Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking back on 2012

The last few days have been really low-key at Wyvern Oaks. Hubby and I had planned some house projects, but then we both got sick (he's got a 102 fever, I've got a lovely sinus infection AND a nasty case of conjunctivitis), so we are laying low, eating soup, and taking lots of naps. We both hate feeling sick and useless - blargh!

So, here's a look back at the last year. This is our third year at WO and it sure feels like not much happened compared to the previous two years. The house and property needed so much attention when we first moved in, so it's kind of nice to have the big things done and feel like we can get on to the rest of it in good time.

January saw my hubby riding Saga - with the goal of getting ready for the joust in May - and me on Reddums. We started regular jumping lessons again, and I loved it! Our barn was stocked with hay from Canada, which we had to purchase due to the 2011 drought. I pimped out my tackroom, and considered getting titanium blinds for the bedroom.

In February Saga became an official jousting pony, and I took a lot of jumping lessons. We started having some issues with the neighbors. Saga pulled a shoe and I took a hard look at what shoes were doing to his feet.

We almost managed to burn down the barn in March, due to a malfunctioning heat lamp for our baby chicks. Grendel, our truck, decided it needed a new tran$mi$$ion. We did a weekend kitchen remodel and we love our "new" kitchen! I decided to give barefoot a try again with Saga, but he was lame for most of the month. Boots helped but not enough, and we discovered that he still had super-thin soles. I played around with his feed (again) in an effort to help him grow better soles.

I met the hubby in Italy in April, and we had a crazy time driving in Tuscany. Saga continued to be lame, even just in the pasture, so I decided to put shoes back on him and consoled myself with a great ride on Cash. The spring rains meant that flies started on in earnest, but the garden did great. I contemplated going to a schooling hunter show but didn't have anything to wear. And a scorpion stung me on the neck (bastard).

In May, I called the pest control company and danced gleefully every time I found another dead scorpion. Our big joust happened (with bonus nasty storm), Reddums kicked ass in mounted combat, and Cash was everyone's favorite schpotted pony. Unfortunately, Saga had a tough time with the jousting, and we decided to shop for a new horse for the hubby.

We lost Anie, our faithful Great Pyrenees Guardian Dog, in June. The new horse we were trying out didn't mind armor one bit AND he had a cute jump, so hubby decided to keep him. The garden continued to produce lots of delicious things, and I made a baby blanket for a friend. We ended the month with a trip to France for a wedding.

In July, I learned I had accidentally grown a pumpkin in my garden. Saga's shod feet continue to look awful, even though he was sound. Cash and Saga's bromance continued in earnest, but was a problem when I took Cash to the vet to have carcinomas removed. I took a dressage lesson on Saga, went to a hunter show and didn't suck, then had an absolute blast schooling XC and wondered why I was wasting time in the hunter ring.

In August we started getting reading for foxhunting, going roading with the hounds, XC schooling, and taking some jumping lessons. I managed to get my jumping trainer to go roading too!  Elias waxed poetic about the rough life of a farm dog, and Cash demonstrated how to get really, really dirty. Oh, and since the hubby was out of town, the water main to the guest house broke. Both kiddos went off to college, which officially made us empty nesters (sniff).

We were supposed to go to the LOPE benefit show in early September, but it was cancelled due to rain so I took Oberon foxhunting instead. Saga got a new farrier and we jumped 3'3. Maddy ate an entire gram of bute out of Cash's feed tub, which resulted in a $1300 vet bill. Fortunately, she survived the experience. We made it to the rescheduled LOPE show, where Saga and Oberon both kicked butt.

October sucked. Saga hurt himself somehow and was lame, lame, lame. We treated him for a fetlock joint infection, but he was still in horrible pain.

Things continued into November. Saga had a splint on for almost three weeks. Despite stall rest and way too much Bute, he continued to be in a lot of pain. Six weeks after the original lameness, we found a bone lesion and degenerative arthritis in the fetlock, along with a lesion on the medial sesamoid ligament. He got a little better, but then he got much worse again almost overnight. New rads showed two bone cysts on the pastern bone, under the fetlock. I considered putting him down for the 100th time, but we opted to do a steroid injection to see if it would make him comfortable. Oh, and we broke the garbage disposal the night before Thanksgiving. :)

In December, the steroid injection worked miracles, and Saga went sound. I started to think about retirement options for him and Cash, and started to look for a new horse. The options weren't very exciting. Hubby and I took a ride at McKinney Roughs on Red and Oberon. We moved Cash and Saga to a lovely retirement pasture with 11 acres all to themselves. They don't even seem to miss us.

I'm hoping things will be looking up on the horse front in the new year. Hopefully Saga will remain comfortable with minimal joint injections, and Cash will have many years left to keep him company. I'm still horse shopping, and trying to figure out what to do while I only have Reddums to torment.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cash and Saga: MmkayThanxMomBye!

Yesterday (Christmas) we went out to visit the boys to see how they were faring at their new retirement home. Sure, they've only been there for three days, but I have been worried about how Saga's fetlock would hold up to the different footing (sand) and his ability to gallop around like a lunatic move more, and for Cash the change in diet, as he has always been colic prone.

As it happens, I needn't have worried about a thing.

 The boys were not impressed with our arrival, despite the fact that we had carrots. They had no inclination to come when called.

 After schelpping our way up the hill to them, Saga realized we had treats, and proceeded to mug my husband.

Cash was somewhat more standoffish. 

 At one point the boys took a break from eating to watch their neighbor horses. Because neighbor horses are apparently more important than Mom and Dad with treats. Who knew?

 Saga mugged me for more treats while Cash politely waited his turn.

 And then Saga realized that the photographer was holding the bag of carrots... (not posted: several extreme close-ups of Saga's nose).

 A few more snacks were handed out...

... and then Saga realized that his new neighbor friends were out of sight at the top of the hill. He called out to them, and then he and Cash went moseying off on their own.

Hubby and I ended up snacking on the rest of the carrots on the way home. Ungrateful ponies!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Offically retired

Today, I hauled Cash and Saga out to their new retirement home - 11 acres of rolling grass pasture, with goats, a (terrifying) mini, and cows for neighbors.

We made the hour-long drive without incident, although about halfway there I confessed to my husband that I felt like I was abandoning my children or something. I'd packed the boys' feed, blankets, treats, Cash's meds, and had a full-page sheet of history and instructions for each of them. Me? Obsessive anal horse owner? Nah!

We pulled in, unloaded, and fed the boys dinner in their new pasture, in hopes of keeping them from doing anything that would annoy Saga's fetlock (for example, running around the pasture like lunatics). That only sort of worked... there was one short burst of speed, and then Saga settled for a showy trot:

 Cash was really not so impressed with Saga's antics.

Next, they had to sniff all the poop...

... meet the new neighbors... 

... do a quick check to see if I had any treats on me... 

 ... and then do some more neighborly gossip while sampling the local flora.

Here's the rest of their pasture... all 11 acres. That's hubby standing by the gate. Nice, isn't it?

We unloaded all the boys' feed, went over the instructions (including detailed medical history), and then said a final farewell and told the boys to stay out of trouble. I haven't heard from the BO yet, so I'm going to assume that all is well.

I know they're in a wonderful place, and that this is the right decision for them - especially Saga, who is still young at heart, even if his fetlock is all but destroyed. Having so much room to roam will be good for them both, and I know the BO has a watchful eye on them.

Sniff. I'm gonna miss them. Regular visits are no substitute for having them right out the back door, you know?


Thursday, December 20, 2012

McKinney Roughs ride

About 30 minutes away is a lovely state park with several miles of sandy bottomland trails that are open to horses. We haven't been there in years, but decided to go last weekend since we couldn't go foxhunting.

Reddums was his usual star pony self, blazing trails, marching past terrifying (for Oberon) fallen logs, and being only mildly interested in the armadillos.

Ear pictures are always cute, don't you think? When leading, Red's ears are constantly swiveling to keep an ear on everything around him. His ears are my "early warning system" for approaching horses or hikers.

Oberon mostly played follow-the-leader. 

Red tromped right through this mess of fallen tree branches; Oberon took a moment to decide to go. Doofus.

The park is right along the Colorado River (not that Colorado River, the other one), and the trails by the river go through an old bottomland pecan grove. This is the trunk of an enormous, 200 year old pecan tree we rode past. Beautiful!

ERMAHGAWD! A picture of ME!

According to Runkeeper, we rode about 7 miles in 2 hours and 30 minutes. I don't think we'll be doing any endurance rides any time soon, LOL! However, it was pretty warm out and the boys both have full winter coats, so we were having to be careful about them overheating. We also spent most of the ride walking, although we had two good gallops and a super-fun trot/canter through the woods. 

Hubby and I have made a pact to go riding here if the weather is reasonable and we can't foxhunt. I think next time we're going to pack a picnic lunch and eat at one of the lovely scenic spots!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Horse shopping: The ones I won't be looking at

Thanks, everyone, for all of your thoughts and comments on Tucker. You have all given me lots to think about! I'm definitely looking at other horses, but as I said, the pickings are slim and, uh, suboptimal. Let me show you some examples.

First off, how about a nice OTTB? Like half the blogs I read are about OTTBs that are eventing, so surely there's something out there. In fact, there's a great organization near here called LOPE (they sponsored the show we went to this fall, where Saga won the Ex-Racehorse award) that helps place OTTBs. So I checked out their web site...

Of the 31 geldings that are listed, 9 matched my age and size criteria. But almost all have things like a "slight tendon bow" or "racing ankles" or "knee surgery to remove a bone chip" or "completely sound following recovery from bowed tendons". EEEP! There were one or two that I called on but they  only have track training, and one was "out to pasture letting his hooves strengthen" (?!?!).  I'm just not willing to take the chance on one of these guys, no matter how much heart they might have.

Next up, we have a 4 year old breed stock Paint. He's got a super long back and you can see in the trot picture of him that the angles between his front legs and back legs don't match at all. There are a couple of videos, and I don't really like the way he's pulling himself along. He certainly doesn't seem like he'd be good prospect based on his conformation and movement.

For $7500 we have this guy, who has a cute expression in the picture, but watch the video. He's got something funny going on in front - you can see it especially well when he's trotting to the first fence. We also have a 4 year old gelding bred for polocross... now I can't find the video but suffice it to say he had something odd going on in his hind end. But wait, how about a 2 year old RSPI gelding? He's bigger than I want, at 16.3 hh, and he's still got some growing to do. I figured he was worth a look, until I watched the video. Tell me what you think you see going on there.

I had the opportunity to try out a lovely gelding who went to the 2011 AECs at Training level with a pro rider, and he's jumped around all the Prelim courses in the area. He was bought earlier this year by a junior rider as a jumper, but it didn't work out. They are selling him for a super-crazy discount (let's just say this guy originally cost more than a car) because they just want to be done with him. He was everything I expected a Training level eventer to be - tried hard, liked his job, knew his stuff. But after every jump, he bolted off with me. It seems to be a pain reaction, my guess is in his back, but probably being caused by something wrong in the hock or stifle (70% of back pain in horses can be traced to hind leg problems). His current owners are not willing to put the $ into him to figure out what's wrong, and I'm not going to take a chance on a horse that's got something like that going on. Poor guy.

There's a 7 year old Azteca gelding who seemed from the video of him jumping that he might be worth a look. I called up the trainer, and it turns out he's only been going English for 30 days. He was reining-trained before that, and so he won't touch the bit. I've already retrained two horses who were trained like that (Cash and Red), and they never really get over it. So thanks, but no. A coming 9 year old Paint gelding who looked quiet o/f in the arena, but y'all, he's almost NINE and he's basically green-broke. And a coming 8 year old QH who looks nice but really hot o/f. I'm sure that's something I could work on, but I'd rather work on it with something younger. And on and on.

And y'all, these are the NICE horses. The actual possibilities. These don't include the ones that look like this or this or this.

P.S. When photographing your horse for a sale shot, please don't get a picture of him just after he's done peeing. Really.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Horse Shopping: Tucker (opinions wanted)

Confession time: in between worrying about Saga, I've been thinking about what I really want in my next horse. Here's my list so far:
  • Must be a gelding. This is non-negotiable.
  • Must be between 15.2 and 16.2 hh. Cash is 15.2 and I thought he was a little short for me (well, ok, the jumps just looked really big, you know?), so when I was shopping for Saga, I wanted something bigger. What I did not factor in is that a 16.2 hh horse is WAY harder to get on, and I'm not getting any younger. Plus, bigger horses tend to be less "catty," and Saga and Oberon are no exception. So ideally the new horse would be 15.2-16 hh.
  • Would like something between 4 and 6, with some experience but not a ton of miles. Saga and Cash were both started at 18 months (Saga as a racehorse and Cash as a reining horse) and they both have had lasting effects.
  • Must be uphill, have a short back, sturdy legs, power behind, and overall decent conformation/balance. Cash, Oberon, and Red are uphill and Cash's back is short (so short saddles bridge, lol!) and they are all very naturally balanced. Saga is a little downhill with a very looong back, and he finds it nearly impossible to balance himself and sit down.
  • Must be athletic with a good work attitude, but I don't want something that's so keen to go that I'm sitting on a stick of dynamite (Cash). I need a horse who is just as happy to go on a trail ride on a long rein as go foxhunting first flight, or bust out a nice first level dressage test.
I know, I don't want much! I've been perusing options online, but y'all, the choices are not exciting for the amount of money I have to spend. There are a ton of off-the-track TBs and QHs around here, but most of them are broken in some way. Also, I am not sure I want an ex-racehorse - I rode quite a few of them when I was looking for Saga, and I felt like I was sitting on a stick of dynamite. I'm closer to 40 than I care to admit, and I know I am mortal and can get hurt doing the crazy stuff I do with horses. I need a horse I am confident with, which was one of the reasons I liked Saga so much.  

Ok, ok, so on to the important stuff. This is Tucker. He's a 15.2 hh 5 YO TBx (I'm not going to say what the X is just yet, but you are free to guess). Both parents are registered, but he is not registerable with any of the "normal" registries. 

Here's what I like: short back, sturdy legs, short pasterns and cannons, lots of power in back, uphill build.
Here's what I don't like: short neck that's currently muscled upside-down (fixable), not the most refined head, upright shoulder.

Here's a video of him trotting a bit, and jumping. This was his first jump EVER - it was about 2'. I like that he didn't even take a peek at it, and he gave it a good effort (as opposed to plowing through it, like Oberon does). 

Here's his canter. I like how balanced he is, and how easily he flows.

I have a lot more video of him, but suffice it to say that he's a decent mover. He's stiff and less respectful if you work off his right side. He leads well but is a little in your lap. He HATES being tied and left alone (paws constantly, but is happy to go to work as soon as you untie him and ask him to move off). He needs work on simple stuff like picking up his feet and trailering. And here's the big kicker: he's not been backed. In fact, he's barely been handled since he was a yearling, and has been out in a pasture with 17 other horses since then. However, after his third longe session (which I did, although that's not me in the videos), we sacked him out with a saddle pad (that took 3 minutes) and put a surcingle on him (which took 5 minutes). He was fine with both and then went on to longe again, no bucking, scooting, or anything. He seems to have a good brain and none of the "baby" issues one might expect from a horse with very little handling, so I think that he could be backed within a few weeks.

If I were to get him, I would leave him with a trainer I trust (the one in the video) for 60 days to get the initial work done, including working on tying and trailering. She has already backed Tucker's brother, and I really love what she did with him. In 60 days he has gone from being pretty much just like Tucker to being a solid, respectful citizen, and I have no doubt that Tucker would turn out similarly. As for why I am not looking at the brother, he's currently injured, RF, and it's too much like Saga's injuries for me to even consider him.

So, am I crazy to even consider an unbacked 5 year old? And how much would YOU pay for a horse like this? 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

My vet worked a miracle on Saga!!! :D :D :D

No words needed for this post. Just watch this video of Saga this afternoon, less than 36 hours after his fetlock injection.

Sure, he takes an odd step or two toward the end, but otherwise HE LOOKS AMAZING. This is a far cry from the horse who could barely walk yesterday morning. :) :) :)

In celebration, I went out to see a retirement place for him and Cash. 11 acres of pasture, all for the two of them. For the first time since this started, I am actually very, VERY hopeful that he will actually get to hang out there!

Thank you everyone for all your well-wishes, and for listening to me be so down on the whole situation. I have really not allowed myself to hope for much until now, and obviously we're still not out of the woods... but it seems like he might be able to be maintained comfortably with joint injections, which I am totally willing to do.