceled and the other driving classes would be moved indoors.  I was most interested (of course!) in going for the cross country class as a way to start brushing up on Jesse’s skills in prep for the HDT in July that I plan to go to.  Oh well, there’s still the even at the end of May, and I’m checking the schedule for anything in June I might be able to attend.

Sure enough, the trailer sale fell through, so for now, it looks like Jesse will be the only one getting hauled around until I can manage to get a bigger trailer.  That’s fine enough, though.

In the mean time, I have not been missing out on photography.  I have been making every effort to get out and photograph in between working and working horses as well as hanging out at home with the new kitten (oh, yea, I have not mentioned the new kitten yet!).

Where to start?  Well, right at the beginning of the month, one of the ladies from the barn rescued a little dying kitten.  His mom was run over by a car, and the people who had him had no idea what to do with him.  Who knows if he was even getting any food, and for some reason they had him wrapped up in a flea collar I was told.  He was weak, couldn’t walk, and was clearly not going to make.  Thankfully, he was rescued, and a few days later, since he was still alive, we were asked if we could take him on to finish raising him up and rehome him in a few months.

Well… we certainly took him on, but now he’s been added to the family.  Just what I need, right?  The choice to keep him was not mine, but the cute little fella, now dubbed Rumpelstiltsken is doing just fine and growing like a little weed.  He’ll be 5 weeks old on Saturday and hopefully he will start eating on his own soon.

Here’s the little nugget.  I have yet to take “good” photos of him because I want to do them outside and it’s just been too yucky !  I will do them once I have a little time on a nice day.

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He’s such a tiny little thing – smaller than the palm of my hand when we first got him.  Now his belly is bigger than his head and he’s at least bigger than my hand.

In the mean time, I have been going photo crazy and really accomplishing quite a few improvemenbts.  I’ve been seeing some new bird species for me, which is always kind of cool.   I would love to be able to photograph mammals and get truly epic photos that involve sprawling views, mountains, and fog, but let’s face it – I’ve seen a wild fox twice in my life.  I see coyotes now and again but never have the camera.  I’ve seen a wild owl once in my life (this year in fact!).  I don’t have plans to take a trip to wildlife abundant locations like the Everglades or Galapagos anytime soon, so I just photograph what is readily available, and in my case, that is birds- and a plethora of them at that!

I haven’t shared any photos on this site in a while, so let me try to catch up.

This was a new species.  Normally I don’t bat an eye at ducks, because I am so used to seeing the common Mallards, which while pretty to look at, are as prevalent in the area as Canada Goose,  so I rarely reach for the camera when I see one.  While out on a photo drive in early April, my husband pointed out these ducks and at first glace I thought they were mallards.  It wasn’t until I did pick up the camera that I realized I was seeing a new species (for me).

Two male and two female Blue Winged Teals.  Cool!

blue winged teals

Another nature drive in April led me to see this fantastic duck – a Wood duck.  Also my first time seeing one in person, but I knew what it was the second I saw him.  Unfortunately he also flew away the second I saw him, but at least I got this shot off before he and his family was gone.

woodduck

deer

Of course deer are a common sight, and a park just blocks away from home offer a near guarantee that you will see them, and they will be close to the road.  I never see bucks, but so long as you pick the right time of morning or evening, you are almost surely going to see a small herd of does.

With the abundance of rivers and lakes where I live, wading birds are a surefire thing.  There are even a few known Bald Eagle locations, but I have rarely gotten close enough to photograph them.  I will try this year, but I think my trip to see the eagles on Valentine’s Day  is about as good as I am going to get to them this year.

Besides Sandhill Cranes which are found in abundance around here and are usually easy to photograph, we have Herons and Egrets can be every bit as difficult and elusive to photograph as eagles.  Getting a good shot of one, I have found to be no small challenge.  Over the last 2 years, while photographing with my kit 70-300mm lens, I can’t say I’ve gotten images that are fantastic.  In fact, I barely got any images at all, because by the time I got close enough to get a decent photo, these skittish birds are long gone!

I have found that egrets tend to be only slightly less skittish than the great blue herons, so for the last year or two it’s definitely been a challenge to get good shots of these birds.  Mission – success!

I’ve been getting luckier and luckier with my heron/egret shots of late, beginning with finding nearby birds in unlikely locations and then having lucky experiences out on hiking trails near a local dam.

This particular egret was in a retention pond right in between a Dick’s Sporting Goods and an Olive Garden!  LOL!  Of all places to find one.  I was pretty close to him, the pond wasn’t that big, and I just sat on the curb in the shopping center driveway and took photos of him!

egret3

Eventually he took off, but he did not go far and I lucked out getting a halfway decent photo of him.

egret1

After that, on the very same evening, I headed over the to the dam and found a couple egrets sitting in a tree at sunset preening themselves – something I have never seen before!

egret2

So happy over my dual preening egrets photo series at dusk, I went back to the dam a day or two later again at dusk and got many pictures I was proud of.

While photographing this Great Blue Heron in a tree preening, a sandhill crane flew right over my head and I landed the best Sandhill photo I’ve ever taken!

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crane

And then another Heron was wading in the dam waters and flying from spot to spot to fish.  I was shooting directly into the sun with these, which actually made the original photos look like silhouettes.  I was able to pull the colors out of the heron since I shoot in RAW, and with the play of late evening sunlight against the waters, I truly thought there would be no way I would ever top this series of photos!

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Even though I thought I would never ever get lucky enough to get better photos that those, I went back yet again a few days later… this time on Mother’s Day morning in the fog and mist.

I began walking the nature trail away from the dam, hoping to find some birds nestled in the trees waiting out the light rain, and instead, I found so much more.  The very firs thing I found was a female cardinal sitting on her nest, which was new for me!  The nest was so nestled into a thick of bushes, that a photo was impossible, but it was neat to see.

A short walk down the path led me to catching my very first goldfinch – a bird that has been evading photos for years!   What a feat!  They usually flitter so fast from tree to tree I can never get a shot of them, but luckily this one sat still a little bit, probably due to the rain.

finch

grackle

Further down the path, I saw this bird hopping about from stump to stump.  I didn’t know what it was, but once I got home and put Google to use, I found that it is a common grackle – so yet another new critter for me!

I ended my journey down the path where the water sources stopped and a family of attack geese were on the prowl.  Having no interest in being chased or bitten by geese, I turned around and headed back to the car, figuring on it being a mostly good morning with several new experiences.

On the path back, I immediately spotted a green heron!  Just the 2nd time I’ve ever found this particular type of bird.

greenheron

Right above the Green heron, the swallows were having a bug feast.  I actually managed to get a couple decent photos of them, and amazingly, even got one in flight – a real accomplishment considering how small they are and how fast they fly!

swallow  swallow2

It didn’t end there!  The morning just got better and better!  While photographing the swallows (or trying to anyway), I noticed a shadow cross my lens and I looked up only to see a Great Blue Heron flying past me just feet away.  It landed on a branch fairly close by and I sat on the ground for quite some time watching it.

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Eventually, someone walking the path startled the bird and he flew off, which allowed me to capture a series of it in flight as it flew right past me…

The crowning result of which was this photo:

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This may very well be the single best photo I’ve ever taken in my life.  I am so immensely proud of this photo and so glad for the incredibly lucky set of circumstances that led to getting it!

I have this photo up for voting on a site called GuruShots.  If you have a moment to hop on over to it and vote for it, that would be great.  I have also uploaded it to the National Geographic website.  I certainly hope it will get noticed!

Once he flew off right in front of me, he landed just a short distance away and I managed to creep up nearer to him without scaring him away, so I was able to get more photos of the bird wading, splashing in the water, and fluffing his feathers!  It was really cool!

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heronsplashing

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What a treat it was to watch a Great Blue up so close and get so many photos of him.  All totaled, I took about 30 shots.  Just putting a few up here!

After I finished having my fill of the GBH, I walked back off the nature path and headed over to the dam where I immediately found another Great Blue and an Egret standing side by side in the white water rapids fishing.  Super cool!

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It really was a great photo shoot, producing pretty much the best photos I’ve ever taken.  I feel like I’ve topped my top, so now I’m not sure how to top the top!!   I think a road trip/photo journey is in order!  (If only…)

Well, more updates as they come!

Enjoy the day!

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