Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Many updates!!

I've been a HORRIBLE blogger this past week! Not ONE update... and there is so much good news to share!

First off, and most importantly, Sophie's prepurchase finally happened today. I didn't actually even know it was set for today until a day and a half ago, which is why I never updated anyone on it... it happened so quickly! The vet called me this morning to give me her two cents, and basically what we found was absolutely nothing that we didn't already know about. We discussed the wonkiness in the LH, which showed up somewhat today but didn't change during flexions, and improved with movement. We also discussed the fact that she is 15 years old, living in a field, completely out of shape and not on any sort of supplements or therapies.... it is no surprise in the winter that she comes out a little stiff. With maintenance, she should be able to be a perfectly serviceable mount for years to come.

In other words, after seven years of chasing this beautiful, wonderful, sweet, lovely mare.... I finally will have her. Everything has come full circle like it was meant to, and I can hardly believe it. Is this really happening?? It hasn't even really hit me yet. SHE'S COMING HOME.

Now there is of course no possible way to top that completely excellent news, but Bay Girl clearly deserves her rightful update as well, and the news is equally as exciting on a much smaller scale. She had two enormous milestones this week, both of which were small but monumental in their own ways. Firstly, she was able to be trimmed by the farrier WITHOUT sedatives for the FIRST time since she has been at our place. She was a notorious kicker before I started working with her, terrified to have her feet handled and unable to be worked on at all without drugs. I also suspected that she might have a thing with men, as she squirmed and squirreled around whenever any guys showed up on the property. This time, the farrier was able to trim her alone (no handler!!) on the left side completely by himself, and then with a handler was able to do her right side. To be fair, when he went to work on her right side by himself the guy mowing the lawn showed up with his giant scary lawnmower machine right outside the barn door, so it was a bit much for her to handle, and he called a handler over to be safe. But this is a HUGE step in the right direction... SO proud of her.

The other thing that happened was a completely surprise to me. I had finally decided to completely give up on the whole cookies and pretend deworming thing, as it was making her standoffish and uncertain. Maybe we'll revisit deworming somewhere down the road, but for now, I think it is best to leave well enough alone. I had also completely given up the idea of giving her cookies. It was getting to the point that every time I would offer up something in my hand, sweet feed included, she'd turn her nose up suspiciously at me and snort. I didn't want her to continue to be unsure, so I just started to offer her sweet feed by hand again. Today, on a complete whim, I offered up one of those giant chunky apple wafers from Manna Pro - you know, the ones that look completely unappetizing - and waited to see what would happen. I expected it to go the same way it always has, with her sniffing it suspiciously and then snorting and turning away. This time, she sniffed it, sniffed it harder, snuffled it around with her nose, lipped it, and then TOOK IT AND ATE IT! SHE ATE A COOKIE! And she must have liked it well enough, because she took a SECOND one and ate that one too!

I can't believe that after all this fuss she finally decided to give one a try. It is ridiculous how excellent it felt to watch her crunching on a cookie for the first time. Between that and the news on Sophie, I couldn't stop smiling all the way home.

By the way, does she not look like she is going to pop any day now? She's HUGE!

I'll have a post about her feet coming soon, seeing as I am finally able to pick up her feet long enough to take pictures of them... stay tuned!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Great Molasses Caper (Or, How My Master Plan Was Foiled)

The funniest part about the story of the Great Molasses Caper is that it has absolutely nothing to do with Bay Girl at all. I was foiled completely by my own inability to remember small unimportant details, like where I set my jar of molasses down for the evening.

Hmmm, where should I put this sticky jar? I asked myself as I parked the golf cart for the evening. The oozing molasses had managed to come burbling over the top of the jar while I was dosing out a syringe for Bay Girl's latest come-to-deworming-Jesus meeting, and I felt that leaving a sticky, gooey mess in the cart for someone to step in/sit on/otherwise get stuck in was probably not a good idea. It was late in the evening, I had places to be that night, and I opted to just toss it into the nearest empty stall's feed bucket for the night. No biggie, I thought, I'll just grab that tomorrow and find a better place for it. No harm will come to it there.

Fast forward to the following morning. I was pulling horses up out of their pastures and into stalls so that they could be close at hand for their daily treadmilling when my boss asked if I could bring her little Mustang up for her. No problem, I said, and headed off to get the chubby little guy, taking less than 3 seconds to consider where I'd put him for her. Aaah, right here, I thought to myself as I stopped in front of the stall closest to where the golf cart was regularly parked. He'll be easy to access for her if he's right there waiting! Sorry there's nothing to eat in there old chap, you'll just have to wait until later! With these parting words, I headed off to get the next horse, blissfully unaware of what was about to unfold in the barn behind me.

When I walked back into the barn, all I could hear was Chip bashing his feed bucket around. Huh, that's weird, I thought to myself. There's no food in there, why is he playing with his bucket? It took me probably the better part of a minute to connect the dots and turn back around with a look of horror on my face. The molasses! How could I have forgotten! There's a WHOLE jar in there... but it's sealed, right? No biggie, right?

Wrong! Did you know Mustangs can open tightly sealed jars? I didn't either, but apparently Chip's prehensile flappers managed to pop open the lid with a single crunch, effectively splattering sticky, dark, gooey, smelly molasses ALL over everything in the stall. In the feed bucket. On the floor. All over his face. On the walls. Everywhere. I gaped in horror as he lifted his stained muzzle up from the bucket, white blaze covered in brown goo. He had a show to go to that morning! It was EVERYWHERE!

Lucky, I managed to get him mostly cleaned up and out the door in an appropriate amount of time. The jar of molasses and the mashed up syringe did not fare quite as well as he did, I'm afraid. They were both given a proper garbage bin burial post-eating, like proper barn items deserve.

I'm going to take this as a sign that the powers that be do not recommend we continue to attempt the molasses thing.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


For everyone complaining about their horrible winter weather, snowstorms, ice, and subzero temperatures, I'd just like to take this moment and say that it is currently a lovely and sunny 75 degrees outside, and it will be 80 tomorrow. I know I'll hate my life come summertime, but as for today? January is awesome.

In this week's episode of I-Hope-I-Am-Doing-This-Right, we have come to the crux of Bay Girl's problems: deworming. As far as I can tell, the base of her headshyness, uncatchability, and general distrust of humans stems from the fact that prior to her time with me, she's only been caught and handled so that extremely unpleasant things could be done to her (palpations, shots, dewormings, etc). Therefore, whenever anyone went to grab her catch halter, she freaked. And while she now is caught easily, loves to have her face rubbed, and is more than willing for me to walk up and grab her halter at will, we've still not gotten to the actual base of the issue here.... deworming. She is still absolutely horrible about it, and when she sees you coming with the syringe... good luck if you can catch her. And if you CAN catch her, good luck getting it in her mouth! Copious amounts of rapid backing, head flinging, and general panic are the norm for this magical time of month. It's not a lot of fun.

We can't avoid this issue forever. So it's time to push the envelope a little bit and see if we can't get her to at least stand for and and accept getting pasted, even if she doesn't really enjoy it all that much.

Here's what the plan involves: one large tipped 60cc syringe, one jar of molasses, and one Bay Girl. Oh, and one pen for containment purposes. Because this plan would implode out in the open anywhere.

The operation? First, get this:

And do this:

And then syringe this deliciousness into the mouth of this:

Sounds easy, right?
(And healthy.... have fun with this one, insulin! Sorry about the sugar assault! Barefoot practitioners everywhere are gritting their teeth and pulling out their hair, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do!)

And.... it's so not easy. I'm not going to say it went POORLY, but it wasn't the amazing magical lightbulb that I was hoping it would be. She's been such a dang genious for everything else I've done.... and the second time wasn't much better, to be honest.

I showed her the syringe dipped in molasss, and she sniffed it curiously, getting a bit on her mouth in the process. She licked it off in surprise, making "um that tastes weird" faces the entire time. I opted for molasses seeing as the ONLY thing she'll eat as a treat is a handful of sweet feed, so as was pointed out in my treats post, she is familiar with the taste and clearly must enjoy it. Or so I thought... I'm not so convinced anymore that she does!

When she realized what I was about to do, the head-tossing, flailing, and rapid backing began. Luckily, she was in her 10x10 feeding pen (all the mares are separated during feed time so they all can get their individual feeds without fuss from the other herd members), so she didn't really have anywhere to go. Once I managed to get the syringe into her mouth (by some small miracle), she stopped moving abruptly and made confused faces at the taste. I then released her off into the evening, and she wandered nonchalantly away still making the yuck-in-my-mouth face. This morning after breakfast, I did the same thing again, and the same routine of backing and head-slinging ensued. She was more than happy to walk right up to me again pre-breakfast, but she may change her mind about that if she doesn't enjoy getting some tasty molasses in her mouth. This could go either way... either she relaxes about it and enjoys her tasty little treat (and hopefully looks forward to the syringe for the most part), or she decides that this is a bunch of crap and she wants nothing to do with any of it. Obviously the former is what we're shooting for here.

I had planned on doing this every day, once a day after mealtimes, until she gets used to the routine and takes it quietly... but I'm not so sure that I really want to do that until she starts to be quiet about it. If all she associates me with is that nasty molasses crap being forced down her throat, she's not going to want to come spend any more time with me. I'll give it a few more random times to see if she quiets about it, and then we'll reassess and go from there. The last thing I want to do is go backwards in any way.... we've come so far already!

(I also have considered dipping the molasses-covered syringe into the sweet feed as an extra candy-coated treat. Then again, I'm not really keen on calling the owners to tell them their foal and the mare died of colic from swallowing a giant piece of crunched-on plastic syringe. It remains to be seen if I dive that far into the realm of crazy and give that a go or not.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Reposted from 2011 with small edits, and just as applicable this year as it will be every year.

Oh, my Metro.

Six long years ago, my Metro went to sleep forever. Five years. I can't believe it. Six.
But time heals all pain. My memories of him are strong and rich. The neverending stream of 'what-ifs' that I had running through my head when we euthanized him has settled and faded away. We did right by the Cookieman. We let him be at peace, and let him go to a forever place where there are no seizures, no stall rest, and no painful limbs. And because of his sacrifice, I was able to spend five beautiful years with my wonderful Gogomare, whom I never would have found otherwise. Because of his life, I am now reaching out to his daughter, who is every bit his child and just as lovely.
Even still, I miss him every day.

- Somewhere in time's own space
There must be some sweet pastured place
Where creeks sing on and tall trees grow
Some paradise where horses go
For by the love that guides my pen
I know great horses live again. -

You can honor his memory and read all my Metro posts on the Eventing-A-Gogo blog here. I love you Cookieman, and I miss you with all my heart.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

If you give a horse a cookie....

..... will she eat it?
In Bay Girl's case, no, she won't.

How do you get a horse to eat treats when they have no interest in them? I've never dealt with this issue before.

I, unlike many of my counterparts, do enjoy giving my horses cookies with some regularity. They are not allowed to beg, fuss, paw, wiggle, or mug me when the treat bag come out (or else they don't get one!), so their behavior remains appropriate save for the infamous cookie face I always get when I produce snacks. I've always had cookie hounds, so I've always been careful to dole them out only as I deem necessary. (Probably much to their dismay.)

But Bay Girl? Cookies won't do. Carrots won't do. Apples and peppermints won't do. If any of these items are offered to her, she sniffs them suspiciously and turns up her nose. If they are placed into her bucket with her dinner, she delicately eats around them and leaves them behind. In fact the only thing I've found that she will take out of my hand so far is a bit of sweet feed, which is what she is eating as her regular grain meal. (Not my choice... I don't do sweet feed for any reason whatsoever but she is not my horse.) I've been treating her fairly regularly for two reasons: a) it gives her a positive association with human hands, which before were instruments of torture and are now seen as nice happy things that give pets and treats and love instead of mean things, and b) it gives her a positive association with everything else that we are doing that might otherwise be unpleasant and scary. Food is a ridiculously good motivator when used appropriately. It is NOT a good choice in a lot of circumstances, but in this case for a horse with this kind of personality, I use it regularly and it works. She is always more than happy to see me, Food Lady, coming over to work with her, because Food Lady always is doing something nice like petting her or scratching her or giving her a snackie - even when that is paired with something scary like blanketing or putting on a halter or handling ears.

So now here is the question. I've never had a horse NOT want to take any sort of actual treat before. I don't really know where to begin if she won't even try them when they are mixed into her bucket with her regular feed. Having handfuls of sweet feed in my pocket is a bit unpleasant and messy, not to mention a nightmare when I forget to empty my pockets before I throw my pants into the washer.

What, my readers, would YOU do in order to get a horse to try a treat?


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bay Girl vs. Blanket, Round II

One of my January goals for Bay Girl is to get her a little more accustomed to wearing her blanket. Or well, perhaps not wearing it.... wearing it isn't the problem. It's getting it on and off that she minds so much!

Honestly, by "minds so much," I mean that the poor girl has only ever had a blanket put on and taken off once in her life that I know of... when I did it last. Getting it on went well, and getting it off went, well.....
Regardless of that, the weather at some point had to turn, and I therefore made it a priority to start trying to get Bay Girl's blanket on and off regularly. Unfortunately with the trip to Canada, long hours at work, and an excess of study going on at my house, I hadn't been able to work on this goal up until now. And once again, "now" meant exactly that... she needed the blanket on for tonight's extra chilly temperatures. Definitely must make this a bigger priority in life so that we can avoid more "nows" in the future.

The mares were all clumped together in Bay Girl's old pen today, due to the fact that the pastures are still a bit soggy and muddy from our last dump of rain, and I picked out some of the muddy mashed-in poo out there today (ew). The other three girls didn't even bother to give me the time of day while I was out there working, but Bay Girl stood and watched intently the entire time, trying her best to perform the Mare Mind Meld on me and get me to yield copious amounts of tasty goodies that perhaps she was certain I would have:

"Lady you bring me foods?"

Alas for her, I had no tasty goodies to give. Food fail.

Following this, my boss mentioned that the weather was going to turn shortly thereafter, temperatures sinking into the 20's for the evening (not a common occurrance in TX, even in the winter). Would I please blanket all the horses before I leave for the day, says she? Perfect opportunity to work on blanketing Bay Girl, says I!

It went very well for the second time, partly due to the fact that I had three other completely quiet mares also being blanketed in there with her. She got to watch me blanket all three of the others, and wasn't concerned by me throwing blankets up in the air as I tossed them over each mare. After watching countless horses go in and out of our AquaTread, and having trained a dozen or two new ones to get into it, I fully believe that horses to some extent really are visual learners. Newbies come to the pool barn, get parked in a designated set of crossties facing the pool, and then watch two or three "role model" horses who are already experienced get into the pool and work out. When it comes time for them to get in, they are FAR easier to work with if they have seen a few quiet ones go ahead of them and come out intact. If they can't get the hang of how to properly enter the pool by their second time (i.e. instead of walking in they continue leaping, sliding, or otherwise resisting for an extended period of time), we park them in the set of crossties right in front of the entrance to the pool, where they get a front row seat to horses walking calmly in. I have yet to see a lightbulb not go off for these horses, and every one of them has gone on to quietly walk on as well. In reference to Bay Girl, she was allowed to watch how routine blanketing was for the other mares in her herd, and therefore when it came time to put hers on, she was ready and willing to give it a shot.

She was still nervous, don't get me wrong - some eyeball rolling, general tension, and some squiggling when the wind moved her leg straps mid-blanketing - but I had her positioned between her friends, and she bounced back and forth off of two of them, ending up standing quietly again while she waited for my next move. I was able to put on leg straps from both sides this time instead of just the on left - hooray desensitization, you work! - and she stood quietly for a picture of the finished product:

Thankfully, the owner of the foal came and brought the other mare's old turnout blanket for her, so she no longer had to wear the ugly and ill-fitting green canvas one from before.

Like I said before, it will be a priority from now on to keep putting that blanket on and off whenever I have the opportunity. The more I can sack her out to as much stimuli as possible, the better her life will be down the road.

Oh, and one picture of Sophie giving the ultimate goober face:

That is SO a Metro look. He ALWAYS gave me the hurp face!


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The incomparable Sophie.

After a brief and whirlwind weekend trip from Texas up to Calgary, Canada, I am back home again and (mostly) functional despite how exhausted I am. And I very happy to say that Miss Sophie, the entire reason for my northern journey, was everything I could have wanted her to be.

The trip was short and tiring, but well worth it. After an exhausting flight north on Saturday (which took me from Dallas to Toronto to Calgary... could it have possibly been more out of the way?), we never made it to the barn due to ice, and had to settle for our trailer out to a local indoor the following day. I was all too happy to crash early that night, seeing as the excessive amount of travel, schoolwork and work that I've been doing lately, not to mention looking for a place for Future Hubs and I to move to, has completely worn me out, and I've been severely lacking on my sleep! I got a solid 10 hours, thank god, and awoke at 6am bright and ready to roll.

The sun was just rising as we reached the barn, early dawn still creeping dark around the edges. A Chinook had rolled in early that morning with the typical howling winds that it brings, and I could hardly believe it when I felt the outdoor temperature.... almost 45F degrees!! It hovered around nearly 50F that entire day, which is UNHEARD of in that part of Canada at this time of year. The weather rolled in and rolled right back out again after I left, so I consider myself VERY lucky. (The weather in Dallas yesterday was FAR worse.... 40 degrees and sleeting all day! Barf!) We hooked up the trailer, grabbed all the tack, and proceeded out to the pasture to catch Sophie. I knew exactly who she was from the moment I set foot in the field... she was the first one to notice us, and the first to break away from her friends and walk towards us. She was beautiful... far prettier than I had expected, and in better shape too. Considering that all she has done lately is stand around eating on a roundbale free-choice (no grain, no blankets, no riding, no grooming, no supplements, no nothing at all), she looked really quite good, and actually had something resembling a topline. Must be all that eating exercise!

We loaded her and another mare into the trailer (other mare was owned and ridden by the woman who was trailering us to the indoor), and headed on our way. Once we unloaded, I had a chance to interact with Sophie, grooming, handling, and tacking her on my own. She ties, trailers, stands for the farrier, goes out solo on trail rides, is independent, quiet, and sensible. Her owner said that she had been bucked off twice by her, and that she could be fresh, but I lunged her beforehand and she didn't do a thing.... she was lazy! Her bad habits include pawing and wiggling when bored (like when mounting or standing around... that will stop immediately!). Once on her, I discovered that someone had put quite a lot of time and effort into her... as soon as I picked up contact, she immediately set herself right on the bit, and off we went. Starting off at the trot, she was a bit stiff to warm up, but once we cantered she was much more fluid and smooth. I can't exactly blame her for that... she's 15 and not on so much as a joint supplement, so I understand!

Was she a bit creaky behind? Yes, a little. Not outwardly lame by any means, and it improved dramatically once she got going, so I can't fault her for it. Will be she a serious competition horse? I doubt it, although once she gets on a good joint care program and has some conditioning, who knows how she'll go? I distinctly remember how much a little Adequan and Cosequin did for her father... he was a new horse on them!

She was lovely. Not an extravagant mover in the slightest, but well trained and 110% willing to give anything I asked. She was an absolute peach. I loved her.

Also, don't mind the neon blue Vetwrap on my boot.... busted zipper. So classy, I know. Eventers are resourceful after all....

The rest of my pictures are being cranky and refusing to upload, so I'll have to keep fighting them... ugh!

At this point, we are pending a prepurchase (she will not pass a sport prepurchase, I just want to see what we are working with here in terms of usability), and then we can move right along with things. There are lots of trucks that make this journey on a month basis, and I have a barn potentially lined up, so there are lots of movements in the right direction... without any finality yet, of course. I can't believe this all worked out the way it did.... what luck! What timing! Karma, don't fail me now!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

End of December Analysis

A few days late, that is! I guess I'm not used to having and maintaining goals any more, seeing as the last set of goals I did for myself was in November of 2010. I didn't set a single goal for the entirety of 2011... helpful in some ways, detrimental in others. On the whole, December was very successful for being a simple feel-out month, one in which I tested out Bay Girl's temperament and reactions to stimuli. I honestly can not believe the transformation in her... she's a different animal already and we've only just begun!

December Goals:

1) Continue desensitization to touch (touch with hands, grooming tools, towels, etc, on legs, body, belly, and face)
Success! I've had great luck with touching Bay Girl all over, especially while in the crossties (she still sucks away a bit when you touch her anywhere but her neck when she is out in the pasture). While in the crossties, she lets me touch her face, belly, legs, and everywhere else... hooray! She has also hesitantly been letting me rub her all over with the towel, something she's not particularly sure about yet. This is particularly important to me because she will eventually need to wear a blanket with regularity.... and maybe someday, she will carry a saddle. She is still hesitant about her body being touched while out in the field, but we will continue to work on this.

2) Introduce turnout blanket
Success! Or well, mostly. But just because we got it on once doesn't mean we'll be able to do it again. I intend on making this a regular event in our daily handling, not just on an as-needed basis.

3) Continue working on not just catching, but haltering as well
Again, success! I discovered shortly ago that her aversion to haltering is probably due to the fact that she is quite certain that anything moving towards her head is dewormer. She was probably only ever caught for unpleasanties like that in her former life, and she was reacting accordingly with a "no please don't catch me and shove crap down my throat!" Once I figured that out, haltering her became really quite simple. All I had to do was do it regularly. Eventually, she realized that I was not coming to do something mean and horrible to her. She is still a little hesitant, but this will continue to diminish as time goes on.

4) Work on picking up front and hind feet with no kicking, pulling, or wiggling!
Success! She's actually been better about her hinds than her fronts, very interestingly. She offers up some very small hesitation on occasion with her fronts when first picking them up, but once they are up, she stands quietly for picking and cleaning. She has a bit of thrush on her left front which I am topically treating (would love to give her a good CleanTrax soak but that will NOT be happening anytime soon!!), but it is clearing. I'll have to do a post on her feet.. they are quite interesting!

5) Go on walks around property and desensitize to anything scary we might find!
Success! I didn't focus as much on this as I would have liked, but what walking we did do was successful and pleasant. Her leading needs a bit of work... actually, she needs regular groundwork in general if I am to be honest with myself. I'm not sure how much I wanna do with her being so very pregnant, but this is something that will eventually need to be addressed.

And onto January.....

January Goals:
1) Continue desensitization to touch (touch with hands, grooming tools, towels, etc, on legs, body, belly, and face)
2) Work on blanketing regularly (a few times a week, dangling leg straps, etc)
3) Introduce dosing orally with tasty things (working on deworming phobia)
4) Continue for walks around property
5) Set up a calendar schedule for her (like Gogo's old one)

Basically this is more of the same thing, only on the next level. More handling, more blanketing, more haltering, more leading, more everything! I'll have a calender set up for her soon... but first, I get to go see SOPHIE! T-minus 2 days and I will be sitting on her.... I can't wait!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Bay Girl catching some ZZZZZs in the field today... she didn't mind me walking around out there either, she just stayed put and slept!
All of you northern folks are very jealous of our 60 degree weather and sunshine. It will be 70 on Thursday.... don't you wish you were here too! ;)

T-minus four days until I see Sophie.... getting very excited! I am absolutely shocked to say that the weather should be in the high 30's and upper 40's when I am there for the weekend (Calgary, AB).... when I went to Alberta to see Metro it was -50. Yes, you read that right.... NEGATIVE FIFTY. Thank god for better weather this time!!!