Aw, Snap!

I took my horses out for another field trip last week. More on that in a later post, but I thought I’d share this photo. Its story serves as a warning.

My tale begins over Winter when I got one of those subscription horse boxes as a gift. It came with a lead rope. The lead rope color didn’t match any of my tack (cause matching-color is what is most important in a lead rope :-)), but I thought I’d use it for the horse trailer.

When I held the snap on this new lead rope, I remember thinking it seemed kind of light weight, but I otherwise didn’t give it much thought.

After arriving on location to last week’s riding destination, Shiloh stood quietly while tied to the trailer as I tacked him up for our ride. He turned his head, not sure why, maybe to snap a fly on his chest? I then saw something out of the corner of my eye while I was getting the next piece of tack out of the trailer.

It was the lead rope dangling and no longer attached to Shiloh! Fortunately, I don’t think he even realized he was free. He continued to stand there while I quickly switched out lead ropes (I routinely carry a spare or two in the trailer).

While Shiloh was calm, cool and collected during this particular outing, I shudder to think what would have happened if the snap broke during our previous outing where Shiloh was more fire breathing dragon than his typical presentation as backyard-friendly horse. I can see him galloping off into potential danger in that scenario- yikes!

So here is my advice based on my recent experience:

*Use lead ropes with heavy duty snaps (my initial misgiving, that I ignored, should have been my clue to the potential hardiness of the lead rope)

*Periodically check your lead rope snaps for wear (maybe I would have noticed the snap was coming loose from itself if I had given it a visual/tactile inspection earlier?)

*Always carry at least one spare lead rope per horse when you travel (you don’t want to be off your property with your horse without a way to secure him or her)

Thanks to Alli from the HeartHorseHoof Blog for the inspiration for this post. Recently, Alli shared a post entitled “Check Your Bits Sis” about a mistake the author realized she made and then corrected with regard to her horse tack.

Read her post at https://hearthorseandhoof.com/2020/06/24/check-your-bit-sis/.

Since all of us horse folks are human, all of us horse folks make errors. Sometimes in sharing those errors, we allow others to learn from our mistakes and hopefully avoid the same. It is one way we can support each other in our respective journeys to be better horse people.

Bear and I receive a thank you card!

I have an addendum to my previous post titled “Bear as Emergency Alert System” (see original post at https://thebackyardhorseblog.wordpress.com/2020/06/03/my-horse-bear-as-first-responder/).

Bear and I received this lovely card from the woman whom Bear helped rescue! Isn’t that sweet?! I have marked out her name for privacy’s sake in case she didn’t want it blasted all over the internet, but here below is a photo of the inside of the card. The note is definitely going into my horse scrapbook!

Six Feet Apart in Horse Hands

Saw this infographic courtesy of Boehringer Ingelheim (the maker of all the expensive equine medicine that I give to my horse Bear). Made me chuckle (not the price of the medicine but the infographic). Sometimes it is just easier for horse folks to measure things in horse hands!

PS- If you are reading this and not familiar with how a horse’s height is measured, please note that “a hand” is considered four inches. 6 feet apart is 72 inches so that would equal a horse that is eighteen hands tall, as measured from the ground to the withers (withers are located on top of the shoulders at the base of the horse’s neck). An eighteen hand horse is a tall horse- think Budweiser’s Clydsdale tall. Something to think about as you are standing in the grocery store checkout line. Plus it is a fun fact for your next trivia night, maybe?

Travel Tales and Travails

Since Shiloh got “unstitched” at the vet’s office, the horses and I have taken two little field trips, one to a local training/boarding barn and one to a private facility.

We were experiencing an unusually pleasant stretch of weather (meaning not too hot or too humid), and I wanted to take advantage. Our first trip, to the local training barn, went smoothly. I got to ride on one of the outdoor tracks and enjoyed experiencing a nice quiet stroll on Shiloh while Bear enjoyed sampling some new grass in the roundpen which stands in the middle of their two outdoor tracks. We had ridden at this same barn once last year, but only in their indoor arena, so riding outside was a new experience. Shiloh was very sensible and packed me around without issue.

Bear seemed to handle the trip well (as far as not looking sore during travel, after travel or the next day) as did Shiloh so I was excited to plan field trip number two. This time it would be a visit to my friend’s private horse facility. I’ve had Shiloh almost two years now, but I have yet to ride him with another horse as we typically do all our riding at home alone. I was looking forward to riding with my experienced friend and her quiet gelding on a lovely early Summer day.

But Bear and Shiloh seemed to have other plans which included being slow to load (I was half an hour late to arrive) and acting emotionally unhinged at this “new” location pretty much from the second they got off the trailer. I say “new” because although the location was new to Shiloh, Bear had visited this place with me quite a bit in his past life as a riding horse.

Whatever the reason, both horses were uncharacteristically nervous that day, and I decided this would not be a day to try to ride. So basically they got hand-jigged with the help of my sainted friend (I’d say hand-walked, but considering how jazzed both horses were, hand-jigged seems more accurate), got to roll in the lovely sand arena, pose for a few photos and then go home.

Fortunately, no humans or animals were physically harmed during the adventure. Can’t say the same for the unfortunate fence board that was the recipient of a double-barreled kick from Bear. I was preparing to open a gate to take Bear out of the arena and didn’t notice that a resident horse in a pasture next to the arena had come up behind Bear on the other side of the fence. Bear apparently took offense, released a loud squeal and let loose with the hind-legs. My horses went home with their frazzled owner with one eye-lid twitching involuntarily all the way back.

Gorgeous sand arena that I did’t ride in . . .

Disappointing, for sure, but it is not the first time I have taken a horse somewhere and had to scrap/change plans when I didn’t feel confident I would survive the originally planned activity. Bear, who I watch carefully for evidence of lameness due to his health history, seemed to show no bad signs post-visit, not even the next day despite all the antics. Someone needs to remind him that he recently turned twenty-five.

Since then, I’ve had a couple of rides at home on Shiloh and am now bracing for a period of high heat and humidity where trailering anywhere seems unappealing. Hoping I can plan for another visit somewhere soon once the heat wave passes as we all clearly need more practice with consistency in the “trailer loading and going new places” department.

Both Bear and Shiloh have actually done plenty of traveling, but both have had long breaks from traveling in recent years for different reasons. Like any other aspect of training, horses (and their people) can get rusty in those areas. Helping horses feel safe and secure when things go sideways has often been a challenge for me. But the times I have been successful in developing confidence in myself and my horses keep me coming back for more. Those times give me hope for the future on the days when I just can’t get it right and, to loosely quote author Louis L’ amour, end up with more tales of travail than travel.

Back to riding at home for awhile . . .

I see horses everywhere

https://brightside.me/wonder-quizzes/how-many-horses-do-you-see-your-answer-can-reveal-a-lot-about-you-660610/

I stumbled across the above internet link and thought it looked amusing. This quizz from brightside.me is purported to say something about your personality depending upon your answer. I am sceptical about that claim, but I had fun reading through it.

Because the subject matters happens to be horses, I can’t think this would be an accurate test for most horse people.

Aren’t we horse-people naturally predisposed to see lots of horses everywhere? 🙂

What do you think? I’m curious!

Stock Photo by Ramtin Daemi on Unsplash.

Got Cooling Rinse?

Now that the weather is warming up in my neck of the woods, I am likely to see sweat marks on my horse after we ride. Even if you aren’t riding at length or at speed, your horse most likely gets sweaty under their tack too. My horse, Shiloh, can especially get sweaty on a hot/humid day so I like to do something to clean him up post-ride.

As much as I like riding, I also really enjoy grooming before and after the ride. I especially like to figure out what grooming tools/products a particular horse seems to find relaxing and where on their bodies they like to be groomed with which tool. This can be challenging with a horse who has unfortunately developed negative associations with grooming, but I think it is worth the effort to try. Fortunately, Shiloh seems to really enjoy being groomed.

While I do sometimes hose an entire horse down with water to cool them off post-ride, I often choose instead to spot treat them. Certainly a small bucket of plain water applied with a sponge can do the trick. But sometimes their coat is so sticky and grimy post-ride that I prefer to use a cleaning/cooling product to help get them cleaner than I can with water alone.

Depending upon my budget at the time of purchase, I may opt to buy ingredients to make a home-made product or purchase a ready-made one. I actually think both work equally well, but I usually like how the commercial products are scented better than my home-made concoctions.

My favorite commercial product used to be Absorbine Refreshmint, but for some reason, Absorbine discontinued it. For the last few years, my favorite commercial product is Cooldown, also by Absorbine. It comes in a quart size bottle. It works really well in restoring the hair to a clean finish that dries quickly and it has a wonderful scent. I am going on my third Summer of using this same quart so I feel I am getting my money’s worth here (I think the original price was about $21 and knowing me, I most likely bought it on sale, with a coupon and/or with a discount via a credit card cash back offer!).

As far as homemade recipes, I have used a few ones I found on the internet, but basically all I do is combine half and half of Listerine-type mouth wash and rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. This combo also works well to get that grey, sweaty grime off the edges of western saddle pads. It may not have the wonderful fragrance of a commercial product, but I find my homemade recipe works just as well and costs less money.

I would like to add some words of caution here. Some cooling rinse products are stronger than others. Some contain ingredients that my cause skin irritation. Some may create a tingling sensation that may worry your horse. While I have personally not experienced those reactions in my own herd, I know of horses who have. Every horse is an individual so always best to be aware that your particular horse(s) may not appreciate the use of a cooling rinse like mine do.

So, do you have any pre or post ride routines that you employ? Do you prefer to hose/sponge with water, give a good curry, use a spray/rinse, turn your horse straight out to roll or something else?

***Please note that this post was not solicited by nor compensated by Absorbine or Listerine 🙂 .***

Activities For The Unridden Horse

Here Bear (background), Shiloh (foreground) and I (photographer) practice a “non-ridden” activity in the form of pedestal work at liberty. While I do still ride Shiloh, Bear is retired.

If you stick around the horse world long enough, you will probably find yourself at some point with a horse who can’t be ridden. Maybe due to age (too young or too old)/health/training issues, the horse just isn’t suitable for riding. Or maybe you love horses but aren’t interested in ever sitting on their backs.

Even if you don’t ride, there are many important reasons to spend time with your non-riding horse. They still require routine health care, exercise and mental stimulation. You will want to keep their basic handling skills in tact. Being caught in a pasture, allowing hoofs to be picked out and trailer loading can be important skills for any horse to learn or maintain. Don’t forget too that just hanging out with your horses can be enjoyable as well. I frequently sit in the grass or on an over-turned bucket at a safe distance and watch my horses graze or snooze.

Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to come up with activity ideas. If we aren’t riding, what exactly do we do? I personally keep a list of all kinds of ideas for doing stuff on the ground with my horses. I’ve picked them up over the years from books, magazines and online sources. Some of my favorites are:

  • Teaching a horse to work a platform or pedestal, first in-hand and later at liberty
  • Practicing crossing individual obstacles from the ground like poles and tarps
  • Laying out an obstacle course with cones and weaving through it together without a halter or lead rope
  • Playing with (or in the case of my horse below, tasting 🙂 ) one of those big horse balls

Recently, I came across a really cool “activity generator” that dovetails nicely with my list!

See the free “activity generator” from Good Horse at https://good-horse.com/tools/activity-generator/. The “Non Ridden Activity Generator” allows the user to select ideas across five different activity categories (care, bonding, enrichment, training and exercise). The generator will produce a random idea for you with just a click. It doesn’t instruct the reader on how to complete the activities much beyond listing the idea and maybe a sentence or two about the activity, but I found it fun to see what the generator produced.

Not everything will be “doable” or suitable for every horse or handler, of course, but if you keep clicking, I can almost guarantee you’ll find something to your liking. I haven’t personally gone through all the options in every category so I can’t comment on everything, but I liked what I saw. For example, the last time I used the generator, it gave me the following ideas:

Care- Pick out your horse’s hooves
Bonding- Take your horse over trotting poles at liberty
Enrichment- Try some apple-bobbing
Training- Get your horse used to wormer syringes
Exercise- Longe-line your horse

Don’t forget that even if you do ride your horse(s), you can still use these ideas to add variety to your time with him or her. Maybe use them as a warm-up to a ride or for those days when your schedule or the weather interfere with your original riding plans.

As much as I love to ride, I spend a lot more time with my horses on the ground than in the saddle. It is wonderful to remember that there are all sorts of helpful, fun and enriching activities for my horses and I to engage in together apart from riding.

The Horse World Needs Everybody

In March 2020, I wrote an essay about my interest in reading a then unreleased book called “Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America’s Urban Heartland”.

My essay was published on Horse Nation at https://www.horsenation.com/2020/03/10/why-this-rural-middle-aged-white-woman-is-looking-forward-to-reading-the-new-book-compton-cowboys-the-new-generation-of-cowboys-in-americas-urban-heartland/. I mentioned it in a previous blog post at https://thebackyardhorseblog.wordpress.com/2020/03/12/compton-cowboys-new-generation-cowboys-americas-urban-heartland/.

Unfortunately, I am still waiting to read the book. I thought it would be material that others would also enjoy reading so I asked a local library to obtain it for their collection. The library approved my request, but with the changes caused by the pandemic, I am still waiting for the book to become available.

There has been much talk in recent years of the reduction in participation in the horse world. It seems to me that we would do well to welcome and support everyone who shares an appreciation for the horse. Part of that can be learning about and learning from a diverse groups of equestrians who have long been out there caring for and riding their horses despite generally not being acknowledged as part of the wider horse world. Despite how it often seems, equestrians are not just white.

As part of my research in composing my essay earlier this year and more recently in light of current events, I have learned about a number of different articles/websites that I thought I would share here. I am not a Facebook member, but in addition to including a couple of direct Facebook links, many of the people/websites/organizations noted below have Facebook pages that might be of interest to readers as well. There is a lot more to read on the subject of equestrian diversity, but this list is a place to start. Our current and future horses and horse people can be the beneficiaries of a broader, more inclusive horse industry when we make room for everybody.

Guest Editorial: No Room For Bigotry

Ranee James is breaking stereotypes for Black women in equestrian sports

https://blacksouthernbelle.com/6-facts-on-african-american-horseback-riding/

https://www.blackreins.com

https://psmag.com/ideas/how-lakota-horse-culture-is-helping-treat-child-trauma-in-south-dakota

https://www.facebook.com/YoungBlackEquestrians

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/pankpy/navajo-son-great-american-cowboy-derrick-begay

https://www.ebonyhorsewomen.us

Test Results! Spring 2020 Vet Visit Continued . . .

SOLID CYSTIC APOCRINE DUCTULAR ADENOMA. Say that with me once. Okay. Now say that with me fast three times. Just kidding. I am not even sure how to pronounce the last three words!

For inquiring minds who want to know, a solid cystic aprocrine ductular adenoma is what Shiloh had on his rump. You may recall in my previous post entitled “Spring 2020 Vet Visit” at https://thebackyardhorseblog.wordpress.com/2020/06/01/spring-2020-vet-exam/ that Shiloh had a piece of tissue removed. What I would describe as a wart was more precisely identified as a solid cystic aprocrine ductular adenoma by a pathologist.

I asked to see a copy of the report. I panicked when I started to read the description paragraph and realized that I could only identify about three words in eight sentences. Fortunately, I understood the comments section which read “This is a benign neoplasm which is rare in the horse. Excision is complete and is expected to be curative. The prognosis is good.” Shiloh’s veterinarian said he had never seen one in a horse. Kind of freaky, if you ask me. But the good part is that Shiloh requires no further treatment (my bank account is smiling), and the tumor is not expected to regrow.

Shiloh’s stitches were removed at the vet’s office earlier today. Hopefully that whole ordeal is behind him now (pun intended)!

Bear sporting his grazing muzzle that helps keep his glucose and insulin levels in check.

Now on to Bear’s test results . . . Drum roll please. Bear’s ACTH, glucose and insulin levels were all within normal ranges for the second year in a row! Amazing. This was a horse that previously had an off-the-charts glucose reading where I recall reading a number with a + sign beside it on the blood test report. Confused, I asked the vet what the + sign meant. He said that Bear’s reading was so far out of range that the lab saw no point in giving an exact number. Whhaattt? So having two “within normal range tests” two years in a row is a big deal to me. Long story short, Bear’s current medication regimen or diet does not need to be adjusted at the moment. But with PPID and EMS diagnoses, it seems to me that you have to constantly stay vigilant and be ready your management quickly if you notice anything amiss.

So now that both are horses are all vetted and Shiloh’s stitches removed, I am hoping to take some field trips with them, maybe to ride at a local arena or somewhere outside with friends. It is a little tricky traveling with one horse that I still ride and one retired horse, but I will see what I can arrange for Summer.

Shiloh- No longer in stitches

Shiloh is officially unstitched now! I must say that was the fastest vet visit ever. I’m not sure we were even in the parking lot for more than ten minutes this morning. Basically, Shiloh got off the trailer, got his stitches out in the barn aisle, got back on the trailer and we were on our way back home.

Looks a little rough, but I was thinking it was healing well and my vet said the area was a-okay (not a direct quote!).

Our drive to the vet’s office and back was slightly more adventurous than last time. We negotiated a pair of deer crossing the road as well as huge piece of farm equipment that kindly pulled off the road so we could pass them. It must take the patience of a saint to drive those things, always having to be extra careful negotiating around obstacles like the lady pulling the horse trailer. But anywho, we got there and back safely with no problems.

Shiloh was point and shoot with the loading and unloading. Bear was decidedly less enthusiastic about it today. We had an earlier history together with difficulty loading but then years of traveling with no major issues in that department. Today might have just been an off day, but it is something I will keep in the back of my mind. I think sometimes when a horse says “no”, they can be trying to communicate that something hurts (or is super frightening) or they are worried that something might hurt (or become super frightening) in the course of your asking them to do something.

Bear has arthritis in addition to his EMS and PPID. Not to mention he is twenty-five years old. So its something I will be thinking about as I attempt to take Bear along with me when I take Shiloh out to ride at different venues. It may be that Bear is getting to the point where that won’t be comfortable for him.

Horses enjoying a post-vet-visit snack. Still sporting their special travel halters, they anxiously await my putting on their fly-masks and then leaving them alone for the rest of the day! 🙂

Today in just a minute here, I am expecting to re-post yesterday’s post that was actually supposed to be this week’s Wednesday post! I posted it accidentally yesterday, then took it down online and am now putting it back out there on the internet. So that might mean any of you readers who are blog email-subscribers will get yesterday’s post again today, but I am not sure. Can you tell I am new to this blogging thing and have questions about how it all works? Thanks for your patience with me, dear reader!

Ignore What I Just Posted, Sort Of

Hmmm, not sure what I just did, but in organizing my upcoming posts for this coming week, I just released what was actually to be Wednesday’s post!

Everything I said in this morning’s post is factual EXCEPT for the note about Shiloh’s stitches removal. As of today, he still has them in. Tomorrow, Monday, I am scheduled to take him back down to the vet’s to have them removed. So anywho, now I have to go back and redo my week’s blog schedule. Don’t you just hate when that happens? Sigh . . .

But since now you know what I have planned for tomorrow, please wish me and the horses well as we embark on another road trip (the plan is to have Bear go along with us so he is not left at home by himself)! 🙂

Horse as “Emergency Alert System”

Do you ever notice what your horse notices? I’m always fascinated at what horses see off in the distance. So many times, I can’t figure out what they are looking at until the object gets closer or I get out my binoculars. Their senses really do seem different and more acute in many ways. It is no wonder horses can get pretty skeptical about the human ability to keep them safe. Half the time, we can’t see or even hear the potential danger that they perceive.

Recently, after finishing a pleasant late-morning ride on my horse, Shiloh, I went inside to grab some lunch. I peaked out the back window to check on the horses before I sat down to eat. I happened to notice my other horse, Bear, standing at alert. He was looking past the side of the house and had a rather perplexed look on his face (meanwhile, Shiloh’s attention was on a pile of hay- gotta refuel after exercising, right?).

I was curious about the object of Bear’s rapt attention so I walked to the front of the house to look out a different window. Through the glass, I could see a woman hopping down the road, obviously trying not to put weight on her left foot. I raced outside and asked if she needed help. Turns out she had somehow twisted her ankle while going for a walk to get some exercise. I put on my COVID mask, brought my car around to her, drove her home and helped her to the front door. I offered to take her to the doctor’s office or to the ER, but she declined. She was going to contact her family.

She had a cell phone on her and wasn’t that far from home, but I still think she would have had a very difficult time trying to get there on one foot! As we were in the car heading to her house, I told her that I only noticed her after Bear alerted me to her presence. She told me to tell him thank you (which I later translated into the form of an apple slice). She said she used to walk by my property when her daughter was young child, and they gave the horses carrots over the fence. Maybe this was Bear’s way of returning the favor.

So there ends my story of Bear acting as a first responder of sorts. Has your horse ever clued you into an emergency in progress that you wouldn’t have been aware of without his or her help?

Bear dashing off, no doubt, to find the next emergency . . .

Update: To read a postscript to this story, please go to https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/06/26/bear-and-i-receive-a-thank-you-card/.

Spring 2020 Vet Exam

Last week, I drove Bear and Shiloh down to the vet’s office for their annual Spring exams. I usually schedule their Spring exams earlier in the year, but the pandemic changed my plans on both the timing of the exams and how they were performed.

This year is the first time that I remember not being present during the actual exams. The vet office is still keeping clients out of all their buildings to protect their staff. So after an easy loading experience at home and an uneventful drive into town, I unloaded the horses at the vet’s barn and handed them off to the very capable staff.

Fortunately, the morning rain had passed so I opened up my folding chair and sat outside the barn under the awning to pass the time. I watched folks bring their dogs and cats to the office for exams. Those folks also handed their pets off to staff members and remained outside the vet office while their pets were examined.

I was told that Bear’s teeth exam showed no current need for a float so he got his vaccines and had his blood drawn for his coggins and ACTH tests. The ACTH test is helpful in monitoring his PPID and EMS. If his ACTH and glucose numbers are inching up, I will need to make further diet/medication adjustments to hopefully keep him from having another laminitic episode, abscesses, etc . . .

Shiloh’s mouth exam revealed some sharp tooth points. So during Shiloh’s dental float, the vet also noticed some areas of gum recession around a few upper incisors. The vet suggested that Shiloh may need eventually to have those affected teeth removed as the gum recession can indicate potential problems for the root of the tooth. He says horses adapt to being toothless quite well once healed. I guess we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Coincidentally, a few days before our vet visit, I snapped a photo of Shiloh doing a flehmen response after I had applied a cooling product to his back post-ride. The angle of the photo actually shows one of the areas of recession above the middle tooth. Can you see it? The area is dimpled and irregular, not plump and full like a healthy gum line apparently.

Since Shiloh was already under sedation from his dental float, he also had a wart removed. For those of you who have horses with pink skin underneath their white hair, you may already know that they are more prone to skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma). Bear, who also has substantial swaths of pink skin, previously had a small lesion removed from under his tail that turned out to be skin cancer so I am familiar with the drill. The vet removed Shiloh’s wart (located on his hindquarters near the upper part of his tail) and had sent it off for analysis so we shall see if it turns out to be skin cancer. If so, I assume the vet will recommend further treatment after the stitches come out. For Bear, that was cryotherapy where the affected area of skin was treated with a stream of super-duper cold air to kill the cancer cells. At least in Bear’s case, it was a straightforward diagnosis and treatment with no lasting ill-effects. Hopefully Shiloh will have the same experience.

We had another easy loading, driving and unloading experience on the trip home. So many stars have to align properly to transport horses safely and successfully that I am always very appreciative to have a positive experience. Now we just have to await all the various test results and get Shiloh’s stitches removed next week!