Thursday, February 24, 2011

Are you people nuts?

What do you do when a strange car pulls into your driveway at 9:30 on Saturday evening? Do you go out and ask if you can help them? What if they tell you there are loose cows in your front yard? You look and see that yes, yes there are loose cows in your front yard. So you thank them, go back inside, throw on your muck boots, grab a jacket and come back out for another look. Yep, still there.

There were 4 of them. A large heifer, a smaller heifer and two calves.  They were eating our weeds, which was fine and which is also why none of our neighbors spray their weeds...  You never know when the somebodys livestock is coming for a visit and a snack!

At first we thought it was our next door neighbors cows.  A quick thought of panic that our heifer is with their herd and she is not very people friendly. Catching her would be a chore to put it mildly. Oh boy!  So hubby by this time is armed with a small flashlight and heads over to check gates and fences since they were not home. The neighbors herd called to the loose cows and soon everyone was standing around together.

Well the girls were running around the house nekkid and I couldn't leave them alone so on went the pajamas, put the car seats in the van, get the girls loaded up and off we went. We were off to herd cattle in the minivan.  The girls thought it was great!

Hubby had gone to the neighbors and had checked all the gates- checked the fences and nothing. All of their cows, steers and the bull were where they were supposed to be. Now the big questions were- Where did these come from? Who did they belong to?

Lucky for everyone, I had put the horses all in for the night. All of the pastures and turnouts were empty.  So as I came down the road behind the neighbors place, the cows headed back into our open pasture, then they doubled back and headed north to the other neighbors property...  Something about the headlights didn't sit well with them.

Every time the girls seen the cows, all I heard from the back seat was Holly MoooOOOooo. Holly MoooOOOooo.  When I stopped next to the fence by the neighbors cows and rolled down the window for them- the cows mooed back and it made the girls' night. That was the best. thing. EVER!

I suggested opening up a fence panel and moving the cows into our back pasture for the night, so hubby jumped in and we went back to the house to get tools to undo the clamps.  Once the panel was swung open, we went back for the cows. Hubby on foot, me and the girls in the van. The cows didn't exactly cooperate at first, me and the girls ended up going back around the block to come up between the neighbors pastures and block off the road.

The cows were pretty quiet and went into the pasture with no problem. Hubby clamped the panels back together as I drove back around to the front and in our driveway. I headed out back and the girls sat wide eyed and watched as we threw some hay to the cows to help them settle in for the night.  I had grabbed my cell phone and shot a quick email out to the neighborhood through our irrigation association.  I had been on the phone with our neighbor in charge of that while we were herding the cows.  She had no idea who the cows belonged to either.

The next morning our neighbor Harry showed up and was thankful his cows were safe.  His wife Nancy said that by the way the gate was left open, they thought the cows had been stolen.  He was dealing with the Renaissance Festival and we were headed to the Scottsdale Arabian show in the morning so it was decided, the cows were fine out back and he would pick them up on Monday morning. 

All's well that ends well, but the whole time I was thinking to myself- this ranks right up there with something crazy that Mikey and Wade (of the Horse Shoeing Housewife blog) would be doing.   It made me laugh to think that between the antics there and us herding cows in the dark with the minivan, people must sure wonder about living in Arizona...  Yes the heat has affected the brain of some of the residents. Couldn't you tell?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Confo shots

Why do people want conformation shots when looking at a horse? Well it is a good way of determining what the horse was built for and where they may excel as a performer. Where breeding is concerned, it helps the mare owner to make important decisions as to which stallions possess and pass on traits that will compliment or hide their mares' strengths and weaknesses.

So here's what I had to work with.  Yep, I managed to cut off the mare's muzzle with my camera on the cell phone. Not a stellar shot by any means, but she isn't nearly as caked in yuck as some horses I have seen in ads for sale.

So first thing is a bath or at least a good rinse.  Sorry, no pics of that but I think we all know how to bathe a horse, right?

I was going to braid her mane, but since she is still sporting the mid winter woollies, the added hair would look strange around the braids. The extra fuzz would not do the braids so much of a favor, so I tossed out that idea. At least her mane is all one length and lays nicely on one side.  If your horses mane doesn't, you can band or braid it, use mane tamers, Slinky's or a can of hairspray.

As far as conformation shots go, usually what people want to see is the front legs, the back legs and both sides or at least a good pic of one side.  Depending on what the horse was bred for or used for, they may be slightly uphill, downhill or pretty evenly balanced. In the photo above, you can see how the level of the ground the horse stands on may affect that. The mares back end is on a slight bit of a hill and higher than the front. Standing a horse on concrete or pavement can help even them out.  Standing a horse on uneven ground can help them look more uphill or incredibly downhill, depending on how they are positioned.  Sometimes it works in your favor- other times it works against you. 

Most people like to see a head shot too.  Obviously my mare was still a bit wet... A profile head shot shows off any dish in the breeds such as the Arabian or any amount of convex or what is commonly called a 'Roman nose'. My mare has a pretty flat and common head. The dark coloring tends to cover a lot of the detail of the face and sometimes you lose the expression in the face because of this. Her eyes are not nearly as dull as they look here, but this is a great example of how you can lose all of the expression due to their color, the lighting and camera angle. 

A head shot that includes the shoulder can also give you an idea of the angles.  If the horses head is turned slightly, it may make the shoulder angle more obvious and accentuated. It also gives you an idea of the length of the horses neck and the thickness. A short, thick neck may be a sign that the horse has trouble turning their head or flexing at the poll. 

Different background and lighting in another spot and see what I mean about losing the details in the colors, due to shadows, lighting and camera angle? She is not a black horse and she does have back feet... But she sure looks different here.  Also she is looking a little more balanced than before.

For the front and rear leg photos, make sure the horse is standing squarely on their feet on that end, both legs under them evenly bearing the weight. When I tried to get this pic, my mare kept moving back and forth as I tried to stay behind her. She finally stopped and stood long enough for me to  get a few photos, some with her tail hanging down over the right leg- covering her hock...  then a couple like this one. Yes I managed to cut off the top of her butt in every single one. Good to include it so that who ever is looking at the photos can see if your horses hips are shaped like the top of a tent or if they are broad and square.  Looks like I need to get a few more to show this.

The front legs can be a little trickier if the horse wants to know what you have, what you're doing and where are the treats?  Again, make sure the horse is standing squarely bearing weight evenly on both feet. We want to see this angle to determine if the horse toes in or out or has any structural problems in the front legs. This mares right knee is larger than the left, due to the injury that ended her racing career. 

Once she finally dried I took her back over to the fence and tied her on more level ground to get a more accurately balanced photo of her.  I also stood back a little ways and used the zoom feature so as to eliminate my own shadow. Her ears weren't exactly up in all of the final photos, but she did look interested in what was going on and what I was doing.

How did I manage that? Pick up a handful of small rocks. When you are ready to start snapping the photos- toss them out to the side, one by one. Somewhere sorta in front of the horse that when the rock lands and makes a thud, the horse will usually prick their ears and look in that direction to see what it is.  It doesn't always work and it doesn't work on all horses, but it may be just the slight distraction necessary to get that one split second shot at a decent photo. 

After all was said and done, here's what my mare thinks of her short moment of fame.  Gotta love them for their personality.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Point A to point B

I was talking to a good friend the other day and she was asking for confo shots of one of the horses.  No biggie.  Right now, as she is... not bad, but the horse could look soooo much better.

So this weekend I will bring her up, clean her up and take pics of everything in the process. It's not going to be a professional photo shoot or anything, but the horse should at least look respectable.

I hope to get some pic's of the whole process.  So many times we see the pics of the horse in the sale ads, where they are covered in filth, poor fitting tack- if any, tied to a questionable object, background full of trash and they ask a fortune for the horse.  It makes you wonder, doesn't it? 

If the pic's and the tips in the comment section can help one person change the look of their ad and the price they get for their horse- win, win. They win by getting more $$$$ for the horse and we all win by not having to skim over another ad with pics of a horse covered in yuck standing at the junkyard. 

Are we all up for it?  As a heads up, it is going to be my OTTB mare, she's black/brown in color and has the long and low movement better suited for hunters.