Sunday, November 30, 2014

Feeling My Way to a Great Ride

I rode Lucy on Thanksgiving afternoon before chores. The early afternoon temperatures had peaked at 68F but it was 65F and dropping when I groomed and tacked her up. Grooming was work; my princess mare was caked in mud and her front hooves, which are shod, were packed with hard mud.

During our warm-up, I kept Lucy marching forward and stretching. In no time at all, her back was loose and lifting underneath me. During my ride, I focused on feeling her hind end -- instead of looking at her neck (very bad habit). An unexpected benefit was that I rode with my eyes consistently up since I was concentrating on the activity under my butt and not in front of my hands.

The difference in Lucy was huge. If I felt her rush and fall onto her forehand; if I lost the motor under my butt; I brought her back with a half halt. She balanced, reached under with that hind and ... ... she felt amazing. Outside of a lesson, I think this is the only time I've felt true medium gaits. She was light in front, her back was supporting me (I could sit the trot!) and we were floating around the circle. We managed to keep that connection and conversation in both trot and canter.

I rode Lucy for a really long time -- compared to our usual winter workouts. Neither of wanted to stop.  Each time I thought "we should end here," she would offer to do more.  She was very sweaty when we finished so I threw a cooler on her back and we walked. And walked. And walked.

My feet were killing me by the time she was cool, back in her pasture, and the mucking was done. But it was worth every minute.

 UC Davis called this morning with good news on Flash.  He is responding well to the antibiotics, alert, eating and happy.  The vet is predicting that they will be able to transition him to oral meds early next week (the usual course is 5-8 days of IV therapy) and come home possibly on Wednesday.  He said that Flash had a very heavy load of the bacteria and is pleased how quickly he is turning the corner.  We aren't surprised; Flash is a very stoic, strong and healthy horse who doesn't show pain.  I'm sure his body fought off the infection for a number of days before giving into the fever.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Flash Goes to UC Davis

This morning, Flash's temperature was back up to 104.2.  We tried calling our regular horse vet, who teaches during the week and works on Saturdays, but all the vets in his practice were off for the holiday weekend.  Brett called a mobile vet that was recommended as "open" by the on-call service but they said that they couldn't process any lab tests until Monday and would charge an arm and a leg to come out on a "holiday."  I decided to call UC Davis.  We were concerned about the possibility of tick fever which had been mentioned to us at dinner by one of our friends last night.

 The very nice vet at Davis said that Flash's fever was very high (it spiked to 105.6 on Thanksgiving) and we should bring him in.  UC Davis has one of the top large animal hospitals in the country and, lucky us, it is just over an hour away.

Brett got the trailer hooked up while I threw the other horses enough hay to tide them over for lunch; not knowing how long we would be gone.

Oh, my.  That UC Davis Large Animal Clinic is an impressive place.

Two vets and a graduate student worked on Flash.  First the vets did a thorough physical and drew blood for lab work.  Flash stood quietly with Brett, while they poked and prodded, shaved him for an ultrasound of his internal organs, and conducted a rectal exam (plastic sleeve on the vets arm - in through the rectum up to the vet's armpit - ewww).  Meanwhile, the initial blood work came back: a low platelet and white blood cell count, anemia.  Suspecting a tick related disease, the vets asked the pathologist to do a smear and look for anaplasma phagocytophilum (yeah, a mouthful).  Anaplasma occurs in the Sierra foothills of Northern California.  Who knew?  Not us native Southern Californians.

While we waited for those results, they did the ultrasound.  The vets kept exclaiming over how clear Flash's organs were showing up on the ultrasound.  Apparently, many horses have images that show up grainy and hard to read on the screen.  Not Flash; crystal clear and perfectly healthy.

Finally, the follow up lab results came back... positive.  Anaplasma is a type of tick borne infection but, unlike Lyme's Disease, horses can make a full recovery with no long term effects.  We caught Flash very early in the process so he should be back to 100% after treatment.  After the first three days, the bacteria don't show up clearly on lab work so we were fortunate to get Flash tested so quickly.  The vets took a couple extra vials of blood to put in their "bank" for teaching purposes.  Blood that clearly shows the organism is hard to come by.  Wasn't Flash the stellar patient?

Prognosis is excellent.  Flash will remain at the hospital on IV antibiotics until his vitals are stable (three to six days).  At that point he will be transitioned to oral meds and can come home.  We settled him into a stall in the "B" barn where he looked comfortable (and tired).

Brett and I got home just before dark; in time to feed dinner to the rest of the critters and do a quick mucking job of the pasture.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Celebrating a Day Late

The first thing Brett and I did this morning was check on Flash.  He was standing in the pasture, in the sun at the bottom corner, with Mufasa.  He didn't look very perky, but then, he rarely does.  I went to the barn and got the thermometer while Brett pushed the hay cart out to the pasture.  Flash ambled over and nosed around in the hay while I lifted his tail and took his temperature (so undignified for a retired mounted patrol horse like Flash).  His temp was well within normal.  Brett and I grinned at each other (I think there was a tear of relief in the corner of Brett's eye), and we went back to the barn to mix up their buckets of supplements.  I wouldn't say that Flash is eating with gusto, but he did finish his bucket and eat some hay.

This evening we are celebrating Thanksgiving with a group of our friends and neighbors.  I have a turkey in the oven, bread dough rising for dinner rolls, and a pumpkin pie cooling on the counter.

Dinner is a potluck so the rest of the meal will arrive in the arms of our guests.

Its hard to feel completely celebratory, though.  We found out Wednesday that a friend of Brett's has cancer.  There are more tests being run today to determine if it has metastasized.  It's a tough one to beat.  And, another friend -- the guy who built my beautiful kitchen -- is in a coma (last we heard) at UC Davis following an off-road motorcycle accident.

Hoping all of you are happy and healthy.  Treasure your health; it can change so quickly.  This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the good health, strength and stamina of my husband,

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Quiet Thanksgiving Day

Brett and I spent a quiet day at home today. We barbecued hamburgers for lunch and I'm making a pizza for dinner. We are having friends over for a potluck turkey dinner tomorrow so my bird is sleeping in its brine bath, out in the barn refrigerator.

We are a bit worried about Flash, though. He was lethargic and listless this morning. He was not interested in his bucket of carrots and vitamins, nor in his hay. I got the thermometer and, sure enough, he's running a temperature. Brett mixed up some bute with sweet feed (alfalfa and molasses) but Flash wouldn't even eat more than a bite of that.

We were happy to be home so that we could keep an eye on Flash. He ate a few bites of hay but mostly stood under the trees with one hind leg cocked, staring into space. We had beautiful weather with temperatures in the upper 60s this afternoon.

I took Flash's temperature again this evening and it had crept up some more. I mixed bute with water and put it in a syringe. Flash is a real pill to worm, he fights the syringe of worming paste, so I knew he wouldn't be thrilled with a syringe of bute.  But he needed it to bring the fever down.  Brett slipped the halter on and I showed Flash the bute; I don't believe in being sneaky. As expected, he flung his head around to avoid the syringe. I laid it against the side of his mouth, held onto to his halter, and just followed his flailing head with my hand -- and the syringe. Eventually, he gave up and allowed me to squirt it down his throat. I praised him and gave him a couple of cookies -- which he ate.

If he isn't feeling better in the morning, we will put a call into the vet. Poor boy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

No Camera, Just Stories

I try to remember to take the camera with me when I go outside, but I often forget. Brett does not, as a rule, carry the camera so there are not typically pictures taken on the days I work. But there are stories.

Yesterday morning was cold and frosty, as were the mornings all of this past week. Jackson watches Brett take the hay cart out to the oak pasture to feed Flash and Mufasa. Brett mucks their pasture while there. Then he walks over to the mare's pasture, walking right past Jackson who wags and wiggles his head in protest. "Ladies first! Get used to it." Brett calls out as he marches on by with the hay. Yesterday, it was too much for Jackson. Instead of finishing his morning bucket of vitamins and carrots, he galloped around the pasture, bucking for all he was worth. Surprisingly, his trail boots didn't fly off off of his hooves although Brett did have to tighten down the velcro on one hind that came undone. So, in answer to the question "how is Jackson doing with trail boots? Any abscesses?" -- Jackson is doing great with his trail boots. No abscesses and lots of attitude.

Today was a bit warmer than the past few days. The sun made a showing and we crept up into the 60s. Lucy and Pistol took a long nap in the sun, on the warm mud, side by side like bookends.

I was able to leave the office early this afternoon; the parking lot was almost empty when I left at 2. People were headed to the grocery store or out of town in advance of Thanksgiving tomorrow. I made a quick stop at the grocery store and was home before 4pm and so was able to help with the evening chores. Brett had already given the mares their hay by the time I finished mucking the donkeys/Jackson pasture, dumped the cart onto the compost pile, and started on the girls' pasture. Lucy was on one side of the hay feeder; Pistol was on the other. In between them, on both sides, the goats cautiously snatched bites of hay and avoided the flattened ear threats of the horses. Thistle and Lucy were having a heated discussion. He moved in to get a bite of the hay poking out of the side of the feeder, she lowered her head and made a "get outta here" movement towards him. Thistle complained. Loudly. Remember the old Charlie Brown films? How the adults sounded like "wah wah wah"? That's exactly what Thistle sounded like, but up an octave. This dance went on for quite awhile -- approach, threaten, wah wah wah.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mud Bath

When I brought Jackson from the barn back to the pasture he shares with the donkeys, he walked with purpose over to the muddiest patch he could find.  Then he lowered himself to the ground and had a good roll.

Only his face stayed white.

Silly, lovable boy.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mending Fences

Last night the rain started and it kept up all through today.  The rain was welcome and we were thrilled with the steady downpour.  Brett watched TV, I made cookies and did laundry, and Kersey lounged next to Brett.

In the mid-afternoon I heard a loud crash from the direction of the oak pasture.  The boys were in the barn so I wasn't worried about branches falling on them.  The oaks self-prune when the wind blows and the rain falls.  It's a good thing...

...unless the limbs land on the fence.

I helped Brett put in a couple t-posts and prop up the fence.  Someday, we will need to replace the fence but, for the time being, all we can afford to do is mend and prop it up.

The storm was pretty much done by the time we did the evening chores.

Lucy and Pistol were a mess.

The goats were demanding dinner.

Mufasa was impatiently waiting his turn to be taken back to the oak pasture with Flash.

Ranching defined: mending fences all the time.  (I'm not complaining; we love this life)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Kidnapping Your Spouse

This week Brett and I celebrated our anniversary; 14 years married, 35 years in love, minus ten years in the middle with no contact whatsoever. The math is a bit complicated, but the important thing is that we finally got it right and tied the knot. During the course of our marriage, we have surprised each other with vacations, dinners and small trips. We've been so busy with this house --and we've been so broke with this house, that we haven't gone anywhere or done anything except work on the property.

So, I made plans. I wanted to take Brett to Yosemite; specifically, to stay at the Ahwanhee Hotel in the park. Rooms book up there a year in advance but I lucked out and was able to snag one room, for one night, this week, when I started making plans a few months ago. The Ahwanhee was built in 1927 with tall open beam ceilings, huge fireplaces, a dining room with views of the valley and twinkling tall candles on the tables. Romance, grandeur and history ooze from its walls. We've been drooling over the hotel for years.

Brett was under the impression that we were going out to dinner, locally, on Wednesday since I had written "dinner" on the calendar and told him not to make other plans. It waited until the day before we left to tell him that he needed to top off the gas tank and pack an overnight bag. I made arrangements for Kersey to go to the neighbors and for Nickers Horsesitting to take care of the rest of the animals. Chris at Nickers gives us peace of mind when we are away from home. She checks all the animals thoroughly, will blanket, move them from barn to pasture and even groom if we want. And she sends me a text when she comes over, twice a day, to let me know how things are. When we got back to our room in the hotel, after dinner, there was a text from her informing us that one of the chickens had died. Phyllis was found, dead, in the chicken pen. We're not sure what happened. Chickens do that; die for no apparent reason. We seem to lose one a year to cold or heat or illness or old age.

But, I digress. This isn't a chicken post. Brett figured out pretty quickly that we were going to Yosemite. But he didn't expect the Ahwanhee. He was very surprised and very happy as we drove into the park, through the burned and scarred mountainside (we could see the Rim fire still smoldering off in the distance), and into the pristine valley. Our room had a view of Half Dome and a plate of chocolate covered strawberries.

This morning we hiked a trail that circles and crosses the valley floor. The entire trail is 13 miles long; we went about four miles -- pretty good for us. Then we packed our bags, dropped off our key, and headed back home. We managed to be in Yosemite during the window between wave 1 and wave 2 of a 3-punch series of storms coming through. It was raining when we got home and 50F in the house but worth every minute we spent shivering under throw blankets while we waited for the wood stove to warm us up.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lucy and Winter Goals

But, mom, I don't want to pose for a picture.  Let's keep going.
I was able to work with Lucy a couple of times this week. Between short days, making week day riding impossible, and winter rain I figure that if I'm able to ride one weekend a month I'll be doing well. Once a month isn't often enough to warrant clipping so Lucy will be a hairy beast this winter. She's already a hairy beast for which I'm thankful. No blanket required for this girl.

I don't ride for long; I don't want Lucy to get super sweaty and then get chilled. We work until she breaks a sweat and then we stop.

Ohhh, look!  An audience over there!  Hello fans!
Lucy knows her stuff and the last thing I want to do is bore her. We always warm up long and low but then we work on reviewing something different. When my dad and his friends were here watching us ride, Lucy loved the small crowd. She nailed leg yield, shoulder in and even counter canter.

The time  before that when I rode, I worked on forward and back within gaits and my sitting trot balance. To sit the trot effectively, you have to have your hips open and moving, your knees absorbing the motion and your core strong to maintain balance. You absolutely cannot grip with your legs or hang onto your reins. I work on sitting half way around a 20m circle and then go back to rising. I can't maintain it more than that yet.

And, unless the sand is too hard, we always canter. Lucy and I love, love, LOVE to canter.

I tried free jumping her a bit over low cavaletti on Sunday, as a change from our usual routine. She popped over the poles in fine form -- her past life as a jumper was obvious. But, she didn't seem to enjoy it at all. So, we won't do that again. How lucky am I to have a talented horse that loves dressage as much as I do?!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Kersey at K

The weather Sunday (and today) was cold.  Okay, okay; not as cold as in Kansas or Nebraska or New York but still, for us, cold.  We started out at 33F and topped out, briefly, at 55 before dropping back into the 40s.

Kersey alternated between laying in the sun and the shade.  She opted for a mix of both while Brett was grooming Pistol.

She moved into the shade while he rode.  Kersey follows us all over the property.

She kept a close eye on Brett and Pistol.

Jackson wagged his head at her as we went by and then got back to the business of grazing.  Knock on wood, putting trail boots on him when it rains has been working really well.  Five rain storms so far and zero abscesses.  I think that's a record.  We have a series of three storms coming in later this week.  Fingers are crossed.

After Brett finished riding, Kersey watched us from the barn doorway while Brett took off Pistol's tack.

It's a dogs life here on the ranch.  Rough, really rough.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Back in the Saddle

Brett hasn't ridden since early August -- maybe late July, even; not since he had his knee replacement surgery. The couple of rides on Mufasa before his surgery didn't go well; Brett came off twice in a two week period. Once, Mufasa spooked and went sideways (Brett didn't) and the other time he panicked as Brett was mounting for a lesson. Something about the arena worried Mufasa and he took off with Brett who had one foot in the stirrup. So, unsurprisingly, Brett was a tad apprehensive about getting back on.

He decided to use Pistol for his first post-surgery ride. She is steady and low to the ground, unflappable and strong. Brett wasn't sure how his knee would feel and how well he would be able to swing his leg over the saddle.

Pistol was thrilled to help. She turned around repeatedly to thank Brett while he worked to remove the mud from her hair and dreadlocks from her mane.

Mounting was a piece of cake. Pistol stood perfectly still while Brett swung his leg over and settled into the saddle. They walked around the pasture, both smiling and enjoying themselves.

When Brett asked Pistol to trot she immediately obliged.

Brett nudged her into canter and she hesitated a moment as if to say, "Are you sure?" Brett asked again and off they went into Pistol's lovely rocking horse canter.

Brett said the muscles on the inside of his knee felt a bit weak and sore, but otherwise he felt good. I think they looked great together.

Brett put Pistol back in the pasture and Lucy immediately came over, nuzzled Pistol, and asked "What are you so happy about? Did you get extra treats?"

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dad's Visit

My dad has arrived a few days ago with some friends.  They've been staying with us and exploring the area.  Brett and I weren't sure how it would go; we only have one functional shower -- and there are six of us including my dad and his friends.  But, shower coordination has been no problem and we've had a great time.  I'll let the pictures tell the story -- which of course involves many wonderful meals (at area restaurants and at home) and good wine.

Enjoying the morning sunshine in the garden.

Roasted pork and heirloom carrots

Roasted beet salad with oranges, goat cheese and toasted walnuts

Dad requested that I wear some of my mom's jewelry at dinner.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Princess and the Pig

Yesterday after the horses got their vaccinations, I kept an eye on Lucy and Pistol. Neither have had shots on our watch before so we wanted to make sure that there were no adverse reactions. Lucy was fine.

Pistol felt kind of crummy. She went into the bedroom area of their pasture and laid down. I went out to check on her and she stood up, but didn't move. Brett was getting ready to feed so it was unusual that she wasn't interested. She stood with her head in my arms while I stroked her face and kissed the velvet soft spot above her eye.

I left to start mucking and she walked down to the hay feeder where she stood with her head drooping, listlessly chewing a small bite of hay. After mucking, I put a new bag of shavings in the mares' run-in and a bag of pellets. I wanted her to have a warm soft place to sleep during the evening and night. Rain was in the air and due to arrive before midnight.

I checked on her again just before dark and she was eating with gusto. This morning Brett reported that she was doing well. And she had enjoyed a good roll in the mud. She was filthy. Lucy was covered with the clean shavings. Figures.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Fall Vaccinations

This afternoon Dr. Mike came to give the horses and donkeys, all seven of them, their fall shots.  He and his assistant loaded up their syringes and we headed out to the mares' pasture first.  The goats met us at the gate and formed a happy, energetic circle around and among us as we walked over to Lucy and Pistol.  Dr. Mike: "I see your goats are very well socialized."  Understatement of the day.  Lucy stood still for her shots and then crunched the cookie that was offered to her by the assistant.  Pistol wasn't sure and initially ran a few steps backwards, but then stood still.  Rabies, West Nile Virus and flu/rhino for both of them since they leave the property on occasion.  Their teeth aren't in horrible condition but could use a tune up.  We'll take care of that in December when the vet clinic runs a dental special.

Next we went to see Jackson and the donkeys.  Dr. Mike immediately noted that Jackson is getting around well and in excellent weight.  His teeth are also in the best shape of all the horses and won't need work done this year.

Tuffy and Finessa were good about their shots as well.  Tuffy can be feisty, pulling and hopping and kicking but not this time.  Dr. Mike knelt next to him, showed him the needle and touched the spot on his neck where it would go.  Rabies and West Nile for the donkeys and Jackson.  Tuffy was so eager for his cookie, after his shots, that he got a mouthful of the assistant's sweatshirt and missed the cookie all together.  He was more gentlemanly when it was offered again.

Last, we went to the boys pasture.  Flash was up first.

Flash loves shots.  He doesn't flinch or move a muscle.  He eats his cookie.

Then he looks for more.

Flash could stand to lose some weight and is definitely arthritic.  We will continue his current regime -- 24/7 turnout so he can move those joints and bute on his extra sore days.

Mufasa was up last.  Considering how difficult it is for Mufasa to trust strangers, he did very well.

His teeth looked good so it will be Lucy, Pistol and Flash who go to the clinic next month.