Monday, December 28, 2015

Bi-Polar Texas

Merry Christmas!! I didn't do my customary Mare-y Christmas post because I was busy in Florida being harassed by my family, but the sentiment was still there in my mind. Next year I plan on being here for Christmas, which will make for more fun horsey Christmastime posts.

While I was away in Florida, I was warily watching our weather back in Texas. We had been in this amazing holding pattern of 70's and beautiful, every single day, and it looked like we would have record high temps on Christmas. Even in Florida, it was nearly 85 on Christmas, which is pretty warm even for there. The day after Christmas, the weather in Texas fell apart, and I watched from a distance in horror as our nearly 80 degree humid and hot temps spawned 11 tornadoes in the Metroplex, killing 11 people and completely leveling houses down to bare foundation. I know at least one of those tornadoes was rated EF4, one of only two tornadoes since 1950 to achieve that rating within the Dallas area. Tornadoes go through the Metroplex all the time, that's nothing new, but one of these in particular spun right up our main artery freeway, killing people all along the route. It was awful.

Rowlett tornado

Meanwhile back at my house, the 80 degree weather suddenly dropped thirty degrees and a downpour began. B2 and her husband were amazing and went to my house to blanket all of my poor beasts, who were surely a bit shell-shocked from the abrupt change in weather. We flew back in yesterday ourselves, and actually had to be re-routed through Corpus Christi, which is waaaaaay down the coastline if you don't know Texas geography. It's about 450 miles from here, if that gives you an idea of the distance. It doubled our flight time, but at least we made it without crashing in the midst of a giant storm. There were still tornadoes being produced on the eastern side of the state as of yesterday evening. As for us, it was steadily raining with a temperature hovering around 45 degrees... which is unpleasant.
Zuul earned 50 gold stars yesterday though for being a champ and learning how to wear a blanket for the first time! I honestly wasn't sure I could get one on him, but he has that super fine zebra coat and was definitely wet and shivery. Oh well, no time like the present to learn...! I caught him, tied him, petted him for a few minutes, and then introduced him to the blanket. Not surprisingly, he shot to the end of his line a few times, but after a few minutes he realized it was not going to eat him alive. I first put Pax's 60” on him, but it was just comically huge on him. I had to actually go to the store on a Sunday and scour the racks for anything that might fit him. The only thing I found in the whole store was an Amigo foal rug that was a 54”. I guess everyone else had the same idea I did. Thankfully, I went back home, tried it on him, and found it fit! He didn't even kill me when I put the belly band on him – I was a bit worried about that but he managed to hold it together. Admittedly, his ego may be suffering a bit from the purple/pink combo though....

It's manly

MEANWHILE AGAIN, while the severe weather was still ongoing in the east, on the WEST side of the state there is currently a gigantic historic blizzard going on. The panhandle got totally hammered and I saw some pictures of drifts nearly 10 feet high. So right behind these killer tornados was a killer blizzard. I mean come on Texas, REALLY?

I woke up at 4:30am this morning because I heard Dylan calling to the mares. I looked out my window and saw....


Several inches of it, and more coming down with every second. What the actual #)$*!

Bet he's thanking me for that blanket right about now!

Quick recap:
December 26th: 80 degrees and deadly tornados
December 27th: 45 degrees and chilly rain
December 28th: 32 degrees and several inches of snow

What. The. F.

Do I eat this? Sleep on this? What is?

He thinks I conjured this up just to upset him

Pax wondering what has happened to the world

Zuul thinking that these are not the plains of Africa that he ordered

Thankfully the snow let up within short order. I really wanted to take O out and go sledding with her, but the ground wasn't firm enough for it. I am definitely going to get a little toboggan though and save it for these kinds of occasions... I wanted to do it last year but I never got to. We may have one or two more bouts of snow over the course of the winter, so I may get lucky yet!

Monday, December 21, 2015

2015 Goals Recap

I had a FANTASTIC 2015 - I hope you did too! While I didn't complete *all* of my personal goals - let's face it, I've been saying for about 10 years that I am going to lose 25 pounds, but I really enjoy food so I never actually do that - I did accomplish every single one of my business goals and most of my personal goals too. I am super happy with where the year took me, super happy with the success of the business, super happy with our new house, super happy with my amazing herd, super happy in general. Everything is great. I'm well aware of the fact that life can change in a moment, and that there will always be hard times somewhere along the way, but I fully appreciate that these are rich and full times, and I don't take them for granted. I've worked extremely hard to get where I am today, and I'm proud of what I've accomplished. 


2015 Horse-Related Goals:

1) Have a healthy, happy, bouncing baby horse!
Success!! Pax is a wonderful little monster baby. At 8 months old, she is charming and devilish all at the same time. She is very easy to do everything I need to do with her now, including walking up and picking feet or blanketing out in the pasture with no halter on. She still can be kind of a maniac when leading her around outside of the pasture, but hey, she is only 8 months old after all. She'll get there.
There has been discussion on and off concerning selling her.... I'm still totally on the fence about all of it. I don't know if I am going to breed P again. I know I am moving steadily away from riding competitively, and towards driving competitively. What I would *really* like to do is cross O a few times to Dylan to get a matched driving team. Because that would be amazing.

2) Compete in the Three Amigos Challenge
This one didn't work out whatsoever - but there were good reasons for it. First of all, and most importantly, the Challenge never actually ended up taking place because the rules governing it weren't written out clearly enough - so they decided to cancel it officially. Secondly, while I did compete at Sunrise Ridge, I didn't get to go to the Pine Hill HDT because of the horrible weather and the fact that O had just kicked herself, and I didn't get to go to the Black Star CDE because of the No Laminitis conference. The conference only takes place every other year though, so no worries this next year! I don't know if there will be a Three Amigos Challenge this year - probably not, from the sound of it - but I will do my best to attend every HDT and CDE that is feasibly possible this year.

3) Compete in local pleasure shows/NTW Games Days
Success!! I didn't hit *every* show, not by a long shot - including the big pleasure show, due to my truck malfunctioning - but I did get to go to every single Games Day. I didn't enjoy the Romp all that much, but the regular playdays were a BLAST as usual! I am considering buying my little red cart back from the client I sold it too, because it is just so useful and great to have around. I will be doing them all again this year, though I may just skip on the pleasure shows. My primary interests are directed towards HDTs and CDEs - I guess not unlike an eventer who maybe does some straight dressage or straight jumper shows, but lives for actual eventing with everything altogether at once.

4) Hone and improve my reinsmanship and general driving knowledge, all year long!
Success!! But, there is ALWAYS more to learn! This is less of a yearly goal and more of a lifelong goal I think! I learned a ton this year, and will continue to absorb everything I can.


I'll have a separate post up for 2016 plans and goals, since it will take a bit of thought and organization to really lay them out. This second half of the year I feel like I didn't have enough concrete plans/goals, and as such I totally lagged and didn't get much really accomplished. It's fine, we were so busy with the new house anyway that it didn't really matter much - but I need to have more concrete plans in order to really have something to shoot for. If I don't have something clearly laid out, I have a tendency to just flounder around and not know what I am trying to accomplish. When I had Gogo, I had ALL these really tidy and specific goals, but I also only had her to worry about and literally almost nothing else. I have a LOT more that takes up my time now, so things operate quite differently now.

This coming year, I have two show horses, two babies, two old farts, and these two new little projects to play with. That's a LOT! And there won't be time or money for everything - how could there be? But with half of them not really needing much during the week, it makes things a lot easier. Being at liberty to set my own schedule makes such a difference for me, and now that I have everything settled in, I feel strongly that things will mostly operate smoothly and the way I want them. Or at least, that's the plan anyway! XD

I also mean to be much more strict with my blogging. I have been really bad about writing things down this year and I completely intend to rectify that. I love having everything recorded, and I really have no reason to not do it!

2015 was one of my best years yet..... and I think 2016 will be even better!!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Halter Time

Zuul learns to halter:

Sorry you get to look at my giant butt in that video. Apparently I didn't think about the fact that wearing saggy clothes + pointing my camera right at my ass = not terribly flattering. And I don't mean Zuul when I mean my ass.

He did less well yesterday than he did two days ago, but did better again today. Yesterday, I think I just moved a little too fast into the lesson, trying to pick up right where I was the day before... he didn't want to have anything to do with that, and scooted off. I got the cold shoulder for a little while, and then he let me put the halter on - but he wasn't really into it. Today he was better - he approached me and we interacted for awhile, and then I approached him. He stood still and let me walk up to him, though he gave me the strong side-eye, and while he was a little nervous he did stand still and let me put the halter on. Once it was on, we moved around the pen, him following me of his own volition. I definitely feel like today ended on a much better note than yesterday did, though I can't say he was *quite* as amiable as he was two days ago. He is still HIGHLY suspicious of my motives - so I am careful not to give him any reason to be concerned. But the fact that he let me walk up to him today and he stayed where he was - that's a big deal.

This is tedious, where are the snacks

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Last week, I had a SUPER fantastic lesson with Ruthie G, one of our semi-local ADS judges. She came in to a nearby farm to give lessons, and I jumped at the opportunity to go take a spin with her. I've taken lessons with a few different people, as you know, but I think it's important to try everyone available out - you never know what you might learn, and you never know when you might sync up with someone that your really like. I LOVED this lesson! Ruthie is going to be coming back for monthly lessons to this place, and I plan on making sure I can always go.

One of the other ladies there offered me use of her carriage - which made everything work out super well. This was the biggest and heaviest carriage O has pulled and she did extremely well. 

Our lesson consisted of a LOT of circles. We did lots and lots and lots of them, in sequences and in spirals in and out. Ruthie was quick to point out O's weakness bending right, so we worked extensively on that. 

Bend RIGHT damnit

We also did a lot of stretching and coming back up. O never really stretched down, but she did stretch out, which was at least a start. 


Stretchy.... or maybe just floppy reins

We also worked on the fact that when you do a downward transition with O, she immediately falls on the forehand and flops along. We think this is me - I just drop her instead of working her through the transition. A few taps on either side of her with the whip and making sure to not drop her made a big difference. The fact that I am now able to use the whip on O and have her not absolutely freak out is a HUGE victory for me. 

I feel a bit like O has gotten a little lazy and heavy on the forehand. I have some earlier videos of her very upright and forward, and I think she has lost a little bit of that as she has settled into her work. There's only one way to fix that - more work, more development. If she is happy and comfortable enough in her work to be lazy, I can't complain too much about it... after all, we all know what she used to be like.

I think through the end of December she'll be on break, and then January we will pick it back up again. Christmas is a super busy time for me, and I'll be out of town all next week anyway, so it will work out to start fresh in the New Year and prep for next year's show season. Ruthie said that a few more Trainings under our best, and we will be ready for Prelim. I quite agree!


The little mule still doesn't have a name, but the zonkey does - we named him Zuul. As in, there is no Dana only Zuul....

Funder named him. And it's basically perfect, and fits.

I can't tell you how quickly he has come along. He still of course has a very long way to go, but I have had him just one week and he has totally changed personality. He comes up to me now and REALLY enjoys his scratches. He even lets me scratch his ears. 

And today.... he got a halter back on!

I decided to take a totally different approach to his training than I have anything else. I think he'll learn faster if we do most everything at liberty and with his cooperation, at least at this stage in his training. I think he'll be much easier this way, if he isn't restrained. As I understand it, zebra hybrids can get super aggressive and fight if they feel cornered or trapped - I'm not really interested to see what an angry zonkey looks like, so I'm going about it differently.
I've known a few people who used a bit of clicker training with their donkeys with great success, so I thought I'd try a bit of it with Zuul. I've never used clicker training before, but I have a good understanding of the timing of rewards, so I decided it would be a fun experiment. I certainly won't be using it exclusively with him, nor will I rely on it later. But to start our relationship out, I wanted to do some things with him that were fun and enjoyable - like learning to come over to people willingly, and to get a halter on without fuss. It's not terribly easy to train a super smart and completely feral adult zebroid, so I had to find a way to make him my partner in this.

And it really worked. I started off doing the general clicker-means-cookie thing yesterday, which he understood. Today we started off with the rope halter - he had to touch it, then got rewarded when he did. Then he had to put his nose into it, and got rewarded when he did. Then he had to stand while the halter went on all the way, and got rewarded when he did. I had that halter on and off seven or eight times without issue. No big deal whatsoever!

I found out a bit more about his history today too. Apparently he was listed on one of the North Texas equine sale sites on Facebook with a $1200 price tag. He was owned by an older gentleman who didn't have Facebook, so another lady was helping him out. I contacted her and while she didn't know much, she did say that she knew he had delivered Zuul to another lady who was just looking for a companion for her horse/mule/something. He was listed for sale at the very end of October, and he came up at the kill pen at the end of November, so he wasn't in her care for very long. She turned right around and dumped him at the auction barn.

People just suck, don't they?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

On Zonkeys

To say I know all that much about zebra hybrids is just a laughable joke, but I do know a few things that I'd like to share with you before we get started on this journey.

A zebra is a wild animal. They can be mean, they can be aggressive, and they can jump out of any fence you put them behind. You can tame them down with a lot of work - if you take them from their mothers and bottle feed them is your best shot, as I understand it - but basically it boils down to the fact that this is a wild thing who, unlike horses, has not had countless generations of domestication behind it. Yes, a feral horse will act just as wild and crazy as anything.... but it would be similar to trying to tame a feral dog versus trying to tame a feral wolf. They're just not the same. People own them, and ride them, and do stuff with them, but I think it all boils down to this: these are NOT pets. And I don't know why anyone would want to keep them as pets. I think it's nuts.

A zebra hybrid is obviously half a zebra, so it has half a wild thing in it. If you cross it out with a horse or a donkey, it will take on some of the traits of the thing you crossed it with, so you will get a bit of both behaviors. Just because you crossed it out with something domestic doesn't mean that now you'll have a sweet and cuddly tame beginner-friendly creature. So if you're ever thinking "aww, it's so cute! Those stripes!," I totally agree with you, but I can't say I'd suggest going out and getting yourself one. Unless of course, you're a crazy person and a horrible bleeding heart like I am who decided to give it a shot for some reason. This zonk was pulled out of pen and gifted to me by a client - and that's why I have him. Not because I thought he was cute or adorable or interesting or whatnot, not because I went out and looked for a zebroid, but because I was presented with the opportunity, I considered it, I understood what kind of challenges I was up against, and I was willing to give it a shot anyway. 

These guys are super hard to work with. And I fully expect this to be a serious challenge. A fun, rewarding, exciting challenge, but a challenge nonetheless. And I may not be successful in making him into anything useful, or it may take me AGES to do it. But I'm going to give it my best shot. 

So far, in the four days that I have had him, I've gotten my zonk to tie, lead a little bit, be petted on both sides of his neck, take hay out of my hand, and then actually approach me to take cookies. (Caveat: I am not a regular treat-giver. I think it makes horses annoying and spoiled. But, I think with my zonk not having any positive associaton with humans whatsoever, associating human interaction with delicious snacks will change his attitude about it.) He is extremely smart, like I figured he would be - he thrashed for a minute when first tied, and then quit and stood still. I've found for these more-or-less feral longears that it seems to work better if you teach them to tie *before* you teach them to lead - then they figure out the idea of yielding to pressure of their own accord, and unlike a horse they won't thrash until they break their necks. They don't panic - they stop and figure it out. But they are quick as lightning and sometimes they will do something that surprises you, so you still need to use caution. I got jumped on by a standard jack this spring and he really hurt me - out of nowhere he just launched himself right onto me, landing in the middle of my back, He gave no warning, other than the fact that we knew we were taking on a potential risk by restraining him to work on his (extremely long and needing hacksawing) feet. I have a healthy respect for these guys and the things they can do if they feel cornered. 

I got him to eat some hay out of my hand yesterday for the first time, and today I upped the ante and introduced cookies, which he took from my hand. I also left a few carrots in a bucket for him the other night, hoping he would try them and decide they are tasty after all. Now that I have found something he likes to eat, I think I will make decent progress with him. I'm not all that big on handfeeding, but I think it will help create a positive association with me. He does seem to already recognize that I am the food lady (he is just eating hay), and is getting increasingly pleased to see me when I am going about filling his haybag. 

But he is sloooooooooow about things. Like, take a wild donkey and double the time that takes kind of slow. I stood there on Thursday morning holding a big bite of hay out to him before I gave him his breakfast hay, and it literally took him at least 10 minutes of just standing with his nose about an inch away from the hay to actually take it from me. 

He is now letting me walk around him without losing his mind and tearing off, which is a huge improvement. I can step in and pet him too, although he doesn't like it much. Today all I did was just feed him cookies, which definitely improved his attitude. With the help of the cookies, he actually came up to me of his own accord for the first time. Like I said before, I'm not a treat-er, but I think that he will have an easier time linking positive feelings to me if there is something he likes involved. Longears like to know what's in it for them - they want to know why they should bother doing something. If there's something pleasant involved, they're more willing to try it. They don't do so well with the pressure on/pressure off system that works well with most horses . Or at least, that has been my observation with them. With longears, you kind of have to throw away the Horse Training 101 manual. It's just a whole different thing!

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmcookies. This felt like a victory - having him actually turn and look at me like I was interesting, and actually coming towards me of his own accord to take the cookies. 

I was thinking I should make him his own Facebook page to post daily little updates in blippets, seeing as there probably won't be any huge exciting updates ever beyond "day X... petted him." I quite imagine he'll take a long time. What do you think?

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Grand East Texas Killpen Adventure

When we last left off with our story, I was taking the trailer out to the bumpkinlands of East Texas. Our local killpen is actually only about 1.5 hours away, but my two munchkins were being held in quarantine several hours past that, almost on the border of Louisiana. This didn't click in my head until literally the night before I departed. 

I struck out at 6am, which was a little later than I had anticipated. I had just worked very hard for several days in a row, and was feeling pretty worn out, so I just didn't quite drag my butt out of bed fast enough. I had debated about taking the divider in my trailer out, but they told me that it would be better to leave it in, because the zonk hadn't been in with any others. They told me they thought he was kind of an asshole, but they didn't really elaborate on why aside from the fact that he is definitely 100% not a horse.

It was a loooooooooong drive. I thankfully had some combination of Christmas music and audiobooks to get me through (and Monster Dog, who came as my company), and even though I got lost near the end of the journey, I eventually found the place around 11:30am. Unfortunately, the guys there had forgotten that I was coming. and none of them were there. Oh great... I get to attempt to load a feral zonkey and mule by myself into my trailer. What could go wrong, right?

Once I arrived, I set to wandering around the pens and chutes to see if I could find my critters. 

The little mule had halter marks on her, so I figured she was at least halterable. What I hadn't betted on was how totally uncatchable she was. She was in a pen with a group of other mules and ponies, including a beautiful white matching mule that was probably related to her. If I had more room, I would have considered taking her too as a teammate, but there really is just only so much room to go around. I didn't count, but there were at least 5 others in the pen with her, so she had lots of friends to slip in amongst and run. I couldn't get anywhere near her, and it was just me. After watching her tear around me for a little while, I gave up and decided to try with the zonkey, who was in a pen alone.

I backed my trailer up to a chute with a long run attached. These pens run lots of cows through as well as unbroke horses, so they have a system where they can open a series of gates to run the stock down into the waiting trailer at the end of the chute. After opening and closing a series of chutes, I opened his pen and waited to see what would happen. Cool as you please, he sauntered out and wandered down the alleyway like it was no big deal. I closed the gates behind him as he passed through each one, until we finally reached the opening of my trailer. He stopped there and started to munch the bit of grass along the corners of the chute, totally unconcerned. 

Someone has left a long stick with a flag on the end of it near the entrance of the chute. With just a little bit of flag waving, he hopped on the trailer of his own accord.

Well that was easy. Too easy.... 

I closed the divider, the ramp, and the top doors in case he decided to make an exit. Then, I went to go see what I could do about this wild little mule.

It took all of my skill as a horse handler to get the little mule out of that pen. By myself, with just my flag stick and my wits, I had to figure out how to cut her out of her herd, get her over to the big swinging gate, and open the gate without scaring her off or letting any of the others out of the pen, thus allowing her to run out of the gate into the chute and down to my trailer. Sounds easy, right?
It took a few minutes with some false starts, but eventually I separated just her out of the group of ponies galloping around me in circles. I have a large appreciation for cutting horses and what they have to do, cause it ain't easy and I'm not exactly the speediest human on the planet. Once I cut her out, I had to get her wedged into the corner of the long swinging gate, get close enough to her without her bolting off around me to reach the gate, and push it open. Finally, I succeeded, and thankfully none of the others tried to sneak out with her. But it wasn't easy.

Thankfully, once I had her closed up between two gates further down the way, I was able to get close enough to her to put a halter on, and tried leading her around a bit. She seemed to know something about leading, so I took that as a good sign, and walked her to the trailer.

Then I realized we had a huge problem. The zonkey was fully capable of going underneath the chest and butt bars. How was I going to get the mule loaded and keep him from sneaking back out underneath the butt bar - all by myself?

I gave it my best effort. I opened the ramp and stood on it, blocking the exit for the zonk. By some miracle, the little mule knew what to do, and literally jumped right onto the trailer, much to my surprise. In fact, I was so surprised that I stepped forward for just a second, feeling totally pleased with myself.... and the zonk shot right underneath the butt bar and was gone. Thankfully, I had left the other gates all shut, so he couldn't get very far. I secured the little mule - no better time to learn how to tie, I suppose - and went to try and get the zonk back on. True to his nature, once he had realized that the trailer wasn't all that great after all, he decided he was not having anything to do with getting back on. I got him as far as two feet on the ramp, and then he stopped dead and was not moving one more inch. I actually got to walk right up to him and pet him, so firmly rooted he was. I almost even had a halter on him when I heard the rumble of a diesel truck. The owners of the pen had sent over two friends to see about helping me load - which was all for the better, seeing as I didn't think I was going to get anywhere anytime soon.

The guys and I ran the zonk down through another series of gates to a squeeze chute. Once in the chute, we got a halter and lead rope onto him, and one of the guys lead him while I walked behind with the flag stick. He was not happy about this, but he tolerated it well enough. Getting him on the trailer was difficult, but with some effort, we got him loaded.

I stopped to check on them down the road, and I found this:

They had both turned themselves around so that they were both under the chest bars, eating hay and hanging out. The zonk was rather squished, but there wasn't really anything I could do about it, and he didn't seem to mind much.

It took ages to get home, and it was dark by the time we arrived, but we manged to unload both without much excitement, and, totally exhausted, I passed out for the night after making sure everyone had hay and water and was not about to kill themselves.

Up next: a lesson with O, and working with my two little beasts!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Doing Good Deeds

Let it never be said that I am not a big-hearted person. If I am ever known for just one thing in this world, I hope it is that.

Those of you who have followed this blog for any length of time - including back to Gogo, years ago - will have seen a long and gradual change in me over the years. Once upon a time, I was exclusively a warmblood snob. I had no interest in rescue, and I believed that only a fancy, pedigreed warmblood could suit my needs. And perhaps at that time, that was true. (Actually still to this day, my mother thinks all of my animals are useless because they aren't 5-figure horses.) Over time, this gradually shifted to interest in taking in rescued animals that can also be useful to me. Or in some cases, like with Darby, not useful at all - although there is a definite limit to this. I'm not interested in taking every single pathetic horse home that I see, but sometimes there is a story that calls to me, and I feel that it is important step in and do something if I can.

I've been mulling over and over in my head whether or not I want to breed Pmare again. She is the last one of her line - or well, now Pax is, but still - so if I am interested in strengthening the chances of keeping that line alive, I should strongly consider rebreeding. I have been talking about breeding to Lasting Impression, who is Gogo's full brother, for a long time now, and I still haven't taken that idea off the table. Before I chose DDM for Pax's sire, I had also been strongly considering Dylan too, and now I have access to him as much as I want to use him. 
With all of that said, there is a huge caveat that has me solidly stalled out - I feel strongly that I am moving further and further away from riding competitively in any way. Dylan may very well be my last show horse that I actually ride. Beyond him, I see myself continuing on competitively driving. I LOVE driving and it completely fulfills me, as much as I love riding. With this all in mind... if I breed Pmare, what am I really breeding for? If I cross her out to Lasting Impression, that offspring would jump the moon and probably be a fairly decent mover. But that's not what I am wanting to pursue down the road. So, it's a bit of a tough choice. Those two bloodlines are beloved to me.

I also had a client this week ask if I knew of anyone who had a nice, easygoing companion horse who she could use as a buddy for her gelding when she moves to her new house. I offered her up Pmare to temporarily borrow, if she is interested - so she may go do that for awhile this winter as well. Unlike the last time when I leased P out, this is a client who I know will take extremely good care of her, and I will get to see her regularly, so it would be a good situation for everyone involved. I still don't know if Darby is going to survive the winter.... I'd say she has a 50-50 chance of it. If P goes off to be borrowed for a bit and Darby kicks the bucket... well there you are. 

The long and short of it all is that my herd is in a little bit of a state of flux. Pax may or may not be sold, Darby may or may not die, and P may or may not be borrowed for awhile. And Dylan will of course eventually go back home, but not for a good long while - not for years. 

My competitive interests are gradually shifting. The way I approach horse care is completely different now compared to where I started out years ago. And the actual equines I am interested in are changing over time too. I want flashy, big, freaky movers, oh yes... that much has not changed. I want unique things that catch the eye. Above all else, I want a good story - I want to be able to say I accomplished something, that I helped an animal in need to become something greater than he or she ever could have become. To me, a story like O's is really the ultimate achievement - to find a dirty, scruffy, unkept looking holy terror who goes through a long, difficult, and amazing transformation into something really special. That to me is what I ultimately want. And even horses like Darby fit this bill for me - an unwanted, emaciated cripple who I have helped to have a good happy ending to her life, where she is fat and sassy and loved. Her story has been especially gratifying for me, and I love her dearly even though she is a totally useless hayburner. Seeing her being happy, munching her hay and nickering for a cookie... that's really the best part of the whole thing.

A client and friend of mine (named G) does a lot of work networking horses that are going through our local kill pen, and she has been on me to pull something out of the kill pen. There are several of them that are fairly close to me - since we are so close to Mexico, there are thousands of horses who come through these pens on their way to the slaughterhouses across the border. I follow all of these local auction barns and kill pens through Facebook and my contacts, and have had a number of clients successfully pull horses and mules out of the pens. I told G that I would consider taking in something small and longeared - no full size equines as I don't currently have room for them, or the desire either. My Uma mule has gotten me absolutely head over heels hooked on mules, and I've been browsing around here and there for another, although not very seriously. I looked around for a bit in all of the pens, but never saw anything that really jumped out at me.

Until G sent me a picture of..... a zonkey. A zonkey in a kill pen. WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

She offered to pay his bail and then gift him to me. I of course agreed to this, because a) I've been hoping I could find something that could share a fence with Dylan and be his friend, and b) WHO DO YOU KNOW THAT HAS A HALF ZEBRA?

At the same time as this was all going on, this tiny little mule popped up in the kill pen, and I instantly fell for her. I hemmed and hawed about it - I didn't *really* need two little rescues, hell I didn't really even need one! - but a comment on her picture sealed my commitment. It read, What is there even to consider? If you have the room and ability to feed and care for her, what are you waiting for? It was a comment directed to the general public, but it went to my heart. I feel very fortunate that I am in a position to be able to help, and because I am, I went for it. How could I not? If you can ever help animals in need - be it adopting, fostering, volunteering, or donating - you always should. I may not have had interested in that years ago when I was exclusively a warmblood snob - but that isn't how I feel any more. Now, I don't think that there is anything more important to me than taking a pathetic throwaway life and doing my best to make it into something healthy, and happy, and really special.

Today, I picked them up, and they are now safely at home. But now, it is late, and that story will have to wait until tomorrow... it was quite a huge adventure today and it will take some telling.

Who needs to ride properly in the trailer when you are so little you can completely turn around and fit under the chest bar?

Welcome home, little tinies. You don't have to worry about being made into hamburger any more, not ever again.

Sunday, December 6, 2015


Yesterday I made up a comparison post for both Darby and Dylan. Since they were the two adult horses who came into my life recently, I wanted to put some side-by-side pictures up to see what they looked like when they first arrived, and what they look like now.

Dylan was a little thin when he got here, certainly not emaciated or anything but he was a little scrawny looking for a mature stallion. The trainer had had some issue with getting decent hay, and he had lost some condition because of that. I fretted quite a lot those first few weeks that I had him, because he had been in a stall nearly all of the time due to his incessant fencewalking. The fencewalking caused the pounds to just melt off of him at the trainer's facility, so she kept him in. I was determined to get the fencewalking under control, and think I have done a good job there. He walked himself into the ground for the first week or two, and then he quit, and despite his very active nature (he is always going round and round his pasture, grazing a bit here, eating from his haybag there, wandering around patrolling), he has steadily gained weight and muscle. If I ever get my body *properly* under control again under saddle, I expect him to build even better muscle. 

Top: Dylan in September
Bottom: Dylan in November

Darby has obviously had the really huge change. When I brought her home in June, I thought she was going to die. I thought maybe she would have a few good weeks, and then we would put her down. She was dead lame in both fronts, having abscessed badly in both during the spring. Because of his badly she abscessed, and how that affected her mobility, she was struggling to get to the haypile and get enough calories despite eating a lot of grain. Most of the time she just stood immobile, or laid down a lot. She was very, very thin - not a skeleton, but definitely about a 2 BSC. When I took her, I really did think she was going to die.
Well, she obviously didn't die, and steadily piled on the weight. Despite her extremely advanced age, she is currently maintaining it all exclusively on hay, so she must have enough teeth in there to manage well. She struggles when mud gets packed into her feet and hardens - her front feet are pretty much always going to be a total mess due to the number of times she has foundered - but as of late she has been doing totally fine. Given the fact that I expected we were going to have to put her down in early winter due to the mud, which very nearly killed her in the spring, I am totally pleased and surprised to find that she is doing as well as she is. If it ever dries up enough, she can go back to her boots if she is having trouble with comfort, but her feet actually look really great right now (for her) and she is getting around just fine. Despite all of her problems, she has survived - flourished even. 

Now I'll have to get a comparison for Uma.... although babies change so much, it's hard to say what they'll look like from one day to the next!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

End of November Analysis; December Goals!

Happy December everyone! It's my favorite time of the year.... the holiday season!!

Say cheeeeeeeeeeeeeese


Dylan October Goals:

1) Continue hacking out 1-2x a week!
Success! I hacked out once every week around the neighborhood. And I will continue to do it!

2) Continue trailering to WD, 2-3x a week if possible
Not as much of a success as I was hoping - with the busy first two weeks of the month, and the last week of the month which was nothing but pouring rain, I only got to trailer out a few times during that middle week. Not enough!

3) Continue working on my own strength in the saddle!
Success! It is taking me a long time, but I feel better every time I ride. Slow and steady... very slow, really. It's taking me a lot longer than I anticipated, but it's all upward progress.

4) Contact the local trainer of my choice - ask about upcoming lessons! 
Haven't done this yet - but I expect I will this month. I am now finally able to make it through 45-60 minutes of fairly high activity riding, so I feel like I soon will be able to make it through a full lesson without fainting/barfing/falling off my horse! I do have a trainer picked though!

5) Continue working on the show schedule, which memberships I need to renew, get a calendar together, and plan which things I will need to replace
This one was a bit hit and miss - mostly because I realized there is no way I am going to be ready to show in January. It was an ambitious goal - I seriously overestimated my ability to get back in riding shape, especially with my bad leg. It's HARD! It gets better every time but I am still in a LOT of pain. I plan on working on this again this coming month.


Dylan November Goals:
1) Continue hacking out 1-2x a week!
2) Continue trailering to WD, 2-3x a week if possible
3) Continue working on my own strength in the saddle!
4) Contact the local trainer of my choice - ask about upcoming lessons! 
5) Continue working on the show schedule, which memberships I need to renew, get a calendar together, and plan which things I will need to replace

O November Goals:
1) Continue driving 1x a week 2-4 miles to keep fitness up through the winter!
2) IF POSSIBLE: if ground is dry enough, drive in the pasture. It's still winter and show season is a ways off, but if we can do a bit of dressage and cones here and there, that will be very helpful!

P/Darby Goals:
1) Thoroughly groom 1x a week! And spoil! 

Pax/Uma Goals:
1) Leading/grooming 1x a week!


During the summer, when I was feeding grainfoods to all the girls, I had goals for all of them weight-wise - keeping O fit for show season, putting weight back on skinny Darby, and fitting up Pax and P for inspection. Every day I brushed them while they were all tied up eating. Now, all of them are pulled off grainfoods and just eating hay 24/7. They all look awesome - shiny and in perfect weight. I don't see any reason that any of them need any more than they are currently getting. O is currently in off-season work, P is still nursing Pax a bit but still looks awesome, Darby looks 10 years younger than she actually is, and the babies look wonderful - I was hoping pulling Pax off the grainfoods would slow her growth a bit. She is still growing steadily and evenly, and she looks wonderful, so I think we're on target there. As we get back around into spring, I'm sure this will all change again.
Anyway, the point of ALLLLL of that was that since the mares don't get tied up every day to eat anymore, they do not get groomed every day.  So therefore, the retired mares and the babies are on the goals list - they get groomed and/or worked with 1x a week. They all get loved on and played with every day, but they all get a good going over at least once a week with grooming tools.

I also need to make some more concrete plans about under what circumstances I will insist that I need to go riding. When it is dark out and late, I have no motivation to go trailer out. When it is pouring out, I have no motivation to get soaked catching, grooming, and loading Dylan in the muck and mire. We don't have a barn here, so I tie and tack up at my trailer like I always do - maybe someday I will get fancy and put in a better grooming station here, but since I have done this for so long it seems quite normal to me. I have A LOT of other projects that need to be done here before I ever get that far!

Speaking of projects, we've just come out of our worst rainstorm yet, and there is nothing like a really bad weather event to show off all the negatives of a property. We are on a hill, which I thought would be great for rainwater runoff... but I was wrong. Dylan's pasture is quite fine - a little mucky in the area where he likes to hang out most, but quite fine otherwise, and it will dry fairly fast. The mares' pasture, however, is a TOTAL sloppy pigpen. They love to stand down at the bottom of the hill and just wallow in their own filth. While O, Uma, and Pax all like to get out of the mud and go up the hill to play and eat anything they find up there, Darby and P just don't give a crap and refuse to leave where they are most of the time. The solution to this is to design something better - to turn my pasture into a paddock paradise. There is SO much interesting and varied terrain up the hill - loads of rocks, interesting plants, etc. But the high traffic areas have turned to total sludge with 11" of rain, and even now, several days later, there is standing water and mud up to my mid-calf in some places near the haybags. That's just not gonna cut it for me.
There is no way to do anything when there is this much mud around - hell, there's no way I could get a truck in there to dump some footing, much less footing that won't be turned right under into the mud anyway - so I think my best bet at the moment is just to move the haybags all over the place. Put them up the hill, put them in the back part of the pasture, hang them from trees, etc.... put them in different places. My main trouble with this is Darby - I don't think she is quite mobile enough to water back and forth, up and down the hill all the time. She does hop up and down the rocky embankments with surprising agility though, so perhaps I am wrong there.... I guess there is only one way to find out! She is getting around like gangbusters as of late, so who knows. I never thought she would live this long, but she's still going strong!

There is thankfully 0 forecasted rain in the next 10 days, so hopefully we have a chance to dry out...!