Monday, March 31, 2014

Enough Drama!

J and I met the vet at the barn last night.  A great relief to find that all but the exterior of the wound has healed and is firm.  The "blow out" was from the exterior area.

Vet removed the rest of the stitches and assured us all is going to be fine (repeatedly).

Elvis can be turned out again in three days, ridden in five days and will no longer need a leg wrap (which will be for protection only) in ten days.

And the best news?

We can go sorting on April 13th!

Enough Drama!

Sunday, March 30, 2014


I returned to ride Elvis the day after he had his first sorting experience feeling like I'd had a shot of equine adrenaline injected into me.  I spent a lot of that ride working on sorting - turns and fanning Elvis so that we'd be responsive when we worked the gate.  I finished my ride looking forward to our next sorting - April 13th.

I gave Elvis the next day off and returned to ride on Wednesday.  But as I was driving up to the barn I got a call from my Frainer.  She was in the arena working a horse.  Her assistant had brought Elvis in from being turned out and had reported Elvis had a cut on his leg.  My Frainer hadn't had a chance to check the cut out and told me to take a look and advise her.

I was worried as headed to the barn but assured myself that I'd dealt with cuts before and that surely this wouldn't be any different.

But it was.  I arrived to find Elvis in his stall with blood running down his right lower leg.  I took him to the wash rack to rinse his leg but the blood wouldn't stop.  About that time my Frainer arrived, knelt down to take a look and raised her head to look at me, telling me what I already suspected.  "This is an emergency."

Thankfully there was vet in the barn just finishing checking out another horse.  He agreed to treat Elvis on the spot.  It appeared that Elvis had shredded his right fetlock on the wire fencing where he'd been turned out.  The vet stitched and wrapped his leg, leaving directions to change the bandage daily and advising me that Elvis would soon feel like an equine pin cushion after he started receiving his daily injections of antibiotics.  Elvis would also be restricted to his stall until he got his stitches out.

That was thirteen days ago.  Friday was Elvis's last antibiotic injection and he was scheduled to have his stitches removed this coming Tuesday.  The wound had been looking good...until yesterday.  J and I went to change the dressing to find it full of fluid, pus and some of the stitches.

Of course today is Sunday and the vet we used is at a horse show with his children.  But a call was placed this AM and I just received a call back - J and I will meet the vet at the barn in about an hour.

Elvis and I were scheduled to sort cows on April 13th with my Cowgirl Pals.  But that this point I (highly) doubt he will even be off of stall rest.

My high expectations have been dashed like a disappointing rollercoaster ride.  But there is another part of the ride that still gives me a high.  I can't tell you enough about how good a patient my boy is, shots and all.

And after being stall bound for thirteen days?  He's quiet and well behaved in his stall.  So although this is frustrating and scary, at least we aren't dealing with a wild eyed horse while we administer shots and wrap that leg.

Friday, March 21, 2014

First Cows

As I loaded up my truck and trailer up to go sorting last Saturday, the shine of the clean truck and trailer was dimmed by threatening skies.  I woke up during the night to hear the rain pounding outside, knowing that next morning's adventure would be a wet one.

Did I say wet?  Sunday broke a record for rainfall, the most rain in over 64 years...and I was heading out to go sorting cows!  I grabbed my wet weather gear and headed to the barn to pick up my Cowgirl Pals, their horses...and my horse, Elvis.  

This would be Elvis's first exposure to cows and the activity that takes place during sorting.  I had asked my Frainer (friend and trainer) to ride him on this day, unsure how Elvis would do in the whirlwind of cows, horses, buzzers, etc.

I arrived at the barn and within minutes all three horses and tack were loaded up, a testament to the fact that my Cowgirl Pals know their way around a horse trailer and what tack to haul.  What great traveling pals for sure!  :)

Parking is minimal at Fiddleback Ranch.  Groups are assigned a time to arrive, sort cows and leave before another group arrives and does the same.  On this day we'd arrived ahead of our sorting group, barely fitting my truck and trailer into the parking area where the current group was sorting.  

We'd reserved stalls, giving our horses a chance to settle in.  Once the current group left we would have about 30 minutes to bring our horses out and acclimate them before our sorting bunch all arrived.

A snapshot taken from a video I took, here is Elvis seeing cows for this first time.

He isn't quite sure what to think of them.  He's pretty snorty but my Friend and Trainer (Frainer) does a great job settling him in.

The time goes quickly and soon everybody has arrived and it's time to sort cows.  Here's Elvis's first time working a cow.  He's still not quite sure but he's settled in and does the job pretty well.

Each time Elvis works the cows he gets better.  And the better he gets, the bigger my grin gets!  I'm tempted to take a run but my Frainer is picking up his speed each time they do a run so I decide to take videos and watch on this day.

Here I am with my Cowgirl Pals.  All of us were so proud of our horses, which did awesome on this wet day.  The pounding rains never quit and by the time we returned to the barn to unload we were all soaked to the skin.  Frankly I was so thrilled by the day that I didn't even notice how wet I was until I pulled into the barn at home.

We are all signed up for the next sorting, April 13th.  Like one of us said on the way home, "If we can sort in this weather we can sort in anything"!  What a great bunch of gals to ride with.  AND what a GREAT Frainer I have - thank you Rachel Koehler for introducing Elvis to his First Cows!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Road Trip in Style

Tomorrow Elvis is going to his first Sorting event.  This is part of the training I've wanted him to have - exposure to new environments (he's never seen a cow), noise, lots of activity, etc.  Joining me in the truck will be my Frainer and two of my Cowgirl Pal's whose horses will ride with Elvis in our trailer.

We've hardly used the truck this winter.  We figured we haven't filled it up since December.  J and I took it to the car wash today to clean it up for tomorrow.

The truck looked so good after it was washed (we forgot how white it was) that we went home, hooked up the horse trailer and drove back to the car wash.

With C home with us now our covered parking is limited.  For the first time in many years the trailer had to sit out all winter.  Thanks to J's elbow grease it's nice and white again.

J did a great job, didn't he?  But...what are those dark clouds in the sky?

A few hours later, as I write this the wind is blowing and it's pouring.  Heavy rains and are forecast tomorrow.  The trailer and truck may not sparkle like they did today but at least they are clean!

Friday, March 14, 2014


When I purchased my first horse we had an F-150 5-speed truck but no trailer.  We eventually purchased a used older Miley two-horse straight load.  My husband drove and loaded our horse into the trailer.  She loaded like a dream, getting the name "Trailer Queen" (TQ).

Soon we had two horses.  But horse #2 (#2) had issues loading.   My husband was able to get #2 in the trailer next to TQ and off we headed up to the cabin for them to spend the summer.

We never gave a thought to having any issues loading in the fall when it was time to take the horses home.  Guess we shouldn't have been surprised when it didn't go well.  #2 wouldn't load.  It was ugly - really ugly.  We tried holding carrots thru the front windows of the trailer, we tried loading TQ and leaving #2 behind.  We tried it all.

We had to leave #2 at the cabin, bringing TQ home by herself.  My husband returned the following weekend and with numerous hands from the local town, #2 was loaded.  I heard the loading was ugly.

Year 2.  Same issue getting #2 into the trailer but Husband got him in and once again the horses spent the summer at the cabin.  Fall arrived.  Husband got #2 into the trailer but once inside with the door closed there was more drama as #2 reared, getting his feet stuck up in the front manger, ramming both front legs thru the front and side windows of the Miley.  It was a real Rodeo getting his legs back on the floor of the trailer and a miracle nobody got hurt.  We got the horses home and called the vet. Thankfully minimal trauma to #2's legs.

Year 3.  Sedation of #2 and rental of a new (light on the inside) trailer.  And things were even worse!  Horses didn't go to the cabin that year.  Who could blame him when Husband said he was done getting bumped, kicked, stepped on, etc.  As far as he was concerned the horses could remain at home forever.

Year 4.  February rolls into March and there's a hint of spring in the air.  I want more than anything to have TQ and #2 at the cabin for summer.  I decide to take on the task of getting #2 loaded.

I purchase John Lyon's Leading and Loading video.  Every day when I get home from work I go into daughter's bedroom, pop out the "Barney" children's video and pop in my Leading/Loading video.  I watch it closely, reversing and watching it again.

Rain or shine I then walk up to the barn.  Husband has secured the trailer so I can (attempt to) load #2 without it being attached to the F-150.  I tie TQ to the fence and attempt to simulate what I've just watched on the video.  I don't have much time to work until dark arrives.  I feed the horses and head home to feed the family.

Initially I have an audience of neighbor kids and Husband watching me fumble with #2.  But soon the audience dwindles to only Husband.  Things aren't going well.  Husband shakes his head in concern as #2 rears, tries to kick, bump into and stomp on me.

After a few days Husband has also seen enough.  On his last day he leaves me saying, "If you aren't home by dinner I know you're dead".

But every day, rain or shine, I watch my video and head to the barn.  The days are getting longer and so I also work longer.  Getting home to fix dinner for the family no longer happens.  Although the danger is not past, I find I enjoy the solitude of being with the horses.

Rain and shine turns into more shine than rain.  #2 and I both sweat as we work towards resolving his issues.  I now wield my red lunge whip (which has protected me from rears, kicks and stomps) like a pro.  My movements are no longer clumsy and my timing has improved.

One day #2 steps up half-way into the trailer but immediately bolts back out.  I'm thrilled when I go home that night to report what I think is a break through.  Unfortunately, my family has long ago lost interest in my efforts.

A few more weeks and the big day arrives.  #2 loads into the trailer but immediately bolts back out. We half load and whole load many times, each time he bolts back out.  Ugh!  For the first time I find myself frustrated - we are so close!

And then it finally happens - one day #2 loads into the trailer and stands nervously.  I wait a few moments and then he quickly backs out, but he doesn't bolt.  He goes back in, stands and backs out a bit more slowly.  In and out he goes.

I am so excited!  I do the happy dance, looking around to tell someone, to show them that we (#2 and I are now a "we") DID IT...but all that meets me is my dog, always faithfully there with me each day.

Soon I'm able to close the trailer with #2 inside.  I now allow #2 to eat his grain in the trailer each evening while TQ eats hers at the fence where she's stood patiently tied each evening for over three months. Once #2 is finished I unload him, give him a good grooming and kiss him good night.  Yes, I have become fond of #2.

The snow has melted at the cabin and it's time to see how #2 does being hauled.  I'm scared when Huband gently tells me that it's time for me to learn how to haul horses.  I'm not so sure about doing this, especially with #2 in the trailer.

Shoer comes a few days before we leave and gives me good advice.  He cautions me to keep it low and slow when accelerating.  Tells me to look ahead and plan when stopping.  He tells me to keep extra distance between me and the car in front of me because I will need it if I must stop quickly.

The night before I leave for the cabin Husband takes me out for a driving lesson.  As we head out he reiterates what Shoer has told me and also adds how I must be careful when making sharp turns.

The palms of my hands are wet.  This is the first time driving the truck and trailer.  And although I'm grateful to know how to drive a stick, it's still a pain vs an automatic.  Being nervous is an understatement.  We drive through residential neighborhoods full of kids and dogs.  People stare at us, not used to seeing a truck and horse trailer.  We drive through business districts, now quiet after work.  We drive and drive.

I don't sleep well that night and the big day arrives too quickly.  Daughter is riding with me along with faithful dog.  I'm up early, loading the truck at home with our bags and food.  Tack was loaded in the trailer the night before.  All I must do is load the horses.

But will #2 load?

#2 and I are now One.  He senses that I'm nervous when I ask him to load and he becomes nervous. We go thru a few half-ins and bolting out.  But soon we both settle down to the routine we know so well.  TQ is loaded and waiting patiently.  #2 steps in and allows me to close the door.  I don't tie #2 in the trailer.  It is the one thing we never worked out, he just won't tolerate being tied so I allow him to stand free.

We are on our way but I'm tense and nervous.  I must drive over 100 miles across Snoqualmie Pass in Friday traffic in a 5-speed F-150 with a nervous horse in the trailer.  My Husband is at work but Daughter keeps him posted on my cell as we drive along.  Going up the Pass I find that we don't have much speed, sitting in second gear as we climb at about 20/25 mph.  I keep to the right and periodically wave at those passing me.  Yet going down the other side of the Pass I find that I must try to keep my speed down.

We get to our exit and head up the road to the cabin.  A sense of thrill, pride and independence fill me as we pull into Cabin Creek.  I get out and immediately open the door, unloading #2.  He comes out a bit quickly but not at a bolt.  He's covered in sweat, telling me how hard this trip was for him.

I pull the truck and trailer into the pasture.  We've had a good haul but there are still lessons to reinforce.  I leave the truck/trailer in the pasture.  I return the following day to once again work with #2 on loading into the trailer.  Throughout that summer we still periodically go through the loading lessons.

Ironically word is out in the local town that a woman has loaded and hauled this well-known renegade horse to the cabin all by herself.  The horse that wouldn't load has loaded.

Fall arrives and we haul the horses' home without any drama.  And from there trailer trips with #2 were sensitive but accomplished easily.

My work was finished.

We eventually sold the Miley and bought a 3-horse slant.  #2, whose name was Barnie, remained a nervous hauler who we always put in last and brought out first.  Yet he became so comfortable at loading that he once tried to load into the tack room of our 3-horse slant when the door was left opened.  It was all we could do to stop him before he climbed in.

Barnie became my Soul Mate.  A horse that would do and go anywhere I asked him.  I rode him alone (with faithful dog) in the mountains and through the neighborhoods full of kids, where we'd stop so they could pet him.  It was a sad day when I had to put him down due to old age.

We sold the F-150 and purchased a one-ton, 4-door (automatic) Dually to pull our 3-horse slant.  I now load and haul all of our horses.  Doing this has allowed me to do more things with my horses. Every time I come up our drive in the truck with a horse in the trailer I feel that keen sense of pride and independence.  That heady thrill that I can do anything I put my mind to.

I tell my Husband I feel Macho-Ette.