Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Paranoia of Love

It’s been so rainy, drizzly and cloudy here lately that going to the barn to see Buckshot has been a challenge. The clouds have been thick and overcast, and downright gloomy, or else, gathered up into storm-at-any-minute grey cloud piles, also very gloomy. And mixed with very high humidity – oh my goodness- yuck. Even though we need the rain.

On Friday, I took the day off and went out to see Buckshot, hoping the weatherman’s unfriendly prediction of rain and storms would hold off long enough for me to spend some dry time with my favorite horse. It was 95 degrees, humid and cloudy. I found him in a stall, munching on hay, a little wet, so I brushed him with a curry comb and scratched places that might be itchy. Then I took him out of his pasture to eat grass for a while. The humidity was bad, but still, it hadn’t actually rained while I was with him, and I had a good time with Buckshot. Later I helped feed the farm’s horses before I left.

Saturday was more of the same weather. A neighbor who lives near Buckshot’s pasture was out doing shooting practice, and as I approached the pasture, poor Buckshot was pacing and looking in the direction of the shots. Okay, he’s nervous, I thought, and quickly got his halter on, and got him out of the pasture, heading over to the main barn. I had to set up a different stall than normal because the BOH was fixing something in the barn we usually groom in. So I took Buckshot into a new stall, equipped with his normal perks- hay, water and a handful of sweet feed in the feeding manger. We started to groom after he walked around the stall a couple of times. Then the BOH moved the tractor just outside the barn door, still running. This made Buckshot very nervous. He paced, and pooped, and kept walking around. Okay, still nervous, I thought, and decided that the abbreviated grooming I had done, was enough, and time to get him outside to help his anxiety decline. I tacked him up quickly and we headed out to the arena.

The arena was very wet, but if we stayed mostly in the middle, the footing was okay. Good for walking, okay for trotting, and forget the canter. We began our twenty-minute walking warm up and Buckshot did great. After a few minutes, he put his head down and gave one of those wonderful, long horse sighs, and I thought, good, he’s relaxed, and listening to me, and his nervousness is mostly gone. We did several improvised patterns using the center line. On one version, we did three strides of walk, three strides of trot, etc. At the end of the arena, we turned right and headed back and he offered the canter! So we did about six strides of canter – beautiful canter- before coming down to the trot, and trotting out of the gate to the grass. Good boy! He must have felt quite good about the ride and the footing, to go into the canter.

We were joined by two other riders and horses in the arena, and after a warmup for them, the BO had us play a game. A short pole, with a net attached to the top end, is stuck in the ground, and we throw small Frisbees into the net as we walk or trot or gallop by. No, no galloping! It was fun. First, we had to walk our horses to the pole and let them get familiar with it, then take the Frisbee and swing our arms with it, to get them used to us having it in our hands. Then we took turns walking or trotting by the pole and throwing the Frisbee in. We missed as many times as we made it into the net. So we had to lean over and get them out of the net, or dismount and collect them and remount. It sounds easy, and not very interesting, but actually, it was challenging, and it kept my mind off of the very hot, very humid weather, and before I knew it, I looked at my watch and I had been riding Buckshot for two hours! I took him for a rinse and walked him back to his pasture, telling him what a good horse he was. And hoping the shooters were done – I guess they were; I didn’t hear any more shots in the pasture.

On Sunday, three of us took our horses and went to the reining clinic. The trainer decided the day would be for individual instruction, so we could do what we wanted. As he worked with other riders on the finer points of reining and showing, Buckshot and I used the nice big arena to practice some of our trotting and cantering. Buckshot did very well, considering it was a very hot day. He had good energy, but I couldn’t get him to keep cantering beyond about eight strides. I checked his haunches for exertion frequently, but he wasn’t getting overexerted. I guess he was just having an eight-stride-day.

After about an hour, I dismounted and got him untacked and then got into a long line waiting to rinse off our horses. I have a pet peeve about this. Whenever a barn has a line of people waiting to rinse horses, I think it is rude for someone to dawdle with their horse, shampoo them, and then after rinsing, to stay at the water stall to squeegee their horse. If there are horses waiting, I think it is polite to rinse quickly, and move my horse out of the wash stall to do the squeegee part. But of course, as the line gathered, one person dawdled at the wash stall with her horse, shampooing him, rinsing him slowly and then squeegee-ing him. The trainer finally noticed the long line and offered a second water hose for us to use. I took Buckshot over to the other water hose and got him rinsed. Then, while he ate the wonderful grass that seems to grow exclusively at this trainer’s farm, I squeegeed him.

We loaded up the horses soon after that, drove back to the farm, and got them off the trailer. Buckshot loves coming home and we walked back to his pasture. What a good horse.

I can’t wait for cooler weather!! I am finally somewhat used to the heat and humidity and have my coping aids, but still, I have to stay aware of Buckshot’s age and not overwork him in the heat. And sometimes we have to ride around raindrops or in muddy arenas, so those factors also limit what we can work on right now. I have to keep my expectations low and reasonable for all of these constraints. But it is frustrating at times!!

Things are going well with the new probiotic I have Buckshot on. And his front hooves, with the clefts between his bulbs, are, ever so slowly, getting better. I asked the BO to check his hooves during the week, so that makes me feel much better. If they need some thrush medication, she will apply it. And, knock on wood, we haven’t had any rain rot this summer to contend with. I frequently inspect him for any bumps that may be a precursor of rain rot, and if I feel any, I spray them right away with Eqyss spray, and they have gone away within a day or two. So, fingers crossed, no big problems to contend with thus far this summer. I know you understand.

We have to watch out for so many different things, or conditions, that our horses can get. It’s a tiny bit of understandable paranoia. When you’ve had to deal with some condition in its full blown version, watching out for it, at its beginnings, seems a wise thing to do. Sometimes I feel like a horse inspector when I’m around Buckshot. What’s that bump, I think, as I stroke him. Hmmm, what’s this? Does it come off? Is everything okay here? Keep my eye on that thing, hopefully it will go away. And the big one – when did THAT happen? That wasn’t here last week, was it? Why don’t I know that? What a terrible owner, that I didn’t check this area last week, just in case this thing appeared now! You get the picture!! But we love them so- checking on their boo-boos and problems is a paranoia of love, isn’t it? LOL!

Hope you had a great weekend and nothing new and bad happened to your precious horses!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summer Heat Continues

Oh, how I wish for some cooler weather! Is it autumn yet? Despite the incessant heat, Buckshot and I had a good time last weekend. On Saturday, the skies were filled with threatening clouds, and thunderstorms were possible. I went to Buckshot’s pasture to get him, and as we started walking, it started to rain. So I took him back to his pasture. I stood there for a few minutes and the sprinkling stopped. So I put his halter back on him and took him out again. We started walking and then, it started raining again! I took him back to his pasture. He was very confused by now. And I couldn’t figure out what to do.

I went back to the barn where other riders were getting horses groomed. We didn’t know if the rain would continue, or stop for a while and give us time to ride. Mustering all of the positive thinking I could, I walked back to Buckshot’s pasture, hoping, hoping, hoping that we would be able to ride, even if just for twenty minutes. We walked over without any rain falling from the skies, but, you guessed it – as we were grooming, it started raining again. Darn! I kept grooming Buckshot, taking my time with brushing his tail and mane, dragging every step out as long as possible. I looked over the stall door to the outside door- still raining. More grooming. Another look outside. Stopped raining! I then quickly tacked him up and walked him out to the muddy arena. The other riders were sitting in the adjoining barn, chatting. I didn’t know if they planned to run out and try to ride between raindrops, but I sure did!

We started our ride and did our walking warm up. That’s an oxymoron – a warm up on a sweltering summer day! LOL! But we did it- walked in interesting patterns and circles, big and small, to warm up Buckshot’s muscles and joints. Eventually the other horses and riders joined us in the arena. We did some trotting, which was nice. I even asked Buckshot for a canter, and it was perfect! Nice controlled, smooth, energetic canter. Absolutely perfect! I asked him one more time for a canter down the long rail and he did it again. This after we hadn’t really ridden in almost three weeks due to the hundred-degree-plus temperatures. What a talented horse! Then – you guessed it – it started to rain, in earnest, and so we ended the riding lesson and took our horses in to untack them. I gave Buckshot his treats – carrot, apple, horse cookies, and a mint or two. And walked him back to his pasture. He wasn’t really sweaty enough to rinse off, surprisingly. We had ridden for forty minutes, primarily at the walk. A little trotting and canter. It was wonderful to ride him, while it lasted!

On Sunday, we took three horses, including Buckshot, to the reining clinic. It was not as hot as Saturday, but still in the nineties with humidity. Riding from farm to farm in the air conditioned truck was really appreciated. When we arrived at the reining farm, we unloaded our horses and after walking Buckshot around for a few minutes, I tacked him up. Then I mounted and we started our warm up. I could feel Buckshot’s good energy, almost an eagerness, beneath me. He was looking forward to this! I think he really likes the nice thick sand footing of the reining arena. And I think he likes being around the other horses. And the reining trainer, who always asks how Buckshot is, and is always willing to accommodate Buckshot’s age and limitations. I think he has a fun time!

After our warm up, we joined the other riders doing a circling exercise. I like doing circles and Buckshot and I do a lot of them. We are pretty good at trotting circles, but not as good at cantering circles, yet. We did the other reining exercises and at one point, we had one long rail to ourselves and I used it to experiment.

I have been thinking about experimenting with giving Buckshot just a tiny bit longer rein while cantering, to see if he responds to it and perhaps responds better to my steering. But since we haven’t been able to ride much at all lately, I haven’t tried it yet. So I did on Sunday – I cued him for a canter and headed down the rail, with both my reins in one hand. He did great, and the trainer even noticed and called out a compliment to us! So for experiment #1 it was a success. I will keep working on it. After several more exercises, dark clouds started to roll in and thunder started sounding in the distance. Seeing that many horses would need to be rinsed off, and it could start to rain, or worse, at any time, I dismounted a few minutes early and took Buckshot off to untack and rinse. We got all of our horses loaded and were headed back before the skies opened up with buckets of rain. It had stopped by the time we got home, and after unloading Buckshot, he led me back to his pasture. LOL! He loves to come home and heads back to his pasture with a purposeful walk, ignoring all of the grass at his feet. I told him what a great job he had done!!

Now for an update on his new probiotic – it is still working well, and although I do see an occasional cow patty poop pile, overall it seems to work well for both horses, and has given them more solid poop. I see much less grain in the poop as well, so that is a very good thing. We’ll keep using this one for now.

The only problem Buckshot is having this summer is his front hooves, they both have a split at the heel between the bulbs. The right one is more severe than the left one. The BO and I have been watching it, and checking for thrush, and putting Farnam Thrush XX on both. I think it is due to the very dry weather we have been having. I have asked the farrrier for his recommendation as well, and he suggested continuing use of the thrush solution. The BO is checking these hooves several times during the week for me. I wish they would get better, but it must take time. He doesn’t act like they hurt him so that’s good.

Hope all of your horses are doing great this summer!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Heat Wave Continues

It was a second sweltering weekend here in Virginia. With temperatures over 100 degrees on Saturday and Sunday, I didn’t ride Buckshot, but we had fun doing other things.

On Saturday, after I groomed him, I thought we’d walk through the trail. The flies aren’t too bad right now (they’ve all died from heat exhaustion!) so a walk in the woods seemed like a good idea. But when we got to the trailhead, Buckshot didn’t want to go into the woods. He did his impression of a statue- standing totally still and unmovable. I pulled, and reassured him that I’d protect him, and turned him in a few circles, but everytime he stood absolutely immobile and wouldn’t go into the woods.

So we did plan B- a walk down the farm road. It wasn’t a smooth, easy walk, either. LOL! I had treats in my pocket and after a short ways, Buckshot stopped in his tracks, so I gave him a treat, and he gladly walked forward. Then after a few steps he stopped again, no doubt ready for more treats. I didn’t have enough treats to actually let him eat his way down the road, so I used my crop and tapped him on his shoulder to get him going. A few times, I led him in a zig zag pattern to keep him going. And them another treat. We finally made it down to the arena and turned around. He walked easily and gladly back! LOL! It was too hot to really make an issue of it. But we did accomplish our goal of taking a walk. Then I gave him a bath, some more treats and walked him back to his pasture. Because of the heat, I was spent.

On Sunday, I decided to just take a grazing walk around the farm with Buckshot, and forget about actually getting anywhere. So we walked in this area and that, and went to see the chicken coop, and say hi to the stallion, and just meandered around. The last place I walked us to was the edge of a neighbor’s field, but right before you get to the field, you have to go past our farm’s major muck pile. It is about ten feet tall right now. As I walked Buckshot right next to it, he stopped. He wanted to sniff everything, and sniff he did! And sniff! And sniff! He was in sniffing heaven! He didn’t care about walking anywhere else, now that he had found this. I had no idea how enthralled he would be with the muck pile. After a few minutes, I led him back to the barn for his shower. Now I’m thinking that maybe I can use this new delight of his – as a treat, I can take him to the muck pile to sniff to his heart’s content! Who knew?

Here’s another new thing about Buckshot – he believes in magic! Yes, that’s right. I have taught him that the mounting block is magic! And he believes it. And for the record, I didn’t set out to teach him about magic. Here’s the background. I use treats when mounting to get him to stand still. When I mount him, I line him up at the block, and give him a treat by hand. Then I place a second treat on the top step of the mounting block, and I get on him. I then turn him around to face the block, and he sees a treat right there, on the step, and eagerly eats it. And then he checks the mounting block carefully again to see if another treat has popped up. We go ahead and do our riding, but a few times when we pass the mounting block, Buckshot will walk up to it and look all around it to see if a treat has magically popped up. He now believes treats come from the mounting block! And he wants a mounting block put in his stall! LOL!

It is so funny, but also it is very interesting. It was easy to train him that the mounting block dispenses treats. He remembers it, and revisits it, and he has never forgotten it. What else can I teach him so easily, that he will be eager to repeat , and he will never forget? I must use this new talent of him somehow!

Has your horse learned something funny from what you did? Hope you had a great weekend!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sweltering Heat!

Like many of you, we in Virginia have been suffering in the sweltering heat of triple digit temperatures. Last weekend we had over 100 degrees on both days. So I didn’t ride Buckshot – too hot to ask him for a ride. Instead I brought him over to the main barn and groomed him. I swear that standing in the stall with him is like being in a room with an active heater going full blast!! LOL! A horse is a mega-heater, which we love in the cold temperatures but wow! During this heat wave, it’s killer.

On Saturday, I gave him a shower after our grooming and walked and grazed him back to his pasture. But on Sunday, we did some groundwork in the arena first. Just some simple exercises and patterns for about twenty minutes. He was a bit crabby, a little mouthy, and had forgotten which way was “back.” I know that he knows his “backing” from going forward, but he wasn’t much in the mood to do it. I think I was a bit crabby also, from the heat. I washed him off with lots of water afterward and slowly we meandered back to his pasture, going slowly for my sake.

Since we had Wednesday off of work for the July 4th holiday, I took an extra day off – Tuesday – and went out to the barn. It was still very hot, in the high 90’s, but I decided to ride. As I got the stall ready, I could feel the effects of the heat, and I moved very slowly, drinking water and Gatorade regularly, conserving my energy. I told myself I could back out of riding at any time if the heat was too much. But I wanted to ride, even just at the walk, and even if just for a short time, say twenty minutes. I missed riding. And I think Buckshot wanted to ride also, and do our “regular” work.

When I went to his pasture to get him, he came to the gate and nickered! That was a first, since he only usually nickers when it is feeding time. But this was around 1 pm so I don’t think he thought it was yet time to eat. I walked him slowly over to the barn, and we started grooming. Wow, grooming is especially hard work in high heat. So I cut back a little, I didn’t do quite as much as I usually do. Moved slowly and kept up the Gatorade drinking. I got him tacked up and headed out to the arena.

I felt kind of excited to be riding! We rode for thirty five minutes, mostly at the walk, with just a few minutes at the trot. We did circles and serpentines, and patterns, and I worked a little on my equitation. After trotting, I stopped Buckshot and looked at his flanks, to see if they were heaving with effort. They didn’t. But that was long enough. By then, the sun had stopping flitting behind the clouds and it shone or baked us with full intensity. I knew it was time to get off of him. I untacked him and gave him a nice shower and lots of treats. It was wonderful to ride him, and feel our partnership, even if for a short time. I told him what a wonderful horse he is!! Good boy!

To fill you in on the probiotic experiment, we have had Buckshot and his pasture mate on the Command FT Probiotic that I bought from Valley Vet. The ingredients are similar to Fastrack, but it isn’t as costly. So far, so good. I check their stalls and paddocks for poop and carefully evaluate what I see. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen Buckshot personally poop the last few times I have been with him. But surely some of the poop I see on the ground is his. And it looks okay- 80% of the piles show good ball shapes, and 20% show cow patty shapes. That’s not bad.

I’ve talked to the BO about what we see so far, and we think it is fine. After we finish this five pound bag of Command, we are going to use the other probiotic I bought, called Forco. We’ll see how that one does as well. I’ll keep you posted. So far, I am pleased with the Command product. As you can see, I’ve become sort of an expert on horse poop. LOL! I look at other horses at the farm, many of whom are Arabs, and their delicate but firm and round poop balls and I am jealous for Buckshot! But it is not to be; his poop just isn’t that solid and beautifully round, no doubt due to his age. So I look at every poop he does when I am with him. When I ride, and he poops, I circle back around to look at it. LOL! Just to make sure it isn’t too bad. And to reassure myself that his intestines are working okay. Because of that, I watch other horse’s poop as well, and make an inner comment on it – Oh, that’s a nice poop! Or, Oh, that’s not too bad. Or, why do other horses have green poop? Poor Buckshot hasn’t had green poop for a long time! I wish he had green poop balls. You get the picture. It’s so funny, what you become focused on with your horse!!

Anyway, enough about that topic – so sorry to make you read all that! Hope you stay cool and have a good weekend with your horse!!