Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Fling...

It could hardly be considered a real condition ride but I did manage to saddle up Maggie and take her for a short ride last night.

Of course, she found every excuse to be snotty....

Of course JB and Rebel had to "help" by running and bucking their way along the fence line as we left the property....


Of course, Maggie thought that was a good enough reason to jump , crow hop, dance sideways and generally misbehave.

I began to wonder if I had really put almost 400 conditioning miles on this mare last year , not to mention the countless additional hours in the arena. Based on how she was behaving, it was like starting all over again..Good grief.. this mare is a pistol.

There were more than a few moments I thought any minute she might just manage to send me on a spring fling if you know what I mean.

Tom came along too and rode his 5 year old bareback. Brego did a wonderful job of making Maggie and I look like it was our first time out….. oh wait it kinda was…


There is a lot to be said for geldings. Even young, hardly trained geldings…

So, I guess Spring conditioning can officially begin. I just wish I had a 10 mile section of road that wasn’t unsafe. Riding the roads regularly isn’t really a good option due to safety issues (we have a lot of traffic on our dirt roads and rude drivers). I’ll be trying to ride a couple nights a week in the outdoor arena for now. That will atleast help to get Maggie legged up a bit. Weekends, we’ll start hitting the STILL snowy trails and praying for warmer weather...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

10 Months Ago...

Today was kind of a big day. I hadn't planned it specifically but I have been waiting for this day. Things had to be just so and Today was the day.

JB got turned out into a "pasture" for the first time since prior to his injury.

....10 months ago.

Truth is, he was actually given the "ok" from the doc back in December for turnout but our footing has been much too icey and dicey to be safe so I held off, choosing to keep him confined in his corral which was about a 50x70 area, until the footing was better.

So here are a few shots of JB testing out the new leg. He was huffing and puffing pretty good after only a few laps of running the perimater of his 2 acre pasture. He came trotting up to me several times as if to say .. "Did you see what I can do??"

The photos didn't come out the clearest(still trying to get used to the new camera!) but I hope you enjoy them atleast as half as much as I enjoyed watching JB romp and play for the first time in 10 months.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

New Saddle for Maggie!!

This has been an interesting process but it looks like I am going to be the proud owner of a new Eurolight!

It started with sending drawings of Maggie’s back to Dave at Specialized and speaking with Amanda on the phone as well. Without seeing the drawings, Amanda was sure that I would need the mule bars and the wide tree.

At first I was going to go straight through the manufacturer, but then decided to call a Specialized dealer here in Montana who lives about 3 hours from me, Lisa and Jack Emory. I worked with Lisa 3 years ago when I was trying to find a saddle for JB. Both her and Jack have tons of experience with saddle fit and both ride in Specialized as their personal saddle.

I decided it would be best to work with a Lisa again, who had experience using and fitting these saddles. I trust her and she’s knowledgeable and she’s right here (sort of) if I need help.

I called Lisa and explained Maggie’s back and shared with her what Amanda thought. As it turns out’s Specialized has made some changes since I last looked at these saddles 3 years ago. The tree is now laminated wood, as opposed to a molded plastic and they have made their standard tree wider. In addition, they also offer an even wider version, called the Draft tree.

Lisa said she had a tree with the mule bars on hand she could send up to me. It was a tree for the western style saddle. It wasn't their new wider standard width but it might atleast give us a starting point to see if the mule bars were really needed for Maggie. A couple days later, I had the tree.

Here is what we determined when we put it on Maggie’s back:

Bars were bridging at the center of her back, way more than we could likely shim to correct. This indicated that the mule bars were too straight (or flat) for Maggie. Mule bars were probably not going to work for her. This was kind of surprising. Maggie apparently needs more rocker than I thought so regular horse bars on the saddle would probably do the trick. Mule bars really are quite flat but they are also at a steeper vertical angle. Maggie has pretty well sprung ribs and these bars are more for a slab sided horse or mule.

Maggie definitely needed more room and flare in the shoulders. The newer wider tree would likely work but if not, we can order the draft tree, which is wider yet.

The Bar length on the tree was longer than I was comfortable with. If we could get everything else working fit wise, this was the one thing that I could see would beproblematic. The bars on the demo tree were 22” long in a 15” seat. I would prefer about 20" on the bars.

After a few emails and phonecalls between myself, and Lisa and Dave at Specialized, we confirmed that the Eurolight actually has 20 1/2 inch bars. I could live with that. I could also opt to have the tree maker shave more off the tree length if absolutely necessary but it wasn't advised due to the weight bearing area becoming smaller. Dave reassured me that the Eurolight was successfully being used on Icelandic ponies without having issues with bar length. So with that piece fuigured out, the plan was to just go ahead with the order, along with a draft wide for the gullet width.

In a last minute stroke of good luck for me on Friday afternoon Lisa said she was coming up to my area today to look at a horse. She could bring her personal 15" Featherlight Western which has the newer wider (standard) tree. Lisa would be able to see Maggie's back first hand and we coul make a definitive decision on which width I would need based on her saddle.

After playing with a few shims and pads , it looks like Maggie won't need the draft afterall. the standard width will work and leave room for a pad.

So , Lisa will put the order in on Monday and it will be 2-3 weeks build time.

When it arrives, Lisa will work with me get it fit and shimmed correctly. The plan is to haul down to Lisa's for the day and take a ride for a couple of hours to make sure all the shims and pads are placed right.

This was probably one of the fastest and easiest saddle fitting processes I have ever gone through. I am very thankful for a helpful , knowledgable Specialized saddle dealer. It really makes the process much better.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ode To Mud


Not exactly a substance we give much thought to. It’s not thrilling, its not glamorous. This time of year however, it gets a fair amount of attention and discussion. When the snow finally begins to melt, that dirt turns to mud, lots of mud. In fact, in Montana, we actually give it it’s own season. When mud season rolls around, my thoughts start drifting to long days in the saddle, the smell of sunshine and horse sweat in my hair. (again, not glamorous) I have to remember that what appears like a mucky mess now, will soon burst into brilliant colors and blooming things in the coming months.

So, those of you also in the quagmire, just remember, until we get through it, keep your muck boots pulled on tight, your trucks in low gear and just try to enjoy the ride.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Farm Life isn't all it's cracked up to be.. Or is it??

Sometimes, I wonder what life might be like without horses, without chores, without the responsibility that never goes away.

I get up at an hour that, in most people view, is insane, atleast to most 8-5’ers in the work force. This morning’s routine wasn’t all that different than most mornings. It started with putting on the coffee, bundling up in coat, boots, mittens and hat and slogging out to the corrals and hay barn to feed the horses. By this time, my eyes are mostly open but still in a sleep fog and could be easily startled by any stray cats that come running out of the hay barn as I enter. Recently, my morning routine has gotten a little more complicated. It involves extra pampering for my older grade gelding Rebel. I have been giving him a beet pulp mash with electrolytes morning and night. (more on that in a minute)

Giving Rebel beet pulp requires me to pen him off from the other three horses he shares a pasture with. We have an adjacent corral to that pasture where the shed and water are and there is a two strand wire gate , electric, with insulated handles that separates the corral from the pasture. At any given time, there is 6-8,000 volts of electricity running through my fence so I usually don’t have any trouble.

This morning, Rebel was already in the corral, (he knows the routine) waiting for me. I ran over to shut the gate before the other three caught on to what was going on. Just as I got the gate, Maggie, Brego and Cassidy were just coming around the corner, only 10 feet from the gate. I quickly shut it, which I know they saw . Satisfied with myself that I got it latched before they could beat me to it, I turned around , walked 5 steps and CRASH, here comes Maggie.

Yes, she had busted right through the wire gate like it wasn’t even there.That's my girl... (but that is not what came out of my mouth)

Normally, I am a patient person when it comes to horses and generally, all animals (which people who know me are always amazed at, because I am the most impatient person with other people) but this??? This kinda got me peeved….

Maggie has been a problem with busting through electric fence since she arrived on the scene two years ago. She’s like a tank and just goes… with total disregard to what is in her way… It’s an issue I have had to work on a lot with her because she was a real sow to handle on the ground. We resolved the handling issue and she is now very respectful on the ground, but apparently the fencing piece hasn’t sunk in yet. She doesn’t think fences apply to her I guess.

Anyone know what the wire /voltage was that they used in the Jurassic Park movie to keep dinosaurs in??

So there I was, 5:00 this morning morning, with my flashlight, trying to fix the blankety blanken wire gate, which was completely busted in two. I ended up having to just piece it together so I could at least hang it safely out of the way. It would have to waut until I could deal with it in the daylight and when it wasn’t 20 degrees out.

So , that is how my day started today . Sometimes I have to wonder on days like today.. is it all really worth it??

Yeah.. even in the face of constant work , repairs, issues to deal with, I consider myself one of the lucky few who have space, horses, a lifestle in the country. How many people out there would give it all up for this life?? Probably a lot more than we realize. Farm life, it's definitely worth it...

Back to Rebel-
So, after two episodes of mild to moderate colic in the past Month, giving him beet pulp seems to be keeping him from trying to dehydrate himself to death, something we are still trying to figure out… Also, for the first time in the 17 years I have owned Rebel, has decided that temperatures below 40 degrees are too hard on him so he now gets blanketed as well. I guess it stands to reason. He’s about 19 years old, give or take and has been pretty low maintenance up until this winter. I shouldn’t complain but he has me worried. He’s been a great horse, with challenges, but a great horse nonetheless. We've seen some things together over the years and in his semi-retirement, he's once again, proven his worth and willingness and has become a back up archery horse for my husband. He's actually my husbands "fast" archery 19, he still runs faster than most horses half his age. He’s the horse that first got me interested in endurance many years ago and was an amazing athlete and always full of P&V.
This process has been hair pulling for both my vet and I to try to pinpoint what exactly is going on with him. He’s been such a stellar of health. Each day is a new challenge. His behavior seems to vary from normal, to withdrawn, to full on depressed. Some days he barely wants to eat and only does if I stand there with him. Some days, he won’t move for hours on end, just standing in his shed unless I take him for a walk. Sometimes, he lapses into another colic episode, I give him a dose of bantamine and he snaps out of it within a few hours. The only thing I have been able to narrow down is that I think his colic episodes are brought on by him not drinking. I don't know why , but sometimes he just stops

At first thought, I thought it was the water tank heaters but we have tested them and all the other horses are drinking just fine from them. Besides, we have them wired to a GFI so if any little trickle charge is detected, the breaker trips… no shocking or scaring the horses that way.

I suspect something more serious might be going on with Rebel but it’s hard to say what. Could be ulcers, could be a tumor, could be anything really at his age. All I know is that he is definitely not himself and definitely doesn’t feel good.

Tomorrow afternoon, I am taking him into the vet. We want to rule out it’s not his teeth bothering him. Rebel was due for a float this year anyways. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this is the cause of the issues.

I will keep you all posted.