Monday, September 29, 2008

A horse park within walking distance

On Saturday I showed a friend around Panama's soon-to-be new home. On our way out of the neighborhood, we saw a horse park just a few blocks away. I remembered seeing it on the Google map of the place, so we headed over to check it out.

The horse park is a fantastic discovery. It has a large arena with sand footing, which my trainer should be pretty happy about. There is a creek running through the park, with some trails and a couple of water crossings. The park also has quite a few jumps for cross-country training.

I am thrilled by my discovery. I am guessing I will prefer the field and trails, since they are easier to access and offer an easier transition for Panama, but the horse park is still only a 5 minute walk away. Although I will need to walk Panama across a 4-lane road to get there, most of the walk will be along quiet residential streets.

It'll be a goal to work toward, at any rate!


Friday, September 26, 2008

A new, SAFE home for my horse

I have great news — I found a wonderful new home for my horse!

The place around the corner from my old barn hasn't worked out, and I'm worried about his safety at his temporary home, so about a week ago I decided to start looking in earnest.

Finding a place to board your horse is difficult even when you have plenty of time, I've realized. I answered countless ads, and almost every place I looked into was the wrong setup, the wrong price, or the wrong timing (i.e. it was already full). I went to see one place and was considering it but had my reservations, so I was thrilled when I found the perfect new home for Panama today!

The property is over two acres with two separate pastures, with an open barn in each that the horses are free to roam in and out of as they please. (This is fantastic because they can essentially turn themselves out whenever they want.) They are fed good quality grass hay (which I prefer for him), and the property's owner will feed Panama his grain and blanket him in the winter for no extra charge.

The neighborhood is quiet, because of the way it's situated — there's no through traffic. There is room to ride in the pastures, a large field to ride in across the street (literally only 30 feet away), and access to a great network of trails just on the other side of the field. It's a great place for me to work with Panama on expanding his comfort zone, so that eventually he will feel secure riding the trails without other horses.

Also, the neighborhood location and the proximity to bike routes makes it really easy for me to continue riding my bike over to visit Panama.

I couldn't be happier with Panama's new home. I'm planning on trying to move him in the next week, and just paying double board for a month — I'm that excited (and relieved!) to have found Panama such a safe and happy new home!


Monday, September 22, 2008

Opposing horse-drawn carriages: A few links

After my interesting encounter the other day with a horse-carriage driver, I was contacted by a couple of activists supporting the ban on horse-drawn carriages. They gave me some good links for additional information on the subject, but most of all their kind emails made me feel much better after the abuse I'd endured from the driver.

The whole incident made me decide to be a little bit more outspoken about horse-drawn carriages, so I'd like to share a website and a couple of blogs with you:

1) The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages website

2) Horsewatch NYC, a frequently updated blog with information and daily sightings of the ills of horse-drawn carriages

3) Carriage Horses - NYC, a similar blog on the same subject

Apparently the behavior of the horse-carriage driver I encountered is not an isolated incident. Both activists who contacted me reported getting abusive correspondence from the same person. Also, I have seen videos — such as this video of a verbally abusive horse-carriage driver — that indicate there are other drivers who have just as little respect for people.

And if they can't respect and treat people with kindness, how on earth can we expect that they do that for their horses?


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bad mommy, good mommy

I feel like a bad horse mommy lately. The last few days, I've only gone briefly to visit Panama — really just long enough to give him his grain. Also, I've been going in the evening rather than in the afternoon, when I usually go.

If it weren't for the grain I probably wouldn't have gone at all, which is why I feel like a bad mommy. I've been really busy, though, and I guess it makes me a good mommy to get my work done so that I can generate income with which to pay his board. I just need to be sure not to get into a habit of neglecting him!

Another reason why I've been busy — and another reason why I'm a good mommy too — is because I have started looking more actively for a new barn for Panama. I've been waiting to see if I can get in with a barn near my old barn, so that I can still go trail riding with my friends. However, I am starting to worry about finding Panama a better situation sooner rather than later, so I've started checking into my other choices.

Bad mommy with some things, good mommy with others. I guess it all balances out!


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Panama's neighbors

Today I rode my bike up to visit Panama. I grained him, groomed him (with a new curry and brush I bought him Tuesday), and lunged him.

Panama's neighbors were out in their yard today, and since I've been meaning to get some pictures of them, I grabbed my camera.

First there are four of these guys:

One of the sheep who live next door to my horse's new home

Two of the sheep have black faces and two have white faces. I thought they were really cute and were probably just exotic pets, but the ten-year-old girl who lives where I'm boarding Panama said that the neighbors "had 5 sheep, but then they ate one." I was horrified! Who does that in a residential neighborhood???

There is also a big black donkey who hangs out with the sheep:

The big black donkey who lives next door to my horse's new home

They are all funny creatures. Sometimes — when it's close to feeding time, I think — the sheep will baa at me while I'm visiting Panama. The donkey hangs out near the fence when I have Panama out, and occasionally Panama will walk up and sniff his nose through the chain link!


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Worming Panama at the new place

My horse's dewormer was due, so yesterday I wormed him for the first time at the new place.

Panama and I had developed a routine at our old barn that enabled me to worm him pretty quickly and easily. Partly that was because we had a quiet, enclosed area (the wash rack in the barn's entrance) where I could worm him without us being harassed by other people or horses. At the new place there is definitely no place like that, so I was a little worried about how the worming would go.

At first I tried to worm Panama in the new section of the corral, where he is in with the other horse. That didn't work at all, because she thought I was giving him a treat or something, and wouldn't stop crowding us. So I took Panama into the old section of the corral (which is pictured here).

This time I was able to worm him successfully, but it took a few minutes for him to calm down enough for me to do so. The good news is he swallowed quickly (he usually holds it in his mouth for a while, waiting to see if he can get a bite of something and spit the wormer out) and got a few treats and his grain without much of a delay.

I didn't try to lunge or ride him afterward, because getting wormed made him a little cranky. I decided it was a good excuse to give him a day's rest!


Monday, September 15, 2008

First ride at the new place

This evening I rode Panama for this first time since moving him to his new home.

He was being a bit of a pill because I'd come to feed him his grain a little later than usual. To make sure he was going to be in an okay mood to be ridden, first I lunged him a little bit. I'm glad I did — he was definitely itching to run! I let him canter quite a bit, which he seemed to enjoy — he kept lowering his head and shaking it back and forth at the canter, like he does when he is feeling playful.

I hadn't felt like hauling my saddle down there (it's being kept in my basement for now, until I have a real tack locker or until I move Panama somewhere else), so I just brought the bridle and rode bareback. That meant no trotting, since Panama's back is awfully slippery, my muscles have had a 2-week break, and we were riding in an area where Panama is more prone to being startled!

Panama needed a few reminders about what leg yields and whoa meant, but other than that he did remarkably well — particularly since for about half of the ride, he had one dog or the other following him. (He did try to chase the dog once while I was lunging him today.) We'll have to practice a bit before he learns where the edges of our "circle" is — he still isn't sure where I want him to be when we are lunging or riding.

Now that I know I can manage a little riding in the yard, I am going to start riding Panama regularly again. Goodness knows, we both need it — the exercise as well as the routine!


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Heroic horse saves herd from mountain lion

A few days ago, this story ran in the local paper:

Heroic Elbert horse mauled battling lion

It's not a very good headline, because it sounds like the horse mauled the lion. Unfortunately, it was the other way around: the 12-year-old gelding was mauled, presumably trying to defend the other horses — one of whom was also injured — in the pasture.

And even more unfortunately, the gelding had to be euthanized. I always have a difficult time hearing this kind of story, because I believe that veterinarians are too quick to prescribe death for horses — and owners are too quick to accept the verdict — most likely because actually treating their wounds can be difficult and expensive.

But if you remember my posts about Molly the pony and other horses with prosthetic legs, even losing a leg (long considered a death sentence for a horse) can be managed if both the horse is patient enough — and the owner is dedicated enough.

Of course, I'll never know whether Sunny could have been saved — and maybe it's better not knowing, because I'd feel really bad to hear that he could have been. It's always sad to lose a horse, but it sounds like Sunny was a rare treasure.


The wrath of a horse-carriage driver

I've always spoken my mind freely — but on the Internet, where anonymity encourages abusive behavior, it seems to generate quite the response. Take tonight, for instance: My recent post on the documentary Blinders has incited the wrath of a New York City horse-carriage driver.

Said carriage driver emailed me tonight via my contact form with this message:

I just finished reading your post re: Blinders, the movie about NYC's horse-drawn carriage industry.

Just a cursory glance around your website leads me to believe that you are interested in truth; as a fellow published writer(Michaleen Flynn is a nom de plume, different from my publishing name)and life-long horse lover, I felt compelled to reach out to you with that truth on this topic.

Submitted for your consideration:

[blog URL]

Hoping to hear from you.

I checked "Michaleen's" blog and browsed around a little, then commented on one of the blog posts. I tried to be as polite about it as possible without losing ground, for I wanted to make it clear that I disagree with his (or her?) point of view. Instead of granting me the same respect, however, "Michaeleen" sent me a venomous email (repeated word for word as a comment on both my blog post and a response to the comment I left on his/her blog post), blasting me for everything from Panama's leg wounds last summer to my falls this year.

Whereas before I was "interested in truth," now I am "defensive and close-minded," not to mention a bad horse owner, simply because I don't see things his or her way.

No wonder "Michaleen" wants to remain anonymous. I would, too, if I were that hateful!

Note: Unless "Michaleen" deletes our comments from his/her blog, you can view the rest of the dialogue here.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Bison slaying case

Okay, so buffalo and horses are different creatures, but when I saw this article I thought it deserved a mention on Pony Tales Blog:

Colorado ranch owner accused in deaths of 32 bison

The local paper adds to the story:

Bison slaying like an Old West feud

I didn't know that Colorado has "free range" laws, allowing livestock to roam and graze freely, but it makes sense considering how the region was settled. And it seems like most people who live in the area know what to expect.

My first thought when I read the article was, "This is why city people (i.e. a rich software exec from Austin, Texas) have no business in the country." Only a city person would feel like he had to have "pristine pasture." Furthermore, no one else seems to be upset or surprised about bison roaming freely, and in fact the article states that the buffalo rancher is well known and respected in Fairplay.

Finally, who the heck slaughters animals for trespassing? Even if the animals were being raised as meat (something I have mixed feelings about), they still ought to be treated with dignity. Animals don't understand property lines; it's not fair to kill them over a transgression they didn't even know they committed.


'Blinders: The Movie' screenings

Do you remember when I blogged about a documentary about New York City's horse carriage industry?

Well, the wait is finally over! Blinders will be showing at several screenings in select cities over the next month or so. For those of us who don't live in those cities (of which New York is one, of course), the documentary should be out on DVD soon.

I'm looking forward to seeing it!


Thursday, September 11, 2008

...And your little dog, too

I just recently got back from visiting Panama. Although rain was forecasted for this afternoon, I managed to lunge him before it started.

The owner of the property has two medium-sized dogs. The female is pretty sweet and laid back, but the male is very demanding about getting attention. Every day when I arrive, I go through the same hassle trying to get him to not jump up on me. When he wants attention he starts whining and squirming around, and after a moment starts jumping like crazy. It's like his excitement builds and builds until he can't contain himself any longer.

The male dog also gets really excited whenever I'm doing anything with Panama, particularly when I'm giving commands. A couple days ago, he got in Panama's way when I was lunging him, and Panama lowered his head and did this funny little prance-and-stomp with his front legs. The dog got out of the way pretty quickly, which was good because it looked like Panama was aiming right at him!

Today the dog offered a variation: Instead of getting in Panama's way, he ran around the circle right behind him, barking periodically. At first Panama handled being chased while lunging reasonably well — he didn't once try to speed up or run away.

After a while, though, Panama started making his annoyance clear. A few times he spotted the dog, lowered his head, and took off running right after him! The first time I was so surprised I didn't scold him; thankfully he stopped when he reached the end of the lunge line and remembered I was holding it. After that I started scolding him for it, because what I really don't need is to be yanked off my feet by an annoyed, overweight pony chasing a dog through the backyard!

It's a great mental image, though, isn't it? :o)


The best how-to book on horses you'll ever buy

iconThere are a lot of reference books on horses on the market — just check your local Barnes & Noble, and you'll probably find a couple dozen at least. I've bought several and you probably have to, but I usually find that they're not as helpful as I would like — certainly not always worth spending the money to own them.

Stable Smarts, on the other hand, has got to be the most useful little horse book I have ever read. It has sections on pretty much everything you need to know about keeping and caring for horses.

Rather than just giving the basic rundown on horses, as most basic horse books do, this book is full of tips and tricks — really ingenious things. For instance, it explains how to compost manure, how to make things like saddle racks from odd household items, how to build and repair fences, tips on first aid for horses, and the uses of basic household items such as mineral oil and Vaseline.

This isn't the kind of book you have to read through from beginning to end, so I've been flipping through it randomly. Even though I thought I'd read it all at least once, I keep coming across new little nuggets of information. I can't say enough how invaluable this book is!


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pudgy Panama

Remember how I blogged yesterday about how Panama is getting plump? Well, today I took some pictures:

Panama's big belly

Panama's big belly

The difference isn't much — I notice it mainly in how his spine isn't as visible anymore, and how round and firm his belly has gotten. Those things are a little difficult for a camera to pick up, but just in case you can see the difference, here's a picture from a couple weeks ago:

Panama grazing on August 20, 2008

As I noted yesterday, I am cutting back on his grain, and lunging him every day now to give him some exercise. I'll let you know how the diet goes!


Riding my bike to visit my horse

I blogged recently about why I miss mucking stalls now that I'm no longer at our old barn — primarily for the sake of the physical exercise.

Well, I found a replacement source of exercise: This week I started riding my bike to visit Panama every afternoon. Although he is pretty close to me now — only a 5 minute drive in the car — it takes about 20 minutes to get there on my bike, thanks to a rather intimidating hill. (It takes me slightly less time, about 15 minutes, to get home. Of course, these times may improve as my strength and endurance improves.)

Conveniently, there is also a bus that will take me directly there on days when the weather isn't so good.

It's not quite an equal exchange for cleaning stalls — for instance, it doesn't do anything for my upper arms, which were becoming quite nicely toned. However, it's a good workout with great incentive (i.e. seeing Panama), so I'm not complaining!


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Panama is getting plump!

I noticed today that Panama was looking a little plumper than usual, so I pulled out the handy-dandy weight tape. Luckily, I'd taken Panama's weight just before getting kicked out of the barn, so I had something to compare today's weight to.

To the best of my memory, my readings a couple of weeks ago said that Panama weight around 680-700 pounds. Well, today I was getting readings of around 730. That means the little rascal has gained between 30 and 50 pounds since he moved to his new home about a week and a half ago!

I think the weight gain is a combination of a couple of things:

1. Lack of exercise since I don't have as good a place to work him, since we're no longer going on trail rides several times a week, and since he no longer has a big pasture to play in during the day.

2. All that alfalfa! The horses are being fed straight alfalfa at this place, which has a higher protein content than grass hay. I also think they throw the horses quite a bit of hay at each feeding.

3. Free choice alfalfa pellets the last few days. The property's owner had leased a couple of horses during the summer, and therefore had a ton of leftover alfalfa pellets. He's been giving them to the horses to try to get rid of them.

Since Panama is in the same pen as the other horse (still just the one other), there's not much I can do about changing his diet without changing the other horse's too. She is an older horse and looks a little skinny, so I hate to have their food cut back, since she so obviously needs it.

Instead, I am going to cut back on Panama's grain, and start lunging him every day to give him a little exercise. I'll check his weight periodically — mainly to make sure he doesn't gain any more, as he's looking rather tubby right now!


Lunging Panama at the new place

Yesterday I lunged Panama for the first time at his new home.

As I've mentioned before, the backyard at the residential property he's at isn't all that horse-proof, so I had to be really careful. There is, however, a large dirt area (the end of the dirt driveway where people have been turning their cars around a lot over the years) next to the corral.

First I walked the area to make sure I didn't see any nails or other metal scraps that could hurt Panama's feet. (I did find a nail the other day, and yesterday I found a short piece of thick metal wire, such as what's used in chain link fencing.) There were a few things cluttering up the area, one of them being a trailer that was parked along the side. I slipped a red newspaper sack over the end of the trailer, so that Panama would steer clear of it, and moved a couple of other things (a yellow wheelbarrow and a few other work tools) over to the sides as well. I also found a stack of orange traffic cones, and set one up on the other side to mark the far edge of our "arena."

When all this was done, I had a comparitively safe area in which to work Panama. Unfortunately, though, the circle wasn't very big, and the equipment nearby (particularly the trailer) worried me. I decided to play it safe and take it easy lunging Panama — particularly since it's been a week and a half since he's been worked.

I started out just walking Panama. First I led him around the circle to show him where the boundaries were, and then I lunged him at a walk. I made him do the circle for probably at least 5 minutes, until he stopped shying at the equipment and breaking into a trot without waiting for my command.

Once I felt he could handle a trot without freaking out, I clucked to him to speed up. It became evident that the poor boy needs more exercise than he can get in that little corral: He kept lowering his head and shaking it back and forth, like he does when he wants to kick up his heels and run. He didn't canter, though, thank goodness — I just don't think our little circle is big enough for him to canter safely.

The other side went much faster, since Panama had already figured out where the boundaries of his circle was. I lunged him at a walk and a trot on that side for a few minutes, and then took him over to graze in the grassy part of the backyard before putting him away.

I still don't have enough room to do what I want to do, but I feel better having been able to at least lunge Panama a little.


Watch out for nails!

On Sunday when I went to visit Panama, I noticed he had two fresh scrapes on his rear end, both of them somewhat vertical and on either side of his tail. Neither had broken the skin, but both had sheared the hair off.

Neither scrape looked like a bite, and looking at them, I had a hunch that a nail had caused them. I could think what else in the corral he could have done it on, really — I can't see wood (either the fence or one of the trees) making marks like that. So after I finished graining and grooming Panama, I decided to have a look around his corral.

Sure enough, within the first few minutes I found a likely culprit: two nail heads sticking out of the fence by at least an inch each. They were on the top board, so they were the right height to have caused the scrapes. A little lower on the same fence post, there was another one; and on another fence (thankfully where the horses don't go very often), I found a few pointy ends exposed.

Michael and I had plans, so when I got home I told him about the nails. We each grabbed a hammer and, on the way to meet my mom, stopped back at Panama's new home to resolve the problem. Michael pounded the nail heads down while I took care of the pointy ends and scouted for other problems.

It makes me feel a little better knowing that there are now no exposed nails for Panama to hurt himself on!


Monday, September 8, 2008

Should American horses be killed for food?

I don't know how I missed this article back when it first ran, but I just found it a few days ago:

House considers ban on killing horses for food

Honestly, it freaks me out that people oversees actually eat horses the way they would cows or pigs. But then again, I'm a flexitarian (primarily vegetarian, but not strictly so), so I have some difficulties with the concept of eating animals in general.

The thing that bugs me most is that horses are typically work animals and companions, and who the heck eats their friends? If you don't have a horse and don't understand what I mean, just substitute dog or cat for horse. Can you imagine cuddling up with your pets and knowing that others just like them are currently being eaten in other countries?

So no, I don't think American horses ought to be slaughtered for food. If overpopulation is a problem (which it is), let's focus on placing limits on breeding, rather than destroying lives already in existence.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Horse massage lawsuit

I was trolling the local news sites this morning for horse-related news when I came across this article:

Md. woman sues state for right to massage horses

The state of Maryland pressured Mercedes Clemens into shutting down her horse massage business, stating that by law only veterinarians can offer horse massage. Clemens, who is a licensed massage therapist and a licensed animal massage therapist, contests that the services she offers are different than veterinary services. (i.e. It would be kind of like requiring that you could only get a massage from your doctor.)

The state's authorities are, of course, backpedaling now that they have a lawsuit aimed at them. They are all trying to deny responsibility. One authority even says now that she can practice animal massage without a veterinary degree, as long as it's for relaxing the animals (and not attempting to practice medicine on them). Since Clemens isn't suing for money, it seems the authorities simply don't want to get involved in trying to clarify the law in court.

How do you feel about horse massage? I was skeptical when I first heard about it, but honestly it makes sense. After all, animals' bodies can't be that much different than ours, and in fact a horse's body typically does more physical work than ours do, so it makes sense that massage would help them to relax just as much as it helps us.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Why I miss mucking stalls

I've been feeling a bit down since getting kicked out of the barn — I've found it impossible to work, for one thing, and as a result I've taken a couple unplanned days off. I've also been thinking about how much I miss the physical work of mucking stalls at the barn. Just a little bit ago, it suddenly occurred to me that the two things might be connected.

Psychologically, I was really thriving on mucking stalls. As a result of all the extra exercise, I was drinking more water — something I usually don't do willingly. I was also getting into better physical shape — losing flab and building muscle — which I was pretty happy about. My overall mood seemed to be improved, too — I was just really happy about doing all that work and spending more time at the barn.

There is probably a physiological connection, too, though. I've heard before that exercise releases endorphins; after a month and a half of mucking stalls, my brain has probably become quite accustomed to all the extra "happy checmicals" floating about. Losing that quite suddenly no doubt has a lot to do with — or at the very least, isn't helping — my depressed mood.

With any luck, though, I'll be working my butt off again soon enough: I am trying to get Panama into a self-care barn, and I plan to make an arrangement with some of the other boarders to help with some of their work if they'll help with some of mine.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A horse's love affair with his grain

Horses are very serious about their grain! Even the best-behaved horse can forget his manners when his grain is in sight. Even at the last barn Panama was at, which was full care, I loved giving him his grain periodically — I felt it probably made him love me more.

That's one of the bright sides of Panama's temporary new home: I'm giving him his grain myself, every afternoon. This afternoon he nickered at me for the first time in the new place as I was getting his grain ready. It's a good sign — he always nickered for his grain at the old barn, but as with other things, he tends to be vocal only when he feels comfortable.

I'm giving Panama his grain in the driveway, right outside the corral gates. That way he's still confined by the fences around the backyard, but his corral-mate can't run him off his grain. Other than another horse who is higher on the pecking order, there is very little that can make a horse leave his grain, so although the backyard isn't horse-proof I don't worry about it until the grain is gone.

Panama has this really cute habit of curling his right front leg while he chews his grain. I call it his grain-gasm, because he acts like it tastes so good he just can't help himself.

My horse's grain-gasm

Isn't he adorable?


Sign the pledge to get outdoors

Before bringing Panama to Denver, I was one of those people who rarely got outside. Now that I have my horse, though, half my life is spent outside — and I feel so much better for it!

So of course, when I saw the pledge to get outdoors, I was quite happy to sign it. I only wish that every day could be spent outside with my horse!

One day spent oudoors isn't that difficult to do, and I can almost guarantee you'll feel pretty good when the day is over. Won't you sign the petition, too?


A beautiful fall day and my horse settling in

Yesterday was overcast and chilly — a bit of a shock after our 80- and 90-degree holiday weekend — but today has been a beautiful fall day. Most of the day has been sunny, with just a bit of fall crispness in the breeze. With the exception of the short rainshower we had in the afternoon (ironically, right when I was visiting my horse) it has been a perfect example of fall in Colorado.

I'm developing a nice little routine of visiting Panama in the early afternoon to grain him and mess with him a little. Although the setup where he's at is still not ideal, he seems to be starting to settle in a little (when he's in the corral, that is — he's still a little nervous in the yard, which I don't blame him for because it's not very horse-friendly).

One clue that he's settling in is that he's not clamping his tail down as much. He had an itch in his tail channel today and was trying to scratch it on the fence; since the fence isn't very strong, I decided to try to scratch it for him. He got really into it, lifting his head up and swaying his butt back and forth, just like he does when he scratches on the fence. It reminded me of a dog getting really into a scratch and moving his hind leg like he's trying to help. Although I've tried to scratch his itches for him a couple of times, that was the first time he's ever gotten so into it!

Anyway, while I was scratching his tail channel for him, Panama was lifting his tail to give me better access. This struck me as a good sign, as yesterday when I tried to massage his tail, he kept it clamped down as tight as he could. I've noticed in the past that when he's comfortable he'll relax his tail and let me mess with it, whereas when he's not comfortable he won't. Maybe it was just that the itch was that bad or the scratching felt that good, but today was a big change from yesterday.

The other thing he did today was to roll right in front of me. Now Panama rarely rolls while I'm watching, as if he thinks he's not supposed to — but he also won't roll unless he's comfortable. But today, toward the end of my visit, he laid down and indulged in a very luxurious-looking roll. I wish I had had my camera on me — it was pretty cute how he arched and shimmied back and forth while he rolled.

I still want to find Panama a better long-term home as soon as possible, but it's a relief to me that he is starting to settle in a bit!


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Panama's temporary new home

I spent about an hour with Panama this afternoon. I gave him his grain (I'm graining him now, to keep him on about the same schedule he has been on for the past 8 months) and let him graze in the backyard a little, while I sat on the swings and tried to read.

Unfortunately, that didn't last for very long. Panama has the jitters still, and the backyard isn't exactly horse-proof. Every time he started and trotted off, I worried that he would hurt himself on something. So I put him back in the corral (which is decently horse-proof, though I don't think the fence separating it from the backyard is strong enough).

While Panama sunbathed in the corral, I groomed him a little bit and put on some fly spray. He is shedding like crazy today, because it was cool overnight and this morning, only to warm back up a bit this afternoon. It makes me long for our wash rack and cross ties at the old barn, where I could give him a really thorough grooming.

The only consolation is that this isn't permanent — as soon as I find a better place, I'll move him!

Here's a picture of Panama in his temporary new home:

My horse in the corral at his temporary new home

I took this shortly after arriving. He looks happy to see me, doesn't he?


Getting kicked out of the barn, part 2

After being told Sunday that I was getting kicked out of the barn, I canceled my ride in order to look for someplace to take my horse. I had until 5:00 pm to move Panama, which only gave me about six hours, and I didn't have either a health certificate (which is typically required to be accepted at a new barn) or access to a trailer.

I started out by checking into one of the barns within walking distance of my soon-to-be-former barn. They required a health certificate, and since it was not quite noon, I could have gotten the vet in on an emergency call to get it. However, the barn wasn't really what I wanted — too expensive and I wouldn't have been able to continue to use my own trainer — so I decided to keep looking.

In the meantime, Michael had been looking online since I texted him with the news, and he had found a residential horse property near us that was boarding. We went and saw it, and although it really isn't much more than someone's big backyard, it was our best option so far.

After that, we checked out a barn around the corner from where I was getting kicked out of. There weren't any signs, but I saw a woman riding in the arena and stopped to talk to her. It turned out it was a self care barn, but they didn't have any room. However, the woman's boyfriend — who unofficially runs the place for the owner — thought there was a chance they could get me in, even if it was temporary.

Unfortunately, they wouldn't know until a little after 4 pm, which was cutting it a bit close for my tastes. By the time 4:00 rolled around, I was a nervous wreck — and it didn't help that the manager called me around then and gleefully informed me that if we didn't move Panama by 5 pm, she would have a transport company come and haul him away. We went back to the self care barn and waited for the couple to return.

When the guy arrived, he told us he wasn't able to get us in for another day or two. Michael decided to go back to our barn without me and try to talk the manager into giving us at least one more day, but that failed miserably. So we called up the guy with the residential property, and the guy at the self care barn said he'd trailer Panama there.

Instead of loading Panama up at our old barn, and letting the watchful eyes of the manager and owner stress us all out (including Panama), we simply walked him up the street to the self care barn and loaded him up there. He actually loaded reasonably well for me, particularly considering it was windy (which freaks him out) and he knew something was wrong (which really freaks him out).

We delivered Panama to his new home without incident. Once he was in the corral, safe and sound, I felt such relief! He seemed happy, too, partly because by some miracle another horse from our previous barn (the one I left in December) is being boarded there as well. I've been checking on him frequently, and so far he appears to be adjusting well. I'm heading over there soon, actually, and will post an update when I get back.


Getting kicked out of the barn, part 1

Panama and I had a very traumatic holiday weekend.

It should have been a fantastic weekend. I didn't have any work to do over the weekend and I had several trail rides planned. Unfortunately, I had no idea when I went out on the trail on Saturday that it would be my last ride for a while.

Sunday morning I had a disagreement with the manager. It's not our first. She flipped out and accused me of "trying to manage the property" a few weeks ago when I asked her to clean Panama's favorite water tank (and the only one he drinks out of in his stall), as the water was starting to look rather yellow. I suppose I was rather spoiled by the old manager, who never let the water tanks get dirty — but still, I didn't think my request warranted almost getting kicked out (which I suspected at the time, based on her response, and which the manager and owner confirmed on Sunday).

Sunday morning's disagreement was equally mundane. The manager texted me at 7:30 in the morning to ask me to help her move the horses around. When I found out she was moving a horse who was leaving in another week — a horse who has been on her sh!t list for the last month — without having talked to the owner first, I refused to help. I would be pissed if my horse was moved to another stall without my permission or knowledge, so I won't help do that to someone else.

I felt that my refusal was justified, firstly because it was the moral thing to do, but also because my contract says that I get free board in exchange for cleaning stalls, not answering the manager's every beck and call (which I was getting a lot of). Later she apparently told the owner that she was asking me to clean, not to help her move horses, but I think this is a lie because 1) her text messages said she "needed help with musical stalls" (i.e. moving horses to other stalls), and she didn't say anything to the contrary even when I said I wouldn't help her move the horses around; and 2) I clean the stalls every morning, so there would be no need to text me at 7:30 am to ask me to do so.

The owner also told both me and the horse's owner later that the horse was to be moved so that they could finish fixing the fence around that stall's run, which proves that someone is lying somewhere, because I have a text message from the manager stating that she was moving the horse out so that she could put a different horse in his stall (which is one of the best stalls).

Anyway, when I arrived at the barn to meet my friend for a ride, the manager informed me that I had 14 days to move Panama, but she threatened that if there was any "attitude" about it, it would be less. Of course, I'm not easily intimidated, so I argued with her about whether the contract allowed for this. Before I knew it, she was telling me I had to be out that same day.

In other words, I got kicked out for refusing to do something I wasn't comfortable with, and then for not lying down and taking it quietly.

Now on something else, I might have called her bluff, because I don't believe she had any legal right to do what she did. But in this case my horse's well being was at stake, because she was — quite gleefully, I might add — threatening to call a transport company and have him hauled away. And while I might be able to fight it after the fact, that wouldn't undo anything that had been done to Panama. So I did the only thing I could have done: I spent the day scrambling to get him moved.

To be continued...