Sunday, March 28, 2021

Teat Training Our Grumpy Maiden Mare, Cowgirl

(the mamas)

Oh, the things you discover on this horse journey. Who would have thought we'd be "teat training" our pregnant mare? 

It all started a couple of days ago while I was doing Masterson Method bodywork with Cowgirl. When I'd touch anywhere near her teats, she'd pin her ears, kick out, and grunt. And that wasn't even touching them. 

She's my daughter's horse, so I told her about it yesterday, and she was concerned. Apparently, that area can be sore when it starts to expand, and some mares will even reject their foals from nursing. Scary.

Shiloh decided to start a teat training program. I hold her. Shiloh gets close to the sensitive area, rubs, waits for relaxation, and then releases and treats. 

We had our first session yesterday. As you can see, I'm just the helper now.

All you experts out there, uh hum, Shirley, will have to share your experiences with this.

In other training news, Tumbleweed got to help with a lesson yesterday. My trainer says he's so much better when another horse is around. Not surprised.  

I'm going to go see him April 9th. 

And last, we have a windstorm approaching.  In two hours they predict gusts as high as 70 mph.  Say a prayer for us.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Of Babies & Broken Bodies

It has been a busy season: grandbaby on the way, horse grandbaby on the way, trips, projects, and some unexpected hospitalizations. 

The human and horse grandbabies coinciding has been a wondrous thing to watch.

11 weeks.

257 days.

Cowgirl has been really sweet. She started to look uncomfortable the other day, and I got worried she might deliver the foal too early. She wasn't really pacing so much as standing up against the wall moving back and forth on her back legs and her abdomen looked like it was moving oddly. I suppose it could have been the foal turning around.  Since I've never done this, I don't know. But it stopped and she went back to normal. 

She has a hearty appetite, regular, healthy manure, and lots of energy.

It seems like this is taking forever!

My human grandbaby is progressing very well, as you can see in the ultrasound. My daughter and I have spent a lot of time together walking.  Activity, and lots of water, have helped her get through the early phases of pregnancy without much morning sickness.   And you know how I love to get steps in!  Win win!

Since we returned from Florida, a lot has happened. My oldest son broke his back in a snowboarding accident. He wasn't doing anything unusual, but the board got out from under him and he did a "spinal tap." That's where you fall hard on your butt.  I was an avid snowboarder for many years, and that's just part and parcel to boarding. Nothing unusual. But it was bad luck for him that day, because it caused a compression fracture and he was hospitalized for 2 nights.

Have any of you been to the hospital through Covid? If so, you know how strict they are. It was the first day they were allowing visitors again, but you could only have one a day.  If that person left, they weren't supposed to come back in again. I mean, I did come back in again, because I didn't know, and they weren't good at monitoring, but you weren't supposed to. It makes it hard to support your loved one or really have any idea what is going on.

My son's roommate was coughing and in a lot of pain. A lot.  I asked one of the nurses if they had a separate unit for Covid patients, and she said yes, but Covid patients were on that floor, too--the orthopedic floor my son was on. What?!? Can you imagine having a fractured back and then contracting Covid? I was pretty shocked. I wasn't suspecting that his roommate had Covid, but maybe I should have suspected. 

The Florida pelican says, "Maintain Social Distance."

Speaking of Covid, I guess I didn't get it on my travels to Florida. If you were watching the news, you'd think everyone was running around spitting on each other. I didn't see any revelers or any of the irresponsible people they were showing in those segments.  My experience was 100% different. Everyone I was around was very cautious and respectful. 

Another Florida bird. Speaking of which, the birds are returning here, too!  Lots and lots of bird sounds in the morning.

Tumbleweed continues to improve at training. I get a lot of pictures like this one.

I'd like to get down there to see him this week.  I have purposely stayed away during the transition. No need to confuse him while he's acclimating to his new routine.  The last two weeks have been brush up, and I hope he will soon move on to riding out.  When I go down, I'll take lessons. 

No doubt, the transition to a new facility was hard. There were at least three stallions there, and he is lodging between two mares about his age.  It was hard for him to tune that out and listen to his trainer.  I think he will be home in time to attend a de-spooking clinic. It might be a great opportunity to work on this issue. I'll be looking for lots of opportunities to expose him to new situations and horses. And I will have to work on my skills at keeping his attention. 

Leah still has some swelling in the fetlock, but not much. She moves out normally, but I still only give her moderate turnout, then watch for any signs of heat or swelling to make sure she's not overdoing it. She's more happy than I've seen her a long, long time.

Beautiful Girl, too. She has been in a stall, but it communicates with the herd, and she has really thrived. She has become super, super mellow and gentle. I groom her everyday. Away from the direct contact with the other horses, she has become much less reactive. Much more tuned into me. She shares a separated run with Leah, and they spend a lot of time together over the barrier.  She can also see Cowgirl, and that seems to make her happy, too. 

I had the farrier put shoes on Leah, and I do plan to start riding her soon.  Cowboy also got shoes, because I think he would benefit from light rides as well.  And they've opened up our riding facility at the state park early, due to the beautiful weather. I may be riding solo a lot this year, because my daughter isn't riding through her pregnancy. But that might be a good thing since my horses are all on various levels of rehabilitative care and / or conditioning.

I hope the hospital visits have come to an end for now, and that everything reverts to "normal" as bodies heal, babies grow, and horses recuperate.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Tumbleweed Training Update & a Trip to Florida

(Photos are from his trainer, Sarah, at 31 Performance Horse Training)

It has been a busy week since I wrote last! I safely delivered Mr. T to his training. Yay! Then, the very next morning, I was on the 6 AM plane to Florida for a vacation in the Keys, and we arrived back yesterday afternoon. Whew!

First, Tumbleweed.

The night before hauling, I made an executive decision to bring Foxy along as a babysitter. She was happy as a clam to jump in and go with little Mr T. (Not so happy on the drive back, though. It was 5 hours in the trailer with a 2 hour break in between where she stood outside and ate and slept.)  

Tumbleweed did awesome the whole way, and unloaded like a champ. I put him in his stall and run, wedged between two 3 year old fillies in training, and he just stood there in the middle of his run surveying it all very calmly. While we were there, the owner fed him, and I was able to watch him walk into the stall area and start eating. All good.

I didn't hear anything for a couple of days--no news is good news, right?--but then the first email came about him not watching what he was doing, too interested in the other horses, and stepped on his own feet. He scraped his leg and tore off part of his new shoe.  His trainer removed it and called the farrier out to put it on again.

Luckily, he didn't go lame from that experience, and the next day, yesterday, I got an update that he was doing much better and really paying attention to his feet now.

Yesterday was the one week point of his training, so I'm not surprised that he is finally settling in. She said that he wasn't nearly as upset as he was last year, so that is an improvement. I told her my thinking, that it is too difficult to separate him from the herd here at the house, and the only way to really get it done is to take him to her each spring--which I plan to do each year until he's fully mature. She agreed that it is a good plan for him, and each year he will get better and better at the separation.

The way I have looked at Tumbleweed all along is that he has to be developed into a horse that can go anywhere and do anything. I'm in my 50's, and if we're super lucky, he might live into his 30's--putting me in my 80's.  A lot can happen in that much time, and I want him to be able to go anywhere and make a place for himself in this world. He has beauty, but he will also need the ability to adapt. I may be riding him into my 80's, and with him to his last breath, but I'm taking out an "insurance policy" of sorts, just in case.

I don't miss him this time, but I do plan to go down a lot and take lessons with him and my trainer so that I can follow up when he gets home. I don't have any trips planned once he's done, so that is good! And, I have the whole summer and fall to continue his work.

Not missing him is an interesting change in our relationship.  It means I am seeing him less as "my baby," and more like a working horse. I imagine that change will continue, and our relationship will  morph into something more like Cowboy and I have--less mama / baby and more partner and trusting companion.


Thoughts on Florida. 

First, we have not been offered a vaccine yet. Our state has been slow with the rollout, which is not surprising. So, traveling was a bit risky, I guess, but the airplanes haven't been major sources of spread since they have filtered air and everyone masks up. The attendants don't mess around either!  They constantly patrol the aisles telling people to get those masks above their noses. If you don't comply, you're placed on their no fly list.

Once there, the risk of Covid is almost nil. We eat at home in a VRBO, and we socially distance when outside. We're not shoppers, so any shopping is equivalent to what we do here at home. And one thing I can say for Floridians, they take their masks seriously. There were people wearing masks outside (probably unnecessary) and everyone wears them in when inside. The only exception was restaurants, where you wear them to your table and then take them off. But it's so nice in Florida, almost everyone eats outside anyway.

After being in Sedona last month, seeing businesses open wasn't shocking. In fact, we are opening to the fabled "Phase 3" on March 22nd, here in Washington. (Phase 3 means businesses can have 50% occupancy.) Compared to Florida and Arizona--and even our neighbor, Idaho--that is small time, but it's huge to our area businesses.

The big hotels, however, are another thing entirely, and it scares me for our big, beautiful hotels here in Spokane. We stayed at a large hotel on both ends of our Florida trip, and it was practically empty. Without conventions and business travel, they don't have much to offer. The destination spots--busy. All else--struggling.

The server on our last night was a young lady who was very upset at having being called back into work. She was yelling at all the customers, including us. When my husband asked her about the beer list, she said, "Mango." 

He asked if there were any others, and she took off her mask and started yelling at us--(obviously, she was not afraid about getting, or giving, Covid)--

"No, one beer, sir! Do you think I like this? Do you think I don't know how ridiculous to say only one beer? I make my money off selling beer and wine! Do you think I like saying we only have one? They shouldn't open until 100%! They tell me work Wednesday and Sunday, and it will be busy, and I get this! Not busy!" And she went on and on like that until she could yell at another customer--some poor guy who asked her for a menu. We were quite scared of her by the time we left, and not entirely sure she didn't spit into our food and drinks. (An interesting side note, we had eaten dinner there on our first night, too, and they had a whole list of beer and wine.)

The reality is this: many workers are making more on unemployment and stimulus than they can going back to work. Our server spelled it all out for us. But if they refuse to go back to work, they lose their benefits. So, businesses will have a real problem opening back up, and I'm not sure how they're going to do it.  I do know this, as consumers, we should all prepare for scenes like the one we experienced. Quality of service is going down, down, down....demand is going up, up, up. And there is the dilemma.

All said, Florida was very warm and sunny, and it was a fun adventure. But I am happy to be back home. I love the Northwest, and I am just not cut out for hot and humid, or dense populations of people. We have one more trip to go see kids and grandkids, and then we are home for the foreseeable future! Yay! 

Home sweet home.  

I love home!! 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

A Heart As Light As a Feather


As I was walking last week, a virtual hike through the land of the pyramids, the guide told us a story about how the Egyptian pharaoh's hearts were weighed in the afterlife. If they were lighter (or as light) than a feather, they proceeded, but if they were heavier, they were devoured.

The ancient Egyptians believed that the heart recorded all of the good and bad deeds of a person’s life, and was needed for judgment in the afterlife. After a person died, the heart was weighed against the feather of Maat (goddess of truth and justice). The scales were watched by Anubis (the jackal-headed god of embalming) and the results recorded by Thoth (the ibis-headed god of writing). If a person had led a decent life, the heart balanced with the feather and the person was rendered worthy to live forever in paradise with Osiris. (Carnegie Museum of Natural History)

A heart as light as a feather. Hmmm, interesting concept.

Last night, I watched the 41 minute documentary, A Mind Like Still Water. You can rent it on Amazon. After it was done playing, Amazon suggested another movie for me, based upon a book also by Mark Rashid, Out of the Wild.  The two shows together were an interesting juxtaposition, and shed light on one another. 

In the movie, Out of the Wild, the main character has a heavy heart. He carries around guilt for a tragedy that occurred earlier in his life. The female main character is watching him struggle to get a horse to interact with him, and she says, "You have a bad heart."  In fact, she says it a few times, which made me wonder if she was saying he was about to have a heart attack. But no, she meant "bad", as in heavy or burdened.  He was actually a good man, with a hurting heart.

A Mind Like Still Water.  A heart as light as a feather.


These concepts are not easy, especially for anyone who spends a lot of time in their own head.


Oh, to have a mind like still water OR a heart as light as a feather. 

But how?


We worry a lot about "training" our horses and ourselves. Just think of all the books we've read, clinics we've attended, and movies we've watched.  

But what do we do to try and make our hearts lighter before we interact with our horses?

Our horses have enough to worry about in their own lives--getting enough food to survive the cold, enough shelter to survive heat, reading the body language of their herd mates so as not to get kicked or killed, everyday aches and pains, and trying to understand what their human handlers want.

Why would we bring our burdens anywhere near them? They deserve better. 

They deserve lightness, and stillness, and a partner who is grounded in the present moment.


I'm reminded of another book, CS Lewis', The Screwtape Letters.

The humans live in time but (God) destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which (God) has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. 

So, in some ways, our horses are playing the role of God by teaching us to live in the present. That's a gift, isn't it? If the present is the point at which time touches eternity, our horses really are a slice of heaven on earth. Our time with them is like eternal time.


I have some ideas about how to become grounded and present before touching my horses. This journey toward lightness, however, is unique to each of us.
When they say our horses are mirrors, I think that's true, but they are also the weighers of our life's scales. 

On one side of the scale is a feather.  

On the other side, our hearts. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Another Change in the Horsemanship Season of Life

I've been thinking a lot about what this year will look like for me and trail riding, and it is a bit bleak. I have an older herd, who are mostly retired, and a lameness issue.  It reminds me of the years where Cowboy had his Headshaking Syndrome--he still does--but we didn't know how to treat it then.  There wasn't much saddle time that year either.

Tumbleweed will need a lot of attention, so it is probably a good thing that doors are closing as his is opening, but he's still very young. He turns 3 in May. That's really too young to put any long rides on him. I'll probably contain his rides to 30 minute training sessions at our nearby park.  It has an obstacle course and lots of flat, easy trails. I'll also take lessons with him throughout the summer, to help me, and build his and my confidence as a team.

It is possible that Leah will benefit from light rides and, in that case, I'll step them up. These last couple of weeks, I've been hand-walking, then cold hosing her, and she has improved a great deal, which means I'm on the right path. Her issues have always improved with exercise, and deteriorated during winter, just like Cowboy.  

I'm sensing a theme: all my horses need "light exercise." 

How convenient.  So do I.  And I've been rising to the occasion. The Fitbit step counter really motivates me to move more, and I've been averaging about 80,000+ steps per week. I feel like I need to be as fit as possible to keep up with Tumbleweed and the upcoming foal.

When I hear my friends talk about all their rides planned for this summer, it does make me a tiny bit melancholy, but only because I'll miss time with them.  I'll still have plenty of adventures with my herd.  In my opinion, a fulfilling life with horses is not galloping through green pastures all the time; it is exactly this, the caretaking. And I have a lot of that in my life!

I've been watching videos of horses giving birth.  OMG. OMG. OMG. Crazy! One hoof pops out, and the horse is still up and down, then part of the head and hoof, and the horse is still up and down, and finally the body starts to come out. I'm so glad I'm watching these videos because, otherwise, I'd be having a melt down and calling the vet. 

I will need to consult Shirley in the lead up to the birth!  She has done it so many times. I sure wish she lived right down the road and not over the border.

Well, time to head back out to the barn. What would my life be like if I didn't have these sweet, sweet horses to fill it up? 


Saturday, March 6, 2021

Tumbleweed Freed

As hauling / training day approaches (5 days away) I had an epiphany about Tweed: if he can't stay sound at turnout, he shouldn't go to training. In other words, it's better to know now if he's fit and ready, rather than after he's hauled 2.5 hours away. I gave him an adequate amount of time to rest, but he wasn't really resting; he was charging around, rolling, bucking, and tearing apart his stall and run. His leg wasn't swollen anymore, and the ground was reasonably dry.

It was time to see what he had.

Of course, he was full of it. He could barely contain himself to make it to the pasture on the lead rope. But he did, and I give him high marks for it.

Oh, the bucking and farting that took place when I told him he was free.

And then, like an arrow--straight to Foxy Mama! She still has his heart.

Look at the above photo.  You will see Beautiful moving in on Tweed and Foxy, because she takes it upon herself to always keep them apart.

So Tweed went to see his other fave, Little Joe--his Foxy Mama's boyfriend.

As he walked away, he gave BG the "screw you" "you're not the boss of me!" stink eye.

I digested that information and decided to stall Beautiful. She looks like little orphan Annie, and could use some TLC, and I trust Foxy more to keep Tweed safe.  Also, Beautiful and the pony are buddies, and the pony, Lily, is spring fat, so I've stalled her next door to BG for her spring diet. (My farrier will be happy.)

After I made that little change, life got better for Cowboy, too. The sweet ones allow him to eat whenever he wants, and he likes the hay in the round bales better than the square bales in the barn.

Tumbleweed was reunited with Foxy, and "it feels so good."

Beautiful Girl is going to get some mama time with me. And she seems happy about that. It's not easy always being the "bad cop."

I'm wrapping Leah's leg for a couple hours per day.

She's not usually camped out like the photo above. Apparently, it's her grain eating stance. She has a bodywork session today in 1 1/2 hours. I'm so happy for her practitioner that it's somewhat warmer than last time. It was so cold when she came last that I couldn't even stay in the barn with her. I had to come inside where it was warm. Today, I'll stay out and watch.

Here's a photo of Cowgirl's belly bump. She isn't showing as much as you'd think, but since she's a maiden mare, that's probably normal. The vet was out last week and was very happy with her progress. She said she's the perfect weight, even though this photo makes her look thin. She's not. But she's not fat either. She has 24/7 grass hay and Omolene 300 morning and night, mixed with Equine Senior and whole oats. Her baby must be burning the calories for her.

I made an inquiry about breeding Leah to Gunna Out Shinya. I asked if they provide live cover, and how that would work. I want to have a situation more like Cowgirl's breeding, where she's covered the entire time she's in heat. I haven't heard back yet. I know some breeders only want to do AI, and others only want a live cover the day of ovulation, but that just sounds too complicated. 

Lots happening around here, but I'm enjoying every minute of it! 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Updates on the Spring Health Problems


Cowboy, like Leah, loves to be alone. He has always been the omega in the herd, and is probably more confident and happy away from them. Here he is today, grazing.

With Equioxx, Masterson Method body work, daily grazing, hand walking, and sunshine, Cowboy seems more solid.  

Here he is yesterday, and you can see he is not standing as solid on his back as he was today.

Here is Shiloh bringing him back into the barn for me yesterday. Tumbleweed's nose is in the left hand of the photo. He hates to be left back in his stall.

I hand-walked Tumbleweed today, but he was getting too wound up, and I didn't want to aggravate his leg.  It looks better, but you never know, and better safe than sorry.  I'll increase his exercise slowly each day until I feel comfortable. In the meantime, I've given him his vaccinations and worming, and he has shoes being put on the day he leaves for training. I decided to have my farrier do it since he was scheduled to come that day anyway.

I also did bodywork on Leah, and she has had so much of it now with our practitioner, that she is an old pro. In fact, the practitioner is coming Saturday. But there's a lot I can do , and she loves it. 

She still has swelling in her fetlock, but no heat. The heat went away the day after she showed up lame. The swelling is going down slowly. Since it's the leg that has permanent swelling from her yearling injury--before I purchased her she got her leg stuck in a cattle grate, and is lucky to be alive--but the permanent scarring makes it difficult to know what is new swelling and what is just her normal leg. I'll have to pull out some old photos and compare. In any case, she is one happy camper in her stall getting bodywork and lots of attention. She's in her happy place.

The mud is slowly starting to dry up because we've had temperatures in the 60s. Such a beautiful, yet dangerous time. My friend's horse coliced--inflamed intestines. He had to go to WSU and have surgery, and he appears to be doing better. But another of her horses has a mysterious lameness, and she made an appointment for an evaluation this week, but they canceled it due to being overwhelmed with colic emergencies. 

I was thinking about spring--and all that comes with it--leg injuries, abscesses, vaccinations, Coggins tests, colics, births of foals and calves, and spring silliness issues (what am I forgetting)--I assume every vet is in full-on-emergency mode.

Everything is stable here, and looking up.  Salt blocks, meds, bodywork, constant vigils, exercise, stall rest, a little bubble wrap...and a whole bunch of prayers to get my herd through this spring transition.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

More Spring Scares

(Keeping constant vigil on Cowboy. He has taken to resting his hind end against his stall wall during the night. His birthday is coming up: March 7, 1995.)

I'm so happy spring has arrived--sunshine and temps in the 50's-60's--wow!! But with it, injuries have also arrived. Leah had swelling in her fetlock, possibly due to the mud everywhere. She's better now, but still on stall confinement. She is very, very happy in a stall, and it keeps her from overeating.

Unfortunately, a few days ago I noticed some swelling in Tumbleweed's back right.  It was almost imperceptible, and I doubted myself--thinking I was just starting to see leg injuries where they didn't exist. But upon closer inspection, there was a little heat and swelling going on.  He wasn't lame at all, and it went away quickly on its own. 

Still, that was a surprising development, since he had been on stall confinement for his spring safety. I saw the melt and mud, and what happened to Leah, and I didn't want anything to happen to him, so I moved him into the barn last week with turnout only in the arena where there's sand. Who knows how he did it. I'm doing everything I can to keep him in one healthy piece before training in 8 days. Pretty much, I've done everything except bubble-wrap him. Stay sound, Tumbleweed!!

And there was one more sad, spring development, or really, the progression of a recurring struggle with Cowboy's arthritic hips and front left foot: I found him down and unable to get up without my help.

It happened when he was turned out for a few hours during the day. I put him out at 1:00, left to run errands, then returned at 4:00--his dinnertime. (The first thing I do, whenever returning home, is walk strait to my back windows and look at the horses, especially when Cowboy is out for turnout.) I saw Cowboy lying down. (Weird, since it was feeding time, and he never sleeps when he knows I'll be out soon.) I watched for a few minutes and saw him lifting his head, then lying it back down. 

I changed boots quickly and ran outside, towards him. He heard me coming, and tried to lift himself, only to lay back down. When I got to him, he was lying in a somewhat slick spot, but really not that bad--and it was level. I got behind him and pushed on his hips and he jumped right up. By then, my husband had also arrived to help with the SOS, and we inspected, and then walked him out.

He wasn't limping, but he was stiff--which is to be expected.  He was hungry. (Nowadays, he is almost entirely eating Equine Senior.)  He had been on his "off days" for meds.  (My vet wanted me to rotate 7 days on, 7 days off, for as long as possible, to give his kidneys a rest.) I think we're at the point where there will be no "off days."

It was 2 days ago, and I'm still evaluating the situation. There have been no repeat episodes. My farrier always said, keep him moving. You've got to use it or lose it. And, winter has kept him from using it or moving it.  Spring arrived, and he started moving it a lot--perhaps, causing him to be sore.

Today, my plan is to lightly walk Cowboy and do bodywork. He will have turnout in the pasture.

For Tumbleweed, I plan to saddle and hand walk him, load into the trailer, and practice obstacles. I want him to stay calm and use his brain. In fact, I'm going to instruct my trainer to work on that above all else. I want a solid trail horse, so I want her to do everything associated with a working ranch horse.

On the positive side of this spring weather, we're getting in some beautiful hikes. Yesterday, my husband and I did an 8 mile hike along the river, and it was just gorgeous. (We were sore afterward, which gives me extra sympathy for how Cowboy is feeling now that he's moving again.) 

A homeschool group passed us and pointed out all the ladybugs along the trail. We had mistaken them for discoloration on the ground and trees, but there were hordes and hordes and hordes of them everywhere you looked.

The birds were back and chirping away. The geese had also returned, and were bathing, flapping their large wings, and honking.

Welcome back, sunshine!