Saturday, May 30, 2009

Party favors

So it's nothing much, but I made bookmarks as "party favors" to celebrate Naming Day. Send me your address if you want one and I'll stick one in the mail for you.

Horse bookmark

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Naming Day

We celebrated Naming Day this evening. It felt kind of awkward and not at all celebratory, probably because we were rushed and got out to the barn later than intended. Panama still enjoyed it, though.

Where's Mom going?

My rescue horse

To get the goodies, of course!

Treats for my horse

This was Panama's "cake" — a little bit of extra grain (he'd already had his usual amount for the day, and I didn't want to overdo it), a couple of apples from Aunt Jane, and a peppermint treat smile!

I gave him the goodies first so that we could get some good video footage before it got too dim, as the sun was going behind the houses. Then I groomed him. He was a bit antsy at first — no doubt excited about the change in routine, and wondering if I had more treats up my sleeve — but he finally relaxed and let me do my thing.

I did take some video footage, and I'm planning on making a video commemorating our first celebration of Naming Day — but not tonight, as I'm feeling quite tired right now!

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cause for celebration

My horse, Panama

A new reader, Jane Augenstein, recently celebrated her horse's birthday. She and I were chatting via email, and she encouraged me to start celebrating Panama's birthday, even though I don't know the exact day.

I thought about it, and decided I would rather celebrate his "Naming Day," the day I first saw him and named him. That was May 27, 2006 — Memorial Day weekend. According to the backyard breeders, he was 11 months at the time, so he'll be four years old in roughly a month.

If they told us the truth, that is, which is why I'd rather celebrate Naming Day than make up a birthday for him. Besides, to me this day holds more importance than a birthday, because it's the day he came into my life — the day I fell in love with him at first sight.

I thought about inviting a few friends, but as the date approached I decided I'd rather spend the day just with Panama (and Michael, if he'll come). It is, after all, our day, and therefore a private celebration seems appropriate.

For those of you who don't already know the story, my husband and I were out of state at the time, visiting his family. While we were at his brother's house, a backyard breeder delivered a pregnant mare and her 11-month-old colt to the next door neighbor. The idiot had loaded them into a trailer with a big hole in the floor, and the mare had fallen through, scraping one of her rear fetlock joints all the way to bone.

Horse trailer with a hole in the floor

My in-laws saw the mare was injured and called the vet, and I sat with the mare while we waited (she was on the ground, poor thing). It quickly became clear that neither the breeder or the neighbor had the money for vet care: Both held the all-too-common view that horses cost nothing to keep, but would make them rich from selling the offspring.

So by default they decided to euthanize the mare, since neither of them could afford the cost of getting her well in time to deliver the baby. I sat with her the entire time, wishing there was something I could do to save her, and feeling completely helpless.

Once she had been euthanized, we turned our attention to her colt, who had been flitting nervously around us this entire time. He'd had no prior contact with people, but because I was sitting with his mom for so long he'd actually approached me a few times. Once he even bumped me on the back of the shoulder with his nose. The breeder said it was the first time he'd ever approached a human before.

I didn't realize at the time how small he was for 11 months, but his back was only about to my waist — and I'm pretty short! He was also so scrawny that his ribs and hips stuck out sadly, despite his big belly (which I now know means he was probably wormy). From what the breeder said that day, I suspect he and his mother had been left out to pasture all winter without hay or grain, and her both nursing and pregnant.

Panama, about a month after we rescued him

Anyway, it turned out the colt was injured too — though not as badly, the vet needed to take him back to his place, where he could be on stall rest. Even injured and clearly half-starved, though, he was a fiesty little fellow. I'll never forget seeing him throw off the vet's assistant when he tried to catch him. Then he came trotting back by us, head and tail held high, mane blowing off his neck — so proud of himself for getting away. In the end, the vet had to lasso him in order to catch him.

Once the vet had caught him and wrestled him to the ground, he had my brother-in-law hold the rope while he returned to his office for his trailer. I sat in front of him, and he put his head in my lap, so sad and defeated. That's when I named him Panama, and looking back, it feels like this simple act created an irrevocable connection between us.

A little over a week later, my husband announced to me that Panama was mine: Knowing how much I wanted him, Michael had paid the vet bill when (unsurprisingly) both breeder and buyer refused. Panama lived on my brother-in-law's pasture for a little over a year, during which time we visited frequently. Then, in September 2007, we were finally able to transport him to Denver.

My horse in October 2007

Up until then, he'd always remembered me when we would visit my in-laws, but after we brought him to Denver our relationship grew by leaps and bounds. He was almost wild at the time, hated being groomed, and was suspicious of anyone messing with his feet. But over time, he began to trust me.

We helped each other through a lot of firsts...

Training...

Lunging my horse under saddle when he was 2

Our first ride...

My first ride on my horse

New experiences...

My horse's first bath

New homes, and new friends...

My horse and a friend

When I think back on it all, I can't believe how far we've come. Naming Panama was the very first act in a beautiful relationship that just keeps getting closer and more complex the more time that passes.

Thanks for insisting I needed to celebrate something, Jane! You were right!

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Rained out!

It has been a very wet Memorial Day weekend.

Yesterday afternoon, I realized I was going to have to forego my planned trip to the barn in favor of working. (I took a couple of days off last week, and as a result I'm having to play catch-up this weekend.) To make it more enjoyable, we went to a bookstore where I could get Internet access. While we were there, though, it rained and then hailed, making me glad to be indoors instead of at the barn.

It's been raining most of the day today, as well. It's just as well, because between work and plans with the family, there's no way I'd be able to get out to the barn anyway. I know Panama misses me — he was very eager to see me on Saturday when I returned my newly oiled saddle and bridle to the tack room, and rather disappointed when I left soon afterward — but he'll just have to wait a little bit longer!

How was your Memorial Day weekend? Did you get rained out, too? I hear wet weather was expected in a lot of places nationwide!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Oiling my saddle and bridle

It has been at least a couple of months since I rode my horse, and three times as long since I last oiled my saddle and bridle. I was thinking about riding last week, and realized that I desperately needed to oil everything before I used it again.

So I had Panama's saddle sitting end-up in the kitchen all weekend. Tonight I finally decided to make some time and get the job done. I did my usual job of putting two kitchen chairs back-to-back and balancing my saddle over the backs of them. This time, however, I removed my stirrup leathers and took my bridle completely apart. (I was so lazy last time!!) Those I hung on the coat hooks in the mud room.

Just like last time, my saddle didn't need very much oil. In fact, the first coat never really soaked in, so after a while I just buffed it off again. I don't know if it's because the leather on my saddle is exceptionally cheap, or because the previous owner put some type of sealant on it, but it always looks great and never seems to want to soak in the oil.

My stirrup leathers were a little stiff, probably because I didn't do a very good job of oiling them last time, and they were looking pretty beat up where the stirrup goes. I must have put a dozen coats of oil on them, and they were still soaking it in. I finally decided enough was enough, polished them up, and put them back on the saddle.

My bridle is pretty much a lost cause, so I put half a dozen coats of oil on it and called it quits. It is still pretty supple from the last time I oiled it, but I had cared for it so little before that it's got tons of little surface cracks in the leather, particularly in the reins. But I'm planning on getting a new trail bridle soon, so I'm not as worried about it anymore. I'll probably just keep it as a backup.

It's a relief to be able to cross this time-consuming task off my to-do list. Now, if only I can get a ride in sometime soon!

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Petition: Appropriate punishment for animal abuse and neglect

This petition was inspired by Nebraska's Three Strikes Ranch fiasco, in which 200 equines were found starving to death on a "sanctuary," and about 60 had actually died. HSUS and an army of volunteer horse rescuers went in, fed the horses using donated hay and funds, and transported them away from Three Strikes Ranch using donated trailers.

It's pretty sad to me that ONE person's f#cked up sense of horse rescue can result in all of these resources being used just to rescue them from their rescuer.

Furthermore, when are we going to have to pull together and rescue horses from this same guy again? Statistics show that hoarders are often repeat offenders. The consequences of hoarding and neglecting animals just aren't stiff enough — they get off with a slap on the wrist.

Jail time ought to be mandatory for folks like this, in my opinion. Mandatory. Plus, they should not be able to own animals again. They've already proven once that they can't handle it; does another group of animals really have to suffer in order to prove that point again?

Please sign the petition requesting mandatory jail time for equine abuse and neglect. If it were up to me, that petition would be for all abuse and neglect, but I'm happy to take this one step at a time, too!

Also, check out HSUS's video footage of the horses at Three Strikes Ranch. It's terrible how skinny they are!

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

My good deed for the day

I went out to the barn again today, but I realized when I got there that I didn't feel like doing anything — even taking pictures! So instead I hung out, talked with the barn owner, and watched the horses pick through their hay for the best bits.

I did accomplish one thing, though it wasn't with Panama. I've recently come to realize that if the alpha gelding is going to get certain care such as worming and fly spray, I'm probably going to have to do it — his owners have pretty much left the barn owner in charge of his care, who is, alas, a little clueless about some things. I know another boarder (who has since left) used to worm the horses for him, so I'm going to ask if he wants me to help him with it. I'm willing to bet he'll say yes.

Of course, since the alpha is rarely tied or worked with, his ground manners are atrocious. Getting fly spray in his ears (his flies use them as a breeding ground, poor boy) will be a real challenge, and worming him will be nearly impossible unless I start working with him now.

So since I wasn't doing anything else today, I decided to start working on the alpha's ground manners. I've already taught him to let me rub his nose without pulling his face away — so I did have something of a foundation to start with.

I stood exactly how I stand with Panama to worm him: on the left side of the alpha's neck, facing the same way as him, with my right hand over the top of his nose. Then with my left hand I reached up and gently curled my left hand around the base of his ear, talking to him all the while. He was okay with this, until I started running my fingers along the edges and around to the open side.

This is where the advantage to this approach lies. When he would lift his head or try to back away, I squeezed his nose a little and moved with him, making little scolding noises. I had my hand a few inches up from the muzzle, so I was basically pinching the airways shut a little. As soon as he stopped fighting me I relaxed my hand and praised him. After a minute or two, he tolerated a few gentle strokes around the edges of his ear — and as soon as he did, I praised him like crazy and took my hands away.

Then I went around to the other side, but he started moving off before I could get my hand over his nose. So I clucked and drove him forward, and then followed him all around the pasture for a couple of minutes. Panama watched contentedly, hay trailing from his mouth, no doubt enjoying the show because he already knows Mom doesn't give up. Then the alpha abruptly stopped in his tracks, turned his head to look at me, and just waited while I walked up to him. It was obviously an aha moment for him.

The other ear went faster, as I encountered much less resistance. The alpha may have gotten a bit wild from not being worked with, but he's still smart enough to know when he's no longer in charge!

I was very pleased with the progress I made with the alpha gelding today, and I'm planning on practicing every time I'm over there. If I'm going to be the one worming him, then by George, he's gonna learn to respect me!

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Where our priorities lie...

What does this say about our society? Banning BYOB at the Preakness has achieved what Eight Belles's death couldn't: a steep reduction in attendance.

At Troubled Preakness, a Sobering Attendance Drop

Yep, the Preakness Stakes decided this year for the first time to restrict people from bringing alcohol to the race. And as it happens, the booze was more important to many fans than the horses.

Sad, really. But hey, however the job gets done is fine with me... If it takes liquor control to bring about horse racing reform, I'm down with that!

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

A beautiful Saturday at the barn

It has been just gorgeous so far this weekend. Today was clear and sunny, but not too hot. I love springtime in Colorado — when it's not snowing, I mean — as it can feel like 80 degrees in the sun, yet 60 degrees in the shade or every time the breeze blows on you. You can be comfortable grooming your horse in a tank top in the sun, without feeling too hot or too cold.

I spent a good portion of the afternoon at the barn, and even convinced Michael to come out there with me. I groomed Panama, with never ending currying to get rid of the winter coat he is still shedding out. Michael even curried him a little on one side to help out, while I finished up the first side. That confused Panama a little — he's not used to having two people working on him.

I also applied for the first time my Listerine and baby oil mixture, one of the homemade remedies I blogged about recently. It's supposed to soothe and prevent the itchiness that causes horses to rub their hind ends, shearing off the hairs. Keep your fingers crossed for me that it works — I'd love for the white section at the top of Panama's tail to be able to grow out this year!

I lunged Panama today, and he was very well behaved again, but I didn't ride him. My bridle and saddle are badly overdue for some oiling, so I brought them home. I'll oil both tomorrow, and hopefully get out to the barn to ride on Monday. I also threw my favorite saddle pad, my trail riding saddle pad with big pockets behind the saddle on each side, into the washing machine to get rid of the layer of dirt that has accumulated on it over several months of not riding.

Tomorrow it's supposed to be around 80 degrees. I think I might actually try to give Panama his first bath of the season!

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pony invasion

For those of you who needed a good laugh today...

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Living with flies

When you have horses, flies are a horrid nuisance. They bite your horses, lay their eggs in your horses' ears and on their skin, cause problems such as sweet itch, harass humans, and reproduce like crazy.

In the other barns I've boarded at, flies have been a huge problem. At the first barn, stalls were only cleaned two or three times a week (one of the reasons I moved) and the flies were rampant. The second barn had better manure management, but flies were still a problem.

Where I board now, the owner introduced me to something I hadn't heard of before: Fly Predators. They are basically non-biting, non-pest little flies that eat and lay their eggs in pest fly eggs. In other words, it's preventative — Fly Predators don't kill existing flies, but they do decrease the fly population by limiting the number of eggs that make it to maturity.

The barn owner just put them out a few days ago, and I'm interested to see whether they really make a difference this summer!

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More changes at the barn

My horse's soon-to-be ex-girlfriend

I just found out that Panama's newest girlfriend will be leaving at the end of the month. They had moved her from their old barn because their trainer left and no longer had a facility she was attached to; I'll bet she got a new job where they are moving now, and they are following her. It would make sense, because they are getting a rather steep discount on board, and I'll bet the trainer pulled some strings to make that happen.

In any case, I'll be sad to see the mare go, and I know Panama will miss her too, but I won't miss her owners — as terrible as that sounds. I found out shortly after their arrival that they had been brushing him and giving him treats, and while that's not terrible, it's definitely a little assuming to groom and treat someone else's horse — particularly if the owner comes often and the horse is not in any way ignored.

(I've been tempted to mess with other people's horses before at the places I board, but usually because they are extremely ignored and I feel bad for them. However, I would never do anything more than just pet them a little without the proper permission.)

Another reason I will not miss the owners is because the girl has been setting jumps up in the back pasture with tires, ground poles, and now lawn chairs. The horses haven't been allowed back there, but yesterday I had to move everything in order to lunge Panama. Up until now I haven't been working him so it hasn't been a probem, but I'm planning to start riding regularly again now that the weather is nice. Them leaving saves me or the owner needing to talk about it!

With them gone we will be down to three horses for the first time since I moved Panama there in November. Eventually I'm sure the owner will find another boarder or two, but since most people don't seem to spend a lot of time with their horses, I will most likely retain my title as the most frequent visitor. That's the way I like it, and why I like being at a small facility: I have the ability to do what I want without competition!

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My horse meets my laptop

Yesterday while I was waiting for the vet to arrive, I thought I'd sit in the shade and work while I watched the horses sunbathe.

At first Panama seemed unconcerned.

My horse sunbathing

Then he became interested in what could possibly be more interesting to me than him.

My horse coming to check out my laptop

Hey Mom... What IS this, anyway?

My horse checking out my laptop

He didn't do any damage, but he did sprinkle some dirt on the keyboard and smear a little mud on the corner of the lid. I hurriedly put it away. Maybe working in the pasture so I can watch my horse isn't going to work out so well, after all.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My horse's big vet appointment

Today was a big day, and I mean a BIG day. The vet came this afternoon and saw my horse, as well as two other horses at the barn. It was a long appointment, and an exhausting day. And since Panama went last, I was there for the duration.

All three horses got their teeth done. All three horses got vaccinated. All three horses got dewormed. Panama and the other gelding got their sheaths cleaned. And — well, no, that's a surprise. You'll find out later.

Panama's examination was actually at the end, but we'll start with that first, to preserve the surprise. The vet said his weight was perfect for summer, which is a relief because I actually thought he was getting too fat. Good to know he's not.

Interestingly, the vet thinks he might have some Paso in him — either Peruvian Paso or Paso Fino. The breeder had said he was Arab and Paint, and I saw his mom so I know she certainly looked Arab. And the vet said the flightiness and the tail flagging definitely suggests Arab blood. But perhaps my little mystery horse is part Paso, too.

Of course, the vet did say that because of his history of malnourishment and stunted growth in his first year, it would be difficult to say for sure. I wonder if there's a genetic test I can have done?

He also cleaned Panama's sheath, but was only able to get it about two-thirds of the way done on just the drugs from the teeth floating. He said it was good enough to make it until fall, and wasn't worth me paying the extra for the "horse Viagra."

And of course, vaccinations were done today. The vet gave Panama his West Nile and Rhino-Flu vaccines, and will be back in a month to give him his Eastern and Western Encephalomyelitis. In the fall he'll get Rhino-Flu again (it only lasts 6 months) and a booster for the Eastern and Western Encephalomyelitis. Then next year he'll get Rhino-Flu and West Nile in the spring, and Rhino-Flu and Eastern/Western Encephalomyelitis in the fall. My vet says he gets a much lower reaction rate that way, not to mention a much more effective vaccination against West Nile.

The vet also gave Panama his wormer. I could have done it myself, but I figured why not — the vet only charges $20 for a double dose. I noticed that Panama gave the vet a harder time than he does when I worm him. Method, perhaps — I always put my hand over his nose, talk to him, and wait until he's calm before I put the syringe in his mouth, whereas the vet held him by the halter and just went for it. Panama has more control over his head that way, and let the vet know how much he resented the dewormer!

And finally, the teeth. Panama's first teeth floating actually went pretty well. The vet sedated him, used a headstand and a contraption to hold his mouth open, and fancy battery-run power grinders that looked and sounded rather like gigantic versions of my dentist's drills. His teeth were sharp in places, but not as bad as I feared, and he didn't have many sores inside his mouth. The whole thing didn't take very long, and Panama took it like a champ.

At one point toward the vet was using a file to do the top forward-most molars by hand, and noticed that the rasping sounded different in one place. He took a peek, and guess what he found?

My horse's wolf tooth

A little bitty wolf tooth! I didn't think they came in this early, but he said he usually pulls them when he gelds a young horse, so boy was I wrong! Panama only had the one, and it was tiny, which is probably why it's never seemed to bother him. But I had the vet pull it anyway while he was in there. No sense paying for all that sedation a second time to have it done later!

Yes, I kept the tooth. (I have one of his baby incisors, too.) And yes, that was the surprise. I think it's neat, particularly that it's so tiny — only the white part at the top was above the gums.

So that's it — Panama's biggest vet visit ever, and possibly one of the longest and most exhausting days I've experienced in quite a while!

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How would you handle this?

I am STEAMED. We went to the house of some people we know the other night (I won't name names) and I saw their horses for the first time in a while. I noticed one was walking like he was lame, shortening his strides on one side, and looked awkward trying to get up into a trot (much less a canter), so I looked at his feet — and guess what? They haven't been trimmed in probably almost a year!

So I told the owner that one of the horses was throwing his head way to one side like he was lame, and he immediately said, "He's always done that." Ummm... Always walked like he was lame? I don't think so! But I was so shocked and upset by the nonchalance that I neglected to mention the shortened strides and the difficulty trying to run.

Then I mentioned that his feet really need done, and the owner simply said, "I don't have the money to do it." As if the problem will just go away because (you say) you're broke!

I am SO angry. I know they buy crap for their kids, and they recently bought a bunny too. It makes me so angry when people add to their responsibilities rather than following up on the ones they've got.

This is an extremely difficult person to talks to. He's very alpha-male type, and I'm always a lot more successful planning my approach than carrying it out with people like him. He cuts you off and doesn't let you finish, and gets angry if you're saying something like this. But at the same time, I am angry seeing how his horses are suffering — all because he can't admit that if he can't afford their upkeep, he shouldn't have them in the first place.

Have you ever been in a situation where someone you know, someone close to you even, neglects their animals in ways that would earn them a report to Animal Control if it were anybody else? How have you handled it? Or if you haven't had a similar situation happen to you, how would you handle it? I'm totally at a loss, but I'm so angry I know I can't do nothing!

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Monday, May 11, 2009

A beginner's crash course on horses

Fugly Horse of the Day had a terrific post today about beginner mistakes that can kill your horse. It is seriously the best rundown of the worst mistakes that I've ever seen.

Here is a summary, but be sure to go to the actual blog post to read the commentary:

1) Turning a horse out in a nylon, non-breakaway halter

2) Unsafe fencing

3) Pasture obstacles

4) Letting a horse graze too long or eat grass clippings after you've mowed

5) Turnout with a dangerous horse

Of all of these, it is the first one that bugs me the most, partly because I see it all the time. In fact, someone I know (and will be blogging about soon — stay tuned) has pasture horses that they never take the halters off of. I seriously want to launch into a lecture every time I see a pasture horse with a halter on. If you can't catch and halter your horse in the pasture... Well, that's from a lack of training — and no one's fault but your own!

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Why I blanket my horse

I've chatted a bit with a new reader lately about blanketing. Here's a perfect example of why I blanket my horse:

Yesterday was a bit chilly, having rained all night. After a week of 60 and 70 degree temperatures, the horses at the barn hadn't had much of their winter coats left, so they all got a little fuzzy overnight.

All of them except Panama, that is.

Here you can see the long hairs already making a reappearance on the alpha gelding:

A horse's winter coat coming in

In contrast, Panama's coat is a little bit fuzzier, but the difference isn't as noticeable as it is with the others.

My horse's lack of a winter coat

I don't know if it's because he's Arab or what, but Panama just doesn't get as thick a coat as most of the other horses I've seen. It does get longer in the winter, but it's very soft and fine. It's not because of the blanketing, because I only blanket below 15 degrees, and the other horses get exactly the same treatment. Panama also has a much lighter coat in summer, so fine and short that it lays perfectly flat on his skin, as sleek as a seal's.

What is your horse's winter coat like?

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Video: My funny horse!

I've posted pictures before of my horse's funny little "grain-gasm," where he curls his right front leg while he eats his grain. He's done it since we rescued him as a yearling.

Well, I finally got a video of it over the weekend:



I'm a bit ashamed of the way he throws his head around while he eats — a sure sign that his teeth need to be floated — but luckily the vet's coming tomorrow to take care of that. It'll be Panama's first dental, so wish us lots of luck!

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

It's a little bit muddy at the barn...

...from the rain last night. So much, in fact, that today I found a weed in the mud caked on Panama's hoofs.



Doesn't it look just like it's growing there? I laughed out loud when I saw it, and just had to take a picture!

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Horse owners are mommies, too...

...If only because horses are so darn childlike, sometimes.

Case in point:

After I got done grooming Panama today, and we went back into the main pasture, all of the other horses were relaxing. I stopped and took a picture.

Horses relaxing at the barn

Panama stood right next to me while I took the photo, like he was supervising or something. But then, just as I got ready to take a picture of the mare lying down, he got tired of acting all grown up — not to mention probably a little jealous of the attention I was paying the others — and decided to put himself back into the spotlight.

My playful gelding

My playful gelding

My playful gelding

My playful gelding

My playful gelding

So she got up, and he stood there looking all proud of himself.

It's amazing sometimes how much a horse and a two-year-old have in common...

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Happy Mother's Day!

...And time to announce the winner of my Mother's Day horse book giveaway: Jane Augenstein, one of my newest readers and a very devoted commenter! Love your comments, Jane, keep it up!

This giveaway didn't have as good a turnout as my last few. If you entered the others but not this one, I'd be interested to hear why. In fact, I'm so interested that I created a poll!



Happy Mother's Day to ALL my readers, of course, whether you entered the drawing or not. And stayed tuned for more Mother's Day goodness!

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A picture perfect day

My horse Panama

I didn't get out to the barn to see my horse all week, despite the beautiful weather — I just had too much work to do. So when I heard it was supposed to be rainy and cooler all weekend, I was really disappointed.

Luckily it didn't turn out that way at all. Today was sunny and beautiful, probably in the upper 60s in the sun. A perfect day, despite the forecast!

So of course I made sure to get out to the barn to visit with Panama. I groomed him, lunged him, and then hung out for a bit, taking pictures and talking to the owner. (I also took a video, which I will save to share later in the week.)

Panama was an absolute angel when I lunged him, which I didn't expect because I haven't worked him in probably just over two months. I thought for sure he'd be a pill about it, but instead he seemed to enjoy it. He is smart and always seems to like learning and being challenged, but I think he also likes the attention!

It turned out to be such a perfect afternoon for hanging out at the barn. Unfortunately tomorrow probably won't be as nice — it's been raining this evening, and is supposed to rain tomorrow — but even if it isn't, at least I got one nice day out there this weekend!

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Panama's first barn is for sale

I recently saw up for sale Panama's first barn, the place I left because I was concerned about cleanliness and safety (stalls were only cleaned 2 or 3 times a week, I was finding mold in the hay regularly, the water troughs weren't being filled and the ice wasn't getting broken out often enough, the horses were rarely ever turned out, and the only times the horses were checked on was at feeding times).

It's two separate lots, one with the house and one with the barn and arena. The owner is, of course, selling them separately — and for way too much, in my opinion. Board at this place is $275 a month and the barn holds 12 horses, so even if you don't have any horses of your own what you get in board won't cover the mortgage — and that's not even taking into account other expenses, such as hay, manure removal, etc. You wouldn't be able to raise the price for a little while, either, or you'd lose boarders right off the bat — not something you want to do when you're first taking over a business.

It's really too bad he wants too much for the property, because I'd love to own a house and boarding stables. I'm not crazy about the house, but I'd do it for the barn — if it were, oh, a quarter of the price for both properties. I know this would be about right because a house just down the street on about 2 acres wasn't selling last year at $400K. A million would be the max for these two properties, I think, even with one being an income-generating property.

Oh, but if I were able to afford this place, I would make it such a much better barn than what it was when I was there. Here is what I'd do differently:

1) Get better hay and store it somewhere else, NOT in the barn, and not exposed to the elements either. When I was there, hay was stored in the center aisle of the barn, as well as outside. The center aisle was covered in a layer of hay at least 6 inches. Not only is that a ridiculous wastee, but it's also a major fire hazard!

2) Do a better job of maintaining the water troughs. Clean and fill them regularly, keep the ice broken out in the winter, etc. You just can't expect a horse to go without water — you just can't.

3) Clean the stalls daily. Making a horse stand and sleep in a foot-deep layer of its own manure is terrible. When I told the owner that, he laughed at me and said, "They don't notice things like that!" Uh, whatever, dude.

4) Turn the horses out daily. I just think that is so important. Even if it's only four hours a day, horses need to be allowed to be horses. Turning them out only a few times a season also meant that each time was a mad rush of 1,000 pound beasts frantic to run around and graze.

5) Put a layer of arena sand in the outdoor arena. The arena there has a dirt floor, and I suspect it's just the dirt that was there to begin with, because it's typical Colorado, clay-like dirt that takes a long time to dry out. You go out there when it's muddy, and you'll have two pounds of mud on each foot by the time you're done, guaranteed. And you expect me to ride in that?!

6) Get a dumpster for manure removal. A huge manure pile — not a composting pile, mind you, but a big pile of manure — is just gross, not to mention a poor way to impress potential boarders.

That's just for starters — I'm sure there are many other things I would do to improve that place, if the price tag were something I'd be willing to pay.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Horses and color vision: Let's talk biology and science

Yesterday FHOTD commented in a post about flags that we don't know whether horses see in color. Actually, according to my research that is not at all true, and furthermore I don't know who would believe that we don't know something that basic in today's super-advanced scientific world.

So let's talk biology for a moment. Seeing color is not some kind of hocus pocus. It happens because we have three different types of cone cells in our eyes: cones that interpret red wavelengths, cones that interpret blue wavelengths, and cones that interpret green wavelengths. Having all three kinds of cones make us trichromatic.

Horses, on the other hand, are dichromatic, meaning they have only two of the three types of cone cells: red and blue. There's a fantastic scientific paper on dichromatic horse vision that I linked to last summer, after my horse spooked at a neon green-painted manhole cover and got me thinking about whether he could see color.

The scientific paper, first of all, explains very carefully how they determined what cones a horse has in his eyes. (I'm not a biology major, so I'll have to take their word for it. I would have assumed you'd dissect an eye and use a microscope to identify the cells inside it.) Then on page 5 they interpret their findings with a handy little color wheel that shows how horses see color. As you can see, all of the colors are fairly muted, but a small range of colors — neon green, orange, etc. — show up as varying shades of yellow. Which would explain, of course, why Panama was so startled by a neon green-painted piece of metal.

I think it's all very interesting, and of course it may have some serious implications for people who prefer brightly-colored tack and clothing — see the photograph comparisons on page 6 to see what I mean! What flight animal wouldn't consider that potentially scary?

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Horsey Headlines for May 6, 2009

I was reading a bunch of news articles about horses, and found too many I wanted to share to post on each individually. So I decided to start a new "Horsey Headlines" feature on my blog, where I'll link to a handful or so horse-related articles every Wednesday.

Want to read a heart-warming, hope-inspiring rescue story? Check out this one about an Arabian horse who was saved from slaughter 33 years ago — and went on to become a winner many times over.

This story about a barn fire started by the hay spontaneously combusting as to why you need to store hay in a well-ventilated place away from your barn. In fact, I think I might write a longer post on this subject at a later date.

On May 1, 2009, horse slaughter was legalized in Montana after Governor Schweitzer failed to do anything either way about the bill when it was put in front of him. Makes me wonder if lobbyists convinced him to do nothing, allowing the bill to become law through no direct action of his own. Also, don't miss the excellent anti-slaughter responses to this claim that horse slaughter is necessary.

And finally, a call for help from an Oklahoma horse rescue that just rescued 51 starved horses and needs feed and monetary donations.

What do you think of the new feature? I'd love to hear my readers' thoughts on my "Horsey Headlines" idea!

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Blanketing a wet horse

Recently I had a blanketing snafu that occurred because it didn't get as cold as it usually has to in order for me to blanket, but it did rain and get my horse all wet, which made him shiver. Unfortunately, I'd heard that you should never blanket a wet horse, so I didn't, and probably ultimately caused him a lot more suffering than if I'd just blanketed him when I first found him shivering.

The next day I asked my local tack store owner about it, and she said it was perfectly fine to blanket him when he was damp. She basically said that there's a lot of cr*p out there about caring for horses that masquerades as wisdom, and you should ignore 90 percent of it. While I don't know if that's true, I did a little research on blanketing a wet horse, and this is what I found.

Blanketing a wet horse can cause rain rot, a fungus, which is why you're not supposed to do it. As soon as I heard that I realized I had nothing to worry about. I live in Colorado, for heaven's sake; it's so dry that all the fungus gave up trying to live here, and moved east or west a long time ago.

Blanketing a wet horse with a breatheable blanket is supposed to be okay. Breatheable basically means that the horse can dry, rather than the blanket trapping the moisture against his skin.

Dry your horse with towels as much as possible first. Damp is better than soaking wet, so get your horse as dry as possible before putting the blanket on.

Thatching helps a wet horse to dry underneath a blanket. A solution is to put the blanket on, and then stuff handfuls of hay beneath the blanket. This allows for air circulation over the horse's skin, which helps the horse to dry off. The hay also falls out gradually, leaving a dry horse with a dry blanket on it.

Check on your horse after a couple of hours. Regardless of whether you towel dry or thatch, I recommend checking on your horse after a few hours. If he doesn't seem to be drying underneath the blanket, or if the blanket becomes soaked, you might need to change out the blanket and hang the wet one someplace warm to dry.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Don't forget about my horse book giveaway!

Don't forget about my latest horse book giveaway, in honor of Mother's Day! If you want to enter, you must email me by midnight Saturday night, mountain time!

Talking about horse property

On Sunday while my husband and I were walking along the trails near the barn, we got onto the subject of buying horse property.

We've talked before about the possibility, and Michael knows I'd really like us to own horse property someday, so that I can take care of Panama myself instead of boarding him. Michael is skeptical as to whether we can afford horse property in town, and I wouldn't ask him to make the commute from the outlying (read: more affordable) areas in Denver. Neither of us like the weather in those areas, anyway.

What brought it up though is that Michael has been seeing horse property at much more affordable prices lately — no doubt because of the housing market issues. So we started to talk about the possibility of buying horse property in a couple of years, and what we would need to do in the meantime in order to get to that point.

Of course, the most obvious thing is that I will need to maximize my income as much as possible. As a self-employed freelance writer, I can actually make more by working more, which I know is a luxury that many people don't have. Until now, I've admittedly been taking advantage of the other end of the spectrum, and working less at the cost of a lower income — but if I want us to be able to afford horse property, I will have to start diligently working more hours again. We'll need to be able to prove a track record for my income in order to qualify for a loan, which means that the next couple of years (or however long it takes to find a property) is a crucial time.

Our conversation has sparked a new determination in me, though. I can do this — and I will. I ought to consider taping a picture of Panama, or perhaps of the perfect property, over my credit card pockets in my wallet, as a reminder of what's most important to me!

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

A beautiful Sunday!

Despite forecasts for rain all weekend, today has turned out to be a beautiful day. I didn't have a lot of time, but I did manage to get out to the barn for a little bit this afternoon — and I even managed to convince Michael to come with me!

The swelling on Panama's knee is completely gone now, and the small cut is perfectly clear. Panama has also stopped trying to pull away when I handle that leg. I've been wanting to start riding regularly again, but I was waiting until his mystery injury stopped bothering him; now that he's doing better, I think I may try to ride a couple of times this week.

Michael and I also walked a little ways down the nearby horse and bicycle trail. It's a gorgeous trail and will be a lot of fun to ride, but I need to first get both Panama and I back into shape, and start working with him a little more on extending his comfort levels beyond the pasture.

I actually would have like to have spent longer at the barn today — Panama was being really sweet, and it was such a gorgeous afternoon. However, I have some work that I need to do, and that has to take precedence. Panama's spring vet visit is coming up, so I have need of the money!

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Kentucky Derby 2009

After getting home from a babysitting gig this afternoon, I was greeted with news about the Kentucky Derby: the winner was Mine That Bird, a horse with 50 to 1 odds against winning.

I can't find anything about any accidents, so it seems safe to assume that there were none. In my opinion, that shows Mine That Bird wasn't the only lucky horse running today: The track was wet and muddy, and we all know how difficult it is for a horse to trot or canter, let alone gallop full-out, in those kinds of conditions without slipping.

In browsing for information on the Kentucky Derby, I also ran across an article about the Derby's decision to start testing for steroids. The article is only dated yesterday, so it was literally a last-minute decision. I wonder if it had anything to do with the decision to pull I Want Revenge this morning? I haven't heard anything about it, but it's certainly possible that the "foot problem" was a way to save face. All hypothesis on my part, but the timing certainly makes it possible.

In any case, I'm glad the Kentucky Derby will no longer allow steroids to be used on the horses. It's a small step, but I do believe this will make the race safer — and more fair — for the horses.

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Update on Panama's mystery injury

I got out to the barn for a little bit with Emma yesterday evening, and while I was there I checked on Panama's swollen knee.

I solved the problem of Panama pulling his leg away from me: I stood on the other side and lifted his left front leg with my right hand, and then positioned myself so that I could check his right front knee with my left hand.

Now that the swelling has gone down, I can see a small cut, about three quarters of an inch long, slicing diagonally across his knee. It is closed and healing, but it verifies my suspicions that he either banged his knee or got caught by someone else's hoof. I'm relieved to be able to tell what caused the swelling!

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Horses are good for your health

One thing is for sure, when you have a horse you'll never be out of shape! (Providing, of course, that you aren't just warehousing it somewhere and never do anything with it.) Horsey activities such as riding, feeding, and even grooming are great sources of exercise, as anyone who does these things regularly can tell you.

A year ago, before I started following one of my favorite blogs (yes, you are!), Nuzzling Muzzles blogged about the calories you burn around the barn, doing chores and other horsey activities. It's worth checking out!

Bathing my horse - my husband's sense of humor

(The above picture is what happens when you give my husband a camera when we're at the barn and he's bored...)

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Denver man gets a drunk riding ticket!

I didn't even know this was possible, but a Denver man got a ticket for drunk riding!

Apparently while under the influence he decided it would be a good idea to take his horse, Crickett, for a "joyride" through a Denver suburb.

Too funny:

Police say deciding what to do with the horse was a "tricky call" because "you can tow a car" in typical drunk driving cases.


Eventually someone with a trailer gave him and the horse a ride home.

This is the first time I've heard of a "drunk riding" citation. I didn't even know it was possible — after all, the horse isn't drunk, and if his rider is most likely he's doing most of the driving (poor guy).

Have you ever heard of anyone getting a riding under the influence ticket before?

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Horrors of the horse industry

I found out from this article that the Kentucky Derby is tomorrow. I don't follow horse racing, as I don't really approve of the industry very much; but now that I know it's tomorrow I'll be anxiously keeping my fingers crossed that there are no tragedies like Eight Belles' breakdown last year!

The article is interesting because it also talks a lot about horse slaughter, and how the racing industry supplies a lot of the horses that go to slaughter every year by overbreeding Thoroughbreds. The writer is clearly very anti-slaughter, and ends the article with several calls to action:

1) A recommendation that Congress pass anti-slaughter legislation that is currently tied up in the House and Senate, which would prohibit horses from being sent to slaughter in foreign countries;

2) A call for owners, when selling their horses to foreign buyers, to include a provision in the contract that allows them to buy the horse back or arrange for humane euthanasia should the horse ever be up for slaughter; and

3) A demand that the horse racing industry in general should have enough respect for their athletes to quit sending them to slaughter.

Ironically, PETA sent me this link as an opportunity to write to the editor about the evils of horse racing. But as much as I don't like horse racing, I despise horse slaughter even more, so I'm not going to berate a writer for railing against one and not the other.

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Horses and their mystery injuries

One thing about owning horses is that they are always getting "mystery injuries," and you have no idea how. But it seems that you can't put two or more horses in a pasture together without them getting little nicks, bites, and bruises from time to time.

Last Sunday, when I visited Panama, I discovered just such a mystery injury: a slight swelling on the front of his right knee. It's not a very large area, and it's such a slight swelling that I wasn't even sure that my eyes weren't fooling me. It didn't seem to bother him at all, as he walked without favoring it and even let me groom it without flinching.

On Tuesday when I went out there, the swelling was possibly even less noticeable, but it had become a little sore to the touch. He let his displeasure known when I tried grooming his leg by picking it up and pawing. It was a half-hearted effort, though, and he did let me groom the area gently. Still no sign of favoring the leg when he moved around, though — and he did a lot of running that day after the mares left on their trail ride.

Yesterday I went to visit him again. The swelling seems to me to be almost gone, but I can feel a little ridge running diagonally across his knee — like he banged it on the edge of something, and the point of impact is becoming obvious now that the swelling is going down. He still is not favoring it at all, but he still doesn't want me to groom it. Not enough that he didn't give in eventually, but he did make a show of acting like he was going to bite my head (he didn't) when I tried.

I am pretty sure he just banged his knee, or maybe even caught a minor kick, what with the rocky relations in the pasture right now — they're still working out the new pecking order now that there's a new mare. The swelling going down, yet the area becoming more sore, supports my theory, because isn't that what happens when you bruise something — it's often more sore as the bruise gets older? Yet I've still been worrying about it. I figure if it doesn't continue to improve, I have Panama's spring vet visit coming up, and I can have the vet look at it then.

What mystery injuries have your horses gotten, and how do you deal with them? Do you always have the vet out as a rule of thumb, or do you make the decision based on how bad the injury appears to be?

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