Monday, April 30, 2012

"Please Ride Toward The Horse Eating His Door"

I know that updates have been sporadic this month, but my real job has been on overdrive since the first of April. Since that is what affords me time with my horses, Penny, AraBella, and Vince; it behooves me to be attentive when the need arises. So I will try to condense an entire month into two posts. It might take three, but let's see how it goes.

Since we last were together, BSRA has attended the Atlanta Steeplechase, bush hogged the back unfenced pasture and this past weekend, hosted a clinic with Robert Gage and Judge My Ride for Equitation. Wow, something every weekend, plus my normal routine and a demanded injured goofy gelding - no wonder I am exhausted!

The Super 6 have been thriving. BIG NEWS: Dolce is now sharing a pasture with Maple and Sparky. Last Friday night, with the trailers arriving and new horses coming in upset our newest residents. It never occurred to us this special event might trigger memories, but all weekend Dyna stood in front of the gate barring any one's way. None of her herd was going to be loaded on a trailer without a fight. Once we realized their agitation, we spoke to each of them quietly, assuring all that these were going away without any additional trauma for them. As soon as they saw the visitors leaving, the anxiety level dropped, but not before Dynamo and Dolce had a nasty confrontation on who is boss mare. I'm not sure in horse language who won, but Dolce is now living with the other two.

Everyone is still gaining weight, which is good news. Sparky's hair continues to come out in clumps, so he will be bald very soon. But there is visible difference in his barrel, the ribs are not as pronounced as when he arrived. Dolce's bite marks have healed and under her fly sheet a  beautiful butterfly is maturing. Maple's coat is improving, no more lice, and she is so sweet, I love rubbing her head and watching her liquid eyes, so much kindness and peace growing there.

Dozer is still Dozer, man of the pasture, defender of Daisy at all times. She hates to leave his side, especially if Dyna is in a mood. On a positive note, the dentist said it looks like Daisy never had any front teeth, not that they were knocked out. She has not been ridden again, we don't want any further upset, but she is still the shy retiring flower. Dyna is deeply in love with my goofy gelding. Every time he is allowed out for his quiet pasture time, she stands and stares longingly at him.

The Judge My Ride clinic was amazing. All the girls learned so many things, and they took his critiques without any grief. Saturday morning started early - I was at the barn before 7am. Oh the hectic pace in the barn when there is a show or clinic or other opportunity to clean up our horses (and ourselves!). By 9am when the first section started I was already looking for nap time!  I did manage to find some personal time to work on Vince's dreadlocks and to massage hair growth creme into his thin spots. As the clinic was going on and I'm in Vince's stall I suddenly hear Mr. Gage instruct one of the students, "Just ride the line toward the horse eating his door!" Oops, that was us.

Lunch and Dinner were provided by Doug's Restaurant in Emerson, GA. Great food, awesome people and friendly atmosphere, if you are in the area I heartily endorse dropping in, especially for breakfast! Everything was awesome and the conversation covered many areas, from natural farriering to marrying rich. By the time all the animals were bedded down and fed, the arena dragged and the trash carried out, it was after 8pm and I was bone weary. I headed home, knowing all too soon I would be back in the barn for round two of the clinic. As I was leaving down the driveway, Stella Blue the donkey serenaded me with a long and happy bray. In spite of it all I smiled. I really enjoy our little slice of heaven in our own Blue Skies.

TO BE CONTINUED: "Are you riding the pony, or is she riding you?" Day Two of the JMR clinic.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Catching Up With My Friends

I hadn't been out to the barn for almost two weeks until yesterday. Unfortunately, I do have a real job which allows my to have my horses and spring is one of my busier seasons. So when I arrived for my normal barn day I had almost forgotten we had a schooling show on the books. Oh well, there is nothing happier than the sound of happy people around the horses. Since we had visitors from another barn, several people wanted to know more about our rescue program.

Nineteen months ago BSRA joined with several other mid-Atlantic rescues to save horses from a supposed rescue in West Virignia. The lucky three who came home to Georgia that September day were Ella Grace, Sterling, and Connor. I have written quite a bit on our newest horses, but tonight I want to brag on the West Virginia 3.

Arriving at the barn the first morning the 3 were at BSRA I wasn't truly prepared for the emotionally diverse animals we had been entrusted with. Connor was a baby, around eighteen months old and unattached to the others. He accepted the alfalfa tea and hay offered with all the manners of one who had been kicked down the seniority line. Only after noting that Sterling and Ella Grace had their own piles to eat from did he settle in. Connor's life hasn't been blessed, ten months ago he impaled his chest on a fence post. The deep, life threatening wound healed slowly, keeping Connor stall bound for almost six months with minimal hand walking. Too much activity might open the wound again and set his recovery back.

To help Connor with his 'imprisonment', Sterling was voted his steady friend. When Stir-fried arrived he was more than three hundreds pounds underweight, a two year old with a vicious cribbing problem. A crippling dependency on Ella Grace made it hard to get the scrawny Thoroughbred into a stall, but soon he began eating and growing, a process which he has repeated in many cycles, now standing more than 16 hands and still cribbing despite collars, herbs, special hay nets and grazing muzzles. While never a speed demon, Sterling is graceful, his long legs delicate at the trot, and his foster mother loves him with a ferocity and depth of heart this wonder pony needed.

Ella Grace, the mother of the West Virginia 3, is a twenty-something Thoroughbred who was never raced, never tattooed. Feminine and lovely she endured the obsessive Sterling and worried over Connor until she was slowly worked into the mare herd. She moved smoothly and can jump cross rails with the grace her names implies. But she isn't truly a lesson girl, Ella misses a special person to care for her. While several of our riders love Ella, so far there hasn't been just one for this beautiful little mare.

Three lives, intersected and joined by the whims of men, to be on that farm at that time to be placed in our care. One mare, two geldings, three stories - how far they have come since that first Saturday when I met them. Ella has been in the program and is currently up for possible adoption to the right person. We love her, and don't want her to leave, but know she deserves that important 'one person'. Connor's chest has healed, and overnight he has turned into the sweetest little cow pony anyone could ever desire. His attachment to Sterling is iron-clad; when his buddy is in the ring, Connor stands right outside the door to hear how Sterling does. Once they are together in the pasture, Connor will go his way, but one eye is always out for the cribbing bay gelding, no matter what fence post he is worshipping at the moment.

And Sterling? Well, in some ways he has hit the proverbial jackpot. With one loving foster mom, Tiff, and under the instructions of our two fabulous trainers Kristina and Sami, Sterling is winning classes and divisions in the Hunter / Jumper competitions around Northwest Georgia. At the true age of almost 5, Sterling is finding his groove in life.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Daisy, Daisy - Give Me Your Answer True

Last Saturday we had an Easter Egg Hunt at Blue Skies. We did pony rides, face tattoos, along with the hunt itself. It was a magical day, warm sunshine but not too hot. Just the sort of day that belongs to Spring, warm enough to hint of the summer that is to come and to forgive the drab winter past. Most importantly we raise more than $500 for the support and maintenance of our horses.

But in the midst of all the happiness, the day was tinged with sadness, because Sneaky wasn't there. No matter how many times we looked at each other and shrugged it off, the emptiness of him was everywhere. For the first time we all grieved in public while attempting to put on a happy face.

After the crowds went home, we worked with the rescues. Dyna and Dozer are progressing very well. They enjoy being under saddle and have obviously been someone's partner in the past. They even attempted the ground poles and crossrails with interest and vigor. Daisy, was another story.

Daisy came to us, the little run dun mare with broken teeth. We discovered very quickly she does not like anyone handling her on the right side. While we had always suspected abuse, Saturday confirmed our suspicions. First, we went to quick release tie her for grooming and she pulled back hard, more upset than expected. For a short period of time, she let one of our assistant instructors on her, walking along behind Sami, following quietly. ear pricked forward and a spring in her walk. Then, Sami bent down to pick something off the ground, and as the story goes, "that was all she wrote."

The mare exploded in a shower of bucks and straight into the air leaps. The poor assistant dived for the ground, but not before one of Daisy's hooves grazed her on the way down. Luckily there were enough of us in the ring to calm down Daisy and handle the downed instructor. We aren't sure what triggered the meltdown, but it showed us the deep truth of this poor little girl - some where along the line, she has had the crap beaten out of her for no reason, either with a whip or pipe or wooden bat.

So while five of our Super 6 are making strides toward healing, Daisy has taken a step backwards. After she was returned to their pasture, I went out to talk with her, assure her we understand, we love her and will never hurt her for acting out. The road to recovery is long and paved with stumbling blocks, and we just found one on her path. No problems, we drop back and reassess. No hard feelings.

But I know if I ever find out who beat this poor mare, I might revive the old custom of tar and feathers. The depths to which mankind can sink never ceases to amaze me. Did beating on this poor girl make whoever you are feel like more of man? Because I will tell you the truth - a man who will beat an animal will beat a human, just give them time.  What will be their excuse then? Remember - karma is a bigger witch than I am and it will catch up to you.

It would almost be nice if Daisy could mete the punishment out to those who abused her. That is what I call fair.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Spring Fling

Things have been noisy around Blue Skies the past few weeks. We've been adding more pastures from the acreage cleared last year along  Pumpkinvine Creek. The Super 6 have enjoyed mowing the grass for us. A big thanks to Jim Berry and his crew for all they have accomplished. I cannot wait to finish construction. Every time we make new pastures it is another small setback for the grass. Of course if we could get some rain around Atlanta that would help. Last night's storms were south of the city and we got none at the barn.

Tomorrow is our Easter Egg Hunt, open to all ages. We also will have pony rides, a cake walk, and other games. The weather is supposed to be clear and sunny so everyone come out and enjoy a peaceful day on our little slice of heaven.

The Super 6 are becoming more and more amazing every day. Sparky, Maple, and Dolce have been moved into the main barn now that their quarantine is over. Maple and Spark Plug are next door to each other, as it should be, and Dolce can see both of them. Daisy, Dozer, and Dyna are outside but loving it.

Dozer has 'bedroom' eyes and watches over his two women carefully. Whenever Dolce sees them in the pasture, she demands to be along to join them. Daisy and Dyna prefer eating to fence visiting, so I have to enjoy them from afar. Dozer has been ridden as has Dyna and both have wonderful gaits. Dozer, as befitting a Halflinger cross, is truly living up to his name, but gosh darn it - he's just so cute with those blond tips on his ears!

Tomorrow is another Saturday, my day at the barn. With so much going on, I can't wait to see what these lovable four-legged children come up with. Their antics make my days sweeter. I miss that when I can't get out there. If only we could bottle that love.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

An Update On A Goofy Gelding

Last Thursday AJ and I returned to Auburn University Large Animal Clinic for a one month check up for Vince.  The big boy was more than ready for a field trip, having been on stall rest since his PRP injection procedure. A large high strung gelding in a 12 x 12 space for an extended period of time is not a nice experience, but Vince has endured though he might not think so.

Our appointment this time was at 9am, so at the crack of dawn, we pulled out of BSRA and onto I-75 south and early rush hour traffic. Unlike our first trip there were no major slowdowns and we actually arrived in Auburn thirty minutes early. They showed Vince to an outpatient stall while the doctors finished their morning procedures. Right at nine, the entire cadre showed up to watch Vincent trot up and down.

His two doctors, whose names I cannot spell but will acknowledge in full when this recovery is complete, watched the big boy take three steps and pronounced him still lame. Meanwhile, I am jumping up and down with happiness because there was no deep drop to the left shoulder as he trotted nor did he trip over his own feet. Dr. W looked at me like I had lost my mind and said, "But he is still lame." I replied, "But he is better!"

So we retired to the ultrasound room to see the exact measure of recovery. The news is good. The ligament in the right leg is no longer inflamed and the left leg has no more tear but it is still swollen. For the first half of the ultrasound, Vince didn't even need any sedative. It wasn't until she had to start reaching through his legs to reach the right side that his ears began to twitch and the restlessness set in. Out came the dreaded needle and soon the light weight drunk had his big white blaze buried in my chest.

Since we had pulled Vince's shoes after the first trip to Auburn, Dr. A. decided she wanted the Auburn farrier to trim his feet, especially the rear to start shortening the toe and hopefully rotating the heels to relieve pressure on the suspensory ligaments. He was a good boy for their farrier (much to the surprise of our BSRA farrier who considers Vince's feet an all day project after his previous shoeing.) The sedative soon wore off and before a hour and a half and passed we were back on the way to Atlanta.

So Vince is on his way, but still has one more month of stall rest with confined turnout alone. They also have prescribed a mild sedative so that when he is outside the coming and going of other horses doesn't work him into a frenzy. Of course, as much of a light weight as he is with drugs, we will have to play with the dosage to see what works best. Hopefully this will also work on his cribbing habit. It would be nice to see him doing anything rather than sucking on his stall door or window frame. We return in 10 weeks now, a long time but Dr. A. will be spending the month of May in Kentucky working. Rather than break in a new resident who hasn't been included in the process I will wait for Dr. A. Also, we will probably be taking Katie when we return, to have a broken tooth removed which is below the gum line and is causing her to toss her head.

When we first thought Vince had EMP, one of the comments I read the most was that you would learn more about the personality and stamina of your horse throughout the recovery process. I would venture to say any long term injury can teach you how to connect with your equine partner. While I complain about his goofiness, my gelding is handling this injury with a patience not many geldings exhibit. He knows we are making him feel better, so his tolerance for many things had grown. I know him so much better.

He likes to have his head rubbed and to be brushed. He likes to roll in sand rather than dirt or grass, I guess a nod to his Florida roots. He likes sunshine and thinks the biggest crime in the universe is an empty Nibble Net. He misses Sneaky, his buddy, and is uncertain of his place in the pasture when he returns. He knows the sound of my car along with my voice and woe be unto me if I don't come see him first before any other horse. 

While we still have a long road ahead of us, at least we are going together. Dr. A. feels certain that when all is said and done, Vince will be jumping again and that was the purpose of the trips, to make an injured member of our family healthy again. There is no distinction in my mind between my two legged and my four legged children. When they are in pain, I want to make it better. In a perfect world, everyone would be the same way.