Friday, January 17, 2014

Heart Horses

It's no secret around here that many of us are lucky to have "heart horses," or those horses - for many of us, once in a lifetime - who will always be first in our hearts, no matter what. Mine is Lex, without doubt.

For our beloved Sprinkler Bandit, Cuna was, it seems, hers. Not to diminish Courage at all, but Cuna gave her all he had, and their partnership inspires many of us, myself very much included. SB lost Cuna yesterday, and even though I never met him, SB is such a great writer that I always felt I knew him a little. When he retired from riding, I felt a pang of sadness, but when she made the responsible and humane decision to euthanize him yesterday, my heart broke for her. They'll be in my thoughts, for sure. Horses give us so much, especially good horses, that there never seem to be the words when we lose one of the best.

We love you, Cuna and SB.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lex Learns About Mud

Forgive the lack of photos on this one. I was too busy cracking up and trying not to fall in the mud to haul out the ol' iPhone.

Lex is settling in very very well. This morning, I made her day by turning her out in a paddock. It is MUDDY. Mud mud mud. Unbelievable mud. We do not get mud like this in Florida. This will suck your boots off, and if your horse isn't as careful as mine, they could get hurt.

I stuck Lex in her mud-paddock (this isn't the barn owner's fault - you've heard the stories about all the snow, and now that snow has melted, and it's continued to rain. So.) and she was like, "whaaaaaaat." She took a few steps away from me and then stopped and stood in one place for a very long time. She'd occasionally kind of shift, but she was pretty sure she couldn't go anywhere, so she just stood still. Eventually I picked my way out there and kind of walked her to the round bale, which was higher and less muddy. But she wound up spending more than an hour standing by the fence, staring at horses in another paddock, so I brought her some hay to keep her from eating the mulch. Goofball.

Late morning, I brought her in and lunged her in the indoor. She was fantastic, I was so pleased. She really didn't seem at all worried about anything, though I did let her stop and smell a couple of things. I only lunged her lightly, because she's probably still recovering from the trailer ride, but it went very well. Then I stuck her back out to enjoy the very pretty afternoon weather. I thought about getting on her today, but there was no one around and even though she was being good, it WAS her first time in an indoor (well, except last night when I turned her out in the indoor for a moment. She walked calmly around and sniffed everything and licked some things and then came back to tell me that there were no monsters at all. Adorable). I generally think it's good practice to ride when there's someone around, but I don't always adhere to that. Today seemed like a good day to stick to the rule, so hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to ride her.

I was pleased that she didn't try to run real hard in the mud. If she trotted, I missed it. I went back out to bring her in and she was like, "Oh hey dude." She seems very happy here. YAY.

Monday, January 13, 2014

SHE'S HERE!!!!! Aka the Show Us Your Barn Blog Hop

Sorry, I really can't contain my excitement.

This driveway, but it was dark and the grass is dead!
 I got to the barn at 5am, and barn owner A was already up and at 'em. We hopped in her truck and met the rig at an intersection and led them back to the barn. There was no way they were getting up the driveway in the 75 foot semi, so we unloaded at the end of the drive, as you do. We threw all her stuff in A's truck. It was still dark, and would be for hours, so I led her up the very long driveway with Ashley behind us providing lights with her truck's headlights. A lot of young TBs - shoot, a lot of horses in general - would have been tough to lead under these conditions: cold, windy, dark, strange environment, just did a 16 hour trailer ride. But Lex was fabulous. She was up and snorted a little, but she didn't put a foot wrong the whole way. I talked to her as we went, and she always responds well to that. A was impressed. The driveway shot will have to count as the "view of the barn" for now because I forgot to take one of those! I'll make it up to you.

Once we got up to the barn I put her in her stall and she was very pleased to be there because there was hay and she was out of the wind. I didn't give her any grain - colic risk after that long trip - but she got some hay pellets so she'd feel like she got something. This seemed to satisfy her, and she'll get her normal dinner tonight.

My horse's living quarters! The cute grey trunk and Newmarket
sheet aren't mine, but the black trunk is.

After she was settled in, I left her to sleep. It was still quite dark out and I figured all the horses would be snoozing. But I couldn't contain myself for long, and I was back at 9am. I thought the dressage pro would be there, but I was alone the whole time. She was definitely sleeping when I got there, and I felt a little bad for waking her up. But I don't think she minded, especially because we snuggled for a very long time. Then I took her out and brushed her, and she was great. We went on a short walk around, and she got to look at some stuff, but we'll do more exploring later. Didn't venture into the indoor, but there's time for that. Today I just want her to rest and recover from the trip. I saw her drink water out of her bucket, and I hung another one with Horse Quencher in it too. Gotta order more of that stuff.

You can also see that I went ahead and made a stall sign like Lauren did, but waited to hang it until we got here.

While I had the paint out, I also painted these brushes.

Anyway, after grooming Lex I went to the tack room and put my stuff away. It's not the neatest tack room in the world, I guess, but it's a Pony Club/lesson barn. This looks about right to me.

There are two riding spaces here.

Very muddy outdoor.
Nice, if small, indoor!
 I've only been here a day, so I'm not sure what my favorite feature is yet. I guess I'll go with the fact that this dork lives there.

Confo Photo Fail.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Lex is on Her Way!

I am SO EXCITED. Lex is finally en route!

 The trailer arrived right on time, at 1pm. I am so relieved that my friends did not have to load her in the dark. She did have to walk down a very long driveway, about 1/2 a mile, that runs along a pasture. I thought the horses in the pasture might run around and get Lex wound up, but apparently she walked down the driveway as easily as she always leads.

 The Girl was generous enough to put her on the trailer for me, and my BFF was there as well - he took the pictures. They reported that she hesitated for a moment and then walked on, which is how she has loaded every single time I have put her on a trailer. She wants to take a minute to assess, and then she'll get on.

Because this trailer is coming north and everyone else wants to go south, she's the only horse on the rig. Even though I paid for a stall and a half, which means she'd be on crossties the whole way, they upgraded her to a box. It's not costing them anything, and it means the world to me. I'm happy she'll be able to put her head down to cough and eat the copious amounts of hay they gave her. Apparently they have a whole bale still that she can have. I'm guessing she'll eat as much as she possibly can. I just hope she drinks (yes, I worry excessively).

Lex loves to look out a window. No matter what barn she's been in, whether it was her barn at the old farm, at the hospital, or where the trailer picked her up, she's spent most of her waking time with her head out the window. Obviously she can't put her head out the window on the truck, but she can at least see the scenery go by. I think she'll be calmer and happier when she arrives because she's gotten to see stuff.

This morning I went to an IEA show with my new barn owner and her pony kids. It was great fun. The kids are hilarious and reminded me a lot of me and my friends when I was in middle school. I really like my barn owner a lot, and her horses all look fat and happy, so I hope this is a good situation for Lex.

I'll be on pins and needles until Lex gets here, probably around 5 or 6am. CANNOT. WAIT.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Quick Update: Arrived!


That drive from Florida to Ohio was a LONG one, y'all. It took about 16 hours, included several monsoons, West Virginia mountain ranges with no cell phone reception, broken windshield wipers, repairing the windshield wipers, and anxiety over all the drama I left in Florida, which is far from resolved but at least I'm away from it now. The less said about that, the better, but it's been really affecting my mental health lately.

I ended up leaving Friday, not Thursday, because my freaking car wouldn't start on Wednesday. I think the issue is resolved, but the mechanic said it could break down again at any time and the repairs at that point would be a lot more expensive. Just what someone wants to hear when they're going to drive halfway across the country, you know? So Thursday morning I moved Lex to a different barn for the shipper to pick her up from. I felt she'd be safer and happier there in my absence, and since the barn owner is an old friend, she graciously found room in her barn for my girl. I'd have been boarding there all along except that it's a dressage barn with no jumping areas at all. I was a little torn about whether to stress her out by moving her and risk all the injuries that happen with being in a new place (not to mention colic). But ultimately, she'll be okay and I feel safer. The Girl went to check on her today and told me she looks just fine.

Lex's shipping date also moved back - she'll be shipping tomorrow instead of today. The shipper I'm using is based in the midwest and is on major delays from the polar vortex because Indiana was shut down for a minute. So instead of arriving tomorrow, she's leaving tomorrow. I'm sad, because the sooner she gets here, the better, but I'll live. It's probably better, since the barn manager is at a show tomorrow anyway. I might go with her, actually. I'm kind of antsy and I need something to do. Lex will get here Monday, and then all will be well.

I went to the new barn today. I forgot how serious mud can get in the midwest in winter time. I might need some wellies or something! But the whole thing seems safe and there's a very nice dressage pro who leases the back barn. She's got a jumper she's trying to sell so maybe we can work something out. The only thing I'm not sure about is that the stall next to Lex's has been converted into a cage for two dogs. They don't live there all the time, just when the barn manager is teaching lessons, but they seemed to bark a lot. I'm guessing that it won't be too big a problem since they're in there during the day and Lex is out during the day. I'll get to know the place better very soon! It's a Pony Club facility, and since I'm a proud Pony Club grad, I love that. It was certainly a very warm welcome, and the barn manager said she's been talking about me all week, saying she can't wait for her new friend to get here. That was certainly nice to hear!

And in other good news, there are deer everywhere, including in the back yard.

I'll surely let y'all know when Lex arrives. Please cross your fingers for an easy trip and a safe delivery. I'm kind of homesick. Well, make that really homesick. Once I get settled in, I know I'll be okay, but I feel very far from everyone right now.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Prepping to Leave

Thursday is my moving date (Saturday is Lex's) and it grows ever closer. Yesterday was a GORGEOUS day in Gainesville and it made me really sad. Of course, when I got up this morning it was as warm as it was going to get today and the temps are dropping, so maybe Florida is trying to help me get ready. It's going to get down to 20 tonight - it was 80 yesterday - which is COLD for us here. That kind of temperature drop is really hard on the horses, so I'll be making sure Lex guzzles water tonight and in the morning.

I rode Lex today, even though it was getting noticeably colder and the wind was blowing. I want us to get used to riding in non-ideal riding conditions, because that's all we're going to have for months and it is going to suck. She wasn't as relaxed today as she was yesterday, but she didn't do anything silly or bad. I think she probably just wanted me to lunge her so she could buck and stuff, but I didn't. I think it's going to be my main project of the winter to get her steady in the contact. She was good today, but I don't think we have much connection. Rome, as they say, wasn't built in a day.

At this point, I'm focusing on packing and getting stuff done. I'm not excited about loading up the Prius, but I have a friend going north this week too, and I think she's going to let me put some stuff in her car. I'm going to give her the less-essential things like human clothes, and I'll take all of Lex's crap in my car. Here's the to-do list for the horse:

1. Get her Coggins printed. I think the vet can bring me a copy, but I'll feel better if I have backups. Of course, I can't get my stupid printer to work.

2. Health certificate. If you want to get into or out of Florida with livestock, every animal needs a health certificate. Lex is getting hers done on Wednesday.

3. Decide, finally, what horse stuff is coming and what is staying. Any blanket I have is coming, and all her tack. I think I can leave some saddle pads and boots and that kind of stuff that I have extras of. Maybe when I get back I can decide to downsize!

4. Clean out my section of the tack room once I make a decision about everything. The deadline for this is Wednesday, obviously.

5. Take one last riding lesson. I HOPE. Cross your fingers that it's warm enough on Wednesday.

6. UlcerGard and Banamine. The Girl will give Lex this stuff before she gets on the trailer to help keep her comfy.

I will feel so much better when she's safely in her stall in Ohio. I know she'll ship fine. She was a racehorse. But, you know, anxiety is what it is.

Gonna miss this for awhile.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Riding in the "Cold"

Y'all, I am going to die in Ohio. I really am. There is no way humans should ever have to tolerate temperatures under freezing.

The good news is, Lex seems to think the cold is just fine. She's pretty much the same, whether it's raining or windy or the Florida version of frigid. I thought she might be a dum-dum today because the temperature has dropped and she's had a couple of days off because of the winter monsoons, but she trotted quietly around on the lunge line like a school pony and then was really, really good while I was riding her. She actually had some of her best moments yet, where she was quiet in bridle and accepting the contact and moving off my leg. I just tried to sit quietly and not mess it up.

I started the ride in my new SSG 10 Below gloves, and I guess I'm just going to have to get used to riding in winter gloves again, because I felt like I couldn't feel her mouth at all. I ended up taking them off and riding bare-handed, which is weird for me because I always ride in gloves. It wasn't THAT cold, but it occurred to me that in the frozen North, I will probably not be able to ride bare-handed or with light gloves on because then I won't be able to feel my fingers, let alone her mouth. What do y'all who ride in the actual cold do?

Unfortunately, the chin-resting was not entirely caught on film.

 After the ride, she got her feet done. She can be kind of a brat about the farrier, so I'll let her snuggle or chew on her lead rope if it means the farrier can get her job done quickly and safely. She was into the lead rope today, but also enjoyed resting her muzzle on my shoulder and breathing hard into my ear (I think she was trying to tell me what her pasture buddy was saying to her last night).

My trainer would yell at me if I posted this on Facebook.

She then demonstrated her taste for chewing on the brim of my hat. She does a lot of things that shouldn't crack me up, but they totally do.

I'm leaving in less than a week. I can't believe it, and I'm super nervous. Once I get there and get settled I'll be fine, but the combination of new territory, new job, new barn, and all alone (well, except Lexi-loo, but at this point I'm worried about how I'll take care of her adequately if there's a blizzard or something).

My biggest consolation, besides the fact that planes exist so The Girl can come visit me, is that I'll get to meet Tracy! Can't wait!

Also, check out Laura's Year in Review Blog Hop! If I could figure out how to add the widget thingy on here, I would. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Lex Gets a Massage

I'm not really all that into a lot of the things people do with their horses, like chiropractics and acupuncture. If you wanna do that, you go right on ahead. It just isn't for me. I want to know what the research says about every little thing. But massage is kind of different. I've had a couple before and they feel good. So when the other horsey (and gay!) couple at the barn said they were having an equine massage student come out to massage their horse for free and that she was hoping to also work on other horses, I was like, sure! It's free and it can't hurt, right?

The bad news is, I missed it. I had lessons I had to go teach (which ended up being canceled due to the rain) but The Girl was there and had her horse done, too. She reported that Lex flipped her head the entire time so it was hard to tell if she liked it. I'm guessing she was sick of being on the cross-ties, because I'd been working on her skin all morning, giving her a bath and stuff. She also said she hated having her right stifle touched, but she has a cut on the inside of her gaskin (how...?) which I think is why. Apparently she didn't mind having her left stifle messed with at all, which is great, since that's where she had her surgery. She also told me that the lady said Lex has a very strong neck, which is definitely true.

The massage therapist gave me a sheet with some more information on it. I'm trying not to be all "whaaaaat" about the spelling, I really am. But I do kinda think that if you want to do something for a living, you should be able to spell the basic vocabulary of your trade.

Anyway, the take-home point is that she's tight through her back and her left trapezius muscle. I'm not surprised at all. She has a harder time bending to the right, which is when that left trap has to stretch more, and I've always thought she was tight through the back. The lady said that she would really benefit from monthly massages, which is probably true, but I'm guessing I can learn to do this myself instead of paying someone else to do it. I think Lex would respond better to me doing it anyway.

Have any of you had success with equine massage? How long did it take for you to tell a difference?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy Birthday, Every Horse!

It's January 1, so go wish your horse a happy birthday! Lex is officially seven, though of course we'll still celebrate her unofficial 7th birthday on April 14, and Rocket's official birthday on April 15 (makes party planning easier!).

Lex's skin has been a mess since I got back - a lovely combination of hives and what I call "Thoroughbred Skin Funk." I'm convinced that she was turned out in the rain without her rain sheet on, which is why she got funky. I also think that she's allergic to something in the hay or the shavings (several other horses also have hives) so I stripped her stall and went to buy her bagged bedding and new hay. I hate the shavings and hay situations at this barn anyway. Dumped bedding is bad news, because it gets ants in it and it's harder to quality control. And feeding hay off round bales is poor horsemanship because you don't know exactly how much each horse is getting. So buying her bagged bedding and better hay was something I should have done awhile ago anyway, even if it irritates some people.

In addition to all new bedding and hay, I got a medicated shampoo from my vet and I've been spot-treating the funk with a baby oil-and-chlorahex solution that works like magic. Chlorahex kills everything and baby oil keeps it on the spot where you want it. Fingers crossed. I really do not want to show up to a new barn with a horse with funky skin.

The good news is, despite being a dermatological mess, she's been behaving really beautifully. I got on her yesterday for the first time in two weeks and just walked and trotted around, and she was like, "I HAVE TO MAKE UP FOR LOST STRETCHY-TROT TIME!!!" She had her nose on the ground for almost the entire ride. I didn't ask her for much yesterday, just wanted to make sure she remembered the tack. Today I asked for a little more in terms of bend and rhythm. She was happy and relaxed the whole time. I love her.

This was from a couple of weeks ago before her skin went to hell.
You can see that her standing martingale slid down too and I was
trying to reach it to pull it back up.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year's Day!