Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 112 Milestone

Becky had her jumping lesson today.  I went to see the tail end of it and afterwards Becky told me that when she had been getting Col ready to load at home, Little Love had wandered around the yard loose, without a halter (I love that Becky lets her do this because I know it's quite empowering for Little Love).  After eating grass next to the trailer, she had walked over to it, and checked it out.  Becky had gotten a carrot and asked her if she wanted to come in.  Little Love had put her front feet on the ramp and had stood there for a long moment, but then backed off.  Becky said she really looked like she thought about it and having no halter, no lead rope, it really had been her choice at that point.  She had chosen not to go in. 

I was happy to hear that Little Love was taking initiative to investigate the trailer on her own.  This was initially what I had wanted her to do, when I was thinking of a way of getting the trailer into the arena.  But hey, it works in the yard, too, I guess. 

When Becky got back from the riding lesson, we put the horses outside in the paddock for a while (they were overjoyed to see each other again) so we could clean the stalls.  When I was done, I took Little Love around the barn to look at open trailer.  I had some grain in a bucket, as a motivator and reward.  I'm not feeding her much grain these days, so when she gets it, it's a treat.  She had her rope halter on with a long rope, which I just let hang loose.  We walked up to the trailer.  I had decided to control my mind and not let any negative thoughts surface.  Instead, I focused on picturing Little Love inside the trailer eating the grain and then walking out the front.  And that is exactly what happened!  She followed me in without a moments of hesitation, stopped when I stopped, ate the grain and then followed me out.  Just.  Like.  That.  I couldn't believe it, my horse was in the trailer!  No stress, no emotions running high (hers nor mine), no anxiety.  We were both perfectly relaxed. 

Obviously I stopped there.  I immediately took Little Love back through the barn to the paddock and opened the back gate so the horses could go to the grass pasture.  Then I did a little victory dance  \o/
So, now I know she can go into the trailer without being highly stressed.  Okay, there is still much more to this puzzle than going in and walking through.  She will also need to come in when other people are around (she gets nervous about people behind because she knows they will shut her in) stand still, let us close the bars in front and back (not to mention doors) and stay calm while driving.  But - this is a MILESTONE.  Yay.

I know I need to do this again tomorrow.  And the next day.  And the next.  And as I'm doing it, I need to be very careful of my own expectations.  Littie Love may not go into the trailer tomorrow.  Which is fine.  But if she does go in, we will just repeat what we did today.  Until she is ready for the next step.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 111

Yesterday I went for a walk with Little Love.  It was the first time she was off the property without Col since the "accident" two weeks ago.  She was high as a kite, which came as no surprise, but somehow still made me frustrated.  Why do we always have to go back to square one? 

Ok, that's not fair.  It was not exactly square one, but rather square two or three, but somehow I felt so deflated about it.  I tried not to, but I couldn't help myself.  We walked down the road 15 minutes, then turned back.  I didn't want to go further, because I felt it might have put us both into a precarious situation and I wanted the walk to end on a good note (no lose horses this time!)  Once we were walking back, Little Love seemed to calm down a notch and I was able to let her graze on the side of the road.  When we got closer to the barn, we could both hear Col crying for her.  Obviously he was going through some separation anxiety himself. 

In the evening, as I was lying in bed trying to get some sleep, I analyzed my emotions and decided that I really need to stop hoping that somehow miraculously Little Love will turn into this horse that she is not.  The fact of life is that if she doesn't go out for a while, she is hyper alert and sometimes even fearful.  That's the way she is.  There may be calmer days in between, but in general she is an extremely alert horse.  Period.

That all said, I also think I need to just keep going out with her, no matter what.  Even if it's just for five minutes.  The more she does it, the better it gets.  Which Little Love proved to me again today.  My friend Delphine was visiting us and we went for a walk together.  Usually Little Love doesn't do well when we have other people walking with us (maybe because my attention is elsewhere?), but with Delphine she was alright.  In fact, she was better then alright; she was back to where we were a while back - walking with me rather than separate from me.  None of that nervous jig from yesterday or staring at everything with the whites of her eyes flashing.

Delphine hadn't seen Lilo for about three years and she couldn't believe the change in her temperament.  She is right.  This is not the same horse she once was.  Delphine said the biggest change is in the look in her eyes, which is no longer strung out and worried, but rather at peace.  And that is true.  There is a certain peace within Little Love and she shares this with me daily.  Sometimes I think I'm just too close to see it.  Or, I see it and I want more.  As usual.

I think really the one who needs to change is me.  Yet again.  I am a work in progress, what can I say...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 109

Today the osteopath came to take another look at Little Love.  If you have visited my other blog, you will know why  Two weeks ago - exactly - she had a bad fall on the asphalt.  Her open wounds have healed but judging by the way she moved, I suspected something was a bit "off" in her hindquarters.  She wasn't lame perse, but just not moving in her usual elastic way. 

I was right.  She was stuck in the right side of her pelvis, which was then diagonally reflecting onto the left shoulder.  Among some other minor things... but all that was no surprise.  The way she went down on that asphalt had hip fracture written all over it.  There was a lot of luck involved that day...

The osteo worked on her for an hour.  Little Love was not exactly cooperative, she didn't want the osteo touching her right shoulder where the biggest cut was and was obviously a bit tender in the back end.  She did not want anyone messing with her body.  However, this osteopath is by far one of the most patient people I have ever met.  When Little Love did her "look how high sideways I can lift my hind leg and threaten to kick" routine, the osteo just said:

"Wow, she is expressive.  Look how flexible she is, that is amazing!"  Great attitude.  A lot of other people would have been freaked out.

In the end, after some negotiation, Little Love finally let the woman work on her shoulder, pelvis and spine.  The lady was gentle and soon Little Love realized she would actually feel better afterwards, instead of worse.  She did give Col the evil eye the whole time though.  Poor Col was hanging out in his stall next door for moral support, but all he got from her were mean looks.  Half way through the treatment I suddenly realized Col's head was no longer behind the wall and when I went into the aisle to look, he was crawling under the chain in front of his stall door.  No way!  For being such a massive horse, he is quite agile.  When he saw me see him, she slowly crawled back with a sheepish look on his face.  Sometimes I wonder if he really is a horse at all... (Houdini reincarnated?)

The osteo said that despite the fall, Little Love's muscles and body were in better shape overall than when she saw her the first time a few weeks ago. She also noticed that she was more balanced on her feet.  She actually asked me who had trimmed her in such a way!  I guess I'm doing something right :-)  She said that out of all the horses she sees on a daily basis, Little Love is really quite supple and healthy, which is great news.  I think in her case not riding her for months has made a difference.  She had such a bad saddle before, not to mention lots of tension in the riding situation.  Anyways, we are on the right track. 

Afterwards Becky decided that Col needed a check up as well, so the osteo worked with him, too.  He loved it!  He is a polar opposite of Little Love when it comes to being manipulated; I thought he was going to fall asleep at one point.  The whole time the osteo worked on him Little Love hung her head over the stall wall and watched.  I told her to pay close attention to how he was behaving.  I swear she was rolling her eyes at me.  My expressive horse.  It is never unclear how she is feeling; she lets everyone know loud and clear. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 107 Back home

I'm finally back in Switzerland.  I was gone for ten days, but it felt like three months; so much happened and I learned a ton about hooves and trimming.  Now it was time to put some of the stuff I learned into practice...

Seeing Little Love was sort of a shock; her skin condition is back with a vengeance (on top of her back) and her hooves look absolutely hideous!  Yikes!  Little Love, true to her nature, was slightly frantic.  She never does well the first day I'm back from a trip (or maybe it's me who doesn't do well?).  It didn't help that Becky was off riding with Col and Little Love felt like she had been abandoned.  I took her out into the arena where she showed me that despite the horrible angles on her feet (were they really this bad two weeks ago?), she was sound at the trot.  And this was without boots.  This was a relief, because like I said, her feet don't look so great.  Also, the day before I left for Finland, she had a bad fall on the road and I was worried this would come back to hanut her, but apparently not (I haven't told you all about what happened, because I never had time to write, but I'll post something soon on my other blog that recounts the whole experience - it was horrible). 

After letting her run around for a while, I soaked her hooves and took pictures of her fronts, deciding to focus on two hooves at a time.  Her fronts are quite crooked, the medial wall being more upright and tall than the lateral, which is breaking off in chunks.  This pattern was already manifesting itself in Little Love's legs when she had shoes, but somehow over the course of the past two weeks had gotten a lot worse.  Or did I just know to look for it?  After seeing so many horses in Finland with relatively good feet, I was appalled to see how little toe height Lilo has.  Not to mention to fact that she is probably slightly rotated (and perhaps party separated?) in her right front.  There are so many things wrong with her hooves that trimming them with my pathetic experience will be a challenge to say the least.  But, I have to try. 

I decided to go back in the evening, after analysing the hoof pictures on the computer and giving everything a bit thought.  This I did.  I soaked her again and then went at the trimming like a mad woman.  At first Little Love didn't think this was a good idea.  Perhaps she felt my anxiety, which didn't make trimming very easy.  But, after a while we both got a hang of it.  I took her heels down and worked on the bars that were really high.  The bars are also really crooked and laying over the sole when you get close to the frog.  My knives were not the sharpest, so I have to get back to the bars once I have bought a sharpener.  I also did a bit of rasping of the wall where it was too thick.  All in all I think I did an ok (and very careful) job and left Little Love in a better state than before I started.  Which is the general idea.   Phew.  I was sweating, though, perhaps more from the idea of trimming my own horse than the actual trimming!

Today was a new day and when I got to the barn, my horse was still standing on all four feet and was not dead lame.  I guess my trim had not ruined her for life!  I'm not sure if I was imagining it, but it looked like she was walking straighter... I had also washed her with the medical shampoo and her skin looked a lot better. 

Becky suggested a long walk and we went together, she rode and I walked, as usual.  We did a new loop that took us well over an hour; we were all hot and sweaty when we got back (except the dogs that were wet from swimming in the stream).  Afterwards Becky and I walked the fence line of the pasture next door.  We just recently discovered that it was part of the property.  It's conveniently located right next to the current pasture.  After a few small repairs we were able to let the horses in for some grass.  I think they both thought they had died and gone to heaven!  Col, true to his nature, walked the fence line first thing, just to check that there weren't any openings where he could wiggle out.  Little Love, on the other hand, just wanted the grass! :-)
Here is a picture of Little Love investigating the new pasture:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Future plans

I finished the trimming course on Wednesday with a trim on a live horse.  This happened under Claudia's watchful eye.  Trimming a real horse (vs. a cadaver hoof) was a lot harder, but it also made a lot more sense.  It also gave me more confidence that I will be able to trim Little Love.  Perhaps I can't fix the problems she has on a larger scale, but at least I can perform a basic trim that will balance her hooves and help them grow (and wear) the right way.  I thank Kristi, the pony, for being an absolute saint and letting me trim her feet, even if it took a while! 

It has been amazing to watch Claudia trim different horses with her more advanced students.  I never realized how big of a difference a good trim could make in a horse until I saw it with my own eyes.  Often this change to the better can be seen instantly and doesn't require drastic changes in the hoof.  A few swipes with the knife and rasp in the right places can add an elastic quality to a flat trot or relax the horse's shoulder so that it can reach more with every stride.  Claudia's philosophy actually states just that: after the trim the horse should always walk away better than before the trim.  I wish I could provide this for Little Love!  Maybe some day?

I have also been looking for a place for Little Love here in Finland next summer.  We'll be moving in July and obviously she needs a place to stay.  When searching for a new barn, there are certain things I'm looking for in particular such as small and quiet with welcoming atmosphere, lots of outside time for horses, lots of hay and great trails.  I think I would prefer an open stable (no stalls, horses can go in and out as they please), but finding such a place with enough space for the horses and well built structures is quite hard. 

Today I visited a barn that I feel could be our next home.  I had a really good feeling when I was there and the lady who runs the place has similar ideas about horses than I do (bitless, shoeless and no force).  The barn has four stalls (perfect size) and the horses go outside together as a heard for the entire day.  No arena, but the trails are phenomenal.  The location is also quite good, as we are looking to move into the area.  Of course, it's not the open stable I was hoping for, but perhaps for now this could work?  Naturally I don't want to move Little Love here and then start "barn hopping", so I really need to think this over.  I haven't really seen what else is out there, which makes me hesitant... but it also gives me hope that I could find a place where we both would feel comfortable. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Today I trimmed my first hoof ever.  In fact, I trimmed two of them!  Both were cadaver hooves, which made it easier in that respect that I didn't have to worry about "messing it up".  It was strange to hold a dead horse's hoof in your hand and think that that animal had still been alive less than two days earlier.  What was his life like?  Why did they slaughter him?  If his feet had been trimmed correctly when he lived, would he have avoided the death penalty? (the other hoof I had was pretty bad and probably caused the horse all kinds of trouble when he was alive...)  I took a little moment to thank both horses that donated their hooves to help me learn to trim.  I am forever grateful. 

Trimming with Claudia's instruction was easy, she is a brilliant teacher and really knows her stuff.  She has helped me realize how much there is that I don't know, but that there are also so many things I understand and am capable of.  I can see now that the two people who have trimmed Little Love were not professionals.  I'm not a professional either, but I believe I can do a better job myself. 

We took pictures of both hooves before and after, which was helpful (sorry, don't have cable with me so can't get them off camera yet!).  Tomorrow we'll get to have a supervised go at a real horse.  Which is a lot more unnerving.  Hopefully I can keep the relaxed attitude I had today...

All in all, it has been a fantastic four days.  I now have hope of helping Little Love and her feet.  Claudia and I made a plan for next week.  When I get home, I'll take pictures of the hooves and send them to her for comments.  She'll tell me what to do and then I'll take a shot at it.  Of course, I'll take pictures afterwards so she can help me make improvements in my basic trim (it's pretty freaking basic).  This will have to work.  I may not be the best trimmer in the universe, but damn if I'm not determined to help Little Love grow better hooves. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Quick note

I just wanted to let everyone know that I'm still here and didn't fall off the face of the earth... I am in Finland learning more about horse hooves.  This weekend my friend and I organized a hoof seminar with Claudia Garner from the US and there will be a three day trimming course starting tomorrow.  I will be participating in the trimming and can't wait to get started.  I truly hope I am super talented at trimming so that I can learn how to do at least a basic trim during this course. :-) Someone has to start helping Little Love!  I will keep you posted of my progress...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 94 Trailer loading

Today Little Love walked half way INTO the trailer.  I was floored.  We have been practicing very patiently, I have literally had no other goal than to get her front feet on the loading ramp each time.  She has gotten very comfortable with this, but there has been no sign of her ever going further.  Today, when I walked her to the trailer, she climbed onto the ramp with all four.  I was so happy that I started laughing out loud! 

We stood there for a while (she wasn't entirely relaxed, but alright) and then backed off.  Little Love had a little grass and then we went for it again.  This time she walked all the way up the ramp and had her feet inside.  Amazing.  She was a bit tense, but she stood still for a good 10 seconds before deciding to back up.  Of course, I was so overjoyed that I wanted to keep trying.  Becky and the barn worker were there and of course became helpful, offering to open the front and to bring Col to help etc.  It is so easy to get carried away, isn't it!  I was tempted to keep pushing it and try further, but after one more try, Little Love became flustered and resistant.  I realized I should be happy with this huge achievement and leave it at that.  Which I did.  

Ideally, I would like to work on the trailer loading at least 3 times a week.  Our car has a hitch set up, but because it was made in the US, it is a bit different than the European models.  My husband has to locate the "ball" so we can see if it fits this trailer.  I really would like to practice on my own also when Becky is gone.  Our car is not powerful enough to haul a horse, but it can hold the trailer steady when we load. 

But this gave me such hope, I just have to be patient.  And I really need to STOP after two tries.  Period. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 93

So, Col is on a mission to free himself whenever there is a chance.  Yesterday morning he crawled under the chain of his stall again.  This happened right after I got there.  I was talking to Becky at her front door and suddenly, in the middle of our conversation, we heard Little Love calling for Col frantically.  When I ran to see, Col was gone.  He had seen the open barn door and crawled under his chain.  Poor Little Love was left behind, wondering why she wasn't allowed in the pasture.

Today, when I was soaking Little Love's hooves, Col was standing on the other side of the gate that closes off the gap between the barn and the garage where we keep the feed.  This gate has a handle, but is also tied off with a simple bungee, to make sure it stays closed.  I went inside to put on my running shoes (we were going for a walk) and when I came back, Col was backing into the gate and pushing it open.  The bungee chord was stretched to its maximum length and was about to snap any minute.  The gate, on the other hand, was a foot open. 

"Col, what are you doing?" I said.  He stopped and looked at me sheepishly, then walked off.  To give him the benefit of the doubt (he could have been scratching his butt, after all), I let the matter go.  Two minutes later, he was at it again, backing into the gate and stretching the bungee. 

"Col!" I called out to him and he stopped.  I ran to get some bail twine and tied off the gate.  Col watched me from under the tree.  When I went back to Little Love (who was watching this all unfold, would have loved to know what she was thinking...), Col was already at the gate, checking out my knots with his mouth.  He then turned and backed into the gate again, just to test it.  Here is a picture I took of him with my cell phone.  At this point he is not longer pushing on the gate, just thinking about his next move!  I felt bad for him, because I know he really wanted to go with Little Love and me, but I couldn't take him as I knew Becky was coming back in an hour and was planning to ride. 

Little Love and I went on a walk again today.  By the time we got down to the edge of the field, she was pretty hyper, calling to Col (whom I locked into the barn, completely paranoid he would get out and follow...).  She was so high, I couldn't consider going into the field.  So, I walked straight on, down the road.  We had done this yesterday as well, and she had eventually calmed down, but today she was definitely more anxious to start with.

It tdid take a while for Little Love to calm down.  She was still calling to Col (although sort of half heartedly) when we were ten minutes away.  When we got to the intersection at the bottom, I was hesitant.  I really didn't want to set myself up for failure in the field.  So, I chose a right turn instead and went up the hill on a paved one lane road.  Becky and I had once been up there a while back and I was fairly sure I could make a loop that way. 

It was a good choice to take a new route, Little Love settled down significantly.  I stopped and let her eat some grass.  As you may remember, grazing can go either way when we are out; it can completely freak Little Love out and snap her into a total frenzy, or it can calm her down.  Today it calmed her down.  So, we made a deal to walk ten minutes and then graze five, then walk ten again etc.  Good deal.  Little Love accepted and we had a brilliant 45 minute walk with intermittent grazing.  We were both happy!

Today was a good day overall.  When I first got to the barn, Little Love was visibly happy to see me and tried to come into the barn.  I told her I had to muck her stall first.  She sighed and went into Col's stall (he was outside) and hung her head over the wall and watched me muck out.  When I was done, she followed me outside to the maneur pile.  After, she was eager to come with me through the barn to the other side for the hoof soaking (didn't need a halter).  This is the first time I really got the sense that she was looking forward to whatever we were going to do.  She was eager to be with me.  Or perhaps it was just the fact that she was showing her emotions.  Maybe she has been eager before, but it hasn't been so obvious as she is sort of reserved when it comes to showing positive emotions.  Has she ever even had the chance to do that before, safely?  I don't know.  Any demonstration of positive emotion from her part is always very, very subtle, in fact, it is often so subtle that you can easily miss it if you aren't paying attention.  Today it was less subtle.  To see that was priceless and I can't even really explain how I felt about it, it filled me with such wonder.  

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 91

Col cracks me up when I bring the horses in from the field.  He will patiently watch when I put the halter on Little Love and stands by as Lilo and I walk away.  Then, as if he couldn't care less, he puts his head down and nibbles on a blade of grass.  In the beginning, Little Love used to stop half way up the field, but now she knows and continues walking, waiting.  And like clock work it happens every time - just when we are about to turn the corner to go into the smaller field, Col raises his head, picks up a canter and charges past us with his tail in the air.  Then he stops again, as if he hadn't just cantered uphill with all his might, and starts nibbling on grass.  Until, of course, we turn the next corner and go out the gate, which is when he repeats the above maneuver.   In the beginning this used to freak Little Love out and she would want to join him in this exercise, but now she just sighs and watches him go by.   If she were human I swear she would be rolling her eyes. :-)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Day 90 Experimenting... yet again!

Today I did something I had never done before.  When Becky left on her trip, she asked me to ride Col at least once while she was gone.   I agreed and planned to go for a trailride one day.  With all this food drama and osteo appointments going on, I never got to it until today.  My initial plan was to go for a walk with Little Love and then for a ride with Col.  But doing the same loop twice didn't sound very appealing.  So why not take both horses at the same time?!  The more I thought about it, the more sense it made.  The horses were so much better together.  I could ride Col and pony Little Love.  Brilliant idea! 

This wasn't the first time I had thought about going with the two together.  I had actually mentioned it to Becky, who was mildly shocked by the idea.  She was worried Col would freak out and then I would be in trouble.  But why would Col freak out?  I had never seen the horse do anything but stop when he got scared.  And what was the worst thing that could happen?  True, the horses could get afraid and take off (highly unlikely scenario).  In that case I would simply have to let go of Little Love and ride Col to my best ability.  If Col decided to take off to the sunset with me on his back, Little Love would surely follow, no?

Just for the record, I have never done this before with any horses, but it was the perfect day to start experimenting with this sort of a thing.  It was a really hot, exceptionally hot for April, and the horses were quite docile.  They had been outside all day and were literally sleeping when I got to the barn.  I did my usual hoof soaking rituals and then tacked up Col.  To be on the safe side, I went into the arena with him first and trotted him around, after all, he hadn't been ridden since Tuesday.  He was not very motivated to move.  Perfect. :-) We went to get Little Love. 

With Little Love in hand, I climbed back on Col, which was not easy, because Little Love wasn't sure what was going on and kept shoving her head into Col's bottom, which in turn made him move forward.  Once I sorted the two horses out, I went into the arena to do a test run.  Little Love pinned her ears back at Col and gave him the evil eye, which in turn made him shy away from her.  Hey, this is not how it was supposed to go!  I had a little talk with both horses and it seemed to help; we went around the arena again, the two horses side by side. So, what was I waiting for? 

We went out the gate, stopped at the road to wait for several cars to pass and then crossed over like pros.  Little Love was slow and Col, bless his heart, kept stopping and waiting for her without my initiative.  By the time we got to the field part, I hesitated.  Could I keep Little Love under control in the field?  My greatest worry was the fact that there was so much lush grass that I knew she would try to eat, something I just couldn't allow while I was sitting on Col.  If she got her head down, I wasn't sure I would be able to get it up again.  But I guess the only way to find out was to go ahead and ride into the field! 

It was fine.  Lilo tried to eat a few times, but I told her it was important to keep walking.  So she did.  There was a weird muddy part and her left hind boot got stuck.  Next thing I knew it was twisted sideways on her foot.  I guess I hadn't tightened it down enough.   So, once I got to the road, I had to get off and fix the boot while holding onto the two horses.  No problem, both horses stood like statues while I took my time adjusting the boot. Then I climbed back on and continued our treck.  

Once we started going back towards the barn, Little Love picked up the pace.  And one point she thought it would be a good idea if she led our little entourage, but I held her back, asking her to stay next to Col.  She sighed and accepted.  Three cars came down the (one lane) road and we had to make room.  I directed Lilo behind Col and me, and the cars got by. 

Next we encountered a man washing his dump truck with a pressure washer.  Col stopped in his tracks and refused to move.  Little Love naturally stopped, too, curious, rather than afraid like Col.  We stood stock still for a minute, then Col took a few tentative steps towards the man, who had kindly turned off the washer and stood there smiling.  But Col was still not convinced.  He started backing up into Little Love.  I quickly jumped off and stood between the two horses.  Little Love touched my hand.  "I know this drill" she seemed to say and started walking with me towards the truck and the power washer.  Col followed, his eyes on sticks, but at least he was now moving towards the scary sight.  We passed quickly and I climbed back on. 

What next?  We had maybe a half a mile to go, I could already see the house up on the hill.  But we weren't done yet.  We still had to pass a guy who was fixing his roof and throwing the old tiles onto the road (and this was not a small house, so you can imagine...).  Seriously.  I don't think I have ever had this much action on this particular loop.  Luckily the man refrained from throwing the tiles when we passed, but both Col and Little Love eyeballed the broken tiles on the ground, stepping carefully around the pieces like they were landmines. 

A few minutes later we crossed the big road and walked up the driveway.  We had made it!  I was so proud of both Col and Little Love for being such great sports.  The truth is they are horses and horses prefer going together to going separately.  I have to admit that I was a bit nervous at first, but after I had to get off the first time and fix Little Love's hind boot, I was so over it.  I think we'll have to do this again!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Day 89

Well, it looks like so far we got lucky.  Both horses are fine, no signs of colic or laminitis.  Col is obviously upset that he has been getting only hay for the past 24 hours, but Little Love seems to have accepted her fate.  I made them both a bran mash for the evening (vets orders) and I am sure when Becky's husband delivered those buckets, both of them were happy.  Horses seem to love that stuff even if it really isn't the best nutrition for them.  But it does help with digestion, so hopefully it will have that effect (not that either one has had a problem so far, knock on wood). 

The two horses have also been confined to the smaller area for now, so they don't get to gorge on grass at all - another issue that had Col thinking about busting through the fence we made.  I could actually see him looking at the fence and thinking.  This horse and his Houdini skills...  He did leave the fence and gate alone for now, so I'm hopeful he will hang in there one more day to be on the safe side.   We don't have electricity and hopefully don't need it either...

Little Love had an appointment with the osteopath today.  It was lady that was recommended by a friend and the minute she stepped out of the car, I had a good feeling about her.  I also knew immediately that Little Love would accept her and allow her to work on her body.  It's hard to explain, but sometimes I just know.  Anyways, the lady was very thorough and wanted to know every detail about Little Love's life.  I told her pretty much everything, including the episode with the food yesterday.  She could feel some of the signs of over eating (don't ask me details, but at one point she had both hands on her gums - for example.  She really examined every inch of this horse). 

After everyting she has gone through, Little Love is really tight in her lower back as well as in her right shoulder.  She also has a lot of tension in her withers.  This is something that was already caused by her old saddle (something her old owner acknowledged but did not act upon as she really liked "her" saddle).  The saddle I have for Little Love now is not exactly great either.  Good thing I'm not riding!  I feel that if I do ever get back on her, I want her to have more muscle to actually carry me.  At the moment her back is really weak.  Also, I would like to get a saddle that actually fits her.  I can adapt, if necessary.  But, since I am in no hurry to ride her, I'm in no hurry to get a saddle.  I probably won't even go there until we have moved country.

The osteo worked on Little Love for an hour and Little Love loved it.  She really needed some body work and this woman was very gentle and considerate.  I really, really liked how she connected with Little Love from the beginning.  She also could immediately see what kind of a horse she was, it was amazing.  A few times Lilo didn't like something and she immediately "voiced" her opinion.  The osteo really respected that, which in turn gained Lilo's respect and this helped with cooperation. 

While she was working on Little Love, the osteo and I started talking more and more about what I was doing (or rather not doing) with Little Love and realized that we thought a lot alike!  It is rare here in Switzerland (and probably elsewhere as well) to encounter people who actually are on the same sort of journey as you are, so after the osteo was done with Little Love, we ended up talking for 1½ hours!  Amazing.  In the end we were both in tears recounting our experiences in the horse world and how we really hoped that people would find their way to truly seeing horses as the sentient beings they are.  There is nothing like meeting a kindered spirit!     

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 88 More drama

When I arrived at the barn this afternoon, the first thing I noticed was that the horses were not down in the pasture, but rather hanging in front of the garage where we keep all our food and shavings.  The second thing I noticed was that the door to the garage was OPEN.  Oh no!!! 

It is every horse owner's nightmare to find their horse devouring a bag of grain in the feed room.  Obviously whatever had happened, had happened a while ago, since both horses were standing in the shade and sleeping, as if there wasn't a worry in the world.  When I looked into the garage I saw two hay bales on the ground, a pile of poop and lots and lots of grain flung around.  Yikes.  I made an inventory of the feed bags and discovered that out of the five in there, four had been ripped open.  It looked like both horses had been at it, one from the other side, the other from the other side, as the bags had holes on different sides.  One bag was half full, one had some feed missing and the other two looked fairly intact.  The grain we feed is a low protein low energy grain mix with no oats.  Not that it makes a difference colic-wise.  But perhaps we didn't have to worry about founder? 

I cleaned up, trying to estimate how much feed had been consumed.  It was hard to tell, but I would say certainly atleast a half of a 20 kg bag was gone.  Or was it a bit more?  And who ate it?  Did they split it, or did one eat more than the other?  When did they eat the feed?  They had been put outside around nine in the morning and by the time I got there, it was three in the afternoon.  Technically the feeding frenzy could have happened any time during the day, but was more likely of happened in the afternoon as usually the horses spend the morning on the other side of the pasture. 

I talked to Becky's husband (Becky left on a business trip yesterday) to see what he knew about the open garage door.  He felt really bad, as he realized it was he who had left it open, after getting a bale of hay last night.  Last night?!  Both the barn worker and Becky's husband had been there in the morning, too, but failed to notice the open garage door. 

I called the vet, just in case, to see what she thought I should do.  I also wanted to know who was on call for the night.  She recommended we wait and see, as it was hard to tell when the horses had eaten the food.  Perhaps they would be alright?  It was not like they had had a bag of grain each.  At this point they both looked and acted perfectly fine.  I took Little Love out and soaked her feet and then walked with her in the arena for a while.  I took Col out, too, and brushed him and walked him around a bit as well.   Obviously the horses were not going to get their regular evening feed; instead I gave them both some hay.  Little Love started eating, Col didn't, which made me look at him long and hard.  He must have felt my worry, because after a while he pulled out a few straws and chewed.  Ok, maybe he wasn't colicking yet? 

After six I had to go home.  I gave David a long list of symptoms to look for.  I made him swear he would check on the horses several times later that evening and morning and send me updates.  He sent me a text message an hour ago and apparently all is well.  The vet recommended only hay for the next 24 hours, no grass pasture and giving them both a bran mash tomorrow evening.  She said it could take a good 12 hours before problems started.  IF they started.  Now all we can do is wait to see...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day 87

Col is on turning into a regular Houdini!  Last night he got out of his stall again and this time when Becky backed him out of the feedroom, she discovered that the chains across both his doors were intact.  Either Col is learning how to undo and rehook his chain or he crawled under.  Is that even possible?  He is quite a big horse... I don't know.  In any case, he got out!  We are going to have to start keeping the gate between the stall aisle and the rest of the barn closed at all times.  Although, I don't think that will stop him from getting out, as I suspect he is trying to make a point about what he thinks about stall living... :-)  And he will keep making this point until his point has been heard.

Becky had her weekly jumping lesson today.  This gave Little Love and me a chance to practice trailer "loading".  We had four goes at it and each time Little Love walked all the way up the ramp until her feet were right at the threshold of the actual trailer.  Twice she stuck her head in as far as she could reach, with the whites of her eyes flashing and her nostrils the size of dinner plates.  She was nervous, but also a bit curious, which is a whole new development when it comes to the trailer.  I was very happy with her effort!. 

When Col left, both horses called out frantically.  Little Love was running circles in her stall, banging on the door in between each lap.  This is the first time Col has trailered out in the morning, as usually Becky's lesson is in the afternoon and the horses have had a good six hours of pasture time before they are separated.  Little Love likes routines and this change in schedule definitely set her off.  I gave her a moment before I pulled her out.  She practically ran over me when I opened the stall, she was in such a hurry to go outside and see for herself that Col was gone.  I took her into the arena where she trotted around with her head up high for about ten minutes, after which she came to the conclusion that she was alright without Col. 

We went out the gate and set off on our usual walk.  Little Love seemed completely fine until we started to cross the field to get to the edge of the forest.  By the time we were halfway down the field she started to trot next to me.  I tried to walk fast to keep up with her.  This seemed to make her pace even more, so I thought maybe she would calm down a bit if I let her graze.  Yeah, right.  She grabbed some grass, chewed on it frantically and that was it, the "freak out" switch went off in her head.  She bolted forward, then spun to the left plowing into me and tried to canter home.  It was as if I no longer excisted.  She actually managed to drag me down the field a few feet before I got my balance in the mud.  It took some major asserting from my part to get her to remember I was actually there with her and that I didn't want to get dragged home.  For a brief moment I had visions of Little Love getting loose and cantering home across the big road - yikes. I pushed those thoughts aside as it was more productive to focus on the here and now than the what if's. 

Little Love screamed in panic, trying to look back to the barn.  Despite the severe cold I have, I tried running forward.  This completely backfired on me, as it made Little Love take another dash past me towards the barn.  This time I was ready for it and I managed to hold my ground.  We must have been a sight!

Once we got the road (don't ask me how, somehow I managed to scramble forward and drag her with me despite the fact that about 90% of her attention was elsewhere) she calmed down a fraction.  I kept walking, pulling her with me.  She gave up looking back at the barn and tried trotting past me, but I waved the lead rope in front of her face and used my voice to tell her to slow down. This helped and she would slow down only to pick up another trot.  After about seven trots, she sighed and chewed and started walking with me.

We walked back without incident and actually stopped for 15 minutes to graze on some new grass.  Little Love was totally calm and 100% present.  No sign of the earlier horse that dragged me down the field in a frenzy.  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I say.  Luckily it seems like there is less and less of Mr. Hyde.

As we walked up the driveway, I wondered what Lilo would do when we arrived at the barn and Col would still be gone.  There was no need to worry.  I took her into the barn, took her halter off to give her the choice of going into her stall, Col's stall or outside.  She walked into the back yard, had a drink from the bucket out there and parked herself in the sun.  She didn't want to go into the big pasture without Col, but seemed completely comfortable dozing off outside the backdoor.  That is where she stood, sunbathing, while I mucked the stall, prepped the feed for the evening and filled the waters.  When it was time for me to go, I went over to her.  She touched my hand with her nose, then my chest.  I told her I was going and she told me she was alright. She was obviously waiting for Col to get back, and she was waiting with patience.  I told her he would be back in about 30 minutes.  She sighed and chewed and closed her eyes, going off for a nap. As I walked to my car, I could not but marvel (despite her Mr. Hyde act in the field) over how far she has come from those days at the old barn where I couldn't even put her outside by herself in the paddock next to the barn full of horses.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Day 83 - 85

Haven't been on the blog for a few days and it feels like ages! 

Friday was a great day: the weather turned even warmer than it already was.  Despite being only the beginning of April, it felt like summer.  Becky went for a ride with Col while Little Love and I turned around in the arena for 30 minutes.  So boring, but it had to be done.  I knew I wouldn't be able to come to the barn on Saturday and she had already had Thursday "off", too.  The break had done her some good though and she was less grumpy about our 30 laps. 

When Becky got back from her ride, we put the horses outside and took pictures of them and the dogs. The horses were just gorgeous in the sun! 

That day, when I got home at noon, Little Love's second set of boots had arrived in the mail!  Yay!  I couldn't wait to get to the barn to test them, but I had to wait until today, since Saturday my husband and I were busy coaching sports and organizing our sons birthday bash.  I go to the barn every day, so when there is one odd day that I don't, it feels like part of me is missing.  Being at the barn has turned into quite a daily ritual for me, it is sort of like meditating; it helps me center myself in my busy life.  The barn is the only place where time stands still; I can be there for four hours and it always feels both like a split second and an eternity have passed by. What I'm saying is that when I'm with Little Love, those moments cannot be measured in time.  In fact, measuring them by any standard would imply that there are expectations and goals, and I am doing my best to move away from that sort of thinking.  Expectations and goals create cracks in the otherwise perfect picture.  And then, of course, the picture is no longer perfect!  :-)   

Today I went to the barn early in the morning.  We were anticipating an excepttionally warm day (+24 celsius which is about 75 fahrenheit) and Becky had asked for a seat lesson afterwards.  Neither of us wanted to be in the hot arena any more than Col did so we set off in the early morning sunshine to get back before it got too warm.  I put on Little Love's new boots and after walking a bit funny in the back, she accepted them.  Becky asked me this morning if I was going to ride today and seemed to be surprised when I said I wouldn't.  I think she had thought that the boots would make me finally get on my horse.  She doesn't understand at all why I don't ride, but she also doesn't comment on it in any way, which is great.  I know if we were still living at the "old barn", I would hear no end of it.  I don't really miss riding, which is an interesting fact and something I need to think about more, as time goes by.  Will I ever ride again?  I don't know.  I'm sort of going with my gut with this one, and right now, walking on the ground seems the most natural thing for me to do.

We had a great walk and afterwards Little Love and I stood in the arena teaching Becky how to sit on her horse.  Then I mucked the stall and prepared the feed.  Becky told me that Col was in the "dog house" and wasn't allowed any carrots or apples.  Not that there were any apples left... Last night Col had managed to open his stall door and had busted through the chain that hangs across.  Becky found him in the feed room in the morning where he had devoured a back of carrots, half a box of apples, his morning feed and Little Love's morning feed.  Wow.  Col has really been asserting himself in the past week!  

Becky also told me that yesterday the neighbor's three kids (6, 8 and 11) had come over for a visit.  Two of them wanted to brush the horses and at first Becky was hesitant, but then gave in and brought the brushes out.  She tossed a pile of hay for the horses and supervised the children.  Apparently Little Love (the horse that hates brushing) stood like a statue while the littlest of the kids brushed her belly, combed her tail and cleaned her legs.  She didn't even move a muscle when the girl crawled under her stomach to get to the other side!  Becky was floored by Little Love's kind patience, since Col apparently became quite irritated when the children brushed him and walked out of the situation several times.   

I have seen Little Love with children, mainly my son, and each time her patience and utter consideration for the "little people" amazes me.  In fact, I am quite convinced that she actually enjoys being with children (more than adults).  This is definitely an aspect of her character that I would love to explore more in depth.  Hopefully I will have the opportunity at some point.  

Becky's dog Harvey and my dogs Chili and Chai sitting in the pasture