Monday, July 26, 2010

Going Home

In April I struggled with my blog.  I AM 50+ but I didn't want to leave out those that hadn't met that milestone so I moved my blog to Life+Horses to try to capture everybody, whether they were 50 or not. 

But for some reason it's always bothered me that I left some of my reader's behind when I moved the plate.  As a result, I'm going home.  I'm moving back to

I apologize to all of you followers who have made an effort to move your Internet Favorites as I moved my Blog.  But I feel good about this decision; it's where I belong, where I started this whole thing and where it should be. 

Heck, I'm no more under fifty then the moon is square (but I'm no more +56 then the sun is a triangle)!  And for those under 50, we still share confidence issues and challenges of wanting to ride, show, etc., so please come join us.

I thank you all for making the efforts to follow my blog.  Please reset you Internet Favorite to

Lots of heart aches this past month with the loss of Champ.  However, stay tuned.  I will be looking into replacing him with one of his siblings and I think you'll find my road interesting as I continue to work on keeping my confidence up, going to horse shows, and dealing with the aches and pains of being an older rider.  So please tune into me at my old home,  And I PROMISE, I'll never leave Home again!  :)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Vacation Memories

Last week my husband and I, along with Poco our Appaloosa and Sunny Bear our Belgian Draft horse, Hank the Dog and Chloe the Kitten, traveled to Cabin Creek for a week's long vacation.  Gus, our other Draft, stayed home at the "Spa" where Poco is boarded as our three-horse slant is too small to fit everybody in.

Here's some quick pictures of our trip.

You can hear the wind sigh as it blows through the Pine, Fir and Cottonwood trees.  The sky is such a vivid blue against the green of this Cottonwood tree.

On one afternoon I went down to the Creek to sit with my friends.  It was hot and I found them sitting in the creek in their chairs, keeping nice and cool.

I call this my "Gut Cart" because if I use it too often and don't walk, I will get fat(ter).  But it was great for taking my lawn chair down to the creek or driving down to the corral to check on our horses.

The water in the creek is so clear.  In this picture I'm up to my knees in water, yet it looks like its only inches deep.  Clear, cold creek water, feels great on a hot summer day!

My two good friends between me.  Jayne (left) and Lynn (right), who are cousins.  We grew up together, riding horses at Cabin Creek.  Lynn was up with her family on vacation from California.  It's always good to get together with old pals like these two and talk about our crazy younger days!

Sorry, no pictures of the horses.   Kept forgetting to bring my camera to the corral.

We had an issue with unloading Poco who was the last to get out.  He pulled back, snapped his lead rope and fell inside the back of the trailer, flipped outside the trailer and ended upside down in the dirt.  He got up and I easily caught him, grateful to not find any cuts on him.  But my husband was in the trailer during this and received a goose egg and cut on his forehead.

We'd used a divider in the trailer to separate Poco and Sunny.  On our way home we took the divider out, put Sunny in first and Poco in second.  Poco loaded fine and there was no issue unloading him when we got home.  Now that our corral is set up for our horses, I look forward to going back up, seeing friends and riding!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Summer's Evening Chores

When the days are long and the warm air is filled with the smell of newly cut hay, there's something special about doing the summer evening chores.

For my husband and I, evening chores in the summer bring a lazy, slowness when it's time to feed our horses.  The warmer temperatures encourage us to stay out with them longer then the cold, dark evenings of winter.  This is the time of year to take advantage of interacting with our horses because ninety days from now it will once again be dark at evening feeding time.

While my husband feeds in the morning, we come out together to do the evening chores, the same way it's been for over twelve years.  We separate our horses so they can eat their grain in peace. 

Sunny Bear (Bear), our older Belgian, gets extra Senior Feed and supplements.  Bear is an older horse.  In his soft, kind eyes you can see that he's traveled many roads in his life.  It's a challenge to keep any weight on Bear these days, no matter how many supplements and types of feed we offer him.  We worry about Bear and this coming winter.

Gus, our younger Belgian, gets very little grain, delivered with a lot of pomp and circumstance.  I pour Gus's grain slowly into his bucket located in one of our empty stalls.  As I pour I can feel Gus watching me.  I make sure the grain makes a lot of noise, knowing Gus will then think he has a lot of grain.  Such is part of the pomp and circumstance. 

In Gus's mind, he's been a good boy, being patient as he's watched me.  If I don't quickly go and slide the stall door open, he will start to paw and nicker.  Youngsters!  Always in a hurry.

I slide the stall door open and Gus walks past me.  He takes a hard left and goes into the stall where his grain awaits him.  Considering how huge Gus is, this is quite an accomplishment.  The door is wide open past me at the other end of the barn, but Gus is never one to pass on his grain.  Youngsters!  Always hungry!

Bear then shuffles into where Gus initially stood.  I deliver the delectable goodies of grain and supplements to Bear as if I'm presenting him with a special gift.   Bear eats slowly, dropping grain, although his teeth are checked regularly.  Only when Bear has picked up what he's dropped and slurped up anything left in his bucket, do I let Gus back in.  In the meantime, Gus has finished his grain and stands watching Bear, looking forward to getting any grain that Bear has left behind (probably why Gus is a bit plump).

While they eat, I change their water.  Usually changed and refilled once a day, the task is stepped up to twice a day when it's warm.  We've recently had temperatures in the upper 90's.  We don't have many days that are this warm and the Belgians are miserable.  I enjoy refilling their stock tank and seeing it replaced with clean, clear water as much as they do swishing their noses in it after I'm finished.

When temperatures are this warm, we halter the Belgians and bring them out to the hitching post to hose them down after they've finished their grain.  They stand quietly, enjoying the spray of the cold water.  I see how much they love being cooled down so I also spray our dog, Hank, who being a Lab, loves water.  Then I usually spray myself, knowing that in the heat, I'll dry before I get back to the house.  All of us are revived and cool.

As my husband puts out the hay, teasing me for being wet, I pull the wheel barrow around and pick up any 'deposits' in the paddock.  Belgians leave large 'deposits'.

Summer chores are easier then winter chores.  Sometimes my husband and I sit outside in the shade of the barn after we finish our summer chores.  The breeze that blows across us and is pleasant. 
We look at our gorgeous views of Mount Rainier and the Cascade Mountain Range and discuss the day's events.  As with winter chores, work conversation stays at the barn and home conversation comes back inside the house. 

When it's finally time to leave the barn, it's not uncommon for us to walk back to the house holding hands, awed by the beauty that surrounds us.  We tell each other to pinch ourselves, is it really US who live here???!  The beauty and magic of our home and the life it brings are a dream come true for both of us. 

A sense of serenity carries us through the rest of the evening and into the next day, until once again, it's time for summer's evening chores.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fireweed Makes Me Cry

I've found I'm the type of person who makes sure everybody is ok before I break down.  So for the last few days, the loss of Champ has hit me hard, hit me very hard.

Yes, my prior post reads true.  As a 50+ person, I'm moving on thanks to a 20+ Poco, an old campaigner as my husband calls him.  But the loss of Champ, a 12-year old horse that has filled almost every waking moment of mine for over twelve months, has left a huge hole that won't mend quickly.

For the last year I've ridden Champ.  If you go back to my original blog:, you'll read our challenges of the last year starting with my first lesson, where I stood in tears outside Champ's stall...too afraid to go in.

I met those fears head on.  I did ride Champ, even in a horse show in October, placing in every class but more pleased about just being out there with him then the ribbons we brought home.

But today it's the emptiness of losing Champ and Fireweed blooming that brings tears to my eyes.

Last year right now, when the Fireweed was blooming, I was riding Champ.  I was so unsure of myself that each ride was as my husband calls it, "a Nervous Nellie" ride. 

I recall riding in the heat of July on Ladies Night.  It was hot in the arena and both ends of the barn doors were open.  Champ (actually all the horses) were nervous passing the end door of the arena as they usually enter the other side (I changed our entry point when I figured this out).

But I was Nervous Nellie, scared to death as I passed that end door that Champ would...I don't know.  Rear?  I've seen Champ rear and almost flip over, dumping our daughter.  Run away?  I'd surely fall off.  Shy?  Again, I'd surely fall off.

But none of those things happened even though he'd cock his ear and look concerned at the door.  Outside the door were acres of Fireweed.  So each time I passed that door, I'd say, "Look Champ!  Fireweed!"  And Champ would look and then we'd move on without any conflict.  Looking at the Fireweed calmed us both down and allowed us to continue without mishap.

Ladies nights in July became a success.  Soon I was saying, "Look Champ!  The leaves are turning!"  And on it went.

I had wanted to show Champ the Fireweed this year and say, "Look Champ!  Remember how afraid I was last year of the Fireweed and how confident I am this year?  We've come a long way, haven't we boy?"

But I never got the chance and I never will.  That is why Fireweed makes me cry.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Moving On - A New Day

I spent the month of June sick with a cough/cold and then just as I was recovering Champ became ill with colic and a urinary tract infection which we couldn't get a hand on no matter how hard the vet tried.  After six long, long days, now with failed kidneys, we put him down.  Forty eight hours ago...two days.  And with the exception of the painful hole in our hearts, it already seems like it was a long time ago.

Today is July 1.  I welcome the new month and refuse to look in the rear view mirror at June 2010, just I refused to look at January 2010 when I lost Cisco.  I will encourage my family, battered and beaten by June to do the same.  I will lead by example and point out the good things in our lives, not dwell on the past trials we've been through.

Although the Belgians are here at home, Sunny is now feeble and I consider him unsafe to ride.  Gus, our younger Belgian is green broke, over 18 hands and I feel he is too big and too green for me to ride.

I'm grateful for Poco, the horse I recently purchased to replace Cisco, here at home.  Poco has been home for the last five days.  His pasture is outside our bedroom window.  At night with the window opened, I can hear him moving around and blowing out his nose.  It's a good sound. 

When I get up each morning, I open the window wider and greet him.  He is now waiting for my greeting each morning.  Life with Poco at home has been soothing and enjoyable.  He likes his pasture and loafing shed, where he naps.  Across the fence line he and the Belgians have settled down nicely.

I hauled Poco out to the barn to take a lesson on him, still learning how he ticks.  He was a dream loading and unloading, saddling at the trailer, during the lesson and then later when we went on a ride around the 100 acres that surround the barn.  So far he's been a good guy at everything I've asked of him.

I have an empty stall at the barn.  The loss of Champ appears to have cancelled the half-lease I have with the gal who was using him for 4H.  Out of courtesy for the suddenness of Champ's loss, I've offered them the use of Poco for the rest of the season but understandably, it's not the same.

I hate moving Poco to the barn but with an empty stall up there I've decided for the time being to continue to board at the barn.  My friends are up there and since I'm retired, the barn provides me with a social outlet.  So today I will haul Poco back to the barn.

I'm back where I started in early June, with no horse at home and no other suitable horse for my family or friends to ride.  That means no riding at the cabin with my family or friends, where our corral is now ready for our horses.

It means all my eggs are in the basket with Poco and after the last week, that kind of scares me.  But I won't seek out another horse right now.  Poco came to me, I didn't go looking for him.  I'm thinking that's the best way to find a horse.  So I will wait, my family and I will regain our strength and welcome peace into our hearts and souls.  Somewhere down the road we will find another special horse.  After all, good things come to those who wait.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Want My Autograph (Champ), May 1998 - June 2010

Dear Champ,

Thank you for coming into our lives and becoming our daughter's horse, taking her to Paint, Pinto, 4H and schooling shows.

Thank you for your "bling".  It was always fun to see how the judges loved your "bling". 

Thank you for your signature slow jog, so comfortable and smooth that one could drink a cup of tea and not spill a drop.

Thank you for bathing, loading and unloading like a pro.

Thank you for accepting me as your new rider when our daughter moved on in her life.  Yes, there were times I thought you'd kill me, especially when you used to charge me in the round pen, ears back, teeth bared, but we always came to an understanding and continued in peace.

Thank you for your patience in helping me to learn how to ride correctly.  You always tried to do what I was asking, even when I wasn't asking the right way.

Thank you for your smooth haunch turns and side passes.  When people used to watch us ride, it was always fun to pull a few of those off and watch their reactions.

Lastly, thank you for teaching me to become the rider I always wanted to be.  I hoped we could have more time together to sort cows, learn Dressage and go on trail rides but I guess God needed a horse like you up in heaven more then we needed you. 

But never forget this family who loved you with all their hearts and will miss having you down here with us.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Twelve Hours After a +10 Day - A Double Whammy

This has been the longest week I've had in a long time.  Glad I got to enjoy my +10 Day with Champ because twelve hours later I was standing in his stall, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the vet.

Wednesdays are Katy, my half-leaser's day to ride.  I'd only stopped by the barn to pick up Poco's paperwork.  I wasn't dressed for barn time, in my white t-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes. 

Since I was there, thought I'd stop in and say Hi to Katy.  My phone started ringing as I walked into the barn to find my trainer, Rachel, calling me, Katy and Champ next to her.  Nothing has been normal since that moment.

Champ had urine dripping all over the place.  He also had shavings all over him and was groaning in pain.  The vet was on his way so we did what we could and waited.

The vet arrived and within minutes Rachel and I were pushing 16 bags of IV fluids into Champ.  After a urine culture and rectal exam, the vet turned to us and told us that Champ had the "Mother of all impactions", the largest he'd ever seen.  Bad news. 

Next came the terrible question.  Did I want to try to transport him to surgery, approximately 80 miles away?  Every horse owner draws their own line in the sand on where you decide to call it quits.  For colic I draw the line prior to surgery.  During the exam I was asked about surgery twice.  With tears in my eyes and in a chocking voice, I declined both times.

The vet directed us to walk Champ twenty minutes on the hour.  He'd check in with us later that night via phone.  I knew we were in for a long haul at the barn.  I called my husband requesting a jacket, chairs and food.  I called our daughter and told her what was happening.

Fellow boarders came to assist and offer their support.  When additional bags of fluid were called for many gave their hand in holding the IV or pumping fluids through the hand bulb that passed the fluid into Champ, while Rachel or I needed to step away for a moment.  It meant a lot to me to have their help and I can't say enough about the great people at our barn.

I've read many articles about Colic, especially after losing Cisco to Colic in January.  But there is no replacement for hands-on experience.  This is a tough, exhausting process but the best way to learn how to help your horse is to participate in it.

For instance I'd never helped put a catheter in a horse's neck, run an IV or swapped out IV bags when they ran empty.  At first it's unnerving.  Colic is not only exhausting for the horse but it's also exhausting, back breaking work for the support team.  Every hand is needed, especially on the second day when those who went through the first 24 hours are physically and mentally exhausted. 

I was lucky to have a great support team the first night.

Rachel, the barn manager, my trainer and friend, who lives on the premises.  She rolled her desk out of her office and joined us across from Champ's stall.  She worked on paperwork and schedules while we held vigil.  Rachel has seen Colic before and has hands on experience, she was our Leader.

My riding pal, Haley.  Who brought us a wonderful home cooked dinner and a great bottle of wine.  Haley is such a wonderful person, someone who can always make me smile.  She, like me, has fought confidence issues when riding.  She recently had a fall off her horse, got a concussion and was down for a week.  Two weeks later she was back on and cantering again.  I bestow my highest compliment to her - Grit.  Haley has Grit.

John, my husband.  Who went to various restaurants in town to get us whatever food we asked for (prior to knowing Haley was bringing us dinner).  He brought us the camp chairs, blankets, my phone charger, a sleeping bag and (I still smile) extra pair of socks.???  When I asked about the socks, he said he was worried our feet would get cold that night.  Pretty sweet!

Colleen our daughter, who cancelled all evening plans, arriving to pitch in to do whatever was needed, never leaving my side.  Champ was her horse before she quit riding and went off to college.  She rarely stops by to see him, yet I know she still cares for him.  As we sat in our camp chairs outside Champ's stall waiting for the next 20 minute walk, she quietly started crying.  I sat next to her, trying to mentally comfort her, afraid if I tried to physically comfort her she'd rebuff me.  I knew she was beating herself up about rarely visiting Champ.

I thought about how often we take things we care about for granted until they're in jeopardy or gone.   Soon I was also silently crying.  I reached over and put my hand on her shoulder and in a bit we both got ourselves under control.

There the four of us sat on a rare, clear evening, taking turns walking Champ on the hour, remarking on how pink Mount Rainer was when the sun set, and later how bright the full moon was in the warm evening.  We were a rather jovial group that first night, sharing stories, swapping philosophies on life.

Around 11 PM Champ started to act like his old self, although his physical situation hadn't changed.  A call from the vet, checking in, said to keep walking Champ and if he was still like this at 1 AM we could check him every few hours.  Since Rachel lives onsite, she volunteered to do the checking.

As 1 AM came, nobody offered to leave.  None of us wanted to be the first to call it a night.  We fought off our exhaustion, walking Champ on the hour until about 3 AM, where we all left at the same time.

Sleep avoided me, too hyped up to rest I guess.  I was up, dressed and on my way back to the barn by 6 AM Thursday morning.  Rachel was already there.  We drank the coffees I'd picked up and I started the hourly waking again, legs and feet aching from the previous day, eyes puffy from lack of sleep. 

My second hour of walking, Champ gave us the first hope we'd seen.  A nice pile of rock hard poop which I will now refer to as "deposits".  The vet arrived a few hours later and checked it out.  Said it was part of the 'plug' but not the impaction.  Eight more bags of fluids went into Champ.  Five hours later Champ gave us another deposit and then a few hours later another one. 

The vet called with the lab results.  Champ had a urinary tract infection.  The strain from the infection and not drinking had probably caused the Colic.  He examined Champ and told us the plug was out and now we had to wait for the impaction to pass.  Twelve more bags of fluids went into Champ, who still refused to drink.  The vet warned us that it was going to very painful when Champ passed the impaction.

In the late afternoon, Rachel, Haley, Colleen and I found ourselves back together, but now we all sat in exhausted silence while Champ struggled in pain as he started to pass the impaction.  Around dinner time my husband arrived to take over for Colleen and I.  We gratefully headed home, both of us too tired to argue about staying.

I awoke to see my husband was home.  Things were going better at the barn; Champ was making regular deposits, drinking water and had slurped up the mush presented to him.  Haley, who has a camper van was spending the night outside the barn and would check on Champ every few hours.  Walking on the hour was no longer required.

Friday morning I returned to the barn and met Rachel.  Champ was now on antibiotics for his infection and we were directed to turn him out as usual and hand graze him a couple of times during the day.  I was relieved to see Champ eating his hay and drinking.  He was no longer dripping.

I returned later to hand graze and feed Champ his mash, loaded with his medication and carrots while Rachel took a well deserved overnight trip away from the barn.  I noticed Champ was dripping again, hadn't drank much water or eaten very much.  He wouldn't touch the delectable mash I'd made for him, no matter how much molasses or carrots I piled into it.  I texted Rachel, hating to bother her.  She assured me that it would take a few days for the antibiotics to kick in and that we had other methods to get Champ to take his meds if the mash didn't work.

Status was still the same on Saturday.  I hand grazed Champ and saw he'd eaten a little and drank a little but still was dripping.  Rachel returned home and gave him a super special mash but he only ate a bit of it.

Today is Sunday.  More hand grazing today.  Rachel and I discussed the situation.  She successfully pushed his meds down him tonight instead of in the mash.  But like me, she's worried because Champ still isn't himself.  She'll look in on him later.  I expect we'll call the vet back tomorrow if things haven't changed and anticipate reinserting the catheter and running more IV's.

Where this will end, I'm not sure.

On a positive note.  In my last post about my (former) +10 Day, I wrote about hoping our daughter, Colleen, would take a lesson on Thursday.  She indeed did take that lesson, as exhausted as she was, riding my new horse, Poco.  The longer she rode the bigger she smiled.  It was neat to see she still has a natural elegance and poise when she rides and she really liked Poco.

It felt good to smile, if only for a short time.