Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mid-week critter: Hey, I was reading that!

Freya has discovered that if she sits on my book, I'm quite likely to pet her before extricating the book from underneath her.

She only does this to MY books, not my husband's. Hmmm...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Home again, but still a card-carrying member of the lame pony club

Saga came home from the vet last night. Apparently he was much recovered from when I brought him in, although still not 100%. Despite blocking him to the knee, we don't actually know what's causing the lameness. At this point, we're treating him conservatively, with stall rest and 1 gram of bute daily. He gets handwalked for a week, then a week of tack walking, and if all goes well then I can start bringing him back into work.

Since Taran is still occupying the stall, we converted the barn aisle into a (large) stall for Saga. One of the things I did when planning the barn was to plan to make it modular, so this isn't quite as awkward as it might sound. The biggest issue is that my panels aren't quite the right size for the aisle (they are an awkward 9'8 inches, and the aisle is closer to 12' wide), and I never put in the hinges on the walls to mount the panels on. Oh well, we made do with what we have on hand.

Not exactly the classiest setup ever, but it works.

Of course, almost any suboptimal situation can be remedied with large applications of hay and alfalfa. Nomnomnom.

Unfortunately, Saga's still lame. I think he's worse today than yesterday, but that could be because he spent last night on sand instead of on stall mats. We did about a 20 minute hand walk and he was definitely short on the left front. I gave him 2 grams of bute tonight (instead of just 1) so hopefully that, combined with the stall setup in the aisle, will get him back on track. If he doesn't improve over the next few days... that's a tough call. As I understand it, the higher up in the limb you go the harder it is to pinpoint the problem, so it's not clear how much use more blocking his entire leg would do us. I'm considering calling out a vet I've used before who does acupuncture and massage/chiro work to see what she thinks. Hopefully a miracle will occur and he'll heal with stall rest though... keep your fingers and toes crossed!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saga joins the lame horse club

Last Wednesday, the night before I left town for an imprompt visit to my my parents, Saga came up lame. Of course. Naturally, the hubby was out of town too.

Since he was really quite lame at the walk, I hauled him to the vet that night. We blocked his foot and his pastern, but he didn't come up sound. So, we left him overnight for Dr. Joyce (the one who did the surgery for Taran) to re-evaluate in the morning, while I went off to visit the 'rents. The ended up blocking him up to and including his knee, and he still wasn't sound, so we decided to keep him on stall rest for the weekend and give him bute.

Today, I went out to visit him, and he was walking much better and looked better at the trot too. Dr. Joyce wants to do another evaluation tomorrow morning, but hopefully she'll send him home for continued stall rest and he'll be good as new in a couple of weeks.

We went for a bit of a walkabout. First, we went and ate the three green blades of grass that were available.

Next, we went to the arena for a roll in the sand.

And get in a good belly-rub.

Of course, we had to stop and smell the poop.

Also, I think Saga's starting to get a little poofy, despite it being 101.9 degrees today. Is anyone else seeing some winter poof starting on their horses?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mid-week critter: Dog beds - apparently a difficult concept

Elias has a little trouble with the concept of how to properly use his dog bed.

Exhibit A: Dog actually in dog bed. Note that it's the wrong dog in the bed, but I'm using this for illustration purposes. No Great Pyrenees were harmed in the making of this photograph.

Exhibit B: Dog butt in dog bed. Remainder of dog seems to be running off.

Exhibit C: Dog next to dog bed. Fail.

Exhibit D: Half a dog is better than none?

Exhibit E: How can this even be comfortable!?!?

Exhibit F: Now more like a doggy speedbump, since he's right in the walkway. Notice the nose smooshed up against the door.

Exhibit G: The middle half of the dog.

Exhibit H: Sigh. Just, sigh...

Final Exhibit: I guess it makes a good pillow?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

About like I expected

Last night for the first time in ages, I took Saga out for some actual dressage work in an actual dressage saddle. It wasn't bad, it wasn't great, and we've got a lot of work ahead of us to get back into the swing of things.

I focused on keeping him slow at the trot by engaging my core, and for the most part it worked well. I just now have to learn how to breathe (and not pass out) while my core muscles are tight - but that's a minor detail. He worked really well off my leg in both directions, although there was some falling out on the left shoulder when we first started off. I'm sure it's no surprise to anyone, but the more I stayed out of his face and steered with my legs, seat, and shoulders, the softer he was and the easier he was to move around under me. When he got behind the vertical, I'd give him a little nudge with both legs, but I need to learn to relax the core a smidge (not flopping) at the same time. More to work on for sure.

I noticed he was tipping his head quite dramatically to the right when we were going to the left. I think this is a relic from hunting the past two weekends, as my hubby tends to ride with one hand higher than the other. I didn't move my own hands when this happened, but kept a soft contact and asked for inside bend with the left leg. He worked through it and the episodes disappeared by the end of our ride. I also noticed that he's got a dry cough that seems to have appeared since hunting Saturday, and he was doing it again this morning while eating breakfast. I'm not sure what's causing it, but I'm keeping an eye on it and will take him in to the vet if needed.

Right-lead canter was sort of a train wreck. The first two times I asked, he ran at a trot for half a circle before I brought him back. We finally got a few semi-ok transitions, but he felt unbalanced under saddle. I have a hard time keeping my core tight and sitting up in canter transitions, so I don't think I helped him any at all. Of course, he then started anticipating the transitions, throwing his head up and tipping his nose right and "hopping" in the trot, so I changed directions and asked for left lead canter. That one definitely felt more together and balanced, and the transitions were better too. We went back to right lead and got two reasonably clean transitions in, and I called it a day on that. I'm wondering if I should get more canter in earlier in the session as part of warm-up and see if that helps him any.

I'm hoping to get Carol Patty back out for a few lessons over the next few weeks - I really got a lot out of our last ride with her, and now that it's cooled off I'm excited to get back into it. I'd like to have the goal of a schooling dressage show by the end of the year, but frankly foxhunting's more fun, so I may just concentrate on keeping the horses fit for that. Choices, choices!

Monday, September 19, 2011

'Cause I'm cheap

We all spend a lot of money on our horses. The best hay and feed, supplements, custom-fit saddles, vet, chiro, acupuncture... the list goes on. So I tend to cut a few corners where I can, 'cause at the end of the day, I'm actually kinda cheap.

I keep fly masks on all the boys every day during the day, and normally each horse uses one fly mask per season. This year with the heat, fly season has extended long past its usual time, and the fly masks are all looking a little worse for the wear. Mine usually tear along the seam on the cheek, and this year is no exception:

Torn right at the corner.

In order to squeeze them through another couple of weeks ('cause let's face it, new fly masks for 4 horses is $100), I did a little ghetto repair job on them. If you have a sewing machine and know how to use it (or can fumble your way through using it), then you can also do a quick fix and limp your fly mask along for a little while longer.

First off, you need a piece of fairly sturdy fabric or webbing that's double the length of the tear plus about three inches. I had some extra upholstery-grade linen bias tape laying around from another project that was just right. It's about an inch wide. You'll also want a heavy-duty needle in your machine as you will be going through several layers of thick fabric.

Next, you want to run a zigzag stitch down the frayed side of the fabric on the fly mask. This is to help prevent it from fraying further. Also, don't cut the bits that are still holding the pieces together, as any cut edges will only fray faster.

Using your zigzag stitch, sew the support fabric to the back (inside) of the fly mask on the side that's most intact.

Here's what it looks like when the first side is done. I'm about to start sewing the second side, the side that's badly frayed. This is a bit more tricky, so take your time and be careful not to catch any of the frayed threads on the fly mask.

Here's what it looks like with both sides done. Notice that I've sewing far to the right of where the mesh fabric has frayed - that will help keep it from fraying more. Also notice that I've gone over it twice with the zigzag stitch - that will also help keep it secure.

Here's what it looks like from the inside. Not terribly neat, but functional enough.

Now, fold your support fabric over the edge of the mask, and line it up. All those messy ends are now covered, and you didn't have to cut them!

Sew both sides down with the zigzag stitch, and fold the end under so that you don't have any raw edges (if you're using webbing, you can burn the edge and just sew it, no need to fold it under). You may need to go slower because you're sewing through additional fabric and your machine may have a hard time with it.

And here's what it looks like all sewn down. Just nip off any stray ends of thread, and you're set to go!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Another day hunting

This morning, the hubby, Fuzzypony, Foxfire, and I went foxhunting. It was Foxfire's first time out and I'm pretty sure he had a blast!

Foxfire (on his horse Ziggy) and Fuzzypony on Moose (a borrowed horse). We're waiting to get going...

Everyone's all queued up and waiting for the hounds to catch a scent, except that they never really did. It's so dry that apparently the animal tracks are nearly "unsniffable". We didn't see any animals at all, but we still had a great time!

The four of us started off first flight, since the person leading second flight this week tends to lead fairly slow rides. Reddums and Saga were MUCH more manageable this time around - Red's frustrated rooting tendencies were all but gone, and I think he was very happy to have breaks in between the gallops. There were 9 people all told in first (not holding lines or with the hounds), and Reddums and I tended to stay toward the back of the pack, but he can sure keep up with the big boys when he wants to! The hubby had a much better ride on Saga as well, and the two of them are really starting to get along.

I discovered that when you go first flight, there are significantly fewer photo ops!

I often can't see what I'm photographing due to glare on my iPhone screen, so sometimes I end up with pictures of the oddest things. Here's a nice shot of Red's neck, lol!

The most exciting moment of the day (for me anyway) was when Saga's brand-new Easyboot Gloves self-destructed on a gallop. Saga was perhaps three lengths in front of us when I saw the pads go flying through the air, and then a boot when whinging past my head. It was sort of like being behind an 18 wheeler whose tires are destructing - I wasn't quite sure when the next piece of rubber was going to fly by! Of course we were galloping hell-for-leather at the time with no chance to slow down and deal with malfunctioning equipment, but as soon as we slowed up, I hopped off Red, pulled his boots off (one of them had come loose, but he's wearing Easyboot Epics and not Gloves), and checked Saga over for damage. Saga was fine, although the only thing left of his boots were the gaiters! We left Red's boots under a shrub and continued on (we did go back to get the boots later, and actually managed to find all the pieces of Saga's boots as well). Both horses did great without boots, so I think it the future we won't use them when hunting. All the hunt fixtures are quite sandy, whereas at home it's much rockier, so I think we will keep the boots for home use.

Last week Saga went out in his original Easyboots and came back with both of them firmly attached to his feet. I think the difference was that this week we did a lot more fast work and the Gloves are just not up for that. If we choose to hunt on rockier fixtures, I will definitely need to think about glue-ons again.

Because it wouldn't be foxhunting unless we passed the flasks around!

The most direct route to the hunt fixture from our house is through Bastrop, the area that had the huge (35,000) acre wildfire two weeks ago. Last weekend the roads were closed so we had to go around, but this weekend we drove through. The destruction was heartbreaking. Houses were burned to the ground, with only the chimney left. Others were still standing, but the ground and trees all around were scorched, sometimes literally up to the front door. The entire area smelled of smoke, and the landscape was surreal. Hats off to the firefighters and other personnel who risked their lives to stop this fire, and my heart goes out to all those people who lost everything. Central Texas is really banding together to provide help for those folks - we are truly a great community.

Unfortunately we won't be able to hunt again for the next two weeks, but I'm trying to convince the hubby to go the weekend after that... ;)

Friday, September 16, 2011

9/14 hoof trim

My trimmer came out today to get everyone evened back up, and to fit Saga and Red for boots for hunt season. Saga wore his original Easyboots to hunt last week and I was pretty surprised that they stayed on, since we've had problems with them before. Reddums hunted barefoot but can be footy on the bigger rocks we have around home, so I wanted to get a pair of boots for him too.

First up was Cash. He's always had a long toe and we are working on that, but his heels seem pretty reasonable. Here he is before...

... and after. Still long, but he's comfortable on all surfaces, at least at a walk. Not bad for a 23 year-old!

Next up was Saga. This is the RF after being trimmed. Yes, his soles look ugggg-leee... they are sloughing off but are still really attached. We were concerned that if we took any sole off, it would affect his concavity, so we decided to leave it on. I'm to do light road work with him without his boots in an effort to get his soles to wear naturally - when he wears his boots, his foot of course doesn't get to wear at all.

You can see how thick the false sole is here, but again, we've decided to help it wear naturally in an effort to keep him comfortable.

We had planned on doing glue-ons for Saga, but after talking through his needs, decided to go with Easyboot Gloves instead. The 2.5 was too small - you can see how it bulges on the sides. He ended up with a 3.5 on both front feet. The Gloves are a little harder to put on then the regular Easyboots, but he works well in them and I think they'll be great for hunting.

Last was Reddums. He has been picking his way around trails he usually stomps down, so we decided to boot him as well. My trimmer didn't have any Gloves in Red's size, just glue-ons (apparently he got the wrong order), so we tried that. Here he's waiting for a sole pack (basically a squishy cushion with some thrush meds in it) to cure before applying the boot.

The glue-ons turned out to be an epic fail. Apparently none of the glue options liked the 102 degree heat combined with the 16% humidity - they all set up before we could even get the boot on, or they didn't set correctly. My poor trimmer tried three different glues, and we couldn't get any of them to work. I ended up going to Callahan's to pick up a pair of Easyboot Epics in size 1. We tried them out this morning and WOW, what a difference! Reddums felt great and, while he started out somewhat tentative, seemed very happy to find that the rocks didn't bother his feet.

Both Red and Saga have similar-looking front feet - good, fat frogs, but deep collateral grooves and a deep groove in the middle of the frog. After reading up about how thrush can be found even in dry hooves (warning, pics of hoof cutaways), I'm starting to think that they both have a deep case of thrush. That would explain Red's newfound hesitancy to walk on rocks - nothing else in his life has changed, especially his diet. So, I am now treating them both daily for thrush. I've been reading up on the best thrush treatments (other than White Lightning, which I don't see myself using) and still need to do more research - for now I still have some Thrush Buster left, so I'll probably use that up and then move on.

Saga was super-excited about the whole process. In fact, he took a nap while resting his nose on the barn wall. Notice the drooping lower lip and the teefs showing? Yup, that's my boy.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Two thumbs up: Ford and Dover

I don't normally review products or services, but I just had two great experiences that I thought I'd share.

My poor truck is long overdue for an oil change. I don't have one "usual" service station I take it to, mostly because the price of an oil change seems to vary so much. After calling around, I was surprised to find that the Ford dealership was actually $30 less expensive than any other place I contacted! I've had bad experiences with a dealership before, but this was a different dealership so I figured I'd give it a go. Over the phone, they told me they had just put in an "Express Lane" and I could come in any time, although the wait might be up to an hour depending on how many vehicles were in front of me.

I pulled in and was greeted by a friendly (if rather energetic) staff member. He took my information and in less than 5 minutes, I was ensconced in the waiting room. I did have to wait for an hour, but I'm in the middle of the third book in the Game of Thrones series, so it wasn't too tedious. The best part? They didn't try to sell me any other service, they washed my truck for me, AND they vacuumed out the front seat! For the price, service, and convenience (it's quite close to the house), they will definitely get my business again.

In a similar customer service vein, last week I ordered a few things from Dover. They were due to arrive yesterday, but when the last Fedex truck had made its run by our house without dropping anything off, I checked the tracking site. Imagine my surprise to see that my box had made it to Dallas, and then been shipped to Los Angeles! New arrival date was Sept. 20. I looked all over the FedEx site, trying to find a phone number to call, but found nothing. So, I got online with Dover's customer chat, hoping they had FedEx's number or something. Instead, they shipped me an entirely new order, overnight! I didn't even ask - the customer service rep told me she was trying to see if they could catch the truck, and they did! The package arrived about 2 p.m. today, exactly what I'd ordered. I buy a lot of my horsey stuff from them specifically because their customer service is so good (that and I love their online chat - so convenient!) but this time they really went above and beyond! They will definitely continue to get my business.

Has anyone else had really good customer service lately?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mid-week critter - FINALLY

The critters have informed me that I'm slacking - we haven't had any mid-week critters in ages! So today, you get a two-fer.

Occasionally we find Maddy in the house. I have no idea how she gets in, really I don't! I mean, I would never pick her up and bring her in 'cause she's all purry and snuggly and cute, I really wouldn't. (Yeah, the hubby doesn't believe me either, but it's worth a try, right?)

Besides, she doesn't get along with the indoor kitties. Unless they're asleep on the couch, of course. Let the snorgling commence!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Other ways to torment your horses

Recently, we met a fellow rider who is interested in jousting. He actually rides at the barn where we used to keep our horses, so we got in touch with him through the barn owner.

We are usually very cautious about letting someone we don't know ride our horses, especially when they are interested in doing something like jousting. We've had a couple of really bad experiences, and we do try to learn from our mistakes. So, we met NH out for sort of a "screening" interview, and not only did he have great riding experience and seemed willing to learn, he was super-enthusiastic about jousting and anything else having to do with horses! So this weekend, we had him out to our house to demonstrate his riding skills (very nice!) and try his hand with some of the stuff we play with.

We put him up on Reddums to begin with, since Red is an old hand at jousting and mounted combat. In comparison, Saga has only practiced combat a few times, and has only done basic joust training (in other words, he's never had a lance broken against his rider).

We started out with mounted combat work. Since Saga hasn't done this much, we started off by swinging a baton (rubber-covered rattan) all around Saga to get him comfortable with the concept. We also gently bump the horses with the baton (though it is instant disqualification if you ever hit a horse during actual combat) and have someone on the ground hit their riders as well. Many horses are oddly OK with being bumped but get really weirded out when their riders get hit!

Once the horses are comfortable with the batons, the next step is to walk them past each other while making light contact with the other rider. Red's an old pro at this, but it took Saga a while to become comfortable with it.

(Sorry for the picture quality - it was getting dark and I was using my iPhone). Once the boys were comfortable with the basics, the hubby and NH started to go at it for real. The biggest challenge in this game is to get into position for a good shot at the other rider. Only the waist up counts, and the arm/hand holding the reins is also not a target.

NH is circling Red around Saga looking for an opening. Saga's technique is to keep his head toward his opponent and spin in a circle. The trick for your opponent is to figure out another plan of attack - otherwise you both end up getting dizzy!

Saga has a moment where he's not so certain as the hubby spins him into position. Fortunately, Saga calmed down as the session went on. Good boy!

See? Keeping your nose to your opponent works well! Another trick that Saga uses is to rest his head in the opponent's lap, in hopes of having his ears scratched. Um, love your enemy?

The guys were having so much fun, we were actually riding as the moon came up!

We finished up with a few practice jousting passes, but by then it was pretty dark. We're looking forward to the next time!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The downside to foxhunting

From Elias' view, the problem with us going foxhunting is that he has to get up early. A WHOLE HOUR early.

I had to nudge him out of bed with my boot toe and throw him outside to toilet. I got the dirtiest look.

When he came back in, he went back to bed and curled up in a small dogball and went back to sleep. Poor, poor dog.

When called for breakfast, he played his trump card. He couldn't make it up the (two) stairs into the kitchen for breakfast.

See? Only the front paws.

SIGH... it's OK, you eat without me. I'll just lay here...

You can see how we abuse our animals here. Poor dog. WOE!