“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!

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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.

Mired in “Do-Nothing-ness”

I was making progress on a few of my goals.  I was spending time in the barn, practicing Spanish (occasionally), walking the dog, feeling healthy, and, in general, just getting things done.

Yet once again, it has all come to a screeching halt.  It started with end of the school year activities, my son graduating from 8th grade, etc.  Then I got sick and was down and out for about 10 days.  Since then, I haven’t been able to get back on track.

I’m frustrated and upset about it.  But mostly, I’m just tired.  And not quite sure what to do.

Last week I took my son to the doctor for his summer camp physical.  I hopped on the scale . . . and was dismayed to find that I’m the heaviest I’ve been in a long time.  136.5 at 5′ 4″.  Ugh.

I haven’t been walking my dog so he has a ton of energy and is up all night roaming the house, which is keeping me awake at night.  So . . . not sleeping well.  Plus, we’ve gotten in this pattern of not going to bed until midnight or so and then sleeping in.  Also, not good.

I came up with the idea that I would be back on my horse by September 3.  That’s the 20 year anniversary of my first horse’s death (thoughts of Tori still brings me to tears, nearly 20 years later).  I lunged Slewy exactly twice and that was going on three weeks ago not.  So much for good intentions.

One of my new excuses is that its harder with the kids being out of school.  I don’t have a few hours to myself every afternoon.  And I’m a person who desperately needs a few hours alone most days.  But with the kids not in school, 1) they’re always around so there’s no down time for thinking, writing here in my blog or my journal, or much else of my own and 2) I do things with them (which I love and am not complaining about) – we go to the pool, go shopping, or who knows what.  So, again, very little time to myself.  Right now, this afternoon, I think is the first time since June 1 that I’ve had any time home alone.  And I’m spending it writing and playing Hay Day rather than really accomplishing anything.  But I’m so, so tired.  I feel like I just need to sit for awhile.

O.k., so no answers really.  Just complaints.  Often writing helps me to sort things out in my head so maybe this is a way to start again.  I don’t know.  I’m tired of “starting again.”

When Your Passion, well . . . Isn’t.

I’ve ridden horses since I was 9 years old.  My parents finally gave into riding lessons by assuring themselves that my love of horses was a “phase” that would soon be cured by a few lessons.  After all, we did live in suburban Los Angeles – I was a city girl.

So much for the “phase” theory.  The main requirement when my husband and I were shopping for our first house was that it the property be flat enough for a barn and riding arena.  I now have a lovely little barn, an arena and three horses.

Despite that, I haven’t ridden in over a year.  I haven’t consistently ridden in probably 10 years.  My daughter rides and yesterday we tried out a new barn for her to take lessons at.  Watching her ride made me almost want to climb aboard my off-the-track Thoroughbred again.  Almost.  Maybe.

I expressed that thought to a friend of mine who replied something along the lines of “well, I know its always been a passion of yours.”  And that got me to thinking . . . has it been?  Was it?  Is it still?

Horses are definitely part of my identity as far as most people who know me are concerned.  But the fact that I ride and own horses is certainly not the first thing I’d tell you about myself.  I enjoy my time in the barn, which now mainly consists of feeding the horses, turning them out, cleaning stalls, brushing them, etc.  My best thinking is done in the barn.  No matter what’s going on, time in barn is pretty much guaranteed to improve my mood.

Can I even say that I “ride”? Or do I need to move that to past tense . . . “I rode.”?

I constantly berate myself for not riding my horse.  He’s likely the nicest horse I’ve ever owned or will ever own.  I constantly tell myself that it is therefore ridiculous that I don’t ride him.  For awhile I was just flat out afraid of him but that’s a story for another day.  And our relationship on the ground is definitely on the upswing lately.

But back to the “passion” issue.  I tend to think that if riding truly was my passion, I’d be finding a way to do it.  I’d be finding a way to make time for it even with all my mom, wife, attorney, etc. responsibilities.  So I’m wondering . . . is it really my  “passion” anymore?  It was when I was 9 certainly – but not any more so than any other horse-crazy, 9 year old, little girl.

Is the fact that I haven’t gotten back on my horse evidence enough that I’m ready to give it up?  And if so, how do I let go of that part of myself?  How do I tell my first serious riding instructor (who I still am friends with), “you know, I don’t think I’m going to ride anymore.”??  She’s also on the “but its your ‘passion'” bandwagon.  My Mom believes the same, “oh but you’re so, so good with horses.”  Ummm . . . yeah, Mom, not so much.  My last two horses destroyed my confidence and I’m just plain scared of my current one half the time.

I feel like “I’m not going to ride anymore” is an extremely radical statement.  Maybe I need to get back on my horse and ride a bit first.  Maybe that will help sway me one direction or the other.  Maybe I need to stop making such a big deal out of this.

In the meantime, I enjoyed watching my daughter ride yesterday.  It made me almost want to ride myself.  Almost.  Maybe.