Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Window Shopping

Do you ever think about or plan out the next horse you'd like to own? I sometimes enjoy "window shopping" for a new horse. My sister Paint Girl does this too, she is always sending me links to horses on Craigslist.org or Dreamhorse.com. I think it is always interesting to see what is out there. Check the market, browse the quality of horses for sale and their prices. Just reading the ad narratives are entertaining, which often contain very unique depictions of each horse.

Don't get the wrong idea, of course, all this window shopping has nothing to do with My Boy's anti-catching antics lately! It is just fun to look! And sometimes, that looking really makes you appreciate what you already have, don't you think?!

Will my next horse be a few spot leopard Appaloosa?

Or a lovely liver chestnut Morgan?

Or a bulky blue roan Quarter Horse?

Just for fun, what would your next horse be, if you could search for a very specific breed? Or, are you more of a cosmic horse purchaser, leaving it to fate and taking whoever might come your way as it is meant to be?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mom, Moseying, and Mondays

My mom is so sweet. She always photocopies the Parelli column from Horse Illustrated Magazine and sends it to me. The latest one was called The Art of Moseying and it was somewhat applicable to my horse's recent anti-catching attitude (which, by the way, was also also an issue on Sunday. He ran and ran this time, like he did last weekend. I eventually got the halter on him, when he gave up.)
In summary, the article suggested that with horses, it's about being in the moment, but with humans, it's all about our agenda of what we want to accomplish with our horse, and we almost approach the horse in a rushed state, which feels predatory to horses. For example, My Boy's pasture could be considered his "home." When I enter his home, I need to be aware of how he is receiving me. I would not enter the home of a person who appeared threatening, nor would I have a good time in the home of someone who didn't acknowledge me and turned and walked away as I started up towards the front door. Is My Boy looking at me, with ears forward, with interest? Is he turning at or walking towards me? If he does turn from me, I need to get his attention and curiosity. I might make an unusual sounds, turn away from him and jog the opposite direction, something to catch him off guard and think, hey, what is she up to? The goal is to get him to face me and give me permission to approach. I will quote Linda Parelli from the column: "Everything starts from the moment my horse sees me, not when I catch him." I believe this is true. I am sure I am bringing my anxiety about catching him into the pasture with me. Goodness, but I probably can't change that, not without medication!

This is how My Boy looked every time he stopped running from me in his pasture on Sunday. He would not face up to me. He was very defiant, turned his head towards the fence, and would not look at me. What does this mean? It appeared to be defensive, yet not aggressive. Luckily, he did not turn his hind end toward me. I could even approach his shoulder and then lead him from under his chin (away from the fence and hot wire strand.) I am going to go back to the groundwork basics in the arena this weekend, getting him to face up. I need to get him moving his feet, thinking, and seeing me as his leader again.

I think it is important to approach the horse with respect, demanding the same from him. And to not be in a rush. That is the whole moseying concept. Once I have him haltered, instead of quickly leaving the pasture, I can lead him out slowly, wandered the fence line, pick up and toss out a few rocks, stop at the water trough.....make it leisurely, relaxed journey out. Most likely, we will both expend a little emotional anxiety and just relax. Luckily we have a leisurely stroll to get to the grooming area. After his pasture romp on Sunday, My Boy was quite warm and to cool him down, I took him him on a stroll around the neighborhood. It was like walking a dog, except I had a big sweaty one at the end of my line. We both needed some time to walk out, breathe, and let the adrenaline settle. Because despite the fact that it was a warm afternoon and all of his running, I know that sweat was what Chuck Kraft would call "emotional sweat." If I'd worked My Boy like that in the arena, he would not have gotten that worked up.

I do think that someone commented the other day that I am undoing 14 years of a bad habit. I do not know where in My Boy's life this developed or how many years he'd been troubling his handlers off and on in this department. I know that it was a deal breaker for one of his previous owners, who advertised him for sale, then couldn't even catch him to show him to a prospective buyer. I do not expect this problem to go away overnight, at this point I consider it to be more of a chronic disease that just goes into remission, only to occasionally flare up and need treatment. So for now, we are in treatment mode. This too, shall pass.

Now onto my newest charge this week, the Border Collie. I walked this dog a couple of times a week when he was a puppy several years ago, but have not stayed with him. He has a lot of personality and Border Collie-sms, as I am sure many of you that own a dog of this breed know. As I write, he is whining and panting at my side, after a round of barking at his food bowl full of food, and attempting to herd up the cats (which are nowhere to be seen, but he thinks he will find them and is trying to tell them to show up for dinner.) You see, he gets to lick their plates clean, and no cats means no cat dinners which means no plate licking!
Today was a tough Monday morning for me, for some reason. Luckily, it all got better after a vanilla latte and a little sunshine!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday Short Takes

This morning was My Boy's farrier appointment. I had intended to drive up and see him last night, get a halter on him, and give him a little bute as that seemed to help with the last farrier appointment. However, I didn't feel well last night and did not make it up until this morning. I gave myself a good hour before the appointment in case catching my spotted pill was an issue.

He was standing by his tree as I approached him. He started to walk away, I told him to whoa, and rubbed his shoulder. I decided to try the lead rope around the neck idea. I unsnapped it from the halter, put the lead rope over his neck behind his ears. Oh, no! As soon as he felt the pressure, he pulled away. I tried to hold my grip in hopes he'd back off but nope, he's too big and strong and got out of it (and I got a rope burn as I don't wear gloves when haltering, they tend to make my fumble fingers even worse.) He took off in a run behind the turnout shed and into the far corner of the pasture. Here we go again.

I approached him again and he started to walk off. I told him to whoa, and I rubbed his neck, calming him down. I led him from under the muzzle again for a few feet, then stopped. I patted him, I showed him the halter. I am up front with him. I have the halter, my intent is to catch you. I was able to get the halter on his nose, but could not reach the crown piece and giving it a toss over caused him to raise his head further. I crossed over to his off side to put the crown piece behind the ears, and holding the nose piece up (all the while hoping he didn't panic) I crossed back over to his left side and buckled it without further ado. Then, I pulled the 4 cookies I had in my pocket out and dropped them onto the ground for him. I do believe in positive reinforcement/association. They key to My Boy's heart is through his stomach. Horses work on release from pressure and for safety and comfort (for many which is food.)
When I got him out of the pasture, I let him graze for ten minutes before taking him to the yard to work him at a trot on the line, loosening him up before the farrier arrived.

This is what My Boy thinks of Pony Girl making him circle in a yard full of juicy, wet, green grass!

I am not sure why he gave up so soon. I am wondering if his one run to the back of the pasture triggered the memory of the nearly 40 minutes of running that he did last week? I do not know if horses make connections like this. I really believe that today could have been a repeat of last weekend, based on his first reaction to being caught. I am hoping that my transition between dog sitting gigs goes well tomorrow and I can squeeze out a few hours to go spend more time with him. I really believe it is more than just not wanting to be caught, I think it also has something to do something in his past causing a quirky sensitivity to this area:

My Boy was good for the farrier-until the last hoof, which happened to be the one that forces him to keep his weight on his arthritic hock. The nails were going in and he got fussy and pulled his leg away. It took a few minutes to get him lined back up, every time I'd stop him next to the farrier and he'd go to pick up his leg My Boy would start pivoting his body away from him again. After getting after him a few times, he stood there and we got it done. I jogged him out again for a few minutes then let him graze another ten minutes before putting him away.

Next up, a quick trip to the local farm store to pick up My Boy's supplements. I just had to stop along their driveway and take a shot of the cornfields. The corn is getting tall. A true sign that the fall harvest is around the corner!

When I got back home this afternoon, I walked the "bear cub" I am dog sitting. He found a big stick and decided to bring it home. As we walked by a man working in his yard asked, "What's that bear's name again?" Jonas really does look like a bear cub. He is a Rottweiler, but is not short-haired as they typically are. Rather, he is long haired and fuzzy. He is about 8 years old, big, very well-mannered, although clownish at times.

Speaking of bears, I caught an episode of the Discovery Channel's/Animal Planet's program The Grizzly Man Diaries last night, which is a series based on the Timothy Treadwell films and journals. My obsession with bears had me interested in his story and now I want to watch his documentary movie Grizzly Man, which I have not seen. Although he was definitely a little odd, the man lived among these bears (even having physical contact with some of them) for 13 summers and survived. He was passionate about their protection and got some pretty amazing photographs and video footage of them fighting and foraging and eating, although I think his work was also controversial.
My sister Paint Girl was able to get some good dog behavior and aggression advice from a fellow blogger. She took the first step and has switched Sadie to an all-natural, lower protein dog food. I think we are all blessed to have this great network of animal people out there to help us with issues and questions, whether it be about horses, other animals or life in general. Thank you!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Friday Came Too Slow!

Goodness, what an exhausting week. On top of long, busy days at work, the weather was a bit damp and dreary. I really needed a sunny, crisp fall day to spend with my horse to cheer me up. Hopefully, I will make it out of work in time to see him tomorrow night.

There have been some great responses to my sister's dilemma with her dog Sadie. I think she has contacted some of you and I know she greatly appreciated all the advice. Needless to say, I learned some interesting things about blue merles and dog behavior that I didn't know!

I had also read my friend's post over at Adventures of a Horse Crazed Mind, about a similar situation she is going through with her horse Shaunti. Tough, tough, tough.... brought out my tears.....my heart goes out to her. You know, I read a quote in a magazine tonight. It was a response by Dave Matthews in regards to the death of one of his band mates last month. It was, "It's easier to leave than be left." I think that is so true. So many emotions center around letting something or someone go.
For now, I am curled up on the couch with a hot mug of peach tea, a box of Cheez-Its, and the season premiere of Grey's Anatomy. It's almost the weekend.....sigh (with relief.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Forever Home for Sadie?

Thank you everyone, for the great advice on catching my spotted pill! I read every comment thoroughly and wish I could have replied to you all. The ideas and techniques were insightful and practical and have brought up some points I want to elaborate on in a future post. I will keep you posted on what I try and how it goes this weekend.

Since you were so good with that, I had to write this post and ask you all for some advice for my sister, Paint Girl. Many of you are not only equine lovers and owners, but those canines have a huge spot in your hearts, as well.

My sister is struggling with one of her dog's behavior right now. She has two dogs. Bailey is a 2 year old 3/4 Australian Shepherd, 1/4 Border Collie. He is the friendliest, loving family and farm dog. He is just a joy of a dog to have around. Goodness, he is always Mr. Happy Waggy Tail! Well, he doesn't really have a tail, just a bobbed stump with hair!

Bailey adores me and I call him "my dog." He doesn't have a mean bone in his body.

A little over a year ago, my sister had to put down two of their beloved aged dogs at the same time, one due to severe hip dysplasia, and the other due to a blown out knee. To keep Bailey young and in good company, they began the search for a new puppy and responded to an ad for purebred Australian Shepherds. My sister wanted a blue merle female and found one in the litter of 8. This little one was also one of the tiniest puppies in the litter. My sister put a deposit on her at about age 7 weeks, then visited her every week until she was ready to be weaned. They named this puppy "Sadie" and she came home to live on the farm with Bailey, the cats, goats, and the horses about a year ago in August.

Sadie when she was brought home an innocent fluff ball puppy; her big brother Bailey protectively watching her in the background.

Ever since she was brought home as a young pup, and more noticeable around the time that Sadie was spayed, she began to display some alpha female aggression. She would growl and occasionally attack Bailey for no apparent reason. Then, the aggression was turned on my sister. At the advice of a cousin who had experienced similar issues with her female Cattle dog, my sister eventually pinned Sadie to the ground and held her until she submitted, and the problem seemed resolved. Sadie and my sister were best friends for a while.

However, the problem with Bailey continued. They would play like best buddies one minute, then Sadie would get territorial about the garage, or some unknown thing, and turn on Bailey. Bailey would never fight back. He would often cower or hide behind the car or in the corner of the garage if Sadie walked in. My sister tried positive reinforcement techniques that she learned from watching The Dog Whisperer, and these seemed to help lessen the issue for a while. A month would go by with little problem, it would soon resurface again. My sister said it almost seemed mental. Sadie would just go crazy for no apparent reason. After a full day outside and playing, resulting in one very tired dog, she would get really cranky and even more growly and aggresive.

Bailey finally found his backbone. This non-aggressive dog had had enough. He began to fight back! My sister's boyfriend had to tear the dogs apart during a few of their fights. Once Sadie was yelping in pain because Bailey had a hold of her ear so tightly. The last fight, this week out on the property during horse feeding time, Bailey got a cut on his nose that almost required stitches.

Bailey and Sadie are still good friends some of the time, too!

We can not solve the mystery of the aggressive female dog. My sister's fear is that Sadie will turn this aggression onto neighbor dogs, children, the other farm animals, or, human friends and visitors to the farm. My sister is not sure this dog can stay part of their family. She loves Sadie dearly as she has raised her since she was a little pup, and she has her sweet moments. However, she feels that it is unfair to have Bailey live his life in fear of being attacked. One just never knows what will set her off. My sister has even considering having her euthanized. Her reasoning here is that it is unfair to place a known aggressive dog into another home. Although Sadie has never "attacked" a human, you do not want a misunderstood dog to end up in the wrong hands, only to end up passed around, abused, or possibly at the shelter down the line.

This is tearing my sister apart. I have recommended that she seek the advice of her trusted veterinarian, who should be able to suggest a behavioral therapist for dogs or a possible cause. Has anyone out there ever experienced anything like this with dogs? Any ideas for a resolution?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pony Girl: 1, My Boy: 0

There is a reason the crown piece of the halter is twisted. Once I had it on, I wasn't taking it off to fix it!

Are you ready to put on your animal behaviorist and trainer hats? I have a situation for which I can use advice. You know, back in the olden days, one had to buy a book at the shop or head to the library and browse through the card catalog for a book to get good advice. Now, a couple clicks of the mouse and the world is at your fingertips, with people of varied experiences to offer up their help. Isn't it lovely?

You have probably heard me mention that at times, My Boy can be a pill about being caught. This was the selling issue for one of his previous owners. It been a small issue for me, and we have mostly worked through it. But now that the weather is getting cooler and I'm back at work and my horse is spending more time being an independent horse, the issue has reared it's ugly head.

Will he or won't he?

The interesting thing is, it isn't like he turns and runs from me the minute I walk into the pasture with the halter and lead. Well, that's not exactly entirely true. Sometimes, he will come down to the gate and let me catch him. Other times, he will turn and walk a step or two away, then stop and let me catch him. Even on a bad day, he lets me get this nose in the halter. Here's the kicker. It's when I go to put the crown piece of the halter behind his ears to buckle it that he pulls back (and subsequently out of the halter.) Then, he is usually wide-eyed and snorting, like I just electrocuted him. The reapproach is either successful, or, results in a gallop about the pasture.

Look mom, I can run really FAST!

Last Saturday, My Boy did this pulling back out of the halter routine and ended up running himself into a sweat. I thought for sure he was going to slip and break a leg. I was lucky I had time to kill and plenty of daylight left. I did not give up. He ran and ran until steam rose off his back and his sides were heaving. It was probably the best workout he'd had in months. Finally, I got him haltered. I then cooled him out and let him graze before putting him away. If it was work he was dreading, he had nothing to fear. He took care of that himself. In fact, at one point, he ran in large galloping circles around me and his run-in shed. I actually said, "Whoa," and bent down to look at his hiney like I do with his Parelli circling game and he stopped and faced me. Silly horse. I think he relinquished some control there?

Maybe she can't find me if I'm in the back corner?

I have followed this technique of making him work when he won't let me catch him. It seems to be successful, or at least, it has, because I don't give in until he's caught. Although next time, I might bring out the carrot stick and prop it outside the pasture in case things got as bad as they did Saturday. I realized that I do not want it to appear that the halter and lead rope are in any way my "motivators" to run, as I feel like it becomes a "chasing game" and I don't want him to fear the halter and leadrope, goodness, that's half my problem right there!

Here are a few other things I do:

1. As My Boy is pulling away or starting to move away from me, I add "pressure" to make him think it was my idea for him to move off. I do not like giving him the chase, because it does seem like I am confusing him (whoa and let me halter you, no- run from me!)

2. When he stops and faces me, I actually don't reapproach him to be haltered, I reward him by turning my back and walking away back towards the gate. He keeps those eyes firmly on my next move. Usually, at some point he'll start to follow me back down to the gate. Once I've patted him and he relaxes (he is so tense and worked up at this point) I can often put my hand under his chin and just lead him back. It's when I got to halter him again that he is fine, or he panics again and pulls back.

3. Once I have the halter on, I usually give him a treat of some kind as a reward. But not until then. I know many might disagree with this, but I am all about positive reinforcement.

4. I have noticed a few patterns. If I go to catch my horse and it is within an hour or so of feeding time, he is MUCH bigger stinker at being caught. Also, when I have not seen him in a week or so, and, the weather starts getting cooler, he tends to be worse, as well.

5. I will not leave a halter on my horse in the pasture on a daily basis, it is too dangerous, especially since his pasture has metal posts. However, I am considering doing this overnight next Friday because the horseshoer is coming Saturday morning and he has to be out and ready.

I'm sorry, mom!

I know this is a common problem, and I know for many, it often comes and goes. I am lucky my horse is not out in a large pasture. However, his anti-catching antics have also never been quite this bad, in my year and a half with this horse. Any additional advice?

In my next post, my sister Paint Girl needs your advice on another issue, too!

How to Start off A Ride

My mom and her sisters (except the tall one in the tall hat, she's my Auntie J's friend) sure know how to start off a morning trail ride in the desert.

Cowgirls L to R: my mom's twin-my Aunt J; my Auntie J's friend J; my other Auntie J; and my mommy J.

OH GOODNESS, their names all start with a J! Twilight zone!

Nothing like a little vitamin C and bubbly to start off a bloomin' beautiful ride!

Waking up to a gray, wet, cold fall day like today, I can't wait to ride in the desert again!

Five months and counting!!

What are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hope in a Tub?

A few of you asked in the comments section of my last post about the joint supplement I am giving My Boy. As some of you might remember, My Boy was a little off this past year and I had a chiropractor out to do an assessment and work up on him. Last spring, my veterinarian recommended a joint supplement by the name Platinum Performance, specifically the Ortho-Chon line. She stressed that the key three combination of ingredients for an effective joint supplement were glucosamine, MSM, and chondroiton. I felt this was a brand that I could trust because she recommended it, it but it was also a bit pricey and seemed to only be available via the Internet. I discovered this by mistake, as I called a local farmer's Co-Op asking for this Platinum Performance. They said they had it and put a tub on hold for me. However, when I went to pick it up, it was actually Platform joint supplement made by Farnam and they did not carry the other brand. The Platform contained the key ingredients and was affordable, so I went ahead and purchased it, trying it for a few months. I did not notice a strikingly huge difference in my horse's movement. I also knew that there were other supplements out there with higher dosages of these ingredients (of course, the higher the doses, the higher their cost.)
The next supplement I tried was a brand called Horse Guard, located in Oregon. They make a variety of supplemental products. I tried their joint supplement Chondroitin Plus. I liked the quantities of ingredients and I do think I noticed a marked improvement in my horse's comfort and range of motion. However, the 7 lb tub I purchased, which was nearly $80 and I thought was to last for 64 days, ran out after about a month (I think I misinterpreted some signage at the Co-Op on the breakdown of price per dosage.)

The next time I needed joint supplement, they were out of the Chondroitin Plus, so I tried a different one also made by Horse Guard, called Trifecta. This one contains probiotics, a hoof supplement, antioxidants, and all the key joint supplements. It too is a little pricey and I realized at some point that I am only feeding a half dose. I continued on the half dose, realizing that this will make it last longer, but most likely weaken it's effectiveness. Also, I already feed my horse a separate, more thorough supplement (My Boy thinks it is grain, but it is not a grain based supplement.) Therefore, I do not want to over supplement him (although my mother, who also used Trifecta for a while, was told that the vitamins in the Trifecta would not lead to over-dosing with other supplemental grains being fed. Still, I worry.)

I have heard from family members, via personal experience, that both humans (and canines!) with knee and joint problems have found glucosamine to be effective. However, I know that these supplements are not regulated, particularly for equines. I also know that supplements that sell well probably do so because they are found to be effective and show visible benefits. Or, perhaps the owners using them, like myself, are just full of hope?

I want to offer my teen-aged arthritic ex-reining horse the best comfort and range of motion that I can, for a price that fits my horse budget. I would appreciate any feedback that you may have on your experience with joint supplements. Do you think they work? Are there any particular brands or formulations that you have had success with? I will add that joint/hock injections or supplements that require a shot are not an option for my horse, due to his terror of needles. I need something that I can toss into the bucket with his regular daily supplement.

Monday, September 15, 2008

September Weekend

After being so busy at school during the week, it was nice to spend the weekend with My Boy. I feel like I've turned him into quite the weekend horse warrior as of late. It's not my preference but until I get through Curriculum Night this week, it had to be. Do you ever feel bad when you can't spend time with your horse during the week?

Saturday dawned foggy but it quickly burned off and the day was sunny and warm. My Boy let me catch him without ado (I think it was those apples, really!) I groomed him then took him up to the arena. After small circle warm ups on the 12 ft. line, I turned him loose and free longed him. He galloped and bucked and trotted out nicely, working up to a light sweat. Free longing can sometimes be a challenge, a lot of green temptation has grown tall in the corners of the arena.

But you know what? My Boy keeps an eye on me always as he circles around the arena and rarely tries to get a bite. And how is it that my teen aged pre-arthritic horse can do rollbacks and near-piaffes while snorting loose in freedom in the arena?

I noticed my horse looked shinier than usual. I wonder if it is the new joint supplement I am using? It also contains a hoof supplement. I'd like to think it's money well-spent, but I have a feeling the shine is due to another reason. As my horse begins to grow in his thicker, pre-winter coat, his color darkens to a coppery sorrel. This color reflects the light better. Over the summer, he roans out and it refracts the light, he never looks as shiny.

As I walked him out to cool him, I tried something different. I led him on the off side. I have to tell you, if you haven't already, you have to try this. It felt more awkward then this righty writing with my left hand while wearing an oven mitt (okay I have never tried this, but it sounds hard.) My horse and I stumbled along the arena fence. He kept wanting to stop, and walk behind me and up along my right side. I kept urging him on. I had to stand a couple feet away from his shoulder, further than I would if I was leading him from the right side. Finally we got it going but he wasn't happy about it (note the ears.) I do think it is good to mix it up. Especially on the trail, you never know when you might have to lead or mount your horse from the off-side.

After I put My Boy back in his pasture, I grabbed a Tupperware and headed to check the blackberries. To my delight, many more had ripened. I had to fight through spider webs to get them. A true sign of fall, no doubt! Can you see the web? And the spider in the middle. Eeek!

I had enough to attempt a cobbler. I googled a recipe for blackberry mountain pie . It sounded easy enough and they had all the necessary ingredients at the home I was dog sitting at.

I took a few pictures only to prove that I actually did it. Cooking is not my thing, but I do love to bake.

I have no idea how this was supposed to turn out but I tell you, when I licked the batter bowl clean, oh goodness, it was sweet!

The cobbler turned out a little mushy and I'm not sure if that is how it is supposed to be? I am pretty sure it was done, it was bubbling quite good and the top was nicely browned. I actually thought the cobbler was pretty good. I do think the one thing I was definitely missing was a dollop of vanilla ice cream! I scooped some of the cobbler to take to Paint Girl and her man, since I made it with the berries from their property. There are still many berries left to pick and I have a feeling I may be trying a few more recipes before the summer fades. Paint Girl's man suggested a blackberry milkshake, what do you think?

Sunday, after gathering my things and saying goodbye to Abbie, I went and saw my horse again. The day was lovely and I was in the mood for a trail ride but with nobody to ride with, I had to settle for arena work.

Self-portrait on horseback. I look a bit like an alien, don't I?

We jogged circles and worked a little on loping. We didn't make much progress but we loped a little. For me, that is progress. I got some manure and rocks picked from the pasture and the shed fluffed up a bit, but it does need new shavings. Until next weekend.....

Friday, September 12, 2008

A PG Friday Night

Well, it's almost Saturday now, but you know what I mean. Today was hectic, for various reasons relating to work. I am also dog sitting for the weekend, which meant I had to run home, pack up some things, then hit rush-hour getting to the home I'm staying at. As I was loading my car I discovered that my back power window would not go up. Then one of the lenses popped out of my sunglasses. You know how it goes.

I am watching a black Labrador named Abbie. I have stayed with her for nearly 9 years (she is 11 now.) I watch her for extended weekends, a handful of times a year, while her owners travel. Abbie is one of those dogs that just gets into your heart. She is very savvy. I swear, given a few months of serious tutoring, she just might start speaking English!

Abbie had a small cancerous tumor on her leg last year but she recovered and the cancer has not spread. However, the old black Lab just ain't what she used to be. She barely bounded off the bed to great me at the door when I arrived. Her chin is gray, her body is bonier, and she jogs slower and picks up a pant faster as we walk the block. The sun is golden orange and setting as she sniffs the bushes, probably for other passing dogs or a squirrel.

I have enjoyed my years with Abbie, it's like she's my dog away from home. You all have me thinking again with your insightful and passionate comments to my Thursday "forever homes" post. Dogs are not passed around like horses. Most dogs become a part of the family unless that family moves, has children, or the dog becomes aggressive or develops bad habits. I suppose it makes sense that many people see their involvement with horses as a sport, a business, or commodity, and therefore more transferable than a dog, which is considered a domestic pet. Being an animal lover, I realized that I view all animals as pets, regardless of their livestock or farming labels. That may be an emotional downfall for me. I just get too attached.

When all was said and done, the walk was just what I needed this Friday. Abbie and I get back to the backyard to find ripe tomatoes on the vine. As I pick them, the neighbor lady says "Hallo, she told me you vere coming" in her thick Greek accent. She is having a yard sale and I want to browse but I should be holding a yard sale of my own, not shopping at one. I admire the beautiful sunflower plant that rises alongside of her house. I am doing a sunflower project with my school children Monday and I was planning on purchasing some real sunflowers at the farmer's market to use as models. I wish to ask her for one flower snip, but do not have the courage.

Abbie padding along a head of me, I took the soft tomatoes back to the house. They are a pleasant surprise for this pony girl who has no idea what to have for dinner. They slice up nicely on a bed of warm pasta shells.

Afterwards, as the gnats swarm and gather in the cooling air around the back porch, Abbie and I sit and watch the last of the sun fold itself into the clouds.

Have a good weekend, everyone. Besides hanging out with Abbie, I plan to spend part of the weekend with my horse and I will return Sunday to share my stories.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Forever Homes

I was driving home from seeing My Boy last weekend and for some reason, this very random thought popped into my head. I think I was worrying a little about the economy, gas prices, feed prices...you know, it's been on horse owners' minds.

In sale or rescue horse ads, you sometimes read, "Mr. Oats is looking for his forever home." When my mom purchased her gelding Dusty, she said he had his forever home with her. By this, she meant that she would never sell him or give him away.
As a youth, I moved up to larger or more challenging ponies and horses. I cried every time I sold one, but back then I did not have this forever perspective. But now, if at all possible, I have no plans to ever sell or give away My Boy.

Think about a horse's lifespan, say, an average of 25-30 years. Imagine how many times some horses out there exchange owners. And when I really think about it, I find it kind of sad. What if children exchanged homes as often as this? Some of you might say that I am comparing apples and oranges (that is, comparing children and horses. Wait, shouldn't the horses should be apples and the children be oranges? Oh, whatever.) But if children were to change families as often as horses change owners, can you can imagine the variety of problems they would have? Yet, it appears that we just expect horses to adjust to changes in home, sport, training, climate, riding styles, handling, attention.....and suffer no ill or negative consequences.

Show horses are the obvious example that come to mind. They are often passed on from rider to rider as they age and trek their way through the competitive world. Their riders win their awards and make their monies, then the horse is sold to someone else hoping to reach the same goal. If these show veteran horses could talk, would they speak to a colorful life, rich with travel and adventure and new experiences? Or would they speak to lack of connection, consistency, trust issues, and attachment? Do they miss their former homes, people, and pasture mates? I am, by no means, saying that nobody should sell or pass on one of their horses. In fact, if nobody did, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to own My Boy.

Yes, both horses and children are fairly resilient and adaptable. My main point is, well- I do not really have one. I am just bringing up a random thought that popped into my head, truly, this happens to me on a regular basis, I just rarely share them with anyone. And I have a psychology degree and some master's work in counseling and I am interested in social behavior and over-analyze everything.

I am hoping to add some stability in my 14 year old horse's life. He had two owners in the year and a half before he came to me. That is a lot of change. I think it has taken him a year and half just to get to know me. He is part of my family now. In his forever home. Knock on wood.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

An Apple a Day

I had posted a comic about a stick horse earlier tonight because I thought it was funny from a child's perspective, but a friend called me tonight and mentioned it had a reference to a scene in the movie The Godfather. Huh? Not having seen The Godfather I had no idea what she was referring to but I took her word for it and deleted the post before googling it. Needless to say, now I understand the comic a little more! So goodness, I am sorry if anyone read that or found it offensive in any way, that was not my attempt at all, of course! I am still trying to get over my friend's shock that I have not seen The Godfather.

On to other news. It's looking to be a busy school week, and not much of a horsey one, unfortunately. However, I had a fantastic horse-related surprise at school yesterday. Twin girls that were in my class last year have an orchard at their beach house and the girls picked apples for my horse this past weekend. They were too shy to bring me the apples themselves so their mom brought them to me after school.

APPLES? Did somebody say apples?

Do you think these will help me in the catch-me-if-you-can rodeo?? My Boy is going to have to promise to share these with the mares!

To thank the girls, I used a picture of My Boy and added some text to it. I will print them out and glue the photos onto cards for them. They just love getting mail from their teachers, and the children are always so fascinated that I have a horse, so I will pop them in the mail tomorrow.

I just love building these connections with my students!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Deep Creeks and Fall Leaves

My cement-head took a vacation for the day and I felt well enough to ride on Sunday. My sister and I took her 17 year old neighbor girl on a trail ride. Jessica has ridden in horsey summer camps, but not for a year or so.

My Boy put on his catch-me-if-you-can rodeo for about five minutes before I could get him haltered. I don't know what it is about that pill. When I have not seen him for five days or so, he acts like he is a wild stallion on the range. He will walk away from me, or, let me get the halter on his nose then panic and pull back and run off when I go to put buckle strap behind his ears. I thought we'd worked through this, but it periodically rears it's ugly head. Luckily, his pasture is not too large and I know my horse well enough to know he'll run for a bit, but quickly give up.
We loaded up the horses and we set off for the trail head. The day was uncannily warm for September and worthy of tank tops, yet the scent of fall was in the air.

My shiny, handsome stinker ready to hit the trail.

Jessica on Fritzy,and Paint Girl on Brandy, starting out.

We started our loop by riding towards the creek route first. Now, some of you may remember me writing previously about the creek the last time we crossed it, we were stirrup deep in water. This time, as we started down the bank, to our chagrin we observed that the creek had risen even more, to the point it was creeping uphill on the trail leading out of the other side! No creek crossing for us. Without knowing it's depth, it just wasn't safe. We rode a detour trail, hoping it would pop us out and across the creek at a shallower point. Guess what it did? You guessed it. It looped us through ferny undergrowth and pastern-deep mud and rooted logs and fallen trees-right back to where we started!

My sister's mare came off the faux-detour looking like she'd been making mud pies! She was following My Boy, so we can blame him for the big splotches.

Later, we were told by someone back at the trail head that a beaver dam was suspect for creating the deep pool in the creek. Typically at this point in the summer, the creek would barely be a trickle of water. From now on, our loop route will be impassable until the creek bed changes.
My Boy and I riding towards the sun.

Horses and riders taking a break. Even though she's a senior in high school, Jessica was not texting her friends as it appears in this photo, but adjusting her camera. She has an interest in photography.

Jessica takes a self-portrait with Fritzy, her mountain mare for the day!

After water, rest, potty breaks and power bars, we mounted back up to finish the ride.

There were the beginnings of Autumn all around us. The purple thistle blooms that once dotted the brushy logged meadows were now white puffs.

I could not capture it eloquently on film, but as the breeze blew, it sailed the white puffs of thistle seeds listlessly through the air. They floated through the late afternoon sunlight, giving the field a magical aura. If you look closely, you can see a few of the puffs floating.....

My Boy cocks an ear towards a maple tree, as if to say, "Look at it's leaves turning red, Pony Girl!"

The colorful fall leaves are my favorite, and I was happy to see sprinklings of them already.

Of course, I had to have my picture taken next to the tree. I think My Boy's rich rusty color compliments it nicely. The blue bowling ball helmet, not so much!

As we meander down the road to home, another seen and heard sign of a late summer day are the grasshoppers clicking and bouncing through the dry knee-high grass.

There is nothing better than enjoying the changing of the seasons on horseback. It is one of the reasons I love to trail ride. I know it sounds crazy, but I can't wait for the fall crispness to set in, and to bundle in my down jacket and chinks and set out on a ride where you can smell the taint of wood stove smoke on the air.

What Pony Girl? We're done? Time to go home?

Yes, My Boy, it's time to go home. Time for dinner. Good night, sweet stinker!
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