Friday, July 29, 2011

Chicken Halp-What Is She?

Sooooooo......a chicken has decided to adopt us. She has been hanging around our backyard and deck for 3 days now, eating fallen birdseed, drinking our dog's water, and generally being charming and adorable. She's not ours, but she doesn't seem to be going anywhere and no one is looking for her. We are trying to decide what makes her most comfortable, a cardboard "roost" on the bar of our deck, or an old "Dogloo" doghouse on the deck (she really, really likes hanging around the action-she's very cautious about us and our cat and dog menagerie, but she wants to be "near"us anyway). Suffice it to say I'm not going to chase her off or call animal control. I'm learning all I can about "backyard chickens", and we've named her Marigold.

Note the pile of dirty horse blankets in the background. It's a nice touch, I think-we're so close to approaching city trash status!

Another angle...this one is not so comfortable in front of a camera yet, unfortunately.

Here's my question-what IS she? I'm hoping one of you out there knows-I know they're not the best pictures, but she's a dark red with black in her feathers. I've done the requisite google search and as close as I can tell she's a Rhode Island Red, but they have yellow feet and hers are grey/black. Could she be a hybrid? Any other guesses, hints or tips...bring them on!! I've had just about every other type of animal in my life, but chickens are a first. As we speak Kyle is running errands and stopping at a local pet/feed store to inquire about proper feeding and housing and all of that.

In the meantime, she stands on our deck, pecking at seed and bugs and entertaining the hell out of me. Good times:)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Quick Note...Also, Published!

Bragging about my horse again. C'mon, it's been at least 2 posts since I've done that, right? We had our first ride in over a week tonight, during a perfect summer evening. We struggled a bit with our right lead, though in fairness to Miles I wasn't even planning on working on it. From the moment I got on, though, he felt great, walking forward, comfortable and happy. His old stride is back, and all my paranoia about the thrush not being his only issue was put to rest (for now). Believe me, I was imagining everything from sore heels to navicular.

Anyway, a really nice ride on a really beautiful day. He tries so hard, this one. I'm so lucky.

The Best Boy.

Also, we're entering our first show on August 18th, barring unforseen circumstances or 100 degree heat indexes. Time to put up or...well, you know. We will be showing under his race name, Masarin...a name I love more and more the longer I know this horse. It's so him.

Finally, our story got published in New Vocations' Summer Newsletter! It's funny, because it's so not word for word what I wrote...I imagine they had their own reasons for pointing out that even though he was a "failed" police horse, he turned out to be pretty spectacular. MAN, what I wouldn't give to know anything about his kills me that I have no information about his life after racing (or even before that, other than what his race stats say.). Anyway, it was pretty cool to see our story in print, regardless...and we had the biggest picture on the page. Just sayin'....:)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bork Bork Bork HOT

I know, everyone is talking about the weather. Seriously, though? I don't DO 100 degree heat indexes. It's supposed to be even hotter tomorrow. Wahhhhhh.

Looking at the forecast, I knew there was NO WAY I was going to do arena work this week. Really, it's too hot to even safely trail ride I think. So, Miles gets a brief reprieve from his (light as it was) workload.

Miles, sporting his super awesome new pad from OTTB Designs, before our last ride.

Speaking of! Miles is doing really well. I think he's looking great, better than ever, ESPECIALLY considering he was close to 100 lbs. underweight this time last year. I don't like how bleached out his coat is, but we've had so many days of sun it's ridiculous, and really unprecedented for Michigan-not that I mind the sun, of course. Bring that on! What's a wee scary is we are approaching drought conditions from lack of rain, and a lot of his diet is pasture at this point. I'm monitoring his weight with a weight-tape though, so we can supplement with more hay if needed.

IF we have to have un-rideable conditions, this is the week for it too. I'm still treating his thrush, which is looking better every day. I think I'm going to put him on a preventative program, as opposed to waiting for the next bout that makes him unsound again, like a dummy. I've used in the past a diluted Listerine spray. Other people use diluted Lysol, and still others Apple Cider Vinegar. I also like the idea of a soak, but I'll admit that at 45 minutes a hoof I don't know how often I'd be able to do it. Something I can spray on is much more appealing to me.

I'm still so mad at myself that I let it get to this point. While I haven't ridden him since Saturday (when he did feel better-not 100%, but better), he seems to be more confident walking on the gravel driveway, so I think that's a good sign.

Speaking of our ride Saturday-I think there's a ghost on the farm, and its goal is to mess with Miles' mind regarding the "scary" end of the arena. Now, this hasn't been an issue for a couple months with him. Saturday was hot (though looking back, and compared to what we have now? No complaints.), so I wanted to do a quick ride and then hose him off. However, walking down the rail towards the "scary" end, a GINORMOUS branch, super high up on this tree that is set off the arena, falls down KABOOM, and birds go flying. Now, my sweet sweet boy simply stopped and threw his head up to watch the drama (his words, not mine) go down. Yeah, pretty sure that totally reinforced his previous idea that something is "wrong over there", siiiiiigh.

So, instead of a nice leisurely ride, I had to spend 40 minutes on him walking and trotting all over, gradually moving closer and closer to The Tree Of Doom, until he stopped dropping his inside shoulder, throwing his head up, and scooting around The Corner Of The End Of Doom (near The Tree Of Doom, natch). I ended up being really proud of him though. He threw a tiny fit once, when I wouldn't let him pull a hot move and drop his shoulder and bolt away, but other than that he trusted me and eventually got over himself. I was proud of me because I didn't let him get away with anything, and I didn't dismount to do it. Good stuff.

Whew, that was a lot of words about something not very interesting! Sorry-previous to this incident, we've just been doing short, light rides since his feet were so ouchy. I don't know if this is a part of him being slightly sore, or the heat, or the fact that his pasture has tripled in size in the last few weeks and therefore he's almost always moving and grazing (or just everything together), but MAN has he been soooooooo lazy and laid back. Even when not under saddle, he's eyes half mast, floppy lower lip, the whole deal. If his appetite wasn't so great and he didn't still come alive at things like noisy doom trees I might be concerned. I think he's just enjoying these dog days of summer, though:) Either that or he's eating some ganja weed out in that ginormous pasture of his. Hey, I don't judge.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lolz My Armchair Lameness Diagnosis

I thought Miles was footsore. Footing in the arena got better, I put him in boots, and he was still...not right. Better, but not right. He didn't limp, or trip, but he wasn't striding out like he can, even after he had warmed up.

Then, last weekend, he flinched every time I touched his left hip/croup area. Didn't matter if it was my fingertips or a brush, he would suck in and flinch like a fly was landing on him.

Cue me freaking out, thinking he has some kind of muscular issue, emailing everyone I know in the area for equine massage/chiropractic professional referrals. flinching or weirdness about the area at all. Huh. What I DID find-deep cracks in his frogs, all 4. Yay, Sarah. You rock.

I swear I'm vigilant about thrush, but it's been soooooo dry here lately I hadn't even considered it. I pick his hooves religiously, but the outside was so "tough" and dry I didn't probe like I should have. When we had one day of rain around here a few days ago, it softened up his frog enough that I saw there were actual cracks there, and lo, they were deep. And, it turns out, quite sore, when I pushed a hoofpick in there.


Miles is getting treated, of course. I use "Pete's Goo", which is a 1:1 combination of antibiotic ointment and jock itch or athlete's foot cream (SO fun buying at the dollar store!). His feet are already looking better after one treatment.

Moral of the story? Your first instinct is usually right, never put it past a horse to throw SOMETHING at you to make you spend way more money than you need to, and always, ALWAYS, probe your horse's frog for cracks, no matter how tough they look on the outside.

Masked (and one un-masked) ponies, looking adorable in the late afternoon sun. Miles says, "Whut?"

Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 3-Favorite Horse To Ride, Lease Or Own

Hi! Hello. How's it going? Miles and I are great...busy, but great. *note-Miles is not busy.

I've been working and working and doing long ignored house and yard stuff and trying to get to the barn and have neglected all blogging responsibilities, both reading and writing. Alas, those in Michigan and similar climates will understand that we have limited nice weather days, and I'll just be damned if I'm going to spend them inside, much as I love y'all.

Next post to be titled Look at all my new things!! New OTTB saddle pad and boots are gorgeous and fun and super functional, and it's so rare things live up to their billing. Also, we were published, woot!

Back to the title of this post....shall I wax on for 10 paragraphs about Miles again for you? Wouldn't that be fun and different and so out of character for me? No? Then I shall tell you about Chami, Best First Horse Ever.

I'm not going to lie, I didn't save up all my hard earned money to buy my first horse (I was 14-how much hard earned money could I have?). I DID however, work at Fox Brush, previously mentioned awesome barn, and when my parents moved out of the city they agreed to start "maybe" looking for a horse for me, since it was obvious the HB (Horse Bug) wasn't temporary.

You know how they say never to buy the first horse you look at? Terrible, ridiculous advice.

Because Chami (short for Champagne on Ice) was the VERY first horse I looked at. I still remember the first time I saw her, with her head peaking out of the stall. It was quiet and dark, a winter night in Michigan, and she was squinting her eyes against the lightbulbs. She was a solid bay appendix QH, 15.1 hands, 8 years old, wearing a navy cotton sheet. I loved her instantly.

A girl at the barn rode her first for me to see her movement, and she kept smiling as she trotted around the arena, saying over and over "This horse was made for you." She was.

We moved barns, but I continued to show at Fox Brush in their schooling shows and hunter paces. We did High School Equestrian Team. We took dressage lessons. We kicked ASS in the 4H County Fair jumper class (even though we never won anything else at fair-showmanship can bite me). My favorite show memory with Chami came after the jumper class when the judge called the competitors back to the ring before awarding ribbons. She said, among other things, that there were some horses she saw that made her want to start riding again. We won that class...though I don't know if I would have remembered it so well if that awesome judge hadn't given a bunch of ragamuffin kids some great feedback (like, ahem, do up your jacket before walking back into the ring to be addressed by the judge, Sarah, you slob). Anyway...good times.

Aside from the shows, I took Chami down countless roads, through trails, to county parks, over golf courses (awesome) and jumped her over just about everything including picnic tables. She was the best.

I, however, turned into a shitty college kid. I started riding once a week, if that. My heart was totally not in it anymore, and she was too good a horse and still too young to sit around. She became a (very occasional) lesson horse for the folks at our barn, Crestview Farm, where she lived most of her life with me. Then, sure enough, a young girl fell in love and bought her.

I saw Chami for the last time about 4 years ago, at a nearby barn where she had moved to. She was sleek and fat and happy. I emailed the barn every year or so just to see how she was-and don't think that when I wanted to start riding again, I didn't harass the new barn owner to see if there was any way she would be for sale. There wasn't. Isn't that the best, though? To hear your horse is so loved, there's no way she would be for sale again? I think so.

I didn't hear anything back on my last email...she would be 26ish now. I kind of don't want to follow up. I wish I would have kept her, even though I know everything worked out for the best. I would love to ride my old girl down a trail, her phobia of cows notwithstanding;) That was seriously her only fault. Well, that and refusing to load occasionally. Not too bad in the grand scheme.

Whatever happened to her, or didn't, I know she has had great homes her entire life. Her original owner before me is now our dog's vet. How great is that? We talk about her every time I see her. Everyone who knew Chami loved her, that's the truth.

The last time I went to see her, I asked a bunch of squealing little girls at the barn where Chami's stall was and they all instantly knew, helped me find her, and told me how sweet she was. I smiled because I knew. I know.

I know I've used this picture before, but it's the only digital one I have of her. Hey, it was the early 90's! My goal is to scan some old photos soon though, so hopefully more of me and my sweet Chami will be forthcoming. Seriously, though? How cute is she? Also note my flannel, dating us both.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Day 2 - The Last Time You Rode and What You Did

But first! My new Country Boots came today!! I love them, though I haven't ridden in them just yet. Y'all...they were $62 down from $245. For girls like me who have large calves (even when I wasn't such a "big girl", I've had beasts for calves), it's criminal not to take advantage of such a deal. Behold!

God bless SmarkPak and their clearance sales. I just treated them with Effax Lederbalsam (my favorite leather conditioner ever-smells like heaven and your stuff will be almost instantly supple) to give them that nice lived in look, though honestly there was nothing stiff about them. I can't wait to ride in them tomorrow.

Speaking of...onward with my 30 Day Challenge and Day 2's question-The Last Time You Rode and What You Did.

Our last ride was Tuesday, and it was...not super. Mr. Miles is foot sore. I'm a little concerned because it's manifested since 1) he was trimmed last week, 2) he has been back on "decent" pasture grass 24/7 (Nothing too rich at all, I assure you. Still, it's much more than he was on previously), AND 3) the outdoor arena has some nightmare footing due to rain/dry heat/more rain, and this is the place he has been really "ouchy". Mind you, he seems just peachy when I rode him on grass and on the trails, but we didn't do any trotting/cantering out there. He was tripping a bit before his trim, but his feet really grew a ton in a couple of weeks and were flaring and chipping, so I just attributed his clumsiness to that, though he wasn't taking these rinky-dink strides like he did on Tuesday. Neither was he on the new pasture, nor was the arena footing as lousy as it is now.

Bottom line-lots of different variables all occurring at the same time practically, but what it comes down to is I have an ouchy horse. For the record, his feet are nice and cool and he's showing no symptoms of anything scary like founder. He was super slow at finishing his mash on Thursday, but I think being out on grass has something to do with that. His poop is definitely greener, possibly slightly looser than before the pasture change, but still what I would consider well formed and healthy looking.

Tuesday, I worked mostly at the walk with him, with about 15 minutes of trot. I worked him in circles off the rail (where the hardest, cakey-est footing was, and where he was obviously much more uncomfortable). We worked on bending and moving him off my leg. We did one canter to the left, his easy lead. I didn't worry too much about forward, and we quit early, for obvious reasons.

So, tomorrow, my game-plan is to throw his Cashel Simple Boots on, which we haven't used in months and months. If the outdoor is still looking awful, I'll try him in the indoor arena first and then try the other if he seems OK.

It's a little disconcerting to me that he's so uncomfortable, but I'm trying not to make too much out of it. His farrier has been trimming him for over a year now, and I trust him implicitly. Of course, the other thing I've been turning over in my mind is if we should try front shoes with him. Ugh, I know. I LOVE that he's able to be barefoot, and his feet have been great for the most part, although he's always been a little sensitive to hard, rocky gravel. I'm not anti-shoe if it's the best thing to keep the horse comfortable, but neither do I want to go there until we've exhausted all other options. Do I wish the outdoor arena footing was in better shape? Yes. However, I also want my horse to be able to navigate "most" footing without getting sore. I want those Rock Cruncher feet! I know, I own a TB-it may be asking for a bit much;) Still, we're also working harder than we were even last summer so...I don't know yet.

Hopefully the Simple Boots will do the trick. I'll keep you all updated. In the meantime, new Country Booooooots!!!! Between those and our new OTTB saddle pad that's on it's way, I'm feeling a little gluttonous. My disaster of a work wardrobe can't be put off for much longer either, sigh.

Have a lovely Fourth of July everyone! I'll be stuffing one of our Golden dogs, Lebowski, full of tranquilizers, unfortunately. I've always loved the holiday because it comes with a day off work, natch, but I could do without all the yahoos that shoot off fireworks until 3 in the morning. For like, 4 days straight.

Good Boy BeanPie much enjoys the woods accompanied by water and sweet, sweet quiet.