Friday, November 15, 2013

Nice...But Naughty

After almost two weeks off due to an increase in my part time work and a nasty sinus infection, I returned to riding Elvis yesterday.  Not sure how my six-year old gelding would handle so much time off I was curious to see what kind of temperament I'd get when I got on. My motto being "know what you have before you get on" told me as I saddled up that I had the same disposition as when I rode every day.  Good!

I must note that this is my first 'young' horse.  I'd always preferred older, been-there-done-that horses, thinking the younger ones were all balls of fire.  However, I've found my young horse to be refreshing.  His young age gives him a clean slate.  He's had minimal negative experiences; i.e., baggage that my older horses have brought along with them.  This youngster is still learning about "life" and I feel it's my job to do my best to keep his experiences positive so we keep the baggage at a minimum.

With all signs pointing to "go", Elvis and I headed to the indoor arena.  I know myself - if I don't ride for long periods of time my confidence level drops like a hard freeze.  As we walked I overwrote my worries by telling myself I have never had a bad ride on Elvis and that I had done a good job of knowing what I was about to ride.  I reminded myself how great I feel when I'm up on him and with that I tightened the cinch one last time and hopped on.

Elvis stood quietly, waiting for my cue.  In the past he has started walking off while I was getting on. I've been making him stand quietly for few moments after I get on, reminding him to not move off until I give the command.  On this day I took my time, settling in the saddle and getting comfortable. Then with the pressure of my lower legs I asked him to walk off.

....Nothing.  We still stood quietly.  I gave him the cue again to move forward.

....Nothing.  I do have spurs on my boots; however, I try to not use them as a first request.  I now engaged my spurs, small rubs on his sides, and behold - ever so slowly, we walked off.

We were pointed towards the other end of the arena to get out of the way of a lesson being held on the end where I'd gotten on.  At our destination were various riders exercising their horses. We would join in and do the same.

Now I know that the Western Pleasure walk is slow but at the speed we were going I could have gotten to a different State quicker.  I cued Elvis to pick up the speed a bit and get out of the lesson zone - first with my legs and then with my spurs.

...Nothing.  I cued again, this time with spurs and got a tiny bit of additional speed.  We might make it to the other end of the arena before nightfall.

We entered into the crowded group and walked a couple of circles and then as others started to jog/trot, I also asked for the jog.  Bet you can guess the response...yup, nothing.

With my feet paddling against his sides (tipping the front of my foot down to engage my spurs on his side) I finally got the slightest jog, almost a walk.  We gently jogged around - but I had to keep paddling with my feet or else we broke back into the slowest walk in history.

This lack of response was making us a target amongst our fellow riders, who had to get around us as we stalled out.  We'd never had such a slog of a ride and with a sinking heart I knew that Elvis was running this ride and totally ignoring his leader.

Elvis was being so nice that he was being naughty.  I needed to address this issue, to remind him that I was the leader and when I said trot, lope, etc., I meant it.  This called for a "come to dinner meeting" and I knew that might incur some rodeo activities for dessert.  In the crowded arena full or riders there was no space for me to have this "discussion".

Instead of allowing him to dictate any further, I decided to end the ride until I could address the issue (I expect to arise again). It was good timing on my part as a bunch of riders came in for a group jumping lesson.  My fellow riders were also calling it a day vs being in the way of the jumpers.

Walking back to the barn Elvis was his nice, sweet self.  It entered my mind that if this is what I get when I let my horse sit that this is ok.  I like that Elvis appears to be one of those horses you can pull out of the pasture and hop right on - sure, it may take you days to get to your destination but at least he isn't a ball of raging fire or argumentative.  He's just so nice that he's naughty.

Elvis and I have a date for a "come to dinner meeting" next time this happens.  And I'm betting that will be at my upcoming lesson.  Fine with me.  I'd prefer it to be in the presence of my Frainer so that I use the right tools and actions to get "my point across" should I need to use them in the future, which I'm thinking I will.

Nice...but naughty.  We'll fix that to Nice!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I don't even know how to start this Post....I've always had a hard time writing about Elvis because...well...

How many people GIVE a horse they've invested in heavily, one that's healthy, well trained, kind hearted, registered, not to mention gorgeous to somebody else?  This just doesn't happen - but it happened to me.

Before Elvis arrived on that cold day in mid-February the owners and I had written up a contract.  I would agree to care and love him as much as they did.

 I did that.

I would allow Elvis the opportunity to run free in the fields and "be a horse"...

Elvis had always lived in a barn but I brought him home and helped him adapt to "being a horse". Elvis had never been in a field with other horses, he didn't know how the herd stuff worked.  I helped find his way, how to socialize and get along with the other horses (without being injured).  Elvis got to run free and "be a horse".

I have ridden, cared and loved Elvis as if he was mine.  And although my family and friends told me he WAS mine, there was still a piece missing that held my heart at bay.  What if his owners changed their minds and wanted him back?  I felt a need to protect myself so I denied that he was mine.

This past week Elvis's owner and I met at the barn where Elvis is staying through the winter. We revisited our agreements, the one's noted above and the one that says if I should ever decide I no longer want Elvis, he returns to them (like I would do that?)

And when the "meeting" ended, I had the missing piece that opened the doors of wonder, amazement and a huge feeling of being humble (plus many tears of joy).  This incredible, sweet, talented horse was now truly mine...


Sunday, November 10, 2013

One Year Later...

One year ago I ago I brought home a friend for Bob.  Listed on Craigslist for $800, the add said the gelding was in his "early 20's, "broke, broke, broke", and a great trail horse.  Hmmm, I thought - this might be a good addition to our family.  I called the owner and was surprised to find she was located only a few miles from our place.  She mentioned he needed a "few groceries" but was ready to ride.

I hopped in my car and went to take a look.

I was shocked.  This is what I found...

The owner had neglected to mention the infected bites on his side and along his spine, oozing pus.  Or that this $800 horse was so malnourished that his eyes were dull and glazed over.  She told me the horse had belonged to her x-boyfriend, they'd broken up and she'd been "stuck" with "his horse".  She had told me she'd turned the poor thing out with her mare and stallion and "guessed" the other two horses had beaten him up.

My heart broke at the beautiful palomino, once such a proud and glorious horse.  I just couldn't leave him.  I offered her $100 and 30 minutes later he was safe at our place.  He had literally jumped into my trailer.

His old name did not come home with us.  On the way back with the trailer to pick him up I'd changed it to Prince because he had been a Pauper and now was a Prince.  Bob and Prince quickly became friends.  We focused on healing Prince's wounds and helping him gain weight for the cold winter, just around the corner.

Prince spent all of his time eating and with such gusto that it brought smiles our faces.

Prince last January waiting for the shoer.  New skin covered the open wounds on his back and spine.

Prince in April.

Diagnosed with Cushings, my Niece came out and helped get some of that heavy hair off of him as the weather got warmer.

The vet said whoever had owned Prince in the past had not done him any favors regarding his teeth. Prince only had only a few teeth left.  We started him on Orchard pellets and Senior Feed, which we now refer to as "Slop".  Prince thought this was a pretty nifty idea...

Prince in July, all that is left of the open sores are areas of white hair.

A happy and content horse in August.  Always stands quietly tied.

I had wanted to ride Prince but was content to let him have ample time to recover from his past life. In early October the shoer came to replace Prince's front shoes.  We were both surprised to find Prince having a hard time staying upright whenever either of his front feet were picked up.  He seemed healthy and happy, as long as one didn't pick up one of his front feet.  The Vet was coming in a few weeks to give shots.  I'd bring the concern up with her.

Prince waiting for the Vet a few weeks ago, almost to the same day a year ago that I brought him home.  He filled out pretty good, don't you think?

I explained what had happened when the shoer had tried to replace Prince's front shoes and voiced my concern about it being a dangerous situation for both our shoer and Prince should he collapse. The Vet checked Prince out and told me his knees are deteriorating due to his age.  I had noticed - he didn't lie down very often and now suspect it's because he's having issues getting back up.  The Vet estimates his age to be mid-30's (I hadn't asked for a confirmation of his age on prior visits...guess it just didn't matter at that time).

The issue with shoeing is a big one.  Both the Vet and shoer say that going barefoot will be painful for Prince based on the poor condition his feet were in when I got him.  We will do what we can for him but based on his age and deterioration of joints, we have made the gut wrenching decision that we will need to take action regarding his future sooner than later.

It's what you do as a responsible horse don't let them suffer.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Glorious "Slop"

Warning, the pictures I'm about to Post below may be disturbing to some.

It was a gorgeous fall Saturday morning at the cabin.  C and I were just getting up.  J was coming up this AM to join us after he fed the horses.

I had just stepped out of the shower when I heard my phone pinging with text messages...multiple text messages.   Hmmmm...

Wrapping a towel around me I went into the kitchen to see what was up.  Our cabin has a tin roof and we are at the foot of a mountain.  As a result we don't get good phone reception inside.  The best place to get reception is in the (very back) of our back yard.

I found multiple text messages and phone calls had arrived - all from J.  I could tell he was frantic - "Call ASAP, Bob has been injured". 

The last text message included a picture.

So there I am in a bath towel and no phone reception without stepping out into the back yard...where my neighbor was next door raking leaves.

Throwing on some clothes, I grabbed a pen/note pad and headed to my car, which has built in Bluetooth. I drove a distance to get good phone reception and dialed my husband.  He told me he'd come out to feed the horses and found them at the far end of our 3-acre pasture.  They had come running when he called.  Bob had arrived in the above condition.  J had tried to compress the cut and temporarily stopped the bleeding.  I asked him to text me another picture.

I had sure hoped it was a cut that would heal on its own but this second picture told me the Vet was going to need to get involved.  I placed the call and texted the above pictures.  Luckily she had just finished an emergency call near our house and was able to head straight over.  I called J and told him to hang tight.

It was hard to not pack up and dash home but I knew by the time I arrived all would be dealt with and I knew J had it under control.  So I returned to the cabin and waited.  About an hour later I got this picture:

Poor Bob!  The cut was about 3/4" deep and had severed some blood vessels.  They had to sedate him to stitch him up.

I knew we were in for a rough ride - Bob has never been a good patient.  We were left with the typical antibiotic horse pills, 13 pills to be given twice a day for ten days.  The Vet had left J with directions how to orally inject the dissolved pills into Bob's mouth along with Bute paste twice a day.

Ugh....I can barely worm this horse.  J called Saturday night to report he had more meds on him than in Bob.  That and the fact that Bob's halter sits right on his stitches had me up and on my way home the next morning to assist.

Sunday had both of us covered with meds and a very unhappy Bob.  I decided to make one last try to medicate him before calling the Vet for injections, which after my Adequan experience with Bob last year wouldn't be much of a success either.

Peeb who has lost most of his teeth receives orchard pellets and senior feed in a broth each day. We refer to this meal as "Slop" which is exactly what it sounds like while Peeb gobbles it up.

While Peeb enjoys his meal Bob (who is overweight) goes without and patiently stands tied watching his buddy enjoying his "special" meal.

On this day I made up two sets of Slop, adding meds and molasses to Bob's bucket.  After Peeb had received his "slop", I brought Bob's to him, making a big deal over how good it looked.

Success!  Bob put his head down to eat and never raised it once until his bucket was licked clean. The sounds of both horses "slopping" up their feed had both J and I grinning.  They sounded just like pigs. And that's how it was until Bob finished his meds.

Last Friday the Vet returned to remove Bob's stitches.   Bob will have another scar to add to those already on the left side his face from before I purchased him.  But on the bright side - we've figured out a way to medicate Bob should it be needed in the future.

Glorious "Slop"!