Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dylan Arrives TOMORROW!!

The shipper arrived in SC this morning to pick up Dylan. K saw him off, and as of right now he is slated for arrival tomorrow mid-morning. I am getting thrills just thinking about it - he will really be here TOMORROW, finally after all this time and planning!

K took a few 'before' pictures of him, to make sure he arrives in the same or similar condition. He is a good traveler, and the shipper is really good, so we expect him to do well. K said he is a bit on the thinner side right now, the barn had trouble with hay quality but he has been gaining it back. I think he tends to be a bit of a harder keeper - luckily, one thing I am good at is fattening up critters ;)

Both Future Hubs and I were sick today (and one of our dogs was too ironically though, which made for a terrible and long night), but once I was able to drag myself from the couch I went out and finished up all of the pre-Dylan chores like harrowing his pasture, hanging fresh salts, scrubbing and refilling troughs, and the like. I am super distracted by Approvals (which is Friday), but the weekend of the 12th-13th I also have a pleasure show with O - which is also coming up fast! There is SO MUCH going on all at once. 

I will be the first to admit that I function best with all the balls flying up in the air at the same time. Show season, riding, driving, baby horses, inspections, all this stuff! I love it and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

See you tomorrow morning Dylan!!!!

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Dylan

I have something super, super exciting to announce. This is something that has been in the works since last winter - well over half a year of planning now - and it is finally all coming to fruition. Very soon now, I will be back in the saddle, partnered with an exceptionally fine and knowledgeable Andalusian named Dylan.

I have a friend from home named K, who is Dylan's owner. We grew up riding together in Michigan, and kept our horses at the same barn up until the time we both went off to separate colleges. I remember when K got Dylan - we were in college, and she came down to our school for an IDA show. She showed me a picture of Dylan, then only about three or so years old. (He is 14 this year, so this must have been in 2004 - when we were freshman). Over the years, she brought him up through the levels through Prix St. Georges. She then had her first kiddo, and is now on her second kiddo - and more kiddos will come! This winter, she reached out to me asking if I knew of anyone who might be interested in buying or leasing Dylan. Specifically, she wanted to know if I was interested - she knows me, knows how I ride and care for my horses, and thought it could really be a great opportunity for all of us. 

The Dylan! Photo by Bob Langrish

Fast forward to now. Many months of plans, hard work, organizing, drafting, and sorting through the details have brought us to this point. Dylan is coming to our place, and I will have the ride on him for the next few years until K's little ones are bigger. This is an incredible opportunity, one I am fortunate to have - have access to this caliber of horseflesh is a privilege, and I am incredibly lucky!

Photo by Calley Matherly 

I plan to use my time with Dylan to show and clinic, get my medals, further and finesse my upper level education, and play Barbie Horse with all that glorious, glorious hair. So much hair!! This is the perfect time and opportunity to do this: O has solidly earned her place as a driving horse, and Pax has many years under she has grown enough to be solidly started under saddle, so without him I would not have the opportunity to keep riding, learning, and showing until the little one is grown. This is the perfect time. 

Photo by Linda Sherrill

Dylan has been lucky in his life to have caring owners and caretakers who have always treated him kindly and well, and he is fine tuned and ready to roll. That is a rare treat for me! I have nothing to fix for once - I just get to enjoy him right from the get-go!

Photo by Wright Horse Photography

This is an amazing, incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And I am so lucky!!

He should be arriving this week, although that has been a giant snafu in and of itself. Approvals is this coming Friday, so months ago we told the shipper that we needed him loaded and on his way by the 20th. That was a week and a half ago, and no word from the shipper until K called today and raised some hell. We've told them a zillion times that he CAN NOT arrive here on the 4th. He CAN'T. We will NOT be here. So of course, now they are telling us that he will picked up on the 2nd, and dropped off on the 3rd. Is that *really* going to happen? I guess we will have to see....!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

T-Minus One Week Until Approvals!

Approvals is only ONE WEEK away now!! I'm excited but also feeling a bit anxious. Pax is going through an awkward growth phase and P is not sound (which is normal). I did my best to try and keep  P in some kind of vague shape, and dumped food into her, but she still looks saggy and old. Nursing a baby is hard work and it takes a lot of resources out of the mare. It has been SUPER hot and humid this summer, so both P and Pax stood around sweating and sunbleaching their coats. They have a shed, and trees, but did they go stand under them? No, of course not.... ah well. I'd rather have healthy beasts than beasts that have been standing in their stalls for the sole sake of saving their coats. In the grand scheme of things, Approvals is not that important - as long as Pax gets papers and a brand, that is all I really care about. 

As is my usual, I like to start planning out my to-do list for an upcoming event at least a week in advance. A month ago, I sent in my reservation for the event, and found all of the necessary paperwork (breeding certs, P's papers, etc). A few weeks ago, I ordered a leather halter for Pax, and while it was still a hair big then, it should fit a little bit better now. It's a really nice halter!

So pretty

This morning, I dug around and found a bunch of spare bridle parts in my trailer for P. I use a few different schooling bridles, but none of them were appropriate for Approvals, and my nicer bridles all either don't fit or have been sold in the recent past. P is funny about bits too - she hates them - but I found a rubber d-ring that she seems to tolerate fairly well. I might add a flash to it, but I have to find a spare one floating around. I know I have several *somewhere*. The bridle is dried out and old, so it needs a good conditioning too!

Skeptical of these shenanigans

Did you notice something odd in that picture behind P? Something tiny? I have a whole story to tell about that tiny, tiny thing - and will share it shortly!

B2 is helping me handle the beasts. We are still deciding on how we want to do it - Pax will probably misbehave, so I want to handle her, but I also want to be in all the good pictures, so I might switch off and trot P out myself. Also I would feel bad if Pax mowed B2 over while they were running around!

Today's Approvals To-Do List:
Clean bridle and set aside
Get Pax's halter and lead and set aside
Get all paperwork out and organized
Find Coggins (for O and P)
Figure out what is still needed - like brown yarn for Pax braids, etc.

This Weekend/Early Week:
Clean out and ready horse trailer
Get trailer spare repaired
Meet up with B2 and make sure our clothes fit (she picked us up our outfits!)
Clip noses and bridlepaths
Trim feet - and possibly cast P up front

I'm sure the list will change a bit but that is the main stuff that needs to be done!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Goodbye Twiggy

We let the old corgi go to cross the Rainbow Bridge yesterday. It was time and her condition was deteriorating. I was having to help her up every time she was down - which was often. She was falling a lot and was unable to get up. She was losing her appetite. It was time. 

I think that I have a very good relationship with death, if that doesn't sound too terribly odd. It is just a part of life and we all must go through it, and partake in losses of our loved ones at some point. It is just a part of being a carbon-based life form on this planet. I have seen a lot of deaths, been around a lot of animals at the end, and I know what it is to have a good death and to have a bad one too. I don't ever want my animals to suffer through a bad death, if it can be helped. Quincy was my first horse, my first true love, and my first view of a gruesome death - his colic was far and away the most violent and horrible thing I've ever witnessed, and I hope to never see anything like it again. Even other horrible deaths I've been a part of - like the mare who broke her neck and then rubbed her eyeball out of her head while thrashing - somehow don't compare to that first one. It is so permanently, so horribly burned into my mind that I don't think I will ever escape it. I remember all the fine details. I remember the dust settling onto his eyeballs. I remember spending far, far too long around his bloated and stiff body, and those memories override a lot of the joyful ones I had of him while he was still alive. He suffered - really, really suffered - at the end, and even though I was just a dumb kid with a lot of naive hope, I regret all of my decisions that day. I regret trying to save a horse that was almost dead on his feet. I regret not being able to even have the vet euthanize him - he died right in front of my eyes before the vet could even get back to the farm. I never want any of my animals to ever have to go through that, ever again.

Death is a natural part of life, and we all will have to go through it. We all deserve to die with dignity and peace. Not everyone will get to have that, but as such, it is my solomn promise to all of my animals that I will do my best to give that gift to them, and I will be there for them until the very end. And I hope they can all walk with with relative comfort and dignity to their graves.

Twiggy was very, very old. She was the first pet that I had to put down because of really, really old age. Her body was just failing her in every direction, and there was nothing else to be done. That is just how life is, and it is something we all will have to go through if we ever reach that kind of age. She aged slowly, the process marked by small changes in her ability to do things. She used to be able to ride with me in the truck all day long as I worked, but her arthritis started to slow her down about two years ago, and she could only do half days before she would get tired and lame. Then she wasn't able to do even half days anymore, so we relegated her to walking a few miles a couple times a week. That slowly declined to only a half a mile twice a week, to a quarter of a mile ever couple weeks, to nothing at all. At the end, she was still able to get around the yard slowly, but that was about it, and she seemed satisfied to sit and bark at the running dogs without feeling the need to join in. But it was time. 

We chose yesterday so that we could both be there with her. She had mac'n cheese and eggs for breakfast, then napped and got petted for the rest of the morning. In the early afternoon, we took her to McDonalds and got an ice cream cone and an entire box of chicken nuggets for her, then went and sat at our favorite old park. She was a little nervous in the vet's office, but a small dose of sedation calmed her down (I can't recommend this enough, seriously - it helps so much with the human ability to process). She dozed off under her dose of sedation, then slipped away immediately once the actual deed was performed. It was quiet, and peaceful, and good. Unlike with when my greyhound died, the vets did not pressure us, ask us questions, try to get us to do something more, and guilt trip us. (All those things happened with poor Ti - she was dying of kidney failure and the emergency vet tried to convince us to jump through enormous expensive hoops to save her, even though she was clearly suffering and dying and had been going through this process for some time. Then she made us feel like we were too cheap to save our dog and that we didn't love her enough. It was horrible and I've never been back to that vet since.) They just patted our backs, told us how sorry they were, and let us grieve quietly. It was very hard, but it was peaceful, and it was good.

I firmly believe that euthanasia is a gift. It is the last kind act we can do for a suffering or dying animal, instead of letting them waste away in unimaginable pain until their bodies finally give out on them. I remember last year finding the neighbor's ancient old heeler dead out in the pasture - he dragged his pathetic carcass out there and expired, and I found him with buzzards picking his innards apart. I never, ever will let that happen to any of my animals. I don't believe it is right or fair to keep a crippled, sick, feeble, ancient, or otherwise incurable animal alive just because we can. Managing a chronic condition is something we of course can do, and should do if we can, until we can't anymore - and then we have to make that choice. When the animal has rounded the bend, or is not getting better, or is suffering - make that choice for them. Give them that last gift. Let them be at peace and out of pain. And give them a good last day if you can. 

It was a hard day. A sad day. A day I won't ever forget. But it was a beautiful day, a fun day, a day full of good food and love and happiness. It was a good day to die. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Hard Questions.

Having very old animals is one of the most wonderful and heartbreaking things I have ever had to go through. 

When I lost my old greyhound a year ago, it was soul-crushing but also necessary. She was very ill with kidney disease and she went downhill very fast in the end - it was the only humane option and therefore the choice was easy.

This year, I am facing losing both my very old Twiggy the corgi, and my very old Darby too. Both of these descisions are weighing heavily on my mind and heart right now, because neither one of them are easy to make. Both of them involve locomotive failures and not sickness. It's not like I haven't gone through this before - both Metro and Gogo were chosen euthanasias because of lameness issues. Both of them were much younger though - the idea of them having to face a long lifetime of crippled limping sealed the decisions, as I felt it was unfair to both of them. Both Twiggy and Darby are very old and lame, which means I know the decision is looming.... but when to make it? When is the right time?

The old corgi is my companion of about four years. We found her running on the freeway several years back, drying up from nursing puppies - her pads were super soft, like she had never really been outside. We think she may have been a breeder dog who got too old and got dumped - we never found an owner, and fell in love with her while we were looking, so she stayed. She used to be my work buddy, always riding along in my truck with me. About two years ago, her arthritis got to be bad enough that even a half day of work was too much for her, and she'd be pretty lame the following day. Up until about 6 months ago, she was still able to go for little 1/2 mile walks once or twice a week. As of late, she is now struggling to rise from her bed in the morning, and a lot of the time I have to help her stand. She's very lame and pain meds don't control it well anymore. Her back and her hips are very bad and there isn't anything we can do about it except keep her comfortable. Some days, she is great - still manages to lope around the yard, still barks at the big dogs when they play, still has her voracious corgi appetite. But some mornings, I can't get her out from under the bed. Today she didn't even lift her head when I called her to go outside - I thought she was dead. It was only after I turned the lights on and looked down at her that I was able to make sure she was still breathing. 

I made an appointment for her once already, but she rebounded so well in the week leading up to it that I couldn't in good faith put her down just yet. Now though, I am facing that decision again. I'm not ready but I'm also not willing to make her suffer longer than she already has. 

Only the cutest corgi you ever saw

I'm also not sure what to do about Darby. I took her on knowing full well that she was going to die. I took her on knowing that she is crippled in all four legs, and that she is never going to be sound or normal again. What I didn't anticipate happening was how much she really has bloomed at our place. She really filled out - she looks fantastic! I've never seen a horse of her great age look as good at she does. Good food has taken ten years off her life visually. She absolutely sparkles in the sunlight.

But she is not sound. She gets around well enough but she never really recovered from when she tanked so badly in the spring, right before I brought her home. If her feet get wet or if she packs anything in up against her soles, she is dead lame. She grunts and groans with every step when she is sore. Some days she looks really good, but a lot of the time she doesn't. On her worst days, bute helps her get along. 

I think about how lame Gogo and Metro were when I euthanized them. Neither of them were ANYWHERE near as bad as her on even her good days. I think about ever letting either of those two get to Darby's level of lameness, and there's no way I would have EVER let them suffer that much. I would have - and did - let them go long before they ever got to this level. There is some level of lameness that is controllable and acceptable to me - like P's lameness, it certainly isn't enough to warrent euthanizing her just yet. She is not very sound if she is in work, but she is able to run and play and go for light hacks - that is definitely a decent quality of life. Darby is not even able to do more than walk, and never has, ever since I have known her.... which actually I think is making the decision more complicated for me. I think that because I never knew Darby when she was sound, I have an altered idea of what comfortable is for her. The fact stands that she is so much better now than she was a few months ago when I first brought her home - and that makes it hard. She has really improved from what she was back then. That makes me want to keep fighting for her, to keep helping her feel good in any way that I can, because she deserves it.

But she also deserves to be comfortable and pain free. She deserves respect and dignity. She deserves the right thing - but what is the right thing?

Darby the day I brought her home

Darby now

I am helped in these descisions by knowing that horses and dogs aren't thinking of what is going to happen tomorrow. They live in the here and now - they only think about what is happening right now, or when they anticipate something in their daily routine. They aren't thinking these existential thoughts, wondering what life is all about, wondering if they are going to feel better tomorrow or in a week or a month. And when they are old and infirm, they pass gently when they die, their old bodies ready to be free of their everyday suffering. I don't know what happens after this life, but I like to think that animals are restored to their full health and vigor somewhere off in the universe, able to run and play again. I don't believe in suffering or making animals live longer just because these decisions are hard for us humans to deal with. 

It's weighing heavily on me and I'm not sure when the right time to make these decisions is. Is there ever a right time? I don't know.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Baby Shenanigans

Approvals are exactly 3 weeks away now. I'm working hard every day to make sure everyone's coats and tails are holding up in the sweaty Texas heat, dumping feed into P, and working on leading skills with Pax. (Not that P is skinny... but a little extra cover for her saggy topline can't hurt. Go ahead and judge me for that one.)

I ordered a leather halter for Pax, and it nearly fits! In 3 weeks it definitely will.

She looks so grown up wearing it. She'll be four months old next week - where has time gone!?

Every night, she gets up to shenanigans after dinner:

If she fails as a driving/dressage horse, she can cut it as a reiner

O gets in on the action too!

O says, please leave me alone, Flymask Marking Girl

P is getting increasingly tired of these shenanigans. Most of the time, she totally ignores Pax, letting her do whatever she wants and pretending like she doesn't exist. She never grooms her, touches her, or pays attention to her. When Pax nurses, P stands there clenching and sneering. She's a very tolerant mother but I think if she had the choice she'd be spending her time eating and not caring for a baby.

"Really kid?"

"Maybe if I ignore it, it will go away."

See what I mean about "not skinny but also not muscular"? She is 19 years old and not sound enough to work much, with a heat intolerance and a giant red parasite sucking her down. Can't blame her for being a bit cranky and saggy these days!

It's a depressing day when your 30+ year old cripple mare has a better topline than the broodmare:

Darby says, if you could get me a better fitting halter and a flymask without holes, that would be greaaaaattttt

She looks pretty fantastic. I'm actually starting to wonder if she isn't younger than I was told. She is clearly over her mid 20's but she may be some years less than I thought. I have a hard time reading teeth, but the dentist will give me a better idea when she comes next month. What 30+ year old looks that good though? She is now eating even less grainfoods than P is! She is getting around great, so long as I keep her feet dry. Sometimes the water trough overflows (because I am spacey and forget to shut it off in time), and if she stands in a bit of mud even for a short time, she gets tenderfooted. This spring, she was getting 1-2g of bute every single day to try and turn her around. Now, I haven't given her any bute in a month and a half - she hasn't needed it. Our dry spell definitely has helped!
I'm sure she has extensive bony and corium damage in her feet (and of course, the left hind fetlock). She's not really one that we can 'fix' per se, just keep her comfortable until it is time for her to go to the gates of Dark Forest. She's not ready to go yet though - at this rate we might have quite a bit of time left with her, far more than I expected! We'll just have to see! I won't put her through any lengthy ordeals though, so we'll just keep on keeping on for however long she has. 

It's too bad she's too crippled to really move faster than a walk anymore... she'd really let Pax have it if she could get her hiney moving. That filly needs a good butt-whipping and I'm the only one around here who ever does it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Bleaching Baby, Perfect Displayed In One Photo

It's hot in Texas.

This is in the shade

Everything is roasting, or literally just on fire.

Bad day at the paper recycling plant

My beautiful, glossy, super-dark baby has lightened from what was a promising shade of liver chestnut to the color of baby-poop-brown. 

When she has a bath, I can still pretend that she is dark.

The wet hides the shame
But the truth still stands: everything is several shades lighter than it was.

Except for one thing.

Pax has been wearing her flymask since pretty much we moved here - sometimes I take it off at night and put it back on in the pre-dawn light, and sometimes I leave it on 24/7 (and that goes for all of them.... I tried to leave O's mask off last night and this morning she had one eye nearly swelled shut from the overnight bugs. Fail). Given the fact that I take Pax's mask off at night and put it back on before dawn, I haven't really looked closely at the color of her face beyond "do you still have two eyes today? Good."

Then I realized something.

She's been wearing this nice UV-protectant mask all summer, but everything else has been bleaching. 


Mask of Zorro

It's, uhh... not *that* noticable.... is it? 

Ohhhhhhhhhh dear.