Thursday, April 30, 2009

Panama and Cuervo

I've blogged before about Panama's best friend on the in-laws' pasture, a donkey named Cuervo. I finally got a chance to make a video honoring their relationship. The video clips and pictures were all taken early one morning in March 2006.

Last year my brother-in-law sold Cuervo. I wish I could have taken him, but not having my own horse property, it's a risk — finding boarding for a horse and a donkey could be difficult, and I've always said I'll never sacrifice the quality of Panama's care in order to get another horse (or donkey). But I still sometimes regret not taking Cuervo!


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mother's Day horse book giveaway

iconOh, look, another holiday is coming up. Time for another horse book giveaway!

This time the book will be Angel Horses by Allen and Linda Anderson. You can read a review of Angel Horses on my book review blog, Livre du Jour. If you want to be entered into the book drawing, you must email me with your name by midnight mountain time on Saturday, May 9. I will choose and announce the winner on Sunday, May 10 — Mother's Day!

When I announce the winner, I'll be happy to include a link to your blog (if you have one), so be sure to also give me your blog URL when you email me!

The winner will be chosen in the same way as always — email me and I will add your name to the list. On the drawing day, I'll put each name onto a piece of paper, fold all the pieces of paper, mix them up, and draw one out of a hat.

If you have a blog, please spread the word about my little horse book giveaway. The more the merrier!


Missing the mares

I arrived at the barn a little after 3pm yesterday. The owner of Panama's new girlfriend was there with her friend, and the two of them were going for a trail ride on the two mares. I chatted with them a bit, and then they groomed the mares and tacked up while I groomed my horse.

Panama was mud-encrusted from the rain and snow we had Sunday night into Monday morning, but I managed to get him cleaned up pretty good. Then the barn owner grained him and the alpha gelding while the girls finished tacking up the mares. When they left, Panama tried to follow them right out of the gate!

Panama was a little upset about the girls leaving, but the alpha was inconsolable. I shot this video while Panama was trying to decide which was more important, hitting up the barn owner for his dinner or pining after his girlfriends. The alpha already knew the answer to that question — you can hear him whinnying repeatedly in the background. Also, look how gingerly Panama walks through the mud — he hates it!

It was good to spend a little while at the barn. I hope I can get out there again soon — the next few days are supposed to be beautiful!


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

EVERYONE can make a difference

Next time some skeptical soul tells you that they'd love to help animals, but that there's too much for any one person to make a difference, tell them this story.

Two thirteen-year-old girls in Missouri helped their local animal shelter to win a contest for an animal shelter makeover. Not only that, but in doing so they overcame seemingly insurmountable odds: When they signed their shelter up for the contest, it was in 859th place. The contest had started months ago, so they were way behind — yet within three months the shelter passed all 858 competitors to land squarely in first place.

That's only part of the miracle. The rest is that these two teenage girls did most of the work themselves. From the article:

Libby and Amanda — friends since third grade, animal-lovers since birth —
launched a major publicity effort (local shelters won points when people signed
on, posted journal entries or pictures or reviewed products). They collared
folks in parking lots to ask them to go online and support the shelter, papered
the city with posters and fliers, did radio appearances before school and gave
speeches to civic groups. They attended fundraising dinners and went to seniors'
communities to teach residents how to go online and cast votes.

This story ought to put anyone to shame who uses the "but I can't do it all alone" excuse to get out of helping animals.


Homemade summer remedies for horses

iconYou might remember back in September when I blogged about an awesome book called Stable Smarts, with tons of really useful information such as home remedies, things you can make for the barn, etc.

The book has some really good ideas for fly control and skin remedies for summer. Here are a few I'll be trying this summer:

* A 50/50 mixture of fly spray and mineral oil is supposed to make longer-lasting fly protection. I'm going to mix some to use in Panama's ears this summer. He's already starting to get ear mites again, poor baby!

* Vaseline kills bot eggs by smothering them. My trainer also told me to use Vaseline in Panama's ears last summer, to get rid of the ear mites. The problem is, it attracts dirt and makes it look like he has spikes growing out of his ears instead of hair. Last year I quickly turned to trying fly spray in his ears instead, but that of course has to be done every day (hence why I'm trying it mixed with mineral oil this summer!).

* Mineral oil soothes dry skin, and may also stop a horse from rubbing their tail area if they have itchy skin.

* A 50/50 mix of Listerine mouthwash and baby oil can solve itchy tail problems. Often this is caused by tiny mites, which the Listerine kills. The baby oil, of course, soothes the itchy skin. You'll find a spray bottle of this stuff in my grooming tote this summer — I am making it my mission to prevent Panama from rubbing the top of his tail all short this year!

There are tons of other tips and tricks in this book, such as using regular "people" lotion and Vaseline on hooves, making your own fly spray, making cold packs and bandages, and so on. There's also other invaluable stuff such as tips on leather care, blanketing, fence maintenance and repairs, and just about everything you can think of. I highly recommend this book for any horse owner!


Monday, April 27, 2009

My birthday at the barn

As I mentioned in my last post, yesterday was my birthday — and of course the perfect birthday would have to involve spending some time at the barn, so that's what I did! I even managed to talk my husband into coming by guilt-tripping him about it being my birthday!

We also decided to bring the dogs — both dogs this time. I had taken Grace to the barn earlier in the week, and I was interested to see how Emma would do. She actually did very well — she didn't seem too scared of the horses, and is in general more laid back than Grace, which is good when you're around animals easily scared by unpredictability!

Unfortunately, with two dogs and a horse to manage, both hubby and I had our hands full, and didn't get any pictures. So you'll have to wait until next time for the visuals!

We started out just by taking the two dogs into the back pasture and shutting the gates. The two of them ran around together and just in general wore themselves out. Then I decided to go halter up Panama and bring him into the back pasture with us.

Michael, being a bit nervous around horses himself, of course was even more scared for Emma (his first dog, and therefore his favorite — poor Grace!). I don't think he took her off the leash the entire time I had Panama in the back pasture with us — even when I tied him up to groom him! Well, no, I guess he did unhook the leash toward the end at my prompting. Emma, of course, just stood there.

I actually think Emma might be better suited to be a barn dog than Grace. She is laid-back and predictable, has absolutely no interest in herding the horses, and actually spent most of her time ignoring Panama. She would literally sit and look at things in the other direction! I did take her leash once and walk her right up to Panama — they sniffed noses, and then Emma decided she was ready to go, and I didn't push it. I was just glad she hadn't shown any fear!

Grace, on the other hand, was almost oblivious to the horses yesterday. When I was leading Panama and when I had him tied, she passed right under his feet several times. I think my heart about stopped every time, but Panama took it like a pro. The only hiccup was when I was tying him, and she passed right under his front end. He immediately bent his head and opened his mouth to bite one of her big ears! Luckily I had my hand under his throat at that moment, and was able to keep him from being able to get close enough. He got into big trouble for that one.

While I groomed Panama, Michael hung out about fifteen feet away with both dogs. He had Emma leashed, of course, but Grace was loose and kept trying to come up to me. Michael would usually call her back before I could say anything, and after a while I think she figured out that she wasn't to get too close. But I told him that next time I want him to let me do the commands, because I want to teach her a fairly precise distance that she is to stay — and I want to teach her that approaching the back end of a horse is not okay.

So far, so good, though. I think with some more exposure both Emma and Grace will be very good around horses!

I really didn't get to do much else, other than playtime with the dogs and grooming Panama. (You should have seen the amount of hair I took off of him, by the way!) But it really made my (birth)day to get out to the barn and spend some time with my horse!


Horse abuse: Spread the word!

My birthday was yesterday, so of course I had a nice birthday visit at the barn. I'll blog about that later today, but right now, a horrifying case of horse abuse takes precedence.

Today on Fugly Horse of the Day, there was a post about a man named Randy Byers who has a horse training business in Washington. I don't know if any of my readers are located in the Pacific Northwest, but FHOTD requested that everyone cross post so that this man can't repeat history with another little girl's horse.

Basically, it sounds like this "trainer" beat some little girl's poor, older Arabian mare to death. She died after a severe beating and being driven too hard, at any rate. After a quickie examination, a local vet gave some B.S. diagnosis that she'd died from a stroke (which you can't actually determine without an autopsy, apparently), and they quickly shipped the body back to the little girl's family to be buried. That way, when animal control came poking around, there was no longer any evidence of the abuse this poor mare had suffered.

From the FHOTD post:

Again, this is RANDY BYERS who is currently holding clinics at the Triple H Arena in Chehalis, Washington, FAB Quarterhorse Ranch in Spokane, WA and the Hart Ranch and Arena in Yakima, WA. He is currently training out of Carbon Stables, 15340 133rd Ave SE, Yelm, WA 98597 (this is the fourth facility in about a year or so...he got kicked out of the facility he beat the mare to death at and he got kicked out the facility before that, too)

FHOTD says that this guy does pretty much the same thing to every horse that he "trains," but this poor little mare just couldn't take it. It's a terrible thought, how much this poor mare suffered before she died.

People in the horse community are usually pretty tight, so I hope all of my readers will continue to repost and spread the word about this "trainer."


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Grace's first visit to the barn

Yesterday evening was so nice, I decided to run out to the barn for a short visit. The dogs got really excited while I was trying to get my husband to come with me, so since he wouldn't, I decided to bring one of the dogs.

I chose Grace, our American white shepherd, because she and Panama both lived with my in-laws for a little while around the same time. My brother- and sister-in-law rescued her, but after a year of living with them she wasn't doing well, being a nervous dog and not at all suited for a chaotic household. So we adopted her instead.

Grace, our American white shepherd, on her first real visit to the barn

To my knowledge she didn't get outside often to interact with the horses at the in-laws' place, but once about a year ago we took her to the barn I was at then. She was on the leash, but she still ran right up to Panama — and he came right up to her. I'm certain they remembered one another.

Anyway, last night was her first visit to this barn, and her first long visit to any barn. She's been in the car before when we stop off at the barn, and she always gets very excited. Last night was no different. When I got there the horses were all eating hay near the fence, and she simply couldn't wait to get in there. I left my camera in the car because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to handle it and her (she's a big, strong dog). Too bad — it turns out I needed it!

Panama came right up to us when we walked in. When I turned around from latching the gate behind us, I was surprised to also find the big new horse — Panama's new girlfriend — coming close to inspect Grace. Some movement either Grace or I made startled her, and she wheeled around and ran off. But even though she was the most scared of Grace, she also proved to be the most curious about her, and kept coming up to us the whole visit, timidly sticking her nose way out to sniff Grace from afar.

I took Grace with me into the tack room, a building with the access door on one side of the pasture. While I was standing there, Grace kept pulling toward the door, and when I finally turned around to see why, I found that Panama was standing in the doorway! He and Grace sniffed each other's faces all over, and she didn't seem scared at all. I wish I'd had my camera on me, because it was adorable.

But then — alas — Panama decided to be a typical not-quite-4-year-old, and see what would happen if he mouthed Grace's back. The first time she didn't respond, so he tried a bit harder... and a bit harder. The third time, I could tell he actually bit her, and at the same time as she jumped around to face him, I chased him off. I don't think he understands that she's not another horse, because what he's doing is exactly the same half-playful, half-affectionate nips that the horses give one another.

Overall, though, Grace was doing really well, so after about 20 minutes I took her off the leash and let her go. First I walked with her into the back pasture, where we greeted the neighbors' horses.

Then we started walking back to the front pasture. Grace knew we were getting ready to leave, and booked it toward the gate — only to realize that the horses stood between her and freedom. I called her back, but the horses came too. I'm not sure if Grace had any plan for herding them, or if she thought she was protecting me from the big bad horses, but it was funny to watch her little dance. She seems to be torn between her shepherd instincts and a healthy fear of the horses' feet.

I decided to put Grace back on the leash and try one more time to get her and Panama to make friends again. Unfortunately, she was skittish around him (having been mouthed a few times by now) and he was NOT helping matters any when he mouthed her rump again!

I think Grace will be a very good barn dog eventually, but in the meantime I have my work cut out for me, as I have to teach both her and Panama to do the opposite of what they want to do. He has to learn that she's not another horse and he can't bite her, and she has to learn not to try to herd them out of nervousness.

Have any of you taken a dog that was completely unfamiliar with horses, and taught it to cohabitate with them? If so, how did you do it?


Monday, April 20, 2009

A dog's best friend

It's not about horses but this is seriously adorable.

Have you ever known an animal — be it dog, horse, or otherwise — who has formed a similarly odd relationship with another animal?


Saturday, April 18, 2009

April showers from &#%!

After raining all day Thursday and snowing all day yesterday, Mother Nature decided to give us another day of freezing April showers. The rain finally stopped this evening long enough for me to snap a few pictures.

The rain-soaked, snow-covered pasture at my barn

Panama looks a bit bedraggled, but he's warm and dry under his blanket.

My horse after a Colorado spring snowstorm

Over the last couple of days, his poor cold neck regrew some of its winter coat. He'd already lost a lot of it, so it's short, but feels soft and thick like velvet. Too bad he'll be shedding it like crazy in two days, when the temperatures get into the 60s and 70s!

My horse after a Colorado spring snow

Look at his filthy legs and bedraggled tail. In a few days it'll be warm enough to actually bathe him... Too bad it'll probably still be too muddy in the pasture to make it practical!

My horse's filthy legs after a Colorado spring snow


Friday, April 17, 2009

If I could afford a second horse...

...This poor little malnourished pony would be the one.

The situation just reminds me so much of how I rescued Panama. He was just under a year old instead of 2, but he was also malnourished to the point of his growth being stunted. I could see the ridge of his spine almost as badly as you can see hers; he had a big wormy belly just like hers; and his feet had never been touched, just like hers. And of course, she has similar markings and a similar expression in her face — sweet and long-suffering, not daring to hope for a better life.

Unfortunately, I currently can't afford to pay the board for a second horse without moving Panama to someplace less expensive, and I've promised myself I'll never compromise his care in order to get another horse. Furthermore, it would cost me $400 to buy her plus at least another $600 to get her shipped out here, and I'd probably have to enlist the services of a rescue to help me out (because there is no way I'd leave her in that he!!hole while I waited for the Coggins test to come back).

Have you ever fallen in love at first sight with a horse that needed rescuing, but been unable (for whatever reason) to help?


Blanketing guilt

Last night when I checked on my horse and rubbed him down to get him to stop shivering, I didn't blanket because I wasn't sure if I should. I've heard that you should never blanket a wet horse, so I was hesitant to do so. Thankfully the rubbing down did help and he stopped shivering before I left, so I was able to sleep with a clear conscience.

This morning when I awoke it was snowing, and Michael (who had scheduled today off of work) said it had been snowing all morning. Once he finished his homework (the reason for the day off), we went out to the barn, so that we could check on Panama and I'd have his help blanketing if I needed him. There is nowhere inside the barn to tie Panama, so I would need Michael to hold his lead while I put the blanket on.

When we arrived, all three of the unblanketed horses were crammed into one stall in the barn in the far pasture, but they came cantering up as soon as they saw us — no doubt hoping we would rescue them from their misery. Sure as sh!t, Panama was shivering, but he was also jumpy and didn't want to be caught. I haltered him and brought him into the barn to rub him down, and once he stopped shivering so hard I called my local tack shop to ask if my blankets are breatheable. The owner said yes, so Michael (very reluctantly) held the lead while I blanketed Panama.

(An aside on my husband: He is nervous around horses — his wording, I say he's just plain scared of them — and when around them, just as skittish as they are. If I hadn't have asked him to stand a little closer and hold the lead rope a little tighter, he would have stood three feet away holding the lead rope gingerly at arm's length. He looked like he would have bolted at the first sign of trouble — probably even before Panama. And of course, we all know what happens when the person who is handling the horse is jumpy. But I didn't have a choice.)

I did try to towel off the other two unblanketed horses, but they were both jumpy from the weather and being cold, and wouldn't let me. In fact, I think the barn owner — who owns one of those horses and is pretty much fully responsible for the other one's care (the owner just pays the bills) — was unable to catch them either, and has therefore been forced to leave them unblanketed. Luckily they weren't shivering as badly as Panama had been, so I think they'll be okay.

I feel bad that I didn't think to blanket Panama yesterday, before the rain started. It wasn't like we weren't forewarned — we knew we had a spring storm coming. But honestly, it isn't supposed to drop below 30 degrees, and don't normally blanket until 15 or 20 degrees. I just didn't think the rain or the wetness of the snow would make such a difference!


Thursday, April 16, 2009

The funniest thing I've EVER seen a horse do

Oh, how I wish I'd gotten pictures of this — or better yet, video — but it happened too fast, and it was in the dimly lit barn in any case. Too bad, because it was seriously the funniest thing I have ever seen!

But I should start at the beginning. It's been raining all day today, and though it's not supposed to get below 30 degrees, it is expected to turn to snow sometime tonight — and potentially not stop until sometime Saturday. Another wet spring snow for Colorado!

This evening around 9:30, I decided I had better go check on Panama. Since he is usually the first one in the barn in bad weather, I was surprised to find him standing outside with his new girlfriend (who was blanketed and probably didn't mind the rain much), while the other two horses stood inside. Whether he was outside because the alpha wouldn't let him in, or because he wanted to stand with his new girlfriend, I don't know — but when I went into the barn and made the alpha move back, Panama came right in.

His back, neck, and face were all soaked, and his backbone was all hunched up, he was so cold. He then started shivering, just in his neck at first but later in his back as well. I ran to the tack room, grabbed a clean towel (I always keep a stash on hand), and went back to the barn to rub him down.

I noticed as I dried him as best I could that he was very jumpy, probably because the shivering put him on edge. He tolerated me rubbing him down with the towel, albeit reluctantly at first. He even let me drape the towel over his ears and forehead to towel off his forelock. Gradually he warmed up enough to realize it felt kind of good, and started letting his head drop.

When he started warming up, I set the towel on the wooden trough built into the wall in the stall we were in. While I called my husband, Panama walked over to the towel to investigate. He surprised me by grabbing it with his teeth and starting to shake it — just like this.

Unfortunately, Panama had grabbed towel by one of the ends, and when the other end dropped down it startled him. He started frantically trying to get away from the towel — except he forgot to let go. He tried backing up, shook his head furiously up and down, but the horse-eating towel stayed with him! Then bolted forward and out the side door, luckily remembering to let go as he did so. Otherwise I might have been trapped in the stall with a very frightened and confused horse.

It was actually a somewhat dangerous moment — though Panama didn't once bump into me, even in his panic, he certainly could have. But at the same time, it was hilarious — because Panama was trying to run away from a towel that he had gripped in his teeth the entire time. I was laughing so hard, it was several minutes before I could explain to my husband what had happened!

As funny as it was, I didn't want Panama to remember the incident too well — he's already a bit jumpy about towels and his blankets. He wouldn't come near the barn, however, so I ventured out into the rain with the towel so that they could make up.

At first he wouldn't come near me if he could see the towel, so I hid it behind my back, and the silly horse approached me with his nose stretched out as far as he possibly could. Then we progressed to sniffing the towel with it bunched in my hand, though as soon as I let it dangle from my hand he ran off again. Eventually I got him back to the point where he would come into the barn and let me rub him down some more, but it took a while.

A little bit later, his girlfriend (who seems to think she's the size of a poodle, by the way, when she's really more like a bull in a china shop) decided to play with my flashlight, which was in the same trough. She nudged it hard with her nose, and it banged against the plastic with a hollow thud. That was the last straw for poor Panama. He bolted from the barn and refused to come back in again. He was also feeling warmer by that point, though, and had been behaving a little like he wanted to play; so I wasn't surprised when he proceeded to run several times around the barn and harass the other horses a little before finally settling down. When I left they were all searching for soggy bits of hay among the puddles.

I just wish I had gotten the incident with the towel on camera. I think I'm going to invent a camera that is part of a riding helmet. It's impossible sometimes to pull out a camera — i.e., such as when you are simultaneously laughing and trying not to get trampled — yet those are the moments that most deserve to be preserved!


Monday, April 13, 2009

Rescued from what?

This is a little off-topic, but not entirely.

I am really disappointed in something Obama has done. This is new for me, because on the whole I have been an enthusiastic supporter of his. But apparently, the guy who has such brilliant ideas for diplomacy and health care can't see the difference between buying a $2,000 Portuguese water dog puppy from a breeder and rescuing a dog from a shelter.

You may not remember this, but during the campaign Obama said if he was elected, his family was going to adopt a rescue as a family dog. It was presented as this grand humanitarian act, yet now we find out that the Obama family bought a purebred — from nationally famous breeders, no less!

So what that the puppy's first owners didn't want him and returned him to the breeders. That in itself doesn't make a dog a rescue. He wasn't dumped, he didn't spend time at a shelter, and most importantly, they did not free up a spot for another dog to be rescued. This was not a rescue. Period.

So how does this tie into horses? Well, overbreeding affects the horse world too, and the terrifying mass murder of innocent horses — otherwise known as horse slaughter — is the result, just as shelter overcrowding and euthanization is the result of overbreeding dogs and cats. By buying from breeders, you are supporting irresponsible breeding (in my opinion even the "quality" breeders are irresponsible for continuing to breed in this economy and with this much of an overpopulation problem), not to mention making it more difficult for shelters to move animals through and continue giving hope to new rescues.

President Obama, shame on you for not being able to see the difference between a once-returned purebred and a true rescue! I hope the ensuing controversy will remind people of the importance of patronizing rescues, not breeders.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ground manners while NOT on a lead

Earlier I mentioned that I had a story to share about my horse. This story demonstrates the importance of your horse respecting you and having good ground manners even when not on a lead.

I celebrated Easter today by spending about an hour at the barn, mostly hanging out with Panama inside the barn because of the rain. He seemed to like the attention, but he was also being rather naughty.

Hanging out with my horse in the barn

At one point I tried to walk through the doorway into one of the back stalls of the barn (all the gates between stalls are down and the doors open) and Panama pushed me against the wall in his hurry to get through before me. He got a verbal scolding and a slap on the rump for that, and I decided we need to work on letting me through the doorway first, even when not on a lead. (He does fine while being led, so apparently he thought the rules would be different otherwise.)

But first I had to get him out of the rear stall. He just stood there in the doorway for the longest time, looking at me. I think he was afraid he'd get trouble again for walking through. Finally, though, he came through the doorway to me. I praised him, loved on him a little, and then walked toward the doorway, clucking to him to get him to walk with me.

At the doorway between the stalls — which admittedly is not wide enough for both of us at the same time — I made a little ehhh noise and put my hand out at about the same height as his chest. He stopped, and I praised him, walked through, and then clucked to him again to get him to follow. He did, and got lots of praise.

We practiced this a few times. I'm not sure he fully understands yet what I'm looking for, but when I tell him to, he does stop and wait for me to go through first. My goal is to get him to where he'll stop and wait for me automatically, just like he does when I have him on a lead, so we'll need to practice again sometime soon.

I think it's interesting how horses sometimes act like they are wild and untrained whenever the halter or bridle is off. I remember when Panama was a young horse, visiting my in-laws and helping them to catch and halter him. (This was when he was about 18 months old, before I moved him to Denver.) He was skittish and unapproachable without the halter, but once we got it on he was practically a lap dog.

While the differences in Panama's behavior are no longer that extreme (i.e. he's a lap dog all of the time), I think this demonstrates how important it is for both you and your horse not to become complacent, but rather to make sure ground manners are taught and minded at all times, whether "caught" or not.


Happy Easter!

We've had a pretty dreary Easter — overcast all day, with a steady misty rain most of the afternoon — but I wasn't about to let that keep me from visiting my horse on Easter!

When I got there the rain was very light, and the horses were all out in the pasture. Panama was very dirty on his back, so I guess he probably got rained on earlier and then rolled. I haltered him and took him into the barn, draped the lead rope over his neck, and tried to convince him to stand still long enough for me to groom him. In so doing, I realized something else we need to work on: standing still when Mommy says so, even when not tied to something.

He actually wasn't too bad — the main problem being that he kept wanting to turn and see what I was doing. Eventually I got him curried and brushed, and then took his halter off. He didn't seem to want to leave once he was "free," though, so I brushed his mane and tail, too.

I wasn't ready to leave either, so for a little while I sat on the big rock just outside the barn. That's my favorite seat because it's positioned so that the barn shelters you from the wind, but faces south so that when the sun is out, you can warm yourself. The sun wasn't out today, of course, but with my hood up to shield my face from the rain it was surprisingly comfortable.

Panama didn't want to come outside, though, so I stood on tiptoe to peek through the window at him. (Apparently the windows are meant for the horses to look through, because they are a little too high for people.) I tapped on the glass and he came over to check things out.

My horse's nose in the window of the barn

(Please excuse the poor quality of the picture — I forgot my camera and had to rely on my phone for pictures!)

He still wouldn't come out, though, so I went inside and hung out with him for a little while. He was acting kind of petulant — he clearly wanted my attention, but also just as clearly didn't feel like remembering his manners.

I have a story about that, but I'll save it for tonight — this post is getting kind of long!

In the meantime, happy Easter, everyone!


Paint horse or pinto?

A common misconception regarding horses is that all horses with pinto markings are referred to as Paints. In truth, Paint refers to a breed and pinto refers to the markings.

Admittedly, I've been guilty of referring to Panama as a Paint (which he is not), but my excuse is that people know that term, and it's easier to say, "My horse is the Paint," and have myself understood, than to say, "My horse is the pinto," and have to explain what that means.

My horse is a pinto tobiano

I decided to blog about it today because a post on Fugly Horse of the Day about Lethal White Syndrome in foals brought about a discussion of coloring genetics and appearances. A commenter on the post linked to the best articles I have ever read on the difference between Paint and pinto, and the different types of pinto markings.

The first article discusses the difference between Paint and pinto. Basically, in order to be registered with the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) a horse must have proven Quarter Horse or Thoroughbred bloodlines. Pinto, on the other hand, describes any horse with these markings.

According to the second article, Panama is a tobiano (which I already knew). He also has something called "shadowed" spots, where there is a boarder around all of his spots. It's not as obvious in the winter, when his coat is thicker and longer, but you can see it in the summer.

I hope you enjoy the articles. I know I certainly did!


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Flexiblity when working with horses

Working with horses is like working with kids, in that you always have to be willing to be flexible and change your plans if needed.

I went out to the barn today with the intention of taking Panama for a walk off the property, and maybe even doing a little bareback riding in the pasture. However, when I arrived I found there was a soccer game in the park just beyond the field where we normally walk. To top it off, the wind really started picking up shortly after I arrived. I decided the combination of wind and brightly dressed, screaming kids was probably a recipe for disaster, so we worked on despooking instead.

The other day when I dressed Panama in my sweatshirt it was a little breezy but not all that bad. So I decided that today's strong wind was a perfect opportunity for another lesson.

While grooming Panama I got hot, took of my jacket, and snapped it in the wind. Panama was convinced that it was a horse-killing jacket, particularly when the sleeves blew toward him and flapped against his nose. I laughed at him and waved the jacket around some more, and he realized that the name of the game was Mommy Messing with Me, not Mommy's Jacket Trying to Eat Me.

After grooming him (which took a while — he's shedding like crazy!), I turned him loose and chased him around the pasture a little. He was more interested in the hay in the other pasture than in running, so it was more like chasing him back and forth along the fence line. He showed off with some twisting moves and ran with his neck arched and his head down, half playful but I think also half annoyed. Is it bad that I get a kick out of annoying my horse?

He doesn't hold a grudge, though, because as soon as I walked back over to the hitching post and called him, he came right back to me with his ears pricked. I grabbed the jacket and harassed him with it a little more while he was still haltered but not tied. He got to the point where it would flap in his face and he would just stand there or try to sniff it. I also tried dropping it and even tossing it up into the air a little at this point. He was a bit startled the first time, but after that it was no big shakes.

I was pretty pleased with my visit. Even though I couldn't do what I had originally wanted to do, I still found a way to make the visit productive. I think that will be my goal from now on: to be sure I do something productive at every visit, so that he is always learning something.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Recently one of my favorite horse blogs, Nuzzling Muzzles, has been working on bombproofing her horses for the trail. Not too long ago, she was working on desentizing her horse to her jacket.

I've taken my coat off from Panama's back before, and even tossed it to the ground next to me. This was all done slowly, so that he had a chance to get used to the coat fluttering before I threw it down. However, one thing I've found is that just because you've worked with them on something before, doesn't guarantee they'll remember it months later.

So today when I got too hot hanging out in the pasture with the horses and the barn owner, I took my sweatshirt off and decided to harass Panama with it. I flapped it around, flung it over his back, and covered up his neck, all with him untied. At first he wasn't crazy about this exercise, but then he realized I was just messing with him.

WTF, Mom?

Bombproofing my horse - desensitizing him to my sweatshirt

Does this sweatshirt make me look fat?

Bombproofing my horse - desensitizing him to my sweatshirt

I think Mom is making fun of me... AGAIN...

Bombproofing my horse - desensitizing him to my sweatshirt

He even let me cover his eyes with the sleeves (one at a time, I haven't tried completely blindfolding him yet). When I took these pictures the breeze was picking up, causing the sweatshirt to flap and flutter, and he still wasn't bothered. Mommy is so proud!


Monday, April 6, 2009

Small horses: Pros and cons

On the website for the training contest Fugly Horse of the Day blogged about on Sunday, I found this page on George, a small (13.3 hands) horse who was one of the rescue horses trained in the competition.

Scroll down just about three posts, and you'll see an entry on "Advantages to Owning a Smaller Equine" and "Horses Under 14 Hands — Tips Learned the Hard Way!" These lists made me laugh out loud, because with my horse being at 14 hands on the nose, I know exactly what she means.

I'd add two advantages to owning a smaller horse, though:

6) It's not as far to fall,


7) It doesn't hurt if they step on your feet accidentally.

As for the tips — I'm well acquainted with all of those except for the first one. Panama is small enough that he's actually succeeded in turning sideways in a fairly small trailer, so the rump strap is actually the least of my worries. And right now I'm trying to find a nice trail bridle and a bareback pad that will fit him.

There are many advantages to owning a smaller horse, but there are also some downsides, too — most of them having to do with the expectations of the rest of the horse world, and not with the horse itself!


Naptime at the barn

Yesterday while I was grooming Panama, I looked up into the other pasture, and this is what I saw:

Horses sleeping in the sun at the barn

All four of the horses (one is hidden behind the barn) were lying down sleeping in the warm sun. Doesn't that just make you want to take a nap too?


Sunday, April 5, 2009

A horse is a horse...

...of course of course. What else did I expect?

I went over to the barn today, removed Panama's blanket, and spent a lot of time grooming him. He was shedding like crazy, so I spent a lot of time getting rid of as much hair as I could, and then I pulled out the spray conditioner and brushed out his mane and tail.

My horse all clean and groomed

I was thinking I might still take him for a walk off the property, so when I released him I left the halter on.

Bad idea! While I was putting his tote away and talking to the barn owner, he rolled twice in the mud, and got both himself...

My horse all muddy after rolling!

...and his halter...

My horse's halter, now caked with mud

...caked with mud.

Of course, being a horse he didn't seem to mind.

My horse all muddy after rolling!

What's the big deal, Mom?


A new girlfriend for my gelding

Last weekend at the barn a new horse moved in — another mare. Panama is in lo-o-ove!

My gelding and his newest girlfriend

Unfortunately she's a bit too big for him.

My gelding and his newest girlfriend

Mom! Quit making fun of me!

I think her owners said she was half Belgian draft and half Thoroughbred. In any case, she's a really big 5-year-old warmblood.

Initially I was thinking that because she was also young, she might play with him a little. After seeing her, I'm kinda hoping she won't. She's a big girl!


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Playtime at the barn!

My horse has been very playful lately. I've noticed before that once he gets truly comfortable at a barn, his playful nature comes out. Well, it's out now — and silly me, I keep forgetting my camera to get some pictures of it!

Last weekend after I blanketed Panama, as I was standing there talking to the barn's owner, he walked up to the alpha gelding and started trying to get him to play. Today after I blanketed him, he started doing the same thing with a completely different horse.

I was again talking to the owner, and he turned to me and said, "Do you know he rears up?" — meaning when he plays.

"I haven't seen him do that in a long time," I answered. Seconds later, though, Panama did just that: reared up trying to get the other horse to play.

The other horse did play with him a little, and I got to see them both rear up together several times as they play-fought one another. Then they ran back and forth a few times. Well, mainly Panama did this, plus a lot of dancing around and these funny little half-turns in the air. I think he was trying to talk the other horse into it!

As I was getting in the car to leave, 10 or 15 minutes later, they started doing it again, so I sat in the car and watched for a little bit. Panama really gets going when he wants to play. It's adorable — I'll have to try to get some pictures of it next time!


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mother Nature's April Fools joke on Denver

So here it is, snowing again in Colorado. We have two months of 60 degree weather, and now three snowstorms in less than a week — two of which have been very out of the ordinary!

After getting dumped on last Thursday, it warmed up enough that all 12 inches of snow were gone by the end of the weekend. Then it snowed again Monday morning, warmed up, and the snow was nearly melted by the end of the day. Welcome to Colorado's weird weather!

Today tops all, though. They were calling for snow, but for most of the day it was just cold and a bit overcast. Then it started getting darker and darker, and around mid-afternoon started off with a little lightning and thunder, followed by thunder snow and hail.

Now it's "just" snowing.

In general, I think my horse is much happier without the Midwestern muggy summers and winter ice storms that he grew up with the first two years of his life. But I think that this back-and-forth weather that Colorado gets in the spring must be hard sometimes. It's a saying in Colorado that we don't really have fall or spring — it's just winter and summer battling it out, and eventually the correct one wins!