Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Joys of Keeping Red Alive

After receiving a couple of comments on my very old posts, I decided it was time to sit down and catch up rather than have the last post be pictures of Uggs, Danskos, cameras and money.

There have been, basically, three things gobbling up all my time: 1.) Keeping Red alive, 2.) Working on the radio show, and 3.) Getting a new office set up.

The first thing, keeping Red alive, is my main priority.  I found him about three weeks ago in a bad colic situation.  I had been gone all day working on the new office for a practice my husband and I are opening, and while I was gone it had begun to rain.  It was also cold and windy.  Well, Red is almost 32 years old and has a tough time regulating his temperature and keeping warm which is, I'm sure, what set off the colic.  It was a scary situation.

We returned home at dark, about 6:00, which now makes it dark, and drove immediately to the barn to feed.  All the horses showed up, except Red, so I set out walking the dark pasture to find him.  It didn't take long.  To back up a moment, it was the third time in about a week I'd gone out in the dark to look for Red.  A couple other times he also hadn't shown up at feeding, which made me start to suspect moon blindness.  In those cases I'd just haltered him and walked him back to the barn.  This time, though, he was standing off alone and when I got up to him I could tell he was shivering and the ground around him was worn down like he'd been rolling a lot.

I haltered him and took him to a stall, blanketed him, and he immediately went out into the uncovered turnout and laid down in the cold rain.  I got him back up and locked him in the stall, gave him a bit of Banamine and lots of hay and waited it out.  By morning he was back to normal, but my life is definitely not.  I am, officially, Red's babysitter now.  My whole day revolves around keeping him warm and fed and getting him plenty of exercise.  I turn him out, bring him in, turn him out, bring him in, clean his stall several times a day and watch over his diet like a mother hen.

He loves it.

We have it so well worked out now, I don't even have to go halter him.  He knows when he's out and I come to the barn, it's time for him to go in, so he meets me at the gate.  I open the gate, he walks over to his bucket of Equine Senior, knocks off the top, starts to eat.  I walk over to him, push his butt back toward his new stall, and he grudgingly leaves the bucket and goes in.  I fill up his grain bucket with two large scoops of Equine Senior, 1 large scoop of whole oats, and then fill his feeder with as much flakey alfalfa as it can take.  I blanket and unblanket him.  (Red has always hated blankets and I've never been a big fan either, since it keeps them from getting a good winter coat.  My compromise is taking it off and on.  I also need to keep up with his condition.)

My new rules: If I'm going to be gone for the day, Red stays in.  If the weather looks iffy, he gets a blanket.  (I check the hourly weather forecast every morning).  Basically, what Red wants, Red gets.

Not all horses are worth this effort, but he's not like all horses.  I know I'm getting toward the end of his days, but if I can keep him going for a while's worth it.  I think, and my old-time-farrier agrees, he's got a lot of life left in those old bones!

And you know, I kind of like being needed like this.  My kids are all grown up and there's a space this fills in my heart.  Also, Red was always the good old ranch horse.  He was never "in-your-pocket", but rather, he was stand-offish and did his job.  He's still not all mushy sweet like Cowboy and Beautiful--he is and always will be that stern, good old boy that you know is about three times smarter than you are.  The little routine we have of him going and knocking the top off the bucket is endearing for me because it's funny and he seems to know that as much as I do.  It's our game.

Surprisingly, when he's out, he's still second in the herd, but that's because of his horse-wife, Cowgirl.  She will not let the others take a spot above him.  She is loyal to Red to the end.  When he's locked up, Shadow is their leader, but as soon as Red is out, Cowgirl takes a place behind him and all the other mares follow.  I'll look out the window and there will be Red leading his mare herd.

After writing all that, it occurs to me how insignificant the other two time-consuming things are in the larger scheme of things, so, I'll leave my catch up post there.

Is there any other life except a life with horses?  I hope not.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Meet Nelson



Plus this...


Plus this...


Bought me this.


Goodbye, That....

Hello this.



 And this.


And meet Nelson.  He was my practice subject for the day.


Nelson likes to sit and stare you down.

(You blinked.)

And go mousing with his big, fat orange, brother-from-another-mother.




"Help me, pleez."


"Scuse me, you're in my bubble."

So wonderful to have the same shoe size as my daughter who had a Canon Rebel she wasn't using--and needed a little cash and wanted my Dansko boots and Ugg slippers. I have a big ol' learning curve, and I'm missing the simiplicity of my old Lumix (which I loved!), but I believe good things are ahead. 
Until then, I'm spending time on YouTube tutorials and photographing the cats.... be continued.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

RIP Jasmine

I don't believe anything happens unless for a reason, and so I wonder for what reason Jasmine came into my life.  Those of  you who follow the blog know that Jasmine was our little pony whose journey is largely unknown--having been picked up from auction and then passing through a few hands to mine.  All of us tried to connect with her, but she remained aloof. 

A couple  years ago I realized she had Cushings, but it didn't seem to affect her too much.  It was about that time I kind of gave up "training" her and allowed her to have free roam of our property.  Looking back, that was the best decision I could have ever made...for her and me. 

The thing about Jasmine is that she had the sweetest spirit--she wouldn't harm a fly.  She had a heart for children.  But she just didn't enjoy grown-up people.  I will never know why, but I suspect a tumor.  Last winter when I was doing TTouch with her, it really did seem to give her relief--from what?  My guess is that there was something going on in there physically.

Last spring, just a month or so after these pictures were taken from the sunroom--I'd often see her in the backyard from the sunroom windows which was a real pleasure for me--Jasmine started to go downhill a bit--eating less and drinking more and more and  more.  Still though, she was roaming around quite happily--always a feisty little pony.

But a few days ago there was a drastic turn.  She went off food and water and completely lost her sight.  I moved her into a stall and tried to feed her by hand and help her navigate, but it only got worse. 

Today we put her down...ourselves.  I haltered her, petted her, and fed her grain from my hands, and we did it--my husband and I.  It was immediate and it was completely peaceful.  She wasn't stressed at all.

We'd never done anything like it before--neither one of us--(he was the one who actualy did).  We'd studied and concluded that for some situations and some horses, it would be the absolute best thing--humane and respectful, we just didn't know if we actually could.  We're not hunters, so it's not something we do or are used to doing.  To the end there was the temptation to pass it off to the vet, but Jasmine isn't like other horses--she doesn't trust other people...she trusts us. 

Our belief with our animals is always make decisions about quality of life and be there to the end for them.  Hold them.  Talk to them.  Feed them.  And let the last thing they know here on earth be that they are loved.   She knew that today, and that gives me some peace.

I don't want to sound corny, but I guess I am--so here goes.  I believe we'll meet on the other side.  She won't be afflicted by whatever was afflicting her.  She will no longer be scared and stand-offish.  I will no longer be the ignorant human I am today.  We will just be two spirits, at peace and able to enjoy each other.  I look forward to that. 

Goodbye, sweet little Jasmine.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The King of Comebacks

When my farrier was out today we were talking about the miracle that is Cowboy--he called him "The Comeback King".  He survived being orphaned, breaking his foot, and a serious case of Head Shaking Syndrome.  Always, when I was about ready to give up, some miracle would come along and save him, and here he is today. 
I took profile pictures this morning in hopes of practicing and coming up with some that are good to blow up, frame, and hang in our Living Room.  I largely stopped taking pictures and photographing the horses a while back--something in me just did not want to chronicle the journey.  I'd consciously think that I should be taking photographs of rides, but I just did not want to, and I wouldn't.  I wish I had, because I missed some wonderful photos of the grandkids riding this summer. 
I guess I needed to live it and enjoy it and not analyze it for a while.
But now I'm thinking again.
And I think I need to get my butt in gear with Beautiful and Cia.  My rider/trainer was supposed to come out at the beginning of September and help me put some more time on them, but he was too busy and won't be out until April. 

So, that leaves it up to me and, frankly, I've been lazy.
End of story.
If you see me writing again on the blog, it means I'm going to address the elephant in the room, my young ones.  If you don't see me writing, I'm probably still avoiding it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Choose Love

A few months ago I shared on this blog about my sister's and my internet radio show, Real Sisters Talk.  After that, I probably seemed to have fallen off the face of the earth. The time it takes to prepare for those shows, and the running of a family and ranch, didn't leave me extra time to write.  Still, there have been horseback rides, hikes, family reunions, and high school football games.  There have been minor (in the larger scheme of things), but expensive, challenges, like our broken well.  There have been tragedies: friends with illnesses, friends losing their dear horses (Goodbye, Sweet Tonka) and everything else that makes a life. 

Sometimes, a month feels like a year.

Through it all, there's not a day goes by that I don't feel blessed by the living beings around me: my husband, my kids, my extended family, grand kids, horses, dogs, cats, goats, and my true friends--some of which I've met through this blog.

I made the right choice.  I chose to love.

The last show my sister and I did was an interview with Ray Boltz who was, and hopefully still is, a powerful voice of love, faith and hope in the Christian community.  I owned all of his CD's and saw him in concert in the 90's.  There were a couple of his songs that changed my life, for "personal to the person" reasons, as I so ineptly said on the show. 

Through the years, I lost touch with Ray's journey as my own took me further and further into an isolated, but ever more full life of loving the people and animals closest to me, and not worrying about the rest.  The show brought him back into my sphere and it brought to the forefront an issue I have not wanted to think much about--the difficulty and challenges for those who come out--especially Christians who do so.

I didn't want to think about it because I'm not gay, nor is anyone close to me, to my knowledge.  I'm a Libertarian and believe adults should be able to do whatever they want--but that's about as far as my thinking took me. 

As I prepared for the interview, though, and after I spoke to Ray, my heart was opened up to the challenges he, and people in the same situation as him, have faced.  And, to the pain of the families who are involved.  I'm now following his ex-wife, Carol's, blog--My Heart Goes Out.  What an amazing woman.  Their journey has been a difficult one (to say the least).  Ray has been largely hated and ostracized and Carol has had to continue life without her partner.

Ray's way through it was to stay close to his family and continue to write his music--songs that pretty much tell the whole tale of his life.  One of his new songs from that, I Will Choose to Love, has changed me as much as any of his old ones.  There's so much I don't understand in life because all I really know is what I've experienced.

When I was much, much younger, I thought I knew the answers--time has taught me, I do not.  Life is very complicated.  All I know now is to recognize a good spirit when I feel it and that so much more can be accomplished through love than through hate.  I sure hope that after we pass out of this world into the other we'll find out all the answers--for now, I want to err on the side of love.

This was our interview, and here is a link to his new song--I Will Choose to Love. 

"I will choose to care
When I see a soul in need.
I will treat each life
With respect and dignity.
I will not be selfish
When it's time to share.
I will choose to care.

I will choose to hear
The voices of the frail and weak,
Open up my ears
To the whispered words they speak.
I will not stop listening
Till those are clear.
I will choose to  hear.

I will choose to hope
Even on the darkest day
Knowing I will see
Guided by the light of faith.
Joy comes in the morning
And it brings the strength to cope.
So, I will choose to hope."

Ray Boltz, I Will Choose to Love

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Good News, Sad News, and a Little Fun

Saw this today on Facebook and had a laugh.  So true!  Of course, it's part of a larger series of movies: The Bird Who Flew Up From Nowhere, The Wind That Blew Too Hard, The Metal Drum that Popped, and The Corner of the Arena where the Boogie-Man Hides.

And speaking of Facebook, we have a contest going on now at Real Sisters Talk for a $25.00 iTunes Gift Certificate.  If you "Like" or "Share" the page, you're entered. If you do both, you're entered twice.  I asked my sister, who books all the shows, if she could work on my "dream list" of horse trainers.  First on my list was the one and only....Buck Brannaman.  I also asked for Julie Goodnight, Chris Cox, Linda Tellington-Jones, and Mark Rashid.  I told her at the start GOOD LUCK getting any of them to come on, especially Brannaman, but give it a shot!  If any of you have any pull....please pull them our way.  I want to dedicate part (or all) of November to horse trainers.

Music month has been fun--lots of GREAT bands.  And there was another thrown in that wasn't music related, The Bitter Waiter, but we were just so lucky he wanted to be on, we took him while we could.  He's hilarious.  If you want a good laugh or have ever worked in the food service industry (as I did) you should check out his blog.  The Bitter Waiter Dot Com.

I finally got ahold of my local riding/trainer to help me put some time on the fillies--Cia and Beautiful.  He can't fit me in until September, but that actually works perfect.  It gives me more time to work with them tying and saddling.  The great thing about him is he comes to our place.  He's very patient and just "rides" them out.

In other horse and animal news:

1. Cowgirl's feet are on the mend and she's walking much better without Bute.  She's still confined to the stall.

2. Shadow, our alpha male, cut his eye open and has been confined to fly mask and stall.  It's healed up quickly, but the eye is a very, very hard place to you can imagine.

3.  Cowboy is hitting the trail with me tomorrow.  He's doing well.

4.  We got all of our baled hay put away this week.

5.  My favorite cat died--the one who came out of the wheat fields on the first day we moved into our first horse property.  The men who were putting up the pasture fence named her "Killer" because she would kill things all day in front of them.  The little girls at our house, seeing "Killer", decided to catch her, take her inside and dress her in doll clothes.  From then forward, she was named Mary Jane, or MJ.

MJ loved our dogs and would sleep on their backs every day.  It was probably her strength, but may have also been her downfall.

Saturday morning my husband came up and sat beside my bed as I slept and said, gently, I have bad news.  It was the sweetest way bad news has ever been delivered to me, and I'm thankful for his approach.  It was a hard loss for both of us. (It was the first cat he'd ever been attached to).  And what's worse, we don't really know how she died.  It wasn't a coyote because they would have taken her body, but she laid pretty peacefully in a spot where she often slept among the flowers. (She had bled out of her mouth and nose).

My husband and I had a little good-bye for her together and we buried her next to her daughter and our old dog (who she loved), Elsa, under what we call, Elsa's Rock.

That day I counted all the animals I've lost in my lifetime, and having been an animal lover, it was a lot.  I thought how nice it would be if we could opt out of death for those we love, but it's not part of the deal, is it?   We've just got to appreciate the time we have together while we have it...with the people we love, and with the animals who love us.  She was a great cat and we have lots and lots of awesome memories with her.

Here's to MJ, and every other noble being on earth.  You know them when you see them.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It's Looking Like An Abscess

Our farrier came out this morning at 8:00 am because we wanted to rule out the hooves before moving on to the next step.  When he put the hoof testers on the fronts,  he got sensitivity in both.  A little trimming exposed what also looked like a bruise on the front right toe...or a possible abscess. 

We cancelled the vet appointment for now and instead we're going to soak her feet in Epson salts, give her Bute and watch her for the next three days. Hopefully, whatever it is will reveal itself. 

Last night I gave her a very small dose of Banamine and she came back to about 100 percent soundness. 

As usual, we'll have to wait and see, but things are looking up. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


A couple months ago I  noticed that Cowgirl was a "little" off and I put her on stall rest.  Everyone around me thought I was nuts because they couldn't see it. They thought I was overreacting.  After a couple of weeks, she did look better, even to me, and when the farrier came, he couldn't find anything wrong.

Then, about three weeks ago, I noticed she was lame again and put her back in the stall.  Again, she didn't look lame to anyone else.  We had the trip to Washington DC planned, and since it's my daughter's horse, I asked her to observe and make a decision.  She reported back that she didn't detect any lameness.

Let me backtrack. 

When I spotted the lameness, I did an all-over body check for heat, swelling, abrasion, tenderness--anything that would pinpoint the problem.  I found nothing.

When I got back from DC, I asked my daughter to come out to the barn with me.  I wanted to test each hoof and then have her take her through the different gaits so I could observe from a distance.  She didn't want to let me pick up her hooves--especially her front left.  She also had a hard time taking up the lope on her left lead.  We suspected some tissue injury in the left shoulder and put her away to rest again.

This week, however, things started to get worse.  It began to look like the problem was in her right hind (which made sense--left front to right hind) because she was acting like she didn't want to use her back legs.  She was walking goofy.

And, actually, now I should switch to the present tense because she is acting the same way today.  In fact, today she is acting like she is disengaged form her hind legs.  She can stand fine and eats fine...doesn't seem like she's in any pain, but when it comes to walking, her movements are uncoordinated. 

I put a call into my farrier last night and he'll be here tomorrow at 8, and I'm going to arrange an appointment with my vet directly following it.  I want to first rule out any hoof problems and then go from there. 

However, I'm starting to highly suspect EPM.  Makes me sick to think it, but all signs are starting to point that way.

List of symptoms as they progressed:

1. Slightly off, almost undetectable. (2.5 months ago)
2. Return to soundness
3. Slightly off, almost undetectable again.
4. Unwillingness to pick up hooves for cleaning. (3 weeks ago)
5. Difficulty maintaining left lead.
6. Slow, uncoordinated walking. (3 days ago)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I Wouldn't Have Believed it! (Equine Head Shaking Cure)

Last year, about this time in the summer, was so heart-breaking for me when I realized how bad Cowboy suffered from Trigeminal Neuralgia--or Head Shaking Syndrome.  I didn't know what to do for him except keep him in a dark stall with a mask and wait for winter or a cure.  I didn't want to start throwing things at it until I knew what I was doing--mostly because everything I read about had some side effects. 

During winter I did take the T-Touch lessons privately here at my home, and they did a lot for getting Cowboy back solid on his four legs.  He rarely, if ever, stands with his previously fractured P3 out in front of him anymore.  It also helped to reduce his stress and give him a relaxed frame.  But when the sunny days of spring came, so did the head shaking.

If you've followed the blog recently, you know that the carbamazepine (2000 mg 2X a day for 2 weeks) worked for him and I was able to ride around the property here and begin to work on the other behavior related issues--pulling back and fear of being approached from the right side when tied.  All I can say is thank goodness for Blocker Ties---I LOVE THEM. 

But if you'd told me last year I'd be riding Cowboy on the trail again this year, I wouldn't have believed you...but I did. 

We took our time and kept it as relaxed as possible and it all went wonderfully well.  I even rode cliffside--something I hadn't intended to do, but after a couple of hours of him doing so well, I trusted the situation enough to do it.  I was lucky to have a great riding partner who understood the seriousness of his first ride going well.  She was more than happy to stop and let them relax in the shade (half falling asleep) a couple of times along our route.

It felt so good to be back out with him I was given a second chance.  Needless to say, I'm very happy.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

No Headshaking, No Bad Cinch Memories

Just a quick little update from my blogging break:

I've spent the summer adjusting Cowboy's dosages for the head shaking.  So far, in pasture, we've been able to completely end it--sunshine and all--and if I give it to him two hours before a ride (10 x 200 mg carbamezepine) no head shaking during riding.  I tried a lower dosage for a while (8 pills) and it didn't do the trick.

However, when I knew I'd taken care of the head shaking, I was left with some other problems that were residual from the head shaking last year.  One, was when he acted like he couldn't see me coming--like something was wrong with his eye--he'd pull back hard when tied.  Knowing this might happen again from a learned-behavioral perspective, I switched to a Blocker Tie, and oh my goodness, did that come in handy!  First day--pulled back--blocker tie gave--he stopped (I LOVE Blocker ties).  Also, last year under saddle he developed a weird fear of being fly sprayed before rides, but I couldn't work him through it due to the head shaking problem.  This year we spent a lot of time spraying and running in circles until he stopped and relaxed.  He'd really developed a phobia.  Odd, especially since I can approach him in the turnout (untied) and spray him all over.  It's only under saddle that he would be so fearful.  (Habits: easy to make, difficult to break!)

My other equine issue was Cia and her cinch sores.  They took a long time to fully heal, and at first she wouldn't let me anywhere near them with salve or brushes.  But after a while, I discovered they were itchy, and she absolutely loved for me to just stand there and itch on them.  She'd get that face like they get when you're scratching their withers and find their sweet spot.  I did it every day hoping to turn bad memories to good. 

When I went to saddle her I treated it as if it was the first time ever, introducing the blanket first, then the saddle, off and on, and much later actually cinching it up.  No problem.  So, I figured I might as well bridle and get on, which I did.  She was great.  She was actually much better in every area, probably because of the two weeks of training she did get. 

It's hot here--about 100--so not much else going on.  We're all trying to survive the heat.  Cowgirl has a mysterious lameness--it has been on and off all summer.  Today we're going to go out and try a few things to pinpoint where it's coming from. 

Happy Summer Trails!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Getting Ready for a Little Break

My updates on this blog have been few and far between since we started traveling so much for my husband's work.   I had really dreaded leaving our home and animals--I'd become much more of a hermit than I knew--but it opened up my life--and I think my spirit, too--in ways I couldn't have imagined.  I needed that.  I mean, I really needed that.

The Bed and Breakfast where we've been staying, No Cabbages in Gig Harbor, was the perfect place to be these last few months.  From there in the woods overlooking the water--no television, barely any internet, quiet--I could finally think, meditate and explore--like a child again.  It restored in me that child-like gift of wonder--to be a little afraid, amazed, curious, and light.  Light--like no baggage.

Not to sound too woo-woo-out-there, but I learned to like myself again.  Since my divorce, over ten years ago, and all the trauma of trying to make a new life while salvaging whatever I could from my old one--I had somehow started to see myself in a bad-light--almost like I deserved bad things to happen to me.  

Now I don't.

I'm happier than I've been in many, many years--and I'm thankful for that.  

So, I'll be taking a break while I take advantage of all this renewed energy and optimism and finish my creative projects around here.  This definitely will not be a forever break--just a little sabbatical while I enjoy the last bit of traveling, lots of alone time with my husband, and my precious moments at home with all my animals.  

As I sign off, I do want to give you an up-to-date account of the horses.  As of now, Cowboy has ceased to do the head-shaking.  I don't know if I can say the meds "cured" him, but there has definitely been a drastic change for the better.  I'll be riding him this month and test it out on the trail, but I think I can safely say he has quality of life now--and there is a lot to be said for quality of life when it comes to horses...and humans.

Cia has returned to the gentle-spirited, trusting horse she used to be, but her cinch area is chapped and tender and hasn't regrown hair.  It's still very uncomfortable for her to be touched or groomed there--let alone accept a cinch--which, of course, I haven't reintroduced to her.   She's very much still on the mend, but I have high hopes for a full recovery--in all areas--emotional and physical.

Beautiful has matured beyond my wildest dreams for her.  She used to be super reactive and fearful in the herd, but now she has risen to be one of its leaders.  I'm amazed beyond words at this transformation in her.  She seems to have made a decision not to rise to the #1 spot, but you can see it's a decision and it's not fear-based.  In fact, she eats from the leader's pile of food and eats before the alpha-mare, Cowgirl.  It's very strange, but has made for a much more intelligent Beautiful Girl.  I feel like she has fully grown up.

Shadow has been dieting for two months now, and is in the best physical shape he's been in for years!  This is wonderful news for my husband--since it's his trail horse.  Red is still old, but doing great and staying young at heart as he babysits Cowgirl, Beautiful and Cowboy in a separate pasture.

As I've been writing this post, a huge turkey ran through my yard, and it was not a wild one.  Someone is missing their Thanksgiving dinner and doesn't know it yet!

Well, I hope everyone has a great spring and summer with their horses and humans.  I will be writing over at my other blog--and sharing pictures--that is one of the creative explorations I'll be devoting myself to--gardening, writing and the study of Emily Dickinson--but this one will be quiet for a while.  I will, however, still stop in to your blogs to keep up with all your rides, training, and life-transitions!  

So keep writing and Happy Trails!! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cowboy and Cia Update

This is why I love this horse.  He followed me to the front of the house, front pasture where I needed to do some gardening....

and left his herd a mile away.  (picture from side of house looking to the back of the barn where his herd is grazing--you can't even see them they're so far away.)

You may have noticed my blog has been quiet since I started the meds.  That's because things were going so well I didn't want to jinx it by speaking too soon.  And, luckily, I didn't, because things did take a turn, but at least I can't blame it on bad luck.

First, I missed one of his dosages.  The next day he was head shaking again.  I started him right back up, but  there was some more of it today.  Milder than before, but enough for me to mask him again.  Is it that delicate a situation that I can never miss a dose?  Is his dose not high enough?  Does he just need a mask in conjunction with the meds?  (He isn't head shaking right now as he grazes in the front pasture.  I'm looking at him through the window from my desk as I write.)  More later.  I consider this an experiment, and after this whole regimen is completed I'll consult with my vet again and decide the next step.

As for Cia, we definitely took a few steps back.  She had always trusted me and came to me whenever I'd show up with a halter and lead.  Not so now.  She runs from me.  All week I've worked on catching and releasing her.  She is definitely catchable with a little effort, but I'm not used to having my horses "leave" me. She's telling me, "No, thank-you," and "I don't trust you anymore."

Of course, that makes me sad, but I'm not worried.  I know she'll come back around and be where she was with me.  She's already following me along the fence line again when I leave.  It was just a scary experience and she's having to re-acclimate to our ways.  She also doesn't want me to take her off or hurt her.  When she remembers that fly spray, grooming, and masking don't hurt, but help, she'll be on the road to remembering I only ask her to do safe things.  Today, however, she is going to get a little lunging and working on the lead.  More on that later...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Day One After Meds

Sunshine.  No mask.  No head shaking.

One point for us.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cowboy Starts His Meds, Cia Rests

Cowboy started his medicine regime today--carbamazepine twice per day--10 pills which we'll reduce to 6 pills when he shows improvement.  For now, the mask is coming of so we can tell if there actually is an improvement, but we'll also have to have some sunlight.  My veterinarian spoke to some other veterinarians who treat more of these cases and they said they've had remarkable results--even curing it completely--with carbamezepine.   We're going to start with that and then add in cyproheptadine with it--only if necessary.  At the highest dosage it costs about $25.00 for ten days.  The cyproheptadine is much more expensive, but my vet has found a way to bring the price down.

Cia is in her stall resting.  For some reason the other horses acted like they'd never seen her before and the mares were horrible to her last night.  She had a big bite mark on her hind end this morning.  I put her in her own stall today and made many trips back and forth to just be with her and soak her girth area in warm water.  I won't be putting her out with them for a long time.  I just want her to rest and get used to being home again.  I've started doing some of the TTouches to help her relax--mostly massaging around her neck and shoulders and face (as much as she'll allow).   I'm not going to rush her back into training, but when the opportunity is right, I do want to move quickly and keep her going.  I'll probably start with light ground work and go from there.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cia Is Home, But Will She Ever Be a Trail Horse?

Yes, you read the title correctly, Cia is home.  Training was cut short.  She flunked out of kindergarten.

It wasn't entirely her fault--because of her shedding, she got some cinch sores, and was probably experiencing pain.  She needs rest to heal up, so I decided to bring her back and do some other stuff.  

After two weeks she wasn't settling down and since she's being trained 2.5 hours away, it was difficult for me to assess why.   

One way of looking at it:  A lot was thrown at her.  As my sweet-never-failing-hard-working-willing-to-drive-six-hours-to-get-my-sweet-horse--husband and I were driving to pick her up today, we ran into a cattle drive right along the rode.  Yep, a full-fledged cattle drive--people on horseback, 4-wheelers, trucks--herding hundreds of a cattle down the road where we were driving. (These were Cia's new friends from the ranch where she stays) We had to stop and let all the calves and their mamas pass by us.

Maybe Cia is more of a city horse than a country horse and all those cows were just a little disconcerting.  Add to that a couple of stallions stalled near her, spring fever, and some of the rockiest, steepest terrain you've ever seen, and you can see why, maybe, she was a bit frazzled.

The question now is whether Cia will ever be a "trail horse". 

The negatives:  When she was scared, she was really scared.  She didn't care where she placed her feet.  She didn't care who was in front of her.  She was dangerous.

I have never seen any of this out of her, but then again, I've never pushed her outside of her comfort zone.  

Where do I go from here? 

I'm going to let her heal up, and I'm going to think about it.  I will probably attend some clinics with her and continue to ride her here at home.  I'll also trailer her with me whenever I go on outings so she can get used to leaving home and herd.  And, I'll wait to fully assess all of this until spring fever is over.

My gut instinct is that she's a better horse than that.  I've been riding her for three years and never seen any of this.  Maybe she's a sensitive horse who needs to be trained by her owner.   Maybe with enough exposure she can desensitize.

On the other hand, I know what all those signs mean, and I don't want to get hurt on a horse.  I want a horse who will be my partner out on the trail and not put me in danger when a herd of elk come crashing across our path.

So, one step at a time.  She'll have to prove herself to become a "trail horse."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Update On Cia

I got my first week progress report on Cia yesterday.  Unfortunately, she was pretty hyper and herd-bound to start off with.  I imagine that comes from never having been taken away from her home here.  Apparently, she also tried to go sideways when she was tired of going forward, something I've never had her do, but may have become an issue with harder work.  The good news is she's doing better this week.

None of this is very surprising.  The first two weeks of training where they're getting used to a new place and a new person often makes them nervous.  And with this being her first time ever away from home, it's probably just magnified.

I wanted to go down and see her Monday, but opted not to because the price of gas ($70 round trip), but I'm definitely going to go down next week.  Hopefully she'll be more settled and have a good, solid work week under her belt.

She still has a long way to go.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Red Scare

I thought we might lose Old Red on Easter.

Last night he laid down in the sun and didn't get up.  When I went out to check on him he did jump up, but laid down again.

We took him to a stall and gave him water and food.  He ate and drank, but since he's so old, I didn't know if he'd survive the night.

This morning....

He is risen.

He's out in the sunshine, eating and bossing Beautiful around.  (She deserves it.  She was taking advantage of him last night when he was in the dumps.)

Lucky us, we still have Old Red!  Don't know what was bothering him last night, but I guess it could have been anything.  We'll keep watching.

It would NOT have been a happy Easter without him and we need our happiness today.  We have a lot planned--lots of family coming over and a huge Easter egg hunt for the kids AND adults!

Happy Easter, everyone!

PS. Ordered a 70 percent block out mask from Cashel--ears, eyes and nose coverage--tried it out on Cowboy in the sunshine yesterday--no head shaking--stayed on.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Funny Looking Mask

This seems to help a little, but I can't wait until his meds come in.  The sun came out and so did the head-shaking.  He seemed to do well all morning with his mask on, but the mask came off and he started the head bobbing and nose scratching.  I put the mask back on, but it hasn't gone away.  I'm watching him now.  If it doesn't go away soon, I'll put him back in his stall.  He gets 100 percent relief in there.

This is a funny looking mask, isn't it?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Getting Cia to the Trainer

What a great day!  It started with my pathological fears and ended with none of my pathological fears being realized!

9:00--Going to get Cia loaded--falsely assuming she's done that recently and it will be easy.  (In fact, she hasn't been loaded without a buddy in four years.)  She loads right in, but looks nervous.  I back her out and try to load her again to show her it's okay, but she balks.  I begin to wonder if that was a big mistake and will make me late for my 11:30 Estimated Time of Arrival.  However, the god of horses is watching over me, and Cia decides to trust me once again and reload.  I shut the divider and exit as quickly as I can, hoping her good brain and calm personality will win out.

9:15--Fifteen minutes into the drive, I begin wondering if she's broken her neck or legs.  Has she hit her head?  Is there blood back there?  Is she still alive?

9:20--I get a phone call from my sister (on bluetooth) and tell her ALL of the horror stories I've heard about trailering green horses.  Effectively, I transfer worry to her mind and calm my own.

11:27--I pull up at the ranch passing hundreds of cows who are lounging in the pasture.  

11:30--I jump out of the truck to inspect Cia.  She's in one piece (not a scratch) and looking with wide-doe-eyes at the beautiful stallion in the roundpen.

11:35--I walk her to her stall and she immediately begins to eat as if she's lived there her whole life.

11:35-1:30--Iget to relax and hang out with my friends over lunch.

1:30--We head back to the ranch to see the horses and Cia is still calm and happy.

My trainer, who is also a good friend, was showing me her husband's newest horse after we'd gotten back from lunch.  It was a beautiful, large-boned, muscular gray mare.  She told me how once it had been starved, completely emaciated and covered in lice.  It had been rescued by a woman (she gave me the name) and...more of the story.  My mind had stopped at the name of the woman.  It was my brother's fiance's name.  We compared notes trying to figure out if we were talking about the same person, and sure enough we were.

After calling my future SIL, sure enough, it had been her horse!  What a story.  She and her sister had rescued 11 horses from utter filth and deprivation.  What had happened to those horses was nothing short of HORROR.  What a happy ending for that mare.  And such a small world.

Anyway, despite my many fears, it was a wonderful day with no mishaps.

Oh yeah, I forgot...

2:30: I call my sister from the truck (bluetooth). She has anxiously been waiting to hear if Cia has broken her neck or legs and died in transit.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Boy and #@##!! Head Shaking Syndrome

For the first time since last July 2011, I'm starting to have hope again that I may, in fact, still have my horse Cowboy as a trail riding partner.

The very knowledgeable and astute Kate, from A Year With Horses, first threw out the term Head Shaking Syndrome after reading a list of symptoms I'd posted.  I'd never heard of it.  At first I didn't even take it seriously.  All I could think was that an ill-behaved horse also throws its head around.  Was I dealing with misbehavior....or a real thing?

In fact, it was a real condition--and nothing to take lightly.  After seeing Cowboy thrashing at his own face one day, I was struck to the core about how serious an issue it really was and, I was soon to find, impossible to cure.

(A very disturbing video of Cowboy at his worst.)

This blog became a real depressing place to hang out as I alternated between false hope and despair.  I almost lost all interest in horses--something I see now as part of the process of letting go of Cowboy--depressing my emotions for him, but also depressing them for the others.  I had to let go, but not say good-bye and, in many ways, it was worse than him dying.

I'm glad I did (let go of him) because even now things are uncertain and it was time to move forward with my other horses--no matter the outcome.  And, I'm doing that--Cia is off to training tomorrow and I have a new plan of action with Beautiful's saddle-training which I'll talk about in an upcoming post.  Hint: It has to do with a Julie Goodnight technique.)

Two months ago I started a wonderful new treatment with Cowboy--TTouch--which I've talked about ad nauseum since then.  He had reached a point of frustration.  His broken-but-healed-front coffin bone-displaced-into-the-coffin-joint was showing minor signs of arthritis (last spring's x-ray) and he was often standing with that foot placed out in front of him.  Also, when his symptoms were at their worst and he was still being tied up, saddled and ridden (due to my ignorance falsely assuming it was largely behavioral), he worked himself up, for good reason, and became a more high-strung, reactive horse.

TTouch helped me bring him back down and work from his calm, non-reactive mind and it did wonders for his body.  Since we started I haven't seen him stand with his foot out once--not one time.  (Fingers crossed).  Today we had a horrible wind/rain/snow storm and all the horses were batty, but I haltered Cowboy with his TTouch nylon halter (light touch) and he walked out of the stall as docile as a kitten and let me do all  my crazy TTouch work--shoulder, face, mouth, ears, tail, legs--without a bleep.  He was Mr. Cool.

Yet, on the two sunny days we've had this spring, I saw him tossing his head again out in pasture.  It was that vertical jerking that we all now know as Head Shaking Syndrome.  For that reason, he is now stalled most of the day and on sunny days will wear his Guardian Mask with the big goggly eyes which block out 90 percent of the sun's rays.  Makes me think Cowboys and Aliens!  (picture coming soon.)  TTouch did not cure his HSS, but I do think it treated many of the symptoms--elevated fear, tight muscles, and overall pain.

By now you're probably wondering why I started this post so optimistically.  Well, the answer is because my veterinarian did some research and found that carbemazepine (anti-seizure meds) in conjunction with cyproheptidine (anti-histimine) have reduced symptoms in 88 percent of head shakers by 80-100 percent.  It's not a cure, but sure has shown some promise for helping them live better lives.  My husband says that the carbemazepine is also used in humans and can cause drowsiness, which may be why my veterinarian says it should be administered 6 hours before a ride.

This is going to be extremely time-consuming.  The meds have to be administered 3x per day during the spring, summer and fall, which is quite a time commitment and there is no guarantee how long it will work, if it works at all, since horses and humans can develop a tolerance.  Still, it's given me something to hope for.   Now it's just a matter of waiting for the meds to arrive and getting him on the program and wearing his space alien mask.

And though I have high hopes, I'm moving way ahead with my other horse's training.  It really is a new matter what happens.

***My blog posts were few and far between after Cowboy showed his severe symptoms.  I was just reading over them and realized I hadn't even responded to many of your extremely kind comments back then.  Thank you so much for stopping by to cheer me up even if I was completely checked out mentally and emotionally.  Here and here.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Heading to the Trainer

Four years ago I had a string of bad luck with horses.  My main horse, Cowboy, broke his front foot--badly--and was misdiagnosed for 3 months, and his twin, his actual blood nephew, who I'd raised from a weanling and saddle-trained at two years, died of colic.

At that time, we didn't know if Cowboy would ever be ride-able again.  I didn't own Beautiful Girl either.  Effectively, I was without a horse.

Until I saw this ad (picture below): a two year old paint filly from Quincy Dan lines (my first horse was a Quincy Dan horse and I loved him--super smart and gentle--practically trained himself--and Cia has turned out to be EVERY bit as smart and sweet).

Though all four of her feet grew irregularly and she'd been trimmed so poorly she couldn't lope a circle without falling (poor thing), I fell in love with her absolute gentleness of spirit and brought her home.

Here's one of her grandfathers--Quincy Sun Dun.

And another, Cajun Indio.

Her former owner took these next pictures.

And here's me with her right after I got her.

And the next summer.

Now it's her turn to step up to the plate. She needs to be worked out on the trail and she's the most ready to go. In four days I'm trailering her down to my trainer who I've always loved and trusted with my horses. They come back from her with a work ethic. When I lived nearer her I would send ALL my horses to "the ranch" for a couple days every March/April. She'd take turns riding them to find and gather cows at her parent's place and I'd get them back ready and willing for anything. We called it their spring tune-up. Cia will be ridden up and down hills, over rocks, gathering cows, basically, doing jobs.

The other thing I used my trainer for was test-riding any potential horse I wanted to buy. She could tell you everything about any horse after an hour with it. She was better than any vet--better than anyone. You knew what you were getting into. Since I lived here when I bought Cia, which is two hours away from my trainer, she didn't get the inspection, which makes me nervous now. I WILL find out everything about my sweet horse after the first couple of days she's there. I sure hope she passes muster, but I'll be holding my breath.

I separated Cia from the others two weeks ago so it would be less stressful when she's taken away. I had our vet out a few days ago to finish up her immunizations and give her the okay and I had my farrier make her a new set of shoes--her first ever.

It's quite an experience the first time your horse gets hot-shod. I wish I'd taken pictures. The smoke that comes up when they're measuring the hot metal against the hoof really scares them, but eventually they find they're okay and settle down. It doesn't hurt them in any way shape or form, it's just unnatural having smoke coming up from underneath you. I'm usually not a shoe fan and the riding I do rarely requires them, but there is no way she'd survive this training without them. Usually my trainer keeps them unshod for the first week and then has them shod when she starts the hard work, but my farrier will be too far away, so I had her done beforehand.

I've signed up for the Charlie Hansen clinic when she gets back in May. He's a rancher/trainer and his clinic is strictly trail riding and training and cow work. It's all about using your horse for a job. What a perfect follow-up that will be to her training--both for me and her.

I was going to give an update on Cowboy and Beautiful, but I'm too tired to continue writing, so I'll take a break for now and write about them later. There's a lot to say.

If you haven't, please take the time to watch a little webisode from a fellow blogger and writer. It's very entertaining and, I think you'll find, eye-opening about the potential for marketing a book or an idea. Joanne has been a real inspiration to me and others. I reviewed her book in my last post. It was wonderful, but again, just watch the little webisode and it will speak for itself.