Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday--A Day to Play

Here are some Friday pictures, just for fun. I'm finding that lately each day out at the barn is more and more about fun. What training?

I have simple goals, and once they're met, we're done. For Beautiful, this week, it has been about moving out of my space in front and hind--taking a few steps away, crossing over nicely, and knowing when to stop and stand.

It's all about communication. We certainly had our moments, earlier in the week, when communication broke down.

Today though, it all came together. She understood. If she got confused, she shook her head rather than going up--a big improvement. I responded by showing her. She wanted to do it.

Rather quickly she'd earned her release.

We spent the rest of the morning being together.

She was quite playful and happy, and chased the cats out of the arena several times.

42 learned her lesson and watched cautiously from outside the fence.

Ezzy, however, came back dead-center, for more.

She got more.

She is fun to watch--half baby still and full of play, but then, she can become serious and elegant at moments, too.

A good back itch.

Feeling feisty.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Good Reminder: It's A Love Relationship

I highly encourage anyone who has ever wondered what working with Mustangs is all about--at the heart of it--to watch the video Tracey posted. I could not have said it any better than he did in the video.

Mustang Diaries

I'm so glad I watched it because I NEEDED a reminder to LOOK at myself out there. Yesterday wasn't good with Beautiful. All the horses were wound up and she was, too. There were a couple of things that should have got my attention, like the way she was stopping past the other horse's stalls and afraid to go forward. (More tuned into her fear of them than her trust of me). Then, when we worked on yielding the front, she was confused and went up. Thankfully, I did stop myself at that point and heeded the warning signs.

It's also been a tough spring with horse issues--Red's colic, his injury, and yesterday, Cowboy started looking down-in-the-weather. My heart sunk!! That's my main guy. He's my close friend. We've been through so much together all these years. What can I say, he's my heart horse. I mean, they all have my heart, but he has also been my partner.

By the time I had to close up the barn for the night, he looked much better. I took comfort in that when I finally came in and it was too dark to watch him out in his run. This morning I ran out there and he looks back to normal.

This time of year is tough on them all around--mares going into heat, radical weather changes that have them freezing one moment and warm the next, mud, shedding coats, wind and rain, and feistiness that gets them into trouble sometimes. Sometimes I wonder, HOW am I going to keep them all alive and healthy and well-trained?!?

When things are going good and it's all easy, I think we start to pat ourselves on the back a bit too much, or at least I do. I forget that most of the good that goes on out there is because of what the horses do themselves because they WANT to. It's their gift to me, rather than my gift to them. Cya's always so docile and I do think to myself sometimes, look how docile I've made this horse. What?!?! She's docile because she's kind-hearted, not because of anything I've done!

The cowboy in the video pointed out that if his horse kicks him, he probably deserves it--the same way his boss may have kicked him because he deserved it. It made me think, how many times have I deserved to been kicked and they didn't?!? Again, not because of anything I've done, but because of the relationship we have.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to go out today and work on my relationship with my horses--not training or gentling--but the heart to heart friendship. As he put it in the video, the love.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Time for Trails

What a beautiful week, in the 50's and sunny--it's been harder to get to the blog, but great for getting out on the horses.

I've ridden Cowboy off and on all winter in the arena and around home, so, as you can imagine, he was relieved to hit the trails. It's amazing how much more willing he is now since our lessons.

He used to hate water crossings--even large puddles--but this year we saddled up and rode right through them, none of the usual spring nervousness. He seemed to actually want to go through the water this week. Maybe it's just his age--he'll turn thirteen soon--or maybe it's the work I've done on my seat and being more of a forward rider.

I have my hands full around here with seven horses. They're demanding. Speaking of which, Red looked his best today since the colic. It was the first morning he came to the fence line to beg breakfast. (A morning ritual for my herd.) They come to the fence line and stare me down through the windows. If I'm fifteen minutes late they start to get quite angry, and I start to get quite guilty. It's hard to drink coffee and read the paper when, from the corner of my eye, I see them about ready to mutiny. Nothing says get your lazy butt out of the chair and get your boots on like a bunch of hungry horses.

Red's abrasion grew much worse this week. Quite disgusting, as a matter of fact. My husband, who is a people doc and, as such, always skeptical about how bad anyone's hurt (he's pretty sure he has x-ray vision)--was also a little surprised to see the depth of the wound. I'm cleaning it out and dressing it once a day now, and it is starting to look much better. I assume he hurt it during the colic episode, but I'm not sure how it went from what it was then (small) to what is now (large) except that maybe some of the skin that was originally torn off adhered, which made it look smaller. On the other hand, it was one of those proud flesh wounds originally--the kind that open up a lot and the flies attack--never quite heal properly--so who knows what was under that skin. I did peel away all dead skin a few days ago, which is probably why it looks better now.

Beautiful has been getting a lot of leading practice. I turn her out in the arena every day for a few hours. In fact, she's out there now and it's dark, so I need to take her back to the barn. She's doing great. I've been walking her around a lot. She likes to balk here and there, but I keep the pressure on until she gives, which she always does, and she moves forward. I think that her balking shows a lack of trust in me--something that I hope will be remedied with more time together in spring and summer. She's a fearful horse--she has been since I adopted her--so the relationship we build is that much more important.

Well, off to get her!

Happy trails!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Plastic Herd and Crazy for Crazy Heart

Can you find one of your horses in this herd? The ones with the tags remind me of the Mustangs at the sale with their numbers.

I picked up this whole herd of plastic horses at the annual 4-H Tack Sale at the Fairgrounds. Most people were there for saddles, bridles and blankets, but me, plastic horses.

Our grandkids and nieces love the toy horses, so they'll be a great addition to our existing ones. I also picked up this great hat. It doesn't fit my big head, but it should be perfect for the kids after I clean it up a bit.

Has anyone else seen the movie Crazy Heart yet? My husband and I saw it last night and we both LOVED it. My husband thought it was the first good movie he'd seen in at least a year. Does Robert Duvall make a bad movie?

I went out and got the soundtrack today and have been listening to it all morning. You've probably all heard the premise of the movie--an old Country singer who's burned out and hasn't written any original songs in years. He's going from town to town playing his oldies but goodies to old-timers who still remember him. While on the road he falls in love with a woman who has a four-year-old son, the same age his own son was when he last saw him. That's all I'm going to say about it because the real story is in watching the performances--the complexity of the characters playing out together with the backdrop of good music. I think it was well-done--honest but compassionate, too. (BTW, after seeing Jeff Bridges in the bathroom scene I see why he won the Oscar--you've got to be a humble man to play that part!)

Here's a song from Crazy Heart--"The Weary Kind" by Ryan Bingham

Update on Beautiful: She's losing her two front teeth.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Update on Red and the Riding Area

A quick update since my farrier is coming at 11:00 (which, in his time, means 10:30) and it's a busy day since we also have a barn cat being spade and it's finals week for the kids.

Red is doing GREAT. I went out a couple of days ago and found that he was swollen from hoof to fetlock. (Doesn't sound great, I know) But there was no heat in it and he wasn't lame. I assumed he was just stocked up from his confinement. Well, yesterday morning, I went out and right there at the front, left fetlock, was an open wound where he'd had a proud flesh injury before. (I don't know how he got it, he had it when we purchased him and the flies always bothered it in summer when he was stalled). It was oozing out fluid. I cleaned it up, applied an antibiotic and wrapped it. This morning I went out and removed the bandages and it was practically back to normal--still open, but no smell to it and quite clean. I'm guessing he banged it on something and opened it up.

As for the colic episode, that seems to be behind us. He's eating and drinking regularly now. I've added loose salt to his food,(Kate's suggestion, I believe) added a white salt block to the pasture as well as the selenium block. I checked the temp of the water by hand, and the heated waterers really do keep it warm. I don't see a problem with it being palatable. As for the rest of his diet--after reading some of your comments--I looked into a local supplement designed for horses in our area--it's called Northwest Horse Supplement. Red is already on Allegra Senior, so I'm not sure how the two of them would go together, or if they should, once I figure that out, I'll decide which direction to go. I do thank all of you again for your suggestions--there are more of them that I plan to research as well. The ones I've mentioned are just the easy, quick changes.

As for the arena--aka "riding area", as we were putting it up it started to look too small to me, but by the time it was finished and we'd rounded out the corners, it looked quite large. (I'm going to measure it again to see what it's final dimensions are, but I'd guess 140x100 or so) I do think I'll want to expand it eventually, but we'll see how it works out first. The ground was pretty level to begin with, but we evened it out some more and will start bringing in sand, hopefully, this weekend.

For now, we used t-posts to give it a backbone which seem to be pretty good. I certainly wouldn't put a bunch of horses in it together or train a new Mustang in it--but for a riding area with domesticated horses, it seems to be just fine.

I worked Beautiful in it for the first time yesterday and she loved it. She'd watched eagerly every second as we put it up and was dying to get over there and see what it was all about. After I worked with her leading I let her loose in it, but she didn't really want to run; she was more interested in grazing whatever grass was left there. I wasn't sure she was going to let me catch her when it was time to go, but she did. Lucky me.

So, time to get ready for the farrier. You can set your clock to him coming at least fifteen to thirty minutes early every appointment--so I like to be ready for him.

Happy Trails today wherever you're riding.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Questions About Salt

I don't know if this was my problem or not, but I started thinking that since my salt block has trace minerals and selenium, when my horses feel like they have enough selenium they might stop licking it, thus limiting their salt intake. Does anyone have experience with this or thoughts?

I've been worried about Red's lack of water the last couple of days which, though he's not as sucked in now, he's still not back to normal. I put him out with the rest of the herd after breakfast. He'd eaten all of his wetted-down-flake of alfalfa and Allegra Senior, and was resting in the sun. I thought it might be good day to let him out with the others. I can pretty much tell if he's drinking enough water at this point by looking at his flank, and I'll lock him back up at dinner so that I can monitor everything else through the evening.

So, I went to Big R to get supplies today and picked up some plain salt blocks so they can have a choice of either. When I threw it in there for them, Red immediately came over and started licking it. Maybe I'm on to something here. Maybe I've unintentionally limited their salt intake!!

Kara, at Must Love Mustangs, did an experiment one time with mineral licks--she had one each of every mineral in a specially built container. The horses had access with the thought they'd take only what they needed. Hmmmm...could this be the same case with the selenium salt block?!?

I asked you all about the outdoor arena a few days ago and learned a lot from your answers. I learned that I want a permanent arena. The idea about keeping the footing in and the aesthetic issue really convinced me. However, it also made me think I'm not ready to build one yet. I don't know how I want it, and it's too big an investment to jump in unprepared.

In the meantime, since I need an enclosed space to ride C'Ya, I'm opting for a portable/temporary system, size 120x96. This will give me time to experiment and learn. Since it's portable, I can move it, rearrange it, and when I'm ready for a permanent one, use it in some other capacity around here (you ALWAYS have use for panels) or sell it. I need to figure out how big I eventually want it, where I want gates, what type of footing, what height I want the rails, how many rails, how high the bottom board should be, and many other things.

While we were buying supplies we went ahead and invested in the panels for a 120x96 riding area. (I won't actually call it an outdoor arena at this point) I went with a panel called Behlen since it matches the Powder River panels we already have. They seem to be pretty well made--6 rails, powder-coated, 64" high--and they were only $75.00/panel with the volume discount.

My husband just left to pick them up. I'll post a picture when we get it finished. Here's a picture of the panel for now.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Red Got Out

I noticed my post titles aren't very creative, they're to the point. Red got out of his stall last night and into the turnout. There wasn't any food in it, but it messed up my system of knowing how much manure he's passed and how much water he's drank. When I came into the barn today, instead of a Red horse standing there with his head out, I had a gray horse standing with his head out in Red's stall--that would be Shadow.

The vet is having me soak Red's hay in warm water now. I think that's an excellent idea. My vet has been wonderful at monitoring the whole situation. He calls morning and evening every day to give me directions on how to proceed.

There were so many piles of "formed" manure yesterday, I wasn't worried anymore about that--the drinking situation was bothering me though. Since the vet told me to soak his hay, I took the opportunity to REALLY soak his hay. I poured about 3 gallons of warm water onto it. I did the same this morning, so all the alfalfa flake was floating and Red had to practically drink it. He was hungry, so he ate it all.

I'm so worried about the water (because he looks "sucked in" at the flanks--could this come from being off of food for two days??), I plan to take it out warm to him every couple of hours. The vet said warm water stimulates the gut, too, so I'll be taking care of both problems. I just want to see him FULLY back to normal.

His temp is normal. His appetite is normal. His energy level is normal. I just need the drinking back to normal and we're good.

Here's an article on dehydration I found. Click here. This person has some interesting on ideas on how to provide water to horses--also on making weekly mashes--a concept I've often thought about to ward off colic--in particular sand colic, but haven't ever done on a regular basis. I was thinking, though, that it would be a good business idea, to develop a mash--mix all the ingredients, and then sell it like that where the person only has to add warm water. Does something like that already exist??

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Happy Manure Day!

I'm posting earlier than I thought to celebrate--MANURE.

Yes, I usually dread manure, and have cursed it wheelbarrow full after wet and heavy wheelbarrow full and wished horses didn't have to produce it, but go without it for a few days and a whole different appreciation emerges. I've even been taking pictures of it.

Last night, five wonderful piles.

I'm still grazing Red on fresh grass for twenty minutes at a time and keeping him off dry food until the Vet approves the change, but he looks much better.

I've learned so much about the way horses graze the last few days of watching Red. The way their lips move in circles, swishing the grass into a uniform pattern into their mouths so that their teeth can cut it off. Pretty cool.

I've also got to inspect every inch of our pastures--the good and the bad. It's given me some ideas of where to throw seed, rake, spray and where I need to irrigate more.

And the big idea in my mind--where to put the outdoor arena. I want to get going on it, ASAP. But I have a question--do you think it would be better to invest in portable panels or go with permanent arena fencing? I think portable is probably 1/3 to 1/2 more than wood. Do you think it's worth it?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Red's Not Well

I haven't written a lot in the last few days and probably won't for a while, after tonight's update. Our old horse, Red, has colic. It started Sunday after a very easy ride. (Video below) During the ride, he went down to his knees and then right back up. The girls got right off and walked him to the barn. We looked at him and he seemed tired, but no other signs of a problem. We assumed it was because of his age--30--and so decided to let him rest, and made him comfortable in a stall and run.

Everything seemed fine until the next day when we found him lying down. Turns out, he has an impaction colic. The vet says it's pure coincidence--nothing to do with the ride.

We're doing all the things you do with impaction colic and now only time will tell if it passes. Manure is getting by it, which seems a good sign. Also, he has an appetite and drinks water.

Until this is resolved, I'll be taking a hiatus. I've spent the last several days in the barn and, I imagine, that's where I'll be spending a few more unless something happens quickly. The vet hopes we'll get past it by tomorrow. Seems optimistic, but here's hoping!

In truth, I'm pessimistic. In my experience, when colics don't resolve themselves quickly it's not a good sign. And, he's old.

I just got back from the barn and there wasn't any significant change. He's comfortable, but he has to pass that blockage. The vet said there's nothing behind it, thank goodness, but it has to move along!! I'm supposed to walk him and let him graze a little green grass now and then. It's night, so for now I have to let him be, but I'll get up early tomorrow and take him out again.

I hate colic, and I always work hard to prevent it--lots of salt, plenty of water, regular worming, teeth floating. I had the vet check his teeth to see if they were the cause--maybe an infected tooth back there or something--but all was well. So why? Was it the change in temperature? Did he stop drinking enough water?

I've written a lot about Old Red--he's the best horse we've ever owned. To read those older posts click here and here.

This video was taken Sunday afternoon before we knew anything was wrong--which explains the focus on the cat rather than the horses.