Cowgirl Up on

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Eye Candy

While I haven’t been working with or riding the horses much, I have been putting them to work. Ariel is getting the much-deserved time eating the tallest green grass and pushing Buena around at her whim. Much to my surprise she’s not suffering any ill effects. That’s makes me feel pretty darn good. I really want these final weeks to be enjoyable ones for her.

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The Horse Feature

Colin’s story made the e-mail version of The Horse magazine’s newsletter today.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

KING5 News Video Clip

As promised:
Soldier’s donated horse heads for slaughter

Pictures of Colin (aka Petersburg Knight) when he was still in the auction pen:

The horse next to PK in the lower righthand picture is getting up from a nice roll in the hogfuel.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Follow-up Story from May 5

You may recall my May 5 post where I helped to save a horse. Well, Colin is making the news! Be sure to check it out Wednesday, May 21. I will post a link once it’s live on the KING5 site.

Hopefully that horse is now safe permanently!

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Hot. Hot! HOT!

It was a sunny and overly warm weekend here in “The Claw” as it is affectionately known to the locals. I took advantage of the opportunity to get some tractor work done on the paddock/arena and to also catch some nice photos of my girls, especially poignant due to my decisions regarding Ariel.

Saturday was WAY hotter than it should be, and so not right for before Memorial Day in May. Hitting 90° is just wrong. And while some folks thrive on the heat, I do not. I donned my long sleeve shirt and my Sunbody straw hat and hopped on the tractor. It has been dry enough that the paddock/arena is not a greasy mess and I could do some significant box scraping/grading. There was just enough moisture left in the soil for it not to be too dusty, too. Here is the product of my afternoon spent riding the John Deere:

Sunday was MUCH cooler, but still warm. Before the clouds rolled in I was able to get some nice pictures of my girls enjoying the lush and long grass around the round pen. I staked out some hot wire with the pigtail step-in posts and let them graze for an hour or so. I have bittersweet feelings about letting Ariel graze without the muzzle on. She’s quite competent with it on as the she has worn the hole in the first one to a rather large diameter. It doesn’t slow her down in the least. However, I am want to make her final weeks the most enjoyable for her. I am risking a laminitic flare-up by letting her eat unrestricted, but at this point it’s a risk I am willing to take. Her final days she will get the things she really misses: apples and carrots. I will admit that I am sneaking her little bits of apple and small carrots already. Spoiling her is high on my priority list for her.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

A Look Back

Since I have been remiss in making daily blog posts, and since some folks reading this blog may not know much of my history with Ariel, I figured I would dig out this really old clinic report from 1999. I will come back to this post and add an addendum to it once I review my old writing a bit more. This has been edited very little from what I originally wrote back then.

Buck Brannaman Clinic Report
Cedar Downs Equestrian Center, Maple Valley, WA
Memorial Day weekend, 1999

This is a long message and has a lot of info that I think many can benefit from.

As you may (or may not) know, I took part in a Buck Brannaman clinic over memorial day weekend. Clinics are great therapy and soul-searching experiences for me, as well a character builders. As with almost every clinic I have participated in over the last 4-5 years, there were emotional highs (smiles) and lows (tears). The highs come from accomplishing things that I had never thought of trying and getting incredible changes in both my horse and myself. The lows, well, the facing the truth about where I am in my horsemanship skills by either just staying on through the rough spots or by realizing that I have not prepared us properly for the things that I am asking.

Before the clinic started, I was very upbeat and positive about the things I had been working on and I thought that this would be our best clinic to date. In many ways, it was. I have been working on the basics for the last 4+ years after all. Well, I soon came to realize that I was not being specific enough in my requests, as well as being pitifully off in my timing. In these situations, one can’t be too hard on oneself because every year is better than the last...but, we always are.

Within the first few minutes of entering the arena the first day, I soon felt that something was different. Ariel (my horse which many of you may know) almost immediately was not focused on me. There were many strange faces and horses and noises in the indoor arena setting. Granted, we had been in this particular spot before (our very first clinic experience), but we have MUCH more of a foundation now than we did then. It didn’t take too long to get some feel back from her and her focus more back on me. Break the hindquarters over here and there a bit. Get a few lead-bys under our belts. Finally, a little better and a somewhat calm horse on the end of my lead rope. Soon I had on the hackamore (bosal) that we had been working in for the last 5 months or so. And I was mounted and doing some more bending and disengaging exercises. We then attempted to walk calmly around the arena to warm up a bit before Buck lined us up and started chatting about what we would be covering over the next 3 days. Standing at first was a real chore, but after a few minutes, Ariel was standing quietly on a loose rein.

After Buck was done addressing the group and answering questions, we started of working on one-rein stops and bending. So far so good, but then things changed. When we were asked to walk around the arena, I soon had a beast underneath me who decided that her pace would be whatever and wherever she would like, especially if it was contradictory to what I wanted. That meant that I spent the next few hours throughout the rest of that class, doing more one-rein stops and circles and serpentines than anyone else. But, that was what we needed, so that was what we did.

The second day, I spent a good hour or two, outside in the warm-up arena doing more groundwork and exercises hoping that it would have a beneficial effect when we entered the indoor arena later that afternoon. Things were improved to an extent, but did eventually get to a point similar to the day before. Granted, this time we were in the snaffle for the first time in months, but I had considerably better lateral control than the previous day. I still hated the fact that I felt like I was really having to put so much pressure on her mouth, but she was definitely attempting to run through the bit, too. Going back to the snaffle exposed many of the gaps that were still there.

Buck asked me more about her history and suggested that I probably shouldn’t do any competition for the next year, if ever. The day before he asked me some of the history about her and how much I have worked with her. By now, this of course is the second time that I have gotten teary this weekend. He can see gaps where you never thought there were any, and he can see what is coming down the road if you don’t deal with things now (or ever)... The first day I had put my plans of doing endurance on hold for a month, but now I was putting my plans for endurance, at least with Ariel, on hold indefinitely if not forever. If this seems like heady stuff, it is. I got involved with this kind of horsemanship/partnership with horses before I knew about endurance, but the endurance thing is beckoning to me very strongly.

Buck mentioned a woman he used to have coming to his clinics years ago who was a barrel racer. She had what every normal person would call a problem horse (and some people will probably call a normal horse). Well Buck worked with her and she soon came to realize that in order to do the barrel racing things successfully, she would have to perfect her other areas of horsemanship. After 2 years of not barrel racing, she took that same horse back to the racing scene and cleaned up. And the horse would walk calmly out of the arena after running her pattern on a loose rein. And she was winning! That’s what I want to say that I have done in endurance. So, if it takes me 2 years or 10 years, I guess that’s what I will have to do.

By the end of the second day we were loping circles (in smaller groups) and then doing lead changes over poles. Not totally on a loose rein, but we were making progress. Occasionally, Ariel would still have an episode but they continued to get shorter in duration.

The third day, we did our warm-up in the outside warm-up arena yet again; much better than the day before. And when we moved into the indoor arena, things were better than the previous day as well. Still a few reversions, but not as many and they were further apart. We would participate with the class exercises when we were in a good spot, and when we weren’t we worked on the basics.

We worked on serpentines, two-tracking, lead changes and more. At one point Buck asked me about the crupper on the saddle, so we removed it (thinking it may make her more comfortable). I knew my saddle was not made for a balanced/centered ride and it is NOT at all made for riding a green horse such as she was during this experience (a new saddle is on my list).

At the very end of the day, we progressed to lead changes over a single pole instead of double poles. This is where I almost met the same fate as last year (in the dirt at least once). My timing was off while going over the pole and I caused a zig-zag during the transition and I was all-of-a-sudden everywhere but in the saddle. I did manage to recover, but I do remember hearing a lot of gasping in the audience. A few other times in the previous 2 days I recall hearing that same sound while I was working on recovering some saneness. Buck calmly talks each person through situations like this and never makes a person feel inadequate or embarrassed about having lost control of a situation (although we always do feel embarrassed anyway).

My list of things to work on is ever growing, but the list of things I want to accomplish is as well. So, I think that about puts the whole story together in a nutshell. Any comments or questions are welcomed.

Liz (& Ariel, the trooper) P.S. - I left out one thing. At the end of the second day, a gentleman came up and asked me if I was interesting in selling Ariel. He didn’t mention a price or what he was planning on using her for. I was so shocked that I didn’t ask, either. I just gave him 4 (or more) reasons why I wasn’t interested. First, her previous owner has first buyback opportunity. Second, I don’t think she’s safe for just anyone, especially for someone I don’t know. Third, I am too attached to her. And finally fourth, I am not giving up on her, or myself. I saw the gentleman on the third day, but still didn’t ask him those questions.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Just When Plans Were Falling Into Place

I have had Ariel for 12 years. She has been my absolute best teacher; well, with help from my mentors and friends, too. I truly believe that if I had not acquired her from her previous owner that she would have ended up as a decadent meal on some foreigner's dinner plate. She went from an uncatchable disrespectful 6 year old green broke mare to hormonally challenged head case to a reasonably predictable quirky mare. Is she solid and dependable? No. Is she safe for just anyone? No. But she is who she is and I have learned to live with all of those parts of her to the best of my ability. Do I trust her 100% of the time? Never. She's not ever going to be that kind of horse.

Last December, The Horse Magazine online e-mail newsletter ran a story about a Cushings syndrome research study that is going to be run at Oklahoma State University. I enquired with professor Dianne McFarlane, DVM who is running the project to find out if she needed test subjects. Amazingly, she accepted Ariel into the program sight unseen. I began making plans to deliver Ariel to OKState once the weather improved in the spring.

Unfortunately, the weather and Ariel's health issues have not be cooperative in this endeavor. The recent abscess in Ariel's right front foot has been on of the most trying and exasterbating experiences have have had recently with her.It showed up back in early March on radiograph I had taken when she was going through a laminitic episode. Within a week she was 3 legged lame and not putting any weight on the foot. It continued like that for the next 3 weeks before any sign of the abscess showed on her hairline. When a small area finally release some pressure inside the foot, her comfort level greatly improved. However, it was short-lived. Within a few days she was even more sore and uncomfortable than before. On Ariel's 19th birthday, April 19th, she was extremely depressed and in a great deal of pain. I began a short course of banamine to help relieve some of her discomfort. She was quite sucked up from trying to hobble around. She was still eating and drinking, but not at a normal level. And she thankfully was spending some time laying down when stalled.

Finally, she started blowing some pressure out of an area on her hairline. The stench was some of the most disgusting I have smelled in quite a while. The past 2 weeks or so have been spent flushing the area and trying to keep the drainage flowing and wrapping it keeping it clean. She has been in so much pain that trimming the foot was impossible and the other front foot has has some terrible flattening and flaring because of the weight constantly be placed on it. Thankfully I was able to get a slight trim done on both front feet a few days ago.

Thanks to all of the above I am pretty sure that I am scrapping the trip to OKState to donate Ariel to the Cushings study. I am researching other options. It is not fair to Ariel that she suffer through another year of not being able to graze and be a normal horse. With fuel prices and her health being so unstable, I am ultimately looking at some sort of euthanization scenario. The OKState option was so appealing because there would ultimately be some answers at the end of the process. Does she have a pituitary tumor? Are the other internal things going on? Those kinds of things. I may look at Washington State University to see if they have some sort of research that she might be utilized for, but I don't relish hauling her 4 hours as she isn't healthy enough to haul even an hour right now. I am going to ask my vet about how much a private necropsy locally might be, perhaps at Pilchuck. And the last option is euthanization without any necropsy and just have the rendering truck pick up her remains.

I welcome any suggestions that others might have as well. And selling and/or dumping at an auction are not an option, of course.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Working Things Out

It was another crazy busy/packed weekend. Saturday was a bit gray and ended up WET by early afternoon. In the first part of the day we worked on renovating a paddock that had spent all winter getting hammered. The ground was still a bit slick, but the resulting tractor work looked better than before and also looked better than when we first bought the place 5 years ago.

Ariel has been very slowly trying to blow an abscess and I think she is finally on the road to recovery. Buena is gradually working back towards grazing on pasture full time. She had her 30 minutes or so while I prepped the stalls. Horse time was limited to cleaning stalls/pens and getting the girls tucked in to their stalls for the evening. They were thankful, it seemed, to get out of the ensuing steady drizzle.

Sunday turned out to be fairly gorgeous. We unfortunately had dinner plans yet again so a majority of this day was also spent doing housework and preparing a quite yummy pork rib dinner.

And Monday was spent helping save a horse and doing more tractor work; only this time I got to do the driving! We used the rock rake today and then spread new seed when that was finished. Now I would like a little precipitation (NOT a lot!) to help the seed germinate!

Pictures to come!

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Determining the Future

Every horse owner comes to a point with their horse(s) and needing to decide when “it’s time.” Whether it’s time to sell, give away, donate to a research program, or ultimately euthanize. Then there is a portion of the horse-owning public that also thinks that selling into the slaughter pipeline via an auction or a dealer is acceptable. I have spent quite a bit of time the past few years becoming educated and educating others on similar subjects. I have made some great friends in the process, and also distanced myself from others because of their beliefs on this, and other, topics.

May 1, I had the privilege of meeting a young woman who is doing a wonderful university-level senior project. She came to take pictures of my girls and hear their stories to add to a compilation. If you know of me on the internet already, you may have seen lots of pictures and some of our stories already. This gal’s project will be a fundraiser for Save A Forgotten Equine (SAFE) and I am proud that my horses are slated to be featured in it. We compared notes on our horses and she took what I hope are some fabulous pictures (I am sure they will be) of Buena and Ariel. The timing of her doing this and being able to capture some images of Ariel and me is poetic. I have been struggling for the past couple of few years now about what to “do” with Ariel. I owe this horse so much for all she has taught me. Without her, I would not be the person I am today in every aspect of my life.

Anyway, this was a very good way to start my new journey for the year. There are lots of changes in motion here in Enumclaw at our small farm. I look forward to seeing what my horses have to tell me this year because I know that it will be what I need to hear, whether I like it or not.

I will elaborate more in the coming weeks and months about what is in store over the next year and beyond.

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