Archive | February, 2013

Foster fun!

27 Feb

On Monday night, I went out to meet the woman I wrote about in my last post, hereby known as TB. If you recall, TB is the current foster mom of 10 horses who have been taken from a feedlot in my area. She is working on their manners and training and of course, finding them forever homes.

I was really impressed with TB, she obviously is passionate about horses and also about the cause and is willing to donate her time and resources towards making a difference for these horses. In fact, I was so impressed with everything that she was saying, I think I was grinning from ear-to-ear the entire time I was out there, haha. TB told me that she had received quite a lot of respones from her facebook post and that the majority of responses came from people novice horsepeople, or complete beginners who were really interested in getting involved for the learning opportunity. She also eluded to the fact that she received some responses from people who had taken in one of the rescue horses from the feedlot and have now realized that they’re in over their heads and are looking at this as a learning opportunity. Recognizing that this isn’t exactly what she was anticipating from the responses, she is proposing that she creates an inclusive learning environment for the people and the horses. Basically what she is suggesting is that she puts us into groups so that each group has one experienced person, with some beginners. This will allow her to lead the learning but will also provide her with the support of an experienced person to assist. She also said that for the experienced people, she wanted us to look at this like a lease situation but without the fees – that we can feel free to come and ride when we’re available, just to let her know that we’re coming.

I was introduced to all the horses at the barn, there are probably about 15 in total, including the 10 rescues. Seeing the rescues was very surreal to say the least. I recognized a number of them from the facebook group and it was so sad, but yet inspriring, to know that these horses literally had only days left before they were slaughtered. They were all just gorgeous and incredibly friendly. When TB saw how tall I was (I’m 5’11) she introduced me to Quinn, a large chestnut quarter horse gelding, and mentioned that she thought I’d work well with him. The other great thing about this guy is that she thinks he’d make a good dressage prospect, and she’d like to take him to some shows this summer (provided he’s not sold before then). TB is big into dressage and we had a good conversation on the subject and she was excited that dressage is my interest as well. I think I shocked her a bit when she asked me who my coach was and my response was, “well, I don’t’ really have one…the Boss knows a lot about horses but she does’t coach us so we just do everything on our own.” TB then offered to give me a bit of coaching to assist me in my dressage endeavours!

It was left that TB will look at everyone’s availabilities and put together a bit of a tentative schedule and we’ll just go from there. I really can’t believe how great this sounds. I’m incredibly excited to help these horses move into their new homes, I’m excited to meet other like-minded horse people, and I’m excited for the huge learning opportunity that awaits.

I haven’t said anything to the Boss about this yet, I’m going to wait a little while just to make sure things are working out before mentioning anything. I don’t think she will frown upon it, but I am a bit worried she may feel threatened or put out that I’m exploring this opportunity as well (threatened may be a bit strong of a word..). The other part I’m worried about is mentioning that these horses were pulled from the feedlot because the Boss does send horses that route and does support it as a necessary industry.

All that aside, I’m really excited about this…

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The dreaded c-word

25 Feb

I heard the dreaded c-word when I went to the barn yesterday…colic.

Apparently on Friday when the horses were being brought in for the night, Corona was lying flat out “like a flat tire” in the field. A lead-rope was clipped on him and he got up and came into the barn, where he flopped down in his stall right away. They took his temperature and it was really low, so he’d been lying out there for a while, thank goodness it wasn’t very cold out that day and he was wearing his heavy blanket. The Boss called the vet and in the meantime gave him an injection of dipyrone to help in the relaxation of his gut. The Boss and the Trainer then started to walk him around. After a few laps, it was decided he was looking a bit better so they put him back in his stall to monitor. Apparently with dipyrone, since it’s a relaxant, you try to just leave the horse alone and let the injection do its job (provided the horse isn’t thrashing around in the stall doing more damage). After a short period of time, he pooped! The vet called and I guess at this point they figured the best thing to do was to monitor, so that’s what the Boss did. No further ill effects and after a few hours, Corona was back to chomping on some hay and back to his normal poop-filled self. Thank goodness.

I’ve never experienced colic before but have always dreaded it and the fact that this happened has shaken me up a bit. It’s hard too because I don’t own the horse so wasn’t called – not that it would have helped matters but I would have been out there quick as a whip to do anything and everything I could to help. In speaking with the Boss yesterday I told her flat out that she should call me next time and I’d do the walking/ monitoring etc. so she didn’t have to.

I have no idea whether it’s related or not, but last week when I was brushing him, he was very sensitive on his left side, from about half way down his neck, to his hip. At the time, I noticed a small bite wound on his neck from one of his buddies, so I figured he had perhaps just been kicked as well. When the Boss told me about the colic episode, I told her about this coincidence and she didn’t really think it was related but you never know with horses.

I watched him like a hawk yesterday for any additional signs that it might happen again. Like last week, he was still really sensitive on this left side. Anytime I’d touch him with the brush he’d pin his ears and give me stink-eye. I felt around and couldn’t find any lumps and bumps but it is definitely out of character for him to be like this. I wondered if I’d even get a saddle on him so I took it slowly. If he was sore I wasn’t going to ride him, but surprisingly, he didn’t seem to care about the saddle at all.

I was pretty excited as this was pretty much the first time I’ve been able to ride him since Christmas! The recent nice weather we’ve had has melted the ice that has prevented us from riding for so long. Like had happened a few weeks ago when I THOUGHT we were going to get a ride in, Corona was SO excited to get out there, especially because CG and SM were there with their horses too. Off we went and it was heavenly! Since it was our first ride in a while, and we are still recovering from the knee wound, we just walked but it was a brilliant walk. Corona was off to the races, huge strides and ears forward just ready to take on the world. I made a great effort to stay relaxed in the saddle and Corona obliged, even when we walked by a spooky half-buried bag in the snow bank.

We were out for about an hour and I was eager to see how the exercise affected Corona’s leg. His knee is still swollen, but the swelling in his tendon was virtually non-existent after the ride! He was completely sound at the walk, in fact, I had seen his trotting and cantering earlier in the field too and he looked sound. The vet is hopefully going to see him on Tuesday as they’re coming out to see the racehorses. Apparently there’s a new vet with the practice and if she comes, the Boss won’t have her look at Corona because she doesn’t trust her, so I’m praying that it’s one of the other two vets as I’d really like their opinion on things – after all, this has been going on since mid-December. I keep meaning to take some photos of his knee to post on here, will do that next time I’m out. I don’t mind if it’s just an aesthetic issue, as long as he’s sound on it and we’re not missing something bigger!

Opportunity knocks!

20 Feb

A new opportunity has presented itself to me, one that made me think, “are you serious??” in the good way.

If you read my post about principles, you would have seen that I don’t believe that disposing of horses by sending them for slaughter is acceptable. For the last year or so, I’ve been following a group on Facebook that posts information on horses that are currently in a feedlot in my area, and that provides the opportunity for people to buy them (yes, at a markup) before they are sent for slaughter. This group is quite controversial for several reasons, the main ones that I see are, a) you are buying a horse from the meat-man at a higher price than he paid for the horse at auction, b) you don’t get to see the horse before buying aside from the photos, c) there is little to no history on the horses, d) there are concerns about this creating a marked up market so that horse rescues have been outbid on horses at auction because this meat-man knows he can likely find a buyer who will pay more for the horse though this group, e) there are no purchase/adoption contracts in place so technically these horses could end up in bad situation.

Don’t get me wrong, I do see issues with this model. However, I also see this group as a means to give these horses a second chance that they otherwise don’t have (i.e.: if nobody purchases these horses within the week they’re at the feedlot, they are sent for meant. Period).

Sometimes, supporters of this group raise “bail” for these horses and they are put in foster homes until permanent homes can be found. Sometimes this bail money comes from donations, and sometimes it is given as a loan, it really depends on the individuals who are providing the bail money.

One of the foster homes in my area has 10 of these horses, and the woman is looking for some assistance in getting them started under saddle etc., with the intent that it will make these horses more marketable so that they can find good permanent homes. She is a certified coach and is offering free riding/ground work with these horses, under her instruction, in exchange for the help. She is located about 25 mins from where I live, AND has an indoor arena. As soon as I read her request, I was sold. This seems like a great opportunity to further my horsey experience under the guidance of a certified instructor which is something I don’t really have out at the Boss’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ditching Corona or the Boss’, I’m doing this in addition to my regular horsey endeavours! I actually think this is going to be of benefit to Corona and I because I’ll be able to take the knowledge and experience from this opportunity, and apply it to our relationship. I’ve also been looking for a way to help these horses that is non-financial in nature, and this seems to be a good option to do so.

I’m aiming to do this once/week and maybe twice/week depending on my availability. Corona must come first and I’ve let the woman know this already. I’m hoping that I haven’t bit off more than I can chew, but I think I would regret not exploring this opportunity. The other great thing is the fact that there’s an indoor arena – so I see this as something that I can really dedicate more time to in the winter months when I can’t do much out at the Boss’s anyways.

Also – this woman’s passion is dressage! I’m really looking forward to working with her and essentially being a sponge and soaking up any knowledge I can. I should be starting early next week so I’ll be sure to include updates in here too.

New barn, ice, and I love my boy!

8 Feb

Saturday was frigid!!!!! It wouldn’t have been bad if there was no wind, but the wind was blowing in such a way that it could only be described as bitterly bone-chilling!

Needless to say, CG and I didn’t ride. Instead, we had a nice spa day (hour) with Corona and Roller. I also practiced picking up all four feet from one side and was successful! Like last week, I’m not asking for Corona’s right front from the left due to the stiffness, but I got all three other feet from BOTH sides! I was thrilled! We also practiced heads down successfully.

After the barn, I went to check out CG’s new hobby farm. It was fantastic! It was bloody freezing so we didn’t spend a great deal of time out there, but it’s a really nice setup. The barn is HUGE! The main level has 6 box stalls which must be about 14×14 ft, it’s very airy and open with really wide aisles. There are four stalls on one side and another two on the opposite side. In the original design there should have been 3 additional stalls on the other side, but the barn was not completed (the previous-previous owner’s husband who built it died before it was finished). There’s no tack room, or feed room, but we’re planning on using one of the extra stalls as the feed room (locked door) and there’s a good spot for a tack room once we get some hooks and racks put up. The floor is just dirt, but CG is getting quotes on rubbing stall mats for the four main stalls and main aisle.

In terms of other buildings, there’s an old barn on the property which has 2 additional small stalls, then there’s a run-in shelter in the main paddock, and what’s going to become the chicken coop as well. There’s one main paddock which has wooden fencing around most, but page-wire only in a couple places, I’m hoping we can block off that page-wire as it’s a recipe for disaster. The other paddock needs some work but is a fairly good size as well. It looks like it was supposed to be 2 paddocks because there’s a portion of a fence in the middle, with a gate, but the plan will be to re-configure this anyway. Right outside the barn, there is a riding area which is apparently a sand ring. It’s not very big, maybe 40mx50m but it’s hard to tell with all the snow. There’s another unused area in front of the barn which we’re brainstorming how best to use as well. Overall – really good potential. My main concern is the safety of the fencing so hopefully we’ll be able to address that as one of the priorities.

The previous owner left the place absolutely filthy. Apparently her horses were given free range of the property, including both barns. The stalls were not bedded, but are absolutely caked in a layer of poop. She must not have cleaned it out….ever! Disgusting. There’s nothing we can do about it at the moment because it’s frozen solid, but there will be quite a bit of spring cleaning to come.

On Sunday, CG and I had plans to ride up the road since we haven’t been able to ride in at least a month due to the weather. Plans changed when I saw how great Corona’s leg looked and decided that I’d rather take him for a walk around the property instead so that he could get some much needed exercise! The Trainer was exercising a couple of the racehorses, and when he was finished he reported that the sides of the track seemed to have fairly good footing, enough to go for a walk anyways. I tacked up Corona and CG got Roller ready. Corona was so excited to get out, he hasn’t been ridden since before we found out about the fracture and the look on his face when I was putting his tack on was awesome.

It. Was. ICY! We got about half way up the long side of the track and called it quits. The horses were slipping around too much for our comfort and we were on the “good” side of the track. Much to Corona’s dismay, we turned around and headed back to the barn. All was well until we got about 30 ft from the barn…Roller decided to take his own path and somehow ended up trying to walk beside the coverall…he started to lose his footing. I was in front, and when I turned around I saw him go down on one knee, but he managed to right himself. I jumped off Corona as CG tried to steady Roller and get him off the icy patch he found. It was to no avail however and next thing I saw was Roller half-collapse / half-voluntarily lie down with CG still on his back. Luckily CG managed to get off without issue and was convinced he had hurt himself and couldn’t get up. I looked at him and it really looked like he just didn’t know what to do. CG was worried but I got her to give him his space, give him a second, and then we started asking him to get up from a distance. Sure enough, up he popped on his own accord. Phew. Roller is a great horse, he’s huge, but he’s very calm and tends to keep a cool head. I’m absolutely certain that when he was down, he was waiting for us to help him out and tell him what he should do. Such a good boy!

I must add here, that throughout this ordeal, Corona was cool as a cucumber…he just looked at his buddy as if to say, “what are you doing down there?” We took them both into the coverall for a couple of walking laps just to make sure all was well and then we went into the barn.

There’s never a dull moment…

When it’s cold…take some photos to prove it and then get on with it!

1 Feb

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It was mighty cold last week, the barn could have been mistaken for an arctic hut!

 

I didn’t ride as planned, I thought the footing was too icy and I didn’t want Corona to take a bad step and hurt his leg further. Instead I decided to do some more groundwork, building on where we had left off the week before. Keeping in mind that it’s hard to make much progress when you’re only practicing once/week, I thought we did pretty great!  In the coverall, we worked on the friendly game, this week with the string flipping and flapping all over him, he didn’t seem to care. I let it dangle around his legs, he didn’t seem to care. Normally this is where it goes wrong with the string, so I was pretty darn pleased.

We worked on the porcupine game, this game needs work. He’s really good at yielding his hind quarters, but we definitely have not mastered any sort of lateral yield from the shoulder and even a yield backwards from his chest can be a bit challenging at times. It feels like there is something “locked” that is prohibiting this, but I can’t seem to figure out what it is. I googled it a bit this week so we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

The driving game – similar to the porcupine game, we seem to have a “forehand lock”…stay tuned…on a positive note however, our hide-the-hiney is coming along well and we did a full cicle in each direction.

The yo-yo game: pretty good again. Just needs more practice. We seem to have a tendancy to do this well a couple of times and then Corona decides he’s had enough and just doesn’t move and starts to barge over me. I’m not sure whether this is his way of saying, “I did this a few times, I’m over it, let’s move on” or whether it’s just luck that I get it those first few times. I’ll have to experiment a bit more I think.

Now here was the strange part: normally Corona is excellent at the circling game, however on Saturday he wanted nothing to do with it. Each time I backed him up and asked him to circle, he wouldn’t move, then he’d look at my stick and snort at it as if he was spooking at it. This was in both directions too. The first few times he did this, I immediately stopped and did a few minutes of the friendly game with the stick, that wasn’t a problem, he didn’t flinch. When I asked him to circle, he went again with the snorts. This repeated itself a few times so I put the stick on the ground and I proceeded to lead him over it. No problem. Pick up the stick, repeat, same problem. I walked him on a circle with the stick in my hand and then slowly backed away from him so that he began cicling around me, he would take about 3 steps on his own and then boom, snort snort and stop. I experiemented with some strange hybrid of the circling game and leading him and he’d last a few steps but he was bringing his shoulder into me (proof that more practice is requied at yeilding the forehand I guess!) and I also noticed that he was turning his haunches in towards me just an inch or two – not enough that I thought he was going to kick me, but definitely sending me a message that he was not impressed. I alternated this circling hybrid with the other 4 games and made sure to end on a positive note. Still thrown off by the whole thing.

The pièce de résistance however was yet to come! I’ve been wanted to practice lifting all four feet from one side for a few weeks now, but hadn’t really tried it because I wanted to start with the front feet and with Corona’s right leg really swollen, I didn’t want to make him put all of his weight on it, or ask him to flex it as much as he would have to if I was picking it up from the left side. Now that I think about the weight thing, it’s a bit silly because I”ve been picking his feet out normally since the injury without any weight-bearing issues. Anyways, I’m happy to report that I got 2/3 feet! I didn’t try asking for his right front from the left side for the flexibility concerns above. I was so thrilled!!!!!  First, I got the hind right, then I got the front left! I couldn’t figure out the hind left…every time I tried, he would lift the right instead. Regardless, I was so happy, I got the perma-grin!!

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