Saturday, July 11, 2009

An Adventure without Spots

In late October of 2008, our county confiscated 14 horses from a plot of land near a town called Springdale. Now there are all kinds of jokes about Springdale, in some instances, they are all true. But there are some hard working folks that live there too!

I got a call from a friend involved in the rescue of these 14 horses. Two were Thoroughbred mares in very sad shape. They were going to haul them over to me the next day. Hubby and I knew what we were doing, but man did we neglect to think through the heartache, anger and longevity!

The two mares came to our farm and were unloaded. I was aghast, literally dumbfounded! So much emotion came boiling up inside of me, all I could do was express the anger. The person who did this to these horses needed to be shot! That was all I could muster.

The photo does not really show just how bad these two mares were. My forum friends helped me name them...Reddi and Willing. So here they were, dehydrated, full of worms, bad hooves, skinny as hell, tail heads sticking up, spine protruding, hip bones sticking out, rain rot too....and just generally looking like coat racks! The worst of the two, Reddi, had unholy diarrhea something awful. It was just green liquid. It was the first thing we needed to fix. With food and water in front of them our journey started.

For Reddi, the journey lasted 3 weeks. She was too far gone. Her gut never got working properly. She did not quit in her mind, but her body gave out. We called the vet at 4 am to have her euthanize Reddi. The struggle was too much for her system and she was down in her stall. It was heart wrenching but a relief too. She would no longer have to suffer.

For Willing, she got through it. I don't think Willing's before photo really shows how bad she was. A bay horse from a distance never really shows any strong detail, not like a light colored horse.

Willing also had a split in her right front hoof, a bad split. The farrier took good care of it and now, after 8 months, it is only partially visible. Her feet look great today!

Her weight came up, slowly, but that is how you want weight gain on a severely emaciated horse. Just like with people, losing weight too fast or gaining it too fast is hard on the system. She had a cozy stall during the day time and a blanket everyday. She started to look good around January. I let her have different companions throughout winter. She got along with all my mares. She even spent some time with Andy. He adored her and she nuzzled on him.

By April, she was ready to enjoy the sunshine without the blanket. I moved her into a grassy paddock with my Thoroughbred mare, Kinky. The two of them are good buddies now. Maybe too good!

It was time to find her a home. I was very picky, I wanted her to have a forever home. I did not want to keep her, but she deserved to have a person to love her. She really is very sweet. I have a friend who is a very experienced trainer. His opinion of Willing was she would just need a refresher course and she would make a decent riding companion. Well, I trust his judgement, so that is how I promoted her.

Many called or emailed. Only a few actually showed up to meet her. One in particular seemed like a good match. I visited that persons place, it seemed safe and accommodating for Willing. She would have a 3 yo companion and lots of food!

But when it came time to load Willing in the trailer, well, she was having none of that. We spent hours, the biggest problem was Willing would get frightened and rear up and almost over backwards. Yep, she was going to be a challenge alright! This act also scared off the potential new owner. So it was back to the drawing board for Willing. In the meantime, she was getting fat and shiny in the clover patch!

So, my trainer friend came over to assist me with helping Willing load. That guy is simply amazing....he had her loaded twice in an hour. All nice and calm too! THAT is why HE is a trainer! I believe he is correct in his assessment of Willing. She just needs a patient, kind and persistent person for her new owner. Love ya Mike!

So, now Willing is ready to meet any and all new prospective owners. She will be taking interviews, so make sure you contact me (her agent)!

Friday, July 10, 2009

To Geld or not To Geld.........easy question! easy answer!

In October, we had Andy (the leopard foal in the main photo for this blog) gelded. I have had so many folks ask me why did I do that?

Let's just say first off, there are enough stallions in the world, it doesn't need one more! And a stallion must have the qualities the breed is looking to reproduce. Andy is a fine horse specimen. He is sweet, smart, athletic and easy on the eyes. But there really is more to being a stallion than just those qualities.

In the business of breeding Appaloosa horses, one must always consider color in addition to the basic requirements of conformation, talent, disposition and demeanor. Andy will NOT have what it takes to create Appaloosa horses without help from a homozygous Appaloosa mare. He can contribute a lot of good qualities to a foal, but color is not one of them. He is only half Appaloosa, which means he is not dominant for color (LP) production. He may have some slight contribution, but it is highly unlikely he could put any color onto a foal from an improperly selected mare. Which is probably what someone would do.

In the current state of the horse market, a well behaved and trained gelding has more of a chance at getting a good home than a stallion........really!

If I had not gelded Andy and he sold to a breeder, will that breeder know what type of mares should be bred to him?? Chances are, no. And another trashy appy breeding program producing solids, with no value as Appaloosas, would be born. I don't want that for any of my foals. If I had decided to keep Andy intact, then I would have kept him for myself. But I have no use for another stallion, I am quite happy with the one I have. And if I decide to keep Andy (because I really, really like him and I am toying with keeping him) he is going to make his dad proud as a competitive horse. He has the ability to compete in a variety of disciplines, which is what we strive for here and proving that with one of his offspring is very tempting!

But as a breeder with a purpose in mind, I would not sell Andy to another breeder. He is just not needed in the pool of stallions. But he is going to make an awesome kids horse with the potential to take a good rider to the winners circle!

If I were not an Appaloosa breeder (think color plus all other aspects of breeding), then I would most certainly think Andy has potential as a stallion, sort of. He has size, he has brains, he has disposition..........but he is young still and things always change. My 5 year old gelding was gelded at two.......because he did not color out and he did not have the attitude to be a stallion.

So, there is lots to consider when you are presented with a colt and not a filly. And with the spaying of mares becoming simpler, less dangerous and cheaper.......we can get more undesirable horses out of the gene pool!!

The Harness Thing

You put it you put it you put it on!

Those are the words that ran through my head after I first removed my new harness from the bag it came in. I sat staring at this spaghetti works pile of leather at my feet and I wondered where do I start? It can't be that terribly hard to put this apparatus on, people have been doing it for 100's of years. I am a relatively smart person, I can figure this out. Really!?

I am fortunate that my horse is patient. It took me about 90 minutes to put this "thing" together the first time I used it. I am a rider and I believe less is more.....a harness has way more "things" to it than I thought necessary.

I put on the surcingle first and then I toyed with the girth and loops and multiple straps for attaching it to my horse's body. What strap is supposed to be tight and what strap should be left loose? Then there is the breast collar, which is absolutely useless if you are just ground driving. Then there is the breeching straps and the crouper....again, more useless leather. But my thoughts were that my horse should get used to all this "stuff", but how? If I have no cart to pull, where do you attach all this extra stuff! With the blinker bridle on, Casper could not see all the crap drapping down his body...if he did see it, I am sure I would get a look of "WTH Mom!".

We spent the fall together at this "Harness Thing", he has dragged a lot of stuff and he is getting good at listening to me. I have him on a rubber bit for now, 'cause I am just not sure what I am doing. I do get instructions now and then from my Judge friend who has driven horses. She comes over as I am, do we still say "tacking up?".........and tells me what I am doing wrong and how to fit the harness properly and what piece of leather does what. I can now "harness" Casper in less than 15 minutes and we work for about an hour. I can drive him from behind or from either side. He is staying put on the track he is on and is no longer trying to "huddle" up to me when we drive. When I am behind him (thank goodness he has a cute butt, I wonder what folks who drive with ugly butted horses look at?) he moves out nicely, trots on voice command and turns left and right in a smooth and slow manner. At first, it was very awkward and thank you lord I do not have a cart yet, 'cause it could be quite scary when your horse gets confused during the learning stage! I am sure if I had a horse that knew nothing I would be getting "dragging" instead of "driving"! Yep, beginners need to learn harness driving with a quiet and safe horse. I am sure that as I progress with this new discipline that we both will get more comfortable with it, but for now, we are still in the learning stage and I am grateful Casper is easy to work with.

My first cart is just around the corner and man, people will sell you anything! People will build anything and attach it to their horse. I have a friend who I have sent photos of carts I think might work for Casper and I, and she puts the kabash on them. Then there are some that even I wouldn't attach to a horse. Metal shafts are OK, but wood is better. Nice seating and a platform are great too, but a little suspension would be good. Balance is also important, a cart that is heavy on the shafts is not going to be comfy for the horse and then you don't want the cart to also be light on the shafts, threatening to flip your horse upwards.

So, there is a lot to this driving business. With winter coming, visions of that one horse open sleigh have taken on new meaning for me. I no longer think Santa and snow fairies, I think smooth long turns and quiet easy stops.

I am going to have to get some photos taken of Casper and I while we are "working out". He is going to make a very cute driving horse, he has good knee action and a nice determined "get there" expression on his face!

(I wrote this last fall, then winter hit. And winter hit us hard! So no cart then, but stay tuned, I have my own sweet training cart now and I will blog about it soon!)