Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mighty Heart Update

Is on Crib Notes.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cold wind

The welcome rain finally ushered in the cold, something we have been waiting for for several weeks. It's still been air conditioning weather here, something I've not experienced this deep into November.
But as they say, be careful what you wish for.

It was my day to feed horses on Saturday morning and the rain poured down steadily. I sloughed through the paddocks, struggled with wet hay. Lily, who eats outside in the paddock instead of coming in a run gave me that look. The don't you dare leave me out here in the rain look.

I brought her in for some relief from the weather and she and Smokey shared the run and some hay while I finished my work. When I set them all back out and got in my truck the rain slowed down

I really appreciate these little tests of my sense of humor. I don't always pass them, but I do appreciate the considerable planning that goes into them.

Sunday brought wind, the kind of wind that sets the trees to wild dancing, leaves twirling as they fly off like sweat from a tango dancer's forehead.
I arrived early to ride before feeding again, and Smokey and I agreed that the bitter wind called for arena time. I demonstrated all the scary things he needed to know about like the banging door and falling chair. He was greatly concerned but managed to hold it together. I'd call it progress, but mostly it was nice to see him giving me the benefit of the doubt.

We kept it short - remember, we don't really have the gear for this kind of weather, so bitter cold dives right through my paltry defenses. I hate cold. I don't live in Texas because I have an affection for cold, but the cold comes anyway. And if Smokey's massive winter coat is any indication, it's going to be brutal season around here.

We managed to improve his side pass, we will see if it sticks. Also he is responding better to canter cues. Lots more to do, particularly on canters, but I'm taking time. Maybe to much, but really, what am I getting ready for?

I'm not sure we will do the christmas parade, mostly because with sierra's situation I don't know that I have it in me to do the prep needed. I think he might do fine, but at this point worry about horse antics is way down my list of things I'm willing to deal with.

So another excuse to take my time. But I really don't have goals right now, other than enjoying my horses. With them it's quiet, simple, focused, and in the moment. It's the greatest gift I can have right now, when challenges just seem to mount over and over. In time they will all resolve, as they do,and the respites will give me strength.

Even in the rain and cold.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Don't put that hoof in a bucket and other adventures

Smokey and I have had some nice rides. I admit to doing more training than envelope pushing. We've been working on clearing up all the fuzzy areas and hitting the local trails with my friends.

I also did some research on YouTube and determined that I don't have shoulder control - in that I can't do a turn on the haunches. So we're working on that and the side pass. As Stephanie noted Smokey will cross his front legs, then his back legs, then his front legs, maybe twice, then catches up with a hind quarter move.

It's a mess, and gives us a series of things to clean up. What I'd really like to do is send Smokey to a trainer for finishing since I'm sure it'd would be easier on everyone. But given my budget, we'll have to muddle through.

Thank goodness for YouTube. We might actually accomplish something.

Sierra and I went riding on Friday. I'd pulled her out of school for the day due to some school drama (ironic, given the news we'd get later in the day). She rode Cody since Lily is still on injured reserve.

Here's Smokey in the bosal. It moves around a good bit, which is not what it's supposed to do. I'm not sure if I'll continue using this one. Today I begged, pleaded, and just annoyed Stephanie into riding. Cibolo had a bucking incident and she wasn't sure she wanted to ride at all. But he got a visit from the horse dentist (who also did a shoulder adjustment) and it seemed to do the trick - his attitude improved and he was as calm as could be on the trail.

Smokey and I had warmed up in the arena - I wish I had a longer place to run him in. We really need to haul some place. Hopefully soon.

Anyway, I rode him in a riding halter and he did pretty well, although it took more energy from me to keep him in the proper place. I'd ridden him the day before in the bit and I'm convinced he doesn't like it. I'm going to try a few different things - all of which are there in the barn. The mechanical hackmore is not an option in my mind. The bosal is close, but it doesn't fit right and I haven't a clue how to properly shape it. Plus it feels more muddy than the side pull. I'm going to try a couple of barn bits to see if a different shape will matter, and then order a nutural.

We also worked on our mole face. Cute, right?

(No horses were spooked during the above photo session. Good boy, Smokey)


Lily Update, aka Don't put that hoof in a bucket ever again....

Lily is much, much better, but when the horse dentist checked her over she found warmth in her right front hoof. She mentioned that often with Pigeon Fever a horse will founder.

She showed me how to feel for heat, something I've never felt before. It was so mild I would have missed it. She recommended soaking the hoof, just in a frisbee or something like that.

Of course we don't have any frisbees, but we have buckets.

Do I even need to finish this story?

Okay, only because you INSIST.

There we were at the wash rack. I was cold hosing her now healing abscess wound in prep for cleaning it off. I lifted her hoof and put it in the bucket. She attempted to remove her foot from the bucket.

It was one of those big buckets. She succeeded in dragging it.

Not good.

Lily commenced to panic. She pulled back so hard she snapped her halter and bent the heck out of the carabiner. She nearly sat on her tail but managed to avoid running over me or Stephanie.

She got her foot out of the bucket. This was only somewhat comforting as it was clear this was a DANGEROUS PLACE TO PUT YOUR HOOVES.

After some reassurance we were able to get her back in position, sans bucket, and finish cleaning out her wound.

Then I went to her paddock, splashed water out of the trough to make a nice muddy spot in front of her hay (which the horse dentist suggested as a Plan B to the frisbee).

The nice thing? She trusted me enough to come down from her panic and stay in the same area.

And I now have learned the value of a good Plan B.

No buckets were broken during this life lesson, which is good, because I think it was one of the bucket the BO won at her last endurance race.


Mighty Hearts.

Thank you all for your prayers and support. The news is still settling inside me like a little boat approaching a storm. The swells rise and fall, nothing completely scary yet, with every rise you can see the clouds a bit more, the froth on the sea ahead.

I'm still hoping for a nice steady wind to redirect the storm so we can head to shore safely. I still imagine us steering clear, then sitting around the tree this holiday season, relieved that we have dodged another bullet.

I've decided to begin posting news on Sierra on Crib Notes (with a note here when I do), but not for the reasons you might think. As I was driving back from the barn today I realized that many of our family members will be keeping up with things and I find it's very tough/painful to restate these explanations over and over. Facebook isn't really an option because Sierra is on it more than I am, and I don't want her constantly confronted with updates.

Anyway, given that my family has little interest in my horse life (hard to believe I'm the ONLY horse nerd. So much for DNA), and since they might want to subscribe, I think this approach will work a little better for them, but by noting on here when there's an update I can keep you in the loop too...

I'll be starting each related post here with "Mighty Hearts" and will probably link over there from the Mighty Heart page, just FYI.

Here's to quiet seas, quiet horses, and quiet rides, my friends.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

News - your prayers, if you've got them...

I've added a new page on the top. It's called Mighty Heart. There's some news there that will be a big focus for us for the next month and, possibly, much longer

I'm trying to decide where to post updates on this to folks who will want to know what's happening since I do try to keep this "horsecentric."

Do I post them on Crib Notes or forget that I'm working a theme here?

Your thoughts on the matter are welcome, my friends.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Community - a gathering and Lily Update

I was telling my DH about Carmon, a woman I've never met. I was talking to my friend, KC about how I feel I missed an opportunity to meet her, but she was too ill when I was last in New Mexico. Soon, we wrote to one another. I'd be back in New Mexico. It wasn't my fault or hers that we didn't meet.

We met as we could, here in these little thin lines, in the glow of a screen. (update. I just learned Carmon moved on last Friday. )


It's funny how close I *think* I am to everyone in this little space of pixels and white. How vested, intertwined, I feel about everyone who reaches back when I reach out (I know others just come by to merely read, and that's fine). Yet I realize that we all have a glimpse of each other, and that these connections feel sadly lacking when a member of this group is hurting, or down.

Two years ago I had a wonderful opportunity to widen my circle of "bloggers I've met."

Carmon reminds me that I should find more ways to do that. So I'm going to give it some thought. Maybe a ride in the spring, somewhere in Texas for the folks here. Maybe just an extra day in a journey to the east coast to manage a lunch with someone. Sometimes words, even heartfelt ones, seem too thin to hang a friendship on.

Or maybe it's just natural to yearn for a bit more.

But let it start with just this, this one opening. If you find your way to Austin or San Antonio, drop me a line. Lunch is on me.


It looks like Dr. Google was right. The tests on Lily came back positive for the bacteria with a name longer than I care to remember - bottom line we've got Pigeon Fever, midline edema edition.

Her swelling is down and she's in her very own paddock well away from the herd. I don't know that it'll do much good since she was oozing all over for a day, but luckily this condition is merely disgusting. She has a HUGE hole in her belly from where the abscess was, and we've rinsed it out once. She has to stay apart from her herd mates until it closes up shop in a week or two.

I miss my sweet Lily ride, but it's nice to have only one horse to work with. Hopefully Smokey and I can get some good work in over the next few weeks. I'm working on head dropping and getting that side pass cleaned up. Maybe we'll do some trails this week. The weather is beautiful, a little drizzle, on the warm side. Perfect riding weather. Hopefully we'll get some of that done soon.

Hope all is well with you!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bits, Hackmores, and Community - and Lily Concerns

When I poised my dumb question I have to say, I was hesitant. In this little horse internet community/mutual admiration society we have self described dressage queens, competitive barrel racers, endurance racers who go on 50 milers every other weekend, professional trainers who have started more horse than I've ever even looked at, weekend riders, hardcore cowboys and trail pros - and then there's me.

No one likes to look like they don't have a clue. But when you don't have a clue, you just have to own up and learn somethin'.

Thanks to EVERYONE who gave me so much to chew on. You are amazing and I so appreciate the dialog.

First given that Smokester has bolted on me with a simple snaffle and that I didn't really slow him down with it, I'm not sure I have any better brakes with a bit. I think I just have to keep working to find the right touch with him to bring him down more readily rather than rely on a bit. He has stopped relatively quickly - when I was better at seeing it coming. I get the feeling me sawing on his mouth is not particularly effective and may exacerbate the situation, actually. Maybe its about his teeth right now, but as one person said when she saw pictures of him before I bought him, it seems like he's trying to evade the bit. Maybe he's just a bit hater.

I get that I may not be ready or skilled enough, so I need to address that. As for not knowing about shoulder control, to be clear, I don't know what the phrase means. I can (and have trained him on) how to move his front end, disengage his hindquarters and get him to float over to open a gate. He backs softly, and is getting better with his side pass. So I may be no trainer, and the more I learn the less I know, but I think I might manage to learn how to do this right.

I've decided to take a few lessons in correct use of a bosal and to size the one I have to fit Smokey since this does seem to be his preference at this stage, based on how readily he's responding. I am keeping in mind the concerns on bolting and bucking. If the person I'm asking to help tells me I suck (trust me, this person will if I do), then I'll try a different bitless option. If I've learned anything from everyone it's LISTEN TO THE HORSE.

Thank you for guiding me on my journey. I'm sure both Smokey and Lily are even more grateful. :)


Now for Miss Lily.

On Sunday Lily I took Lily out for a ride in the arena. Mireya had decided she was up for a ride and the day before I'd taken Smokey out to be my ride. Although Lily is not fond of Cody, I decided to ride her anyway.

When saddling she gave me an uncharacteristic (or rather, a used-to-be-characteristic-but-we're-past-that-now) evil look when cinching. I checked her over, but everything looked fine. In the arena, though, she acted up when we cantered, almost bucking. I worked through it with her, but was perplexed. She was warmed up. She had no issue at the trot. We didn't work much, maybe two circles in each direction and called it a day. When I took her to the wash rack I saw the absolute weirdest thing EVER.


On her belly it looked like she had two swollen water hoses along each line of her midline. It looked like this horse:

only the swelling was not nearly as dramatic. It was slightly warm, but not bad. I asked the barn owner and she theorized she'd just gotten some edema from scratching her belly on something. I cold hosed it and Lily seemed relieved. She was eating and otherwise normal so I figured I'd give it a day.

The barn owner reported on Monday it was oozing something, so she cleaned it with some benandine.

I got back out on Tuesday night and it looked like this.

And she had one matching on the other side. Not good.

This is edema of the midline, in case you ever need to consult Dr. Google. I was flipping out. It was bigger. It was oozing something awful. Since Lily didn't seem to be in serious pain and was still eating, I figured it could wait until the morning.

I called in and told work I'd be taking a day off, called the vet and searched the internet all night. The only thing I could find that seemed to fit was the photo you saw above and a reference to Pigeon Fever, Dryland Distemper or Colorado Strangles (all the same disease).

You may know that Val at Fantastyk Voyage is going through this right now with her herd. I poured over her photos. Usually pigeon fever creates an edema on the chest, hence the name. Makes a horse look like it's got a pigeon breast. That's how Val's horses are presenting.

Maybe it was just a scratch. When I went by in the morning this is how it looked:

This one is badly lit, but do you see that little circle in the middle? That's where the ooze was, remarkably similar to the ooze on Val's photos.

Gooey bloody icky. Pick your word, they all work.

The vet saw us at 10 am and to make a long story slightly longer, thought it was a bite of something. Until he shaved it and found an abscess. And an infection. And an elevated white count. The aforementioned icky gooey bloody with the addition of pus like stuff is off for culturing.

According to the vet, there's been an outbreak of pigeon fever in Texas (he's never seen a case with a belly edema before, but after I mentioned Dr. Google he looked it up and found that photo). Apparently the bacteria that causes it tends to show up in drought conditions. Maybe Dryland Distemper is the better name.

Which I don't get because it's been raining a little and surely that counts for something.

The good news is my horse doesn't have some huge hernia exploding under her belly which was the nightmare that circled my brain for an hours, looking for a nice landing spot. This is treatable and chances are she will likely be immune in the future.

The bad news is its very contagious. I'm going to buy a nice big bottle of bleach and rinse out all my grooming tools, set aside a set for her during this time, then replace them. Hopefully if it is pigeon fever she'll be the one and only case of it.

On a side note: I learned Lily does not like to load as the only horse in a trailer on a windy day. We'll be working on that during her recovery time since that was a WHOLE bunch of fun today.

Monday, November 7, 2011

No words

Difficult news: http://black-horse-design.blogspot.com/

Friday, November 4, 2011

I have a stupid question

It's a stupid question, but it's serious.

Why do we use a bit when we ride a horse?

I don't mean this in a "I am a bitless convert and don't think we should put bits in horses' mouths" kind of way.

I mean I don't understand what the idea is.

Very early in my re-entry to horses I gave up the idea that bits = brakes. I had enough rodeo moments on a horse with a big ol' bit that managed to run right through it.

So I've simplified my approach to bits, opting for the ones that seemed the most mild. Then I read this post by mugwump and I thought I'd try a bosal since Smokey was the age of the horse she described. I don't have "shoulder control" - or rather I have no idea what that is. But I know the bit was bugging him.

And right now I riding both my horses without a bit. My young one and my old one. Both are riding better, dropping their heads with the slightest pressure, responding well to cues. The merest touch on the reins works, I don't need leverage. Smokey responds just to the tilt of the bosal. Lily neck reins and stops with my seat and, if needed, a slight pull.

And it got me to wondering what a bit is even for. What's the idea? Where does a bit fit in training? Why do we move out of a hackmore or bosal? Do you have to be working on things beyond my ability? What if you are only trail and hacking around - not jumping or trying to do dressage? Do you need a bit? Cuz both my horses are doing better this way, so I keep thinking I must be missing something. Or that there will "be a reckoning" or something. (They both will take a bit and ride in it, my hands are pretty quiet I've been told)

Seriously, I'm not asking this as a philosophical question, I just thought this was the best place to ask (I've asked others I know and they just shrugged.). Anything wrong with staying in a riding halter (like above) or a bosal?