Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Guilt

Yes, I am feeling guilty: Between the holiday activities and our dog getting sick, I haven't been out to the barn since my husband and I pulled blankets on Saturday... and I haven't ridden or done anything interesting with the horses since my lesson on Wednesday!

Most of it is just everything happening at once.  Overnight Wednesday night and during the day on Thursday, we got dumped on by at least a foot of snow.  I was having a hard time driving anywhere because the city doesn't plow side streets, and the snow was right up to the undercarriage of my car.  I did manage to get to and from my nanny job Thursday morning, but I almost got stuck a few times, and it was more like riding in a sled than driving a car.  My wheels acted as rudders in the deep snow, so I had to point them where I wanted to go and not stop if I could help it!

Since it remained cold and overcast all day Thursday, the roads weren't much better on Friday morning, except that they'd at least been driven on a little more.  But even if they had been clear, I had a very busy day on Friday and couldn't have made it out to the barn anyway.

Saturday was Christmas Eve Day, and although we did go to the barn to pull the horses' blankets, I was exhausted after my busy week and didn't feel like doing anything else.  We spent the day relaxing at home and (for a little while at least) at the cafe in Barnes & Noble.

Christmas Day we spent mostly at home by ourselves, although we did go to a late-night showing of War Horse (I'll blog about that later).

And yesterday we spent finishing up some Christmas shopping — we weren't going to see Michael's family until today, and as busy as we were last week, we decided to leave some of the shopping for after Christmas.

Throughout all of this, our brown dog, Emma, has been coughing and hacking.  It started on Thursday, but we didn't think anything of it because she was still eating, drinking, and pooping just fine.  We figured she had something caught in her throat, something more irritating than anything else, because her overall behavior was completely unaffected.

The cough gradually worsened, however, until we realized (on Christmas) that a vet visit was going to be necessary.  Our vet was open on Monday, but didn't have any available appointments when we called that morning.  Since as I said, her behavior and routine seemed largely unaffected, we didn't mind, and just made an appointment for this morning.

But starting yesterday evening and definitely by this morning, she was showing signs of feeling ill.  I noticed that she was breathing slightly more heavily than usual, and this morning she started coughing so badly she couldn't even keep water down, so we were glad we hadn't waited any longer to get her in.

The cough is intermittent, and tends to disappear when she is distracted, so she went through nearly the entire vet exam without coughing.  The vet was just telling us that she didn't think chest x-rays were necessary, when Emma abruptly coughed once.  The vet stopped talking and stared at Emma for a minute, and when she started talking again she was singing a different tune.  I had been getting ready to tell her that I thought Emma was getting worse, and the x-rays would be necessary, but I didn't even have to say the last part because the vet said it herself as soon as she actually heard the cough.

And sure enough, Emma has pneumonia.

The x-rays showed lots of inflammation and gunk in one lung (the other is more or less fine), which is why she was starting to breathe a little more heavily.  So we left with antibiotics, an information packet on pneumonia in dogs, and instructions to get as much fluids into her as we can, even by adding chicken broth to her water if necessary.  If she hasn't improved by the end of the week, we're to bring her back in on Friday.

We were pretty worried about her over Christmas, which of course dampened our holiday spirits, but now we'll be keeping an even closer eye on her.  It's a good thing I don't work at my nanny job this week (the family is out of town), as I will be home to keep an eye on her and deal with it if she starts worsening.

Of course, this means I probably won't be getting out to the barn today, either.  I'm trying to be philosophical about it and reassure myself that the horses will be fine, if a bit lonely, and that sometimes other things in life have to take precedence over horsey time...  But it's hard not to feel guilty!

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

A horse crazy girl and her nanny

Yesterday morning the little girl I nanny for (let's call her V.) suffered a disappointment: Her riding lesson was canceled at the last minute (supposedly the ring was too sloppy, but we were actually there already and it wasn't), and she was quite disappointed, so I took her to my barn later in the afternoon for some horsey time and to see my lesson.  I think she had a good time, and enjoyed helping me groom and tack Panama, and with blanketing after my lesson.

I hadn't ridden Panama in a while — in fact, the last time he was ridden was by my trainer a week ago — but he wasn't too poorly behaved.  My trainer had worked last week on him not leaning in through the turns, and had me doing more of the same yesterday.  It was somewhat frustrating work, and at one point my trainer had to hop on and straighten Panama out, so to speak — as good of a rider as she is, it usually only takes her a fraction of the time it takes me to get the desired action or behavior out of him.

After the ride, as we were blanketing the horses, I joked to V. that now she'd seen me getting bossed around by my trainer.  She very seriously said, "She's not bossing you around.  She's pushing you to do better."  It was so cute, and so true — so perceptive of V.  It's a good attitude, too, especially for a little girl who is learning to ride herself.  At the few lessons of hers that I've been there for, I've felt she was rather ignored by the instructor (they were group lessons, with 2-3 beginners and 2-3 more advanced students — the latter receiving more of the instructor's time and attention).  I think, with her dedication to learning to ride (despite several recent falls) and her perception of my trainer's intent, that she can handle — and really needs — an instructor who will push her more and pay more attention to correcting her bad habits.  I'm hoping her mom will use my trainer, but in any case, as long as she gets someone who is more interested in helping V. learn to ride, I'll be satisfied!

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Another playdate

This time Panama had a playdate with Spaghetti.  I took the 4-year-old boy I nanny for with me when I went out to the barn to pull blankets, and we turned Panama and Spaghetti out together.  He wanted to see Panama and Rondo play, but I knew it had been a while since Spaghetti had been out.  He and Pan were both full of beans!





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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Panama and Rondo play, and I get some good pictures!

Yesterday I finally had an opportunity to turn Panama and Rondo out together again for a playdate. This time Panama warmed up to him a bit, and condescended to play with his big little brother.

At first they just kind of hung out together, with Rondo making the occasional playful overture, and Panama generally squealing (he squeals like a mare!) and turning away.  Rondo followed along, patiently waiting for Panama to stop acting coy.

My horses walking together in turnout

My horses together in turnout

After a little while, Panama started looking like this:

My Arab cross with his tail flagged

And Rondo started doing a little more of this:

My new horse getting ready to buck... Action shot!

I also got a short (about 1 minute) video of them running together.  I think Panama is getting over his initial grudge against "Mom's new horse," don't you?



Afterward I led them both to the cross ties (one at a time) and brushed the mud and arena sand out of their coats before putting them away.  Both stood patiently in the cross ties — Rondo is getting quite good about it!  I ran out of time to ride Panama, but it was worth it to see my boys play together!

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Various improvements in all areas

Since my bareback ride on Wednesday, I haven't had time to do much with the horses, other than blanketing and pulling blankets.  Even so, there have been some various improvements.

For one, Rondo is standing much more patiently in the cross ties, and he is tolerating the blanket better when it first goes on.  Last night, for example, I had to leave him in the cross ties for a few minutes while I tended to Panama, who was in the next set of cross ties.  Rondo stood patiently and didn't fidget at all — a notable improvement!

Another big improvement: He's been letting me lay the blanket over his back without fidgeting.  Before, he was fidgeting when I was trying to lay it over his back, even though he was fine once it was there and I started straightening and fastening it.  Now he stands still for the entire thing.  BIG improvement there!

The final improvement is my husband's, not one of the horses'.  Two nights ago I brought Panama into the cross ties, but he was muddy, so Michael curried and brushed him while I blanketed Spaghetti.  Then I had to go let another boarder know that she'd left the interior lights on in her car, and when I came back from doing that, he'd blanketed Panama!  All but the leg straps, that is — he is still worried about being kicked, so he left those for me.  (I guess it's all right if I get kicked.  Ha ha.)  I've been trying to talk him into learning to blanket and unblanket (in case I can't do it sometime) for a couple of years now, with no luck, so imagine my surprise when I walked into those cross ties and saw Panama with his blanket on!

I'll make him into a horse person yet!

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

A long bareback ride and a well-behaved baby

Yesterday the weather was gorgeous — well into the 30s when I was at the barn — so after pulling blankets, I threw my bareback pad on Panama and took him into the indoor arena to ride.  We rode for a long time, nearly an hour, alternating between trotting and leg yielding practice (at the walk).  I think by the time we stopped working on the latter, he was getting a little better at crossing over in the rear when, and I was beginning to feel like I didn't have to be in his face constantly, trying to get him to slow down his front end so the back end could do what it was supposed to.

In any case, it was a lovely ride, fairly relaxed, and neither of us got frustrated.  Plus a friend came in to ride with us for a little bit partway through (part of the reason why we rode for nearly an hour, instead of the 30 minutes I'd originally planned).

The long ride meant that I didn't have time to lunge Rondo as I'd planned, so I just took him into the cross ties for a little grooming — a good opportunity to work a bit on ground manners, routines, and patience.  Rondo was actually quite well behaved, so much so that another boarder commented on how good he was in the cross ties.  A nice compliment, especially considering his age!

Today the horses are blanketed — last night was in the high teens, and tonight is supposed to be in the low teens, both of them blanketing nights.  And since they are calling for a chance of snow this afternoon, and since it is mostly cloudy and not all that warm (30 degrees), I decided to leave the blankets on to avoid having to dry three horses before blanketing tonight.  Oh, the decisions you have to make when you have to drive 20 minutes in order to blanket!

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Warm enough for a ride and a snuggle

We finally got a warmer day — "warmer" being above freezing — and due to a last-minute scheduling change, I ended up with a lesson this morning.

It was so cold last night, however, that when I got out to the barn at 10am, the temperature was still only in the teens.  It was so cold that my feet felt like blocks of ice after walking around in the snow and on the frozen ground for only about ten minutes.  Brrrrr!

I ended up waiting to pull Rondo's blanket (and Spaghetti's too — I'm helping his owner, my friend, with blanketing since she moved after Thanksgiving) until after my lesson, partly because it was taking so long to warm up, and partly because he was taking a nap when I went to his corral to check on him.

Horse sleeping in his winter blanket

Horse sleeping in his 
winter blanket

I squatted in front of him for a snuggle — there is nothing I like better than sleepy horses — and he put his head in my lap, with his nose resting in my hand, and went back to sleep.  So cute.

When I went to check on Panama, he was napping too, so I got a snuggle from him as well.  But he and I had work to do, so I went to get his halter and he got up to wait for me at the gate, as usual.

Our ride had some frustrations — Panama was a bit squirrely at first from not having been ridden in a week, and decided that turning should be on his terms, and not on mine.  So we did some figure 8s and serpentines, and then my trainer had us start going down the center line and working on leg yielding.

Panama has always struggled a bit with this, and I'm not a good enough rider to know when he's crossing over in the back, or what I should be doing to help him.  We worked on it for a bit, and he got it going clockwise around the arena — so leg yielding to the left — which is usually his worst side.  But then he absolutely refused to figure it out in the other direction — he got frustrated, started fussing, and then periodically would throw in a few perfect steps crossing over in the wrong direction when I would halt him to reorganize and try again.  Agghhhhhhh!

We continued working on it after my trainer left, and I'm not sure he ever really got it, but he at least stopped fussing and started trying again.  Like I said, I can't feel it well enough to know when he gets it just right or not, but I think he did get a few steps here and there.  Between that and the improvements in his attitude, I decided to call it a win, and moved on to trotting and cantering as a reward.  Perhaps because he was so happy about getting to really move, or perhaps because he was mentally exhausted over our leg yielding battle, we got perfect canters on the first try in each direction, so after a few minutes of that I called it quits for the day.

The ride definitely had some frustrating elements to it, but overall it was a nice ride — particularly because I hadn't been able to ride in a week!

This evening all three horses (my two plus Spaghetti) got their blankets back on — it's supposed to be back down to 11 degrees tonight (brrr!).  I'll be out bright and early in the morning to pull them, though, since tomorrow is supposed to get up into the 40s.

Speaking of blankets — I've started patching Panama's blanket myself, since one of his buddies decided to start biting it regularly, and if I didn't sew it myself I'd be taking it in for repairs every other day.  (You can imagine how pleased I am about this, I'm sure.)  I think the end result is actually a little prettier than the shop's repairs, though, don't you?

Horse blanket patched with a denim heart

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Snow, snow, and more snow!

I never thought I'd be saying this only a few days into December, but I am so sick of snow and cold weather.  We've had several consecutive snowstorms, which has amounted to probably nearly a foot of snow at our house (less in some areas around metro Denver, though).  And today the temperature is going to top out at a rockin' 15 degrees...  If it ever gets there!  Currently I think it just broke the double digits in the last half hour or so.

My horses got their blankets on Wednesday night.  I was able to pull blankets Friday morning, but they went back on Friday evening, and have been on ever since.  If it's not snowing or threatening to snow, it's simply too cold to take them off (or at least not for long enough to make a trip up there worthwhile, as was the case yesterday).

Tomorrow the temperature is supposed to get downright toasty in comparison — right above freezing — so I will be pulling blankets for a little while in the morning so that the horses can enjoy the sunshine.  I'll also probably hang out for a while, now that I finally might be able to play with my horses without freezing my butt off!

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Horse slaughter revived?

I'm a little late to the party on this one — from what I understand, it was top news yesterday in the horse world.  Apparently Congress passed, and Obama signed, a bill that will essentially allow horse slaughter to make a comeback in the United States.

From my understanding, horse slaughter was banned in a rather roundabout way: A bill was passed, back in 2006, that removed all federal funding of the inspection of horse meat.  Since meat has to be inspected before it can be sold, either locally or internationally, this led to state closures of the remaining three horse slaughter facilities in the U.S.

The new spending bill originally contained an amendment continuing the ban on federal funding for horse meat inspection, but the version that passed had that amendment stripped from it.  So, essentially, now that the government is no longer prohibited from funding horse meat inspection, it could feasibly provide funding for it.  The problem with that train of thought is that the spending bill doesn't actually set aside any money for that purpose — it just doesn't ban it any longer.

Could this lead to horse slaughter facilities reopening in the United States?  Yes.  Is it likely to?  That depends.  Theoretically, if a horse slaughterhouse opened, the government would then allocate funds to be used for that purpose.  But it would cost a lot of money to open a horse slaughterhouse, and I believe at least a few states now have laws prohibiting it.

Is this Obama's fault, as many people are suggesting?  Absolutely not, and it's offensive to me that people are so quick to blame him.  First of all, it was Congress that designed and passed this bill.  And what kind of backlash do you think Obama would have faced if he would have refused to sign it based on this one tiny omission?  Furthermore, I don't know how Congress voted, but if there was enough votes in favor of the bill, they could have made it law even if Obama refused to sign it.  So it still would have become law, and he just would have made himself look really bad by refusing to sign it himself.

The fact of the matter is, there are much more pressing issues right now concerning government spending and our economy.  Horses are not a huge issue for most people, let alone most politicians, and as a result they are often victims of politics.  I am not in any way advocating slaughter — I support humane euthanization, which I don't think a slaughterhouse by definition can provide, and furthermore I believe slaughterhouses encourage backyard breeding programs — but I am trying to be realistic about this bill and politics in general.  I'm not going to deny Obama my vote because of it (and who would I vote for, if not for him, anyway? I'm extremely liberal, so there's no way I'd vote Republican).

Honestly, I don't see that this changes much for any of us who own horses and are active in horse rescue.  Horses going to slaughter was as much a problem after the slaughterhouses closed as it was before, thanks to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses.  Horses being abused and neglected will still be a problem either way.  (I don't buy it that the lack of slaughterhouses has made it more of a problem — the instances of starving and neglected horses has absolutely risen in the past few years, but I believe that has more to do with the economy and increasing hay prices due to shortages, than it does to a lack of slaughterhouses.  Many of these people who are neglecting their horses could have still sold them at auction — they are starving them because they don't want to admit it's time to give them up, not because they can't sell them.)

I now have two horses, both of whom I got young, wild, and completely untrained.  Both would have been destined for slaughter had I or my in-laws not stepped in: The vet probably would have sold Panama at auction to get at least part of what the original owners owed him on the bill, and Rondo's owner was already planning to take him and his mom to auction when my in-laws said they would take both horses.  Slaughter was a likely destination for both of them, and for Rondo at least, this was even after the slaughterhouses had been closed.

In other words, I think it's terrible that horse slaughter could resume in the United States, but I also think that for all intents and purposes, slaughter never stopped being a problem for horse rescuers.

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December brought snow

It's December 1st, and guess what?  It's snowing.

We have quite a snowstorm blowing in.  Considering that it has been in the 50s and 60s lately, and that I was riding in short sleeves yesterday, it's quite a shock that it's now in the 20s and snowing — and that it's supposed to get down to about 10 degrees tonight.

This meant that Rondo had his first experience with a blanket yesterday.  I was initially going to not blanket him and see how he did, but our first snowstorm and cold snap since I got him is so bad right off the bat that I don't feel I can leave him unblanketed for this.  Ten degrees after it's been snowing all day, and he's wet all the way through, is COLD.

So yesterday I tried on a blanket a fellow boarder was selling — brand new, since her horse only wore it once and apparently didn't like it.  (She has a crabby, persnickety mare who is more than a little spoiled.)  It's a gorgeous blanket, and although the length is a couple inches long on Rondo, he has plenty more growing to do and will no doubt grow into it.  Besides, since it's only a couple inches long, I suspect the next size down would have just barely fit, and the rule of thumb is always to go with the larger size when your horse is in between sizes.

Like with everything new, Rondo was anxious and fussy when I first introduced the blanket to him, but once it was on he was fine.  I tried it on him in the afternoon, and then walked him around in it a bit.  In the evening he once again fussed when I first started putting the blanket on, and I got it on by using the same trick: folding it (sort of) into thirds so that when I lay it across his back it's skinny, and then unfolding the front and back so that they cover him as they are supposed to.  I guess that's just how I'm going to have to approach him with the blanket for now, until he gets a little more used to it, because let me tell you — it's a much BIGGER discussion to have with a horse that is his size, than it is with a horse Panama's size.

Looking outside at this snow, I'm very glad both my horses will be warm and dry today!

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