Monday, September 15, 2008

Beyond Words

I know I was going to blog about Bringing up Baybe, but as usual, things change.

My normal daily routine is to roll out of bed at 5 am, let the dogs out, turn on the computer and make coffee. I usually read while I am having that first cup and the dogs are playing outside. I am not awake or truly coherent until I get a couple cups of coffee.

Friday morning was really no different, same routine, same batch of emails.......except one.......

I know my heart stopped for just a millisecond......but it was long enough for the tears to flow and uncontrollable crying to begin.

I write this blog mostly for my own therapy, not to win any awards or to impress anyone. I write about my experiences, goals, triumphs and failures with my horses. It helps me get away from the frustration of the day. I have been unable to think properly about anything since Friday morning and my house is way too clean! Busy work is best for me when dealing with news I don't like or can't bear.

You would think that if you only live 3 miles from someone and that you have been friends for a while and you have similar interests and goals, "that" someone would give you the courtesy of a phone call to tell you bad news. Nope, I got an email........from a person I thought was a friend and cared about my feelings.

The email? Well, it contained news that a very nice mare I sold 18 months ago had been put down due to colic/liver/kidney issues. It is not even clear what really was wrong with her. It read like instead of trying to do everything possible, people just "decided" to give up on her. It was a cowardly email.

When Cool Hand Lukens was diagnosed with IR/Cushings/Founder.......we did everything we could to make his life better. I also contacted his breeder and his long time prior owner, via email. Why Email? Because I did not know them. Luke was 20 and his condition hit him hard and fast. He lost his desire to eat and would/could not walk anymore. Four months of treatment did not relieve him of his pain or depression. The decision was made to finally put him to rest.

But I knew these people........I knew the owner of the boarding stable and I knew the owner of my mare. Yes, my heart hurts at the loss of the mare......such a waste! She was only 7 years old and had never ever been ill her entire life. I was her owner from the time of her weaning, I trained her, I trail rode her, I competed her.........She was the horse that didn't fit here. She deserved every test available..........liver and kidney failures are rare in horses.......was it something that was fed to her? Something in her drinking water? Some nasty weed in her day paddock? So much beauty and talent, gone!

My brain hurts from thinking, trying to figure it out myself........I am no vet, never will I claim to be. The very same feelings as when my own dear father died in an auto accident have enveloped me. I looked for closure where none was to be found. I look for reasons why. I would love to have had the chance to drive to her location, just to say good-bye to her and hold her and let her know someone really did care.

It does no good now, it is done, over, finished! I sold her, so therefore, I should be treated this way?

She was a beauty. She was purely honest. She was exciting to ride. She was delightful to train.  She showed me moments of brilliance as a future competitor. She hugged you. She was delicate as a flower and tough as nails all put together. I felt good she was sold locally so I could see her on occasion.

Why do I do this to myself? Why are people so cold and heartless? Why do we love these animals so damn deeply?

The questions are still killing me, it has only been three days. I know I need more time to get over the shock of how fast she went downhill and how quickly people gave up on her. Being angry is not going to bring her back or make it better. Time will soften this. The memory of sweet, beautiful Classy will forever be in my heart.

Run are free forever now

Monday, September 8, 2008

Training............the whys and hows comes

Kindergarten training, elementary training, middle school training, high school training and college. Yep, horses go through the very same thing our kids go through. Some get through school with no problems, some get set back a year and some have to get tutored. I am the last person to claim I am a trainer. I can take a horse through middle school training, but the upper high school moves and college, I will leave that to the experts. I put good basic training on all my horses and every horse is ready at 5 years old to go off to their new home and be a reliable and safe riding horse.

But training should never be stopped. The horse should always be learning and not be bored. Just like people, we get a little bit of knowledge and it fuels our mind to acquire more knowledge, the horse is the same, they need to grow and expand their training all the time. It keeps them happy to run over and put their halter on themselves (if they could).

Kindergarten is all the basics a horse should know before they are a year old. Halter, leading, loading, bathing, clipping, standing tied. Leading at a walk, trot and standing patiently. Turning right or left at the walk or trot. Backing up. Picking up their feet on cue. Moving away from pressure. All of this is from the ground, taught in-hand with patience and kindness.

I take each and every one of the babies through these same basics as much as possible. We hand walk them everywhere. Babies get excited when they run and if you have ever watched a foal run with it's mother, they are very close to their momma's side....that gives them confidence and when you run with a foal in-hand, they want to do the very same thing with you. But I am not a 1200 lb horse, so baby gets to learn to run at arms length first and only for very short distances. Foals do not have a very long attention span. You get about 5 minutes of their brain, if you are lucky. But you can get 5 minutes several times a day. Soon, they are looking for you to come and get them, it takes about 2 weeks of repeatedly hand walking them and then they see you and they whinny! Come and get MEEEEEE! Yep, they are people loving critters and they like to learn. If they are bored, just like human children, they can cause trouble. Better to keep them learning than to end up with a 500 lb brat you can't lead to the barn or doctor if need be.

Our horses go places, not just down the road for a trail ride, so they HAVE to have manners. Foals like to play and they can play rough. Teaching manners early on in their life, just like their own momma does, will pay off big! Outings to shows where you are alone showing your horse, it is good to know your horse will stand tied to the trailer w/o causing a commotion, so you can go to the bathroom or whatever else you need. I have even used the Honey Buckets with my horse standing outside the door. Going on group trail rides and not worrying if your horse is going to be nasty to the other horses. Going into an arena to practice your new move for the week and not having to worry about being alone or with a bunch of horses. Manners and behavioral training make all this possible.

You probably ask yourself, why are they ready at 5 years old and not 3 years old. Well, let's just put it this way, if I have a foal for sale, which I do on occasion, the buyer must be savvy to training or have a plan for training. I prefer to sell to people who intend to show their horse in some fashion. I do not expect every buyer to be headed towards the Olympics, but I want the horses we produce to have some sort of future. Without training, they will be worthless. I also do not put pressure on our horses to be finished for riding by 3 years of age. That would mean lots of things have to happen before the horse is even 2 years old. A 2 year old is not ready mentally or physically for the work. Then there is longevity. Horses should not break down before they are 10 years old. At 10, they are supposed to be prime candidates for higher level training. If started out too young, the chances of them being useless pasture ornaments becomes much higher. There is also scientific evidence that says a horses skeletal structure does not fully mature until 6 years old. So no, you will not find a "Been there, done that" 4 year old on my place. That is the whys and the hows comes!

Next blog...........Bringing up Baybe

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

We're off to the Show

There is nothing like the anticipation of going to show your horse! I raced motocross once upon a time, for nearly four years, yes it was fun, but bikes just can't seem to give you that same warm and fuzzy feeling like showing your animal does.

Yep, we give baths here to horses. I once had a man here to do some tree removal, he was a big horse rancher from Montana. He looked at my cross tie posts with the mat on the ground and asked me if that was some sort of horse torture device? I had to laugh, I said why yes sir it is to some horses, that is where they get bathed. His eyes got real big and said "Bathed!?, Cain't say I ever gave a horse a bath, don't know why you would either." Well that was funny and all, but yes, we bathe horses here, right down to squeaky clean pink skin. Appaloosa horses, like Paints, either have some white or are mostly white and if you have ever tried to show a white horse, well, they just don't show well without a bath. The day before a show is busy with bathing, main and tail combing, braiding and clipping/shaving. Yep, we do that nasty unwanted hair removal too! Mostly because Judges like a well turned out horse, if you dress nice and your horse is "dressed up" nicely, Judges appreciate that!

The horses that are being shown will get stalled after their baths, tails bagged and vet wrapped and sleazies on if we are doing Halter classes. No, they do not particularly like wearing all that garb, but they tolerate it quite well!

After the horses are all taken care of and bedded for the evening, attention turns to packing the trailer. OMG, you would think we were leaving for a month! But I just hate getting to the show and not having what I need. Bandages, vet wrap, braiding kit, ice packs, leg wraps, leg boots, hoof boots, blankets, pads and oh my, yes the list goes on. I invariably will forget something, it never fails! But the more I do this, the better at it I get. The horses only care that I brought them enough feed and a bucket for water. They are pretty light travelers! Haha!

I pack my show clothing (which is another subject altogether) and then food. I try to sleep....I end up going over and over the classes I am going to enter the next day. What order were they again, how should I dress in the morning? Can we do that Western Riding Pattern class yet? Should I scratch that one? Oh, the mind just is so very busy thinking about what is coming. Yes, it is exciting to go and show. I like to groom up my animals and take them out in public, but the pressure we put on ourselves is much too intense.

Early in the morning I load up the horses I am taking. My little dog goes along too, he is a good traveler and keeps me company. I feed and pet the horses I leave behind, promising to take them too someday, 'cept for the old gal Josie, she just does not need to do this anymore! Then we pull out and head down the road. Sometimes our drive is only a few minutes and sometimes it can be half a day. But it is always the same upon arrival......find the stalls and get them out of the trailer. My horses all travel well, but if we are at our destination I want them off the trailer asap! Watered and fed, they are one less thing to worry about while entry fees are paid and paperwork is dealt with!

Taking your horse into an "unknown" arena is an experience all by itself. I try to take them in as soon as possible in their halter and lead ropes and we walk around the entire arena, getting to know the banners and gates and judges stands and whatever else might be interesting or worrisome.

Then it is saddle up and ride, practice, warm up or just mosey around. Once that is done, they are off for the evening and I can relax.

Show morning is usually a mixture of half dressed, half tacked and hurry up, your class is on in ten minutes.......aaaaaahhhhh! But we get our butts in line, on time and I am usually excited to the max then! Smile Casper, perky ears and he does it, right on cue!

We have fun, we laugh, we make mistakes and we don't always win, sometimes we don't even place, sometimes we learn from the judges what we both can do better for next time. And sometimes we go back to the stall wondering what just happened in there, we were good, we looked good, we were turned out super.......but every judge is different and we have learned to accept that. Lots of times it is all my fault, I ended at the left of a cone instead of on the right, or something stupid and idiotic like that. But we always have fun! I believe my enthusiasm rubs off on my horses......they feel it and they too are happy to perform for me!

After the first day, I am tired, the horses are just happy to stand in one place and eat. We do so many different classes, the running back and forth for tack/clothing changes wears us out! But it is a good, worn out feeling. We accomplished the task we set before ourselves and it always feels good!

Some of the shows we go to are two days and some are three, but most are only one day shows and the last night is usually spent hanging out with other horse people, eating, chatting and laughing about the days events. Sleep comes easily after a long day of riding in this that and the other. Packing up in the morning, feeding, cleaning stalls and saying good bye to folks I won't see until next year. Yep, another show behind us and another coming up. Spring and Summer is a wonderful time for Show people and their horses!

next blog..........Training, the whys and hows comes!