4Shoes 'BOOKENDS'; Morgan Horses

4Shoes 'BOOKENDS'; Morgan Horses
“Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams die, Life is a broken-winged bird, That cannot fly.” ~Langston Hughes *pictured: '4Shoes Bookends'

Friday, 28 April 2017

Day Drunk @ the 4Shoes

I should be out doing the grocery shopping right now but, first, I think I have to sober up a little. 
Yep, I'm day drunk @ the 4Shoes for absolutely no reason
And to top it off, I'm alone. 
Carolan's: the same as Baileys, but cheaper! 
Hmmm, that kind of makes day drunk before noon seem like poor behaviour, doesn't it?
Trust me, this hardly ever happens. I was going to say it is a rare occurrence, but I couldn't remember how to spell occurrence. Apparently, spell check is more sure of my lingering competence than am I. 
Actually, I do have a reason. 
Sort of. I ran out of condensed milk. 
I'm probably the last person on the planet (other than Vickie, you know who you are Vickie!) that still uses condensed milk in their tea. Nothing else is as good to me, so running out is a small inconvenience. 
So, no tea this morning. 
"No problem", I thought, "I'll just make a little coffee & go Irish." 

4 cups of coffee later & now there's not a chance in hell that I could pass a breathalizer. Let's be honest here, I'm finishing the pot as I type, so that makes it really 5 drinks stiff later. 
Oops, I mean, 5 stiff drinks later. 
Waste not, want not... as the saying goes. 

I actually know quite a bit about passing a
You'll never outsmart this thing, trust me. 
breathalizer test, because God knows that I have administered LITERALLY thousands & thousands of those tests myself. 

Not ON myself - on athletes, trainers, valets, officials, & guest drivers (in my career on the racetrack), including Rick Mercer & Premier Ralph Klein. 

So I know, there is no way that I am safe to drive to town at the moment. 
In a few hours, maybe.

Can you tell, I don't really even like going to town anymore? Maybe I just hit the bottle this morning as an excuse not to go shopping today... but it's just delaying the inevitable. 
Ach.

Drunk riding though? Hey, I really shine in that arena! 
Well, not so much me doing the shining as my horse (Padre is a frigging SAINT. A horsey SAINT, I tell ya.). Padre shines like the midday sun when I'm drunk riding! So long as I'm sober enough to stay on (*like a burr!* Listen, I didn't say it was pretty. I stay the hell off his mouth & just do my best to stay balanced in the saddle) while he sorts or pens cattle for fun, throws in a few little spins or a nice short sliding stop, maybe take the woodsy trails & he pops over a few downed trees just to see if I'm still awake up there... 
Well, that horse makes me look like a damn genius. 
Or so it seems to me in my state. 
I might just look like a damn fool.

Hey, don't judge me. 
In fact, I challenge you right now to go drink for drink with me, & then we'll ride good horses & see who's still in the saddle the whole ride, despite whatever shenanigans may occur!
What?
No takers?
That's what I thought. 
Where's my bff when I'm throwing out such boozy challenges? In AB, that's where she is. 
*Shout out Marina!! See you May long, Baby!

Mr Shoes & I used to tag along with my bestie & her hubs team penning (for fun, not to compete, just when racing was on hiatus).
I LOVED IT. 
Padre loved it more; give him half a chance to work
Padre shows off his skillz with a sober rider*.
*NOT Mr Shoes, who is taller & more rangy.
Not pictured, Padre hauls Angus cattle to the fire.
cattle & stay the hell out of his way while he does it (*cuz he's a genuine(!) working western Morgan horse for REALZ, yo!) & you'd see & feel the magic. 


Anyway, there was a rule at the arena: If you came off your horse (for any reason), then on the next Sunday you had to bring booze for everyone. 
I only had to buy once.

First, you come off, & if you're human, you feel a little sting of humiliation in hitting the ground as your horse looks back in amazement that you've lost your seat (probably in slow motion, so waaaay dramatic).
His eyes seem to say, "WTF lady? I couldn't have made it any easier for you!"
As he's giving you that stink eye for ruining his close to perfect run, you have already heard the universal gasp of the waiting penners & have had to admit that, dammit, you're just an idiot and there is just no need to call 911. 
Then there's the laughter from the peanut gallery, amidst shouts of, "Get the hell back on your damn horse, you can still make time*!" 
In this illustration, I'm def the rider in the upper right corner.
(*In team penning, the 3 person team has 90 seconds to cut out & pen 3 marked cattle. Each team member has a predetermined order of work pattern & must get their own cow into the pen before the buzzer sounds. All 3 team members must be at the gate, with cows in the pen, before the buzzer sounds.)

So yeah, there's all that love & support & (mostly) good-humoured ridicule around you. If you were drunk to start with, you probably wouldn't have come off at all &, if you did, you could at least have had half an excuse to ride like re-warmed shit. But we usually rode pretty sober... at least until late in the day. 

Somehow your legs & seat still know what to do, even when you're half in the bag. 

Looking out the diningroom window here, I can see my good old boy sunning himself up near the feeders right now, which is just about the same as him knocking on the front door & demanding my attention. 
Or so it seems to me. 

The grocery stores are open til 9pm tonight - odds are this sunny & warm weather won't hold that long so, drunk as I am (now 5 drinks in, because, can't waste coffee), I'm headed out to the tack room to grab his halter & call out to my good horse some such no doubt ridiculous names (Come here SmoogyWoodgyBear! *kiss,kiss* You know PaddyWaddy wants to take Mommy for a ride! Oh yeah, that's my good boy. Yes, I brought a butt-load of cookies in my pocket for the handsomest boy in the world. That's my good boy."), as he shoves his face into the halter & agrees to babysit my obviously drunk ass.
My horse is AWESOME. 
That's an overly used word, I think, 'awesome' is. 
But in this case, totally appropriate. 
My horse is AWESOME with AWESOME sprinkles & a side of AWESOME sauce. 

Long story short, not sure if I'll make it to the grocery store at all today (sorry, not sorry), but I'm sure as hell going to get a damn good ride in on a good damn horse.
Does life get much better than this?
Once I'm in the saddle, then the answer is, "No. No, it doesn't get much better than this."

The grocery store can sure as hell wait. 
Peace Out Y'all, & (sober, or even somewhat tipsy) make sure you get in a good ride whenever you can. 

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Canadian Reality Show


Rick Mercer is a Canadian treasure, as are the polar bears of Churchill, MB (which sits right on the shore of Hudson's Bay & is about a 9 hour drive from the 4Shoes). We are not world travelers, but then again, we don't need to be when we live in such an incredibly diverse & beautiful country of natural wonders. 

When we lived north of Edmonton, we could see the Northern Lights dancing every night; it was the part of my then work commute that I enjoyed & miss most to this day. The 4Shoes is so much further south (than our AB home) that we are rarely treated to a light show here. In fact, we've only seen the Northern Lights from the 4Shoes 3 times in 10 years, & we are always watching for them.
One of those 3 nights, Mr Shoes had been on his way home from work when he saw the lights; he got so excited that he pulled over to call me from the side of the road so I wouldn't miss them. I was way ahead of him though, & already had our chairs set up outside & full mugs of Irish coffee close to hand.
 Please enjoy these little slivers of our True North Strong & Free, because this Canadian reality show beats television any day of the week!
~hooking up with AIM link party today~

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Wildlife Romance


This romance dance is just barely starting at the dens & will continue through the end of May. The Narcisse area has the largest population of red-sided garter snakes in the world; the area also boasts the world's largest population of ravens (who dine like kings on snake livers, eating only the delicacy & leaving the remainder of the carcass). Garter snakes are complete shite mothers, dropping their live babies as they slither away without even a kind word. The little snakes winter the first year wherever they can find shelter; in their 2nd year the now grown babies find their way back to the dens on the scented trails of their counterparts, where they winter comfortably & then join the bi-annual migrations & Spring reproduction rituals themselves.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Happy Easter!

The 4Shoes steeds agree that, if there's carrots, they're in!

Floki has yet to lay a single egg; I guess that means he's comfortable with his manliness. 
Happy Easter from the 4Shoes!

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

New Hens on the Block

One thing that Mr Shoes & I enjoy is a road trip. Especially this time of year, when Spring is just making an entrance into our part of the world, my feet get itchy to GO SOMEWHERE! 
So yesterday we drove out & picked up the new hens on the block; new hens, same names. One gal hardly made it into the nesting box before dropping an egg; maybe she was holding it in the whole drive?! 
One of my projects this year is to spruce up the chicken yard by cladding the outside of the pallets in simple 1x6 fence boards. Once the pen is more (bunny) escape proof I can let Floki chase chickens around for his amusement.
I'm just kidding. I don't really think our rabbit is a chicken bully, but if I can make the chicken pen less... I guess the appropriate word is 'ugly', then Mr Shoes has agreed that he might be convinced to build a bunny playpen behind the old house. 
All the bunnies would like that!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

4Shoes BackStory

4Shoes Farm has been my fondest wish since I could remember. Long before the dream actually came to be, my desire to be surrounded by magnificent horses was satisfied in racetrack backstretches. Living 24/7/365 in a small room above the stables & sharing a communal bathroom, working as a professional groom was one of the highlights of my life. There is nothing that can quite compare to being completely immersed in horses as a way of life; I deeply treasure those learning experiences. Later, I  was an owner. Later still, I worked for an A Track, & then for the Racing Commission. I led the professional life of my dreams &, to this day, I can think of nothing more satisfying than the excitement & exhilaration of actually having lived my sport for so many years.
A reality of owning &/or care-taking of racehorses is that, regardless of their athletic prowess or lack thereof, eventually they all must retire from the sport on January 1st of the year they turn 14. More than one special horse that I might have liked to hang onto was claimed away on a race night, or retired from the sport (for whatever reason) & was placed into a new home as riding &/or driving horse. While it was never too hard to find a good horse a new life, it was always hard to see them go.
The time came for a particularly special mare to retire, but I really just didn't want to part with her. Right about that same time I was extremely fortunate to meet elderly Uncle Wally who had bred & raised Quarter horses &
Belgian drafts until into his early 70's. In exchange for light maintenance work & house-sitting over the winters, I had full use of his barn & pastures. Uncle's place was barely a mile from our driveway -- but that gorgeous acreage could never really be ours.
Fast forward some...
My first impression of the entire Interlake region was rather... dismal, to say the least.  We were shown around to unsuitable place after horrible place. Was the realtor even listening to us?  A last minute addition to the viewing list suddenly spoke to Mr. Shoes; I could barely hear a hint of whisper.  
It was a rough & raw looking quarter section left fallow for over 20 years.  Dense thickets of willow & poplars almost completely choked out more of the land than not &, where there was not bush, a healthy strip of peat bog sported countless cat-tails.
I struggled to find positives -- the house itself was nice enough (if a little small), it had a triple size workshop, there was a single new Ritchie waterer in a good spot, & the entire quarter had been newly fenced with 4 strands of smooth, horse friendly fencing. 
Looking over the wild of snarls of bush & bullrushes, the property's best potential was certainly well hidden. I wondered to myself if it was even possible to reclaim this land from Mother Nature anytime before I would die of old age. 
To me the place looked like an enormous, money-sucking risk & very clearly a given that it would take our small family literally years of hard work to get it to the point where there could be more good things than bad to say about it.
"Cut 'em a cheque.", said Mr. Shoes as I quietly raised my eyebrows in his direction & looked around dubiously at the spoils of the past 100 or so years littering the grounds. 
Born into a farming family but with no farm to inherit, if we really wanted the life, my only choice was to trust in Mr. Shoes' vision.
Fast forward a few more years...
This once neglected chunk of land has been slowly transforming into a showcase of manicured lawns, tidy little pastures, shaded woodland riding trails created by Mr Shoes, & crop fields restored to productivity after decades of reverting to wilderness. 
From a state of decline, the 4Shoes has come back to glory again sporting good hay crops, housing & feeding miniature Hereford cattle, a couple of pigs in the pen each year, meat rabbits, & laying hens. 

I no longer keep racehorses, but because my life would not be complete without horses, I do keep a few beautiful Morgan horses.

Maintenance & further improvement projects never seem to end (like any small holding I suppose), but we are proud of the 4Shoes. I guess we'll be staying.

For those who may wonder...
The origin of our farm name was inspired by a keepsake from a special bygone horse; his very first set of shoes is prominently displayed on the tack room wall.
I would love to hear how YOUR farm or property got its' name!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

If I'm Going to be Alone






Two beautiful renditions of this remarkable, deeply moving piece of music (Mr Shoes has been learning to play guitar - he's a former drummer). Which version is more your style?