Friday, December 30, 2016

Reflections on 2016

2016 was a trip in many ways.

I didn't get Chili hitched to drive yet.  I was taking lessons and had her going in the shafts.  We had a setback and then my lesson fund money dried up.  She is however, ground driving just about anywhere, and we did have a pleasant showing at an open show in ground driving obstacles she had never seen before.  She placed middle of the pack over broke driving horses, so that was pleasing.

Donni is still recovering from her leg injury.  This afternoon I changed the dressing again and it's still looking promising.  She's feeling better, but the verdict is out long term on if it will scar and how functional it will all be.  I am optimistic.

Donni also managed to give us all a heart attack a few months ago after she choked and ended up with aspiration pneumonia, despite veterinary intervention.  After weeks of IV and IM antibiotics, she proved she was a tough bird and was back to snuff.

Chili had a couple minor injuries, including one a couple hours before I left for my European vacation.  I am lucky to have friends that I can call at the 11th hour to step in and help with my poor problematic horses.

In April, Chili and I had a clinic with Jec Ballou and learned a lot.  Very versatile application to all different type of horses.

May, Chili and I went to a breed show.  This was the only rated show I showed at this summer.  I handled a few horses in hand for other people as a catch handler. 

I bought a new horse trailer.  After my education and my house, the most expensive thing I've ever purchased. 

I showed at a few open shows and a Morab show.  Chili won reserve high point at one show.

I am slowly gaining confidence in taking out the horses in the truck and trailer.  I went to the local park a few times with friends and trail rode.  I drove myself a few times, so there's that.  ;) 

I lost a few horses at my friend's.  They weren't mine, but they were some of my favorites.  It still hurts.  Sometimes it pours when it rains.

All in all, a successful year.  Some ups and some downs.

Hopefully I'll be able to put down my goals for 2017 after I have some time to think about them. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Getting My Roll On

For those following or occasionally following my posts, a couple weeks ago, both Squeaky cat and Donni, my older mare were not up to snuff.

Donni sustained a laceration to her leg which was fairly gory and Squeaky was acting quite lethargic and not quite right.

Well the great news is that Squeaky is totally back up to snuff.  She's her happy Squeaky self, happily supervising me all day and telling me what a terrible job I do.

Donni's leg seems to slowly be improving.  She's been on stall rest for three weeks now and is doing surprisingly well.  I do let her out to wander around in the arena while I'm out picking her stall during the day and I turned around while she decided to get her roll on.  If you're curious, she's wearing Back on Track boots on front and it's her back right leg that is injured and hidden in this photo.  :)

I decided to ride Chili tonight and had her out and tied to the arena wall while I was picking out Donni's stall.  Chili had a semi-feral moment where she decided she didn't particularly want to be tied to the wall, especially when Donni went back to her stall. 

So it was time to just roll with it.  I put Chili's boots on, got her tacked up, and decided since she was feeling very feisty and obnoxious and wanted to just run that she could run on the lunge line.  And run.  And run a little more. When she wanted to quit, I pushed her a bit more, until she was quite satisfied that a good walk was really what she wanted.  We worked on switching directions and transitions for a few more minutes and called that good.

I am not usually an advocate of "running" a horse down, but weather in the Midwest can be unpredictable and the cold can make them a little bit like morons.  In this case, I wanted Chili to realize that despite her full-of-beans attitude, she needed to still have manners while I was asking her to do something. 

I then rode her for a couple minutes.  She was quite well behaved and still had quite a bit of energy.  We did a few serpentines, which is a weak point for me.  I am so right sided that it takes me a few minutes to sort myself out and serpentines more than point that out, but it's good for me to remember on work on that.

We picked up a clean canter transition both directions and I decided to cool down by dragging around the pool noodle some more.  It's good for her to keep working while having a distraction and that noodle is a great one.  :) 

So in the end, despite my original plans, it's time for me to get my roll on and just roll with new plans as things change.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Winter Wonderland

In true Midwest fashion, it snowed again today. 

On the plus side, it is no longer below zero.  I decided to let Chili out in the fluffy snow for a chance to take some photos.  It's always a work in progress on my behalf.

I know everyone is pretty jealous of my awesome clipping job.

Totally awesome clip, but since this gal lives outside (even with blankets), I wanted a way to get some of the fur off so while I'm riding she doesn't overheat as quickly, but that most of the clip is covered under the blanket.  It's easy to take hair off, but pretty hard to put it back on.  ;)

The garland is from one of the regional titles she won.  I just wanted to have some fun adding a little bit more color.

I'm not quite sure about this last photo. Obviously her face isn't in focus, but it does seem a little bit different and enjoyable in some aspects.  Part of the learning process I suppose.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

What's the Scoop: Blood Type & Horses

What’s the Scoop?

Blood type and Horses

I have always been vaguely interested in equine genetics of all different sorts.  I have a more than basic understanding of equine color genetics and am always fascinated about the newest testing coming out for various inherited equine genetic disorders.  From this general line of thought, I started looking into equine blood types.  I understand human blood typing as I have worked as a blood banker, but horses are an entirely different situation!

I decided to do a friendly little post with some of the basic overviews in case anyone else out there enjoys a good read!

From my general research there are seven accepted red blood cell systems A, C, D, K, P, Q, and U.  It also appears that there may be an 8th system that is not universally accepted yet.

Within each system, are multiple antigenic sites known as factors.  Think of the A, C, D, K, P, Q, and U as houses and the factors are different rooms within the house.  The factors are listed in parentheses after the systems so it ends up looking like this: A (a,b,c), Ca, Ka, P (a,b), Q (a,b,c), and Ua. 

The most common blood type for a horse is Aa Ca+.  Here is a fun chart taken from UC Davis with the breakdown between breeds and blood type.

So it looks like the breeds most commonly being AaCa+ include Thoroughbreds and Arabians.  How fun!

Humans naturally form antibodies to other blood types so a blood type and antibody screen is imperative before attempting a transfusion.  There is of course, the universal donor type (O negative), which is compatible as it has a lack of antigens more than anything else.  However, horses apparently don’t naturally develop antibodies to other blood types, so usually the first blood transfusion, even if with a different blood type isn’t of consequence.  The exception of this are broodmares that may have been sensitized from previous pregnancies.

Some people may have heard of women having issues with their pregnancy from different blood types.  Rhogam is a product commonly issued to RH negative women who have RH positive babies.  Humans are a little bit different than horses in that RH antibodies (as well as others!) generated by the mother against her child can cross the placental barrier and can cause Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn. 

In horses, this is a little bit different in the fact that while a mare may in fact have antibodies against her foal’s red blood cells, until that foal actually ingests colostrum containing these antibodies, they are generally healthy and safe.  Neonatal isoerythrolysis is what develops if this foal would consume colostrum containing these antibodies.  This results in anemia, jaundice, destruction of red cells, increased heart rate and all around bad things.  This is somewhat more common in certain breeds, including Friesians.  It is also common in mare to donkey breedings. 

The likelihood of this disease can be screened for by taking blood samples from both the sire and dam.  If likely, the foal should be muzzled after birth. 

So if anyone else is a happy nerd, hope you enjoyed this scoop and just look at your horse and marvel at how many potential blood types they have! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

10 Questions

Borrowed from Viva Carlos

Does your horse need shoes?
I have two.  Both are barefoot.  I show Chili barefoot which is probably unusual on the breed circuit. I have hoof boots for trail riding, but haven't used them on the trails I've done so far in this area.

What do you think of the barefoot vs shoes debate?
  To be honest, I enjoy barefoot because it's cost efficient. I would have shoes if necessary, but as long as the horse is comfortable and moving well, I don't see the point.  I do make an effort to maintain feet between religiously scheduled trims. 

I absolutely dislike excessive pads and hose clamps on shoes.  Sorry horse show friends.  I don't like the look and I don't understand how anyone wants a 4.5 inch foot on an Arabian, unless it's a rare 16 hand horse. 

Horses need what is comfortable and therapeutic for that horse.  Sometimes people do what isn't especially fair to the horse in the name of "therapy" in terms of keeping a horse quasi-sound enough to show and I am not sure how to draw those lines.

Favorite season for riding?
Late summer is nice when the bugs are dying back and it's still comfortably warm.  Spring usually is a muddy mess.

How many shows do you think you’ve gone to?
The first rated show I went to was in 2012.  I did a trail trial in 2005 before that.  I would have to count, but I would actually imagine around a dozen, including catch handling.  I work a lot of weekends which cuts into shows.

I do try and watch a fair amount of bits and pieces online.

Do you consider yourself a good rider?
Older I get, the less competent I am.  I've been on a lot of horses, but I have a lack of finesse.  I have totally ridden quite a few unpleasant animals along the way and helped civilize them, so that probably counts for something. 

How experienced do you think someone needs to be to own a horse?
I'm not sure how to rank experience.  Too many people have years of experience and little common sense.  Some jump in with excellent guidance and are wonderful owners.

Have you ever gotten into a fight with your trainer?
No, don't have a particular trainer.  I love riding with some coaches, but don't have monetary budget to allow much more than occasional coaching sessions. 

Describe your dream horse.
I think it's be pretty awesome to own a dressage schoolmaster.  Can I order it in bay with four white feet and a blaze?
Does anyone in your family ride?
My brother can ride and rode a bit in the camp setting.  My dad and grandmother both can ride, but don't so often.  My mother rode a bit while she was young.  No one else is heavily involved in horses.  My grandparents bred and raised horses for some period of time.

If you could ride any horse in the world, which one would it be? why?

Not sure!  I think it would be pretty cool to ride some very nice finished reiners. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Legs and Whiskers

Chili is in there on the far left.  There are actually three horses in this photo.

Taking care of Donni's leg has still been a daily task.  My work schedule has shifted around this week so instead of working 2nd shift, I am starting out the week at 7 which isn't too bad, except my drive is taking about an hour and a half due to snowy conditions.  See above.  ;)

The past day or so, my cat Squeaky has not been her usual squeaky self.  She does have periods of eating inappropriate items and then cyclic vomiting, when usually resulted in a dehydrated cat, which I typically solved by running subcutaneous fluids.  Probably not the most elegant ways of handling things, but it was OK and we got things done.

I'm just breaking up the texts with a Chili video from the other night

Well, Squeaky has been off and just lethargic.  No obnoxious cat just constantly squeaking each time I was in the kitchen, or the bathroom, or just standing around in general.  She just mostly lay on the back of the couch.  I had been making a wet food slurry to coax her to eat, bringing it to her perch princess style.

After talking to my husband while I was at work, I was disappointed to hear that Squeaky had not perked up.  Her historic bouts of feeling ill in the past were typically short lived, so then I decided to see if I could get an appointment squeezed in after work.

The clinic I used is still fairly new to me, so I think the poor tech was probably taken aback on how direct I was in that I thought she probably needed an appointment sooner than later and that I wanted a complete blood count and a chemistry panel run, in addition to whatever the vet's line of reasoning was.

So, I managed to leave work a little bit early, scooped up the cat, and off we went.  He doesn't think it's a foreign body as she's just lethargic and not vomiting at this point and time.  His line is thought is tracking more some kind of respiratory thing.  She has a borderline high temp 102.5.  For this cat, yes, that is high. 

I haven't met this veterinarian before and he was fine. Very cursory, not very appreciative of any of my input, but then again, it's so much like dating to gain any kind of working relationship with a medical professional.  I love some of the trust and give and take with my equine veterinarians. 

Short plan is CBC & Chemistry panels drawn and results should be back tomorrow.  Injectable antibiotics apparently because he believes that all patient compliance is quite low.  Sure, in a typical situation, but good grief, my compliance is 100% given that used to be my job.  ;) 

But we are back home and Squeaky is a little perkier so that's a plus.

Then I turned around and went out to the barn to take care of Donni...

I ended up emailing back and forth with that veterinarian today, since it can sometimes be hard to get on the phone while actually at work.  Donni has been dragging her toe on the injured leg which was concerning.  The last wrap change was on Saturday morning and the leg was bleeding again and had some drainage. 

It's hard not to go from 0 to 100% panic at times, even though I really know better.  So I took some photos, which I suppose I won't share because leg injuries are kind of gross, but it's good for following progress. 

Current new plan with the vet is more stall rest, back on bute to reduce inflammation to hopefully stop the toe dragging, keep checking drainage to see if it's purulent discharge, and to continue the antibiotics. 

Poor horse.  Good thing is maybe she won't mind being inside a while longer while it's artic subzero temperatures for the rest of the week.

I did end up trying out the new equi flexsleeves tonight.  She is starting to stock up quite a bit from having been inside a week now.  Let's see how the socks work.  They are quite simple and easy to put on, so I'm hopeful.  Theoretically they can go over an injury as well, so maybe after Donni grows some hair back and stops bleeding each time her wraps get changed, we can just use the sleeves instead of layers and layers of wrap materials. 

But I'm about due for a change of luck...I hope.  A few too many bills in a short period of time, especially during this time of year. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Take A Bow

While Donni has been laid up, I've been at the barn on a daily basis to help look after her.

I'm not a trick trainer, but I thought it might be fun to teach a trick or two to Chili.

Here has been my method so far.

Initially, I worked on handling Chili's feet with lead ropes.  It's good practice anyway to have horses desensitized in case they manage to wander away with a lead rope attached.  In a picture perfect world, my horses stay perfectly still where I ask them, however, it's not a perfect world and they have been known to wander away and subsequently step on a lead rope.

Once she was fine with having ropes on and around her feet, I began picking one foot up with the lead rope and asking her to put her head down for a treat.

As she was comfortable with this, I began asking her to rock her weight back a little bit and let me bring her foot further under her body.

I know some individuals ask the other front leg stretch down further, but my goal was to have a position where the horse is dictating where she is comfortable, so if we have an odd bow, that works for me. 

This is how far I'd previously gotten as far as having her start to reach under and let me handle and bring her leg under her body. 

My goal this past week is trying to have her begin responding to tactile cues and not be reliant on the rope handling her "bowing" leg.  I have two cues that I've been using.  First, I touch the inside of the leg to pick up and then under her belly to bring the leg back.

I have also been pairing these cues with the word "bow".  My eventual hope is that she will be able to response just to the verbal cue and reinforce with tactile cues as necessary.

As I've been out daily this past week, I've worked a couple minutes with Chili.  It's been a little more cold and I haven't had the time to fully tack and ride, so I wanted to see if we could make more progress on our bow.

Usually in the beginning, we have to reinforce with the rope once and then back to tactile and verbal cues. 

The other day, I took a short break and was talking on the phone to my husband.  He asked what I was doing and I told him "Teaching Chili to bow".

I looked over and saw this.

Clearly not the full bow, but a fun work in progress! 

Does your horse bow?  Any interesting tricks or other behaviors that they perform?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Puddles of Red

Today was one of those days that didn't go exactly as planned.

What I had planned:
  • Wake up
  • Brew a cup of coffee and sit around not moving
  • Shovel snow
  • Eventually go to barn, organize my tack, and ride a horse or two

How my day actually went:
  • Wake up to phone ringing.  It was my barn owner
  • Emergency situation with Donni
  • Attempt to find clothes.  Realize I need warmer clothes as it's snowing
  • Call veterinarian
  • Wait for veterinarian to come through said snow
  • Organize tack
  • Hold horse for veterinarian
  • Eventually go home and finally get that cup of coffee
  • Go back and see horse again
  • See non-injured horse and forget about riding today

    She should be OK. She missed injuring the tendon sheath.  There was a "flap" in the laceration and when that was picked up, the blood just absolutely started pulsating and squirting out, where the blood vessel had been punctured. 

    The laceration itself is fairly straight and horizontal, so the decision was made not to suture as it is in a high tension and higher movement area and there would be the possibility of pulling the sutures out. 

    She is in a fairly thick bandage which is applying pressure to the wound and hopefully enabling the wound to begin closing and healing.  Stall rest to ensure the bandage stays dry as this type of bandage system shouldn't be changed daily unless there begins to be drainage.  It was a fairly "clean" injury without much debris, so in some cases, it's good just to close up the injury and just let nature do its thing.

    I also learned today that my veteran, combat hardened husband apparently couldn't stand seeing my horse in distress with large puddles of blood about.  He checked in on the situation, saw the blood, and then felt ill and left. 

    I am grateful though that he did stop in and check.  I am also very thankful that the barn owner and family really did step up and did what they needed to do to stop the bleeding and to lend a helping hand during the vet visit and getting everything ready for her stall rest.  It's such a good feeling to be in a place that goes above and beyond for the care of their (accident prone) horses.

Saturday, December 3, 2016


It's a little belated (pretty typical of me, to be honest), but I am thankful at this point and time in my life to have a good husband, a home, a job I enjoy, two sound horses, the cats, and the dog.

Despite the fact I may often complain about my student loan debt, I still am able to live a lifestyle so that I can carefully decide to attend one or two shows a year.

I go on vacation perhaps once a year or every other year.

I eat out probably way too often, but at times, it doesn't seem often enough.  I don't really liked doing dishes.

I am grateful to the other horse people in my life that listen to my discuss trivial things like feeding, saddle fitting (oh dear), my inability to expediently back a horse trailer, and probably every other topic.

I am thankful to be involved in a non-profit therapeutic group that truly cares about the horses and the students involved.  I didn't realize how many slant one way or the other. 

In the end, life is pretty darn good.