Sunday, December 30, 2012

The dreaded "C" word

Many horsefolk have what could be politely described as salty language.  With as much poop mucking, genitalia cleaning, and rectal thermometer-inserting as we do, primness evaporates and leaves the coarse salt behind.  The highly offensive "C" word to us is not a crude term for vagina--it's COLIC.  (Horsefolk run away screaming, protecting their sensitive ears.)

What is colic, my nonhorsey friends?  (Horsey friends, feel free to correct/add details in the comments.)  Think of it as a severe stomach ache.  Horses' digestive tracts are designed to be constantly moving.  They eat all day, and thus, poop all day (an average of about 12 daily bowel movements).  If anything slows, stalls, or :::shudder::: stops this process, it causes the horse considerable pain and distress.  Sometimes it can be just gas; sometimes it can be lack of water keeping the foodstuffs from flowing.  Sometimes, however, the cause is far more silent and insidious.

Over time, intestinal stones can form due to issues with feed (too much calcium, for one; swallowing sand with their feed, for another), blocking intestines and causing them die and turn black as they rot within the animal.  Other times, the gut can literally be twisted and kinked like a garden hose.  In those cases, expensive and risky surgery is your only hope.

Usually, though, you can catch the colic before it reaches that point.  Usually.  Signs of distress include a disinterest in eating, lack of manure piles, rolling (they're trying to relieve gut pain), sweating, and eyes bugged with stress and worry.  Instructions are typically keep the horse up and walking, remove food, give them copious amounts of oil as a laxative (sometimes force feeding it through a nasogastric tube administered by a vet), and offer pain medication such as Banamine to keep them comfortable. Once poop appears, you know things are working and the worst is probably over.

I have been very fortunate that in 10+ years of horsekeeping, I have had only one bout of colic. Back in 2006, when my eldest was about 4 months old, Firefly introduced me to this unnerving aspect of horse ownership.  Hubby--finding a colicky horse easier to contend with than a supremely fussy baby--rushed to her rescue.  He kept her walking, watched as the vet oiled her and gave her Banamine, and stayed with her until she seemed improved.  Why the colic?  My theory is it related to the high heat we'd been having and her previous day's exercise.  Perhaps she didn't drink enough water; perhaps the moon was just so; who the heck knows.  Half this stuff with horses is guesswork, and half that guesswork results in permanently unanswered questions.

Enter yesterday.

I tried to race to the barn before the rain hit to lunge the horses on a dry patch of ground, but failed to arrive in time.  Unable to exercise them physically, I let Fly and Tril out to graze to tend to them at least mentally.  I figure a good 45min turned out on the property in the then-light rain would keep the couped-up-AUUGGHHHs at bay.  

They were fine.  Firefly galloped about each time I chased her from the infatuated OTTB's feed and otherwise enjoyed being out and about. Tril did a few spins on his heels and half-rears, trotted about happily (tail so high up over his back he looked like a giant lhasa apso), and grazed contentedly before being led back to his stall for his breakfast.  

I tried Firefly's new driving bridle on (that and the harness I bought with it are subject of a future blog, no doubt) before putting an eager mini away for her breakfast, and I left as the rain went from drizzling to pouring.

I had almost no idea what all those strappies were.  I got it on and she put the bit in her mouth and it seems to fit-ish, or really, be able to be made to fit.  I will definitely be getting help with it and  the rest of that tangled web o'leather.
Ten minutes after I left, I got a call from the man who feeds in the mornings.  Trilogy was lying down in a corner of his stall, would not get up, would not eat his bucket of alfalfa pellets, and was turning his nose up at the carrots he had tried to hand-feed Tril.

Ten minutes after I'd left.  TEN MINUTES.  What the fuck?

I bolted over to the barn to see Tril still lying down in the corner next to Firefly's stall.  She was adorably standing guard next to him, although I question how altruistic her motives were considering the bucket full of carrots that were sitting, uneaten, in Tril's stall.  I put in a call with my vet and left a voicemail--of course Tril is getting colicky over a holiday weekend. 

This was not the same horse I had just left a half hour before. He got back up on his feet as I approached the gate, and just stood around looking worried.  I checked him over; no sign of sweat or shaking, that's good.  He looked at his bucket, but wouldn't eat anything (huge, neon, flashing warning light there--he looooves his bucket of joy), so I offered him a carrot by hand.  He sniffed it, then ate it cautiously, then seemed to seek more.  I handed him a few more carrots while using rainwater to soak his alfalfa pellets; I didn't want to leave his stall for fear of him going back down again, but in the downpour, I was not eager (but certainly willing) to begin handwalking.

Slowly, he ate his carrots, then moved on to his pellets.  

His eye shows he is definitely stressed.  His mouth shows he is definitely hungry.
Poop Watch began. I grabbed a chair and sat in the corner of Firefly's stall (Tril can be a bit twitchy in his own stall when he's eating--it's as though he is so focused on food, the rest of the world is completely blocked out and he startles easily) and waited and did my best to avoid freezing.  

Keeping me company?  Or trying to mooch my coffee?
After 20min, I grabbed my spare jacket in the tackroom.  After 35min, two jackets and a long sleeve shirt proved futile and I was chilled to where I could not get warm.  Tril was eating, standing, and otherwise seeming himself, so I decided to go home before I made myself sick.  

My view from Fly's stall.  Poop, dammit!
I came back a few hours later with a gallon of corn oil.  I was greatly relieved to see him brighter and two decent-sized manure piles in his stall.  (This is another instance where having a horse is so very like having a baby--with both, we obsess over the frequency, consistency, and quantity of poop.) I soaked his evening pellets in water, added some electrolytes and a cup or so of corn oil, and fed them to a happy boy.

Noticeably softer, less-stressed eye.  Happy boy and relieved me.
Whatever this was, it was over not long after it began. He's the fourth horse in the area to colic, though his was the most mild.  (One friend's horse spent a week in the equine hospital--yikes.)  I, Perpetual Noob that I am, was surprised to learn that horses often colic in colder weather because they don't drink enough.  In fact, two of the local colicking horses were at least partially due to insufficient water intake. 

A friend told me she's giving her horses electrolytes--something I typically only give in hot weather or after a sweaty workout--every day in this weather because it makes them drink.

Well.  Now, so am I.


Relaxed, happy boy.  Stay that way.

Friday, December 28, 2012

I like watching the puddles gather raaaaaaaiinnnn

(Yes, another song reference.  I had to.  On a side note--although can it really be a "side" note if I haven't even started the main blog yet?--don't do drugs, kids.  Freakin' Shannon Hoon.)

Day after Christmas.  Sugar rush and crash cycle complete.  Gift explosion and ecstasy-coma complete.  Eldest son spent two days inside, building his new Legos and swimming in the bliss of New! Toys! 

Then we went to the barn, and kept swimming.
Where are the sharks?

It rained Christmas night through the following morning, with standing water everywhere.  The arenas had just dried out enough to be ridden in when this storm hit, so it didn't take much to put standing water in all of the rings.

The meticulously maintained main ring:
It was a pretty sunset, but I prefer not to have them reflected in the riding rings.

The smallest, yet-fastest-drying-trail ring:

And the peculiarly, perennially most flooded and slowest-draining warm-up arena:
Standing water alllllll the way along the rail. Excellent for training your horse to water ski.

Consider it our version of an over-water jump.

So now, what to do?  Even the grazing part of the property was too slick for turn out.  But I have a high-energy, playful, bored horse--can't leave him couped up and avoid an eventual cabin-fever-spaz-out vet bill. I opted to bring my eldest son over for an afternoon of just hanging with our horses.

It was enchanting.  Memorable.  Imperfectly perfect.

I tied Tril to the wash rack so he could graze while I assisted eldest with Firefly, and Tril proceeded to completely strip a six foot radius of anything and everything green around the rack.

Tied?  And leaving me?  What torture is--ooooh, hey, what's this here?

He strained to get under the rack--thankfully, my unselfaware, accident-prone klutz did not figure out a way to do that.


Meanwhile, eldest retrieved his red furball and spent a lot of time brushing her, talking to her, being with her.

"She really likes it when I brush her behind her ears."

"I see you dropped that.  I'd fetch it if you'd just untie me.  Really.  No, I wouldn't run off to eat green things, no sirree!  What makes you think that?"

And then we haltered our horses and took them on a hand-walk.  I'd like to point out the mini was far better behaved than Tril.  Head straight up, tail straight up, he was my snorty, prancy, giant brown grocery bag.

"THEY'RE GETTING AWAY!  Quick, after them, fast!  Then past them, fast!  Then just keep going, fast!"
Still, after just a bit of walking (and a brief snort-spin-blow-WTF?!! at the Gypsy vanner mare that charged us when we passed her paddock), Tril calmed his hot blooded butt down enough to put that perpetual motion brain machine of his to work.

Alrighty, desert boy, we're walking through puddles.

"FUCK no!  I'll drown!"

Get over yourself, Little Drama Boy.  Now put a hoof in water.

"NOOOOO-hey, what's she doing?"

"Whatever this is, it's MINE and I am its QUEEN."

"But...but...she's not falling in...the sharks aren't attacking..."

*STEP* "Miiiiiine."

"Well, as long as she goes first, she'll get eaten by Bad Things first.  So I'll give it a try."

I found that if I let Tril sniff the water and play with it first--taste it, even--he'd march right in. He, the ever curious one, simply needed to know what exactly it was he was dealing with.  Then, he was fine with it.  Ana was never so confident to actually get this close to inspect ("The sharks will bite my nose!"), and while Tril has a touch of that "OMG WTF!" in him, his general nosiness interferes with his panic button.

"Tastes vaguely asphalty."

"I am KING OF PUDDLES!  ...Oh crap, is the Queen behind me?"

The day (and daylight) left us, and all four of us were left with inspiring memories of an inspiriting experience, and pleasantly wet feet.

"Wait for me!  Kinda."

"It rips my life away, but it's a great escape."

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Time to get back to work, boy. And Firefly--time to LEARN to work, girl.

Knowing the rain was coming that night (although the ground appears dry this morning--Weatherman, you lied to me!), I went to the barn with a purpose yesterday.  It was a tightly scheduled purpose; I needed to use a Groupon at Toys R Us for a gift for my youngest, and found scheduling time to get to the mecca of children's stores at the height of children's hyperactivity over impending toys more difficult than finding barn time.  Adding the Toys R Us stop gave me about 1 hour 45min kid-free time at the barn, so I went to work putting Tril to work.

I tacked him up then spent precious minutes trying to find the damn lunge line (I'd put it away when I was told to nix it from his repertoire, then turned the tack room inside-out trying to remember where "away" was), then studied my old side reins carefully.  I realized that when I lunge Tril, he goes about willy-nilly and is not being asked to frame up and use himself.  I vaguely remembered using side reins on Ana for just such a purpose, and dug them out of the Never Neverland that is the Miscellaneous Tackbox.  Then I stared at them.  Then I wondered WTH to do with them.  They attach to the bit, annnnnd?  Um?  I tried calling an experienced horsefriend for advice, and when she didn't answer, did a half-assed Googling on my smartphone.  Not finding much of use and not wanting to use them without knowing how, I opted to do something I'd seen someone done before--I ran the reins through the stirrups.  Not ideal, but it seemed to help.

I then took him out and trotted him in large circles and took riDICulously large numbers of photos. But first, I took a pic of my boy's lopsided butt.  I've mentioned his chiropractic needs and his significantly uneven hips a few times here, yet have neglected to really get a good photo of what I'm talking about.  So, here it is, in its diagonal glory.  Note, he is standing square, and this is a significant improvement over what it was like when I bought him.
Slip sliding away...slip sliding awaaaaaaaay....
I asked the chiro if it's that the left hip is raised or the right one is dropped--it's more that the left is raised than anything, but in truth, the right one is also dropped a bit, too.  This has been years in the making and will take months to correct.  Whereas Ana needed to be seen every 3mos for her first two visits from the chiro, then every six months for her next two, then just an annual readjustment, Tril needs to be seen every two months for at least his first three appointments (and the chiro told me if I were in his backyard, he'd adjust Tril every month).  This is a project of a different sort.

Now, as foreshadowed, a ridiculous number of photos of Tril trotting.  You KNOW you like pic-heavy posts, so, here you go.

I just pointed my phone and clicked away.  These are chronological, incidentally.
I like how his face is on the vertical, although he's still disproportionately more on the forehand than using his back and butt.  Still, he is using his butt more than before.

Note how crooked his tail is--like his back.  Just like his hip angles to the right, his tail is tweaked to the right.  This isn't uncommon in Arabs, but it is uncommon to be to this degree.

I like this last shot--he looks to my Perpetual Noob eye more like a true hunter, versus the hooky-neck thing Arabs do (that I confess I am not a fan of).

Interesting going this direction--he seems to have more impulsion, but hell, I barely know what "impulsion" means, heh.  This is the side where the hip is dropped.  He seems to be falling in on his shoulder, or something.  Yeah, or something.

Mah handsome boy
Looooove this pic above--thus, the extra large sizing, heh.  His shoulder is freed up, he's going forward, he's relaxed (dig the sleepy eye), he's guhORgeous.

 Last pic.  He was getting a bit tired here, as you can probably see.  So, I switched some equipment around, got on him, and had a pleasant ride.

We started riding in this big main ring, but he was a bit too eager (this is the first time we've been in the ring since it opened up, and he wanted to RUNNNNN, not namby-pamby trot).  So, I took him over to the smallest ring, turned on my iPod, and got to work.

Briefly.  OUCH.  My recovering ankle let me know with painful stiffness it did not enjoy the cold and damp weather.  My flexibility was reduced, and then trotting about and trying to use my lower legs like I should, I realized--I have no lower leg.  Ouch.  Actually, beyond ouch, it was just...gone.  Apparently, Tril is not the only one with muscle loss. The legs could not maintain the work for more than one song or so (how I time things in the saddle), but at least I got them going.  I noted Tril was very dutiful--dude has a terrific work ethic--and the trot work with the Mickey Mouse approach to side reins seemed to click something in him, because he was more framed up as I rode him.  I pushed myself until my lower legs were on fire and wanted to quit, then (as is my method), I rested them and then posted the trot for just onnnnne more song.  It was just 30 minutes, but it was 30 painful minutes.

His work was over, my work was over, time to move on the the little gal. I came home and rested and spoke with my 6yro son, who has been the guest passenger in my friend's carts as one's pony and the other's Clydesdale pulls them.  He was immediately infatuated and wannnnnts toooo drriiiiiive.  I had at first thought about getting him riding lessons, but he repeatedly told me he wants to learn to drive first.  Since Tril is not a kid-appropriate horse, that's probably best anyway.  I gave it a few months, kept asking, he kept expressing interest, so I thought I'd look into it.

Except Firefly doesn't know how to drive.

But I do have a couple of driving-enabling-friends, heh heh.  Now, I know professionals need to be called in.  Green-on-green makes black and blue, whether in the saddle or pulling a cart, but I wanted to at least see if she'd take a bit and if the bridle and surcingle a friend loaned me would fit her.

So first, the bridle and bit.

"WTF is this crap?"
The bridle proved too big, with the bit in her mouth but not properly placed despite the cheekpieces being on the last hole.  She wasn't a fan of the bit, but didn't protest more than the mouth movements you see in the pic above.  I think the bit being so low in the mouth doesn't help.  But, she wore it and she didn't throw a fit. Off it came.

Time for the surcingle.
"Whatever.  Bring me food when we're done and I promise to continue not giving a crap."
Despite what it looks like in the photo because of her super shaggy self, it's a bit big on her.  Unlike the bridle, there is room on the straps to use a leather punch and add a couple more holes on it to tighten it a bit more.  I'd say it needs about two more holes.

I then walked her around in it, half expecting her to buck or kick or spin or otherwise show displeasure, but she--as seems to be her motto in life--did not give a crap.  

My friends suggested taking two extra lead ropes and running them from the side buckle of her halter through the surcingle and practice ground driving her a bit, with me using a third lead rope attached at the chin to encourage her forward when she was supposed to go.  We were all impressed that she listened and had a pretty good Whoa (which figures--the least movement the better for her).

"I'm tiring of this.  Why do you mock me so?"
She was very good, except she really, REALLY was distracted by all this green stuff we were having her walk all over at dinnertime.  She got a bit annoyed, but not aggressive. (One of my friends said, "She's wondering what the heck is going on, but is doing great!" I told her, "She's not wondering what the heck.  Firefly does not use such polite language.")

Of course, I had to give it a try.  I found myself perplexed by this whole steering thing--geez, you even hold the reins "upside-down" from what I'm used to--but it was fun.  One friend offered to let me practice with her driving-broke Clyde, and it looks like a driving clinic might be in our future.  Maybe put in a call to some driving trainers, too.

Oh, my mercy me.  

Not sure if this is going anywhere, but the journey has already been fun so far.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Perpetual newbie, with an added dose of guilt

Crap.  I feel like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dam--I plug one leak, and another pops (if not three more). It is so exasperating to try and do right by my horse, only to find my "do right" ends up being "do way worse."  Crappity crap.  "Pfft, you think you finally have some sort of grasp and know what you're doing?  HA HA HA HA HA..." -etc.

Tril had his second chiro appointment yesterday.  Chiropractically, he's much improved--his hips are much less pronounced, I'm not noticing cross-firing or stumbling behind as much, and he's not dragging that left hind nearly as much.


Tril has lost weight or muscle tone or both in his hindquarters, and I don't get it.  I've noticed it in the last few weeks, and thought maybe he was "drawn" as I heard someone call it once on their horse--dehydrated.  Pinching his skin showed me it wasn't the case, so I shrugged it off (with reservation) that maybe it's just how he's built and I haven't noticed it.  Yeah, suurre.  I know I know better, but the state of denial is lovely this time of year.

WTF?  Someone deflated the flanks on my horse.  I should really patch that leak.
The chiro hypothesized it could be a few things: loss of muscle tone relating to whatever is going on with his back end chiropractically, ulcers, weight loss, lack of work.  Crap.  Annnnnnd cue guilt.

I've not been able to ride Tril much lately--seriously, once a week if it's a good week--because of three factors:
  1. Schedules became insane as two teachers wound up their semesters (and music teacher hubby had his two school concerts).
  2. Daylight Savings, MY ASS.  I see no daylight being saved when I rush to get to the barn by 4pm, lunge/turn out my horse, tack him up, get on him at 4:30pm, and it's dark by 5pm.  
  3. The weather has been comPLETEly uncooperative.  It rains, the arenas are closed and sealed, they reopen for ONE DAY, annnnnnd hey look, more rain.  I rode him the one day I could (literally) last week, and it rained again the next two days, ruining the rings until today (when I was under post-chiro orders to hand walk only).
#3 is giving me no mercy.  Tomorrow it will be dry enough to ride--and I will--but then the forecast for the rest of the week which I have off and thus have tons of time to ride looks like this:

Apparently, the tectonic plates shifted much faster than predicted and we are now parallel to Seattle.
I'm so torn because in truth, I love the rain.  I grew up in Indiana, with actual seasons and actual weather.  I loooove thunderstorms and miss them terribly.  So part of me is very much, "Yay! Rain!" while part of me is "Aw crap!  Rain!"  And of course, living in the semi-desert that is SoCal chaparral--we need the rain. My whining over riding my horse is myopic and selfish.  But!  WAH!

It's not even that much rain, but it's enough to wreck the rings and make the property perpetually slick.  Since Tril is still learning what trail riding is about, there's not a whole lot we can do on the non-rain days, except maybe handwalk, or maybe (if he's not being Mr. Snorty it's-cold-and-wet-and-I've-been-couped-up-and-I'm-10-and-a-hot-breed idiot) walking around the property.  The chiro, who had nixed lunging at the last appointment, recommended I reintroduce it to get those muscles more in use.  But uh...outside of tomorrow and maybe Tuesday (if it's not too wet in general from the three days of rain before), I'm not sure when that can happen.

One thing I am very grateful for is the delivery of DG last weekend that WonderHubby installed (pun not...okay, maybe kinda sorted intended).  It turned the cesspool Tril's stall had been into this:
Happy horse, clean stall, DRY stall...happy me!
Bonus of the DG was the dump truck and giant piles of DG we started with.  My two sons were thrilled out of their mind.  Giant dump truck?  With a trailer?  Two piles of dirt?  Bliss.  
"See yah Daddy, I'm off for a joy ride."

I was amused how dense DG is.  These two were jumping on it and did not sink. Impressive stuff.
So, he has a blankie and a DG-ed stall and tarps up shielding him from wet winds, so at least in that respect I feel like I'm doing right by him and thus can feel sufficiently good.  (Fly doesn't need a blanket--look at her!  Buffalo would envy that coat.  Since she's so much smaller, she doesn't chew up her stall the way her 4x-larger neighbors do, so she only needed one wheelbarrow of DG in the front of her stall.  She does have a tarp as well, by Tril's side, so they can hang together like herdmates do.)

But now, back to the WTF that is this:
Dammit!  I just plugged one hole in the dam.  Now THIS hole appears.  Fuck me.
The chiro and I ran through possibilities.  Since I had stopped lunging him, perhaps those muscles atrophied? His muscle tone on the top of his butt and on his front end is good--but this is just hollow and weird. we add the lunging back in, in a surcingle so he's properly framed and using his back end, but still limiting the canter work and keeping him on as large as circle as possible.

I have noticed some slightly visible ribs, so he's dropped weight though not much.  This is likely because I had the brilliant idea of weaning him off alfalfa and switching him to a straight orchard hay diet with 5lbs of low starch Integrity feed supplemented in.  Even though I'm not sure the short time period (just about a week off the alfalfa) would do it, but, well, maybe it could.  I've noticed he's turned up his nose in a "fuck this grass shit" way at his orchard lately.  He'll have half his breakfast left when I feed him his dinner.  So, today I bought 150lbs of alfalfa pellets and am reintroducing those to his diet, with the eventual goal of switching him from 1 flake orchard and 1/2 flake alfalfa twice a day to 1 flake alfalfa and 1/2 flake orchard twice a day (I want him to have the grass hay to keep him busy, and really prefer not to have him on straight alfalfa) and then, once the Integrity is gone, putting him back on the Triple Crown stuff they had him on on CPP.

Still gorgeous, but definitely dropped a few pounds and getting a "wasp waist" as my friend called it.
Maybe he's wormy?  No, I checked the calendar on my phone--he was wormed at the beginning of September.  He's due now, but that's it.  

Having owned an older horse before, my mind meanwhile went to two things--teeth and the cold.  How are his teeth?  (I don't have records telling me when they were last done.)  The chiro checked, and yes, he's due.  Not bad, just due.  I'll add that to his visit with the vet next month--he'll get his shots, teeth, and sheath cleaning done.  

Okay.  And, well, it's winter, and while SoCal isn't Indiana, it does get chilly at night so horses burn off some of their food energy just keeping warm.   Another reason to increase groceries and keep the blanket on.  Done.

The chiro was also wondering about ulcers, but I know crap about those, and he didn't want to diagnose.  He seemed to simply say it was a possibility, not a probability, but it's something else to mention to my vet next month.

Maddening.  I do so much to try and do right by my animals, but horses especially are exasperatingly enigmatic.  Here I feel I'm giving him a good life, a better-for-him life than what was, and I "broke" him.  Okay, no, I didn't break him, but body-condition-wise he's definitely not doing as well.  Boo me.  The food will be easy to fix, as is his teeth and the vet visit.  But the work?  <guiltguiltguilt>  

Then I remind myself of this moment yesterday morning.  This was the only ring dry enough to turn out in, and he hadn't been turned out in about 4-5 days because of the wet.  He ran, he rolled, he showed off (see pic above), then he just...stopped.  He stopped, looked at me, and licked his lips in submission.
Dun dun.
Then, he carefully took a few steps toward me, pausing as if to ask permission before taking a few more.
Dun dun dun dun.
When I welcomed him into my personal space, he approached me with respect and curiosity, still pausing to make sure he was not offending.
Dun dun, dun dun, dun dun, dun dun, dun dun, dun dun...
Until finally he was with me, beside me, partnered with me, happy to be petted, scratched, cuddled, rubbed.
He walked alongside me (note the entire time Firefly so very typically not giving a crap). and in moments like these, has made it known I am his people, and he is my partner.  I will find and fix this enigma, and we will move on until the next leak springs--and then we'll fix that one, too.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


As a teacher and a mother of a child the same age of the young victims at Sandy Hook elementary, I am sickened and saddened and overwhelmed.

I can't imagine, and yet, I can't help but imagine it.

Heartbroken and nauseated.

I feel for the teachers, the school staff, the aches, it penetrates, it pierces.

We pour our souls into our classrooms.  We pour our lives into these children.  And yes, we are willing to give up our lives to protect them if they are threatened.  How abominable that some actually had to.

What the FUCK.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I'm only happy when it raaaaaaains

Okay, maybe not, but I do like the rain, and I do like that Garbage song.

When it rains, I become an official nutty horseowner.  Even though I know these are animals made to live outside--they grow their OWN winter blanket fercryinoutloud!--I still worry about my poor big little pooping Poopsies being outside in the harsh, cruel, mild Southern California elements.

Of course, in the wild, horses aren't limited to 576 square feet of walking space.  Limiting that means the ground gets chewed up and regularly befouled, despite twice daily regular de-befouling.  Add a decent rainstorm, and you have a cesspool.

As we couldn't get the truckload of decomposed granite in before this serious of mild (but wet) storms, I worried about Tril being in that flooded muck, so I thought...hey!  the smaller stall was recently vacated, and it has an attached box stall.  Tril could have a nice cozy three-walled shelter from this horrible wet stuff falling from the sky, and the ground had not been churned up by horse feet in a while, so it'd be a better place for him to sit out the storm.  Anxiously I texted the guy who feeds in the morning, requesting he shift Tril over if his stall looks bad.  I was a worried mother hen most of the morning, distracted by my concern over Tril's living conditions while powering through my lesson on percentages.

I was relieved when I heard from him at break that he had, in fact, moved Tril.  Phew.  Okay, I determined--I'll swing by the feed store after work and get some shavings for his box stall, and he'll have a lovely, warm, comfy place to rest through this storm.  While I'm at it, I'll get him a rain sheet.  Though the horses don't necessarily mind, I  mind seeing my horse wet and muddy.  Worried mother hen feels better planning the nest, nonetheless making it.

Then I get to the barn, and Tril's borrowed stall looks like this:

Aw, crap.
That is a veritable lake by the gate, a good 6" deep--and there's another lake of equal depth over by the water bucket.  I'd forgotten--the filly who'd been in this stall before liked to splash and dig in puddles (intentionally turning her water bucket over for just that purpose).  This made the ground far from level.  In fact, there was a freakin' hole off screen to the right.  And, Tril was a little weirded out by the small box stall, so instead--as you see him doing here--he was pacing in the small area he could reach.  Aw, crap.  Forget this.

I haltered him and led him out of the stall--tricky, as he, like Ana, seems to have inherited the Arab "OMG WATER!  SHARKS LIVE IN WATER!" fear.
It all makes sense now.  Photo credit
Once out, I took Snorty McTwitchalot ("It's cold! It's wet! Nooooo!") to the hitching post so I could clean the layers of ICK off of him.  He settled as I groomed, and I was as thorough as I could be--as many of you know, a new sheet or blanket can't be returned once it's sullied and I needed to try on a sheet.  Like many in my family, he has a big chest, and that makes fitting a pain in the ass.

This is where I get all insecure newbie.  Years ago--perhaps within the first year of owning her--Ana got tangled up in an ill-fitting fly sheet.  I was such a noob I didn't realize how different sizing could be, or how a blanket should fit.  I put it on and figured, cool.  Next morning: not cool.  I got a call that she was tangled in it, panicking, and running into fences while kicking holes in the stall walls.  I was horrified.  Thankfully, saintly horse friends were able to get a hold of her and remove the sheet from her trembling body. Thankfully, she just had a big, red, ugly welt on a rear gaskin from where the blanket got entrapped and rubbed off a layer of skin.  Thankfully, medication and twice daily treatment--and time--did the trick.  However--my nerves took longer.  I was horrified my ignorance hurt her.

So, ever since then, blankets and sheets mean paranoia and asking knowledgeable, saintly horsey friends to help me check fit.  The fit doesn't have to be perfect, but I don't want my horse trying to run through pipe corral panels, either.
Mommmmmmm, this is embarrassing
So, here he is in his new pajamas (note tags still attached).  I enlisted those extra pair of knowledgeable eyes and loosened the top buckle one, and he's good.  Not perfect (fret fret fret), but good.

WTF is this crap?  I have mud to roll in.
So done with this.  I'm digging my escape route.
So, when uneasily comfortable he wasn't going to somehow kill himself due to my ignorance, I took the halter off and let him on the property to graze.  The wet, slippery property.

*sigh*  My thought was--he's wound up from being in that small stall all day and there's rain in the forecast for the next two days; I'd rather he get out and slip around a little then get nuts from being couped up.

Tril eats the green things just out of reach of his neighbor.  "HA ha!"
He was good, all things considered.  He trotted a bit, but most of the base of the property is arena sand (when they redid the rings, they brought a lot of the sand over to us for stalls; we also put it on the property so it wouldn't be a mudpit on rainy days) so it isn't as slippery as straight mud.  I felt good that he was moving around a bit and let Firefly--whose woolly mammoth winter coat means she has no need for any sort of sheet or blanket--join him. 

Frickin' fly has learned the older OTTB on the property likes her--which means she can reach her head right in and snack on his spilled alfalfa pellets.  She has no business eating such a thing, but thankfully, the pellets were mostly washed away so she grew bored trying to steal them and moved  on to the grass starting to sprout on the property.

"I'm still going to try, dammit.  Maybe I can lick the stall mat."
Tril did some trotting about, but it was all good.  It showed me he could move in his sheet comfortably.

Meanwhile, I opted to put shavings in the covered portion of his stall.  I know I was basically throwing money away putting the shavings there without resecuring the railroad ties and putting a tarp up --they'll get kicked about, soaked, and removed--but at least for a few days, he'll have something dry to stand on.

To think ,when I first got horses, I thought paying $40 a month for shavings was a ridiculous expense.  I just spent $20 on ones that likely won't last a week, and I'm okay with it.
The horses continued enjoying their mini-turnout, and the two of them trotted about happily.

Then, something got up Tril's ass and he bolted like leaving the starting gate at Churchill Downs.  I happened to take a picture of his liftoff--blurry as it may be due to the diminishing light:

I think it's a horse.  Or two.
Tril made it to near the front gate before his hind end slipped and he skidded to a stop, haunches down (roll eyes--the chiro will love me for that).  He got up and trotted away, snorting and blowing.  ("No one saw me do that.  And if you did, I meant to do that.  I'm AWESOME.")  I felt a bit like a fool, but also thought--you know, Tril is a smart boy, if all boy.  Learn your limitations from this, meathead.

Ooh, dry stuff!  And green stuff!  Sweet.
So, back in the stall he went, and I shook my head at his antics and questioned my wisdom at letting him out.

Marks left from Tril's skiing practice

But, when I let him out yesterday (when much had dried out--we're between storms; round 3 is coming this afternoon), he was much more sane--trotting and moving about, but not an idiot.  Perhaps he learned, perhaps he worked off some of the stupids yesterday; I'm not sure.   Regardless, all was good in our horsey-universe.

I enjoy the rainy weather and weirdly like being out in the elements, cleaning stalls and prepping the horses so they're taken care of.  It's almost a welcome break from the patterns of riding and turning out--I get to take care of my horses, but in a different way.  This is so cliche to say, but there is truth to it--I feel so alive being out in the weather and putting down shavings and fitting sheets and brushing coats.  I can hear the rhythmic rain just thinking about this; feel it; smell it; find comfort and tranquility in it.

Tril was happy, Firefly was happy, and I was happy.