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.)