Monday, March 31, 2008
In early September 2007, we finally brought my horse, Panama, to Denver. It had been 16 months since Panama's trailer accident and horse rescue, and a month since his recent leg injury.
Figuring out transportation was actually easier than I thought it would be. We went with a horse transport company based out of Colorado Springs. They picked Panama up at about 2am, and delivered him to his new home about 13 hours later. It only cost $495.
Unfortunately, the driver and my in-laws had a hard time getting Panama to load up into the trailer. For one thing, he had had an extremely traumatic experience with a trailer as a baby. He also had to go up a ramp into this particular trailer, which most horses don't like. The fact that the driver had left the truck (which was a semi) running while trying to load Panama probably also didn't help.
It took about an hour to get Panama to load up into the trailer. At one point Michael's mom called him, and said they didn't think they'd be able to do it — Panama was rearing up on the ramp, and they were afraid he'd go over backwards. At one point, he even broke away and ran right through a wire fence trying to get back into the pasture.
Of course, they did eventually get him loaded. When he arrived in Denver, he was pretty jumpy. He was also extremely protective of his injured leg, and threatened to kick if you so much as looked at it. Eventually I knew he would need training — a lot of training — but for the moment, the main goal was to get him settled in.
(Look closely at his nose and his lower rear left leg in the above picture. You can see his injuries!)
Sunday, March 30, 2008
I love the look of a really long, flowing tail on a horse. Of course, they take a very long time to grow, and since my horse was so young, his tail hasn't gotten very long yet.
It also didn't help that on the trailer ride to Denver, he rubbed the topmost layer of hair off his tail. I was really disappointed by that, because the top of his tail is white, while the rest of it is black. Before the white section got sheared off, it was about half the length of the rest, making it look like his tail turned from white to black midway down — a very pretty effect.
The white section is slowly growing back, but to encourage it, I've kept his tail braided for most of the winter. Because the hairs were very short, and because his tailbone is about a foot long, I couldn't just do a simple braid after the tailbone ended — the braid wouldn't have protected the section I wanted to be able to grow! So instead I have been French braiding his tail, starting the braid at the very top.
The braid helps by preventing the hairs from getting snagged and breaking off as easily. When the flies aren't out as much, horses don't need their tails for swatting them, so it's a good time to try to encourage tail growth.
I also really like the way it looks when I first braid Panama's tail, before some of the hair starts to escape!
Although my horse has been behaving very strangely lately, we actually had a really good day today.
He was grazing (or trying to — the grass is still really short) with the other horses in the back pasture when I arrived. I brought him into the barn, put him in cross ties, groomed him, and spoiled him rotten with horse treats, as usual.
I was planning on riding him, but remembering his crazy training session on Wednesday, I decided to lunge him first. I lunged him briefly in each direction; he needed a little reminding that he really does need to obey commands, but once we worked that out he was actually pretty responsive — i.e. I only needed to tell him once in each direction not to cut the circle too close as he trotted toward home, and every circle after that was perfectly rounded.
He was doing well, so I decided to go ahead and ride him, as I'd planned. I rode him bareback, for three reasons:
1) I don't have my own saddle yet,
2) I'm not crazy about the saddles (one Western, one English) my trainer is lending me, and
3) I'm more comfortable riding bareback anyway.
I had already put the bareback pad on him before lunging him, so I just changed out to the bridle in the makeshift arena. My husband gave me a boost to help me mount.
Panama and I had a couple of spats over turning, probably because it was the first time I had ever ridden him in the makeshift arena. We usually work him in the back pasture, but almost the entire herd was out there today. I've only ridden him in the front pasture once, and that was almost a complete disaster — he'd only turn to the right (not to the left), and he wouldn't go where I wanted him to go (which was away from the barn).
Today started out much the same way, but my trainer had made a few suggestions since then. So when Panama tried not to ignore the reins when he didn't want to turn a certain way, or when he wanted to turn toward home when I hadn't asked him to, I used a good kick in the shoulder to make him mind.
(That is, when I was trying to get him to turn left and he wouldn't, I kicked him in the right shoulder at the same time as I used the left rein. If he tried to turn right when I didn't want him to, I kicked him in the right shoulder while using the left rein to straighten him back out.)
After a few times of that in each direction, he started minding again, and the rest of our ride was pretty enjoyable.
Labels: horse training
On Tuesday I reported some really strange behavior at the barn: Panama had apparently jumped the fence into his neighboring horse's run, because in the morning he was in the wrong stall and was all banged (and bitten) up.
I thought he'd learned his lesson, but evidently not: This morning when the stable owner arrived, there was a board knocked down on the fence between him and his other neighbor, and he had a brand new scrape on one of his back legs.
I have no idea what has gotten into my horse. He's been acting like a crazy horse all week. Yesterday Michael and I took him for a walk in the nearby open space, just like my trainer and I had on Wednesday. His behavior was completely different: He was nervous, easily spooked, and kept trying to prance in circles around me (to head me off and get me turned toward "home").
I hope he snaps out of it soon. Trying to work with an impatient, poorly behaved horse gets old really quick.
Labels: barn life
Saturday, March 29, 2008
When I first brought Panama to Denver, being groomed made him nervous, so I started a routine of giving him tiny apple treats periodically while I brushed him. Even though he is less antsy about it now, the routine has stuck.
Panama has learned what it means when I ask him, "Do you want a treat?" He always starts bobbing his head, almost like he's nodding in response. Here's a video of it, though you'll have to turn the sound up if you want to hear me talk:
My last post reminded me about a trailer I saw a little while back — for a PETA-sponsored documentary on the horse carriage industry in New York City.
I highly recommend watching it. I strongly agree that this industry is terrible and inconsiderate of the horses. Their hooves weren't made for walking on pavement all day long, nor were their lungs made for breathing rush hour car fumes. How long do you think you could stand with your nose to a tailpipe before starting to feel the effects?
Moreover, these horses' living conditions are just terrible. The video shows a horse being led up a narrow stairway, and there are several shots of horses looking out their stall windows from several stories off the ground! While living wild is not an option anymore for most horses, they have a right to at least be kept in normal stables with daily pasture turnout.
Labels: animal rights
Friday, March 28, 2008
I found this picture on the Google Earth Blog: an Amish horse and buggy on the highway.
I envy the Amish for the ability to travel via horse all the time. I would quite happily give up my car if I could ride Panama everywhere (once he is fully trained, of course). Parking at the grocery store would be a challenge, of course, but it would be a heck of a lot more enjoyable to ride a horse than drive a car.
You have to admit — horses are a nearly perfect form of transportation. As long as they are well fed and cared for, they don't break down, and their only byproduct is fertilizer, rather than a pollutant.
I'm sure many animal rights activists will be all up in arms about this, but I honestly don't think using horses for transportation is mean — it's the way some people treat them that is mean, and that happens regardless of the reasons why people keep them.
Now I do think that using horses for transportation in conditions meant for cars is kind of mean. In heavy traffic in New York City, carriage horses have to breathe exhaust fumes all day — directly out of the tailpipes, too, because "bumper to bumper" means "nose to bumper" for them. Also, I know that walking on pavement all day is extremely bad for horses' hooves.
So let me rephrase that: If I could travel on horse trails everywhere, with no pavement or exhaust fumes, I would quite gladly give up my car to ride Panama everywhere.
In my last post about today's farrier visit, I mentioned my horse's past farrier issues. He's been pretty good about it since he came to Denver, but it has only been since spring of 2007 that he started tolerating the farrier at all.
When we rescued Panama at 11 months old, he had never been seen by the farrier. His first farrier visit was within the first month or two, and he did fine.
His second farrier visit was another matter entirely. I've heard bits and pieces of the story, so this is what I think happened:
This was when Panama was a little over one year old, so he had started getting a bit of an attitude from not being gelded. He didn't want to submit to the farrier, so the farrier twitched him.
Remember how I said my horse doesn't react well to force? Well, as you can imagine the twitching didn't go over so well. The farrier still wasn't able to get Panama's feet done, and at one point he even reared up and kicked my brother-in-law in the face. Basically all that was accomplished was to create in Panama a fear of farriers.
For months after that, Panama wouldn't let a farrier so much as come near him. He turned into a crazy horse as soon as he saw their tools. Then in March 2007 we happened to be there for a farrier visit. I stood at his head and spoke soothingly to him the entire time, and the for the first time in months a farrier was able to get three out of four feet done.
The next farrier visit — which we weren't present for — went well too, but I like to think that it was my influence that helped him turn that corner. As I mentioned before, Panama responds very well to coaxing, and I think that March was the first time anyone had attempted anything like that with him during a farrier visit.
I found a good farrier shortly after bringing Panama to Denver, and I haven't had any problems with him since. Although he still doesn't like the farrier's tools, he seems to like the farrier, who is very patient and attentive. I also think he feels comforted by my presence when I hold him for the farrier.
Labels: hoof care
My horse had a big day today: The farrier came to trim his hooves, and I dealt with his ear mites. Panama is still a little jumpy, so I think the only reason he tolerated everything was that I kept him distracted with plenty of hay!
Panama used to really misbehave when it came time for the farrier's visit. There's a history to that, but I'll address that in a future post. Unfortunately, his sore ankles from his fence-jumping experience have him acting a little protective of his hind legs again. I was concerned that he would give the farrier a hard way to go, but he was actually pretty good. Part of it might have been that he didn't have much growth, so the farrier was able to be pretty quick.
And no doubt another part of it was that he was able to eat the entire time the farrier was working on him. I swear, my horse is so belly driven, he would let you do almost anything to him while he's eating!
After the farrier left, I took care of his ears as best I could. I went as slowly and gently as I could, and was able to wipe out most of ear mites. He still didn't like it, but he was distracted enough by the hay (and mollified enough by the praise when he held still) that I was able to make some progress.
Once I had finished with the washcloth, I coated the inside of his ears with Vaseline. That actually turned out to be more difficult than the scrubbing, even though it took less time. Apparently my horse doesn't like the feeling of Vaseline on the insides of his ears. Not that I blame him, of course — I just hope he learns to hold still for it anyway!
Labels: horse care
I blogged earlier about my horse's pasture days with the in-laws. That lasted for about 16 months, from June of 2006 until September of 2007.
At the beginning of last summer, we decided it was time to bring Panama to Denver. So far I was only able to see him when we visited my husband's family every few months. It wasn't enough — Panama had become quite wild, and was rather a handful for my poor in-laws sometimes.
Part of it was that he hadn't been gelded yet. We had him gelded in the summer of 2007, at about 2 years old. We also had his vaccinations updated and a Coggins test run in preparation for transporting him to Denver.
Unfortunately, Panama was badly injured in early August, requiring that we push the transport date back a month. He got his rear left leg wrapped up in a wire fence sometime during the night; by the time he was discovered in the morning, the wire had sliced his leg open almost all the way around.
This was the leg that had been injured the worst in the trailer accident, and he had never gotten over his foot-trust issues. That made cleaning the wound difficult. As a result, it didn't get cleaned frequently enough, and became infected.
In the end, the fence incident cost us three vet trips, a ton of antibiotics, and a month of worry. The wound was still open, though in considerably better shape, when he arrived in Denver in early September. Here is a picture that was taken in early September:
As you can see, the wound spiraled up his leg and caused a lot of swelling. It was pretty bad on the other side too.
Healing was slow, but by early October there was only a small (in comparison) scab left on each side:
In retrospect, I think we were probably pretty lucky that Panama wasn't lamed by this wound!
Thursday, March 27, 2008
I was looking through my pictures, and realized I had some photos that we took after Panama's trailer accident.
The hole in the floor of the horse trailer was obviously an old one, because most of the edges of the hole were dark (indicating that the break was an old one). I suspect the lighter-colored splinters were probably from Panama's and his mother's hooves as they struggled to stay out of the hole.
I already wrote about Panama's traumatic trailer accident and how we rescued him. However, that was almost two years ago, so I still have some gaps to fill!
Panama lived with my brother-in-law's horses for almost a year and a half, from June of 2006 until September of 2007. His herd consisted of:
Outlaw, a 7-year-old Tennessee Walker,
Saber, a 22-year-old Arabian mix,
Sundance, a draft colt who was about a year younger than Panama, and whom they got in the fall of 2006, and
Cuervo, a Castilian donkey who is about the same age as Panama.
Panama and Cuervo became fast friends; in fact, the two of them are pictured playing in the header of my new blog template, which should be up soon. The two of them loved to play together. In fact, the hardest thing about bringing him to Denver was knowing I'd have to separate the two of them — but I also knew that I had to have Panama with me.
Here is a picture of Panama at about a year old, about a month after we rescued him. As you can see, he was underdeveloped and rather skinny:
Here is one of my favorite pictures of Panama and Cuervo together:
And here is a picture of him in March of 2007. He was about 20 months in this picture. See how much healthier he looks than when we first got him!
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
For the last week or so, my horse has been shaking his head a lot, like something has been bothering him. I pointed it out to my trainer today, and sure enough, she discovered that he has ear mites.
She suggested that I take a warm, damp cloth and try to clean as much of it out as I can. Unfortunately, that didn't go so well. Like many young horses, Panama has been rather ear shy in the past. He was getting better about it until recently, probably when the ear mites showed up.
Panama and I had a big battle over whether he was going to allow me to clean out his ears. He was stretching out his halter from the head tossing, and being WAY disrespectful of me (trying to hit me in the face with his nose, pin me against his stall wall, etc.). Punishing him for the behavior didn't seem to work.
Finally I decided to try a different approach. Instead of punishing him, I made my voice low and gentle, with just a bit of an edge when he'd get too rough. I started out touching the outer edges of his ear, praising him when he held still for me, and slowly worked my way in. Rather than yelling at him when he tossed his head, I used a low "Hey" or "Easy."
Once he let me touch within his ear, I started all over with the washcloth — first on the outer edges, then inside, and finally using the washcloth in a gentle rubbing motion. Even though I wasn't able to clean all the ear mites out, I stopped as soon as I got him to the point where I could rub gently with the washcloth without him tossing his head — I wanted to reinforce the good behavior before he got worse again.
Sometimes I forget that for whatever reason, whether because of his traumatic childhood or just because that's the way his personality is, Panama responds to coaxing and gentleness much more readily than he does to getting into trouble. An attempt to force him to do something almost always causes him to rebel. The ear mites incident today and Friday's worming are both good reminders of this!
Labels: horse care
My horse had a session with his trainer today — the first one in about two weeks, I think. Evidently, having to "work" again after two weeks off made him lose his mind, because he was a royal pain in the you-know-what.
Because he still seemed a little sore from yesterday, my trainer just lunged Panama. It turned out to be a good thing, because he was a devil-horse at first: He just cantered in circles around her on the lunge line for a good five minutes, without heeding her commands at all. Eventually he got tired of the line getting yanked when he didn't listen, so he calmed down and started following directions.
When she finished lunging him, my trainer unhooked him and chased him around a bit. He ran like the wind! By the time my trainer let him stop, he was the sweatiest I've ever seen him after a training session. (The warm weather — 70 degrees today &mdash probably contributed to that, too.)
We still had some time left, so we decided to take Panama for a walk. The barn where I have him stabled is literally 50 feet away from access to horse trails, so we walked him down the trail a ways. I'd like to get him out on the trails this summer, so we've been acclimating him to crossing the road and other unfamiliar things, such as bridges and streams and cyclists. So far he seems to really like being out on the trails, which are as close as you can get to complete wilderness in the suburbs of a big city like Denver.
After an ear mite incident — which I'll explain in a future post — I put Panama in his stall and gave him a handful of hay. This is part of our routine — he always gets a snack when I'm done messing with him, and before I return him to the pasture. While he ate, I talked to the stable owner, who was cleaning stalls.
Unfortunately, Panama chose this moment to experiment with a little more naughty behavior: He finished eating and was impatient to go back out to the pasture, so he started pawing and kicking the wall of his stall. I know where he got that from, because a horse that recently left used to do it. But I don't want my horse picking up bad habits like that, so all it earned him was a smack on the nose and a sharp, "No!"
The first time you discipline a horse it almost never sinks in, so we repeated this routine — kick, smack, "No!" — several times before he quit. I left him there for a few more minutes as I put his brushes away; he was standing stock-still, ears forward, watching me and waiting patiently, so I praised him (a lot) and took him out to the pasture.
I am going to try to get down there tomorrow too, since it seems he needs considerably more attention than he's been getting lately. Besides, I have his ear mites to take care of!
Labels: horse training
A story on NPR reports that the drought in Georgia has caused the price of hay to skyrocket, requiring horse rescues to pick up the slack when owners can no longer afford to feed their animals.
Although Panama is stabled at a full care facility, meaning that I don't have to buy hay myself, I well know the problems with hay prices. After repeated ice storms in the Midwest last winter, my in-laws were full of stories about exorbitant hay prices.
In Colorado, like in Georgia, drought has been the main problem. Hay used to be a third or so of what it is now, according to stable owners in Denver; now, my current barn pays $7 a bale, and that only because they get their hay from someone who agreed to a fixed price through the winter.
Regardless, it always kills me when I hear about people abandoning their horses. Buying a horse is a commitment, yet some people treat it as no big deal, like getting another cat. I would do anything for Panama — if something happened to him or if he suddenly became much more expensive to keep, I would do anything I needed to in order to pay the bills. Panama is my best friend; he trusts me to keep him safe, and there is nothing you could do to make me betray that trust.
There are already enough horses in this country that need homes, so I wish horse owners would 1) consider the financial responsibility before buying one, and 2) stand by that commitment once they've made it.
Labels: horse rescue
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
This evening after Michael got home from work, I headed out to the barn to check on my horse. I put him in the cross ties and groomed him, but he was still rather antsy from his exciting morning. We still don't know what scared him so badly that he jumped the fence into his neighbor's run, but whatever it was, it still had him jumpy almost 12 hours later.
The worst wound is on his chest:
As you can tell, it's a pretty wide area, and looks pretty raw. All the hair is scraped right off. I'm guessing that when he landed he ran into the fence on the opposite site of his neighbor's run.
He also scraped both hind feet, probably against the fence as he jumped it. The left is worse than the right:
Unfortunately, the left hind leg is one that he has injured several times, and had some trust issues with when I first brought him to Denver in September. This is the leg that sustained the worst injury in the trailer accident when he was a yearling — if you look closely, you can see the proudflesh just above the hoof, and directly beneath that, the ridge that continues down his hoof.
Last summer, he also got this same leg wrapped up in a wire fence. He was probably caught in it all night, and by the time the in-laws found him, the wire had sliced his leg open almost all the way around. That was just before I brought him to Denver, so when he arrived he was extremely protective of his hind end.
Unfortunately, his injuries today sparked a little bit of the old habits: When I tried to pick up his left hind foot, he acted like he was half trying to kick, half trying to hold the foot out of my reach. I'm not afraid of him kicking me anymore, so he got his foot picked up anyway — probably about a dozen times.
There are a handful of bites on him as well, probably because his neighbor didn't think very highly of his surprise visitor. The three worst are on his withers, his back, and his left flank. The bite on his flank actually broke the skin, and seems to be a little more sore than the others.
Panama was extremely jittery while I was grooming him, probably partly because he was still freaked out and partly because he was sore. I had been intending to lunge him (to make sure he wasn't favoring a leg), but I decided he had enough excitement for one day, and settled for cleaning his injuries as best I could.
Once I put him back in his stall and gave him a few treats, he relaxed visibly, and was a little more affectionate with me. Hopefully he won't try any more gymnastics tonight, and will be in a better mood tomorrow!
Labels: barn life
The owner of the barn where Panama is stabled — who is really fantastic about keeping in touch, I might add — emailed me this morning to tell me something really bizarre.
When she arrived at 10:30 this morning, Panama was in his neighbor's stall. He hadn't broken the fence, but had evidently jumped it. He doesn't seem to be badly injured, though he is sporting two new scrapes — one on his chest, and another on one of his feet. He seemed a little freaked out, and didn't start to calm down until she turned him and the rest of the horses out together.
He had been in the right place at 6:00 this morning, when the hay guy fed everyone. So sometime in that four-hour time frame, he freaked out and jumped the fence into his neighbor's run.
We're not sure what could have happened to make him that desperate, but my husband suggested that it could have been a coyote (which we have here in abundance). Whatever it was, it was something scary enough that Panama — being a baby still — wanted the security of being with another horse.
Anyway, since my car is still inoperable and Michael took his car to work, I'll have to wait until he gets home before I can go visit Panama and check him over myself.
Labels: barn life
Saturday, March 22, 2008
This video of Panama's nicker was originally posted on my writer's blog, but since I've decided to give him his own blog space I'm reposting it here.
As I explained on my other blog, Panama makes very different sounds according to what he wants. His nicker when he is asking to be fed is very deep, which is probably because we didn't have him gelded until he was a little over 2 years old.
You can hear the nicker if you turn the volume up on your speakers. It's at about 15 seconds on the counter.
Also in the video, when I open the door to his stall, I say "Back" several times, very sternly. This is because I found out from the stable owners that he had developed a habit of practically running people over when they entered his stall with food. I'm determined not to have a pushy horse, so I've been practicing with small amounts of hay or grain every time I'm there, making him back up and give me space when I bring it to him.
I wormed my horse, Panama, today. It was quite an ordeal, which I didn't expect because the last time was such an improvement. (The first time the vet wormed him, because he wouldn't let me get anywhere near his mouth with a syringe. The second time we had only a short battle of wills before he gave in.)
During my first attempt today, my husband, Michael, was inside the barn with us. I was also getting pretty impatient with Panama's head-tossing. For one or both of those reasons, I wasn't able to worm him: For one, Panama tends to act differently when other people are there with us, and for two, he is very sensitive to my body language and behavior.
Anyway, I groomed him, gave him treats, and calmed him down before trying again. When I did try again, I had Michael stay outside and shut the barn door. I stood with Panama's head over my shoulder and my hand over his nose as before, but took several deep breaths and willed myself to relax.
I talked to Panama as I usually do — a lot of silly babble about nothing, just for the sake of him hearing my voice and my laugh. When he started to relax, I started poking my fingers into the corners of his mouth and praising him when he didn't overreact. Eventually I was able to get the syringe into his mouth and deliver the wormer without too much trouble.
He got lots of praise for that, of course — and once I was sure he'd swallowed the wormer, lots of carrots too! I just hope this will get easier over time, as I can't imagine repeating this scene every two or three months for the next 25 years!
Labels: horse care
Friday, March 21, 2008
My last post was about how I first met and named my horse, Panama. This post is about how we rescued him from the backyard breeder and lowlife buyer.
After the vet took Panama back to his place, he was on my mind quite a bit. I even had a vision that night, as I was drifting off to sleep, of his mother (who I'd sat with until they euthanized her) running through a field.
Before my husband, Michael, and I left to return home, we visited Panama at the country vet's place.
I remember standing right next to him, and how little he was: The lowest point on his back was only hip-high to me. (Now full grown, he is only about 14 hands tall, and so is a fairly small horse.) I also remember how skinny and malnurished he was (you could stand back and count his ribs, they protruded so much) and how tense and frightened he was about me standing so close to him.
A little over a week later, my husband asked me one evening to check my phone. He had sent me a picture of Panama grazing.
"He's yours," Michael said, smiling.
Of course, I was shocked and delighted, but once I stopped screaming and jumping and thanking him, I found out what had happened: Evidently no one would pay the colt's (or his mother's) vet bill, so Michael called the vet and arranged to pay it, in exchange for Panama.
And that's how I first got Panama. He lived on my brother-in-law's pasture until September of 2007, when we finally brought him to the Denver area and had him stabled nearby.
This blog is not only the story of a very lucky rescue horse, but also about the day-to-day life of owning a horse.
This blog is about horses in general, but mostly about my own horse rescue story.
Panama's story starts — at least for me — on Memorial Day weekend of 2005. While my husband and I were visiting his family in the country, my brother-in-law's neighbor had two new horses delivered: a 10-month pregnant mare and her 11-month-old colt. The neighbor was trading one of his other mares for the pregnant one, and had paid some money for the colt.
Unfortunately, the backyard breeder from whom he was getting the horses had loaded them into a trailer with a large hole in the floor, and the mare was badly injured as a result. To make a long story short, neither the seller nor the buyer were willing to pay $1,000 (cheap compared to what an urban vet would charge) to save her and her unborn foal. I sat with her the entire time, keeping her calm while they argued over her and while we waited for the vet.
Once the mare had been euthanized, we realized her yearling was injured, too. Since the neighbor didn't have a stall to keep him in while he healed, the vet would have to take him back to his place. But before we could do anything, we would have to catch him — this wild colt who had never been handled by humans.
In the end, the vet had to lasso the colt in order to catch him, and then my brother-in-law held him down while the vet went back to his office to get his trailer. I went and sat cross-legged in front of the colt, and he just hung his head in my lap.
It was at that moment that I decided to name him Panama.