Saturday, November 10, 2018

Tumbleweed Back to Normal, But Normal Has Changed

Tumbleweed was back to normal exactly 2 weeks after the onset of the virus.  The virus attacked his GI tract, causing a spiked fever, depressed mood, and diarrhea.  Going off food and water was probably due to the "cure," more than the virus itself.  But he is eating, drinking, and doing everything normally now.

Except, "normal" changed.  He went through a tough illness with lots of poking, prodding, hand-walking, trailering to the vet, basically, 24/7 attention for two weeks.  He was also put in with Foxy, and Foxy has a short fuse for any hanky-panky.  He began to stand in the stall away from Foxy, and as close as he could get to seeing, and talking to, Cowboy (who prefers to be stalled).

It got to where the only time I would see Tumbleweed out of his stall was when I was taking Cowboy away or bringing him back home. (Above, you can see him welcoming us as Cowboy exits the trailer.)  Tumbleweed talks to Cowboy with really unique vocalizations.

He's going to be six months next week and, let's face it, he grew up a lot this month.

Now, I'm getting ready to go on vacation, so I separated them back into their individual stalls to make it easier for feeding, and I put Cowboy directly across from him, to keep him company.

I'm  not complaining about him growing up and changing, because each month gets him closer to maturity--smarter, stronger, and more immune to sicknesses.

Which means I will get more opportunities to kiss this sweet little nose.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Should You Ride Your Horse Bareback on the Trails?

Yesterday, a well-meaning friend, who saw the picture above, lectured me on Facebook about the dangers of riding bareback.  It kind of went back and forth, but her last statement was this:
Riding on your property bareback is great, but you never know what you’ll encounter on a trail. Your horse isn’t going to worry about your comfort, only about his flight instinct to get away fast from danger.
I ended the exchange saying that I can handle whatever he dishes out.

It got me thinking, how many other people think that trail riding bareback is just beyond dangerous--and borders on irresponsible.  I googled it and found this interesting thread, where most of the commenters simply LOVE riding bareback on the trails.  Horse Forum: Riding Bareback on the Trails.

Here are my thoughts on "Riding Bareback on the Trail."  And by the way, these are only suggestions--each rider needs to determine for themselves what they feel comfortable riding.

1. The same rule of thumb for trail riding, in general, applies to riding bareback on the trails--you need to be confident on your horse at every gait--walk, trot, lope, and canter.  You have to be ready to handle whatever comes your way out on the trail.  If  your horse goes into flight mode, you need to be able to sit whatever its response is.  In other words, if you can do this--

You're probably safe on the trails, my well-meaning friend!

2. Do it at home first.  I rode with a friend two weeks ago who had never ridden her, otherwise solid, horse bareback.  She was aware that it might spook him, so she got on in the arena.  Indeed, it did spook him, and he bucked her off into the sand.  We moved him to the round-pen and I held him as she got on again, and he was perfectly fine.  For some reason, the feel of bareback initially unsettled him.  But we rode for miles that day and he was golden.  Also, she rides her other horses bareback a lot, and can sit almost anything.

3.  Bareback riding will improve your core balance--and FAST.  When I first started bareback riding, and those who follow my blog know it has been recent, I was initially fearful.  Part of that was because I was using muscles I hadn't used before, and it was demanding more core strength and balance.  But my body learned very fast and soon I was able to balance and ride all gaits.  I started gripping less and less and balancing more and more.  That core balance is good for me.  When I get done with a bareback trail ride, I actually feel like I've gotten a work out.

4.  Bareback riding in the heat is going to make your pants sweaty.  (No explanation needed.)

5. Bareback riding in the winter is going to help keep you WARM!  (applause here)

6. It's easier to slip off bareback than get thrown off in saddle, and getting off and on your horse bareback is good practice for slipping off, in an emergency.  How many of us actually know how far it is from the back of our horse to the ground without stirrups or mounting blocks?  Well, you find out pretty quick when you dismount bareback.  And that information is not lost on your brain.  You can actually feel your brain calculating the length of fall, the impact to the feet and legs and joints, and adjusting the body to accommodate it all.

7. Riding long distances will not be kind to your "bare" seat.  (If you know what I mean.)  Wednesday I rode miles with no padding, and suffered the consequences.  Yesterday, I rode with a semi-diaper, and it was much better.  All of this is to say, SOMEONE needs to invent bareback riding pants!!  They need some padding in the seat, and they need a full leather seat to grip the horse.  I rode in my Kerrits winter riding pants on Wednesday, and when I was going up steep hills, I was slipping and had to grab onto Cowboy's mane.  Yesterday, I rode in jeans, and there was much better grip.  But if I had a leather seat in my pants--I'd stick even better, and it would withstand sweat.  So please, someone invent BAREBACK RIDING PANTS.

8. Every new (and even experienced) rider should get lessons riding bareback.  When I went full-on bareback, my riding improved in saddle.  Shocker!  Now, I'm a believer in starting bareback.  When I was a kid, my friend's parents would let us ride their horses, but NOT use their saddles.  Thus, all I knew was bareback riding, and I hated it.  When I finally got my own horse, and a saddle, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.  Stirrups.  Yay!  But I've come full circle.  Looking back, I realize they did us a favor, and every young person learning to ride should first ride bareback--on a well-trained horse.

9.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, will  make you feel more at ONE with your horse, than riding bareback.  I swear, you will feel the slightest thought in your horse's brain trickle down its back and into its feet.  Likewise, your horse will feel your slightest thought. You'll find that the saddle is a barrier between your communication with your horse, and you will be surprised at what they're trying to say, but for the most part hide.  Yesterday, we rode in a group of four.  Cowboy hates groups more than 2 or 3.  He was giving me signs, all through the ride, that he was uncomfortable in this larger group.  They were subtle, but I felt them every time a horse would get too close to his bubble.

Today, I'm going to go shopping for full-seat winter pants.  I have already found some online, but I don't know what size to buy.  I'm thinking that I'll start using them for these bareback rides through winter.  They don't have padding, but I may be able to sew something in and invent my own bareback riding pants.  Maybe a little memory foam--or who knows--I'll just need a trip out to Hobby Lobby.

One final thought: I'm not advocating that everyone ride bareback.  I think it's easier and more fun than we give it credit for, but it's not without risk.  Nothing with  horses is without risk.  In the end, you have to do what you feel comfortable doing with the horse you have.  I only wrote this post to get off my mind what my well-meaning friend brought up--but that I didn't think was Facebook length.  Therefore, I've subjected you all to it!  Sorry 'bout that.

And happy bareback trails (or just trails--whatever!), my friends!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

I Wish I Had the Words

The happiest moments I've had on horseback have been right here--on the back of this horse--Cowboy.  When I ride him, I wonder why he isn't the only one I ride.  When I ride him, he wants to help me fly.

Yesterday, we did fly.

It was a coldish day, and Tumbleweed is doing much better, so I asked a friend if she'd like to accompany us on the trail.  She rode in saddle, and I rode bareback.

Taking a step back--Cowboy loves when I ride him bareback.  He hates saddles.  He hates being confined.  He'd be thrilled if I ditched the bridle and bit and trusted him 100%.

Also, Cowboy is an Omega horse and he is almost always pushed away from the herd.  When I go out to find him each evening to bring him in, he's always on the furthest part of the pasture, away from the herd and hay.

But he has me.  And he knows it.  And when I call him, he comes to me--even in the dark.  And I give him a safe stall and equine senior and all the love he needs.  He's very appreciative.  We are deeply connected and he is my soul's horse.

When we ride, we're one. We don't fight. We don't even bicker.  I listen to him, he listens to me, and we communicate a thousand things to one another with the slightest movements or sounds.  All of that communication is based on the many years we've struggled to communicate and hammered out a mutual understanding and our own unique language.

Yesterday, we cantered bareback on the trails, we climbed up steep hills where the only thing that kept me on was gripping hard to both sides of his mane, and we waded into the frigid water and looked out over the beauty of the world.

I don't have words to describe the feeling to you, but I'm pretty sure you all know it.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Owning Horses Means Not Always Knowing What's Wrong

Part of the essence of being a horse owner is the "not knowing."  Sometimes, we don't know why they're acting up.  Sometimes, we don't know why they're off.  Sometimes, we don't know why they're sick.

I remember when Cowboy started his head shaking and the vet couldn't find any reason why, but he finally said, "This is what they try on the East Coast, and I don't know why, but it works. Want to try it?"  I did.  It worked.  I had  my horse back after living with Head Shaking Syndrome for over a year.  The magic pill did not cure it, it still returns every spring and fall, but it slowed it enough to keep it from building, and it gave Cowboy another opportunity to be a trail horse.  When it starts, give him the magic pills early on, and that's usually enough to make it manageable.

So much of horse husbandry is a mystery.  Tinker with this, mess up that.  Obsess about this, get that.  This and that and that and this.

Of course, if you recently won the Mega Millions, you can probably afford to take your horse to an equine expert at a University and allow them to run every test, consult with every expert, and narrow down the exact problem.  Can they fix it?  Maybe, maybe not.  But I can tell you, I've seen many a horse go down the road to our local University, which has an excellent equine hospital, and never come back.

But the basics are this--what's the temperature? How are the bowels working? Are they drinking and peeing? Are they eating? Are they sound on all four feet?

With Tumbleweed, everything that I can assess is working as it should.  Yet, he's still not fully himself.  And so, the waiting continues.  We're not yet to two weeks, and someone told me it could take as long as three just for the gut to recover from the antibiotics.

At least I have more certainty now.  I can go longer without the visiting the barn, and when I finally get there, nothing has changed for the worse.  He's a stable mediocre.

And, as usual, that will have to be good enough.

Here's something a friend shared on Facebook today, which kind of sums it up.

Being a champion isn't buying the most expensive horse, having the most expensive barn, trailer, or tack. Being a champion isn't winning a class or a buckle. Being a champion isn't always glory and great times.

Being a champion is love, passion, hard work, dedication... It's tears and screaming, it's not always easy. It's working no matter what conditions you have to do it in. It's late nights and early mornings, it's horses before yourself, before your friends, often before your family. Its sore bodies, bruises, and cuts. It's vet bills and last dimes to make sure they have all they need. It's crying in their mane when you had a bad day. It's smiling when they finally get that thing you've been trying to teach them for a month. It's having the best network of people to care for them and to support you. It's farriers, vets, dentists, chiropractors, feed store owners, husband's, wives, family, friends and even enemies. It's learning how to take the good with the bad and never knowing what each day may bring. It's the happy and the sad. It's the highs and the lows. Its wanting to give up but never doing so. Most of all, it's the love that you feel every time you see those eyes and hear that nicker. Being a champion really has little to do with victories in the show pen as it does with victories on every road to get to that show. Being a champion is living for what you love and loving what you do and who you do it with and NEVER giving up. The victories are many and the ribbons and the buckles are icing on the cake so to say. But being a champion is so much more than just winning... And once you can learn that, you too will be a champion.

~• Author Unknown ~•

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back and a Probios Miracle

Getting Tumbleweed’s GI tract back to normal has proven challenging. We had that good morning, Friday, after he ate a dose of Probios, but things began deteriorating by Friday night. He looked uncomfortable. By Saturday, he had full fledged diarrhea which became more watery throughout the day. I was on the verge of taking him to the hospital again, but he was eating lots of hay and drinking lots of water and looked bright.

I had called our vet, but she didn't return my call.  And my husband kept assuring me it was all normal and that it would work his way through him as long as he kept eating and drinking.  To take him into the hospital, at that point, would only cause more stress and expose him to more germs.

It's just so hard!!  Two steps forward, one step back.  One step forward, two steps back.  I want him to be 100% well and for this to be behind us.

During all of it, we kept taking his vitals: temperature, gut sounds, lungs, and checking for dehydration by tenting the skin and pressing his gums. All normal.

I was monitoring him very closely throughout the day, spending most of the day in the barn and wiping his fur clean when it got messy with the diarrhea.

By 4 pm, I was getting more worried. He was refusing his mare and foal ration which had his second dose of probios mixed in. (Actually, they recommend removing concentrated feeds when horses have diarrhea and only feeding hay.)  However, I felt he needed the second dose of Probios. Afterall, his first major turnaround had been AFTER eating the first dose.  

So, I mixed the Probios powder with a little warm water and orally dosed him as he was lying down.  I didn't have much hope that it would make a difference.

However, an hour or two later, the diarrhea stopped. Just STOPPED.  By 6 am, this morning, his shared stall with Foxy only contained solid manure piles—both little ones and big ones. (his and hers.)

(I waited two hours this morning to see him produce this.  It is perfect manure.  Wet. Well formed.)

It seems the gut is returning to normal.

Besides the Probios, I also switched him back to his old hay. There had been a new hay fed to him right before this started. I told the first vet about it, but she said that wouldn’t have caused his fever. Yesterday, I climbed the hay pile and threw off the new bales until I got to the old bales--then I kicked about four of them down and started feeding them.

In retrospect, it seems a bit coincidental that right as we changed hay, he got sick. Maybe all of this has been the perfect storm of multiple things.

Anyway, I am now a big believer in Probios, and I intend to feed it to both Tumbleweed and Foxy over their concentrate rations each day. 

Tumbleweed and Foxy didn’t share a stall up until yesterday. We removed their dividers because I felt he’d be better off closer to her. In fact, I know it helped. When Foxy ate, he ate. When Foxy drank, he drank. Babies are great at mirroring mamas.

He also seems to take great pleasure in pestering her.

Are we truly out of the woods?  I don't know.  Last night, my husband and I discussed canceling our tickets to Hawaii and letting the kids go on without us.  I called my daughter to let her know that might happen if Tumbleweed doesn't turn a major corner and sustain it.  

Today, things are looking up again.