Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Moose By Any Other Name

Balance AF registered Shagya Arabian

Before 2013 was finally done with Blue Skies, we lost our beloved 'Moose' to a twist in his intestine. That's the short story. The long story is much harder.

I met Moose when my darling daughter started horseback lessons at the local Girl Scout camp.Though bigger than my girl, he was a delight to work with, always looking for an opportunity to show off. Once, at a horse show, he drooled all down my shoulder while waiting for his turn. He wasn't being mean, it was just a handy spot to rest his chin as he worried the bit in his mouth.

When BSRA was created after leaving the Girl Scouts in 2008, we wanted to take the entire herd we had worked with and loved everyday at the camp. Moose however, along with several other larger horses were kept by the GS and sent to new locations. To put it simply, we were devastated. These were our children, and watching them leave for new homes was the hardest thing to do.

Moose was our clown, the registered Arabian dressage horse who ended up teaching little girls to post the trot and how to put a bridle on a skyscraper that doesn't want one. His favorite trick was turning his head sideways and sticking out his tongue at you. He laughed with us, and without him a pall fell on our hearts. Always our talk was of when we would reunite the horses.

Sami loved the Shagya Arabian, and made returning him to our herd a priority. Imagine our happiness when, in December 2012, he stepped off a trailer, lifted his head and made eye contact. The Jester had returned. He was different, but so were we. The important thing was, this time it was forever. After sharing welcomes with his human fans, Moose settled in quite well. Remembering some of our other GS horses, Moose soon made one of them his.

At Pine Acres, our blue roan Pony of the Americas, Cloud, used to chase Moose around the field and glare at him then show him her heels. Upon his return to the herd, they became inseparable. To see the giant white gelding and the short, fat mare wandering side by side, we saw love knows no differences.

Moose was family, one of the reasons we opened this barn, and his death was so sudden we are still stunned as we struggle to make sense of events. It began as any normal colic. AJ and others spent most of Christmas Day sitting with him, as in the wash rack liters of fluids and Banamine flowed freely. Many hours later, after being down in his stall when AJ arrived to begin morning feed, he bolted from the stall and ran out to the jump field. He grazed for a few minutes then went down again, for the last time. It wasn't until the vet arrived we noticed the large tumors around the sheath and under his tail. The curse of the white horse - far worse than we had noticed prior to this. After a total of 25 liters of fluids and several anxious days, the vet announced she had done all she could.

Sami made the brave, heart-breaking decision to let him go. At the age of 21 (approx.) he deserved it. Now he rests next to our other jester, baby Redwood. I like to think the two of them are together now, racing around heaven's deep green pastures and teasing the angels as they wait for the rest of our family - four and two legged. I look forward to loving them for eternity.

There are several verses in the Bible about horses, but this passage reminds me of Moose, the big Arabian with a heart larger than the sky. He approached every day with humor and laughter; we would all do well to do the same.

JOB 39: 21-24

He paws in the valley and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons. He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword. Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear, and the javelin. With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.

Rest well Moose; we will never meet another like you. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Missing Maple

On March 24, 2012, Blue Skies Riding Academy rescued six horses from a slaughter holding pen. This is Maple, a Thoroughbred mare who made it onto our trailer at the last minute. As you can see by the photo, she was a mess. Her tattoo was faded, illegible in fact, so we named her Maple. With her expressive and deep brown eyes it was a a good fit.

Maple's best buddy was Sparky, the worst of our Super Six rescues.

These two spent hours enjoying the green grass and healing love we offer at BSRA. Unfortunately, Sparky's health was very fragile given the extreme malnutrition he experienced. He passed away in June of 2012. Maple was heart broken, but soon found friends with others in the BSRA herd. She grew stronger, more playful, and a little pushy when she wanted attention.

Unfortunately, the abscesses in her front right hoof Maple brought with her from her days in the slaughter pipeline didn't heal as well as her body, and a trip to Auburn University Large Animal Clinic resulted in surgery. It also meant months of confinement until the hoof healed. Through it all Maple was an impatient patient. When she wanted our attention, her favorite trick was to bang the pasture gate.

Eventually the accident prone mare cut her heel, resulting in more stall time. By the time it was agreed - our big girl was a klutz. But through it all she was a model patient, always letting AJ work on her without any ear pinning or sullen attitude. Maple just wanted to be involved.

Of course, Maple found a girl to bond with. Olivia found a kindred spirit in Maple and even though the mare was un-rideable for quite some time, Olivia didn't care. She simply wanted to be with the loving bay. Having that connection made the rehab time seem shorter. Then durn it if she didn't go and knock the dang heel again! Not as bad as the first time, but enough to keep her in the stall for a little longer. We all decided if she hurt one more thing we were wrapping her stall in padding!

Time heals all wounds, visible and unseen, and soon Maple was road worthy again. She and Olivia began their long awaited rides. Her movement was graceful, and it was obvious these two were going to make a great addition to our show ponies. She was even learning how to jump, just starting to work on crossrails when the unexpected happened.

They were in their lesson when Maple took a misstep transitioning into a canter. She fell onto her left shoulder. Though our vet wanted to put her down then, BSRA elected to send her to Auburn to see if it were a treatable injury.

It wasn't. According to AULAC, her shoulder was shattered, more than likely weakened by osteoporosis from malnutrition during her life prior to arriving at Blue Skies. There was nothing to be done. Maple was cremated, and will be buried next to her Sparky.

This is how I want to remember Maple. My heart bleeds for Olivia, because I know the pain she is going through and there is no shortcut to lessen it. Other horses will come and go, but Maple will always be Olivia's first loss. It is a pain unlike any other. She has lost a partner, a confidant, a willing listener and a warm heart. 

Farewell Maple, the unknown Thoroughbred. Perhaps it's better she was only our Maple because it was as Maple she found the happy ending she deserved. The world is a little less bright today because of our loss. Run free, and run fast; I know we will meet again on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Updates - A New Rescue

Prized Fashion (shown above in 2011) was pulled from the slaughter pen at New Holland Sales this week. A 2008 Kentucky bred mare, she was last raced in 2012. How she ended up at New Holland is a mystery but her fate is well documented - she would been shoved onto an overcrowded transporter and sent to either Canada or Mexico to a slaughterhouse.

Every day, Thoroughbreds in this country are being thrown to the butcher when their breeding doesn't live up to the expectations of the owners. For no crime other than being ordinary, they are sold for a per pound price and forgotten about. But not by everyone.

This is Prized Fashion as she was discovered earlier this week at the New Holland Sale yard, a known dumping ground for Off Track Thoroughbred (or OTTB) horses. Lucky for her and many others, there are tireless volunteers who brave these grim, heartbreaking locations for animals such as Prized Fashion and network across the country to find rescuers. That is how Blue Skies Riding Academy came to hear about this sweet mare.

For the next 30 days, "PF" will be in quarantine here at Blue Skies Riding Academy to gain weight and learn to trust again. A happy ending is looking possible for this tall mare: we have been in touch with her breeders. They are appalled at where she ended up; New Holland's reputation as a den of kill buyers filled with ruthless characters is nation wide. But more important - the breeders want her back.

Unfortunately, that happy ending doesn't always come around. Of the 8 OTTB horses that we have retraining at BSRA, this is the first time a breeder has volunteered to assist. But that's okay. With few exceptions these glorious creatures have found a person to love and trust, and that is what we strive to do. We take broken spirits, both human and equine, and assist in healing and transformation for both.

What we do isn't cheap. It takes money for the grain and hay for our herd. The costs of running a rescue are huge and the bills seem to come every day. But none of us would have it any other way. How can any human stand by and do nothing while the innocent are left adrift? By helping a horse regain their spirit we help heal the damage done by neglect and abuse.

BSRA is a 501(c)3 rescue and retraining facility in NW Georgia. Currently we possess several OTTB's and  other breeds in various stages of rehabilitation. We are supported by our public programs and donations from generous souls. If you would like to make a donation so we can continuing our mission, please visit our website at for more information. And be sure to check us out on Facebook for further information on  Prized Fashion as well as other BSRA horses in need of adoption and/or sponsorship.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

What a Difference a Year Makes...

Last March, Blue Skies rescued six horses that were bound for slaughter. We brought them home, fed them, cleaned them up, loved them, lost one to complications from starvation, and tried to rebuild the trust between horse and man. Here is an update on one of those six.

Dozer came to us deceptively chubby. A Halflinger pony, it wasn't until the winter coat began to shed out we discovered how underweight he truly was. With blond tips on his ears and a winning, curious personality, 'Bulldozer' seemed a perfect name. Large, in charge, and don't stand between him and the feed pan; that's our boy!

Not knowing anything about Dozer's background we started at ground zero to discover what level of training he knew. The painful answer was, "Not Squat!" But his heart is large, and Dozer found a girl willing to work with his bull-headed pony-ness. Mia has worked endlessly with Dozer and the results are shown above.

Yes people, that is a 24 year old green-broke pony at his first horse show. He was an angel, most of the time, and enjoyed himself immensely.

Thanks to Mia for taking Dozer as her boy. He truly has turned out to be a fantastic little rescue.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Welcome Back, Vincent Van Versa

A year ago I started this blog to track the progress of my goofy gelding and his injury. At first we thought he had contracted EPM, a neurological disease that can prove fatal. But after test and a trip to Auburn University Large Animal Hospital, it was discovered he actually had terrible injuries to both suspensory tendons in his back left leg and lesions were beginning to develop in the right leg as well.

After PRP injections to both legs, we decided to let Vince be a lazy horse for a least one year. The problem with tendon injuries is that you cannot just sonogram the legs. Since the damage is internal, it takes a high powered machine to see inside the tendon bundles. When Vince had his last checkup at Auburn in May of 2012, they said he might never be sound again, and their suggestion was to cut the nerves to the tendon, since what he was experiencing was phantom pain.

I don't agree with cutting nerve to solve a problem not knowing if that action may itself cause bigger problems. So since last year, my goofball has been eating and lazing about tearing about stall walls with his cribbing and enjoying treats and hand walking with me every weekend.

He lost some weight in December, but we replaced his feed bag with a pan and changed his feed to a higher fat content and he has plumped back up. The muscles are flabby, but a few weeks of good, steady riding with help them tone back up. Most important, his attitude has improved.

When I got to the barn our trainer said to me, "I hope you are going to play with your boy, because he's been a real turd this week lunging at people." When I got to his stall, I knew he was angry with me for missing two weeks in a row because all he would show me was his butt! However, when I pulled the giant carrot from my pocket I suddenly became his best friend.

On the wet walk up to the main barn, he stayed right at my side instead of wandering off to eat the grass. All the way to the barn he stayed with me. Placing his Iconoclast Rehab Boots on, we took him to the arena, intending to put him on the line and see what happened.

Oh. My. God. He was all get up and haul ass! Vince tore up the arena with his prancing and leaping and bucking for at least fifteen minutes. Then his lack of conditioning caught up with him, and the sides started heaving and he sauntered over to my side with a "how was that Mom?" look on his gorgeous face.

My boy is healthy, and I intend to keep him that way for a long time!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nonstop to Charlotte

This is has been the worst week of the new year, so far.

Yesterday we lost one of our beloved resident. Mighty Mouse, registered name Nonstop to Charlotte, passed away yesterday from a strangulated lipoma in her small intestines. We had no warning, and this particular tumor doesn't usually affect mares, just geldings and ponies.

It started with the symptoms of colic. No manure, no gut sound so we followed standard colic procedures. By Tuesday night she was thrashing with pain and we gave her the serious drugs which helped but not fully. Wednesday morning we made the decision to take her to Auburn University, still thinking we were looking at an impaction or twist. With buckets of tears and many prayers we loaded Mouse onto the trailer.

Auburn was expecting us, and the crash room was ready. As soon as the trailer came to a stop, the vets, interns and assistants were  there, helping her off the truck, confirming with AJ all the information our vet had told them. Mouse was taken into surgery. Soon the diagnosis came back.

They tapped her belly to check the fluid. Where it should be a light amber, it was filled with blood. Their faces told us all we needed to hear. Surgery was attempted in case this was a simply a tear, but she never made it off the table. According to the wonderful Dr. Alvanese, even if we had taken her to Auburn earlier, nothing would have saved her. She should have died within moments of the first twinges of pain. Only her Mighty Mouse spirit kept her alive until everyone could say good-bye.

Mouse was a miracle baby, rejected by her mother and fed by a bottle by her breeder 'momma' for weeks. It was several months before Mouse was aware she even was a horse and not a human. Momma Angie had to teach her to eat grass! It was this will to survive that we will always remember. Mouse had a mind of her own and definite opinions on everything. From the moment she entered the pasture, she was Boss Mare of the Round Bales. No one was admitted to the hay feast without Mouse's permission.

She flirted shamelessly with every gelding on the farm. She was diagnosed with HYPP, a potassium imbalance that caused her to have her feed and treats carefully monitored. And throughout everything she was sweet, kind, and a willing listener. A large hole in our hearts has been opened and may never be closed. Mighty Mouse has passed the Rainbow Bridge. At least she has some friends waiting for her. I guess the boys needed a mother.

We would like to cremate Mouse and have her remains split between those who loved her best. Deceased Pet Care in Atlanta is offering a $300 discount which would make our costs $1500.00. Being a 501(c)3 rescue, funds are tight but this would mean much to AJ, Brooke, and Sadie. If you would like to contribute to Mouse's burial fund, our PayPal address is

Farewell Charlotte - run free, and take care of the boys: Redwood, Sneaky, and Sparky. We will see you again!!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Check Out Our New Website!

Just a quick note to let everyone know, our new website is up and running. Many thanks to trainer Sami Malik for her time and talents for this awesome new look. The address is: Check it out!