Monday, May 30, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Day Of Surprises

Yesterday was full of surprises. First, I was surprised that I'd written my farrier appointment down wrong, so I was standing in the barn with horses, all by myself, waiting for the sound of a truck that never came.

After fifteen minutes of silence I was concerned...and bored....and anxious. My farrier is ALWAYS early. I called him, and sure enough, he wasn't due for another forty five minutes. Yikes!

This was a bit of a problem because I had a trail ride planned and a friend waiting for a call. I felt my window of opportunity to ride closing in between a later farrier appointment (which was much needed) and an emergency dental appointment for my son--where I'd get my last surprise of the day.

Being the wonderful mom that I am, I tried to wiggle my way out of the emergency dental appointment, but that was not to be. All of my alternate plans were right quickly rejected.

When my farrier did arrive, we had no less than six horses to trim, and, being in a hurry, it seemed every horse lasted a lifetime. The last to be trimmed was fat-boy, Shadow, who was lying down in his stall like he was dead. Both my farrier and I thought he MUST be dead, the horse was acting as if he didn't even see us. But that was not to be one of my surprises of the day because, in his own lazy time, Shadow did decide to grace us with his presence.

Farrier appointment finished, call made, it was time to get Cowboy--who was FULL of energy. In fact, the weather was ripe for excitement: 50 degrees, wind, rain--the kind of weather that makes horses wants to hang out in the barn rather than ride out on trails.

Now the weatherman, liar that he is (haha--let's face it, all spring weather-persons are GUESSING), predicted SHOWERS, but if I was to live my life according to weather predictions, I'd never get a ride in and be kicking myself for staying home. Rather than thinking of them as weather predictions, I think of them as weather SUGGESTIONS. Though it was lightly raining, it certainly wasn't "showers" and, in fact, the weather got better, rather than worse--which was surprise number two.

So, while I was getting Cowboy tacked up, him wearing his fly mask, I get surprise number three. I approached him with fly spray and on first shot he pulls back like nobody's business. Cowboy has NEVER pulled back. It's not his thing. Hmmmm...guess I'm going to have to be more sensitive with this whole fly mask/visibility issue.

Out on the trail, Cowboy is first to discover surprise number four--we are riding trails that are sectioned off for a bike race. Cowboy spots one of what will eventually be a hundred arrow signs, and stops short. MONSTER alert. It didn't help that the monster showed up just as a gun went off at the shooting range. (Yes, there is an adjacent shooting range that keeps the horses hopping, but makes for an excellent desensitization opportunity.) Hmmmm....arrow signs, caution tape, trails blocked off and three men racing toward us on mountain bikes, one with a glaring light on his helmet.

I raised my hand toward them and yelled for them to "Whoa". (Horses have right of way on the trails, don't they?) I must have said it with enough conviction because all three came to a stop and moved out of our way. The last one told us, however, that there would be more of them coming a long because this was a "24 Hour Trail." Sure enough, he was right.

After the ride was finished, and it was a glorious ride, as always, my friend, who'd unexpectedly offered to pick me up and haul us out, dropped me back off at the barn where I unloaded, untacked, and jumped right into my truck to drive the twenty minutes to my son's school and dental appointment.

And this is always the time when you get the next surprise, NO GAS, surprise number (gawd, where I am now on the count?)--I think number five. So, when I pulled up to the pump and saw the price of gas, $4.00 a gallon, I got surprise number six. Ahhhh, why is gas so expensive?!?!? I went to pull out my debit card that my daughter had borrowed and, sadly, not returned, and got surprise number seven! When I tried to use an old debit card and it was rejected--surprise number eight. Not to be deterred--I tried yet another--BINGO! Gas!

Fast forward, I made it to the appointment at exactly 4:00 pm. Dropped my son off and waited. At 5:00 I got my last surprise of the day. My son has not four wisdom teeth, but FIVE--which should make the oral surgeon happy next month when he pulls them out and bills us for each individually. Merry Christmas! (My son looked it up and though this condition is very rare, it is associated with the person having a very lucky life. Hmmmm...the surgeon or my son?)

Whew! Yesterday was a mile a minute, but today is looking exactly opposite. We'll be mowing the fields, dropping the truck off for new shocks and, otherwise, relaxing.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Riding With a Fly Mask

My friend and I met at the state park last night for a gorgeous later-afternoon, early-evening ride, with the goal of testing out a fly mask to solve the head-shaking problem.

It worked.

It's really that simple and there isn't a whole lot more to say. Why does it work? Not sure, but probably because of bugs. Maybe there's some other element to it that I don't know, but it works. I'd guess it eleminated his head-shaking 98 percent. I rode with my regular fly mask, but the one I have coming from Cashel--the one designed for riding, with nose-guard and ear protection, should work even better.

Cowboy walks out on trail rides FAST and pretty much continues that speed throughout. When I first got him, eight years ago, we worked and worked and worked on not jigging, but rather, walking out fast. I never corrected him for walking out fast, I always encouraged it, especially away from the trailer. If he broke out into a trot, jig or canter, I'd turn him around and take him further from his goal. This early training worked so well that it now seems effortless, and I started to think, and even commented to my friend, that I didn't have to do anything anymore.

THEN, at the very end of the ride, as if to prove me wrong, he balked at a large puddle. The trailer was actually in sight, but he would NOT go through this one puddle. (Usually, when the trailer's in sight, they'll go through hell or high water to get back--puddles are a breeze, right?) He avoided it so much that he swung both of us around into a tree's branches to escape the pressure. We moved on to the next puddle, he did it again, steadily getting worse with each of the many puddles I turned him toward as we made our approach. Seems I'd been putting him on auto-pilot the whole ride (because he was doing so darn good) and he figured going over puddles was a choice. Plus, the thick mask was probably distorting his vision of them.

I could see our willing parternship his choosing to go machine was broken and I instinctively swung my leather reins around to his right and left hind with a, smack, smack. (The western equivalent of riding with a crop.) His memory kicked in, and through the puddles he went. We got to the trailers perfectly and I turned him back around, rode through every puddle I could, away from the trailer, until we couldn't see the trailers or the other horse anymore. He trotted, loped, walked and stood through all, then we made the trailer approach again the same way--through all standing water and ended on that note.

He had turned back into my sweet, humble horse again--head low and relaxed, eyes relaxed, and wanting a little love.

So, 99 percent of the time he's doing what he does because he wants to--because somewhere, a long time ago, I made doing the wrong thing more difficult and choosing the right thing easy, but every now and again, he needs a little prodding to wake him out of a strange funk--whatever that may be--and who knows what it will be with a horse--or why.

The ride was spectacular. We rode along the river for most of it and there were white water rafters shooting the rapids alongside us. Really an amazing sight.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Head Shaking, Marsh Slogging & Kitties

First, a picture of the sweet kitties. I came in and looked at the picture and noticed there were only 4 or 5 in the picture, so went straight back out to find the missing white kitty and discovered it half-dead, wandered away from its mama and siblings. I rubbed its belly, it yelled out unhappily, and I placed it in its mama's arms. I don't know if it will survive though.

And now the update on the head shaking. Did floating the teeth solve the problem?


Yesterday's ride started out well when we were in the sunshine riding on an old dirt road, but when we turned into the trees for the second half and traversed the flooded, heavily-treed bog, the bugs intensified and Cowboy's head-shaking came back in earnest. To be fair, I did some of my own head-shaking and emerged from the trees, thirty minutes later, quite bitten up from mosquitos. I had no idea there was so much standing water, but the lack of sun has kept it from drying up and we've had so much rain, the creek had overflowed. We slogged through 3 inch deep water and oozy mud for almost the entire way. Add to that a herd of frantic, whinnying horses following us along an adjoining fenceline and it was quite the experience.

Cowboy was NOT a happy camper, but he trudged through anyway.

And when I got home I ordered this--riding mask with ears and nose cover: (proceeding from easiest solutions to more difficult.) Equilibrium Products

Today, the weather's going to be in the 70's with sunshine yet again, so a friend and I are going back out on the trail. She has a few ideas about the head shaking, so we're going to experiment a bit. I'll take video of him so you can see what I'm talking about.

Happy sunshine spring trails, everyone!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Babies, Baby!

What are Cowgirl and Beautiful looking at?

A baby!

Our neighbor has a bunch of pregnant mares in the adjoining pasture (separated by two fences) and we can always tell when a baby's being born by watching our mares. They're naturally curious and LOVE babies.

And in more baby news--our barn kitty had kitties this morning! We're so excited for her. Now she won't be out there alone. We'll probably let her keep three and then have them all spayed and neutered. So far, she's had six.

In the past, we haven't let our barn cats have kitties, but we reversed that rule last year, and I'm so glad we did! Here's a picture of her I took yesterday when I was out at the barn. She looked HUGE. Cowboy loves her and spent a good deal of time in the barn with her, so I had the impression the due date would be last night or today.

And now, I'm heading out for a trail ride with friends. It's going to be 70 something degrees today and sunshine. I get to test out Cowboy's new teeth. More on that and the head shaking later...

Happy Baby Trails, everyone!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Problem with Porcupines

is that they can kill your curious dogs. What would we do without modern veterinary care?

Our poor dogs caught a porcupine yesterday, mostly Riagan, and got zapped all over their bodies, their noses, lips, chest, legs, inner mouth and throat. The needles went all the way down to their tonsils and coated the roof of Riagan's mouth.

We took them to the vet immediately and they were put under anasthesia since it was such a huge job to remove the needles in the throat and mouth. While they were digging around down there they found a piece of some plant stuck in Riagan's tonsils and a SEVERE ear infection! She didn't even show signs. Since we had two dogs, instead of one, the whole experience cost us $700.00, but considering all they did, that seems quite cheap.

The porcupine did not survive this encounter. We found it next to our house in front of our hot tub.

Here are the dogs after they were brought home. Very tired.

What I learned:

1.) To remove porcupine needles, clip them on their ends first to release the air, before pulling them out.

2.) Porcupine needles are insidious--rather than working their way out (if left alone), they'll work their way deeper in and can even make it to the brain.

3.) Dogs don't usually learn from this experience, it often makes them even more aggressive with porcupines.

This morning the dogs are back to normal. We're hoping they'll defy the odds and will have learned to be more cautious with porcupines in the future. Time will tell.

Monday, May 16, 2011

First Horse Painting & Getting Home

We don't see my husband's family often enough. They are beautiful people, both inside and out, and so fun to be with. The bad weather, unfortunately, followed us from the Northwest--we arrived there as the weather switched from 100 degrees to 50, then we arrived back home as the weather switched from 80 to 40.

In the airport, as I was missing my horses, I was inspired by a picture I saw hanging in a shop and decided to spend my time during our layover sketching Cowboy. I had brought my computer (with pictures) and small watercolor and sketch kit I'd put together just in case the urge hit. Today I painted it in, and this is the finished product along with two Photoshop experiments.

This is the first time I've ever painted a horse. I loved doing it. My rope letters, however, leave a lot to be desired. I'll have to keep practicing. If any of you artists have a hint for me, please pass it on.

Though the weather is now 40 with wind and rain, horses shivering and altogether painful, there are some beautiful things blooming. My snowdrops came up today, only two months late, the tulips are gorgeous, and the Muscari (Blue spikes) have just opened.

And last, a picture I took right before we left: five of our horses sleeping together in the pasture.

Since the weather is so bad, I won't be able try out Cowboy's new teeth, but I'm getting quite hopeful that the float is going to solve the head bobbing problem. More on that later.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Teeth Float and P3 Xrays

Back from the vet. Cowboy had some hooks on the back teeth that needed to be filed off and few sharp points, but, all-in-all, not too bad.

While we were at it, I asked for x-rays of his foot--since we haven't seen it since the break occurred. My farrier was interested to see how much arthritis is in the coffin joint. He's coming out to trim on Tuesday, so perfect timing. as you can see from the picture, there is a bit of arthritis near the joint. The vet recommended I put him on a joint supplement--Cosequin ASU.

As for the head-shaking, she wants to see if the float fixes the problem. If not, she said we should try the sun-blocking mask with the netting around the nose--we'll just keep adding treatment if it continues.

Here he is getting ready for the float. Those of you who have never seen it done, they take a powertool (or hand file--"float") and file/grind off the sharp edges of the teeth. It's quite a work-out, let me tell you--I was worn out just watching her. They have to stick it way, way back there to get the hooked teeth. Unlike us, a horse's teeth continue to grow throughout their life and they wear them down from chewing. (Some of the back teeth don't have opposing teeth, so they grow "hooks"). Also, their nerve endings end at the gums, so filing them does not cause tooth pain like it would in us.

The next picture is of a leather bracelet my friend made and I purchased yesterday. She just started making them and they sell for $15.00. She can do pretty much anything you want, but I like turquoise. I may have her add some tooling. If you're interested in something like this, tell me and I'll give you her contact info or click on this LINK.

My back is almost all better. Guess I'm getting old. I think I'm going to trade out my daughter for her lighter, balanced ride saddle. My days of swinging up the 70# monster are coming to a close. I'll try it out on my next ride and see if it fits Cowboy. The next ride, sadly, won't be until next week because we're leaving town tomorrow. I hate to leave my animals.

Happy Trails, everyone--hope your days are as sunny and warm as ours have been.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Another Ride and Lots of Pain

You wouldn't know it by looking at this picture, but this trail ride ended with me in bed for the rest of the day and sitting here now with a hot pack against my spine. Ouch.

My Mysterious Issue:

From this picture, back up a few hours to when I woke up. My neck was sore on both sides and my lymph nodes were swollen. I emailed my husband, who was at work, and told him how odd it was and asked for suggestions. He didn't take it serious, since I didn't have any other symptoms, and emailed me back a joke, so I continued with my plans and got ready to go.

After arriving, we warmed up the horses in the arena at the trail head with a little walk, trot and canter work. It was overcast, but really, a beautiful day. I could ride in weather like that all year. I'm guessing it was 55--no wind--and cloudy.

Cowboy's Mysterious Issue:

During my arena work, actually, during the bending work, Cowboy started to toss his head. Weird. He hadn't done it at home in the arena or much on our ride the day before (he did do it a little on the ride the day before), but this head tossing started in earnest. Midway through, he was tossing it so hard he threw one rein clear over to the other side of his head and it got twisted with the left rein when we were standing on the cliff side. (It's always perfect timing, isn't it?)

There were three of us riding together, so I tried taking the lead and that put a stop to it--I think because his attention was more focused on the trail. But after a couple of hours, when we turned to go back in the direction of the trailers and turned instead away from them and headed to the Southern portion of the park to add another hour or so onto our ride, Cowboy resumed the violent head tossing. I rode for a ways with them, but decided to let the rest of the party go on without me and rode Cowboy back to the trail head, unloaded and went home.

I'm trying to make an appointment for Monday to get his teeth floated. While I'm at it, I think I'll ask them to take an x-ray of his front foot where he broke his coffin bone. I hope to narrow the problem down step by step. 1.) Teeth, 2.) Different bit, 3.) Foot. I hope step 1 solves the problem.

The issue I didn't mention, but that was going through our minds, is anxiety. First rides of the season away from the herd are always anxiety provoking. Cowboy used to jig, but it made me wonder if he's head-tossing now instead. I'm still hoping it's teeth.

So, why am I convalescing? First, I've never had a bad back or really, any reason to complain about pain after a trail ride, but after I slid out of the saddle yesterday, my back was OUT. I could barely get the 70 pound saddle off his back and into the tack room, him loaded and unloaded, trailer unhooked and walk back to the house. When I did finally accomplish all that, I walked straight to bed. Today, I'm feeling a little better, but confined to my chair.

My husband thinks I've contracted a virus that attacked my spinal column--which would explain the swelling in my neck lymph nodes. I don't have a fever or any other symptoms, and I sure hope he's right. Back pain stinks. I feel very sorry for people who have to live with it and I do NOT want to be one of those people.

Today's beautiful and I hate to spend it in a chair. Here's hoping the mysteries are solved and resolved and we can be back on the trail by next week.

More pics from the trail.

Since I mentioned the joke, here are the transcripts of my husband's and my email conversation:

My email:

Hi sweetheart. I'm heading out for a ride, but my neck is a bit sore around my lymphs--a little swollen, too. Is this a common thing?



45 Minutes Later...his answer:

Very common problem. it's Caused by a lack of "necking". Your husband needs too spend more time kissing on you.

Haha--hard to feel too bad about my back pain with a TX like that!

**Update: Kate suggested Head Shaking Sydrome, and, though I'd never heard of it, after reading up on it, I think it might be the case. Here is an article: Head Shaking Syndrome. As for me, I'm starting to feel like I have a head cold, but my back pain is much less now, so I'm going to go out and lunge Cowboy and see if he does the head shaking without the bit. I made our appointment for Wednesday (the earliest we could get in) to see the vet. He needs his teeth floated anyway and, if nothing else, his Dr. can give us what we need for the head shaking.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hit the Trails While the Sun Shines

Those are my words of wisdom.

So, my Cowboy's sound on the rocky trails four years post-fracture. I'm extremely thankful for that. He was full of energy and ready to go. I think you'd call that fresh. He practically grew wings and flew into the trailer, he was so excited to go for a ride.

On the trail. Great. Through water. Great. In fact, he was so calm, I just ground tied him at the trailhead while I groomed and saddled and later unsaddled.

Here's fatty, Shadow. He's always fat. He was fat when we bought him and he's fat now. My farrier says he could get fat on a freeway. Still, at nineteen years old, he troops along the trail for my husband whenever asked to do so. They make quite a pair.

I don't know what tomorrow's going to be like, but we did make plans again to take the barrels to the outdoor arena and have a fun day. The forecast calls for 62 degrees and 30 percent chance of showers, and that doesn't sound half bad.