Ok, So I Lost July

My goal was to be back on Slewy by the end of this summer.  I was doing pretty well, lunging him several times a week.  But then I got super bored.  Let’s face it, its boring to lunge your horse.  And lunge.  And lunge.  And lunge some more.  Patience isn’t really my thing.

Slewy is a horse who has to have everything fit just perfectly.  He could play the Princess in the Princess and the Pea.  My saddle really didn’t fit him well.  My trainer strongly suggested a lot of lunging to build his topline muscles before we go search for a new saddle.

Have I mentioned that lunging is boring?  And its hard when you see your horse every day so incremental progress is hard to spot.  I got bored and unmotivated and kinda depressed about our prospects.

So I really didn’t lunge him or do anything else besides turn him out for all of July.  I didn’t really plan on that.  But July snuck right by me and boom! here it was August.  Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Yesterday I drug my butt out to the barn and actually lunged Slewy.  It was pretty clear that he had a month off.  Which didn’t really make me feel any better.  But I focused on the fact that I was lunging him, rather than the fact that I hadn’t lunged him for a month.  (Remember . . . focus on the positive.)

Today I’m not lunging him because I promised to take my kids swimming.  Swimming was postponed yesterday afternoon because I had to go to work so there was really no skipping out on it today.  But, I did spend a bit of time in the barn with the minis, trying to figure out why the new training caveson wasn’t fitting either of them right.  So, again, that’s something.

More lunging this weekend!

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Meet Prince Frizzle!

What happens when my husband can’t take our daughter to 4-H Chickens?  We come home with a new rooster!!  Meet Prince Frizzle!

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The activity for that night was practicing showmanship, so we could have brought one of our own chickens.  But, it was cold and rainy and dark and so we decided that Queen Victoria probably wouldn’t appreciate being taken out of her cozy coop, stuck in a carrying case, and carted off by herself to a place she’d never been to.

That meant that my daughter got to borrow a chicken to work with for the evening.  Out came Prince Frizzle (who wasn’t named at the time)!  “We want the Silkie!!” we both yelled, as soon as we saw him.

Prince Frizzle didn’t really know the chicken showmanship routine but he sat quietly in my daughter’s arms the entire night.  When we heard he was in need of a new home, he just had to come home with us.

I had a Silkie rooster many years ago.  Moo Goo Gai Pan was bought out of a store in San Francisco’s Chinatown and given to me as a hostess gift from a guy I met on an airplane.  Sweetest rooster I’ve ever had!  So I was super excited at the idea of another Silkie rooster.

So far, Prince Frizzle is living up to Moo Goo’s sweet reputation.  His favorite thing is to be carried around, cradled on his back like a baby, with his little feet sticking up in the air, and have his tummy feathers stroked.

My husband says he’ll definitely take our daughter to 4-H Chickens next time!

“He’s Just a Hard-Keeper”

Slewy, my off-the-track Thoroughbred, has always been a hard-keeper.  I feed him and feed him and feed him some more, and he eats everything in sight (I think feeding time is his absolute favorite thing) but he’s still skinny.  I’ve done all the basics – regular deworming, regular teeth floating, basic blood work, etc.

I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t think I realized just how skinny he was.  I think its harder when your horses live at home and you see them at least twice a day.  I stopped seeing that his hip bones were a little too pokey and his ribs showed a bit too much.  Plus, when I got him, he was still “race fit” so I’ve never really known him any other way.

I haven’t written about it much (probably because I’m embarrassed) but I’ve owned Slewy for seven years now and really have made very little progress on his training.  He’s still definitely what you would call “green”.  There’s a variety of reasons for that – the biggest one probably being my own confidence issues.  So, when I found a new trainer for my daughter that we both absolutely love, I decided it was time once again to tackle Slewy.

I managed to get on him a few times but noticed that every time I got his saddle out, he would roll his eyes with this, “please don’t put that on me” look.  Things didn’t improve once I was onboard.  Poor Slewy was so terribly tense that I was constantly fearful that he was going to explode any minute.  Which, of course, made me tense, which sent the two of us in a vicious circle.

Finally, my new trainer came out to take a look.  She informed me just how ridiculously skinny he was and convinced me that he can’t “just be a hard-keeper.”  She suspected gastric ulcers.  Thankfully, the super fancy vet clinic nearby was sponsoring a talk by the Ulcer Guard folks and were scoping horses for gastric ulcers for just $100.  So, off we went.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it I suppose) Slewy didn’t have any glaring ulcers.  He had one little tiny ulcer (maybe) but his entire stomach lining looked inflamed and ouchie.  Honestly, I was more than a little disappointed that we didn’t have a definite diagnosis.

So I plopped myself down in my vet’s office (different from the fancy vet clinic).  We decided to make some major changes to Slewy’s diet and did a briefer (less expensive) course of Ulcer Guard.  I decided to give him a couple of months off.

That was all in October.  Now, in late January here, I think he’s finally a little fatter!!!  I still haven’t put him back to work because its been raining and my arena is a swamp.  Slewy just gets turned out with his buddy, brushed, and fed.  While he’s working on putting some weight on, I’ve been taking lessons on my trainer’s dead quiet lesson horse to try to improve my confidence and get my legs back in shape.  Next step for Slewy is to start back on the lunge line (once my arena dries out) and then we’re going to take a look at how his saddle fits.  I wish I could take some of my minis’ fat and stick it on Slewy.  Then everybody would be in better shape!

Maybe Slewy will always be somewhat of a hard-keeper.  But at least now I feel like we’re on the right track to him being healthier.  I’m trying to not worry about the fact that his one month off has turned into several months.  We’ll get back to riding eventually and hopefully it will be a better experience for both of us!

Stormy – Back to Work

Stormy, my 28 year old Thoroughbred, has been retired for many years, since I was pregnant with my daughter, who is now 12.  He gets turned out with Slewy, my 11 year old Thoroughbred.  Slewy keeps him moving.

But recently, Slewy came up lame.  When the vet started talking about possible tendon tears or maybe a fractured point of hip, we were looking at a long layup.  (Slewy is fine – no tendon injuries or fractured anything but that’s another story.)  Which left me with the dilemma of how to keep Stormy  moving around.

So I decided to lunge him.  I was a bit hesitant because Stormy literally has done zero “work” in like 12 years.  But, I put him in the cross-ties and got out his bridle.  (I always lunge my horses in a bridle; they just seem to pay attention better.)

Stormy looked genuinely excited at the sight of his bridle.  He actually took two steps froward towards it, stuck his nose out and opened his mouth right up.  He was always easy to bridle but I was a little surprised at his eagerness.  We went out to the arena and I asked him to move out on a circle.  It was like I lunged him yesterday!

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Stormy!

Doesn’t he look handsome in his bridle?  So now I’ve added him into the rotation of working horses.  I’m lunging him maybe once a week and every time he steps forward and pokes his nose out when he sees his bridle come out of the tack room.

I’m largely letting Stormy dictate what we do.  If he wants to trot or canter a bit more, then I let him.  If he’s done and drops back to the walk, that’s o.k.  Its only been a couple of weeks but I’m already seeing differences.  For example, the first few times, canter was difficult.  And then, yesterday for the first time, he stopped cross-firing at the canter; i.e., he was able to hold the correct lead both in front and behind.

I just laugh with joy to see him step out with his ears pricked happily forward!

First Farrier Visit

This morning, Smokey, had his first appointment with my farrier.  He’s clearly had his feet trimmed before but we didn’t know what that experience was like for him.  We can clean his feet but his “pony timer” runs out pretty quickly.  So, instead of trying to do it in the cross-ties, which just make him mad, either my daughter or I hold him while the other does his feet.

I took the morning off of work so I could be here to make sure little Smokey had a good experience.  Not that I have any concerns about my farrier!!  Demetri is very kind, extraordinarily patient, loves horses and truly believes that his job will be far easier in the future if he takes the time to lay a good foundation with a horse and gain the horse’s trust.  But, nonetheless, I thought little Smokey would be comforted if I was here.

It went really well!  He stood fairly still quite a bit.  When the pony timer ran out, we just gave him a little break.  He only tried to lay down once.  He did that the other day with my daughter and I – he was tired of us cleaning his feet so he just laid down! It was pretty funny.

So I’m feeling like that was a big success in little Smokey’s life!

The Residents of Stori Stables

Stori Stables is my own little barn, in my own front yard.  Since I’m going to be writing about them more, I thought I would introduce the residents of Stori Stables!

Stormy:  Stormy is my 28 year old Thoroughbred.  I’ve owned him since he was 3 year olds.  Stormy has congenital loridosis.  In other words, he’s swayback – always has been, but it hasn’t stopped him one bit.  I rode him for many, many years.  In fact, he’s probably the soundest horse I’ve ever owned.  These days he’s retired for the most part.  He gets brushed, fed treats, and generally fussed over.

Slewy:  I bought Slewy nearly straight off the racetrack when he was 4; he’s now 11.  He’s a grandson of Seattle Slew (thus, his name).  Slewy is sweet, kind, has trouble standing still and is in to everything.  He takes his friends’ halters off and is always right next to you, willing to be of any “help” that you might need.

Holly:  Holly is our 4 year old miniature horse.  She’s super cute but her name really should have been “Sassy”.

Stormy, Slewy & Holly

Smokey:  Holly’s half-brother and the newest horse addition to Stori Stables.  Smokey is just 1 year old.  He loves Holly, giving pony kisses, cuddling while taking naps and chewing on your boots.

Holly & Smokey

Smokey chasing big sister, Holly!

Stori Stables also has three resident rabbits:  Cookies, Crumbles and Hammie.  They’re brand new!  Just adopted from the local Humane Society two days ago.

We also have a bunch of chickens (my daughter knows all of their names.  I know is which one is Queen Victoria becasue she’s pretty good about taking a walk on her chicken leash.  And these three are Pouf, Dandelion and Sparkle.

Pouf, Dandelion & Sparkle

And, I can’t forget, Flappy, our mean rooster.  Flappy hatched and was raised in my son’s 1st grade classroom; my son is now a freshman in high school.  Despite being handled literally from birth, Flappy is mean.  But he’s pretty to look at and I actually like his crowing.

That’s everyone!  Well, at least those are the current residents.  Hope you enjoy their stories!

When Your “Happy Place” is also Your “Sad Place”

I love my horses and I love spending time in my barn.  Its where I do my best thinking and, even though I often forget it and neglect to spend enough time there, hanging out with my horses truly makes me happy.

But its complicated.  While my barn is most definitely one of my most happy places, its also a sad place sometimes.

My horse, Stormy, turned 28 on June 13.  I was hanging out in the barn with him and, for some reason, my thoughts turned to my beloved first horse, Tori.  Pretty quickly, I was sitting in my barn, balling my eyes out.  I had to put Tori down on September 3, 1997 – that was a long time ago!!!!  But oftentimes it seems like it was yesterday.  Is it always going to seem like that?

Hanging out with my current horses – Stormy, my retired old guy; Slewy, my gorgeous off-the-track Thoroughbred I can’t seem to ride; and Holly, the kids’ mini – is certainly comforting.  But, sometimes I’m in the barn and I’m just overwhelmed with how much I miss Tori, how he was supposed to still be here with me (I know he’s always “with” me).

Compounding my sadness is the fact that I feel like I’m failing Tori daily by not riding Slewy.  Its as if all the time we spent together and all the skills he taught me is somehow being wasted.  That, though, hasn’t been enough motivation to get me back to riding Slewy.

Because Slewy’s not Tori.  They’re both Thoroughbreds and I put Slewy’s bit on Tori’s bridle, hoping that would help. They have similar personalities – sweet, kind, inquisitive, always in your pocket.

I just know that somehow, in my slightly nutty head, this is getting in the way of riding Slewy again.  And I’m just not sure what to do about it.  Logically, I think I would feel better if I were riding.  But logic doesn’t seem to have much to do with this.  If it were all up to my logic, I would have been riding years ago.

My happy place being my sad place makes it complicated.  And difficult to move forward.