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.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Varnish Roan

Varnish Roan, it's a poorly understood aspect of appaloosa coloration.  We know it happens, but we have little ability to accurately predict its progression.

Appaloosa coloration is controlled by 2 things.  First the Leopard Complex gene, or LP is what we call the "on switch".  With out at least one copy of this gene the horse will appear solid - regardless of the other genes the horse carries for appaloosa color.  The second thing is a gene complex we cal "PATN" or pattern.  In other words, there are multiple genes that do almost the same thing, so get grouped together in their purpose.  Because we have not yet mapped out these genes specifically, but we know they exist because of studying inheritance (phenotype studies) we can only talk about these genes as a group.  So, when we say a horse has PATN, we mean it has at least one of a possible 30someodd genes that cause pattern.  One of the pattern genes has been shown to be independantly inherited, and that is the leopard pattern.  We call this gene PATN-1, and we know that it is a specific gene on its own, and not a combination of multiple genes working together.

Head hurt a little now?  It's ok, I'll explain that as we go!

First, we need to understand what is and what is not pattern.  Appaloosas change color over time, most of us who deal with these colors know and love this about them.  Here's one example:
This is Shadow.  The pictures show her color change from the summer of her yearling year to the early spring of her 2 year old year.  Summer coat, fall coat, and the start of her next summer coat.  She was born solid black with appaloosa characteristics only.  All of this white on her is caused by the LP gene ONLY.  Shadow has no pattern.

Now, compare that to this:
That is Rico, shown from baby to yearling.  As you can see he was born with all that white on him, and it has changed very little as he has aged.  His white area - called "dense white patterning" - is caused by a pattern gene.  This difference is very important in understanding varnish roan, and how and why it does what it does.

Varnish Roan is caused by the LP gene ONLY.  This effect is what classifies LP as a "pattern" gene (like tobiano, roan, frame, splash, etc) and not just a color gene.  The LP gene has a few specific functions: it coagulates pigment, and that can be seen in the striped hooves, mottled skin, and it also causes white sclera (human eyes) in LP carrying horses.  Most of those traits are a simple result of the pigment coagulation thing it does.  If you clump the pigment in the hoof, then it will grow out in stripes, in the skin the clumps result in pink areas of skin showing through, and in the hair it causes white areas to be unpigmented and pigment to fade as the horse ages.  Only the white sclera is not a direct effect of coagulation.  In actuality, that white sclera is a sign of the gene's main function (formation of eye cells).

Now, Varnishing comes in MANY forms.  While only the style of roaning that leaves bars on the face and bony areas is thought of as varnish roan, all LP roaning is the same thing.  Here are some different examples of roaning in LP colored horses:

This is your common "varnish" type of roaning.  Note the heavy dark areas on the face.

This mare showed snowflaking (RIP Trouble).  She gained more of those large white areas every season.  This is another form of roaning, with a different name, but genetically it's pretty much the same thing as the above.

And this mare is actually the oldest of the bunch, but has the least roaning.  All of those little white dots technically count as "snowflakes" but you can see that they are a very different style of roaning from the other 2.  Again, genetically, it's all the same thing.

And this mare shows what is called "frosty roan".  This type of roaning is actually what allowed the appaloosa colored quarter horses to "appear from nowhere".  For so long, these types of minimal roans were assumed to be related to classic roan, and not appaloosa roaning. Take this style of a roan, and breed it to a solid horse carrying a pattern gene and suddenly you get Bright Eyes Brother, or Remnic in Spots (isn't that his name?).... an appaloosa colored AQHA lined horse.

Now, the question most people have, is "how do I know what my horse is going to do?"  Well, sadly, you really don't know.  Oh I can tell you that a horse showing characteristics WILL roan, but I can't tell you what style, nor how drastically.  ALL appaloosa colored horses roan.  If you check out Rico (the bay blanket colt above) you can see that he does have some roaning progression, but not much at all.  It has nothing to do with his pattern though, but rather the same reason why the black mare has so little and such small snowflakes.

It's all about suppression and enhancement.

Chestnuts always roan more then bays.  Bays more then blacks.  High white horses more then those with no face and leg markings.  Now these things we can see (the base colors and markings) but there are other genes that we can't see.  One example is in my draft crosses.  The same gene that allows a Clydesdale to have high white with minimal roaning and sharp edges also affects Rico's lack of roaning progression.  What is it?  No idea!  But with his high white, he should be roaning more then he is.  His full brother Scorch is still almost solid black as a 4 year old, yes has high white markings.
As you can see, Scorch has a blaze and a left hind sock.  Compare that to Shadow who was born solid black (above).  Shadow should have roaned less because of less enhancer genes (white face and leg markings are enhancers) but instead she went over board with her roaning.  Scorch though, who should have significant roaning, instead has almost none.  The answer to why lies in genes we do not yet know exist.  We know their effects, but not what they are, nor what their main job is.

Now, keep in mind that most color genes (maybe all) actually do something more important first.  The appaloosa gene controls eye cell formation.  This is why homozygous appaloosas are night blind.  Frame controls the nerve production of the gut, hence the homozygous form of lethal white results in malformed intestines that fail to function and lead to death.  Most of our "unique" colors are in reality a mutation of a "normal" or wild type gene.  Now some of those alterations are so minor as to only cause color changes in the hair, such as creme.

But Varnish Roan is just an effect of the LP gene.  Why do the bony areas stay dark more then the fleshy areas?  Notice on Katy (above) that her cannons, hip, shoulder, and face are still mostly dark.  This has to do with temperature and its effect on pigment production.  The warmer it is, the better the pigment can spread and show up.

Now, here I'm going to postulate a theory of my own.  There is NO science to back this up...yet.  I am doing some studies in my own herd though, but it's a long process, and I'm probably too lazy to ever bother publishing it.  But, living in Texas, I often has severe winters, and other times I have super mild winters.  Scorch was born after a very mild winter.  Warm temps all winter long with almost no freezing at all.  He also "cooked" for 364 days!  All that nice warm time for him in utero resulted in a horse with minimal white pattern showing up.  On the flip side, his full brother Rico was born after a disgustingly cold winter.  Rico also inherited more pattern genes, but they showed to "full strength" in him.  His siblings with the same pattern (all inherited from the same sire who carries 3 obvious pattern levels) had less "wow" in their pattern, but were born after warmer winters.

Compare these foals:

All carry the same "pattern" although 2 of them are homozygous (The black filly Nox, and the seal bay colt Zire).  Now, in theory, Rico should roan more then the other 2 because he's bay, with sabino, but in reality.....
And that's just after the shedding of their foal coats.  Zire and Nox roaned as expected, with Zire roaning more, but Rico was born a year later (all pictures of babies at same age) and had a severe winter while in utero.  Hmm.

It's my theory then, that while in utero, if the cold temperatures alter the foal's environment by even a fraction of a degree, this might be allowing the base color pigment to flow more across the embryo.  If that's the case, then it might be possible that the increased coverage by pigment is something that stays with them for life, thus making those minimal snowflakes and frosty roans.  For appaloosa color breeders, this is probably not good news, as we do not want to freeze our horses in order to get loud colors!  I only have 4 years in on this study, with a handful of horses to compare to.  (Full disclosure:) To get better and more solid scientific facts I will need many more years, so for now, it's nothing more then my personal theory and take it for what you paid for it. 

So basically, Varnish Roan is nothing more then an effect of the LP or "on switch" of appaloosa color.  The type and amount of changes overtime are not yet understood well enough to be predicted or bred for.  With the current leaps in understanding of LP color, we all hope that this will be one of the next things they study.  Personally, I love a striking varnish horse.  That stallion (first picture) and his face bars is lovely to me, while others find it ugly and distasteful.  But that's the beauty of horses!  We all have things we like, and it doesn't have to be the same.

As more science comes out about it, you can believe that I will be talking about it here.  So lets give the Appaloosa Project a hand.  I believe they are still offering color testing at the U of KY as a fund raiser for these studies.  Get your horse's color genes tested, AND help support the science that will be creating the DNA tests for all of our crazy appaloosa pattern genes.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rambling thoughts on Horse Safety

I have been working with horses every chance I could get from the time I could say the word "horse".  I have been training horses for 13 years, and in that time I've started about 40 under saddle, and put some saddle or ground time on many more.  Because I didn't start out with a spare million to get into horses, I did it the "poor man's way" and bought the best horses I could, and put the training on them myself.  In many cases this meant the rank crazy horse who had been mishandled.  Dangerous horses are a frequent thing in my barn, and I have VERY strict rules about them.

My point isn't that I'm some hot shot amazing trainer.  I'm really not.  I'm no different from any one else with half a brain, a healthy body, and the will to do it.  Horse training is NOT rocket science, it's just a very tenuous balance.  You have to weigh the risks against the rewards.  If your horse acts like it's going to buck, you have to decide if getting off NOW will mean that you'll have to deal with a bucking attempt every time there after, or will it keep your head in one piece.  If the horse is going to just buck every time because it learned that threat works, then you really didn't save your head - you postponed the smashing in.

But that's the hard thing.  In order to deal with a bad habit like that, you have to be able to ride through it.  You have to be HONEST with yourself and your abilities, and most importantly your fears.  I'm very open about my fears.  I hate buckers!  A horse takes off bucking, and I bail every time.  If you're looking for a trainer to work out the bucks, hire some one else!  But, rearing is not a big deal at all for me.  Flippers I don't like, but I'm not scared of.  I know flipping is way more dangerous then bucking in most cases, but sliding off a flipper is second nature to me.  I'm even BETTER at throwing my (not so small) weight against the horse's forehand to prevent the height in most cases.

We all have our things that just freak us right out.  For my mother it's size.  A big ol' size 8 shoe will have her timid in a heart beat.  For Jae, it's multiple horses.  Get a group of fillies being stupid, and he wants NOTHING to do with them.  The unpredictable nature of mares playing is just not something any one really wants to be in the middle of!  We all have things that our subconscious just will not allow us to approach rationally.  Knowing this, and being honest about it makes handling horses that much easier for everyone.

The hard thing though, is judging our abilities.  Of course the show ring is a tolerable place for that, since you have, well, a judge to give his/her opinion.  But, with all the fads, the various disciplines, and the politics it's not a perfect venue.  In my opinion the best way to judge it, is your confidence level.  If you THINK you can, then chances are, you really CAN do it.  I often refer to this as "a good day to die".

As an example, the first time I ever jumped a horse was not my idea.  I was cantering in a field on Ash, and there was the little trickle of water running across a low spot.  Maybe an inch wide.  Ash decided it was a steeple chase, and went FLYING over it (ok, so she made a very small stretch in her canter stride, but it felt huge!).  I pulled up on the far side, thought about it, and realized that my riding instructors had put a decent seat on me, and I COULD stay on that.  I had to do it again, and if I fell off, well, then it was a good day to die.  I turned the mare and we made a proper canter back at it, and I 2 pointed the "jump".  It was all of 6 inches, but I just knew in my gut that it would work out, and I'd stick it.  A few days later, I put up my first cavaletti jump.  8 inches, and we trotted it under the eyes of my instructor.  From there, I kept building up and up until I got to a point where I wasn't sure.  Now, my mare could jump the moon, so she wasn't an issue, and I "topped out" around 3 feet.  From there I worked with my instructor to improve my technique, and balance.  It wasn't something I did in a day, but rather over 3 years to go from 8 inches to 3 feet.  But I never jumped more then I THOUGHT I could.

At the same time, one of my instructors wanted me to take Ash around a 2 foot course the morning after a rain, on a grass field.  The footing was slick, and while we could DO 2 feet, I just had a bad feeling.  I said "no" and chose to work on flat work in the arena.  Another student did try the course, and her horse slipped in a turn and fell on her.  Thank goodness the only injury was a bruise, but it could have been horrible!  I listened to my gut, and it said the situation wasn't safe. 

I think that too often we're told to do things we aren't comfortable with, and because the "professional" should know best, we try them.  And then we get hurt.  On the flip side of that, some people just don't have the push to progress on their own, so it's the instructor's job to give a gentle nudge only when the student can definitely perform what is asked of him or her.

As you probably know if you follow here at all, I was recently injured in a very silly accident.  I made a bad calculation, thought I had more control then I did, and the whole thing ended up in a trip to the ER for me.  This is where that healthy body thing comes in.  I have ONE advantage over most people when it comes to handling horses.  I don't panic.  No idea why, but it's just something I have never done.  Even when I was between 2 horses kicking at me, I was completely rational.  I managed to dodge a ton of shots, and when I hit the ground, I was still looking for a way out.  There wasn't one, but I was thinking, not panicking.  What this means though, is I get hurt less, and heal faster.

I could probably be out riding right now, if it wasn't for the narcotic pain meds.  I refuse to ride "high".  I mean, I don't drink and drive, so why pop and pony?  It's just a safety thing for me.  I'm even limiting myself to what daily chores I do.  Stallion handling is Jae's job for now.  Grooming I only do with some one helping me (yes, I'm that stupid on this stuff).  But I can sling feed over a fence or catch up on my blog!  (Although the rambling nature of this post does testify to the affects of my medication)

But this sort of limitation is what makes a good safety rule.  It's easy to cheat, and say "just this once I'll ride the packer" or "Spot's always so good, I can take him out today", but why chance it? 

Around here at Iron Ridge Sport Horses my rules are easy.  Always have some one with "eyes on" if you are handling a horse.  That could be some one cleaning a stall, mowing the yard, or what not, but they must be able to see you every 30 seconds.  Always have a plan for the worst.  I never leave the farm with out a vehicle left here.  Every one has a cell phone, and keeps it on them (well, they SHOULD... Jae is bad about this one).  And if you're going to do horse things, just tell some one.

Dangerous work is always done with a "ground man".  From backing a horse for the first time, to teaching a horse to pick up its feet.  There is some one within arms reach ready to shoo the horse off you and haul you to the ER.  Do I need it often?  Nope!  But as my accident proved, it's always a good idea.  If mom wasn't "eyes on" then no one would have been there to chase the mares off my head.

In the end though, if you REALLY want to be safe around horses, then buy the stuffed or plastic kind.  There's no way to prevent accidents 100% of the time.  We take animals that weight from 700 to 2500 pounds, and want them to act like humans.  Their brains are the size of a golf ball!  There's just no way that they can grasp all the nuances we wish they could.  My liability waiver spells this out in very great detail, and I've had many people tell me "I almost don't want to ride now!" after reading it.  That's the whole point.  We horse people have chosen one of the most dangerous sports there is, and some how we expect to come out the other side unscathed.  It's not a realistic expectation.  Instead, we should worry about limiting the injuries to minor ones (bruises and bumps not broken bones and lacerations!)

I still believe though, that at the end of the day, if we trust our instincts, do what we know we should be doing, and don't let peer pressure push us further then we should, then we end up with one of the most rewarding experiences that any human can have.  There's nothing like the feel of the wind on your face from the back of a horse. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Was it a Full Moon?

Seriously?  With all the recent injuries being reported (my own included) is there something in the atmosphere, is the moon full, or did aliens contaminate our drinking water?

After 13 years of training horses, and a few more then that loving on them, I finally managed to do a seriously stupid thing (totally should have known better).  People with plenty of horse experience getting into freakishly bad spots they could not have predicted, a friend of mine had a relative escape calamity due to a series of interventions of fate (as in her brother is SO lucky). 

So my dear friends, what ever is out there causing all of this, please do your best not to add to it!  Be safe!  It's a lovely spring (here) and we should ALL be enjoying it, not laid up with broken bones and faces.  Take care of yourself, even if you're not superstitious why not be just a bit more careful then normal for a bit?  Who knows maybe it will become habit, and it sure isn't a bad thing!

And to every one that is now on the injured reserve list with me, here's hoping for fast recoveries and no complications.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A few ways to make your recently injured horse friend love you

Just act like my barn buddies! 

Since my injury I received a WONDERFUL visit from my friend Leah.  She arrived with super soft brownies that I can actually shove in this swollen mouth of mine.  Mr. Fry was even kind enough to let them (the brownies) leave the house.  Oh man, nothing makes the pain go away like chocolate.

And then I had more offers to help with chores then I can count.  Jae has been handling half of my work, and Nita (my mother) the rest.  But I know that if anything happens and I need more hands, those hands are only a few phone calls away.  Now, for most people that might not seem like all that big of a deal, but to me... WOW.  From shoveling poop to walking a colicy horse, or bandaging an injury, one of my biggest fears about being injured is that I might not be able to take care of my babies on my own.  Knowing that so many people have offered to help is just amazing to me.  Thank you all, and just so you know, it really does mean the world to me.

And then today, I had Kris show up and help with videos.  She grabbed, cleaned, groomed, tacked, and handled a couple of horses so that I could sit in my chair with the camera and get pretty pictures.  It doesn't sound like much, and handling horses for videos is always an under appreciated job, but it's WORK.  You have to push the horse just right to ask for a specific gait, and then stay out of the camera shot (because potential buyers don't want to see crazy ladies running with whips).  And did I mention running?  Yeah, up and down and back and forth across the arena!

And tomorrow I have a few more friends coming out.  Some to stop and say hi, some to get pictures of the ponies.  The work doesn't stop just because I'm hyped up on narcotics and antibiotics and ice packs.

Now, I'm not really the most social person in the world.  I have my horses, and my family, and figure that I really don't need much else to keep me happy.  But in the last week, I have been simply shocked by all the offers for help and well wishes.  Who knew that so many people cared!

So if you have ever wanted to show a barn buddy that you care, a few offers to help that you actually follow up on will do the trick every time!  Some of my friends do such sweet things as showing up early and feeding before I wake up (LOVE ya!) so I get a late morning at least once each week.  Or they help groom horses (with as many as I have that is a LOT of elblow grease).  So with me on the injured reserve list, I just wanted to take this chance to say THANK YOU for all y'all do.... it really does mean that much to me.

Either that, or my drugs are just that good.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Story of How I got Kicked In the Head

This is the glory of my first time of truly being kicked by a horse.  3 hours in ER, 1 hour and 20 minutes of doctors stitching my my face, 40 sutures, 1 tooth missing, and one that I hope will stay with me a bit longer.  No my face is not that fat.  Yes, that is ALL swelling including down my neck.

And yes, I look like hell.

But let me back up a bit and tell you the whole story...........

Yesterday I finished up the Sugarbush Draft Horse Registry website (check it out, as it's REALLY pretty now) and I posted a few links to facebook.  After hassling with some silly buttons that just were beyond my technical capabilities, getting it all to work, and finally feeling like I deserved a break, I headed out to the only place a horse girl can relax - the barn!

Well, Sweetie came home recently, and she's shedding like a pig, so I decided that the first thing I would do is brush her out a bit.  I grabbed a shedding blade, and wandered out into the paddock closest to the barn.  Sweetie was standing right there, and so was Diva.
This was Diva a year ago (only thing I have right now with a size comparison).  She has grown at least a hand.
And here's Sweetie from last year (yeah, it's time to redo pictures, but I was waiting on the shed outs) Yep, Sweetie is even bigger now.  It's not like I picked little girls to play with!

From the start, Diva was being pushy.  SHE wanted to be brushed, and I told her to wait.  I moved her back, but I could see where this was headed.  I figured it would be a good lesson for Diva to learn some manners.  I THOUGHT she had a better understanding of "human rights" (you know, 2 legged things are always right, and you don't mess with them) then she evidently did.   Well, I had about 30 feet or more between the closest part of the horse.  I know there were at bare minimum three 10 foot fence sections between us.  I was well out of kicking range.  (For those who know the place, Sweetie and I were in the middle of the long pen kinda near the alley fence, and Diva was on the far side of the feeder).  By eye balling it, there was a minimum of 2 canter paces before she could get within striking distance.

So, I got two swipes on Sweetie, then saw her ear flick as I heard the movement.  With out thinking, I darted out of the way, towards Sweetie's hip (away from Diva).  Bad idea.  Sweetie swung that hip toward Diva and moved her head out of the way.  Natural instinct, but in effect it blocked me between them. I went to yell and thew my hands up, but never made  a noise.  The first hood caught my hand, with the second set right behind it catching me in the face and shoulder.  The shoulder was a glancing blow, and I ducked as much of the face as I could.  I thought "get in close to her and she can't kick as hard" but I couldn't.  I kept being moved into Sweetie.  For a brief second I thought I saw an opening, and then some how I was tangled in Sweetie's legs, and down on the ground.

At this point it was all noise, panic and dust to me.  My mother was up in the barn, maybe 100 feet away, and had seen the whole thing.  She was headed down the hill yelling and flailing at the girls.  According to her, she swore I took about 5 kicks in the back (I didn't, I dodged all but one of those, and it was glancing on the rump) and then went under them.  She said she saw them both stepping all over me.  In reality, the only bruises I have on my body are the shoulder (from Diva) and a bonk on the ribs which is very minor, and a bruise on my left hip where she did step on me.  Diva though danced all over my lower legs.  I have about 20 bruises there, ranging from my left ankle, left knee, right shin, inside my left thigh.... well you get the idea. 

Mom handled it perfectly, and Jae was only steps behind her (he was closing the front gate).  Mom got to me as I was still pretty stupid (spinning, dust, must leave, have to get out from horses!) and she steadied me and asked if I was ok.  I answered honestly, "NO!".  Mom was standing on my right side, and I was leaning against her leg for balance while sitting on the ground.  Lemme tell ya, they rung my bell GOOD.

Jae came around the left, and according to him, he saw blood every where.  My hair, my shirt, my pants, and all over my face.  He asked me something, and when I answered he just stopped me, looked at mom, and said "she's going to need stitches".  He said that he could see my teeth showing through my lower lip/jaw area.  Yeah, you see that pretty laceration they showed up, it went all the way through!  He kept telling me not to talk, but I was SO thirsty, and very light headed.  I told mom I needed water, and off she went like a rocket.

Jae asked me if I could get up, and all I wanted to know was where the girls were.  He said "gone" but I could see Sweetie just outside the paddock fence.  I kept thinking Diva had to be close by, and sure didn't want a repeat.  He told me mom chased them out of the paddock, and Diva was well away, I was fine.  He kept asking if I could get up, and I kept saying "not unless you want me to pass out". 

Finally they got the water, towels, car, and everything you need on one of those emergency runs to the hospital.  At this point I HAD to walk a few feet.  Jae half carried me, and even still after only a few steps I needed to sit back down because I was trying to black out.  I got my wits again, and was back at it.  I managed to make the car, and laid across Jae's lap while Dad drove.  They kept asking me if I was sleepy, but oddly I wasn't.  I just HURT and hurt everywhere.  I didn't want to sit up because of the downside of all that adrenaline making me so light headed.  I guess you would say I was a bit shocky.  I said I would need a wheel chair once we got to the ER.

Arrived at the ER, got my wheel chair, and had to explain to them what happened.  Do you have any idea how hard that is to speak when you have a 4 inch laceration in your lip?  All those Ps, Bs, Ds, and Ts just DO not work with out a solid lip!  And every time I tried, I was a spitting drooly bloody mess.  I'm sure the staff just loved me.

I got in, got settled, got my IV drip (which I wanted badly because I was SO thirsty) and then the pain meds (which I was not looking forward to because they make me ill).  From there it was blood work, X rays, CAT scans and only a small wait before the doc came in to see me.  Oddly enough, everything checked out "better then expected".  No breaks.  I did lose a tooth, and have another that was knocked loose and rather painful, and of course, that ugly looking lip.

Now, keep in mind, that I had not yet seen my face.  I went from a paddock, to laying in a car in the back seat, to a hospital room with no mirrors.  The staff kept making comments about it, and I told them I figured it would scar, but they seemed to think I would be horrified.  They made me wait until it was all sewed up before I could see it.  I guess I was supposed to panic or something, but trust me it did not FEEL as pretty as it turned out.  I was half convinced that I was missing a HUGE chunk of my face.  A little 4 inch cut... that's NOTHING!

So today, I went to see the dentist.  What a wonderful man!  He was so worried about my cut and the stitches that he didn't want to do much, but he did want to see if we can save the tooth I still have.  He numbed me up (and did I mention that lidocain makes me sick to my stomache?) and then shoved it back in and glued it to the tooth next to it.  Oh my.... it feels SO much better!  That tooth had been sagging about 1/4 inch below where it's supposed to be, so every time I moved my mouth at all, it bumped it, sending pain straight through me.  It's almost where it used to be (a bit straighter actually) now, and I can actually eat food.... soft food, but it's a start.

I was told to give it a week if the glue holds, and then come back to see him for the real repairs.  If the glue chips off, come back as soon as possible.  He thinks it will reattach perfectly, but the damage where my other tooth was knocked off will likely require a root canal and a bridge.

Now, let me put this in perspective for y'all.  I have never before been kicked, and now, I have been kicked countless times.  I have never had sutures, and now I have 40.  I have never even had a FILLING, and now I'm gonna get serious dental work.  All of this because I misjudged a distance between horses, and got a little over confident.  I have been working with horses for 13 years, and many of those were NOT nice horses.  I predicted long ago that when I got it, I was gonna get it good.

I am kinda glad it's out of the way now!

But seriously, I've been sharing this story with people to show you that even the most experienced of us do make stupid mistakes.  That's all that this was, and it was MY fault (ok, Diva SHOULD have known better, but she's a 3 year old in heat with a new horse in the pasture.... not the best time to get all over confident).  I figure if my big ugly mug up there helps someone make a better decision, then at least my pain might be worth it a bit.  And for all of you who have made silly mistakes like this yourself, hey... at least we're not alone!

I'll be out for a while.  The pain meds make me stupid and sleepy.  But I'm good, and I'm healing up nicely.  I can't believe there wasn't a single broken bone in the mess.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Yesterday I took Velvet back to her breeder.  The day started off normal.  Horses were fed, all paper work was in order, and then we headed out to hook up the trailer.  Oh boy.

Yeah, so Jae had parked the tractor in front of the trailer the other night after he moved round bales.  Not a big deal, just move it, and then back the truck up.  Uh, except that no one had the keys.  We checked pockets, we checked desks, we checked all the vehicles, and no tractor keys!  Finally we decided that we needed a "work around" and came up with turning the trailer and hooking up to it.  It worked, but made pulling out a bit tricky (hence Jae's job).  

Velvet was a doll to load though (except for that one moment of "mom do I have to get in the trailer) and hauled like a dream.  Now, I have to say that I did NOT like hauling a horse through Dallas, but that's just me being a wimpy trailer driver.  Crazy drviers + horse in trailer = Heather freaking out.  If you're getting the idea that I am not all that crazy about driving a truck and trailer, you might be right!

Off loaded her, and her breeder was happy to see her, and thrilled to have her back.  Settled her into a lovely stall, got to meet her other (fat) horses, and I'm pleased that Velvet will be doing so well for the rest of her life.  Of course  like all horses that pass through here, Velvet is always welcome back in case she ever needs a home.

So after we unloaded Velvet, I get this text from my mom "Found the keys, they were on the ground".  Oh, swell!  Least we found the tractor keys though!  One of these days I will get around to making a spare.  Ok, so that's one thing I don't have to stress about.  And then I realized that driving back home through Dallas with an empty trailer is kinda fun!  I took the SUV and small trailer - which us ugly - on this trip.  Did you know that if the moron in the brand new car won't pay attention to your turn signal, they WILL move out of the way of a very ugly horse trailer?  Yeah...merging made easy!

And we had some stuff we got done last week.  I gave ya a preview the last time I posted I think.

Managed to get Zire gelded.  He was a champ, and did everything wonderfully, but he did bleed a bit more then I'd like.  Nothing serious, and he stopped quickly, but that's one of the downsides of waiting until he was a 3 year old to geld him.  I had really thought that someone would have snatched him up for a breeding stallion since he's so pretty, so nicely papered, and such a sweet boy, but I haven't had a single bit of interest in him as such.  The few inquiries I got were about gelding him.  So, now the deed is done!

That's my poor vet there holding his head.  Dr. G did a great job, and except for the normal swelling, Zire is acting like he feels great.  For the first day he would barely walk, but really who can blame him?  He's still on restricted movement for a bit, but the cut looks good, and he was silly enough to try to play when he got let out.  One quick move though, and he realized that was a bad idea and went back to being sweet calm natured Zire.  He gets a few more weeks off, and then it's time for him to be a riding horse!  I have to say, I'm really excited to break this guy out.  He is a little carbon copy of his sire, who moves like a dream.  Zire also has that lovely silky smooth trot with ground eating extension.  I'll most likely back him English, and then cross train him into western.  I don't expect him to sell quickly (he's rather boring colored, and a registered Appaloosa in a market that favours drafts) so that means I will have plenty of time to spend riding him!

I also managed to get some updated done on sale horses.  Here's a cute little video I did for Nakai:

Nakai is a gelding that I am advertising for a friend/client.  He's coming around nicely, and I think he'd make a great working horse for someone.  Now, I couldn't get all of his winter hair out before I did the vids, but shaggy is better then no video, right?

I also got some pictures taken of Katy.  Wow is she a lovely horse.  Just all around lovely.  I mean she's easy to work with, she's a dream to handle, she is easy to get nice pictures, and of course, she's a Sugarbush Draft, just just lovely.

The red hair on her is her faded winter hair.  The stuff growing in is blueish black.  Katy changes colors with the seasons, so while genetically she's a "black varnish roan" she is normally called "blue" around here, because that's what she looks like out in the pasture.  I'm also starting to think that my camera might be slanted a bit to the red spectrum.  Of course, I'm using afternoon sun to get the least amount of shadows on the horses, which probably has something to do with it.

And yesterday, when I came back from delivering Velvet, I picked up Sweetie!  My little Sugarbush has been on "vacation" for a bit.  I shipped her off to a friend's place to get pampered and spoiled.  Ok, I admit, it was a little horse trading (you do this, and I'll do that type of a deal) but Kris managed to get Sweetie fat!  Well, fat for Sweetie.  See, she's a growing draft horse, and it's been well known that the more food we pump into her, the taller she gets.  She never gets fat!  So yeah, we keep putting more into her, and lets just say I have a very nice, big girl!  I can't believe that Kris managed to get her to put on a bit extra!  Of course, she's 3, so maybe it's time that she'll slow down a bit?  I think she's going to be just like her father conformationally.  Color wise.... she's almost white!  Now, Sweetie is one that will make people question my knowledge of color, kinda like her mother.

Rose is a black horse that looks bay.  Sweetie is a chestnut that looks bay!  She's what is called a tostado chestnut, which means that she has very dark, almost black mane and tail.  She does not have black points, but instead was born a cute little obvious chestnut thing.

See, that is a chestnut there!  The mare behind her is black.  You'll have to trust me on that because I know she looks bay.  But Rose exhibits something called bronzing.  It's a type of Appaloosa color change that causes the black pigment to fade out resulting in a funny brown color.  There are pictures of Rose when she's younger, and testimony from Everett, that she was black up until she became pregnant the first time.  This is very common in LP color horses.

Sweetie on the other hand is just roaning out all the red areas that would allow you to see her base color, leaving a few scattered red hairs, and the black mane and tail.  I don't have super recent pictures of her, but here you can see what I mean:
Kinda hard to guess that base color with out having seen her as a baby!  She's dark skinned enough on the muzzle, and the question could be raised about a wild bay on her, especially with that dark mane.  Now she is even less red and more white on her main body, with obvious black mane and tail.  I think I'm just going to bite the bullet and DNA test her for color so people will believe me about her foals.

Er, sorry, I digressed a bit there.  At any rate, we arrived home just at sundown, and offloaded the "baby" girl with this massive storm on the horizon.  Now, if you don't keep up with us on Facebook, you might not know that I'm dieing for some rain here.  My pond is drying up and my grass is very confused.  I have coastal growing in with the rye and clovers!  Usually it's first rye/clover, then coastal, and rarely do they overlap.  But this year, my coastal never truly went dormant.  I'm hoping that means I'll have some serious summer grass!

Yeah, so we bedded down all the horses in the barn.  Every one was put some where so they would have a roof, because forecast said hail.  This means I had a barn full of boys....and Sweetie.  She was loving the attention.  Ended up stalling Scorch next to her, and yeah.... I'm positive I know what I will be doing for my first cross on Sweetie!  Those 2 match up nicely, and Scorch's super long neck will correct Sweetie's slightly short one. 

And all last night it rained.  Not enough mind you, but it was just what we needed for the grass.  I have some more rain forecasted later in the week, and if it doesn't change its mind, I should have lovely pastures soon!  For me, this means my arena is too wet to play in today, and it's too slippery all over to bother with trying to train or clean up horses for pictures.  Besides, Mondays are my day off!  I am going to be very lazy today.

And as for training horses, the walkers left this weekend.  This means I only have one "client" horse in training, and that's Voodoo!  The rest of my time will be spent with sales horses, and getting them either back in work, or trained to ride.  I have really missed working with my own horses lately, and I can't tell you how happy this makes me!  Starting tomorrow, I will be riding Scorch, Cayenne, and Dream, as well as putting ground work on Nakai and probably Oops.

There will be tons of picture updates coming soon.  A few horses have already been updated on the website, but there's always more!  I have plans for videos, with the help of my friends Chris and Rachel, and I will be bragging about those as well.

I won't make any promises about how often I will be updating, since Spring is the busy time of year, but I will try to get at least once a week.  Eye candy should be shared after all.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

If you've been wondering what I am up to ....

Well, I'm here to tell you it was been a wonderfully crazy spring time for me!  To start with, I am working on catching up on all my paperwork (ick!) that had been put off and put off.  I can't even remember off hand how many sets of transfers I have out to multiple different registries.  If it wasn't for the invention of the smart phone, I would seriously have already lost my mind.  As it is, my poor clients keep having to send me messages saying "Hey Heather, did you forget about........."

I love them, and can't thank them enough for reminding me!

Ok, but also, as you know I still have a couple of horses here in training.  Beaudreaux is being a good boy, and is a ton of fun to ride.  Black Boy has decided that ANY change at all is an excuse to act up.  Now, he's not doing horrible evil awful things, but he refuses to listen to me when I tell him that he HAS to be a saint for his person.  The last few rides (like all last week) were about listening to me, and doing what I say.  I can't say it always worked out, but I can say he hasn't tried to do anything worse then spin and bolt to the gate.  Beaudreaux on the other hand.... a total saint!  All he wants in life is a "good boy!"

Now later this week this little guy becomes a gelding.  Tomorrow actually.  He's as blue blooded as they come in ApHC, but no one has shown much of an interest.  Since I own both sire and dam, and the last thing I need is another intact man around here, well.... he'll make an amazing gelding.  He's just one of those sweet horses, and even as a stallion he hasn't realized that he should be anything other then super submissive, so I completely expect him to be working in our lesson program in a year or so.... if he doesn't sell! 

So Zire will get a month more of "baby time" and then he's going to start his saddle training.  With this guy, I expect it to be very uneventful.  I will of course also have updated pictures of him when that happens.

Also, out lovely lady Velvet will be heading to a new/old home for her.  I was contacted by her breeder, who would love to have her back.  I'm very happy about this, as she deserves to have a life long home, and with some one that will love her.  Velvet is a wonderful horse, but she just doesn't fit into my breeding program.  I have a lot of horses, and well, a horse that doesn't fit ends up being a horse that doesn't get enough attention.  It's just not fair to them to keep them.  At the same time, I was NOT about to let her go to someone that would not take the best care of her.  I got Velvet when she was in a bad spot, and very thin.  Even now she's a bit pushy at feeding time (understandable but not acceptable) and I promised her that she could live her forever rather then ever have to be in that position again.  All in all, this works out for all 3 of us, me, the breeder, and the horse!

And yesterday I ended up getting to deal with the joys of gas colic in one of my most sentimental horses.  Quagga was owned by my friend and mentor Sigrid Ricco, and when she passed away, he came here.  I love this horse and the foals he produces, so when he became very dramatic about feeling bad, I was very worried.  Drugs barely knocked the edge off, but since he didn't have an impaction, and seemed to be resolving, I was advised to wait before running to the surgical center.  A stead round of pain meds all night, and about 3am he decided he was fine. 

So this was Q today.  He's a total mess, but he's happy, alive, and no longer colicing!  I'm almost embarrassed to mention that he's supposed to be white.  I don't even know what his base coat color is yet, but I can tell you that he's a fewspot Appaloosa.  He's a very sweet and fun horse, and definately is one of those that grabs your heart.

And Poko got to have his first test as a lesson horse.  His rider is Amy, who was given a complete heads up about his issues, but is one of those "hey, that could be fun" types of riders.  She's got a good seat, and tons of nerves, so we tried it.  On top of it all, it was SUPER windy that day.  For 90% of the ride, Poko did really REALLY well.

Amy loved his canter, since he's smooth as glass and very easy on his commands (when he wants to be) so she felt like she could stay in the seat.  His trot is amazing.  But, sadly, he proved to be crazy Poko again, spooking at nothing more then a nice canter, and speeding up and dodging left, leaving his rider to eat some dirt.  Although, he's not very far from the ground at all.

All in all though, I am not shocked that he was spooky, since it was VERY windy (like 40 mph gusts).  But, with that said, he's still Poko, and will NEVER be a novice rider type of horse.

So, today, I decided to sneak in some picture time for one of my new sales horses.  This is Oz, or Ozzy.  He's ApHC registered as Honkytonk Beach Boy.  He's an 11 year old gelding that is being offered for sale through Iron Ridge for a client.  She's only asking $2000 for him (a steal if you ask me!).  He stands around 16.1 hands but I couldn't get a good measurement on him today, since after his bath he was shivering, and shaking horses are bad for exact measurements!

He is just as cute as can be, but has had some time off, hence the lack of working muscles.  Isn't he pretty though?  I have to admit, I find him to be very easy on the eyes!

So, with out writing too much of a book for my loyal friends, fans, clients, and you other people, that's a brief little recap of what's been going on.  Sadly, it's likely to be just this crazy for the next couple of weeks, so sadly the blog updates will be slower then usual.  As always, if you need me, please email or call (link at the top takes you to the Iron Ridge Sport Horses' page  with contact information).

You can also expect a lot of eye candy updates as well!  We're in the middle of updating ALL of the horses on the website, and adding new ones.  Even if you have no interest in buying, who doesn't like to see pretty ponies?  And I'm not biased at ALL, but mine are the prettiest!