barn life

Barn Dogs, dressage, Poodles

A Preponderance of Poodles

I love how barns go through phases of doggy preference. Corgi’s were once all the rage and I admit that when it comes to cuteness, they are right up there at the top of my list. For a while Jack Russell terriers (aka: Jack Russell Terrorists and/or Snack Russell Terriers) were the barn dog of choice, often making the rounds in miniature Baker blanket dog-wear.
My current barn shows a fondness for poodles and poodle crosses. Perhaps this is because these dogs don’t shed and none of us like to vacuum any more than we have to.
My own dog, Skittles is a standard poodle and she makes an excellent barn dog except for the fact that shavings stick exceptionally well to poodle hair (hence the nickname: Velcro Dog).

Barn poodles set up camp outside the restroom, making sure everything works out alright.

Barn poodles set up camp outside the restroom, making sure everything works out alright.

Poor Skittles has been banned from the barn lately. A laceration on her hind end required several stitches and came with strict instructions regarding cleanliness. Just imagine the bacteria club your average barn floor entertains! Skittles stays home and wonders why she’s been banished.
Skittles & Collie (a schnoodle) sniff noses. Being an older dog, Skittles doesn't approve of rough-housing and has been dubbed 'the barn police' for her tendency to rein in rambunctious young-dog behavior

Skittles & Collie (a schnoodle) sniff noses. Being an older dog, Skittles doesn’t approve of rough-housing and has been dubbed ‘the barn police’ for her tendency to rein in rambunctious young-dog behavior

It’s very strange arriving at the barn without my dog. As I gather my belongings from the car, Skittles typically wanders ahead and greets her friends, letting everyone know we’ve arrived. I truly miss my other half and look forward to her return to the barn kingdom.
The pint-sized Jenny (aka: Fluffy) has adapted well to barn life. Jenny especially loves rolling in manure, much to her mother's delight.

The pint-sized Jenny (aka: Fluffy) has adapted well to barn life. Jenny especially loves rolling in manure, much to her mother’s delight.

In the meantime, here are some photos of several of the other barn dogs, with their varying degrees of poodeliciousness.
Just as with horses, there’s a breed for nearly every temperament and lifestyle.

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Barn, Barn Cat, dressage

Miss Kitty, the Barn Cat

Nearly every barn worth its salt has at least one barn cat.
As a cat lover who doesn’t currently own a cat (due to the high risk of coyotes and cars in our neighborhood), part of the charm of visiting the barn is spending time with Miss Kitty.

Saddle pads make a nice mattress for Miss Kitty

Saddle pads make a nice mattress for Miss Kitty

Miss Kitty is a bad-ass tabby missing most of her tail. Barn lore has it that Miss Kitty lost her tail to an especially naughty dog. Surprisingly, Miss Kitty isn’t afraid of dogs, despite this traumatic experience. This is fortunate since dogs of all shapes and sizes visit the barn, my own dog included.
Skittles, my 14 year-old Standard Poodle, used to have a barn cat of her own. Every morning she and Tiger, another awesome tabby cat, would greet one another at the door and Tiger would generously accept Skittles’ affectionate pawing and nuzzling.
When we put our home on the market, I felt Tiger was too old and too much of a barn warrior to adapt to life in a neighborhood. Happily, the new owners agreed to keep him. It hurt my heart to think of leaving Tiger, but I felt certain I was making the right choice.
Tiger surprised us by making a choice of his own, opting to find his way to Kitty Heaven just days before we moved. We never found his body (which isn’t unusual in coyote country) but I choose to believe he fell asleep under a tree and never woke up. I do appreciate that he’d led a long life and chose to leave under his own terms.
Watching Skittles going out to look for Tiger on those few, final days before we moved broke my heart. It was a loss for both of us. And so, having Miss Kitty greet us at the barn is good for Skittles and I. Miss Kitty is part of our extended family.
Miss Kitty assumes the throne

Miss Kitty assumes the throne

One smart girl, you’ll find Miss Kitty in barn’s the heated restroom on cold winter days, curled up on a towel on the back of the toilet, using a roll of paper towels as a pillow. She generously shared her spot with me, gracing me with a purr as I stroked her soft fur.
On warmer days she’ll sleep on a stack of saddle pads in the tack room, beneath the bridles. Our barn life is full and happy thanks to a warm and wonderful assortment of humans and animals.

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Barn Dogs, dressage, dressage barns

Barn Dog Gone Bad

Skittles, my 14 year old Standard Poodle, has been on a bit of a crime spree lately, targeting our barn. Like many a ‘good dog gone bad’ story, things started will small misdemeanors: dumpster diving for old pizza crusts and begging for apple-flavored treats from unsuspecting barn buddies. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning.

Skittles, looking deceptively innocent. Portrait by Sarah Davis Baker.

Skittles, looking deceptively innocent. Portrait by Sarah Davis Baker (http://www.sarahdavisbaker.com)

While Skittles normally likes little to do with all things toddler, she’s made an exception of Jessie’s two-year old son, Knox. In Skittles’ eyes, Knox is a walking/talking treat dispenser. His string cheese snacks are in constant danger.
Last week, while no one was looking, Skittles stole and ate Knox’s peanut butter and Nutella sandwich from the top of a tack trunk. “It’s my fault, I had it down pretty low where she could reach it,” Jessie said, taking the blame. The next morning Skittles threw up the sandwich, which seemed fair punishment for petty theft. Unfortunately, I was stuck with the clean up.
This week, I noticed Skittles skulking around the far end of the barn with a guilty look in her tail. I was suspicious but saw no immediate evidence of criminal behavior.
I took a closer look as I led Micah out to the pasture. “Why are things so messy?” I wondered. There were bits and scraps of paper lying about the barn aisle. Highly unusual.
Upon closer inspection, I found a folded check written out to clinician Tina Steward and a $100 bill. The check was damp and there were suspicious tooth marks in one corner. Hmmmmm. I noticed a small bag on the ground, which was most likely left by a rider who’d hauled in for the clinic. If the rider had brought a lunch, it was long gone.
I took the contraband into the arena, where Tina was just starting a lesson. I hated to interrupt, but explained the situation and turned over the goods.
“I thought I’d put that in my bag!” the rider said.
“You probably did,” I told her, explaining my dog’s habit of snacking between meals at the expense of barn inhabitants.
The money situation was righted, although I suspect the rider went hungry.
Most importantly, the cash and check didn’t get blown out of the barn aisle and across the county. Imagine the distrust and suspicion that could have arisen, undermining our peaceful barn life. That possibility made me sad.
Should my dog’s errant behavior escalate (perhaps into credit card theft), we’ll have to reconsider her barn privileges. She adores coming to the barn, warmly greeting her barn cat and her human and dog friends. It is truly her home away from home — as it is for so many of us.
Until we get things worked out with Skittles’ probation officer, please protect your valuables by storing them separately from your lunch — or keep them locked safely above poodle-nose-height. My canine mastermind works quickly and quietly, under the cover of extreme cuteness.

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Barn, dressage, horses, horsewomen

The Outside of a Horse

Sir Winston Churchill is credited with having said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” I’m sure Mr. Churchill meant to include women in that statement and I know for a fact that horses are good medicine for some of us.
Here’s proof. The flu has been running rampant here in Central Oregon — as it probably is in your town, as well. It’s a great time to be on a cancellation list for almost any kind of service: clients are falling like flies. If you’re healthy enough to drag yourself in for a last-minute haircut or dental cleaning, you’re in luck.
Out at the barn, poor Mari was really suffering earlier this week. She sounded stuffy, looked pale, and clearly lacked energy — but still made it to work every day to give lessons and ride. She was relieved when a few cancelled lessons helped to lighten her load.
Akela came down with the bug and even went to the Emergency Room. “I felt like I couldn’t breathe,” she said. It’s important to note that Akela said this while she was brushing her horse, RJ. She was still sick but rode, anyway.
I woke up with clogged sinuses and chills on Saturday and slept on and off through the day, with plans to ride Micah on Sunday. Some effective over-the-counter meds helped to make that ride possible, as well as today’s.

Better living through medication

Better living through medication

As I finished up my ride, I saw Hannah watching near the gate. She’d been so sick with the flu and fever, she’d been grounded for the weekend. She came out to the barn today just to see Micah. I offered to let Hannah cool Micah out, knowing that just being on the back of a horse can transform an average day into something special.
Hannah smiled and declined my offer, for fear of starting another coughing fit. She was happy to pet Micah and feed him carrots as I brushed him down.
As Hannah led Micah out to the pasture, for turnout, I had to laugh.There are those who make excuses to avoid coming to barn and those who simply can’t help being there. No wonder I love these people — we are all crazy together.

Related posts
A Preponderance of Poodles
September 7, 2016
Miss Kitty, the Barn Cat
April 7, 2016
Barn Dog Gone Bad
March 5, 2016