Monday, April 29, 2013

It Didn't Stop There!

Sandy with Allison Trimble, and myself on Oz.
Photo Courtesy Valarie Richey 

"Hey, wanna ride?"

"Uh, yeah!  But Darling won't be here and I'd like to make sure we've got someone to ride Sandy so Oz can follow."

"No problem, I'll find someone!"

Before long, Valarie, Allison and myself were heading up to the trail head.  I had my big cowgirl panties on and was planning on riding Oz on his first official ride.  Weeee!!!!!!!!!

Sandy had ponied Oz on this trail two weeks ago today.  Oz tried his best to walk as close as he could to Sandy, nearly pushing us off the trail a couple of times.  He was nervous and it came out in typical youngster fashion as he nibbled on Sandy's saddle blanket, nipped his shoulder, and when he had the chance, grabbing at the reins and trying to lead us off.

Being steady as Sandy is, I was comfortable riding Oz just so long as that steadfast bay was right in front of us.  And things went pretty well.  Yes, Oz was fidgety.  He was tense.  He tried trotting when we first started, but was easily pulled back.  He managed to negotiate the downhills relatively well, though his head was always tucked and low.  

After the first couple of hills, Oz settled into a nice walk, and even managed to pick his way carefully over a steep hill that had an exposed rock face at the top.  We made it down a muddy hill and across a wooden bridge.  Once out of the woods and into the clearing, he walked up alongside Sandy, but didn't try to pick his own way, rather just walked alongside, borrowing confidence from the older mustang.

And while his attitude was positive, there was still that underlying feeling that he was holding his least halfway.  Always tense and waiting for the unexpected.  

Oz makes his way gingerly into the water, fearful of being swept downstream.
Photo courtesy Valarie Richey

When we got to the creek, he was totally unsure that it was in his best interest to cross.  Sandy went first.  Two weeks ago, Oz jumped it while being ponied.  I half expected him to try it again, but instead he simply refused, backing away, doing tiny half hearted rears, turning and trying anything he could to avoid getting his pretty white toes wet.  It took a few minutes, but when Sandy walked back into the water, Oz finally decided he'd give it a try.  Amazingly enough, the water didn't sweep him downstream, and we managed to make it back to the trailer in one piece. 

We came home and Oz went out into a grassy paddock.  I came inside and was happy to see that my riding buddies already had photos up on facebook.  While I used to pack my camera on all my trail rides, I felt it was a bit big and cumbersome when riding such a greenie as Oz, and I've not got one of those new fangled 'smart' phones.  I felt pretty good about our ride, but now I was itching for more.  I couldn't stand it, I had to go back outside and saddle him up again!

Oz is always nervous out behind the house.  Darling's former jump course has been transformed into a trail course, but Oz struggles to get beyond the step down log.  He's very insecure, and wants his herd, so a small loop around the trees and back up to the barn is about all we manage to get done (mostly because there's never anyone around to realize I'm down in the dirt should he happen to uncork!)  

Today was no exception.  Though the earlier ride may have burned off a little bit of his apprehensiveness, he was still on edge.  I rode a couple circles up near the barn, then headed out behind the house.  I didn't even recognize that he had a 'do not cross this line' spot picked out in his mind.  Just stepped right on past it!  He wasn't sure what to do.  I rode an extra five feet and then turned back to safety.  He breathed a sigh of relief and carried me up over the log and back to the barn.

Now, Oz was quite content with leaving, but the fact of the matter is, it was my choice, and we'd gone past the point where he was comfortable before turning back.  So another circle up near the barn, and back down the path we went.  This time, we went a little further.  Oz had a panic attack.  He tried to stop.  He rocked back over his hocks just a bit.  But I urged him to take a few extra steps, and then we again turned and went back to where he was comfortable.

We did this two or three times, taking in an extra ten feet on each trip, or turning a different direction, or crossing a log rather than stepping around it.  Oz began to focus on where we were walking, knowing that he'd head back to the barn.

And then it happened.  Rather than turning from the barn back down the same trail, I headed straight back to the creek.  Oz put up his ears.  He was curious, and didn't hesitate to head down the new path.  His step was relaxed and light.  We turned a corner and walked back onto the trail that went behind the house.  No hesitation.  No tense body.  Ears up, easy steps.  We stepped down over the log, crossed a couple more, walked over the bridge that's sitting out among the trees.  I tried to get him to cross some mud, but he sank a few inches, so we backed up and turned around and went somewhere else.

Oz didn't bat an eye.  We walked past the old dog kennel where the ducks and turkeys had lived the past couple of years.  Robins were flitting in and out, and he did a double take, but continued on.  He began searching out pathways to explore in his big backyard.  I was wishing the backyard were bigger!  Finally, Oz wasn't worried about trying to protect himself, and allowing me to simply drop the reins and trust that I wasn't going to send him into some place scary where he'd need to use his fight or flight instincts.

It was, in a word, glorious.  A huge weight slid from both of our shoulders this afternoon, and we're both a little more prepared to conquer the world!

Never Forgotten

 The year was 2008.  It was December, and we were in Oregon to pick up my new mustang for the upcoming Extreme Mustang Makeover.  My friend Andi drove us up the mountain in search of wild horses.  It was the first time I came fact to face with these lovely creatures, and I stood in amazement as they mingled around us, cautious, but not afraid enough to leave.  It's when Darling met Dibs.  It's when I named Honor.  And it's when we first met this incredible stallion who became known as Golden Boy.

Golden Boy kept to himself.  Many other band stallions had a second in command, but not GB.  No, he'd selected some of the finest mares on the mountain and he wasn't about to allow anyone else into his inner circle.  Now and again, as on the first day we saw him, he could be found with the Hollywood Herd, where several bands mingled together, but more often he was on the outskirts, not too far away, but never so close as to encourage another stallion to think he could get away with breeding or stealing one of his mares.

Clover, the buckskin, and Kamali, the pinto, were among the mares with Golden Boy in 2011.

Golden Boy and the always lovely Delight, February 2011.

When we got word last year that Golden Boy was injured, and that he was under attack by other stallions, it was devastating.  Backed up against the rimrock, Golden Boy and his mares fought hard when bachelor stallions came in hopes of picking off mares for themselves.  One photographer was present at the scene.  Golden Boy's injury was such that he had no hopes of living through the onslaught.  She contacted the BLM office, and Golden Boy was immediately put down so as not to suffer any longer.  The mares were then fought over by the remaining stallions.

After a great amount of scuffling, chasing, and stealing, things finally began to settle down on the South Steens.  Delight, her yearling filly (Whisper), and Cotton ended up with Cortez, the feisty little pinto who'd lived as a bachelor the past couple of years.  He'd also picked up Holly and her dam, Noelle, earlier in the year, so he was now quite happy to have four mares and their offspring.  Life was looking good again on the mountain.

The South Steens is loved by photographers as the 'Hollywood' horses, as they are known, tend to stick around near the roads and they don't panic when they see people walking in to get a few pictures.  Of course, a soft approach is needed to get up close and personal with them, but it could be done, and never did we leave disappointed.

Up close and personal with Delight.

With the band broken and mares scattered, photographers began documenting where they'd gone and which stallions had which mares.  New foals were expected to start arriving in February, and everyone was interested to know if Golden Boy's mares had been bred by him, or their new stallions.  Of course, we knew there was no real way to identify sires short of DNA, but odds are always good with GB's girls, that they are carrying his colts.

A visit around the first of the year by my friend Carolyn saw everyone content.  In February, two mares were missing from Cortez's band...Delight and Clover.  But their foals from the previous year were both still with him.  This is odd.  Two mares leaving in the same time frame, but colts not going along?  It just didn't add up.

Zephry, a beautiful colt with one blue eye

Meanwhile, in Cascade and Sox's band, the yearling colt, Zephyr, appeared to be missing.  A colt missing isn't such a surprise...anything could happen to a baby.  But the mares?  They were older, wiser, larger. A big cat can pick off a colt, but rarely an adult unless it's ill or injured.  The mares had been healthy.  And they were both missing.  A predator would not take down two.

Then there was another report.  The remains of a horse and three dead antelope, all in close proximity to one another, had been found.  There was enough hair remaining on the horse to identify  him.  It was Little Brother.  Carolyn had seen him in February, so he'd died after the mares had disappeared.  But the fact that his remains were so close to the antelope, and it appeared that they'd died in the same time frame, that things are looking a little suspicious on the South Steens.

 Little Brother, as he was in June 2012

Another photographer reported back in early April.  He'd made a trip to the mountain and found two skeletons with just enough hair for him to assume that it was Delight and Clover.  They were near a water hole, not far from each other.

While there is no proof of how our horses are dying, there is enough speculation.  And with that speculation, a deluge of people keeping watch over our beloved wild horses on the Steens.  If someone has been up shooting, we know they've been there at least on two occasions.  Please pray that they are never successful again.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


I put Oz back to work after getting his 'I dunno' results from the vet.  He coughed twice...then worked for half an hour with nothing.  Then again last night, hauling him to the arena.  One measly cough.  Seriously, Oz?  What the heck?  Not coughing is nearly as aggravating as having a cough that you don't know where it's coming from.  Apparently, all I needed to do to 'cure' him was stuff his nose in a glove and try to suffocate him.  Who knew?  

Darling and I made our way up to the Reined Cowhorse Show yesterday where I snapped a few photos of friends (and strangers) who were competing.  Wonder if any of my mustangs would be well suited for this event?  The object of the game is to perform an easy pattern showing your horse is able to do lead changes in both directions, a couple of stops and back up.  This is called the 'dry work'.  

Dry work is followed by the cow being turned into the arena with you.  This is when it gets tricky, because the cow hasn't read the rule book.

First, you work your cow off the back wall, which is the end of the arena where the cow just came through the gate.  You want to show that your horse can 'box' the cow, or keep it contained in a smaller area.  This is similar to cutting, though you've not got a herd behind you.

Then you allow the cow to move up along the long side of the arena, as though it's making a get away.  Now your horse is tested on how well it can rate the calf, move ahead of it and turn it back the other direction.  You want to get a couple good turns in each direction to show how well your horse can handle it.

Once you've made those hard, fast turns, you drive your cow out into the arena and show how your horse is able to direct the cow by circling it.  You want to circle both directions, which can be tricky as those little suckers can move pretty quick when they want to!  A nice, pretty circle will get you more points than something that is, say, egg shaped, or free form.

 Once you've circled to the right, you allow the cow to move just slightly ahead of your horse, and you then move to the cow's opposite side, and circle to the left.  

 This is all done at what is often times similar to a hand gallop.  Or, in other words, break neck speed.  As previously stated, the cows don't read the rules and have no clue that there is any sort of pattern involved.  Sometimes, they turn the wrong way and dive under the horse, causing great accidents to happen.  Thankfully, we didn't witness anything like that yesterday.

Darling had thought this may be a fun sport until we sat and watched.  Then?  "Those people are crazy, mom.  Just crazy.  I mean, I do crazy stuff, but that's CRAZY!"

Guess I won't need to worry if my mustangs can do it or not!

Hope y'all have a happy Sunday!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Cough. Cough. Cough.

Got brave and hopped on bareback!

Another day of sunshine and lollipops!  Minus the lollipops.

Oz has developed a little cough the past couple of weeks.  It's annoying.  Each time we start to trot, he coughs.  I hate when that happens, because I'm afraid that if I'm riding with others, they'll worry that he's contagious.  I'd taken his temp, but it was normal.  I'd soaked his hay, but he still coughed.  It was only with exertion, like when we trotted, or when I ponied him on the trail and we climbed a hill.  So I wasn't terribly worried...but since it hadn't gone away, and since I've got 3 weeks until game time, I opted to have it checked out.

The heart sounded good.  The lungs sounded fine.  Nothing at all in the trachea.  And again, no temp.  Eyes were clear, as was his nose.  So nothing viral, said the vet, and no one need worry about catching the creeping crud.  At this point, he pulled out a long glove, one that is intended for use when a hand goes up the end of a horse that one's hand should never travel into.  Oz, of course, had no clue. And this time, the glove was for the front end, anyway.  A knot was tied where the wrist would normally be, and the opening slipped over Oz's muzzle.  It was left there for a couple of minutes, just long enough for Oz to become uncomfortable breathing, at which point the 'bag' was pulled off and the vet's stethoscope placed onto his side.  Oz gave a hefty cough, induced by the bag.  The vet listened to see if he could hear anything in his lungs.  Nothing.  A second time of breathing into the makeshift bag, a second time listening, and again, nothing.

The needle came out and blood was drawn.

Then we went outside for a quick trot around to show the good doctor what we'd been experiencing, and true to history, Oz coughed.  We turned and trotted the other direction, and this time a little chunk of what looked like chewed grass or hay came shooting out when he coughed.

The vet suggested we wait for the lab to check the bloodwork, and then, if nothing showed up, we'd make a plan.

What showed up was...well...nearly nothing.  A wee bit of inflammation, I was told, but nothing terribly bad. So I was told to return to exercise and see if whatever it was would work it's way out in the next few days.  Then, if he didn't get better on his own,  we'd put him on banamine for a few days and see if that helped the cough.

The past few days I've not done anything other than walk a few circles, but after the phone call I went right out and saddled up.  We had a good, solid workout, and yes, he coughed a couple of times, but it wasn't bad, and I didn't let it stop us.  I'm anxious to get things back on the road.  Or, in this case, the trail!  

Sandy and I ponying Oz down the trail.  Next time?  I'm riding the red man!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

It's a Good Day to Die

That's what I told myself, anyway.  I any day really a good day?  So today was just as good as any other, I figured.  May as well at least go with a bang...or a buck...or a bolt...

So the first thing I did (after trying to kill myself on one of the Cowboy's spooky quarter horses) was go out and take a look at my wild, rambunctious, untamable hoodlums of the horse world known as mustangs.  And I said to myself..."Self, you may as well go big, or go home.  No point putting your life on the line at the end of the day.  May as well step right up to the plate and do the riskiest one first."

And that's just what I did.  I went out and sweet talked the oldest, wildest, most unpredictable of all my mustangs (not to mention the most beautifulest) and asked her, pretty please, will you let me put a halter on you today?

And she did.

After sending her in a few circles in the round pen, I pulled out the saddle and bridle and held my breath and put it on the Diva.  And again, she was good and allowed it.  And again, I told myself it was a good day to die, and to go like a brave cowgirl, not a wimpy little wannabe.  

I gave the red head a pat and stepped into the stirrup.  I reached across and patted her neck.  She wiggled her lips, but stood still.

Go big!  Go big!  I stood all the way up, still rubbing and patting.  First the shoulder and neck, then back behind the saddle on her hip and rump.  She stood patiently.  No fire, no flames.

And then there I was, up top, astride, back in the saddle again.  The mare I'd brought home as a seven year old, put a couple dozen rides on as a nine year old, was now standing quietly beneath me two years later as an 11 year old.  And no one died.

With that done, Darling decided she, too, wanted to get into the act.  Beamer's been out on a couple of trail rides this past week, packing me for a couple of hours each time, over bridges, through water, up and down hills, trudging right along.

Darling decided that Beamer needed to go English, so she pulled out her saddle and climbed aboard.

After a few laps around the pen, Darling decided that she'd be riding Beamer on the trails from now on!

As Darling was trotting about, posting up and down, I was saddling Flirt.  She's been at the bottom of the 'to do' list for quite some time.  Counting down to the Trail Challenge with Oz, and knowing I needed to get Beamer ready to sell, meant that Flirt was just going to need to wait. until I had a bit of time. I had a few extra minutes.  And, apparently,  a death wish.  So I saddled her up and for the second time this month, and then I climbed on board.

Maybe my death wish wasn't really as strong as I'd thought, because I didn't ask her to go anywhere.  Just climbed on and off a couple of times.  Or maybe it was that I was saved by the dinner bell?  City Boy called from the patio, and who was I to turn down a meal?

With nightfall creeping closer, and a full tummy, we sat down and watched a movie.  But my heart was still restless.  Something more needed to be done.  I returned to the barn as the sun slipped behind the trees and mosquitoes came out for their evening meal (seriously...blood sucking winged miniature vampires!)  I called to Oz, and saddled him up.  We made a couple of quiet walks around the pen, then I opened the gate and rode into the paddock where Flirt stood waiting, wearing her halter and lead.  She turned to face us and I reached out to pet her face, then slid my hand down her halter to her lead rope.

I asked Oz to turn and we headed back into the round pen, this time leading the two year old behind us.  Talk about the green leading the green.  And while it was a tiny space, there's still enough room to get into trouble.  The lead rope bounced off Oz's hip, crossed around behind him, even got clamped under his tail at one point (which I didn't know until I was ready to get off), and he just walked quietly while she followed nicely.

Seems it wasn't my day to die after all.  Good thing, because I have a trail challenge to go to in just...oh my word!...three weeks! 

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Funeral

"As a guitarist, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper’s cemetery in the back country. As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost.

I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch.

I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I’ve never played before for this homeless man.

And as I played ‘Amazing Grace,’ the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished I packed up my guitar and started for my car. Though my head hung low, my heart was full.

As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, “I never seen nothin’ like that before and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.”

Apparently, I’m still lost…

I had to share it.  Hope it made you smile!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

When One Gate Closes...

What is it that Mother Superior said in the Sound of Music?  "When God closes a door, he leaves a window open"?  Something to that extent.  I'm waiting patiently for that open window to show up.  Somewhere, that cow cutting mustang of my dreams is out there.  I just wish it was here.  But until it shows up, I'll trudge forward and get done what needs to be done here and now.  Besides, I've got a Trail Challenge to prepare for!

Darling came outside the other afternoon when I was on Oz.  She's not ridden him in the past few weeks and asked if she could climb on.  Of course!  She was happily surprised at how far he'd come and how easy he was to ride in the round pen.  She even dropped to one hand and did a couple of figure 8's with him.  He maintained a steady walk throughout, which is exactly what he'll need once we hit the trail classes down in Oregon.

I mentioned the other day that I like working through gates with my horses.  Stopping, waiting, moving the front and back end of their bodies independently of each builds to better overall body control.  Oz caught on so quickly to giving his rib cage when we were getting him started, and that has helped him figure out gates quite rapidly as well.

I asked Katie to grab a quick video of Oz and I coming through the gate.  I'd already practiced backing through (which he struggles just a little bit with) and walking through forward (it had been impeccable!), and I wanted to capture at least the walk through on a video clip.

As it turned out, once the camera was there, we backed through perfectly (Katie turned it on as she noticed it was going so well), but when Oz realized she was standing there with the camera on our way back in, he had to stop and look and wiggle a bit.  But for a greenie, he's doing well.  We have a long way to go when it comes to actual obstacles, but body control is there!  I guess until my cutting prospect comes along, these are the gates I'll be traveling through!

Friday, April 12, 2013


 I turned Lucy out in the back the other day.  Sunshine had dried it out for the most part, and while there wasn't a lot of grass, there was some for the nibbling, and Lord knows Lucy could use the extra feed.  Long backed girl that she is, it will be some time before she's carrying enough pounds to make her look even lean...she's just downright skinny at the moment.  

I'd been trying to quench the excitement I'd felt growing within me.  Lucy had done so well on the bull that I'd begun to contemplate finding a new home for one of the other horses.  But who to give up?  It wasn't an easy choice.  Could I find someone to foster Tika?  That would be difficult, though in all honesty, it would make the most sense.  Neither Flirt or Oz fits the job description I'm looking for; Oz is just a bit too big and lumbering, and while Flirt is a lovely mover, there's nothing quick and catty about her.  Tika is the only of the three who moves remotely like I want a cowhorse to move, but of course we're back to it being Tika, and that just isn't going to happen.

Lucy had about a week off, doing nothing but eat, when I decided I'd haul her along with me to the arena for a little bitty ride.  I didn't want to burn too many calories when I'm trying to pack them on, but what would a 15 minute ride hurt?  Just a few circles and stops.  Nothing else.  I loaded both her and Oz and off we went.
I had Lucy saddled and climbed on board.  We walked and did a little bending and giving of the rib cage, then I asked for the trot.  Hmmm...what's that?  It didn't feel quite right.  Not overly wrong, just not quite right.  We walked again, and the feeling went away.  But it was definitely there, if ever so faint, at the trot.  I sighed and unsaddled her, feeling for heat of which I found none, and moved on to Oz.

Lucy was given a day off, and she played hard when turned out, showing no sign of lameness.  That is, of course, until I went out to halter her 2 days later.  I could see her head bobbing as she trotted up to the gate. Putting the halter on, I led her to my sandy round pen and asked her to trot at the end of the lead.  I didn't see any discomfort, so I loaded her into the trailer and off to the arena we went, where she walked soundly across the footing toward the round pen nestled near the corner.

I glanced down and backward at Lucy's legs and feet as we traveled, and something caught my eye.  What was that lump?  I stopped and reached down.  A hard knot was on the outside left of Lucy's coronet band, no heat, not soft.  Lucy didn't seem to mind my pushing and prodding, so I continued to the round pen where  I asked her to trot while I watched her travel.

Lame.  Her head was bobbing and there was no doubt it was from the left leg.  She didn't have any trouble swinging it forward and using her shoulder, so I figured it had to be the lump that was giving us trouble.

The following day a farrier was at the Cowboy's, so I hauled Lucy down for a look see.  In the meantime, the night before, I'd done some research and came across two possibilities; ringbone or sidebone.  Since I'd never dealt with either, I hoped the farrier and the Cowboy could give me a little insight.

The farrier said he was sure that it was sidebone.  Of course, xrays would tell us for sure, but he had a client with a horse who had it, and it looked and felt the same.  Lucy was a bit young, he said, but he would bet on it being sidebone.

The Cowboy looked at me, and I didn't even need to hear the words.  "You'd better find her another home, Trace," he said, knowing I wasn't wanting to hear what he was saying.  "It's not the forward motion, it's the turning that hurts them.  Bugger...I know you kinda liked this one."

The rest of the morning was a blur, most likely due to the tears I was fighting back.  I left Lucy there.  A second farrier was coming down tomorrow.  Never hurts to have a second opinion, right?  

I called the vet that afternoon to find out about the possibility of xrays.  I was told they'd want to do a nerve block first, to determine that was the actual cause of the lameness.  Then after that, they'd do xrays.  He rattled off the costs of farm calls and office calls and  fees for procedures associated with Lucy's knot.  I mentally tabulated it in my head, landing on the magic number of $500.  Sigh...not exactly in the budget after all of Flirt's escapades last fall and the recent visit from the dentist.  And in reality, all I needed was to have it confirmed that it was, indeed, sidebone.   Lameness aside, from what I was reading all afternoon, Lucy didn't  have a shot at any hard work in the future.

The following day, farrier #2 showed up.  Indeed, he said, it was sidebone.  He'd seen it in a lot of draft horses, but was surprised to see it in my four year old mustang.  He'd just seen her 3 weeks ago when he trimmed her, and said it hadn't been exposed then (whew!  I'd wondered if I'd just not noticed it?), and that the stress of the work I'd done the week before must have brought it to the surface.  He also said not to give up on her as a riding horse...but again, light work.

My heart came crashing down.  All that potential...those dreams of finding the mustang who may be competitive in the cutting arena...poof.  Gone in an instant.  I hadn't realized just how excited I'd been until that moment.  I allowed myself to weep for my loss of a mare who'd captured my heart the remainder of the afternoon, but then reminded myself that, with the right care, Lucy would still have a productive life with the right home.  She would still be able to go for nice, leisurely rides down the trail with someone who didn't want to chase cows or ribbons or trophies.  There are those people out there, yes?  I need one for Lucy.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Big Girl Pantie Time!

It was Big Girl Pantie week for me here at the Mustang Diaries this past week.  Here's how it played out.


Beamer went for her second trail ride down at the local tree farm.  This ride was not quite as smooth as the first.  Oh, sure, it started off just fine.  I met another friend and Beamer stepped right out into the lead.  That suited her companion, Gertie, just fine, as Gertie prefers to mosey along and let someone else blaze the trail. 

Blazing trails, it would appear, is something Beamer enjoys.  

One of the things that the Cowboy likes is Beamer's large hindquarters.  They're very strong and athletic, and on this particular day Beamer opted to use them.  No, she didn't kick out or anything of that nature.  Instead she opted to launch the two of us like a rocket up a hill with little regard to whether there was an actual trail or not.  Thankfully, there was a trail, but when we hit the switchback, she wanted to continue straight on up.  

It's a blessing she's such a small thing.  Had I been on Oz, I'd have been toast.  Beamer, at least, I was able to pull around and under control once she hesitated at the top of the switchback.  A second attempt to hurtle us up the hill, at which point I dismounted and walked to the top.  A short walk, thankfully!  Obviously, Beamer has some issues we need to work through, so back down to the Cowboy's she went where we can get back to some basics.

The thing is, she doesn't act this way in an arena.  Out on the trail, she calls for the horses at home.  And really, since we're less than a mile away from them (probably half that as the crow flies), she may smell them or even hear them if they answer.  Either way, she needs more manners, and that can happen in the safety of the arena for now.


Six weeks.  That's all the time Oz and I have to get things together before the Mt Trail Challenge in Oregon.  Eeep!  That's not much time!  I hadn't even ridden the boy outdoors yet.  I mean...sure, if you count my round pen at home, but actually outside?  Hasn't happened.  Nor in a full size arena. 

Since having his teeth done, Oz has seemed a little depressed.  What better time to try something new?  No high spirits to deal with, right?  I'd given the boy the week off.  The Cowboy had taken down the panels inside his arena which had created a nice safety net for starting colts.  Lots of territory that had never been available to us (nor had I wanted to use it), but I took a deep breath, saddled up and climbed on board.  

Oz walked and trotted politely around in circles where the pen had been set up.  Then we began moving outward and using most of the arena, though avoiding the very front where the doorway led to the barn or the bulls were parked.  After a few minutes of arena time, I decided it was time to open the gate and head outdoors.

I love gates.  They teach a horse so much!  Moving willingly toward a solid object, standing patiently, moving either the forehand or hindquarters separately from one another, and trusting your rider to maneuver you safely through a small opening.  There's a lot of finesse in working your way through a gate.  Oz did his best to please me.  For a colt who's just been started, he did quite well.  We got out into the yard between the barns, then opened the gate into the old buffalo pen and walked around in there.  

Wide tractor tires had left deep tracks in the soft earth last fall, so I steered Oz into one, walking the length of it.  I know there are trenches at the trail challenge that are a few feet deep.  The tire track wasn't anywhere near that...just a few inches...but it was something!

Oz came home that afternoon, and I'm happy to report that we've had a couple of rides over obstacles in the big arena at the riding club now, as well as walking around outside in the driveway at home where we navigated around trees and through a big puddle.  


No description needed.  Just suffice to say I nearly peed my pants.  In excitement, of course!

I was all alone until Darling showed up.  She wanted to get in on the excitement, too!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Would you go to your GP for dental work?

Oz would like to know, how much will the tooth fairy leave him?  Because after his day with the dentist, he surely believes he deserves something!

We had a gal from Oregon come up to the Cowboy's barn to do some work on Thursday.  In the past we've had different vets do our dental work.  They've come and slung a rope up over a beam in the stall door, then we'd stand the horse in the stall doorway, and the rope would be attached to their halter.  This would hold the head up where the vet was able to work easily on the teeth.

When I asked where the dentist would like to work on the horses (stall, alleyway), she said she'd like to have a corner somewhere with good light.  I assumed she must have a stand which the horse could rest it's head.  Nope.  She had me.  I was the helper, the head holder, the one who was expected to keep the horse's head where it was supposed to be so she could work.  

She explained to us that she'd seen horses get their heads pulled up so high that they'd had strokes, and decided a long time ago that she really didn't need to work like that.  So a head holder, aka human assistant, was what she used.

Tools of the dental trade sit inside a bucket of water

On Thursday, Doxee was the first to be done.  We knew it'd been a few years since her teeth had been looked at, so it was no surprise to hear that her teeth had a lot of ridges, hooks, flares and waves.  What was a surprise was when she told me to put my hand up there to feel.  No one had ever had me do that before!  But with Doxee wearing that special dental mouth piece (called a spreader bar) that kept her teeth from crunching down on me, I happily reached up to feel what the dentist felt.  

I was amazed at how far back I had to reach.  I mean...I've seen skulls and know those are long faces, but reaching up inside, I expected to get to the teeth sooner.  Leslie reached up there with various tools while I propped up Doxee's head, grinding and filing until it was all smooth.  Then she did something I'd never seen a vet do...she sawed off the front teeth!  

Okay, she didn't saw them off, but she did saw off 1/8" or so.  The reason for this was that while the top and bottom teeth in the front met up, her molars in the back had a big gap.  They'd been filed down...they didn't meet up.  The only way to make them meet up so that Doxee could chew her food was to alter the length of the front teeth as well.  

Doxee was the first of six horses that day.  Most were in worse condition than Doxee, which came as a shock since three of them had just come in from a big training barn.  The molars on a couple were so full of ridges that their cheeks were ripped up.  

Oz is always playing with his tongue

By the end of the day on Thursday, I was beat.  Holding heads all day is hard work!  I'm not sure how Leslie's back holds up to doing that much dental work in a day, or more!  She's been an equine dentist for 16 years now, however, so maybe she's used to it?

Today she came back to do five more, one of whom was Oz.  We elected to start with the older horses, knowing that they'd be the harder ones.  One mare had just been done 6 months ago.  Once again, she had me put my hand up inside the mouth.  I was could it be so bad in such a short amount of time?  According to Leslie, many vets simply don't know how to properly care for teeth.  How would they, she asked?  That's not what they've been trained to do.  They get a little bit of training for a wide variety of things, but nothing in depth like a specialist.  

Which makes perfect sense, right?  Would you go to your general practitioner for your dental work?  Probably not.  So why should we trust our horse's mouths to someone who hasn't had the in depth training of an equine dentist?

Oz, being a baby, is losing baby teeth.  He also still had his wolf teeth.  I've been wondering if the reason he's always got his tongue out is due to dental issues.  Of late, he's also begun to lose some weight.  Leslie confirmed that the weight was almost certainly due to him losing teeth right now.  She told me to expect the same in about another year.  She took a look up inside his mouth and commented on his big wolf teeth.  That didn't surprise me; every vet who's pulled wolf teeth on a mustang always comments on the size.  Oz's wolf teeth were not only large, but they were sharp and pointed.  No wonder they call them wolf teeth...they look like they should be inside the mouth of a dog!

Further back, Oz had one loose tooth and one that seemed to be stuck; it should have come out but instead was jammed in their between teeth.  That, we decided, was why he was always sticking that tongue out.  "It's like the world's biggest popcorn kernel," said Leslie, "and he's trying to push it out with his tongue."

Three pairs of teeth; the wolf teeth on the left, baby molars on the right, 
and in the center filings from the front teeth.

We'd thought that Oz would be the last, but the Cowboy asked Leslie if she could look at a mare who was just done a few weeks ago.  Seems she had some head issues, so they had a vet come and work on her.  After he left, she had a whole new set of issues with her bit.  Leslie slipped the spreader bar inside the mare's mouth and took a quick feel of her teeth.  She turned to me and said, "Reach up in their and tell me what you feel."

I reached inside, and the first tooth felt like it'd been filed.  I reached further back, and began feeling ridges and hooks on both sides, top and bottom.  I turned to look at Leslie, who was shaking her head.  "It feels like they just did the first tooth," I told her.  So rather than being done with Oz, I found myself holding one more head.

It was long day with horse's heads propped up on my shoulders, or resting in my arms, or my arms stuck up inside mouths.  Things I learned; never trust a vet to do a dentist's work, performance horses need to be checked every 6 months, and never tell your three year old the tooth fairy will come if they lose a tooth in the process because they quickly add up the fact that they just lost four.