Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Merry Holidays

From Miles, Chamie, and me!

We're leaving for the UP soon, but I had all Christmas day free before we had a lovely dinner at my parents, so naturally the ponies got a visit. Everyone is doing well, and Chamie seems no worse for the wear after her spill in the mud...a couple days of bute and she seems good as new, which is a relief.

SPEAKING of mud, I know it's not cool to whine on Christmas (or shortly thereafter even), but it is SO bad right now you guys. Nothing has frozen yet, and the stuff will literally suck your boots off, no matter how tightly they're laced. Nevermind me-it's just an inconvenience. The thing I hate is that neither one of my horses want to go back to their pastures after I'm done working with them. Of course, the mud is the absolute worst near the gates, and thankfully both ponies have lots of pasture to get away from the mud if they want, but UGH, I HATE having to yell, pull, and beg them to walk up to the gate, let alone get in and turn around so I can take their halters off (this step is very necessary-soon I will write the post on how Chamie backed out of the gate when I got lazy and decided to take a jaunt right up to the highway. Almost killed me, not to mention her, dead). Anyway, kvetching over!

*mud you still suck ass freeze up already*

Chamie got a good grooming in, some yummy mash to eat, and got turned back out. Nothing exciting there, but she was a happy girl. I neglected to take pictures of her because I'm a neglectful parent. Still, she's looking great, and has shed a few (needed) pounds and put on some muscle-very nice to see!

I wish I had had more time today because I really wanted to ride Miles, but it was not to be. Still, he got in a good lunge in the outdoors, where he happily cantered and bucked before settling down into a cute springy trot. I'm loving that I can lunge him without a whip, and that he's moving so very well.


Miles, looking regal after his lunging shenanigans



Looking less regal and ready for treatings


Finally, Miles and Cody, necking to R. Kelly's "Ignition" in the background. Super cute.



Hope everyone had a lovely Holiday! Mwah from Miles and Chamie and the rest of our menagerie:) This year, especially the last few months, has not been easy. Still, I can't help but feel everything is just as it should be, and with some hard work things will fall into place just as they should. Kiss all your sweet ponies for me, everyone-even if I'm not reading or commenting like I used to, I'm so thankful for the equestrian community on the interwebs-have a fabulous New Year, every one of you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chamie Goes Boom And Miles Is A Pony

It's raining. It has been raining. It will keep raining. So awesome.

No, no it's not. The mud at the barn (which is not usually a muddy place in most areas) is approaching epic proportions this winter.
Today was especially fun because I got to feed all the horses in the evening. Even with everyone behaving themselves, I was wet and muddy and annoyed afterwards.

It wasn't always so! I got to the barn around 2 pm today in a pretty ok mood, considering I've just weathered the stomach flu and falling down the stairs and bruising my ass in places I never knew could be bruised. I hadn't been out since Sunday, and 2 days in a row of not seeing my ponies is kind of unheard of these days.

Miles was more than his adorable self, cantering through the mud to see me. He was head to hoof disgusting in places not covered by his blanket, and a leeetle pushy, wanting to punish ME because his head was one giant piece of dried mud and he thought I should stand still so he could take care of the situation on my coat.

Chamie was her normal cool, calm, colleted self, except when I went to pull her blanket off. One whole side was covered in mud...not like she had rolled but like she had fallen. Great. Still, she was moving ok and all legs were cool and normal-sized. I decided today was the day we Pony.

After figuring out how to get Chamie's leadrope from the saddle (we tried a couple variations, since I was NOT mounting with her attached to begin with), things went great. I learned that I never ride Miles one handed, since he had no flipping idea what I was doing with the reins at all. Thank god he was listening to my leg aids. I also learned Chamie was not going to be the grump in this situation (I totally thought she was going to revolt at some point being so close to Miles, particularly if he pulled his Hey Baby act). No, Miles was the one putting his ears back and snaking his head. WTF? I can't say he was a bad boy, because he never did anything more than that, but I was astounded that he objected to his lady friend next to him-especially because I know he is used to "being" ponied as a former racehorse. You just never know, do you?

Anyway, I was ultimately really proud of them both, mainly because no one did anything dumb and they more or less listened to me. Unfortunately, even though I had her walking maybe 15 minutes, I noticed Chamie was bobbing her head and limping. Awesome.

I got off, of course. I checked her all over and I *think* it's her left shoulder. It's definitely her left front something. Her leg still seemed cool and ok, but she flinched ever so slightly a couple of times when I ran my hand down that shoulder. Still, no heat anywhere. I gave her some bute and debated leaving her inside tonight, but she has always looked better with a little movement (no matter how little), so I'm hoping I don't get a call from the barn tomorrow morning saying she is 3 legged lame. Poor old girl. FU Mud!


Nope, no pictures, not even one. I just had to put up some kind of post...semi-frequent blogging is a sickness. Someone should really look into it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

So Much For Keeping Them Humble

Well, looky-loo what pretty mare and handsome hunk got their very own story on Susan Salk's Off Track Thoroughbred blog?

Thank you Susan, for thinking our story is worthy of your great audience! I think Miles' head will now be too big for his bitless bridle, and Chamie may have an "I told you so" look in her eye when I see them later today.

Seriously, I love Susan's blog because she finds the story behind every horse (usually an OTTB, so it's a big deal for Chamie to infiltrate the ranks:). And every horse has a story. It is an honor to be featured!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Horse Slaughter...Here We Go

First, Blogger is my enemy and if you have seen 5 different versions of this poorly written post, well...it's out to get me today, apparently. My apologies.

Second, I want to thank Jessica at Spotty Horse News and Natalie at Retired Racehorse for helping me organize my feelings and thoughts around this very ugly and complex issue. Most of this post was written in my comments to their posts. Go read these ladies if you're not already.

Now, in regards to the issue, I am TIRED of hearing this was Obama's decision, and I am super disappointed in many rescue groups I follow on facebook that are laying this legislation in his lap. Whether you are a fan of our President or not, he isn't stupid, and to introduce "horse slaughter legislation" would be a very stupid move, especially because he has stated outright that he is against this practice. The provision was thrown in there by Congress in a HUGE Ag bill, and Obama signed the bill to keep the USDA functioning. Even if he had vetoed the bill (which would be a disaster on way more levels than I care to get into right now), his veto would have been (rightly) overturned. It was a very sneaky move by certain representatives to throw this thing in there on a holiday weekend. OK, there's my one soapbox:)

Politics aside, the other thing we need to look at are "breeding incentive" programs. I'll say it, the AQHA and other stock breed organizations are the worst offenders . There are SOOOO many crap Quarter Horses (and Paint Horses, and to a lesser extent Appaloosas...see a pattern?) being bred out there it's frigging ridiculous...these ranches that churn out hundreds of mediocre or worse foals every year, and then send their "culls" to auction as yearlings, barely handled with shit conformation, make me so angry. There is NO market for these horses...none.

The Thoroughbred industry also has some major soul searching to do. Thankfully, there are a ton of wonderful rescue organizations for OTTBs out there, and TBs as a general rule (though there are ALWAYS exceptions) are bred to win races, so they are athletic and often easy to transition into another riding discipline. Yes, I know this is not always the case, and there are many debates out there about how they are breeding horses with no hoof or whatever, but I've still found the majority of OTTBs as sound or sounder than other breeds, and they were bred to be ATHLETIC, so they can transition to almost any horse sport. Some of the mediocre stock horses being bred? I swear half of them look like they are going to fall on their face if you push them beyond a jog. Yes, I am fully aware my bias is showing right now.

I understand there is a program out there where jockeys can contribute something like one dollar of their individual race winnings to Thoroughbred retirement organizations. Hey, while were at it, why don't we ask grooms to do the same, and exercise riders! ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME. How about the frigging OWNERS and big time breeders pony up some cash for these animals that make them boatloads of money?! It would go a long way to rehabilitating the industry's image, that's for sure. And yes, I know there are very successful jockeys...but these athletes deserve every dollar they get for risking their lives in every race. It's time for the people with Real Money to do their part. I know some do...but it needs to be an industry wide standard.

I don't know all the answers. If I really trusted this US to enforce humane methods to slaughter horses, I would say, ok, yes, it's MUCH preferable to forcing these horses to travel thousands of miles to Mexico or Canada to meet their (horrific) ends. However, I don't believe it's possible to slaughter horses humanely on a mass scale, or at least I haven't seen evidence of it. I wish we still had local rendering plants, that would come to your house, put a bullet in the horse's head while they are grazing, and haul the carcass away. Awful? Yes. Humane? YES. It is easy to get self-righteous and say anyone with a horse should have the resources to euthanize said horse humanely. The fact is, however, that horses are the ones that suffer regardless. Many people desperate for money will take old Dobbin to the auction with the hope of getting a couple hundred dollars for him, rather than PAY a vet to euthanize Dobbin for hundreds of dollars out of his pocket that he probably doesn't have. I'm not interested in judging Dobbin's owner...I'm interested in keeping Dobbin from suffering for days or weeks before he is ultimately killed. Perhaps free euthanasia services would give Dobbin's owner an out that is kind to this horse he is fond of or maybe even loves. We should support such efforts-though raising money to kill horses is a tough sell.

I know some organizations are running free or low cost gelding clinics, and I think that's a great start. We HAVE to stop some of these horses from existing in the first place.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we need to look at this from a consumer health standpoint. I believe this is the most convincing argument against slaughter of all...most horses are SO not safe for consumption because of the drugs in their system, particularly TBs who have raced...they are almost guaranteed to have bute and steroids and who knows what else in their system. The same with so many older, unsound horses. Are we going to serve up possibly carcinogenic meat to people, or even carnivorous animals like our dogs or zoo animals? With all these things taken together (and notice not one of my arguments involve flowery language about how horses are noble creatures who have no business being on a dinner plate), HOW can we justify horse slaughter?

Having said all that, this old girl is MY greatest argument against horse slaughter, in the US or anywhere.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Ride In The Snow

...and I hate that I didn't bring a camera.

Miles was game, but not altogether trusting of the snow that kept falling off the buildings and trees as we rode. Still, the fact is he was waaaay more relaxed about the snow falling off the roof of the indoor arena than I was, hence our outside excursion. He was my rock as always...until after we turned back for home after a brief trail ride and he threw his head up and danced for a moment...dang if he doesn't want to explore way more than I'm ready to (at least by ourselves). Lo, that was it for shenanigans. If I was feeling braver, I would have said the hell with it and given him his head to canter back home. I'm learning slowly...he's a patient teacher. The footing seemed ok, but I still don't trust it.

(For the record, I know horses should never be encouraged to run back to the barn. With any other horse I would agree, but Miles is always most forward moving away from the barn.)

Anyway, it was a lovely day in the snow with my boy. The cold months don't seem so bad at all right now.

Happy Winter everyone. Sigh, it's here. I can't be all that upset after rides like today though.

(PS-Chamie is doing great, adjusting to 24/7 turnout with no problems at all. Stay tuned for a special write up on my ponies from one of my favorite bloggers:)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Novemberish Musings

I haven't been riding too much in the last week...a couple quick rides on Miles, which have been fine, though nothing of note-of course that boy always leaves a smile on my face, no matter what. He's been extra cute on the ground, just super affectionate and adorable, pushing his big 'ol head into my chest, leaving more slobber streaks than usual in my hair, the works...maybe he's rewarding me for the light work load:) Sorry bubs, that has more to do with hunters in the woods, crappy weather and rock-hard indoor arena surfaces than your bountiful charms. I think I'll let him take the credit though:)

Or maybe he's showing off for a certain lady...or competing for treats and scratches, who can say? I've been working a lot with Miles and Chamie on the ground together, and I have no qualms about leading them together and ponying Chamie off of Miles when the time comes. They are really cute together and I'm so happy my kids don't just tolerate but really seem to enjoy each others' company. If they weren't such opposites on the hard-keeper/air-fern spectrum, they would be great turnout buddies.

Miles is still doing well with the little Arab mare he is out with, but Chamie has a less than warm and fuzzy relationship with LaShore, Miles' old turnout buddy (they have a bromance for sure, and this is the only instance where I've EVER used that "word"). Don't get me wrong, they will graze together and there has been no naughtiness from either party-and I'm super grateful for that. Still, LaShore is "the boss", and Chamie is very cool towards him; I have to stop her from marching right out of the gate (because he wants treatings too!) when I bring her in. If he comes toward us, even innocently (at least it looks that way to this human), her ears go back and she gets out of town, or really wants to. Nevertheless, I know she is happy to be out with a horse at all, and she's got 2 sweet mares on one side of her pasture and Miles and the Arab mare on the other. LaShore really is a sweetheart, and he's not chasing her or being a jerk in any way-they can share the same hay pile and everything. I guess I'm just not used to seeing my girl at the bottom, lolz:) I'll get over it-I know horses don't take these things personally.

Here, have some pictures:



Chamie all bundled up. It's been chilly, but not COLD (by Michigan standards, of course). This day was in the 30's. I'm really trying to keep blanketing to a minimum though-she still goes in a stall at night as well.



First turnout together! In the outdoor arena-of course, Chamie just wanted to go to town on whatever pathetic grass she could get her chompers on. Miles relented, after much spinning and running and showing off-when she barely raised an eyebrow, he sighed, lowered his head, and followed suit. It was pretty hilarious.



Cute Butts!!



More Butts!! I don't know what stance she is doing here-no fluids were forthcoming.



Not the most exciting picture of my boy, but look how BEEFY he is!!! His belly is actually round! And that butt! At this point I'm thinking I may be overly concerned with my horse's bum...and don't even get me started on how gorgeous his coat is. My big, black fake-stud gentleman:)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Check Up On Your Old Horse Day

Yep, I'm making this a thing.

This whole experience with Chamie has taught me so much and given me hours of "what-ifs" to think about.

First of all, as an aside, I've found I don't have an old, sweet pasture pet. I have an old, sweet, getting stronger and sounder by the day mare who still remembers all her aids and gave me a flawless walk-canter transition under saddle on Sunday. The smile on my face didn't leave until my cheeks hurt. She was moving so well on our first ride since she came home I thought, what the hell, let's see if she will do it. She moved out like a dream. I have witnesses, y'all!

Regardless, even if I didn't feel comfortable riding her ever again, I'm so, so glad she's home. She's so frigging happy, you guys-she came cantering to see me at the gate yesterday. Her eyes are bright and she's been moving OUT on the lunge. I found her trot (as opposed to her western shuffle or wev it was she was doing at the old barn). This is after a week of all day turnout...such a difference. She's actually out with LaShore, Miles' best bud-they are both easy keepers and it makes sense while the grass is still out. Miles is with another little arab mare(!) on a much larger, lusher pasture right next door to Chamie and LaShore so he can continue to keep his fine-ass round figure. If you had told me my fake stud could go out with a mare even 6 months ago I would have called you nutty. He truly has become a different horse. A gentleman, you might say.

Digressing over! The real reason I wanted to write this post is because I want to encourage you, since you're reading this, to follow up on an old horse that has made you the equestrian you are today. It doesn't have to be a horse you owned-maybe one you leased or rode in lessons or even just hacked out with casually. A horse that gave you SOMETHING-a horse that touched your life. A horse you have lost touch with. I want you to follow up on them even if you are in no position to take said horse IF such a solution is needed.

If I hadn't kept tabs on Chamie, I don't know that she wouldn't have been put down...in her condition, it actually would not have been the worst thing, either. The thing is, even if I couldn't have taken her, I would had done my damnedest to network and find a home for her, even temporarily. I have enough connections in the community I'm pretty sure I could have found a place.

I wish her barn owners had told me years ago (or whenever shit started to go downhill as far as her care) that she was rotting in a stall all day, every day, even if her owner wouldn't relinquish her just then. I would have gone out at least once or twice a week to groom her, walk her, pay for basic hoof trimmings. I wish I had followed up when they didn't respond to my email a little less than a year ago. I wish I had gone to see her once a year (I always did have a standing invite to do so). I wish I wish I wish.

So, again, I want to challenge all of you to do so. Shoot an email, make a phone call. Make sure the horse that carted you around and taught you how to ride is ok. Make sure that horse that won you your first blue ribbon isn't being neglected. EVEN if you are in no position to do anything financially to help if, god forbid, things are not as they should be. The horse world is filled with caring souls, and most of us are on the interwebs. At the very least, you can do what I would have done had I known, yet not been able to buy Chamie back; visit the horse, give attention and love, and give BACK to these horses that have given us so much. Let the owner know you are HERE, and you care. Even if, hopefully, everything is fine now, it can make all the difference down the road.

I know it's scary. We don't want to know things are not as they should be. It hurts LIKE HELL to find out things are not right. I realize I may sound a little self-righteous writing this..."Lookit me, I saved my old horse, now YOU all do it too!" Please believe me when I say that this has nothing to do with me. One of the things I can't get out of my head are all the other Chamies out there....in far worse condition than she was. Almost every horse (well, ok, the lucky ones) has a person who loved them, learned from them, cared for them, bonded with them. While it shouldn't be up to that person to rescue or help such a horse they haven't seen in years, sometimes there IS no one else.

I'm willing to bet that if you do follow up with your special horse, things are just as they should be-maybe the horse is still in light work, or retired properly, or was given a dignified death; that piece of mind is worth everything. If things are not as they should be? You can always do SOMETHING, however small, to help.

Do it. Do it soon. There is no way you will regret it.



Weeks before Chamie said Peace Out to her old life. I don't see this sad face anymore.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Follow The Leader

Having my two kids, Chamie and Miles, in one barn FINALLY has been so fabulous. Excepting her third night home, when she tried to kill herself by choking on her dry alfalfa cubes (which I had given to her 20 times previously with no issues), Cham has settled in fabulously, and she looks to be healthy and happy.

Two days ago I decided to try leading my two beasts together in hopes that I can start ponying Chamie off Miles during our warm ups and cool downs. I still haven't ridden her since she's been home, but I will-the weather has not exactly been cooperative (SNOW today, cripes). Anyway, it went really well. Miles is interested in her of course, but not disrespectful. When he gets a little too close or lags behind (totally NOT intentional, I'm sure, har har) to sniff her butt, a squeal from Cham and a good tug from me sets him straight. We walked all over the farm and I let them graze side by side, and they were perfect.

Yesterday, the wind was insane, so Miles was quite up and decided to act a fool on a couple of occasions-still, he was kind enough to spook or freak out away from us, which is exactly what he needs to do to keep everyone safe, so I was super proud of him. I'm hoping to try ponying in the next week or so. I found Chamie ties well to the area wall while I work with Miles. My studly thoroughbred, on the other hand? Not a fan. Oh well-something to work on in these dark frigid days. In the Spring, I'm hopeful I can take both my horses down the trail-I think it will give Miles and I both a lot of confidence to have a steady eddy along with us.

In craptastic weather news, I broke down and blanketed both my kids today as it's going to be cold cold cold until Saturday or so. Sigh. Welcome to winter.

No pictures, because I suck. Miles really is ridiculously handsome these days though. He weighs more than he has since I adopted him 2 years ago (one of his girths has stopped fitting!). His coat is black and beautiful. He's moving wonderfully, and I will continue to give all my love to SmartPak's SmartFlex Senior which I think has made a huge difference-Chamie is on it now as well. My farrier is encouraging me to consider shoes for him in the Spring, since he doesn't have a lot of concavity in his feet. Still, I think the Durasole helps, and unless I ride him on gravel he moves wonderfully...I don't know. We will see. I know his feet aren't perfect, but they don't crack, aren't shelly, and his heels and frogs look great. Maybe I'll post some pictures soon to get some opinions.

So, there's my not so exciting update for November. I'm waiting to hear on a job that I had 2 interviews for and I really, really want, so I'm trying to enjoy these days with my ponies while I can. Optimism rules! :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Home.



My girl is home.



I don't know that I'll ever be able to capture words on screen, or in speech, how awesome today was. From her effortless loading on the trailer (despite her obvious terror...she was shaking when we got her off), to her walking around her new digs, taking a big sigh, and dropping her head. She's already so much happier.



Tiny background Miles looks on forlornly.



My Chirrins are together, finally. She is willing to put up with him if there is food involved. He, as predicted, is fascinated with the older laydee.

What an amazing first day. I turned her out in a small individual pasture for a couple hours after walking around the farm and walking the perimeter of the fence. She paid no attention once she realized she was out and she could graze-I don't think she's grazed off lead in a very, very long time. When I came back, I walked her all over the outdoor and indoor arenas (with all the scary fun-house mirrors) and she was alert but so sweet and trusting. She was looking to me more than ever in this new place for guidance. I left her in her 12 x 14 foot stall (with an awesome window to stick her head out into the aisle and see the other ponies) with a flake of hay, and she seemed just fine. I know she would have rather been outside, but she needs to work up to all day grazing, even with the grass as sparse as it is. Even so, she will be out most of the day tomorrow, I'm pretty sure.

Welcome home, girl. I'm sorry it took so long.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sweet Beast

I haven't been posting much, and it's really because I've settled into a nice rhythm with my horses. Traveling between 2 barns 25 minutes apart will take up a huge chunk of time, especially when you spend 2 hours at one barn and an hour at the other. Throw 2 dog-walking sessions in there and you have my typical day. I'm not going to lie, it's pretty marvelous.

I will admit though, I have totally slacked on riding Miles until the last 2 days. For some reason, he has decided it's SUPER FUN to roll in wet mud right before I get to the barn. Literally, he has been head to hoof stinktastic. I resorted to hosing him off yesterday (in November!) because he was just that bad, and the weather was a balmy 60 something with sun so I knew he wouldn't be too uncomfortable as long as I threw his cooler on after a good squeegee.

Anyway, today was the most fabulous ride we've had in quite some time. My attentions have been so divided with Chamie that I had forgotten how amazing my boy is at just about anything I ask him to do. I took him on a loooong trail ride today with 2 awesome ladies from my barn-we have such a great group of boarders right now! Afterward, there was just enough juice left in our tank to hop over a few cross-rails....here's a link:

https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=2253436536456


Honestly, though, the trail ride was my favorite part. He really, really loves getting out. It's nerve-wracking for me, because I wouldn't say he's relaxed during these rides...his head is constantly turning this way and that, and today he had a few spook-and-scoot episodes, which were really no big deal. He's not a dead-head, which is of course good, but he has an electricity running through his body that is so visceral, I'd have to be dead not to feel it. It's exciting and thrilling, and it's obvious he is having So. Much. Fun. I feel that too:) He's a bold boy and marches right along-woe to those who hold him back. He's in tune to everything around him, from the horses to the wind and reacts in kind, which can be scary. I think I'm learning, though, that his "reactions", such as they are, are nothing I can't sit, and he's not going to bolt or buck or even pull one of those horrid sideways-spooks that leaves you behind.

What I'm trying to say is, he's the best. I just have to be a good enough rider not to hold his natural self back.

In Chamie news, my old girl is coming home on Friday! It feels like Christmas is right around the corner.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why I Should Never Have *Actual* Children

So, in all the excitement with Chamie, I've missed a certain gorgeous, lovely, perfect Thoroughbred's birthday. Cripes, it's like 16 Candles up in here. Or more precisely, 11. His sister is getting all the love and he's getting left behind with Long Duck Dong. Or something.



Mom, you don't even have a recent picture of me. What the FRICK?

I had such a lovely ride with him today. He was soft, supple, forward...we got our leads in both directions. We jumped a cross rail in both directions, and he enjoys it so much. I know my boy, and after a brief warm-up, we jump that little jump, and he's suddenly in front of my leg and happy to work. He will do anything I ask, but some things he likes better than others.

Bubs, you are my Dream Horse. You are going to love your sister (SISTER! Don't get pervy with her you fake stud!). Thank her, because she made me the rider and horse woman I am today. I love you so much-I can't believe you are already 11 and I've had you for over 2 years. They have been the best 2 years of my life, and I can't wait to experience the next 20 with you. Kisses, bubs...I will spend the rest of our lives together trying to make you as happy as you've made me.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What Does a Dollar Buy?



What does this buy?

How about...



or...



or how about this cutie?


If this doesn't sell you, I saddled up my (!) 26 year old mare, put Cavallo Simple Boots on her front feet, and rode my girl for the first time in about 10 years. 20 minutes of walking, circles, and serpentines, and about 30 seconds of jogging...the most sit-able trot I've ever felt. After good supplements, months of turnout, and *very* light work, I think I'm going to have a very nice trail horse on my hands. I couldn't believe, after all these years, how soft and responsive she was, moving her ribcage over when I asked, bending, and did I mention responsive.

I'm pretty sure I just got the deal of a lifetime, and that was the best dollar I ever spent. Especially because her barn (whom her scum owner signed her over to) donated that dollar back to her care. That's one dollar bill that won't be spent. Everyone should have a Chamie in their lives. I'm someone lucky enough to have her twice, and she's not going anywhere ever again without me.

I've won the horse lottery, you guys. My dream thoroughbred and my angel, saintly first horse...pinch me. Hard.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Road to Health is Paved one Day at a Time

OK, I promise I'll get back to Miles and riding and blah blah soon (I am still getting out to work with him regularly, no matter how much it's killing me to drive between two barns). Right now, though, I'm so excited about my new old mare I could burst!

Yesterday she got her feet trimmed for the first time in 3 months. I am a scatterbrain and didn't get after pics, but I'll try. The farrier didn't touch her back feet because he said she didn't have much to work with. I thought that was kind of strange, but I'm not worried because my farrier will see her this month as well, and her real discomfort is obviously in her front feet. Also? He trimmed her free of charge, not only for the last 9 months but yesterday as well. He said he was so happy to see her with a light in her eyes again and someone attending to her that I shouldn't worry about it. You guys, I could not make this up; he said 8 or 9 months ago she looked like a horse that was giving up and wanted to die, which is why he started trimming her for free. On top of being confined to a stall with no movement she was in enormous pain. Thank god for people like him that work with horses. He's getting a Christmas card, at the very least. Thank you, Kurt, for helping my girl keep fighting.

Today Chamie had her first vaccines in 5 years. The vet took a fecal sample so we can worm her a little more strategically. She had a coggins pulled, and she has an appointment tomorrow to get her teeth floated (they are BAD, y'all. She needs sedation, power tools, the whole bit).

The most exciting things are that 1) I'll be signing papers tomorrow that make her officially mine. Apparently until YESTERDAY her worthless owner (who has a Ph.D., for chrissake) was still dragging his heels about agreeing to sign her over. I would have taken that MoFo to court, believe. Luckily, it's not coming to that.

The other exciting thing is that, literally, every day I go out to work with my girl I see an improvement in her. The very first day, last Thursday, she was a pill. She couldn't have cared less I was there and just wanted out of her stall/barn. Since then, she has made such progress. Her eyes are relaxed, deep brown and soft. She has been sighing and licking her lips constantly in the last few days. I don't have to cross tie her to groom her-she stands willingly on one tie. She picks up and holds each foot for me instead of fighting me. She is more in tune to me and looks to me to see what we're doing each day, rather than looking beyond me to see what's out there. She licks my hand, my coat. She is finally happy.

Every time I see the barn manager she tells me how different she looks-how alert and interested, yet content. She doesn't pin her ears any longer. She holds her head up. I love these updates, as much as they make me sad to know how miserable my girl has been. The Chamie I knew years ago never pinned her ears at people, even in her most mare-ish moments.

I lunged her today in the indoor arena because it has been raining literally ALL day, and it still is. After a fresh trim she is striding right out, and the very, VERY brief trot I asked her to give me she did so willingly and it looked so much better than the shuffle she had a week ago. In fact, I lunged her outside this weekend, and she was so happy she started cantering circles around me! It freaked the shit out of me and I begged her to slow down but she completed several laps before breaking to a trot and finally a walk. I was SOOO worried I had made her sore, but she was fine the next day. She is on a low dose bute regiment, along with glucosamine and MSM, and it seems to really help.

Sorry to ramble on...I know it's not exciting reading. For me, though? No matter how crappy the timing is financially, it's my dream come true to have her back with me. I've always regretted letting her go, even when I thought she was in the best of homes. This whole experience has convinced me that all of my animals will be with me forever, because no matter how careful you are you cannot make sure your babies are happy and healthy unless YOU are the one in charge of such things.

This mare took care of me for years and years, and carried me over countless fences and through miles of trails. I can never make up for the last few years of her life, but I'm damn sure going to try.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chamie's Feets, and Riding in the Wind

It turns out, the pictures I tried to get of Chamie's feet don't really capture how bad they are, which is good news for all of you. I took these on Saturday, after 2 days of treating them with Thrush Buster. I also soaked all 4 feet in a Lysol/hot water/epsom salt mixture yesterday. I'll tell you, just the Thrush Buster alone has made a huge difference (that's the purple you see). A lot of that black shit I was able to just pick/scrape off after a treatment or two, which is great, and her frogs became much more prominent. Guess they didn't disappear after all! I didn't go out to see her today (wahhhh) to see how her feet look after the soaking, but I will be out tomorrow when she gets trimmed, HOORAY! So, without further ado:



Front feet. Not terribly overgrown, but they still look like they haven't been done in 3 months or so. Angles are awful, and she's obviously wearing the inside edges more and the outside edges are flaring. Also, it's hard to tell here, but her hoof wall doesn't come close to coming in contact with the ground. She's sort of teetering on this hardened "crud" that I tried to work on, but it's going to take more than a hoof pick.



Back feet. Here you can really see how the hoof wall is about a half inch off the ground. Just...bizarre. Keep in mind there is no crud in her feet-they were picked as clean as I could get them.



Right front. More frog is visible here than the first day I saw her, which was Thursday. Still, ew, right? I apologize for the quality of these pictures. She's still getting used to having her feet handled, and doing this by myself was a major challenge. You can see I couldn't even capture all the flare/overgrowth on the outside of this foot.



Left front, with my sleeve obscuring half her heel. Nice shot, Sarah. Still, you can kind of see more of the same. I still can't believe this is a CLEAN HOOF. Well, as clean as I could get it with a hoof pick and brush.

That's all I could get. My back is officially going to totally give out on me if I now have to handle and treat 8 frigging hooves almost everyday. Time for a pain management program for moi.

Now for Miles News!! It's been windy city here lately, but I so needed a good ride on my boy today I said the hell with it. It was beautiful and sunny-and the wind gusts were insane. I lunged him briefly (he was only a nut in the "scary end" of the outdoor arena, where there was farm equipment working in the field that was in ear and eye-shot). It's ok, because he needs to get used to that stuff, but combining that with the wind was too much, so I chickened out and rode him only on the "safe" side. Still, we had some very nice, very forward (ha ha!) work at all three gaits and we finished the ride by popping over our crossrail.

He's been great lately. We jumped a vertical last week. We've gone on trail rides with new friends. His coat is blooming and his weight is picture perfect. It's not great writing material, but it's great for me right now. I keep telling him he's going to be meeting his predecessor any day now, and how she's a super sexy older lady that he had better respect:) It would be great to pony her off Miles to get her into shape (assuming her feet get under control) before riding her. This from a girl who has never ponied a horse in my life (Hi Amanda! Want to teach me?;) My ultimate goal would be to have her available to go for trail rides when my parents or friends want to come out and ride. Either way, those two will be spending a whole lot of time together, so I hope my boy will be the gentleman I know he is almost all the time.

Happy Autumn everyone! Talk about change-it's everywhere I look these days.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chamie's Big Day


Champagne on Ice (Chamie), 15.1 hh, 26 year old Appendix Quarter Horse Mare, looking lively and adorable.

Yesterday I saw my girl for the first time in 5 years. It was wonderful and sad, after learning (and seeing) everything she's been through in the last 5 years. I know it sounds crazy, but I KNEW something wasn't right for the last couple of years. Just a...nagging. I'd have occasional dreams about her. I never got a reply from the last email I sent the barn owner, and I really didn't like that. What do you do, though? The last time I saw her she was wonderful, stalled in the main barn where all the activity is, fawned over by little girls and being used lightly for lessons. The facility she lives at is one of the better known barns in the area, and I never dreamed she could be neglected there. She was a privately owned horse! I guess I'm just thankful I can do something now.



Her beautiful, still in great shape back. Looking at this reminded me of why I loved riding her bareback...soooo comfy.

She is in GREAT weight (though she was always an air fern, it's nice to see she still is at 26). Unfortunately, that's about the only good thing I can say about her condition. I talked to the barn manager, and found out she hasn't been vaccinated or dewormed in 5 years. Yes, you read that right. The BM has worked full time at this barn for almost 4 years, and has seen her owner once. Apparently, he paid her board up until last year, but never once paid for farrier or vet services. Her teeth must be disastrous. I don't know HOW she's been able to keep her weight with no dewormer...and the fact that she dropped mouthfuls of grass when I hand grazed her is not a good sign for the state of her chompers.

I really can't blame the barn too much, although I would have handled things differently for sure. The guy refused to give her away or try to sell her. They told him I would most likely take her, and still nothing. What do you do with someone like that? The barn is out literally thousands of dollars on her at this point. I have a feeling legal action was threatened and that's the ONLY reason he changed his mind, though that's just my own theory. What a guy, eh? Keep your horse a prisoner because-well, who knows why. I can't see both sides on this one, sorry.



Grazing after a loooong grooming session and haircut by moi. Her mane was crazy gross and scraggly. Also, how cute is she in pink? I'm so glad I can use that halter again. If she didn't have so much gray on her face you would never know she is 26, for reals.

Her feet...oh god, her feet were the worst. I almost started crying when I saw them. They are totally wrecked. Have you ever seen a horse with frogs that have disappeared? Does anyone know what causes this? I assume it's from excessive thrush, as what she DID have was black and stinky. Thank god I brought thrush buster with me. At one point she went 9 months without a farrier touching her feet. NINE MONTHS. The barn farrier started trimming her for free in the last few months I guess. At that point she was in so much pain she was laying down all the time. I just seethe when I think about that.

Her attitude, thank goodness, is still good, somehow. Especially considering she literally lives in a stall 95 percent of the time. Occasionally she goes in a stall with a 24 by 24 run attached. Student volunteers would hand walk her when they could, about twice a week it sounds like. She was a bit of a pill yesterday-very pushy, distracted, etc, but I don't blame her one bit. Once out of her stall it's like she feels she has to make the most of it:) However, I also went to see her today, and the attitude was almost non-existent. She nickered when she saw me and I almost lost it. My sweet girl is still there.



This was how most of my pictures looked. She just wants out out out. I'm just thankful she didn't give up and shut down completely.



So adorbs.

I lunged her briefly, almost all at the walk. Somehow, she shows little pain or short strided-ness unless she takes a tighter turn. Her trot is more of a stiff shuffle, however. I'm still very happy that even in her miserable state of horrid feet, no movement, and no bute or supplementation (well, up until last night when I brought some to the barn), she appears to be quite pasture sound. She is alert and bright and interested in her surroundings. All great things. My resilient girl.



Brief lunge. That barn has some AMAZING footing, I'll say that.

The barn has their vet and farrier out next week, thank goodness. She will need blood work, a Coggins pulled, vaccinations, teeth done, Panacur Power Pack (if I get the go-ahead from the vet), and a trim (if I think about how much all this is going to be I get a little dizzy. Goodbye unemployment check!). I really don't blame the farrier for her feet-god knows what he started working with, and he's been doing it for free. Also, as much as I believe in power-tool and sedation-free dentistry, I think hers are bad enough to warrant bringing out the big guns (and consequently, big dollars), though I won't know for sure until a professional looks at them.

She comes to my barn to meet Miles and company the first week in November. I'm so geeked, and I can't wait to have her home! In the meantime, I will be spending most of my days driving between two barns, and getting to Chamie as MUCH as possible. Knowing I'm her only escape from her stall is a lot of responsibility, but it's only a couple of weeks. Thank goodness, because I'm already feeling neglectful of a certain gorgeous dark bay thoroughbred. Luckily, I'm sure he would understand.

If anyone has experience with any of the issues I've listed, please feel free to chime in. This is a first for me. I'll also try to get some pictures of those lovely feet of hers. Do not eat when viewing, I'm just warning you now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What Do You Do

...When, after a nice day at the barn, you get in your car and check your email, to find a message from the owner of the barn where your very first horse, very first Love, resides. The email says that your Love "has been abandoned, physically and financially", and asks if you can take your Love back?

...When you talk to your Love's barn owner, to find out her "owners" haven't been to see her in a few years, and haven't paid her board in a year? The barn owner has exhausted her contact with these "people" (I use this term loosely). They don't want her. The barn owner understandably can't continue to pay for her upkeep, with her own financial difficulties, and knows you have offered her a home before.

...When, further into the conversation, you learn your Love has little to no turnout. She is given the basics...food, water, vaccinations, hoof trimming, occasional hand-walking. She is arthritic. Barn owner does what she can, but it is not enough (her words). No bute, no supplements, little exercise. She hurts.


...What do you do, when you have no job (and no certain promise of a job, beyond a second interview in 2 days), and your husband is working part-time for a University?


...What do you do, when the fact is when you WERE working, you barely had enough time for your horse (you know, what's-his-name), your dogs, and everything else? Not to mention barely enough money?


...When you have not yet spoken to YOUR barn owner, or other barns in the area, or rescue groups, or explored retirement barn options? Or even your husband?


...What do you do?


...You agree to take your Love. You will make it work. Because if any horse deserves it, she does. Because you have to be the anecdote to the pond scum who abandoned a 26 year old horse with a heart of gold. Because there is literally no. other. choice.




Mama's coming, my Love. I'll see you tomorrow, and I can't wait. It will be ok.


It will be ok.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

U Read This Now! Volume Grateful-Volume Awful

Go now and read Kristen's post. It's beautiful, and the kind of thing I wish I had written.

Now, go hug your pony, dog, spouse, whatever. I'm so sorry, Andrea. Godspeed, Gogo.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lady Of Leisure

Yeah....it hasn't even been a week yet that I've been unemployed, but the days and hours stretch out before me, promising infinite possibility. I'm not gonna lie, I needed this break, even if it comes from, you know, getting laid off. It helps that the weather is unbelievably perfect-sunny, mid to high 70's; just lovely.

Lo, I did have an interview this morning. I don't want to divulge all the details here, but it was for a position I know I could do, and do well. I felt good during the meeting, tried to be honest and humble while still speaking about my strengths. The entire thing took 25 minutes! This is with me asking a few questions of my own at the end...I can't decide if that's a good or a bad thing. They are scheduling 2nd interviews next week, so I'm going to go with the "We're weeding out the crazies" theory and hope I get that call to come back.

MEANTIME, sweet Miles is not a pony of leisure. As promised, he's getting lots of face time, though I'm pretty sure he loves it. Today we took the most gorgeous trail ride with a fellow boarder and then hopped over a couple jumps. He was so perfect-relaxed but super forward, listening to my aids and responding. How did I get so lucky with this one? I know we're not out there galloping fields or doing passage or jumping courses, but he's exactly what I need right now. As always, the best part of my day. Some things never change.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

*Deep Breaths*

Whew...

So after keeping my organization in limbo for approximately 5 months, the State, in its infinite wisdom, has "officially" decided to de-fund us for fiscal year 2012 as of September 15th. My last day at work is Friday. Nice notice, right?

I (and my co-workers) pretty much knew this was coming, but there was that glimmer of hope that everything would be ok and funding would come through. Not to be. I've been with that organization since it started, from the ground up, 7 years of blood and sweat and tears, wah wah woe is me.

I've sent out about 10 resumes in the last 3 weeks or so. I got my first rejection email this morning, for extra bonus awesome!

Anyway, I'll continue searching, obviously. I'll collect unemployment (which is about half of what I was making). Kyle and I are cutting back even more than we were before, and we will be ok for a little while. I'll get some time to decompress from this shitty limbo-state of uncertainty, wash some horse blankets, get the yard ready for winter, and of course lots of this:



Such a handsome head.

It's not all bad. Kyle says to focus on finding what will make me happy. I've heard the saying, "Do what you love, and the money will follow." It's a nice thought, but I'm so disillusioned with the economy in this State I don't know. I'm worried I'll end up taking something I hate because, um, we need dollars. Worse I won't even be able to find a job I hate that pays what I was making, and I'll end up working at Speedway. (Aside: If I have to work for 8 bucks an hour, I'd rather at least work around animals; a pet store or something. I'm actually really fascinated by animal nutrition and pet care, having owned just about anything with fur at one point or another, and I don't think it would be horrible.) The rejection letter I got? Says they received hundreds of resumes for this one position. It's tough out there.



Dark days.

Of course, leave it to Miles to be my bright light. He has been working so, so beautifully the last couple of weeks. Friday and Saturday I took him over cross rails for the first time in a month or so. We've both missed them and it sure injected more joy into our ride. Saturday I raised the rails up so the middle was just under 2 feet. I know, I know, we're CA-RAAAZY! It was fun to feel him actually use himself to jump though-thank goodness I had the presence of mind to grab mane the first couple of times. He's so adorably pleased with himself when he does a good job, too. Love my boy. How can any situation be all bad when I get to drive out to see this more often?



Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Thoroughbred Contains Multitudes

Oh...



Oh Gurl...



Lookit Mah Baybee!!! He was winning!

So, we've framed the picture (William Vassar Photography), obviously. I love that his last win was on turf, over a mile, when he was 5 years old. Last to first, baby. He ran a few races after but never won.

And now?



Oh Hai! Whut? Nonono. "Masarin" is not Milez.





Lookit, I'm seery-ous. Milez don't run no more. Never has!




Milez Eats.

Still, every once and awhile....



Ok, so he's not really even galloping here-he's not a race horse anymore and seems just fine with that fact. His walk-canter transition is what I love about most about this video, not his speed. Still, he has the space enough to gallop or canter or trot or to do none of those things. Also, right now he is digging the ladies on both sides of his pasture. Luckily he seems to be respectful so far and only wishes to sniff noses over the fence, squeal, and then eat. In that order.

He may not have Masarin's speed any longer (or his physique, thank god, beautiful as it is), but he does have his heart. Our ride today was just lovely. It was probably a combination of perfect breezy weather, a recently raked arena, Durasole and Smart Flex Senior, which he's been on for a few weeks now, but it felt like...something else. He warmed up with sweeping walk strides on the buckle. His trot was straight (usually) and true, and he listened to my aids, moving out immediately. I promised him something and he gave me something in return. He's my partner, and I wouldn't have him any other way.

Still, I'd love to be able to time-travel to 6 years ago and meet Masarin who kicked ass in Golden Gate field. I'm willing to bet he's not so different from my boy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Head And Not The Heart-Novella Review

If you read horse blogs at all, and particularly if you read blogs about OTTBs, you've heard about Natalie Keller Reinert and her blog Retired Racehorse. Natalie is a wonderful combination of knowledgeable horsewoman and experienced rider of TBs both on and off the track, and she has a passion for my breed of choice that practically bleeds off her words. By now you can probably guess I loved her debut novella, The Head and not the Heart.

This e-book follows Alex, a 20-something gallop girl and aspiring trainer, during a particularly challenging time in her life. From the outside, everything looks wonderful; she's the lover of a very successful British trainer (named Alexander-yep, Alex and Alex) living in the heart of race country in Florida. My favorite part of the book is how Natalie creates this world for the reader-the weather, the stables, the people, the SCHEDULE (ugh, a schedule that a person in racing keeps would kill me dead), and of course, the horses. Only a person with first-hand knowledge of racing behind the scenes could write race horses like Natalie does-all of them, from the yearlings to the 2 and 3 year olds in race training to the broodmares to the foals to the retired stallions. It's beautiful and it's tragic, because anyone who knows horses knows without a doubt that they will hurt you. They will absolutely Break. Your. Heart.

I admit, I wasn't a huge fan of the title, but it's a theme that emerges again and again in the book, and after I finished the last page I see why Natalie used it. If you make horses your life, can you do so in a way that is necessary to be sane and successful in the business? Can you remain detached, keep these beasts at a distance, in order to protect yourself? Or, is the very thing that keeps people in horses-a passion and a yearning, to ride them, to train them, to care for them, to be with them all day everyday, the same thing that will destroy a person in the end? Not to mention the physical pain, the injuries (both to body and to pride), the constant dirt and grime, the 3 am emergencies, the 4:30 am wake up calls....are we all crazy?, she asks. Alex has her whole life ahead of her. Can she live it without horses and be happy?

I'm obviously not going to give THAT away, but I will say that Natalie does a masterful job of keeping us guessing until the very end. She also keeps the reader engaged throughout Alex's time in Florida, both in her home with Alexander and his training facility, as well as her travels to New York City with its restaurants, night-life, a riding stable (!) and finally to Aqueduct. I admit I loved her Florida setting so much I didn't want Alex to leave, but the writing is so strong that no matter where she is we are going right along with her, and I for one was happy to do so. Still, the scenes set in the barns and at the track are so engaging it's hard for any other environment to compare. Speaking as a horse person, that may not be an accident.

One of the things I found so interesting was Alex's relationship with Alexander. He is twice her age, and there is a fascinating dynamic between them because she is "just" a gallop girl and he is The Man in every way in the facility (a major in Women's Studies could deconstruct this whole thing much better than I). I love how Natalie doesn't shy away from the complexities of such an arrangement, describing both moments of bliss and times of awkwardness and pain between the two, not to mention the issues that come with being the lover of a man who is both older and more knowledgeable in the field you're BOTH working in. I couldn't get enough of their interactions with each other; every touch, every word spoken (and unspoken) resonated with me as true, and I've never had a relationship even remotely like theirs. That's good writing.

So Bravo, Natalie. I loved this debut of hers and highly recommend you skip tomorrow's Starbucks (or whatever) if money is an issue for you, as it is for me, and plunk down the 3 bucks to read The Head and not the Heart. Lose yourself for awhile in a novella centered around the world of horse racing, written by someone who knows it, loves it, and doesn't sugarcoat a thing.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Warm It Up Kris!

I'm about to! Warm it up Kris-'cause that's what I was born to do!

Sorry...for whatever reason I have a plethora of random hip-hop lines (all from the 90's, sometimes 80's) in my brain, and they come out occasionally. This edition brought to you by Kris Kross. You're welcome.

This post is more for me than anything, and those lines of genius above really do relate, I promise. I rode Miles today and it was nice and cool, just perfect. He's still being fussy about bugs, which are basically non-existent at this point, so I was done indulging him. He was sprayed to the gills, he had his fly bonnet on-enough with the stomping and head swishing. I put him to work pretty quickly after mounting, with no lunging. He was sluggish and totally ADD. I thought, what the hell, I KNOW it takes this horse a long time to warm up some days, whether it's physically or mentally or both. So, I let him be less than forward (within reason). I let his head turn this way and that, as long as his body stayed on the rail. When he lowered his head and started listening, we'd do a circle. In the meantime, I focused on me-elbows, hands, heels, looking UP (something I think I've gotten bad about), shoulders, all of it.

Our first canter depart sucked hard-he swerved like a tool at a random object next to the arena we had passed 10 times that day already. I put him in a circle and we picked up the canter again, did a couple more circles, and went back to the trot.

Ahhhhh, and there was my boy. Finally forward, ready to work, connected to my hand, listening to my leg, all of it. I let him walk on a loose rein to give us both a break, and when I picked the contact up again he gave me a nice swinging walk (something that is very hard for him and that I haven't devoted nearly enough time to). I squeezed and there was the nice trot again-a little rushy at first, it became lovely and easy to post quite quickly (funny how that works). We did some circles and changes of direction, all while I avoided the very hard and very deep parts of the arena just to try to keep our awesome rhythm going, and it seemed to work.

All in all, considering this was our second real ride in awhile, I was a very, very happy girl. I like that even when he's being less than great to ride, he's SAFE, and that's the time I can use to work on my own issues (of which I have many). And what do you know, the better I ride, and the looser his muscles become, the better our ride as a whole becomes. Funny, that:)

He was SO adorable afterward too. I can tell when we've really connected sometimes by the way Miles interacts with me when I get off. He remains engaged and interested, instead of just glad to be done and go back to the barn.

I finally got to see Buck the movie this weekend, and one of his big lines (which you all have probably already heard) is that our horses are our mirrors. We don't always like what we see.

Dang if it isn't the very best feeling when you do, though.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Miles Vs. Yorkie

Wow! So that was...something!

Yesterday was a stunningly beautiful day, FINALLY. An intermittent brisk wind was blowing and it was in the 70's; absolutely perfect for riding. It had rained the night before, so every time the breeze died down the mosquitoes took full advantage, though luckily it still wasn't nearly as bad as it's been.

However, Miles has become SO sensitive to bugs in the arena he was still a little head-shaky and stompy. We hadn't ridden in a week and the wind was coming in strong gusts, so I dusted off the lunge line (!! We hadn't used this thing in a couple months:) and off we went to work. He was reasonably good, moving great, but a little spooky. Nothing horrid, so I got on after about 10 minutes.

We were just finishing our first warm up circle when a car pulls up and two dudes get out, along with a little Yorkie who I think is named Goose. I know these 2 guys are not horse people because I hear one of them say, laughing, "I don't think Goose has ever seen a horse before!" as the dog runs off and dude lights up a cigarette. Not that horse people don't smoke, but generally not near a frigging BARN, even if they were in the gravel parking lot.

ANYWAY, sweet lil' preshus Goose comes trotting straight for us. I should mention that Miles has been around allllllll kinds of dogs, large and small, and never bats an eye. However, this particular dog he gave the stink eye as soon as he lept out of the car. I should have dismounted right then. Still, I'm thinking, 4 pound dog, Miles likes dogs, what could happen? It was weird that he was so interested though-that should have told me something. So, Goose comes up to us and Miles lowers his head to sniff, being a perfect gentleman considering this dog approached with such bravado. All is well for about 2 seconds, until Goose decides to LUNGE at Miles face and yapyapyapyapyap. Miles does a gorgeous spin to the side (which I stay with!) and Goose runs off. Whew. Could have been worse. I figure the 2 dudes, who are laughing, will now leash the little effing monster and all will be well.

Come on, right? Again, I should have gotten off. But, we had just started and it was so gorgeous out that I start putting us to work, though Miles and I still keep an eye on the tiny terror as we trot the arena and Goose runs off into the field. Dudes stand there, calling Goose occasionally, and are being quite ignored.

Sigh. Goose is coming back-this time he is RUNNING at us, barking like crazy. I finally grow some balls and say, "You need to come and get this dog out of the arena before I get thrown." Goose reaches us and starts again with the bared teeth, yapping, leaping routine. Miles, all things considered, is being saintly-picture a cutting horse if the cow turned on the horse. He is spinning, leaping to the side, doing everything he can to hold himself together and still get away from the little bastard. I have NO idea what is taking the dudes so long to get their little shit because I'm trying to stay with my horse and stay calm and stay ON. Finally, Goose is scooped up and taken out, with a laugh and a "sorry". Sorry? Did they think what just happened was cute?! UGH.

Still after everything, it was really a hilarious experience. I looked at the arena and the tracks that Miles made in all his acrobatics and I was pretty impressed. I was happy that I stayed with him during all his athletic Hot Moves (tm) and never really came close to being unseated. I stayed loose, sat up, and grabbed mane. I'm proud of myself that I didn't clutch at the reins or freeze up. I'm SO proud that Miles didn't bolt or rear or buck or do anything other than try to get away from Mr. Goose while keeping his head and taking care of me.

After all the drama, I continued to work Miles for another 15 minutes or so and he was wonderful. We jumped a small cross rail and called it good. I called it real good.

If they ever start Dog Dodging as an equine sport, we are going to kick some ass:)

Monday, August 29, 2011

You Want To Hit The Trails? How About We Talk Supplements?

Writing Rut? Um, yes. That "30 Day Challenge" thing I tried was a huge bust, lolz. Even with my pathetic bending of the rules I think I got to the fourth question or something. Blah. It's hard to write about my pony when so much else is going on job and family wise-both of which, by the way, are up in the air. Grandma is still in hospice, and (not to equate these things) I still don't know if I'll be working past October 1st.

Still, I want to write about Miles, because even with our challenges he is the "happy place" my brain goes to when I need to think of something good, something to look forward to.

First, a HUGE shout out to Aimee and Izzy - they were kind enough to ship us an Amigo Bug Rug that rubbed Izzy's shoulders but fits Miles like a very big, very covering, pretty light blue glove, sans rubbing. Combining this with going into a stall at night was exactly what he needed. He's getting much needed rest, along with extra calories, and is putting on weight again. I have to get a picture of him in his gear though-I never thought I'd own a horse I had to cover from head to hoof in the summer, but I totally get it now.

The mosquitoes seem to ebb and flow. Are you sick of hearing about them? Me too. I'm even sicker of being a prisoner to them. Sunday they finally ebbed, thanks to a super brisk breeze. It's a good thing because I was PISSED OFF-the day before was the very first time I had tacked Miles up, walked up to the arena, and turned right back around to the barn. Those little bastards were flying in my mouth, in my ears, to say nothing of what they were doing to my horse. It's been awhile since I've seen or felt Miles ready to explode, but he sure was. Poor boy.

ANYWAY, Sunday. I took the golden dogs out, and we had a short ride around the grounds and briefly down the trails. Ohhhh, it was lovely. There were a couple other riders milling about around the barn, and the dogs had a blast with everyone, though they aren't getting any younger. They were already pooped by the time I mounted so I didn't want to exhaust them by making them keep up with us on a mile long trail ride. When I did point Miles down his favorite trail though, the one that goes up a hill diagonally through a field, he started double timing it and wanted to break into a trot (and I'm sure a canter) so badly. I held him back and talked to him, and after he tossed his head and squealed he relented, begrudgingly. Y'all, he didn't want to turn back home - you know, where all the other horses were hanging out. I love this horse so much. I can't wait to canter him up that hill someday soon.

He can be a challenge to keep healthy and happy, for sure. I wish he wasn't soooo sensitive, for his own sake. I thought we were over the whole "hard keeper" issue until the mosquito invasion. At the same time, his issues are a nice distraction from everything else going on. It's horrible to admit; I like being able to focus on fixing something I have some control over, you know? However, between the fly sheet and stalling at night (not to mention, once again, the Durasole which has totally fixed his ouch-y feet. I can't recommend that stuff enough!!) I'm figuring things out slowly but surely.

Our ride before Sunday I actually popped Miles over a crossrail a couple times before we were chased out of the arena by insects (see a pattern?). It's no big deal to him at all anymore, which tells me maybe we can start working on lines and eventually cantering a course of three jumps or so. I have no desire to increase the heights of the jumps over 2 feet. My boy raced long and hard until he was 7 years old, and his joints have paid their dues. Besides, there's a lot of fun to be had with small jumps in the right configuration.

Finally, because SmartPak is awesome, their supplements in "SmartPaks" (individual containers) over $40 a month ship for free, and ANY order over $75 has free shipping as well-NO exclusions. I'm not a huge fan of any one company, with the exception of SmartPak. Everything, from their customer service to the quality of their products is far superior to anyone else in my (totally un-solicited, un-sponsored, unfortunately) opinion, horse-related or not. So, this free shipping business has given me the excuse to spend just a little more on Miles' supplements and put him on SmartFlex Senior Pellets. It's got the same (or more) levels of MSM and Glucosamine I've been giving him, with the addition of Vitamin C, Devil's Claw and Boswellia, not to mention pro and pre-biotics and another free-radical "scavenger" they call it. The very best part is it's pelleted, and he won't be losing half of it through his feed bag or having it left at the bottom of his feed pail. The reason I went with this particular supplement, even though Miles isn't technically "senior", is that I think his joints probably are:) It's also the highest rated supplement they have within a price range I can afford. My boy isn't "unsound" now, but it will be interesting to see if, for instance, it takes him a little less time to warm up, especially with winter coming. I'll keep you posted! More riveting reading about insects and supplements to come, no worries:)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Good, The Bad, The Itchy

First, the good...I got in 3 rides since Tuesday! I know, nothing earth shattering for most people, but with everything going on (and yes, the mosquitoes are still trying to eat my horse alive-that's The Itchy) it's kind of a big deal. We also are fortunate enough to be able to stall-board Miles through the end of August, and I may continue through September just to make sure he's able to bulk up before the cold weather. I swear, Miles loses weight the way gas prices go up. He must have lost 50 pounds in just over a week, but he'll never put it back on that fast. Ah, well. He's still outside and able to graze and hang out with his buds for 12 hours a day, and he's never been the type of horse to mind going in a stall at night-especially right now, he down right welcomes it. I'll totally admit that I love "tucking" him in at night too, leaving him in a clean, bedded stall with a heap of hay in front of him. The other day I put him in his stall and loved on his big ol' thoroughbred head before I left, and I swear his eyes said "thank you".

As a result, he's soooo much more alert when I'm working with him. He really wasn't resting at all at night when he was outside, that's for sure. Our ride was super short this morning because I had to be somewhere, not to mention the mosquitoes were feasting on both of us, but I didn't care about any of that. Why? Because, he was finally FORWARD, and never took a wrong step despite horrid arena conditions, and I rode him without his hoof boots for the first time in a couple of weeks. I would like to thank our new BFF Durasole.


Hell yes it does!

I've only treated Miles' hooves 3 times, but already he's walking over gravel like it ain't no thang. I trotted him all over the arena (water logged in some places, hard and rocky in others), and then trotted him outside on the grass today and he was totally comfortable. I'm sooooo happy-rarely does a product actually live up to its promise, especially when it comes to sore pony hooves. If this hadn't worked (or, if this is some kind of fluke and he gets sore again), we were going to put shoes on his front feet. It's not what I want, but he was quite sore from our wildly inconsistent arena conditions, exacerbated because he was stomping so much due to the bugs, it wouldn't be fair to keep him barefoot just because I want him to be barefoot. So, fingers crossed the good times and free movement continue! At 12 bucks a bottle (where a little goes a loooong way) it's kind of a no-brainer. Two thumbs and four hooves way up!

...................................................

Now, the bad. We didn't show on Thursday. I admit, I wasn't super excited to parade my ribby OTTB around in front of everyone (cute as he still is), and again, do I have to mention the bugs? The other major reason we didn't show-My grandma has had a stroke. It's...bad.

She is currently in hospice (my god, this is all happening so fast) and seems comfortable. The doctor has said she has days left. She is very tired and has trouble talking, but she knows what's happening-thankfully, she is not scared, upset or confused. Still, of course it's a very sad, strange time for my family.

She's such a wonderful woman, and I have so many lovely memories of her when I was a kid. This was a woman who, in her 70's, flew her 11 year old granddaughter out to a dude-ranch in Pueblo, Colorado, and we rode horses together in the mountains. At my wedding 7 years ago, she got on the dance floor and got down with the best of them. She's a grand dame. I wish her a peaceful passage and transition into whatever lies ahead. Love you, grandma.



Taken the last day I saw her before her stroke, on her 91st birthday in June. We had a great day. She's a beautiful woman, and always has been.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mosquito Invasion 2011

I love my sensitive OTTB...I HATE how his sensitivity is making him absolutely miserable right now. He's literally being eaten alive-he's lost about 50 pounds in the last couple weeks and is totally miserable. I don't know when Michigan turned into a swampland filled with millions of blood-suckers intent on going after MY dark bay Thoroughbred, but this is what we're dealing with. He has sore feet from (I'm 99 percent sure) stomping his feet all day and night. He's losing weight from constant pacing. When I bring him into the barn, he scarfs his beet pulp mash and then almost instantly falls asleep. The barn is the one place the mosquitoes aren't horrible right now, so he finally relaxes.

Time for night time stall board. I know, I know. Why didn't I put him in a stall long before now? I guess because I know he loves being out. I tried 25 percent DEET sprays. I tried a nylon sheet. I suppose I could buy a super expensive fly sheet with a neck cover and whatnot (and I still might), but what he really needs is to get AWAY from those little bastards.

There's a show (super laid back, at the barn) on Thursday. I really wanted to make our debut this week, but I've been riding so sporadically I don't know if we even should. When I do ride him, Miles is shaking his head and we are fending off bugs (see a pattern?), and he's sooooo lazy. I now realize that's most likely because he's exhausted. My poor boy.

Hopefully, the next few nights (and however many nights it takes after that) in the barn will help. Sorry, Miles. I'm trying to get it right.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Crap News, Crap Bugs...

So, I'm a little in the dumps lately. The news....it's just allllll baaaaad. Debt ceiling ridiculousness, economic uncertainty (to say the least), rioting overseas, etc. It doesn't help on a micro level that the husband is still unemployed and my job is STILL up in the air (holy shit is this frustrating-STATE OF MICHIGAN, MAKE A DECISION ABOUT YOUR CONTRACTS ALREADY). Ahem, sorry.

Also? In addition to the B-52 bomber flies we're dealing with, there was another massive scale mosquito hatching. In AUGUST. We went from drought conditions to many feet of rain within like 3 days. The skeeters were so bad that barn time was literally unbearable, and the city is only slightly better. My poor Miles-the barn owner called me Monday morning to say he was banging "something" in his pasture at 10 pm the night before. When she shined a flashlight on him, he was running around in frantic circles and pouring sweat. She sprayed him with some DEET and he was better....but still, I feel awful for the sweet boy. The weather has been nice the last 2 days, and I think the skeeters are tapering off, but it still feels a whole lot like this:



No, no. Don't thank me for the most awesome 70's movie trailer ever, from the movie "Frogs". Kyle's favorite part is the evil butterfly:)

So, I've been out to the barn a lot, feeding and watering and spraying (pretty sure Miles and I are both radioactive at this point), but not a whole lot of riding is happening. Tomorrow a photographer is coming out to the barn to take pictures of all the horses "in their natural environment". I don't know if Miles will be included, but seriously, how could he not be?




I know these are old, but come on...so adorable.

I hope to get back into a better routine tomorrow. The weather is gorgeous and my horse is gorgeous and I miss working, like really working with him. Pretty soon I will be bitching about the lack of light and cold temperatures, naturally. Looking on the lighter side, potential unemployment starting October 1st means lots of riding time! Oh Miles, you will be SO sick of your mama:)