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.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Moon's update, a new blog to read, and more

First off, Moon has chosen her person.  Rachel and her have just hit it off.  From the day she arrived here, it was obvious that Rachel adored Moon, and the feeling is mutual.  You know how sometimes you see a horse dote on a person with that special look?  Well, Moon did that with Rachel from the start.  Having horses for as long (and as many) as I've had them now, I have learned to recognize the signs of horsey love in progress.  Moon was in full crush mode.

Since then, it's only gotten "worse".  Moon thinks Rachel hung the moon (heh, I'm so punny).  She nickers at her, and listens to her better then any one else.  Don't get me wrong, Moon is a complete angel to every one.  She isn't really a fan of men, but she's not a man hater either.  She just tends to tune them out, and look to women for treats.  But Rachel?  She's DIFFERENT!  Rachel brings love and special attention. 

We wonder if maybe someone in her past reminds her of Rachel, or if it's just one of those things that is meant to be.  Who can tell with horses, but for some reason we always try to imagine the answer.

Well.  It's been a while now, and good ol' Moon is PACKING on the weight!  She's such an easy keeper, and every day I can see more meat on her ribs, and her back is starting to fill in.  With the weight coming back, so is the spark in her eye, and her personality.  She's nothing if not a good girl, and with more energy, she's just being more good.  It's little things like trotting in hand when asked, or picking up her feet easier because she CAN.  She nickers at me every time I walk near the food bin, and is easy to catch both to take out of her stall, and in the pasture to bring her up for the night.

She's been dewormed, sand cleared, given pro biotics, bathed for rain rot, sprayed for rain rot.... this list goes on and on.  Oh sure, she looks like hell still, but it's a bit less hellish then it used to be.  Her belly is smaller, but she crapped out a lot of EWWWW.  When she arrived, her belly was distended, and we feared that there might be 2 in there.  Nope!  It was just worms and sand (and did you know that a lot of sand can give a horse a bloated look, and reduce their ability to put on weight?).   We can see her top line filling in though.  She used to look like her back was carved out on either side of her spine, but now, she appears to be just plain old normal thin.  She's also gone into heat, and she's starting to grow a winter coat!  I'm so happy with that for only a week's progress.

But of course that's not all the stuff that is happening.  Last weekend Jae managed to do some trims on a few horses.  He pushed himself too hard, and then had a filly decide to be silly.  She reared up on him, and wrenched his back out.  We're not sure if that's what caused the problem completely, but it definitely was a contributing factor.  So, last weekend, he was walking around half gimped, started to get better, and went back to work.  Not much work though, I had him on light duty, but even that was too much.  He did it again.  Monday morning Jae woke up, unable to move.  He couldn't sit up with out help, and walking would almost bring him to his knees.

Of course, my parents had gone out of town to celebrate their aniversary.  They were married in 1968, and are still together, so I think they DESERVE the holiday!  In case you're math deficient like me, that's 43 years of marriage! 

So here I am trying to care for Jae, and 34 horses... ALONE.  One of those is a full time job, but both became insane.  By the end of the day I was having a personal pity party, and about to bawl my eyes out.  I hadn't stopped moving from 7am until midnight!  It doesn't really sound like much: feed and care for the horses.  But lets break this down a bit for you.  That's 15 stalls to clean, 2 hours of feeding, and I feed 3 times a day.  Between both of those, there's 8 hours already.  Plus I had to check on Jae all day long, make him food, help him get up, get down, and move around, and then the dogs. 

Have I mentioned that my dogs have the worst timing?  I'd sit down for a coffee, and they had to go out NOW.  I would head into the bathroom, and another would have to go out NOW.  I went out to the barn, and they wanted in the kennel, but once I was cleaning a stall, they would bark to come in.  I must have made the trip back and forth a million times from the house to the barn.

And poor Jae!  I doped him up on just about everything I could.  By evening, I even resorted to alcohol (thanks Chris for the mead by the way).  At least he had video games to play though, which kept him still, and entertained, but he's a coffee drinker.  I'd come in, make a pot of coffee, and fix him a super sized cup of it, only to do the same when I returned 30 minutes later.

The hardest part was figuring out who to ignore.  Do I dote on Jae, and not clean stalls?  Do I spend the whole 2 hours feeding, or take breaks to check on Jae?  The dogs want to play, but I have no time, will they be ok if I ignore them for a day?  There just wasn't enough of me to take care of every one.

Tuesday, he was better.  He still couldn't really move, but he didn't hurt when he was still.  I found my stash of serious meds ( I have rheumatoid arthritis, so have a small amount of the "good" stuff) and doped him up on those.  Muscle relaxers worked!  By Wednesday morning, he could make his own coffee, and wander around a bit.  Today, he seems even better.  I still won't let him do much, besides wander around and maybe drive the tractor (which we use to carry the grain around) but it's progress in the right direction.

The interesting thing though, was what an eye opener it is.  I've seen many Back Yard breeders with 30 horses, and only a single person in charge of them.  We try to keep 3 people full time working with the horses, so that no one person has more then 10 horses to really dote on, and half of those are too young to do much, or need much work.  There's NO WAY I could handle this many horses on my own!  It really has made me appreciate the help I get from everyone.

And did I mention that Lady's here in training?  Well, luckily Monday was my day off, and Tuesday Erika came up for a lesson, so I ended up not riding either day (I had planned to ride Tuesday, but it didn't happen).  Wednesday, I worked Lady out, to stretch and get some kinks out of her muscles.  She's a touch sore, but nothing bad.  She has been a saint for me though.  She's so calm, and mellow, and riding her is simply a pleasure, not a job. 

I may have a few more things coming up soon.  I've been BUSY.  I'm hoping a horse has found her new home (fingers crossed) and I might just have the perfect new lesson horse (can you say BIG?) but I am kinda feeling like I'm losing my mind here.  Today, I get to ride Lady again, and then spend all day at the computer looking for information on a specific horse for a foundation registration.  I figure though, since Jae is stuck in a chair, it's a good time to teach him to do the pedigree research!  Soon, I will be able to pass that job off too.

Oh, and if you want to keep up with Moon's progress, stop over to Rachel's blog!  Give her a friendly comment, as she's just decided to start blogging, and make her a blogging addict! 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fear Friday: Who you lean on

So, things are starting to get back to normal for me.  No, not completely normal, as I still have things that just freak me out, but I'm a lot closer.

Since today is Jae's birthday (Happy Birthday hunny!) I was thinking about how much he's helped me to recover.  And that of course lead to me thinking about everyone that has helped me along this path, and keeps helping.

See, when our fears grip us, and make us feel weak, the best solution is a strong shoulder to lean on.  My main support is Jae.  After I got kicked, I became nervous walking among horses.  Since we happen to own a herd of them, walking around them is rather a common thing.  Whether it was grabbing a horse from the pasture, turning a horse back into the pasture, or handing out feed at supper time, I would occasionally have moments of sheer panic at being so close to a horse that could step on me.  I actually still really dislike walking amongst the horses at feeding time, or any time that they can get rowdy.

But, Jae was always there for me.  He never made me feel bad about it, he just offered to help.  I would be standing at the fence with grain in buckets thinking about walking in, terrified, and Jae would just walk up, grab the buckets, and do it for me.  He simply acted like a perfect gentleman lending  a hand.  He never made comments or even body language that made me feel like I was failing.

When we had issues with horses trying to fight, he would jump in and break them up while I was still worrying about what to do.  When it came to picking up back feet, he would just offer his strength.  When it was time to get back on a horse, he walked right there beside me.

But he's not the only one.  My mother, Nita, was also right there.  When I was laying in bed with vertigo too bad to stand, she would jump in and help with chores.  When I needed some one to just sit and watch me ride, she never complained, even if it was a million degrees outside.

When I needed some one to help, they were both there, in a way that made me feel good.  Knowing that I had them to rely upon gave me the relaxation to deal with my concerns, my fears, and my health. I have to say, that their support is probably what has made it so easy for me to get back in the saddle, and feel like I still AM good at what I do.

But, they aren't the only ones.

Rachel has been out countless times.  She helps me groom up the horses, and get pictures that I can put on the website.  Whether that means handling the young silly baby who wants to play after her cold bath, and NOT stand still, or scrubbing the inside of the back legs of a stallion, or just hanging out talking horses.  It's all help.

She's been great at keeping the excitement going on the business, our Second Chance program, and the training we have coming along.  She's helped me get horses ready to ride, she's climbed on my greenies, and she's always asking if I need a hand for anything else.

And there's Amy.  She has been putting time effort and hours into the horses that need it.  Green, broke, who cares, she's here to help me catch back up.  Amy is brave as brave can be, and gladly admits that sometimes things make her nervous. 

For me, that helps.  Not just having an extra butt in the saddle, but knowing that this brave rider gets nervous too.  We all do, and it's ok.  It doesn't have to stop us from riding.  Amy makes it look easy, and reminds me that others think I do the same.  If I think she's good, then I must be good.  It's a strange logic, but it helps with my confidence.

And there are others.  Kris, Leah, Sarah, Chris.... you all know who you are.  I'm sure I left someone out of there, but that doesn't mean I appreciate what they do any less. 

I am getting back to it.  I can feel the confidence.  When I look back a few months and think about the anxiety I felt just riding a broke horse, and now how I feel climbing on Cayenne, or Dream - both broke, but green - I can't believe that it's just been a few months.  When I stop and think WHY I feel so much more confident, my only plausible answer is that I let my self lean on the shoulders of those who offered.  Accepting that support, acknowledging the fears and concerns, and being reassured that it's really ok has made such a big difference.

I can now focus on why I love horses.  If I put something off because it just doesn't feel right, then I'm no different then any one else I know.  I've counseled people before to do the same, and now they are the ones that get to tell it to me.  While I might KNOW that is true, it means so much more when a close and trusted friend says it back.

I think everyone should have someone to lean on.  When you need it, it's so important.  When you don't need it, it's still pretty nice to have.  I've read stories of so many of you making HUGE steps forward, just because you were able to feel like it was perfectly ok to be afraid.  It's not a bad thing to try and fail. 

So, lately I have been preparing a few horses to start under saddle.  No news yet because I don't want to jinx myself, but lets just say that I'm SO HAPPY that I actually WANT to try this.  I want to hang on a horse that might do great, or might freak out.  I want to show that young horse that it's a good thing to carry a rider, and it can be fun.  I want to feel the horse learn, and help the horse enjoy its time with humans.

And who knows.  I may just get the horse ready for its first ride, and panic.  If I do, I'll back off, and try again later.  Trying is the success for me, not backing the horse.  It's the fact that I am willing to step up.  Rather then set unreasonable goals, my friends have made me see that just being around horses is the goal.  I might fail at riding a horse for the first time, but I will have succeeded in wanting to move forward. 

It's so easy to overlook those big strong shoulders we lean on.  From a husband that is not into horses, but will still check their water, to a buddy who offers up their packer so you can ride with them and feel safe.  I think if it was left up to me, I would have spiraled down into a well of self pity.  I wouldn't have recovered as much with out seeing my friends step up and do what I should.  And to remind me that I love this job, these animals, and all the risks associated with it.  Horses are worth it, just because I want them to be.

Even those who commented here have helped.  I can't say it enough.  Thanks y'all!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

She once was great, and will be again soon!

When I got into horses, I wasn't able to afford the super nice ones.  I learned how to find the diamonds in the rough and make something of them.  My very first horse was a back yard bred Arabian, and my second horse was a 9 year old brood mare who had never been broke to ride.

I learned how to start them, how to fix bad habits, and how to break problem behaviors simply because I couldn't afford anything but someone else's rejects.  I began helping friends with their horses, and because I worked at a vet clinic, I eventually began to take in "unwanted" horses, and make them into a wanted horse. 

So I can't say that my Second Chance program is a new thing.  Rather, it is older then my breeding program.  Second Chance horses are something I have always been passionate about.  There's no such thing as a bad horse, just a bad past.  While not all horses are able to overcome their pasts, so many could - if someone would be willing to give them a chance..... a Second Chance.  And so the name has stuck.

Most dog breeders do some amount of rescue within their breed.  With horses though, it seems that you should either breed OR rescue, but never both!  I have never understood that, and I refuse to play by those rules.  I will only breed when I think that the market can support it, and when I have time/money/room for those babies for the rest of their lives if I judged the market wrong.  Even then, I often find myself with more space and time then horses needing it.  When this happens, rather then breed more, I simply keep my eyes open for horses in need.

Some come to me, some I stumble upon, and others are pointed out to me by friends/family/clients.  That was the case this time.  As Jae and I were walking the pasture, making plans for the next step of our property improvement, my phone beeped.  I checked, and had a text from Rachel.  She knew that I was not looking to buy, since I am basically out of petty cash due to the recent hard month, but she wanted to know if I was still interested in horses needing homes.

Of course, I told her.  Then I get this link to a craigslist ad.  Paint mare, bred pretty decently, in need of a home.  The owner was ready to load her up to whom ever showed up.  We're in the middle of a drought, and there are rather a lot of free horses out there, and we're pretty close to Mexico.  Needless to say, it's a haven for the kill buyers.  Smile, say nice things, and make a lot of money selling meat.  This horse though, just grabbed me.  She was raced, and retired to brood it seemed.  Lovely mare, decent build, sound, and sweet.  Something about her just spoke to me.  And what ever that was, it was screaming at Rachel.

Come to find out, this mare is just down the street from me.  Less then 15 miles away.  I hooked up the truck and trailer, and headed out.  When I arrived, there were a few people, and they didn't seem overly interested in the horse.  No crying, no sad faces, just that look of "oh good, she's about to be gone".  Now, I don't mean that they are bad people, but this obviously was not a loved and treasured pet to them.

She was thin, but something about her screamed potential.  She's 14, and in the prime of her life, and on top of all that, she's a pretty color. (or will be)

I asked a few questions of the owners, got her papers and a signed transfer, and traded out halters.  When I walked her to the trailer, she snorted and blew like it was a monster, but walked in with out missing a step.  Her ground manners are excellent, and I just get this "please love me" feeling from her.

Got home, and snapped a few pictures of her for my records.  Moon, as we call her, should be a black and white tobiano, but currently she's kinda tan/poo brown and white.  She's thin, but her hooves were recently trimmed.  And she's covered in rain rot.

Yeah, in Texas, where we are in the middle of a horrible drought, she has rain rot.  And sun burn.  And did I mention that she's thin?  I'm also thinking she may very well be pregnant.

But besides those LITTLE problems, she's a complete angel!  She's a bit long in the body, but not as bad as the pictures make it seem.  We didn't really bother to stand her up all nice for a conformation shot or anything.  Mostly we just wanted to document all 4 sides.  So forgive my bad distracting backgrounds.

I also wanted to make sure that I have records of her improvement in weight.  My "concerned party" who lives next door, just loves to call Animal Control on me.  This mare is skinny.  She's not "I'm about to die" skinny, but I am not seeing anything extra on her at all.  Tomorrow we start the deworming process, then the sand clearing process, and the whole time we will be refeeding her and treating her rain rot.

And Moon thinks she's in Heaven.  The whole time I bathed her, she didn't know if she should be excited, freaking out, or melting in my arms.  She wavered between all 3.  She whinnied to the other horses, she woudl stand up and look all around, and then put her head in my arms for love and more of that scratching thing.  She isn't really a fan of treats, but she loves to be talked to sweetly.  And she has the best manners!

We trimmed her mane and tail up already.  Yeah, I will likely end up shaving off her mane (it's in bad shape, and I think starting over might give the best results) but I think horses just feel better when they are kept groomed.  Just like the perfect little black dress makes a woman feel pretty, a bit of pampering makes a horse feel loved, and Moon deserves to be VERY loved.

I know she's broke (the first picture up there shows her racing) but it's been a while since she's been ridden.  Once we get her back to weight, we need to get her back in shape, and then we will begin to retrain her.  I am betting it won't be hard to get saddle time on this girl!

Next week I will begin tracking down her APHA records.  I would love to see how many times she was raced (she earned a ROM) and how she placed.  I also want to see how many foals she has had, and when.  Who knows, maybe she has other show points back there some where, or an owner who is searching for her from the past.  I will check all of that, and see what there is to see.

Because she appears to have lost a lot of weight rather fast, I am treating her as if she has not had steady grain for a while, and putting her on a refeeding program.  I'm not sure that this is the case, but I do know that the other horses were bullying her.  She will get lots of small meals through out the day for a while, until we can "work her up" to only 3 meals a day.  In about a month, I will have her ultra sounded/palpated (vet's decision on which) and have her teeth checked.  Vaccines will be scheduled based on the state of pregnancy (or hopefully lack thereof).

Fixing up a horse is rarely a quick thing, but I find that it is always a rewarding thing.  She will be offered for sale into an approved home, and she will be trained up for our lesson program.  I'm not sure which will be her future, and who knows, it could be some part of both.  To me it doesn't matter.  This mare just screams greatness.  She may not be the next conformation champion, but she's a saint.  I can totally see this horse packing around an adult novice rider, and doing her best to protect her rider and keep her stable and safe.  I just envision Moon happily munching apples in a green yard with ribbons in her hair, and crazy color matched halter and polo wraps.  This is the type of personality Moon is showing me.

Who knows, with an extra hundred pounds, that could change, but I will bet money that the sweet kind look in her eye will stay.

I thought previously that I was going to be taking on an appaloosa stallion, but he was placed with a family (YAY) before he ever arrived.  Instead, I now have Moon.  Sometimes things are meant to be, and I simply adore this girl already!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It was a Manic Monday, with good news

This is Melody shown at her first time to carry a rider (ok, seconds before I first climbed on).  She was actually the very first foal born here, and one of our test crosses for "The Polecat" (aka Spot).  She's more refined then I like, was born with an umbilical hernia, and short.  She's lovely, has great gaits, and the most amazing personality though.

Well, she was sold into one of our extended families.  Kris now cares for her, and she is owned by a lovely 10 year old named Rachel.  We call her Ojo since we have a few Rachels. 

A while back (2 weeks now?) Mel managed to find a long buried metal post in her paddock.  The drought has turned the dirt to powder, and things that once were hidden are now beginning to be hazards. So, of course Mel cut her left hind pastern to bits.  It appeared that she missed all of the important things - well at first it did.

We did make one mistake.  I didn't recommend a penicillin injection.  I should have.  Instead, we treated the wound, counted ourselves lucky that nothing structural was involved, and started the healing process.  Because Kris works all day, and only has a single pasture with multiple horses, Mel came to Iron Ridge for care, a small turn out, and daily bandage changes.  For a week all was perfect.  She healed amazingly, and in fact, she healed up too fast.  The laceration closed, and began scaring, but inside was a very tiny bit of infection.  After the first week, she began to show signs of discomfort on the foot.  An abscess was suspected, so soaking began.  The abscess ruptured the very next day, and she began to improve slightly.  Then she stopped improving, and another rupture was found.  Last Tuesday, she had a 3rd rupture leaking very gross stuff.  Through out this time, we had been bandaging, soaking, scrubbing, and all of that. 

Friday evening, when I went to change her bandage, I noticed what appeared to be joint fluid (sticky yellow clearish fluid) draining from the upper most rupture hole.  Uh oh.  The vet came to check her out the next morning, and we started our emotional roller coaster.  It appeared that the tendon sheath was infected.  Now, I am not the most experienced with joint or tendon infections, so I'm going to try to get this as close to accurate as I can.

It seems that in the joint cavity, and inside the tendon sheath there is no blood flow, only joint fluid.  Because of this, oral and injectable antibiotics will not reach that spot, so they are completely ineffective.  Mel had a tendon on the outside of her pastern that was obviously swollen, she was not bearing any weight on the leg, and it was hot and very puffy.  Prognosis: poor.  The vet gave her only a 20% chance of full recovery.  Euthanasia was a viable option.

Because she seemed happy, and content, and this is a little girl's horse, her owner opted to treat her for the weekend, allow her young owner to love her and say good bye, and hope things made a turn for the better.  The vet did recommend this option.  The other option was a $5000.00 surgery, with not much higher of a success rate!

Being a bit forward thinking, and realizing that the horse is likely not going to make it with out serious intervention, Dr. G suggested we use a certain drug off lable.  In other words, it might help, wouldn't hurt, but this isn't exactly what the drug was made to do.

CleanTrx was designed for deep punctures.  It draws out the infection while wicking up antibiotics.  Teh chances of it actually reaching up into the tendon sheath were slim, but it was definitely worth the long shot!  Saturday evening, we cleaned her foot, and prepared the solution.  She soaked in CleanTrx for an hour, then we "vaporized" it for an hour (covered in an OB sleeve, and taped/wrapped it up) and then rebandaged with padding to absorb the drainage.

The stuff we pulled out of there was disgusting!  The once clear fluid was yellow and murky.  After vaporizing her leg, the OB sleeve was filled with more of it.  The swelling was down on her leg, and she was starting to put weight on the toe.  I bandaged her up, bedded her deeply, and hoped like mad that it would work.

The next morning her owners were coming to visit.  I walked into the barn, and almost cried when I didn't see her topline over the stall side.  My heart skipped a beat.  I have had so much bad news lately, that I was certain this would not end well, and I knew I just couldn't take another loss.  Even though Mel is no longer "my" horse, she's still one of my babies!

Imagine my shock when I walked to the door, and saw her laying there just as happy as could be.  Melody looked so rested, and content.  She was bright eyed, and nickered at me!  I walked in, petted her, and was able to breathe again!  Not out of the woods, but she was still hanging in there.  In my heart I was preparing to say goodbye to her, but I didn't want her to suffer.  My greatest fear was that overnight she would take a bad turn.  I mean, Hex was fine the last time I looked at her, only to find her dead mere hours later.

When I got her morning grain, Melody hopped up quickly, and hobbled over to her bucket.  From there, we began her doctoring.  2 injections, oral bute, and assess the bandage.  Her bandage was good, so she got to keep it on the rest of the day (if wet, soaked through, or falling off I was to change it).  Later, Mel was taken out, and we all smiled at seeing her trying to bear weight on that leg, and rejoiced at her "I'm fine" attitude.

Sunday night I went to give Mel her evening meds, and found her down.  Again, I prepared to panic.  She was flat out!  Then I heard it.... a soft snore.  The poor baby was really asleep, and snoozing hard.  I walked into her stall quietly, and felt so bad when i startled her.  She rolled up, looked around, and hopped to her feet.  I figured that since I had already woken her up, I would do her check, and stick her with more penicillin.  Poor thing, she was SO tired of shots already, but was a good girl.  As I was cleaning up, preparing to head in for the night, I heard a groan.  I look over, and she's laying down again, stretching out.  The whole attitude was that she finally felt good enough to rest easily.  I smiled, and headed in.

Monday morning, I woke fearing the worst.  Like I said, I did not expect this to end well, and Monday was an evaluation day.  If the vet didn't think that we were headed in the right direction, we were likely going to schedule her euthanasia.  I rushed to the barn, still in my jammies, and found Mel drinking.  She took one look at me, nickered, and headed to her grain bucket.  That's when I saw the most beautiful thing.  She was resting the good leg, and holding her weight on the bad leg for seconds at a time.  It wasn't much, but it was progress!  I checked her bandage, and was stunned.  The swelling had gone down so much, that her bandage had slipped down her leg and was bunching up!

I removed the bandage, and headed in to find some clothes.  I figured that the swelling was down so much because the crumpled bandage had constructed her leg.  I pulled up her meds, and went out to begin my morning routine.  When I got back, I noticed that her leg was a bit swollen still, but ONLY where the laceration was.  her cannon bone was clean and dry, and completely normal looking.  The bandage had been off for almost 30 minutes at this point.

We finished feeding the herd, and I headed in to start making calls.  Played a bit of phone tag with the vet, and he was pleasantly surprised at what I told him (via his wife/office manager).  She called back to let me know that the odds had changed.

Dr. G wanted to do a limb profusion, and clean out the laceration, abscess site, and fill it all up with antibiotics.  With her drastic changes in comfort level, and the reduced swelling, he felt confident that if we did this, that Melody would have an 80% chance of full recovery.  He did mention that complications from healing could leave her gait less then perfect, but she would be riding sound, just not show horse perfect.  Hell, I thought, that's fine!

Called Kris, talked it over.  Called Betsy, talked it over.  Every one is on the same page, and the appointment was made.  I did a bad thing, and didn't even bother asking Leah if I could use her trailer (nice low step) because I figured that saving the horse meant a "yes" from her.  Hooked up, and Melody loaded right up and out a second thought.  I drove slowly, and tried to avoid the nasty bumps on that road, but it was still a rough trip for the 3 legged horse in the back.  Betsy and Ojo rode with us, and wanted to be there to drop Mel off for her procedure (in case that was their last moment with her).  We were all still nervous and worried that once he got into her leg, we would have nothing but bad news.  The decision was made that if it was bad, then she was not to come out of the anesthesia.  We left her there, and went home to hope, pray, cuss ,cry, and do all of the normal things you do when one of your pets is hurt.

I got in a couple of rides while waiting.  Lady was a complete saint for me.  She knew I was distracted, and stressed, so she worked perfectly.  I couldn't have asked for a better session with her.  Walk, trot, canter, trot, walk, halt.  Right on.  She needed me to hold her up at the canter, and her trot is on and off still (she fall on her forehand at times) but her mind was totally with me.  Kissed her, hugged her, and thanked her for being so good.  I mean, she barely even wiggled (for her) while being tacked up!

So, around 3:45, my phone rings.  I expected it to be Kris... but caller ID said it was the vet.  I'm thinking "oh crap".  I answered. 

"Well, it went better then expected, she's going to be fine".

I almost cried.  Evidently, the infection was not necessarily inside the tendon sheath, but OUTSIDE it.  her saw irritation in the joint and tendon, but no signs of infection inside.  He did clean and soak everything with antibiotics though.  The most obvious source of pain though was that the back third of her hoof had been compromised by the abscess.  He cut it away, and bandaged it, leaving a gaping hole that I must fill with cotton soaked in iodine tincture/formaldehyde.  Gross stuff, but it will strengthen the foot, and allow it to be structurally sound faster.  He said that the CleanTrx appears to have pulled everything out, but he had concerns about additional infection because Mel was just healing too fast.  The flapping and jagged edges of the inside of her foot likely was what prevented her from being able to bear total weight on that leg.

Prognosis: great!  100% chance of full recovery.  We picked her up, and headed home.  Mel is on stall rest with hand walking for the next 2 weeks.  The bandage can NOT get wet at all (and it's going to rain soon I think).  Besides that though, we have nothing more to worry about.  A couple of weeks of antibiotics, and some time to regrow the hoof, and she will be back to normal - including her amazing show stopping gaits!

I used older pictures of her for this, as I'm sure most of you do not want to see images of pus and ooze and raw flesh.  ICK!  But, now that she's happy and sporting her pretty purple bandage, I will start taking some more.  I'm so happy!

I can't explain how nice it feels to have a good outcome.  I was so worried about her, and thinking that I would soon be burying another loved animal.  Knowing that she's out of the woods, and WILL heal, is about the greatest relief that I know.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago Today, The Towers Fell.

The alarm went off early that morning.  I had to be at work by 8am, and I'm so good at being late.  But that morning I couldn't be late.  Dr. P was out of town, and it was Susan's morning off.  In other words, I would be the only one at the clinic that morning.  We had a couple of patients from the day before; spays and neuters that stayed overnight to recover from the anesthesia.  I had to be on time, because they had to be fed, watered, and walked.

I drove about an hour to work every day, and I remember that it was a lovely morning.  My windows were down, the late summer air smelled good.  I can't remember if it was fresh cut grass or flowers, but I remember thinking it smelled very nice as I drove through the countryside.  I had the radio going, and had almost sucked back the whole cup of coffee, but that was ok, since I would make a fresh pot as soon as I got in to work. 

Morning radio is always nothing but talk.  Not enough music, and too much yapping, but it was better then driving in silence.  I'm not a morning person.  Silence makes me want to crawl back in bed.  So when I heard the guys talking about some tragedy, I didn't really pay too much attention.  It's morning DJs, a "tragedy" could be anything from spandex on the wrong woman, to the music awards.

Then I heard the sound for the "breaking news" cast.  Some jingle, or intro voice over.  I can't recall, but I did turn up the radio.  The anchor was talking about a plane hitting the World Trade Center.  Ok, so this has happened before.  I expected a days news cycle dedicated to some stupid punk teenager with a new pilots license, and was hoping that there was minimal loss of life.  The anchor mentioned that reports on the type of plane were inconsistent, with some saying it was a cesna, and others a 747. 

Now, my brother is a pilot.  I've flown in a Cesna.  They aren't exactly big.  How you could have such widely varying descriptions boggled my mind.  I turned up the radio again, and rolled up the windows.  A few seconds later, he announced that it was a large commercial plane, followed almost immediately with the news of the second plane hitting the tower.

At just that moment, I pulled into the clinic.  I needed to open the gates, so I could drive through, but I didn't want to miss the news.  I rolled down the windows, cranked the stereo, and scurried out of the car.  As I fumbled with the gate, they confirmed that it was a commercial flight.  The guys on the radio gasped in shock at the thought that this could be an attack, and not just an accident.  I got back in, and drove up close to the door, so I would miss as little news as possible.

My Uncle works there you see.  Not in the big WTC buildings, but at another smaller building just below them.  I wasn't sure how close, but I knew that it was too close for my comfort. 

As the news poured in, I walked dogs, fed the patients, and listened closely to all the speculation.  I heard about the Pentagon, and flight 93 being lost.  I listened to speculation about Russians, and Air Traffic Control problems.  Every one had a theory, and every one was willing to share.

They closed the skies.  No planes allowed to fly over the USA.  Working within mere miles of an airport (Alliance carries packages, not people for the most part) I was stunned when I saw military planes over head.  They were making sweeps it looked like.  But we're out here in the middle of NO where.  About the only thing important in the area was the Texas Motor Speedway.... which was not even holding an event.

Later I learned that some small plane pilot wasn't quick enough to land.  He was "informed" that nothing in the air meant him as well.  I bet he crapped his pants when a couple of F 16s (or what ever they are) gave him an escort!

But hearing the news on the radio is very different then seeing the visions of the burning towers, and all the tragedy that went with that.

My friends called me.  My family called.  My clients called too.  Every one checked on everyone that day.  I have to admit, I couldn't understand the client who came in weeping.  She had never been to New York.  Didn't know anyone in New York.  Didn't even really know what the World Trade Center buildings were.  But they were falling, and she was in tears. 

My brother was chosen to call my uncle's family.  We knew he'd be busy, and not able to respond, but at least if we got in touch with his wife, we'd know if he was ok.  It made more sense for one person to call then all of us, so my brother was chosen.

Uncle John was supposed to have been on vacation that day.  He had slept in, had a wonderful breakfast, and then heard the news.  Of course, he had to head to work.  He's an FBI agent.  He was needed to help.

When my shift was done, I headed to a friend's house.  I walked in, and asked to see the news.  Craig turned it on, and Laura yelled from the kitchen that she was sick of watching that crap.  She came around the corner, and I appologized, and told her I hadn't seen a thing all day.  Trapped in a vet clinic with no TV, I couldn't wrap my mind around the idea that those 2 very large, very strong buildings had fallen.  

Laura on the other hand, had been working at the hospital all day.  Every room she walked in, every patient she cared for, every human who was aware of what was happening had been watching it.  A million channels, a million opinions, and she had been innundated with it all for hours on end.  We sat and watched for a bit, and I saw the replay.  When they said the towers collapsed, they meant it.  I had invisioned a chunk falling off, or holes in the walls.  Complete rubble was beyond what my mind could grasp.

Days later, I saw more coverage.  I learned about the people jumping from the windows in a vain last attempt to live.  I heard the stories of the brave firemen, policemen, and so many strangers who all did what they could to help their fellow man.  I saw grey.  Shades of grey on everything.  From the dust on the streets, to the pallor in the faces of those who had lost loved ones.  All of New York was just shades of grey.

I remember hearing one reporter comment on how at that moment, there was no racism.  Everyone was the same, covered in the dust of the twin towers.  Everyone was lost, everyone was scared, and everyone, for the first time in a city as culturally diverse as New York City, was the same.  Think about that for a second.

It's not just that hard times make us as a people pull together.  It's that hard times make us forget about the little things that really don't matter.  Who you're married to, what god you pray to, and how much pigment is in your skin are all rather minor things.

Today is the tenth anniversary of that tragedy.  We as a nation swore we would remember.  We promised to never forget.  It's not just about where you were, or what you were doing at the moment the towers fell.  It's more then that.  So many lives were lost, and the only thing we can give to their memories is our promise to be better then we were before.  To be true Americans and to love other Americans, even if they don't think the same as you.  Because in reality, that's what makes us so great.  So Powerful.  And so terrifying to those who would bring us down.

The terrorists will never win, because the freedom to be an individual is the most potent weapon on earth, and THAT is what this country is all about.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

It's not getting any better

First I lost Hex to colic.  A little Sand Clear resulted in a little sand colic.  She was recovering, and seemed to be improving.  When I went out to check her again, she was dead.

 Then, upon hearing of Hex's death, my mother suffered a rare condition called Transient Global Amnesia.  She lost all memories of the day, and still has some short term memory loss.  I worried that my mother had suffered a stroke, aneurysm, or potentially had a brain tumor.  Mom is still suffering with anxiety and depression over the stress of not being able to use her mind like she wants to.

Yesterday morning we found that Rowdy had passed away in her sleep.  We knew that we were killing her with kindness for the last few years, but I didn't expect her to go quite so soon.  I'm not sure if you can ever be ready for it though.

And now

Melody cut herself on her left hind.  At first, it appeared to be a severe but non threatening laceration.  She was weight bearing at first, then suddenly became lame.  Her condition is not improving, and the vet suspects an infection of the tendon sheath.  Prognosis: poor.  We're trying a course of treatment for a couple of days, and just hoping that it works.  

Melody was born at Iron Ridge, and is now owned by an adorable young lady named Rachel, or Ojo (because we have a couple of Rachels) as we call her.  Ojo is 10, and this is her first horse.  She has only owned Melody about 6 months, and is currently learning to ride.  When Mel hurt her leg, I gladly agreed to haul her up here, and do the bandaging and soaking, and hydro, and medicating.  All the good things that come with leg injuries.  Last night, she began to weep a fluid that did not look like pus (she has an abscess on top of all this) so today we had the vet come out.  He is very concerned that the infection is in the tendon sheath.  

As there is no blood flow inside the tendon sheath, there's no way to get antibiotics there except for surgical methods.  Because of the abscess, we are hoping that a specific medicine can be wicked up, and into the tendon sheath, via the abscess cavity, carrying the necessary antibiotics with it.  It's a long shot, but it's a hope.  Joint, tendon, and tendon sheath infections are very serious, and often result in euthanasia.

She may no longer be my horse, but I still adore her.  She's now the love of a little girl's life, and Ojo loves her.  Kris, her care taker is being forced to make some very difficult decisions, and have some very horrible talks with a young girl who should never have to experience this.  So, if you're religious, please pray for Melody and her people.  If you're not, please cross your fingers for her and her people.  

And me.  I'm ready for a happy ending!  I thought bad things came in 3s, not 4!  I am pretty sure I can't take much more of this.  We all do what we have to do, but could fate please toss me a bone already?  I'm sitting here thinking about how hard I work to keep them all healthy, to do the right thing for every animal and person I know, and yet things don't always work out like we want.  Yet, how many people out there never treat a wound, never worry about sand in the guts, never could be bothered to medicate a dog twice a day, and end up having the best possible outcomes.  It's not fair, and I'm upset enough to be childish about it.  I just don't want to see a young girl's heart broken.  I can take it, I'm mature enough to understand.  But I'm not sure I can handle the emotional turmoil of seeing this poor girl go through this.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Rowdy - the story of a good dog

In 2005, I was the Executive Director for Noah's Ark CARE, as well as a foster home for dogs.  Our President and Vet called me one day, and asked if I would be willing to go pick up a dog.  Reports were that she was starving, left to run loose, and being attacked by other dogs.  The owner didn't want to surrender her, but would give her to a good home.  Evidently, she didn't want her to be put in the foster system.

So, I went and I told what I thought was a lie.  My story was that I wanted a companion for my Rottie male.  He has hip dysplasia, and needs a buddy who is submissive, and kind.  The owner agreed to let me meet the dog, so I drove over.

When I arrived, I saw this fumbling franken dog.  Her feet were too big, her legs too slim, her belly was huge, but her sholder was dainty.  Over all that though, I fell in love with her "teddy bear" eyes.  She had the biggest sweetest kindest eyes of any dog I have met.  Before I even met the owner, the dog spotted me, and came running across the pasture to get attention.  When I reached down to pet her, I felt nothing but skin and bones.

The dog's name was Rowdy.  The owner bred agility Australian Shepherds, and had 11 dogs of her own.  Rowdy had been her husband's dog, but her husband had passed away a year before.  She was "about 4 or so" years old.  I took her home, thinking the whole time that this dog was lucky to still be up and moving.  She was so skinny, but it was hidden under her long winter hair.

At that time I lived in an above the garage apartment, on the second floor.  To get Rowdy inside, we had to go up the stairs.  Rowdy didn't get the whole idea of stairs, so I had to carry her.  I wasn't sure I would be able to carry a Rottweiler cross up a flight of stairs, but then I picked her up.  I lifted her easily, and would guess her weight to be around 35 to 40 pounds.  There was loose skin, and her hair was dry and disgusting, but under all that was sharp bones and angles.  There was no DOG to this dog!

Of course, the first thing I wanted to do was assess her health.  If she had a medical problem that lead to the weight loss, we needed to get that addressed quickly.  This poor thing didn't have a lot of time left at this weight.  I offered her a small bowl of wet food.  A proper amount for a starving dog.  Her reaction was the most shocking.

She didn't dive in like most starving dogs.  Instead, she backed away scared.  She was terrified of Suzie, my mature rottie - and experienced foster dog rehabilitator - even though Suzie was simply laying on the bed looking at her.  I moved her food to a corner, and stood "guard" to see what she would do.  That was what she needed.  Once she felt secure, she scarfed that food up in seconds.  Through out the next few weeks we fed her small amounts many times each day, and she began to fill in.  I also realized that much of her problem wasn't just being submissive.... some one had beat this dog severely.

A few days after she arrived, my cat knocked over a glass next to my computer.  I leaped up, shouting "NO!" at the cat.  A few feet away, Rowdy was moving across the room.  When I yelled, she threw herself on her side, and began to urinate.  Submissive urination it's called, and usually stops by the time a dog is 2 years old, and mature.  For a 4 year old dog to do that was odd.  But when I actually LOOKED at her, that was the worst.

Rowdy was terrified!  I yelled, and she was sure that her world was about to end.  She lay there in fear, shivering, and wide eyed.  When I walked over to reassure her, she flinched from my presence, and whimpered just before I touched her.

Jae arrived only a few weeks after Rowdy did, and the bond was immediate.  She loved him, and he was so smitten with her.  But if he moved to fast, she would throw herself belly up and urinate.  We learned to use other words besides "no" in her presence, because any sternness with that word, and she would panic.

It took us awhile, but she soon learned that punishment was a stern voice, and not a hard hit.  But her problems weren't over.  As she gained weight, other health issues began to show up.  First it was her hips.  Her range of motion wasn't right.  When she was checked out, it was determined that she has hip dysplasia.  It was minor, and not unexpected in a dog of such "quality" breeding, but arthritis had already started to set in, and was affecting her mobility.  Shortly after that, her knees began to show problems.  She had an old ACL tear in both hind legs, with her left being the worse.  We discussed surgery, but it was decided that we needed to get her to full weight first.  The unspoken understanding was that with multiple medical issues, her adoption chances were low.

My rescue is not a non-kill rescue.  Rather, we took over the city pound, which meant that many dogs coming into the rescue were seriously hurt (hit by car, etc) or had aggression issues that make them unadoptable.  Because the rescue was the city pound, we had certain legal obligations that meant some dogs just couldn't be adopted out for liability issues.  Many of those we placed in no-kill rescues, but others were humanely euthanized.  Rowdy was on a path to the last.

But Jae loved her.  He was completely smitten with her, and hadn't had a dog of his own in so long.  The first time I had mentioned that we could probably list her for adoption soon, he asked me to put it off.  When it began to look like she wouldn't be adoptable, he didn't say a thing, but his whole body said that he dreaded the thought of his baby girl being put to sleep.  When we learned that her hips AND knees were bad, I made the "offhand" comment that I had a pack of "broken" dogs, we'd be a good home for something like her.  Of course, I had 4 dogs at that time.  One was blind, and one had severe hip dysplasia, one was old, and the last was perfectly healthy.  Rowdy would fit right in, wouldn't she?

Jae lept on that.  He never would SAY it, but I could tell that he wanted this dog.  Yet, 5 dogs is a LOT of dog.  I reminded him that 2 of those dogs were seniors.  Calvin was an 9 year old Rottweiler - a breed that is only expected to live to be 8, and Hobbes was 11.  Little did I know that Calvin would live to be 14, and Hobbes was a lively 17.

So when Rowdy was at her proper and healthy weight, and the seizures started, the decision was easy.  She was Jae's dog officially. 

The seizures started mildly.  A twitch here, something strange overnight there.  But they got more frequent and stronger.  It took a while before we actually saw a seizure thought.  We just knew something wasn't right.  Rowdy would wander into the other room, and come back dazed.  We would wake up to her scratching the wall, and find her sitting up dazed.  But then, she seized in front of Jae.  That seizure would have been considered "strong" but looking back it was one of her "little ones".  She had a 15 second grand maul seizure.  As she came out of the seizure, she began snapping at anything that touched her.  The chair, the floor, it didn't matter, she was scared, and reacting. 

Rowdy was put on Phenobarbital, which helped but didn't completely stop the seizures.  After the required time, we did blood work, and raised her dose.  That made no change, so we repeated the process 4 times, until we were mostly controlling the seizures. At this time, it was found that her seizures were caused by an old brain injury.  Trauma to the back of her head.  From her history, reactions, and medical diagnosis, we are pretty sure that she was kicked hard in the back of the head (amongst other places).  This poor dog was suffering from the "love" her people had given her in the past.

Over the next 5 years her seizures became a challenge to battle.  From 1 phenobarb twice daily, to 2, then up to 3.  When she still had breakthrough seizures, we added potassium bromide.  When she STILL had breakthrough seizures, we tested her thyroid, and found that out of whack, and added more meds.  Every morning and evening Rowdy got 4 pills.  If we missed her meds, she came and told us.  She had a small pharmacy of her own.

But it was worth it.  Once she learned what real love is, Rowdy gave it with out question.  She would lay next to one of us, and just look up at us for hours, as happy as could be.  She wanted nothing more then simply to have a hand on her head.  Her body failed her, so she was never an active dog, but she made sure to get her attention when ever she wanted it.  If you ignored her, she would "sing" until you would love her.  When she was bad (she loved to get into the garbage!) a simple "no" would make her sulk, but she no longer feared punishment.  And a truck ride was the best thing in the world!

Never mind that she couldn't get IN the truck on her own.  Jae had to lift her in.  Her ideal weight was around 85 pounds, but her broken body, and an effect of all her medication meant that she was always over weight.  Rowdy averaged 94 pounds, and spent much of her life on a diet.  We tried to keep her weight down, knowing that it was best for her joints, but some how she just stayed fat.  I always said that at least she had enough food to BE fat, and hoped that she had forgotten the time in her life when she survived on dropped horse food, and scavenged cow poop.

And Rowdy was a hoarder.  She would steal dirty clothes from the hamper, and cuddle them all night.  She would grab a spoon or fork from a plate, and "bury" it in the sofa.  But dirty clothes were her favorite.  I would wake up at night to some noise, only to find that she was rummaging through the hamper looking for something special.  Dirty socks, sweaty shirts.  The stinkier the better!  Then she would go back for another until she had made a bed of dirty clothes, and fall asleep covered in the smells of her people.

I always said though, that we were killing her kindly.  Between her medications, her lack of exercise, and her weight problem, she would never live to a ripe old age, but I hoped that her life would be good.  Last night, she wasn't quite right.  She kept trying to choke.  Not constantly, but enough that I noticed it, and thought I might have the vet see her today.  She seemed to want attention, so I sat on the floor and loved on her.  She ate it up.  When I went to bed, she was laying at the foot of the bed looking up at me.  I leaned over and petted her again, and she seemed like it made her happy.  She sighed contentedly and went to sleep.

When we woke up this morning, she was dead.  She passed away in her sleep, laying on my dirty blanket, with her head on Jae's dirty shirt.  She was about 10 years old, maybe more, and 6 of those years she knew love.  I will miss her.  She will be buried at home, with our other beloved pets, and forever have a place in my heart.  Rowdy taught me that no matter how bad things were, you should always look at the good in life.  She loved unconditionally, and lived for the little things in life.  She was all that a good dog should be.  I didn't expect to lose her so soon, but I knew that I wouldn't have that much time left with her.  Looking back, I'm just glad that I talked myself into keep "just one more".  She was so worth it.
Rowdy in her favorite place, head on my shoe, dirty towel close by, and where everyone has to pass by her.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Thinning the herd and thinking out loud

Ok, so as many of you know, I'm working on moving completely away from light horses (you know, the normal sized horse) and into drafts and draft crosses.  That means horses like Doodles here will be up fr sale into the right homes.  A perfect match for my light horses is more important right now to me then the price.  Now with that said, I have a few with babies in the belly who won't be listed until I see what they have foaled.

See, I have all of these horses for a reason, and that reason is to bring some genetic diversity into the Sugarbush Drafts, as well as a few specific traits, most of which are not color (but ok, getting the leopard gene back, is also on my list of "to do").

But that leaves me with 26 horses, and only 5 on my sales list!  I'm baffled.  Granted, some, like Doodles, are not listed, but only for sale to a home that is willing to deal with his ulcers.  Ash and Keeley are in that number (26 horses I own) but they will never leave me.  I refuse to sell an aged horse!  Those lady earned their retirement here, and can live out their days costing me money all they want.  I owe it to them!

But, I see the writing on the wall.  A severe drought in Texas.  An economy that is not rebounding as nicely as any of us would like, and might even take another nose dive.  And of course, a huge excess of horses on the market.  So this leaves me in a conundrum.

I know that horse prices are in the tank.  I also know that I have some lovely horses!  The problem is (And Doodles is my "poster boy" today, because he's just a perfect example) on paper these horses aren't impressive.  Doodles is a grade.  We believe that he's an unregistered paint, he was purchased by a friend at auction at 13 months of age.  She was with a friend, had no plans to buy a horse, but the only bidder on him was the kill buyer.  My father purchased him from her, and we've raised him, trained him, and loved him since.  He's now 11 years old.  In that time, this horse has been trained to do most everything, but he will never be good at much more then taking care of his rider.  At that though, he excells!

Doodles is about as bomb proof as I have ever seen in a horse.  I can't even remember the last time he spooked.  I think he was 5.  He's pretty, he's social, he's just about perfect as a kid or husband's horse, but has the will to be a part time competitor as well.... if you don't care about being in the money.  Doodles lives for a "good boy".

My father has tacked him up with his bridle on upside down, and headed down the trail, and Doodles didn't care.  Oh sure, he got a bit confused at what was asked of him, but he sure tried to figure it out!  He's taught countless kids, and their parents to ride, he will go where pointed, and stop when asked, and do no more then flick an ear at one of those horse eating wal-mart bags flapping towards him on a breeze.  In other words, this horse's training and personality is worth a small fortune.  And yet.... I can't seem to figure out a safe way to market that, and get him in a home where he will be appreciated, because I refuse to sell him with out disclosing his medical condition.  Ulcers.  Easily managed by just giving him a cheap powder (Ulcer Aid) on his feed, and not changing his herd around every other day.

And then I look at my other horses.  Tori, who will be excellent one day, but currently resembles a mule.  She has all the right bits, just they aren't growing in the right order.  She's 2.  Do I start riding her, even though she still LOOKS like a baby, and maybe stress her legs, or do I wait, and put her a bit behind the curve on training?  I could show her, but that's a complete money sink for a horse in a breed that I'm getting out of.

Phoenix I am starting under saddle shortly (she's started the ground work for it) and she IS a performance type of personality, but that means that she's not going to be a good horse for everyone.  She's um.... intense.  A good intermediate horse, but a BAD novice owner's horse.  And a timid owner?  She'd walk all over them, and turn into the spawn of Satan. Most of the horses I'm working right now are older, and my keepers.  Backing 3 year olds, finishing the 4 year olds, and keeping the training up on the rest.

So, my point is, that I know I should be selling, and selling fast.  Just move them!  But I can't bring myself to do that and sleep at night.  I can afford them, but I don't necessarily have the TIME for them.  So what is more fair, toss them into a home where they get some attention, even if it's not the best, or take my time selling them, and be picky?  As you can see, money is not one of my considerations.

I've already come to the conclusion that I'm going to lose my shirt on any light horse I have.  Looking at the market, horses are going for $200 to $500 bucks.  I can't put a foal on the ground for less then $1000!  Well, I suppose I could, but I won't.  I want to make sure the mares are cared for, the vaccines are given, and all those important things like that.

So this brings me back to my pondering.  Is it right to buy horses from the people who do it wrong?  Granted, not all people selling a cheap horse are doing it wrong, but the breeders pumping out $500 babies ARE.  There's no way they cared for their mares properly, let alone the sucklings.  If they did, they wouldn't still be breeding!  It's not exactly a cheap thing to do.  If we keep buying horses from those who pop out baby after baby, and never mind things like vet care, then aren't we just encouraging them to do it again next year?  But, why would anyone want to spend more then they have to?  And some of those babies end up kinda nice looking.  When you think about it, halter training a weanling isn't that much work, especially if you're looking at the long run, and a few grand off the top means more money for later in life.

I sell horses for the average horse owner.  I produce good conformation, often color, and simply amazing minds.  It's not uncommon for new people to the farm to ask how we get them all to come up to see us, or comment on how friendly and well mannered they ALL are.  Oh sure, I could cut down on the time and effort I put in, and pop out loud colored foals for a few hundred bucks.... but I wouldn't sleep at night!

So, while I know I'm slimming my herd down, I'm not real sure how I'm going to do it.  I also am not really sure how big of a breeding herd I want to keep for the future, even if they are all producing Sugarbush Draft Horses.  Ironically, the tendency to only breed for what the market can support is what brought the Sugarbush Draft Horses so close to extinction.  I can easily handle 4 foals each year, and the training for those horses for up to 5 years.  That gives me wonderful well mannered broke SDHR horses to sell in the future.  I'm thinking that's the way I'm going to go.

And if I have time, space, and money left over, I'll just pick up some horses in need, put them into the Second Chance program, and help them earn themselves good homes.  Like Rover there.

Huh... it's funny how typing it out helps to make it make sense.  I think I have my plan!  Now to spend a couple of years working to get there, and putting my "extra" horses into the best homes I can.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Fall is here.... for a week at least.

Something happened in Texas recently.  It's cool out.  Highs in the 80s this week!  Let me say that again, EIGHTIES!  You know, like cooler then the 90s.

Well, lets just say that has lead to a flurry of activity.  Between the holiday weekend, the horses to work, and the wonderful weather, it's been pretty much non stop at the farm from 9am until pretty close to sundown.  I am NOT complaining.  In fact, I'm LOVING this!

So, yesterday we had Pony Party number 1.  Jae even said he was going to ride!  Yep, that's me on Boo, and Jae on Doodles.  My better half can actually put a leg on either side of the horse, and I now have photo evidence.

I've been working to get Doodles up and back into shape recently.  Doodles has ulcers, and pretty severe ulcers at that.  He has to get a supplement daily, and ideally a dose of ulcer guard monthly as well.  If not, BAD things happen.  Well, like Doodles wasting away to nothing as he suffers the pain of ulcers.  So I fight this on a pretty regular basis, and I keep thinking I'm just going to sell Doodles into a good home where he can get the attention he needs and his environment doesn't change.  You see, changing his herd is what makes his ulcers flare up.  We're a full time working horse farm.... herd changes are the norm.  BUT, I think I have him under control.  Well, for this week at least.

And I've been practicing the whole western riding thing, and teaching Doodles to neck rein.  He's trained through 1st level dressage, and we just started second level when his ulcers made us stop.  Doodles will never show because of those ulcers, but he LOVES being a lesson horse.  But, in order to assure him the best home ever, I decided that being a good western trail pony is something he also needs to know.  Now, he's an amazing little trail horse.  Sure footed, calm, mild mannered, goes out alone or in groups, but he's usually ridden English.  Well, as you can see, I'm now showing him that he can do it all in a different saddle and bridle.  He's trucking along, and he gets the concept, but it's not a habit yet.  I will say that I can make it LOOK like he neck reins, because he rides so nicely off my seat, but I'd like him to be able to carry a first time rider and neck rein.... that means nothing but neck.

Lets see, what else has been going on lately.  Chris is teaching Poko how to tolerate a less then perfect rider, and not to blow up.  Poko isn't sure about it, but he tries hard.  Of course, the day after, I have to take Poko out and remind him how to be a good lesson horse (which he has not mastered yet), but between the 2, I think we're dulling him up enough that he'll learn to take a joke and carry an intermediate rider soon.  He's great with self confident riders, but I'd like him to age into total novice riders.  Not sure it will ever happen though.   Either way, he's still a wonderful little horse, and I wish I had 3 more just like him.

On the upside, all of this work has turned that little draft cross into a tank of sheer muscle.  I don't think Poko has an ounce of fat on his body!  But to keep things "normal" (as in "life at the farm" type of normal) after his ride yesterday, he's chipped a hoof.  As I turned him out, he turned to run off, and stepped on a rock JUST right, to take one hell of a hunk out of his hoof.  It's just so dry out here that every one is chipping up, and a rock was not what he needed.  He's not lame, but it's a HUGE chunk missing. 

And Rachel has been here a couple of days this weekend.  She rode Ash yesterday, and Ash is just not quite right.  Something is aching for her, and I think it's her left front elbow.  That grey cancer is putting lumps and bumps all over her, and it's just something I have to deal with.  Now, Ash is 21, so I've been expecting to retire her soon, but I don't really want to.  I'll have to see how that turns out.  Not making any permanent decisions (since Ash will die with me, I can always saddle her up if she's able).

And Sorry Rachel, this is about the only picture I got that isn't from behind! 

But Rachel also came up today, and did a lesson with Poko on his neck reining.  She's been my western guru, and has shown me how to teach the horses to neck rein.  It's easy!  Just takes some repetition.  She tuned in Pokes, and helped with a couple of other horses, and hung out in this AMAZING weather.

Now, you might remember Cayenne, my little Orphan quarter horse that's all grown up?  Well, she's the one I traded a while back for a draft, and was returned because she was lame.  And YES she was lame in a serious way.  So, Cayenne has been getting treatment and care, and love, and all that stuff.  About 2 weeks ago, Cayenne got her first set of shoes, size 000!  They are the cutest little things I have ever seen!  Keep in mind that most of my horses are size 3 and up, but Cayenne is full grown at a true 14.0 hands - and not a smidge more.

Anyway, my little pony here is doing so good in her shoes.  She's moving out better, she's carrying herself, which allows her to remuscle her hip, and that's letting all the healing finish up.  My farrier told me 2 weeks after her shoes I was allowed to ride her, if and only if she could carry me (and all the other pros signed off).  And today I climbed back on.  First I lunged her out for 10 minutes or so, and she moved out like she felt good.  When I climbed on she was lazy, and a bit tense, but that's all.  I think it's been about 4 months since she was last ridden (when did I do that trade?  I rode her the day before) and she's a little rougher around the edges then she previously was.  She isn't neck reining so good, and she's slow on the seat and leg aids, but all in all she is calm and well natured, and tried hard.  We rode for a whopping 10 minutes or so before she got tired of carrying me.  She's just a tiny thing after all.

And then Lady.  Here's the girl out playing in the arena burning off a bit of excess energy.  It's been insanely windy the past 2 days, which of course has some of the horses a bit hyped up.  Lady of course thought that energy should best be used to show off!  We all sat around and watched her roll and play, and basically look lovely.

I can't really say that she's coming along well in her training, as she's not really at the point of getting training yet.  It's really more exercise riding, and refitting her muscles to be able to hold her.  She's kinda pudgy, and a bit soft, but she tries so hard.  I will say that this horse learns faster then most any other horse I have worked with, so that also makes it hard for me to know what I'm teaching her, and what she already knows.  I ask for something, she might try and fail once, but then she nails it from then on.

She's now lunging at all 3 speeds, when asked, and reversing when asked.  Oh sure, she makes mistakes, and will try to reverse instead of change speed, or turn in for praise instead of reverse, but the first day I lunged her she ran in a circle like a... well... an Arabian!  (I can say that... I love my arabs!).

She's got her walk/trot work down pretty good, but she tires out quickly.  What I LOVE though, is that she's nicely on the bridle.  When she was here last, Lady had a habit of going behind the vertical, and trying to rolkur herself.  We fixed that up, and now she accepts contact, and moves off nicely.  The downside is that her soft muscles make it oh so easy for her to want ME to hold her up.  As she gets tired, she gets sloppy.  If I relax the contact at all, she hollows out.  Self carriage is something we want her to have, but she's going to need hours of trot work for that.

And this week will be canter work.  I admit, I wussed out today.  With wind gusts up to 30 mph, and sand blowing in my face, and Lady acting all hyped up and ready to go, I went with a lunge lesson on finding her center of balance.  I wanted to do this anyway, but my PLAN was to finish it with a ride, to tie it all in for her... Yeah.....I didn't even lunge her as long as I wanted to.  SOMEONE got TIRED! (ok, and I was getting a bit wind burned, and sand blasted by that point).   She was huffing and puffing, and sweaty... and it was only 83 degrees!

But the great news is that she found her center of balance at the canter!  At first, when I asked for the canter, she would pick it up, but fall onto her forehand HARD.  I mean nose in the dirt type of heavy in front.  I pushed, she lifted, and then it was like a light bulb went off.  Lady realized that it's EASIER to move the way I wanted... cadenced, and lifting her shoulders.  She slowed down, she began to move from the hind, and she did this consistently.   Again though, it's so hard to know what she has already been taught, and what is new, because it only takes once, and this horse has it down.

Tomorrow, I hope to put it all together for her.  I'm betting she won't make a whole hour of canter work, but maybe if we break it up with LOTS of walk inbetween, we can get there by the end of the week.  She's just a great horse to work with, and I really like this one.  And she's easy on the eyes too!

So yeah, that's my update.  I'm back to normal, things are all falling into place around here, and my craziness from the last week is going away.  Nita is doing well, and healing up nicely (and remembering more and more each day).  This high this week is supposed to be 90, which for me, means jackets in the morning, and long days in the saddle.  I'm thrilled.  I'm just so happy, and had the BEST day today.  Here's hoping tomorrow is just as good.