Back in the Saddle

After feeling stalled for years on horses, things are finally moving in the right direction again.

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Two months back I moved Dancer to a friend’s place after Dulce’s death. That has worked out really, really well. Dancer loves having a new minion that she can boss around, loves having someone live on the property that sees her everyday and has basically won the acclaim of everyone.

Being on a true drylot, her feet have improved slightly though she remains a bit too heavy even after having her feed cut back (again!). We also have had several major storms but I went to sleep easily knowing she had her own 24/7 access to shelter. It has also helped with my time management as I now have only one horse to focus upon on a daily basis: Dante.

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Dante and I have had starts and stops over the 2 years of ownership. That first year was the most difficult as it turned out he wasn’t what I thought I bought. This caused me to feel a lot of resentment, frustration and yes, anger. This all was not helped by the continual health problems (abscessed tooth, injured leg) that I had to deal with it.

However, since Dulce’s death I’ve been thinking over the Problem of Dante and decided that I needed too (now that his wound has fully healed) make some Major Decisions about him and me.

With this in mind –

1.) I ordered a custom bitless bridle for him. The expensive cavesson I bought him simply doesn’t fit and causes a lot of issues when he is in it. If this new one doesn’t fit, I’ll simply send it back and get whatever changes I need made on it as they are in the US like myself.

2.) His broad back has caused saddle fitting issues. I don’t ride Western – have no interest in riding Western and don’t like to ride in those saddles even though that would probably be an easier fit-find for him.

Instead I’ve ordered a demo on a Ghost treeless saddle. I know treeless saddles have some controversy but it will probably be the easiest to fit him. Once the saddle actually gets here and I try it, if it fits and feels great, wonderful. If not, back to the drawing board.

3.) I’ve started a rehab strengthening program for him. Some of this is what I did after Tristan’s pelvic fracture and part of it is combined with Clicker Training.

This brings me back to some issues I was having with Dante. Clicker training with food excites him too much. I mean it REALLY excites him too much. I’ve talked and discussed this problem with some other CT trainers but never really could get a plan together that had success.

A few months back I had started waiting until he would retract his dropped penis before I would approach, click or treat him. This was having limited success but I felt I was on the right track. Then I came across this clicker training R+ article and the lightbulb went off: Dante was truly not in a state of relaxed attentiveness but in a state of anticipative tension.

I had created this by being too eager with treats, too fast with my clicker to reward increased activity instead of mind-state, and because of looking for bad-ass (Intrizen) this quickly developed into something we both don’t want (and in any other horse might have become aggression).

I decided to back things off – half of my time spent with him now is done without food. I put non-clicker training/food reward work in between CT work. If he starts to drop, I walk away and wait until he starts to retract. Slowly I feel we are making some progress back to a better mental place but this problem (which I created by being too eager) will take time to get corrected.

While this little victory will seem very small – he has now ON HIS OWN – gone over my ground poles without knocking them! This is something that he wouldn’t have done 2 years ago and while it is small, it gives me hope that we can get him moving in better shape and form.

I’m also going back through my Linda Tellington-Jones TTEAM and TTOUCH work and will be incorporating some of this with his rehab.

4.) I’m not sure his PSSM is being managed so I’ve decided to add some additional supplements to his feed (L-glutamine and L-leucine) and see if we get any improvement with this lameness that keeps coming back (hind leg lameness seems to be a typical PSSM problem). I’ve had him x-rayed and examined and he only has some slight arthritis not unusual for his age.

Oddly enough husband seems to have some sort of muscle issue that is also helped by ALACAR (Acetyl-L-carnitine) and and watching him struggle with aching muscles after a strength training workout, I have a better feel for what Dante may be going through.

Although how much of this is due to the leg injury (that didn’t cut tendons) or to arthritis I don’t know (and my never know). I do plan on having the vet back out after Christmas.

 

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Dancer retired to a new home

A month after Dulce’s passing, I started worrying about the final outcome of the horses. The place where they have stayed for 5 years is up for sale. What would I do if it sold? Especially for my remaining mini-pony, Dancer, as finding boarding accommodations for ponies is extremely difficult (I’ve already looked and was told by several people I would have to pay full “horse” price for her even though all she eats is 1 flake of hay a day, wouldn’t be in a stall, and only needs a dry lot!).

Luckily, a business friend has a farm and invited Dancer to come out and be her miniature horse’s companion. All that fell into place in September and we moved her, without drama, to where I am hoping will be her final retirement.

Her new place is a true dry lot so that will be better for Dancer’s health. It has shelter so I won’t have to worry late at night when a storm blows in that I didn’t lock Dante up so Dancer could share his shelter. The owner has already agreed to bury her on the property if/when the final days come so that is also a relief.

I’ve put her on a schedule to be trimmed every 3 weeks as husband is still doing her feet. The farrier that the friend uses I’m not impressed by and Dancer has special feet concerns from having foundered before and with her Cushings disease.

She and the little mini are already best of friends. Dancer has bonded with her in a way she never bonded with Dulce and the miniature is very happy to have a true horse as a companion instead of her former donkey companions.

Fingers crossed that this all continues!

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Quiet after the storm

The horses have been very quiet, almost subdued, though they are eating. When we took Dante out to handwalk in the pasture, he didn’t want to go too far away and Dancer kept a worried eye on him.

We are all hurting in our ways.

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Run free sweet Dulce

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Yesterday, when I arrived at the barn, Dulce was in extreme distress. She couldn’t breathe, was foaming at the mouth and was so agitated that she ran about or took to rolling. I called the vet and husband to come immediately.

I suspected this hard choice was coming as she had Cushings, a disease that was not being controlled by Pergolide and diet management. Last year, I suspected she was developing COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease also known as “Heaves” or Recurrent Airway Obstruction) and that was confirmed by the vet who saw her this month.

As the heat and allergy season progressed, so did her pulmonary distress. When the vet examined her, he said it wasn’t Choke (that would have resulted in her foaming from the nostrils and mouth) but that her respiration was in extremely poor condition. He suspected some sort of obstruction, maybe a hematoma. We discussed options but really there was only one real choice for those that truly loved her.

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With the property for sale, I had visited with several people who might have taken the ponies. It became crystal clear that 1.) no one would take Dulce (to be clear I wasn’t relinquishing ownership – this was a paid retirement) with all her special health concerns, 2.) what if she passed with these new caretakers? and 3.) if it would be to her best healthy interests to move her (though I wouldn’t have a choice if the property sold) and cause more stress?

When I was waiting for the vet, I watched Dante try to comfort her. He stood with her under their tree and she settled down in his shadow. Before we led her down the path to a final goodbye, both Dancer and Dante came to her individually and said goodbye. Though when I returned hours later, they were calling for her. How to explain?

I knew she was in a lot of pain because she didn’t freak out when husband was leading her (something she would never had allowed if in health). I was fortunate that the vet could come out immediately so she wouldn’t be found dead in a field or left to suffer for hours (I do not live on the property and no horse knowledgeable person does who would call me).

I had already called the pet cremation where we had taken our dogs (one due to old age back last summer, one last month due to cancer) and they agreed to process her for me. I was planning on bringing her body to them in my hatchback but the landowner pulled up and offered his truck. Again, I was lucky she wouldn’t have to lay in a field, rotting, but could be brought to them with care.

I will pick up her ashes Monday and spread them through the pasture.

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The first photos are of her when she came to me; the photo below, 5 years later. She was in her early 30’s and being an inbred miniature had several obvious deformities and I’m guessing ones internally also.

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She was shy but the sweetest little doll of a pony you could find. She had a special sound she made (again – those deformities in the mouth and probably the throat that resulted in her condition) when I would arrive, calling to me in a tone that was so adorable (it always sounded like “hey human, glad to see you”).

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She went easily, ready to run over that Rainbow Bridge and be free from pain.

May you and Tristan graze the fields and run with joy. I’m sure he’ll let you share his food, those big horses love you so much.

Such a precious bright little light.

Sweet little Star.

Thank you for being with us.

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moving horses

The property where I board is up for sale and the horses and I are looking for a new home. Because of that, I had turned this blog private for 24 hours as I was feeling out a few people. That has fallen through so I’ve put the blog public again.

I’ve had a lot of new subscribers and I’m not sure why. I think some old pages finally got seen or something so hoping you all aren’t spammers as I just don’t have time for that 😉

Overall, moving the horses is going to be a BIG BITCH and I’m against the clock on it. I’ll post more as it happens but for now I’m on a full scramble.

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Update

The last four months have been difficult for various reasons and I see I haven’t been very good about updating here so let me do some news on everyone:

Dulce: it took a while but she slowly gained weight back. It’s been a struggle. I tried several different equine senior feeds (which she all refused) and then she decided she would eat a Mare and Foal feed (high fat) until she decided one day she wouldn’t eat that either, so we are back to the Grostrong 13.

Her winter coat is in so she looks much larger then she really is. Come spring we shall see but I am trying to keep a feel of her ribs to know how she is doing.

I’ve left her halter on as there is no easy way to catch her when needed for hoof trimmings and while I’ve used clicker training, whatever her life was in her past has left deep, emotional scars.

Dancer: About two weeks ago I realized that one day, probably sooner then I want, I’ll have to say goodbye to my dear little pony. We continue to struggle with her feet and I realized that with the Cushing’s diagnosis one day it will simply catch up to her.

Mood and attitude on both ponies is very good. For Dancer, I’m going to try another grazing muzzle (though she has escaped them in the past) and buy her some hoof boots for the front feet in hopes of getting her more active.

Dante: I’m still not doing much with him. This is a major problem. Either I need to start doing something or find him another home.

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For the last three months I’ve been struggling with the idea of should I stay boarding where I am – and if so, how to solve the problem of horses getting fed. This plays into not working Dante, because I have to wait until he’s finished eating to work him and that means staying out there longer (doing nothing) then I want to do.

Or move Dante to a full care boarding facility? If I choose this option, then I lose my privacy (which I value highly) and lose control over how I want his life managed (i.e. less pasture time, more stall time, more expenses, nosy neighbors etc…).

I did hire a feeder but she doesn’t live on the property and I could never afford her (at $20 per day) to feed everyday. I did visit another facility that offers an option for feeding at $7 a day in addition to your boarding fee but it also has an arena and a roundpen. The problem is no vacancies and some other issues (which I won’t go into here).

So I bit the bullet and asked my neighbor if he would feed at a rate of $50 a week (on top of my $140 pasture fee for Dante) = $340 less the cost of hay and feed. With ponies this brings up my boarding fees to $420. Hay, feed and supplements will be on top of this.

He starts to feed Dec. 1st and I’ll give myself 3 months to see if I will be more interactive with Dante. If not, in the spring, I’ll send him to a trainer and arrange for him to be re-homed.

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What I don’t go into here with my blog is my mental struggles which I really don’t want to discuss here anyway. About a month ago we decided to euthanize our senior dog due to major loss of quality of life. Three weeks later the other dog went in for some surgery. I do run a small shop over on Etsy and I’m in a quandary whether I should grow it more (it has a limit as to what it could do) or go ahead and start thinking of closing it down.

I’m trying to decide what to do with my time and life. Especially as we look towards selling the house in two years and begin a life of travel to find a retirement location. There’s a lot of re-shuffling of priorities.

Life seems to get in the way and I’ve been with horses in some way or another a long time. I’m trying to keep things open ended on my horse decision but some sort of decision needs to be made next spring for Dante’s future.

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Dulce continues her decline

Dulce continues to not gain weight. She has me very worried at this point.

I tried Equine Senior and she refused to eat it. So I stopped her Pergolide (which can suppress appetite) and went back to Grostrong 13 (which she will eat) and doubled the amount of food. After 3 weeks of that, I tried to get her to eat some Equine Senior mixed with her Grostrong 13, yesterday and today and she again turned up her nose.

She does not like it!

I’ve tried other fat supplements and she won’t eat them either.

As of today, I’ve increased her food amount again. I’ve also let her be under the fan in the barn but she prefers the shade tree.

The vet comes out Friday to do Dancer’s dental and I’m going to speak to her about Dulce again. Last time she was here, she thought Dulce probably had other health issues – such as her foaming at the mouth (a lot) right before she is fed or when she gets nervous.

Other then looking like a skeleton, she is chipper, is bright and alert, desires to eat (just not Equine Senior), and actually has a shiny coat (WTF??) so I’m at wit’s end right now and will see if the doctor has any recommendations.

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For the rest of us it is HOT HOT HOT. I’m giving Dante hose downs when I can but he still will only use the fan in the stall occasionally and prefers to hang out under the tree or in the pasture eating grass.

Work has stalled due to some very rainy days, too much heat and me injuring my back. Typically, this heat keeps going up until we get through mid August when we should start seeing some breaks in the weather.

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