Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Keep Calm and Gobble On

From Acer Farm to all of you

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!!!!!

 (this would be our horses if we let them in the door

Otto, OCD and High Glycemic Response Feeds

Yes, we are altering the feed program AGAIN for Otto. You might ask why  because we all know that frequent feed changes for horses isn't really a good thing.

Otto is now at near optimal body condition for his age. That is a good thing. My vet is pleased with his weight, I am pleased with his weight and he seems like he feels good judging from his playing and overall attitude. Maybe a little too good! The improved quality feed  has paid off. His feet are even beginning to show some noticeable rings indicative of the feed change.

So why fix it if it isn't broke??

After speaking to the vet  about his growth, his "previous" feed program,  and discovering that the Safeshoice Original formula is not TRULY a low starch or controlled carb feed,  (thanks to Mel for discovering what I overlooked!) it was time to reconsider.

(**Note to self in the future-  READ the damn feed tag in detail and DON'T ASSUME it truly is a low carb feed because that is what the pretty packaging said.. Seriously.. I do know better.. )

More than ulcers, risk of colic or anything else related to feed  or feed changes,  our biggest concern for Otto is developing OCD (Osteochondritis Dissecans)

There is a direct correlation between horses developing issues with Osteochondritis Dissecans ( OCD)  and feeds that contain high glycemic responses.  There is also an increased risk for foals that were born large, with faster than average growth rates i.e. Otto.

There is a ton of information out  there on this subject.  Kentucky Equine Research did a study in the 90's and I also found this Field study.  An interesting read if you have the time. If not, I will spare you the time and summarize the basic concept from one of many articles on the subject:

"The source of calories for young horses may also be important, as hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia have been implicated in the pathogenesis of OCD. Foals that repeatedly experience an exaggerated and sustained increase in circulating glucose or insulin in response to a carbohydrate (grain) meal may be predisposed to the development of OCD."  
( date accessed 11/26/2014 ;

Otto was not only born a large colt (according to his previous owners) but he was also not being fed the best of feed the first year and half of his life. If the hay quality they sent him here with is any indicator of the typical hay he had access to through his short life, then he was probably not meeting his nutrition requirements. That,  compounded by the fact that he was also being fed a 3 way cob with corn and molasses and oats.. ??? That's two strikes in my opinion.

The first thing I did when he got here was  transition him to beet pulp and Safechoice Mare and Foal along with Equipride for the fat. He was underweight so getting some weight on him was a priority especially since we were headed into winter.

As you may recall, he decided one morning he didn't  like the Mare and Foal and refused it so we switched to another feed , Safechoice Original formula (see note to self above).

He has certainly enjoyed this grain but it's not exactly a good fit for what he needs. So ... it was back to shopping for the right product.

Walking down the aisle at the local feed store retailer these days is almost as bad as walking down the aisle of skin care at the local walmart. There's a choice for whatever ails ya , but scratch the surface a bit , and it's the same old pig , only with wheels.

In my hunting and researching, I have been able to whittle it down to some basic guidelines to look for as far as ingredients when you want a true low starch grain.

1st rule of thumb-(not trying to be captain obvious here but still worth the mention)

 AVOID CORN, OATS, BARLEY in all cases.

  1.  Wheat Middlings- This is the the part of the wheat hull that is the smaller part of the wheat ( as opposed to the wheat bran part used in processing flour). It is known for adding good fiber digestibility to feeds. Midds actuaully have a high NSC level, about 33% BUT  because of the fiber and being combined in feeds with fat, it levels things out. It also packs a punch when you look at the DE megacaloris per pound.  It is often one of the FIRST ingredients found on several Low starch grain available. 
  2. Dried Distillers Grain - a by product of grain fermentation for either alcohol for consumption or producing ethanol.  They are grounded and yeast is added. It is then heated to convert the starches and sugear into alcohol leaving behind a low NSC ingredient that is high in protein and fat. It's then dried and used in livestock feed. 
  3. Soybean Hulls:This is a by product of crushing soybeans. They are low in lignin and high in fiber. They are considered a source of protein .
  4. Alfalfa meal- ground up alfalfa and considered a high calorie fiber
  5. Shredded beet pulp: most of us are familiar with this miracle fiber for horses,however there is still some misconception out there that it is high in sugar because its derived from sugar beets. The processing removes the sugars, leaving a by product with very low NSC (well under 20%) and very digestible fiber. One thing about beet pulp is that is has some odd mineral properties that can throw off a horses balance if not careful
  6. Rice Bran- yet another fiber and it also serves to add calories to a horses diet without the carb load. The main problem with Rice bran , when fed in large amounts, is that the Calcium and Phosphorus ratio is reversed from what a horse actually needs so back in the day when people would often feed warm rice bran mashes to their horses, it really wasn't the best practice. 
  7. Molasses or Cane Molasses- i was surprised to see this as an ingredient in low carb/low starch horse grain but it was there nonetheless in some. Its  used for palatability and combined  with soy oil , keeps textured feed from separating. It seems it doesn't necessarily need to be feared, if it is on a feed tag as a 3rd , 4th or further down ingredient number . It may only make up 1% of the total feed. 
Last rule of thumb- Possibly more important than anything else, is that really , no matter what grain I choose, the key is the forage,  long stem good quality hay , as much as he wants at this point.  Otto is fortunate and I am reminded to be very grateful.  I am able to keep him in a fairly ideal setting on our pasture . It's not alot, but its more than what alot of horse owners have. While our pasture is pretty much gone, there is still some dormant grass he is able to pick at throughout the day. In fact,  he will actually choose to pick and graze at that over  his hay at various times through out the day.  I keep hay in front of him most of the time and this alone goes a long ways to keeping him as healthy as possible. 

As far as which grain I select goes, I am looking at a couple of options of feeds. Price wise they are similar and within a few dollar of each other. Ingredient wise they are also similar. One has some cane molasses in it as a 5th ingredient so it's really not a huge concern to me. The other product I am considering has NO molasses but also contains flaxseed which is a bonus.

The biggest difference is availability and/or convenience with sourcing it on a monthly basis. I am not always good at getting my new supply of grain 2 weeks before I run out. Most times it's more like 2 days before I run out. If the grain choice is not available when I need it last minute, I don't want to be faced with waiting a week for the feed store to get it back in.

Ah,  the joys of living somewhere with limited choices!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Spider pig.. Spider pig... ( no... Spider horse...)

Otto and Cassidy were at the vet on Saturday  and it's all positive news. Cassidy has his tooth issues sorted out for another year and Otto has  gained 100 lbs since September. He has finally reached a near optimal body condition. WOO HOO! So the feed program has worked however, we are reevaluating things a bit based on discussions with the vet about young horses with fast growth rates and the potential OCD risk with higher insulin/higher carb diets. The timing of all this is about perfect because we also have some newly discovered  information about the grain I have had Otto on  that  isn't quite what we  thought it was.. that is Controlled or Low Carb. The post  came out of Mel's blog recently . If your curious, check it out here  (check out the comments too).

In spite of Otto's improved body condition, we still get the reactions of people, including my vet,  when they see this long legged monster of mine. His choice of words were... in between chuckles... was "What in the world do we have here??"

*** The last time we had Otto into the vet, we didn't get to see my "regular" vet and instead had to take an appointment with the new associate lady vet at the practice,  so this the first time he had seen our latest addition to the herd

Ofcourse our vet also knows that we typically have stocky short Morgans and Barbs so he was a little surprised to see us bringing the spider looking colt in to see him. We all had a good chuckle when he compared him to a teenage girl that hit a growth spurt. Yep.. he's all leg.. The good news is that he was pretty sure his leg length is probably done with growth at this point.
There was other good news too. Remember  the the weird scar, possible sarcoid looking thingy on his pastern I posted about here?????

As it turns out , it is just what I suspected and hoped for... old injury that went untreated leaving behind a nasty scar , likely due to proud flesh development.  The only thing we have to be careful of is to make sure we keep up on his hoof trimming , especially on the inside wall of the opposite  hoof to eliminate any risk of Otto interfering.  The interference could cause the area to become re-injured ,which can cause it to become an open wound, which could become a sarcoid in the right environment. I had no idea but apparently, sarcoids can be caused by a certain fly larvae passing from Cattle to horses with open wounds.  ( sorry don't have the specific details about this beyond that and didn't jot anything down so it was information that went in and went out)

I actually haven't seen Otto catch himself at all since he has been turned out .  My suspicions that the full time turn out will improve his coordination were accurate .. and I don't have a physically challenged baby colt..

On other fronts he does not appear to have any wolf teeth erupting at this time. When we schedule  for his castration next spring they will check again and remove if they have erupted. Otto also had his boosters so all things being equal, he is  all set until next spring when Otto becomes an IT.

Going to the vet also provided a great day of learning opportunities for the young lad. He had to load and unload twice, go somewhere new, get messed with by strangers, stand around and wait for Cassidy to finish his dental while drills were going and making all kinds of noise,  and watch other people and horses coming and going. We even took advantage of the tie rings attached to the very safe cement wall at the clinic and did a session on standing tied. He did really good. He would get to the end of his line, hesitate for a second, and then step forward or sideways to release the pressure. That left me feeling much better about his progress with standing tied. I was quite proud of my little spider horse.

Our footing has degraded to slippery slushy ice so not much happening with ground work at this time. Cassidy is showing a marked improvement in his attitude with his teeth done and was actually playing with Otto, even playing with the ball with Otto,  (which is no longer a ball but a pancake) Cassidy playing is acutally  kind of remarkable.. if you knew Cassidy.  Playing is  below his royal highness!
Otto sizing his buddy up
The not so stealthy attach move, easily thwarted by the Cass Man

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Random Updates

Well it's official. I received Otto's registration papers in the mail and apparently AHA wanted to be doubley sure,   because they sent me two copies. This is  first time I have owned a horse registered with the AHA. I was actually surprised that the half Arabians are all part of the same registry as the full bred Arabians. I was thinking there was a separate Registry for anything less than full Arabian.
So, I need to research the awards programs, and all that goes along with it.  This is all new territory for me. My background is Morgans and the Jockey Club.

It's been a busy week. Temps have mostly regulated but it's still been quite cold. It's provided a great learning opportunity for blanketing.

With the cold temps Otto has had lots of practice with the blankets being put on and taken off. If it's above 15 degrees, he gets to be naked. The day time highs have been in the low to mid 20's and he seems to be handling those temps just fine without a blanket.  Night time lows dip into the single digits so when he gets his evening grain, he gets his blanket put back on. We have only had one issue with the blanket. He managed to chew up the ends of the front chest straps the first day he wore it but we worked on "correcting" that behavior in short order.
He really needs a size  66" right now but the smallest I have is a 69 " so we are making it work.  I am keeping an eye open for a used 66" . I really don't want to buy new because I know in three months he will have outgrown it.

On other fronts, in addition to cold temps, my poor baby colt (cough)  has apparently done something to his eye. He has had a weepy , slightly swollen right eye that I have been watching for a few days. I am not sure how long he has been having an issue but I only noticed it this past weekend.  There doesn't seem to be anything in it that I can see , nor does he  appear to be rubbing it, that I have noticed,  but it's definitely not right.

Yesterday it looked worse ,  so I put  some eye ointment in it to see if it would give  him any relief. It It seems to be helping. yesterday,  it looked better and the watering had stopped. The swelling was slightly less. So , I have been giving him a shot in the eye of goop each morning and night.

When it comes to eyes, I don't take any chances. We have a vet appt scheduled on Saturday for Cassidy to get his dental, so we decided to schedule Otto to go in as well. He needs his boosters anyways and I can get a new weight on him as well. And.. I will probably have them take a look at that spot on his pastern as well. * Update on that is that it hasn't changed a bit and it doesn't seem to be bothering him when I touch that area anymore.

there is also the  added benefit of trailer loading practice and getting to go somewhere.

I actually worked on the loading the first week he arrived here,  because in the event of the emergency situation where we have a :

" I need you to get your butt in the trailer NOW "  moment...

I wanted to make sure we had the loading thing down. He got it figured out pretty quickly  but his dismount needs work. For now it's manageable. He just has to ponder the getting out. At this point, I let him turn around and step out but we have to work on the backing out because before long, he will be too big to turn around.

We will leave that for another day..

So, while we wait for Saturday to arrive and we can get to the vet, we have been instructed to keep putting the ointment in as long it doesn't appear to be making things worse. At this point it isn't.

Ofcourse getting the ointment into his eye is a trick.  Otto doesn't exactly think it's too much of a fun game and doesn't cooperate like I would like him too. I am trying to be quick about it but his studdy mouthiness is making it more challenging. getting mouthy. Just getting the halter on him alone is a trial by fire process because he tries to grab a hold of it as I am slipping it over his muzzle.  Once I manage to  get the halter on, he is busy trying to chew  the lead rope, my sleeve, or whatever else he can find to get in his mouth.  I am ready to buy him a horse sized passifier. Cassidy is concerned he won't have a tail left by spring because Otto likes to get a hold of it pull it , so hard that sometimes, Otto gets a mouth ful of tail hair

The plan was/ is to wait until April before we get him gelded.  Mostly, he is fine (other than his mouthiness) but his boy hormones are kicking in it seems. He's not super studdy , he isn't pushy to handle, but  there is the rearing thing when I try to work him on the ground. That seems to come and go at this point . I am beginning to think it has less to do with being a stud and it's more of a behavior issue when he doesn't get his way.  Some days are good , some days are bad. I did heavily consider arranging to have him gelded this weekend.

My vet said he COULD geld him on Saturday..meaning he has time in his schedule. There are pros's and cons to consider and in typical fashion, decisions like this, I might tend to overcatastophize the situation. After a bit of hand wrenching on my part trying to decided,  I sat down with pencil and paper and  made my pro's and con's list. This made the decision alot easier.

The cons of doing it now:

  • Stress of weather added to trauma of wound could cause other issues.
  • Colder weather means the horses move less generally,  which means I have more work to keep him moving in order to keep the wound open and draining properly.That also means I would probably have to lunge him, which he doesn't exactly do at this point and the footing is bad enough in our round pen that I can't reasonably ask him to run around in there without risk of some other injury. ( gotta love winter)
  • Lesser development in regards to heaviness of bone that would come if the boy hormones were allowed to remain a bit longer. 

*** Normally I would not consider this so heavily,especially if I was talking about a Morgan. I am big fan of big heavy bone. Unrefined is preferable to me!I know that heavy build or bone isn't always "preferred" in endurance but it's important as far as durability in my book.  Right now, Otto's frame is lighter than I would like to see for a horse his size, which I believe , ( hope)is more likely due to poor  nutrition and lack of turnout in his prior situation. I really want him to develop as much heavy bone as his genetic makeup  is capable of. His sire and Dam both had substantial enough (not as much as I would like to see) bone for their respective breeds, so I have to believe he stands a good chance of developing the same. Keeping him a stallion just a bit longer should help that.

  • I wouldn't be able to coordinate the brand inspector in time so that I could have him freeze branded at the same time, while he is sedated (lessens the trauma of branding)
  • I also want to have him micro chipped and I have NOT ordered a kit yet so I wouldn't have time to get one before Saturday anyways, which means I would have bring him back into the vet clinic anyways to have it inserted and entered into the database. 
**Future post about Microchipping might be in order.  I have been doing some research on that and have learned some interesting things...

Pros of doing it now

  • Rearing issue MIGHT go away..(but then again, maybe not , if my suspicions are right that its not about being a stud at all and he just  needs more work to resolve a behavior issue regardless of the jewels being intact)
  • Mouthiness goes away
  • Studdy behavior become less ingrained

I think the cons mostly outweigh the pros at this point. He is not studdy enough that he is dangerous to me , himself or the other horses. He is more than manageable .  If he does get too abusive to Cassidy,  I can always try putting Brego or JB in his pasture with him.  They will are much more inclined to put him in his place than  Cassidy would ever think to be.

On the rearing thing, I was thinking back because  Brego was a talented rearer as a youngster and his older brother Roman fixed the issue with a well timed shoulder check into Brego just as he was going up. We happened to be standing out there when it happened. Brego was being his annoying self and trying to get his older brother to play . Brego was quick to go up as his preferred way of showing his dominance, Roman shouldered into Brego at just the very right moment. Brego went down like a ton of bricks. I don't think we ever saw him rear again.

So while we don't have Roman anymore, we do have Brego , who, as he has matured is very much like a clone of Roman. Maybe ... just maybe we have the solution to the problem for Otto after all!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Holiday Season for the Horse Lover in your Family

The stores have had Xmas decor up for weeks now, in fact I think I started seeing it right about the same time they started putting out Halloween candy and decorations. It seems like it gets earlier and earlier every year. The big pressure by retailers for consumers to spend. Every year it's worse and worse. I heard that retailers are expecting to set yet another records profit year. We Americans sure love to shop. I am pretty sure I don't contribute too much towards those profits. I am not much of a shopper, unless it's in tack store.. ofcourse. I definitely don't get wrapped up into the Black Friday thing. Ofcourse, last year, we did do the Thanksgiving night shopping, on our way home from dinner and got ourselves a new flat screen for a screaming deal. For the bargain price, I was willing to make a small exception, but only if there wasn't a line. There was a small line and we were in and out in 20 minutes..Flat screen in tow.

Since I am a horse person, most of the things I truly want for Christmas  anymore are horse related items...and not necessarily needed items for the household..( a cuisine art frying pan?? really)

*ok the TV wasn't necessarily NEEDED since we already had one TV but..let's not split hairs here!


Since I am also the only horse person in my family, it was a very rare event growing up that any of my gifts resembled anything horse related. Ofcourse, I had great gifts, I am not complaining.. my parents worked their tails off to provide us kids with fantastic memories. But I do recall, in spite of my best efforts over over a period of several years,  my family never could quite  grasp the concept of that buying  a  saddle pad , a horse blanket , a bit, or a new pair of reins was acceptable and exciting to me.

So for all of you that might know of a horse person in your life, here's a little something that might help and believe me,  if you gift with a horse related gift,  you will be crowned the best christmas gift giver in the eyes of your loved one that has a larger wardrobe for their horse than they do for themselves.. I promise.

Let the Holiday Madness begin!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Arctic Blast Aftermath

We are still very cold, much colder than we should be this time of year. We should be in the 30's and 40's, not the single digits and negative digits at night.. but we are dealing.. The horses have all done fine, even Otto,  who I was most concerned about. The water tank heaters have not caused us any grief and have quietly hummed along as they should , even in -25 with the wind chill factor. That makes me happy.

Less than a week  ago we had been getting torrential rains  for about a two week period. As you can imagine,  that made for a major mud disaster in the corrals.  We have a type of dirt that is a mix between a clay like and sandy loam type soil so when it rains, our Mud is really something to behold. It's like gumbo. We also had standing water in many places because everything was so saturated, it wasn't sinking in any more. (you desert dwellers don't know how fortunate you are to  have sand ) Horses came and went in and out of the corrals through the  mud  in order to get to the water tanks and barns. Well. with the artic blast on Sunday night,  that all froze rock solid.

 We are now left with really hard ground that has divits from hoof prints and high spots in between.  Its ankle breaking footing and very difficult for the horses to walk on. They don't like it at all.
It's so bad  that the horses don't want to come into  the one corral area from the pasture  (the one that Cassidy and Otto have been living in ) to get water. Unfortunately, the way we are set up, we have a designated area for the water tank because we have electricity run right next to for tank heaters. The option of moving the water tank is not an option.

The rest of the horses are in the other corral and theirs isn't as bad. They also aren't as bothered by the footing.. since they have grown accustom to this over the years.

Otto will come into the corral and walk around the edge of the fenceline where the divits and ground aren't quite as bad  in order to get to his barn, but in order to get to the water, he has to go through the worst part of the footing.

So, I either let my horse get dehydrated or  I have to somehow find a way to get him water. I have been haltering Otto a few times a day and dragging him over to the water tank so he can drink. It takes us forever because he doesn't like it but we eventually make it there with alot of coercing. Sometimes, I just haul a bucket out to him, which is easier and less time consuming. It's also  the method he prefers , but I don't want him to come to expect that special treatment!

Obviously, neither of those are good long term solutions to our issue with this footing thing. Not a whole lot can be done because everything is frozen so hard. After talking it over last night, we decided to give something a try. It might turn out to be money thrown away because in realty NOW is not the time to be laying down gravel but we are going to anyways.  It's really the only solution we can come up .

The idea is that with 6 inches of gravel laid down, it should  completely fill the low spots and level it  they have a level base to walk on.  3/4 " gravel with a binder should  do the trick. Come spring, alot of it will sink in but gravel is cheap enough and we can bring more in to keep building it up, which is something we have been wanting to do anyways.  We will place it in the barn , 6 feet in front of the barn ,  in front of the water tank and in front of the gate that goes in and out of the corral. That should pretty well cover the worst areas and hopefully help the horses travel alot easier.

Fingers Crossed!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Otto has recently discovered a new trick!!

 I was working on some ground work and lateral lungeing with him. I had taken him out of sight of the other horses and he wasn't happy but my attitude on that is .. too damn bad.. deal with it..

Well, he had other ideas. When he blew through the pressure of asking him to go from a trot to a walk on the line, I gave him a heftier tug to get him to "walk". His response was to go up, just a little bit with his front end, but then walked off . Ok.. Then he tried to trot away again.  ( the brain is gone.. the feet go..) I asked for a walk and he went up again. This time, he went up a little higher .I pulled him to one side and he came down. I asked him to walk off again on the end of the line. He wanted to blast away. In his attempt to leave the scene , he hit the end of the rope, and he really went up in the air this time.. and added in some hang time. Special...

This went for several more times. I could not get the leverage on him I needed to get after him enough and stop the behavior. And I was late...

In hindsight , I realize I made a couple of mistakes. He was crowding me and I wasn't getting him away from me,  so when he went up he was practically right over the top of my head.. not a good place to be. I also should have been quicker in my attempts to correct him before he could get up so high . My timing was off. Way off .

What was amazing to me is that he realized very quickly he had my number.(yep, I ain't proud) AND.. he took major advantage of it. I definitely learned something about his behavior/personality . I can't give him an inch.. I am sure he sensed a level of fear as well after about the 5th time, he was getting down right bull headed . The scenario went from bad to worse and no matter what I tried to do, his response was the rear. I know alot of this is the testosterone since he is not gelded yet but  that it is still not acceptable.  This behavior has also lent itself to his playtime with Cassidy. I often see Otto out there playing and rearing at liberty. Tendency? maybe.. Just feeling his oats.. probably. I truly believe for the first time in maybe a long time he has enough energy reserves that he can act on some testosterone type behaviors. I think before any spare energy was going into his growth.

So , as much as I didn't want to end to session having clearly lost, I did , because it was becoming a safety issue for me and him. I basically had to throw in the towel but not without getting the last word. As I turned him loose in the pasture and he went blasting away, I said

"Wait till your father comes home you little smart ass... we'll see who has the upper hand then!"

 Talk about feeling like failure as a horse owner/trainer at that moment. I thought I had caused the issue somehow but couldn't figure out why. I knew Tom would be home in a couple of hours and I took solace in know he could help me. Normally, Tom lets me address most of my horse issues all on my own, because most of the time, I can figure it out. This time, I called Uncle. With age comes wisdom. I have a vested interest in keeping my skull from being tap danced on.  I am so very thankful I have a spouse that is so good with this kind of stuf

So, "daddy" got home and as I predicted.. he  had it sorted out within about 15 minutes. More importantly, he helped me figure out what I was doing wrong and  coached me through it. I needed to stop letting Otto crowd me so much and I needed to drive him forward more.  Even if he needs to move his feet and chooses to trot around, instead of walk (like what I ideally wanted) I was to let him but just direct his feet, and go with him...keep him on the circle, ask for a walk but don't insist. Let him sort through his options a little  and hunt for the answer. Eventually he will offer to slow and reward that. Ofcourse, I know all of this.. this was nothing new.. i have coached others through this very same damn thing and yet here I was struggling.. Oh well..

The result was that Otto and I ended on a much better note. He was listening and so was I. Going forward  I need to make sure I am not inadvertently causing him to react or respond in that way to pressure.

However, the rearing may still be there for a while.  It's not gone..

Not yet.

Rearing is a scary deal, whether you are on the horse or on the ground. I will have my work cut out for me and ....



and down with a buck...

me thinks his doctor visit this spring for a certain "boy specific" procedure might be happening sooner rather than later!

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Big Storm!

All day Saturday we prepared for the big storm heading our way. Saturday's weather  was a blessing because it was the only nice day we had seen for two weeks. It has been raining and raining.  We also had  5 ton of hay being delivered that would need to be stacked inside our hay barn.  

The media was hyping up the storm to a “superstorm” which was a little over the top in my opinion. but looking at the radar images, this storm was  definitely going to be on the upper end of intensity. The scariest part of this storm was that the rain would continue and then the temps would rapidly decrease and turn to snow and ice.

Hmmm. Wet horses, rapid temperature decline, high wind speeds and snow?? These are the conditions that can kill a horse in short order.

We got all the water tank heaters installed but that required emptying the “summer tanks” first. Normally we can just dump the tank and replace it with the tank set up for the heaters however.. it wasn’t that simple this time. The paddocks were a fine mess due to all the rain , mud that was past ankle deep with standing water (yes , which would be freezing up with this storm) .  Tipping over the tank where it stood and dumping more water in  front of the tanks wasn’t going to be an option.
 Ideally we would have invested into a sump pump by now , but instead we do it the hard way.. empty the tank bucket by bucket, carry it over to the tree row and repeat , until the water level in the tank was low enough to drag the tank out . .  We have two 150 gallon water tanks that this needed to be done with and ofcourse, I had just filled them 3 days before so they were about half full.
So while hubby was stacking 5 tons of hay, I was sloshing around in the mud , buckets of water in tow and trying not to re-injure my already strained ( possibly worse) hamstring muscle that I had already done 4 days before from slipping in mud and nearly ending up face first in it.. (that’s another story).  After a lot of  slip sliding around, I finally got the tanks emptied, dragged out and replace with the new tanks for the winter. We got the tank heaters in , tested, and insulated tank covers in place.
I did one last “Dry run” blanket lesson with him because I knew I would have to blanket him Monday and he would need to have it on  for several hours, or days. My smallest blanket is a 69” inch and it’s slightly too big but was going to have to work. I wasn’t going to buy another blanket in a size that he would be grown out of in a few months.
Up until that point I had put it on him a few times , walked him around and took it off. This time, I put it on him and turned him loose in the round pen with it, in the event he panicked over the leg straps. I didn’t anticipate a reaction since this wasn’t really new to him and I was glad to see he didn’t seem to care.

Sunday came with more rain and about 48 degrees. The storm was scheduled to start at about 6 pm. I made sure everyone had plenty of hay in front of them most of the day. I debated on when to blanket. Most of my blankets are waterproof  but it was pouring and I decided to wait until later to get all the blankets on everyone. I wanted them as dry as possible when the wind hit. Either way,  it was going to require each horse to get a good toweling off first before putting on blankets.  We had to separate Otto and Cassidy and move Cassidy into the other pasture because he wasn’t letting Otto into the barn. For this storm, the one horse that needed to be in a barn was Otto! Otto wasn’t happy about it and I was a little bit concerned he wouldn’t stay in the barn if he couldn’t see Cassidy.
We got out to the corrals about 5 :00 to start this process and the wind was already picking up and the temps were definitely dropping.

Mother nature can be such a wench. 

We no more than got Otto’s blanket in place and settled into his shed with his evening meal that the loud smattering of rain on the metal roof of the shed went silent , the wind gusted and rattled the walls the of the shed , and then the ice/snow mix started. It was literally within a 30 second time frame it switched. Then the wind howled some more. The snow started coming down so hard that we could literally not see more than a few feet in front of our nose. Lovely..  
Otto quickly figured out the b best place to be was IN THE BARN!
We had to pull the other horses into the hay barn where there was sufficient light, and cover from the snow and wind.  One by one, we toweled  them off and got the blankets on.  JB practically put his own blanket on while we were trying to dry him off.

It appeared this storm was going to be as bad as they had predicted but it’s nothing new for us here in the Northwest.
All the horses had access to cover from the Spruce trees to block the wind or could get into  a shelter. Everyone had a big pile of hay and access to water. It’s about all we can do without having an actual barn and stalls for everyone. Generally, our horses do just fine. I wasn't worried about any of them except Otto. This was going to be all new to him.  The frigid temps, snow, blanket and 50 mph wind gusts with ice. 
These kinds of nights are always restless for me but I had spent so much energy all day Sunday worrying about it, I slept like a rock.  Hubby said he woke up at 2 am and looked out and could see Otto laying down in his barn and seemed fine.
This morning, everyone was fine. It warmed to 23 degrees and the wind and snow had stopped. Everything was coated in an icey snowey crust. We ended up with about 2 inches of snow, which was less than the 4 they predicted.  

I was happy to see everyone anxious for their morning hay and decided to pull everyone’s blanket off, exept Otto's. The other geldings have more than enough of a coat to handle a non windy 23 degrees, especially now that they were completely dry.  I had hoped to keep Otto's on through tomorrow but he had other plans. 

A couple of hours later, I had to pull his off as well because he had decided he was done with it. He was doing his best to destroy it.  He was grabbing it with his teeth and pulling on the front. He already had one of the front straps undone. It was only a matter of time he would have it in shreds. Instead of having a destroyed blanket  that he is likely going to need again, I figured it was better to just take it off . No rain, no wind.. he would have to deal with the colder temps. There was plenty of hay for him to help keep him warm. 

Once his blanket was off , I turned Cassidy back into the pasture with him.  He spent the rest of the morning being a total nut in the pasture, running, bucking, kicking, rearing ( his new favorite thing) and generally being obnoxious to the point of Cassidy having to really get after him.. (can't blame him!)

Obviously 12 hours of being hunkered down in the shed was about all his little half Arab brain could handle.  

First storm of the season down.. how many to go????

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

From Canada to Brazil- A Long Riders Story

Just heard that  the Brazilian journalist that rode his horse from Canada to Brazil  has completed his adventure . Long riders are always a fascinating lot to me. 

Here is a link to read his story and journal entries of the journey . 

What a way to wrap up his year. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Stones Left Unturned

I turned 39 years old this past weekend... My parents always said that as you get older, the days and years pick up speed. I wasn't pleased about turning another year older.  Crap.. I am almost 40 now!! I remember my parents 40th birthday and thinking how old that sounded then... and here I am.  But my sour birthday mood wasn't really about that. It was  realizing that I had expected to have  accomplished more by now. Travel, compete in more distance rides, become a more accomplished rider over fences as an adult, start my own business, etc.

Of all the things on that list, there is one that stands out, never far from my mind. One that keeps moving just out of my reach for one reason or another.

It was only recently ( two springs ago) I took up jumping lessons again after a very long hiatus. I made pretty good progress.  Last winter I was back to jumping a course of 2'3 and even  2'6 a couple of times. Unfortunately the trainers lesson horse , who really wasn't ever a suitable  lesson horse , started giving me some issues.  Most of it,  I was able to handle, but when your still relearning all those things about jumping, like ( and this is nowhere near a complete list!)

  • getting your strides between fences, (seeing the line)
  • Keeping your center of gravity in the right place as the horse leaves the ground 
  • adjusting your aids mid air so when you land you can pick up the correct lead to come into the next fence correctly
  • Riding your corners
  • staying balanced while riding into the corner 
  • and ofcourse,  not getting launched

There is a lot going on all at once and its all happening quickly when your in the saddle. The last thing you want to deal with is a horse that gets chargey. I wasn't ready for that added issue.
Unfortunately, the bigger the trainer put the  fences,  the worse the horse got. He was already a  big scopey jumper , even over small fences , so it really started creating confidence issues for me.
The horse was way more horse than I was ready to handle at that point.

As the student, I wanted to take a step back and work on stabilizing my position, fix the little things because they were about to become big things, before moving forward. The trainer thought I just needed to be doing a lesson more than once a week, that I just needed to jump more to get more comfortable. I didn't agree.

My answer ? I stopped taking lessons last spring because I became discouraged. I didn't feel like I was getting what I needed and there was no sense in continuing because it wasn't fun anymore.


My hope is that next spring, I will pick up again with either another trainer (if I can find one) or just start practicing at home on my own and figure it out. At the very least, I think (hope)I was able to grease the old jumping wheels  enough  through those lessons to be able to do it at home and feel like I generally know what I am doing. I have an pretty nice set of jumps and standards that a dear friend gave me that have been collecting dust in the hay barn.  While Otto grows, my best option is Brego. He has talent but he is inexperienced. If you recall I started him over fences last late winter/early spring but he wasn't ready. This  past summer he was worked steadily and came a long ways in his training. I think he will be much more prepared than he was. Only way to know is to give it a try and go at my own pace.

So what does all that have to do with anything about being 39? Well , nothing really but there is more to the story about this jumping thing for me. A page in my history , if you will.

Jumping is and always will be near and dear to my heart. I was a  young impressionable girl heavily involved in the local pony club but I was ready to move on from the Pony Club scene. I had gotten to my C-1 rating and wanted to advance but my horse was too old. I could only ride him lightly and jumping was out. I didn't have a horse that I could continue in competition with and my parents weren't interested in buying me another horse. There were also political things happening with the pony club that were making it difficult for members. About that same time, a horse trainer lady from Virginia blew into town. She was a very accomplished rider. I honestly don't even remember how I met her.  She happened to have a couple of horses and she gave lessons. Ofcourse, I latched onto her and my parents agreed to pay for me begin taking lessons with her. She was in her mid 20's and I was in middle school. I wanted to learn everything I possibly could from her. In my eyes, she pretty much walked on water. It seemed like there wasn't anything she couldn't do. She could work on cars, built houses, throw herself into  multiple back handsprings like a gymnast , but best of all, she rode like no one I had ever seen in my life.
One of my favorite photos of her that she sent me years ago
We rode in a Pairs class together.
She grew up on the fox hunting scene in Virginia from the time she was a small child and had already been able to train with some of the finest in the heart of Hunt Country. She could even jump ridiculously huge fences in sidesaddle. When I started training with her, it was such a high point for me. That was the beginning of a 3 year period. She pushed me and helped me gain confidence to jump bigger and ride better. She put me on green TB's that I probably had no business riding but somehow I managed to stay on most of the time and gradually improved. There were tough days, days when I hit the dirt hard , and  then there were days when it all came together. She wanted me to go back to VA for one summer to compete with her  but my parents weren't about to  agree to that.   Nonetheless, I kept riding with her and another year passed and we grew very close. She even lived with us for a short period of time .She became very much like a big sister to me.

And then,one day, she was gone. Like a thief in the night. I was crushed. It was like everything I had built my 13 year old world around had vanished.

We all have those people that show up in our lives that leave a lasting impression on us. She was one of those for me. Sometimes, those people come into our lives for a short period of time and then they are gone for reasons we don't always understand. At 14 years old, I couldn't  understand any of it. I just knew I felt a huge sense of loss.

She went back to VA and disappeared just as quickly as she had appeared 3 years before,  But life went on of course. We ended up keeping in touch through letters and about 6 months later she sent me photos of her new baby.

AND  there it was..

The reason she had left so suddenly. She had become pregnant.

After she left, I had stopped jumping or getting any official training for that matter.  I was now in highschool and went to work for an Arabian breeding farm where I was a groom, exercise rider, stall cleaner, evening chore person and whatever else needed doing around the farm. I did a little  jumping with one Arabian that was there but  he didn't seem to enjoy the jumping.  Besides, there was only jumps I could make with miscellaneous stuff laying around the place like haybales, logs, barrels.. etc. It  wasn't a really the focus of the facility so it didn't work out. I had my older gelding boarded there and I passed the days cleaning stalls, taking him for easy trail rides and learning  a whole new world of horses but it seemed my formal jumping training had come to an end.

Then came college. I decided to attend college out west, in Montana. A major life change was about to ensue. My family picked up and moved from Connecticut to Montana with me when I left for school. My trainer and I still traded letters once every so often.  She would send me photos of whatever horse shows she was competing at up and down the east coast circuit.  My heart ached when those photos came because I wanted to be riding and showing with her.

Then things went completely quiet for a long time and I didn't hear from her.  I was riding on the college Equestrian team (mostly Western) and pretty busy with college life. Then out of the blue, about a year later, I got another letter. I was already halfway through my sophmore year.

The photos came with more news. She sent pictures of her new husband . She had gotten married and was moving . She gave me her new name and address so we could continue to keep in touch. When I sent the next letter, a few weeks later, the letter got returned to me for incorrect address. I tried to call her, look her up , everything  I knew to do , but I could not find her. She was gone yet again..We lost touch completely at that point.

Pony Club annual fall horseshow..The last show I was ever in with my horse Lad. Yikes, look at that dropped right shoulder I had. We obviously didn't come into the fence very straight . 
Keeping in touch her eventually faded into the background of priorities as life trotted along and it seemed that it was the same for her as well. But I often thought about her.

 Over the years, I would occasionally try to do search for her,  but always came up short. It was like she just disappeared off the face of the earth or didn't want to be found.  I resigned to the fact that maybe she didn't want to remain in contact with me anymore, for whatever reason. She had my address so she could have reached out, if she wanted to. Atleast that is how I looked at it.

 I never heard from her anymore after the wedding photos.

When social media hit the scene several years ago, I thought I would try one last time. Everyone was on facebook, I was sure I would find her.... but once again no luck. I honestly wondered if maybe she had passed away or something. It just seemed like she was gone.  It wasn't until last year I tried a different approach. I remembered her daughters name. On a whim one day, I did a search for the daughter on Facebook.. I hesitantly entered into facebook stalk mode , thinking this was absolutely crazy. Well,  I found the daughter AND..her daughter had her mother on as a friend. And it was in fact my trainer. Right there, all along.

I think my heart did a back flip, maybe several. I didn't reach out right away.All those years and there she was. I was actually really mad about it for a while. I debated for weeks on whether I should bother because it seemed like she pretty much wrote me off years ago. Besides, I figured, the past was the past.. and maybe, it just didn't matter anymore. We were both different people now. It had been 20 years since I last heard from her.. that 's a long time. But I could not help but wonder.

Several weeks later, I did send a friend request. A day later, she accepted.  We have been corresponding on and off ever since.

At first I wasn't sure she even remembered who I was. She seemed pretty nonchalant about getting back in touch, like we had been in touch all along. It was not the reaction I expected and I definitely got the sense it was more important to me to be back in touch than it was to for her. I reminded myself it had been over 20 years since we last spoke.  A lifetime of events have happened.

 Until all of this happened, I honestly didn't realize the impact she had made on me so many years ago. I mean, I knew she was a key person in my life and I missed her over the years, but it was like I realized now that part of my psyche pressed the pause button at that 13 years old, and I was still waiting for her to miraculously show up, and pick up where we left off.  I know it sounds a little crazy.  Now that I am in contact with her again, its all so different. There is no going back. It's like now I have to release that pause button, but I already know that  the tape won't pick up where we left off because , lets face it, that would require a time machine..

Instead, it just fast forwarded to present day. Two people who once knew each other but no longer do. From a connection that felt like sisters to me 20 years ago is now just a connection that is no more than acquaintances.
Lad and I at WhiteTail Farm Horse Show 2"3 class.  In typical fashion, I am having to hold him in.. He was about 22 years old here. 
I get the impression that my memory of our relationship is very different than what hers was. I  guess it's natural , as humans that when we experience something good in life, we want it to stay that way, but nothing ever stays the same.  I think I expected more and maybe that isn't fair.

Recently, she asked me about doing a clinic here in  Montana next summer.  I am not involved in the local group so I would be an outsider trying to plan a clinic for another outsider.. not sure how that would work!  I know she could definitely bring something different  to the table.  The problem comes in with getting enough interest to pay for her  plane ticket and her daily rate to make it worth her time.
While I would love nothing more than to  have the opportunity to not just ride with her again but to get to know her again, as adults... more than 20 years later, I am not sure I can realistically make it happen.  At the same time, seeing her in person again would be scary as hell. On one level a huge part of me would expect that the connection we once had would still be there.  But what if it wasn't?  For her or me?  Or worse, if it is for me but not her?  As an adult, I might see her in a totally different light. Part of me wants her to know me for who I am today.  The reality is, I am not that little girl anymore. Many years have passed. My window of opportunity to show and make it to the top  closed a long time ago and that is okay. That isn't what I have been chasing all these years. In all honesty, I am not sure what I have been chasing.

Just maybe she was one of those people that came into my life at a certain time , for a certain reason and that time has been served.. end of story...

Just maybe the lesson here is that I should  accept that the time I did have was good enough, that I should be grateful for the opportunity I had so many years ago...

And maybe some stones really are better left unturned.