Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Major didn't keep feeling better. On Sunday evening the barn called me, he was laying down and not eating. I went over and he got up when he saw me, and half-heartedly ate his dinner. I walked him out to eat some grass, he was moving OK, and enjoyed his green snack. I made him a mash and put him away. I stayed at the ranch and kept an eye on him, he was quiet, slight fever and did eat all his dinner, seemed to be drinking as well.

But Monday morning he was down again...and I called the vet. Major was laying down when I got to the ranch from work, but laying down eating his breakfast. He got up when he saw me, but was very listless. The vet showed up and was great. She thoroughly looked him over, and thought it was still vaccine reaction, and not another illness coming on. Major was a good boy for IV Benamine and getting his blood drawn (I'm pretty squeamish and tried not to look). Hoof testers were negative and he didn't have a fever. We decided to be careful with colic possibilities and give him some mineral oil, but not to tube him. Major happily eats mineral oil mixed into some stable mix/beet pulp, so it was less invasive to go that direction with his care.

I was really concerned that my walk on Sunday afternoon had caused him some problems, but the vet reassured my that walking and eating grass was just fine. It is hard when a horse like Major is willing to do things for me (walk, get up when laying down, etc.) to know if he is masking his own pain.

I hand-walked him (per the vet) and got some good green grass eaten. Then a mushy soup with mineral oil, which he was eating as I headed back to work. The stable fed him another batch that afternoon, and I gave him a dinner too. Wet his hay (which he was not a fan of) and kept him in his paddock. He was looking a bit better Monday evening. The vet called and said that blood results showed low white-cell count and normal kidney values, meaning he may have been getting a little sick before he got the vaccines, which pushed him over the edge, or that the vaccines just didn't agree with him. Some other blood things she explained but it is hard to remember/understand them all.

Tuesday morning he took his medicine fine, and when I checked him at lunch he was pacing his paddock, wanting out. Hand-walk, more grass, some mush, and back in the paddock. He wasn't laying down, eating everything, much more himself, hopefully on the road to recovery. I'm optimistic but still cautiously worried, they're so damn fragile for being so big!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

stormy drama

The rain let up for a few hours, just in time for my scheduled vet appointment. Though the vet couldn't come in our main gate because a big oak has fallen across it! That isn't so scary as the huge branch that crushed the shelter less than 30 feet from Major! Luckily that horse was ok. Another tree fell down earlier in the week, trapping the old pony in it's branches, she is ok too. We're all on pins and needles, it has been raining all day again, but supposedly 72 degrees by Thursday. We're ready for it!

Major had his annual checkup Friday. He is a good boy for the vet, who calls him "cute." Got a couple vaccinations, weight is good, will probably do teeth in the fall. His wound is looking better, even the vet was perplexed to how Major may have accomplished it. After the vet visit Major got to play in the arena a bit, he's been cooped up during the storms. He was happy and I went back to work.

When I checked on him that afternoon it was a different story. He was very stiff and sore, touch him anywhere and he'd just flinch and sink. No fever, but more troubling were muscles tremors/shaking. He was eating grass like a champ when I called the vet. Vet was also concerned about the muscles, so I went and picked up some benamine.

After dosing him I took his temp he had a slight fever. But was eating fine, and I let him rest. A few hours later I drove back to the barn in the rain and the dark, happy to wake Major up and see that his fever was down some.

This morning the barn manager checked on him, fever mostly gone, and when turned out for the few dry hours he played some. I took him for a nice walk, by then in the pouring rain. He certainly doesn't mind when he knows it's really just an eating walk.

I'll have to re-evaluate my vaccination protocol next year, probably just giving one thing at a time. The vet didn't think we overloaded, but Major just has to be the special one. I am interested to see if the slight fever will show up on hoof growth. I never felt any heat, but event lines can be pretty telltale.

I'm ready for any drama to be over with, and to start enjoying the Spring! This delayed hit of winter has been tough, but I know we'll appreciate the extra rain when there is still green grass in July.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

headless horse(man)

The rain has just not let up. I was away for a few days of crazy storms, and came back to fallen trees, overflowing streams...and a horse who tried to decapitate himself.

I hate getting that call from the barn manager, who usually calls me and starts with "Don't worry, Major is OK." This conversation didn't start like that, so my heart always leaps into my throat. Major had a big gash, blood flow seemed to be slowing, and he was eating and playing. I'm at work, and ask her to make the judgment call, "Does it need stitches and/or the vet?" She didn't think so. I'd be over there in a couple hours, so I'd evaluate then.

Driving up to the barn I was worrying, and Major was out in the field with everyone. When I caught him he didn't want his throatlatch area touched, and it was hot and swollen. He was also dancing around like an idiot...bad behavior after I'd been gone for four days?

I had just tied him up when it started raining a bit...then the hail started. We don't have a barn, so the wash rack was being pelted. Major was dancing around, the hail was getting worse, and the sky was black. I took him to his shelter where he gratefully calmed down. HE knew the storm was bad! His wound didn't look too serious, so I cleaned it a bit, put some healing lotion and left the racket of the shelter, where the hail was now coming down in 1/4 inch pieces and coating the ground. It wasn't going to let up, and he was now contentedly eating dinner, so I left.

The next day I was able to evaluate a bit better with the swelling gone down. Small tear in the skin seems to be the worst, but the top layer of skin and all the fur is removed for about a 3x8 inch area, like he tried to skin himself. Have no idea where or how he managed it, the barn manager thinks maybe on his gate, and Major does tend to be very curious...and it got him in trouble this time.

I won't be able to ride until it is pretty well healed, as it is right where the bridle throatlatch sits. We are still getting pounded by storms, so I expect some good long walks and walking through mud puddles in my future. It is a good time to bond and work on groundwork!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

a fight, then peace

The ride started out nicely...five miles to Mormon Ravine. Previously that has been the bridge of death, but Major crossed it with only a little jumpiness, and had to practice crossing again. The whole trail there is very rocky, up-and-down, crossing mud puddles and tiny creeks. Some trotting can be done, but lots of listening is important.

Coming home we just worked on the listening part, which was a a fight. A very frustrating ride home, I added at least an extra mile to work on some kinks. Major was pulling and pulling, so we worked on walking nicely, backing and sidepassing down the trail. He was frustrated because he just wanted to go-go-go! But it is not safe...and that is not what I was asking! I was frustrated because we've worked and worked on this, but I realize it's an ongoing evolving process.

So the next day under gathering storm clouds we took another ride. We stayed in the forest and just walked. And stopped and ate grass. And walked. I stayed on the drier trails, just because I'm tired of slopping through mud. When Major wanted to trot I just asked him to stop, back up, turn around, think about that decision, and kept calmly on. Taking a cue from a friend's latest adventure, I went toward home then away, so he never quite knew where we were going.

It was a nice ride for both of us. Once he figured out that the plan was no plan, and that we'd stop for grass a lot, I think Major thought it was a fun ride too. I had really considered going out, doing another big ride, getting him to listen...but then realized that while those kinds of ride are certainly in my future, I'd rather end the weekend on a good note.

And I'm glad I did. It has now been raining for three days, and probably for the next six more. Two inches of rain yesterday, the trails will be back to a quagmire. Major will get a break, we'll get on the trails again, and like anything, begin the process.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sham and Grimalkin

To any horse-loving child, those names should bring back memories of Marguerite Henry's "King of the Wind." The desert-bred Sham becomes the Godolphin Arabian (legendary Thoroughbred sire) and Grimalkin is his cat, Agba the boy watches over them both.

Major is my own Sham, a desert-bred bay Arab, and he has his own Grimalkin, who lives in his paddock. She comes to greet us both, and is appropriately orange. Her name is Mandy, but I've called her Grimalkin from the beginning. The other day she was curled up on his dinner, leaping off just as we entered to wind through our legs. Major seems to like and/or ignore her, but never moves his feet while she is underneath.

I never knew the origin of the name Grimalkin, but Wikipedia is a plethora of info (can be sketchy on some subjects, but I think this one is pretty safe). It is interesting to know that the name Grimalkin comes from greymalkin, and is an old or evil-looking female cat, from the Scottish, and is the cat in Macbeth and many other literature references. Our kitty is very sweet, until you stop petting her!

I read "King of the Wind" every year, and every year the closing words bring tears to my eyes.

If you've never read it, or it's been a few years, you owe it to yourself to go find a cheap used copy, or find that box of books in the attic, and sit for a few hours. For me it brings back all the magic and love of horses that started this whole adventure.

p.s. With disclosure I do have to say I love kitties, and the best kitty in the world (Thomas the cat) is right now on the sofa at home, spreading white fluffy fur everywhere, waiting for me to come home and resume my duties as her servant.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

trail scouting

With better weather and more trail time approaching, I'm itching to hook up my trailer and try some new locations. This will be my first year with a trailer, and while I still need to get used to it, there are some places pretty close by, easy drives, that I know I can manage.

One is the Auburn staging area. This is where Tevis ends every year, and is access to hundreds of miles of trails. I want to ride south-west from there to Folsom lake, (I have ridden the lower portion, it is just the 7 miles in between I get to try next). I wanted to scout the trails first, as I know some people who've gotten a bit turned around...and you might not want to end up on Cardiac Hill!

I've hiked this area often, but tended to wander onto people-sized trails, take a road here and there, etc. This time I stuck on the horse trail, and while a bit muddy it was all passable. There are a couple quite steep areas, some really rocky parts and and also a couple places where you have to follow the road. Luckily it is just a park road and hardly used (only open on weekends in Spring and Summer).

The river is very full, the canyon is beautiful and the wildflowers are just coming out. I can't wait to ride!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

quick adventure

(I got back to the barn after my ride and the manager wondered if Major had been a jerk so I'd come back early? I explained where we'd gone, and that we were just fast today!)

I'm a little tired of the same trails, and the forest is still pretty muddy, so I split the difference! Starting in the forest was mostly walking, what isn't totally a puddle is really slick mud. It took almost a half hour to carefully walk about two miles. The rest of the ride was much faster! We took the lower lake trail, which is the nice sandy trail, and didn't encounter a single other rider. One hiker, some boats on the lake, where was everyone? It was about 60 degrees, blue skies, just lovely.

Major was listening nicely, we just motored along at his medium trot. GPS puts it about 10mph...nicer for me when it is a little slower, but it's a compromise at this point. He was a little looky and it took me some time to figure out why: the lake is different! Even though they hold and release water all winter, I think at this point it is filling faster than they release, so rocks that were completely exposed a couple weeks ago are now just tiny islands out in the water, and the lake is much closer in some places.

We got to the main staging area, where we often cut in. But we kept going and were able to follow the lake trail all the way to the next crossing: only one problem, I didn't see any trail back up! We were about 20 feet lower than the trail, and I was planning on backtracking a bit to find an easy access. Major thought that was a great idea, as that was the way home! But I saw a small trail leading up, and thought that must be it!

It was for about 10 feet: then I saw that I should have payed more attention: it was just a person trail, and the tree branches were encroaching and the "trail" was quite steep. It did look safe though, and it would have been harder to back out, so up we went. Major is such a good sport, and climbed up the slippery hill no problem (except for banging my knee on a tree, there was no room to move him over!) At the top we still had about 4 feet to go, but it leveled off and our main trail was blocked by dead, scratchy branches. I saw another route, pointed Major at it, and we climbed the bank, popping onto the main trail! What a surprise we would have been for someone on that trail (though I listened carefully, didn't want to scare anyone). I knew we were close to where I like to cut for home, and after walking about 50 feet I saw the real place we could have come up from the lower trail...I'll know for next time (sheepishly hanging head).

Coming home is a fun trail, it parallels the road up high, and is pretty smooth and even. Major loves this trail, and I let him do his big trot: it takes my breath away, 14-15 mph and so smooth. It is only about a half mile, but quick!

At home there is lots of delicious grass, and Major got a good snack before rolling in the arena to finish the adventure. Rain was coming again, but I am so glad to fit these rides in between storms. I think Major is too.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

two good rides

Saturday was bright and sunny...and cold. At the ranch the puddles were frozen and Major was just finishing his breakfast. And was a bit of a wild-man. The day before it poured rain but we went on a four-mile hand-walk: obviously not enough. I had him let off some steam in the arena. It would be hard to explain to non-horse people the joy of seeing him bounce around the arena, tail flagging, huge extended trot...and then trotting in to me, blowing and snorting and putting his head down to greet me. He only trots around a couple times, doesn't buck or put up much fuss, then is ready for business.

I saddled up and headed for the sunniest trail: the canal. The forest was still slippery from the previous rain, the trails seem to have hit maximum saturation and puddles and streams are everywhere. We traveled through the neighborhood to the staging area, where there was just one lone trailer. I didn't have a plan for time or distance, but wanted to gauge his behavior. We walked a bit then picked up a trot, and were able to keep it at a reasonable pace, so just kept going over rocks and through puddles. One fun puddle is more than knee deep, he just pauses and then powers on through. At one point I did ask him to canter up a small hill, and had to circle him as he got all squirrelly. It took me a second to figure out why: but the low-flying helicopter coming up behind us probably had something to do with it! We turned and looked, then kept going.

don't bother me, can't you see i'm eating!

I rode until I knew I was coming to the muddy part of the trail, where it cuts into the forest. I decided that was enough for that direction and we both took a break and rested on the small hill by the lake. We headed back the same trail, though Major wanted to cut through the forest in our usual spot. Going home he doesn't even pause at the puddles. At one point we were trotting quickly and came to a log that blocks the trail. I usually slow him and ask to step over, but it came up so quickly! I was prepared for him to jump it, when he slowed, stepped over it, and kept power-trotting on. Good boy!

Going home we did take one very yucky trail, that wasn't a trail any more, it was a creek. A good ride of about 10 miles, got home in one muddy piece, and saw exactly one other rider.

On Sunday did much of the same trail with a friend. It is so good for Major to ride with another horse, to deal with different speeds. Major is also convinced that this horse Friday is going to get him. When Friday would be in the lead and back away from something spooky Major would try to get out of his way really quickly. I think he remembers the time Friday was really annoyed at him and kicked out. No indication of that this time, with both horses behaving themselves. It was a nice ride, a few more people out and a bit windy, and an extra day of drying time didn't help the trails much.

And more rain is expected this week. Sorry to the people buried in snow and ice, but I'm ready for spring! There are so many trail options within such a short distance, and I know I'm lucky to live in such an area. I have practiced with my trailer, and hope to get out and explore some new trails!