Thursday, July 6, 2017

Situation Normal.....

Anyone familiar with the military knows how that anagram ends.



Earlier this week someone hit our fence, destroyed 100ft of it, and drove off. Thankfully, only one horse got out. Unfortunately, it was 27 year old Beau and he hit a car, a different car than the one that hit our fence, then ran through a 5 acre field into the woods and fell into a ravine.  Oh, and it was 10:00 at night. It took us a half hour to find him, then another half hour to get him out of the ravine and home. 

Looking down into the ravine. Beau was stuck in the brambles at the top center of the image. 

He did get out of the ravine on his own, and he walked home. I hosed him down and cleaned him up as best I could, took his vitals, offered him water and then a tiny bit of food because all I had for painkillers were powdered robaxin and banamine paste. He ate and drank, and then pooped, and all his vital signs were normal, which was a good sign. I called my vet to tell her what happened, she advised that I'd done everything that could be done right now, short of loading him onto a trailer and hauling him two hours to the nearest emergency clinic, which didn't seem necessary since he wasn't shocky and was able to walk, eat, drink, etc. We decided she would come out first thing in the morning.

Looking up from where Beau was stuck in the ravine. 


He's going to be OK, somehow. He has deep lacerations on both knees, and many, many superficial lacerations and contusions all over his body, but he is going to be OK. He's a tough old sucker, an Old School Quarter Horse and built like a tank. They don't make 'em like that anymore.

This was the next morning, he ate his breakfast like nothing happened!


We bandaged up what we could, he's on two different antibiotics and a lot of anti-inflammatories and strict stall rest for awhile. Well, he can come out for hand-grazing, but no unsupervised paddock time.

All bandaged up the next day. The white spots are liquid bandage for the places that we couldn't do a traditional bandage.


Not that I really have much in the way of paddocks right now. The damage to the fence was so bad that we lost two of our four pastures. So, the three uninjured horses are confined to the two smallest paddocks in the back while we get the rest of the fence back up.

The fence will now be entirely 4x4 and 6x6 posts, and nobody is driving away after hitting it again. 


It's going to take a ton of work to get our little farm back up and running normally again, but it could have been so much worse. Beau has been the best patient ever, and he's got a great team of "nurses" to keep him company while he's on stall rest.

"We're here for you, buddy!"






Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"Thoroughbred Games"

Remember when I said that Jack needed someone to play Thoroughbred Games with?

I take it back.

Jack and Newboy eat separately from Beau and Spots, because Beau and Spots eat half of what the two TBs eat, finish first, and then go after the TBs bowls. Somehow, a pony and a 26 year old Quarter Horse can drive two big, robust young horses out of their feed.

So, last week I separate everyone, dump feed, and go into the house for a bit. About a half hour later, my neighbor is knocking on my door.

"Your horses are loose!"

"Shit! Which ones?"

"Jack and the new one!"

"Shitshitshit!"

With the help of my extremely helpful and patient neighbors, I rounded up my wayward beasts. I still don't know how the two idiots got out, but I suspect they must have somehow unlatched the gate. The gate swings back shut after it's been opened, so it's entirely possible for them to unlatch it, walk through, then have it swing shut behind them. The gate does latch from the outside, but they're both tall enough to reach over the gate.

I mostly blame Newboy for this, because Jack doesn't know how gates work.

All gates are now chained in addition to being latched. Some also have locks on them.

How to keep Thoroughbreds in.


A few days ago, I walked out expecting to play with my horses, only to find that one has a giant scrape down his back and the other is lame. I'm reasonably certain the two injuries are related. They do love to play together.

Right where the saddle goes.


Newboy's scrape is healing well, and he'll be ready to go back to work soon. I'm hoping Jack's lameness is just a stone bruise, but Jack has a history of turning stone bruises into raging abscesses. *Fingers Crossed*

"Thoroughbred Games", indeed!

In other news, I did finally read Newboy's tattoo and identify him. I contacted his breeder and his last trainer and it turns out they've been looking for him since he retired in 2015. They're both happy to know that he's safe and sound. The trainer even gave me some peace of mind about the bow, turns out he got him with the bow back in 2013 and he raced for two years on it. Talk about an old and set bow!

 


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Welcome, New Boy!

The week before last I got a text from my trainer: "Small, bay, TB gelding, needs home. Good mover. Go look at him."

Guess where this is headed.


My response: "Small, bay, TB geldings are a dime a dozen, why do I need to go look at this one?" (Always the skeptic, me.)

Trainer: "Here is the number for the lady who has him, just call."

Fine. I call. I find out that the horse has been abandoned at this dressage training barn, and the barn owner is looking to find him a good home with someone who loves and understands Thoroughbreds (I'm assuming that's how my name came up). Also, he has an old bowed tendon. Also, no one knows how old he is or what his name is. This is just looking better and better!

But, my trainer insists that this horse is a good mover and worth a look. And, his asking price is my favorite number: 0. So, I hook up the trailer (because the horse is located two hours away and I'm not going back if I like him) and go see him.

I pull up to an absolutely immaculate dressage barn full of lovely horses and introduce myself to the owner. We walk down the aisle and stop at a very plain, very bay Thoroughbred. My immediate response was "Meh."

But, I look him over anyway, because I came this far.  He's a sweet boy, and I get a good enough look at his tattoo to see he's a 7 year old. The bow is noticeable, but it's old and he's sound on it. I find out the person who abandoned him there had been riding him for the last year with no soundness issues and was somewhat of a beginner. She had only done WTC with him, but he was solid and sane. They call him "Lovey" at the barn because of his sweet disposition. I ask if he lunges. The barn owner shrugs and says "Let's find out."

We walk him down to the indoor, the owner throws a lunge line on and asks him to move out. He trots out in the most beautiful, floaty, knee-popping trot I've ever seen on a TB. It was here that I decided he was going on the trailer, but I played it cool while she cantered and trotted him in both directions. He's a lovely mover, both directions, and didn't take a single bad step. So, we load him on the trailer.

He loaded perfectly, and off we went. Even when we got home, and my nincompoops started running and neighing, he stood quietly on the trailer and waited for me to lead him off and to his new paddock.  He trotted around a couple times, sniffed noses over the gate with the other boys, and settled right in.

Jack has no chill.


And now we have four horses again.

I still haven't gotten around to reading his full tattoo and finding out who he is. Part of the tattoo is faint, and part of me is lazy. We've just been calling him "New Boy" and he seems OK with that.

Of course, it's been a total monsoon here since I brought him home so I haven't been able to ride him. I have found that he leads fine, cross and straight ties, tolerates fly spray and integrates well into the herd. He's also much more interested in people than he is the other horses, which I like.


Jack also has no sense of personal space.


Everyone who I've told about him so far has been shocked and/or appalled that I would just go pick up a random abandoned TB with an old bow (They clearly don't know me very well.), so I'll offer a bit of explanation. I've been tentatively looking for a fourth horse since I lost Spider because four horses are actually easier to manage than three. When I need to split up the herd to manage pastures or use two horses, having only three leaves one horse by itself. It's much easier to have two and two. I have my own farm, so board is not an issue and four horses don't really eat or poop that much more than three.

He was free, so I'm not out much if he ends up not staying sound.  Not that I think he won't stay serviceably sound: bowed tendons aren't the end of the world for lower level dressage and/or trail riding. I'm also not looking to make him into my future Olympic mount, I'll be quite content if he only stays sound enough for trail riding (I'd trail ride Jack, but if I have to dismount I can't get back on Jack without a tall mounting block). And if he does end up being a good dressage horse, well, that's a bonus!

Even if he ends up not being reliably sound for riding, he can still be a companion for Jack. Spots and Beau do not play stupid TB games, and Jack has missed playing with Spider. New Boy has already shown himself to be an excellent playmate for Jack, and Spots and Beau are very happy to no longer be harassed into playing games with Jack.

In short: he was free, a nice mover, good personality and needed a safe place to land. What more do you want?


TBs: You can't just have one!






Thursday, May 11, 2017

Girl Scouts and Ring Stewards

Last week was rather a blur, but I got to do two new things.

Thing One: My daughter is in Girls Scouts (Technically, she's a Brownie, but whatever), and there is a "Horse Badge" for her Troop. Evidently, my daughter is the only one in the Troop with easy access to horses and so I was chosen as Tribute to host the Horse Badge. Technically, my daughter was the one to lead the Troop in earning this badge, but she's nine, so I helped. A lot.

I took a picture of the requirements, because I'm scatterbrained professional like that.


Every once in awhile I get a bug up my butt to try going pro again. I was a pro years and years ago, training horses and running big farms, and I enjoyed it. But, eventually the people burned me out. Between the unrealistic expectations ("No, your 3 year old will not be doing PSG next year.") over-the top-demands ("No, I will not feed Princess 8 times a day and and change her sheets 5 times a day.") and just general insanity ("Are they having a fist fight over polo wraps?"), it was just tiring. Isolated as I am now on my own little farm, I occasionally forget how tedious I found dealing with the horsey set every day. Sometimes, I even miss it a little. Luckily, a group of giggling, shrieking nine year olds was just the cure for that.

They were actually fairly well behaved (particularly after they were shown my large and varied collection of whips). My daughter did a wonderful job explaining what the horses eat, their equipment and grooming items, etc..... and then it was time for me to bring out the sacrifice horse for the grooming demonstration.

I chose Beau, because he was really the only rational choice. Spots is the the perfect height, but I'm not sure how well he would tolerate the molestation that is a Girl Scout Troop learning to groom a horse. Jack would have absolutely loved it, but he's way too tall. They would only be able to groom his hocks and shoulders. So, Beau it was. This did not go over well with Jack.

"I volunteer as Tribute...."

At first Beau was a little... surprised. I don't think he'd ever been surrounded by that many children before. He took it in stride, though, and even enjoyed it once he realized he was just getting groomed. Afterwards, he gleamed like a model horse.


Honestly, I'm a little surprised he still had hair left afterwards.



Thing Two: I got to be a Ring Steward at a recognized show. This was fun! I'd never done it before, but I knew what the job entails and knew the USEF equipment rules already, so I was fairly prepared.  I met with the Technical Delegate before the show and got the final rundown on what I needed to do.

At a recognized show, the Ring Steward's main job is to make sure that the rider's equipment meet the USEF guidelines and that there is no blood on the horse. The Steward must examine 1/3 of the horses in each class. Since it was a smaller show, 1/3 of the class meant inspecting basically everyone and I was happy to do that since I wanted the experience!

As a competitor left the arena, I asked to check them. I put two fingers in the noseband, to be sure it wasn't too tight, then opened the horse's mouth and slid my fingers in to check the bit. Since I was wearing white latex gloves, this also checks for blood: any blood in the horse's mouth would end up on my glove. Then I looked at the rider's spurs to make sure they met the regulations and ran my hands down the horse's flank to check for blood. Finally, if the rider was carrying a whip, I measured it to make sure it was 120 cm (It's 100cm for ponies, but there weren't any ponies this day so it didn't come up).

Everybody passed my check, so I didn't get to find out what happens if you find something out of sorts. I suppose I can't really be disappointed at that, but it would have been interesting to know what the process is. I also learned a handy trick for telling the difference between a Dr. Bristol and a French Link: "A French woman has curves". I had asked the TD about it, because it can be hard to tell the difference between a French Link (legal) and a Dr. Bristol (illegal) even when you can see them, let alone when you're just shoving a gloved hand into the horse's mouth. So, you feel for curves and if you don't feel any you signal the TD who takes the rider and horse back to the trailer or stall and visually inspects it.

French Link on the top, Dr. Bristol on the bottom. Shamelessly borrowed from the University of Kentucky's 4H website.


I also learned that Spots should probably have a Pony Card, and that there isn't really a set way for the Ring Steward to determine whether a rider is on a pony or not without it. I was curious, because Spots will show at USEF recognized shows at some point, so I asked the TD what the procedure was for determining what was a pony and what wasn't for the whip rule. Her response: "Ponies have a Pony Card."  My response: "Uhhh... my pony doesn't have a Pony Card and he's a large pony, does that mean I can carry a 120cm whip?"  Her response: "Oh! You need to get him a Pony Card!" Point taken. Luckily, we can get him a Pony Card with the TD at the first recognized show he goes to, as long as it's before his class.

And now we're both caught up on last week. Seriously, it took this long for me to process all that.










Saturday, April 29, 2017

Diagnosis: My Give A Damn Is Broken

Well, two months and $3K later, I now know that I don't have lupus, Lyme, RA, or a host of other diseases. My thyroid is failing, but it hasn't failed yet, so they won't start treating it until it actually craps out.

At first I was a little upset. I saw a bunch of different doctors, I spent a ton of money (I have crappy insurance), and it turns out that it's all the damn IBD that we can't seem to get under control.  I've been battling Crohn's for over a decade, and I'm tired of this fight. As silly as it sounds, I wanted something new to attack.  But, no: it's the same shit, different day.

I am glad that I don't have any of the other diseases they tested me for, don't get me wrong. And now that I've had time to contemplate it, I think I'm just going to stop giving a damn about it. I know I've said it before, but I really have to accept that this is my normal and this is as good as it gets.

That's a tough concept for a Dressage Queen, we really aren't wired that way. The fundamental tenant of our sport is that you never stop working on getting better, moving up the levels, fixing everything, making everything perfect all the time....

So, what does a Dressage Queen do in this situation?

For starters, I asked my trainer if I could go to his barn and take lessons on his trained horses. I'm still  going to ride my own horses, but they're really still kind of green because I train them myself and I've felt like total shit for years, and I feel like I'm not getting a lot out of that. I want a challenge. I want to see if I can still ride a horse I didn't train myself. I want to make sure I haven't completely lost my mojo as far as dressage riding and training goes.

I also think I'm going to learn how to jump. Call it my "mid-life crisis", but it's something I never learned to do and I feel like it's a hole in my education. I've got a friend who teaches jumping, and she'll be totally cool with me having a large glass of wine before my lesson (because I'll need it!). Also, if I can get decent at jumping, I'll totally clean up on the dressage portion of eventing! So, while I may never be an FEI level dressage rider, but I can totally be a mediocre eventer who is great at the dressage part. And, seriously, it's way more badass to be mediocre at three sports than it is to be super good at one.

Lastly, I think I'm just going to stop giving a damn. I've spent too much time and energy trying to fix something that probably can't be fixed. It's time to go balls to the wall and live the life I've got.



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Fatigue

After 4 different injections, my back is feeling pretty good. Now I'm just tired and cranky. I'm not sure if that's from the steroids, or if I'm always tired and just don't notice it because I'm usually always in pain. Pain does give you a nice little endorphin rush, now that it's gone all that's left is a bone-crushing weariness.



I saw a new rheumatologist last week. He poked at me a bit and then removed 9 tubes of my blood, which left me feeling even crappier for about two days. I was rather attached to that blood, apparently. I'm being tested for: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren's Syndrome, Hepatitis A, B and C, Lyme Disease, thyroid problems, kidney problems, and Lupus.



I suspect the doctors may just be throwing darts and hoping one sticks to me at this point.

But that's enough about me, let's talk about The Great Red Menace. (AKA:  Giant Baby Giraffe, Shmoo, Stuart The Man Child,  Stupid Baby, and many other less family-friendly nicknames)

Occasionally called "Jack".


Since I feel like utter crap, I'm not riding Jack very much. Instead, I'm focusing on ground work. Jack is actually quite well-behaved under saddle, it's in all other aspects of his training that he fails spectacularly. He has very little understanding of the size of his own body and the concept of "personal space".  He also has zero concept of how to lunge, in spite of multiple people's efforts to teach him. So, we're working on that.

Why are we working on that? That's a question I've gotten a few times from people that I've told about Jack in real life. The answer is two part:

Part The First: I'm tired and I don't feel like saddling and then climbing aboard a 17+ hand nincompoop that requires all my strength to keep from turning into a wet noodle. Not that there's anything wrong with wet noodles, but we're going for dressage here, not Western Pleasure.

Part The Second: I find work on the lunge line, long lines, and in hand to be great for correcting Wet Noodleness without me having to expend as much energy. But, first the horse must respect personal space and lunge like a non-feral creature. So.....

Step One: Get Jack to stop being feral on the lunge line.

And that, my friends, is a work in progress.....



(Heh. Get it? Hehe.)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Finding Fun

My daughter is getting better and more confidant in her riding by leaps and bounds. She's almost 9, and finally physically ready to tackle the finer points of horsemanship. I teach her what I can, but I'm not really good with beginners. She also expressed an interest in jumping, a skill I never learned, so I decided to haul her over to a friend so she could learn to jump.

My friend has an army of school ponies at her Hunter training barn, all of them veterans of teaching squealing little girls the finer arts of patience, stubbornness, and pulling a pony's head up out of the grass. It was an eye opening experience for my daughter. Up to this point in her life, she had only ever ridden my trained dressage horses and her pony that I train for her twice a week. She had never experienced the humiliation of coasting aimlessly around an arena on a been-there-done-that lesson pony who is not interested in your subtle dressage cues. Not gonna lie, I may have laughed at her. But, it was totally in an understanding way.... hey, I've been there!

After a few lessons she got the hang of it, and is starting to learn how to convince a disinterested lesson pony to pay attention. It's a "must-have" experience for anyone who wants to learn to ride and train horses well.

I was talking to my own trainer about it, and sharing a laugh about mutual experiences getting drug off into the weeds by surly lesson ponies, when he made a very good point. "You just have to make sure it's fun. Don't worry about the frame and the position right now, that will come with experience. She has to have fun."

One of the things I struggle with the most in teaching her myself is that I don't really know what 9 year olds are capable of in terms of horsemanship. I look at the pony and think, "Dammit, the reins are too long and he's not on the bit. She's got her hands all over the place and he's moving at half the speed of snails. Gotta fix that." Then I tell her to fix it and it devolves into a shouting match between us and nobody is having fun anymore.

Watching my friend teach her, I realize that much of what I expect from her she just isn't capable of yet. It will come with time and experience. And the only way for her to gain experience is for me to step back and let her have it. So for now, I sit on the mounting block outside the arena and let her meander and figure things out for herself. When she has a question, she asks it. Nobody yells, everybody has fun.


My eyelid only twitches a little when his head is in the air.

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