A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rain Rain Come to play!

With tropical storm Alex in the Gulf of Mexico, there is some lovely rain moving up into north Texas.  Sadly, if you look at the weather map, you'll see a hole in the middle of all that rain....

Yes, that's me.  This is what has been happening all weekend.  The rain goes north, south, east AND west of me.  And I'm left with dry parched grass.

Now, the irony here is that normally, when it rains, I get it.  My pastures often are lush and lovely late into summer.  Not this year.  My grasses are dry, brittle and whimpy, and the horses tell me that they don't like it.

I wonder if a rain dance would help?  Although my neighbors would probably think I'd finally gone round the bend.  I'm willing to water my grass... wash the truck...but those never work for me.  Might be because my truck is always dirty, and I wouldn't really notice if it was clean.

Maybe I should go climb on the greenest spookiest horse, and try to get in a ride.  As soon as the rain sweeps over, she'd flip out, planting me in the mud (because that's just so much more ugly then dirt) and I could rest easy knowing that my pastures are watered?

Yeah, I'm getting a bit desperate... can you tell?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Live in the Moment

After the loss of Station, I took a couple of days off.  My mind was not where it needed to be to work with the horses.

Yet, in this line of work, there's no such thing as a "true" day off.  The need food at least twice a day, and usually more (4 times per day right now - grain twice, and hay twice).  They need water, and we have to check buckets every 2 to 3 hours.  And, being spoiled horses, they need their love.

This morning, I had some running around to do.  I got up, threw back a coffee, and headed out.  Jae unhooked the trailer (yes, we had put that off) and I filled water. My colts and geldings were in the arena last night.  Scorch, Rico, Zire, Diesel, and Rover were all playing.  Scorch though, was NOT playing nicely.  He kept chasing his little brother (Rico) and trying to be the alpha male.  Rover kept getting himself in the middle, and Scorch was just a bit too rough.

I grabbed a halter, and pulled Scorch back up into the barn, leaving the other boys out to play.  He was, of course, perfect, and put his head right in, and walked into his stall with out a complaint.  Grain was in the feeder waiting for him, but when I released him, he only glanced at it.  Then he shoves his big ol' head into my chest!  It was gentle, and I hugged him back.  I kissed on him, and he pressed into me for a moment.  Then he pulled back a bit and looked at me.  Right into me with those appaloosa eyes that look so human.

It was as if he said "there, better?  Ok, now what's next?"

Horses live in the moment.  Watching Quagga turn his attention to a new set of completely inappropriate girls (the 2 year old fillies across the alley from him) and the other boys resume their play as soon as the bully left, I realized that this is what makes them so magnificent to us.  They are so perceptive, but always in the moment.  There are no grudges.  Pain and sorrow last for mere moments with them.  And yet, some how they tap into the deeper side of our human needs.  Grace and beauty, love, power.

If for a moment, I think I should give all this up to spare myself the loss, the aches and pains of the back breaking work, I realize that I would never be whole with out them.  They are nothing but honest, and true barometers of our every emotion.  They live only in the moment.

Working so closely with them, I must give each one my full attention.  Anything else would often lead to an accident or injury to one of us.  I can not dwell on what happened before, or what will happen next, I can only focus on what needs to happen now.  With a hand on a horse, I too must live in the moment.

When I try to step back, give my self space from the herd I not only own, but also am a member of, I realize that they teach me as much if not more then I teach them.  Every time I am with them, a small part of me succeeds in that goal that I could only dream of as a child.  I see things through a horse's eyes.

For weeks, Ash and Station would graze together.  Both older mares, they would find a quiet corner of the pasture, and enjoy the last of the seed heads and sun scorched clover.  Today, Ash is grazing with Keeley and Ishka, as if it was nothing unusual.  For years, Quagga had nuzzled noses with Station while stalled next to her.  Today, he's playing bitey face with Scorch, as if he always has.   I feel a bit lost not having to check on Station, hose her down, and clean her buckets, but I am taking a page from the herd.  I will enjoy what is before me, not what I have lost.  I will treasure the horses I have in front of me more then the horses I wish I still had with me.  I will enjoy my time with my horsey friends, and laugh at the mistakes we make together.  I will wipe off the sweat and dirt, brush myself off, and get back on the horse.

I have decided to live in the moment.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A bad day

The first person to take me under her wing, and help me learn the horse business was a wonderful woman named Sigrid Rico.  Sig was amazing.  So much knowledge, kindness and patience, and she would gladly share it with any one willing to absorb some.  She also bred the most amazing Appaloosas.  When I started my breeding program, I wanted to breed Appaloosa sport type horses.  Think Chocklate Confetti, JG appaloosas, or Wap Spotted.  I had my amazing stallion Spot (who was sadly dubbed with the moniker "The Polecat") and needed some lovely mares for him.  I had a horse in my head that I wanted.  Didn't know if she existed, but I figured I'd find her one day.  I called her "my dream filly".

This horse had to be a leopard (for the genetics) or a fewspot, with perfect conformation, TALL, and long necked.  Of course, the image was much more detailed then that, but those were my "must haves" to make the horse more then a good horse, and into my "dream filly".  Then I found out that Sig had her.  A lovely filly who matched everything I wanted.  A few months later, I was offered a chance to buy her.  Her name is KCF Olympic Dream, and she is my dream filly.

So started my business with Sig.  I bought the best broodmares money could buy from her (Arden, Dream, and leased Dove).  Along with those horses, I got a good friend, and more knowledge about app bloodlines, foundation breeding for quality conformation, and basic "horse sense".  In February of this year, Sig passed away.  It was sudden, it was out of the blue, and it shocked me.

With out hesitating, I accepted 2 of Sig's horses.  Quagga, the stallion, and Station, the dam of my dream filly.  Both older (16 and 17) both healthy, and both amazing horses.  I felt blessed to be the one to care for them.  I was told that Quagga was Sig's baby, and every one expected him to have problems.  Instead it was Station.

The horses arrived, and both were well behaved.  Station though, never did settle in.  She was good, she learned the routine, but I had been to Sig's, and saw how Station acted with her person.  Station never would love on me like that.  The closest she came was Jae, whom she liked.  Station learned how to push Jae's buttons, coming to the fence and whinnying at him - he would then jump up, run her to the barn, and give her anything she desired.

Station also loved the barn.  She did NOT liked being pastured for too long.  In her mind, 2 hours of turn out was plenty.  Of course, she was stalled next to Quagga, her only friend from home.  Quagga gets turned out at night usually, because he sunburns, so Station enjoyed barn time with him.

She eventually became friends with Ash, my older TB mare.  They were never close, but Ash took care of her, and showed her the best grazing spots.  Station still always ran to the fence when someone was out, begging to be back in her stall.  Almost begging me to just take her home.

Yes, she got spoiled.  I tried to be there for her, I tried to ease the transition.  Poor Station had only ever known "home" as Sig's place.  A while ago, she began having problems.  Temperatures hit the high 90s, with heat indexes above 100. Station suffered.  I found her uncomfortable, and in the first stages of heat stress.   We cared for her as best we could.  From vet checks, to cooling her with running water every half hour, I wanted to do my best for my mentor's horse!

Medically, she should have been getting better.  Mentally, Station wasn't.   When I saw her yesterday, she was sweating finally, but it wasn't right.  Called the vet, he said Banamine.  It barely helped.  Called back, and he couldn't get out, so I hauled her in.

I can't say what it was, but I can say she didn't look "right".  Her gums were pink, her gut sounds were good, her temperature was normal.  Her breathing was slightly increased, but nothing significant.  It was a hot day.  Medically speaking, Station was "fine".  My gut said she wasn't.

I expected a fight to get her loaded in the trailer.  She didn't fight, she walked right in.  Half way to the clinic, a storm dumped on us.  Poking through pouring rain, she never fussed in the trailer.  Arrived at the clinic, unloaded in a hurry, and darted under the barn.  We had driven out of the storm, and it was catching back up.

Kris, my good friend was supposed to come play ponies.  Instead, she drove behind me in case my lights weren't working (they weren't) and offered a hand as needed.  She snapped some pictures of us waiting.  We needed the rain so badly, but the timing of it was just horrible.  Thanks for being there for me Kris.

Dr. G had just checked Station the day before.  Ironically he said the words "well, it's definitely not colic".

When he came down, he passed a tube, and fluid began coming out.  Reflux.  For those who don't know, this is one of those things you never want to see. 

From the first time I saw Station that morning, I expected a bad outcome.  I didn't expect the diagnosis to be COLIC.  I completely expected to hear organ failure, or some other terminal diagnosis though.  He asked me what I wanted to do, and I asked for more tests.  The medicine said she should NOT have been acting like she was.  A belly tap showed signs of small intestine issues though.  Nothing definitive.

I thought for a second about going to the moon for Station.  While they were running a test, I asked Jae what he thought, I explained how we'd pay for it, and ran a plan by him.  He answered with the best thing he could have "What does Station want?".

Station wanted to be with HER person.  Neither Jae nor I were that.  She wanted Sig.  In her eyes, it was obvious.  Always the perfect lady, and always sweet, she would do anything we asked, but she had never become emotionally invested in us.  In my mind, her heart was broken.

I made the decision.

She was never my horse, but I loved her none the less.  I am thankful that I thought ahead.  I had put her in the halter Sig had chosen for her so long ago.  In her last moments, I was there for her.  I closed her eyes as the drugs kicked in, and told her what a good girl she was, staying calm and happy so she would know nothing else.  With tears in my heart, I sent her to be with Sig, where she wanted to be.  Jae and I stood with her, telling her how good she was, and whispering sweet words until she could hear us no more.

I spent last night questioning myself.  Was it colic all along?  The vets didn't think so, and 2 had seen her.  Could I have done more?  Yes, but I honestly don't feel it would have been right to do so.  Did I let Sig, Jaime, and every one else who trusted me with her down?  I will never know.

For the first time in my life, I honestly believe that I have seen a horse die of a broken heart.  I did my best to keep her from suffering.  God Speed Station.  Ride the winds with Sig.

You are missed my pretty lady.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Diagnosis - Ringbone

So I have this horse, his name is Rover.  Rover came to me because he was a bad match with his previous owner, and just not what she was looking for.  It's a long and twisted tale on Rover and how he got here.  He was under weight from running fences, and needed a lot of ground manners.

Rover is now a WONDERFUL horse.  Every one loves him.  He has tons of training under saddle, and I can't seem to find holes in it.  What I DID find wrong with him was lameness.  He put on weight (he's not all the way back yet, he's not an easy keeper) he started training, and quickly became a favorite horse for many of us.  Then he started losing rhythm.

He never went flat out lame.  He'd be "off" so I'd check him, give him time off, see him running sound in the pasture, pull him up, and he'd be sound at the walk, and uneven at the trot again.  This has gone on for about 2 weeks or so now (I haven't really been counting).  I had the vet out to check on him, because I just couldn't take it any more, and the diagnosis - ringbone, all 4 legs.

I knew he was arthritic.  I knew that this horse had been ridden hard at a young age (he's 14, and his body was WELL used) and I knew he'd never be a high performance horse.  So I can't say I'm shocked at all with the diagnosis.

Vet suggested a companion home, or kid's horse.  Light riding will do him good.  The exercise keeps the joints lubricated, and helps the arthritic calcification to fuse.  Rover has a standing prescription for bute, as needed, to help deal with pain.  I'm waiting to hear from my farrier about shoeing options, and what he suggests, and then we'll start joint supplements.

I do love my vet.  He knows that horses like Rover are those that will either sell for a few bucks over their cost, or will suck me dry of extra money.  I mean, an unregistered, solid paint gelding of moderate conformation.  Not really a high ticket item!  The vet also knows that the reason I take these horses on, is not to make big bucks, but to do my little part.  Because of this, he is very conscious about the amount I spend on them.  He did NOT do x-rays, because he could feel the arthritis.  He said "The reason to do X-rays is to learn something that might change a diagnosis, or treatment.  In this case, it wouldn't change a thing".  We did block Rover's front right - the problem leg - and he became lame on the front left. 

So, rocker shoes, rolled toes, pads(?), bute, joint supplements, proper maintenance, and the vet is looking for someone that does nicely priced joint injections.  (Did I mention that I love Dr. G?)

All I know for now, is that Ro's not worth a penny in this market.  I will NOT try to drug him up, and sell him as "sound".  There's nothing good that can come of that... a mad (depressed) owner, a horse that could be caused pain because the owner didn't know.  What I will do, is offer him for free to a good home (with checked references) that can properly manage his care.  If no one wants a crippled middle aged horse, then he'll just stay here and retire.

Jae's learning to ride.  Jae's great with horses, but just never gets the time to sit on one (he's always fixing the things that they break).  I figure, Ro is tall enough for Jae, and neither needs to be going fast right now, so in the end it works out.  If Jae outgrows Ro, and we still don't have another home for him, then Dad will ride Ro.  Ro will get his prescribed exercise, and the riders will have a nice safe horse.

This is the downside of helping horses.  I never know which ones will stay. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

UPS makes me a crazy woman

I have been expecting a letter delivered, with a signature required.  No big deal, right?  I mean, I work where I live.

Evidently this is a big deal, and I also have the worst timing ever!

Monday, the day the letter was supposed to arrive, I booked it out to feed, and returned to a post it note saying they had missed me.  GAH!  *headdesk*  Ok, no problem, I'll just wait around on Tuesday, until they show up.

Tuesday morning (today)... 8am...9am...10am.... I can't wait longer!  Run out, throw feed, fill water, decide Jae can finish the hay while I go back to wait... and there drives the UPS guy.  GAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I must be cursed.  Called the UPS office, thinking, ok, I'll just see if I can get an idea of when they will come tomorrow.  No biggie.  The woman on the other end of the phone says, "well, it looks like they should be out sometime between 11am and 8pm."  Yep, thanks.  That really narrows it down!

I asked about leaving a contact number.  Could I have a note for the driver to honk?  Nope.  They don't do that.  BUT, if I miss them tomorrow, I can call to pick it up.... an hour away!  Murphy's Law.

Lucky for me, I have to be in Denton tomorrow anyway, so if that happens, it will all work out.  Jae says I'm the luckiest person he knows.  (He also asked when I'll win the lotto.... but I have to remember to start playing first.)

Although, there's nothing as classy as I was this morning.  Running across the pasture, in flip flops, screaming and waving at the driver, trying to make it before he drove away, with about 3 fences between me and him.  I spooked at least 4 horses in my efforts! The flailing screaming and waving had them running away as fast as possible... it was like parting the pony sea! Shockingly, no one showed up with a white jacket that buckles in the back.  I guess I'm not certifiably crazy.....yet.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Because the Best Information is from Real People

Since "common sense" isn't all that common, and "traditional wisdom" so often seems outdated, I figured I'd ask here.  Where do you learn about wonderful horses for sale? 

I'm hoping to use this information to help target areas for advertising the breed we have.  So many people just don't know that the Sugarbush Draft Horse even exists!  For many that do, it's assumed to be a "designer breed". 

I can't really answer this question, as I was always a research dork.  I saw a draft horse once, and then spent weeks in the library looking up all the draft horse breeds, where they came from, and everything about them that I could learn.  I had a lot of years to shove all things horsey into my mind, while doodling ponies in the margins of my homework, and daydreaming of owning my own horse.  I was so horse crazy, that I even spent most of my college applying my genetics studies to the horses!  Needless to say, I tend to be out of place when outside the barn.

And my parents thought I'd outgrow this!  Ha, I showed them!

My goal isn't really to get sales (I know, crazy thought for someone in my line of work) but instead to get people aware that this breed even exists.  So, I thought, who better to ask, then other horse people!  Where should I target the advertising? 

I figure, if people are looking for a horse, then they will be more open to learning about a new breed.  Am I wrong?  Did most of you have your heart set on your breed before you bought, or were you looking for specific qualities regardless of breed?  

So what do you find catches your eye the most?  Let me know what you think, and check out the poll on the left side.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I think we're found the concerned party!

Ok, recently I have had issues with Animal Control being called on me.  None of the officers had ANY worries.  Well, we think we're found the concerned party.  Now, I'm not the type to think badly of people.  In fact, my first thought was that it was sweet that she worries about horses, and is willing to do something about it.  I'm starting to lose that feeling.

So, Jae lets a dog out today, and sees someone messing with the horses.  Naturally, he goes over to say hi.  We get a LOT of people who love ponies and want to feed them over the fence.  As owners of an endangered breed, we use this as a chance to educate the public.  I can't tell you how many smiles we have put on kid's faces by letting them come into the barn and pet a foal or nice gelding.  We also explain safety issues, and what they should and should not feed the horses (so many toxic plants out there! so grass and carrots to make it easy on them) how to properly feed a horse so they don't lose fingers, and of course, explain the dangers of being in the pasture!  Nothing cuter then seeing kids bring plastic bags full of hand picked grass, and spend hours feeding horses. 

So Jae's initial though was simply that it was a horse lover.  He walks over, and before he's half way there, she spots him.  She scurried off to her car, and sped away.  He tried to get her plates, but wasn't close enough, but we DID recognize the car.

When I first moved in, we had all kind of trees and brush on the fence lines that made a natural barrier.  Some dingbat would drive up, dump her organic refuse on the side of the road in this brush, and then drive off.  I'm sure she THOUGHT she was feeding the wild life.  *head desk*   What she was doing, was bringing coyotes to my pastures!  She did this every week.  Many times I saw her from the barn, or while riding, and other times I just found the new pile of "coyote bait".

All of the following lead to us getting another rescue.  Maggie Mae.  Some one my mother worked with bought a new property... it came with a free donkey!  She's about 5 years old, doesn't like people (but will take treats) and HATES dogs/coyotes.  Her "owner" said she also chased goats, which he raised, and she had to go.  If we could get her off his property, we could have her.  If not, he was calling AC for an abandoned animal.  Wild donkey.... not a good future for her. 

The rubbish pile lead to coyotes and wild dogs chasing my horses, especially my young foals.  I would wake up at night hearing coyotes CLOSE, and thundering hooves.  This is why I keep big dogs!  A quick scurry out the back with the big dogs barking, and the coyotes ran off.  Not always before an injury.  A couple of minor lacerations, a foal run so hard she was panting, mares with hair pulled out of their tails... I never SAW the coyotes at the horses, but I saw the evidence.

I want to mention here that my dogs are mostly well trained to work with horses.  Suzie is herding trained and works "full time" with me, Anvil wishes he was a herding dog, but while he has the basics, hip dysplasia prevents him from doing much.  Hobbes is too old (17!) Hobo is too forgetful (fox hound, he just runs off following a scent), Sharra is NOT allowed to roam free, and Rowdy... epileptic Rowdy is great with animals, but a medical nightmare.

I also saw stray dogs.  At one point, I look up from my work, and see a red beast JUMPING at my gelding Boo.  Now, many of my horses are dog safe... I mean I have my own pack!  Boo is one of the best.  This mutt (chow mix? About 30 pounds, looked like a muppet) was jumping at Boo's rump, and at one point grabbed his tail and was literally hanging there.  Boo had enough and kicked the dog, just hard enough to make it let go, and not hard enough to hurt it.  Of course, while watching, Jae and I were running across a few acres to help.

The brood mares were NOT happy about the dog, and formed up.  If you've never seen a herd of horses in defense mode, you really don't want to.  Ears pinned, snorting and charging, foals and weak horses in the center.  I have to say, I was so proud of my horses that they banded together to protect each other, even horses that usually won't occupy the same side of the pasture.

After being chased a lot, and trampled once (by Amber, shown chasing Suzie out of the pen) the dog darted off, to where?  The rubbish zone!  Free eats!  I don't know if the rubbish lured the dog, or if it found it later, but I'd prefer to never have to test the theory.  We eventually caught the dog, and found it's owner, and let her know how close to death the dog had come.  We also explained her liability to her (legal to shoot dogs harassing livestock, she's responsible for damages, vet bills, etc) in as nice of a way as possible.  Ok, I don't own a gun..... but we didn't feel the need to bring THAT up.

So, my concerned party is an animal lover, who is not well educated on the realities of wild life and livestock.  I did make a complaint to the police about the rubbish dumping, so it's on record.  There's a description of the person and the car there.  Maybe that's why she's anonymous?  I mean, we live in a SMALL town, and it wouldn't shock me if one of the officers mentioned that she was causing problems.  It stopped shortly after my call after all.

I don't think she's malicious.  I think she really dose want to help, and she really does think that there's a problem.  I also think I know where she lives.

So here's my debate... do I stop by and talk to her?  In a non threatening manner of course?  Something like "I think you had some concerns about my horses, would you share them with me, and see if I can either improve, or you're misinterpreting something?"  I don't know how she'd take that, or if she'd feel threatened.  She's obviously worried, since she ran from Jae today.  I really think her heart is in the right place, but she's a bit short on real world facts.  I mean, I'm a sucker for animals too!

So, option #1 - stop and talk to the person I think it is.
Option #2 - I know when she's coming by, and what her work schedule is, should i just get pictures of her, and her license plate, and let the police sort it out?  The reality of this is, such calls are public record, and I AM running a business.  It could end up damaging to my lively hood.  I really don't like this option though, it seems so.... sinister.

What do you think?   Any other ideas?

Did the stars all just align or something?

The farm's been jumping lately.  Heather, Rose's new owner, is negotiating to buy O.  This means that she will have the last Sugarbush breeding stallion.... until one of my new foals hits the ground!

I have come to the decision that I need to geld some boys, but I don't think it was the 2 I had planned!  Streak, er I mean "O Stop Looking" is homozygous.  He's a match to 2 of my mares.  I'm going to give him a chance, and instead, I'm definitely gelding Rico, and might be gelding Zire.  I have a second Appaloosa stallion.  There are too many hormones here, and while all ARE stallion quality, a good stallion makes a great gelding!  I just don't know who all is going under the knife yet.

Had a wonderful chat with Heather yesterday about the breed's future, how we can work together to get there, and how dedicated she is to this breed.  I have always had a problem with seeing where I'm going, because of O.  He needs to be a stallion, he needs to be producing (he's just lovely all over) and he's a great horse.  Heather will also keep him at stud, both public and privately, allowing his genes to get used.  That will free up space and genetic lines for me to keep going forward.  Another one of those wins for every one involved.  Her, me, and the breed.

Don't you just love it when things work out well?

That's not all of my great news, but the rest isn't mine to share.  Just trust me that opening my email has become something I really look forward to this week!  Don't you just love it when everything just seems to fall into place?

Now, all I need is a bit of rain.  Not gonna happen in Texas in the summer, but hey, a girl can hope, right?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Animal Control, take 2

Ok, someone if obviously very adamant that I am not doing something right.  Anonymous called the city Animal Control (what there is of it) and they showed up this morning.  Again, he saw no problems, although, this officer admitted that he has no knowledge or understanding of horses.  He's had a "course" in it, and knows the minimum standards for care, which in Texas isn't much!

Livestock must have access to food and water.  That's it.  That's the law for "proper care" of livestock.  Horses are livestock.  Makes you a bit sick doesn't it?

Of course, the officer also mentioned that they get a ton of these calls for all sorts of crazy things.  I'm down to 5 bales of hay in my barn (hay guy will be bringing more soon) and today is a day to pick up more grain... so I only have about 100 pounds in the bin.  AND THAT'S ENOUGH for AC to write it off.

Yeah, I'm a bit more disturbed about today's call.  I expected to have to provide numbers, but he said there's nothing he could do because I meet the minimum, and the horses do NOT look poorly kept.  But here's what gets me the most.... some one thinks there's a problem!  I really wish that person would come and talk to me.  I could reassure them about my care practices, or see if there's something I have missed.  I mean, it's always possible that I don't know something.

Here's my other thought: What if someone who keeps horses on lush grass did decide to begin graining and haying because of calls like this, and then foundered a bunch of horses?  I know that for me, it makes me feel bad thinking that someone out there feels that my horses aren't perfectly kept.  Is it because I don't keep them stalled?  I have a barn, but not as many stalls as I have horses.  Many of my horses hate being stalled, because they were raised on thousands of acres.

My property is half in city, and half in county, so I was visited by both officers.  Works for me.  I do wish that the city AC officer was a bit better versed in livestock, but then again, what do they need to know about it for?  There are TWO properties in their district that have livestock.  Myself, and someone on the north side of town.

Ironically, after the officer left, we threw out the lunch time hay to the horses not on grass.  None were interested.  Too hot, too much grain earlier in the day.  I'm sure they're picking at it, but obviously it's not me trying to fool myself... they aren't really interested.

So, I'm going to do a very non scientific experiment.  Lets see if the calls slow down once the pretty fencing is up.  We're removing the ugly mobile home that came with the property, and replacing it with a nice looking house.  We're updating the fencing and the barn siding.  All of that should really improve the property's appearance.  Jae proposed that whom ever is calling might be jealous.  I don't know, I hate to think such things about people. 

But with so many struggling, and our property is near a lower income neighborhood, it could be true.  I have someone ask me for work about once a week, and sadly, I can't afford any more employees until business picks up.  And when I CAN, I'm sure not going to hire most of the people who come begging.  Break my horse in 2 hours... NO!  Show up with beer stains on your shirt... NO!

On a brighter note... Katy is feeling GOOD!  She tore her suspensory tendon a while back, and has been on pasture to recover.  This is the horse that someone asked me if I knew was lame, because her wraps matcher her coat (next box of vet wrap will be BRIGHT orange!).  Well, she's running, bucking and playing today.  Last night at sundown, she was racing full tilt (for a draft) across the pasture, with out an uneven step.  I think we'll see how she's doing this evening, and see if I can get her back into work.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

O has a date!

He has a date with a trainer!  I'm very excited.  Heather, who just purchased Rose, sent me a recomendation for a trainer.  Interestingly, her name sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it.  Figured it was just a "normal type" name... like Joe Smith, something that always sounds like you've heard it before.  Nope....I had other references to her as well.  Well, can't top that!

Had to call Wendy as a reference anyway (yes, I check references on my sales) and since Heather really IS as great as she sounds (no big head Heather, if you're reading this) I got talking to her about training, and if she would take on a draft stallion.

I love this picture because it shows how big he really is.  Not huge, but larger then the average pony.  Mom hates it... not flattering to her, but I'm sure no one will be looking at her.

See, I've been trying to get O into a trainer for a while.  I think about a year now.  I call, and they don't do stallions, don't do drafts, or don't do draft stallions.  Eesh.  I found one that would, but fate stepped in.  This happened, that happened... I even had O loaded in the trailer ready to go, and the truck began to act up!  Ok, at this point my spidey senses are saying, maybe I should just give up on this idea.  You know how sometimes things happen for a reason?

Well, I'm a bit strange that way.  I met Jae, and at the end of my visit, a bunch of coincidences happened that ended up with him moving to Texas... and here we are.  Jae's the best thing to happen to me, and is horrible about my addiction to horses.  He's also the one that pushed us into the Sugarbush horses, when my logic was saying "I don't know about this as a business idea".

So, when the stars aligned and I ended up with so many problems trying to get in with that trainer, I finally decided that the stars aligned just right to SCREAM at me.  Or something.

Then, Heather comes along... in a twist of coincidences she and I met, she's as excited about the horses as I am, and she gives me a referral to a trainer that I have referrals for.  Wendy sounds great, and I made a date for O... July 10th.

Now that Rose will be trained by Heather, and O will be seeing a pro (well, I think Wendy will be doing most of the training on both) I just feel like I'm going to have so much more time to devote to the younger horses!  Happy days!  I'm also just thrilled to see a new breeder in the registry.  These horses are so amazing, and the more of us working together, the better the breed will be.

I also broke out the books, and have started planning for the future.  I'm not sure what exactly I'm doing yet, but I do have a vision.... I want to get the leopard gene back in the breed.  We need another Harley Quinne!

Maybe another of these?  Ok, Rico is Scorch's full brother, so not enough draft, but a loud Sugarbush colt or filly would be great!  I have a few ideas on breedings, I'm tossing them around.  I'm trying to keep my numbers a bit smaller so that I can deal with the horses alone incase my "help" can't help, but at the same time, I'm looking to the future of the breed.

I can't wait to have O truly under saddle.  I can't wait to ride him.  I am very excited about someone that is competent and comfortable with drafts giving him a good start.  I have always felt like working with him is just a bit of a reach for my abilities, and this is the perfect solution.  He is so lovely, and I bet he will be simply stunning under saddle.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My crazy week

Last week has been a bit weird.  Not necessarily all in a bad way.  My mother calls to tell me that she found 4 mules.  Yes, found.  Evidently they were running along the road in front of the house she's staying at, and in an attempt to keep them off the roads, she and about 6 other nice people ran them into the pastures.  She has been mule sitting all weekend.

Now, there's aren't just any mules, these are NICE mules.  It appears to be a matched pair, and 2 younger mules.  All are gentle, social, and easy to work around.  No clue where they came from.  Animal control asked if she could keep them through the weekend, then on Monday said that they were having trouble finding a way to move them.  They are supposed to be picked up today.  I can't believe that such a nice group of mules - who had their feet recently trimmed, manes and tails seemed to have been cared for, and were well fed - have not been claimed yet!

Then there was rain last night.  Just enough to matter.  Ok, not too weird, but it is Texas in the summer... rain when we need it, and as much as we need....that's kinda weird.

And other good things:  I received an email from someone who runs a website on LP drafts.  There are many wonderful links on that website to others who are involved in the same, or similar breeding as I am.   Many I knew of, but some are new to me.  What a wonderful resource!  I will be parusing that a lot in the future I'm sure.

Of course, it can't all be good news.  My aunt, who I am not close with, and haven't even seen in years, was diagnosed with cancer a while back.  She was in remission, but her cancer came back with a vengeance.  This is my mother's oldest sister.  She has decided to refuse all treatment, and has entered hospice care.  Mom is of course devastated.  Jae and I will be covering my mother's responsibilities here.  If my posts become infrequent, this is why.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Breeding up a dieing breed

Ok, so I'm very in love with this breed, and not a lot of people know it.  There are 12 horses left.  That's it... TWELVE!  Most are related.  That means that it won't be easy to futher the breed without inbreeding, or cross breeding.

Since the breed started, cross breeding has always been used to keep the genetic diversity open.  I know that a lot of people think of cross breeding as BAD, and that anything that is cross bred can't be a purebred.  In actuality, that is not the case.

By definition, a "purebreed" is a group of individuals that when bred together produce a consistant and predictable offspring. 

No where in that definition does it say "a group of similarly bred" or "aminals of the same registry".  These are all concepts that have come to us from dog breeds, and are actually very modern in horses (excluding the Arabian).  In history, horses weren't even BREEDS.  They were types.  Warmblood isn't a breed, it's a type.  Think of other old time horse terms: Draft, Cob, Destrier, Palfrey, warhorse, gaited horse, carriage horse.  Even the (now) breed called The Hackney originally was not a breed but a type.  Hack-knee... a horse used to pull a smaller carriage with flashy and attractive knee action.

So, with the advent of the AKC, people began to think that you have to breed papered to papered to get papered.  Lets think about that for a second.  I like using Quarter Horses as an example, because almost every one has some familiarity with them.  So, what would happen if you bred a racing quarter horse to say, a halter horse?  What about if you bred a cutting quarter horse, to a hunter under saddle type?  Those types of breedings are not nearly as predictable as crossing, say, a Clydesdale to a Shire.  Even in AQHA, most people breed type to type, not just breed to breed.

(Both horses shown at right are registered AQHA.  They share some traits, but have many that are very different.)

The reasoning behind this, is that the Clydesdale and Shire are the same TYPE of horse, where the quarter horse has many types within the breed.  Most people are more comfortable with breeding breed to breed though, as they feel that this should have some guarantees. Hell, if it did, then all horse people would be making quality horses, and over population of poorly bred animals wouldn't be a problem.  Breeding is a very inexact science, and not for the faint of heart. 

So, coming into horses as a life long dog person, I had to set a lot of my biases aside.  I had to get used to the idea that it's OK to add in genes from a different breed.  Registries accept certain acceptable outcrosses so that they don't end up where the Sugarbush is now.  Or the Friesians... they have a LOT of genetic issues, and even state a coefficient of inbreeding as a selling point!  (Lower is better, but all Friesians are inbreed to some degree because of lack of genes out there).  The goal is to have a horse of an obvious appearance that is phenotypically different then other breeds.  The Sugarbush tends to have a lot of the Percheron traits, because that was one of the first crosses used.  But traits from Belgians (neck type) and Clydesdales (many show feathering) are also seen.  The silhouette of the Sugarbush is similar, but not exactly like any other draft breed.  Of course, as drafts, many of the breeds have similarities, because draft is a type that encompasses many breeds.

So as a breeder, I have to weigh the odds.  Is it better to risk genetic problems from inbreeding?  Or should I look outside the breed for traits that match what our breed should be?  As you can tell, I chose the later.  Although, in the future, I might risk the former, if the odds are stacked just right.  In the end, it's all about quality horses.

The Sugarbush descended from the Stonewall Sport Horse.  The Stonewall Sport Horses are a type.  Mainly a half draft with appaloosa coloring.  Pedigree is loved, but not necessary in the breed.  Instead of focusing on names on papers, the Stonewall Sport Horse people most often focus on conformation and ability to do the job the horse is bred for.  Since these horses were used as the foundation stock for the Sugarbush, they have always been accepted as a genetic influence.  This makes my life easier.  I can cross a draft to an appaloosa, get a Stonewall, cross those lines to a Sugarbush, and get a Sugarbush who isn't inbred.  It's a LONG process, but it's an option.  I can also cross an appaloosa to a draft, get a Stonewall Sport Horse, then cross that Stonewall to a draft, and have a horse eligible for Sugarbush Registration.  Both methods of crossing up will result in the horse getting generational papers (based on percentage of draft blood, and percentage of Sugarbush lineage).  It gets a bit complex, but it's a great way to keep the gene pool clean.

Our goal is to one day have enough genetics that we can breed only Sugarbush to Sugarbush.  I think it's a long way away, but I hope to see it in my lifetime.

Because of that, I am on a mission to breed a completely unrelated bloodline of Sugarbush Draft Horses.  Something that will perfectly compliment Sugarbush Harley's Classic O's lines.  I've got a VERY nice start.  Rose, the mare from a few days ago, is one of the few pure Sugarbush horses that is a perfect genetic match to O.  No direct relations!  I want to make more of those.

So, when people wonder why I can't just have a couple of horses that I'm breeding, but instead have to work with larger numbers, that's why.  I'm breeding the last of the lines, while trying to breed up at least one, if not more unrelated bloodlines.  This means that I will be getting a few foals out of some horses, and then selling them on (to great an wonderful homes, of course).

Just think about it for a second.  I breed stallion A to mare B, and get foal 1.  I then breed Stallion C to Mare D and get foal 2.  I breed foal 1 to foal 2 and get a Sugarbush.  So, that means that I need SIX horses to get one.  Add in time to mature, and what happens with the generation after that.....

It's daunting.  It will be a lot easier with other breeders involved who can breed unrelated bloodlines.  Adding in new breeders makes me happy, because it means that I won't have to shoulder this burden alone.  I love each and every one of my horses.  I have no intention of over breeding, but there's no easy way to rejuvenate a breed on the brink of extinction.

I love this breed though.  There's nothing quite like it out there.  They are amazing, powerful and still gentle.  They are colorful and well built.  They have everything I ever wanted to see in a horse, all wrapped up into one tidy (large) package.  I'll gladly spend my life working to further the breed.  It's a cause worth living for.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Interesting talk with Animal Control

Ok, the picture to the left is the most recent picture I have of the herd.  It's from June 4th.  It was dark, so I enhanced it to prove a point.  There's some lard on those bums!

So, today was farrier day.  Jae and I were in the barn cycling through 15 horses for trims.  When you have a lot of horses, you don't do them all in one day.  See, the idea is for the farrier to want to come back, not put me on his blocked call list!  Because of some poor time management on my part, I had to leave in the middle of the farrier appointment to grab feed. (Yeah, this is going some where.)  I left the feed in the bed of the truck because we were trimming horses in the alley of the barn.  So I ran over and bought 1000 pounds of grain.  I still have hay, but not as much as I'd like.  Only about 15 squares in the barn.

Now, at this time of year, I do not hay most of my horses.  Only those that do not get access to grazing.  I don't grain the horses on pasture, and in fact, in many cases I have to pull some OFF pasture because they are too fat, and I fear that they will founder.  Check the lard on the Belgian mare above.  I mean, she has a back dimple!  All of our horses have access to clean water, with buckets scrubbed regularly.  Yeah, there's a pond in the pasture, but my horses are sure that such gross water is NOT for drinking.  I sure don't blame them.

So, I'm standing there holding a horse, and I see one of the sheriff trucks drive past.  He stops, pauses, then backs up.  My first thought is, "oh crap, did someone get OUT?"  So I hustle out to meet him.  There he is, driving up my drive, looking into the open sided barn at the hay stacks, and passing the obese mare who just was trimmed.

I walked up and said hi, and he asked me if there was another horse property close by.  I told him where the closest were, and they aren't close at all.  So he reads from his computer screen a location, on Road A, 2 blocks from Road B.  Welp, that's me, and I told him that could only be me.

The sheriff kinda chuckled.  He said, "well that makes it easy, I drove past twice looking for another place, and didn't see one."  Evidently, there was a call placed to animal control that there's a pasture with "no grass" and "no water access" for a bunch of horses, including mares with young at side.  I have one foal this year, so I guess they mean me.

I offered to take the officer around, and he chuckled again.  He said that I obviously have plenty of grass, he didn't see a single horse that was thin, let alone anything to worry about, it was kinda obvious they had farrier care, and the truck sitting there with grain in it proved that I was feeding.  His job was done, and he never had to leave the truck.

Thing is, I have horses with appaloosa coloring.  Some times those horses have rib markings.  This filly is a good example.  She's not thin, but you can see the markings that look like ribs.  Not a very flattering picture at all, but you get the idea.

The officer and I couldn't even figure out any other explanation.  I mean, there's PLENTY of grass.  No, it's not long, but I don't mind it being a bit of work for them at this time of year.  The spring grasses are dieing off, and the summer grasses are starting.  There's enough new growth that it could cause problems if they had too much.  And, I still have plenty of clover growing.  So, ok, the grass isn't long, maybe that was it.  But the water?

Do people honestly expect horses to drink out of ponds as their only water source?  Mine would rather die.  They are a bit spoiled.

The officer said that he gets more calls for no reason, then he gets calls that he actually has to do something.  He said with me being visible from the highway, I should expect it to happen a few times a year.

Personally, I'm perfectly fine with it.  I'd much rather have someone call because of a problem, and get an officer out in less then an hour, then to have horses dieing and no one cares.  Granted, Jae, the farrier and myself got a good giggle out of it, because not moments before the farrier had just commented on me needing to pull a few pounds off the horses.

I also like meeting the local officers.  I want to have those guys driving past my place and keeping an eye on things!  I've had teens try to drive a golf cart into my pasture, through my fence.  These sheriffs are the same people that responded then.  I like to know that if one of my horses gets out, they will know me, and come knocking.  And I really like that it only took minutes from the complain being lodged to someone arriving at my barn.  Wow!  Makes me feel good about the other horses in this (very horse populated) town.

I do have to wonder though, what it is that someone saw that made them think they needed to call.  Was it the large number of horses?  Was it the rib marks?  Jae made the comment that if all of our new fencing was up, no one would ever bother calling.  Because we all know that fancy fencing means good care... right?  Well, looks like I'll get to test that theory. If that's the truth, then I'll be very sad in deed. 

Personally, I think it's the rib markings.  What do you think?

Friday, June 11, 2010

I think Rose has found the perfect home

This is Rose.  She is a lovely horse!  She's also one of the few remaining Sugarbush Draft Horses that is not directly related to "O".  In other words, she's invaluable for helping the breed to go forward.

She's for sale.  I have always hoped that the right person would come along that fell in love with her, and would fall in love with the breed as well.  Truth be told, the Sugarbush breed needs breeders!

I have always had this image in my head of the perfect family for Rose.  Active people who love horses, want to spoil her rotten, and have interest in getting her out there (local play days, driving, or what ever) and have a few foals out of her to further the breed.  Well, yesterday I got in touch with a woman who fits that dream!  Today she came to meet Rose.

She is everything I had hoped for.  Some one that likes the smaller drafts (that means 16 hands and around 1600 pounds) is excited about helping the breed work toward the future, and is not a flake!  She is also fine with the fact that I had not yet gotten Rose under saddle.  Rose will be visiting a trainer, and not only will she be a brood mare, but she will also be a loved and used family pet.  I mean really, how much better does it get then that?

And Rose really liked her.  Now Rose isn't the mushy gushy type of horse.  She's a draft after all.  But Rose kept leaning her head out to sniff this woman's face and hair, and kept hovering around her.  It was very obvious that Rose was smitten.  I like to see that.  Granted, it doesn't always happen like that, but these 2 are just meant to be together.  Now, I just have to make sure that someone that appears so perfect for her isn't really a closet horse weirdo (I mean a bad weirdo, not a good one like most horse people).  

I'm always a bit sad to see the horses go, and at the same time, I'm always excited when the horse finds the right home for it. Granted, I won't sell the horses into a home I don't feel fits, and always offer a home for the horse for the rest of its life.  I'm just so happy right now though, because if I could have hand crafted Rose's person, she would have been just like the woman I met today.

And of course, I'm ALWAYS happy when people want to become involved in the future of this breed.  I don't like how close the breed is to extinction, and I really believe in these horses.  To find someone else that is excited about the breed as well as the individual horse.... that just made my week.

Looks like I have a couple of weeks left with Rose.  She will be bred to O for a 2011 foal, if all goes well.  It is a bit late in the year for breeding, and there's always the chance that the heat has taken it's toll on O's, um, productivity.

AND, if Rose has a colt, which she's due for, they intend to keep him as a stallion, adding another intact male to the breed!  All of the foals from this cross have been amazing, so I'm not worried about quality of the colt. 

Ever have one of those days where you feel like the stars have aligned?  I think I'm having one today.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It's DONE (the webpage)

Iron Ridge Sport Horses

Well, it's mostly done.  I have one page that I just couldn't bring myself to tackling today, and that's the "about us" page.

I did get a personal page for each sale horse, got the entire site reformated for those crazy people who don't have a computer geek better half that insists on the top of the line wide screen monitor.  Yeah, evidently looking at my page at 1400 pixels wide is a bit different then those looking at 1024!

I did have a giggle, as I tried to update the blog here, with a link to the website on the front page.  I asked Jae how to add in a "clicky" the "hard way" and he looked at me as if I was silly.  Evidently, old school computer geek types don't use the nifty buttons that allow us non computer types to add links.

So, for those who want, please feel free to peruse the updated version of the Iron Ridge website.  I can now stop worrying about boring "paper work" (computer work?) and get back to worrying about filling the site up with current pictures and video.

Oh yes, and it's cooled off, so time to RIDE!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Evaluating Rover

Ok, so lately Rover has been "off".  He doesn't seem painful per se, but he is definitely not moving right.  He has been on medical leave for almost 2 weeks now, and when I looked out and saw him running around sound, I decided to see if he really is.

So I have a few things going on here.  No muscles to hold him up as he moves (let alone carry a rider) and he's trained to move in all the wrong ways.  Then on top of that, the problem of an old injury, or pain somewhere.  Keep in mind, Rover is one of my rehab cases.

Here's the back ground I have on Rover:  He was purchased from a paint breeder, where he was used for "riding".  His last owner was new to horses, and had both Rover and a MFT mare.  She claims that she was intimidated by Rover, and that he's just too much horse for her.  She was a little thing, maybe 5'2" and Rover is 15.3.  Previous owner was into the Parelli games, and she really liked the back up thing from Clinton Anderson.  So, when Rover arrived, he would back up at the drop of a hat (look at him funny and he's backing across the yard).  He also invaded personal space, refused to focus on his handler, and was a typical pain on the ground.

And skinny.  Evidently, he ran the fence lines constantly when she took her other horse out to ride.  Now, he was sleek and shiny, so obviously well fed, but also a neurotic mess.  I have to admit, he had the strongest muscles under his neck that I have ever seen.

So, Rover had the winter off to fatten up, and started under saddle this spring.  He's a great riding horse.  Since we've had him, he's always been irregular in his rhythm.  The best way to describe it, is it's like riding a gaited horse that's trained to trot... the trot is never truly a 2 beat gait.  I have no idea what breed Rover is, but he looks like a stock horse.  I would guess he's a solid paint by his markings.

I played with saddle fit all day, and the riser pad behind his shark fin withers seems to help a lot.  I also put him into side reins, which prevented him from raising his head to the moon.  I'm not talking about strapping his head to his chest or anything, just properly fitted side reins to encourage him to stretch down.  As soon as he gave in, his gait improved.  Hmm.

I also felt him all over.  His legs are not hot, do not have swelling, and I can not find a specific site that is the problem.  Now, when I massaged his back, I did get a very pronounced response from behind his withers on the right.  Hmm.  A bit of stretching, and he felt better.  He really liked the tail stretch.  I have to say, I have never seen a horse enjoy having its tail pulled on so much.  So, when I lunged him out after that, he was markedly better.

I had to climb on.  I got him moving forward, and stretching down, with Jae watching for any sign of pain.  He's perfectly even at the walk.  I moved into a slow trot, and it was hell.  I kicked him up to a real working trot, and the irregularity went away.  At the working trot he can't brace against me because he just doesn't have the muscles to do that right now, and I kept dropping contact when he tried.  Instead, he gave up on the bracing, and started stretching his neck out straight.  The more he stretched, the better the gait.

He's also VERY heavy on his forehand.  I was working up a sweat just trying to keep him from plodding along on those front legs.  I eventually got him into a canter, and Jae called out to me.  Evidently, Rover is refusing to reach in front of him.  He's also all strung out and has no grace nor ability to collect his body at all.

So, now I have some data to present to both the farrier and vet.  I did not ride him long, nor did I ride him hard.  The biggest difference I found was in saddle placement.  When I moved the saddle back a bit, Rover used his back, and gained a proper rhythm.  I think the issue isn't leg related after all, but back.  Any bets on how long till I'm looking for a good chiropractor for my horses?

Oh, and I also think I stumbled upon a riding instructor!  I'm VERY excited.  She's close, she's got experience, and she is willing to work with me.  I really want to get back into jumping, but I'm not as brave as I was in my 20s.  Grabbing mane, and just doing it won't cut it for me any more.  My dear Ash took me up to 4 feet, and I'm pretty sure that we did NOT have a lot of the basics down.  Now that I'm a bit older (read as wiser) I would prefer to learn safety first, and high/fast later.

I have also decided that I'll be adding Dream back into the training schedule.  This is the horse that I hope to be jumping soon.  She's 16.0 hands, and has talent oozing out of those spots.  She's a Chocklate Confetti - Dreamfinder bred Appaloosa.  She's 5, willing, and SO much fun to ride.  I simply love her.  (she also tossed me like I didn't exist on one of her early rides).

Not sure if I'll be getting her started over fences professionally first, or if I'll be learning to start her myself.  This instructor does both horses AND humans!  *happy dance*

And to make it an even better day, it rained a bit, and we have weather warnings for a lot more rain to come.  We really need it.  It's also making it pretty darned cold out (that would mean it's below 80).

And, Station appears to be doing GREAT!  The cool weather is such a blessing for her.  Good gut sounds, good gum color, good CRT, good temperature, pretty good appetite, and POO!  Yes, normal horsey poo, not dry icky worry me to death poo.  She still only wants grass or hay, but ya know, I'm fine with that.  She's been in the pasture all day, hanging out with her best buddy Ash, eating the sweetest spots of green stuff, and acting just normal. By the way, Station is the dam of Dream, my jumper prospect.

And to finish the day, just as I was walking inside, I glanced over the herd in time to see Soliloquy, one of my yearlings that just came home NURSING on her dam, Jinx.  Soli has been off property for months.  She was weaned and kept separate for about a year now.  *sigh*  It's the mare not the foal that is the needy one!  What am I going to do with her?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Some good, some bad, and not much sleep

First, the good news.  Station appears to be doing MUCH better.  First off, a big thank you to Leah and Kris for selflessly offering to help.  I had more then enough help, and too tightly wound nerves to sleep myself.  But thank you regardless for the offer.  I also had mom, dad and Jae to lend hands as needed.  It's always nice to know that if I need it, there are extra hands during an emergency.  Thank you both so much for the offers.

I'm not sure what made the big change, but some time around 3am, Station just got better.  Not perfect, and not all the way back to normal, but a remarkable improvement.  She stopped laying flat out for long periods of time (it was scary looking, a few times I swore she was dead).  When I took her out of her stall to check her vitals, she was annoying.  She didn't want to stand, she wanted to go graze the yard, or sniff Q, the stallion that she's known all of her life, and who was stalled across the hall from her.

Now, Station is not normally the type to behave like this, but I was not about to complain about her showing an interest in anything.  Her temp was normal all night, varying from 100.3 to 100.6.  That's a range I could live with.  Her gums are good, all day long today her guts have been normal, but she is very sore and tired from the ordeal. 

The bad:  When I went out to check on Station at 7am, laying there in my drive way was one of my first chickens.  An old red hen (Rhode Island Red), dead.  Not a mark on her, and she was fine at 4am, so some where in those 3 hours, something happened.  I'm not sure how long chickens live, but she was about 5 years old.  I really like my chickens.  I really like their eggs too.  I don't name them, because every chicken I have ever named has been discovered by the dogs.  Sadly, dogs and chickens don't always mix. 

And the ulgy:  My parents are putting a house on the property.  They purchased a lovely pre-made home, I don't know what they are called.  One of those kit home things.  Well, of course, after an all nighter with the horse, the house showed up today.  It's beautiful!  Granted, the rest of the installation starts tomorrow (supposedly). 

And not ugly:  After helping out all day yesterday, my parents returned to the house they are sitting, to find their horses covered in masses of agressive deer flies.  I do mean covered.  So the 3 yearlings and my mother's 20 year old mare returned home.  The girls are back in the pasture with their mothers, and Keeley is babysitting Station.  Keeley has foundered in the past, and is very prone to repeats, so she can not be left loose on the pasture.

And just to keep it interesting, the boys destroyed their temporary paddock.  Currently there is a house in what will be the stallion pen, so the boys ("O" the Sugarbush Stallion, Scorch a 3 year old Stonewall Sport Horse colt, Zire a 2 year old Appaloosa colt, and Rico, Scorch's yearling baby brother) are living in the soon to be parking area.

Yeah, remember how I said we have a lot of work left to do?  So there was a section of "junk" that came with the property.  It was useful things, like a set of stocks, and other assorted stuff that we plan to recycle.  We paneled it off using round pen panels, and for a while it wasn't a problem, just an eye sore.  Well, when I went to check on Station, I found a panel across the paddock, another pannel ripped in half, and boys trying to check out the "cool toys".  *sigh*  Thank goodness there wasn't a mark on them!  No clue what happened, but Jae spent an hour cleaning it up, before I convinced him that we should just stall the boys for the night, and finish in the morning.

I think that was more then enough for one day.  Hopefully a return to my regularly scheduled programming tomorrow. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

And another update on my girl

Station is holding her own right now.  Body temp is staying normal, or slightly lower (since she's been wet most of the day).  Between 99.7 and 100.3  Totally acceptable.

Gave her electrolytes, as per vet directions have been offering her as much watered down mush as she'll take in.  She has no real interest in plain ol' water, but she needs to rehydrate.  So watered feed and electrolyte water (Basically gatoraid).

She really likes it when I hand feed her the mush.  She gets all lovey dovey and just keeps eating as long as I'm petting her.  She's exhausted though.  I am checking her every hour now (down from every half hour) and most times I catch her completely passed out.  Flat out on her side.  She gets up as soon as Q calls to me though.

I just put her in the long pen, a paddock that is about 1/4 acre.  There's a lovely cool breeze blowing, and it's so much nicer out there then in the barn.  She came out and laid down, so I checked gut sounds again.  They were decreased.  I got her up and made her "lunge"  basically walk in a circle, with a small amount of trot.  It was good that I trusted my gut, because she had a nice poo, and felt SO much better for it.  Definately a secondary impaction.

More pain meds at midnight.  She has access to cool water, cool gatoraid, watered horse mush.... I think she's as set up as a horse can be.  Looks like she's over the worst of it.  I still have to worry about the almost colic thing she's doing from being so dehydrated.  My vet and my back up vet are on stand by (Since Dr. G is out of town, and Dr. O doesn't have everything she needs.  So Dr. H was notified that it's possible I'll be calling, and updated on what Dr. O prescribed).

I'm sure I'm rambling, but it's ok.  At least I have it all documented!  I really worry about the babies when they get sick, even the 17 year old babies.  Evidently, heat stress has been pretty common this weekend.  Dr. O told me she's has 3 horses to treat with it, plus mine.  She also told me she didn't want to see me, because I was already doing everything she'd do, and she was over booked.

On the BIG upside, Station is almost re-hydrated.  The pinch test is close to normal.  If she's still up and acting normal at her next check, I'm putting Ash in the paddock with her.  Ash and Station have become the best of buddies.  Maybe it's because they are both old white mares?  Well, Ash is grey, Station is a red appy roaned Snowcap, but you get the idea!

I'm hoping this is my last update on her.  The idea is that from here on out, she'll be back to normal.  I can hope, right?

Station makes a turn for the good

Ok, the med that I couldn't recall the name.  Buscopan.  It's used with Banamine, and often for gas pain.

Station just got her dose of that, it seems to have helped.  Gut sounds are MUCH better, not quite normal, but nothing to worry about now.  Her temperature is actually below normal, 99.7.  We opened her stall up, so she has a cross breeze.  Not much of one, but better then nothing.  Gum color is normal, capillary refill is so close to normal I couldn't tell the difference.

She's actually not drying out completely before her next hose session, and she's comfortable, although still laying down.  Granted, this whole "getting cool with out even having to stand" thing is pretty good in her mind.

She's quirky again.  Did NOT want me messing with her mouth, felt like she should be pampered, and other normal Station behavior.  When we first brought her up, she just laid there, eyes open, like she was dieing.  I'm sure for a horse that has never felt 100 degree weather, she probably thought she was.

Now, to figure out a management plan.  It's not going to get cooler any time soon, so I have to figure out the best way to keep her from having a repeat.

Not out of the woods yet, but definitely on the up swing.

Heat and Horses revisited (Station suffers from heat)

It's been hot.  It's been VERY hot.  Heat warnings, and while temperatures are only in the 90s, the heat index has been 105+.  Dangerously hot.

This morning, Station was laying down.  She was laying sternal (on her chest) so I thought nothing of it.  Later mom mentioned Station was still down.  A quick peek showed she had moved, and was sternal.  She looked like she's napping.  Station has arthritis in her back legs (stifle, hocks, and most likely pasterns too) and she's a 17 year old mare.  She also lived most of her life on the New York Canadian Border. Resting her legs is perfectly expected.  I have rheumatoid arthritis, and I'm achy, so it's expected that she would be too.

When my next peek showed Station STILL laying down, I worried.  Keep in mind that Station lays down a lot, so seeing her relaxing isn't that abnormal for her.  We grabbed a halter, pulled, cajoled, kicked, and did everything we needed to, in order to get her up and to the barn.  As a retired horse, she lives most of her life in the pasture right now.  She's stalled for bad weather, but in this heat, the shade under the trees is better for her.

Station was previously owned by my dear friend Sigrid Rico.  Sadly, Sig passed away in February, rather suddenly, and I was asked to take her stallion and mare.  I have foals from both, and simply adore their bloodlines, so with out a second thought, we got the horses moved to Texas.  I have been careful with them and the climate change.  They get sun screen, they get fly masks to block the harsh sun, and they get pampered.  I have kept them out of the barn, because well.... it's cooler OUTside normally!

Sadly, it appears that Station is suffering from the heat.  I'm currently ordered by my vet to hose her off every 30 minutes.  She's been given banamine for gut pain, ulcerguard for well, ulcers, and mom is on her way to get pain med #2 (which I can't recall the name of for the life of me).  Station is under a fan, her stall is a dirt floor, and right now it's nothing but mud, so she can lay in it and cool off.

If she isn't dehydrated soon, an IV will be started, and she will be tubed with water as well.  Neither will help her stress level, which won't help her cool off, so my vet recommended the high maintenance option first.

If you've never seen a horse with heat stroke, pray you never do.  It's scarry.  The heat makes the horse feel bad, so the horse stops drinking.  Once the horse becomes dehydrated, the horse usually gets impacted, so has colic like symptoms.  Most commonly, the horse doesn't feel energetic enough to thrash and roll, so they look like they are dieing.  And make no mistake, it is very possible to lose a horse from this.

I AM worried about Station.  I am also doing every thing I can to get her better, while kicking myself for not picking up on the signs a few hours earlier.  She has rub marks over her body, and it appears that she spent much of the night down.  At evening feed last night (which is around 11pm here) she was up, and lethargic, but not showing any signs of pain.

I'm covered in mud, swat to keep off the flies(because it's pretty much water proof, I now have a pink snowcap appy) horse sweat, and my sweat.  Weather channel says that it's 93 degrees, but feels like 102F.  That's about 34/39 degrees C for everyone else out there.  Station is improving, but she's not out of the woods yet.

Her gut sounds are improving, her breathing is slowed to almost normal.  Her color has been good this whole time, and capillary refill is perfectly normal, although slightly less then what she was in cooler weather.  I have a couple more hours before the temperature drops.

Trust me, if I could bring her inside to the air conditioning, I most definitely would.  I don't think she'd handle the steps well though.

I'll update as the situation changes.

What I do with my free time and extra space

I breed about 3 to 4 foals on a normal year.  Lately, it has not been normal!  I bred a few foals for 2009, and made a silly mistake with one, and ended up with a 2010 foal.  Ok, I hadn't planned on breeding for 2010 and am not breeding for 2011.  Not sure if I'll be breeding any time in the near future.

Now, while I breed horses to fill a need in the market (horses for the novice horse owner that they won't outgrow) I also have a passion for the unwanted horses.  I have always had room for horses that were too dangerous for their owner, too green to sell, or dealing with medical issues.  I have a list of these horses that I have taken in, fixed up, and found amazing new homes.

I figure that since I have the experience, the time, the set up, and the help, it only makes sense for me to do this.  I love seeing the horses show up as a mess, and leave as a prized pet.  I worked in animal rescue for a while (Executive director of the local shelter for 2 years, foster home for many years for dogs) and so I have the skills to quiz people about their care, with out most of them even knowing they are being quizzed.  I have horses that were "garbage" horses who ended up living in barns I would be lucky to sleep in. 

I took in a horse with an ulcerated eye.  One look, and I knew he was coming home.  Within the week, the eye was removed, and he was happier for it.  Today, he's the loved riding horse of a lady who was scared of horses.  I picked up 3 horses that were skeletons.  2 were in foal.  Here's how that ended up: Ebony is now a child's riding horse, living at a Christian camp for disadvantaged kids. Sioux is a hunter pony for a middle aged lady with fear issues who thinks Sioux hung the moon.  Lakota is a young man's best friend and trail horse, and Bugsy... wow Bugsy lucked out.  He's the one in the barn I'd love to sleep in.

Those are just a few.  I make Jae nuts, because I care more about where the horse ends up, then how much I make off it.  I work deals, make payment plans, and do everything to get the horse with the person that horse fell in love with.  Now, if the horses isn't interested, I'll also say "I don't think this is a good match".  I have to sleep at night after all.  But really, it's only money, right? 

Don't get me wrong, Jae is rabidly fanatical about great homes for our "kids".  He just wishes that there was some better income for it.  On my rescue horses, I donate all the training, and sell them for the cost of their rehabilitation.  Granted, most of them end up between $2,000 and $5,000.  Dentals, surgery, special feeds, special hoof care... it's amazing how people can't see their horses suffering!  And Dr. G is a saint.  He does his best to cut me deals on the rescues.

Then there's Jon, the farrier.  I can't say enough good things about him!  I'll tell him that I have a new horse, and he takes time to make the horse comfortable.  He tolerates bad behavior, and works through it, to get the horse happy with his hoof care.  There have been many times that I've said to stop, because its getting dangerous, and Jon wants to try once more.  Granted, he also calls me often about horses needing a home... hmmm... maybe he's a sucker too!

I have a system on determining how many horses I can handle.  It's based on pasture management, cost of care, and hours needed to ride them.  When I have a large group of my home breds needing to be ridden, it doesn't matter if I have a ton of space.  I can't rehab a horse that I can't put time into!

Rehabilitating a horse depends upon what is wrong with it.  For many, all they need is feed.  That can take a few months.  Others need serious medical care, and that takes as long as it takes.  Then there are the behavioral issues.  These are honestly my favorite.   I love watching the horse go from scared and defiant to loving and willingly working.  They are also the least predictable on how long it will take.

Like I said, I don't rush things.  Some horses take a year to get comfortable before I feel they need to start a steady work routine. During that year, I concentrate on the basics of being a good horse... not crowding me in a stall, picking up feet, getting baths, and sprayed for flies.  Things that the horses should have learned as babies!  Riding is the easy part!  The hard part is getting the horse ready to ride.

I have a basic outline of what a horse needs to know before it's backed.  Basic ground manners (which means standing for everything when asked, bathing, clipping, vetting, etc)  then we go to inhand work.  Back up, move over, and those basic in hand commands that you need to just be safe around a horse.  After that is lunging.  I lunge a horse for a specific reason.  This is where I teach the horse its verbal commands.  Walk, trot, canter, reverse, woah, stand.  A horse can't learn more until it knows what those words mean.

After that, I put it all together, and climb aboard.  The first few rides, I'm just a passenger.  Jae leads the horse around, using the ground commands.  In a few days, I begin to give leg, seat and rein aids to match those ground commands, and Jae works his way out of the arena.  We go as fast or as slow as the horse can accept.  Some times it's all in one day, and other times, it's a month before he doesn't have to lead the horse.  Once I'm "on my own" I have to get the horse to understand that I am up there, and that I am asking for things.  Also, the horse needs to know that I will protect it.

Doesn't matter if its a home bred, or a rehab.  All horses want to please their leader (if they are sane, there are always exceptions) and they just don't always get what is asked of them.  I blame the trend in "30 days professional training!".  THIRTY DAYS?  Wow, that's like, enough time to really confuse the hell out of a horse.  Just imagine trying to learn a new language in 30 days.... well... that's what you're asking the horse to do.  And a horse has a teeny tiny little brain.

Thirty days of training is enough time to put another confident rider on their back.  In my opinion, it's great for someone that knows how to ride well, and just can't take the chance of a bucker.  Someone with health issues (osteoporosis, etc) someone that can't afford to lose time off work (self employeed, etc) or someone that just knows that their own fear will cause more problems then it's worth.  That's what 30 days is good for.  If you need a horse trained, and you want it back safe, go with 90 to 180 days.  The longer, the better.  Trust me, you'll be happier for it!  (I rarely offer to train outside horses any more, so I don't make anything of saying that)

So, that's what I do for "fun".  I fix horses. 

I like it.  I like knowing that there are horses out there who were on their way to a long ride on a double decker, but now are living the good life.  I like knowing that I did something bigger then myself.  It's my passion.  It's my hobby... and it makes a lot of people think I have really gone round the bend!  Lucky for me, I haven't hit the dirt in a while.  I'm sure when that happens, I'll swear off crazy horses, and yammer on about how I'll never do this again.  As soon as I heal, I'll be back doing it again.  It's addictive.  I admit it - My name is Heather, and I have an addiction to helping horses in need.

*chorus*  "Hi Heather" (welcome to horse lover's anonymous)

So if you're ever wondering where these misfit horses I talk about came from, like the quarter horses, and other breeds that just don't seem right on a draft cross farm, well that's where.  Most of my horses have some history, and not all of it good.  All of them have good lives here though.  My goal, is to find them good families of their own.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pondering the average horse buyer

I am NOT the average horse buyer.  At least that's what I've gotten from reading so many people's blogs.  I started with a 4 month old foal, that my (now ex) husband bought me for my first anniversary.  A whole 2 weeks later, I bought Ash, my Thoroughbred mare.  Boo, the Arabian foal, was exactly what I always wanted a horse to look like.  He's BEAUTIFUL!

That's Boo and I when I first got him.  Isn't he just the cutest?  I made so many mistakes buying Boo, that it's not funny.  First off, I purchased a horse from a shady breeder.  Yeah, I was told Boo's papers would be in the mail.  I was also told he was 6 months old.  A year later, I got SOME records, and learned that he was only 4months old, and that his breeder never finished paying for the dam.  Her papers were never transferred, and so Boo could never be registered.

My second horse was purchased about 2 weeks later.  I was offered a beautiful Thoroughbred mare by my barn owner.  I couldn't afford her, being a college student at the time, so the owner sweetened the deal.  Well, it didn't go all that well, but Ash became my first riding horse.  I learned how to ride while teaching her to be ridden.  Well.... while she taught me that she could be ridden.

From there, I spent many years with just the 2 horses.  I would help out friends and such that needed someone to put hours on their horse.  I mean who can say no to a chance to ride more?  I ate a lot of dirt, got more bruises then I could count, but youth saved me from major injury.

I have had many trainers over the years.  From my exhusband, to a lady from my boarding stable (lovely dressage rider/instructor, who taught me a ton!).  Then I had a jumper trainer for a short time, another dressage trainer, and right now I am looking for a jumper trainer.  (Shameless plug here, I need a jumper trainer in North Texas, who is willing to work with a rider of draft crosses and Appaloosas!).

Now, I have a LOT of horses.  Last count was 39.  Yes, that's too many.  Yes, many are for sale.  And NO, they will not be ditched for any reason.  Until recently there were 4 full time workers here.  Now, there are 2 full timers and my mom is part time.  That means more hours in the barn for me.

But, when I sell horses, I always think about how lucky I have been to get the breaks that I did.  I know that most people have no interest in getting thrown.  They don't want to have to put millions of hours into a horse just to do things that should be normal.  I'm very proud of the fact that my horses are gentle, sane, and easy to handle.  Hell, most of them are born that way!  The secret is in the hours.

Our foals are handled all the time.  No, we don't have "training sessions" but that doesn't mean that they aren't trained.  I'll take Suzie for a walk, and stop to see the new baby, Streaker.  He comes running to me when I call him, and while he's there, I just pick up his feet, pet his head and ears, and do all those normal lovey things that every one WANTS to do with a baby.  A few minutes here or there, and by the time he's weaned, he's perfectly mannered.

That's Scorch, above, at 2 months.  He's learning that halters are "ok".

I'm not sure when exactly I taught Streak to lead.  It started with a halter when he was in the stall.  I put it on, I took it off, I put it on and might even leave it on for a few minutes.  I'm always so worried that he could get hurt, that he never had it left on when out of sight.  From there, I started putting it on when we walked his mom out to her paddock.  Then we attached a lead, but let him follow his dam.  Then one day, I actually walked him, and he wasn't sure about the pressure.  We worked through that, and now, he walks "ok" on a lead.  He still balks, but he's only 3 months old!  I'm not in a rush.

All of our babies are trained like that.  By the time we're ready to ride them, they could care less.  Leah jumped up on Scorch, just to "see what he'd do" and he didn't really care.

I also take it SLOW when breaking them.  As 3 year olds they get a lot of walk, and maybe some trot.  By the time they are 4, they learn cantering, and more serious stuff, and then go up for sale.  I'm behind right now, because I was out of commission for a year, but I'm catching up quickly.  It's not hard, it's just VERY time consuming.

So my point is, with as easy as this is to do, why don't more people?  Why are so many horse owners buying horses that are "well trained" and end up with issues?  No, I'm not blaming the buyers, I'm blaming the sellers!

I can't even imagine the heartbreak of having a horse that I'm scared of, or unable to ride.  I try to wrap my mind around that, and just can't.  It's like trying to imagine life with out a beloved family member.  You know it's possible, but you can't fully grasp the pain.

I guess I'm doing my small part in trying to make buying a horse a good experience for people new to horses. I guess it's like the starfish story.  I can't change everything, but maybe I can make a difference to one, or a handful of horse owners.  And in doing so, maybe I can save a few horses along the way.