Wednesday, January 26, 2011

So you want a horse of your own

When I was little, I was horse crazy. I wanted to be around them, pet them, ride them, have one for my very own. We lived in the middle of Illinois in a sub-suburban neighborhood that wasn't zoned for horses. My parents didn't have much money, but none of those things were the reason I was never given the opportunity to know a horse.

My mother didn't want me around horses because she didn't like them, and thought I'd get hurt.

That made me just plain crazy. I would dream about horses, but I wasn't allowed to ride them in my own dreams. I'd wake up arguing with myself ("Gayle, you're having a dream. You can do anything you want.")

Do you know how weird that is?

Flash forward to today, when I own two horses and dream about riding them anytime I want. Life is glorious, unless it isn't.

I went to the ranch today to have a lesson on Snoopy. He was very quiet when I got him out of the stall. Didn't try to eat me. Didn't grab the halter while I tried to put it on. Walked at a respectable distance from me. In other words, he wasn't my horse.

After I groomed and saddled, then lightly lunged him, I met Niki as I led him back to the crossties. "What's wrong with my horse?" I asked her.

She took one look at him and said, "Ooo, he's got boogers."

I saw a big green mess dripping from his right nostril. "That wasn't there before."

"The lunging probably worked it up," she told me. "We'll take his temperature and watch him today."

The thermometer showed why he was being so quiet. One hundred three point eight. Normal for horses can vary between 99.5 and 101.5, so it's a little higher than humans, but 103.8 is definitely too hot. We put him back in his stall and called the vet.

Dr. Garloff came out an hour later and examined him. His temperature had risen to 104.1 by then, so she gave him a Banamine injection, drew blood for testing, and took a little nose snot for a culture. She left me with medication, instructions and a bill.


Yes, you read it correctly. When a horse vet comes to call, it's not cheap. First of all, you pay for the call, since you can't always just throw your horse in a trailer and take it to the doctor. Then, the medications are not cheap because horses weigh 1,000 pounds and you have to use more drugs on them than, say, your pet chihuahua.

Finally, there's the testing. When I get a cold, I get some cough drops, Advil, and a decongestant. A horse cold is much more serious. It can be contagious and go through the barn. It can be something called strangles, which is a very bad virus. Snoopy has been vaccinated for strangles, but viruses are funny - you never know when one of them is going to morph into something that resists a vaccine. So the blood work and nose culture are needed to make certain it's just a cold.

So, Moms and Dads, when your horse crazy daughter (or son) comes to you wanting to be oh-so-near horses, please find a way to encourage their dreams, but think twice about horse ownership. Then do your homework on the actual cost and think one more time.*

*I love my horses and would never discourage responsible horse ownership.

P.S. By the way, Snoopy and I won our Novice Amateur Trail Class!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What fun!

We're back from the horse show. Did you miss us?

Turns out, it was as low-key as Niki had described. There were three of us (from our barn) showing, Christine with her horse Bubba, Sue and Gracie, and me and the Snoop Dog.

We got our horses ready, then Niki schooled Snoopy and rode him in the Green Trail, after which I rode in Novice Amateur. For those of you who aren't sure what a trail competition looks like, we are given a piece of paper with the course drawn on it, like this:

The lines on the paper represent poles, except the wide "H" at the center bottom. That's a gate. In real life, a course looks a lot like this.

And this.

And at Del Mar, they look like this.

At home our poles are kind of beat up and everything's plain, although we do put potted plants and silk flowers around to teach our horses not to eat them. I can name more than one horse who's taken a nibble while stopped at the gate, and at least one mare that picked the whole bush up, pot and all. Guess she wanted take-out.

So anyway, how did we do?

Mostly okay. It was, by no means, that Disney-movie moment where we suddenly do everything perfectly. But we didn't suck as bad as we could have. The lines on the course where we loped or jogged, we did pretty well. I was worried about loping the wheel – it bites me every time. I get three good poles, then either dive into center on the last one, or miss it entirely. This time, we hit the same spot on each pole and kind of sailed around like we knew what we were doing.

It was the slow stuff that needs work. Our first obstacle was the gate. You pick up the rope in one hand, back your horse and then walk them through the gate, making a U-turn. Finally, you back them to the original post and re-hang the rope.

My problem with this is, I have short arms. This was not an issue with Frostie, because she is small and we can get close to the gate without having her feet hit the feet on the standards. Snoopy is large, so I have to find that place where his feet aren't going to take out the course but I can still reach the rope. We were super clumsy with it, and by "we" I mean "me."

During the backup, we had to back around a corner. Snoopy had done this about a dozen times, so when it was time to do it for the judge, he went, "Hey, I got this" and turned before I asked. I didn't know how much to correct him. Should I have walked him forward and asked again? I made a mental note to be quicker in my reactions when he gets anticipatory like that.

As we walked over the final poles, I thought I was aiming us over the "X". Turns out, I wasn't so much, but Snoopy saved our butts, good trail horse that he is.

I still don't know where we placed overall (the trail classes were open card), but I felt good about our performance. We didn't take any pictures because we were all too busy showing.

But Niki was very proud that I was able to put on my big girl chaps and do it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cross your fingers

Snoopy and I are horse-show bound.

The last time I tried to show my big, black horse, he broke his left hind sesamoid bone two days before the show. It's Friday night, the show is Sunday, and so far we're still healthy.

The show is a one-day in Desert Hot Springs at the Willowbrook Riding Club. We'll haul in. Niki will show him in the green trail and I'll show him in novice amateur. Niki's been to these shows before and describes them as very low key, low stress. I'm trying to follow her lead.

But can I confess to a little stress? The last time I tried this, I literally broke my horse. In reality, I know there's a low probability of this happening again. In my head, however, anything's possible.

That Snoopy came back to soundness after the break is so wonderful, we consider him our miracle horse. For me to get into the arena with him, almost three years later, is amazing. I may be a little weepy on Sunday. I hope I can hold it in until after we complete the course.

That leaves the course. Niki says it won't be extremely difficult for the novice amateurs, and she is confident that I can move Snoopy around on it. I'm not certain if I can move him around and make it look pretty. I try to do things correctly, but in the show ring, I get hyper-focused on the course and getting it done, which throws pretty out the window. I'm also aware of the next person to go and hate taking too much time, so I rush everything.

There's a phrase singers and public speakers use: Don't bogart the mike. I have no idea where it came from, but it means not to hog the microphone and keep the other singers or speakers from their full turn.

On Sunday, I plan to take my time, take my full turn, and bogart the mike.

I was going to take a picture of Snoopy in the wash rack, getting ready for the big day, but I forgot. Instead, I'll leave you with this little ditty. It's worth the 7:21 minutes, trust me. And the horse reminds me of Snoopy during the carrot scene.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

A post-Christmas letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

First of all, my son and I would like to thank you for the cookies and the candy canes. They are very crunchy, and I confess, I have a real sweet tooth for peppermint.

However, we must protest the other gifts you left for us. Snoopy does not care for his cribbing collar at all. Confidentially, it doesn't bother me. As a matter of fact, I think he still deserves a lump of coal in his stocking for that time when he was a few months old and chewed my tail hair off. Can you imagine? As it is, I don't have long, flowing, Flicka hair. I need every strand. Took a year to grow back. But I digress...

I do not know why you would put a stud chain in my stocking. I simply do not need one. Two-legged Mom puts one on me to walk on the hot-walker, but that's her problem, not mine. After you've been around the circle once, it's a boring trip. Well, okay, maybe twice... in each direction... after all, counter-clockwise is completely different scenery. Mom may have wanted a stud chain, but not me.

It's possibly my fault for not writing you a letter with my wish list (which would have included more food, including apples and carrots, a night light for my stall, and fresh bedding every day), but how do you expect me to hold a pencil?

I heard two-legged Mom say something about a TV series from long ago where a horse would use a pencil to call someone on the phone. Of course, he could talk, but I could use the pencil to type you a letter. I just have to get Mom to bring her laptop to the ranch.

You'll be hearing from me, Mr. Claus.

Frostie (and Snoopy)

P.S. Did our presents this year have anything to do with this? Just asking.