Frankenstorm Report

I am happy to report that all is well after Sandy blew through our area.  The only damage to our home or Ms. C’s farm is the phone line to our house is partially down in the backyard.  I am thankful.  My heart goes out to all those who faced the full effects of the Heartless Wench as I’ve dubbed Sandy.  There is coastal damage from Florida to Rhode Island and everywhere in between.

The horses had very limited turn out yesterday morning before the rain and wind picked up and had them begging for the safety and dryness of the barn.  I can tell you – they knew the storm was coming.  Ms. C and Mr. D said that they were keyed up as they were led to their paddocks and most confined their antics to their own paddock….and then there was Ike’s brother Cigar.  Cigar is one of those Thoroughbreds, you know the ones I mean, the screw is loose and sometimes falls out and rattles around the brain.  Cigar jigged on the way to his paddock, reared up, and pulled away from Ms. C as if he was breaking from a starting gate.  He managed to get into a brawl with Ms. C’s mare who was being led to her paddock.  They fought like banshees.  Ms. C and Mr. D finally got them separated and Cigar herded back to his paddock.  By this time, he was fired up and passaged over to one of the ponies and kicked at the fence.  Somehow, during the melee, he managed to tear up the front of his left hind leg…great.  Frankenstorm is on her way and I’m headed to the barn praying that I don’t have to call the vet for the fool.

By the time I arrived at the barn, the horses were safely tucked in their stalls.  They were all happy to see me, “the treat lady is here!”  I quickly handed out treats (the bucket bangers would have been inconsolable had they not been given a snack…yes, I’m well-trained).  I put Cigar’s halter on and did my best to get a close look at the leg.  Yes, it was bloody looking, but thankfully, Ms. C and Mr. D had already cold-hosed the leg, sprayed it with a topical medicated spray, and given Cigar some bute.  Unfortunately for me, Cigar knew my motive for being in his stall, so he was less than cooperative.  Every time I got too close to the leg, he would cock it as if to say, “go ahead, I dare you to touch it.”  Hmm,  I did managed to snap a grainy photo with my phone (forgot the camera in my rush). It was right in the stifle area in the fleshy front part of the leg.  Hmm, what to do.  I sprayed the wound with additional medicated spray while chasing Cigar’s hind end around the stall while holding onto the lead rope…a modified ring around horsey mom, if you will.  I keep Wonder Dust on hand in the first aid kit, so I decided to apply it as well to help stop the bleeding and dry up the wound.  Interesting process dumping the dust into the palm of my right hand while holding the bottle and the lead rope in my left hand.  I then attempted to aim at the wound and just as I would throw the dust towards the leg, Cigar would move.  By the time I got the dust on the wound, his entire leg was a chalky, blue color.  Pretty.

Went back today and was pleased with how the leg looked.  The swelling was minimal. Cigar was placing his weight on the leg and continued to be uncooperative as I redressed the wound.  Ah, he was his normal self.  Good sign.  Since the swelling was slight, it leads me to believe that he got his leg hung on the fence as he was kicking, and left the hide on a fence board.  I’ll take that over a kick any day.  Thank goodness we averted the emergency vet visit this time.

As you can see from Ike’s photo, the horses were able to escape the confines of the barn for a few hours today, and Ike fully enjoyed the muddy slop.  He learned that trick from Cigar.  They were both contentedly eating hay in the drizzle when I left the barn.

I’m headed to the office tomorrow, but it will be good for Ike to have a full day of turnout after being cooped up for most of the past two days.  If life cooperates, I’ll be back in the saddle on Thursday.

Happy Halloween!


The Horse World Shrinks to the Size of My Laptop

The internet is a double-edged sword.  It is a way to waste hours and have nothing to show for your time, but it is also an amazing place where I have helped network animals needing homes, learned of the amazing work animal rescues do on a daily basis, and interacted with some cool horse-minded people who I would never have met otherwise.  Case in point, I’m cruising Facebook one night recently and come across a group called Dressage for Adult Amateurs.  There are only 504 members currently.  When you join, they ask you to share something about yourself, so I mention that I’m bringing along a Dutch Harness Horse in dressage and post a photo of Ike…and this is where the world shrinks to about 2 degrees of separation or whatever the proper number is.  A fellow adult amateur posts that she knows my horse, has ridden other horses belonging to his breeder, that he sold before she could ride him and that he is a snuggler and very sweet.  Say what?!  Amazing.  There are millions and millions of people on Facebook, and I find someone who has met Ike.

And speaking of the big man, he and I have a date on Sunday and our ride times arrived yesterday evening.  We ride at 4:08 and 4:50 p.m.  We are the final horse down centerline on Sunday.  Is that a good or a bad thing?  We have been the first down centerline this year, first in our class order, but never the last rider of the day.  Saving the best for last?  Ha!  Our competition includes a horse that earned a 77% for Training Level Test 2 in the class that Ike received a 66%.  We have our work cut out for us.

Luckily Ike is getting back to his fighting form.  For the past two days, we practiced our trot loops, trot circles, centerline halts, turns onto and off of centerline, canter transitions, and the dreaded canter turn onto long diagonal and trot at X.  The stiffness is waning, but if it is still noticeable next week, I will have the vet come out to see if chiropractic adjustment or acupuncture can help speed the healing process.  Since Ike is doing his part for the team, I suppose I will do my part and memorize Test 3.  This will be our first time out for Test 3 – turn left off centerline, trot loop (it is a loop, not a triangle, a smooth curve, not an abrupt change of direction), canter after….half halt constantly on the short end to prevent knocking the arena over, SCREECH- turn onto the long diagonal, then the dreaded trot transition at X…..or in the general vicinity if we are lucky.  Sunday is going to be an interesting day!

Grateful Does Not Even Begin to Describe How I Feel Today

This past week and a half have been a rollercoaster ride of emotions.  Emotions were already raw from saying goodbye to my beloved hound dog when Ms. C informed me that my Big Man was struggling after receiving his annual vaccines.  I can’t tell you how tempting it was to pack up my suitcase, hop on the ferry, and blindly drive home through the tears while wiping my nose on my sleeve.  My husband was the voice of reason and gave me a big, reassuring hug, “Ike will be OK.”  Sigh.  All I could do was wait for Ms. C’s Tuesday morning update and then know whether Ike would be staying put or heading up the road to the vet hospital.  Needless to say, Monday night was rather sleepless.

The email I’d been waiting for arrived mid-morning (email and text messages were more reliable than phone service on Ocracoke Island, NC).  Ike was better!  Ms. C and Mr. D felt that there was enough improvement with the administration of the Bute that Ike did not need to head to the clinic for further evaluation.  Ah, I could now breathe.  We were not out of the woods, but our vet felt that if the Bute helped, that there was no need for evaluation for EPM or other neurological problems…Bute wouldn’t help those issues.  I did my own research online, but could not find anything conclusive on vaccines and the symptoms Ike demonstrated.  The scientist in me will keep digging for an answer.  In the mean time, I was just tickled that Ike was improving.

Ms. C kept me updated with daily emails and phone calls when I had cellphone reception.  By Thursday, Ike was banging on his bucket for breakfast and marching with great purpose to his paddock in the morning.  She tried lunging him with limited success.  For one, I’ve neglected that part of Ike’s education…he is such a mellow fellow that he never needed lunging before I hop on for my ride.  And then, he was obviously still hurting a bit because he pinned his ears and would stop.  Ear pinning is not a normal part of his repertoire, so we knew he was still not 100%.  He was allowed the time off to heal.  He did manage a good romp around his paddock one day which again was a positive sign of progress.

I was home for barely an hour today before I high-tailed it to the barn.  There was no way I was waiting any longer to see Ike.  There he was, peeking through his window.  Silly boy, inside on such a pretty day?  I didn’t care.  I must admit that I think he was a bit miffed at me for not being with him.  I received some ear pinning and a “gentle” bite on my hand as punishment for leaving for the week.  It was interesting to note that the horse’s coats have darkened considerably in the week I was gone…winter coats are growing in quickly with our cooler nights and shorter days.  Sorry, the mind wandered for a moment.  Ike was clean so it took no time to get him tacked.  My friend M and Mr. D came out to watch me ride since they’d seen Ike at his worst and would be good at judging his progress.  They were both pleased with what they saw.  I rode walk, trot, and canter in both directions.  The only time Ike pinned his ears was when I pushed for a more forward trot.  I was okay with that.  M saw some awkward steps on my centerline turns.  I’m okay with that as well.  My big, beautiful boy is on the mend.

In closing, I must share that I am eternally grateful for my friends Ms. C and Mr. D and the care and concern they have for my boys.  My boys are part of their extended family and are treated as such.  It makes it possible for me to go away from time to time and know that I need not worry.  (that doesn’t mean that I won’t worry, but I don’t have to worry.)  Now the question is, how do I properly thank them for their care.  “Thank you” is not enough.  That will be what I ponder as I head to bed tonight.


It has been another rough couple of days so my opportunities to post have been limited.  My mind is too distracted to type a cohesive thought.  We said goodbye to our dearest 15-year-old hound dog, then the brand new washer leaked water all over the laundry room floor and ruined the flooring and quarter round molding, our home printer/fax leaked black ink all over the table and had to be replaced, and now my dearest Ike is having difficulties from complications from his fall vaccines.

The trouble started after his annual shots.  Honestly did not think anything would happen.  He had no issues or reactions from the shots last year, so I suppose I was lulled into a false sense of complacency.  Ike got three shots this year:  Rabies, Four Way, and West Nile.  I have Potomac Fever in my refrigerator to give him in a couple of weeks.  The day after the shots, my poor boy was hardly able to bend down to graze or eat hay.  We gave him some Bute and he seemed better…

Then Monday dawned and something was definitely not right.  Ike was showing some neurological symptoms in his hind end.  He was broken even at the walk.  My heart skipped a beat and my stomach churned.  To add the cherry to the pile of poo, I am a couple of hundred miles away and not with my boy.  It is killing me, but I know that he is in the best of care with Ms. C and Mr. D.  The vet came back and it was decided to give him more Bute and watch him for 24 hours.  If there was no improvement, he would go to one of the vet hospitals.  Say what?  How is this possible?!  It is a nightmare and I can’t seem to wake up.  Ms. C said to be brave.  I clutched my stomach and clicked my heels together hoping that I’d wake up and all would be well.

I nervously checked my phone this morning and waited…………..and once I got the email, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and pressed “read.”  Improvement!  Thank goodness.  He still isn’t 100%, but the Bute helped and there was enough positive change that he did not need to go to the clinic.  Through all of this he has eaten his normal grain ration.  He is drinking his water.  His behavior was more normal today, but his movement still screams, “I hurt.”

I hate that my big man is unhappy.  All fingers and toes are crossed that he will be back to his old self again soon.


If you have been around horses and horse shows for any amount of time, you know that barns and shows could not make it without people stepping up and volunteering.  Owners volunteer when barns are short-staffed or when there is a horse emergency – a show of hands of people who have walked friends’ horses who were colicking or waited with a friend for the vet to arrive.  Dressage shows would not be possible if it weren’t for the small army of volunteers who tirelessly plan the shows, set up the equipment, schedule the rides, control the chaos of warm up, run the calculators for scores, clean up and tear down the show grounds once all the riders and horses go home, and the countless other tasks that I didn’t mention.

I tried my hand as volunteer coordinator for my local chapter for 4 years.  I was brand new in the dressage world and naively said, “sure, I will be the coordinator.”  Craziness.  Much like herding cats.  I have had the chance to try every volunteer job myself at one point or another.   Don’t like scoring since you are usually tucked away in a small room with no view.  I’ve  stood in the cold rain on top of a hill in Lexington, Virginia waiting for riders who never showed up – drove home barefoot to warm my ice cold feet with the car heater.  I’ve stuffed competitor gift bags for days and stacked prizes in my guest room.  At one championship show, I had the opportunity to tell a well-known rider/breeder to leave the warmup ring since she was not competing that day – Ha Ha!  Power to the little people!  I spent yesterday afternoon setting up the ring for the schooling show today (how glad am I that the old chain rings are no longer used at the recognized shows).  We do these thing for the love of the sport and for the love of horses.

No riding today – spent the day with my husband and my parents having a belated Father’s Day celebration.  Ike and I did manage a short ride yesterday morning before the humidity got the best of us.  You know it is humid when you turn your helmet over to put it on your head and leftover sweat/condensation drips out.  Yuck!  He was full of himself and most of the ride was spent half halting and half halting and half halting and well, you get the picture.  Ike hit all his trot to canter transitions; he just didn’t want to down transition.  It is days like this that a wide open, well groomed trail would be nice to blow off some of that young horse steam so I might actually have a chance at my aids getting attention.  We ride again tomorrow.

p.s. I want a Dressage is #1 foam finger!!

Chipmunk Cheeks

No riding today – Ike deserved a day off.  I only groomed and dispensed treats.  Should have done some beauty school, but just didn’t feel like tackling the hard stuff today. I think it is nice just to visit with the boys so they don’t just associate me with work; although I think Cigar has figured out that his life no longer includes work of any kind.

As you can see from the photo, Ike is not the one with chipmunk cheeks.  Poor Cigar was the one whose cheeks were lumpy and bumpy – he declined a photo since he was looking his best.  The horses had just been fed their afternoon grain and heads were down munching on hay when I arrived.  I was putting some anti-itch spray on Cigar’s tail because he has rubbed a bald spot over the past few days.  Not sure if it is from his constant rolling to fight the flies or if he is itchy.  While I was checking the back end, Ms. C noticed that Cigar had an odd lump on his right cheek.  When I palpated both sides, the right was more swollen than the left.  Very odd.  He was his normal self with bright eyes and happy nickers, so he did not seem to be in any distress.  Gave him some bute and some antihistamines.  A show of hands by everyone who has sat on the tack room floor pulling apart antihistamine capsules and dumping them into a cup of oats…Will check tomorrow and if it is any worse, I will place the call to the vet.  Hoping that he was just stung by something and it is a temporary reaction.  Reminds me of the time when I was stung on the forehead and awoke the next day looking like a Star Trek character (a Borg perhaps?) with a swollen forehead and eyes.

You could tell that it was a hot day today.  You could see the dried salt on the horses from the sweat.  Hoping that the weather is much less steamy next weekend when the black wool jacket makes its next appearance.  Excited to read that ride times will be posted tomorrow.  Fingers crossed that they are close together and in the morning like the first show, although I really don’t want to be the first one down centerline like we have been at the two shows we have attended this year.

Hoping the weather cooperates and I can catch a ride tomorrow.

Open up and Say Aaaah

It was dental and shot day for the boys.  Cigar needed the full set of spring shots and his teeth checked.  Ike needed his flu shot, a coggins (in case we actually get on the trailer and leave the farm), and his teeth checked.  And since they get sedated for their teeth and I believe in better living through drug chemistry if necessary, they also had their sheaths cleaned since neither is cooperative in that department while fully conscious.

I will never forget the first time I saw a horse have their teeth floated.  The Medieval-looking mouth clamp, the “wood rasps,”  the blood.  It was an eye-opening event, but a necessary evil because of the domestic lifestyle of today’s horses.  Ike still has a few baby teeth.  It is odd to look in his mouth and see those teeny tiny teeth when the rest of him is so large.  I’m hoping to find one before all the baby teeth are gone – a little sick and twisted, but I’m sure I’m not the only horse owner that wants one or already has one sitting in a box somewhere.

Was not able to get to the barn early enough to ride…but since we seem to be doing fine under saddle, the time was spent doing what?  Take three guesses and the first two don’t count.  That’s right, trailer practice!  Ike was cooperative and walked on and off the trailer three times and stayed on the trailer for a full 5 minutes fully relaxed the last time.  He also spent that time eating the grain strewed on the floor of the trailer.  Hey, if it helps him get over his fear, I say let him eat off the floor.

No ride times yet for Sunday.  Trying not to get too excited or think too much about it  – one step up the ramp at a time, one step.  In the mean time, Ike is going to bed.  It was a big day for the big man.