Cole’ – I got to keep my friend

In 2004 more than 50 almost grape-sized hives covered my only horse. She scratched each new lump until they all bled. I tried bug sprays, fly sheets, and itch creams. Nothing gave her relief. The vet’s advice was, “try steroids, they might work for one season. Then sell her up north where the bugs aren’t so bad.”
While I was trying to decide what to do I ran across my first natural horse care information. Desperate for something to let me keep my friend I tried it. Overnight my mare went from scratching her skin off to being comfortable. Two days later the welts were smaller than peas. It worked year after year and I got to keep my friend!
As she got older she got stiff with a mild lameness in her front feet. I tried natural trimming, chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage. Still I never knew which days she would be lame, sound, or ‘off.’
Two weeks after starting her first personalized program she led my herd up to be fed, trotting freely for the first time in years. Her coat, which had never been bad, blossomed into a slick, glossy, healthy sheen.

The preimum package, which Cole’ is on, can be found here.

Treats

Treats are a hot button topic in a lot of places. The usual arguments against them is, “Feeding treats teaches a horse to bite” or “Horses can mistake fingers for carrots.” I have not found these to be true if done properly.

I have 5 horses, at the moment, all of which have been taught to politely take treats. None of them nip or bite and all of them can tell the difference between fingers and treats. I teach every equine which comes through my place to politely and respectfully take a treat because someday they will meet someone with a treat and I want everyone to be safe especially if the “someone” is a child with a chubby fist full of grass.

I believe treats have a place as long as they are given with intentionality and parameters just like every other interaction.

My parameters are:

  • Whether or not I have a treat my horse will remain polite and out of my space.
  • A treat in my hand remains my treat until I open my hand in front of me.
  • If my hand feels in danger of being eaten I can withdraw it to safety, close my hand and not be invaded. I will repeat this until the horse tries more gently.
  • Treats are small (the size of 1-8 peas). Horses who have to search for the treat on the hand quickly learn treats come from hands, but hands are not treats.
  • I start horses with treats they like but don’t flip out over (hay pellets, a piece of uncooked pasta spiral, dried organic orange peel, etc)
  • All treats are earned, even if I’m really out there to get rid of leftover apple slices. A new shy horse in my heard may receive treats for coming within arm’s reach. Horses who know more have to do more. Even if it’s one step they have to do something.
  • Backing is a good activity for treat earning and keeps me safe.
  • If I don’t have a treat, but am offering my hand to sniff I offer the back of my hand. They quickly learn the difference.

If I had a horse who learned to be so pushy around treats I didn’t feel safe I would start re-training them on the other side of a solid fence. I would avoid electric fences that were on. (I have a horse who had a few bad experiences with other people reaching over our electric fence and shocking her)

Wish List

Are you looking to get us something for Christmas? Look no further.

Check out the horse’s full Amazon wish list here.

Tractor Supply gift cards are ALWAYS welcome.

I have followed Fergus faithfully on Facebook for years. He’s drawn and written with humor and a deep understanding of horses. This is his first book.

Any brick or good flat rock CAN do this, but people are more likely not to throw away your bright yellow piece of plastic.

I have lost more good rocks and chunks of wood because they didn’t look like part of my trailer equipment.

I recently had a custom table built for my feed room. Five of these will fit neatly on the new shelf and hold enough to feed each horse for two weeks.

These will go on the bottom shelf to hold tack and any overflow feed.

Winter, also known as ‘the season of hay’ and ‘the great itching’ is coming. We are still feeding the round bales baled from our back pasture, but when we run out or travel my talented horses have figured out how to eat the shorter stems common in square bales without slowdown from 2″ hole nets. This 1″ hole net will slow them down to a natural grazing rate.

Having never had a horse advertised as their actual height. I would like to know once and for all the answer to “How tall is that horse?”

These cups will nicely fit my non-standard-width jump uprights

To buy them something, check out the horse’s Amazon wish list here.

The Season of Giving

This year I am donating either 2 Starter Packages or 1 Premium Starter Package to Blaze’s Tribute Equine Rescue.

Blaze’s is Oklahoma’s state-wide rescue which works with local law enforcement when equines are involved to give the equines a safe place to live while they recover. Since December 2001, they have rescued 1,290 horses. 1,054 of those have been adopted. More about their role in rescuing abused horses can be found here.

To support Blaze’s this year if you mention Blaze’s in the comments when you buy here Blaze’s will receive a donation of 10% of whatever you buy.

Naming Raven

In the wake of Alana’s death I expected her owners, first-time horse people, would be out of horses forever. To my surprise, I got a call several weeks later asking if I was interested in coming out to look at a horse with them.

We found a nice 16-ish hand, 17-year-old, solid-black mare (official measurements still need to be made. We have been having too much fun doing other things). Her new owner fell in love with this rescue and we brought her the almost one-hundred miles home.

The first order of business was to name her. The old cowboy who sold her called her Black Betty. No one liked the name. While shopping the next day I started keeping a list of names on the lid of a takeout box from my lunch. We came up with Void, Regal, Raven, Onyx, Obsidian and a few other names. Later, when her owners came out to visit her we started talking about names. I ran inside to grab the list and had a moment of panic. Where had I put the list? After a bit of searching I found it in the refrigerator. The list was on a takeout box after all.

Back from hiatus & Loss

Aside

I haven’t wanted to update since we lost Alana.

She fought valiantly for several days, but she was desprately underweight to start with and she didn’t have the reserves to keep up the fight.

I grew attached to her in the handful of days she was with us. Caring for her every hour or so and encouraging her to keep fighting created a bond. She always kept me on my toes. If I left her pen gate open she would make a three-legged dash for the green grass. Finally I left her in the fenced yard rather than make her hobble away from the other horses and good grass.

I went out the last morning. She was down and lacked the energy to get back up. She lay, muscles quivering, for a few moments and quit breathing. She held on long enough not to be alone.

image

Alana

For those of you following Alana’s story I am going to start updating here.

For those of you who haven’t been following the story, here is where we are so far. I had a student who wanted to buy a horse, so we found her the perfect mare. At 16 and about 16 hands the chestnut paint mare is striking, if a bit skinny. She was recently rescued from a hoarder and has been gaining weight in the month since.

She arrived last Tuesday and seemed to be settling in well. She was still in new-horse quarantine when I walked out to feed her Friday morning and found her 3-legged-lame. There was no sign of trauma, but it was starting to swell in the shoulder and upper arm area.

The vet came out and x-rayed her. Despite finding nothing on the x-rays she wanted to put her down on gut instinct. She had seen a mare carrying her leg similarly who did have a broken leg and never healed. She conceded privately it could be something else including cellulitis, pigeon fever and a few other things.

I would have agreed she should be put down if there had been a break on the x-rays or any sign of trauma to the area indicating a break, but there weren’t any abrasions, she was in isolation so it wasn’t a kick and she was clean which she wouldn’t have been if she fell.

My farrier and I both had the gut feeling it might be an infection, so her owners are giving me three days to see what I can with alternative care. I evaluated Alana and put her on a personalized feed and supplement program supported by topical sprays.

Yesterday she was able to put a bit of weight on it, not enough to walk, but she would use it for support if she wanted to use or rest a back foot.

Despite her leg, she is still fast when she wants to be and enjoys eating even when stealing my lawn grass. Last night I heard a clatter and ran out praying she hadn’t slipped and fallen. By the time I got there she had pushed the gate open, someone had forgotten to latch it, it knocked over a bucket which was the sound I heard, hopped out onto the yard and was happily enjoying my lawn. I was able to get a rope around her neck and lead her back in without trouble, but I could tell she would rather be out where there was more grass. I couldn’t get irritated at her because she still enjoys life and wants to do things. I just make sure to latch the gate now.

My prayer for today is that she will be able to limp on four legs by this evening and will be fully healed without complications.

 

For those of you who have been wondering what happened to me, I have continued to teach. Horses and students have come and gone, but Cole’, Mint, Countess and Little Bit are still here. I have been taking classes in horse nutrition and alternative care which, along with teaching and starting a business creating custom supplement plans for horses and humans has taken up most of my time.

My Big Green Waterproof Miracle

Some days I see God’s plans come together in ways I could never have dreamed.

I have this thick green winter horse blanket. It never fit my stocky little paint mare well. She doesn’t need it. I used it a few times the first winter I had her because I was a new horse owner and blanketing was what I was ‘supposed’ to do, and that was it. It has been moved around from one storage place to another taking up space and getting in the way for more than 10 years. I have been meaning to sell it, but it found a home on a shelf in our storage building and I forgot about it.

I ran across it last week when looking for stuff to sell. I spread it out looking for mouse holes (our cat died this spring and the mice have taken advantage of our lack of a feline) Miraculously the blanket and all the straps were intact, but there was a large spot where the last horse who wore it had laid on a pile of poo. So I washed it and it got left in the tack room so I could get a picture of it. I was busy one day, sick another, between one thing and another I never got the picture.

I went out to feed and water the horses in the afternoon and saw all three of the big horses wet and shivering. Countess, the thoroughbred, was the worst. She can’t seem to store enough fat to use as insulation and was visibly shaking almost non-stop. The word hypothermia kept popping into my head.

I realized that while some of the water was from the freezing rain, the big horses had all gotten splashed on the chest when I turned on the water to fill the trough. After vigorously rubbing them down with dry towels Cole’ and Mint were able to fluff up their coats and were fine, but Countess was still shivering.

Since I had recently found and cleaned the blanket it was on my mind and I knew where it was. I was able to slip it on her without problems because one of my students had found my fly sheet this summer, thought Countess would look good in it, and spent the time to get her used to wearing something.

I wasn’t sure the big, thick, waterproof, green blanket bought 10 years ago for my stocky paint would fit my lanky thoroughbred, but God’s plans are good. Not only did it fit her perfectly, much better than it ever fit Cole’, but I didn’t have to adjust a single strap.

Once she moved around in it a bit and drank the warm water we carried from the house Countess and the other horses looked warm and content. I watched them thinking about my God’s plans through time. I failed when I measured Cole’ years before Countess was born. I don’t usually think about blankets, let alone having a clean fitted blanket ready to go, but God knows what I need through all of time and space. Where I failed God used my failure for a success beyond my wildest imagination.

Like A Child

I think it’s very funny
The way a puppy grows–
A little on his wiggle-tail
A little on his nose,
A little on his tummy,
And a little on his ears;
I guess he’ll be a dog all right
In half a dozen years.
Leroy F. Jackson

That poem came to mind when I was watching my youngest student play with Little Bit. He is so natural with her he doesn’t realize he is learning a new language. He bounces from one thing to the next with the energy and attention span of a six-year-old, or a puppy. He is not thinking about applying the seven games or avoiding tangling himself up in the rope and carrot stick.

A day goes like this:
Feed horses – friendly; anything that causes the horse to want to be with you or continue doing what you asked them to do
Prevent LB from eating Mint’s food – driving; rhythmic motion to move the horse
Scratch and halter LB – friendly game
Once haltered LB follows him everywhere at a walk and trot
Remember carrot stick and go back to the tack room for it – friendly and porcupine; steady pressure to cause the horse to move
Pretend to mount LB bareback – friendly
Slide down the slide while LB watches from near the end of the 12′ line – friendly game
See if LB will back under the slide (her withers and back fit with less than two inches to spare) – driving, squeeze, and yo-yo; back and forth on a straight line
Ask LB to walk under the slide and branch supporting it (She fits, but only with her head down) – yo-yo and squeeze; going over, under, between, or through
Scratch and hug – friendly
Run to the bridge and back up – yo-yo
Circling game in the pasture; asking a horse to take responsibility for going in a circle
Get saddle out
Find and play with ball, put on LB and hit the ball off – friendly game
More circling game
Ask LB to sniff saddle – friendly, driving
Play soccer around yard with ball – friendly
Start rubbing legs to see if she is ok with her feet being handled – friendly
More soccer – friendly
Sat for a few moments on the ball to get his wind back – friendly
Show dad he can saddle by himself – friendly
Show LB she can now reach the mineral feeder (The footing was raised 8+ inches while they were playing) – porcupine, friendly
Bring back to the herd and take halter off – porcupine
Hang out with herd – friendly
During and between he leaned on her when he was tired, or trying to think of something, sang, ran around with his arms going crazy; all friendly things that will build a strong relationship between them.

He thinks he is playing, but he is really learning. This week the saddle went on on the second try. They got a full circle at a trot. She was more comfortable with him. She followed without dragging. He caused her to sniff something on the first try. He haltered her even if he did get the halter inside out. He used the rope and carrot stick like they were part of him. Every time they are together they improve. A wise man once said, you don’t get better by doing 1 thing 100% better, you get better by doing 100 things 1% better. They are more than 1% better this week.