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Sunday, September 30, 2007

A new addition

It's been a while since I blogged, and some changes have occurred. Specifically, we have acquired a 15-year-old quarter horse gelding named Rusty from our local riding stable. Rusty was offered to us despite being a wonderfully bombproof and responsive boy because he stiffened up in the right hind after an hour or so of work, and though there appeared to be no obvious problem pointing to this lameness, a riding school can't take the time to cosset a lame horse. He was a good boy so they wanted a better home for him than a return to Hemphill's (local source of horses good, bad & indifferent in Vassalboro, ME); I liked what I saw in the riding ring so took him off their hands as a potential child mount and/or stallion companion, though I was a little uneasy about buying a horse with known health issues. Price was right, though, and I'd contemplated searching for a pony gelding for the boys since Maggie is unsuitable for young children to ride.

However, our farrier Pete was here yesterday, and what he told me about this horse makes me feel completely tickled pink. As I’d hoped, he took a look at this horse (who, by the way, much to my surprise is a purebred double-registered quarter horse/pony complete with papers & pedigree—officially he’s “Chazz’s Matador”, but Nate knows him as Rusty so Rusty he shall remain) and told us what he thought was causing the stiffness in Rusty’s off hind leg. Three things, all minor.

One: he has, or rather had, an abscess in his near hind hoof. We found this when Mark went to clean it so Pete could work on it—all of a sudden, it was gushing blood all over the barn floor. Pete staunched the blood and gave us instructions on how to heal the hoof: 3 days of soaking with epsom salts, 1 cup/1 gal hot water, 2x daily; one day rest; 3 more days of soaking; bandage formed of Kotex and duct tape to cover the hoof between soaks. Rusty to be kept in the barn the entire time and the stall refreshed daily to limit his exposure to bacteria. Once we have the hoof clean, he goes on a regimen of Thrush-Buster and hoof oil to get it back into shape, then he gets on the weekly Thrush-Buster/hoof oil regimen we’ve got all of them on. Two: he has a certain amount of soft rot in both front hooves. Careful cleaning and twice-weekly applications of Thrush-Buster and hoof oil are in order. Three: his efforts to minimize the pain in these three hooves, but particularly the near hind, has been causing him to put most of his weight on the off hind, which is the one that’s stiff. Pete showed us a spot on Rusty’s back just before the rise of his hindquarters where you could feel knots of muscle tension; he then grabbed hold of Rusty’s tail and pulled, leaning all his weight on it. Rusty never budged. “See that?” said Pete. “If pulling on his tail with all my weight had hurt, he’d have backed up. Instead, he leaned against it to stay still. It felt GOOD when I pulled on it because I was stretching out the tightness. That tells me that he doesn’t have an injury or malformation, he just has tight muscles.” He then showed us how to massage Rusty’s back properly (avoiding the nerves along the spine) to help relieve the tension. Pete didn’t know whether the tight muscles were a cause or effect, but he was betting effect, particularly after we got into that back hoof a little further and saw the extent of the damage. Once the bandage went on, Rusty seemed a great deal more comfortable. In the end, Pete pronounced that I had chosen well; with a month or two of consistent foot care, Rusty would likely be completely sound, and since he has an excellent disposition (more on that in a minute) and solid bone structure, he felt I had made the right choice—for the little bit of money and a significant (but not excessive) investment of time and care, I’d have me a pretty nice riding horse in no time. Rusty very clearly enjoyed it; poor boy, he hasn’t had this kind of care in a long while from the looks of things. He really got the spa treatment yesterday, and he was eating it up!

As far as Rusty’s disposition goes, he’s PERFECT. Stood quietly and patiently for almost two hours while we fussed over his feet, even though some of it HAD to have hurt. Played a little with Thomas while in the cross ties, but always gently; never blinked when I hit him with fly spray. And then you consider the fact that I’d watched this horse obediently work under a novice rider at the stable even though his feet had to have been KILLING him... And the fact that it was clear when Nate rode him that he knew he was entrusted with a little kid and was ready to take good care of Nate...  Taking a chance on this poor beast worked out well. He has a good way with Stevie, too—he’s patient company when Stevie behaves himself, but he doesn’t hesitate to put a pair of hooves in Stevie’s chest when the colt decides to play herd stallion with him. EXACTLY what the doctor ordered: a gelding who can adequately babysit my stallion(s), keeping him company but not taking any stallion-ish crap. And he got tested under fire, too—Bessie went into heat the day Rusty got here, so Stevie was completely nutso. Good thing Mark had gotten the board fences built or we’d have found out whether Stevie is capable of producing a foal at this age.  I paid more for him than I wanted, that’s a fact, but I just found out that I got my money’s worth, no question—because once he’s sound, he’ll be more valuable than what I paid, though I’ll not likely sell him.

And I also get the satisfaction of taking a poor, unloved, overused animal, eliminating its pain, and giving it a good home with proper care. That’s a nice feeling. His one flaw? He’s not a Morgan... But I can live with that.

4:19 pm edt 

Sunday, September 23, 2007

3:56 pm edt 

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Paddocks finished

Our paddocks are done. Just in time, as the weather is changing here in Maine. Next step: to build the outdoor shelter so our horses won't have to bear the brunt of the weather this winter. Maggie did just fine in the cold last winter--half the time she refused to even go in the shed--but even so, we want a bigger shed up so everyone can have a little shelter from the storms that kick up. Something tells me this year is going to have a couple of nasty storms in it.


And... eggs! We now have eggs. Eunice has laid 4 eggs and Ethel has laid 2. Nothing yet out of the other ten hens, but surely they too will get the idea. 

1:20 pm edt 

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Another stage finished
Bessie and Ray are now happily munching grass in their turnout. Apparently the actual event of turning them out was something of a circus, which I missed because I was trying to soothe a cranky toddler to sleep. I got reports, though, that we had a number of minor mishaps: Ray, testing the electric ribbon part of the fence, got zapped and went running to Bessie, then kicked Mark in the hip, then fell in the mud from last night's (long awaited) rain. Meanwhile, Stevie got all excited because Ray was excited and started running around his own paddock, whereupon HE fell in the mud too. And I guess Mist got a little worked up in the mares' paddock as well because I was told she tried mounting Maggie. The only person un-fazed by the whole experience was Bessie herself; she reportedly walked calmly into the pen and started eating, ignoring the various acrobatics going on around her. That mare is a prize to be sure; nothing bothers her. Well, almost nothing--she doesn't seem to much care for the airplanes that fly overhead (we're in the southern landing pattern for Portland airport).
4:01 pm edt 

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Fences going up
Slowly our paddocks are taking shape. Mark has the fences up for what will be Bessie & Ray's turnout until it's time for him to be weaned. We have 5-foot posts with board fences because that's what it's going to take to contain Stevie when he gets bigger. Heck, it's needed NOW. Looks like maybe we should train Stevie as a hunter/jumper rather than a carriage horse. Here's why: our boy got a hula hoop (one of his toys) wrapped around an ankle and decided that the thing to do was run from it. Which wasn't terribly successful, so he ran toward the gate. Then, he jumped the gate. Mind you, the gate is located under his shade shelter (a stick and pole structure Mark threw together that stands no more than 7 feet above the ground) and the top of the gate is about 4 feet high, so he cleared the fence despite having only 3 feet of space between the fence and the shade structure. WITH the hula hoop on his heels. Unfortunately for him, there are TWO gates between his enclosure and the mares' paddock, and the second gate being only about four feet from the first, he didn't have enough space to gather himself to jump again, so he landed the jump, could not continue moving forward, and wound up on his behind. But still, that's one amazing jump for a little boy who hasn't gotten his full growth, even without the hula hoop hampering his takeoff. And that's why we're going high with the board fences. But Bess and RAy will be happy to get a real turnout at last--we've been taking them for walks (Ray runs, Bess walks) but Bessie clearly wants to be out of the stall with the rest of the herd. Ray, however, is benefitting from the stall time because we get more handling of him done. He's gone from "don't touch me!" to "scratches, oh please oh please!" in just five days. Yesterday he was led over to our neighbor's place on a lead line and he only danced around a little. So we're making progress with him even in a very short time.
4:04 pm edt 

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Settling in

Bessie and Ray are definitely settling in. Our fences aren't complete yet so they've been on stall rest these past few days. Neither one likes it much. I take them out with Bessie on the lead in the morning so Mark can clean the stall & refresh the water and hay, and Ray just FLIES around the farm at top speed. I think I should've named him Maverick after the fighter pilot in Top Gun, the way that boy moves, but I'll keep that name for another foal. He is starting to get to know Aspen, who is incredibly curious about him--not curious enough to brave Bessie's presence (she huffs a little if Aspen gets too close and Aspen scurries away). They were playing this morning, but Aspen crowded him a bit more than he liked and he nailed her in the chest. She wasn't hurt, but I think she's going to be a little more cautious about approaching him.

Meanwhile I've started riding lessons, and once I get my legs back under me I'll be bringing Maggie back under saddle for the duration. We went out in my neighbor's paddock earlier this morning. You would truly never know Maggie for an over-20 mare--she's got plenty of spunk. Doesn't listen to commands as well as I'd like but with time and a little work with a trainer, that should change. 

8:53 am edt 

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

First day on the farm
It's been an interesting 24 hours. First off, I'm a little bit sore from Stevie's little game with me yesterday. I didn't describe it in yesterday's entry because I was focused on Bessie & Ray, but what happened was, I took Stevie out of the barn in the morning and the little bugger decided he was going to get frisky--TOO frisky. I didn't realize that I didn't have the chain on his halter properly so I had less control than I really needed, and up he went, coming down with his feet on my shoulders. Pushed me right to the ground. I didn't let go of his halter, though, so his head went down with me, and I found myself face down in the dirt with his nose next to mine, and his front hoof on my right shoulderblade. Not a terribly comfortable position for either one of us, so I pushed him off, stood up, and told him exactly what I thought of him (though I did make an effort to limit the cusswords as I'm trying to give up swearing. Again.). I must have strained a muscle in my upper back, because it hurt like heck, and I tried calling for Mark to help me out, but he didn't hear and I decided that pain or no pain, I'd better get that little mmm-mmm-mmm into his paddock or he was going to think he'd gotten the upper hand. So I did. It was an excruciatingly painful process, but I got him in there and got the halter off him so he could run. And now, of course, we have Bessie and Ray, and we started working with the little one, and is HE a handful. I think I did my shoulder again this morning while I was trying to hold onto him so Mark could clean Bessie's feet and have a look. He's a very good-looking boy, and I'm going to try to get some photos later today. We're going to work with him for a few months and put him up for sale; though we think he has incredible potential as a stud, we don't want to give up Stevie (who is developing very nicely as you can see from his page) and two studs is just more than this farm can handle. Or at least, that's our position right now. Mark goes back and forth on that subject depending on how he feels day to day.
9:35 am edt 

Monday, September 3, 2007

They're here!
They just arrived about half an hour ago. A little beat up from the trip, a few little cuts & scrapes and Bessie’s mane and tail are a bit chewed up, but nothing serious. My vet’s coming out tomorrow to look at my older mare anyway, so I told her that I’d want her to look them over and make sure all was well. They looked very relieved to be off that trailer; went right into the barn w/no issues, and Bessie headed straight for the hay rack. She is BEAUTIFUL, and now I see what Dan meant about that colt—we may well have to build a second barn! He's incredibly good-looking. I will post pictures as soon as I can.
2:57 pm edt 

Sunday, September 2, 2007

One more day!
I heard from Dan that Bessie and Ray were loaded on the trailer at 1:15 pm yesterday (2:15 our time). I also got a message from Nation-Wide Horse Transport today saying they'd be here between 10 am and 2 pm tomorrow. I had wanted to spare them the Labor Day traffic, but Nation Wide had only this time available, so we just hope for the best. My vet will be out on Tuesday to check that Maggie's infection is cleared up and to give Mist her Pneumabort shot, so she'll be looking at Bessie and Ray too, making sure they handled the trip OK. Mark put the finishing touches on our fourth stall today so that's all ready; the fence, unfortunately, is nowhere near done so unless Mark can somehow get all those posts in the ground tomorrow early, I guess Bessie and Ray will need to spend their first day on the farm in the barn. If I get any sleep tonight, it's going to be a frigging miracle.
6:52 pm edt 

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