Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ken's baseball team party and last games of the season

Ken's a Pitcher for the Giants in the NABA league and their 21 game season ended this week.  It was a sad weekend for him.  But on the fun side we were hosting the annual team party and the weather was perfect.  So much fun was had that I forgot to take photos.  Which may be a good thing!  The Moms/Wives and kids enjoyed the pool and spa and the guys enjoyed the pool too.  Huey competed in his own version of the belly flop competition when he did a shallow dive that made a BIG splash!   Hot dogs and Hamburgers fed the group - we went the easy route this year.

As in past years we somehow managed to plan the party on the day before a double header.  Yet all the players that were at the party were at the games.

Not sure exactly how it came about but during the party Ken mentioned that he'd always wanted to play all 9 positions in a game.  People agreed that it would be pretty fun and when it was game time on Sunday morning Ken started at 1st base.

Ken at first base

Ken fielding a ball playing second

He didn't get a play at third

He caught a pop up at Shortstop

Ken played all three outfield positions in one inning.  He caught a fly ball in Left field, moved to Center field while Jeremy took Left for the second out, and then switched to Right field when he and Ron traded positions.  This video made me laugh watching them switch positions.

Ken put on Catcher's gear to take a position he hasn't played since Little League

A picture I'll possibly never get again.

I put together a two minute video of Ken's catching debut.

And of course, I had to get a photo of him during one of his at bats.  See the ball on it's way to the plate?

Thanks to all the players who gave up their fielding position for an inning to allow Ken to cross an item off his Bucket List.

The NABA Giant's 2011 season is over.  But now it's Football season and our first Fantasy Football draft is Friday.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

All Amateur Arabian Horse Show (Sunday)

Just when we’re starting to get the hang of things, it’s the last day of the show.

It was another early wake up because the day started with Sharon handling a bunch of halter horses.  I had to get Blu prepped for the day so I couldn’t be down by the arena but I kept an eye and ear out so I could sort of follow what was happening.  The first class of our morning was Sharon showing Todd’s mare Easter in “Arabian Classic Head” – a class where the horse is blanketed so only her neck and head show.  She is judged entirely on her head, as the class name implies.  She is a beauty, so of course she won the class!  From there it moved fairly quickly through four more classes – all of which resulted in wins.

Sharon spent most of the day yesterday in the saddle and with the resulting win in her class they decided to repeat the plan today.  I also wanted to get more time in the saddle.  Mostly because I felt like just riding, but also because I wondered if it wouldn’t help me relax more and help Blu get a bit more tired so he wouldn’t be as fast.

After the halter classes were finished everyone came up to the barn and I was delighted to see that Sharon’s husband Bill had arrived!  He’s always fun to have at shows.

I saddled up (without my chaps) and rode to the warm up arena.  I rode around for a while but decided that polyester show pants are very slippery in the saddle and I wanted to put my chaps on.  I went back to the barn and with much contorting I put them on all by myself (for those who haven’t worn show chaps, let me just say that there is a fair amount of bend required to get the zippers together in the middle/back of your thighs and then zip them down your leg all the while keeping the chap fringe from getting caught in the zipper.  It can be done.  I’ve done it a couple times.  But it’s much easier when someone else helps put them on.  Anyway….I did get them on, then I got on Blu (and laughed at a wisecrack made by a neighboring trainer who walked by while I was adjusting things in the saddle) and rode back to the warm up arena. 

Sunday ended up as my favorite day.  A beautiful day (the fog had burned off early but it wasn’t a million degrees) riding my horse in an arena that was basically empty.  Why was it empty when usually it is packed?  Because there was a fun competition going on in the main arena.  A “dollar bill ride” where people ride bareback with a dollar bill between their thigh and the horse.  The last horse and rider with their dollar still in place wins the pot.  So, there were Sharon and I riding by ourselves.  Todd came by a number of times and gave advice, but he also left us on our own, too.  We enjoyed ourselves immensely. 

The day was going slow and they had a 30 minute break right before my class.  The cool thing about that was that I was able to ride in the main arena for 30 minutes prior to my class.  I wanted to make it relaxing for both Blu and me so we did a lot of walking and jogging with a some loping.  We got the correct lead 90% of the time.  I was almost worried at the end because we’d walked around the arena a few times in a row and when they made the announcement to clear us out of the arena I asked Blu lope on the right lead.  He did, but I thought he didn’t and stopped him.  I tried one more time and he did pick it up correctly so we ended on that note.  I was concerned that I'd screwed up by walking so much right before my class but I think it was the best thing that could have happened.

I got out of the arena and Todd got Blu groomed and ready to show.  I didn’t have any butterflies.  I was relaxed.  Success!

My only class of the day was Class 206 – Half Arabian/Anglo Arabian Western Pleasure Limit Horse – ATR (Limit Horse hasn’t won 6 blue ribbons and ATR is Amateur To Ride).  There were four of us in the class.  I’d learned a lot yesterday and my warm up today relaxed me, and Blu, too.  The result?  A WONDERFUL class!  Blu got the correct lead both directions, his jog was nice and slow and we had a great ride.  No malfunctions, no mis-queues, just a great ride.

When they announced the winner as Noelle I was very happy for her.  She’s been super nice to me during this show.  We’ve competed against each other in almost every class, and she’s just a very nice lady.  So I was happy for her to win.  When they announced Blu’s number in second place I was THRILLED!  Whoo-Hooo!  I won second place!  It rocked!  Todd said afterwards it could have been a toss up as to who won the class because Noelle’s horse had a beautiful slow jog but the lope wasn’t perfect and Blu’s jog wasn’t perfect but his lope was great.  Overall I’m glad she won.  She’s super nice and she deserved it.  I’m extremely happy with second place.  It’s my first rated show, after all!

Bill got my phone and took this picture so I could send it to Ken

Sharon’s only class of the day came just a couple classes after mine.  She had a nice ride but when Nazz mis-interpreted Sharon’s command and did a perfect flying lead change it blew their chances for another win.  But on the positive, the flying lead change was flawless!

Todd, Sharon and I Sunday afternoon

Once classes were finished (for us) it was time to pack up the barn and head home.  Packing went pretty quickly and I think we did a pretty good job of getting things back in the trailer in a neat and tidy manner that will make the next show setup easy.  Todd and Mike got the horses off to home and then it was time for Sharon, Bill and I to get our things loaded.  I needed to get the camper back on the truck and all our stuff sorted out between Sharon and me.  We fixed ourselves sandwiches for dinner and pulled out of the showgrounds at 6:20pm.

I got home about 10pm and collapsed into bed.  Updating Ken on everything that happened would have to wait for the next day when I wasn’t utterly exhausted!

When’s our next show!?!?!  I’m HOOKED!!!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

All Amateur Arabian Horse Show (Saturday)

The alarm was set for 7am because the morning classes were Reining classes which are individual competitor type class where each horse and rider rides a pattern and takes about 5 minutes each.   I was showing in back to back classes, seven classes after the Reining classes were over and when we checked the program Friday night there were only a few horses registered in the reining classes so we figured we'd be showing around 10am.  (HA!)

I figured I had a bit of time to prep but wasn't sure exactly how much.  When I'd emailed the schedule to family weeks ago I'd said I'd show "after 9am" in case they wanted to plan a visit to watch.  It turns out I was right. It WAS after 9am.  LONG, LONG after 9am.

At 8:30am I was pulling Blu out of his stall to lunge him (I was already dressed for the my classes) and my In-Laws came around the corner of the barn!  Yippee!  I love my In-Laws, and to have them come all the way to Watsonville to watch me in my show was wonderful.

It's too bad it didn't go as well as yesterday (for me).

Since I was on my way to lunge Blu, Sharon showed Bob and Toni to the free coffee and the cafe.  Bob and Toni ate breakfast while I worked Blu.  I did the usual prep work on Blu and I put my cowboy hat on in prep for my class then when they came back to the barn we sat down and chatted for a bit.  It was probably 10am and the reining was still going strong.  When we checked the class number they were still on the SECOND class of the morning!  Yikes!  We were going to be a lot later than 10am.  I walked down to the gate steward and asked him about the progress of the reining and he said there were 30 – yes thirty – horses still to go.  At 5 minutes a horse that was two and a half hours, at least.  Oh boy.  I felt bad that Bob and Toni had gotten there as early as they did and it didn’t look like I’d ride until noon.  They were super understanding and joked that they’d told someone that I’d said “after 9am” and that it could mean 2pm.  They’ve watched countless baseball games in the coastal fog and were quite used to the weather and waiting.  Luckily.

So we waited.  I tied Blu up in his stall so he could hang out and relax a bit, drink water, etc. and I took my cowboy hat off to give my poor head some relief.  We sat and chatted, watched the reiners do their patterns and generally relaxed.

Time passed....  Lots of time.

I didn’t actually show until almost 2:30pm!  Wow – a prime example of “hurry up and wait” in the horse show world.

Even with all the time I didn’t do a lot of warm up work with Blu.  We were still following yesterday’s model of a couple circuits around the warm up arena and then going into the class.  Bob took a couple photos in the warm up arena. 

Warming up

That's Sue on Rocky on the right

I was entered in two classes today:

Class 124 – Western Pleasure Walk/Jog All Breeds 18 & over
Class 125 – HA/AA Western Pleasure AOTR (Amateur Owner To Ride)

Sue, riding her horse Rocky, was also competing in my first class so it was nice to have someone else from our barn in the same class.  We stood next to each other as we waited for them to announce our class.

Entering the arena today was similar to yesterday, Blu still didn’t want to jog into the arena, but he took up a very nice jog once inside the gate.  There was laughter at the gate when another rider entered.  He was dressed flamboyantly in a bright green shirt with “Pretty Boy” embroidered on the shoulders.  The audience threw out comments and jokes and he wise cracked along with them.  It was a fun class because the announcer got into the fun and even the judge made some comments.  I thought we had a really nice ride.  Blu’s jog was slow and fairly steady – better than yesterday I thought.  And his walk was great.  The class was a walk/jog class so there was no loping.  When they called for us to line up in the center of the arena we all did, facing the grandstands.  Everyone was still having fun.  I was lined up right next to Sue and when the judge asked us to back up, Blu did his backup nicely.  They called the winner – Sue!  Cool!

Sue's on the left, I'm in the middle

The woman on the right got second

Pretty Boy is hard to miss on the right

And yes, I’ll admit that after they called out the second place horse I was hoping that our number might be called for 3rd place.  I thought we’d had a really nice ride and didn’t know of any reason we might be bumped down.  It wasn’t called.  Nor was it called for 4th place.  Yep, I was very disappointed to realize I’d gotten LAST.

And since I was in back to back classes I didn’t have time to talk to Todd about what went wrong when I left the arena.  I exited the arena, turned around, and jogged back in.  My brain was whirling.  But I had to concentrate on this class.  It was a lope class with six horses.

In our class

The first direction was faster than I’d have liked, but Blu got the correct lead so I was feeling pretty good.  We reversed at the walk and when they asked for the lope we struggled.  It took a bit to get Blu into the lope and I think he got the wrong lead.  I say I think because my brain has turned to mush and I can’t remember because I can only focus on what happened next.

We were loping in the second direction, Blu was going pretty fast and I was holding his reins too tightly.  It caused the bridle to lift up – with all the silver on it and the ear pieces it is really stiff – and his right ear piece came off and over his ear.  It was now flapping away behind his ear and he was not happy.  I wasn’t either.  Luckily I had the presence of mind to ask for a time out (probably because I’d seen Todd do it yesterday, it was fresh in my mind) and when the judge granted the time out, I rode into the middle of the arena and stopped.  I was shaky with nerves and reached up to put it over his ear.  The judge came over to me and asked if I wanted to tighten his headstall a notch and I froze.  I didn’t know what to do!  I'm such a beginner at this that I didn’t know if I would have to dismount to do it, or if the ring steward would help, or the judge.  I had no idea and I knew that I couldn’t mount Blu again in the arena with my chaps on (Blu is 15-3 hands tall and the chaps restrict my movement) so I looked at the judge and said “no thank you.  I’ll keep going.” And she replied that it was my choice.  Looking back, the whole episode probably only lasted 30 seconds, but I swear it felt like a year!

We resumed the lope and Blu picked up the correct lead immediately.  As a result of my fear of a repeat “wardrobe (bridle) malfunction” I was much looser with the reins.  I didn’t hold Blu as tightly and I actually had a more rhythmic motion and wouldn’t you know it, Blu slowed down and had a beautiful lope that second direction.  Who knew?!  Actually, Todd did.  He’d been coaching me from the rail to loosen up on Blu before the time out.  Now I was looser and voila.  Blu was smooth and slow!

We lined up at the end of the class and I resigned myself to last place again because of the horrible ride and time out fiasco.  But I didn’t get last.  I got 5th.

Two crummy finishes with my family watching.  Ah well.  I can't do perfectly every time and we're rank beginners, so I really can't/shouldn't complain.

When I got out of the arena after my second class I was able to talk to Todd a bit and he said he didn’t have any idea why I didn’t place higher in the first class and he said I did the right thing in the second class in regards to the time out.  The folks from the barn and others not from the barn were watching (from the same place I watched Blu’s first class yesterday) and afterwards I heard that they all didn’t understand why I didn’t place higher in the walk/jog class and even in the lope class.

Saturday and Sunday’s show was a different judge from Friday’s show, and obviously this one didn’t like Blu as much as Friday’s judge did.  The “joys” of competing in something that is subjective.

My In-Laws had spent the entire day at the show at this point.  And they were very supportive (I really was mostly embarrassed that I didn’t do well when they'd travelled so far to come see me).  I’m glad they came, and hope that next time they come to a show (IF they ever want to go through THAT again, that is!) I’ll do better.

The third to last class of the day was the one class that Sharon and Nazz were in.  Yesterday Nazz competed in three classes, two with Sharon riding and one with Todd.  The result: two third place ribbons (one was a championship class) and a fifth place.  And Sharon also showed Todd’s mare Easter in a halter class and got first place.  But today there was just the one class.  And boy was it a GOOD one!

Sharon and Nazz rode flawlessly and WON their class!!!  There were seven horses in the class and it was a tough competition.  I screamed and yelled when they announced her number.  And when she came out of the arena I took a picture and texted it to her husband so he could share in the excitement. 

What an awesome end to the day!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Coast Classic Arabian Horse Show (Friday)

The alarm went off at 6:30am though I’d been awake since 6am because I was too worried I’d sleep through the alarm and be late for my first day of showing (little did I know)!  The show started at 8am and Blu was scheduled to be in three classes.  The first two classes Todd was going to ride and the third class was mine.

Class 22 – HA/AA Western Pleasure Junior Horse
Class 24 - HA/AA Western Pleasure – Open
Class 28 - HA/AA Western Pleasure – AAOTR (Adult Amateur Owner To Ride)

Friday was the Coast Classic Show, the only day that trainers could ride in classes.  Saturday and Sunday was the All Amateur Show, for Amateurs only.  The plan was to have Todd start Blu off and make sure he had the best opportunity for a comfortable beginning to his show.  I knew Todd could handle whatever Blu would put his way (which ended up being very minor – excess energy related to his having 4 days off due to his injury).  That was the plan.  And actually it turned out well.

With all that planning what was the only problem?  I missed half of Blu’s first class!!!

Imagine my horror when I came out of the camper planning on walking up to the barn to help Todd get ready for the first class and instead looked over to the arena only to see Todd’s cowboy hat and red shirt cruising along above the rail!!

It all came about because I thought we had plenty of time once I’d gotten Blu prepped [groomed to within an inch of his life, gloss on the hooves, mane and tail brushed out (and yes, flat ironed), Peppy Spray all over (shine spray), saddled in his pretty new show saddle, headstall ready to go] so that Sharon and I could head off to the camper to get ourselves prepped [makeup, hair up, show shirt on, cowboy hat bobby pinned on so tightly that I thought for sure I was bleeding] and when I was done I popped out of the camper casually strolling on the grass only to look up to the arena (The camping area is lower than the arena and you can’t see the horses or hear the announcers from the camper, all you can see are riders heads and shoulders above the rail) only to see Todd riding by!  I swear I about had a heart attack. 

After cursing myself I hurried around to the barn side of the arena (looking back I wonder why I didn’t try to go to the grandstand side – it was closer) and stood there watching Todd and Blu change directions.  I did get to see his “bad” direction – his right lead – and I was delighted to see Blu get the correct lead!  I had no idea how he did the first direction, of course, but his second direction looked AWESOME.  I was bouncing up and down, by myself, a goofy smile on my face, watching them line up. 

I was totally shocked to hear the announcer say “In First Place in Half Arabian Western Pleasure Junior Horse – Number 101 – Red White N Blu ridden by Todd Azevedo and owned by Katherine Lordier” I jumped and screamed and cheered in excitement.  Pumped my fists and looked around to see who I could share my excitement with!  Sadly, there was no one there – of course – they were all down at the arena!  Doh!

Then I ran to the arena myself, grinning like a loon, and babbling away to Todd about how cool it was to watch what I did.  He told me he saw me standing down by the camper when he rode by in the class – probably the same time I saw him!  He had been wondering where I was!!

I took a quick picture of Todd and Blu with their ribbon, just before they headed into their second class.

This class I actually watched in it's entirety.  I even videotaped the whole thing.

Class 24 - HA/AA Western Pleasure – Open

Once again I was thrilled to watch Blu and Todd have a good ride.  Blu did have a problem getting the correct lead on the second direction, then to top things off Todd had to call a “time out” because the throat latch I’d bought had come apart (it was magnetic and the magnet wasn’t strong enough to hold together with the weight of the headstall and Blu’s head movement – it’s designed for a show halter – not performance).  Luckily you are allowed one time out without penalty and Todd was able to come into the center of the arena and reattach the throat latch and when the time out ended they resumed the lope and Blu picked up the correct lead this time.  I’m not sure how that affected things in the judges eyes, but the end result was that Blu got second place.  I was happy.  He didn’t come in last!

There were only 3 classes between Todd’s class and mine so I hopped on Blu and we headed to the warm up arena for a quick workout.  I picked up the lope once in each direction and Todd said that was enough – we didn’t want to push things and Blu had picked the correct lead each time.

My class was called and I swallowed the small butterflies that were flitting around in my stomach.  I WAS a bit nervous, though it still wasn’t to the level that I used to get with Cre oh-so-many years ago.  My legs didn’t turn to mush, thankfully.  I struggled getting Blu to jog into the arena.  The entrance is on a downward slope and the ground is pretty hard outside the arena.  (Blu was still a tiny bit sore from his injury the week before during the fire melee but he wasn’t lame.)  Once we got inside the gate he started a beautiful, slow jog.  I breathed a big sigh of relief and we continued on our way.  There were six horses in the class and we did a pretty good job of spreading out.  I was trying to be aware of my surroundings so I wouldn’t get boxed in at a critical point.  It can be hard to do because I think horses are like magnets and they end up sticking close to each other even when they start out far apart.  I believe I did a fairly good job of arena management overall and Todd said I rode smart.  

I don’t remember everything about the class, but I do remember that our jog was pretty nice most of the time.  A few lurches here and there if I used too much leg or Blu mis-interpreted my commands.  They asked for the walk and that was fine, but going through my head was the thought that it meant when they asked for the lope it would be from a walk.  Ugh.  Mentally it seems easier to ask for the lope from the jog but in reality it worked out fine.  I’m happy to report he picked up the correct lead.  Yahoo!  They called for a jog next and we reversed.  I’d survived half the class – another half a class to go…  I think at that moment I’d wished the class was over because we’d done pretty well and survived so far.  And of course the second direction (right) is Blu’s “bad” direction.  But alas – all classes go both directions.  So we were jogging around the arena and I was approaching a group of horses when they called for the lope.  I tried to wait so the horses in front of me could start into the lope and get away, but they were all too slow.  I was also in front of the judge.  The dreaded position to be in: blocked in, with a young horse and in front of the judge.  Ugh.  I asked for the lope but wasn’t prepared as much as I should have been and Blu wasn’t collected so he picked up the wrong lead.  Drat!  I brought him back down to the jog and collected him better and asked for the lope again and this time he picked it up correctly. 

Ah well, it’s my first class with him in a “rated” show, it’s my first day, I was nervous, all (my) excuses.  But regardless I think that overall we had a nice ride.  We were quite fast and with the mistakes I made (I’ll take the blame) I was quite happy that we pulled a fifth place because at least we didn’t come in LAST!!! 
I think all the other horses were older and more experienced than Blu.  Actually I’m quite sure there wasn’t another horse in the class that had as little experience as Blu did.  He’d only been in training with Todd for 5 months at that point, and with only a dozen rides under Nicole prior to Todd, that wasn’t much experience at all.

I was extremely satisfied with Blu’s and my first day together at a rated show and overall the entire barn did well.  

Here's the tally prior to lunch.  We were a happy barn!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gold Coast Arabian Horse Association Show - Part 1

What and awesome long weekend it was.  I took Thursday and Friday off work, and the show was Friday through Sunday.  I’m not sure where to start, there was so much going on.

So I guess the logical thing is to start at the beginning.  Thursday.  It was a travel/setup/practice/bathe day.  Luckily the travel was uneventful.  Even though I left my house at 7:15am in prime commute time I didn’t hit ANY commute traffic.  I even drove I-80 to I-680 to 101, prime commute routes.  Someone was watching out for me I think.  I took my time, stopped a couple times along the way and arrived at the showgrounds around 11am.  Sharon went to the ranch first to pick up some things but because Todd was almost ready to head out she waited and followed him.  So while I waited for them to arrive I unloaded the camper from the truck and brought my show gear over to the barn.  We were in Barn 6 and had something like 13 stalls.  Laura and her husband John were already there with Laura’s two horses, Echo (Hunter) and Sebastian (Western Pleasure) in their stalls. 

When Todd arrived with the trailer it was time to start unloading the horses and get the barn set up.  Everyone pitched in and the work was completed fairly quickly.  First priority: Shavings put in stalls, water buckets filled in stalls, horses put in stalls.   Second priority: carpets in groom and tack stalls, tack and equipment put in the appropriate tack or groom stall, drapes hung and awning and chairs set out.  Third priority: work the horses.  Forth priority: bathe the horses.

The first load of 6 horses plus the two already there settled in nicely.  Blu was in a playful mood and was playing with the garbage can outside his stall and when that was out of reach he played with is grain bucket. 

 I wasn't able to get a picture of him lifting the garbage can but I did catch the grain bucket episode.

The tack and groom stalls set up smoothly.  Sharon and I have been identifying our “necessary” items at each show and have been slowly picking up items to make our lives easier at the shows.  We've got clothing racks that hold our show clothes (chaps and shirts mostly) blanket racks that hold the wool under pads for the saddles, hat racks for our hat boxes, oodles of bridle racks, and of course saddle racks.  We also have indoor/outdoor carpets for the groom stalls – it keeps the horses cleaner as we prep them for their classes and a carpet for the front of the barn where we set up our director’s chairs, table and awning.  It's a great place to relax between classes or at the end of the day and watch the world go by.  Most of the items are now permanent residents of the trailer and go from show to show with us.

One of our newest items are our stall signs!  My Father-In-Law is a great woodworker (he's made some beautiful side tables for our home, among other things) and he made signs for us.  We've started with one each for me, Sharon and Todd and Laura wants some for her horses now, too!

We had to put them down low because we didn't want the horses to try to eat them!

The hustle and bustle of setup day is invigorating.  It keeps you going until everything is done and then you realize you haven’t eaten and you’re starving and it’s dark.  Where did the day go?

Laura and John went home, Todd and Mike headed back to the ranch – horses to take care of there, too – and Sharon and I went to Applebee’s for dinner.  We were so tired and hungry we barely spoke until after we’d eaten.  I laughed because I could tell we were “coming around” when we started to chatter away after we’d had some food!

We went back to the camper and got organized there, too.  It’s amazing how much “stuff” two girls can generate, especially when they’re both showing horses!  My camper isn’t THAT big – it’s an 8 ½ foot Host Bachelor – and we do a pretty good job of filling it up.  But it also does a great job of having a place (somehow) for everything.

Eventually we wound down, after planning our timing for the classes the next day, and went to bed.  I think we were out in seconds!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Holy Smokes - It's a fire!

This weekend was NOT what anyone would expect.  It's the weekend before the Gold Coast Arabian Horse Association show in Watsonville.  The show I've been eagerly waiting for since I got Blu.  It's what I've been planning as my first show with Blu.  If all goes well it should still work out.  But Blu hurt his leg and needs a couple days off.  And a new shoe.

How'd he hurt his leg?  It was probably during maelstrom of helicopters and California Department of Forestry planes flying directly overhead fighting the 36 acre grass fire that thankfully was stopped by Cal Fire on the properties next door to Todd's ranch!  Yikes.

No one has a barbecue this big :-(

When it started we'd just said bye to Bill who had finished his lesson and was trailering Rocky home, Todd went in the house for a bite to eat and Sharon and I were finishing up loading the trailer with all the show gear we'd need for next week.  She and I looked over the valley and saw some smoke.  Not a lot of smoke - we actually were wondering if someone was having a barbecue.  But in the time it took for us to look over, think that, and realize that it was getting bigger by the second and start for the house to notify Todd - Todd came out of the house in a hurry.  He had seen the smoke and knew it was bad news.  He and Mike got the water tank trailer (that's normally used to water the arena to keep down dust) hooked up to the dually and raced off down the neighbors driveway.  We found out later that they were the last line of defense between the fire and their neighbors house.  They stopped the fire just short of the house!  Sharon and I were going to walk down the arena to take a look to see how close it was.  But I don't think we'd taken 20 steps when we saw the smoke out behind the barn and realized that it had traveled a big distance on the other side of the hill in just minutes!!  All of the sudden we realized how quickly it was growing from our view and that it was probably heading up the valley at the base of Todd's lower pasture!  Holy Smokes!  And then we heard the planes.  I don't think 5 minutes had passed - though it felt like an hour - and above us there were two Cal Fire planes flying overhead.  I snapped a couple photos.

Cal Fire plane circling overhead

Then I switched to video because they were dropping fire retardant right next door!. It was a sight I hope to NEVER see again!  Much as I think Fire Fighters are the coolest, I really, really don't want to be this close to them in action again!  Let me assure you it isn't all fun and games.  And they earn their living!  My hat is off to them.

The first video - I was just videoing the smoke and this plane came shooting through!

These videos show how close the fire truly was - it burned past the neighbors fence you can see and into his yard which was just dried brush and would have continued on a path across his property and Todd's lower pasture would have been next.

When we could see and hear the crackling flames next door (boy did that give me goose bumps and make the hair stand up on my arms) we knew it was time to move the horses.  They were in the lower pasture which, while it didn't have a lot of fuel for the fire, wasn't a place we wanted to leave any horses with the fire in sight.

Sharon, Sue and I began a very orderly evacuation of the horses from the back pasture to the front pasture - getting them as far from the danger as possible while still on the property.  We each took one horse at a time and all the while we were leading them the planes and a helicopter were flying DIRECTLY overhead.  The helicopters were flying a route between the fire and a nearby pond so they could get their water refilled.  It was in a direct line from the fire over Todd's ranch to the pond.  The most challenging horse I moved was Zoey the big Percheron mare.  She was a sweetheart but she's SO BIG that it's really more like moving a barge and I pretty much pushed against her shoulder guiding her in the direction I wanted to go.  Luckily she wanted to go that direction too, and she never tried to get away - even with those helicopters overhead (I swear while I was moving Zoey the helicopter went in slow motion right overhead the whole time).  I liked her before this weekend but I like here even more now!  What a sweetheart!

Actually all the horses were very well behaved!  I look back on it and just wonder how they stayed so calm.  I can hope that it was because we were calm and they sensed that so they stayed calm.  I mean there were those BIG Cal Fire planes flying overhead dropping the red fire retardant (and if you ever wondered if horses can see color - just ask me - they didn't mind the planes or helicopters much except when they dropped the red stuff out.  That's when they would start galloping around.), there were helicopters, fire trucks, Firefighters in their yellow fire suits and face masks (probably looked like aliens to the horses), sirens, smoke and not the least was the actual FIRE.  I can still hear the crackling in my mind.

While we moved the horses the firefighters did a great job and stopped the fire in the neighbor's yard so we never had to worry about actually getting the horses off the property.  Todd came back from his and Mike's firefighting efforts and that's when we learned how close it got to the neighbors' house closest to where the fire actually started.  (the article mentions they cause is still under investigation but we're thinking it was started by someone flicking a cigarette butt out a window...)  The used their fire hose and doused the flames at the back yard just yards from the house.

When they had the fire contained the helicopter landed next door and picked up some of the firefighters.  It landed in the field next to Todd's and we leaned on the fence and waved and cheered them as they took off.  They acknowledged us by waving back and hitting the siren (yep - Fire helicopters have sirens too!).

There were fire trucks around for hours, driving up and down driveways checking for hot spots.  The fire started at 2:30 and they said it was fully contained at 6pm.  It felt like hours and I guess it really was.

It was now safe to move the horses back to their normal paddocks and stalls.  Once all the other horses were put away Sharon and I went and got Nazz and Blu who had been in turnout all day, even before the fire.  And damned if Blu wasn't limping!!!!

It didn't take long to see that he'd lost a shoe on his right front and was favoring it.  Luckily he didn't cut himself also but he must have overreached when running around - I can only assume it was during the fire - and pulled his shoe off.  In human terms he probably got a sprain.  It's his right lower leg where there's no muscle really - it's all bone and tendons - and again luckily he is always turned out with front and rear splint boots (protective boots that cover his cannon bone) so I'm sure that helped with the support of the area until we found the issue.

First aid is to run cold water on it for at least 20 minutes and so he got to graze on the lawn while I held the hose to his lower leg.  We also gave him some Bute - a NSAID anti inflamatory in his grain and he'll get some for a day or so.  He can't be ridden for a few days so my hopes of getting a practice ride in before the show were dashed.  But if all goes well he'll be fine in a couple days.

That was my exciting Saturday!  I hope I don't have another like it EVER.  But I'm grateful that everything turned out the way it did.

Truly grateful to the fire fighters, too!  They ROCK!!!