Moving Speedy to live next door to Izzy was the best decision I've made since ... well, since the last good decision I made. Sometimes I make good decisions in quick succession, other times, it takes me a really long time to figure out a solution.
Before moving in to the other half of Izzy's dry pasture, Speedy lived just a few feet behind where I was standing when I took this photo. For the first two years he lived at the ranch, he and Willy alternated who got to be out in the pasture and who stayed in their paddocks. They always shared a fence line. Over the past year, Willy left, Pixie, who lived in the adjacent pasture, was moved to live with Archie, and then Rocky also came and went.
Even before all that coming and going, Speedy was never all that happy living where he did. He paced and whirled if anyone left his sight. He walked the fence line at night. He just seemed anxious. Now? He still walks the fence line, and he still whinnies, but all the drama and angst are gone. Now he meanders and whinnies in that drawn out do I need to call you a wambulance? kind of way.
Given the depth of some his trails, he must do a lot of his walking at night because I never see him doing anything other than standing at the fence line with Izzy. And up until this week, I was at the barn for at least 4 hours every single day. Here's a close-up of the trail above.
When we first moved in, the ranch owner wondered why I didn't put the two horses side by side. Truthfully, I worried about them becoming even more herd bound than they already were. In the end, Speedy got what he wanted. No surprise there.
Having Speedy next door has made Izzy happier too. He's a lot quieter - he doesn't kick and bang on all of his toys or the fence or the gate anymore. Resting his toe on the rung of the gate while tapping it loudly used to be one of his favorite past times. Well, that and stomping on his over-turned feeder. He still digs, but the holes are for rolling and aren't nearly as numerous or as deep.
Who knew that bringing Speedy into the middle of everything would make him so much happier? I should have known better. Speedy always needs to be the center of attention. He now has Izzy next door, 3 horses to his north, and 4 horses to his south. He can see and be seen by every horse on the ranch. He lives to be admired, and if not by me, his peeps are the next best thing.
Super quick post - I am officially back to work as of yesterday, but it seems as though both horses are over their individual maladies. Universe, I am knocking on wood, so please refrain from sending me some other inconveniently irritating issue with which to contend.
When I got to the barn yesterday, Izzy had some dried tears on his face, but otherwise, his eye was clear with no swelling or obvious irritation. The cut in the corner looked much better. I didn't bother with syringing it since it looked perfectly healthy. I did cover his face with Swat though.
Yesterday, Speedy, who has walked through about 10 miles of duct tape over the past week, looked like he was ready to be ridden. I trotted him in hand over grass and the hard packed driveway on Saturday, and he looked 98% sound. I actually considered loading him up for the drive to Paso Robles to try and make Sunday's portion of the show. Sunday is the RAAC. And then common sense reared its very adult head.
The silver lining was that Speedy looked sound even if it was two days too late. I packed his foot with Numotizine over the weekend just in case there was a bit more of the abscess brewing.
I saddled him up yesterday afternoon even though it was 95*. I did our usual walking warm up which now includes lots of half passing. When he felt sound, I asked him to pick up a trot. It was flat and lazy, but it was even without the hint of a hitch. My plan was to do as much as he was okay doing. Before I knew it, we did a few medium trots across the diagonal along with some shoulder in to half pass. And just to really check his soundness, I asked for a canter with some flying lead changes.
And darn it all if he didn't nail them perfectly! While the October show at SCEC was only on my calendar as a back up plan, I am now planning on going for sure. It's a two-day USDF show, so it gives me another chance at earning a Bronze Medal score.
And then there's that show in December at El Sueno ...
Every summer and winter, Izzy's coat gets super light. This summer, I decided to try and keep the luxurious seal brown it gets in the spring and fall. I don't even recognize this horse. I don't think he's been that color since 2015.
This spring, I started topdressing his feed with Horse Guard's Flaxen Flow, a cold-pressed flaxseed oil. He's been on it for 5 months. It didn't keep his coat dark, but his coat is a lot shinier and softer than in summers past, and he has even kept some of his spring/fall dapples.
I now suspect that this color, this buckskin-esque blond, might be his natural summer/winter color while the seal brown is his spring/fall color. His RPSI Pferdepass (passport) lists his color as dunkelbraun, which translates as dark brown or black brown. Or in Izzy's case, just brown.
In other news, the big dunkelbraun horse really did a number on his eye over the weekend. There should be a rule that owners with more than one horse will never be required to medically treat more than one at a time. With Speedy's abscess needing daily packing and bandaging, it is not fair to also have to syringe and scrub out Izzy's eye.
The reason I have to keep such a well-stocked medical kit is because I need it at least three times a week. Someone is always whacking or scraping something, usually both at the same time. On Friday, Izzy probably laid down too close to the fence because his left foot had some gouges near his pastern and his left eye looked as though he'd been in a fight in which he lost. He has a small cut in the corner that's below his ear.
After hosing off his face and then scrubbing it with a soft towel, none of which he appreciated, I repeatedly syringed his eye with saline solution. He didn't appreciate that treatment either. I hand-grazed him for a while and realized that his eye wasn't affecting his soundness or his appetite, so I saddled him up and rode. Afterward, the eye was less swollen but still oozing.
The next morning, the ooze and swelling were gone, but the cut in the corner of his eye looked a bit more pronounced. I syringed it with more saline solution, and then I rode him. He seemed just fine. Eye injuries can quickly turn into something scary though, ask my friend Sarah whose gelding fought for three months to keep his own eye, so I am keeping a careful "eye" on things.
And finally, do you remember the photo I posted a few weeks ago of the new bunny who moved in? Well, he's getting tamer by the minute. He now comes running when he sees me pull up because he knows he's getting a handful of senior feed. Izzy introduced himself by pressing his nose deeply into the bunny's fur and taking a big long whiff. The poor bunny just hunkered down praying that Izzy wouldn't carry him off as breakfast. And that was it. Once Izzy satisfied his curiosity, the bunny was welcome to share his feed.
Life with horses is definitely not dull. There is always something to celebrate, medicate, or simply contemplate. It's what keeps me coming back for more.
Whew. This has been some kind of a week. Since I am not working right now, it's hard to complain about being busy, but there it is. My husband took the week off so that we could celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Which, by the way, if you still feel like a 20-something year old, realizing you've been married for a quarter of a century will quickly snap you back to reality. Having him home every day has just meant a busier than usual schedule.
On top of being at the barn every morning, I started the week with a pedicure. Not stressful, but one more thing on the list of things to do. We also dealt with barfing dogs all week. That ordeal deserves its own post. The quick version is that I cooked ground turkey meatballs (boiled - gross!) and rice every day for more than a week as we transitioned them to a new brand of dog food which will hopefully eliminate the barfing. So far so good.
On Tuesday, we drove over to the beach for lunch. Yes, that involved a 6-hour round-trip drive, but lunch was good. On Wednesday, I had an amazing body work appointment for myself (more on that next week.) I finally got a much needed haircut on Thursday which made me wonder at the things we insist we do for our horses but won't do for ourselves.
I also had a lesson on Thursday morning, the last one before we show again on Sunday. It's "just" a CDS show, but since realizing that I am not going to meet my one and only goal for this season - earning my USDF Bronze Medal, I've lowered my expectations to earning as many 60% scores as possible. We have two so far. I'd love to add another two on Sunday.
Today, I need to ride both horses, clean tack, and load my trailer for Sunday's show. I won't have time to do it on Saturday because my dad and step-mom, neither of whom we've seen in ... well, let's just call it ages, are coming for a long weekend. Unfortunately, the weather gods have decided that this weekend will be the hottest weekend we've had all summer. In fact it's going to be nearly as hot as it can get here. My poor parents; they're going to die.
We planned this trip to coincide with a show weekend so that they could both visit and watch me do my thing on Speedy. Too bad hell also decided to head north for the summer.
One last thing before I go: we acquired a bunny at the ranch, long story, but he finally got brave enough to check out Speedy's feed pan. I snapped a bunch of photos, but this one I loved because both the bunny and Speedy introduced themselves to one another in the quietest, softest way possible. It reminded me of how much more gently we should tread as we interact with one another, both in real life and on social media.
Have a great weekend!
I left the barn at 11:00 p.m. Friday night, only to roll back in at 7:30 a.m. the next morning. I hadn't received a text from the ranch owner so I knew that nothing was wrong, but I needed to check Speedy myself. At first glance, he looked relaxed, if a bit thin.
I left him to his breakfast and saddled up Izzy. Even he was a bit distracted by Speedy being in Pixie and Archie's dry lot. There was a fair amount of hollering at first, but eventually all of the horses settled down when they realized we were just going to the arena and no further.
After riding Izzy, I pulled Speedy out for a good going over making sure I hadn't missed anything. The night before, I had hosed him off, but it was too dark to see anything other than a gaping wound (of which he didn't have). In the light of day, I noticed that his pasterns looked crusty and scabby.
I now know why he was so sore the day before. The rubs weren't there on Friday, and he didn't wear the bell boots on Friday night, the night of the earthquake. I think the rubs just took a day before popping out. I filled a bucket with clean water and iodine prep solution. I grabbed a clean towel and a variety of ointments and skin topicals. Three of his four pasterns bore rub marks from the bell boots, the very items I used to protect him. They ranged in severity from very slight on the front pastern, to obviously painful in the back.
We have a two-day USDF show this weekend, so I have been babysitting those rubs like crazy. The front one is no longer a concern, and one of the back ones looks pretty decent. The other one? It's a mess. He's sound, but it can't feel good. I am scrubbing them clean each day and coating them with coconut oil and adding a layer of Scarlex for good measure.
he ranch owner and I had a long chat about Speedy. He's lost three pasture pals since last fall. First, Pixie was moved over to live with Archie, and then Willy was sold. Speedy's latest pasture mate, Rocky, only stayed a month or so before moving up to the mountains. Frankly, he's been quite stressed out by the loss of his companions.
We decided that Speedy might be happier if we moved him into half of Izzy's dry lot pasture. Izzy's field is crossed fenced with an open gate that allows him access to both sides. Both areas have their own access gate, lots of trees for shelter, and for Speedy, two mares live directly in front of the half that is now his. I dragged all of Speedy's particulars to his new home: his feed bucket, salt block, a water trough, and a tub for his hay. I am hoping this will keep him from feeling so isolated. And so far, the pacing and whirling have disappeared. Even when I take Izzy out he's not concerned.
I've resisted putting my boys so close together out of fear that Speedy will grow too attached to Izzy and really freak out when I separate them. Jokes on me, I guess. The weird thing was that as soon as they were side by side, all three of us took a deep, relaxing breath. My sense of symmetry and balance was satisfied, and both boys looked instantly at peace.
In summation, Operation Bubble Wrap was an epic failure. The only good thing that came out of it all was that Speedy now lives right next door to Izzy which makes things a little more convenient for me. Here's to hoping this is a long term fix for Speedy's anxiety. He could really use some quiet time.
And that's that.
So where were we? Oh, yes, Kern County had just been rocked by one of the biggest earthquakes in recent memory, and the neighbors were busy shooting off illegal fireworks the day after the 4th of July.
I've lived in California my whole life excluding being born in Alaska - my dad was in the army and stationed at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, and living abroad my senior year of high school. Earthquakes are just a thing. No one worries about them, and in fact, they generate a lot of excited buzz when one happens.
This one, this earthquake? It was HUGE. Unless you live in a cave, you've probably seen the video clips of water sloshing out of pools (ours looked like Fatty McFatso had just done a ginormous cannonball), cracked roads, and fires burning. We didn't just feel it, we braced ourselves against the wall and waited ... and waited ... and waited some more for the earth to stop heaving and rolling.
We knew it was a big quake. A few weeks ago, we felt a 3.4 quake with an epicenter immediately below us. That was weird. I was riding Izzy during the 6.4 quake that happened on July 4th and didn't feel a thing. This one though, we felt it, and since we felt it in Bakersfield, 80 miles from Ridgecrest, we knew it had to be colossal. We were right.
About 30 minutes after Friday night's earthquake, I got a call from the ranch owner telling me that Speedy was in trouble. I threw on a pair of boots and hustled out there. Before I even made it to his paddock, I stopped by the feed room for a tube of Dormosedan that I'd been saving for an emergency.
The ranch owner had Speedy's halter in hand, but she hadn't been able to get close to him. I couldn't blame her. It was pitch black, and Speedy was simply terrified. Whether the earthquake had started the panic attack or not, the fireworks coming from across the river were driving it. Speedy bolted past me without even glancing my direction. Little by little I was able to affect his direction of flight until he suddenly noticed me. I quickly threw my arms around him and slid the halter on.
He body was dripping a sticky, foamy sweat, his eyes were rolling about frantically, and the veins stood out in his neck. We moved him away from his paddock to the hay barn where I quickly shoved the syringe of Dormosedan under his tongue. It's a sublingual sedative that takes about 40 minutes to work.
We pushed Speedy to the back side of the barn where two of the ranch's senior citizens live. Speedy is great friends with Pixie and immediately let some of his tension go when he saw her. I grabbed a hose and started spraying him off hoping to cool him down as well as distract him. I tossed him a flake of hay and stood chatting with the ranch owner as Speedy's terror slowly dissipated.
The ranch owner moved Pixie and Archie to the grass pasture immediately adjacent to their dry lot so that Speedy could spend the night near them and away from the fireworks. The Dormosedan began to work much more quickly that I had expected, so within a half an hour, Speedy's head was hanging.
By that time, the ranch owner had headed back to the house, and I was left to sit with my sedated snowflake. I eventually worried about how heavily sedated he appeared to be. I didn't want him to fall over, so I ran back to the feed room and grabbed my stethoscope. Public Service Announcement: if you don't yet have one, get yourself one and practice using it. Every few minutes I took Speedy's pulse. He clocked in at a slightly elevated 44 beats per minute (32 - 36 bpm is the normal resting rate for most equines). Once he found some hay scraps, it jumped to 52 bpm which actually made me feel better because it only spiked a few extra beats.
Dormosedan lasts anywhere from 1 - 3 hours. After about 90 minutes, Speedy began perking up enough to wander around, sniffing out hay. I had tossed most of it to Pixie and Archie (sedated horses really shouldn't eat or drink), but there was a pile up near the fence in front of which Speedy settled himself. By that time, it was 11:00 p.m., I felt it was safe to leave him. The fireworks had passed, he had taken a long drink of water, peed, rolled, and was now hungry.
I went to bed hoping that Saturday morning would bring an end to Operation Bubble Wrap. It did not. To be continued yet again ...
To my complete relief, the neighbors across the river didn't make a peep on the 4th of July. I was almost mad; I had done a lot of prepping to cover Speedy's body in "horse friendly" armor, all for nothing
Early the next morning, I pulled in to the barn to see Speedy pacing. He was not at all pleased about being kept in all night. I tried to explain to him that it was for his own safety, but it was all a bunch of yada, yada, yada, to him.
I pulled off his leg wraps, bell boots, and fly sheet. His body looked injury free, and I breathed a big sigh of relief. One of the tell-tale signs that he's been anxious over-night is that his coat will be crusty with dried sweat and dirt. So while I know he paced most of the night - the dirt in his paddock was all shoved out at the end, he hadn't worked himself up to a sweaty mess.
Knowing a long stretchy walk would do him good, I decided to tack him up and meander the neighborhood, something he always enjoys. From the first step, I knew something was amiss. His stride was short but evenly so on all four legs. He also acted like he'd been freshly trimmed. He minced forward, practically on his tippy toes.
I urged him down the driveway, keeping to the pebble-free cement and grassy shoulder. Knowing that he was clearly uncomfortable, I circled back to the ranch, aiming for every grassy path I could find. While on grass, he seemed fine. Knowing that he had paced and whirled most of the night, I chalked up his tender-footedness to having walked too many miles the night before.
I pulled Speedy's tack and sent him into the yard to graze while I rode Izzy. By the time I was finished, Speedy was standing in the grass half asleep with his lip drooping and his hind leg cocked. Knowing that he wasn't likely to cause much trouble, I decided to leave him turned out in the dry pasture rather than cooping him up yet again in his paddock. Since we had made it through the 4th of July relatively unscathed, I turned him loose with just a fly sheet and fly mask, no bell boots or leg wraps.
That would probably have been fine except that California chose that night to once again shake holy hell out of Kern County. As if that weren't enough, the neighbors across the river decided that fireworks post Independence Day paired nicely with a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Speedy lost his marbles.
To be continued ...
Between the fireworks on the 4th and the continuing earthquakes, Speedy's last couple of days have been rather rough. He's okay, but he is definitely getting a few days off to recover.
If we're friends on Facebook, you already saw the machinations and launch of Operation Bubble Wrap (OBW). The 4th of July kind of sucks if you own horses and dogs. Everyone is okay - mostly, but it was a stressful holiday for team Speedy.
Speedy does not like the 4th of July. He does not like barbecues. He's also not too fond of New Year's Eve. Basically, he's a big party pooper.
Early last week, the ranch owner and I discussed how to get Speedy safely through the 4th of July holiday. We all know what he can do to himself on a day without explosions and flashing lights. The first thing that we always do when the activity level exceeds his threshold of acceptance is to restrict his movement.
Speedy lives in a large paddock during the day, but at night his gate is opened to allow him turnout when things are quiet and not likely to press his over-react button. When anything unusual happens, like when the neighbors throw a party, he gets locked in at night. I've found that while he's protesting the noise by hurtling his body through space, he can't pick up as much steam in his paddock.
Given that limiting his space to run wild hasn't eliminated his ability to rip himself to shreds, I decided to cover as much of his body as possible. On July 3rd, many people start their fireworks display, so I did a dress rehearsal. I wrapped only his front legs hoping that he would leave the bandages alone. I didn't want to do all four legs at once in case he freaked out because of leg wraps.
Then I started covering the rest of his body. He got his regular fly mask, and I covered him with a fly sheet that I had tried a few years ago. The first time he wore the flysheet HE. HATED. IT. which is why I never used it again. For this go-round, he acted as though he wears a flysheet daily. Win-win I figured.
I left him on July 3rd with my fingers crossed that Operation Bubble Wrap would work. To my surprise, everything was still in place on the 4th. The sheet was undamaged, the wraps were snug and clean, and the bell boots were firmly velcroed.
I took everything off, gave him a good grooming - he was ITCHY, and then rode him long enough to get him good and tired. I figured it couldn't hurt to wear him out a little. That alone can minimize his desire to run wildly. I gave him a bath, turned him out in the yard to graze while he dried, and then I reapplied everything, including the bell boots and wraps on his hind legs. Operation Bubble Wrap was launched, and I all could do was wait and see if it kept him safe.
To be continued ...
I'm a teacher, so books and stories are frequently on my mind, especially Laura Numeroff's series about the mouse who gets a cookie and then wants a glass of milk to go with it. When children's literature or even adult literature comes up as a topic on Jeopardy, my husband just looks to me for the answers. Books are kind of my jam. Anyway, in the story, giving the mouse his glass of milk leads to another request and another and another. You get the idea.
Summer has arrived here, so I can't spend quite so much time in the saddle. I guess it's less can't and more don't want to. I still like being at the ranch though, so even though it was a bazillion degrees a week or so ago, I decided to clean some tack. After I did that, I hosed out a bucket. And then it was on!
With cool water to splash on my face and a tank top to get a little sun on my shoulders, I started looking for other things to clean. The next thing I knew, I had drug out a bleach bottle and every grooming tool in my arsenal. Everything went into the bucket. Several times actually.
The more things I scrubbed, the more things I found to scrub. I scrubbed things that have never been cleaned before and others that should have been cleaned long ago. Before long, I had quite a pile of wet and drippy things drying in the million degree heat.
And then I washed three pairs of gloves and a couple of extra buckets. While I was searching for even more things to hose off, I realized that the feed room/tack room was now a mess. Somehow, stuff that should have been shelved neatly had found a new home on the floor.
Most of the junk on the floor was a result of consolidating my grooming tools into one portable bucket. That was a great idea, but I am not 6 years old. Things can't live on the floor. There is no before photo because I am lame, but here's what happened after my hurricane of a cleaning frenzy whipped through the room.
I know it looks as though it needs to be organized, but trust me, there is a system to the madness.
I've never kept my horses anywhere that had a true dressage court. Maybe someday... At the last barn where I boarded, the owner was fine with me laying poles from Home Depot on the ground to form a short dressage court. When I moved to the current ranch where my boys live now, I just never set my poles up again. For First Level, and even Second Level, the lack of a measured space didn't seem to have too much of an impact on my dressage scores. The same can't be said of Third.
After last weekend's show, I showed up bright and early to the ranch and asked if it would be okay to assemble a dressage court. The ranch owner is a kind woman and supports Speedy and me however she can. She instructed Reggie, the ranch's doer of things, to drag the arena and bring my poles over with the tractor. I spent the next two hours measuring and placing poles. I ended up with a 20 x 48-meter dressage court.
With my poles laid out, I added my orange cones that have the letters taped to one side. Since it's not 60-meters long, I had to decide where to modify the length. I subtracted 2.5 meters from each 12-meter section, and 1-meter from each 6-meter section. While it's tight at H,M,F, and K, it will feel like I have oodles of room once I am back in a standard length court.
The first day I rode in my new space, I wanted to kick myself for not setting up my poles THREE YEARS ago when I first moved to the ranch. It was a whole different experience riding from letter to letter and actually using a measured-out center line. I could see how this is going to improve my test riding accuracy as well as the over-all quality of our movements.
With my spaced measured out, I decided that the cones weren't a good every day solution. I've used them before, but not only are they hard to see, any time there is a puff of wind, they get knocked over and blown away. I've had to hunt them down after a windy evening, and I didn't really relish the idea of looking for them every morning. I went back to the ranch owners and asked if they had something heavy that could serve as my letters. No they didn't but what about using ...
A quick trip to the grocery store, and I had just what I needed. I bought square water jugs and printed two of each letter on a piece of paper so that I could apply a letter to the "front" and "side" of each jug. This way, I was able to angle the jugs so that I can see the letter no matter from which direction I ride.
I cut the letters to size with a paper cutter and affixed them to each jug with packaging tape. For less than $10 (I already had 4 jugs), I had new letters that wouldn't blow over, were essentially water proof, and were cheap to replace if kicked or damaged.
The whole project took me less than an hour, and they look really good! I even added the center line letters in red although I can't see them when riding. That's something I can always fix later on.
I was pleasantly surprised by how easy they are to see while riding. If I thought having long sides and a 20-meter short side were helpful, having letters is a game changer! As I rode, I was able to keep my figures much more round and even, particularly on Izzy. Even he seemed to like the new set-up. It was like driving a car out in a field versus driving on the freeway with marked lanes. Izzy just seemed to know where I wanted him to go!
We're supposed to have one last lesson tonight before Sunday's CDS-show. I can't wait for Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, to see my new work space. Hopefully it will help me improve my geometry. It certainly can't make it any worse!
If you're interested in using water jugs yourself, or some other similar material, I'm leaving a pdf of the arena Ietters I created. Just download and print.