Friday, April 29, 2011

Drugs, A Giant Scary Speculum, And Power Tools

This pic looks a bit like a horror movie, but it's just Salem getting his teeth floated by the lovely Dr. Nate. He was scheduled to come out and float 6 other horses, so I jumped on the bandwagon and had him take a look at Salem's teeth as well;  of course, they had some pretty serious sharp points, so he got floated. And since he hadn't had his spring shots done yet, Dr. Nate gave him those, too. Poor Salem, he has had quite a few things done to him in the past few weeks!

I had to bring Salem up to the main barn so they didn't have to haul the equipment all the way out to his little barn. Of course, he had to be sedated for the float, so I had to leave him in the main barn until he was awake enough to walk back to his stall. I got him back there right before it started pouring rain, and he's now nice and comfy with a bunch of clean fluffy shavings and a big bucket of soaked alfalfa pellets. I'll go back a little later for his daily walk/grooming/general-fussing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One Step at A Time

This is what Salem spends most of his time doing these days: eating. And then some walking. And then some more eating. He's a bit on the thin side, with slightly protruding hips and visible ribs; it's nothing drastic, but I would like to see him a bit more round. He's eating six quarts of Triple Crown Senior and six quarts of alfalfa pellets per day (divided into three feedings), so it's only a matter of time. Now, if I could only get him to eat more hay! I bought ten bales of the expensive, low-sugar, always from the same source, nutritionally tested timothy hay, so of course he's only picking/nibbling it and using the rest for bedding. He wants the sugary Cap N' Crunch hay! :-/

Behind Salem is the little four-stall barn that he shares with his new best friend (Pippi, an ex-Premarin mare). While it isn't as fancy or pretty as the main barn, it's far superior if you look at it from the horse's perspective: the stalls are bigger and breezier, the horses can hang their heads out and see everything going on in the arena and paddocks, and it has all the amenities of the main barn (rubber mats, auto wateres, and ceiling fans). Plus, it has a small fenced area around it, so I can leave Salem's stall door open at night and let him roam around and munch grass. Yeah, no-brainer in my opinion.

Since I can't ride Salem right now but still want him to get some exercise, I have been taking him for long hand-walks. Yes, he's my giant Labrador. :-) Once he can be ridden, I'd like to take him on trail rides, so I'm using this time to get him used to being off the property and away from other horses. We started out with the avocado grove behind the barn, then progressed to short walks down the street and into the grove/fields across the street. Salem can get a bit ostrich-necked at times, but for the most part he has been taking it all in stride.  


Munchin' grass in the grove across the street

Here, we're in a field that connects to the grove

We spent about an hour walking up and down the street, into the grove and around the field. It made me very excited for when we can do this with me on his back! Afterwards, it was time to head back to the barn for a nice refreshing shower.

And then it was back to his paddock for more food. Yes, I'd say he's fairly content with his new life.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hoof Rehab 101

Exhibit A for "Why You Should Not Go Three Months Without Trimming Your Horse's Hooves!" Salem arrived with 8-mile-long hooves that were chipped, flared, cracked, and generally looking fairly horrid. His walls were separating from the rest of the hoof on all 4 and he had huge toe callouses and TONS of false sole. Despite several days of major rasping, this is the sight that greeted Candy when she arrived for Salem's trim appointment today:

Note the giant chip on the left side of the hoof



Candy marked Salem's hooves to show approximately where they should be, but explained that she couldn't take everything off in one trim because doing do so would make Salem sore. The markings are a great visual, though, because they show just how overgrown his hooves are.

Salem was mainly cooperative during his trim, but he was clearly uncomfortable when his back hooves were being done. Obviously, his back was a bit sore, so we just took things slowly and gave him lots of breaks. And after tons of nipping, cutting, and rasping, Salem's hooves were back to somewhat normal.

 Much better! (And I love my Kensington fly boots!)

You can see the Sharpie mark where his hoof should be,
but we just couldn't get him there in one trim

This is his left front, which is the worst of his hooves -- it has a long way to go!

In two weeks, Salem will get another trim; after that, he will be able to go back to a regular 5-week schedule. In the meantime, I'm supposed to do lots of White Lightning soaks in order to kill all the bacteria/fungus/random-nastiness and to loosen up all the retained sole so it can slough off by itself.

So far:

Deworming -- Done
Hoof Issues -- Resolving
Bath -- Done
Ulcer Medication -- Ordered
Weight Gain -- Resolving (as in "Throwing Ridiculous Amounts of Food at Him")
Spring Shots -- Forthcoming (this Friday)
Tooth Check -- (Same as Above)

We're getting there!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

Oh, Ship

Yes, ship is indeed a 4-letter word. Few things are more stressful to a horse owner than shipping a horse long-distance. You have to trust perfect strangers with the life of your precious pony (aka glass-legged suicide machine) in a confined area with other nervous suicide machines, in a giant vehicle going upwards of 50 mph on roads full of moronic not-paying-a-lick-of-attention drivers. Yes, definite recipe for disaster. Fortunately, there are a number of professional shippers who have excellent reputations and glowing recommendations. And for your convenience, I have compiled a list, gathered from the COTH forum, Fugly blog, and the experiences of friends and yours truly:

C & E
Caris Brooke
Equine Express
Brooke Ledge                                                             
Equine Limousine
C & W
Sport Horse
Blue Chip

I ended up going with Aprile, as they were recommended by two other reputable shipping companies, could accomodate my schedule, were great about answering/returning phone calls, and gave me a very competitive quote. (And, ok...I might have also had a dream that they shipped Salem; what can I say, I have learned to trust my gut!) As I type this, Salem is comfortably tucked away in a big, roomy box stall on one of their trucks, hopefully munching hay and not completely wigging out. Fourteen hundred miles is a long way, baby.

So, which equine shipping companies have you used? Any recommendations? Any companies to avoid like the plague?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ave Atque Vale

"Hail and Farewell"

March 31st, 2011 we lost Raffie*, Salem's owner and my friend for over twenty years. The past month has been a roller coaster of emotions for all involved, and her death has left us reeling.

So many things have come out about her life that nobody knew anything about. And while we're all shocked by the cloud that hangs over our image of who she was, I choose to look past the darkness that she kept hidden and celebrate the light, the goodness that makes up my memories of her.

Raffie read voraciously, was a Disney fanatic, and possessed a wealth of equine knowledge. She had the charming quirk of always saying flustrated, apparently a combo of flustered and frustrated, something that used to drive me crazy but that I now look at as one of her unique little quirks that made her who she was. She was a hair stylist, a horse-clipper, and eventually a full-time riding instructor. And, even though the woman was 5' on a tall day, she insisted on owning only the most gigantic horses she could possibly find; Gizmo, Pumkin, KC, and Salem were all at least 17 hands and built like tanks. And although Raffie spent over thirty years at hunter/jumper barns, her real equine passion was dressage. I remember watching her up on KC doing shoulders-in, haunches-in, and side-passes and being in absolute awe.

Sometimes, after I had spent a long day at the barn, Raffie and I would nip off to TGI Friday's and share a plate of potato skins. Other days, she would stay and give me some pointers while I rode whichever horse I happened to be working with at the time. I was particularly grateful for her help the summer before my senior year of high school, when my friend Joi and I started Bailey, a 4-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, under saddle. At the end of the summer, Joi and I were just barely trotting Bailey, and Joi had to leave for college; I was left to finish his training myself. There were countless nights when Raffie patiently sat in the ring, schooling us on ten-meter circles, serpentines, spirals, and cavaletties. I still vividly remember one day when it was pouring rain and she stayed outside and watched me put Bailey through his paces; she dragged and set up poles for us and got completely soaked while she watched over us and made sure we were safe.

Another time, we were stuck in the dusty indoor arena and, with Raffie's encouragement, I got Bailey to canter for the first time; it was completely unbalanced, strung-out and all over the place, but I was thrilled. And it wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for Raffie's quiet coaching.  All these times, Raff was under no obligation to stay and help me; at that point, she wasn't working at the barn and her only payment was my gratitude. But with her help, I took Bailey from barely-trotting to jumping small fences; to this day, Bailey is a trusted school horse and I could not have done it without Raffie's assistance.

The love of Raffie's life was Stocking Stuffer (barn name "Pumpkin"), a giant bay Cleveland Bay gelding who 98% of the time was a patient packer push-button horse and 2% of the time was a runaway freight train with no breaks or steering who would bulldoze through anything/anyone in his path (me included). With Pumkin, Raffie cliniced with some of the greats like Sally Swift and Bruce Davidson. He was truly her "heart horse," the culmination of her lifelong horsey dreams and the touchstone by which she measured all other horses. When Pumkin developed cancer and had to be put to sleep, I know that a piece of Raffie's heart went with him.

A day after I heard the news, I was talking to my old trainer Ken, someone who has known Raffie for most of her life. I was upset that I wouldn't be able to fly up to Chicago for Raffie's memorial service. Ken answered, "Well, Raffie obviously cared about Salem very much; so, by taking him in and making sure he's cared for, you're honoring her." (While he used to have a bit of a gruff exterior, Ken is definitely softening as he gets older; sometimes he says the sweetest, most touching things!) I hadn't thought of that, but I certainly will do my best to honor her memory.

I only hope that Raffie is finally at peace, reunited with Pumkin and KC. She will be missed.

*Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while might be confused, as I used to refer to Raff as "Ruby." I'm not sure why, but Raffie wanted me to give her a pseudonym. However, I felt that it would be inappropriate to write about my memories of her without using her real name (which is short for Rafaela).