Thursday, November 29, 2012

All the pretty horses ...

From the emails I've been getting from Toad's new Little Mama, she is adjusting well.  Her Little Mama absolutely loves her and it sounds like they are getting along well.  Some of the things she tells me confirms to me that Toad misses me and that makes my heart hurt, but as she bounds with her new Little Mama she will gradually not forget about me, but feel that bond and safe with her and not feel sad about me being gone.  From what I understand though if I show up to visit her she should remember me.  I hope I can go visit her sometime.   Her new owner has been riding her and said she's thrilled at how well she responds to light aids and is sensitive and responsive which speaks highly of all the work Trainer K. did with her.  We pulled out the Christmas decorations yesterday and I found Toad's Christmas stocking in one of the boxes which made me tear up a little.  I'll send it to Virginia in the next couple days. 

I've been looking at horses for sale and am feeling a lot of confusing lack of commitment toward all of them.   I road Maiden yesterday in a lesson and just handling and riding her I really like her.  She is very sweet but also has a mind of her own and tries to see what she can get away with.  But not in a dangerous way, just in a big, solid, stubborn horse way.  For some reason I really like her personality though.  Plus, she's beautiful.  She's white with cow spots and no one knows for sure what breed she is but assumptions are Quarter Horse.  But she's a little too big for me apparently - she's tall and very solid and wide so my legs don't fall in the best place for riding dressage.  She's not quite as tall as Toad (Toad is 16.1 hh's and Maiden is probably 15.3, 16 hh's) but Toad was so narrow my legs fell in a better place on her for dressage.  

We're going to see Alberto again on Saturday (assuming I can stay healthy - the nasty stomach bug of the year is all over the place and the girl I was babysitting came down with it on Tuesday so we'll see if we can ward it off in our house or not).   He is a much better size for me and Lipizzan so he is built to do dressage.  And he was very nice to ride.  But I have concerns about his personality and his ground manners.  He's just not a gentle, polite guy and I know he can be taught to be polite, but I really like that naturally gentle personality that Girlfriend, Toad have  - and Maiden has too.  That's why I'm going to see him again.  I liked him under saddle but need to spend a little more time with him on the ground.  When we saw him the first time the trainer who is selling him did all the ground work and I really want to work with him on the ground - lead him, groom him, pick up his feet, etc. before I make a decision.  That's where I really get an idea what our chemistry is.  I know to a lot of horse people that sounds weird.  I know many people who feel like their whole experience with a horse is just riding and they'd rather someone did the ground work, but for some reason I feel like I get to know the horse better if I work with them on the ground and if I don't then riding them is like hopping on the back of a total stranger.

I've looked at a lot of other horses online and none of them have managed to intrigue me enough to go out and look at them.  I've encountered some folks that really offended me because they have tried to hide their horse's injuries or chronic problems and it was obvious they were just trying to unload their horse on someone without disclosing what they're getting into.   One woman after many emails back and forth when I asked about previous injuries over and over again finally disclosed that their horse had had surgery one one leg but they hadn't known about it before they bought her.  I asked what kind of surgery and the woman dodged it in email until I asked her straight out saying I wasn't going to come see the horse unless she answered my question and she finally said the poor horse had metal and pins in her leg.  If she'd told me that up front I would've seen the horse and had my vet assess the issue, but the way this woman tried to hide it made me think it unfortunately was a big problem for soundness.  That pisses me off.  How can people have horses for years and then just try to dump them off on other people when they start having problems and lie to people to try to unload them? They're not cars for god's sake! And you shouldn't do that with cars either, but it is far more heartless when it is a living creature with feelings.

Speaking of problems, my Subaru with the busted transmission is currently in the shop getting fixed.  We were going to trade it in for a new car but when I looked up the trade-in value (minus the $2.5k toward the new transmission that theyd' take off the trade-in price) it was not financially the best decision.  We probably could've sold it to someone without disclosing the transmission issue because it ran fine and if we kept the fluid levels up right before the drive they'd never know.  But I could not live with myself if I did that.  I don't understand why other people don't have that "I just don't want to be an asshole" part of them.  So many people just don't care if they're assholes.  Where does that come from? It's really sad.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I can't believe we've been in New Orleans a week and we're already going home tomorrow.  I am looking forward to seeing all our pets and getting back to the barn and the horses but I also will miss not getting to spend more time with all my in-laws.  We haven't seen my parent-in-laws yet though which has actually probably helped.  They are the only in-laws who don't particularly like me.  I don't actually know the extent of their not liking me and in fact I think my father-in-law probably likes me just fine.  And my mother-in-law doesn't really like anyone - especially not some chubby, tattooed Yankee with no fancy college degree who can't seem to lie and make nice when bullshit is flying around.  Oh well.  I'm sure it irks her to no end that despite my rich-white parents I come from a long line of rednecks (wonderful rednecks but still - Montana homesteaders on mom's side and poor immigrants on dad's side) and then there's that side of the family who are =gasp= terrorists!!! (or as we realistically know them:  Arab.  Well educated, much nicer than my parents-in-law but still ... Arab).  But then we are talking about people who still believe that any day Obama is going to reveal his ties to Al-Queda and they know for a fact his birth certificate is fake and he was born in Kenya and is line with Bin Laden's followers (because of course Kenya and Bin Laden have such deep ties ...????)  Anyway, the rest of my in-laws are great and my nephew is now three years old so it's fun to be able to really get to know him now that he can really talk and express himself. 

Yesterday I dragged my poor husband down to the French Quarter so that we could get a souvenier for my daughter and that is the best place to get souveniers in New Orleans.  He doesn't have a problem with the French Quarter, but we got there late in the afternoon and stuck around until dark which he found very annoying.  Our daughter was annoyed too because her feet hurt and she was hungry, but then we literally almost walked into a hot dog cart and bought her a giant hot dog and suddenly the French Quarter after dark was fun again for her.  I could see how it might be fun even if you're not drinking.  It reminded me of an entire neighborhood that resembled some of the dance clubs (like Neighbors) I used to go to with my friends in the late 1980's/early 90's.  We did succeed with the neat souveniers - a beautiful, hand-made voodoo doll made by a local artist (who never makes the same doll twice) and a catnip filled voodoo doll for the cats.

I got it into my head I wanted a tarot reading so my family were really good sports and went and wandered around the quarter while hung out at one of the local tourist voodoo shops for about an hour waiting my turn.  It was a small shop so after looking around at everything and checking my email on my phone and I wandered over to the retail desk and started chatting with the woman working.  At first she was polite and not really engaged but somehow it came up I missed the horses back home and she said she used to be a carriage driver in the quarter and started telling me about her mule she was assigned to and learning to drive and how attached all the drivers get to their mules.  It was really cool to hear how previously non-horse people learned the joy of connecting with an equine partner.

She also told me about the dark side of being a carriage driver in the Quarter - which is not what you'd think.  The company that trains and keeps the mules is very good to them. They follow strict regulations so that mules do not get over-worked, especially in the summer when it's really hot out.  They are very careful to make sure they are not lame, or dehydrated or malnourished and they have local vets consulting with them on how to keep them the healthiest and happiest.  They have limited shifts each mule is allowed to work per day and they are only allowed to work five days a week maximum and they are checked every day to make sure there is no strain on them and if there is even the smallest strain in their back or legs they take the day off.  The lady I was talking to said the drivers were just as conscientious and the trainers because nobody wanted to have to use a different  mule than their own because they had all developed a rapport and the mules were their partners and it was ideal to work with your partner you knew and who knew you and knew what the noises you make meant and what the slightest movement of the reins or tap/tickle with the lunge whip meant.

The dark side, she said, was that without fail she always passed some - as she put it - "ignorant person from the towns" who didn't know what they were talking about and would scream profanities at her about how she was a "slave driver" and "animal abuser" and one woman even threw her drink up onto the carriage at her screaming "Animal abusing bitch!" at her.  She said it usually happened when her mule would decide it wanted to go a different direction or not stop at a stop sign (remember - this is on streets with lots of drunk people stumbling around and cars driving on the same streets) so she'd crack the reins above his back (without actually hitting him) because he'd know that sound was a correction and know to focus his attention back on her.  She also said if they were really bad they'd throw the lunge whip down to tap their belly to get their attention (and when she says tap I know what she's talking about - it's like when we tap the back of the horse's hind leg with a lunge whip - it literally does mean "tap").  As she said "Because if you don't correct them and let them take the lead you're dead! You need to make sure they know you are their leader because these are giant animals and they need to know you are leading.  You don't just let them do their own thing - especially not in a crowd of drunk people!"  She said horse people never flipped out on her, it was always people who are ignorant.  And I've seen the same thing.  People tell me I'm evil because I sometime carry a dressage whip when riding (my trainer doesn't let me much though because she says my hands are quiet enough yet and she doesn't want me spooking the horses with the dressage whip flying in their peripheral vision).  They have no clue that we don't *whip* horses with dressage whips (and when people do they are abusing their horse) just like we don't *whip* them with the lunge whip.  They are tools for training - basically an extension of our arms.  If we aren't going to beat the horse with our hands, we're not going to beat them with our whips.  But I will tell you - if a horse is about to rear and strike out at me, I'll whack them on the chest with a dressage whip as I'm getting out the way to let them know that's not ok.  Trying to kill me is not ok.

It was nice to hear the story from behind the scenes of how the mules are treated because I see them around the Quarter and they look healthy and happy but you just don't really know until someone tells you what really goes on.  I wish people who wasted their anger screaming at people who are advocates for animals would get some education and put that passion in advocating for animals who are actually abused.  It always blows my mind when people think I'm mean to get up on a horse and ride her and don't even pay attention that I volunteer for horse rescues and just spent 15 months of my life and thousands of dollars to rehabilitate Toadie.  I guess it's easier to just spout off about ill-perceived injustice than actually get educated and involved and make a real difference.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving I wonder if I can write down everything I'm thankful for?  My family of course, our financial security right now which is a huge blessing in this economy, my wonderful friends, all the horses and animals in my life who teach me so much, this great new opportunity for a new job that starts on Monday, just my life in general.  I'm very lucky to have so much love and happiness in my life.  I hope that I'm able to share some of it with others - I'm trying to at least.

What are you thankful for today?

This is a photo of Jacob, one of the tarot readers at Yesteryear's on Bourbon St.  Definitely stop in and give him a visit when you're in New Orleans.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


We're down in New Orleans for our annual week visiting my in-laws.  It would be a lot more fun if the tiny neurotic section of my brain would stop tap dancing in the corner of my mind coming up with all sorts of things to be anxious about.  My arthritis has been kept fairly well at bay despite that I haven't been taking my medication (the warm, humid air is very good for that) but alas I still have my little dancing neurosis trying to give me anxiety attacks about "what if's".  After many years of learning to live with my brain I've gotten to the point where I can still go out and do stuff and have fun, it's more of just a mental sliver that I can learn to ignore but is always there and is more prominent when I'm quiet and not distracted.

Otherwise, it's been a nice visit with the in-laws and as always nice to visit the South.  Metairie (where we're staying) is definitely not the most beautiful city by far, but dang if the deli at Whole Foods isn't the best grocery store deli in the world! And of course the restaurants all have everything shrimp/crab/debris/cayenne pepper everything.  And of course the holy trinity: onions, celery, peppers.  I love the accents too.  It's nice to have the sun out every day too and be 70 degrees in November.

I would be perfectly happy to live here if we lived on the Northshore (the area on the other side of Lake Pontchatrain) because it's a lot more rural.  Mandeville is directly across the lake right on the water and is this amazing, bucolic little suburb.  Covington is farm town and Folsom is the "horse capital" of Louisiana.  Although, despite that there is a big stable in downtown New Orleans right next to Audubon Park and you can often see the kids out riding their horses along the levee of the Mississippi.  And even a couple teenagers rode their horses over to the Po-Boy Festival last Sunday and tied them to a chain link fence across the street from the police horse trailer.  It's a very different city than Seattle. 

Our hotel is right on the lake and a bunch of kids are here for some sort of international sailing race so it's cute to see all the little kids in the restaurant in the morning.  They've been asking Emma June if she's here for the races which I fear has peaked her interest in sailing.  I don't know if that's a hobby I will ever be able to pull off because I do have a tendency to get sea sick in rocky enough water (not in a kayak or on a ferry but I don't know if I could handle a sail boat).

I'm missing all our pets and missing being outside the city but it's ok for a week.  I'm not sleeping that well though because you can hear everyone in the hall and above us like they are right there (which we are) and it's hard for my body to relax and go to sleep with so many people around.  We're in a different hotel which I don't like as much because it's really only one room with french doors separating the two sections and it doesn't feel like it has any privacy and it's hard living in a room with no kitchen for a week.  It's also expensive! Thank goodness I'm coming back to a job that I start next week! 

This new job I have sounds like it's going to be great.  It's the complete opposite of what I'm used to which is going in and having an accounting system partially set up - or none at all (which is better) and having to fumble through and try to set everything up.  In this job there is actually a calendar of duties, updated procedure manuals and people right in the office to help me learn how to navigate the new databases I'll be working with.  I've had a couple virtual trainings while we've been on vacation and I couldn't help but tell the girl who's leaving that I was thrilled by how much support I have with training and it felt so unusual and luxurious.  And the biggest irony is it is the type of job - downtown, full days, accounting - that I had originally said I wasn't going to do any more.  Years ago someone told me to never limit my options because I might miss out on the best possible one, and I have found she was right a few times.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The simple pleasures

My husband spent way too much time looking for super-fancy noise reductions headphones and then ordered three of them (two magenta - one for my daughter and one for me and a black pair for himself).  Well, they just got delivered and I'm liking them way more than I probably should.  For one thing they make iTunes sound great! But even bigger plus - you can't hear yourself singing when they're on! w00t! Big bonus when you can't hold a tune!

Toadie is officially on her way to Virginia as we speak.  I thought I would be way more depressed but after an enormous bout of crying yesterday (all the way up Hwy 522 to the vet clinic in Monroe to pick up her health certificate and negative coggins test paperwork) I feel very at peace with the whole thing.  I am now feeling very excited for KM in Virginia who is going to be her new mom.  I felt a lot better after I saw the truck she being transported in and met the guys who are driving/handling her during the trip.  She has a full stall on the truck (which is actually a big-rig semi) and regular water buckets and feed and she has a friend she can talk to in the stall next to her.  It's kind of like a horse-party-bus.

Her handlers are really nice guys who immediately put me and her at ease.  I brought her out of the barn and it was already after dark and there wasn't just a new truck in the driveway but a semi with it's huge lights and she took one look at it and tried to spin around past me to go the other way.  But I was anticipating that and was able to push her back next to me and help her get collected.  We walked slowly over to the truck and the main handler walked over to her and said very quietly, "Hey, Buddy, you're ok.  Let's be pals." Then just stood and pet her and talked soothingly to her and when she started to relax said, "There you go.  See, it'll all be good.  I'm your friend now."  Then he walked her up to the ramp and just let her stand for a couple minutes and sniff things and look around.  Then she walked right up the ramp and into her stall.

She was a little ancy in her stall but once I came on board to talk to her she calmed down a little.  The drivers kept saying, "Watch her back end - she's nervous you know, don't get kicked!"  I don't think they realized I was her owner.  I had her turn around so she was facing me (because I'm not suicidal - I knew not to squish into that small space with her when she was that anxious) and had my daughter come on board to say good-bye.  When she saw my daughter Toadie lowered her head so my daughter could hug her head (which made the cowboy driver mutter, "Aaaah ... now wouldya look at that!").  Then they left.  My daughter cried most of the way home but seemed to feel better once we got to the store to get take-out for dinner.  I know Toad is going to be so happy.  I kind of wish I was on a party-bus to a resort in Virginia myself.

I told the handlers to be careful feeding and watering her because when she's anxious she can be really defensive with her back end.  One of them said, "So, she's kicked before?" and I said, "She's kicked ME before.  Yes, if she's feeling threatened or scared she will kick."  Which seemed to surprise them a little.  I'm sure they have dealt with all sorts of horses and they both seemed unfazed by that information, just a little surprised. It reminded me again that much is Toad is a wonderful, good girl who has come along ways, she is not your typical lesson/family horse and a lot of people have probably not learned as much in a lifetime of hacking around with lesson and family-friendly horses as I have just in the past 15 months of owning a horse like her.  I am incredibly grateful for that experience! And for Trainer K. helping me with it.   A lot of my friends at the barn told me that yesterday to comfort me when I was feeling sad about her leaving - "Just think about the amazing education you've gotten with her over this last year!"

By pure coincidence when I was up at my vet's clinic and I had to use the bathroom (which always happens to me on long drives!) so I had to walk through the barn where they keep their long-term patients, I passed a really pretty paint mare.  I stopped to say hi to all of the horses and when I got to her I saw she was a S.A.F.E. horse.  She was very pretty and very sweet so when I got home I looked her up.  She's not a Lipizzan but I think I should get more information on her and consider her.  I was thinking of just getting a Lipizzan because I really like their look, size and temperaments.  But there was something about her that made me want to get to know her a little more.

Went for a job interview in downtown Seattle today.  I know, I swore I would never work downtown again.  But I really liked the people at this office so I'm crossing my fingers.  Although, honestly, I had to take an accounting test and I feel like I really flubbed it - I've been using Quickbooks the last few years and have really let me actual critical thinking accounting skills lapse so I need to re-visit those in one of my accounting textbooks.  So, it would be nice if I got the job but I don't have very high hopes.  I'm glad we're going on vacation on Friday so I don't have to think about job hunting for a week!

A couple photos - the enormous truck that Toad went a-riding in, and uncharacteristically an actual photo of me saying good-bye to Toad in the barn.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hmmm ...

I have not been feeling well the last three days and it's starting to really irritate me.  I'm not sick I don't think, just not feeling well.  I just feel kind of "poisoned".  My stomach is slightly upset, my back hurts a lot and I have a splitting headache.  Kind of like a migraine that just keeps going and going day after day ... it's very annoying.  I'm taking enormous amounts of naproxen alternating with tylenol and it's only helping enough to keep me kind of functioning.  Grrr ... I hope it passes soon!  It came on coincidentally a few hours after taking my methotrexate on Thursday night.  I'm not doing that again.  I think there is a connection.

Now that I've complained I have to say there is A LOT going on this week.  Toad is leaving for Virginia tomorrow and I have to get her extra blankets and bridle and everything all packed up.  I am freaking out of course!  I'm hoping she'll be ok on the road, I'm hoping she'll be happy at her new home.  I'm hoping she won't be a nightmare when she gets off the trailer after three days and is totally freaked out.  I'm hoping her new owners will understand if she's temporarily a nightmare if she's super freaked out.

The reality is I don't think she will be.  In the last few months I've really seen evidence of a strong, brave horse poking through that untrusting, lost, little Thoroughbred I bought in 2011.  A couple days ago there was a new horse trailered in so the owner could use our arena and take a lesson with Trainer JD and that was all sorts of exciting for Toad while she was out eating grass outside with me.  Then Trainer K.'s horse (who was in the front paddock by us - he's a big, silly Warmblood) decided he needed to convince either Toad or the trailered in horse that they should play with him, so he started galloping in circles in his paddock and screaming and kicking his legs straight up in the air.  This of course made Toad jump and scoot, but after I got her attention she was very good.  She was quivering all over like she wanted to explode and run and buck right along with Trainer K.'s horse, but she held it together somehow while we walked back into the barn.  Unfortunately, I regressed a little because when Trainer K. said it wasn't a good time to try and walk Toad it flew out of my mouth, "Your horse started it!"  Yes, I am seven years old at heart apparently.  M. consoled me that it was understandable that after over a year of my horse being the crazy one having a moment where my horse wasn't the most crazy of the bunch was obviously going to be something I would want to point out!

I've been very sad on and off but also I know in my heart this is the right thing for everyone and Toad will be much happier.

I've been looking at Lipizzans for sale and most are out of my price range.  But today I feel so overwhelmed about Toad leaving I just can't handle any more stress like thinking about a new horse.  I'm kind of dreading that period of needing to work to build that bond again with a new horse and going through all the adjustments of getting to know each other again.  And it will be good for me financially to not have horse bills for a few weeks at least.

I feel like I'm sending my baby off to college (not looking forward to that in ten years!!!).  I know it's best for her but it is really hard to say good-bye!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Adjustment disorder ...

There's been an awful lot of stuff going on the last week.  Last week I got a call from a little girl (ok, she's 16 years old but in my world that is still a little girl) who was interested in buying Tuff Toad.  She lives in Virginia and when I answered the phone she had the quietest, shyest little voice and I at first thought, "No way - she'll never be able to handle a young horse like Toad." But the more we talked the more it sounds like she's the perfect person for Toad.  She wants a horse to do jumping with and maybe some eventing.  She's a teenager so she has a lot of energy and will no doubt keep Toad working a lot more than I am able to.  It was a very difficult decision because Toad is such a great horse now, but I've been feeling for a couple months now that Toad really wants more than what I have to offer.  I can offer her being a pet and doing some low level local schooling shows.  But she wants room to run (we don't have any pastures big enough for her to really run and no track or any place for her to run under saddle) and she wants to go out and compete.  She has the drive and temperament to make a great competition horse.  So, that's where she is headed.

I am so incredibly proud of how well she's done over the past 15 months that I've had her.  It made me feel very good to have my vet say "You did a great job with her. You have really done right by her."  Especially because my vet is so heavily involved in horse advocacy and rescue, it was nice to have my efforts recognized.

Yesterday a vet we'd never met before from Pilchuck came out to do the pre-purchase exam for the girl in Virginia.  I was a little worried because we'd never done any flexion tests with Toad and I didn't know how well she'd do for that.  Flexion tests involve the horse standing still in the arena while a vet manually bends their leg and holds it in that position for a period of time, then they drop the leg and as soon as they do you have to run up and down the arena with them in hand.  Well, two things - I wasn't sure how Toad would handle standing still while someone held onto her bent leg for a few minutes, and I'd never run in-hand with her so I was hoping I wouldn't get killed (that means running with her running next to me).  A lot of factors made me nervous about this - the fact that 15 months ago you couldn't do *anything* with her back legs because she was so defensive and dangerous about her hind end.  And that when I first got her the minute she walked in the arena she'd start jumping around and rearing and trying to run away.  Granted I knew she is now a totally different horse - we just hadn't tried doing these things together yet.

Well, in true Toad form she was perfect for the test.  She stood completely still and relaxed while the vet flexed and held her legs (even her back legs!) and the first time we ran in-hand back and forth down the arena she looked at me sideways like "What're we doing, Mom? Are we racing? Playing? Working? How should I react to this?"  By the fourth time we ran in-hand up and down the arena she was all relaxed and knew exactly what she should be doing.  The vet loved her! She said Toad is in great shape and that she is a very sweet and impressive horse.  I have to admit that I had a moment today where I was singing the old Pearl Jam song "Black" to myself, "I know someday you'll have a beautiful life ... I know you'll be a star ... in somebody else's sky but why oh why can't it be mine???"  But the reality is I'm never going to be an eventer and I'm old and creaky and tired and Toad deserves a young, energetic kid to take her as far as she can go in life.

Trainer K and I went to visit a Lipizzan/Quarter horse mix yesterday down in Gig Harbor.  That cheered me up a little bit.  He was a sweet horse with an amazing temperament under saddle.  Seriously, he was like an old schoolhorse packer under saddle and he's still green and only 6 years old.  He is big and super strong and solid and the opposite of Toad in his build but he's kind of goofy and friendly and sweet like Toad.  My daughter immediately took one look at him and said, "He's definitely the next Toadie!"  Then he tried to eat her hair.   We'll see.  I don't have any time to see him again in the next two weeks and he might sell before then so he may not be for me.  But if he doesn't sell by the time we're available to go all the way down there again I will spend more time with him and then decide if I'm going to make an offer.

On a completely different note this is currently my favorite song and I love the video too because it reminds me of my life in the mid-1980's.  It reminds me of old friends like Tina, Hayden, Hayden's best friend, Erik (whatever happened to him?) and Joey Kline, Arne, Jason, etc. etc.  It reminds me of bedrooms in hundred year old houses with Christmas lights and hanging dried roses and draping scarves over the window and old guitars and vintage clothes and walking around the Ave. in bare feet.  There's nowhere in Seattle like that any more because times change and city's change.  But it makes me happy to see people who look exactly the same way twenty five years later.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Devils, witches and horses

Halloween is a time of good memories for me and my daughter loves the holiday so I try to make it as memorable for her as I can.  But this year with the stress of job hunting and just not having the mental or physical bandwidth I didn't host our annual trick-or-treating pre-funk like I have the last couple years.  Luckily, it still worked out just fine with her friends gathering at our house beforehand and hitting the neighborhood en masse.  We live in a strange little area with three small cul-de-sacs with houses surrounded by nothing really - a big park, a school, farms and lots of protected wetlands.  So it's pretty limited where we can take the kids trick-or-treating unless we want to walk quite a ways to another small cul-de-sac development (which is nice for us adults not to go too far). 

It always turns into a big party for about an hour or so with parents (usually also in costumes) gathering in the street (sometimes carrying their drinks with them) to hang out while the kids run door to door and running into their friends even if they hadn't planned to meet them.  This year a lot of the houses went all out and made themselves full-on haunted houses.  That is fun.  And of course the kids go all Lord of the Flies and without parental over sight would probably barge into all the houses and raid their cupboards while they're at it.  Geez.  That is not quite as fun trying to rein them in.

Trainer K. is out of town for a few days so I will be working Toadie on my own during that time.  Not like she's been able to do much work until her neck is completely healed up from her muscle tears.  We're just lunging her with a halter over her bridle so as not to make her have to turn.  A few days ago I started icing her neck where she has the worst knots and that seems to be helping a lot.  I thought I wouldn't like doing it, but it actually turning out to be relaxing for both of us.  At first Toad was not happy about having ice on either side of her neck but now I think she realizes it makes he feel better.  I get two packs of frozen peas and wrap them in a towel (to save my own hands) and hold them on either side of her neck with my arms wrapped under her neck for fifteen minutes.  She's so tall I have to stand on a stool to easily reach up on her neck.  Now that she's used to it, she'll drop her head and let is rest on my arm so her neck is in the perfect place for me to lean my head over and rest it on her neck.  Then she lets out a huge sigh and we just hang out there for a bit until she gets restless and tosses her head.  Then she tosses her head for a couple minutes and we go back to our resting position.

Here are a couple photos from the most impressive of houses last night.  One was a creepy second story window that was very subtle but creepy when you noticed it.  The other is my friend, Jonathan dressed as the grim reaper fighting a grandpa on stilts.