Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wonderful Horsey Day

I am pulling an all nighter to get ready to work three days in a row. It is the end of a totally perfect horsey day. I met my friend and her adorable little boy and showed her some of my fave tack spots in Portland. Then I played with Dickie who is as smart as ever. I brought a clicker and a toy with me. He figured out click=treat in about five clicks. Then I went to reserve a stall at the new barn for Oct 1st. It was just as nice as I remembered. After that I headed back for a ride on Bre. We went on a bareback jaunt through the woods and I ended up tearing my t-shirt in half because I misjudged the hieght of some branches on a game trail. I was so happy that I didn't run into anyone on the ride back because they would have been blinded by the white skin on my back fat. It was a long day and I am sore from all the walking and riding but I feel great.

I took a few pics from the new barn's website so you can see new digs. I officially gave notice today. The current owner was so nice about it. She understood my reasons. I might be able to leave before the 30 days because someone just called about a stall recently. If the other person still needs a stall I can move before Oct 1st.

The day started with wishful window shopping. What a heavenly sight, rows and rows of consignment saddles......

Dickie's stall looks just like this (I think his shares a wall).... 

His stall is the second from the end. The one next to the horse peeking out. 

I took this one today. It is of his personal run attached to his stall. I had already walked a ways before I took the picture, if that gives you any idea of the size. It goes all the way to the far fence. There is rock/gravel just outside the door so it probably won't get too muddy :)  He gets to be out 24/7. YAY!!!

This is of the round pen the built last year. It is so nice. It is all wood so there are no worries of a frisky kick resulting in a leg through the fence. 

Finished product.....

 Enough about what the pony gets. I get one of these wondeful tack lockers You can walk into the locker and stand up by barely scrunching. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Showing Some Sass

In advance I apologize for the long ramble. I have alot of horsey stuff to ponder.

I haven't given any updates on the spotted beast lately. No worries, he is still cute and fun as ever I just haven't had much to write about. It was really hot out, then I had a stretch of working, took a vacation up to Seattle, then immediately went to work again. It was great to actually get out of town for the first time since graduating. I don't think we have taken an overnight trip since last summer, maybe longer. I was happy to get home though and back to playing with four leggers.

Dickie was feeling full of drama and energy the other night. He has been in more often than I would like (long story, that will soon change) and I could feel it right away. Instead of calmly looking to me for our next adventure, his mind was everywhere but on planet earth. He was gazing off into the distance and wasn't interested at all in what I had to say. I went into the normal routine of asking him to put his head down by touching behind his ears and he went straight up. He was not having any of what I was selling. What I have learned about him is that he doesn't really kick, never bolts out of my hands, and doesn't usually do crazy tantrum bucks. What he does love to do is his best impression of Trigger, whether he is having fun or expressing extreme displeasure. It isn't every session by any means (maybe 2-3 times since I have had him) but it does happen.

By the end of our work out he was willing to step from side to side, move his haunches, respect my space on a walk from both sides, lunge at a walk, and stand still without eating me. His mind was still all over the place and he never got to the point where he was chewing and relaxed but was obedient. Today he was MUCH better. There were no signs of a levade but he was still quite distracted.

The last few days pointed out several problems to me. One is that my horse is so smart he already knows the routine and is bored. He knows what is coming and really needs something new to work on. Smart is a good thing so this just means I need to step up my game. It isn't that I won't keep doing all the basics but if I do it in the same order each time I am going to run into a grumpy horse who looks at our time together as something to endure. I have been meaning to bring toys and a clicker into our training but keep putting it off. It seems lazy mom needs to get cracking. Tomorrow I will stop and get a clicker and maybe check out goodwill for some balls and pool noodles.

Another problem is the fact that he isn't turned out as long as I thought when I moved him there. He goes out pretty late and comes in pretty early. It wouldn't be a huge deal if he was older but he is 2 and big and has lots of energy. He needs to be out 24/7. I want him to be worn out from playing before I get to him so he can actually listen. I can't blame him for wanting to eat the lead rope, or be in every one's business if he has been bored out of his mind for hours before I arrived. Don't get me wrong. The barn he is at takes incredible care of the horses, and the owner adores Dickie. However, horses are individuals so the living situation that allows each one to shine is unique as well.

Lastly, I REALLY need a round pen. The arena is too big for me to work him at liberty. He goes to one end and starts playing with the gate and looking out the window, then runs and farts down to the other end to dig in the shavings pile. Neither of which is helping us. Plus, it varies between being dusty or deep from watering. I use the makeshift outdoor most of the time but it is HUGE and just pasture w a dirt track that will soon be mud. I love working him up at Bre's barn but I am realizing it isn't feasible to always walk him there. We have pretty early barn hours at Dickie's and I work grave so I sleep late. By the time I see my honey, have dinner, and skip rush hour it is too late to walk him to Bre's and back. Some days by the time I get ready for the stable it is too late to go out period. And frankly sometimes I am just too tired to haul myself up that hill.

Moral of the story? The amazing barn despite all it's awesomeness doesn't fit our needs. The bad news is that I love the barn owner and really don't want to give notice. The good news is there happens to be a place not far down the road. He would have a half acre pasture attached to his stall. There is a nice sand round pen with sturdy wooden walls to avoid leg injuries. It has a nice loop around the property for walks. There is a full size dressage arena with brand spanking new footing (no dust baby). I would be allowed at the barn any time 24hrs a day. And it is the same price. More for the same price? Sounds good to me. The only pitfalls I see are the chance of a crowded arena (probably not an issue when this vampire will be there) and the fact that he won't be out with another horse. I really like horses in a herd situation. But he will have plenty of room run and be out right next to others. And there are shared pasture options if a stall comes up in one of those areas.

Other moral of the story........... When it comes to babies sometimes you take two steps forward and sometimes you take two steps straight up in the air with hooves pawing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back In the Saddle

I have covered the fact the Bre is semi retired from serious riding because she plateaued and has soundness issues when pushed past 1st level. As I huffed myself up the hill between Dickie's and Bre's I realized I am so out of shape that I would probably pass out if I rode an intro test let alone first level. The frequency of my riding slowed 3 years ago when I started pre-requisites for nursing school. Once I got into nursing school I started a strict diet of macaroni and coffee (preferably with some sort of very sugary creamer). Between work, studying, and clinical hours the only form of exercise I engaged in was carrying my books to and from school.

At the top of the hill I was out of breath, weak in the legs, and my face was red as a lobster. An old riding friend arrived to meet Dickie and found me still dripping with my shoes/socks strewn about the aisle way in an attempt to cool off. She used to be my riding partner in crime. We boarded on the edge of some amazing trails. We would be gone for 3 hours and would have spent least half of the ride in two point. Sadly, our adventures weren't all that long ago. I started nursing school two years ago this fall and was still riding, albeit with less frequency, at that point.  

At one point while playing with the ponies, my friend and I discussed how the perfect person to lease either of our mares would be someone looking to get back into dressage. It clicked at that moment that I was describing myself. I am that out of shape adult who used to have some talent but needs to start over. Dickie is the horse for my in shape self but I have a long way to go before that self appears again. In the end it always leads back to Bre. After all those years of training Bre the time has come for her to train me. And what an amazing trainer she is. If you ask correctly she gives, she turns from your seat, goes forward with a whisper of  your leg, is as light as feathers in the bridle. She is a bouncy ride so its like trying to stay on a pilates ball with a mind of its own. Just trotting her around the arena with help build up stamina and core muscles. 

Looking at old riding pictures reminds me that I can lose weight and I can get in enough shape to ride again. I might tip the scales at the almost highest weight of my life and be at my most appalling as far as stamina. That isn't the end of the world though. I was even more overweight and out of shape one other time. That was when Bre was 3 and as green as grass. Back then she needed me to help teach her confidence and to prove she wasn't a dangerous horse. Eleven years later (to the month) I find myself coming back to Bre and asking her to help me.

When I had enough stomach muscles to ride bareback (taken in Alaska but I was actually in better riding shape 4 years ago) 

Major flashback of me with my TB mare (right) when I rode hard everyday. 

Back in the days when we could be gone all day then be just as fresh the next morning (not long before RN school). 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Youtube Rescue Horse

I am up late because I work tomorrow and try to say up until at least 5am the night before I work a grave. I was looking at horse videos and really have no idea how I stumbled upon this young woman. When I first saw the videos I thought it was adorable that she was so smitten by her horse. So many young people get focused on the ribbons and lose sight of the fact that riding involves another creature.

Here is a young lady who looks to be a promising rider at the top levels. Yet she is deep down still that little girl who always wanted a horse.

Click here to see the story of her 15.3 Clyd/TB cross who was rescued and is now at top level jumping and loving it. If you are a big sucker you might want to have tissues around, damn teenagers and their youtube video music. It is wonderful that even when her trainers told her the horse was too small and she needed a new one she didn't believe them and went elsewhere. Good for her!!! Check out her other videos too. That horse is having a blast.

The next time some fancy trainer tells you right away you need a new horse just because yours doesn't have the right pedigree think twice. If the horse is built for the job and loves the job, eff off everyone.

No news on the pony front here. It is too hot. I can't stand myself and have no interest in forcing them into labor until it at least gets back into the 90s.

Monday, August 13, 2012


So I think it ended up being in the 90s places today. I know it had to be that hot where the horses are because it was 90 in the shade when it felt like it was "cooling" off. I am no Texan so when it gets hot I always feel dramatic. Dickie was out sunning himself with the boys when I arrived. I thought these next few pictures turned out cute because you can see him walking over. Please notice he still has a fly mask on. He didn't even have the halter on over his mask. Not sure why they left him unmolested this long. I brought out my safety halter today and if he can keep the same halter until pay day I will get him another one with the fancy ears. 

My friend was coming out today to meet me at Bre's farm so I walked my ass up the steep hill and thought I was going to die from heat stroke (I have to take a picture of this hill next time, skinny people will laugh at me but my fellow squishy middlers will feel my pain). Being overweight, out of shape, and in the heat isn't a good mix. When I used to walk Bre up the hill I would make her pull me up by the tail but somehow I don't think that would work out well for me with Dickie. Fortunately, he was great on his walk up even when the dogs started yapping at him. E, the friend meeting me, is an old riding buddy. We boarded together before I moved Bre to the smaller private stable. We rode together as much as possible and put in many hours out on the trails. Her mare was best friends with Bre. 

Today we hopped on Romeo and Bre and quickly realized that plodding at the speed of an old dairy cow suited us just fine. I have been wanting to pony Dickie and I had the thought that the ponies being extra mellowed by the heat might make the first pony session uneventful. It was also a bonus to have my friend there because she is one of the best horsewomen I know. I didn't anticipate any huge problems. My mare is the horse who can go anywhere on a trail ride, front back, middle, wherever. She lets the other horses ride right up her big QH butt. Horses can slam into her, nip her, lean on her, whatevs. She has a big walk and trot so she will be able to keep up with Dickie. She is also fairly tall (just a shade under 16h) so I won't be dwarfed by him. My only worry was the fact that she hasn't been exposed to horses other than Romeo for two years. 

E handed me Dickie and he seemed polite as could be about the whole thing. Then I noticed my mare straining as hard she could not to sniff his nose. NO!! Not the dreaded mare nose sniff!!! If any of you have mares you will know that sniffing noses is the worse thing you can do. They prick their ears up, bat those long eye lashes, and give such an inviting little whicker. What gelding could possible resist that kind of blatant seduction? Then they are rewarded by their friendly "Hello" with a blood curdling scream and a lash out with the front foot. Bre is one of the least marish mares I know but she is still capable of a good scream/stomp. Dickie responded when I shushed him back but Bre was dead set on getting her sniff. Apparently she is in season and decided he was the man for her. She turned her neck around to give him her best come hither look and no amount of pulling would get her to put her head straight forward. I kicked and tugged, then kicked and tugged some more. 

Phew, Finally she acquiesced and put her nose forward without incident. Despite my mini victory, the war was not won. After two steps along the rail she refused to take one more. She had decided to stick her rear up in the air, pee, and flash her tail in the wind. Dickie was her man and there was nothing I could do about it. I was so exhausted from kicking her that I gave up and handed him off to E. 

Some of you might be reading this and wondering why I would even think to pony a young horse off of a such a naughty mare. The funny thing about this situation is that Bre is one of the most responsive horses you will ever ride. It takes nothing to get her to bend and flex. She goes forward off the slightest leg. She is an incredibly obedient horse when I am on her back, even when she is is in season. If I tell her not to pin her ears or sniff a nose, she doesn't. I can ride her with just a strap around her neck even with other horses nearby (and have done so recently). This includes trotting, cantering, 10m circles, serpentines, center lines, and stopping..... Not today she said. She was too beside herself with love to be bothered with my opinion on suggested activities. Sometimes you have to go with your heart and Bre's heart was saying  "Must be ravished by tall brown horse now." My Bre is now officially a cougar. 

Oh well, maybe next week......

Friday, August 10, 2012

Horse Rescues

When I first started this blog I thought it would be for just people that already knew who the new boy was. Now I am thinking that people who are new to his story might be checking in. He is a 2yo Appaloosa Thoroughbred cross that was born in Feb of 2010. He was purchased by Pony Up Rescue as a yearling from an Auction in Enumclaw, Washington. If horses are not purchased by a private buyer they end up in the "kill pen". This is a holding area where the horses wait for the semi truck to pick them up and take them to slaughter. No one else was bidding on this young boy and he was destined for the kill pen. Pony Up, being the amazing rescue that they are, saved him and brought him home. I know his history from birth and he is quite well bred. He has a lovely father with nice bone and a big appy mom. We know for sure that he was not dropped because of his heart condition, I was the first one to find out about it. It is amazing to me that someone passed up this lovely sport horse prospect. Lucky for me (and for him) that Pony Up specializes in rehoming animals with sport horse potential so they knew what they were seeing. The people who run this rescue are angels. Rosemary started the rescue and was so supportive of me when we first found out about his heart problem.

That brings me to the topic of horse rescues. If you are like me it breaks your heart to see horses dying a horrible death in slaughter yards (yes it is horrible, it isn't just a humane way to make use of unwanted horses and I am happy to share video proof). It makes me sad to see animals who are starved or who should be put down but no one has the money to do so. I probably have the expertise to rehome horses but I don't have the property or time. I also don't have much money left over at the end of the month. When I knew I would eventually be looking for a horse that would be able to take me further in riding I knew that  rescue would be the way to go. There are so many nice horses out there. Heck, more than one equine Olympian came from a slaughter yard or off the track.

I have been stalking rescues for years (over ten years, before I even had Bre). I did this so I would know a nice horse when I saw one. I also wanted to be able to watch rescues come and go over the years and learn how to spot a not so reputable one. I was looking for a rescue that would help me find a new partner. I also really want to have  long term relationship with a rescue. If I have a few extra bucks at the end of the month I want to know my money will be well used. And there will come a day that I will have more than a few dollars to send their way.

My idea of a rescue I want to support has evolved over the years. I encourage each person who watches videos of starving horses or wants to save horses before they are slaughtered to find a rescue they believe in and send money. Even if it is only 10 or 20 bucks here and there. Ten dollars would get you two fancy mochas, can you skip a few of those? Every dollar counts. Heck if 10 people reading my blog sent $10, that would give a rescue $100. $100 is a big start towards getting teeth floated, gelding a stallion, could worm several horses, or by a medicine for a horse regaining weight. I encourage you to find out about the rescue, do research, talk to people who volunteer there and visit the rescue if you can. What is important to each person might be a little different so my list of must haves are just a suggestion:

1. I want a rescue that provides needed vet care. This includes being willing to euthanize a horse when it is no longer comfortable.

2. Does the rescue actually check references? How many horses do they have in foster and how often do they visit those horses?

3. It is important to me that they are actually making an effort to rehome the horses. Every horse they rehome makes room for another horse at risk. My exception would be if a rescue was a sanctuary. They need to be up front about that though. If they bill themselves as a rescue that rehomes horses they need to be doing that. The best way to help a large number of horses is to rehome the horses you already have.

4. Do they put training on horses or are they just hanging out in a big herd waiting for a home? If the horse isn't receiving training of some kind he/she is being set up for a life of revolving owners. Training doesn't have to mean that they are being sent out to a fancy trainer. Ground work and hacking goes a long way. If the horse was donated or sent to auction because it was too hot it isn't going to get any better without frequent handling. If a rescue is frequently taking on horses that they don't have the means to rehab both physically and training wise they aren't doing what is right for the horses. Pony Up pays money to put horses and training and fully assess rideability before they are ever listed as being available.

5. What are they charging for a fee? Yes the rescues need money to keep going but charging over $2,000 for a rescue horses isn't fair. This means they will hang on to the horses longer and in the end the horse will have cost them more than if they had let the animal go sooner at a reasonable price. Pony up generally charges $500. And if the horse needs training they will often waive the fee if you are willing to put the horse in training for a month.

6. How transparent are they? Are they open to visitors? Do they say "Sure, let's compare dates and come on down" when you ask to visit, or do they put you off? Do they have frequent volunteers? It takes a village to even run a small boarding barn so if they don't have people coming and going it makes me wonder how the horses are getting cared for and if there is something to hide. In this day of social media I would expect to see a blog or facebook page with frequently updated pictures of happy horses. Pony Up has open houses, tack sales, horse shows, and has an open door for volunteers to see the horses and help out.

7. How are they covering expenses? Are they making an effort to go out there and fundraise or are they just holding on by a thread and making frantic pleas for money to keep afloat. Pony Up is getting ready to have a ponies only show and has a yearly dinner/auction. If you have something to donate they might be able to use it at the auction!!

8. How many horses do they have? If they have a huge head of horses I would want to know what the condition is. How are they managing to take care of that many horses. There are definitely parts of the country where it is reasonable to take care of a large herd of horses but this isn't the case every where. And it isn't impossible to have a herd but if they do I would want to know how they make it all work.

It might sound crazy to think of all these things but more often than not the person you heard about on the news with starving horses is a "rescue". If you send even ten bucks to a rescue like that you were paying someone to torture an animal. So do your homework. I did mine and know Pony Up deserves every donation they receive.

If you don't feel up to the task of doing your homework and want a really great rescue to send a few dollars to check these guys out:



Here is a little summary of "vetting" a horse rescue before donating:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fly Mask Problems

I brought this horse home July 7th so I have just had him a month. In that time he has been through 3 fly masks. My BO hunted them down for the first few times but she finally gave up. The pasture is big with pretty tall grass in sections. The horses also carry them around so if you notice the mask in one spot then go back to get it later they probably moved it. I scoured the pasture today and found two of the masks. I did not find the nice UV blocker mask with ears that I bought his first day at the stable.  That mask made it one day and we haven't been able to find it despite multiple search missions. He has the prominent sclera of appys and this makes him more prone to eyelid cancer so it is extra important that he wears a mask. I am not sure how to keep these suckers on. It looks like they actually ate Velcro off one of the masks. Is it possible they ate his fancy mask whole like a couple of labradors? I thought only dogs were capable of ingesting large inedible items. 

I am taking out a safety release halter tomorrow and he is wearing it over his fly mask. I want to see if that works before I buy another fancy mask. If that doesn't work maybe I can superglue it to his face?

Circus Pony

I am a wuss when it comes to heat. My version of "hot" is anything over 75 if I have to do anything remotely physical. I love the sun though so I go out every chance I can get. Today was one of those days where most people wouldn't have been too hot but by the time I got done walking Dickie up to Bre's stable I was about ready to keel over. 

We had a great day though despite my wilted state. At one point I started rolling the white barrels around just to get him used to the sound. He was scared at first then came over to help me. This made me wonder if I could teach him to roll the barrel. After only a few tries he would touch it with his nose. Then I tried pushing the barrel away to see if he would go out to the barrel and he did (way more than just this once). What a cutie. I think I want to teach him to fetch. It might channel his need to put everything into his mouth into an approved activity. 
I wonder if he can learn to fetch like this cute horse>>>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qe7rzCeA46U

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Still a Superstar

My BFF came out to see Dickie with me today. It was fun to show off all the work we have done. He rode for years and actually used to start horses for a living. It is our hope that he will be a good mount for both of us once he is older. I feel so fortunate that he will be there with me through the process. He has a ton of knowledge and has had the first ride on countless horses. He has ridden green horses and problem horses. He is incredibly calm and the horses love him. Dickie is especially smitten with him. He likes to do more once you are actually able to get on the horses so the next year will be mostly my show since it will be primarily ground work.

All signs point to this horse being easy to back. I say back rather than start because I won't be doing any work under saddle until his third birthday even if I sit on him before then. Even at three it makes me crazy to see horses pushed. They still have maturing bones and ligaments in their spine and have a hard enough time keeping balanced themselves let alone with a rider on their back. People might think they have an "early maturing" breed but just because those muscles look like a full grown horse doesn't mean the bone, ligaments, and tendons that hold everything together are mature. Even though he is big horses' spines are the last thing to finish maturing. There is no reason to push him now and end up with problems down the road. I keep my horses for life so any problem I cause by pushing a horse now will be something I have to deal with eventually. However, I do plan on sitting on him before them. I  just want him to get used to a human laying over his back and maybe sitting on him bareback for a few minutes here and there over the next year. 

We have been working on walking up to the mounting block and standing still while I jump around and wave my arms like a total nut. The first few times he wanted to swing his butt around and face me but today he was a perfect gentleman. I swung my leg back and rubbed his flank and belly with it. My friend is 6'2" so he can drape his body all the way over him when he is on the mounting block. He is such a smart cookie. His ears are pricked and he is paying attention to everything you do but he never panics. I try to keep a close eye on his body language and move on to something new before he totally loses focus. He is a good boy but he is only two and I don't want to overload him and start to feel like our time together is something to endure. 

We also had our very first true lunge session today. I have been working with on him walking around me in a circle on the end of a lead rope but nothing on the lung line and nothing above a walk. I wanted to get him started learning the body language for when I want him to go faster, go on a larger circle or move away from me. We don't have a round pen so it is a little tricky to get that concept down. The video is grainy, really short, and my skills are quite sad but....... it was his very first time at the end of a full length lunge line and it was the first time he was asked to trot. I am impressed with him. I swear that someone has already worked with him before because he acted like he has done it all the time. My goal is to get him understanding cues well enough to be able to use the full arena. Too much circle work is really hard on a young horse's legs. There are some great exercises you can do using a full length of the arena though once he gets a little further along. He was pretty pokey on the lunge line but that seemed more because he was confused and his instinct isn't to run and be crazy when he isn't sure what is being asked. It was a hot day today and he wasn't out of breath or sweaty at all.

He really seems to enjoy our sessions together. I have found that we can actually work together longer without wearing him out mentally as long as I do each thing for only about 15 minutes. We got some more video in the aisle way. He loves uncle Richie and couldn't understand why I wouldn't let him go and get loves when he was trying to get video. We measured him today and he is 16h at the withers and 16.1 at his rump. We did the string test on him which indicated he would mature close to to 16.3. From what I have read about horse growth it doesn't seem that he would grow over two more inches but I think he will at least catch up with his rump. No matter what it will be fun to watch him see saw his way through baby hood and grow into a mature young man.

My next goals are to try ponying him on my mare. She is such an obedient horse and doesn't mind it when other horses are up her bum on trail rides. It will be a great way to condition them both at the same time. And it will get him used to a human being above him which will hopefully make that first ride that much easier.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Pedicure Time

Today was a much needed farrier day. When he arrived in Oregon he was due but my farrier was out of town. When he got back into town the only days he could come out were work days for me. He trims my mare alone but I wasn't sure how the spunky 2yo would react so I needed to be there. We had a little incident where he tried to lie down on me because he wasn't in the mood to pick his feet up so I was a little worried. He has had regular trimmings since purchased by Pony Up so I hoped that his early dramatic behavior was just a fluke. Today he was fantastic. The farrier says he has great feet. That is a change from having tiny QH feet and flaky TB feet on my previous horses. Now he is on the same schedule as every one else and would probably be safe to trim without me present. 

This is a picture of Dickie and his best friend. It was love at first sight for Harley and Dickie. They are glued to each other in the field every time I catch them. They don't get panicky when separated luckily and I love that he has a best friend. Other horses can teach him more about appropriate behavior than I ever could. My only complaint about this relationship is the loss of fly masks. Harley has Houdini lips. Usually Harley waits outside in the paddock but he couldn't resist coming in for attention. Dickie didn't seem to mind sharing in the least. If Harley looks like a pony, he isn't. My guy is just a giant. I know a horse can't grown in a month and they don't generally gain much height after two but...... I swear he is bigger!!! 

Here he is visiting with Patches while the other horses finish getting their feet trimmed. I love how shiny he is. He isn't in love with being brushed (he would rather have face rubs and eat the brushes) but I managed to put some elbow grease into him yesterday. I am thinking that tacking a bath is next. 

The chickens at Bre's barn love making nests in her stall. This years batch is getting big. I was very sad when the nieghbors dog came over and ate a few of the chickens they had for several years. I didn't realize how attached I could get to chickens. I love calling "comeeeeeere GIRLS" and watching their fat little bodies waddle as they run. There is a set of ducks that were found abandoned by their momma's but I couldn't get them in the picture. They are just getting coordinated with flying now. It is pretty funny to watch them. 

Bre found the perfect morsel of grass on the dirt bike ramp the kids made. She is looking quite shiny herself. I need to get on her and go for an adventure. I have been getting reports of how wonderful she has been. 

She came over to see if I had a treat then left the second she realized I was useless to her. Looking at her pretty face still makes me smile 11 years later. 

Romeo looking fat and sassy after cleaning up at 4-H county fair. He qualified for state and will be heading off this month to snatch up more ribbons.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Just Photos

Today was the first day I got to play with my boy without the cardiology appointment looming in the future. My horsey friend came out today and helped me get some photos. By the time she arrived I had been working him for quite awhile and his baby brain didn't want to stand still. I still think he looks pretty darn stunning though :)

Hi mom, got any treats?

Standing in the cross ties like a pro. He just got in trouble for letting his paint friend chew on his side. 

Today he worked on lunging and wore a surcingle for the first time. He was a champ!!

Giving a sweet face so no one will remember he just tried to eat the lead rope. 

Me trying to get a good side view. Dickie making a disgusted face because he would rather eat grass. 

Cute wittle baby face peeking in to see Dickie. 

Sharing grooming time with the neighbor baby. They removed the top fence rung earlier. 

Mom wants the shoulder scratches to herself. 

View of his field from one end to the other. He can get through the fence all the way to the trees in the distance. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Life Is Always Uncertain

I will start out with the good new before I get to the details because I don't want to keep anyone in suspense: I will be keeping Dickie (Baybee) and have been given approval to move forward using him as planned for a dressage/low level event pony.

The cardiologist and my vet arrived today to asses his heart with an echo cardiogram.  An echo cardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. It allows us to see the shape of his heart, the size of the heart, the condition of the valves, the thickness of his heart muscle, and which direction the blood is flowing in the heart. First, we were able to tell that he does in fact have a mitral valve regurgitation. Of the causes for a murmur this one is the most likely to cause performance issues or even sudden death. Blood in the heart should go one way, if it doesn't then it is having to work extra hard to get blood to pump out to the body. Think of it like trying to get the chickens into the pen after a day of digging in the garden before they are ready. Every time you try to get two chickens in, one of the other chickens gets back out. It takes twice as long and you end up more sweaty than you would have been if all the chickens just went in the first time. If the backflow of blood is resulting in his body not getting enough oxygen then his heart is always doing extra work. If, despite the back flow, his body is still getting the oxygen he needs his heart won't be asked to do double duty. 


We can tell if the heart is showing signs of strain by looking at several factors. If the muscles of his heart are enlarged it indicates he has already been working too hard just to keep his cells oxygenated. Larger, thick muscles also make the heart less flexible and able to withstand the increase in oxygen demand that comes with riding. At some point, if the horse's heart cannot compensate for the strain with thicker muscles, the walls of the heart will get thinner and the heart itself will stretch out and pump inefficiently. That is a really simplistic version of what happens when a horse's heart fails but I know not everyone has a medical background so I wanted to keep it simple.

At this point Dickie's heart looks great. There are several areas where the mitral valve doesn't snap shut but his heart is a normal size, his walls are normal thickness, and all the chambers are normal size. We don't know what caused this problem but he was probably born with it. If he had a high parasite load or recently had a serious illness then it might not be congenital. He is a healthy horse with essentially a zero parasite load so nothing points to this being a degenerative illness. The echocardiogram can also measure what is called and ejection fraction and this tells us how efficiently the heart is pumping blood out to the rest of the body. From what he could see it looked fine. However, one of the problems with predicting how well he will do over time is the fact that he hasn't been worked. We don't know if his heart looks great because this problem isn't affecting him or if it is just because his is young and has never been pushed.

We talked at length about his intended use and the cardiologist felt there is a good chance he will hold up. He is not going to drop over dead under saddle but we may at some point see changes in his performance. This could be in 3 years but there is a good chance it won't be until he was retirement age anyway. Both the specialist and my equine vet felt I could go forward using him as planned. He said he recently had to tell someone he wouldn't feel safe with his daughter riding a horse he consulted on. In this case he said he would feel fine if it was his own daughter riding the horse. I will need to get yearly echocardiograms for the next few years. This will tell me how he is holding up to conditioning. The next year should tell me a lot. He won't be doing hard work under saddle for at least a year but I plan on long lining him and ponying him so he will get lots of work in the coming months. After a few annual echos I will have a good idea of how stable his condition is. Having regular check up exams will make me feel better about pushing him. I won't have to wonder if he is being a snot about something because he is uncomfortable or if he is just being naughty. I don't want him to ever feel bad because he is trying for me and his health just won't let him do what I have asked. 

I am so happy that we can move forward and start having new adventures together. The happiness is clouded by the fact that I could get a couple years into training and find out he is showing signs of heart failure. It is also hard to know I have another horse with health problems that will require special vet care. However, y
ou could have the healthiest horse in the world who you just paid $10,000 for and it could tear a suspensory from a bad landing. We had one healthy horse who cost us more than the yearly cardio exams will when he went through a phase of letting himself out to gorge on grain. My first horse who was rock solid sound and trained to the hilt died of colic after I owned her for only 2 years. I hope that the future brings good things for us but nothing is ever certain in life. One thing I am certain of is the fact that I have appreciated every second I spent with all of my horses. No matter how long, or short, our time together is Dickie will bring more joy into my life than can be quantified by the passing of time or the exchange of money.