Riding 29 year old Sandy in 1997

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Riding Dawn

I realized today that I hadn't ridden Dawn since the kids came up at Thanksgiving. Partly that is because Dash is my first love so I usually ride her just because I enjoy her so much. Partly it is because Dawn is a pig and likes to roll in mud so it's faster to tack Dash up because I don't have to do so much cleaning. And partly it's because Dawn occasionally has attitude and most of the time I don't want to deal with attitude, although truth be told she seems to have outgrown most of it anyway.

Dawn usually goes on the tough rides, the posse rides, and the posse training ride, however, and this weekend we are having a mock search. So I need to ride her because she usually settles down if she's ridden three days in a row. So that's my goal for this week, to ride Dawn every day.

So I went out about 3:30 and put the other two away and led Dawn to the tack room. She wasn't as filthy as she was right after the last rain so it didn't take that long to brush off the mud and put on a saddle. I took her into the round pen to settle her down and she immediately began tearing around, which is what she normally does when I first bring her into the round pen.

I let her run, then started controlling her. In about five minutes I was able to bring her down to a trot and walk on command, then back up to a more restrained canter. Many reversals of direction were done to further engage the "thinking side of her brain" as the horse whisperers call it. Finally I slipped on a bridle and got on her and rode her a bit at the walk and trot but only in the round pen.

She did fine. She's really wonderfully responsive, even more so than Dash, and I started working her on collection a little bit. I'm planning to start taking some dressage lessons soon and I'm debating about using a lesson horse or maybe trying to do it on Dawn. But she's a long way from collecting on command so I'll probably take the lessons on the trainer's horse and try to teach Dawn some of it on my own time once I start getting the hang of some of it.

But it was good to get back on her again. And I need to be sure, now that tax season has arrived, to give Dawn her turn in the rotation and not just ride Dash all the time because it's quicker. The more Dawn is ridden, the better she gets. I say all the time that she's actually the better horse. But Dash is the one I love, so unfortunately for second-born Dawn, she's still second choice for my pleasant evening rides.

Until the going gets tough. Then she's #1.

I think sometimes about selling her to someone for whom SHE will be #1 all the time, but I enjoy having both of my girls, and their mother, and I know it would be hard on both me and the horses to separate them, so as long as I can still scrape up the money to feed them all, I will keep her.

And I'll be back on her every day this week, so when it's time for the mock search this Sunday I will simply load her up and let her do her job, instead of taking Dash again.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Back to normal

Got some tax work out of the way today and had time to actually get on Dash for a ride. My riding buddy Tessa got off work early and called while I was at the grocery store, saying she would be home in 20 minutes. I grabbed a gallon of milk and abandoned the rest of the shopping trip to rush home to my horse.

I'd been concerned that she might not be quite 100% after her illness. There hadn't been much opportunity between sub teaching and trips out of town to really evaluate how she was feeling; all I could do was monitor intake and output but her overall attitude still seemed a bit "off."

But after she stood quietly for saddling, something two properties over caught her attention (I never did see what it was) and she got a bit snorty and blowy and prancy, which I took as a good sign (except for the fact that I thought she had been desensitized to just about anything, let alone something two acres away).

So I did some circling with her and made her lead over to the fence line to look at whatever it was that was disturbing her and finally she sighed and settled down and I got on, called the dogs, and rode over to Tessa's.

She was very good on the ride, perfectly willing and responsive. As usual I was riding in just the halter and lead rope without a bit. Part of the time we led and part of the time we followed Tessa's mare, Jessie. Just about the time we were thinking of turning around so we could get back by dark, we heard voices and then saw a white tent and bonfire, and then four dogs ran out to meet up with our four dogs.

Humans came and controlled one of the dogs; the other three were small and no fights ensued. The horses were both a bit boogered. Tessa had dismounted but I stayed in the saddle. There was an old bin that it looked like they had been using for target practice that was bothering the horses so I rode Dash up to it and had her touch it with her nose.

We turned around and all of a sudden my horse who had been nervous, but willing to approach the camp, the fire, and the scary old bin suddenly decided it was time to get out of there. She bolted a little, clearly nervous about having all those scary objects, people, and dogs behind her where she couldn't see them, and I pulled her up and decided to get off and lead her.

I'm not sure who was leading who, though, and I kept having to stop her, back her up, or circle her. Eventually she settled down and I got back on and had an uneventful ride the rest of the way home.

Contrasted with the ride of December 26, the day I discovered she had the fever, she seemed to be back to normal today. On that day, she had been so quiet, compliant, and non-reactive I had wondered aloud if she might be sick, and it turned out she was. But today she was in tune with her surroundings and showing some spunk.

I think my girl has come back to normal, except for continuing to refuse to eat teff hay.

I am relieved, of course, because these last three + weeks have been a constant worry, wondering what was actually wrong with her and if it was truly over. I still don't know what was wrong, but I believe it is truly over.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

An unusual tax deduction

I just realized it has been 10 days since my last blog post. It's amazing how quickly life sucks the time right off the clock, leaving me little to pursue what I love -- riding and writing about horses.

Very few people can make a living with their horses, and unfortunately I'm not one of them. Not everyone is as lucky as Jerry and Ann Moss, owners of the beautiful race mare, Zenyatta, who earned them millions of dollars on the track and is now two months from delivering a valuable foal that may follow in Lady Z's footsteps. (I wonder if they'd like to adopt me?)

No, for most of us, our horses do not provide cash inflow to put on our tax returns; they require cash outflow that does not USUALLY get deducted on our tax returns. Unless you're a mounted posse member.

I should know. The Suburban Cowgirl is an accountant and tax preparer and a member of a posse.

This will be an interesting tax return for me this year. I joined the Gila County Sheriff's Mounted Posse the end of 2010 and spent a lot of time and money in 2011 taking classes, going to training events, and keeping my posse horses in condition in case we were called out to a search. And, of course, actually spending three days pushing through manzanita on a search last September.

I made the decision to keep Dawn as a posse horse instead of trying to sell her, as I had been planning to do. That decision turned her into a tax deduction for me.

There are certain requirements for me to be able to deduct Dawn's expenses on my Schedule A as a charity donation. First, the work I did with the horse has to be on behalf of a 501c3 organization, which the Gila County Sheriff's department is. Second, I need to get a letter of acknowledgment from that organization stating what services I provided. With those two conditions met, I can write off the expenses of maintaining and caring for my posse horse, in addition to unreimbursed expenses driving to training or rescue events and costs of first aid courses, rescue gear and first aid gear, and other expenses incurred in this pursuit.

Generally, the basic care and maintenance of a horse is going to be in the range of $1500 a year (if you have a place to keep it -- add $100 a month if it's boarded out). That will become part of my Itemized deductions, so if my mortgage interest and property taxes are high enough it will put me over the Standard deduction.

This isn't quite the windfall it looks like. My other itemized deductions are about $5000, so normally I would take the Standard Deduction instead. With my standard deduction being $5800 this year, the posse deduction will put me over that but will yield a reduction in taxable income of only $700 ($5000+1500-5800). In the 15% tax bracket, that will save me a whopping $105 in taxes, a far cry from the $1500 I will have spent to get that refund.

But that $105 will buy ... is it 5 or 10 bales of hay? Depends if I buy them this month or the middle of next summer ... IF the price of hay goes back down. Either way, it's better than paying the $1500 and NOT getting 5 or 10 bales of hay in return.

Even if I doubled the deduction to $3000 with trailer repairs and other things, that only yields another $225 in tax relief.

So the deduction helps, but that's not the reason I participate in the posse; I would do it even if it wasn't deductible. I am compelled to try to help people, and using my horses to help others helps mitigate the guilt of enjoying them. (It just seems so unfair that I have this wonderful life and others don't.)

I will write off Dawn's expenses, and save the $100 or 200 in taxes, and not feel guilty about that at all. Having a team of people willing to drop what they are doing, load up horses and drive into the wilderness to find a lost child, or rescue an injured hiker, or find an overdue hunter who might have had a heart attack is important to the community and a tremendous resource for the sheriff's department. If there were no search and rescue volunteers, the sheriff's department would have to send paid deputies to do this work, at taxpayer expense. (Can you spell O-V-E-R-T-I-M-E?)

One deputy standing in for me for just one of the days I searched last year would cost the public far more than the little bit of tax relief I get.

It's probably one of the most lucrative "bang for the buck" any tax deduction yields to this country.

I shall write off Dawn's expenses as a patriotic duty ...

... in October. I'll be too busy doing other people's taxes to do my own in April so I'll be filing an extension again.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.