Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dear Otto..

To my Long legged Wonder..

I know you are still relatively new around here at Acer Farm and for the most part , you spend your days eating , pooping , growing and wandering about the place looking for things to get into.   It's almost  a New Year and it makes me eager to look forward.  I thought maybe it was a good time to get some things cleared up for you. Tell you a little about what your purpose in life is going to be.

To start, let's get the "housekeeping" things out of the way...

1. Cassidy's tail - Its mot your own personal toy rope to pull  and tug. I know it's a very full and lush tail , and hard to resist but I spend hours working on that tail making it beautiful in the summer. I know its nothing like your scraggly whisp of a tail but that doesn't mean you can ruin Cassidy's.  Besides, having a mouth full of tail hair is difficult to spit out, as you have experienced..

2. Feed Bucket -When I feed you your grain in the am and pm and forget to go back and get the bucket after your done eating..., it's not an invite to poop in the bucket. We are a no frills farm around here. We don't have horse toilets and while you seem to think this is a pretty cool trick, I am not finding the humor in it.  I have to spend an extra 15 minutes cleaning it out for your  next meal because your road apples have frozen to it. Do you really want to eat your meals over the top of your own poop?? I think not..

3.The Jolly Ball. We have to chat about this..I thought this was a great idea as a toy for you. At first, you left it alone.. didn't have any use for it.. which was kinda irritating since it wasnt exactly cheap. Then one day I kicked it in the pasture and the light went off for you . You haven't left it alone since.. However..  you have not been kind to your toy. It was supposed to be INDESTRUCTIBLE.. Its a Jolly Ball , not a

They are INDESTRUCTIBLE you know what that means? It means that it should not look this..
why ????

 I am not even sure how you got it too look like this but there isn't a way to fix it..I have tried.  Maybe I should call the company and send them this photo of your handiwork and they will send us a new one..

So that's that part.

Now that your settled into your new home, I wanted to let you know what I would like you to be thinking about as you  grow and develop into my "perfect, everything" horse.

The sun is making me sleeeeepppppy...I can't be bothered

You did know that was my master plan for you , right? 
oh.. well if this is news to you, my apologies. Your mentor , Cassidy, should have mentioned that small detail..I have made a note to myself to circle back to him on that. He really needs to step up his game if he is going to be your role model.

Now, don't get your arab tail in a bind. (you do it quite well and I just have to look away when you do...) You will have plenty of time to work on becoming that horse...which is why I wanted to give you the run down now,  so you would have enough time to think about it. It's going to be a long process and come spring, it's going to pick up speed.

We have many adventures ahead and I am so excited to show you the great big world of  what being my endurance/jumping/trail/cow chasing/dressage horse is really all about. (n case your wondering, please refer back to the point about being my everything horse) Believe it or not, there is more to life than your quaint little 5 acres and'll see..

So first things first. In the spring, life will change dramatically for you . You know all those "feelings" you appear to be experiencing right now have? Yeah , well  they have to do with those two thing you have hanging between your back legs, which apparently are also connected to your mouth.
We will be taking care of those as soon as the footing is safe and I can chase you around to keep the swelling down. Thank god you have TB legs cuz your gonna need them son....

I promise, once your procedure is done, you will wake up a new horse..(and your pasture mates will like you alot better than they do right now as well) your just gonna have to trust me on this one..

After that, we will spend our days learning all kinds of things, like ponying, how to handle being clipped and having your legs wrapped. You will stand for the farrier and we will get the tying thing down once and for all too. I can't wait to see what you think about being out on the trail for the first time,  ponying along behind  your trusty mentor .But first, you have to learn how to pony at home before we take you to town. You will learn how to be okay with being behind another horse on the trail and not get worried , and you will learn that being between horses isn't a terrible thing either. It's just part of being a good trail horse. We are going to do alot of this for the next couple of years until your of age to be ridden.

See?, its easy..

You and Cass and I .. we'll be like the three Muskateers.

 There will be alot of new things to see and smell out on the trail like  hikers, bikers and jogger ladies with baby strollers. There will be other horses with other riders and  more than a handful of loose dogs jumping out of the trees or running up behind you.  Ofcourse, none of this is anything to freak out about.. it's just all in a day of being a good trail horse.. and since you will have seen it so many times with all the trips out there,  I will fully anticipate that  by the time I have a saddle on you, and I am aboard ,  we won't have any mishaps.. Capiche?

Then there is the water lesson.. Being sponged down after a long hot ride is refreshing and something to enjoy.  I know .. your Arab half despises water but you will learn that water is your's fun  to walk through and splash around in.. we have a lot of lakes and rivers around here to play in..

You know that outdoor  arena you seem to love so dearly and believe is your personal playground ? Well it will become even more fun for you soon.

I will teach you how to lounge  and ground drive. I will teach you how to walk and trot through ground poles so that someday we can build on that foundation and eventually sail over jumps together....just like this: ( and yes ofcourse I will be one handed over the fence , just like this rider  !)
Ofcourse, at first , it will probably look more like this for a while..

There's other stuff too.. I have been doing some extra studying up on the side . Considering your tendency to be playful , I am learning about how to teach you a few tricks along the way too. As I will be patient with you, I hope you will be patient with me as I fumble through this unknown territory. I am sure we will both mess up from time to time but that is all part of the journey. We will have lots of times ahead where we are just going to have to trust one another so this is as good a time as any to start.

.....and    while this might be a little out of our reach.. .

Crazy chick
 Or even this...

crazy dude

I would think these two tricks should be mostly doable??

Sit down so I can get on you!

now take a bow

The plan is that whenever I get a chance, I will load you in the trailer and drag you along with everyone else so you can experience all the things a good "everything" horse must experience...this is how we do it here at Acer Farm and that is how you will become a good horse...

I am pretending I am not listening...

You will be brought along slowly and steadily. I promise to you that I wont push you or overexpose you to things too quickly  so that you become fearful of things.  I will always offer you a chance to think through an issue and if you can't figure it out, I will find a way to make it more clear. I will do my best to make the answer I am seeking the easiest choice for you.  I sincerely hope you do not choose to make it more difficult for yourself. That rarely works out well and usually winds up being more work. I do realize your part Thoroughbred and work is not something your kind is typically afraid of but lets just keep things easy.. shall we???

So, Mr Otto, we have some big goals ahead.. I can't wait to see what's in store for us!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bits and Pieces

It was such a nice weekend, weather wise, we got all three rideable horses worked. In the process, we even got Otto worked too because he joined us in the outdoor arena and ran around, making a general nuisance of himself in the process. T

Tom actually did some liberty work with Otto off of his horse Cassidy , which was kind of cool to watch.  Otto has the attention span of a knat so he would only pay attention for a couple of minutes and then run off bucking and playing but he's such a curious colt, he would eventually make his way back and engage for another few minutes. Ofcourse, all his running around made it a bit challenging to concentrate on what I was doing on JB but we managed. JB was so patient with Otto's frequent drive-by's ... There was a time JB would have probably tried to get after him. I love older geldings!

JB and I took a ride out into the barren snow covered wheat fields just as the sun was setting.There is something special about riding a horse in the crisp clear  air of a winter evening as the sun is setting, the mountains cast in a pink glow from the last light of the day and hearing nothing but the horses soft breathing and the  crunch of snow under their hooves. It's almost a bit magical..I love rides like that.

Unfortunately, I didn't have my phone on me because the battery was dead and didn't get to snap any of the afternoon's events...

Otto also got his feet trimmed a bit. It wasn't a complete trim because he wasn't cooperating 100% of the time. He seems to do ok until Tom takes his foot between his legs to hold it in place so he can use the nippers, which requires two hands. Otto does not like that part at all. I don't think it's the nippers, I think it's more about having his foot held that way. Something to work on I guess. On the positive side,  his back feet are getting much better to handle.

A couple of weeks ago,  I finally had to break down and get Otto a new blanket. The one he had been wearing was two sizes too big and while it was getting him by, the last cold stormy night he had to wear it , it seemed it had somehow lost most of it's waterproofing. We had gotten a rain/snow mix that night and by morning, it looked like he had gone swimming with it. I even had it re waterproofed this summer when I had it cleaned but  apparently, the blanket might just be too darn old.. Otto also managed to break one of the front buckles in the front so only one to hold it on.

His new shiny red model arrived last week so we tried it on him. Perfect fit with just a little extra room to grow into , a size 68. He looks rather dashing in it and red is the perfect color for the season.

Sorry, again , no photo so you'll just have to use your imagination.  I always get the Schneiders  blankets. They wear well, fit well and stay in place for horses that are turned out 24/7 . Even with the coldest of temps we get here in Montana,  I find the midweights keep our horses plenty warm during the cold snaps we have, but then again our horses  (other than Otto) have thick fuzzy coats.

There is an article that has been flying around the internet about why horses should not be blanketed. You can read about it here It's making quite the buzz among horses owners. There are some interesting points in there and certainly some valid points. Alot of the reason why we blanket have more to do with our own emotional responses and desires to keep our horses what we consider "comfortable".

 I , like many other, hate seeing my horses shiver. I worry that they stand a greater chance of colic when they are cold because they are not moving and often won't walk to the water tanks if we are in the middle of one of our arctic blasts. Horses need water for thermal regulation as well.
For the most part, our horses do fine in the cold. But there are certain weather circumstances that I will continue to blanket in . When the weather goes from  temps in the 30's and raining, to temps below zero with wind, I will blanket.  Drastic drop in temps or changes in barometric pressure seem to cause problems for horses in this area. While we keep our horses  in as natural of a state as we possibly can, and it's certainly better than being stalled or penned up,  they really aren't in the ideal setting that horses were intended for.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tracks in the Snow

A friend and I were chatting the other day about winter riding and what a drag it is here in the flathead. It's the typical conversation for us horse people in this area. We all suffer from lack of sunshine, damp , cloudy , wintery weather with crap footing. We all whine about the fact that our horses are sitting in their pastures getting fat and doing nothing, while we wait for better conditions. 
The only options are to slap on borium shoes and get our there anyways in spite of the cold, or pay out the nose to board your horse for 4 months at a facility with an indoor and fight the crowds. P public boarding facility options in the valley  are drying up. There are only a few choices because properties that were once available  are bought up by private owners who don't allow the public to come in.  Others are show barns with a large clientele that don't allow general boarders unless you opt into their training/lesson program. For horse owners that want to board their horses here have their challenges of  finding a good place the provides quality care, and when they do, most likely , they will have to deal with the crowds to use the arena.  I just need to win the lotto so I can build my own indoor.. guess I should start actually playing lotto in that case.

After our couple of nasty weather cycles that hit in November , we have been experiencing high 30's and 40's weather for the last couple of weeks which is "rideable" weather. Granted it's cloudy and foggy but we define "acceptable " riding weather a bit different here in the northwest. The temps are less of a problem for us than the footing most times.  I can ride in anything over 25 degrees ,as long as its not windy , snowing, or raining. We still have to be careful with sweating horses up but for those of us without access to an indoor , its the footing issue that stops the riding in the winter. 

JB has been restless, demanding of attention and generally seems bored or anxious to do something. He is constantly at the fence looking for attention, instead of out in the pasture like he would normally be. I am sure part of it has to do with the loss of Rebel.  I have been slightly concerned about his recent state of mind,  so discontent. 

Right now, there happens to be just enough snow  on the ground that makes the footing pretty good for slow easy riding. There hasn't been enough of the thawing freezing trend to create the typical ice sheet effects we usually have by now so I took the opportunity this week to get JB out a couple of times to our outdoor arena.

I tried to get some pictures of how cute he looked  with his fuzzy coat, but he kept getting closer to me so all I could get was this..He thinks he should try out for horse magazine photo ops..

hey.????what are we going to do?

When I got on him he was a bundle of energy. It's been weeks so it was nice to feel that energy in him. I took him through areas where the snow drifted and he had to really pick up his feet which made him work a little harder. He is the laziest little horse ever but I think he was enjoying the change of scenery, the engagement of an activity, and the added attention. 

JB feet

Handsome post ride pose, waiting for cookies


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Boots For Duncan

I can't believe it! Duncan's issue with cracked pads last winter has reared it's ugly head again! I really thought it was a one time deal ..

 For those of you that don't know, Duncan is the cutest dog in the world.. He's my Borgi, the love of my life, can- do- nothing -wrong, walks on water- dog in our household.
 (ok he's actually very naughty at times but he is too cute for me to be mad at him for very long)

He is 2 1/2 years old.

His best toy, the orange ball, which no longer squeaks..
Last winter, Duncan's pads started cracking from going out on the snow and ice. Not completely unusual for dogs in the Northwest.
Duncan , Xena and I take walks most days and when we  can't , (due to my work schedule) I will at the very least spend a few minutes throwing the ball , or,  if all else fails, he  always has the option to do his other favorite activity, which involves him chasing the horse along the fence line. (make no mistake, the horses lure him into this game!)

Duncan in Border Collie Mode- waiting for Otto to make his move

** sidenote-  I really need to address this bad habit the dogs have gotten into,  but I am afraid it's going to require a training collar, actually two, one for him and one for Xena, the German Shepard, which I don't currently have.

As you can imagine, all of these activities worsen the paw cracking. But he's an active dog. If we can't keep him active during the day, my house will be turned upside down at night with his boundless energy.

Last winter, we went through the gamut of finding ways to protect and eventually heal his pads without limiting his activities. We started out putting antibiotic cream on his pads and wrapping them at night with vet wrap which worked for two nights until he decided he was not liking it and chewed them off. His paws got so sore, he would barely let us handle them, which was creating it's own set of challenges. Ideally, if I could get them wrapped and leave them wrapped for a few days that was best. We started lathering his paws in vaseline and special paw cream , wrapping them with vet wrap , Koflex, and putting the "cone of shame" on so he would leave his wraps alone. It sort of worked,  but  he was still able to get at part of his paws and rip things up so that when he went outside , the inside of the wraps were getting wet. Kinda defeats the purpose.

I found these, which looked like they would do the trick. and they did...for about 20 minutes. They ripped apart in short order.  The other down side was in the snow and ice, they were like skiies for him. They slipped and he was doing the splits. The fit wasn't great either,  they were either too tight at the top and after about 20 minutes, would become uncomfortable for him, or they were too loose.. Fail attempt #2... ( atleast they were colorful)

I went back to the pet store, once again, to look for another option and return the paw condoms. I brought home two different brands of boots , both of which were "guaranteed" to stay on. I was suspect but desperation was setting in. For both sets, we struggled to get them on for 10 minutes, let him out , and within 4 nanoseconds, the boots went sailing through the air as he ran through the snow.


In the long run we went back to wrapping with Koflex and vet wrap and got a different cone of shame that was actually an inflatable collar that worked a little  better but I was still rewrapping his feet every other day or so. We also had to put him on antibiotics because he developed a secondary infection as a result . Long story short, my baby boy Duncan was a sad case last winter. and now, it looks like we are starting all over..

I am now working on trying some different boots. I ran across a cross country skiier last winter who had these boots on his Golden. I asked him how well they were holding up and staying on and he said he has been pleasantly surprised.. but warned they weren't cheap.. I guess not. They are the Cabela's brand and come with a steep price.

Cabela's boots

 Then I found these. They are called Trail Tracker , made by Doggles. What I really like about this set is how high they come up. Duncan doesn't have long legs but the upper pad, called the Carpal pad I think, splits open because of the cracks. Its rather painful I imagine.
Trail Trackers

These boots are also at a much better price point. I went to order but , ofcourse they are sold out in his size..

Back to square one, the quest continues or we hope the Trail Trackers come in soon.

Anyone have any recommendations? I would rather not begin the vet wrap fiasco again!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Endurance- A funny short story from a Beginners Perspective

I ran across a cute story written by a lady , approaching her senior years, but willing to give the sport of endurance a try just the same. I love stories like this. New experiences, new adventures , people getting out of their comfort zone. I think I can relate. I think I probably had that wild eyed, bug filled teeth look about me in my first CTR, my second CTR and probably my first coupe attempts at my the LD rides I attended. I have had my fair share of failed attempts and wild experiences (riding through a dirt bike rally in the middle of a ride is by far the most memorable to date)

and ofcourse.. it's about a Morgan doing endurance! What's not to love about that?? :)

Hope you enjoy. Find the story here.

Friday, December 5, 2014

"The Soul of a Horse"

Still sad... still grieving. still missing my boy.. It's hit me hard, an ache that hurts deeply. It's been a rough week. Trying to get through the days at work, staying busy with other responsibilities,playing with the dogs in the hope it will bring even the slightest break from the sadness. I am thankful for the "busi-ness" of life that has kept me going inspite of the loss. The other horses still need me , the  chores still need to be done. The other horses were affected as well but none more than JB. He continues to call for him, although it's lessening with every day that passes. We let JB see Rebel in the trailer after if was done and over and before we buried him. We hoped it would help JB to  understand. It breaks my heart to see JB so lost and obviously mourning for his friend. There have been many quiet moments with JB crying into his mane  , hoping somehow , we can provide each other some type of comfort.  I have run through the gamut of emotions from knowing I made the right choice given the circumstances to "did "I make the wrong decision?", "should I have done more, bought him more time?"

But in the end it doesn't matter,it's over and done with. I know we made the best decision we could given the situation.  Rebel will always be with me in my heart. We are coping, and getting on as best as we can. We will all be ok.. in time.. just need more time.  Otto makes me laugh and I am thankful for that blessing.

I ran across Joe Camp's blog  several months ago. His blog is about wild horses, horsemanship , the human/horse relationship but it's  mostly about his horse Cash. The man has written several books.

Sadly, Joe lost Cash this fall and he wrote this post about it.  It was so eloquently written that I wanted to share.  It echoes so much of what I have experienced losing my beloved Rebel .

Update! *** I was looking for this post and finally found it! 

In honor of remembering some of the good times that are logged here on this blog (although not many since Rebel was mostly retired by the time I started this blog)

"While my good conscious told me to just go out for a short break to pet on a couple of horses , my bad conscious won out and I grabbed for a halter, caught up Rebel and climbed on bareback. My heart jumped with joy and I headed out along the pasture fence line for a trot around. As I rode along, Brego , Cass and Roman followed up behind like a parade wondering where we were going but not wanting to be left out. Just my luck, I happened upon some fairly deep drifts out in the arena and couldn’t resist. Rebel willingly responded to my suggestion for a little more speed as we bounded through the drift, the snow sent flying, glistening in the sunlight and biting at my cheeks as it danced and sparkled all around me.
 The other horses seemed to sense the new energy in the air and decided to make their own game of it as they ran around the pasture racing each other through the snow , jumping through the drifts. It almost seemed they were relieved for some excitement to arrive after being hunkered down with bad weather for the last several days.

There is nothing like bounding through a snow drift on a horse, and just for a moment I remembered what it felt like to be a child again, uninhibited exuberance to be riding bareback , invigorated by the cold air on my face and warmth of my horses neck against my hands, leaving me with a smile on my face for the rest of the day".

Monday, December 1, 2014

My Rebel- A Tribute

Rebel Fall 2014

This was written about a bird dog , but I think it's fitting regardless. 

The perfection of life with a gun dog, like the perfection of an Autumn, is disturbing because you know, even as it begins, that it must end.  Time bestows the gift and steals it in the process" 
George Bird Evans 
"An Affair With Grouse

On Thanksgiving morning, I found  my long time friend Rebel acting colicky. We hauled into the vet clinic. The exam did not reveal anything conclusive but we decided to start with treating him for an impaction. We  spent the next  48 hours working on trying to get him through it with fluids,electrolytes,  pain killers and hours of handwalking. He rallied by Friday morning, his gut sounds improved, his appetite improved, and he had passed some manure. We  thought we were through the worst of it but by later that day,  he started becoming symptomatic again and his pain was quickly becoming unmanageable, even with pain medication through out the day on Friday.  His gut sounds were practically non existant again, and elevated respiration. At this point, It was most likely a right distal displacement or possibly a lipoma . Either way, our conservative approach to treatment for an impaction did not seem to be working. It was not going to resolve on it's own.  Rebel was , as best we know since he was never a registered horse , about 28 years old.  Surgery was not an option. We had come as far as we could in treatment options  and I was now faced with making that difficult decision to say goodbye. He had fought the good fight and I could not bear to let him suffer any more pain. 

Its hard to even write this post. The wound is still raw.  

Rebel was the first horse I got when I moved to Montana . He was also the first and last horse my dad bought for  me. Rebel had a rough start in life and was mistreated, beaten and neglected. Once he was mine, we spent the next several years learning about each other. I learned about building trust with a horse. I learned about patience.  I have had many horses come and go in my life , all of them I liked, some I loved,  but Rebel got into my heart like no other horse. Rebel and I had a bond that doesn't come along all that often. At times, it felt like we read each others mind. 
Over the years, we saw endless miles of trails, experienced hundreds of adventures.  He would do anything and go anywhere I asked of him. 

As he aged , and his arthritis became an issue for him, and as a result our adventures lessened and lessened. Our time together in the last several years was easy trail rides, and his favorite , belly scratching sessions. Every evening he would greet me at the gate with a nicker and his pawing at the feed pan to tell me he was ready for his senior mash. 
Even into his golden years, he taught countless people to ride. He even became a solid archery mount for several horseback archers. Anyone who met him loved him. In spite of his rough start in life, he learned that not all humans were quite so bad as he once thought. He was a kind gentle soul. Only a select few of us ever find our heart horse. Rebel was mine and I knew it from the first time we met, over 20 years ago. 

He is now buried in our pasture under a tree. My heart aches and there is such a sense of emptiness for me. I miss our evening talks and scratching sessions. I miss hearing his nicker when I walked into the pasture. I miss the way that when I would give him a hug,  he would wrap his head and neck over my shoulder as if he was hugging me back. He was my best buddy for so many years, a true privilege that I am grateful for.  I hope that he is running somewhere in green pastures, free of any pain or discomfort and looking down on us , keeping a watchful eye. 

He will be greatly missed.