Wednesday, August 27, 2008

'This could be a long process'

My trainer came today to work with Panama for the first time in probably four weeks. As I was expecting, he was kind of a pill, though certainly not as bad as he could have been.

He was actually pretty well-behaved at first — until my trainer asked him to canter. After that, all he wanted to do was canter. This is in keeping with some of the other issues I've had with him lately, such as on Sunday's trail ride, when he kept trying to run.

"This could be a long process," Leslie said. Sure enough, it took a while of walking and trotting, and doing so without trying to go faster all the time, before he was responsive to both cantering and slowing down again.

Leslie suggested that we lunge him before we ride him next time, just to get his wiggles out. I'm not a fan of using lunging to tire a horse before you ride them, but I definitely think that Panama needs more of an outlet for his energy. I'm still not cantering him when I ride him, and although he has been playing more with the other horses recently, he probably does need more running time!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Silly horse antics

I am in video mode tonight! So here is another for your viewing pleasure: a horse acting very silly with a round bale. (And no, the horse is not really getting off on the hay — he is just bingeing and playing!)

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Trick horse video

The barn manager is really amused by what a puppy dog my horse is, and we've talked several times about Panama's potential for learning tricks. I'd love to get him to lay down on command, and she seems to think I should teach Panama to shake hands like a dog.

In any case, I ran across this video today on YouTube, and it made me think of how much I'd love to teach my horse to do tricks. I especially love watching the horse bound after the soccer ball and then dribble it back. Too funny!

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Reminding my horse who is boss...

After my difficulties with Panama on yesterday's trail ride, I decided that I need to start riding every day again and reminding him who is boss, so that hopefully the next trail ride isn't so bad.

I've discovered that I really like riding first thing in the morning when I get out to the barn, before I turn the horses out and clean their stalls. During the week I am typically the only one there during the day, except for the occasional comings and goings of the owners, so I can ride uninterrupted. So this morning when I arrived, the first thing I did was to groom Panama and tack him up.

Panama and I had a few "discussions" this morning about doing things my way. The first one was about balking when I tried to lead him out of his stall — something he's being doing lately when I am leading him by his halter instead of a lead rope. (I think he realizes that I have less control when I just have a hand on his halter.) Rather than going to get the lead rope, I decided to just deal with it, and made him back up and go in little circles around me until he finally gave it up and followed me meekly out of the stall.

The next "discussion" was about moving forward while I mount and when I haven't yet given the command. I made him stand for five or ten minutes when I first mounted — basically until he figured out that he had to actually wait for my command.

After that, we had a pretty good ride. The only other discussions we had were quickly resolved — staying on the rail (though not too close, as I've been a little wary of that since the mailbox incident) while riding clockwise, and backing up in a straight line rather than swinging his butt around.

My trainer has often said that it's not how long you ride, but what you accomplish that matters. Well, once again we only rode for about 15 or 20 minutes, but I really felt that we accomplished a lot today!

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A disappointing trail ride

After several days back in the saddle, Panama and I went on a trail ride with some other boarders yesterday morning.

Unfortunately, although he had been pretty good when I rode him at the barn, he was an absolute pill on the trail. I think it was a combination of several things: He hadn't had his breakfast (just a snack I gave him before tacking him up), he hadn't been on the trail in three weeks, and he had an unfamiliar horse on his tail most of the ride — a horse who has only been at the barn for about a week and a half.

Whatever the reason, Panama misbehaved for most of the ride. I felt bad for pulling on his mouth so much, but I was constantly having to pull him down from a trot. If he wouldn't have been such a jerk I probably would have trotted, but definitely not when it wasn't my idea.

Because Panama was being such a pill, I cut my ride short by quite a bit. I only did the short loop part of the ride, and then returned to the barn while everyone else went on for a bit. They were going places Panama and I haven't been, and I didn't feel comfortable taking him into unfamiliar territory with him in such a bad mood!

I'm going to try to go on another short, somewhat quieter ride with Karen and her horse this week, and then hopefully go out again on the weekend. In the meantime, though, I'll be riding him around the barn every day this week — reminding him that I'm boss when I'm on his back!

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Back in the saddle

Panama's leg injury has finally healed up enough that I don't feel guilty about riding him anymore. In preparation for getting back out on the trail, I rode him yesterday and today in our barn's makeshift arena, for about 20 minutes each time.

Yesterday was one of those days where everything goes exactly the way you want it. Panama and I seemed to understand each other perfectly. I lunged him first with the saddle on, then put on his bridle and rode him. He was totally responsive to my commands, so although it was a short ride, it was very satisfying.

Today was a little less so, but still not too bad. I was a little distracted and I think it rubbed off on him. I was also sore from riding yesterday after three weeks' vacation — amazing how quickly you lose those muscles! Still, we got some good practice in, particularly with stopping.

I'm a little nervous about getting back on the trail after three weeks off, but I'm also excited. Wish me luck!

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Horses have belly buttons!

A few days ago, I made a startling discovery while grooming my horse: On the underside of his belly, about four inches ahead of his sheath, is a round, flat, button-like "growth."

At first I thought it was dirt, but of course it didn't come off. And then it occurred to me where it was and what it resembled, and it hit me.

Horses have belly buttons!

I looked it up online, and found a blog post from another horse owner who discovered her horse's belly button. She even crawled underneath to take a picture of it! Of course, that inspired me to do the same, so here's a glimpse of Panama's belly button:

My horse's belly button

As the other blogger noted, this shouldn't be a surprise, but I'd never thought about it before. Too funny!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Spa day for my horse

After I was done mucking stalls today, I decided on a whim to give Panama a bath. It turned into a horsey spa day: I gave him a very thorough scrubby bath (even cleaned his hooves!), put detangler in his mane and tail, and sprayed a hair moisturizer on his coat.

I can't believe how clean and soft he was after all was said and done. His coat is amazingly white!

My horse after his bath

Spa Day was very long in coming. I've had the hair moisturizer since wintertime, but kept forgetting to buy a spray bottle and mix some (it's concentrated). And about two weeks ago I bought a nice bath brush — like a dandy brush but with a sponge in the middle — but then Panama got hurt and I decided not to bathe him until his wound healed up a bit.

The biggest incentive, though, was that I bought some Cowboy Magic on Monday. I've been thinking about switching over from my usual Mane & Tail, mainly because Cowboy Magic doesn't test on animals — but the smaller feed and tack stores in my area don't carry the Cowboy Magic detangler. But Monday I had something to pick up at the big tack and feed superstore in town, and they had the Cowboy Magic I wanted, so I bought it.

So, having finally used Cowboy Magic I have to say that I love it!!! Now I know why I've heard horse people rave about it. It's definitely worth the price! The detangler made Panama's mane and tail unbelieveably soft and manageable. I highly recommend it!

And the hair moisturizer I used wasn't bad, either. The biggest advantage is that it's not greasy — products like ShowSheen can't be used under the saddle because they make the coat so slippery. I don't know if it was from the Cowboy Magic shampoo or the hair moisturizer, but his coat was extremely soft when it dried!

Of course, right after I got home it started to rain, so all my hard work is probably for nothing. Oh well. He would have gotten dirty again soon enough anyway!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Not punishment enough for animal abuse

I remember reading a story, over the winter, about a Colorado woman being charged with animal abuse. A bunch of animals, mostly horses, were removed from her "rescue" for being malnourished and neglected. Some of them were in dire need of vet care.

Now Alesha Matchett has pled guilty to animal abuse. It seems her deal was that three of the four counts were dropped in return for a guilty plea. Although she hasn't been formally sentenced yet, it sounds like she is only getting probation and community service.

And here's the most upsetting part. Despite the horrible neglect and abuse of her animals, she is going to be allowed to keep as many as 10 "animal units" on her property. That means that she could have only 10 horses (as a horse equals one animal unit), but more than 30 llamas!

Umm, hello?!

While 10 animal units is still less than half of what she had when her rescue, Angel Animals, was raided over the winter, what I can't understand is why she's being allowed to keep ANY animals! Isn't it already perfectly obvious that she can't be trusted to care for them properly?

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

The whole range of horsey emotions

It always surprises me what a rich range of emotions horses display. Yesterday evening, I hung out with Sara, who just started leasing one of the other horses. I talked to her for about an hour, petting and praising and scolding Ozzy (the horse) during this time.

We were standing in the wash rack with Ozzy in the cross ties, and Panama's stall door opens into the wash rack, so he was able to see the entire thing. He stared at me for a long time, and then he started doing more and more obnoxious things to get my attention — chewing on the wall, kicking his door, etc.

What really surprised me was that even after Sara put Ozzy away and left, Panama continued to misbehave — even when I tried to put him in the cross ties to groom him and give him attention. He made it perfectly obvious that he was jealous and that he was holding a grudge. In the end, all I could do was get done what I needed to (i.e. cleaning his wound) and leave, in the hopes that he would eventually get over it.

And sure enough, today he behaved like his normal, adorable self. Keeping yesterday's fit of sulking in mind, though, I was careful not to let him see me giving any other horse more than their fair share of attention!

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Frolicking in the mud

In my last post, I talked about all the rain yesterday and this morning, and the hassle it caused cleaning stalls yesterday. But I also mentioned that we got a brief reprieve this afternoon. The weather stations are still predicting rain through tomorrow morning, so I don't expect our reprieve will last long — but still, it cleared up long enough to turn the horses out.

Of course, since we kept the horses in yesterday, they were all very excited to get out. I turned all of the other horses out first, and they seemed happy enough — but when I turned Panama out (last), he tore across the pasture, running and bucking. Soon the others were all following suit, and for about 30 minutes they put on a good show for us.

All the frolicking came across as a little suicidal, as the ground was muddy and quite slippery. Panama's girlfriend totally bought it trying to slow down as she approached the fence, and Panama also slipped and nearly fell several times. But I trust that they know what they are and aren't capable of. They may be animals, but they're not stupid, after all.

Finally, as things began to wind down, their thoughts turned instead to rolling. One by one, they all dropped and coated themselves with mud.

It's funny how much horses can act like children. They were obviously feeling restless after being cooped up all day yesterday, and were very excited about being able to enjoy the improvement in the weather today!

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Cleaning in the rain

We've had some abnormally wet weather for Colorado. Yesterday it rained literally all day. We do get days like that periodically, though only maybe once or twice a year.

What is really strange is that it rained all morning today, too. When we do periods of constant rain, it usually doesn't last beyond the day, so more of the same today was certainly very strange.

It was raining a lot, too — not just sprinkling or drizzling, but really coming down. Usually I don't mind the rain — it reminds me of the East Coast, where my mom's side of the family lives. I normally would have spent yesterday cuddled up on the couch in a blanket, reading and working on client projects.

As it is, though, I now have responsibilities at the barn that need to be taken care of, quite literally, rain or shine. I consulted with the manager and we decided not to turn out the horses, but of course their stalls still needed to be cleaned. So I spent a portion of my afternoon shoveling heavy, soggy manure and pushing it around in a wheelbarrow with a steadily deflating tire.

Not my idea of fun, I'm afraid.

Fortunately, today the sun came out for a little while in the afternoon, which sparked all kinds of fun. I'll blog about that in a little bit!

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Pretty pictures at the barn

Yesterday the weather was slightly cooler (i.e. 80 instead of mid-90s), sunny, and beautiful. I let Panama graze for a while on the front yard up at the house, and while he was doing that I amused myself by taking some pictures of the pretty flowers there. Here are a few of my favorites:

Flowers at the barn

Flowers at the barn

Flowers at the barn

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A picture of Panama's leg injury

About a week and a half ago, Panama turned up with an injured leg, probably from getting kicked. It's healing up nicely, thankfully.

My horse's leg wound - 8 days later

As you can see, it's looking much better than it was the first day — and actually, this picture was taken a couple of days ago, so it looks even better now! It hasn't swollen or gotten infected at all. I check his leg every day for heat and it's always the same temperature as the rest of him. The wound itself is looking much better, and appears to be healing nicely, albeit slowly.

I am very pleased — so far I have successfully treated his injury myself, without having to call the vet!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

An update on Panama's leg wound

I have been rather neglectful of my blog lately, and I'm sure some of you are wondering how my horse's leg injury is doing.

The answer is that it's doing very well! I cleaned and flushed the wound twice a day for the first several days, and when it was clear that there would be no infection or swelling, dropped down to once a day. I am finally seeing signs of it starting to heal. I want it to heal from the inside out, so I am still cleaning the wound every day, removing the scabs that (usually quite loosely) cover the outside of the wound.

Panama doesn't care for that last part as much, but he is being remarkably patient with all of this. I have actually been impressed how quickly he submitted to having the wound scrubbed out every day, and then to having the hose trained on it for 10 or 15 minutes.

But it has all paid off — the wound hasn't swelled one bit, and though I run my hands over the leg every day, I haven't detected any bit of heat (which would indicate an infection). And all without having to call the vet, too!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A beautiful sunset at the barn

Evening is one of my favorite times at the barn. It's cool and comfortable, not to mention the atmosphere is totally relaxed. Cat, our new manager, is usually there in the evenings, and sometimes another boarder is too, so we hang out and chat and mess with our horses together.

Tonight we had a beautiful sunset to add scenery to our evening. The clouds especially were quite pretty, and held their colors well into the evening.

A sunset at the barn

As the colors finally faded from the clouds and the sky darkened, Cat and I watched the bats fluttering around just above our heads. I love seeing them silhouetted against the deepening ink-blue of the sky.

It was a great evening for hanging out at the barn!

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

A horse, a horse, my bathtub for a horse

My husband and I live in a beautiful 1920 bungalow that still has a lot of the original stuff — including a fantastic claw foot bathtub. There's only one drawback — lack of horse facilities — but I've often told Michael that we can't move unless the new place has a claw foot tub, too.

In reality, though, there is very little I wouldn't give up for the opportunity to live somewhere with horse facilities. Today we looked at a darling 1934 farmhouse on about two-thirds of an acre. It would require some work to get it ready for horses (fencing, clearing of debris, etc.), but it's very doable.

The house is great, too — like ours, it has had very little updates done to it. It would also require some work, but mostly cosmetic stuff — new paint, refinishing the hardwood floors, etc.

Unfortunately, there is no claw foot tub — but to my surprise, I found I didn't care. It's a beautiful old house with lots of original character, and I'd get to keep my horse in my backyard! Too bad it's not for sale...

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Trail ride adventures: Getting caught in our first storm

On Saturday Karen and I went for a trail ride — Panama's first since the mailbox incident the previous weekend. I didn't have any more falls, but we did get caught in a storm for the first time.

We are having a typical Colorado summer — really hot most of the time, but with freak thunderstorms to cool it down. Usually the thunderstorms are in the afternoon, but on Saturday we had an unexpected one come up in the morning, while we were riding.

The wind was the biggest problem. It started blowing like crazy about two-thirds of the way into our ride. It blew my hat right off, and Karen had to dismount to get it because Panama was getting pretty worked up about the wind. While she was retrieving the hat, Panama was focusing on — and freaking out about — some leaves that were blowing toward him along the trail.

I put my hat in one of my handy saddle pad pockets (that saddle pad is awesome!) and we fell in behind Karen and Lily. It started raining on us, and the wind was blowing into our faces so hard that I could barely see. Panama was a little jumpy; I had to keep a tight rein on him so that he wouldn't bolt. However, I also think that having Lily to follow helped him a lot.

The thunderstorm left as quickly as it came — all in all, I think it only lasted about ten or fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, Panama was still a little worked up: When we were almost back to the road we heard a big sound, at which Panama exploded forward several steps. I reined him in, but being slammed down into the saddle had jarred my lower back and hips (where I'm still bruised from my fall) a bit. Also, Panama didn't relax the way he usually does after spooking about something — he stayed wound so tightly that I knew he was ready to bolt again at a moment's notice. I decided it would be better to dismount and lead him across the street, than to risk ending our ride on a similar note as the previous weekend!

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My horse's leg injury

One of the hardest things (I think) about having a horse is dealing with the random injuries they get. Sometimes these injuries can be expensive, such as when they are bad enough to justify emergency vet visit, but at the very least they require a lot of care.

Panama got one of the latter kind this morning. I'm pretty sure it wasn't there when I turned him out this morning. I found it after I finished cleaning stalls and pulled him out of the pasture to groom him. It's a small gash, but a nasty one. It looks to me like a split, so I think he might have gotten kicked after I turned him out.

My horse's leg injury

As I said, I found the gash when I was grooming him. I immediately hosed it down, and scrubbed it with betadine and a sponge. (He wasn't too crazy about that, but he tolerated it.) Then I sprayed it with Furall, an antibacterial spray that leaves a thin protective coating over the wound.

Right now I'm letting Panama graze in the front yard for a little bit while I work on my laptop. (I have no Internet access here, so I'll have to wait until I get home to post this to my blog.) In about an hour I'll put him in his stall — I don't want him doing anything to make the gash worse! I'll be back in the evening to clean and flush the wound again. I'll also clean his stall again, so that he has a reasonably clean place to lay overnight.

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