Sunday, October 22, 2006

Lessons in Wrapping

A week or two ago, Miss Lena had a swollen spot above her right rear fetlock. Katie D. came to my rescue and we went out to the barn to wrap it up to see if that helped.

Wrapping - not rapping - can be used to reduce swelling and support an injured leg. You have to be really careful when you wrap to maintain even pressure with each layer and to never pull across the back of the leg. You can wrap too tight, which - as anyone who has had a too-tight Ace bandage knows - is not good for the limb. Wrapping too loosely, of course, doesn't help much.

It was probably a bone bruise or something that stemmed from Lena thwacking her leg into the fence, but there was some fluid in there. I also thought it felt a little hot, but since I'm prone to worry, I may be overly paranoid.

Lena was mostly patient with the wrapping process. Mostly. And as we walked back to her pen with what looked like pillows around both back legs, Katie said, "She's being really good about being wrapped." Then I shut the gate and we started to walk away.

There was a commotion and I turned back to see Lena - all four feet in the air - trying to get away from her hind legs. Well, okay, trying to get away from the wraps. After Katie and I stopped laughing at her and turned to leave again, Lena peered at me through the bars of her pen, ears flat away from her head, as if to say, "You're not really going to leave me here like this, are you?"

Steve said when he got there later in the afternoon she was standing still, back feet cocked way out away from each other, looking exceptionally grumpy.

He walked her and put cold water on it, rode her a little, and by the time I got there the swelling was significantly reduced.

There are a lot of ways to deal with injuries like this, and wrapping is one that never hurts if it's done right. Cool water or ice and walking are also good. In fact, horse injuries are a lot like human ones - only on a bigger, sometimes less-cooperative scale.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

New owner at the barn

So there is a new horse - and new owner - at the barn.

Scout is a spotty horse, though I don't know if he's a Paint or a pinto, which doesn't really matter anyway. He's an 8-year old gelding, shorter than Lena by at least a hand, and very mellow.

The mom in the group - whose name I can't recall - was around horses when she was 16, but this is her (their) first horse. There are three kids, the youngest looks to be around 3, the older two are maybe around 5 and 7?

Anyway, while I watched them all hand-feed carrots to this horse, I had to refrain from doling out any advice since, a) my horse is hardly a fine example of a non-spoiled horse and b) being bombarded with unsolicited advice from every corner can be entirely too overwhelming.

So... I guess I'll keep a polite eye on Scout and try very hard to mind my own business since, heck, how much do I really know?! Not a lot if you ask the veterans at my barn, but I do know a little about being a "new" horse owner and how much advice you can really take in. It's better in dribs and drabs and way better when you ask for it.

Of course, you still have to get about three (at least) different opinions and then go with the one that works best for you and your horse, but it makes for good points on the graph in any case.

A mini mini

It's Thumbelina, the world's smallest horse!

I desperately want a mini-mini!

Learn more here.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Horse Body Work

My friend Karen MacDonald, who runs her own horse massage practice, came out a few weeks ago to show me some things I could do for Lena.

Karen uses a lot of acupressure points and Chinese methodologies, as well as some basic stretching and limbering exercises. She's been doing this for over 10 years and currently does a lot of work at the track for racehorses.

I just like working with my hands and helping Lena be more flexible and less sore, so it's been a cool thing to start learning about.

I have to say that Lena picked up on the carrot stretches very, very quickly.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Someone said to me the other day that the difference between geldings and mares is that geldings are consistent with their issues - as in they pick their particular issue or foible and it stays the same - and with mares it's a new thing depending on the day, their mood, or the amount of wind in the air.

Now, since I've only owned a mare - and only for a little over a year - I can't confirm this particular observation, but it does fit with what I know about Lena and what I've experienced with the geldings I know.

Now there's no doubt by now that I love this horse - and that I think she's special and wonderful - but she does try and do new and different things most every day, I think mainly to see what she can get away with.

Some people want horses that are even-tempered and obedient and not at all moody. Me? I like to work with her, see what kind of attitude I get today and how I can play with it and get some kind of agreement with her about what we're doing.

Otherwise what's the point?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Equine Dentistry

Today was dentist day - interesting for me, not so interesting for the horses, but important nonetheless. It involved a certified Equine Dentist - Marcus Rietema (also President of the IGSA) and my vet, Leslie Mikluvich. Oddly enough, Leslie used to be Katie's vet and remembers Bee!

Here are the tools all laid out before we got started.

Fenway was first and you can tell in this picture he knew something was up.

First was a manual "float" where the dentist basically sticks long poles with metal rasps on them into the horses mouth to de-burr the teeth on a first pass. Then comes the speculum and the power tools.

Fenway did really well, and had a lot of work done. At one point, probably before another injection, he did look over at me like he was ready to be done. Really ready to be done. (He wasn't quite, though.)

Sadie was next, but I didn't take any pictures of her because - with a whole lot of drugs in her - she did not act sedated at all and I figured the last thing she needed was the flash going off.

Then came Doc, a 20-year old gelding related distantly to Lena (Doc Bar) and looking more like cutting horse stock than she ever has. His owner had her boyfriend Phil come do dentist duty. Phil is "retired" and has my dream job - working in the local small-town hardware store. He did a great job of tending Doc and keeping us all company while we watched and waited.

This is Doc getting his front teeth chopped down to the right level. (If the front teeth are too long, the back teeth can't come together and chew food properly.)

Doc also came through with flying colors and apparently has great teeth for a horse his age. Yay!

Lena was last because I had planned to be there all day and wasn't sure what was going to happen with the extraction. As it turns out, the tooth was loose and came out (relatively) easily. We're hoping the permanent tooth - pushed back because this one was in the way - will now migrate towards the space it was supposed to occupy. Yes, I saved the tooth. And both Katie D. and Shannon wanted to see it, so it can't be all that weird of a thing to do amongst horse-owners. Maybe a little weird to other folks, though.

Lena had watched me going in and out of the barn all day, and had watched other horses go in and out all day, so was already vaguely suspicious. She also remembered Dr. Leslie, and not necessarily fondly.

Mostly, Lena was good. Luckily, Steve decided to leave work early or there wouldn't be any pictures of Lena since I would have been holding, not photgraphing.

Here she is getting her front teeth done, though since she is only five, not quite so much came off.

She did have some nasty hooks (sharp points) in the back which were causing ulcers in her mouth, which is one of the reasons to get your horse's teeth done. Would you want to have a bit in with things like that going on in your mouth?

Just so you know, there is no instant gratification here for the owner. After their ordeal, both Fenway and Lena were eating very gingerly and both turned their backs to us in an expression of their irritation. It's like parenting, really. Phil even said at one point, "It hurts me more than it hurts you."

When Steve asked Marcus why dentistry is needed for horses, the answer he got was basically that healthy teeth are even more important now that horses don't roam the plains eating hard scrabble food and live more than ten or twelve years. You know, kind of like humans. Katie says there are a lot of people who don't believe in it, but it makes sense to me and if it makes Lena a healthier, happier horse, I'm all for it.

This is Marcus after a very long day of horse dentistry. Many thanks, I'm sure Lena will start speaking to me again soon. :-)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Horse Dentist Day

So tomorrow, Tuesday, we have a certified Equine Dentist coming to the barn.

It all started because Miss Lena has a front incisor baby tooth that refuses to come out. It's not even loose! So our vet told us it was time to have it taken out and the dentist asked if I could line up other horses to make his trip from Livermore a little more worthwhile.

So I did. I've got five horses lined up - well, four horses and a pony - including Mr. Fenway who will come hang out for the day after he gets his teeth done.

Katie and I will try to take pictures to post here because it's going to be quite a production, but it's hard to take pictures when you're trying to hold up 1,200 lbs. of swaying, drugged horse.

This is a picture of Lena sleeping off the drugs after getting her teeth done last year.

Don't worry, sports fans, I've done this before.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Weekend Trail Ride

Today Jessica, Katie (Jessica's daughter), and I went for a nice trailride on Bee, Lena, and Fenway.
Afterwards we gave them apples picked from my apple trees. Fenway was hungry!
We had a great time together. There's nothing like spending a day with your horse and your friends!!!!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

New horse owner?

Adrienne commented that I really am not a new horse owner anymore, but I still feel new. Yes, it's been a year and we've learned a lot, but every day brings a new experience.

Sometimes it's subtle, like the way she responds to my mood or my stress level; sometimes it's very obvious, like the way she responded to the hackamore. (Lena, not Adrienne.) :-)

And sometimes it's something totally wacky, like the way she stood patiently with my baseball cap on her ear the whole time I was in the tack room, seeming to indulge my oddity simply because she felt like it.

Okay, she did blow out through her nose with that "the things I put up with," tone. You horseowners know what I mean, I know you do.

Hm. That does make me sound more veteran than "new" horse owner, doesn't it? Oh, well. I stick by my earlier statement - each day brings something new to it, which makes me a new horse owner every day.

Someday, I might come to expect every action, every nuance, but I doubt it. And honestly? I don't really want it. It keeps things interesting, that's for sure.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The horse ambassador

This is Cals Eclipse. He's Lena's half brother, the first foal out of their foundation mare - Lena was the last.

He has been a world champion cutting horse, true, but more important, he has been a teacher and mentor for probably hundreds of students of horsemanship throughout his 23 years on this earth.

Cheri told me the last time we were up there that they literally built their business around him - with people coming from miles away just to ride him, calling in advance to be sure he was available.

Those of us who know him understand why.

He taught me to be aware of my body and that my every movement means something to him, whether it was what I wanted to communicate or not. He taught Steve to ride with his eyes closed. He's taught countless people to sit back and let a master work the cow.

He's never mean, is always willing to work, and is as smart, playful and gentle a horse as I've ever met. He will get out there with horses 1/4 his age and keep up - if not surpass - simply because he is driven that way.

He has a very expressive set of ears, too. I have a before and after set of pictures of Steve cutting on a horse named Peekaboo, taken while sitting on Eclipse. His ears tell us exactly what he thought of her efforts that day.

He is an escape artist, too. He likes to get out and torment the people chasing him. Cheri tells the story of one of his most famous - and nearly fatal - escapes. It was winter and the deck around their house was icy. Eclipse got out and slipped on the deck while capering around the house. He fell - hard - and hit his head and neck. It was unclear for awhile if his neck would ever be okay, but eventually it was and he went back to training novice riders.

Aside from my own riding experiences with him, I have two memories that stick in my head about this fine horse.

One cold and nasty day, Ike was putting the hackamore on Eclipse and Eclipse kept shying away from Ike's hands. Ike stopped and asked Eclipse what was wrong and did he need a kiss. Then Ike - 6 feet tall, 200 pounds of stubborn cowboy - planted a kiss on that horse. Just in case, Ike said, "Do you want another one?" and gave that big horse another smooch. Only then did Eclipse let him put the bridle on.

Ike and Cheri have a granddaughter, Amber. (Tiffany stopped riding long enough to have Amber and got back on the horse right after.) Cheri brought Amber out to meet Eclipse one day and he reached out his head to her - bigger than she was - as slow and as gentle as I've ever seen an animal move. It was like he recognized his next prodigy. Apparently, Amber now rides him and bats away any adult hand that tries to stabalize her in the saddle. She must know the kind of gentleman he is.

This is one of Eclipse's recent students, Adrienne, before a cutting lesson.

This is Adrienne after the cutting lesson.

He is a master at what he does and a true ambassador to horses, to cutting, and to special spotty horses.