Monday, December 31, 2007

A local Craigslist offering

Which you can see here (before it gets deleted of course) underscores my low opinion of people, as expressed in a September entry titled "the Discarded"

The longer I think about this horse, the more infuriated I become at the human race, and in particular, those who endeavor to get rid of the aged. Especially if they think they can make a buck doing so. That 500 bucks the owner insists on having won't come from those who have the knowledge and desire to take care of the elderly equine. Nope, it will come from a novice owner who likely has no clue about a seniors' special needs.

This poor old horse, and by Alaskan standards, 30 is ancient, has survived his past to arrive where he is today-with an owner who has obviously taken very good care of him (shown by the photos of a horse in good weight, well groomed, with an alert and happy expression) since the "rescue". Like I posted on a local group, this horse probably thinks he is in pony heaven already, having been rescued by the current owner. Little does he know (or understand) that his future hinges on the whims of said owner-who is obviously thinking trail rides have no value. And worse yet, that his service in the owners' care does not warrant permanent retirement.

Just where does the owner think this horse will go, in the limited time he has left? Some sort of Polyanna situation where a wealthy person takes pity on him and keeps him in a Disney perfect barn, until such time as he passes away peacefully in a deeply bedded stall? Hardly likely.

The real truth here is this: The only people likely to purchase this horse are looking for a safe older one for their novice children to poke around on. Maybe get them started into 4-H, or maybe go on trail rides....or at least that will be the intent. But anyone willing to cough up the $500 for a thirty year old horse is also likely to be ignorant of the horse market-which means horse keeping in general. And that is a very dangerous place for an old horse to be in the middle of winter.

I am wishing for a responsible, caring person to step forward and assume the mantle of retirement for this horse-and the others needing ease with their age-early in the New Year.

Cynic that I am, I won't be holding my breath........

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A very good boy

This morning I went to Bluegrass to meet with the trimmer. Since the rescue horse is in the old, original barn (detached from other stall rows and indoor arena) I presumed we'd have it pretty much to ourselves. I had forgotten how busy a large facility could be, really. With a heated tack room, we had two horses come in to be unblanketed, quickly groomed, tacked, and led out. The aisleway is a bit of shortcut so folks scooted on through too, and his stall was picked and rebedded. And of course there was my son, who found it difficult to hold still, and persisted in playing with the two barn cats and in general just being his normal active self.

The first order of business was digital pictures of his front hooves on the concrete. At first it was difficult to get him to stand still, until he realized that that was all I was asking of him-stand quietly. When he got that, his head dropped and I learned he enjoyed circular massage type touch on his forehead.

The trimmer went to work on his front hooves, where we discovered that his frogs were terribly recessed-basically nonexistent-just slim darts in the badly underrun hoof capsule. However, horses being horses, he had managed to "self trim" by chipping off quite a bit around the toes in a ragged, slightly rounded shape. Neither of us can even guess how long it's been since any work has been done on his feet-many months for sure. At the end of each hoof being finished, he would voluntarily drop his head and start chewing-a sure sign of a much happier horse.

Once the fronts were done (and after a couple more friends showed up) we worked on the hinds. I was apprehensive about this because the horse nearly shrinks away in fear if you move from his shoulder towards the rib cage. At first, even touching the rump, let alone stifle, was out of the question. But, with some gentle encouragement, the first leg was done by positioning him along a wall. I am pretty sure he found it quite painful to balance on the untrimmed foot and limb, while holding up the other. But he was very good about it, really. Inbetween, there were plenty of interruptions and through it all he held it together pretty well. We did get digital pictures of the soles on all four, those are our reference points. I was delighted to learn that despite the nearly slippered hinds, he has very tight, good white line. This is a bonus I didn't expect.

After we were done there, a friend led him into the arena. He rolled a few times, sniffed around, had a small spook or two at the other horses and goings on in there, etc. After the other horses exited, we turned him loose. He just ambled around, and finally had another roll. It was obvious to me that he'd had enough that day, mentally and physically. So we gathered him up and put him up for the day-he'd been a very, very good boy.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Grandiose names and grouses....

I just have to come up with a name of some sort for the new horse. His registered name is quite impressive: Chelsea's Chief Cherikee. Ugh, too icky. For right now, Bluegrass has him on their barn chart as "CC", but I am hoping for something inspired and "right" fairly quickly. Lucky, or Spendy, or something witty, perhaps.

I stopped by the barn on my way home, dropping off a bag of complete for him. He was friendly, bright, and cruising for treats. He was having some very mild gas discomfort-just enough to stomp a hind foot gently and swish the tail.....but his innards were very active-I could hear it over the stall door, lol I presume it was due to the haul and move-fairly common, actually. I spoke with the BOs later on last night. They led him over to the indoor arena and let him loose to do what he chose ;) He bucked, he ran, he trotted, and he rolled and rolled. It didn't take too long to tire him out, since he has so little muscle or energy to spare. They hope to get him some time in the indoor arena every day while he is there. Exercise will help keep his guts moving, and rebuild wasted muscle. My husband did manage to get hay and extra bedding over for him too, which saves me trying to deal with it on my own.

From there I scooted home, driving directly to the barn. I could see that my spouse had unloaded the rest of the bales, and given the loose stuff to the three horses there. They got a light dinner and I called it good. This morning I go up and discover that the one mare, with the more sensitive tummy, has had a mild bit of diarrhea overnight. Oh joy. I checked her carefully and could hear really good gut sounds, which was reassuring. And again, the barn help has not shown up, so the place is a mess. I will have to call him today and find out if he can clean any more, or what. Once a week is not cutting it, it needs to be done every other day. Tonight I will have to muck stalls, because a frozen pile of manure is a bugger to get loose. Can't let it go too long, let's put it that way. Oh and tomorrow I will use the hydrant for the first time, topping the stock tanks.

I am annoyed at my husband, he just doesn't really understand not chucking out this or that hay willy nilly. Despite their size, horses have very delicate digestive tracts and good forage management is critical to their continued health. So naturally I am now sitting here at work, worried about the mare whose owner entrusted her care to me. Argh.

To top that off, I get a phone call from the town shop. They are having a retirement get together for the shop foreman-it's his last day today. Naturally, no one thought to let me know about this until the last minute. I can't go, I have a customer supposedly coming for a septic system, plus people coming for hay. Would have been nice to have known beforehand, so I could have made arrangements in advance. It's indicative of the communication between the two places, is about all I will say about that ;)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Godspeed, Benizar Bhutto.....

It was with a heavy heart I learned about the assassination of Benizar Bhutto this morning.

I admit I follow US politics much more closely than I do world events, but Ms Bhutto left a mark upon me, many years ago. Back then, when the media first became aware of her platform and I saw video coverage of a couple of her speeches....I was very impressed with this brave woman who stood up to opposition with such fervor and resolve. Of course, I was not really familiar with the politics of the time-it's just that she represented (to me) an independent woman, someone to be admired and respected. I thought she was very courageous to speak up against oppression and her passion to make great changes in Pakistan remarkable.

Naturally, as is the way of man, she became a target. Men feared her spirit, her capacity to unify and to challenge beliefs, customs and the government itself. A fiery speaker, this small statured woman had a great voice, and I had hoped she would lead Pakistan forward into the new century with her vision of democracy and progress.

It was not to be.

May her passing inspire others to carry on, to be brave, to speak out, to work for change.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas wishes

Yesterday, between the wonderful meal, and the ongoing conversations, I would have be struck with the occasional off-topic thought. Such as, what am I going to do with the new horse? How am I going to get him home? Who is going to haul on the holiday? Can I even get the blasted horse trailer out of it's winter parking spot? How can I clone myself to get bedding and hay hauled home too? How are we going to hang the radiant heater? Will the tarps work to keep the winds out of that stall, or will they shred? And so on and on.....

This morning I called my friend (the one whose mare was viciously attacked by the neighbor dogs) because they have a nice new dually pickup-plus, they have borrowed my horse trailer before. They had originally offered to haul-but between the holiday stuff going on, and the husband's lingering illness, they aren't able to do this right now.

So I called back to Bluegrass Equestrian Center and had a great conversation with the owner there. Bless her heart, she offered up a heated stall, and offered to haul him for me! So I quickly called my husband, and we both agreed-heated stall is where he should go anyway. I am so thankful that Bluegrass even had the space, and certainly didn't expect an offer to haul him too, lol Of course, she is going there anyway to take her dog into the clinic, but still, how wonderful is that?? Hip hip hooray, to the owners of Bluegrass Equestrian Center!

Of course now that I have typed that out, I am thinking to myself: Self, this is stupid! You have a great one ton truck. You have a marvelous enclosed two horse slant trailer. You have a barn. You have found a heater to borrow. You have found a couple blankets....You need to bring him home!

But, we have no brake controller in the truck-and the roads are pretty icy with the new snowfall over night. And more forecast tonight as well. There was no way to get the stall rigged up to put him in, with the water line work being done, and Christmas too. All we would have been able to do is rig up tarps to help keep the winds off him, and that's about it. So I think tonight on my way home I will be dropping by Bluegrass in person-and giving my thanks to them for their generosity and willingness to help out another horse person in need :)

Snow and more.....

Christmas was a wonderful day at our house. Friends and family, great food, and very good times. The biggest hit of the day was the Wii, which ran nonstop for eight hours, lol! All the kids were good about sharing the game, and everyone got a chance to play. Of course we are still figuring it out, but it's a given that time with that game will be highly sought after for months to come :)

And Christmas Day brought us snow showers too-it's not often we have snow on a holiday and it's presence was welcomed.

One of my personal favorite presents is a wireless camera system. I have two cameras up at the barn now, and while we are still figuring out how to set it up for what we want, it's very exciting to be able to see what goes on up there. We found out we were missing one whatsis so I can get the feed on my computor, but that's okay-we'll get it up and running some day soon.

Today is the day that we are supposed to pick up the no name gelding. But of course the snow has really put a crimp in those plans. I have to work and have a bunch of people lined up to come get hay. I expect I will be getting on the phone first thing this morning, finding someone with a controller in their truck. Of course, hub has drug his feet and the stall isn't quite ready as yet, lol And I have to track down the blanket liner and get the heater too. I actually think he will be fine, well blanketed with lots of good feed....we'll see what the vet says later today.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

New things and thanks

This morning I can take satisfaction in a number of things.

First, that the excavator was able to pick his way through the frozen hardpan, to get the new water line and farm hydrant installed. Instead of the "less than a foot" of frost we all expected, there was three to four feet. As I watched Bob picking away at it, using a frost tooth (instead of a regular backhoe bucket) all I could think was, there is a good man! He was getting beat up pretty badly in the cab of the track hoe-he would extend the tooth, bring it down, apply the hydraulics for a backwards pull, and the entire machine would bang around when the frozen hard stuff gave way in small chunks. I have always held a great amount of respect for those proficient on those machines, but now I am totally impressed. It was very hard digging, and then some. The first day he only got a small length excavated, and spent hours using the frost tooth to break up the surface. Yesterday, he had to switch buckets a number of times, lengthening the trench dug.

Second, I have new found admiration for my neighbor Rick, who ended up giving up an entire day to help get the hydrant installed properly. What a wonderful guy, and we really owe them for his assistance and advice. He is the one who helped rig up the hydrant itself-including the heat trace cable, and the steel casing the hydrant is inside. He brought over some extra insulation for the hydrant itself, and his own farm tractor to use for backfilling the trench. If it wasn't for his experience in installing his own hydrants.....well, I am sure we wouldn't have done as well.

Third, I have to hand it to my husband for thinking of everything...the insulation, the heat trace, the (expensive!) electrical splice kit that of course we ended up needing, plus the extra cable-the whole works. It was an all day long project and went on well after dark. All this so I won't have to deal with 400 foot of hoses all winter long, lol

I am very grateful for the new hydrant, despite whatever the cost might be. Now, it is done properly and should last for years to come. In addition, it's over 60 foot closer to the stock tanks, which means I won't need to lay out hoses over the drive area any longer. And, I can use one hose-not 150 foot-a real improvement. In retrospect we should have installed it up there to begin with, but that's okay, it worked out in the end.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The news is good.....but now the work begins

I was absolutely thrilled to get a phone call from the vet late yesterday afternoon. Here's the current condition:

No liver or kidney damage at all. His teeth have been floated. He shows a pretty good load of strongyles so they will go ahead and worm him there-where any ill effects can be handled. Other than that, he is eating, drinking, peeing and pooping with gusto. The swelling is starting to recede in the groin area already-possibly due to the fact that he is certainly stall walking. The vet felt that the remaning swelling would resolve on it's own, given enough exercise. Everyone I ask at the clinic has a giggle in their voice when they describe "cute, sweet, and boy howdy is he talkative!" Great personality is what I am hearing, very responsive-yay!

We then discussed future accomodations for him. I described buttoning up one stall and hanging the radiant heater above, coupled with lots of bedding, a good quality blanket, and an insulated stall bucket for water. The vet felt that was perfectly acceptable for him, with turn out above about 15 or 20 degrees if blanketed. (He will have to stay blanketed for the winter, pretty much) the only thing I didn't know, was what size blanket he really wears, lol! I left two there, and I have no idea which one got on him. Today, if it slows down enough at work (which it should, given the -16F temps this morning) I plan on running in to see him myself.

The other bit of good news is that the vet does not think he even needs a mash.....just lots and lots of good quality hay, a bit of something to balance cal/phos. ratio, V/M sup, probiotic, and a small amount of concentrates. They are also going to attempt to age him, after I related his stated age on the papers that came with him. In his dirty, starved condition, there is no knowing what his true color is-the survival coat is dull and a rather uniform greyish white color. If they can place him somewhere around what he's supposed to be, that's close enough for me.

Building that stall front will have to wait until the temps come up some. On Friday the excavator is supposed to arrive to do the new water line and hydrant. So I don't imagine anything will get built then, but one can always hope...I would love to have him home for the weekend.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tuesday update :)

The first word on the geldings condition is this:

He does not have any ongoing issues with kidney or liver function (Hooray!!!!)
He desperately needs his teeth floated, they are terrible
They are also going to run a fecal, to check for parasite load

The prescription is:

At least one month in a heated situation. And the right recovery diet of course.

I can't even go there on how I am going to manage that....either I have to pay big board at a facility that can't handle his mashes, bring him home and stuff him in my garage, or find someone willing to help out who has space.

I won't count on any further help from most people, now that the immediate needs have been met. And I don't even want to ask what keeping him at the clinic for a month would cost either.....

Open to suggestions, of course!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Heckuva 30 hours here......

So much has transpired in the past 30 hours, I hardly know where to begin.....

As of the last post, things sounded very grim for the two horses. The gelding was showing a monstrous swelling in the groin area, for one, and the mare had become rather unresponsive. I was pretty well stressed out, and first thing this morning I started making phone calls.

Three phone calls later I had determined that the mare was possibly colicking, or had developing circulation issues, and was severely dehydrated. The gelding was perky, eating, and he had drunnk some apple flavored water in the late evening-but had not managed to urinate.

A few hours later, after a number of other calls, I thought that AER was getting a vet out and that I would be billed for having him checked over. At this time, the vet at the clinic said that they needed a heated faciltity asap. And I was stuck at work, of course. Which turned out to be rather more of a busy Monday than I bargained for, but that's beside the point.

At about 1pm I learned that the vet wouldn't go see them until the owner called. The owner, in this case, being me. So I called, and got that started, sort of. Next call was to the gal that owned the mare (and who had orginally rescued them in the first place) to tell her she had to make two to AER to gift the mare, and secondly to call the clinic and get vet out, period. An hour os so later I managed to peice together that a vet would be there around 4 pm, and so would AER, with trailer.


I waited and worried until around 5, when I finally broke down and started calling again. The mare was loaded up and taken to an AER foster home, which has space (heated!) for one. The gelding is now (as of six pm) at the clinic for the next couple of days, and blood has been drawn to check liver and kidney function. I won't know the results until tomorrow of course.

All I have heard, second and third hand, is that the gelding has points (needs float), vet put him at a CS 3, and that I needn't worry about the accumulation of fluids in the groin and legs, it's due to protien levels in his system.

IF the blood panel shows nothing severely out of whack, AND the vet says okay, in theory he could come home in a couple days ( as soon as the weather breaks here). I can get him double blanketed, and I can manage a 4 times a day mash for the next ten days, and then three times a day afterwards-bless my staunch friends' big heart to feed a mash during the day while I am at work.

In the midst of this, I got all sorts of flack from my husband, and others, about the money, the time, and whatnot....and you know what I say to that?

Merry Christmas to me-

Whether he's euthanized or not, he deserves better than he's had, and that's that.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Aww, shit.....

Looks like the little guy has started into kidney failure :( Someone who is quite experienced went over to see the mare today. I just got off the phone with her, and here's what we think is happening....based on what she observed and I see in the pictures just emailed to me.

He is in organ failure. He is very swollen in the sheath, but was able to pass some thick, gooney urine earlier today (0bserved), but is straining both to stretch, and urinate. I could make an emergency call this afternoon, but I am 65 miles away. I know from experience that they are going to want him at the clinic to treat with antibiotics, and hydrate him with Ringers. It's a catch 22 because they can't push the fluids very fast or his heart will stop. They can't really aggressively treat the urinary problem (IF its a UTI, which is unlikely) because the antibiotics are going to be deadly too.

The gal is running over some salt, and bringing a stock tank heater. She is going to insist that the two horses get a stock tank, salt the heck out of the gelding AND the mare too, and after that, all we can do is pray they make it through the next 24 hours.

It's unlikely. I knew the moment I was told he had "a swelling down by his sheath".....UTI, organ failure, leaky gut...all are fatal in his condition. The mare is not far behind him, and unbeknown to me, he's been hogging most of the mashes. More toxins he can't flush.

He isn't even steady enough to haul to a clinic, to toss several grand at the practise.

All this, while a FAT and HEALTHY very fugly stud horse, occupies the insulated barn and best paddock.

I hate people sometimes.

What plan was that?

Me and my big mouth, I knew I shouldn't have said anything, ha!

No we didn't get the horse yesterday. Too cold, too icy where they are, and its going to drop off vary cold here for the next couple of days. It's zero at my house right now, with winds forecast later on today.

So intead, I scrounged up a couple blankets, loaded a couple bales of that "gourmet hay" into the back of the Vue, and headed to the feed store. There, I met up with another gal who does some private recovery (like many of us do) and she gave me some of the really good probiotic by Equerry to take in-and I picked up beet pulp and more Delta hay pellets.

I was disheartened to see them again in person. They are both just as bad as I remember, if not worse. The mare had on a poorly adjusted blanket, and it just hung off of her bones. The gelding looked about the same, so no significant improvement in a weeks' time for either. We went inside and I laid out a diet plan for them both, which included making bigger mashes and beginning feeding the good hay. I had her start out with just a pound of the good hay a feeding, and increasing by half a pound every day until they are getting at least 5 pounds each a feeding of the good stuff. And to continue to make sure they have the crappy round bale hay of course.

And I scoped out a way to get a horse trailer in and out safely and where it could be parked for loading. I left, wishing the road conditions were better.

This morning I get a call, and from there, spoke to someone else who also does recovery, and who doesn't live far from where the horses are now, on the Lower Hillside in Anchorage. Over an hour on the phone between three calls, and I am very very hopeful that the mare has a new home, and that the gelding gets a ride out here from Anchorage in the next couple of days.

Keep your fingers crossed, everyone!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Well, we have a plan.....

The plan is, tomorrow morning we will work on getting my horse trailer out of it's winter parking spot. We'll check the air in the tires and whatnot, add a bunch of shavings into it, toss in extra halter, lead and flat cotton lunge line. I think I will also add a few goodies for enticements, just in case "No Name" is hesitant. I need to remember to grab some sand too.

Then I will call my wonderful friends/neighbors to let them know we are good to go. They'll come over with thier hefty Dodge Dually and hook up, and I will lead the way into town. Once we get close, I will have them park, and I will drive up and check the road conditions and how much space there is for turning around. It may turn out that we need to walk him down and out to the trailer, we aren't sure. It's kind of a sticky spot, with one side of the property laying along a drop off, one tiny drive up top, and a slightly larger one down below. The issue is, how icy are the paved streets back there? Will be calling for a check on that this evening, but if we are real lucky, they won't be too bad.

My stomach is a mess already, winter hauling just wigs me out. Probably because I don't do it often enough to get even partway comfortable. But, I have a good trailer, it's a great newer truck and the driver has a CDL, just like I do. Naturally I will have sprouted a few new grey hairs by the time we get back home! It's about a 135 mile round trip, roughly, but thankfully we have not had any recent snow, and while the roads are glazed a bit, they aren't sheet ice for the most part.

More tomorrow......

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.....

Someplace else, please!

Yesterday I had sleet, freezing rain, and then snow before I left for work. Snowed all day here, we ended up with about four inches here at work. At home, more like five. It's extremely wet and heavy stuff, so I am not confident about using the brand new wheeler with brand new blade that's tucked safely in the garage. Even though it's a much bigger machine than our old wheeler, it is still not a pickup with a blade. So today I am going to try to find someone to plow out the place-of course, everybody else needs plowing out too-including myself here at work. I am dead in the water here until the yard and culdesac is cleared out. Also on my list is to find someone to get the chain back on the one side of the forklift-it spun halfways off on Monday when I was loading a tank.

Goes without saying the plowing needs to be done before the truck and trailer arrives with the horse this weekend, and here at work before I can use the forklift to unload hay out of the van which arrived yesterday afternoon too.

Oh well, if I didn't have these challenges, life would sure be boring! It's the speed bumps on the road of life which lets us know we've been somewhere ;)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The new horse

Here's a picture. It does not accurately convey his true condition, due to crappy lighting when the picture was taken.

He may look tubby, but it's really a wormy belly. Without even putting hands on him, I know that he is about a condition score 2.5.

This means planning out his diet very carefully, and weighing everything to the ounce. His feet have not been attended to in quite some time, so that will be on the short list for "get done right away" He is so long in the toe on the hinds, it's a wonder he can walk at all. His entire spine sticks up an inch or better, and he is what we call "tented" over hips and croup-meaning, he has been burning muscle for quite some time, poor thing.

He's actually 7, not six, and I found a picture in his paperwork that shows him being ridden in a round pen with a teenager up. This is promising, but who knows how he's been handled and used or abused. It really doesn't matter, he's hungry, and I can fix that right up.

Now if road conditions would just co-operate so I can get him home this weekend......

Sunday, December 9, 2007

H2O, oh my!

Things just keep getting difficult.

Arrived home Friday night, determined to run out the 350 foot of hoses needed to top the stock tanks. Of course, it took 20 minutes to untangle them. I asked my son to hook two of the hoses together, in prep for taking them out of the garage and hooking up. He promptly cross threaded them, and I about blew a gasket, poor guy. My hands were pretty sore from work, and I could not get it unseated. In utter frustration I gave up on that, and simply bucketed water from one tank into the other for the evening.

The next morning I managed to get them apart and I got both tanks filled to the brim. It's a bit of a struggle draining them, coiling them back up, and into the garage, but doable because we have bascially no snow yet this winter.

So, I am inside having lunch and my excavating contractor buddy calls, do I have time to show him what I need done? Ayep, no problem. So he shows up and we go over what needs to be done up there. And then my neighbor shows up with the replacement hydrant, and a length of steel pipe to set it in too. So the two guys get to talking, and now here is the game plan:

They are going to trench from the old hydrant over to the barn (almost 70 foot) and put the new hydrant right at the barn itself, just outside the roof area in front of one post. My excavator is going to get me a good deal on new copper water line as well as heat trace cable to lay the length of the trench. My neighbor is bringing over an old round bale and they are stuffing that into the trench too, under the blue board I need to get to go on top....four inches worth (I need 12 pcs. 8 foot long, ouch!) They will bucket over some of that pit run gravel I have underneath the old one, to under the new one, for additional drainage. Neighbor even offered to come over and do all the hooks up and whatnot, to make sure I never have to deal with NO WATER in the winter months again.

This plan does a couple really handy things....first, no hoses strung out over the parking and driving area in the summer. With it being so close, this means I can go from 150 foot of hose, to about 75 for watering...don't think I can quite make it with a 50 footer, it would be very close though, back to Sully's tank.

I am going to owe my neighbor big time over this, he's been wonderful!! He even has plans to come add some more receptacles to the barn, on the opposite side too, woot woot!

With luck, this will all be done by next weekend, when the new horse arrives :)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Busy busy!

Been a hectic few days around these parts.....I have acquired a new horse which I have not seen in person. A good friends' horse was mauled by dogs and may not survive, or ever be sound. The big wind storm took out my hay tent, along with some trees. My farm hydrant is still down for the count. And I am back at work by myself for the winter months.

I'll just start by explaining how the horse came to be.

On Monday night, pretty late, I happened to check a local Yahoo! group, and quickly scanned the posts there. One that caught my eye was a plea to place a couple of horses rescued. Included were one sentence descriptions on the two, and a brief recount of the rescue. I responded, asking the poster to call me the next morning. As I tried to sleep that night, I reminded myself that rescue should not be just what I talk about, it should be what I *do*.

So the next morning I get the call, and a lengthy conversation ensues. The story goes like this: The gal has seen an ad on Craigslist for a horse trailer. The ad mentioned two horses, as an afterthought. She got a buddy to come along for the drive, and hoped to cut a good deal on a project trailer she could work on fixing up over the winter. Upon arrival, she saw the two horses without water and no hay anywhere. The trailer was pretty much what she was looking for, but the horses needed immediate help-they were in very poor condition. She managed to cut a deal for the package, using rent money to save the horses. (Hey, I would have done the same thing)

With a lot of time and effort, she managed to get the horses hauled into Anchorage, where they remain at this time. There was a mare and a gelding. Mare is somewhere in the mid teens, gelding 6 and registered. She described her ordeal to me, and I just said I would buy the gelding, sight unseen. Further conversation revealed that I had actually spoken to the owner about the horses sometime back in August (I think?) and I had gotten such a twang on my antenna I wasn't comfortable going out there by myself.

Later that day I got photos emailed, and my heart about broke in two. The mare is about a condition score two-which is very serious. The gelding is slightly better, about a 3 on the Henneke scale, although if I had my hands on him, I would be more accurate. The owner literally thought that the horses were in fine shape (!!!) and perfectly healthy. (Yeah well just because they are on their feet, don't make it that way!) They have probably not seen a farrier in almost a year, from the looks of things. The two gals doing the rescuing went ahead and wormed them-something I would not have done myself for a number of weeks-but they seem to have survived that okay.

So there you go, I now have a 6 yo Appaloosa gelding, lineage unkown, training unknown, who is somewhere around 14.3 hands......

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Water revisited

After some struggle dragging out 350 foot of hoses, I did manage to top the stock tanks before dark yesterday afternoon.

Along about midday, a contractor friend came over to take a looksee. This guy has installed a number of these over the years, and had a hunch what the issue right away. So, a few trips to the house for tools later, the head part was off the hydrant.

Once it was exposed it was easy to see what the problem is. There is a small crack on the head itself (which is generally no big deal, just a hairline on the cast iron) that leaked, which has created a lot of rust between the draw pipe, and the exterior pipe. Now these two pipes are a very tight dry fit anyway-but it's totally gummed completely around the diameter. We sprayed some WD 40 on it, and then attempted to rotate the head after reassembly-which would break the works loose, in theory. Of course it won't move at all.

The contractor is pretty sure that the O rings are shot on the bottom of the thing, at the valve. Since we need to pull it anyway to clean off the rust and crud, these should be replaced. Of course, just getting it loose is the speaking with my hub last night, he said he had some penetrating oil that I should apply a few times today. It's his opinion that the oil will do the once it gets to be light out, I will be applying that.

On Monday my friend will be back to see what he can get repaired. If we can't get it loose, then we will have to dig the blasted thing up. If I have to go that route, I am getting a different type altogether, one less complicated and easier to maintain if needed.

In the meantime, all the hoses are in the garage in a huge tangled pile, and the horses DO have water.....

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Water woes

This is not the time of the year to be having issues with providing water for horses.

My own horse drinks less in the winter months as a rule, preferring water slightly warmer than the stock tank heater temperatures. One slight brush with a possible impaction years ago, and I watch his consumption like a hawk. Yet, now that his dental condition has been remedied, the amount he drinks (without additional salt) is greater than previously. So it leads me to conclude that his mouth was sore enough to cause discomfort-which led to the tummy ache. And too, I have switched from a vitamin supplement that was pellet based, to one that is salt based-that probably helps also.

The above is just background on horse keeping, really. But I know, from having horses up here for over two decades, that water management is critical to healthy horses. Nothing, absolutely nothing, stresses me out more than water, the lack of it.

To that end, we put in (at considerable expense) a farm hydrant up near the barn. Those of you not familiar with them, they work like this: You pull up the handle, and that opens a valve at the bottom of the contraption, which allows the water to flow. This particular line is nearly 300 foot long, buried at least 12 foot down. Even just two years ago, the one inch copper was pretty expensive-the hydrant wasn't bad (just $150) but the excavating? Ha! Anyhow, I was thrilled to have it that summer. I used it nearly every day between the stock tanks and the small garden and greenhouse I have up there at the barn area. The hydrant itself was wrapped in heat trace tape, and then pipe insulation. When you turn the water off, it drains back and underground-ours is about 12 foot deep.

The first part of the first winter, everything went well. Then, it seemed to be frozen. So I would turn on the heat trace, and sometimes it would take 12 hours for it to "thaw" enough to get water from it. Naturally this caused me all sorts of worry and distress, to put it mildly. Eventually, in about March, it got to the point I was adding a space heater, to help get the valve to open. This continued until almost June when it finally warmed up enough to open without a big fuss.

Naturally we did not want to go through this again, so late this summer I had an excavator friend come out and we dug it up, again. Now keeping in mind I was working, I wasn't able to be there to provide any input...but we put an entire load of washed septic rock down below for the valve to drain into. (It turned out that there wasn't enough rock down below, just clay-that clay essentially turned into slurry at first, and then was "baked" into place with the heat trace-not allowing the thing to move freely) In addition, there is four inches of rigid insulation about four feet down-to help shed the frost away from the hydrant. They did not, of course, place the thing inside a six inch pipe like I had asked. If you do so, you can drop a light bulb down them to thaw them out if needed.

About a month ago, it started to become difficult to open the handle. Now, it can't be opened at all. I happened to find the one piece of paper that came with the hydrant, and the other day I went to talk to the folks that sold it. They, of course, don't sell that kind any longer, and really couldn't help me out. From there I went to my neighbor's work, and talked to him about it. He's a real handy guy, and I know they have three hydrants on their own farm. We spent some time going over what we'd done, and how the thing works, and came up with two or three obvious possibilities. 1. The valve down below is plugged with muck. 2. Material has worked in between the plastic draw pipe and steel outer pipe. 3. Something has compromised the packing or whatever, at the connection between the collar and the handle.

The blasted thing only has to move about a half inch or so to open. So my neighbor came over in daylight and quickly ruled out the thing being plugged down below-you can literally blow hard on them-and if they are stuck, the air will come right back-which it didn't. So that part is good. Then we tried plugging in the heat trace, which promptly blew the breaker on the cord.

He suggested I get a different cord, and try that to see if it's the cord breaker, or the barn, or the heat trace tape itself. So yesterday I bought another heavy duty cold temp 100 foot cord, and wouldn't you know it, the blasted breaker on the receptacle popped immediately. This means the heat trace tape is no good. Our logic tells us the blasted thing isn't frozen anyhow, as there is no water in it. It can only be the valve at the bottom which is gummed up, OR something at the top part, where the handle is.

Today I am calling him to let him know about the cord, and see what he says. In the mean time, I have been bucketing water between tanks, and today I MUST top them.

So I am sitting here debating whether or not to drag out all the hoses we have put up for the winter, which are buried in our conx container, or haul using buckets with trash bags inside.

I think I will opt for the hoses. And pray that the frost free tap on the barn side of the house works!