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Flies: Learn from the untimely demise of your little blue-black friend today. You will live longer if you stay away from my chocolate.

Self: Listen to husband occasionally — especially when he points out that the difference in cost between buying the treated corner posts that I can drive into the ground and using the railroad ties I have, that require I dig more of this cement-hard ground = the price of a chiropractor’s appointment.

Self: Stop at the local Big R Store and buy yourself and your new fence line something pretty tomorrow. (Five treated posts, $57.50. One chiropractic visit, $55. Days that would be lost to miserable me, countless. Having a clever husband, priceless.)

Tazz, in no-big-deal mode during a training session

Tazz, the terrible 2-year-old horse: Just because the 280′ of twine strung between two corner posts is pretty thin and doesn’t bite like barbed or electric wire, doesn’t mean you should attempt to walk through it repeatedly — while I’m pulling on it, flapping my arms at you and cussing. Its use as a straight line is negated when you deliberately march straight into it and bow it east by 40′.

Self: Looks like the 2-year-old is going to be the curious, ears forward, unflappable horse you were hoping for. Don’t kill him for being what you want. No matter how many times he gets into things he’s not supposed to.

Universe: Ever notice how the traits that make people, animals, assorted things of the world, totally awesome are often the same traits that make them exasperating too.

Think about it at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

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I went for an early morning walk to the back of the property — something I haven’t done enough of this summer. (My excuses being the plethora of pokey grass seeds that get stuck in my socks and tennis shoes … and plain ol’ laziness.) As I got near the far end, where the road peters out to a two-lane trail cutting diagonally over the pasture to the corner gate, the sun was just touching the tips of the hillside rising behind the horses who were clumped together near the fence line.

As I clipped along the trail (OK, walked as briskly as I could, being a little stoved up from a stiff back, whatever), Charlie, my paint pony-horse, broke from the herd and walked toward the trail ahead of me, not at me. I watched her odd behavior, trying to decide if she was “running away” from me thinking I might be up to mischief (aka, work-the-horse-type activities). But she isn’t normally sly like that — smart and clever, but not sly — and she just seemed like she was really interested in me. Just not walking toward me. It really seemed like she was trying to meet me on the trail, intercept me actually.

Charlie, aka, Chuckles

Could it be that she really is that clever, I wondered … so I stopped. And she stopped. And she stood there staring at me, then took a step toward me. So I started down the trail again, and she shifted her direction … to meet me.

At this point, I was content to let this play out, and as I sort of broadened my focus and we got closer to each other, I realized Charlie was dragging something through the grass. Her stride was too even for the something to be attached to a foot or leg, and she wasn’t panicked at all, so we just kept walking until we met up … exactly where she thought we would.

She had the end 6 inches of a 5-foot length of old (read: antique) barbed wire tangled in her long tail. It must’ve fallen out of an old vehicle or piece of farm equipment that had been drug out of there last winter to be crushed. The wire had lain in the tall grass until Charlie swept it up in her wake.

I dug a pellet treat out of my coat pocket and gave it to her for entertainment while I started untangling the wire. About halfway through the project the other two horses showed up to offer their special brand of assistance by crowding Charlie and making her shift around nervously, so I bent the wire back and forth to break it (not hard to do with this old stuff), then folded the long length into a mangled bundle and stuffed it into my coat pocket. (Rule No. 1 of a good chore coat: big pockets). This way, if she did have to trot off to save herself from the two yahoos, she was safe from further entanglement.

In no time, I had the short chunk removed and the twists basically worked out of her tail hairs. She got some good pets and another treat (though by this time I had remembered that they had been in my pocket since the spring so I questioned their treatfullness, but she seemed to feel special for getting them, so we were good).

I told John the story when I got back to the house. I didn’t even hint that I thought she was deliberately trying to intercept me, only saying, basically that she walked over to where we met up on the trail and I found the wire. He went straight to the conclusion that Charlie was deliberately finding me so I could save her from her predicament.

I’m going with that premise.

We have clever ponies at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

This video of an eventing helmet cam recording (see blog post fail Sept. 14). Can you tell I haven’t slept well for a few weeks?

This is sunrise this morning:

It’s also, interestingly, what my eyes look like without regular application of Visine.

Another day in paradise at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

And when the moving pictures aren’t capturing images of humanity congregating to act rapidly to save a fellow denizen of the human race from a vehicular fireball, they are showing us a ripping good time.

My cousin (longest-held friend and sister from another mister) pointed me to this youtube.com video in which a guy used a helmet camera while riding the cross-country jumping course at the American Eventing Championships this year (and for anyone going “huh?” right now, go here to read more or, in keeping with the visual theme of the day, you can go here to see more about it).

Sometimes I miss haring around a jump course at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

We’re here today interviewing renowned junkyard-horse trainer, Pam Burke, to catch up on the world and work of junkyard horses.

Hello, Pam, it’s nice to see you again, looking so tan on the arms … and white on the legs if you don’t mind me saying.

Hi, yeah, I don’t wear shorts much, but it’s been a hot few weeks. Sorry I’m blinding you!

No problem. We’re glad you’re comfortable and we’re happy to catch up with you again. So tell us, have you been doing much riding?

Sadly, not as much as I would like, but there’s junk to be herded and corrals to be wrangled.

So true, but have you been on any rides lately?

As a matter of fact, I went out just this morning on my big mare Xena, the rocket launcher.

And had fun?

I did have fun. The sky was clear, it was early enough that the temps were only in the 70s, my dog Cooper went along, and we got to see a few interesting birds and some deer. Cooper got to play in the creek a bit, but we couldn’t cross because the two dry crossings are washed out and the creek crossings that require you to walk through the water have deep mud that would’ve proven too much for my horse at her stage of training … and for her shoes that would’ve been sucked off her feet. We certainly had plenty of room to roam on the west side of the creek though.

Any excitement other than birds and deer?

[Laughing.] Funny you should ask that. Yeah, cows. There were quite a few cows.

You mean plain ol’ hamburger on the hoof cows caused a problem?

In the world of me, apparently so. Yes. [Laughing.] That Xena horse I was riding is 16.3 hands, plus she is really only green broke, she’s proven her brain will short-circuit during moments of extreme stress and then she’ll thump me soundly into the ground. She isn’t used to being around cows, so they’re a little stressful in general. My dog companion, Cooper, is afraid of a lot of things, too, including cows, and will panic during moments of extreme duress. Like from cows chasing him.

And these cows are particularly worrisome. They are trained to come toward humans and activity rather than run away from it, and the harder you try to move them away, the faster they come at you and in larger numbers. Plus, I heard from the owner that they once chased a dog under a pickup and proceeded to total the brand new truck trying to get at the dog. As if that weren’t enough, I personally saw them gang up on an injured blue heron, kill it and stomp it into the dirt.

So, yep, those cows were a potential problem.

I guess so. What happened with the cows?

Well, they were between us and home, strung out in a line from the fence line down to the creek bottom. I was lucky to have a gap in cows right at the road as I was coming through. I called the dog to heel, and just kept Xena pointed toward home so she would keep going forward, and we managed to get through. One cow took a few romps in our direction, but we’d already broken through the line and had some clear ground ahead of us clear to the gate, so Xena was content just to ignore her and keep focused.

Everything turned out alright then.

I’d say so. Wish my dog would’ve stayed beside me rather than literally at Xena’s heels, and Xe felt a little bit like having my ass strapped to a bottle rocket, but we made it through and there were no mishaps. [Laughing.] Success is measured in many ways.

So, not dying or getting injured is considered a successful training ride on a junkyard horse?

Absolutely! Someone asked me once what all my horse has to know — like correct leads, neck reining and leg yields — before I consider it to be broke. I just said: No, no, no. Those things are a measure of a horse’s training. I consider a horse to be pretty broke when the rides no longer feel like the last act of defiance against death.

There you have it folks. That’s how they do things out in the junkyard.

Thank you for tuning in at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

I’m just a titch stiff today after working the mini yesterday in the high-80s heat, and a little nostalgic for the days when I was more on top of my training game … and my fitness.

Athletically, I was always more like a souped-up hotrod pickup than a sports car, but these days I’m more like a heavy duty dump truck. I haul a lot of garbage around, but I’m not super-maneuverable, and I won’t break any land speed records as I grind myself up through the gears.

As I started doing some at-liberty work with the mini in the round pen yesterday, I was mentally getting after myself to increase my response time and hustle. I felt like I was getting in the groove and went to switch up direction mid-sprint, but executed my rollback on a scattering of dry, grass stems the mini had rejected from her hay all week. It was slick and shiny as new straw, which is to say it was like spinning out on Zamboni-smoothed ice.

There have been more spectacular falls of this nature, but I was hovering horizontally in the air a bit before landing slightly butt-first on my favorite, weak SI joint, then splatting flat out on my back. All the way to my head. Got dirty, mucky hay in my hair and down my back. Awesome start to the training.

I scrambled up and swiped at the crud while hustling back to work (mentally checking to see if that SI joint was flopping like a bad U-joint). It was all good.

About 60 seconds later, I had to fling the halter toward the mini’s rear end to keep her from ditching work for a coffee break and a little nuzzle with her horse neighbor. I didn’t have a good hold of the lead rope on my anchor hand, so the halter and rope shot like a line drive totally out of my control and straight into the water trough. Score two points for me.

All this in the first two minutes of the training session.

Honestly, I considered that these two mishaps might be ill omens telling me I should not tackle this task that day, but, y’know, I’m rarely smart enough to pay attention to hints of danger, so I pressed on. The good news is that no other mishaps occurred (and no woman parts were harmed that night in the training of this mini).

However, I did come to a better understanding of just how out of shape I am.

I was a red-faced, gasping-for-air, sweat-streaming mess by the end of the training session. Oh, and let’s not forget I also had the mucky particles from my fall plus the horse scum from petting and rubbing down a sweaty mini. At this weakest and tiredest moment, I had to go fetch hay for feeding time and made a further mess out of myself getting itchy, pokey hay chaff stuck to my still sweat-dripping skin because nothing was cooperating. (Yes, I was whining. Duh.)

That’s when my neighbors showed up. Perfect.

Did I mention that I was doing this training session while wearing a teal-colored T-shirt and red with black and white Coca-cola print, light cotton sweats/pajama bottoms?

Oh yeah, I’m all that at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

that I get hurt in the oddest ways.

I was halter breaking a miniature horse tonight, and the tip of my right, upper, frontal girl part got pinched to begeezes, caught between the hard bony back of my hand and the coils of the halter rope held tightly in my fist when the mini locked up all fours, then backed up. Unfortunately, that’s not the whole story.

After she got my ill-treated, not-covered-by-a protective/lifting-device girl partlette wedged into that pinch-hold and she secured it with a few backward hops, she whirled away in a sort of rearing/lungeing action that, I believe shredded the nerve endings in the affected frontal area.

“Ow!” I said and went on with the business of training. Then “OW!” fully expecting to shake off the pain as I kept working the little horse. Then “Ow, dammit.” And then “Son-of-a-OW!” At which point I dropped any pretense of training, and yanked up my T-shirt so I could survey the damage. I fully expected to see a raw, skinless nip, or at the very least a red and raspberried one. I was disappointed by its lack of dramatic visual characteristics.

It looked normal. It didn’t even have the T-shirt’s weave dented into it. Not so much as even one, tiny, blood-blistery thing. Nothing to indicate that it hurt like a mother in the way that any over-torqued nerve set would.

As another spasm of pain struck, I grabbed the injured party and glared at the mini, “You killed my whole boob!” I told her. But perhaps that was an over-exaggeration.

On the other hand, I saw both of my upper frontal girl parts in the mirror as I was exiting the shower tonight, and I realized that my numb, right frontal part is hanging lower than it was yesterday. The tip is now on the same level as the left one. I lost a full half-inch of right-side perkiness. The last time I had a measurable, mass exodus of perkiness like that was when I lost a full inch on both sides during the mammography process five years ago.

I’m hoping it’s just dislocated.

And it’ll pop back into place soon at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

While I’m training a horse I spend a lot of time pondering the horse’s personality, motivations, intelligence and trainability. I like to think that all good trainers do that. I don’t know for sure, but I like to think it all the same. Eventually, I end up with a pithy description of the horse and its traits, and quite often a running dialog of events during any given training session. I’m pretty sure good trainers don’t do that. Whatever.

Xena Warrior Cheerleader

So when I dubbed the large bit of four-legged loveliness, pictured to the left, Xena Warrior Cheerleader, the name was quite appropriate. She’s pretty; she’s peppy; she’s got all the high-kickin’, fancy-steppin’, killer moves; and she really is the fluffiest pompom on the cheer squad.

After selling my broke horse Jilly this spring and finding myself with pretty much a whole new set of horses, I’ve been contemplating intelligence and trainability a lot. (Jilly was both remarkably intelligent and disturbingly training resistant, so it’s probably a knee-jerk reaction — or trepidation.) While riding Xena the other day I decided that the best way to describe her is that she is a little more intelligent than she comes off — not a whole lot, but some — and she’s definitely more trainable than she sometimes seems, too.

The problem with her trainability is that her pretty little brain quite often runs like it’s on a Starbuck’s high; as if she’s too busy checking her pedicure and talking on her cellphone with her BFF arranging a party for spring break while negotiating traffic in her custom convertible Hummer to recognize a learning situation when she’s asked to figure one out. If she were that stereotypical teen-aged girl, she would be talking, preening, flirting and texting almost constantly while going about the business of her day

She’s definitely the most expressive of my three current horses (that includes Charlie and Tazz), and I can hear her running dialog emanating from her brain.

Yesterday, I was supposed to meet a couple friends for an early morning trail ride, and since Xena hadn’t been hauled anywhere since last fall, I decided to start early with the loading. It took only 10-15 minutes to get her in the trailer, so I figured, hey, I have time to make this a training session and unload/reload her a few more times to get her loading more automatically.

This decision was like an engraved invitation to a hissy fit. That lasted 45 more minutes. The pinnacle of her performance was to fling herself about like a 1,300-pound spoiled brat.

All I can say is: In lieu of patience, use stubbornness. And she who is the most stubborn SOB gets her way — so we made it to the trail ride. Eventually.

And what did Xena think of all this?

“Oh, hey, Pam. Whassup, chicky-dude? Wow, we’re going somewhere? I certainly hope not in that trailer. Say, thanks for putting my pretty blue halter and new lead rope on me, but I don’t think I want to get into that trailer. Nope. I’m clauster-whatever-ic. Hey, Charlie, what’s that word. Y’know, th— wuh? Hey, human, you don’t have to be so rude. How would you feel if I interrupted your conversa—No, I’m not going to get in there. You can make me lunge over here all you want, but I’m not getting in. No. It’s icky. It still has a few crumbs of Tazz’s poop. Hey, Tazz your poo—Wuh? Oh, you got the whip out? Stop goosing my butt with that thing, human. There, I’m in. You could’ve just told me you were serious about this loading business instead of all that stupid work and clucking at me and tapping me on the butt with your hand. BTW, before you close that door all the way, you should know that I had to overcome a lot of those phobia-things to get in he—Oh, you’re letting me out? Cool.

“Well, I guess we’re done for the day. Tough one that, how ’bout some oats. I—what? You want me to get back in there? No. I’m not touching it. Not touching it. Not touching it!

“Fine, if you’re going to make me work that much, then I’ll get halfway in. No. No further. No way. I think this is against Geneva convention laws. No further. I read in Horse Vogue that 99 out of 100 horses lose training when they are ridden away from home. No. You can’t make me. No, no, no! There, I’m in. Happy? Now I’m outta here and you pushing your puny human weight against that door can’t hold me. See! I really am Xena Warrior Princess, the mighty figh—No! I’m not walking forward again! I hate you! I’m gonna back up forever, and I’m doing this because I want to—not because you’re making me! Fine, fine, I’ll keep backing up. This means nothing to me. So now I’m quitting. OK, if you’re going to be that way about it, I’ll keep going. I can be good at this. Uh, thanks for stopping. Fine, I’ll walk up there and put my two front feet in, but that’s it. Now, I’m backing outta here. Cripes, you’re huffy! Fine! I’m backing backing backing backing. [Gasp!] I’m breaking a sweat. Ohmigawd! There’s so much sweat it’s, like, trickling. down. my. leg. I won’t tolerate this—OK, yes, backing. Straight line. No problem. Check out my rhythm. I’m good. Yes, now, I’m going forward, still sweating, but I think I can take a break here with my front feet in the trailer.

Whew, caught my breath, now I’m backing outtaaaaa…my old position on this trailer loading issue. Not backing out. Don’t be ridiculous, I’m right here. Thanks for the goose in the rear to remind to step forward one more time. But that’s as far as I’m going. Can Tazz come with? Hey, Ta—wuh?! I was paying attention. See here’s another step. Um, Pam, my butt muscles are sore from standing half in this trailer. Here’s another step. I mean, those glutes are screaming tired, man. How ’bout another step, just to relieve that cramp. Y’know what? This is a stupid idea of yours to load one stupid step at a time. Geez, I’m gonna hop in here and stand at the front of this lovely flat compartment. You just close that door there behind me. Any time there, slow poke. I’m ready to rock and roll. Tallyho, babe.”

Whatever.

We got there. We rode. We conquered the day. Everybody lived. No one even got hurt. I had fun. She loaded fine. We came home. The End.

A successful day is one completed without total mayhem at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com