Monday, September 1, 2014

Collecting Wet Saddle Blankets

Since she clearly had no interest in being a mother, I had DC shod when Cthulhu was three weeks old. She had long since dried, and I had already ridden her a couple of times. I just couldn't put many miles on her or go very fast, as she let me know her feet were tender.

Of course, raising her foal myself with the help of Hoss takes up a lot of my time, and means I can't leave for extended periods in order to ride her. So I've really only been able to get a few decent conditioning rides on her in the last several weeks.

Once a horse is green broke and knows the basics, the next step is just to ride them and let them gain experience. It's often referred to as "collecting wet saddle blankets." If a horse is having problems with some aspects of riding, like crossing water or negotiating obstacles, the advice is often just to ride the horse, and ride it enough to sweat up a saddle blanket. This is what we're doing.

The day after DC got her shoes it wasn't too hot to ride, but it was too hot for dogs (specifically, Sam, the brindle, whose haircoat is very thin). So I loaded DC in the trailer and took her to Hollenbeck Canyon. It was a reasonably pleasant day to ride, and Hollenbeck Canyon is close enough to home I can get out there, ride, and get home before it's time to feed Cthulhu again.

Setting out from the house for our first ride after shoes
 This being the longest ride DC would do since having Cthulhu, we mostly went slow. We did the 6 mile loop, and started to the West. Usually I go East. I wanted to hit the flatter area early, while she still had energy. We had a pleasant ride, about half walking. We trotted a bunch on the front part, then had a nice little canter for a while before we walked most of the rest of the way back to the trailer.

After our ride at Hollenbeck
Since then, we've ridden twice at home, doing short, fast rides. Run up the hill, trot on the flats, run the last little flat, walk home. That's about three miles total. We also went out with Beth on a client's horse, Tecate, on the Alpine trails. We didn't go out for long, but it was experience. DC had a lot to say about the idea of riding on the road (in the middle, dammitall), what part of a trail she'll walk on (if there's a berm, by god she's walking on the berm!), going around logs (she wants to go over, damn it, and she doesn't care how stupid it is), and backing up on trail. We ended up in a dead end, and she was flummoxed as to how to turn around on a narrow trail with brush on all sides. So we ended up backing up until it was wide enough to turn around.

We went out to the steel bridge with Wendy on Hoss and had a nice hour and a half ride with the dogs. We needed to wear the dogs down for company later in the day, and had limited time to do it. Unfortunately, I lost my handheld GPS that day. I laid it on DC's saddle while I handed Wendy the keys to the truck. I didn't have pockets, and I wanted the keys where they couldn't be made off with by a silly mare. When I went back to DC, I forgot I'd set the GPS on her, and led her over the bridge to mount up on the other side. It wasn't until we'd gotten to where we were turning around that I realized it wasn't where I thought it was. By the time we got back, someone had swiped it from wherever it had fallen.

Coming on down to load up.
Our latest ride was again with Wendy on Hoss. First we went to see Beth so Wendy could have a lesson. While Wendy certainly isn't a dismal rider, she needed some help. She learned a lot, and Hoss showed how grateful he was for the improvement by giving her a very excellent ride in Cuyamaca. We walked the whole 8 miles, as DC still needs to build up her muscles. Both horses had a good time. DC led the first half, and Hoss took over when we were turning back toward the trailer and DC was starting to tire a bit.

Monday, August 18, 2014

And Baby Makes Three

As mentioned before, I decided last year to breed DC. Knowing I would be facing hip replacement surgery, it seemed the ideal time for her to have a baby.

On July 14, Cthulhu arrived.

Now, there's a bit more to the story than just yay he's here!

I had moved DC to the pasture Hoss usually occupies, and rather than moving him out, since they both seemed to want to be together I made them a deal: if they could behave themselves, they could stay together. The pen was ready for the arrival of the foal, with four foot high boards attached to the interior. They really only needed to be two feet high, but my husband didn't want to cut the boards and it wasn't a big deal how high the boards were. Besides, we'd end up with extra wood for other projects.

I checked DC over carefully on July 13. She was waxing up just a little bit. Her bags were still underdeveloped, and she hadn't softened. I checked her again right before going to bed. Still, she didn't look like she was going to be having a baby anytime in the next day. I went to bed, confident things were fine.

In the morning I arose late, inordinately tired at, 7am. Got the coffee going, gave the little dog his pills, took mine, let the ferret out, and stepped out to take care of the chickens and ducks. The duck hen had recently settled on a clutch of 16 eggs, so I walked over to check on her.

The duck pen is located right next to the pasture. I could see DC calmly eating close to the house. Hoss was off somewhere out of sight.

After I finished the birds, I went back inside and out the front door to tend to the horses. The dogs started up barking, and Mac in particular was making a lot of noise. It was the "intruder alert" bark they use to alert me to such things as hawks, owls, and coyotes. And they were persistent, and frantic. I dropped the wheelbarrow to check things out.

The dogs came running up to me as I entered the pasture, excited as all get out. DC looked at me calmly and went back to eating last night's leftovers.

There, at the far end of the outside of the corral, was a rather confused, freaked out foal.
The first picture of Cthulhu

I was as startled as I possibly could be. Hoss came over to me. I'm not sure what he was trying to communicate to me.

It didn't take me long to deduce DC hadn't been doing a fantastic job at motherhood. I knew we had a bit of a job ahead of us. I collected her halter and moved her into the corral, figuring it was easier to get her in first and tie her off to the fence while I went to get the foal.

While I was haltering DC, Sam went around the corral and back into the pasture, coming in behind the foal. He started harassing the poor little thing, and wasn't responding to my remonstrations. Hoss glanced at me, and I got the message: Do you want me to take care of that? I gestured to Hoss and he took off to chase the dogs off the foal.

DC compliantly went into the corral and I left her there to retrieve the youngster. By this time Hoss had deterred the dogs and the foal was standing near the water tank. At this point I finally thought to snap a picture of him.

I approached him and got my arms around his chest and butt. He was still freaked out from the dogs but really took being handled quite well, far better than one would expect for a foal's first handling, especially under the circumstances. It took a little doing, but I got him walked into the corral.

Now for the hard part: getting DC to accept the foal. In most cases of rejection, the mare is afraid of the foal. Having never seen another mare with a foal, she doesn't understand what's going on and once she's past the instinctual cleaning effort and the foal gets up, she freaks. In DC's case, it wasn't fear. It was downright hatred. Fear I can work with. Hatred is a bit tougher.

That tail says it all.
I untied DC and left the lead rope over her back so I could quickly gain control of her if necessary and started making phone calls. The first was to a close neighbor and friend who is a horsey person, hoping she might be able to help restrain DC for the foal to nurse. The second was to trainer and owner of the foal's sire, Beth. It would take Beth some time to get there. My neighbor and her niece arrived in rather short order.

While waiting for help to arrive, I put out the horses' breakfasts, then went into the house to put on proper shoes and get my very low-tech milking device.

Some years ago, I toyed with getting into dairy goats. It quickly became obvious manual milking was going to be extremely difficult for me. I looked online, and found the Henry Milker. It's a simple device which creates suction and delivers the milk into a mason jar. Best of all, it works on pretty much any land mammal.

Once my neighbor and her niece arrived, we tried to restrain DC and get the foal near to her. It became clear quickly she had driven him off enough to make him beyond wary of his own mother. The least warning from her resulted in the foal retreating. We decided to get some milk replacer. The little guy was extremely hungry, and we weren't getting any cooperation from DC without the assistance of plenty of drugs.

My neighbor's niece sitting with Cthulhu

All this time, Hoss was standing outside the corral looking on. Every time DC reacted negatively toward her foal, Hoss would give her the stink eye.

Beth arrived and we continued to work on getting DC acclimated. By this time I'd managed to milk her a bit and we put that in the bottle for the foal. He took the bottle readily and had a very good suck reflex. He laid down and got up several times and seemed quite strong.

I called the vet when the office opened, and the vet arrived a few hours later. She checked out the foal and checked out DC. I had rescued the placenta from the dogs, but they'd already done some damage by the time it occurred to me to collect it. There was enough to be reasonably sure DC had cleaned just fine, and the ensuing days showed that to be the case.

Figuring out life
Then we got to the difficult part. The vet sedated DC and the three of us got to work trying to get the foal nursing. We had a couple of problems. One was the sheer size of the foal in relation to DC. He was so tall at birth he couldn't walk under his mom, had she been inclined to allow him close enough to try. Another, by this time she had been nasty enough to him he was extremely reluctant to approach her. Her dislike of him was so extreme, and her actions in driving him off so strong, the least movement, swish of the tail or squeal resulted in him backing way off.

DC was pretty heavily sedated. We held up a front foot and guided the foal to try to nurse. One person would stand on DC's opposite side and entice the foal to reach under using the bottle he had by this time started using. All the while, DC was aggressively swishing her tail (we would hold onto it), and she bit more times in half an hour than she had in the entirety of her prior life. I think she got all of us at least once. She broke the skin on the back of my hand. I was ready to get a corral panel and create a squeeze, tying her individual limbs to the panels.

All this time Hoss looked on. He wanted in the corral. He wasn't hysterical or anything. His behavior was calm. So long as humans were with the baby, he seemed perfectly content to look on.

Hoss comforting 2-day-old Cthulhu
Eventually, the vet needed to move on, and we were decidedly unsuccessful in getting DC to nurse her foal. Beth and I had been looking over the vet's head while she gave us optimistic talk and shaking our heads. There was no way this cowbird of a mare was going to take care of this foal.

Beth had to get on with her day, so I was left on my own with DC, the foal, and Hoss. I desperately needed to go inside and have some breakfast and maybe pee. My intuition told me not to leave DC and her foal alone. I let Hoss into the corral.

No sooner did I turn my back after latching the corral gate than DC turned, ears pinned, teeth bared, and charged the foal. I hollered, but it was Hoss who's intervention saved the day. He barged into her, bit her, and turned her off the foal. I thanked him profusely, and ran DC out of the corral, leaving the foal with Hoss.
Hoss and Cthulhu after an exercise session

In the month since Cthulhu's birth, he's been thriving, although he's thin compared to foals of the same age on their dams. He got a little cold which both adult horses had and was mild for the older ones, but for him was hard. He still has a little cough. When the vet (different than had already seen him for his first visits) saw him, he complimented me on Cthulhu's condition, saying he's never seen an orphan foal look that good.

Raising an orphan foal is a labor intensive task. During the first 10 days, he had to be fed every two hours, day and night. It felt as if as soon as he was fed and everything was cleaned up it was time to get another bottle ready.

Close up of a little nose 
In the first days, I would feed Cthulhu then milk DC. During the first two days, I left DC in the pasture and Hoss and Cthulhu in the corral. I'd have to let Hoss out from time to time, as he would get frustrated and anxious if left in the corral too long. DC went completely dry by day 3. At that point, I moved her back into her separate pasture.

The only formula I could get in town was this multi-species stuff. The list of animals it was intended for was nearly endless. I was surprised it didn't include giraffe and rhinoceros. It was clearly not ideal. I was able to order Foal Lac online. It took forever to arrive, but it did. He's now going through it at about 2 gallons per day.

Who could resist that face? Other than DC, but she doesn't count

After a while, I constructed a bottle rack so Cthulhu could eat at will. It worked pretty well for some time, until he started chewing on the nipple and spilling more than he ate. Then he started pulling the nipple off the bottle, a true waste. I went back to holding bottles for him, at this point every 3 hours but not needing a feeding overnight (hallelujah!).

Just before he turned 4 weeks old, I saw Cthulhu drinking water. I devised a method by which I place a small bucket in a larger one with ice packs, put milk in the smaller bucket, and hang it in the corral. Cthulhu was terribly unhappy with this initially. He missed the suck satisfaction of the bottle, not to mention being able to chew on the nipple and sooth his teething gums. After a few days of trying to suckle on anything he could get his mouth on, he settled on chewing the wood panels in the corral, copying Uncle Hoss's termite behavior.

Hoss as neurotic body guard

Once he got used to the bucket, I was able to spend significantly less time with Cthulhu. This means he has less social interaction with people, and has to get his social needs filled more often by Hoss. It's harder than it sounds. As incredible as Hoss as been, he's a boy. He feels a strong need to defend and protect his herd. He has a tendency to keep Cthulhu in the corral while he "patrols" the rest of the pasture. Hoss checks on Cthulhu frequently and grooms him, but Cthulhu doesn't follow him around like he would his mother, and Hoss doesn't follow him as his mother would. At least Cthulhu has Hoss to care about him.

All of this happened when a bunch of other, unrelated chaos started. This chaos involved the moving of horses. The moving of horses meant I was driving. Hauling horses on minimal sleep is not OK. Enter Beth and my son and my "volunteer" daughter. They took the night shifts before those days I would be driving long distances with precious cargo so I could at least not get up, even if I didn't sleep great.

"Hey, mom, what's up?"
One of the drawbacks of having Hoss as his caretaker is Hoss's distinct lack of enthusiasm for free exercise. This means I have to go out and have games of Chase the Baby. Cthulhu understands the lunge whip, but he seems to have absorbed Hoss's lack of enthusiasm for running about. Add to that being born a little early and an orphan, and I think I'm getting more exercise than he is. Hoss gets pretty funny in these sessions. He'll run ahead until he thinks Cthulhu has had enough, at which point he'll drop behind and try to keep me from pushing the baby anymore.

Post-exercise relaxing
I do have to watch Hoss very carefully, especially if other people are around. He's okay with me spending time with the baby, for the most part. When strangers are here, it's not quite the same. The other night I had to carry a whip with me so he wouldn't keep sidling up to the very non-horse-savvy couple who was visiting. The only time Hoss gets upset about my interaction with Cthulhu is if I take him out of the pasture. He got really nuts when I started halter breaking Cthulhu. Anything that upsets the baby, makes Hoss a nutjob. I had to close the corral gate so I could work with Cthulhu without having to keep one eye on a very unhappy Hoss.

Cthulhu is starting to eat just a little bit of solid food. Not much yet. Hopefully he will start being more adventurous soon. I need to find a feed I can mix with some of his formula to entice him more. Something that won't make Hoss sick in the unlikely event he gets into it too. With Hoss's allergies, my policy is to not have any food on the property any given horse can't have. He's allergic to oats and rice bran, which are in a great many processed horse feeds. In my experience, neither of these foods is nutritionally necessary for horses.

My husband helped me set up a little "creeping" area for Cthulhu. Hoss is really good at respecting a fence. At Descanso, we had set up a pen for him with three t-posts, the side of the trailer, and some ratchet straps. For the creeping area, we put in a t-post and attached ratchet straps to it and the corral panels just high enough for Cthulhu to walk under, but not Hoss. This has worked very well. We also set up a shade shelter so the milk stays more or less in the shade. Hoss is fantastic about not challenging the "fence," enough that I think he just might be convinced to leave the baby's food alone, although not easily. I started putting Hoss's food in the corral as well, so he's eating at least near Cthulhu.

Cthulhu has already been in the trailer. My husband put a board from the corral in the trailer, creating a solid panel which Cthulhu can't get under. It was a nerve-wracking first ride. When we arrived at our destination, Cthulhu was standing in the corner of the trailer and looked out when I opened the gate as if getting in a large, loud box, having the door closed, a whole lot of weird moving going on, and upon the door opening again finding oneself in an entirely new place was totally what he expected to happen.

Hoss checking on Cthulhu while he naps
This little horse was born about 100 years old. He's got no spook, he's friendly, he hasn't kicked or bitten. Despite their rough start, he's comfortable with the dogs, who now protect him as ferociously as Hoss. I am amazed every day by this little foal, although I certainly hope he shows more energy when he grows up!

I have my suspicions as to why Cthulhu was born early and DC didn't look remotely like she was ready. I don't think she was ready. She had developed rain rot a couple of weeks before she gave birth. Rain rot is one of those things which doesn't just happen. It develops when the horse's immune system is compromised, such as when exposed to a virus.

Another clue is, despite very regular milking, DC was completely dry at three days. Her bags never developed properly. She wasn't producing milk when I found her. The largest amount of milk we got out of her was after the vet gave her pitocin.

Remember Hoss getting sick after Descanso? The two were living separately at the time, but I fear I was not nearly so careful as I ought to have been. I was using the same wheelbarrow to feed both horses, the same scrub brush in water buckets, touching them both. My strong suspicion is, she got the cold, but she didn't show obvious symptoms. She was withdrawn the last couple of weeks before the birth, but it was easy to chalk it up to the end stages of pregnancy. She was so huge, the baby so big, it was easy to think of course she was withdrawn and slow. She felt like crap! Well, it was more than simple pregnancy. I suspect she gave birth early to a very fortunately strong foal who survived in spite of the stress his mother's body was undergoing.

Now, as the the name:

Cthulhu was chosen early in DC's pregnancy to keep a theme going. His father is Demon. His mother is Demonchild. Cthulhu seemed appropriate.

Cthulhu at one month

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

2015 Descanso Endurance Ride

With Mom in the hospital, on a ventilator, and the future uncertain, I somehow still managed to saddle up Hoss and head out on the trail. Perhaps because of what was happening with Mom, it wasn't until later I recognized the small voice in my head telling me something wasn't quite right.

Well, of course something wasn't right.


The voice couldn't quite penetrate to tell me it was my horse it was talking to me about.

My level of distraction caused me to forget my video camera, so there are no images from the ride. Not that it matters much. There's enough old video and pictures from this ride no new ones are particularly interesting.

Hoss hadn't eaten as well as usual, and he hadn't drank as much water as he normally does. I really didn't think much of it; he's not so consistent for this to cause me to panic, but I did note it. He was also off his stomach supplement, so it was easy to chalk it up to that and decide I would just have to manage him carefully through the ride.

The start went well. Hoss threw a bit of a fit, but settled in easily enough. We kept up a good, easy trot over most of the morning.

Hoss does get a little race brain, and when we were passed by a pair of riders he got hot. He wanted to catch those horses, and no amount of me telling him it was hopeless would convince him to give it up. It was tripping in a culvert at the canter that finally slowed him down.

As we rode along the first section of single track, we came upon a rider sans horse. It turned out someone had allowed their horse to run up on hers, and her horse had spooked, dumping her, and running on. We continued past her with assurances we would keep an eye out for the loose horse and relief she seemed to be okay.

We kept up a steady trot pace over much of the trail, neither slowing or speeding up appreciably. When we passed the photographer, we had caught up to another horse which stopped at the water trough just past the photographer. We stopped alongside them. Hoss dipped his nose in the water, but seemed more interested in keeping with the other horse. This should have been a clue. He didn't drink at all before moving down the trail.

The other horse was well ahead of us even before we crossed the highway and continued on our way. Hoss kept up his pace cheerfully enough, but I was watching him carefully now. He didn't seem quite right, but I thought I could manage him through the ride if I was careful.

At the top of the hill, before we turned toward Harvey Moore Trail, Hoss took a big drink at the tanks.This was a relief. If he continued to perk up, we would be able to finish.

Several horses arrived at the tanks shortly after we did, and once Hoss had finished drinking we moved on. He moved out slowly, as is typical if he knows there are horses behind him. Eventually they caught up, I let them pass, and we continued on our way.

The Harvey Moore Trail has a lot of rock and few areas where trotting is advisable. We were careful, trotting where we could and walking where we should. Hoss was willing enough to move out, though there were a few moments he didn't feel quite right. So long as he seemed reasonably cheerful, I wasn't worried.

We pulled in to the vet check at 8:30, a very respectable time for us. But it wasn't great. Hoss passed up food and water. He wanted to wander around. Nothing could capture his attention. He was interested in a bran mash with oats in it (which I shouldn't let him eat; he's allergic to oats), but not for long. The only thing he really wanted was carrots. It took him longer than usual to come down to criteria.

Once Hoss recovered, I let him eat what he would, pretty sure at this point we were going back to camp in a trailer.

I took Hoss to the vet, and as expected, it wasn't awesome. On the trot out, it was like taking my horse for a drag. As is typical at these local rides, it felt like a lot of hemming and hawing and trying to get me to do it on my own, which I really did. I said if they didn't like the way he was going, I trusted their judgement. We went back to camp in the trailer.

Under the circumstances, I loaded up as quickly as I could and got Hoss home so I could drive to La Jolla and see my mother. A craptacular end to the day.

A couple of days after the ride, Hoss started blowing snot. It was clear he had an upper respiratory infection. Due to Mom's hospitalization, he was effectively on the Get Better Or Die plan, but he did, indeed get better.

Friday, June 27, 2014


Lately it seems like my family has been subject to an awful lot of excitement. It should be pointed out that "exciting" isn't necessarily a positive word. After all, a car accident is pretty exciting. I've been thinking it would be nice to have a few spasms of boring.

I suppose it shouldn't have been much of a surprise when it started to feel like life was returning to some semblance of normal (new normal; we'll never have the same normal we had when Julian's vibrant light shone upon our lives) that something had to happen to disrupt us. On May 24th, my mother was attending her 55th college reunion in Oberlin, Ohio. While exiting a local restaurant, she missed a step and took a fall. In the end, she broke her left wrist and elbow. She will need surgery to repair the damage, but she has to wait until she's been off the blood thinners for 10 days and the swelling comes down.

Getting home turned out to be simple enough. The airline was very good about helping her out, and she was able to upgrade to first class. The problem comes with being unable to do very many things for herself in the splint. My sister Debbie, who lives with Mom, works as an in home care provider and is gone from Wednesday night until Sunday morning. This means Mom needs someone who can be with her. I am blessed and grateful to be in a position to provide this. The only hitch is, she has to stay at my home.

I can't really go to her house and take care of things there. I simply have too many things I need to do at home. Fortunately we've been able to make our home reasonably comfortable for her. I think she's actually rather fond of my husband's easy chair. The only other thing is, I need to have a second person here with us. The timing was perfect in that my husband came home right after Mom's fall and was here the first weeks we needed to take care of her. He is setting the bar a bit high. He's been cooking three meals a day. I'm afraid I won't be able to keep up with the expectations he's set.

Mom's surgery was ultimately scheduled for late on Thursday, June 12. What proceeded from there has been a wild ride.

My husband took Mom to the hospital for the surgery. I was tense and had a terrible feeling about the surgery, but it was important to Mom that I be able to continue with my plans to ride Descanso that weekend. I heard from my husband about 10pm. Mom was awake, alert, and doing fine. She would stay in the hospital at least overnight. He came home.

On Friday morning, Mom called and we spoke briefly. She felt she was best off staying in the hospital another night, as the cast on her arm was set nearly straight and she did not know how she was going to get around with it. She mentioned in passing having had trouble breathing in the night and receiving her first-ever breathing treatment. I figured it was simply a combination of age and anesthesia. We spoke again later, and she was definitely staying through Saturday.

Friday afternoon, Mom talked with my daughter. She wanted the charger for her Kindle, which was still in her car. So my daughter picked it up and headed up to the hospital to give it to her. When my daughter arrived, she was barred from seeing her grandmother. All the staff would say was that Mom was being moved to ICU. They would not tell my daughter anything.

At this point my husband and I had finished setting up camp and eaten dinner. Hoss was vetted and settled in for the night. My first instinct was to pack up and go on home, but truly, what could I possibly do? I made sure my sister knew what was going on (she holds power of attorney for Mom) and arranged for my daughter to pick up my husband in the morning while I went on the ride.

We really did not know at that point how serious things were. Mom was on a ventilator. She had experienced flash pulmonary edema and had a heart attack.

Hoss was not doing well, and we pulled at the first vet check. By this point I was far more aware, through text messages, what was going on, and I needed to get home anyway. Once we were back in camp, I threw everything in the truck and we left. I got Hoss settled at home, unhitched the truck, and drove to La Jolla.

I arrived at the hospital, frustrated, angry, and worried as all hell. I went back to see my mom. Fortunately, I happened to arrive when my mother was coming out of sedation due to pain, and I was able to communicate somewhat with her. I was able to see she was intact neurologically, a great relief. I wasn't able to get the doctor to give me any real sense of what the plan was. His answer to when she could be removed from the ventilator was "when she's ready." I didn't think of it at the time, but my question should have been, what exactly he's looking for to get her off. I did get that answer later, after I'd thought of it on the drive home and asked my husband to get the answer.

Saturday night my niece performed in the Youth Benefit Concert at church. We decided to go ahead and attend, as our mother would surely be furious if we failed to do so. And, again, there was really nothing to be done. It really didn't matter where we were while we worried.

Sunday was another tense day spent mostly hanging around the hospital. I did my level best not to threaten the staff, but I will admit it was hard. When someone told me they were "taking great care" of my mother, I responded with, of course they are, it's their job, I don't expect anything less, and why the hell is that supposed to be comforting? I am not good at this sort of thing.

Mom was on the ventilator through Sunday night. My husband had to drop my daughter at the airport early on Monday, so we was there before visitors were allowed back. He made sure the staff knew he was there, then repaired to the waiting room until visiting hours started. At precisely 8am, he headed back to see Mom, only to discover they were removing her from the ventilator. Obviously, this was excellent news, but boy, were we all ticked off! My sister had requested she be contacted at least an hour ahead of any action taken with Mom. They never even bothered to call her, or any of us, or even getting my husband, before starting the procedure.

Mom said later the first thing she saw was my husband's yellow shirt outside her room. She was confused, had no idea what was going on, and indeed still has no memory after she was anesthetized for the surgery Thursday night through being taken off the ventilator Monday morning.

Mom spent another five days in the hospital. I was having a pretty serious bout of asthma/bronchitis and was as a result unable to spend much time. Pity, too, as I probably would have gotten her out of there sooner. I only learned on Friday night (a week after she had the surgery) that they were only keeping her because they were messing with her blood pressure meds. Well, her blood pressure wasn't any worse than it was before she broke her arm, and she has a doctor of her own. Had I known earlier, I would have pressed to take her home sooner and get her to her own doctor. In the end, I went in on Saturday morning, and made it abundantly clear she would not only be going home that day, she would be doing so in time to make it to her hair appointment (I understand my mother's priorities).

Mom did go home on Saturday, June 21, and indeed we left in time to make it to her hair dresser for a wash and blowout. Then we dropped her prescriptions at the pharmacy and I took her home.

Monday, June 23, was my mother's birthday. My sisters and I and our families gathered at her home for dinner and sang a very heartfelt, very grateful, Happy Birthday to the matriarch of our family.

2014 Vail Lake LD

This was our first "real" ride since my hip replacement. Daniela wasn't quite ready to go straight to a 50, and I'm not a big fan of the 3 vet check 50 anyway, so we decided to do the 25 mile ride.

I took Eclipse home with me on Wednesday morning after Daniela and I had ridden, to make it easier for me to haul him to the ride on Friday. Eclipse and Hoss had a great time together for the following two days, refusing to allow one another to wear a fly mask and dashing about. I came home from choir on Wednesday night to find them laying in the pasture, back to back. Unfortunately it was too dark to get a picture.

On Thursday I saw a request on the local endurance riders' Facebook page looking for a ride for a horse and rider to Vail Lake. The pair were along my route, so I volunteered to pick them up. Thus I met Becky and Dusty.

Friday morning I got the boys loaded up and hit the road. We picked up Becky and Dusty in Escondido, and made ride camp by about noon. Camp set up didn't take long and we took the horses over to vet in.

The boys settled in at camp
I didn't want to leave Hoss or Eclipse alone at the trailer while the other went to be vetted, so I just grabbed both horses' vet cards and took them. When we arrived at the vets, Hoss immediately spotted Fred Beasom. Fred has a habit of offering every horse a bite of carrot, and Hoss remembers this. Hoss practically ran the man over!

Fred was available, and so was Alina, who we met at several Duck rides last year, so Fred vetted Hoss while Alina did the same for Eclipse. I trotted them out together, which worked just fine until Fred yelled, "OK!" Hoss promptly stopped, recognizing this as the cue he was done. Eclipse, on the other hand, cheerfully continued trotting until I had two horses at the extreme ends of my reach.

Daniela arrived in time for the ride meeting, and we all did our best to listen attentively. I had learned that morning that a dear friend's husband (who worked with my sister) was killed on Thursday in a freak motorcycle accident. It being precisely 6 weeks after Julian's death, and a Thursday, I was anything but normal. Seriously, I am considering campaigning to have Thursdays removed from the calendar for good and all.

I never sleep well the night before a ride. I am always listening for the horses. It's a good thing, too. Early in the morning, about 2am, I heard a horse walking about, and it didn't sound quite right. Shortly after I heard it, Hoss started calling. I knew immediately what had happened: Eclipse was loose.

I leapt out of bed and put on my shoes, then went out to retrieve the wayward horse. It was a very dark night, no moon and few stars. I could hear Eclipse walking around, but I couldn't see him. Ultimately we nearly ran into each other, as I couldn't see him but he was pretty sure I should and didn't stop. He was perfectly happy to come to me when I called him. He had slipped his halter. I got him close enough to the trailer and got him tied back up.

Once it was close enough to morning to do so, I fed the horses, including returning Dusty's hay bag to him, which he had managed to unhook from the trailer and fling behind him. Hoss did not eat well, and I realized later it was probably because he's used to being out with the first horses of the day. Eclipse was his usual picky self. I wasn't worried. I had extra tube electrolytes for him, knowing he's like that.

We left reasonably early. Late enough to let the hot shoes get out, and early enough to be ahead of the slowpokes. Both horses were relaxed and eager to go.

It was nice to have a ride with another person. I'm not particularly used to it, but it's not a bad thing to have someone to talk to or even just be with for the duration of the day.

We completed the first 14 miles very quickly, coming in to camp for the first vet check at 9:30, 2 hours and 30 minutes after the start. I was a little addled still, and I initially forgot to take the horses straight to the vet rather than waiting until the end of our hold. We walked back and vetted them through before heading to the trailer to feed them.

On the second loop, a group of riders who had dressed as super heroes (really), caught up to us and we rode with them for a short period before breaking away and getting ahead.

And then the trouble started. At the ride meeting the night before, I had understood the ride manager to say the 50 mile riders stayed on orange, and the 25 mile riders went on yellow. Those aren't her precise words, and honestly I have plenty to say about the notion each loop should have its own individual color, but the result was when we got to an intersection where orange went one way and yellow the other, I naturally assumed we were supposed to stay on yellow.

We got to the parking lot of the pool before I realized my error. There was no way to make the pool parking lot work with the instructions, and I had done the ride once before and recognized something was off. It took me a little while to realize what I had done. We were forced to turn around and retrace about 2 miles of trail to get back on track. What a wonderful way to introduce a newbie to the sport! (Not)

We made it back to where I had gotten us off track, and now we really needed to be on the muscle. As I have told Daniela before, we needed to trot or canter every step we could to make it back in time. Under LD rules, we had to have the horses' heart rates down before cut off time, not just cross the finish line, so we needed a good 15 minutes to be sure we'd get a finish. So we downright hustled.

Coming down the final stretch, we passed the Challenge Ranch kids and skated in to camp at about 12:30. Knowing the heat and the amount of work we had done and the extra miles we had put in, I knew it would take Hoss longer than usual to recover. I got off and promptly got to work sponging him down. Eclipse came down readily. Hoss was just a few minutes behind him.

I had two devices tracking our miles that day. One was my GPS, an older Garmin eTrex, the other the EveryTrail app on my phone. I got wildly different results on mileage. My GPS said 28 miles. EveryTrail said 34. I suspect somewhere in between is the truth. It does point out, however, the vagaries which can exist in our methodologies.

Once we had all had dinner, Daniela headed home, and Becky and I got the camp broken down and loaded the horses. I got every body home, and Hoss and I hit home sometime after dark. He wasn't even tired. He looked like he was wondering when we were going to do the rest of the ride!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Mo Parga Clinic

Mo Parga has, for a number of years, conducted clinics and trainings for police horses in the San Diego area and perhaps beyond. She's an interesting lady and clearly she has been successful in performing sensory training on horses.

This clinic was at Oakzanita Ranch, located just outside the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Daniela and Eclipse were able at the last minute to get in, so I loaded Hoss up early on Sunday morning and we drove first to Imperial Beach to pick them up.

Overall it was a great day. The first part of the clinic involved doing some weird stuff which allegedly caused endorphin release. The idea is to calm the horse through various methods of touch. I'm not convinced it really works, but whatever. The first was the rub the horse's gums, then the hollows above the eyes, the tips of the ears, squeeze the withers in front of the saddle, and rub the hollow along the spine in front of the pelvis. Hoss liked some of these techniques, and I expect the ones he appreciated probably induced an endorphin release, but I'd argue any touch the horse likes would accomplish that.

Once we were done with the hocus pocus stuff, we headed out to the obstacles. There were quite a few set up.

The first thing I decided to try was the Gauntlet, a set up of a framework of PVC with flappy bits attached. Hoss walked right through it, no trouble. And that's pretty much where the "OK" ended.

Hoss has always been resistant to opening gates. The "gates" at this even were ropes strung between poles. This seemed to be a set up he might be willing to let me try. No go. There was no getting him alongside the rope for me to unhook the end. When Mo handed me the end, he promptly backed up until it was out of my grasp. Oh yeah. He's gonna be working on that one.

Another obstacle was a mattress to walk over. Hoss has habitually approached such obstacles with aplomb and gone right over. Not this day! It took a lot of circling, and following Mo's horse, before he finally capitulated and walked over it.

When we approached the obstacle with the pool noodles set up horizontally so the horse would be touched on both sides by them, Hoss definitely didn't want to go through. When he saw Eclipse on the far side, he went, but wouldn't do it again.

The trash pit I figured would be no challenge. We ride in the Tijuana River Valley, after all, and it's just this side of a landfill. Instead, I asked him to cross, and he gave me a whole lot of trouble. Daniela and Eclipse walked right through it without a moment's hesitation. Hoss just acted like he'd never seen any such thing.

Why would I walk through that???
Another obstacle Hoss had particular trouble with was the backing up between cones. He would back up anywhere except between the cones. He doesn't like to back between any sort of objects, so this will be another one we need to fix.

The pole held by the rider at one end and resting on a barrel at the other we were able to work out. The idea is to hold the pole and ride a circle without allowing the pole to fall off the barrel. We started out by simply riding a circle around the barrel. Next, the assistant held the pole next to us as we rode around. Then, I took hold of the pole and rode around. It went very well, and I was quite proud of my boy in spite of the silly behavior he had been engaging.

We all lined up, and a girl came up the line on crutches. Hoss was more interested in whether or not she had carrots than the crutches.

After the line up, several flags were brought out. I was pretty confident in Hoss's ability to deal with this one, and took one pretty quickly. I was able to unfurl it without so much as a flinch, and even passed it over Hoss's back without trouble.

Overall, Hoss did okay. There were a few things I would have liked to have go better, and I really did expect better of him than I got. Still, it revealed some things we really need to work on, and showed I do have a pretty good horse, even if he has a few "holes."

Is It a RIDE or a RACE?

There was a question/comment posted on the AERC Facebook page pointing out, properly, that "AERC" stands for American Endurance *Ride* Conference, not American Endurance *Race* Conference. It resulted in a lively and shockingly respectful conversation on the merits of the two terms. Unfortunately it was deleted by an unknown person. I expect it was deleted by the original poster, as the conversation definitely seemed to move in the opposite direction from what that person would have preferred.

In essence, the post was about hearing endurance riders talk about going to "races" rather than "rides." I got involved by pointing out when the uninitiated hear "race," they tend to picture the Kentucky Derby, and even those competitors described as "racing" in AERC aren't doing anything close to that sort of racing. I also mentioned many people are intimidated by the term "race," and I've had to disabuse several people of a distorted understanding of what it means to participate in an endurance ride/race.

I seem to recall, in the early days of my participation in AERC, there was a great deal of talk of referring to events as "rides" not "races." The perception was people would be put off or offended by "race," and would be more apt to think we're abusing our horses when we talk about racing them 50 miles. The Duck makes several excellent points in his article on the topic.

The simple reality is, in one way or another, we're all "racing." Whether we finish first or last, we have to beat the clock. While simply beating the clock is a far cry, exertionally speaking, from racing to finish first, it's still a race.

At one ride put on by the Duck, he stressed we were never to use the word "race." The reason was because the land manager interpreted the rules of the agency which owned the land to strictly prohibit competitive use of the trails. Thus, we were to say "ride."

The only reason I can really see to stick to "ride" is the land management problem. When land managers are looking for reasons to deny permits for endurance rides, the perception of the event as a race could be all they need. So from that perspective alone, we may, as an organization, wish to discourage the use of the word "race."

Aside from all that, the argument over what we call our events is a bit silly. There seems to be a faction that believes anyone who refers to it as a "race" is uninterested in the welfare of their horses, is only in it for the win, and has little regard for fellow competitors. While it is true that "race brain" is more obvious in the top riders, I've seen it in the turtles, too. A desire to win does not, however, mean an individual does not have a love and respect for his horse, and it is unfair to suggest such.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Equine Welfare Reform Package

At the AERC convention in March, the Welfare of the Horse Committee presented a proposal to improve equine welfare in endurance.

The proposal reads as follows (from the AERC website):


Proposed Motion

1. Initial triage and treatment availability at all rides, including intravenous fluid therapy.

2. Thirty minutes to meet recovery pulse at the finish line, with exceptions where needed for rides
with finish lines far away from final checkpoints.

3. Recovery pulse rate at the finish lowered from 68 bpm to 64 (or less) bpm.

4. Horses must be six years of age to start a 100 mile ride.

5. Horses shall have Body Condition Scores of no less than 3.0 and no greater than 8.0 to start an
endurance ride.

6. Exams on all equines by a control judge before they leave the ride site, but no sooner than two
hours from when they cross the finish line.

7. Standardized control judge ride cards should be used nationally, with sections added for BCS
scores and graphs for each quadrant of the gastrointestinal examinations.

8. Rides should have at least one hold on distances of 25 miles or greater.

9. Rides should have at least two control judges, one of whom is able to provide treatment as
required by number 1 in this proposed motion, with exceptions where needed for wilderness rides.

Background, analysis and benefit

Other than the Drug Rule Policy, AERC has not had major substantive rule changes specifically relating to equine welfare since the 1990s. Our current rules are outdated and not protective enough as pertains to equine welfare. In addition stronger guidelines are needed for the inexperienced or novice rider, owner and/or veterinarian, who do not have the years, or even decades, of knowledge on how to safely complete an endurance ride. Improved, standardized veterinary control and
treatment from coast to coast will result in better quality control on a national level and across Canada. Stronger welfare measures will demonstrate our sincerity and desire to provide for a safe, humane and respectful environment for our horses to compete in that specifically aims at reducing “avoidable suffering,” and not just focusing on reducing overall fatalities. The standard has been raised worldwide on what the public perceives is acceptable treatment for horses competing in sporting events. AERC needs to look beyond preventing just death and destruction and consider what we can do as an organization, day to day during our endurance rides, to make competitions even safer, fairer and more comfortable for our horses.


 Well, now.

These are all laudable goals, and I support the changes in general. However, I feel it must be pointed out it is clear the changes are being pursued out of a need to Do Something. There is no evidence any of these changes will make a dent in the number of pulls and treatments at rides. We just feel the need to change the rules in order to look like we're forward thinking.

I don't have a problem with this, generally speaking. Honestly these rule changes are laudable, even if they don't change a thing. In the current issue of Endurance News, the Vice President's message includes a suggestion we need to make these changes because riders see horses getting treated and find it traumatic. I suppose those things happen, and I have certainly seen a horse crash. I wouldn't call the experience traumatic. Additionally, looking back on those treatments, I don't see how any of them would have been prevented by any of these rules.

From everything I've read and heard, this is a feel good measure which won't harm anything. Some things I would do a little differently than this list suggests, and there are a couple I would scotch.

Here are my positions on the changes:

1. Initial triage and treatment availability at all rides, including intravenous fluid therapy.

I have seen horses requiring treatment during a ride. I have never seen that treatment unavailable. This rule is fine, I don't think it changes anything, and I'm just a little surprised we feel we need to lay it out.

2. Thirty minutes to meet recovery pulse at the finish line, with exceptions where needed for rides
with finish lines far away from final checkpoints.

I'd like to know the definition of "far away." Never have I been to a ride where the finish line was more than a ten minute walk back to camp. And it's the managers of those rides who, when this was first proposed, objected the most strenuously to this change. I don't see how a ten minute walk back to camp should be considered anything less than part of the recovery. I would have this as a firm change, rather than "with exceptions."

3. Recovery pulse rate at the finish lowered from 68 bpm to 64 (or less) bpm.

I think 64 is just fine. I wouldn't drop it any lower than that. There are conditions under which I wouldn't want to see 60 as the recovery, and I really don't want to see 56. I also would like to see 56 as the bottom, as there is a point of diminishing returns, and I think that's it.

4. Horses must be six years of age to start a 100 mile ride.

Although it's been done, I don't know how you get a horse ready, both physically and mentally, for a 100 mile ride before it's at least six. More like seven.

5. Horses shall have Body Condition Scores of no less than 3.0 and no greater than 8.0 to start an
endurance ride.

I find myself a little conflicted on this one. My daughter's horse, Tahoe, went to his first ride a little on the thin side. Enough so I was pulled aside and had this pointed out to me. I knew he was thin. I also knew we'd had him for over six months, and despite everything I and the vet could do, he hadn't appreciably gained weight. He was better than he was when we got him. We took him to the ride because we had discovered he ate better when he had the right amount of work. Indeed, all the weight we'd finally managed to put on him had been after we started conditioning him for his first LD. By the time he went to his second ride, he'd put on an additional 50 pounds, and while that didn't make him normal weight, he wasn't as painfully thin as he had been. He would never put on enough weight to look normal, and I doubt he would ever have passed this standard. I think this standard is good, but knowing there are horses that will never achieve a "normal" body weight, it makes me a little sad.

6. Exams on all equines by a control judge before they leave the ride site, but no sooner than two
hours from when they cross the finish line.

The idea here is to make sure all the horses are fine before they go home. I understand the motivation. I'm sure there are horses that have crashed after leaving. I don't know if we know how many or how common it is. I really don't know how I feel about this one. I do know I'll be annoyed if I have to drag Hoss's head out of his food two hours after we've finished in order to haul him back to the vet, and he'll be annoyed, too.

7. Standardized control judge ride cards should be used nationally, with sections added for BCS
scores and graphs for each quadrant of the gastrointestinal examinations.

Yeah, I don't really see the advantage of this one. Maybe it's because I've done the XP rides, where you fill out a vet card, preprinted all As on the parameters, and toss it in the box, where it is never seen again. Once vet cards are used, they're given back to the riders or end up in a box somewhere collecting dust or are discarded. So this particular change doesn't improve data collection or aide in any way in research. I don't see it making a difference.

8. Rides should have at least one hold on distances of 25 miles or greater.

I suppose this is a good change. The only time I've ever seen a 25 mile ride lack a hold was at an XP ride where the Duck just hung out about halfway through the course and checked over those horses before sending them on their way. He did it that way because there was no way to get the LD horses and the 50 mile horses to a common vet check; the midway vet check for the 50 was back at camp. Under the circumstances, and knowing how the Duck feels about personal responsibility, I doubt this change could possibly make him happy. Since I find myself wanting the Duck to be happy, I don't want this change to happen.

9. Rides should have at least two control judges, one of whom is able to provide treatment as
required by number 1 in this proposed motion, with exceptions where needed for wilderness rides.

This is another of those changes I'm ambivalent about. I can't recall more than one ride with only one vet, and that one was fewer than 20 entrants, and all vet checks back in camp. And I'm not even sure I'm remembering correctly, and there may have been a second vet. I'm not sure. Like the requirement for veterinary treatment, this seems more like requiring something which is already effectively in place than making a necessary change.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Goals for 2014

Having undergone hip replacement surgery, I had really planned to take 2014 off. It's not working out that way.

The improvement with the new hip is amazing. I'm even able to mount Hoss easily from the ground (although I'll use a block or a rock or a stump if one is available). When we did the 20 mile ride at Cuyamaca, it became clear I haven't exactly lost a huge amount of fitness. I felt it on Sunday morning, and I knew I'd ridden 20 miles, but I wasn't crippled or anything.

Now I'm doing the 30 mile ride at Vail Lake in a couple of weeks, and I'm contemplating the 50 at Descanso. I know, I said in the previous post I don't like doing the 50 at Descanso, and that hasn't changed, but there's a reason. I'm also planning to do the Virginia City 100.

Yep. I said it. The Virginia City 100.

Now, Virginia City is in September. I could, quite easily, get Hoss and myself ready without doing any endurance rides between now and then. I just think it's easier to get ourselves prepared mentally if we get to a ride or two. And the only endurance ride I can reasonably get to between now and then is Descanso.

Nothing is simple, of course, so I have a bit of a conflict. My niece will be singing her very first solo in the Youth Benefit Concert at our church that very Saturday night. So I had better be able to boogie on down the trail. I haven't absolutely decided to do the 50 yet, although my entry is in for the 50 (I entered before I realized the conflict). To that end, we'll see how we do at Vail Lake, and get in some long solo rides and see how we do in that regard before I make a final decision.

So, here are my extremely simple goals for 2014:

Get a few rides done.

Go to Virginia City 100 (note I did not say *complete*)

Have fun!

Hoss having a good roll after a ride to the beach at Sun Coast Farms

2013 Ride Year Report

Here we are a third of the way through 2014, and I just realized I neglected to cover how we did for Ride Year 2013!

I had set the bar pretty low for 2013, but still failed to meet two of our goals. Obviously we didn't finish Tevis, and I rode Eclipse at Twenty Mule Team, scotching the only other 100 mile ride I had planned to do for the year. But that 1,000 mile goal? We got that one done.

So here's how it played out:

8th place in National Mileage

1st place Regional Points

1st place Pioneer Award

We also once again were awarded the Intermountain Wild Horse and Burro Association's High Mileage and Overall High Mileage award.

Not bad, all things considered.

Being a Mentor

It's not something I would ever have imagined myself doing. I am a bit of a loner, and could be considered downright curmudgeonly. But Beth finally found the perfect match for Eclipse (ride stories about him here, here and here), and happily enough, his new owner is interested in endurance.

Beth has never been known for giving up on an idea. She wanted me to introduce Eclipse's new owner, Daniela, to the joys of endurance riding. I don't think it ever occurred to me to say no. "No" wasn't an option.

I started trailering Hoss down to see Daniela and Eclipse for rides twice a week, on Saturdays and Wednesdays. It was good for me, too. I don't think I would have gotten back into riding as much as I have as quickly as I have if I weren't helping someone else along.

Daniela and Eclipse are a fantastic match. He obviously loves her a great deal and will do whatever he can to make her happy. Sure, he'll take advantage of her if he can, but he certainly wouldn't hurt her if he can at all avoid it.

Daniela and Eclipse
Our original plan was to do the Descanso 25 in June. Unfortunately this turns out to be a conflict for Daniela, whose cousin is marrying on that date. In Austria. Definitely can't do both. Knowing it would be a pretty long time before the next available ride, I proposed doing the 30 at Vail Lake instead, a good five weeks earlier.

Daniela was hesitant at first, especially since I'd told her Vail Lake isn't one of my favorite rides. It has a lot of hills and some of them are a little hairball. In honesty, it's less the difficulty of the ride I dislike than the number of vet checks on the 50. Having done so many XP rides with even crazier hills and climbs, I can't blame it on that! But, also as a result of doing so many XP rides, I've become seriously disenchanted with the 3 vet checks and a 5 minute hold tradition we seem to have here in the Pacific Southwest. I don't really even want to do a 50 at Descanso anymore. So when we were discussing which ride to do, I was less than entirely clear. Given a choice between Descanso and Vail Lake, I'll go with Descanso. It has fewer climbs and it's closer. Also, I had hoped to have Daniela experience a ride from the perspective of a volunteer before she rode, and volunteering at Vail Lake before riding at Descanso would have been perfect. It's not to be. I don't have any reason to think it'll be a problem.

On April 19, we put both horses in the trailer and went up to Cuyamaca for a long ride, the longest ride Daniela has yet done. I knew she needed to get a good long ride in to cement her confidence she can do 30 miles.

We parked at the Sweetwater Bridge staging area, and set out for the first half of our ride. The Descanso ride uses this staging area as a vet check, so it's pretty much right in the middle of the 25 mile ride trail. Because we parked there, though, we lost about 5 miles of the trail used for the Descanso ride.

Daniela was enchanted with the park. She even took a little video.

Daniela is going to make a great endurance rider. As we rode, we talked about various things. One thing that came up was the difficulty of finding others to ride with. Most other riders want to do nothing but walk. The both of us are bored to tears by that particular plan. We want to see lots of miles, and we want to do it fast. And that's what makes an endurance rider.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Roxy, 10/31/1999 - 12/20/2013

Obviously it's been some time since my dog, Roxy, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I just haven't gotten around the writing about her, and of course a lot has happened since then.

Roxy was a great dog. She wasn't a nice dog, but she was a good dog. I picked her up from the animal shelter in April of 2000. She was about 6 months old, and not entirely fully grown.

It quickly became clear she was going to need a crate. My children and I were living with my mother at the time, and Mom was very resistant to the idea of a crate. This lasted until Roxy chewed the corners of the coffee table and dug up the carpet inside the front door. Mom was truly converted when, after I had acquired a crate, Roxy very quickly started putting herself into it when she was about to be left home alone.

Roxy was always a bit touchy. She never liked being hugged or mugged. This was a trait my daughter, not quite 7 when we brought Roxy home, could not understand. My daughter insisted on sticking her face up to Roxy's muzzle, demanding kisses. Roxy would invariably warn her, and I would tell her she needed to stop. It took Roxy finally biting my daughter in the face for her to get the message.

Once I had Roxy reasonably well trained, I started taking her along with me on work days. The first time I took her with me was to a barn in Alpine, where my trainer worked, and I would be there all day. Roxy, of course, had a grand time and was absolutely exhausted by the time I put her back in the truck to go home. About three miles down the road, I noticed this rather rancid odor coming from the back seat. I glanced back and realized I had put the Swamp Thing in my truck. Turns out Roxy had found a wonderful old mud puddle to play in.

Roxy was an only dog until my marriage in 2001. At that time, we brought home a second dog, Mauser, who had belonged to a friend. My friend had found Mauser abandoned at the boarding facility she kept her horse at, and brought him home. He quickly proved to be a bit more than she and her husband could keep up with. She had been diagnosed with leukemia some time earlier, and Mauser just needed more exercise and attention than she had energy to provide. When he methodically removed the linoleum from the kitchen floor, that was the last straw; he had to go. And anyway, he had made it abundantly clear on visits that he wanted to be my daughter's dog.

Roxy and Mauser made quite the pair. I stopped taking Roxy with me on work days, as it became clear she'd rather stay with Mauser, and Mauser wasn't reliable for a "truck dog." So most days they stayed home together.

At 2 1/2, Roxy started having some difficulty with front end lameness. I took her to the vet, and she was diagnosed with early onset arthritis. I've heard all that stuff about "hybrid vigor" and how tough mixed breed animals are, but none of that applied to Roxy, at least not in the physical sense. Once she got accustomed to the pain associated with the arthritis, it was impossible to tell she really had any trouble with it.

Roxy and Mauser came with me on my conditioning rides with Phoenix and were a constant presence in my life. They would run along unflagging for upwards of 20 miles. They were wonderful companions and a great deal of fun to have along.

When she was about 4, Roxy was along for a trail ride and started seeming just not quite right. We got to the top of a hill and she paused, looked back toward the barn, and seemed to consider going home. I noticed she was coughing quite a bit.

Yet another visit to the vet revealed she had developed chronic bronchitis. This diagnosis slowed her down significantly. The length of our trail rides was necessarily shortened, although she never gave it up entirely.

Shortly before Thanksgiving 2006, I was exercising the dogs on my mountain bike. Phoenix was laid up for reasons I no longer remember, so exercise had to happen in another way. I did not notice when the coyotes snuck up behind me and cut Roxy off. Mauser did. His actions in rescuing her saved her life, but he lost his own in the process.

Roxy was an only dog again, and my daughter had lost her dog in a cruel and untimely fashion. By February it was time to get another. We searched online and found a cute little mixed breed dog by the name of Tanner. He came to us and found his forever home.

Roxy once again started going with me to work regularly, leaving Tanner home alone most days. He turned out to have a habit of jumping out of the truck if the windows were left open, so I couldn't really take him along.

Roxy was like my little farrier ambassador. She would greet people warmly and spend her days sunning herself and playing with people when the opportunity arose. One of my clients was a soccer player and had an old soccer ball in her shed. She quickly learned to go find the soccer ball and played vigorously with that client every time we saw her. At that same barn, many people kept dog treats in their sheds, and Roxy learned to greet those who did at their sheds to get a cookie. She did get to where she loved certain people so much she'd follow those individuals around their respective barns while I worked. Once, someone found her and was in the process of taking her to their car take her home, thinking she'd been lost. After that, I put a tag on her identifying her as "the farrier's dog."

After we had Tanner for a while, he developed seizures. As a result, he, too, started coming with me to work, so I could keep an eye on him during the day. His seizures have been well controlled with Phenobarbital, and he continues to do well on the meds.

The fire in 2007 was the impetus for getting Roxy to the vet when she was having bladder control issues. She'd always had a little "leakage", since she was young. During the fire, she was really having trouble when we were staying at a friend's house, evacuated from our home. I already had Tanner scheduled for something, so I took Roxy in as well, thinking I might as well have her checked out on the off chance something could be done for her bladder control issue. It turned out she had kidney failure, and she was very sick. She was hospitalized for three days. But she was always a tough dog and she pulled through. She had permanent kidney damage as a result.

We moved to Jamul in 2008, when Roxy was 9 years old. She was definitely showing her age by then. She was on a daily anti-inflammatory. One day, while she was sunning herself in the driveway of our new home, our young cat, Tiger, came running up the driveway, being chased by a coyote. Tiger was no dummy. Roxy did not like the cat (she didn't like any other animal, honestly). Tiger made a beeline for Roxy, jumped the dog lengthwise, and left the coyote face to face with a very annoyed dog. Roxy successfully chased the coyote off. She was quite proud of herself, but it was clear she needed young dogs as back up. She was lame on three legs.

We got two younger dogs, Mac and Ash, for Roxy to teach and to back her up. They picked up the notion of livestock guardian quickly, and readily looked to Roxy for guidance.

Over the next couple of years, Roxy gradually got more lame, and developed ulcers. Ultimately she blew the cruciate ligaments in both hind legs. Due to her age and other health issues, she was not a good candidate for surgery. She would soldier on with her hind legs wobbly and unstable.

It didn't take Roxy long to become accustomed to her new disability. She continued to come along on morning walks and trail rides. I had to start locking her in the house if I was doing a ride too long for her.

Roxy dressed as a "cow" for a costume contest
 Toward the end of her life, Roxy developed dementia. We were very lucky in that it was happy dementia. The dog who, her entire life, disliked the other pets so badly she had sent every one to the vet at one time (she flung my daughter's first cat through the air; when Tiger was little, Roxy bit her badly enough to lame her; she nailed both of the younger dogs in their faces; she picked Tanner up by the upper jaw and shook the hell out of him), changed her tune and was cheerfully playing with the other dogs. This made it possible to manage her for a much longer time than would otherwise have been feasible.

Roxy got more lame, and less able to keep up on morning walks. She would also forget what we were doing, and wander off on her own. As she got more debilitated, she became more apt to snap if she felt threatened. And it was difficult to know when she'd feel threatened.

I began to notice Roxy was getting thinner. She was eating well. I had put her on a particularly tasty dog food with very small nuggets and wet food, and she was eating two cups of food a day reliably. And yet, my always thin dog was getting thinner. Just a month after my hip replacement, it was clear. Roxy was nearing the end.

I knew Roxy was the sort of dog with an inherent dignity. Had I kept her going, her bladder control would only have gotten worse. She would have begun to forget where the door was, who her people were, what she was doing at any given moment. And it would have been horrifying for her.

I took her to the vet, knowing it was time. She walked quietly and easily into the exam room, and laid quietly in my arms as she passed. I knew I had done the right thing as I watched the pain drain from her body. She was ready to go, and she left this world with the quiet dignity she had lived.
Roxy on her 14th birthday

Thursday, April 24, 2014

AERC and Omeprazole

The latest issue of Endurance News contains an article penned by Dr. Chrysann Collatos in support of changing current AERC rules to permit the use of omeprazole during competition. The majority of the Veterinary Committee supports this change (the composition of this majority is not revealed).

Historically, the AERC has had a firm "no drugs" policy. Over the years, as testing has gotten more sophisticated, it has become necessary to go from a strict policy of horses must come up with no levels of drugs on blood and urine tests to "allowable" levels. This is wise policy. In the past twenty years or so, testing has gotten pretty good. At this stage in the game, it's possible to detect a sedative in a horse's blood that was administered as much as a month before. Clearly, a month after the horse was sedated for a float, the sedation isn't doing much to the horse's physiology, and it would be ridiculous to disqualify a horse under those circumstances.

AERC's drug policy, as stated in the most current version of the rules, is as follows:

13.  Prohibited Substances and Treatments: General Provisions:
13.1 The purpose of this rule against the use of Prohibited Substances or Prohibited Treatments in equines during endurance rides is both to protect the equines from harm and to ensure fair competition. Endurance equines should compete under their natural abilities without the influence of any drug, medication or veterinary treatment.
13.1.1 Prohibited Substances or Prohibited Treatments as defined in this rule shall not be administered to or used in an equine competing in an endurance ride. No equine in which a Prohibited Substance or its metabolite is present shall compete in an endurance ride, regardless of when the Prohibited Substance was administered to it.

The most telling phrase here, I think, is this: Endurance equines should compete under their natural abilities without the influence of any drug, medication or veterinary treatment.

If Omeprazole is allowed, it violates this principle.

Many arguments have been made for allowing it.

Legend and Adequan (as well as several other chrondoprotective substances) are permitted.

Pergolide is on the allowed substances list.

It's cruel not to permit it.

And, the favorite argument of 12 year olds everywhere, all the other equine sports are allowing it.

Honestly the first two arguments hold up the best. It seems we've already moved away from the "no drugs" ethic of old. That being the case, I would be in favor of walking these back.

The idea it is cruel not to permit the use of omeprazole is a bit odd. I submit it is cruel to require an animal to perform in a sport if it can't do so without pharmaceutical support.

And of course, everyone else is doing it. Yes, FEI allows it. Yes, most other sports don't blink at the idea of drugging a horse in order to perform. These sports also allow anti-inflammatories and other pain relievers in competition. If the argument works for Omeprazole, it works for the others, too.

The primary rationale the veterinary committee's article provides is to protect the multi-day horse. The principle is, multi-day horses are away from home for an extended period, their lives and feeding schedules disrupted, and thus more prone to ulceration. This may well be true, however, the rule change would not apply exclusively to multi-day horses.

As the rule currently stands, a horse may be administered Omeprazole up to 24 hours before the start of a ride, then can be dosed again as soon as it finishes the ride and is vetted out. This means, for a single day ride, the horse may go without a dose of Omeprazole for 12-24 hours, depending on length of the ride and ride time.

It is well established Omeprazole has a residual effect protecting the horse's stomach for quite some time after it is withdrawn. Thus, especially for the one day ride, if a horse really can't do without the Omeprazole for the time of the ride, it isn't suited for endurance.

It is my hope AERC will reject this change, and leave the current rule stand.

What The Future Holds

When I had my hip replaced, I went in knowing it was highly unlikely I'll ever pick up shoeing horses again. I had stopped working in June, so it wasn't so much of a blow by the time the surgeon expressed his doubts about doing it. He thinks I'll be able to do it on a limited basis, but the risk of ruining the implant is pretty significant.

So, what to do?

I am in the fortunate position of being married to a talented man who is making enough money to support us while I explore. He also doesn't mind doing so. It's an enviable position, I know.

Late last year, I received in the mail a copy of the brochure for Grossmont Adult Education. I flipped through it, and found a few classes caught my eye. One was a gluten-free baking class. I was a little conflicted about taking it, as it occurred at a time which would prevent me from attending choir rehearsals for a few weeks, but I decided to take it anyway in the spirit of self-preservation. A second was gardening. I have a fantasy of gardening. It turns out I kinda suck at it. The third was sewing.

Sewing? Well, I had done some before, and one of my ideas for a future career has been making biothane tack. So a sewing class sounded like a good start.

I started out by measuring a couple of windows in the house and designing very plain curtains. They're horse print, naturally, and of course they didn't come out quite right, but they're pretty okay. They'll do.

In the meantime, I found a couple of patterns for things I kinda liked. Every Sunday I've been on to perform at church for the last couple of years, I've had two color choices: black or blue. It was getting boring. So I found a pattern for a top and a pastel purple fabric. I had the shirt made in an afternoon.

My daughter was home for Julian's Celebration of Life, and we were going through some pictures my mom had sent home with her. We found one of me, my daughter, my son, a friend's two daughters, and someone in my ex-husband's dragon costume (I don't think it was him; whoever it was isn't nearly tall enough for my ex). My daughter was perhaps 3 years old. We were all in our Halloween costumes. Three of the costumes I had made.

Holy crap. Evidently I used to do this quite a bit!

Now I've been able to recall more. When I was in Junior High, my friend's mother helped us make dresses for 9th grade promotion. I still remember the things she taught me. Amazing.

Since all of this, I have made:

These silly heart-shaped zipper pouches.

The top I mentioned for me.

A top for my daughter.

Yet another top for me. (I did two of these; one is black and I couldn't get my camera to take a picture of it):

And a skirt for myself.

I still have another top to make, and I will be making a dress for my niece for the Youth Choir Concert in June.

I've also acquired quite the collection of sewing machines. I have two modern Singer machines. One I had purchased to replace the previous one, which up until recently I thought was toast. It turns out the older Singer just needed some intensive TLC. It will still bind up if I go too fast, but it sews just fine.

Another is a table-mount White machine of indeterminate vintage, surely 60s or earlier, I was given by a friend. It was in the house she and her husband purchased. The previous owner's wife had used it for many years, but the machine has sat in less than ideal conditions since her passing. It sews reasonably well, but it needs a little service, as the clutch will release if the machine is run in reverse.

Lastly, I brought home my grandmother's 1956 Brother machine. After replacing the belts, it's working pretty well. When the new Singer machine was binding up and I didn't want to take the time to service it, I moved to the Brother to finish sewing the skirt, which was my latest project. I do need to have it serviced, as it will drop the bobbin stitch on zig-zag and the feed drop won't release. Still, it works pretty well, and there's something about having a piece of family history.

I have purchased a ridiculous number of patterns. Patterns for horse blankets, saddle and hay bags, fly masks, half chaps and full chaps, and Australian outback jacket. Who knows where this could lead.

I am so totally excited.