Friday, October 31, 2008

Applying Oneself...

I haven't said anything much about it, what with all the mystery concerning Quiet Storm. However...if you live in the Northwest (or not) and would like to know first hand what it's like to train a wild horse in 3 months time...well, it's now or never!

The Mustang Heritage Foundation, in conjunction with the BLM in Burns, Oregon, is sponsoring the Northwest Extreme Mustang Makeover! Pick up of horses is scheduled for Dec 5-6, with the competition in Albany, OR on March 21-22 at the Northwest Horse Fair and Expo.

But you'd best hurry because the deadline for applications is...tomorrow! Yeah...I'm slipping. Nov. 1. That gives you one night to sleep on it before getting that postmark on your envelope tomorrow, eh? But you can do it, I have faith!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Great Mystery, part 4

"There aren't any equine vets in at the moment, I'm afraid. There was a huge emergency and three of our vets have been there all day," said the voice at the end of the line.

"Three vets? All day? Wow...must be bad. I guess I can wait," I told the faceless voice while counting my blessings that that wasn't my bill being added up.

I decided to email Stephanie and ask if there was any chance at all that Quiet Storm had been exposed to a stallion while in her care. I knew it was a long shot, but then again it was an even longer shot that Sandy, my mild mannered gelding, was harboring a more manly side.

Steph's response was no...but wait, well...yes. The last place had three stallions on the premise, but they were all the way across the property, on the other side of the barns and house and driveway. Surely they hadn't been in with her, or her with them. No one had ever mentioned horses getting loose to Steph, at least, so she was hopeful that the answer to my mystery didn't lie in her boarding facility. It did, however, make more sense than Sandy being a stallion.

Upon returning from my late afternoon trail ride I found a message from a vet. "I'd guess it to be 2 months, " she said into my voice mailbox. I wish I'd been home to answer. I wish they'd called my cell like I'd asked. 2 months? That would mean conception in August, and any one of my geldings as well as either filly! This wasn't narrowing things down in the least!

A moment later my cell phone rang. It was Deb. "Hi, just wanted to let you know it was Quiet Storm. I went out to take a peek under her tail and she was definitely more stretched out in the vulva than if she were a normal 3 year old who hadn't just miscarried." Debi was breathing a sigh of relief when I told her that five months ago Quiet Storm had been boarded on a piece of property where there were stallions. "Oh, yeah! I really didn't want to have to worry about Mist being bred!"

So, by reasonable deduction I've come up with this: Most likely one of the stallions (or all) were loose and Stephanie was never told that there was a chance little QS had been bred by one of them. Of course, we can't prove this happened, but take away the 2 month estimate and all the pieces line up. QS would have been bred in June or early July (4-5 months ago), then moved back up here. For whatever reason, something triggered the miscarriage and she aborted here at home. Better, I think, than having it happen at the temporary home she'd been in the previous two weeks. And really all the way around, it's best that she didn't carry to term. Too many horses not being cared for in this world already. I'm just thankful that our sweet little girl is healthy and has a lovely life to look forward to!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Great Mystery...Part 3

"Miss Banana Head" and Sandy out on the trail.

I was stunned, to say the least. There were three questions swirling around in my mind.

1) How did that get there?
2) Which of the mares had aborted their foal?
3) What had caused the miscarriage?

And then I realized I had a fourth question...

4) Which of my geldings managed to sire a foal???

I looked out into the pasture at Jet, Sandy and Dude, contemplating the pieces of my puzzle. Quiet Storm had left the day before. The fetus was in the stall she'd used, but she'd pushed the door open and was out with everyone else when I'd come out to feed. I'd never walked around to the back to see if there was any little gift left deposited on the floor because...well, why would I? So had it been there when she left? Had she come home for one night, miscarried, and then I'd hauled her off?

Or had it been Jet? I'd taken Sandy and Jet for a trail ride Wednesday morning, not ever considering that perhaps there'd been a foal aborted the previous day or two.

I looked at the little pink thing laying at my feet. How far along was it? Where was it conceived? Who were it's parents?

Sandy had mounted and penetrated Mist (FC) back in July. I'd been aghast, but was reassured that while this wasn't the norm, it wasn't abnormal behavior either, especially when enticed by the mare. Mist was a flirt, and Sandy just tried his best to keep her happy. What if he was able to actually produce sperm? Oh, good grief...I had to call Deb and tell her what I'd found and let her know there was just the slightest possibility that Mist may be bred.

Among the phone conversations I had over the next 20 minutes was one with a vet. The fetus had a back that was at least 4" long, and the total length was 6-7". Given the size, he said, he'd estimate 4-5 months. Now the big question...could Sandy be the father? The vet said it's pretty rare to have a gelding with a retained testicle capable of siring a foal, but not 100% impossible. The only way to tell would be through a blood draw to check his hormone levels.

I was also faced with the math of who was here in that time frame. Jet, obviously. Sandy came home in late June, Dude didn't go out with the girls until late July, and Joe was late August. The foal had to have been conceived in June if the 4 month estimate was correct, meaning Sandy and Jet.

Then again... Where was Quiet Storm before coming home to me in July?

There were just too many unknowns here for me to make any progress. The fetus found it's way into a plastic bag and on Thursday I drove up to the clinic and left it in hopes of a vet being able to give me an approximate age so that I could better understand what was going on.

To Be Continued...

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Great Mystery...Part 2

Read Part 1 Here

I'd spent the better part of the weekend wondering just what I was going to do with Quiet Storm once I got her home. I emailed friends and acquaintances, explaining that I was running low on marital lives around here and pleading with them to consider taking Quiet Storm, if not permanently, then at least stash her for me so that City Boy didn't know what I'd done.

On Monday I received a call from Debi, laughing about my marital life status and saying that she could hide the little mustang at her place for me. Major relief, and just in the nick of time as I was to pick Quiet Storm up late that afternoon. Because it was getting dark, we decided it best to wait until Tuesday to haul her down to Deb's place.

By Tuesday morning, Debi was thinking maybe Quiet Storm would make a nice pony for her granddaughters. When I arrived, she had her daughter pull out a light weight Wintec saddle and hop on. You can guess what happened next, can't you?


Quiet Storm and Deb's oldest granddaughter

We're talking Quiet Storm, so of course nothing happened! She was just sweet, cute as a bug and completely at ease. And Deb fell under her spell. "How much do you want for her?" Oh, please...just love her and give her a good home was my reply, and the deal was done. No need to worry. Debi now had two of my former charges...Quiet Storm and Mist (FC) living in her pasture.

Deb and her daughter put me to work riding a few of their horses over the next hour or two, and it was getting late when I arrived home. I tossed hay into my horses and figured I'd leave the cleaning until tomorrow.

Imagine my surprise when, on Wednesday morning, I walked around to corner to find an aborted fetus laying on the stall floor...

To Be Continued...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hello Down There!

Bits? I dun need no stinkin' bits!

Beautiful day for a ride, it was. Instead I hopped into my truck and drove south. A quick stop to visit with Curt to invite him along with me. "Where to?" I told him I was headed down to Black Raven to take a closer look at the facilities for an upcoming adoption, plus I wanted to talk to Ken a bit.

"Shoulda gone yesterday. His wife Dee Dee started a colt. Would've been good for you to watch."

Yes, it probably would have, but yesterday Darling and I were mounted up and on a ride at the Pilchuck Tree Farm. Three hours and an estimated 400 horses in attendance. Yeah...that is a lot of horses! The tree farm is huge, though, and I'd figured only 200. Only, lol... Well, both Jet and Sandy handled themselves really well for being such beginners and never having seen so many other horses at once. Jet got a little startled once when she rounded a switch back and realized 20 horses were following along behind. She'd thought it was just Sandy.

Anyway, that's why I'd missed day one of the Ken McNabb colt starting. And I didn't stick around this afternoon, either, just wanted to get a feel for the layout for the adoption and chat with Ken a few minutes about possibly helping us get our new US Wild Horse and Burro Association off the ground.

When I got home, the sun was still shining and I'd pretty much run out of emails and websites online to avoid what I knew I really ought to be doing. Working Dude. So out I went and saddled the boy up, working him a few minutes from the ground inside the round pen while Darling hopped up on Sandy and took her first bareback ride out in the pasture. Dude was laid back and not caring about anything else going on, so I began bouncing up and down in the stirrups, both from the left and right side.

"You gonna get on?"
"I'll call Dad for you."

Gotta love cell phones. A couple minutes later City Boy was there at the end of the lead rope. He'd never been an anchor before for me, but as it turned out he did a pretty decent job. He stood at Dude's head waiting as I bounced up and swung my leg over, then climbed back down to the ground. Third time up and City Boy decided we needed to walk. We didn't go far, just five or six steps and I got off and unsaddled.

A completely uneventful first time, just the way I like it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Great Mystery...Part 1

Quiet Storm

After spending the bulk of the summer just hanging out with us, I finally felt compelled to find Quiet Storm a new home. Things are getting damp and all those horse hooves are creating more mud than I need. I placed an ad and began screening the replies.

One young woman stood out. Early 20s, not too tall and a strong rider, someone who could finish up Quiet Storm and get her going really well under saddle. She was looking for a third horse, one to keep her older mare company when she took off on her gelding, plus something her younger cousins could go trail riding on. It seemed like a perfect fit, so three weeks ago today, Quiet Storm loaded up and headed off to her new life. I tried hard not to cry like a baby this time.

I now needed to concentrate on Joe. I'd had a flurry of applications, but no one ever seemed to take him home. One day my neighbor gave me a call and wondered what it was I'd been doing over here all summer. She'd seen the adoption banner hanging on my gate and normally didn't seem to have any interest at all in my animals, so it took me by surprise when she felt compassion for Joe as I told her his story.

"Well, I might know of someone who wants him. She just bought a place and..."

How long do you think it took me to get into contact with them? That's right, not long. And this woman was over the top excited, emailing her application in before even meeting Joe face to face. In fact...she signed the care agreement, too! It would be another week before he could come home, but with all the paperwork signed I was happy.

All was looking mighty good. That is...until I got a message from Lady of Chaos. She'd spotted an ad in Craigslist for a 3 year old mustang filly. Could it be Quiet Storm, she wondered?

I took a look, and sure enough, our fears were confirmed. I emailed promptly, asking to have her back. They agreed. I had to deliver Joe that weekend, but on Monday night after the gal was off work I drove out to pick up our little girl.

To be continued...

Joe meets his new pasturemate, Special

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dancing Penguin

It has come to the attention of Jet that there is a horse out there by the name of Cholla who paints. Jet considered this for a moment, then requested I purchase her canvases, oils and brushes, plus a little beret for good measure.

I explained to her that a beret would not sit atop her head easily and may fall into her paints, and that I really didn't think that oils were the best place to start. She insisted that all the great masters painted in oils, but I stuck to my guns. She grumbled, but decided it was better than nothing.

Jet has discovered that holding a paint brush between one's teeth is not an easy thing to do, so she requested my help. She asked me to balance the paint brush while she moved it around with her tongue and applied paint to the water color paper. The end result?

Dancing Penguin!

If the weather clears up a bit later this week I'll see if she wants to paint another. I'm going to ask if she'll donate them to my fund raising drive for the Northwest Extreme Mustang Makeover.

Where does one market horse art?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Saddle Up, Mate!

I've been in contact with a gentleman named Rick from Huckleberry Stables in MO. He'd spotted a post of mine somewhere along the line bemoaning my saddle fitting woes and offered to help. He deals with Timberline Saddles, which from what I gather are pretty top notch. And I wasn't gathering that just from Rick, but others who have known Timberline. Rick tells me these guys are the old, original Orthoflex folks who got together and wanted to keep that great saddle going.

Rick has asked for photos of Sandy so he can identify what the problem might be. He's sent me a pad for him at no charge and is keeping his eye out for a used saddle that is inside of my beer budget. I think I really like Rick. Not only did he go out of his way when I'd never even contacted him, not only has he spent countless hours emailing and answering my often ridiculous questions, but he's sending me a pad! Or did I mention that last part already? I think it's just grand, really I do. I love when people are so willing to help out others that they don't even know. And you know I'm not about to let that kindness slip through the cracks, so y'all are hereby ordered to send Rick a thank you note on behalf of me and Sandy :) Here's his email for you! hucklebe AT Of course you'll need to replace that AT with an @, but I'm sure you knew that already.

While I'm waiting on my pad to arrive and for a test drive in one of those super sweet Timberlines, I've been out and about testing countless saddles without a whole lot of luck. The ones that were for sale did not fit...the ones I tried on that fit were not for sale. Life is not looking good in terms of saddles. But I did come across an older Aussie which, despite being a bit beat up, seems to do the job.

At does the job on Sandy. On Jet it leaves a wee bit to be desired. But again, super customer service from yet another saddle distributor, Kate's Saddle Supply. I'd emailed, again moaning and groaning, that I had no clue how this saddle was supposed to sit on my horse. I'd read it should sit farther forward than a western saddle, but that was so not what was happening. A kind man by the name of Tim was right on top of things and phoned the following morning offering to help. Heck...I'd only suggested they put photos online for people like me who need that visual aid. No way did I think they were going to call and start talking me through this on a cheap, beat up saddle I'd bought off Craigslist!

But they did. Or rather, Tim did. And it was wonderful! He asked me to send photos so he could see what was going on, and then he sent some back showing how level it ought to be and where it should fit. He suggested getting something to bump up the front of the saddle while riding Jet, even a terry cloth towel (how nice not to have him push sales) ought to do the trick. He recognized the saddle brand and model, said it was one of the economy saddles and that the padding often worked it's way to the back which then shifted the weight up to the horse's wither. And that's exactly what happens on Jet.

Oh, and in the picture? It's sitting too far forward. And not to worry, he says, when it slides back while riding as it will undoubtedly settle in the right place to stay out of the way of her shoulders. Just as long as it's not sitting on her loins, which it didn't when I rode her in it the other day.

So although I've not found the perfect saddle quite yet, I'm happy with this little Aussie, mates, and will be riding my Brumby up into the hills while whistling the tune to Snowy River. (No, not really, as I can't whistle! But I'll be humming it off key...)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hags On 'Stangs

I was reading Jessie's blog a couple weeks ago when she talked about a club she belongs to called Hags on Nags. How cute! Although Jess is far from a hag. More like a babe. Me, though...well, Hag is definitely where it's at!

If you haven't heard, I ought to tell you that the Mustang Heritage Foundation has announced their list of upcoming events, and among them? The Northwest Extreme Mustang Makeover! Yes, northwest, which is here, where I the northwest!

Of course, I've been trying hard not to think about it. Applications are due this month. Pick up is in December. The actual competition is being held in Albany, OR in March. This is not exactly prime horse training weather up in this neck of the woods.


I never really got to compete in June. I've got, as it were, unfinished business.

I've been talking with Debi, the owner of Mist (aka Firecracker), and encouraged her to sign up. She said yes! She's so excited about the whole mustang thing that it didn't take much of anything at all to get her downloading the application. And if Deb is accepted...well...we could drive together to pick up our horses, which surely cuts expenses. And this time around I'd be smart and start asking for sponsors to cover feed costs long before the horse gets here. Debi and I discussed a tack sale to help cover fuel costs.

And then it hit me. We needed to host a fun show. Something with a handful of performance classes, but some fun stuff like egg and spoon, toilet paper pairs, and sit a buck. We'd have a suggested donation that would cover all classes all day. Maybe have some pizza donated and sell that. And we needed a clever name...

So you see I must thank Jessie for her blog post about Hags on Nags. I do not ride a nag (although I've heard that I am one from time to time), but I do ride a 'Stang! So Debi and I are Hags on Stangs and we're going to host a slew of fund raisers to help us cover the expenses of travel. We'll have our Hags on 'Stangs fun show in November, and a tack sale maybe in December. And most importantly, we've got a very exclusive club forming for women over 39. Yes, 39, not 29. If you're not afraid to ride the brand and not afraid to brag about your age, then you, too, could be a Hag on Stang member! T-shirts are being offered in the column to the right for $20. And if you're not yet 39, or if you don't ride a stang, but would like to support us, we're happy to provide you with an Honorary Hag shirt for just $22. Yes , you read that right! Hey, membership has it's privileges, what can we say?

Guess I'd better print up that application, eh?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Heart Rates and Trail Rides

Last weekend saw Jet on the trail for the first time in a month. A friend called on Saturday, excited because she'd just picked up a new horse trailer and she wanted to go for a ride. With Jet's galls healed up, I decided it was a perfect opportunity to get her back in gear. Darling rode Sandy, which was good because Jet did try to pull a few punches along the way. Thankfully, no rearing was involved and she did seem to enjoy herself.

Sandy was pokey, and he did sweat, but as usual he perked up when on the level, and coming down the hills Darling let him move out and trot to his heart's content. This was only the second time she'd been out on him, and the first time she'd done any trotting. She was amazed at how smooth he was and took advantage of every opportunity.

Earlier in the week I hauled Sandy up north a bit to a lovely little park which has trails that are level and easy to navigate. Since the vet clinic is on the way, I stopped to ask about heart rates. How high can a horse's heart go? Is 72 high? Or low? What about dropping back to resting rate?

I'd been concerned, as you may recall, that he wasn't recovering fast enough. Finding information online was difficult because he's doing a lot of climbing rather than speed work. The vet who was in the office put my mind to ease. Horses who are doing speed work can get their hearts going to 150-180! Endurance riders with very fit horses like to see their hearts back to 60 in four minutes.

Say what? 60? Not resting? No...not resting rate. And what's more, if you get down to 60 in ten minutes it's good for the average horse.

While up on the hills the other day I pushed him a bit more, making him walk out, and finally got him up to 80. He was back to 60 within 3 minutes the first time, but the second time he insisted something was out there and I could hear his heart elevating. Sure enough, a minute later a hiker came out of the trees with his two dogs. On the way home I found a nice stretch with a slight incline and asked for a brisk lope. When I climbed off the heart was going faster than I was prepared to count; this time it was down to 72 in one minute and in four back into the low 60s. So Sandy's ticker is good. I am now, however, obsessed with the whole heart rate thing!

The trail through the park was so lovely and made for a quick ride, so I brought Darling up the next day. She took the camera and I rode Jet so that you could be happy with a picture of us.

Jet did a lot of long trotting; she out trots Sandy's lope. Neither horse really broke much of a sweat, which was nice, and they were both at a resting rate (see, I am obsessed) when we got back to the trailer.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Who ordered this rain?

Come October, the trails that I've been riding are officially closed. I'd forgotten that when I rode Sandy up yesterday. Of course, it was the first day of rain in October and the trails are in better shape than they were a month ago during September's torrential downpours. Still...I'm not looking forward to having to stay on the logging roads.

Yesterday I had both my stethoscope and a stop watch along with me as I rode out. I took Sandy's pulse before leaving, not really sure I was doing it correctly, and got a reading of 42. It had been considerably lower last month while he was standing at the vet clinic, which I found odd, and hence I'm wondering if I got it right. I took it both prior to saddling and after, getting the same reading both times. Good enough for a base line, I decided, and headed out.

Upon climbing the first level, Sandy's sweating was considerably less than it's been the past few weeks. In fact, I'd say it was back to normal. I dismounted and checked his pulse. 72! Wow...that seems high. I waited a couple of minutes and took it again. 60. Dropping, but not very fast. Two more minutes, 54. Two more minutes, 48. Close enough, I decided, as he obviously was not laboring with his breathing (he'd been huffing just a bit more the last time), and we continued up.

Next level, his pulse was back up to 72. Five minutes later and I couldn't coax it any lower than 54. That seems high to me, but again, no heaving of the sides and he'd been moving out better than he had since the injury, so on I climbed and up we went. Same story at the top. 72 dropped within 1 minute to 60, but five minutes later and we were still at 54. He was greedily grabbing at what little grass there was and not at all stressed outwardly, so back on I climbed and down the hill we began towards home.

Our ride lasted 2 1/2 hours, much longer than I'd anticipated, although normally I wouldn't have had 15-20 minutes worth of stops along the way. Once at the bottom of the hill, I took Sandy around the flat, level tree farm. Despite him not getting as wet going up, he was not cooling down during our descent, something that was totally different than we've been experiencing and I hoped that a bit of lazy walking would remedy that. It didn't.

Upon arriving home, I let Sandy finish his beet pulp (something he'd started before we left) and again took his pulse. It was 54. I untacked and took it again 4 minutes later. 42. Perfect! Okay, so a little high, but the same as when we'd left and it'd come down in under 5 minutes, and that was good.

Today we were blessed with more rain and there was no way to tell if he was sweating or not. His pulse was low when we headed out at 36 on both checks. It dropped faster at the first level, too, and was down to 48 in four minutes. Less than two hours later we were home again, but I couldn't get his pulse to drop below 42. Ten minutes later he was at the same rate, so I gave up. I was wet, he was wet, and neither one of us wanted to be standing out there in the rain.

Tomorrow we'll give it another go.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Trick Pony

For some odd, unexplained reason I've decided that I must, at the age of 47, start taking risks that I never took as a child. Such as...hopping on the back of my trusty steed, no saddle, no bridle, and trotting around the pasture. At some point I must have fallen and hit my head because the following day I decided I needed to stand up in the saddle, despite my notoriously poor balance and weak knees.

Sandy and I have been for a handful of rides these past few weeks. I'm a little confused, however, as he's been sweating quite a bit; much more than he was prior to his eye injury. Before we could go all day. He was slow, but his breathing was never heavy and the only sweat was under his saddle. Now, however, we can't get more than ten minutes up the trail before his neck is wet. Fifteen minutes and his chest is soaked, he's wet from his ears down to his elbows, and even his muzzle is damp. He also seems to want to stop a lot more frequently, but then again, he's always been on the poky side, so that could just be normal.

I called the vet, who feels Sandy is too young to have gotten this much out of shape with such a short break, but that he's also too young for metabolic issues. His short term suggestion is to monitor the heart rate. So today I headed out with a stethoscope in hand...but then realized a watch with a second hand would probably have been in order. Oh, well. While I couldn't really get an accurate reading, I could certainly tell that his heart was pumping a lot harder on the way up than it had been before leaving, and I could also tell it was beginning to slow down after a few minutes of rest. But what I need is an exact count so that I know just how much it drops, and how quickly (or not) it's back to resting rate.

The sweating only happens when we climb. I rode in the arena for over an hour, and while most of that was just walking and jogging with very little loping, it still didn't cause the sweating that ten minutes on the hill causes. He also cools out and picks up the pace once we're off the hill, such as when we rode up to see Mt Baker a couple of weeks ago. He struggled going up, but once there he had no problems.

Something is up with my guy, but I'm at a loss as to what it is. The good Dr. Plotts has recommended taking it easy and gradually building back up. If things don't improve here in the next week or two, or if he seems to get worse (or the heart rate isn't dropping), then it's another trip to the clinic for some blood work.

In the sure gives me an opportunity to perfect my trick riding!