Sunday, November 24, 2019

Horse Miracles: The X Factor

miraculous: highly improbable and extraordinary and bringing very welcome consequences.

(Penny doing her thing, training the young ones, 2018)

In my post about Penny last week, I wondered if I'd be able to look back from the future and consider her recovery another miracle.  And here I am, doing just that.

I came so close to having her put down based upon these facts:

1. Low probability of survival through the first few days.

2. Lack of improvement after IV and plasma infusions.

3. Her general demeanor.  She appeared to be on the verge of death.

4. High probability of secondary factors, even if they could get her through the antibiotics: adhesions, laminitis, diarrhea, colic. 

5. Cost. We were at just under $3,000 in the first couple of days. (I know it's not ideal, but cost is always a factor in these decisions. I told the vet where I wanted to be, and she thanked me for being so clear. She said it is what they prefer.)

6. Age. Penny is at least 24-27 years old. But the vet said she would have the same low odds, no matter the age.

7. Lack of definitive primary diagnosis. Despite all the tests and the ultrasound, they could only speculate on what the primary cause was. They knew the colon had been damaged and leaked, causing a bacteria infection, inflammation, and peritonitis, but whether it was a temporary thing, like a sharp object or stick--or a long-term issue, like cancer--they weren't sure.  

However, walking her out of confinement, into the sunshine, seeing that little spark of life in her eyes--something else entered the equation, the


What is the X Factor?  The X Factor is what I have found over and over again in keeping a large herd of horses.  It's the thing you can't quantify or test.  I would say, it's the will to live. 

It is why we canceled euthanizing Cowboy after he broke P3, which had bone displacement into the coffin joint, and had been misdiagnosed as an abscess for the 3 months. We let him be free the moments before his scheduled departure and, to our shock, he ran from one end of the pasture to the next, bucking and kicking and loving life.  It was obvious he wanted to live, but it was a choice HE HAD TO MAKE FOR US because of the time, and confinement, his recovery was going to take.

There is nothing scientific about my belief; it's all based on personal observation: the power of the herd, the home, rest, time, and the innate, deeply coded, equine survival instinct.  I see it as a spark of life still there--dim, but resolute.  It's what I saw in Penny when I altered course about euthanasia. 

Sometimes, we're asking a lot of them--the cure--the road back to health--can be long and very, very hard.  For example, there is no way we could have injected Penny with one more dose of antibiotic.  Her poor body was just so tired and broken by that point. In fact, there's not a day that went by that I didn't have doubts about my decision not to euthanize.  But I felt she was telling me that she wanted the chance.

As I watched her charge out of her stall into the sunshine today--with lots of healthy, well-formed, and plentiful manure left behind for me to clean--I thought, no matter how this goes down the line, it is certain that TODAY, I did, indeed, get that miracle I wondered about.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

I Know What Horsemanship Should Feel Like

I know what horsemanship should feel like..for me.  I know all my blog friends are the same way.  We know, and we continue to grow into it, our horses, and ourselves.

I used to hate riding bareback, now I love it...with Cowboy. Everything in its own time and season.  Will I want to ride bareback on Tumbleweed? Probably not...for a long while.

I savor this phase of life--knowing to trust myself and my horses and not being pressured into doing things I don't want to do.

I want to be happy.  I want my horses to be happy.

I don't have anything to prove to anyone...except myself.  And what I want to prove to myself is that I'm a horsewoman who listens...

It can be a lonely world when you go your own way, but the type of people you will attract are those who will make your life better.

And in the end, when the noise quiets down, when all the friends are gone, and you're alone, reflecting on past joy--

all that will matter--

all you'll truly remember...

is how you made your horse feel.

So, how does horsemanship feel? Horsemanship should feel...horsemanship WILL feel like what you know in your gut your horses felt.

(Photos taken by my husband, who feels horsemanship the exact same way.)

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Best Friend Bareback Pad Review

(Loping ahead of the ride, trying out the new Best Friend pad.)

As all of you know, I love to ride bareback.  Up until now, I've ridden bareback sans pad because I didn't yet know which one to buy that would meet my needs:

#1 The closest contact possible--ie. a thin sheet with a cinch and a little padding at the withers to protect the private parts in a fast stop.

#2 Something with storage possibilities for the trail.

#3 A pad that won't slip up and down hills & that keeps the rider's seat in place, too.

(Tacking up for the ride.)

When I was a kid, and the adults would only let us ride alone if we rode bareback, I felt very sorry for myself, and I thought the adults were jerks.  One day, out riding in the desert, my friends took off running back to the barn and my horse, not wanting to be left behind, followed them full-on Kentucky Derby run away. My flimsy pad "slid off", and I ended up on the ground, walking home alone. It made me hate bareback riding, and when I was finally old enough to have my own horses and saddles, I felt like I had hit payola.  No more falling off. I had a horn to hold onto and stirrups to balance myself with--yeehaw!

But a few years back, in winter, I was very cold, and putting a saddle on my horses for a short ride just seemed silly.  So, I didn't.  I went bareback and started to love it. Not only was it super warm, but I could feel the muscles in their backs--which gave me extra information and better communication.  I could feel the tensing up, the release, and the heart beating super fast (fear) or slow and steady (relaxed).  And I started to use that information to get past some big road blocks with Leah.

I'm a better rider than I was as an 11 year old.  I have better trained horses who know me, rather than my friend's super spoiled ones. A better, more balanced, seat means the pad doesn't slip.  I always blamed the pad, but in reality, I think I must have slipped off the horse and made the pad shift.

I've done a lot of research on bareback since then, and read the pros and cons, but I feel comfortable riding my horses bareback for short rides here and there.  My horses seem to love it.  There is definitely a feeling of oneness when riding bareback.  Not only can you feel their every breath, but you're also a bit more vulnerable.  You can't just ignore them and become a passive passenger.  You really have to be thinking about them and actively riding with them.  You must always pay attention to where you're placing your weight--if you don't, you get instant feedback.

I've ridden sans pad now for years, but getting off my horses and having dirty, sweaty butts of my jeans wasn't working too well.  I needed to find a pad that imitated riding with nothing.


I want to introduce you the pad I purchased after reading many, many reviews and talking to many different equestrians who already own one--The Best Friend Bareback Pad.

(My friend is trying it out here on Cowboy.  She ordered one yesterday.)

And here is a video of the first look.

My thoughts:

The #1 thing I wanted out of this pad was for it to be thin enough that I could feel the heat from my horse, the heartbeat, and the movement of the muscles.  As I said before, I would be happy with something as thin as a sheet for that part.  This isn't as thin as a sheet, and it probably can't ever be, if you want to keep the sweat from saturating your pants.  We did a two hour ride in 50 degree weather and the seat of my pants was a little damp--so there is some sweat through--not much though.  It definitely kept my pants clean.  Bottom line: I could feel his heat, his  heartbeat, and his muscle movements very well.

The wither padding is excellent, and if you're a bareback rider, you will appreciate that. It also has a suede type top that keeps you from sliding around. It comes with an adjustable cinch with rollers--which I love. It has pockets and D rings so you can take what you need on the trail. I didn't experience any slippage, and we went up and down pretty steep hills and trotted and loped.

I could have ridden in it much longer than two hours.  I felt great when I was done.  Cowboy seemed to love it, too.  It probably gave him a little protection from my seat.  He  moved so freely and had such energy.  He even gave a little buck of happiness when we first started loping in the arena.  (It was Day 3 of his Equioxx treatment, and he was like his old, younger self.)

I like it so much that I just purchased a second to have when guests want to ride bareback with me.  I bought the blue version.

Here are some more photos from Amazon.

Note: I am not being paid for this review, and I did not receive this product from the company, I paid cold, hard cash! However, if the company reads this and wants to send me another one...I would be very appreciative! (just kidding. not kidding.)

Monday, October 14, 2019

Autumn Snow, Hay, Pumpkins, and Trail Rides

What a year! We had snow in September and early October...

which hasn't happened in September for almost a hundred years.

Then it disappeared and Autumn returned: pumpkins, yellow and orange leaves, crisp sunshiney days.

We have a tradition of going to the pumpkin patch together--and we continue it, but in a more adult fashion--stopping for beer, wine, and hard cider.

The vet came for Cowboy.

She gave him the RX for Equioxx, but she wants me to give it to him in spurts with sections of rest in between to allow his body time to cleanse itself.  I'll definitely give it the night before and after a ride.  But, overall, she thinks he's doing pretty well and not in need of a daily dose yet.

We got our hay.

Fourteen round bales and about 10 tons of small square bales that, unfortunately, we've been going through way too fast already.  I can't find normal square bales anymore.  Instead, I'm seeing hay sold in rounds and squares.  I purchased 3 rounds at $95 per round.

3 rounds is about 1650 pounds, so you can see it's an expensive proposition.  I was paying $200/ton delivered and stacked. Rounds work out to a bit more, and we had to pick it up in my horse trailer.

The traditional "round" bales are about 750 pounds and run $45 a bale.  Our supplier puts away 42 for us.

Well, heading back out on the trail with some friends and my Cowboy!  And my sweetie and I are getting ready for that super romantic Maine and Boston trip I was telling you about earlier!  I'll share that adventure when we get back!  Happy Autumn!

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Spirit is Willing, But the Flesh is Weak

What to do when our older heart horses are slowing down. It's a dilemma.

On the one hand, we know if they don't use it, they'll lose it. So, I had my farrier put shoes on Cowboy this year so that I could work to keep him going.  The year started out great.  His engine was revved up and, it appeared, with the help of Cosequin ASU and a little Bute before a ride, he was as good as new.

But mid-way through summer, the umph went out of him.  I began to wonder how much time I had left.  I blogged about it.  I was given a suggestion to introduce Exioxx, an anti-inflammatory you can give safely every day.

I did some research and filed that suggestion away.

Fast forward to last Tuesday: I went on a bareback ride with Cowboy at the state park, and he did pretty well.  The next day, I had a ride scheduled at Palisades Park--more steepness--water crossing--but a park Cowboy has rode a million times, and one that he is quite comfortable leading through.  (Which I needed because the other two horses didn't have the experience there.) 

From the start of the ride, he didn't seem like he was tracking right with his hips. I had  my friends look at him from behind, and they couldn't see it, but I could feel it here and there. I'm used to a little of that, especially when a ride starts out and they're not paying attention, but this felt different.  As we rode, it got better, and I started thinking he just needed to warm up, but when I hit some steep descents, you could see it.  I got off and walked him down those.

Looking back, I attribute that to some residual soreness from the day before.

So, my third ride, yesterday--I opted to leave him back and take Leah.

That ride was pretty flat--and in retrospect, I should have given Cowboy Wednesday off to recuperate and have taken him on this Thursday ride.

But in any case, I didn't.  I took Leah--who also has a tough time tracking with her hind end at times.  Oddly enough, she has problems in the exact same hip that Cowboy does, even though she's only 14.  (She will probably also benefit from Equioxx.)  Off the point just a bit here, but I think it's common for horses to have issues in their back right hips, if they're going to have hip problems at all.  I've seen many who do--for whatever reason.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand, this is tough because Cowboy still has a heart for the trail--and he needs to keep moving.  His spirit has the strength of a ten year old in his prime.  His body, not so much.

I have been at a crossroad for some time now, so I scheduled an appointment for this Thursday with the veterinarian to assess him for Equioxx.

If I have to be honest, the Cosequin doesn't seem to be doing anything for him anymore, and it's more expensive--or at least, equally expensive, as the RX. (CosASU = 80 days for $150) I can get a 180 day supply of Equioxx from Allivet for $213-$223.   It works out to $1.18 per day.  I would also need to have him evaluated by my vet every 12 months.

Will it drastically change his situation?  I hope so.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could get another few years out on the trail with Cowboy?  Live the dream, just a little more?

Wish us luck.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Precious Day by Day of an Older Equine Companion and Heart Horse

It seems that since we drove to get our new puppy, my life has been a blur.  First, it was the puppy--just getting her settled.  Then, it was back to back family vacations and family coming to stay.  I fit in a couple of rides through it all, and that one lesson with Tumbleweed, but I really had to set all that aside.

But now, we're home, and we don't have another trip planned until October, when I will finally return to the place I have sworn to return to since I was 16.  I'm 52 now, so that's a lot of years wanting something and not doing it.  Every January 1st, I'm reminded when we pull out little slips of paper from our family box of resolutions and someone reads:

Return to Maine.

And, I have to admit that, no, I did not do it.  Yet again, I DID NOT return to Maine.

You'd think it was the moon or Mars, rather than a state within our own country.

We have our plane tickets and all of our reservations made.  It appears, if all goes well, I will finally touch ground in the place I loved so dearly.

For horses this year, there is a definite theme, and it is Cowboy, my heart horse. I feel like he's at the end of his life in many ways, and my time is running out.  Even today, I saw him from the window holding his previously broken front foot out, and I ran to put him up and give him another dose of Cosequin. The more he moves, the better he does, but I'm losing ground.

I had shoes put on him this spring, and I'm taking him out on every ride.  If it gets too steep, or a log too high, I hop off and walk him.  We're both fighting for his life at this point, thirteen years post fracture and displacement into the coffin joint.  But the arthritis around the area where the bone enters the joint, it gets worse and worse so that every year is a blessing.  I've known, and lived with that knowledge, for a long time.

It's all about quality of life now. I want him to enjoy himself--my older equine partner--and to trust me.  As I said above, I don't hesitate to hop off his back and let him navigate down a hill or over a log without having to carry my weight, too.  I explain this to my friends when they see me swinging to the ground. I don't care if I have to walk the whole way, but he does need to keep moving.

I value every second we're together.  I tell him that, too, and give him lots of huge hugs.  Hey Cowboy, we're together today!  hug hug hug. I can't stop hugging him.  I know there will be a time, soon, when I can't.

Ride after ride.

I feel bad that I'm not riding Leah, but given what I feel in my heart--what I see happening with Cowboy--I don't even feel like there's a choice.  It's all about riding him NOW.  Enjoying every minute NOW.

I don't want to have any regrets when the time comes. I want to know in my heart that I spent as much time as I could with the horse who has been my companion and comfort and strength and healing. I absolutely cannot stand the thought of losing him.

Yet, in the wings, there is Tumbleweed--brought here to take over what will be a huge, gaping hole in my life.  (Not to put any pressure on him or anything.)

Here he is heading back out to pasture yesterday, before my ride.  He had come to the gate and whinnied at Cowboy, loaded in the trailer.  (They're big buddies nowadays)  I jumped out of the truck to snap a photo as he was heading back out.

I love that Cowboy is able to overlap and be a part of his life, and that I will always know Cowboy is in him.  Not biologically, of course, but in the environmental effects--the nurturing part.

Tumbleweed is growing fast.  He is very smart, and he is very well loved by the entire herd.

Like everything, I enjoy each and every day, and I take them one at a time.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Tumbleweed, Turning One

May 16th at 3:00 am, Tumbleweed, aka Midnight Tumbleweed, will turn one.

Mr. Tumbleweed is a product of Shirley's heart- horse, "Beamer" (Isle Be Midnight) and "Rosalee" (Solano N Jac).

He comes from a long line of athletic horses: Mr. San Peppy, Isle Breeze, Dolls Union Jac, and Solanos Peppy San--his great-grandfathers.  Also pictured below is his grandfather, Doll Docsan.

He was born on May 16th at 3:00 am, and "tumbled" into Shirley's arms. You can read about that day here.  And this is what the little angel looked like.

I had been planning on breeding one of our mares, but backed out at the last minute.  Shirley let me know that she did not plan to keep Tumbleweed, and that he would be available to me.

Within a week, I was up in Canada.  It was my first time meeting Shirley face to face, even though I'd followed her blog for many years.  And, of course, it was my first time meeting Tumbleweed.

It was love at first sight.

He was a mama's boy, that's for sure!  (Rosalee was a good mom.)

As the summer went by, I made several trips to see Tumbleweed and Shirley, and got to participate in his training. (Just a little--Shirley did everything!)

But mostly, it was his summer to be a baby with his mom and herd. (Following photos are Shirley's)

Back at home, I had work to do to get him across from Canada to the U.S.--it required a recorded wire transfer of payment so that I could prove to the border agents he'd been paid for.

Soon enough, the day had come, and I was in Canada picking up Rosalee and Tumbleweed to bring  here.

 Loading up. (He still loads great!)
 At the border.

It was a nail-biting trip (for me), but Rosalee and Tumbleweed were actually very calm.  It helped tremendously that we were hauling them together.

They settled right in.

Rosalee was here for only a week, and then her new owner wanted to pick her up early because of the holiday. Tumbleweed was completely weaned and on solid food, but we needed a surrogate mare to socialize him.

Foxy came to our rescue. She's been a mother before, and when she was first introduced to him, that was that--

she was IN LOVE.

It was like they were a real mama and baby.  Still, to this day, even though I've separated them, they are deeply bonded and tuned into one another.  (In two weeks, once the sperm is supposed to be all gone, they'll be back together.)

However, back in October, tragedy had struck, and Tumbleweed came down with what we think was a virus.

I was up with him day and night, rain & wind, but as he got weaker, I grew more and more concerned and really felt like I was going to lose him.  Rather than relying on the sporadic vet visits, I wanted him in the hospital on IV fluid and 24/7 care.

I was alone here during the first week of his illness. My husband and I had a trip planned for the day he got sick, so I stayed back and he had gone on by himself to visit our kids and grandkids.

His time in the hospital gave me a well-needed opportunity to catch up on my sleep.

I believe that IV fluid is what turned him around.  His recovery took three weeks, so if we hadn't given him that boost on day 3 &4, I don't think he'd have had the strength to make it. (I highly recommend IV fluids for EVERYTHING--colic, virus--anything that looks bad.)

But he very much DID make it and was stronger and more beautiful and ornery than ever!

In fact, he was so ornery to Foxy (who would let him do anything to her) that we had to introduce him to the gelding herd and give her a break.  

He fit right in.

He was finally gelded a week and half ago, on May 3rd, and it was extremely easy.  He healed up immediately, and his studdy behavior was gone just as quick.  They told me it may take a month, but it did not.  He has settled right down.  He has even become Cowboy's herd leader.  He acts like he's one going on twenty.  When I go to get him from pasture each evening, he always stands and waits to be haltered, and walks back like a gentleman.

And, our adventures have begun--trailering to the state park, ponying, standing tied, everything half-grown horses are expected to do.

To say this has been an exciting year with Tumbleweed would be an understatement. I feel so blessed to have this boy in my life.  Everywhere I take him, people oooh and awww--and ask, "What are you going to do with him?" 

What am I going to do with him?  Well, for now, I'm going to have fun with him and get him ready for whatever we decide to do in the future.  I'll be ponying him on the trails, loading him to new places, grooming him and working on his manners, working obstacles--yep, we'll be having some fun this year!

Happy Birthday, Tumbleweed!!  And, thank you, Shirley, for raising this special boy!