Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Stormy Weather

Since it is a leap year, I wonder if today qualifies as March coming in like a lion? It has been stormy all day  but we've been lucky and dodged the worst of it here on Prospect Church Road. I'd hoped to get up at dawn and do a Leap Day portrait of Mouse to mirror the one I did four years ago but I fell asleep in front of the TV waiting for the sun to rise and missed my opportunity. By the time I woke up, it was raining so no soft morning light and lots of gloom, mud and grime but I still got a few shots to share with you of Leap Day 2012.
Danny entertaining himself with the jolly ball.

Do you wanna know a secret?

Mouse playing hide and seek.
let's play tug of war!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Flirting with Disaster

Horses are a lot like children, you need to be totally focused when you deal with them because they are both accidents waiting to happen. Danny has a bad habit of either sitting his hoof on one of the bars on the metal panels of the round pen or even worse, hanging his leg across it. We had two near disasters last night and both were my fault because I didn't follow my usual habit of always latching the gate each time I leave the round pen or pasture. This has been a habit I've followed for over seven years now because the one time that I didn't latch the gate, seven years ago, the wind blew it opened just as I'd removed Mouse's halter and she made a mad dash. It was an awful experience because she ran all of the way to the neighbor's farm on open  pasture where one wrong turn could have taken her into the road with traffic. After I caught up with her and put her halter back on, I had to lead her back during a terrible storm with lightning playing all around us which made her dance and made our trip take twice as long because I was constantly circling her to calm her down....and there was no one to calm me down.

Why I didn't follow this essential habit last night, I don't know. It was getting late and I was trying to get everything done but that one lapse nearly caused what could have been a serious injury to Danny and danger for all three horses that I'd put in the round pen. As I made my way up the hillside, all of the horses had been fed their feed ration, the boys had all been lunged per Dr. Hamilton's orders for Danny for the next 14 days, I'd given Danny his dose of bute and I was just coming back from letting Brandy back out of the little barn and was on my way to get the hay. Steve was coming up the road on the tractor and a tank of water for Danny's cold wash. I ran up and opened the outside gate to the pasture so that Steve could pass through. The boys were all still in the round pen because I didn't want them in the way as Steve came through the gate on the tractor. Danny started pawing the gate and then he hooked his leg across the bar. When the tractor made a noise that startled him, he jumped back and the gate went with him. That's when I saw him panic and I was paralyzed with terror as I attempted to run to help him. He managed to disengage himself from the fence without harm but by that time, he'd opened the gate all of the way and all three horses were extremely agitated. They all come rushing out and galloped down the hillside making a beeline to the open gate. Steve sped up and blocked the road while I ran toward the "thundering herd" waving my arms and yelling. Thankfully, it worked and I wasn't flattened like a bug on ta windshield. Evidently, me acting crazy was the scariest thing they'd seen in a while because Django and Riley turned and kept running and Danny skidded to a stop a few feet from me and just looked at me with curiosity. Disaster was diverted this time but if someone were to offer you odds, you'd better bet on me never leaving that gate unlatched again!!!

Monday, February 27, 2012

I have sad news to report today, Danny is no longer a stallion. Last Friday, February 24, we gelded Danny. I think I was nearly as traumatized as Dan but then again, no where near as much. Part of my heart is broken and part is relieved. It's true that decisions should be made by the head not the heart. That's a lesson that I've learned the hard way in the past. I weighed out both sides of this issue and the scales kept leaning strongly in the direction of gelding. In the end the final decision was made because I knew that we just aren't prepared to handle a stallion (The state of Tennessee requires heavy fencing that is at least six feet tall to contain a stallion and Dan's first two years of life have sped by and left us standing in the dust, unprepared.) Spring was also quickly approaching and with the mild Winter weather we've been having, Mouse could have come into season at anytime and who knows how Dan would have reacted? On the heart side, I know that a stallion's life is one of isolation and loneliness and I certainly didn't want that for my Dan but there is still some regret whenever I look at the beautiful horse he's developing into, his easy temperament, and wonderful breeding. Still, the horse market is falling into itself just like most areas of this country's economy so from a financial standpoint, starting a breeding program at this time just wasn't feasible. So, the decision was made and the date set.

We moved the other two boys to the middle pasture and led Dan into isolation in the round pen. It was such a windy day that I thought Dan might be agitated but he stood patiently while we brushed and groomed him unaware that we were waiting on our veterinarian, Dr. Mellisa Hamilton. He seemed content until he saw Melissa's truck turn into our drive. Then, he started pawing at the ground and trying to open the gate. I don't know how he recognized the truck or realized that something was up but he did. Melissa gave him one shot to make him drowsy and a second shot which was suppose to almost instantly put him down on the ground but it didn't. Another dose did the job but its effects would linger for most of the afternoon and he would still be a bit groggy when we left him that night. He reacted to the anesthesia as well with twitching and snorting that Melissa said was caused by hallucinations brought on by the drug. Evidently, he was totally under because he did not react when Melissa began to cut. The gelding went quickly as Steve held the rope holding up Danny's leg and I pressed gently but firmly on his neck to calm him and keep him still. Melissa also removed his wolf teeth which wasn't as easy because Dan kept clinching his jaw but finally those two little teeth were out (I saved them like a child's first teeth:)

During this entire process, Danny's big brother, Django, was standing at the gate watching and obviously anxious. Several hours later, when I finally turned the other two horses out into the big pasture with Dan, Django ran to him and started nuzzling and kissing him. He has been a nursemaid to Danny since that day and never leaves his side. No one will believe this but I caught Django looking at the "surgery spot" and then Danny looked at Django. I don't begin to understand the workings of a horse's mind or even if there is any logic at work there but I hope that Django was saying, "Look, you're just like me now!" Danny did revert back to the submissive actions of a young foal for a few days, making the mouth gestures and dropping his head to the older, larger horses. He also cried out to his mother right after the surgery. Mouse also had been standing at the fence trying to see what we were doing to her baby but Dan couldn't see her from his vantage point. He's acting more like his old self today but I still don't think he's half as cocky as he was before. I kind of miss that.

Melissa stayed with us until Danny was on his feet and she knew that he was Okay. She left us with orders for his after care which include lunging and cold water baths twice a day. Last night, he finally gave in for a fight free bathing of the affected area. I have to say that can't be pleasant but it is necessary to keep the swelling down. So far, he's had very little swelling and seems to be recovering quickly. The lunging is to keep the wound open and draining. Our first attempt didn't go very well because Dan didn't have much respect for the lunge whip and even less for me as a leader at the time. The best we did was a fast walk and I was getting more of a workout than he was. The next morning, I decided to put the other two horses in the round pen with him and that worked much better because it suddenly became a game for him to keep up with the other two boys who do respect the whip and me. By this morning, it was just Django and Danny (Riley just doesn't think a small ration of sweet feed is worth all of that effort.) but both are following my lead much better. Dan still has his little boy moments when he's suddenly distracted by a butterfly, the dog playing outside the pen or people in the distance walking down the road but I think he's doing quite well....even though I do admit to being biased and going strictly on the opinion of my heart with this one not my head.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

In Honor of Valentines Day ~ A Mother's Love

A mother's love is the first love we know and often the most enduring.
And ours, too:)
at dawn on his second day
Getting acquainted...
Mama, it itches...or discovering flies on his second day.
2nd day and finally a chance to nap.
Learning to fly...
Huston and Dan meet for the first time-2months old.
3 months old
3 and a half months old

Mimicking Mama.....newborn foals don't graze but they do mimic Mama.

If I'm not mistaken, around 4 months old.

My favorite shot of Steve and Danny

If Danny could see this, he might be nicer to
Sadie Dog. She was there and standing guard
from the beginning.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Huston with Mouse in 2009
Prayers for my dear friend, Huston Jenkins. As most of you know, he had a stroke the day after Thanksgiving. He's had one small stroke since but he seemed fully recovered except for exhaustion by the next morning when I called and talked to him. Over the last few weeks, I've noticed a very positive improvement in both his speech and his activity level. He seemed to be trying so hard to get better. I'd told him that I was bringing Dan out to Missouri to visit with him this Spring. He was determined that he not only would be able to ride Dan when he came but that he would be able to train him as he'd planned to do this past Fall. I wasn't so certain but I still didn't want to discourage him because this small idea seemed to have really increased his desire to recover. Over the last two weeks, he's been working with his horses or at  least visiting with them every day possible. Last Saturday, he received a black eye from an overly enthusiastic young horse that was happy to see him and knocked him down. I read about this incident on his son's Facebook page and I also read that he'd looked at some photos of my horses (all but the oldest and youngest use to be his and he claims at least half of youngest, Danny) that I'd posted for him to see. I called last night to check on his injuries and to talk to him about the photos but I called too late and he was getting ready for church. I was planning on calling him back today and it was when I started to call that I saw all of the missed messages from Missouri. Huston had another stroke late last night and the prognosis is not good. He's been having seizures and he's awake but unresponsive. I dearly love this man. He is the best horseman and best guy I've ever known. Please remember him in your prayers today. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I'm getting a lot more pressure to geld Danny now that he's too quickly approaching his second birthday and maturity. Personally, I agree with most of the arguments and I certainly don't want the life of a stallion for Danny. At the same time, I hate to disappoint Huston. We are planning on taking Danny to Missouri for a visit this Spring if all goes well and Huston continues to improve. I've gotten the impression from our last couple of phone conversations that he still plans to train Danny. I honestly don't think that will happen but the possibility seems to have given Huston new resolve to fight this stroke and get back in the saddle. So, I'm not going to tell him that this will just be a visit or that we plan to geld Danny. There will be time to discuss that later but I don't know whether or not to go ahead and geld Danny before the trip. It's a tough decision. 

Thinking about all of this and this photo made me think about the day that Danny was born. I know most of you have heard this story before but for those who haven't or just to refresh the memory, here it is again.

Our vet was out of town the morning that Danny was born. I was alone with Mouse when, with one shudder, her water broke and she went back to grazing as if nothing had changed. I'd been told that she would stop eating a few hours before the birth but I knew better, Mouse doesn't stop eating for anything,lol. She was still nibbling at grass a few minutes later when the first hoof emerged. But something was wrong, only one long leg came out and the other was folded out of view. Mouse stood up and walked around a bit and then laid back down for another try. I grabbed my towel, gloves and other supplies I'd brought in case of an emergency. Since I had no one to call, I tried to remember what our vet had told me and I dialed my house to wake my husband, who'd just gone back to bed after having the "first watch." I tried to pull the one leg but I was surprised by how slippery it was. Mouse didn't appear panicked or uncomfortable but I was. She continued to walk around and the baby continued to try to enter the world. My husband Steve finally reached the pasture...he'd had to run because both of our trucks were already there. It took about three attempts but he was finally able to free the leg and, with Mouse standing up, the baby hit the ground with a plop and then proceeded to roll down hill! We both managed to catch him before he hit the creek with Mouse following us. This was our first foal and we both expected him to jump right to his feet just like they do in the movies. We were drying him off and trying to get him up with no success. Finally I called the emergency number that my vet had left with me and I got the University Veterinary School and Hospital. I was told that I could get a doctor for consultation but that a short phone call would cost me $160. I looked at the time and saw that it was just 6:15 but I told the operator, "Thanks but I have a good friend that I think I'll wake up." I called my friend Brandy, who is an amazing trainer and riding instructor and has bred and raised champion Quarter horses for years. Brandy was happy to help me even at that early hour. She assured me that Danny not being on his feet fifteen minutes past his birth was normal especially for a large foal. She seemed to anticipated my questions before I asked them and calmed all of my fears and before she hung up the phone, she let me know that I could call her any time during the day then she asked, "Isn't this just the most wonderful, amazing experience?" To which I answered, "NO! It's traumatic, stressful and frightening." A few hours later, as I saw how Mouse looked at her newborn with so much love, adoration and pride, I realized that it was absolutely one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. It made me cry to see just how much Mouse loved that baby and she wasn't the only one who fell in love at first sight. Steve and I barely left his side for days. It's no wonder that he seems to think of us as just funny looking horses.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Blustery Day


Brandy looking darn good for 31!


Beautiful Mouse


Today has been miserable in the weather department, wind chills down to the single digits before the day was done, spitting snow all day long, gloom and what surely felt like a little doom blasting in from the West on what felt like gale force winds whether they actually were or not. Poor Steve worked out in the cold all day long on my arena...which is shaping up very nicely! I was complaining after twenty minutes of shooting photos in the horse pasture. I put on just my riding gloves because I thought that they would offer my hands enough protection but still allow me enough dexterity to handle the camera. The fact that after about fifteen minutes, I could no longer feel my fingers will account for some of the shakiness and odd composition (note the cut off heads in one) of these photos but I wanted to share them anyway. Note that Riley and Danny are just playing in the ones that look a lot like the Thrilla in Manila. Also note how big my nineteen month old Danny is; he's not a baby any more.

By the Skin of My Teeth....

I knew that it wasn't going to be my finest hour as soon as I arrived at horse pasture and saw that all but one of the feed pans was missing. Steve would later swear that they were all three lined up and ready to be filled when he'd passed on the tractor not ten minutes before but, as I stood there watching the sun quickly dropping below the tree line to the West, I only saw one lone bowl and it had been discarded about ten feet away from the fence. The horses, on the other hand, were all present and accounted for  lined up in their usual positions along the fence impatiently waiting to eat. It didn't help even a little bit to try and explain that without bowls there would be no dinner. So, I toss the one bowl across the fence far enough away so that it couldn't be carried off while I searched for the other two.

The first place I looked was the water trough because just last week, in what had seemed like an attempt to mimic me washing mud out of one of the bowls, Danny had deposited one of them at the bottom of the trough. It wasn't there this time. Ever the follower, Django walked the field with me as I searched. Riley soon joined us and it did seem that they were looking from side to side just like me. Danny, who was most likely the guilty party, opted to stay behind with his neck stretched as far through the fence as he could get it so that he could snatch a few blades of grass. I quickly spotted one bowl down the slope toward the creek. I walked it back to the fence and tossed it over and now there were two. I continued my search as the light waned but the remaining bowl still eluded me despite three trips around the field. Finally, just as I'd decided that Django and Danny would have to share a bowl (which they do most of the time anyway even though it's usually not Django's idea,) Steve arrived with another tank of water and he started to look, too. He looked the one place I hadn't thought of, in the large run-in, and there was the last bowl. So, that problem was solved and I fed the boys and headed up the hill to feed the girls. Steve followed me on the tractor with the water tank still in the bucket.

I feed Mouse inside the round pen so that I can feed Brandy a larger ration. If I didn't do this, Mouse would eat most of Brandy's food which hard to keep Brandy needs and easy keeper and always chubby (just like Mama Sande) Mouse does not. The round pen sits probably a hundred feet away from the fence. Usually both girls follow me, Mouse at my right elbow and Brandy usually lagging about ten feet behind her. But last night, my lengthy search for the missing food bowls had given Brandy enough time to get from the far side of the pasture to the gate. So, last night, I had a horse on either side of me, both right at my elbow and when Steve hit a bump and dropped the water tank out of the tractor bucket and onto the ground which made a surprisingly loud noise, both horses seemed to defy gravity for several seconds as they came up off of the ground and then started bucking, kicking and running all around me. I stood very quiet and still for what seemed like ages and then as Mouse, who had bolted forward, turned and came galloping back at me, I raised my hand and very soothingly (or as much as I could muster in my panicked state) said, "Whoaaaa!" Thankfully, she obeyed and although they were both still agitated, I managed to get Mouse safely inside the round pen and fed. Then I turned to Steve and shouted, "You damned near killed ME!" Unfortunately, thanks to the tractor's roaring engine, my exclamation fell on deaf ears but it felt good to get it out all the same.