Saturday, December 24, 2011

Night Before Christmas - Wyvern Oaks style!

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for Maddy and Artemis, who were chasing a mouse. 

The stocking were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicolas soon would be there with carrots, and dog bones, and catnip, and maybe some chocolate for me and scotch for the hubby.

The chickens were nestled all snug in their beds, with visions of table scraps dancing in their heads.

And I in my wool socks and hubby in his jousting cap, had just settled down in the bed (with the awesome electric heated comforter) for a long winter’s nap.

When out in the carport there arose such a clatter, I would have sprung from my bed to see what was the matter, except I knew it was probably just Red in the dog food again.

Away to the door I stumbled and crashed (over the dog who was not in his bed), tore open the door as I heard the food bin lid smash.

The moon on the poof of the Great Pyrenees, and the clatter of the lid set off the braying of the neighbor’s donkeys.  

When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a rather large butt, and three others standing near.

With a little chestnut horse so lively and quick, I knew in a moment we were the victims of another of Red’s tricks.

More rapid than eagles I flew out the door, and whistled and shouted and scolded some more:

“Now Reddums you bratsky, now Saga you lug, now Cash my spotted one, and Taran you slug,

Back to the barn! Back to your stall! Now move it, I said, Move it you all!”

So out to the barn the horses they flew, with a mouthful of dog food, and Anie following too!

And once in the barn, through the clattering of hoofs, I heard Maddy meowing loudly, ‘cause she was stuck on the roof.

As I fastened the gate and was turning around, down the hay bales Maddy came, with a leap and a bound.

Behind her came a man with hay bits from his head to his foot, and as he dusted himself he was looking quite off-put.

A bundle of carrots he had flung on his back, and he looked rather bedraggled as he fell down with a smack.

His eyes, how they twinkled, his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like apples, though he looked kind of wary.

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, and the beard of his chin was as white as snow.

The stump of his pipe he held tight in his teeth, but I reminded him that we were in a barn, so he snuffed it out in his handkerchief.

He had a broad face and a little round belly, sort of like Reddums actually, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, although Cash eyed him suspiciously, which was just like himself.

With a wink of his eye and a twist of his head, he shook out all the hay bits from his suit of red.

He spoke not a word but went straight to his work, gave each horse a carrot and then turned with a jerk.

And laying a finger aside of his nose, no doubt offended by the manure – it doesn’t smell like a rose!

He sprang to his feet, to the horses gave a whistle, and zipped back to the rooftop, faster than a missile.

But I heard him exclaim as he flew out of sight, Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Do I expect too much?

It strikes me that I am either incredibly lucky in my horses, or I am just too dumb to know that there are things I shouldn't be doing. Maybe I blindly expect too much - what do you think?
  • There's a dark, scary bridge for a four-lane highway that we have to go under to reach some of the trails we like to ride on. Sure, the first time they went under the bridge, Red was leading and his eyes were on stalks, but every time after? No problem, even when it's almost dark out and you can hear the cars go by overhead. I think it's normal for them to be totally nonchalant about it, but is it?
  • We walk on the road a lot at night these days, because it's too muddy to go anywhere else. There are people with dogs, people with bikes, holiday decorations, and deer by the bucketload. My horses don't spook at any of this stuff, although they gave the mechanized reindeer decorations a few doors down the old hairy eyeball. Is that weird?
  • Sometimes when I walk them at night, I ride Red bareback and pony Saga (and in case you think I'm totally crazy, I wear a helmet, hi-viz vest, and flashing lantern, and have my phone on me). Then we go past the aforementioned skeery stuff. I'm not worried that anything is going to happen, except that the neighbors might laugh at my belly-flop-onto-Red's-back mounting technique. Should I worry more about the multiple ways I could die?
  • We just got 170 MORE bales of hay (pictures to come) and now there is a one-horse-wide walkway in what used to be my barn aisle. I lead the boys through there like it's no big deal... but should it be? Except for the rampant snacking, of course.
I also expect them to stand patiently for baths and shoeing, load in the trailer, stand tied, ride out with the hounds (except Cash), and not freak out in an indoor arena and/or at a horse show, or just about anywhere we might go. We also do truly crazy things with them, like jousting.

I get that some horses don't want to or cannot do some things - for example, Cash cannot go foxhunting. I took him once years ago, knowing it was a bad idea, and boy was I ever right. We spent the entire 3 hours fighting with each other about speed, and it sucked BAD. Of course, he also has always gotten worked up on trail rides, and a foxhunt is just like a large, fast, trail ride, so it makes sense that he would have issues. I also get that every horse has the OMGWTFBBQ! moment about "that corner" of the arena (or the mailbox, or the trash can, or the hose, or the...). My boys do too - in fact, there's a spot on the trail where all of them are consistently weird, and Taran SWEARS that man-hole covers are actually horse-eating black holes. However, I don't go about our rides trying to  guess what they might find odd - maybe because I don't expect a spook, I don't get one? While it's important to be aware of your surroundings (in case that crazy barking dog jumps the fence and comes after you), I try to be pretty relaxed about things, and the boys seem pretty relaxed too.

I must have gotten really, really lucky with my boys, because I just don't even think twice (once maybe, but not twice) about doing half the things I do with them on a day-to-day basis. I'm sure my day will come, but until then... am I just being stupid, or do I expect too much?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Puppy monsters!!!

Because Anie is a rescued Pyrenees, I keep in touch with the Central Texas Pyrenees rescue group. I cannot foster a dog ('cause we need another animal like we need a hole in our heads), but I help out with transportation to foster homes and adopters when I can.

This weekend, we visited my parents for an early Christmas. Our drive took us through Houston, where a family had been approved to adopt two Pyr mix puppies. Since the puppies were close to our house and Houston was on our way, we chauffeured the puppies to their new homes. Of course, pictures were in order, 'cause they were absolutely ADORABLE!!!

 Little boy. So CUTE!

 Little girl. She was the adventurous one!

 Checking out the world!

How can you possibly resist these cute little faces!?!? (Kindly ignore the fact they'll likely grow up to be around 100 lbs.)

If you live in Central Texas and would like to adopt one of their siblings, please check out the Adoptable Dogs page. They are currently 6 weeks old, little monsters super cute, and come with all their shots. They also show great promise as Livestock Guardian Dogs, but should make good housepets too if that's what you're looking for

Anie says, "No, we are not keeping these. It's trying to nurse!!!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mid-week critter: Finally, success!

Check it out! After many, many attempts, Elias has actually figured out how to fit his entire body in his dog bed!!! 

 Look at the tiny little dog, with all body parts within the confines of the bed!

 Compare to this... note percentage of dog not in bed.

What's the secret to actually getting the entire dog in the dog bed, you ask? Apparently, cold weather induces dogballs. Who knew?

I admit, he seems to be less thrilled about this accomplishment than I am.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gorillas Horses in the mist

 It was quite foggy here when I left for work this morning. Beautiful, in an eerie sort of way. The world was very still.

Reddums and Saga looked quite magical in the mist, don't you think?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hay there!

And hay there, and hay pretty much everywhere!

The shipment of 840 bales of "Orchard Grass Mix" arrived from Ontario Saturday night around 6 pm. I went down to help unload it (yes, we had a bobcat, but we had to flip the stacks of 21 bales over and then slide them to the end of the semi for the bobcat to grab) and WHEW! that is a chore, even with machinery to do the heavy lifting.

Then Sunday, the owner of J&B Feeds (where the hay was dropped off) brought over 350 bales in two loads. He had helpers to take care of the first load, but it was just him for the second one, so Fuzzypony and I helped stack it.

We filled the hay storage and then kept going up past the rafters, literally all the way to the ceiling!

 The last 30 bales ended up in the aisle. Holy COW that's a lot of hay, and I still have another 70 bales coming later in the week! The boys are just going to have to eat their way out, I think. I'm sure they will be terribly put out by this idea.

 There's a marked difference between Orchard Grass (left) and our Central Texas Coastal (right). In fact, at first my hay guy was really worried that we'd gotten a poor quality batch, but a little research shows that it's just a different grass. It is definitely not the soft, thin-stemmed stuff we are used to seeing. Instead, there's a lot more variety, both in terms of types of grasses, as well as leaves and stemmy stuff. I'm really happy for the variety - Coastal hay is notorious for causing colic, and it's part of why I feed a little alfalfa on the side.

Here's  what I can identify in the hay, from left to right: timothy, alfalfa, and orchard grass. Someone from Up North, did I get it right?

As for the boys, they LOVE the new stuff. LOVELOVELOVE it. I'm trying to do a slow switch from Coastal to the new stuff, but they seem to have other ideas. If I put a mix of the two in their haynets, they flip the haynets around to eat the new stuff first. They (ahem, Saga) got into a bale of it over the gate and apparently had an all-night-snack-a-thon... and then didn't want to eat breakfast! Then of course there's the fact that they have the giant Buffet Wall to nibble on at any time...

 Giant Buffet Wall-O-Hay. I had to shoo them away to get this picture of it.

Yeah. They won't be starving any time soon.

I'll tell you what, though - after two weeks of buying fairly crappy Coastal hay at $15/bale, in batches of 10 bales ('cause the feed stores won't let you have any more, since they are trying to dole it out slowly) it does my heart good to have a barn full of hay. At $10/bale, DELIVERED FROM ONTARIO, I don't think I could have done any better.

I am very indebted to the owner of J&B Feeds, who went on this with me and agreed to buy the half of the load that I wasn't going to be able to store. Not only did he unload the hay with his equipment, he stored it and delivered it to me, and stacked it in my barn. The REALLY good news is that I think he's going to use the supplier in Ontario for several more loads through the winter, so I'm glad that will work out long-term.

Oh, just got a call from him... apparently Madalyn Ward just stopped by and LOVES the hay. Not only that, but he's going to send a sample off for testing, so I'll know exactly what's in it. WOOOT!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

All dressed up and nowhere to go

On Monday of this week, I thought I would be going to a small schooling show tomorrow. In preparation, I finished Saga's blanket clip and Fuzzypony shortened his mane.

See? Doesn't he look spiffy? Well, except for the iffy clipping job. Apparently I'm not good with straight lines.

Of course, Wednesday I decided that the weather forecast for this weekend looked too dismal, and wussed out. Now, I'm actually pretty glad I did - here's the forecast for tomorrow:

Looks wet. And cold!
I'll still take the boys out for some exercise, but tomorrow's forecast looks like a good excuse to get some more holiday shopping and crafts done. I hope everyone else is staying warm and dry!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I confess, I wimped out

Remember that fun show that I was inspired to do as sort of a last hurrah before the end of the year? Well, entries were due last night, and I totally wimped out didn't sent mine in.

BUT, I have good reasons! ('Cause you can justify anything if you try hard enough, right?)
  1. The last time I rode Saga was the Monday before Thanksgiving. Due to the rains we've had since then (yay rain!!!), it's been too wet to do anything other than go for walks on the road. I had planned to get a good ride in tomorrow and Saturday, but it's supposed to start raining at 3 am tonight and not stop till sometime Sunday or Monday. Really not the sort of prep you want before a dressage show with a little jumping.
  2. Due to #1, the likelihood of bucking/kicking on canter departs is high. I'm OK with that, except I'd rather not do it in public. Call me crazy or something.
  3. And the real reason... the forecast for Sunday is a high of 50 and raining. Apparently, in my old age I have become a total weenie when it comes to riding in the cold rain (Nic and anyone else who lives where 50 is not cold, you can stop laughing now. Please?). I mean, I dress in ski pants and a parka to go feed and muck when it's anything below 40 - let's face it, I was not cut out for cold weather! 
So now my plan for Sunday involves a fire, a second (third? fourth?) cup of chai, and a couple of cats draped on the couch. I'll think about all those poor cold wet souls at the horse show and revel in my fleece-lined slippers.

Watch, the weather forecast will be a BIG LIE and it will be 60 and sunny. Just 'cause.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mid-week critter: Lion King impersonation

Maddy did a great imitation of the Lion King this weekend:

It's just like that scene on Pride Rock, only smaller. Much, much smaller. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Low, low, low....*

It's more than a little disconcerting when your normally-full hay storage looks like this:

This was last week, when I had 15 bales left.

Today, I had 1.5 bales left, and I usually go through 2 bales per day, more or less. I made an emergency run to the feed store... and I had to call FOUR stores before I found one with any coastal hay. They only had about 40 bales, so I snagged 15, including 4 for my neighbor.

The good news is that on Sunday, a semi truck load of Orchard Grass hay is arriving from Ontario, Canada. It's the first time I've ever ordered hay on my own and not gotten it directly from the feed store, but for $10/bale (delivered, and compared to $15/bale from the feed store), it's totally worth it.

It took quite a lot of legwork to make this happen, since I didn't have a supplier or really know of one. I emailed a number of blog friends (you know who you are!) and horsey contacts (including a barn I boarded Cash at up in New York!) to get recommendations. Finally, the lady that runs the hunt that we ride with said that she had just ordered a semi-load of very nice hay from Ontario, and got me in touch with the guy she bought it from.

A semi-load is the only way they'll ship hay, so the question became what to do with 840 bales of hay? Much as I would LOVE to put up that much (it would last me about a year), I only have room for roughly 150 in my hay storage, and maybe another 100 if I cram some in various spots. If I wanted to give up my barn aisle, I could stash an additional 300, but it would be fairly inconvenient not to have a barn aisle for 6 months while the boys ate their way out. Not that they would mind!

In an effort to find buyers for the other 500 or so bales of hay that I can't store, I contacted all of my friends in the area that keep their horses at home. Apparently the ability to store 250 bales of hay is a luxury, as most folks don't have room for more than 20-30 bales. I guess we planned the barn better than I thought! Anyway, I couldn't find enough takers for the rest of the hay, so I called my favorite feed store and asked the owner if he'd be willing to split the load with me. He said he would if the hay was good, but he wanted to see it first.

So we took a little road trip to the hunt owner's barn (1.5 hours away) to pick up a hay sample. Alas, we didn't get in any hunting while we were there. Fortunately, the trip was worth it - the hay was nice enough that the feed store owner agreed to take whatever of the load I couldn't store. He also agreed to use his tractor to unload it - something I was definitely not prepared to do by hand!

All that remained to be done was a wire transfer of the funds to the hay grower's bank in Ontario - which sounds fishy, doesn't it??? We even checked into getting the load of hay insured just in case something happened between Ontario and here, but apparently that kind of insurance is only available for commercial carriers. Sooo... after wiring an obscene amount of money to Canada, we now have our fingers crossed that the hay will show up as scheduled sometime this Sunday.

'Cause otherwise Red's gonna starve and all.

* The reference is to this song by REM. Which has absolutely nothing to do with hay, really.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hard to believe that this hoof functions as well as it does

Taran is almost exactly 5 months out from his injury, and his recovery is nothing short of a miracle. He has good days when he looks 100% on the RF, and days when he's a little short. Fuzzypony does a lot of walking with him, and some T/C under saddle on the weekends (it gets dark too early to do much on the weekdays, as we don't have a lighted arena).

What's really amazing, though, is how sound he actually is on all surfaces. If you look at his feet, you'd swear he'd be the next thing up from dead lame.

RF. You can see where the injury and subsequent surgery occurred on the first event line, halfway down the foot. From the front it doesn't look too bad - well, ok, if you don't look at the medio-lateral balance and the flair.

But viewed from the side, we see a more dramatic story. The event line is nearly 1/2 inch deep, and the heel is incredibly underrun.

The event line is even worse when viewed from this side. The surgery, combined with a hospital plate and 4 months of stall rest, have caused impressive changes in the hoof.

From the bottom, the event line is so severe it almost looks like it's from two separate hooves. The foot is thrushy (we are working on this daily), the caudal hoof is poor, and the heel is... er, somewhere around there...

Another view of just how underrun the heel is. You can also see where he's wearing the caudal hoof - it's getting some stimulus for sure, but in a really odd place.

I'm curious to see what other hoof nerds have to say about this foot - I've only pointed out what I've learned to recognize from all the experts out there, and I'm sure there are lots of things I've missed or gotten wrong. What continues to amaze me is how well he is doing, on everything from sand to the road to the trails with rocks. Despite all the challenges he has with his foot, he's pretty darn sound. Makes you wonder why some horses with relatively good-looking feet can't handle anything but the softest of surfaces, while horses with feet like Taran's can stomp around on a surprising variety of substrates. Any thoughts?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Nothing to see here, please move along

We've had rain twice (TWICE!!!!) in the last week. This means that the boys are up in the barn, and that we can't take them out on the trails. So we do a lot of walking up and down the street. Sometimes we ride two and pony two, and sometimes we handwalk all four (in pairs).

Normally the boys are very good. However, lately Taran's been getting a bit cheeky. For example, when we stopped at the end of the street today (I was on the phone - sorry MC!), here's what happened:

Aren't we cute? And innocent. Definitely innocent.


Oooh! A lead rope!

I can just... reach... eet...

Oh, never mind that... instead, I shall leeck your eyeball!

Also here on your cheek... sluuuurp...

Oh and here too....

Oh and what's this??? A halter crownpiece!

I'll have you free in a minute, buddy, just hold still while I pull on this here tabby thingy...

Enh! Enh! (Notice Mr. Oblivious on the left, in the bay fur coat.)

Pfffbbbbt! What is ON that halter of yours?!?! It tastes AWFUL!!!

Saga: Dude. You're getting germs and stuff on me. Quit touching me and go bug someone else.

They are entertaining, aren't they?

Monday, November 21, 2011


Rebecca over at R Lil Bit of Cash went to a show this weekend, just for fun. It was the last show of the year, after a bit of a roller coaster ride for the two of them. Fortunately, she and Lilly had a great time and even brought home some really nice ribbons - they deserve lots of congrads for all their hard work!

The post about the show got me thinking - it's been AGES since I've been to a show. In fact, I haven't been to a show since we moved to this house!!! We've been soooo busy with the house/barn/guest house. This summer, it was just too effing hot to ride. Saga has been off-and-on lame for... well, a long time. No wonder a show hasn't been anywhere near the top of my priority list!

Well, Saga is now sound (KNOCK ON WOOD!!!!), it's not 110 degrees out every day, and the house/barn/guest house is, if not finished, at least no longer in a crisis state. So I've actually gotten to ride quite a bit lately. In addition, Saga's been doing well during our rides (except for that pesky kicking out on the left lead canter departs, ahem), sooo...

We're going to the Hy Court Farm Fall III show on December 4th! We've been to this venue before and it's really laid back. They have these fun sport horse versatility classes in addition to the traditional dressage classes. The plan right now is to enter Elementary Hunter Versatility, which includes Prix Caprilli Test 1 and a small, natural obstacle course (logs, a bridge, a few jumps, etc.). I would really prefer the obstacle challenge of the Novice division, but the Prix Caprilli 2 test includes leg yields and lengthen canters. Maybe we could have faked our way through those movements a year or two ago when we were really riding and training, but now? Probably we should stick with the basic stuff and not look like complete eeediots.

We'll also probably do Training Level test 3 since it's a fun test and within our capabilities, even if we don't go out there and score fantastically well. I mean, I haven't ridden in a real dressage arena in ages, so hopefully I can still throw in a sort of round 20 meter circle, haha. But I figure as long as we have fun, I stay on, and we stay in the arena, what the heck. Besides, I really, REALLY don't want to do Training Level Test 1. Again. For the 100th time.

[Aside: How many of y'all have all of your old dressage tests? And how many times have you done Training 1 at a show? Tell me in the comments, I'm curious!]

So, in short, Thank You Rebecca and Lilly for inspiring me to get my act together and go to a show before the end of the year! Hopefully we'll put in half as good a show as you two did.

Does anybody else out there have plans to sneak in one last hurrah before the end of the year?

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Ok, y'all, I need some help.

I want a pair of warm winter boots. Years ago, I had a pair of the original Ariat winter tall boots, and they were awesome. I could pull them on, and my feet were always toasty and dry, no matter how deep the mud was. Sadly, they only lasted about two years before they cracked around the ankle and started leaking. Bummer.

Last year, I had a pair of cheap ankle-high fleece-lined mud boots from Academy, a local sporting goods store. They were warm and easy to get on (they zipped up), but man they were clunky. They also had an unfortunate tendency to get sucked off in the mud. Fail.

So, I need new boots. I've looked online and all the winter boots seem to be more for riding than barn chores. They're super cute, and I need practical. I would also prefer not to spent oh, say, $200 on a pair of boots.

So here are my criteria for new boots:
  • Must be pull-on or zip-up
  • Must be waterproof and warm
  • Must not be clunky and heavy
  • Need to be easy-care, i.e. hose off the mud
  • I don't have to be able to ride in them, but it would be a nice bonus
Soooo... anybody got any recommendations on winter boots?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Well, why not?

We headed out for a nice long ride this afternoon, just Saga and I. I spoke with my vet yesterday and she cleared us for light jumping, so I was on the lookout for anything that looked jumpable.

First, we headed over to our current favorite canter spot. I mentioned in an earlier post that we have to go under a bridge to get there - here's what I was talking about.

It looks scary, doesn't it? But none of the boys ever bat an eyelash going under, not even at dusk. Maybe they know there are no trolls?

And here's our canter lane. It's over with surprisingly fast.

After a good WTC warmup, we stopped by the retaining pond that doubles nicely as a dressage court. Yeah, it's square-ish, but it's flat with no mesquite shrubs, and the footing's pretty decent.

Not exactly the perfect dressage arena, but it works for us backyard folks.

We did about 10-15 mins of WTC both directions. At the trot, I worked a lot on getting him more collected by holding him with my core while being soft with my hands. I was hoping that getting him to sit back a bit more would help with our canter transitions and maybe encourage a bit more balanced canter, and it seems to have worked. Our right lead canters (2x) were quite nice, and our left lead was much improved. The first left canter depart I tried to ask much more lightly but still got a buck/kick, so I tried again with even less. I felt him hunch his back and we aborted the depart, and then I resorted to saying "Can-TER" and stepping a bit more in my right stirrup and sort of rolling my ankle into him. He ran for a few steps and then fell into the canter, but without the kick. We tried twice more and took a few running steps each time, but since he wasn't offering to kick I figured it was an improvement. I think I'm doing something with my right leg/seat that really bugs him - left canter is the only time he ever does this. He's completely fine once he gets going, and he doesn't do it out in the pasture, so I'm pretty sure it's me. Anybody got any ideas?

After our short dressage go, he was soaked with sweat and blowing (it was 84 degrees today). Apparently the bib clip I did on Tuesday didn't help at all, so I think we're going to have to do something more drastic to keep him cool. We walked for the next 45 minutes while I looked for Things To Jump...

... and I noticed this culvert.

Ok, I would be lying if I said I hadn't noticed the post-and-rails fence first, but it's too big for us right now, and the approach would be a challenge to say the least. Hopefully someday, though! Today, we just did the culvert as a tiny bounce. Saga was a star and quick on his feet, although the second time through I was a little worried that he'd jump the whole thing since it's fairly narrow. He managed to keep it bounce-like, though, and then thought it was so much fun that he threw his head around and insisted that we should find something else to jump. It was getting toward dusk, though, and he was still wet, so we headed for home.

On the way, I found a tiny bench (really just a log with feet) with a do-able approach - but it's maybe all of 4 feet long so I would have to ride REALLY straight to get us over it. There's also a stone retaining wall, and another bench that could work... I need to do more reconnaissance! I may also talk to the city to see if they are willing to leave some logs where they fall (or are cut) as small jumps - that would be SUPER fun!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mid-week critter: Office visitors

My new office is situated in a valley that gets the early morning sun. As a result, we tend to get a large number of vultures that hang out on the building struts, sunning themselves and waiting for the thermals to start. However, it can be somewhat disconcerting to see a Very Large Bird hanging out right next to your cube.

Strange having these guys so close... but I sort of expect them to launch into this scene from the Jungle Book at any moment.

And then this morning, there was this odd sight. There's actually a vulture on the other side of the glass, wings spread wide to sun himself. His body is behind the pylon so you can't see it, just his Very Large Wing.

I should note that I move often when I'm at my desk. Just to make sure they know I'm not, you know, dead or anything.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Neener-neener (or, the Taj Mahal of Tackrooms)

Growing up, I dreamed of one day having The Perfect Barn. I doodled barn layouts in the margins of my schoolwork, and planned exactly how everything would be organized. In my early 20s, I moved around quite a lot with Cash, and took notes about what I liked at each barn. So when we actually bought this property and it became apparent that I would actually get to build my own dream barn, here's what I had in mind:

This gorgeous hunk of barn is from Alas, it is not my barn.

And then I brought the boys home and reality sank in. Horses prefer being out 24/7, with access to a big run-in shed, to living in stalls. I really didn't want to get into mucking 2x/day (I do have a full-time job after all). And we also have this pesky Impervious Cover rule, which greatly limited the size of the structure we could build.

So I sadly ditched the idea of The Perfect Barn.

However, I refused to let go of The Perfect Tackroom. The one with wood-paneled walls and a tile floor. With a sink and a nice bench to sit on while you put on your boots, and maybe even a rug in the center to make it just that much more plush. With all the saddles neatly on their racks, and bridles perfectly lined up and not a sweaty saddle pad to be seen. With faded ribbons from past victories hung on the walls next to shiny new ribbons from last month, and photographs of competitions from years ago to remind us of What Once Was and How Far We've Come.

Yeah, you know the tackroom I'm talking about, don't you?

Well, I'm not quite there yet, but last weekend brought us one step closer. We finally got the saddle racks built and hung, and I covered them with fabric and organized all the saddles:

Yep, this is pretty close to what I had in mind, wood paneling and tile floor included. There's even an enormous antique armoire for storing all those clean saddle pads!

So maybe I don't have The Perfect Barn (or maybe it is actually the perfect barn - for the boys, even if it's not what I had in mind!), but I am nearly done with The Taj Mahal of Tackrooms. More pictures will be forthcoming as we finish it!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Four rides

In the past week, I've ridden Saga four times. Each ride we've gone a bit further and done a bit more. He continues to be sound and comfortable, even on very rocky areas, so I guess the shoes are helping him there.

Our rides start out with some walking on the trails, and then me asking if he'd like to trot. The first two rides he started off with lots of head-shaking and a very, very BIG trot (I'm talking like 250 mpm, at the trot... that boy can MOVE!). I sat in two-point with my reins loose, bridged over his neck in case he decided to do something silly. I learned quickly that I've got my leg too far back, since a few of his head-throwing maneuvers pulled me rather far forward. I pulled my stirrups up a few holes and pushed my leg further forward, and we seem to be in a better place for it.

There are a couple of directions we can go from the house. To the west, if I go under a (four lane) bridge, there's a couple of great areas for a nice long trot, or a good canter. There's also a spot that's a catch basin for drainage, but it happens to be perfectly flat at the bottom, fairly square-shaped, with ~10 foot tall sides. It's a nice area for a bit of dressage work. We went there three of the four times since there usually aren't any joggers out on those trails. The first time, Saga just wanted to trot. The second time, he chose to canter on the best canter spot - his big, ground-eating stride, even though we actually weren't going all that fast. Heaven!

The third time out, we cantered twice, and then he got a bit goofy out in the big field (there's a cute little pony that lives next to the field who was galloping the fenceline, which didn't help either!) So we went over to the catch basin and got in about 10 minutes of good trot work and a canter in each direction. He bucked/kicked out on the left lead canter depart, which is something he's done before - I think it comes from me asking too strongly to the left. He's very unbalanced in the canter both directions, quite sprawly, but I just tried to stay out of his way with the reins and help balance him a bit with my seat while keeping him moving forward. It was messy but we got it done. Yay canter!

Today was the fourth ride. He felt pretty quiet right out of the barn, I think because it was 80 degrees out (November weather, where are you???). Still, he was game for a trot, and this time we decided to head north instead of west. Just after we got going, we went past this:

Approach? Who needs one!

I eyeballed the log, decided that if we came in from a slow trot we could squeeze in a bending approach (in between the mesquite trees and the cacti, mind you) and presto! Over we went. He never batted an eyelash and certainly didn't behave like we hadn't jumped in almost a year (!?!?!). We popped over it once more for good measure (and hey, this time I remembered to keep my heels down) and went on our way for a few strides at a nice canter. We came back down to a walk and continued on the trails, making for an open field about a 10 minute ride away.

Once we got there, we had two nice canters on a ~40 meter circle. The right was more balanced than the left, and to the left he had a tendency to tip his head and set his jaw. Again, nothing new, and I think it was more due lack of balance than him being naughty. I rode with a soft hand and just asked him to keep moving forward, and eventually he came back together. We also had a few nice minutes of trot, where I focused on using my core to keep his rhythm slow and steady. I always feel like he's taking such tiny steps when I ride that way, compared to the huge trot he has out on the trails when he really opens up. I'm sure we'll be able to get those big steps one day, but for now I just have to remember to help him stay balanced.

The walk home in the dusk was mostly uneventful, although he did develop this enormous almost lateral walk. Instead of the even 1-2-3-4 of a walk it was more 12-34. Still 4 beats but different. I also found reason 85140 to wear a helmet - in the event your horse almost steps on a rabbit, your helmet will protect your head from any looming tree branches when your horse spooks upward three feet. Despite that one bit, he was 100% solid even though it was nearly pitch black by the time we got home. What a good boy!

It's been nearly a month since the shoes were put on (the first time), so it's time to regroup with the vet and see where we're at now. Given how well he is doing, I am sorely tempted to stick with the shoes. I really, really want to hunt more this season. Jumping today was amazing, and heck, it's fantastic to just be able to RIDE my horse without the constant worry/fear that he's not comfortable. I guess I feel like if we can get him to grow more sole, and if we can get the laminitis under control, I am fine with him wearing shoes. I just don't want them to mask an ongoing underlying problem. We'll be taking x-rays before the next set of shoes so we'll know better how his feet are doing internally, so until then, I will continue to keep our canter and trot sessions short, and I won't jump him any more.

Bummer, though, 'cause that log was FUN!!!

Addendum: I think I'm going to clip him, for real - he was soaked tonight after our ride. The weather forecast for the next 10 days is a high around 80 degrees every day - he's just got too much hair for that kind of weather!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mid-week critter: Dog on hearth

It's actually been cold enough here to have a fire in the evening a couple of times. Well, OK, the high today was 80, but I SWEAR we hit freezing only a few nights ago!

Since Texas Malamutes apparently do not have the cold tolerance that a real Alaskan Malamute has, Elias must take every advantage of the fire. Besides, what could be more perfect than a dog on the hearth? Ah, the life...

How you know your horse has a mineral deficiency

Remember I mentioned that we think Saga's issues with a thin sole and the event lines are diet-related? I now know he's definitely got some sort of mineral deficiency, or else he wouldn't be doing this:

Mmmmmdiiiiirt. I know it doesn't look like much here, but he was actually scraping the ground with his teeth and licking it up. Um?

Anyway, he found this particularly tasty spot on one of our hand walks on the trails behind the house. I've never seen him eat dirt in the pasture, so maybe this spot had something extra delicious? The soil was quite red, so I'm wondering if he was after the iron. The soil here is also rich in calcium (we're on a prehistoric deposit of tiny sea critters, which form limestone), but I doubt he was after that, since he gets both alfalfa and beet pulp which are both high in calcium. If I can find the spot again, I may get the soil tested just to see.

Then just a few days later, JD (who comes out to help sometimes and I love her!) sent me this picture, taken while she was mucking Taran's stall:

I shall leeeck your eyeball!

Taran has been known to lick Saga before, so maybe he just likes to do it. However, he usually goes after sweaty/salty spots, so I suspect that he's sodium deficient.

The odd thing is that during the summer, the boys get 1 tbsp of salt per day in their feed. They also have a mineral block, which they never touch (?!?!?). So, what gives?

I'm working with my vet to schedule a blood draw to do a mineral analysis on Saga. In the meantime, I've started providing free-choice loose salt... and there are suspicious nose prints in it every time I check (2x daily), so I know they're making use of it. Yay! Magnesium is apparently another mineral that horses are often deficient in, and their bodies can get rid of any excess. So I purchased a feed-grade bag of Magnesium Oxide, and each of the boys gets 3 tbsp (~45 g) per day mixed in with their feed. There is some indication that magnesium-deficient horses (or just horses with mineral imbalances in general) are more susceptible to changes in diet, which in turn affects their feet. So it will be interesting to see if these changes in feeding habits affect Saga's feet in a positive way.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mid-week critter - The miracle pony

Nearly four months to the day after stepping on a nail and puncturing his navicular bursa and coffin joint, Taran was pronounced 100% sound and ready for work by our vet. If you read up on the outcome of nail punctures, especially if both joints are compromised, you'll know that this is nothing short of a miracle.

Taran had surgery to clean out both joints, and then spent two months wearing a hospital plate to protect the surgery site.

Surgery site after a month. We had to clean and pack this every other day.

His rehab started with handwalking, proceeded to tackwalking, and finally trotting under saddle. As of yesterday, he's allowed to transition back to full turnout (he's been stall bound since the incident) and can be slowly brought back to full work. WOOOOOOT!!!!

Early tackwalking could only be done on the road, since soft surfaces aggravated his DDFT, which the vet thinks was also damaged by the nail. In the last month we were able to move him out to the trails and more varied surfaces.

One of the biggest issues we faced (in addition to the surgery site) was how underrun Taran's heels became in shoes. This aggravated the DDFT, so the farrier did his best to shift the toe back, using Natural Balance shoes. However, two weeks ago we were finally able to pull Taran's shoes, and he actually became MORE sound after the shoes were off. He continues to have a toe-first landing, but you can see the improvement day by day.

You can see the MASSIVE event line from the surgery, especially on the heel. In this picture it's just below the hairline. It's going to take some time for this to grow out.

Of course, you don't just start a horse that's been stall-bound, with light trotting only, back to work immediately. Nor do you just throw them out in the pasture to tear around like a nutcase. So, we started last night at the vet's by letting Taran loose in their round pen. He spent about 20 minutes bucking, rearing, and bouncing - but carefully, and without any tearing around. He seemed to know his limits and did his acrobatics within them. Whew!

Tonight, I let Taran bounce around on the longe line before Fuzzypony got on him. He did the same set of antics, combined with some trotting and a bit of cantering. Taran's actually a very good boy on the longe, so despite the bouncing he didn't pull on me and was clearly only performing antics that were comfortable for him. Afterward, we went out for a ride in the side field, followed by a nice long cool-down on the trails as the sun set.

On our ride, Fuzzypony cantered Taran for the first time in four months. Despite the blurriness of this picture, I think you can see the big grin on her face!

I'm not sure either of us ever thought he'd be able to be ridden again, let alone return to full work (for him this means lower-level dressage, trail riding, and foxhunting). It was the work of a crew of people, not the least of which was the fantastic vets and staff at Austin Equine. Thanks to everyone who pulled for Taran's recovery, even against the odds!