Friday, March 30, 2012

Katie - A Rescue Success Story.

Blue Skies Riding Academy is more than a lesson barn, more than another boarding facility. Our primary focus is the rescue and retraining of horses who through no fault of their own find themselves in horrendous circumstances. Currently we have nine rescues which have come from slaughter bound situations. Once the animal regains weight and personal interest in people again, we work to discover their natural abilities and to adopt these recovered gems to loving, forever homes.

One such horse is know to us as Katie, but a long time ago, in a different life, her Jockey Club name was Sought Out. Katie worked the tracks the hard way and when her usefulness was done, she was rescued by a group of very determined women.

Furlong Transition Center acquired Katie after quite a harrowing ordeal. Originally a group of rescuers were networking to bail out a horse that was auction bound. When the network dispatched a local resident to evaluate the nice, large gelding of possible thoroughbred breeding, she arrived to find he had already been sent to auction. Very upset, she called Wendy O’Hara-Mickels at Furlong and another member of the network, Diana Baker. Diana in turn sent one of her friends to the suspected auction house, Marshall Auction in Virginia on a hot Saturday afternoon. While many waited and others called the offending owner it was too late and our target horse, a bay gelding, was sold and gone from the auction yard. Never one to be out done Diana asked her person on the ground, Jan Snodgrass, to see if any other TBs needed rescuing. Jan saw two mares go through the auction both very skinny; one had a terrible scar on her back leg. Since the better mare was bought by a mother/ daughter, Jan set her sights on the other scarred horse. To her horror, the mare was tied to the trailer of one Jessie Austin, known meat dealer and sometimes hauler. After speaking to Diana they agreed on a budget and $150 was spent to save Katie, as she became known somewhere during her trips.

Katie was slaughter bound and her last ride was going to be to New Holland auction for the hauler to gather a load before heading to a Canadian or Mexican slaughter house. Ransomed, Katie instead loaded and went home with Jan, beginning a six week recovery. Upon arrival, Katie was approx. 250+lbs underweight. Her back leg scar ran from hock to fetlock and the leg as was twice the size it should have been. Everyone involved was concerned as to the severity of her injury which appeared to  be six months old. The leg was healing, but the extent of scarring lead many to believe she had been given minimal care along the winding road to rescue. In Late July, early August it was determined Katie needed a more permanent solution. Jan had done a great job of getting weight on Katie but she needed a family to complete the recovery. Furlong Transition had been contacted by the rescue network to take in two thoroughbreds from Charleston. When one horse was placed in a home ahead of the shipping schedule Katie was chosen to fill the spot.

Katie was shipped with Rodeo Reba, a beautiful, large, homeless thoroughbred mare to Furlong Transition in the middle of the night. Katie however had other ideas about this trip. She was in no way going through the auction again or with another scruffy man. Wary of the trailer ride, Katie proceeded to demolish the hauler’s trailer along with injuring Reba physically and mentally on the trip down. Katie had to be sedated for the rest of the trip. We were all very surprised with this sweet mare's sudden meltdown, and decided it was from the trauma of her previous experiences.

Katie and Reba arrived at 3am to begin their new lives at Furlong Transition. After a few weeks it became apparent Katie was top horse in the pack composed of Katie, Reba and resident gelding, the Biggie. She and Reba had scrapes and scuffles, but would be OK. For the next year and a half, Katie was in a stall with adjoining paddock during the day and out at night with her buddies. There was little activity at the barn apart from feeding, cleaning and petting. Secluded on a pretty hill top farm with mountain meadow pastures. Katie only had to eat, sleep and socialize with her pasture mates.

In the beginning, Rodeo Reba was the top attention horse in the barn; the few people welcomed to view them for adoption always went to Reba with her huge brown eyes and perfect form. Unfortunately, no adopters were ever qualified enough for a mare with Reba’s special issues, so she remained at Furlong where she is now a permanent resident. Katie’s scar was getting better but remained a big red flag for most horse shoppers. Her mane was fuzzy from malnutrition, she was shy and would not let people handle her head. Katie’s feet were shelly and she did not like to be bathed or fussed over. After about a year, Katie realized this farm was going to stay under her feet and she began to warm up to both Wendy and her family. Even Wendy's oldest son was comfortable turning her out; Katie had perfect manners.

Eventually, it became apparent Katie wanted more from life than the sleepy enjoyment of being a pampered pasture mate, and she began to show off whenever company came to the barn. Katie would run, buck and come to the fence over and over again. For anyone who knew what to watch for, she was saying I am ready. Blue Skies heard Katie was being started under saddle again in the fall of 2010 by Furlong, and that Wendy’s neighbor, a very experienced dressage rider was working with Katie. When pictures were sent of her under saddle Blue Skies just had to come back for another  visit. Gone was the scruffy necked mare and in her place was a confident Thoroughbred, a lady in hand, shiny and ready to move on to her next chapter. After Sami and Ashley rode her and everyone saw the pictures there was no denying Katie was going to be the next addition to the Blue Skies family.

It hasn't been all easy going. It took Katie a while to settle into the routine of a lesson program. She is a big girl with a big stride and has been working and retraining as a Jumper. At her first outing this year, Katie and her rider Danielle were in the tops in all their classes. There are pictures of them on our Facebook page: Blue Skies Riding Academy, Inc. Three years ago this precious mare was tied to the trailer headed to hell and now she is poised to explode in the Jumper rings around Atlanta these next years as her new life expands.

On an additional happy note, the original target gelding from the auction was traced down to New Holland the following Monday, purchased and shipped to Kentucky by a group of very determined women in rescue. He became the pasture mate of Mohamed’s Dream who was adopted to the farm previously and was pasture mate to Those Bailey Blues (Bailey who now belongs to Sami Malik of Blue Skies), during her original transition time at Furlong Transition Center.

 Katie is one of many OTTB's now retraining at Blue Skies Riding Academy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Now I Will Believe That There Are Unicorns."

The quote is not mine, it is from William Shakespeare's The Tempest, but I know there are unicorns. I saw one leave us last night and my heart will never be the same for having known him.

Several weeks ago I wrote about BSRA's sturdy, grouchy Arabian Sneaky, who had fallen in the pasture and was in difficult circumstances. Sneaky had surprises galore amassed for us, walking everywhere he wanted to be, eating everything in sight and living the country gentleman's life. The hematoma in his chest and belly began to lessen and his winter coat was shedding along with everyone else on the property.

Last Saturday I watched from barn all day as the grand old man stood in the sunshine of the new pastures, eyes half-closed with contentment, chewing the new spring grass. So full of himself and so full of passion; every time I headed for the food, magically he would appear from nowhere to taste test anything which might have value as a treat. He stood patiently by the refrigerator and told me in no uncertain terms that he knew there were carrots inside and it was his prerogative to have one whenever he desired.

He stood in the midst of the front hall, farting with excellent and enjoying the discomfort of any soul unlucky enough to be caught in the back draft. He nibbled hay from every bale around the barn and searched stalls to see if any horse had left their breakfast undone. Sneaky's mane, which had been unceremoniously trimmed several years ago by an unsuspecting and well meaning volunteer, was back to his high Arabian standards. Thinking even now about his indignation over the accidental hair cut I must smile. Sneaky didn't need words to let us know his opinion of the whole experience. His hair was the center piece of his breed, the one vanity the old gelding took to heart. Without the mane, in his eyes, he was just another horse. To anyone who knew him, he was more than his hair.

"We are much stuff as dreams are made on", also from The Tempest, best describes this proud stallion. His space was his space and in his younger days taught many children the basics of riding. With his head and tail held high, if Sneaky liked you then he would allow you to ride. If he did not, then it wasn't going to be a good experience. When he met his girl, D, then he changed. He considered D his person, his other half. Their relationship was another piece of his unicorn magic.

For D, he would allow himself to be painted multiple colors and then washed, dressed up for Halloween and anything else; all he needed was her company and the days were complete. Of the rest of us, he liked some, tolerated others but could always be won with a treat. When Redwood was born the old man willingly took on the position of grumpy grandfather. As we worked to save Red last December, Sneaky was the one who stood nearest the fence, watching over the dying yearling.

Last night we gathered around him and told all our favorite Sneaky stories. We told him it was OK to let go and be at peace. We held him and reminded him of the young one waiting across the rainbow bridge, and to not stay just for us, we would be alright. With large sighs and long in-depth looks we knew he understood. Minutes later he was quietly gone and the world seems a lot emptier now.

Every barn has its wise old man, and Sneaky was our. There is no one who can take his place. As I left the barn last night, tears dropping freely from my eyes, I looked up at the quarter moon and smiled. It looked like a Sneaky smile. The sky was clear, stars brighter than we see them here in the midst of civilization. At the barn, it shone like the nights of our childhood. A perfect sky for a priceless horse - it seemed fitting.

There is an Arabic proverb that states, "A horse of good breed is not dishonored by his saddle." Sneaky honored his saddle, his breed and his people. The Blue Skies family were honored to have been those people.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saturday, On The Farm

The first weekend of spring 2012 was Georgia beautiful. Deep blue skies and fresh green grass and happy ponies - memories are created on days like these. We let the Super 6 have the free run of the new back pastures and saw true happiness in action. How anyone could think the movements and actions of animals are random and mindless?

Dolce started the day's feasting, then Dynamo figured out the latch on her stall had moved and pushed her way out into the new pastures. Once the barns were fed and settled, we turned the other four out as well. It was so affirming to see these innocents running and grazing with the pure happiness of spirit horses possess. To see Maple and Sparky watching out for each other, even with acres of new spring grass to munch, made me smile and think about their emerging personalities.

Sparky might be small, and need the most weight, but his personality far exceeds his body size. He cantered and snorted and grazed with little notice to his hip bones, so prominent it hurts my heart to look at. Sparky only sees is a good place with 'meals on wheels' and plenty of good scratching. From so wounded a body flows a heart three times his physical size. He makes me smile all the time.

Daisy is wary, yet full of surprises. When she discovered the golf cart contained a ripped bag of feed, she worked and worked until the hole was large enough for her tongue. That attracted the attention of Dozer, Dynamo and Sparky until the offense was discovered and all four ran off squealing with childish delight at their nonsense. Later in her stall, Daisy parked out low, leading us to speculate further on her past.

Later in the afternoon, after they willingly returned to hay bags and grain, I used the shedding blade on Dynamo. I know there are a lot of happy birds in the valley today because I removed enough hair to line every nest in the county! She stood, eyes half closed in the sun, licking her lips and smiling as I brushed and brushed the itchy winter fur. I must confess, I relate to this lady.

The unhappiest of the 6 were Maple and Dolce. Not because they didn't get to graze or kick up their heels, no these two ladies got baths to help with their flaky skin. Of course, each rolled in the fresh shavings as soon as returned to their stalls, but at least some of the shedding was done. Unfortunately several of the 6 may be bald soon, from poor nutrition along with the normal spring shed.

But as the day came to an end, I smiled again, remembering the positive energy that radiated from the 6 all day long. I wish I could bottle that happiness. It certainly is wonderful medicine.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reclaiming A Broken Heart

Tonight we had to go to the barn to measure out new pastures: one of the Super 6, another for our existing herd, and to plan a small pasture for Stella Blue the pregnant donkey. Currently Stella shares a pasture with three mares: Soleil, Vivienne and Nala. While I don't know how it works with a donkey foal, I do know mares will occasionally steal a newborn for their own.

As I sat and observed the Super 6 it became apparent each horse is in a different place when it comes to their emotional health. Physically they are slowing improving, though they look worse from shedding the winter coats they had upon arrival two weeks ago. But starvation is easily corrected with good hay and grain, carrots and apples. Emotional abuse is different.

Horses which have been trained, handled, and mis-handled are totally dependent upon humans for the basic staples of existence: food, shelter, water. They learn to trust we will provide them with these necessities. But what happens when man breaks that promise? What happens when we break the unspoken contract?

Trust, once broken, is not easily re-established. The horse becomes wary of 'the other hand', expecting the food to come with a condition. Too many times that 'other hand' brings pain, bewilderment, fear. The safety of the herd is breached by men with ropes and whips, or the electric prod. Horses run, fear and panic taking hold and erasing the memory of love and companionship. For some, man brings the final inglorious end - slaughter.

We must break through to these rescued ponies and show them not all humans are to be feared. It isn't an easy task, and some are so broken that reaching through the cage of their fear is close to impossible. But we never give up on an animal unless it becomes a danger to itself or others. If their spirit is too damaged it may be time to send them to a professional who works with wounded souls. Sometimes a horse cannot be healed.

Of the Super 6, one concerns me - Dolce. We have not gotten a confirmation from the Jockey Club on her identify, but if I had to lay odds my guess would be she came out of either Louisiana or Alabama from the race track. She has an air of suspicion, a watchfulness the others do not exhibit. Something is broken, but is she ready for healing? I don't know yet. I will not give up on her, or any horse, until every path has been exhausted.

Somewhere out there is Dolce's story, a past we do not know, a present we are now writing, and a future brighter than anything she has had before. That is the true core of what BSRA does - we rebuild hearts and write new futures. It isn't a bad job, the hours are long and the rewards are hard fought for. And the day Dolce puts her trust in us will be the best reward I can think of. For now.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Yesterday started Spring Cleaning at BSRA and the weather was, for the major part of the day, wonderful. The horses all had their noses deeply buried in round bales of hay within  the pastures and the rescues ate and napped in the March sunshine. These are the days I have always enjoyed playing hooky, whether from school or work. Not too hot (though it is warmer than March should be) and the sky so blue it beckons one outside to marvel in the brightness of its azure arch.

We have been using a homeopathic topical gel on Vince's legs to draw out any heat, encourage healing from the inside. When the leg was first injected the big gelding would kick your head off at the mere thought of touching the inflamed limb. Now he just flats his ears for a moment, cribs a few times and then returns to his hay. Darling daughter M took his first round of hand walking, along with the other invalids, Mouse and Savannah. Sneaky is currently allowed free rein to wander around the property but can usually be found in the new pastures eating and soaking up the sunshine.

I spent a long time with the Super 6, feeding carrots and using marigold spray against the early crop of flies Georgia is experiencing. Each had a different reaction to the holistic fly spray, which works just as good as any pesticide yet doesn't contain any poisons. Marigold spray also stays working for several days without need for reapplication. I highly recommend it, especially with horses that have systemic issues.

Dyna loved the carrots and stood patiently for the spray. There was no hesitation or shying away from the touch of spray against her skin. I am growing very attached to this intelligent mare. The way she studies me when I come to interact with them, her willingness to come to me and the thoughtful way she smells me from head to foot. I cannot wait until her quarantine is over and we can put a saddle on to see what she knows. Perhaps she was a cow pony, or a sure footed trail pony?

Maple (who I think should be named Joni) wanted my carrots but not the fly spray. She did not even want to sniff the bottle, making me wonder what trials she has been through. Throwing the bottle out of the stall I stretched out my hand to reassure her I would make no efforts with the spray. Poor mare, I find myself full of sorrow as we wait for results on the tattoo to come back. We have asked other Thoroughbred rescues and associates to help us with her poor lip tattoo.

Sparky and Dozer both had the same reaction - spray for carrots was a fair trade in their eyes. Though neither was as patient and willing as Dyna, they didn't shy away or flinch. Good solid geldings, what a wonderful after working with goofy gelding.

Dolce wasn't happy about the fly spray and I make sure to avoid the cuts and bites she received before coming to BSRA. Her eyes are still guarded, Dolce is considering her condition more so than the others appear to be doing. Now that her winter coat is shedding out the ribs are more visible, but so are the bites and kicks endured during her journey.

After spending time with the rescues it was my turn to hand walk Vince. The new pastures have wonderful baby grass coming in and after a month in his stall he was ready for grass! His 1000 pounds of horse dragged my 5'5" frame all over the pastures. Only the increasingly closer claps of thunder saved me from more arm pulling. Then the storm broke over the valley in its full intensity, bringing more rain to the already damp ground. The two ponds are full, the new grass is popping all over the farm and Stella's belly is growing more day by day.

Spring on a farm - there really isn't anything better.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Days Are Getting Longer

I went to the barn today, even though it wasn't a normal day for me to be there. Part of the reason was for paperwork, Bev and I never seem to have time for all the paperwork. Having 30 horses can be more taxing than having 30 people employees. But the other reason was our new residents. The sense of protectiveness I feel for these 6 is immense. Because of the circumstances under which they were redeemed, the mother instinct is kicking in.

The Super 6 are settling in to their new routines. Morning brings hay and grain, fresh water and lots of scratches from loving hands. Once they have finished their first round of hay, mid-day means a little more of everything and plenty more love. When I arrived the first to notice me was Dynamo, of course. I was welcomed with a long round of sniffing. She remembered me and was ready to learn more. It was nice to stand and acknowledge her curiosity. I apparently passed her test, because she head bumped me, then left to start on her hay. I have been accepted.

Sparky was eating, as he should be. We can't wait to see weight (ha ha) return to this guy. Daisy and Dozer either have a 'thing' going on, or she is just a mooch, haven't quite figured their relationship out. She feeds quite liberally from his hay, and so far Dozer doesn't seem to mind. He has such a laid back vibe, it might work out just fine. She is a flirt.

Dolce and Maple were both napping. The next few days here in Georgia are supposed to be in the 80's, so baths and shed blades are the plan for the remainder of this week. Saturday we are gong to string a pen around their stalls, so they will be able to move around and graze but still have their stalls for individual feeding. Changes we hadn't expected but are glad to implement for these babies.

On a side note - our trainer K has two mares expecting first foals between now and the end of the month AND the little donkey we helped Iron Gait Percheron Rescue take from a neglectful owner earlier this year is pregnant. So BSRA is going to have a hinny. We haven't quite figured out how that is going to work, because we have some very dominant mares. Will a donkey let a horse mare steal her baby? Tune in for details as the events unfold.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Super 6

When you have a farm, be it small or large, the work never ends. Even when you have the best of intentions, getting anything accomplished on the list you made at breakfast becomes impossible once you get to the barn and see what is what. Saturday is my day to work at BSRA. This past weekend, a large group of riders went to a local cross country 'pace', which left only a few horses to be managed, including my favorite invalids - Sneaky and Vince, along with two mares that are in different stages of recovery and six newly rescued ponies.

Mouse injured her rear end back in early January and Savannah has a cut on her rear leg just above the hoof. As most of the 'bossier' horses were gone for the day, I elected to turn Mouse out with the few quieter ones left behind. She was getting restless in her stall and the day was too beautiful to ignore. With the new horses in quarantine for 30 days, I put Sneaky inside the arena where Savannah could see him and know she wasn't alone in the barn.

My goofy gelding was also bored with his confined space. After letting everyone out, we set up the outdoor arena for Vince with hay and water. It was big enough he could move around, but small enough he wouldn't be able to re injure the suspensory ligament. With horses outside the arena to keep him occupied but safe, we deemed it time for our newest arrivals.

BSRA ransomed 6 horses, four of them in poor shape. While we worked around the barn they stood in their quarantine stalls, quietly chewing and examining their new location. As soon as we could, Miss Bev and I removed their blankets and took a visual scan of our new charges. What a bunch they are!

Worst of the lot would be Spark Plug, 'Sparky', a smaller Quarter Horse-style pony. My first impression was the dullness in his eyes. This poor boy is approximately 150 or more pounds underweight. From the moment I arrived until I left his nose was deep in his hay. There are no external wounds or scars, he just has been in starvation mode for a while. When I removed his blanket, I could feel every point of the spine, and his tail had been cropped off from the mess it had become.

Next comes the little dun mare, now renamed as 'Daisy'. She is missing teeth in the upper front, victim of a direct kick to the mouth; probably in competition for food, as she is thin and well scarred. In working with her, there might be some residual mental scarring. On her right side along the girth line she raised her hind leg and spun around to warn me something was upsetting her. Rather than push anything, I left. It wasn't the time to probe.

Third would be the red bay mare, 'Dolce'. She has been beaten up pretty well but hadn't been there too long, as her weight was still good. But it was obvious she has breeding. There is a Jockey Club tattoo under her lip, but we cannot find it in the database. When Sami has more time she can investigate.

The other Thoroughbred is a tall drink of water now called Maple Leaf. Not sure if that will stick. Dark bay without a spot of white, her lip tattoo is impossible to read. Only with pictures of her and the remains can we make any attempt at her registered name. She is well under weight and eats like a Dyson vacuum. Her eyes are soft and remind me of our other rescue Sterling. When she gains her health and starts working again she will be magnificent with her long elegant legs.

The other two are thin but only to the touch. From a distance 'Dozer' the Halflinger cross gelding, and 'Dynamo' a Quarter Horse draft cross are both large and in charge. 'Dyna' is leader of the band and watches everything to make sure the others stay in line. Dozer loves three things: food, people and food (not necessarily in that order!). His attitude toward everyone and everything is instant and infectious. His personality really fits with his name.

When I returned after brunch on Sunday, what a happier group awaited me. Late Saturday everyone got groomed and hand walked and loved on. That night they slept warm and full with their blankets. Sunday was a day for the eyes to begin wondering, "Is this really it? Will we be safe?" The noses were extended with more curiosity than the day before, hooves were extended for cleaning. With a wave of love we started the path back to normal, where every horse has a place and a purpose and a forever home with their favorite person.

That will be a wonderful world.

Join us as we track the rehab of the Super 6, along with the exploits of my goofy gelding Vince as he recovers from suspensory ligament damage. Because no day with horses is routine, it's always an adventure!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

We Save All We Can

This is how it is: I work at a horse rescue center. It isn't always pretty. But it is always rewarding.

Yesterday, Blue Skies ransomed 6 horses from a slaughter/auction holding farm. This a person who picks up horses cheaply from auctions around the South, feed them and resells to either another auction site or directly to a kill buyer. A kill buyer takes the unransomed horses (I refuse to say unwanted) and ships them to either Mexico or Canada for slaughter.

That's right - slaughter. If you have gotten rid of a horse in this recent economy, chances are they have found their way into the slaughter pipeline. No, they aren't living the good life on some big farm in the mountains, or teaching lessons at a stable in horse country. They are headed on a one way trip to hell. Sorry, I know that might come as a shock to some people. To those of us who are in the rescue and rehabilitation of horses it is the sad reality.

Here are the facts: There are more horses bred on an annual basis in this country than will ever be profitable to the breeders. With the depressed economy horses are a luxury most people consider expendable. Livestock auctions and rescue centers around the country are struggling to keep hay and feed for the animals they have; there is precious little room for any extra animals.

To most of you, horses are just another animal, like a cow or a goat. Well, wouldn't Alexander the Great have looked pretty funny conquering the known world on the back of a goat!

For the rest of us, it is a sobering reality. So many owners call wanting to surrender their animals for lack of funds, others want to 'trade' their older, usually ill animals for younger healthy horses. And I love the calls looking for the perfect, sane, calm pony for children to 'ride'. Perfect and sane and pony don't usually go in the same sentence.

There is nothing physically wrong of any of the 6 animals we ransomed yesterday that we can see, other than severe malnutrition for several of thems and a new wariness toward humans probably not there before adventures and fate brought them to BSRA. From a detached honest perspective I can see personality and promise in each of them, but I know it will be at least three months before true progress and trust can be established. Is that discouraging? A little, but that is the reward, the human 'carrot' at the of this stick.

Because that is the beauty of rescue. Seeing a defeated and lonely horse coming to life with love, attention and food. Watching relationships and herds form and re-form as newcomers are worked into the farm. Helping a neglected animal recognize that not every person who comes near them means harm. These are rewards that cannot be measured in terms most humans understand. You have to feel their love to know the power of a horse.

And perhaps, one day, everyone will understand.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Majesty of Hooves

Since I was a child, horses have held mystery and nobility. In my mind I have conquered mountains, forded rivers and crossed the plains on the back of a horse; more than a thousand journeys ridden alongside the expressways and plane trips of childhood. In honor of all of us who have taken our noble steed from pretend barns to imaginary castles, a few of my favorite quoted and thoughts about our companions.

A horse is the projection of peoples' dreams about themselves - strong, powerful, beautiful - and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence. ~Pam Brown

Show me your horse and I will tell you who you are.~ Old English Proverb

The horse, the horse! The symbol of surging potency and power of movement, of action. ~ D. H. Lawrence

A horse is a thing of beauty... none will tire of looking at him as long as he displays himself in his splendor. ~Xenophon

No philosophers comprehend us so well as the horse. ~ Herman Melville

The animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the sense we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. ~ Henry Beston

If you have seen nothing but the beauty of their markings and limbs, their true beauty is hidden from you. ~ AL Mutannabbi

His neigh is like the bidding of a monarch, and his countenance enforces homage. ~ William Shakespeare

Many people have sighed for the 'good old days' and regretted the 'passing of the horse,' but today, when only those who like horses own them, it is a far better time for horses. ~C.W. Anderson

The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears. ~Arabian Proverb

The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire. ~Sharon Ralls Lemon

All I pay my psychiatrist is the cost of feed and hay, and he'll listen to me any day. ~Author Unknown

A canter is a cure for every evil. ~Benjamin Disraeli

Brahma was excessively sparing with earth, water, and fire.... The reckless expenditure of air and ether in his composition was amazing. And, in consequence, he perpetually struggled to outreach the wind, to outrun space itself. Other animals ran only when they had a reason, but the Horse would run for no reason whatever, as if to run out of his own skin. ~Rabindranath Tagore

Look back at our struggle for freedom,
Trace our present day's strength to it's source;
And you'll find that man's pathway to glory
Is strewn with the bones of the horse.
~Author Unknown

In riding a horse we borrow freedom. ~Helen Thomson

Four things greater than all things are, -
Women and Horses and Power and War.
~Rudyard Kipling, "The Ballad of the King's Jest"

Wherever man has left his footprint in the long ascent from barbarism to civilization we will find the hoof print of the horse beside it. ~John Moore

In my opinion, a horse is the animal to have. Eleven-hundred pounds of raw muscle, power, grace, and sweat between your legs - it's something you just can't get from a pet hamster. ~Author Unknown

In this time of economic hardship, many animals are being discarded or sent to places of little to no sanctuary. If you are looking for a great cause, support Horse Rescue. At Blue Skies, we rehabilitate and retrain discarded horses and give them back the only thing any horse wants, a job. They depend upon mankind and we have to improve our treatment of them. Thanks for letting me jump on my soapbox. Next post will definitely be an update on our captive audience, Vince and Sneaky; along with an introduction to the 5 new rescue horses coming to BSRA tomorrow.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Definition of Heart

This was an extremely busy weekend for Blue Skies Riding Academy. On Thursday Miss Beverly left for a training session on natural healing and herbs. On Friday we took nine horses and eleven riders to our first show of the season and little rescue donkey, Stella Blue, allowed me to pet her and kiss her nose on Saturday. All in all a productive three days.

On top of the excellent performances from all our riders (and trainers!), Sneaky decided a five minute hand walk was too boring. While I walked five feet into the barn for a longer lead rope, he decided to take a field trip into the back pasture for some fresh grass. My irritation at him not following orders was quickly overtaken by joy at seeing the grand old Arabian walking free again. He stood in the sun, chewing the new grass, eyes closed in complete happiness in the sunshine. The road to recovery for a 20+ year old horse is long, but I will revel in the small steps.

On a different note, Vince was not having a great day. He had seen the trailer loading Friday morning and the awareness he wasn't going did not sit well with my boy. When I arrived on Saturday morning, instead of happy Vince, I got surly Vince. With all my magnificent volunteers riding at the show, my day was full of stalls and manure and shavings, so it was after lunch before I got time to spend with him one on one.

He loves eating hay while I brush him down, but the back left leg with the suspensory ligament damage is still off limits. No touch, no rub, he barely let my fingertips run along the leg. When I see the immediate pain reaction on his face, my heart bleeds. Horses have no vocal cords for the spoken word, only the twitch of their multi-directional ears and a lifted limb. To know he has been in such pain and I didn't know the source is frustrating.

While I rubbed my goofy gelding and gave him treats with rock sugar in the center (absolutely favorite new treats), my darling daughter was riding her first love in the show ring. Penny (registered name How Much Money) was our first horse, a Quarter Horse with a heart a mile wide and a pedigree that includes Man O' War. (Quarter Horses are a combined breed, usually Thoroughbreds with native pony.) The first years of her life were spent in the rodeo ring as a reining horse. Basically, running first speed from one end of the arena to the other, then slamming on the breaks and sliding on the hocks.

Penny has arthritis in her hocks, we knew that when we purchased her. But she and M have been true partners since the moment they laid eyes on each other. No matter how many other horses my daughter might ride, Penny is her partner, the one I wanted for her first horse. But last year she developed another problem - navicular. With so much pain in all legs, the decision was made to semi-retire Penny. Thus Vince entered into our lives.

This show was supposed to be Vince's big debut, but instead reliable Penny stepped up to the plate. With only minimal conditioning, she went to the show and took home three ribbons, 4th, 5th and 6th. The prize isn't the ribbons, it is that she competed at all. Her navicular has been well managed by proper shoeing, rest, minimal jumping and occasional riding. But when she was called upon, her only answer was "Yes". THAT is the definition of heart.

We have almost 30 horses at BSRA, and all of them have people who love them and cherish them as partners. I own three, Penny, Vince and a wonderful little rescue named Bella, who deserves her own post. If anyone tries to tell me a horse is just a dumb animal, I have 30 four-legged friends to help me prove otherwise. I love the lessons I learn from them. They make me a better person and the unconditional love they exude is precious. Isn't that what we all need?