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"!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dream Horse

In late August 2012 this picture appeared on my phone.  The text accompanying it said, "Are you still looking for a horse?"  I had told so many people that I was looking for a horse to join Bob who was living alone at home that I had no idea who was texting me.

I replied with a "Yes.  Who is this?"  Response was, "Your Vet".

That started a conversation that led my family and I on a road trip to meet Rock on Hunter (Elvis) and his family.  Elvis, a five year old registered Appaloosa, had grown up in a Western Pleasure show barn.  However, his rider had decided he'd like to pursue Dressage and Elvis was relocated to the beautiful facility where we met him.

Dressage and Elvis didn't along.  The young horse had been trained to be slow not forward.  Poor Elvis had become sore from being asked to go forward and he flat out wasn't happy.  The Vet had been called due to his being sore and had recommended either time off or another "job" for Elvis.  As a result his family was considering all the options for Elvis, including finding him a new home.

When I'd first spotted Elvis in the cross ties I had walked straight up to him and put my arms around his neck in a hug.  This isn't something I usually do when I first meet a horse and to this day I can't explain what prompted me to take such action.  While I hugged him I felt him sigh and relax.  I found myself immediately in love.

We discussed Elvis's future with his owner.  I could see how much they loved him.  I could also tell how unsure they were about us.  Initially the conversation with a bit cumbersome, feeling like an interview.  But after a short period the walls came down and we were speaking to each other as friends.

The conversation ended with them telling us they weren't sure what they were going to do with Elvis and would get back to us.  But the young Appaloosa had impacted this family; he was all we talked about on the way home.

A week passed and I received an email from Elvis's owner.  The decision had been made, Elvis would be given time off in hopes he'd be able to return to Dressage.  We were disappointed.  As the days, weeks and months passed Elvis's name still came up in conversation at home.

In November 2012 we brought a rescue horse into our lives.  Prince, beat up and starving joined us as a pasture pal for Bob.  Life moved on with a new focus of getting Prince back to good health.

But I still had no sound horse to ride and found myself missing my barn pals and the world I loved.  I recall looking out the bedroom window late one January night.  It was a cold, clear starry night. Suddenly a shooting star streaked across the crystal sky.  I made a wish that someday I'd have a horse like the one I'd met in September 2012.

A few weeks later I received an email from Elvis's owner.  Elvis was back to work but Dressage was not for him.  He needed a new job and family to love him.  Would we still be interested in adding him to our family?  Would we!  And a few days later we were on our way to pick up Elvis.

Early spring moved to summer and summer now to fall.  And as you can tell I don't post as much as I used to because I spend my time with my boy.  Time has allowed us to get to know each other, inside and out.  Both of us are happy campers, we've already bonded to that intuitive level where we both know what we're thinking.  What a joy!

If I was to sit down and make a list of everything I ever wanted in a horse it couldn't come any closer to what I've got in Elvis.  As I tell friends and admirers, Elvis is my dream come true (or maybe that shooting start come true)?  Either way, Elvis is my Dream Horse.

Friday, October 4, 2013

First Horse

After days and days of rain, the skies finally cleared this morning.  I looked outside to see Bob and Prince grazing with content in the warm sun.  I know that Elvis, who is now boarded for the winter at the barn, is currently turned out in his huge pasture.  I bet he's spread out on the ground in the sun and that the clean rain sheet I left him in yesterday will be (happily) covered in mud when I go up in a few hours to ride him.

It's early October, the time of year when, many years ago now, our lives changed significantly.

It all started this coming Saturday, sixteen years ago on a day just like the one pictured above.  A day warm with a last touch of summer and cool with a new touch of winter.  A friend who lives at the cabin had acquired a couple of horses.  I'd watched with envy that summer as he and friends passed our cabin on rides.

On that October Saturday years ago, he'd offered to let a friend and I take a ride on his horses.  We'd saddled up and gone way up into the mountains, riding logging roads of years gone by, now overgrown with brush.  I'd gone on trail rides before but on that day something was dramatically different.  The reds and yellows of the changing leaves and scent of damp ground jumped out and enticed me.   It was the most beautiful, glorious ride I'd ever had.

After we finished our ride I returned to the cabin to find my husband sitting on the couch reading a book.  That moment is still vivid in my mind.  I'd sat on the arm of the couch next to him and delivered the news that would change our lives.

My husband knew I was horse crazy when he'd married me.  He'd always given me space to join friends (who owned horses) on rides or to just hang out.  He'd tolerated our first stop as the horse barn each year we went to the county fair and he'd sweated and cheered with me at rodeos.

I think he thought all those things would keep my interest sated.  So when I sat on the arm of the couch that fall day and announced the time had come - I was going to buy a horse, he groaned and bluntly told me all the (reasonable) reasons why I could not/should not own a horse.

I told him I was forty and felt the clock ticking - I couldn't wait any longer.  I had just sold my used car after replacing it with a new one.  I had a big, whopping $500 for a horse and it was burning a hole in my pocket.  We debated, sometimes passionately (on my behalf), and the subject was dropped with a silence of two not agreeing.

By that following Wednesday I had a lead on a horse, owned by a friend of my sister.  An older horse, daughter was no longer interested and they didn't want much for her.  By Friday, on another sunny day such as above, my sister and I were on our way to "look" at the horse.

The mare was exactly the price I had in the pocket of my jeans.  I liked her - she was pretty.  Within minutes of seeing her I agreed to purchase her.  We would return the following morning to have the owners haul her to my sister's farm.

I returned home as my husband was leaving for his annual weekend deer hunt.  I told him I'd found a horse and I was going to buy her.  To say he didn't agree with my plan was an understatement.  His last words as he left for hunting were, "Don't you dare buy that horse."

But that's exactly what I did.  On a now windy and rainy day, Sunshine was delivered to my sister's barn the following day.  A neighbor came over to check her out. In retrospect I think the neighbor was concerned about exactly what I'd purchased, knowing I didn't know squat about buying a horse let alone owning one.

But he said nice things about her and offered to sell me a saddle, bridle and pad since I had no tack. That night I returned home to sleep with all that tack next to my bed, reaching out to touch it numerous times during the night.  I didn't get much sleep that night but I sure did touch that saddle a lot.

Sunday dawned with cold, wind and rain.  I returned to my sister's house to check on Sunshine.  On this day I didn't stay long.  I was not looking forward to my husband's return from hunting.  I knew I'd stepped over the line with what I'd done but I couldn't help myself.

My husband returned from hunting to find the house spotless and a turkey dinner with all the trimmings waiting for him.  I met him at the door.  He took a look around the house, at the table set for dinner and at me.  I couldn't help it; I looked back at him beaming with joy.  He said four words..."you bought a horse" before he silently walked away from me.  Those were the last words he said to me for almost seven days.

We lived in dead silence at home.  That following weekend I arrived at my sister's house to see my husband coming out of the barn.  I will never forget the words he said to me as he walked towards me..."she's very sweet and pretty".

I will also never forget the generosity in his heart to forgive me for an action I swear I could not avoid.  His acceptance of Sunshine made my world complete.

Sunshine and the tack I slept with on that first night.

She was sweet and she was pretty.  We moved Sunshine next door to our neighbor's place with acreage and a barn.  Now we could walk through a path in the woods of our back yard to be with her.

Sunshine hosted our daughter's birthday party.

Soon we had two horses.  Sunshine and Barnie, the horse I'd ridden on that trail ride at the cabin!

Sixteen years later.  Sunshine did change our lives.  For the better.

Sunshine.  First Horse.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Lost The Blogs I Follow!!!

Ok, I admit it...I've not been posting as often as I used to because I've been having such fun this summer.  And although I caught up on Blogs I follow a week ago, I have just logged into find that all the Blogs I follow are no longer listed...

So please, if you have seen me comment on your Posts, send me a "Heh!" so I can re-establish my connections.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Where I've Been and Where I'm Going

I've been spending time at our cabin on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains.  The woods are dry, dry, dry and the heat of the day gives off a spicy scent from the trees which whisper in the breeze.

I always have an internal fight with myself as I prepare to leave for the cabin.  I love being home and I find myself hating to leave.  Yet as soon as I start up Snoqualmie Pass I find myself looking forward to my "other" home.  And once I'm at the cabin I'm happy to be there.

Laundry at home, laundry at the cabin.  I hang most of our clothes outside to dry at the cabin.  I don't mind that the bath towels are a little rough, they have such a great fresh scent and there is nothing like the smell of fresh bedding.  On these warm days the clothes dry quicker hanging outside than in the dryer.

While my laundry dries I relax in the shade and read a (horse) magazine.  Hank is always nearby. After we've sat for awhile I hop on the golf cart and go for a spin around camp with Hank running beside me.  I stop at the clear, cold pond so Hank can take a swim to cool off before we head back to the cabin.  Sometimes Hank goes down for a swim on his own, returning dripping wet with a happy smile on his face.

Hank and I join friends down at the creek.  Hank loves the warm rocks.  He takes a snooze and periodically gets up to take a dip in the water only to come stand next to me and shake.  I don't mind because he cools me off.

I noticed a subtle change this past weekend at the cabin.  Although warm during the days, the nights have cooled off, making me get up and close the windows in the middle of the night.

Returning home is the same as going.  I hate to leave the cabin but once I get home I'm happy to be back.  Again, that subtle change in the weather and lighting - fall is on its way.

I've made arrangements to move Elvis back to the barn for the winter so I can ride indoors.  I have set a goal to show him this winter at local Schooling Shows.  I'm excited about our new challenge.  In the meantime Bob and Peeb will winter here at home.  More on the horses in my next Post.  :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

When One Door Closes Another Opens...

Looking forward to another great ride on Bob, we returned to the barn a few days later to take our second ride.  On that day I was so excited about our recent ride that before we left I signed up and paid for a sorting clinic in early August.  Watch out cows!  Bob and I are back!!

Arriving at the barn, we didn't need as much time to settle in and soon I was up and we were riding.

My good riding friend had joined me for this second ride.  As we'd done on our previous ride two days earlier, we chatted as we rode next to each other.  We rode at a walk for about 20 minutes - and then it happened...

Bob stumbled.

I looked down - surprised.  He stumbled again.  I asked my friend to observe from next to me.  Bob tripped, stumbled and tripped again.

A few days earlier my friend had commented that Bob's front legs looked a little weak and had suggested working with poles to build up his strength.  Now she observed Bob's knees were shaking and he was rolling over his front feet like he used to.

I stopped and could feel his front legs quivering as I sat on him.  I jumped off, a lump in my throat.

Both knees appeard to be suddenly swollen (they weren't like that when I'd gotten on).  A twenty minute ride in 72 hours had resulted in Bob and I returning back to where we'd been twelve months ago.

I stood holding Bob in misery knowing it was time to face the truth.  The efforts I'd taken to resolve Bob's issues hadn't worked.  I'd pulled out all the stops for the love of this horse.  Just as he'd done for me on so many rides, I'd done the same for him - I'd tried my best.

It was a quiet, somber drive home.  After I unloaded Bob and put him back in the pasture I called my husband.  When I tried to tell him about our ride and that Bob's riding days were over - that he was now officially retired - my throat closed up and all I could do was squeak one word out at a time...and then I couldn't speak at all.  Tears flowed and I sobbed in pain and disappointment.  Bob and I'd come to the end of our trail.

But my husband - the most wonderful guy in the world, knew exactly what to say.  He reminded me that Bob wasn't going anywhere, that he has a forever home with us and just because I can no longer ride him doesn't mean I can't still interact with him and maintain the special bond we've developed.

And he reminded me that there is a horse here that needs me right now.  My husband gently told me that he understood why I've been focusing on Bob but (with a bit more direction) he suggested that it was now time to take advantage of the great opportunity I've had sitting here.

He told me that one door had closed but another door was open and waiting for me to walk through.

Elvis.  I'd brought him home from the barn and given him time off to "be a horse".  My husband told me that it was time to end Elvis's "vacation", bringing up Elvis's young age and the training he's had - the talent he has shown.  And my husband warned me - if I didn't start working with this horse soon that it might be detrimental to Elvis and my relationship and negatively impact our riding future.

I took a few sniffs, wiped my eyes and agreed.  Bob will hopefully be here for many years in our pasture and I can still go out and receive those blubbering sighs.  And I recognized how lucky I was to have another horse to turn to, a horse such as Elvis, that would challenge me yet take me places I've always wanted to go.

My husband was right.  It was time to end Elvis's vacation.  It was time to get to work on this talented six-year old horse, who may not take me down the road of sorting cows but would allow me to participate in Western Dressage and Performance.

I told my husband how much I loved him, hung up the phone and got up out of the pity chair.  As I got up I stood up tall.  I looked out the window and saw Bob happily grazing in the field.  My gaze moved to the other horse near Bob, the gorgeous, big, strapping Appy Gelding, Rock on Hunter, aka Elvis, whose little white Appy spots are starting to come out as he matures giving him dazzle and bling.

And I knew that although one door had closed, another had opened and I was walking through it to Elvis and a fresh trail blessed by great memories of riding a little brown cow horse.