Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The better to bite you with, my dear

I didn't make it out to the barn yesterday, but Spaghetti's owner and I met for a playdate this afternoon.  I think it's safe to say she is my best barn buddy!  We are able to meet at the barn pretty often, for playdates as well as rides, and although I like pretty much everyone at the barn, I find I relate to her the best.

Anyway, both horses were quite happy to put their newly floated teeth to work, playing bitey face:

Horses playing

Both of them got rabies shots in their butts on Monday.  My vet put them in the butt because he said they tend to work out the stiffness more easily that way, as they walk around.  Panama, who is in a fairly large corral, was only slightly sore — it wasn't affecting his gait at all, but he was less interested in running with Spaghetti than usual, when we turn them out together.  Spaghetti, though, is in a shed with a run, and therefore doesn't move around as much, and the difference was quite obvious: He was extremely stiff, and was taking shortened steps with his left rear leg, which was the side he got the shot in.

The vet had warned us that it could happen, and just recommended some Bute if either of them was sore.  So we gave Spaghetti some, which was a bit of a rodeo.  I guess he is difficult to deworm, too.  After his owner wrestled with him for a little while, I asked if she wanted some help.  I used my "deworming trick" that I use on Panama, and used on the other horses at our last barn when I dewormed them, too: I stood next to his neck, facing the same direction as him, and put my right arm under and around his jaw, with my hand over the top of his nose.  At first he stood still, and I told him he was a good boy and rubbed his face; then he tried tossing his head and backing up, at which point I tightened my hand over his nose so that it kind of squeezed his nasal passages shut.  The instant he stopped, I released the pressure, told him he was a good boy again, and rubbed his face a lot.  After that, he stood more or less still while Allie put the syringe in his mouth and gave him his Bute.  Little booger just needed someone to say, "This is what we're doing now and 'No' is not an option!"

We hung out in the cross ties for a little bit — good practice for Spaghetti, who is just beginning to be okay with standing in the cross ties — until we could tell, from the way he shifted his weight more easily, that the Bute was starting to take effect.  The vet had indicated that a little exercise was good and would help the stiffness to loosen up, so I saddled Panama and she rode Spaghetti bareback.  We rode indoors — since it was beginning to get cold — and we just rode at a walk.  Panama wasn't quite as stiff and probably could have trotted, but we took it easy for Spaghetti-O!  He likes to follow Panama, and though he wasn't walking as fast as usual, after a while he started moving a little easier.

We have some snow and really cold weather moving in tonight and tomorrow, so I probably won't be riding again for a few days.  No lesson, either.  It's too bad — I was really hoping the weather would stay nice enough for another trail ride this Friday, but with a forecast of a whopping 10 degrees, I don't think that will happen!

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Monday, December 27, 2010

A visit from the vet

Because I had a busy fall and then got sick, I was running a little late on getting the vet out for fall shots.  He came out today, and as I'd expected we also had to have my horse's teeth floated.  They weren't terrible, but he did have some points and was starting to develop sores, so he couldn't have waited until spring.

One of my barn friends, Spaghetti's owner, shared the visit with me so that we could split the call fee.  She also had her horse's teeth done — he is a young BLM mustang, so his teeth had never been done.  He had a few sores, but not as many as you'd think.  The vet suspects Spaghetti had learned to chew extra carefully, which he said isn't necessarily a good thing.

I thought it was interesting to see how differently Spaghetti and Panama responded to the anesthesia.  My vet said last time he did Panama's teeth that more high-strung horses need more of the drug to knock them out.  Today Panama was pretty fired up, and he said that sometimes mood can have an impact on how well the anesthesia works.  Both horses got the standard amount, but Spaghetti's nose was practically touching the ground and his butt was wedged into the corner to hold him up.  Panama, on the other hand, only dropped his head about shoulder-height, and was standing on his own without feeling he needed to lean against the wall.  He started waking up a bit during the float, too, and was moving his tongue around and trying to chew a bit.  He still behaved very well, but I was amused at how much milder the effect was on him than on Spaghetti.

My vet also gives a general exam when he does fall shots.  He said he was actually quite impressed with how good Panama looks now.  We've been using this vet for two years, so he saw Panama when he was still kind of awkward-looking from being malnourished and stunted as a baby.  He said he looks great now, and that looking at him back then, he never would have thought he'd grow up to look so good.  I was proud to hear that, even though I know that my part in it is minor — all I've done is to feed him and exercise him, and while I know proper nutrition and muscle tone has helped, I'm really just very lucky.  Heaven knows I had no idea when we rescued him whether I'd ever be able to ride him or not; all I cared about was saving him.

I'll probably try to ride a bit tomorrow, providing Panama is feeling okay, of course.  I haven't ridden since Friday, and Panama was pretty fired up when I turned him out yesterday (alone) and today (with Spaghetti).  I'm hoping to go for a trail ride later in the week, but he does better on the trail when he is ridden every day, so that is my goal until Friday!

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve trail ride

After Panama did so well on Wednesday's trail ride, I decided to try to go the next time our trail buddies went out again.  They have kept up a pretty regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule since the spring, so the next time was today!  And when I was talking to Spaghetti's owner about it, she decided to go too — she'd only had him out once, earlier in the summer, and was interested in doing a little more of that kind of thing with him.

I was a little worried that it would be only the two of us — with Spaghetti's lack of experience and not knowing how Panama would do, I didn't think that was a good idea — but luckily Zans's owner showed up as usual.  In addition, Lady (one of Panama's girlfriends) and her owner just happened to be tacking up at the same time, and decided to come, too.

I was a bit concerned when Lady joined us, because I suspect the presence of mares may have had something to do with why Panama kicked Voodoo on the trail many months ago.  Luckily, Panama did not act at all protective.  It may have something to do with the fact that Panama and Spaghetti ride together quite often in the arenas, and since Spaghetti really likes to follow Panama pretty closely, he is accustomed to having Spaghetti behind him.

The problem, as it turned out, was having three inexperienced babies on the same trail ride.  Lady hadn't been out on the trail in months, either, and though her owner had her in the lead in the beginning, she was extremely unsure and kept balking at various "scary" things (a hawk in the grass staring at her, the junk pile, passing through the gate to leave the property, etc.).  Panama usually likes to lead, but her uncertainty had him convinced that there was something there to be worried about, and I couldn't get him to pass her.  And of course, Spaghetti, for whom this was his second trail ride ever, would just crowd in with Lady and Panama, and wouldn't go, either.

Luckily, we had the experienced trail warrior Zans along to babysit... literally.  He tends to poke along in the rear, 20 or 30 feet behind the rest of the horses, so while we were trying to get our babies to walk past the scary bush or gate or whatever, he would finally catch up and plod right past our little cluster of babies.  Then all three of the young ones would realize there was nothing to be scared of (since Zans didn't care), and jockey to get back in front of him (which was fine with him) and back into their order.

Panama always wants to be first or second in the line, and there was no way he was gonna let Spaghetti be in front of him (he's like that in the arena, too, and even when they play together his goal seems to be to be in the lead as much as possible).  For about half of the ride, Panama led and Spaghetti followed close behind us, while Lady and Zans stayed some distance back.  The other half, Lady led and Panama followed, with Spaghetti going third and Zans bringing up the rear.  Panama seemed to be fine with either way, but he was noticeably distressed the couple of (brief) times where Spaghetti fell in behind Lady.

Unfortunately, whether because of Lady's and Spaghetti's uncertainty or because he hadn't been turned out that morning, Panama was on high alert the entire ride.  In retrospect he was still very good, even if he was carrying his head in the air like a giraffe, but at the time I was unable to relax, worried that he would bolt.  I had to remind myself constantly to sit back and put my heels down.  But, to be fair, he handled everything very well.  Lady crowhopped once and Spaghetti spooked twice, and both times Panama responded with a similar initial reaction; but as if it was instinct and not genuine fear driving him, each time he very quickly came back under control.

Although it was a tense ride, I'm glad we went out.  It's good to get Panama out on the trail again, and reintroduce him to the many stimuli we encounter on the trail.  I also think the experience is good for Spaghetti, and since his owner and I would like to be able to trail ride together — just the two of us — in the near future, it was good to see that the two of them did well together.  Hopefully next time Panama will be more relaxed and confident — and hopefully I will be, too!

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Off topic: Our kitten's first Christmas!

I haven't blogged about Ivan, our new kitty, for a long time.  I think he may finally be about as big as he is going to get, although he has yet to fill out — his frame got bigger very quickly, signaling a growth spurt (and I hope his last one, as he is huge!).

He is a character, and a lot of fun — he'd be the perfect cat, if he weren't so adamant about chasing our other cat, Cleo, who doesn't really handle that kind of thing very well.  We are doing what we can to make her life easier, and hoping he will grow out of his kitten stage very soon — I think he chases her because he is playful and bored, a very bad combination.

Ivan is hilarious because I think he thinks he is a dog — he plays with them without fear, lays around on the floor like they do, and sometimes plays like they do as well.  The other night he discovered a little stuffed Christmas reindeer, and started playing with it much like a dog would — picking it up and shaking it, and tossing it up in the air, even though it is probably at least a third of his size.  Here is a video of some of his antics — I missed some of his more dog-like behavior, but I had to share the video because of its hilarious ending!



This morning as my husband was making coffee, Ivan went racing through the kitchen with the stuffed animal in his mouth.  He took it into the basement (where I believe he has hidden a few of the Christmas tree ornaments), and my husband had to go downstairs to retrieve it.  How he was able to run with it in his mouth, without it dragging, I have no idea, but that's Ivan for you!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Beautiful day and a great trail ride!

I arrived at the barn first this morning, before any of our trail riding buddies made it.  Panama was lying in the sun napping, and was certainly in no hurry to get up!  I walked up to him with the halter and lead rope, and when he didn't get up, squatted between his legs and leaned against him with my head on his withers.  His breathing was slow and heavy, and he was clearly very relaxed.  It wasn't until one of our trail buddies arrived that he realized something was going on, and got up.

Horse lying down

It didn't take Panama very long to figure out we were going on a trail ride, and he was very excited once he figured it out.  I was the second one mounted, and opted to ride Panama in the outdoor arena for a few minutes to make sure he was going to behave himself.  He was getting very eager, and was more than a little anxious that Zans and his rider (who were out in the field) would leave without us, but I was able to get him to hold it together.  Then Savvy (his pasturemate) and her rider joined us in the arena before we went on our ride, and he stopped worrying quite as much about getting left behind.  I made sure not to fall too far behind when we left the arena, and asked Savvy's owner to wait for us just outside the gate, so that Panama wouldn't be tempted to run to catch up.

Panama was definitely alert and excited until we stopped to graze at our usual place just outside the property gate.  I don't know if it was the grazing or leaving the property (i.e., knowing he wasn't going to be left behind) or simply the familiarity of the routine, but he calmed right down and was fine for the rest of the trail ride.  (The grass is brown and dry, but apparently it's still worth eating, because the horses were quite happy to stop and graze periodically!)

Panama was for the most part very relaxed, and walked with his head down.  He did perk up and show some concern about a couple of changes in the park — the yurt we always pass had been taken down (he was so interested in the change that he tried to walk right over to check it out), and the horses have left the riding stables for the season (he walked diagonal the entire length of the fence to stare at the empty stable yard and pasture).  We had one little spook — he and Savvy both crow-hopped when a bird flew out of the brush in front of them, but then just kept going like nothing had happened.  For most of the ride, his ears were on me, and I was pleased to see he was paying so much attention to me despite the many distractions along the trail.

It was a beautiful morning, maybe 35 or 40 degrees but very sunny.  I was wearing a long-sleeved thermal with a T-shirt over it, a sweat jacket over that, and my light jacket on top, and I was plenty warm enough until the very end, when my fingers and toes started to feel a little cold.  The only bad thing was that the slight chill in the air was making my sinuses drain faster than usual, so I had to blow my nose a few times on the ride while Panama grazed.  My reins aren't long enough to hang onto them while I blow my nose when his head is down, so I just had to loop them over his withers and hope he behaved himself!  But he always did.

I had the option of going on for a short while longer with Savvy and her owner, while Zans and his owner returned to the barn, but I decided not to push it.  Panama was so good, but I think taking the usual, familiar loop was the best plan.  Maybe next time we'll go a little further, but I have to remember that it has been a long time since he's been out, and not overdo it just because he seems to be handling it well.  Small steps!

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Feelin' good!

Panama and I had an excellent day today.  First we met up with his buddy Spaghetti's owner, and turned the two of them out for a playdate.  They ran and ran, Panama with his tail curled over his back nearly the entire time — obviously he was feeling good!  So was Spaghetti, who doesn't have as much endurance as Panama, and usually quits running before Panama is quite ready.  Today, though, both of them ran for a long time!

As good as he was obviously feeling, though, Panama was (much to my surprise) still able to calm down enough for a really nice ride — and at dinnertime to boot, despite the fact that he knew his grain and hay were waiting for him.  To me, this was the most amazing thing about this evening: that he was able to not only calm down after a rousing run (which usually gets him more worked up, rather than wearing him down), AND that he was able to focus on his job when he knew it was time to eat.  Oh, and we rode in a full arena too, which normally is very distracting to him.

We rode with Spaghetti and his owner.  Most of the ride was at a walk while we chatted; Spaghetti likes to follow right behind Panama, as if we were on a trail ride, which I think says a lot about how Spaghetti views Panama.  It's also a very effective way to get Spaghetti to trot, since he isn't a big fan of hard work but is more than willing to follow his buddy.  The only thing he won't do is canter with Panama!  Panama was doing quite well tonight, so we did canter for a little bit, even though that meant leaving Spaghetti behind.

Panama is behaving so well that I think I am going to take him on a trail ride tomorrow morning.  This is dependent on him behaving himself in the arena before we go, of course, but if the last two days are anything to judge by, he'll be fine.  It is supposed to be about 45 and sunny tomorrow, so it'll be a bit chilly but not unbearably so, and the trails are all dry since we haven't had any snow to speak of yet.  It'll be our first trail ride in more than three months, so wish us luck!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Big day back

Today was our second ride since I've been sick, and a big day back for both of us.  Panama had a farrier appointment this morning, and afterward we went for a short ride in the indoor arena (it was sunny and warmer, but I didn't care for the chilly breeze, what with my sinuses still draining).

Panama was a bit needy and mouthier than usual with the farrier, so I turned him out afterward, but he didn't really want to run.  I was hesitant to push him too hard, since the farrier had to trim him a bit shorter than usual in the front to eliminate a troublesome split.  It's not a huge difference, but enough that Panama appeared to be getting used to it. 

Between the trim and my cough, I didn't push us very hard during our ride, either.  Mainly I wanted a "getting back into the swing of things" kind of ride, so we did lots of walking, a little trotting, and worked on not cutting our corners in the arena (what we were working on before I got sick).  We also worked on desensitizing Panama to my jacket so that I could take it off while mounted — we've been working on this, but this was the first time I've been able to take it off without someone present to hold the reins and take it from me.

It was a good ride, much better than Saturday's (when I felt like I was sitting astride a rocket ship the whole 15-minute ride).  A couple of our friends went out on the trail, and I started thinking about going back out with them again sometime soon.  It's been months since we've gone, since Panama started acting out a little bit over the summer.  He's been very good the last couple of months, though, so I am wondering if it was just a stage he was going through.  I've been too sick recently to take advantage of the nice weather, but if it holds out, maybe we can get a couple of last trail rides in before winter comes — if it comes!

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Recovery

I've been sick for almost two weeks.  What I thought was a cold at first started out with an intense sore throat, quickly moved into the worst congestion I've ever experienced, and then finished up with a lingering, annoying cough that has been driving me up the wall for the past week.  As a result, I didn't go out to the barn at all the first week I was sick (heck, I spent most of the time in my "sick castle," either the couch or the bed with everything I needed — laptop, book, iPhone, medicine, water, etc. — within easy reach).  I did get out earlier this week to turn Panama out with his buddy Spaghetti for a playdate, and I've been out a couple of other times to put on or take off his blanket, but that was it.

So when I went out there today, I hadn't ridden in just over two weeks, since the last time I had a lesson.  (My trainer rode Panama last Friday instead of our normal lesson, and said that he did great.)  Panama has been pretty confused — I know he has been missing my usual lengthy visits and rides.  When I put him back in his corral after turning him out or blanketing him, he just stood at the gate, as if he were expecting something else.  Surely I wasn't really done with him!

Whether because of the inactivity (though I have turned him out a couple of times in the last week) or the anticipation, he was full of himself when I rode today, and unfortunately I did things in reverse order: I rode first, and turned him out second.  As a result, the entire time I rode, I was fighting with his pent-up energy.  He was obviously trying to still listen and follow my cues, but he was having a very hard time focusing, and I could feel him thrumming with energy underneath me.

It wasn't helping matters any that I'm not completely well yet — I'm still coughing and my sinuses are still draining, and within fifteen minutes I was drowning in snot.  So I found a positive note to stop on, took off the saddle and bridle, and did what I should have done to begin with — turned him out.

And ohboy did he need that!  Panama ran circles around me with his tail curled over his back, throwing up the occasional buck.  He ran at top speed with only minor encouragement from me.  Yep, he was definitely restless and overexcited to be doing something with me again, and probably frustrated by my wanting to take it easy (still being sick, and all).  After a nice run and a nice apple, I said goodbye for the day.  Tomorrow we'll go for another short ride.  We have a lot of lost time to make up for!

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