Friday, March 28, 2014

Twelve crazy hours

Actually the last twelve days have been absolutely nuts (more on that later), but today was the icing on the cake:

Part I
6am: Pull up to the barn to help with morning chores. I wasn't originally scheduled but Dan is temporarily out of commission and Jan is out recovering from arm surgery.
6:30: All horses are fed and turned out, stalls are being cleaned, everything seems right in the world. Hahaha. 
7:25: Flint is laying down in the field. Maybe he's enjoying the sudden warmth and sunshine? I'll keep an eye on him. 
7:40: He's up, roaming....or is that pacing?
8:10: Uh oh, down again....
8:15: Up. But definitely not looking himself. Aaaand there is the bellyache stretch. Crap. 
8:25: Brought both drafts In and started a cursory exam on Flint. All signs pointed to colic: despite the normal temp he had a hunched stance, lots of stretching, tense nostrils, and minimal gut sounds. Damn. Called vet and left message. 

Part II
8:40: Coty's owners show up. They are early for their 9am appointment where I'm supposed to show the horse to a potential buyer (PB). Luckily they start getting him ready while I talk to the vet on the phone. He can be here in 30 min. I put both drafts in the round pen so I can keep an eye on them and start lunging Coty and doing groundwork.
8:50: Flint tries to lie down as I saddle up Coty to show him under saddle. Luckily having both drafts together means that Finnagan immediately got his brother up and pestered him to keep moving, wouldn't let him be still. 
9:05: PB gets on Coty to try him out. Flint goes down again and kicks at his belly. Where is the vet??
9:15: Dr. Gomez arrives!! 
9:30-9:45: My suspicions confirmed, I call the owner and we determine a plan. Meanwhile Flint is being a big jerk so he will definitely need sedation. He can easily strike at head level, hates needles and has trust issues. Yikes. Luckily he likes me! Commence crazy juggling of multiple phone calls, drugging an anxious horse, potential buyer and morning staff leaving. 

Part III
In the midst of speaking with Flint's owner on the phone I turn the corner to find Dr. Gomez supporting one of our boarders under the arms (who is like 80 years old and stills insists on coming in every day to see her horse). Did she get kicked? No, just collapsed when trying to change her horse's leg bandage. Succeed in getting her to a seat, clean/medicat/wrapp her horse's leg, got owner to the office to rest until her legs could hold her again. Back to Flint.

Part IV
After an initial fight to get the needle in to sedate Flint, the meds start to kick in and Dr. Gomez gets to work. In goes Banamine. Rectal exam reveals a large gas bubble and impacted mass, possible twist. Pump him full of mineral oil and water and start the waiting game. Meanwhile the collapsed boarder comes out of the office intent in driving herself home and insisting she is just fine. She leaves. PB says she likes Coty and would like to come out for a second ride next week. We exchange info. She and his owners leave.

Part V
10:15am: how could so much have happened in such a short time?? Dr. Gomez has to leave to see other patients. I assume horse watch. While waiting for the sedation to wear off I do random barn chores and make sure everything is settled for this weekend in Jan's absence. For the next four hours I alternate hand walking, free walking and resting Flint. He looks like crap. I talk back and forth between the owner and the vets trying to determine a plan. We organize a trailer in case we have to take him for ER transport. Oh, did I mention the owner is on vacation?

4pm: Still no poop. Eventually Flint has started to perk up and seems to be passing small amounts of gas but still no manure. He isn't trying to lay down anymore, and I haven't noticed any stretching. 

5pm: Dr. Gomez returns for a follow up. Flint is definitely feeling more like himself (which makes the exam fun, esp since the sedation was gone). Thankfully Dr. Gomez can hear some gut sounds and the gas bubble, though still there, is much smaller. I receive feeding and care instructions. Gomez leaves while I sit for another half hour until someone gets here to relieve me.

5:30: I leave to get something to eat. Care is handed off to the night feeder.

6:45: WE HAVE POOP!!!

7:30: Horse sitting job.

9pm: Arrive home. 

10:30: Owner is home from vacation and stops in for night check..... POOP!!! Two piles and Flint is calm, cool and dry. Yay! :)

What a day. I hope to not have to repeat that in the near future!

Next post will be happier, I promise; I do have a lot of good things to share as well :)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The perks of working at a Golden rescue

Getting up early for work on a Saturday is made so much more bearable when you get to snuggle with 6-day old babies :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The scoop about scoops

A scoop is a scoop, right? Well, it depends who you ask. Poll three different people and you're likely to get three different answers. With some new staff members and new boarders at my barn, it's an issue that we recently had to deal with and one that I think is important to discuss. I had always been taught that 1 scoop = 2 quarts; this is the guideline we have used when feeding at Spring Hill and it's what I thought most horse people followed. Apparently that is not always the case:

Three different concepts of a "scoop." Which is correct?
These are standard two-quart scoopers. Which one contains a true scoop? The one filled over the top? The one filled level with the lip of the handle? Or the one filled to the 2-quart line?

The reason this issue recently came to light was that one owner politely left a note for us to make sure her horse was getting a half scoop of feed.....and then we discovered a scoop filled about halfway to the lip of the handle in her grain bin as a guide (FYI that is almost 2 quarts). The people I just started horse-sitting for are of the same mindset; when instructing me on how to feed each of their guys "one scoop" they demonstrated by filling a scooper until it was overflowing. 

The differences in this understanding could lead to a variance of more than 1/2 a quart in each horse's meal! Yikes! When we realized what was going on at Spring Hill, we left a nice reminder note for the owners and staff on how Spring Hill measures scoops (and a key on the scooper itself) to clear up any discrepancy.

The moral of the story? Always clarify "what's in a scoop?" I have no idea why we don't just measure in quarts - it's a standard unit of measure so no one would get confused - but tradition says that "scoops" is the preferred horse lingo so we'll go with it. Just make sure you always ask so everyone is on the same page. Your horse will thank you :)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Estate dreaming

Every couple of months I like to go online and look at horse properties for sale. I'm not anywhere near being in the market but it's fun to see the absolutely outrageous how-can-anyone-afford-these estates and dream about what it might be like to live in one, as well as see the more affordable ones. Here's my most recent favorite, a completely redone 1860s farmhouse estate, complete with bank barn, pool and five acres of pristine, private land:

I am in LOVE with old stone farmhouses...and the pond is beautiful!

Yeah, that kitchen will do just fine
Um, yes please!
Bank barn and another outbuilding
It's like they built this from the blueprint of my dreams....You can find more pictures and information here: I'm drooling on my keyboard right now.

Obviously something like that isn't at all feasible unless Dan and I win the lottery (still Plan B), but it is refreshing to know that there are some other properties out there that would still fit the bill someday and (hopefully) not break the bank:

For example, this older but renovated farm house on 3 private acre property borders the Lehigh River (kayaking anyone?), has a lovely sloping lawn and is only $310,000. There is a 4-stall barn with electric and large matted stalls, a riding ring and three paddocks. I could definitely be happy with this :)

Nice outdoor ring behind the barn

Quaint but cozy

I love the updated kitchen
Looking at this stuff makes me consider what I really need in a home. Ultimately, I don't want a big house but it has to be quality. A decent kitchen is a must, because we like to cook, but other than that it doesn't have to be anything fancy or large as long as it's well done.

If I am lucky enough to have my horse(s?) on my own property, I also don't want anything big for them. I wouldn't complain if I had an indoor ring, but honestly all I need is a two-stall barn with a small tack room/storage, maybe one extra stall for visitors, and a small area of the yard where I can ride. If I could get that on 3-5 acres I'd be happy. Ahhh to day.....

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bargain Hunting

If you ever want to score some great deals on more expensive horsey items, and know what you're looking for, visit an expo a few hours before close on the very last day. Most vendors are willing to part with their used or extra inventory at bargain basement prices just so they don't have to pack it up and take everything back home.

Two weekends ago when I was in Harrisburg, as we were heading out the door late Sunday afternoon, I spied several used western saddles under a big "Sale" sign. All of them were already marked down and the guy running the booth was starting to pack up for the day. I decided to stop in.

I told him my end-of-expo budget and what I was looking for as I eyed up a small ugly leather and canvas saddle on the top rack. It was used but only lightly; the fleece underneath was in like new condition. And although it was obvious that the saddle had sat in storage for awhile and accumulated some dust and mold, all of the leather and connections seemed strong and intact.
Nothing a little elbow grease can't fix
Like new padding
Marked down to $180 was already a good deal, but still over my budget. We haggled a bit and he said I could have it for $125, I countered with $100, and he said actually said yes!

It may not be much to look at but I don't need anything fancy, just functional. As a Big Horn I knew it would be of decent quality. The leather and canvas combo actually made the saddle nice and light (great for a short person with a 16.3 hand horse), the seat was small enough for me, and it had a nice high gullet; all of which fit the bill for what I had been searching for for Charlie. 

When I got home I tried it out and while it's not a perfect fit I think we can make it work, especially for $100. I've been trying several different pads over the course of a few days and though the ThinLine pad I used today worked the best at eliminating the minor front-back rock, it was almost too thick in the front and accentuated a small pinch at his withers (see below). The saddle didn't pinch that way when I used a thinner pad, but it did rock a little more.

You can see from the hair marks that the saddle fits fairly evenly but pinches in a little in the front (right) with this pad
Next time I'll dig out my front riser and see how that works. I'm thinking that will help with both the pinching and the rock. Charlie seemed happy under saddle today so I don't think it was pinching badly, but I'll try to fix that issue anyway to avoid future problems.

Now I need to get this western boy a one-eared headstall and breastplate!

Sunday, March 9, 2014


We just set the clocks forward so, yes, that means it is actually coming. But you know what that also means....MUD :(

Chastise me if you wish but I would take a cold snowy winter day over mud every time.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Guy McLean

Guy is one of my biggest idols and today I got to see him at the World Horse Expo in Harrisburg. This is the same expo I visited with Emily in Maryland, but Harrisburg is a bigger show and tends to attract some bigger names, like Guy McLean, so I was really glad I was able to get out of work at the last minute and travel out to the show to see him today. He wasn't the only presenter we saw today but he was one of my favorites so here are a few pictures and a short video.

We got to see two of his presentations today. The first set of pictures is from the finale of his 4-day training session with a 3-year-old who has never been ridden before. It was amazing. And the horse is worth his weight in gold! What a brain he has. So fun to watch!
Guy's 4 and 5-yr-old main horses for the weekend
Learning to be ridden in control while other horses are at liberty
Not bad for your 4th ride ever.
Below is his round pen demo (which we actually saw first) just showing some of his training techniques and tricks. He's quite the inspiring and captivating presenter....and not a bad poet (apparently he's writing poems now too).

I am inspired by his quiet, natural way with horses and really admire his outlook on training, to "be a leader worth following," and I feel that if I can absorb even a little of his wisdom I will be that much better of a horsewoman and person in general.

In his own words today, "If we can all offer our very best in the moment, that's what makes life living. That is what it is all about." Words to live by, and not just at the barn :)