Friday, April 30, 2010

House Cat Tip of the Month

House Cat Tip of the Month

Every morning, I bring Thunder some grass to eat. Finally, I got smart. I dug up some grass, put it in a pot and brought it in the house for him to nibble on. He loves it. He nibbles all the time.

If you decide to do the same, make sure the grass isn’t fertilized or treated with anything. I got mine from my organic vegetable garden. Grass is my number one weed. If he actually eats all his grass faster than it can grow, I have a plentiful supply in my garden.

Of course, I still go out and get him a little each morning because I love to hear him sing to me when I bring it in to him.

Thunder is just a little spoiled.

Trail Training #112 - Cruiser Crisis

Cruiser Crisis
The day after the vet came for that awful, awful visit, Cruiser had a scrape on his head. I washed it and medicated it. In a couple days, it had grown, and I started to worry. I realized when I scrubbed it, that it wasn’t a simple abrasion. Cruiser said it was itchy. He does get seasonal hives that break open and drain. I just scrub them with Betadine, and in a few days they start to improve. I tried it, and his face got worse.

In a few more days, he was getting hives all over one side of his head, a little on the other side and some on his forehead. By now, it was itching him horribly and spreading down his neck. He would put his head up against the bars of his stall and Starry would lick it.

First thing Monday morning—just over a week since I had last seen the vet, she was back. The night before, Ellen had a revelation. She noticed when I replaced his heated winter water bucket that I used the one that belonged to the horse next to him. I didn’t realize it, since they were the same color. The owner of Cruiser’s neighbor had coated the edges and probably the handle with No Chew. His horse is a cribber, and he wanted to discourage him from cribbing on the bucket.

Cruiser, with his very sensitive skin, must have had an allergic reaction to the No Chew. Once his head started to itch, he probably rubbed it on the bucket and spread it all over his head. He was rubbing it on every other surface he could find, so why not the bucket?

The vet felt it was likely. She said his head looked like a chemical burn. She suggested washing his halter and bridle in case anything got on them, too. She gave him a steroid shot and some steroid pills for the next few days. The following day, his head was no longer draining and it only itched a little bit. He recovered beautifully albeit partially bald.

Finally, after all these months, a vet visit that actually helped my horse! Hopefully, I will be done with vets for a while.

Trail Training Newsletter - #112 - Springtime Ride

Springtime Ride

Cruiser and I were out alone on an evening ride. In the spring, everyone seems to come out. Our park can be a pretty busy place, because we are in suburbia. That evening, there were plenty of bicycles traveling in herds on the close-by street and paved all-purpose trail. We saw a number of joggers and hikers. The dog walkers from the local shelter were out in full force. There were lots and lots of motorcycles on the street—and most were really loud.

One part of the ride got pretty scary. I saw a crashed bicycle on the all-purpose trail and some people sitting near it. I went down the trail a little further, and I saw the flashing lights of an ambulance. I figured it was going to help the cyclist. We were about a half mile from the spot that I planned to turn around and go home. Where, I wondered, will the ambulance pass me on its trip to the hospital? Will it have it’s sirens blaring?

The last part of the trail is right out in the open by the street. I flew down it, turned around and flew back. Well, sorta flew back. This is spring when Crusier is still pretty hyper. We would trot, and when he got too fast, I brought him back to a walk until he settled down. Then we would trot, again. Gone are the days of trotting at top speed. The extended trot is hard on a bowed tendon.

Finally, we got back into the woods, so we walked quietly. I figured the ambulance would be on the move, shortly. As it turned out, the emergency workers were just finishing off when we got near the accident scene. We weren’t close, but we got a clear view. Unfortunately, we were at the top of a short, but very steep hill. I didn’t know how much longer they would be, so I started down the hill, hoping to get to the bottom before they hit the siren. No sooner had we started, the flashing lights came on. Cruise was cruising down the hill, as he likes to. I was chanting, “Don’t turn on the sirens, don’t turn on the sirens…” They didn’t, and all was well.

A short time later, a Great Blue Heron took off from a tree directly overhead and startled me. I nearly jumped right out of the saddle. They usually don’t let us get that close before flying. Cruiser didn’t care.

As we were crossing the river right before home, I noticed 4 Mallard Ducks just upstream. One of them started to rise out of the water. I turned Cruiser toward them and had him stand. I didn’t want him to get startled if they decided to fly away. Well, they didn’t fly away. To my horror, they all rose from the water and came straight towards us. We froze and watched them pass us—two on each side—no higher than my eyes. I’m so glad that Cruiser didn’t spook. That part of the river tends to be slippery. I was so proud of him. No matter how much you train your horse, you can’t prepare him for everything.

Sometimes I wish we rode in a quieter, more secluded part of the world, instead of a very busy public park. It would be so much easier. This night, I was reminded that we do have one big advantage in our park that we wouldn’t have in the wilderness that I hope never to use—easy access to emergency vehicles.

Besides, two of our scariest moments of the evening involved wildlife!

Trail Training #112 - In Memory of Mingo

In Memory of Mingo

Mingo has gone to greener and pain-free pastures where he can run, buck, roll, snort and lay down to sleep—all things that he hasn’t been able to do in a long time. The only ones in pain, now, are the people he left behind that loved him so much. He touched a lot of lives. We were never exactly sure what was wrong, but we couldn’t stop the weight loss, and I made the toughest decision in my life.

Enough of that. I want to forget all about the last 5 months and remember the good 14+ years I shared with him.

He was a Breeding Stock Paint—born a black Rabicano (skunk tail) roan. His mane was so long and thick, it engulfed one side of his neck, his forelock was so long, that we were constantly moving it to the center of his head so we could see his very beautiful eyes and his tail was so long I had to cut it every few month so he wouldn’t step on it. He had the shiniest coat, and in the summer, he had dapples.

I had Mingo from the day he was born. Actually, you can add 11 months to that. I had Mingo from his conception. He was a wonderful little baby, and I was able to pick him up and hold him in my arms. That was just the first week, though. He grew so fast.

He was never the athlete that I had hoped for, nor did he have any sense of a work ethic. He could be very frustrating, but he was possibly the most loveable and loving horse ever born. He really liked people, and seemed to prefer them to other horses. He wanted to be petted, groomed, hugged and talked to. We really enjoyed just spending time with him.

He taught all of us a lot, and he was the inspiration for my book. I wanted to learn all I could about trail riding to help in his training. I started the research in the months before his birth. As it was, he was such an easy horse to train for the trail that I didn’t need to do all the research. At least I got a book out of it.

Since he was a low-energy horse as opposed to Cruiser, the high-energy horse, he taught me everything that Cruiser didn’t. I had to learn to motivate him. In the arena, he liked perfection from the rider. Without it, he didn’t pay attention. With it, he could become quite beautiful, but it was work. He improved my riding—big time. I didn’t have a choice. Ellen could ride him with some success in the arena if she really worked at it, because we ride very similar to each other. No one else could successfully work him in the arena. He was just too particular.

After riding Cruiser for Mingo’s first summer of trail riding, Kevin switched to Mingo. He learned tons from him, though he seldom applied any of the lessons to Ming, much to my frustration. He used what he learned from Mingo on RB and Starry.

Ellen tells me she learned more from Mingo than any other horse—including a new lesson just this summer. She rode him whenever our niece was riding Ranger. This gave Mingo a chance to teach her how to do a sitting trot. Once she mastered it with him, she was able to figure out how to do it on Ranger, who has a very bouncy trot. Mingo had the most awesome trot. (Glide Ride.) Whether he went fast or slow, I could always sit it, if I wanted to. Posting could be difficult because he didn’t give you much lift. What a trot…

Mingo also spent the summer taking my oldest niece on trail rides. They were a perfect fit—both so slow, careful, precise and very, very smart. Yes, Mingo was brilliant. If he acted like he didn’t understand something, he was pretending. He caught on to everything very quickly. He figured out people and found out just what to do he get the upper hand. It was amazing how differently he treated each different person. The only person he really listened to was me. Yes, other people could ride him, but he was a one person horse. He was mine.

My favorite Mingo event was back when Kevin was riding him. We were pretty far from home, and we got to a spot that I liked to canter. We asked our horses to canter, and away we went. Well, away one of us went. I was quite a bit ahead after a few minutes. Since Mingo was always a slower horse, I was used to waiting for him. We slowed down and walked a few minutes—and no Mingo.

I started to worry, so I turned Cruiser around and trotted back. There was Kevin, standing next to Mingo. He told me Mingo wouldn’t go, so he thought he was hurt. He couldn’t get him to budge a step. He thought he could lead him if he got off, but still, Mingo wouldn’t move.

I sighed, got off Cruiser, gave him to Kevin and took Mingo’s reins. I asked him to walk, and he followed right after me—sound as could be. Mingo got Kevin’s number. Kevin got back into the saddle, and we continued on our way with no problems. For months, Mingo remembered that spot and would want to stop—even if the other horses were cantering off…
One time, when Kevin was still leasing Mingo, he was trying to mount him in the arena. By then, Mingo gave Kevin a lot of trouble mounting. (He was fine for me, of course.) For some reason, Mingo decided to do a Quarter Horse spin while Kevin was holding the reins. Kevin was very determined not to let go of the reins. If you are familiar with pairs ice skating, there is that one maneuver where the man grasps the hands of his female partner and spins about with her floating above the ice by just a couple inches. Who would think it was physically possible for a horse to do that to a person? It was the most amazing thing. Ellen and I still chuckle every time we remember it.

Mingo loved to canter on the trail, and we did it as often as we could. He wasn’t fast, but he was fun, and even though he was excited, he was always easy to stop. One of my favorite movies is “The Black Stallion.” More than a few times, as we cantered along, I pretended that I was Alec during the race where he drops his reins, puts his hands out and goes back in his mind to the beach. The people in the park who saw me cantering down the trail on my little black gelding with my arms like wings, must have thought I was nuts—unless they knew the movie.

Mingo loved to buck in the spring when we cantered. Actually, it didn’t matter what gait he was doing in the spring, he loved to buck and kick up he heels really, really high. The neatest thing about it was that I didn’t budge in the saddle. As long as I kept his head up, his front would stay still and his heels went flying. It made me look like an awesome horsewoman, but it took no skill at all.

I had the most fun riding Mingo in the snow. He loved snow, but was always so careful, I could trust him to canter about in it—and he never let me down. He was also faster in the cool weather, and we had some great times.

Mingo loved when people admired him. One day, we were riding on the trail where it parallels the paved all-purpose trail. There were some people walking on it that weren’t looking at him. We noticed Mingo fixating on them—trying to get their attention—but it didn’t work. Finally, he gave a huge buck. That got their attention! We laughed.

Mingo often made us laugh. He was a real joy, and I will always miss him…

Friday, April 23, 2010

Me and Mingo

Here is a picture of me and Mingo taken a few years ago. There are some trails up by the public show ring that our horses just love. We used to keep them right by them for years, so whenever we would take them there, they thought they were going home.

When we turned them around to go to their real home, they would go real slow and pout.

Of all our horses, Mingo loved these trails the best.
Here is a picture my sister sent me of Mingo.  It makes his nose look much bigge than it was (he had a full-sized head but used a 4.75 bit) but it gives you an idea of what beautiful eyes he had.  He had the prettiest eyes I ever saw on a horse.  I never got tired of looking at his eyes, although we seldom saw them.  His long and thick forelock usually covered them.  His mane was very long, and I had to cut his tail every few month to keep him from stepping on it.

Rainy Weekend

Looks like it may be a rainy weekend. I think we will have no trouble getting a good ride on Saturday morning, but Sunday looks questionable. I’m going out for a quick evening ride today before going over my boyfriend’s for our Friday night movie. I rode Cruiser on Wednesday, and he was very energetic and hyper. I think he is preparing me for when I get my young horse.

Yes, I have decided to get another horse. I am hoping for a Morab gelding, like Cruise. Cruiser will be 23 in a few months, so I have to be realistic. I won’t be able to ride him as much as I do forever. My sister’s horse is close behind, so having a third horse between us works out really well. So the search is beginning…

I am planning a good garden this year.  I am starting tomatos, peppers, cabbage and broccoli in the house.  I already have snow peas growing in pots for a springtime harvest. They are so good from the garden.  The rest of the garden has to wait until I rototill and get the electric fence up.  We have way too many deer to bother to plant without the electric fence.  I usually don't get it started until mid May.  I sure do miss those fresh veggies.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cruiser Crisis

My sister and I had a 4-day weekend. For the third consecutive week, we had to get the vet out.

Last week, Cruiser started to get hives on his face. He usually gets some hives in the spring. They are itchy, they break open and I treat them on my own. This time, they got worse every day. In a few days, he had half of one side of his face scraped up, and they were draining like crazy.

I got the vet out on Monday. By then, we figured out the problem. When I switched from his heated water bucket to his summer bucket, I accidently got the wrong bucket. It was the same color, but it was from a stall of a cribber. His owner pained the whole thing in No Chew to keep his horse from cribbing on it.

Cruiser, a horse with very sensitive skin, had an allergic reaction to the No Chew. I bet, when his head got itchy, he even used the bucket to rub his head--getting even more on it.
The vet agreed that it looked like it was cause by a chemical. Of course, we switched his bucket. The vet gave him a steroid shot and some steroid pill for a few days. I washed his halter and bridle, too.

He is so much better. He might just be a little bald for a while.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mingo is gone

Mingo has move on to a place where he can buck, run, roll, snort and lay down to take a nap...things he hasn't been able to to in months.  I sure will miss you little black horse...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Saying Goodbye

My sister-in-law brought my two nieces (14 and 18) out to the barn last night to say goodbye to Mingo. They have been riding our horses for years, and last summer, we put them in training. They had a great time, and got very attached to the horses. They wanted to see Mingo one last time.

I was worried it would be a tearful and emotional affair, but Mingo saved the day. He had one of his best days in weeks. He was so sociable and loveable. He turned on that “old Mingo Charm” that he was always so good at. I turned him loose in the arena as the kids fed him treats and talked to him. He never left them—even when the treats were gone. He just wanted to be petted and talked to. We took a bunch of group pictures with us all laughing and smiling. The horse, who a few weeks ago didn’t want anything to do with people, seemed to revel being surrounded by us. For a little while, he was his old self, again.

They left, and he was exhausted. He ate his evening beet pulp and hay cubes, then went right to the corner of his stall to take a nap. It was a great evening. and one I will always remember.

(Friday is the sad day...)