Saturday, September 5, 2015

Ranch Rashomon

Gayle's story:

I've lived long enough to know that change comes to everything. Sometimes it's a matter of simple, small adjustments over time, so that you don't notice that nothing is the same until you look back through the years. Sometimes it's an abrupt difference in the way you do things, or where you live. 

We've recently been through the abrupt thing, as a result of the small adjustments. My horse trainer Niki has moved two doors down--that's the abrupt one. It happened as a result of the little things we didn't notice until we turned around. We loved the Silver Rose Ranch. It was peaceful and pretty. Snoopy was born there. When other trainers came and went, we sighed and said, "More arena space for us."

Then we looked up one day and saw that we were isolated from other horse trainers, other horses, and opportunities for Niki to expand her business. It was a gut-wrenching process, touring the new facility, asking question after question, wondering whether we really had to do this. 

In the end, the answer was yes. We've been at the Hillcrest Equestrian Center for a week. It's lovely and quiet. The other trainers and their clients are friendly. 

Of course, my horses are settling in, each a little differently. I'll let them tell you what they think.

Frostie's turn:

Gayle told me of the new stable before we went. She tries so hard to visualize what is going to happen so I'm not surprised by anything. I don't like surprises. She kept showing me a very large pipe corral with a roof on half of it, and shavings. 

At least, I thought I didn't like surprises. Instead of taking me to the pipe corral, she took me to a much fancier in-and-out. It's kind of like a box stall with a little yard attached to it. I have two neighbors. Both are very nice, after I explained I was the mare in charge. We eat flake hay here, not cubes, and they clean my stall a lot.

If I had one complaint, I'm not fond of the walk to the round pen and the arena. It's very uphill. I had to stop three times the first day because I'm not used to the climb. But other than than, I love my new home.

Snoopy's thoughts:

WHERE AM I?!?!?! 

I am not at a horse show, because no one is giving me a bath or putting bands in my mane. I am not at home, but I am close to my home. I've never lived anywhere but my home. I can smell my home from my stall. Why am I here?

They feed me good here. Lots of hay. The first few days, I couldn't stop walking around in my stall. MomToo is worried because I look so skinny. The arena is good. The dirt there is very soft and bouncy, and makes my legs feel good. 

I don't like the crossties so much. There is a bar in the back and when I step back, it hits me in the bottom. Then there are buildings and horses and people and noises behind that. It makes me nervous. 

MomToo keeps telling me that we've moved, and this is my new home, but she is still my MomToo and Auntie Niki are still here and no one will leave me. After a while, I started believing what she said. I'm getting calmer now.

I've seen Mom every day, too. She tells me to calm down, that this is a good ranch and I will like it here. As long as I'm with my family and my friends, I guess she's right.

Gayle again:

Come visit Victory Farms at Hillcrest Equestrian Center!

Friday, May 22, 2015

The view from the outside looking in

Remember a few posts back when Dr. Pollard was flexing Snoopy's feet and discovered his front feet were bothering him? 

As treatment, we've been giving Snoopy Previcox (an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever) and monthly Adequan injections for osteoarthritis. He has his days where he starts out stiff and warms out of it, then his days where he's good unless I jog him in a sudden, tight circle right. His lope still feels like an off-kilter washing machine. So I started thinking...

Perhaps it was time to take some x-rays. Not only might we see what's going on, but we would have a baseline for any future changes.

Karma was kind to me, and Dr. Pollard could only come out on the same day as Monte, our farrier. This meant Monte could pull Snoopy's shoes for the photos, then put them back on, or make changes if necessary.

My biggest fear was that we'd take the photos and not see anything. That's more frustrating than seeing something awful.

What did we see? Let me show you a diagram of how a horse's leg is supposed to look:

Snoopy's legs don't look anything like this. His cannon bones (the beige one) tilt slightly in one direction. The two pastern bones (the green and purple) are straight, then the hooves tilt in the other direction. 

As Monte said, "He gets his legs from his mom. They grow in three different directions."

The x-ray on his right leg told the story of what was wrong. Along the outside of the hoof, next to the little point (see the red arrow, but on the opposite side) there was a weird arcing structure pointing up toward the purple bone. Dr. Pollard said that was calcification, which wouldn't account for his soreness UNLESS it was combined with what he showed me on the outside of the top of the green bone - a tiny bone spur pointing toward the brown bone. 

The bone spur was miniscule, but the way his leg winds this-way-and-that, it's like having a teeny pebble in your shoe. It's not going to result in amputation, but it bugs the heck out of you.

Monte and Dr. Pollard discussed his shoeing needs and decided on aluminum bar shoes. More expensive (*sigh* Ka-Ching), but it would fortify his heels and support the sidewalls. 

We gave him a few days off, per the doctor's orders, and today I watched Niki ride him. He landed a lot easier on his front feet, and she said his lope felt better. 

I'm just happy that it's easier for him to move without discomfort. And now we know where to look when anything changes.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Horse shows are fun, aren't they?

Dear Diary, 

I went to a horse show in the moving box. Usually I go with Bubba, but this time, a girl named Gigi rode with me. She was a silly girl, stomping around in the moving box and asking, "Where are we? Where are we?" all the time. I told her we were going to a horse show, but she wasn't sure.

"How do you know?"

Well, I know because the day before, Auntie Niki took the clippers and buzzed them all over my legs and my face. And the next morning, MomToo gave me a really long bath with lots of soap, and scrubbed my head with a rag that I kept trying to grab.

When she put on my show pajamas, I knew where we were going.

I had a good time at the show. First, when we got there, I saw Bubba. He had come in a different moving box. It was nice to be at the show with him.

Next, I got to run around on the longe line. Then Auntie Niki rode me in the warm-up pen. I was very excited to see the arena where the judges were. All of the poles had plants around them, or pretty flowers. I needed to touch them all, and see if the plants tasted good. As Auntie Niki rode me around for the judges, I tried to get my mouth on any of the plants I came close to. I thought it was a fun game. I didn't notice that Auntie Niki wasn't having any fun...

...until she started to spank me. 

I was just reaching for the pretty flowers, when I felt her yank my head back and her legs kicked my belly. That was a DQ, I knew that! I was shocked - Auntie Niki doesn't DQ! We left the arena and she rode me around a little more, making sure she had my attention. 

Then she stopped and MomToo got on. We warmed up and then went to the judges' pen. MomToo had my reins a little short. I think she was worried that I was still interested in the plants. I was, but I had just been spanked. MomToo was very focused and rode me around the course without letting me do anything I wanted to do.

Auntie Niki was still mad at me, but said me and MomToo did really good. The judges gave us a 2 and a 4.

The next day, we just practiced. Practice is okay, but MomToo gets a lot of things wrong and we have to do them over and over. In between practicing, she stood close to my face while I tried to chew her shirt, and Auntie Niki pointed a square thing at us. She calls them "pictures."

Our last day was mostly like the first day, except I didn't try to grab any of the plants. When Auntie Niki and I went in to the judges' pen, I saw the lady with the big clicking box. She was in the bushes. Why was she in the bushes? I couldn't figure it out, so I did the next best thing. I tried to run away with Auntie Niki.

Boy, if she was mad when I grabbed the plants, it was nothing compared to when I tried to run. She spanked me the whole way around the course. Then she had MomToo get on me and ride me around and around and around. Finally we went to the judges' pen.

"Be good, Snoopy," MomToo whispered. "It's just the photographer."

I still wasn't sure about the lady in the bushes, but I had been spanked before, so I just put my head down and did what she said. We went around the course pretty well, I think. The judges gave us another 2 and a 4. 

We ended up being Circuit Champion. Auntie Niki wasn't so mad anymore.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Derby Day

I'm over at Equestrian Ink today, describing the horse show Snoopy and I went to last weekend. (Read it here -

We'll get Snoopy's version of the show later, but today is Kentucky Derby day. 

One of our lesson horses, a quarter horse mare named Sheza Justa Sandman (aka Sandy), is part Thoroughbred, and indirectly related to the Triple Crown. Her grandfather, Damascus, won both the Preakness and the Belmont in 1967, but came in second to Proud Clarion in the Derby. 

Here's a little newsreel about the race.

I think it's interesting how much things change yet remain the same. Racial tensions were running high in 1967. When will we be able to overcome this obstacle to peace?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Another edition of He Said, She Said

Snoopy: I almost died today.

Gayle: You didn't almost die. Although I thought you were going to kill me.

Snoopy: Well, you didn't protect me. All those little bugs were running up my nose.

Gayle: I am sorry about that, but they weren't little bugs. They were little fluffy seed pods from the field of weeds next door. You had fly spray on, but there's no repellent for flying plants. I know they were uncomfortable.

Snoopy: They wouldn't get out of my nose.

Gayle: I know. You kept stopping to shake your head all around. 

Snoopy: And then the hurricane came!

Gayle: It wasn't a hurricane.

Snoopy: The tornado came!

Gayle: It wasn't a tornado. It was a miniature whirlwind that picked up the dust and leaves, kind of like a waterspout with dirt, and blew across the arena.

Snoopy: It came right at me. I thought it was going to pick me up and carry me somewhere! It was scary and awful and I wanted to run away! You wouldn't let me run away!

Gayle: Well, no, I don't like being run away with. Not my favorite thing.

Snoopy: But I would have run where it was safe.

Gayle: Doubtful. I know you. You would have run some distance, stopped and looked at the wind, snorted, then run some more. Then repeated that until the wind died down.

Snoopy: You didn't have to grab me and pull me backward.

Gayle: True, and for that I am sorry. It's just, when you do your "I'm spooking" thing, you dip your butt and bring your front end up. It makes me feel like I'm going to fall off backward, so I lean forward and pull the reins. Then Niki starts yelling at me not to do that, but all I can think is, "What language is she using? Put my hands forward? What are hands? Sit back? Am I sitting at all?"  It's hard to learn to do the right thing.

Snoopy: It's okay. I forgive you.

Gayle: I forgive you, too, Snoopy. Let's not do that again, okay?

Snoopy: Not making any promises.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Glasses half empty. Glasses half full.

I haven't posted in a while. Here's the thing: Snoopy's been going through some issues with his legs. At first, we thought he had tweaked his left hind flexor tendon (I always want to call it a tendor flexon). We treated it with drugs and walking and it seemed to get much better. 

Except that when we started riding him again, his left lead suddenly felt different, as in, riding an off-kilter washing machine. His left hind leg just wasn't advancing enough to round his back and smooth the ride. Niki tried to push him into the right physical frame and he actually got mad at her, something he never does.

We thought it was up in his stifle, so we had Dr. Pollard out to watch him being ridden. The doctor was surprised, only in that what we saw wasn't what he saw. He did a flex test - this is where he holds a foot up for an extended period, then has the person lead the horse off at an immediate trot. He flexed all four feet, and what do you think he found?

It's Snoopy's front feet.

According to the doctor, Snoopy's showing the kind of stress on his front feet that jumpers show, from hitting the ground over jumps. This is all part of his ongoing need to compensate for a fused joint, a metal plate, and six screws. 

Anti-inflammatory drugs seem to be working. If they don't, then we'll go to injecting the hocks, then who knows? We're also going to talk to the farrier to see if there's anything we could do to his shoeing to help him out.

So why wasn't I detailing this excruciating process? Because Snoopy is 11 and has so far led a miraculous life. I keep telling myself that every day with him is a blessing, but the truth is, I want the blessings to continue. I want him to be the same horse he was last year, when I took him to shows and participated in the three-day trail challenge at the Pink Show.

I don't want him to show any signs of age, because I suspect he will not live as long as most horses.

The result is that I stayed under the radar, giving him drugs and walking him and denying that perhaps there are changes in his body that we have to adjust to, and some of those changes may mean the end of his riding and showing career.

We are taking him to his first show this weekend. It will be fairly low key, as he and I are both out of shape, and plan to just have fun and see what we can still do. If it works out, we will plan for the one in April.

One day at a time, one blessing at a time.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I got mail.

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a very nice holiday. I'm not really sure what a holiday is, but last month, MomToo brought me candy canes and carrots and apples, more than usual. So I guess holidays mean treats. 

I like holidays.

Now that it is the new year, I am another year older. I don't understand this, either. My birthday is April 28, but MomToo says all Quarter horses have their birthdays on January 1. I didn't get a cake or anything.

But I did get one thing new: a little metal box for my lunch.

Every day, Raul gives me a very special lunch. It's sweet, and salty, and kind of stinky. My MomToo tells me it's my supple mints. (MomToo's note: Snoopy is referring to his supplements of glucosamine, electrolytes, and garlic, all hidden in alfalfa & molasses.) I like my lunch, and whinny for it when I see Raul. I like Raul.

But one day, MomToo came out of the lunch room holding a box and saying bad words. We had a rat in the lunch room. Jet's mom said it was a big rat. MomToo said it had eaten my supple mints. She was mad.

"That stupid rat chewed completely through both plastic bins and ate their supplements." 

Then she went away.

When she came back the next morning, she brought two new boxes. She was smiling. Auntie Niki was laughing a little.

"What?" MomToo said. "It's metal."

"It's a mailbox," said Auntie Niki.

"Well if a rat chews through this, then I surrender."

I don't know what MomToo meant by that, but I'm happy to have a new metal box for my lunch. Rats don't share.