Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Coming and going

A new year brings me a number of changes....

First, I went from one, to more horses than I really need to own. One boarder is going closer to her owners home (K & J you will be missed!) which anyone can understand. Little No Name does finally have a name which just cropped up to mind and stuck - Pepper.

Bringing Pepper home is not quite as simple as just finding a haul for him if my husband is out of town. Nope, it means getting the little guy accustomed to our rather frigid temperatures. Which means turn out, with blankets. And eventually turnout into a stall with a small paddock at our local "Horse Hilton" (Bluegrass Equestrian Center) for at least a week to give him time to adjust. And then turnout without blankets.

This has not proven to be an easy thing to accomplish-it does seem as though the temperatures are working against my plans. It was -13 at work today, -6 here this morning. I have just -2 right now, courtesy of a bunch of clouds rolling up the inlet this evening. I fully expect it to be -10 or colder in the am. Sigh. Mother Nature is not being helpful-perhaps she is trying to tell me something?

So last night the BO and I discussed how this can be done, because the truth is, I cannot possibly get over there every day and turn him out myself (darn job anyhow, that boss just insists I show up!) So the plan is to double blanket during the day, large arena turn out, and play it by ear. We are also dropping the midday grain and halting the wet food and feeding him dry rations instead. Hay will remain the same, but honestly this high powered diet, young horse and stall combination is not very good for him. He explodes with pent up energy as soon as possible-and occasionally when he shouldn't. We can't blame the little guy for that-he feels *good* all over and his weight is looking very very good-he still has muscle to replace, but his ribs are well covered now and he's filling out in all the right places. It's pretty much like feeding a 5,000 calorie a day diet to an active child and then insisting he sit still, lol Ain't gonna happen!

I am giving some serious thought to moving old lard butt to the front, and giving Pepper the larger paddock-simply because he needs space to move. Still debating that. When my husband gets home in the next couple of days, I am going to drag him over to see Pepper. I think he will be quite surprised at how far he has come in six weeks. And I promise to take pictures too!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A weather rant

If you live up here, you are probably feeling the effects of the weather. Not the various cold and crud viruses making the rounds like they do, but chances are you are occasionally-

Annoyed, aggravated, irritated, unsettled, stressed out, fed up, twitchy, having a bout of SAD, cabin fever, or the 1000 yard stare has settled onto your face without notice.

It's probably crossed your mind to bag living up here and to move someplace, any place, where 1) the weather does not have such wild swings, and 2) it either stays cold, or stays warm, or 3) anywhere without snow, ice, and rain.

This is especially true for those of us attempting to manage livestock which means outdoor chores of some type. It's becoming a struggle and I find myself haunting the weather websites like a virus myself, trying to out geuss the professional weather liars. I check satellite images, forecasts, and historical data. The last is worthless this year since if there is a pattern, it's that there isn't one.

From below zero to temps in the 40s inside 24 hours. Low humidity to pouring rain in the same. As the systems rocket from the mid Pacific ocean northwards, we might as well have a target painted on us as we unerringly get slammed with whatever front is pushed through-complete with large fluctuations in pressure. I find myself trying to stay on top of these wild highs and lows, because they play havoc on a horses' digestive system. I am constantly tweaking the hay fed, the amount of salt in the feed pans, whether or not I should provide a mash, blanket or not, repair or maintain the fences, arrange for plowing and the like.

After a while it becomes an added burden, managing the effects of the weather. As I tell myself "at least I don't have to have fans and misters due to heat" I bundle up (again) to feed more hay (again) while tromping through calf deep snow (again). Sigh.

Is it breakup yet?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The vet says.....

Chubs should be called "Old Chubs", lol

Estimated age, somewhere between 25 and 30-but with a full compliment of molars which is amazing for his age. He's in great basic health, and got a tet, flu. rhino to protect him now that he is exposed to other horses regularly.

As to his awful knees, the vet had this to say: That he was bow legged to begin with. Prior use likely led to the condition being as bad as we see today. (I since learned that he was boarded in a place where he was spooked by a bear, and he cleared a six foot tall fence, landing on pavement-I am sure that didn't help either) Basically, I can put a kid up on him and lead him around once in a while, but other than that, he's a companion horse only.

The other thing I learned today is that he has a history of going through fences and mounting mares. Egads! Now as of this moment I am presuming this would be impossible for him to accomplish, given the fact that one leg pretty much does not bend at all, and other front slightly. Seriously, I think *if* he got up there, he'd be stuck and couldn't get down. Or if he did get down, he'd loose his knees completely on the dismount, and that would be that. I am trying to find out is he has ever been near stallions-no word back on that as yet.

If I end up having issues over this, I will have to find him another home, since I cannot risk the boarder's mare I have right now. I do have a spot for him this summer, however, if needed.

Well, they do say don't look a gift horse in the mouth-for good reason ;)

Sunday, January 20, 2008


OK now here you can see how difficult coping with his feet are going to be :(

The side view is somewhat skewed due to lighting and angle, but he is seriously that bad.

The upper photo, which I had to doctor slightly as it was very dark. It shows his alert, friendly expression very well

Tempest in a teapot

A small storm erupted over the weekend on the busiest local Yahoo! group. As it happens, I inadvertently caused the uprorar by linking to another local persons' webpage. That page included some text which would lead reasonable people to conclude that yet another local person was somehow at fault for a horse having issues under saddle-and that the current owner rescued him from someone who turned out to be a local "trainer".

Follow that? I was mostly just surprised that the webpage made any mention of anyone else, even by business name. This is not ordinarily done up here, to place blame so clearly. The author of the webpage is a somewhat well respected local, very big on "everyone is welcome in the horse community" but who really means: Everyone is welcome who is my friend ;) She's been known to let fly at people (myself included) over imagined slights and misunderstandings, and is not above picking public fights with individuals, businesses, and even the state Quarter Horse organization.

We won't go there on her unproven (in the real show world) stallions of average lineage, or her untiring self promotion to the exclusion of anyone who does not jump on her bandwagon. But I do credit her with bringing to light, albeit incidentally, the qualifications of the trainer cited.

I was quite surprised to discover that this trainer has just four years of horse ownership. She charges $50 an hour for a lesson on her own horse, and $40 with your own. Oh my. Pretty steep for the quality of experience, judgement, and education you would be getting.

I have met this person myself three times. Once she bought hay from me. Although difficult to get in touch with, she did eventually show up-and told me about some of her rescue horses. I had no idea who she was, so I made a mental note that someone else up here was actively rescuing-you just never know when another resource may be needed, right? Next time I met up with her was this last fall, at a local tack swap. We chatted idly but she was not especially a friendly type, even though I was generous with my compliments on her items (truly, she is a crafty type, and I stand in complete awe of those folks who can do that stuff, lol) I listened as she chatted with another well known trainer and that is when I learned she was giving lessons at a local facility. She left the impression she has a full schedule and was the main trainer there.

Which leads me to the third time I met her. As it happens I have no name at this facility. I was there visiting and was checking the indoor for occupancy. I found her there, giving a lesson (or two, not sure-she had one person snaking a loead rope at a horse to get it to back up??) and so I watched. Without a welcome or an acknowledgement, she went on. I am pretty sure I asked about lessons as I am thinking of getting some for my own son.

After being ignored, I left.....and that's the extent of my interactions. Not much, and not enough to form a conclusion about training or instruction ability, really. When her name came up on the local group, I discovered her level of experience. To say I was surprised is putting it mildly.

She got very upset over the weekend when her qualifications were called into question, and uploaded a lengthy, emotional page about the subject horse. She then took down the entire website at some point. Ah well, it's too bad because giving the impression you are hiding your actions and activies does not leave a good impression with the locals. She had long since left the group, so of course only learned of this through members who funneled her emails. She had ample opportunity to rejoin, and defend herself, but chose not to. She also got other friends to come to her defense (which is fine!) but all in all, it was not handled in a mature, professional way.

Funny thing is, this little tempest in a teapot served as a great example of how *not* to react when questions are raised. I am pretty sure she will be reading this, as I did link my blog to the group the two mentions of trainers. Hopefully she will heed the points I have made, and move forward in a positive way-continuing to be active within the community.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Chubs 2

Chubs is fact, this whole thing is kinda hinky. Really.

He's been over to my place at least six times in the past year, getting loose from his crappy panel pasture and looking for companionship with the horses at my place. He has caused quite an uproar, resulting in me calling the local pony posse to do something about it twice. I hadn't seen him since October, although he did cross my mind during bad weather.

When my hub walked him home yesterday, he knew right where he was going. He was a perfect gentleman on the lead, halted easily, munched carrots, and hobbled right along compliantly. When was led up to the barn, the other two horses just looked.

Now think about that for a second.

They just looked. They didn't dash around calling. They didn't nicker, whinny, or scream. No trotting, no blowing, nothing.

Hub put him in the part panel section, and he promptly found bits of my soft, imported hay to munch on. After a few minutes, he wandered over to stand near the mare. Totally, completely at ease. When I got home, he was standing alongside her with the fenceline inbetween.

He had not really touched the really grassy local hay that was in for him, and had left half of the sweet feed my hub thought he should have (yeah well we won't go there on sudden diet changes, right?) As soon as I started feeding, I could see the "light bulb" go off and he made his way over to the inside panel, ears up and friendly. For the night, I just added some extra local hay for him to munch on. I watched him eat for a few minutes this morning and he's having some trouble taking decent mouthfuls of hay. I didn't see any quids, but he needs his teeth attended to pronto.

It is absolutely the strangest thing, his arrival causing no fuss whatever. I can only presume he was meant to be here.

First call this morning, the vet for a quick once over and a float.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Challenges, Chubs and endings

Hooboy, Mother Nature is challenging my driving skills! Yesterday morning I left for work with about an inch of fresh snow on the ground and it was lightly snowing. The drive into work wasn't too bad and it did continue to drop the white stuff until around 3 pm. However, it all blew away to the west, thanks to some stiff winds.

This of course left numerous drifts which needed to be mucked out in the yard at work. This is no big issue, we all know the premises is located in just about the windiest spot in the whole Valley and I made arrangements to get that taken care of today.

Along around 11 am, I called my hub. He was on the new four wheeler, plowing. Plowing? I thought to myself-whatever for? He mumbled something about six inches and said he had to get back at it. I didn't give it much thought really, figuring I had misunderstood him.

When I made my way home last night, I was quite surprised to see that we'd had a solid eight inches of snow. I was even more bemused to see the neighbor's firewood truck parked in my driveway. I had asked my hub to go over and check on old Chubs the crippled paint gelding, since we hadn't seen the owner's rig there in a few days. The owner had seen the tracks and followed my hub home-which is where I learned we acquired the horse for good.

So my hub is walking Chubs home when we have some daylight.

This ends the series of unexpected, panic filled visits by a lonely horse who was pretty much abandoned by his owners with a round bale and a stock tank-and no shelter. He seemed personable enough, if thinner than I care to see in the winter months. I've already emailed my trimmer, who is scheduled for Sunday-I said to bring the camera, you won't believe the horse walks with those blown knees!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A good question

Was asked yesterday with a simple: How do they sleep at night? When it comes to the unwanted horse and their owners/caretakers, I have no firm answers.

Is it a lack of compassion?

Is it selfishness?

Is it an inability to face unpleasantness?

Disdain? Ignorance? Apathy? I can't begin to list all the factors at's some of everything, with a healthy dash of laziness and an inability to accept responsibility. What motivates people to act as they do? From the horses' perspective, it does not matter. It is what it is.

Food, water, shelter, all arise from the human stewards they have been blessed or cursed with. How often, how much, wholesome or not-the basic requirements of life are met, or not. Their very survival depends upon beings and situations that evolution did not prepare them for. They look to us for herd leadership and (when all is said and done)-to life itself, especially in Alaska. For myself, I accept and willingly shoulder that responsibility. It sits easily on my shoulders, whether it is convenient or not, easy or challenging. I am the steward of the horses in my care and they look to me for everything.

This morning it is almost -12 degrees.

My steps were thunderous in the quiet as I walked to the barn. The air was so still that I could have guessed the temperature based on "nose hair burn" (a uniquely Alaskan gauge) without mercury in a glass tube.

Across the skies to the north, the aurora borealis stretched-east to west in a broad band of pale green. Hundreds of feet tall, it was slightly shimmering, undulating to some earthern drum I could not hear. The horses waited in anticipation, alert, calm, and with appetite. They blew gently as I portioned out hay, quiet and content under one of Alaska's greatest majesties.

Whether I represent a concept as simple as "food" to them, or herd leader, I do not know or care...and it does not matter. Quiet sighs and blows filled my ears and my heart lifted. These horses, today, in my care have their needs met and their futures secure.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The truly unwanted

The issues facing horses and horse ownership up here in Alaska sometimes serve as an example of human failings.

Just a few days ago, a person posted on a local group, looking for a new home for a mare. It was written in such a way as to lead a logical person to presume that immediate rescue was needed. Not knowing anything more, I did what I always do: Stood right up and said I had feed and space. In my mind I was envisioning a skinny horse, needing good feed and attention.

As the days unfolded I learned more about the horse.

The poor thing has been in three homes in three months. She was orginally purchased for a 9 yo girl and shortly after the horse was moved "home", the girl lost interest. They were going to give her to a dog musher. She then went to another new home-this person is not particularly well respected, as she breeds anything and everything with a uterous to her fugly stallion. Stories differ slightly but the gist is, the mare's presence created difficulties with the stallion owner. Being a trash owner, she got very angry and told an acquaintance that the mare had to go, that's it, she is done feeding her. The acquaintance stepped right up and took the horse....again being saved from a dog lot.

In truth, the mare is in decent weight, is healthy, and can eat hay. Aside from unknown handing or training issues that may arise, there is nothing wrong with her at all.

She is just unwanted.

AER won't take her in, they save their precious resources for those horses that are in dire straits. The local AC office does not accept horses either, a recent change since they have had a half dozen dropped off this winter so far (not counting the cases they are working of course).

Thanks to the person who posted on the local group, I was able to network a bit, and it looks as though a permanent companion home has been found. But her plight illustrates the failings of the humans responsible. From the person who sold the mare originally in October for the 9 yo girl, and never did a sales contract with first right of refusal, to the stallion owner who was looking for a cheap broodie, to the newbies who are overwhelmed and out of space, it's been one long passage from frying pan to frying pan for this old mare. Even her breeding and age are unknown by this time-too many hands in too short a time.

I like to think that I played a pivotal role in giving this mare a retirement situation. If I had not, she would no doubt have continued to be unwanted and passed around, until such time as she end up on a dog lot-shot for sled dog food. And that, my friends, is the cruel reality of the aged horse in Alaska.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Craigslist oddity ;)

I replied to two questions on Craigslist about one of the local horse traders. One was a simple link to their website, and other relating the basic facts about seizure/AC.

Both were flagged down within a couple hours.

Funny how the rest of the comments were left up, eh?

Any thoughts?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

I am delighted to know I am not alone!

Direct from Craigslist, in response to the posting of yesterday:

Reply to 4 trail horses and ponies $2000 in Palmer
Reply to: see belowDate: 2008-01-05, 2:53PM AKSTEveryone out there looking for a horse please DO NOT BUY form this lady she also has the Belgian mare for sale. I have been out to look at her horses and every one of them was lame and had some sort of injury on their leg and was infected and supposedly they had seen a vet and it was fine. This lady cares nothing about the care of her horses and only cares about how much money she can make off of them. She should be reported to Alaska Equine Rescue and the horses should be taken from her. The horses also have very bad manners and kick and bite and when you go out there the horses will already be tied to the post because she doesn’t want anyone to know that they are hard to catch. But you really can’t blame them I wouldn’t want to be caught either knowing the way she treats them. I mean come on ridding a 2 year old horse all summer. Buy the way this is the same lady that was selling back in October and had a child ridding the 7 month old foal (baby horse). People please buy from someone else and report her to the authorities.
Location: Palmer

Friday, January 4, 2008

If tarring and feathering were legal.....

I would be pretty busy taking care of this local woman and her is her latest Craigslist offering:

In fact, I bet I would be in a sizable crowd, chasing her down the highway to say, some other country. This woman has a lengthy history....just about any horror story has occured you can imagine with horses in her "care". Deaths from disease, accident, colics, starvation, etc, have occured. She has even left corpses strung up to a tree in the yard for the mangy hounds to eat.

She deals in so many, and on payment no less, that I only know of *one* person (out of hundreds) who did not get ripped off. Every horse is outrageously overpriced and they nearly all have a physical limitation, if not a downright dangerous one under saddle or for handling. You will never get the "papers" unless you pay full price up front, or an extra $500 after the contract i s paid. She's taken recreational equipment and other stuff in trade. There's never enough feed there and come early spring, most will be CS4 at best. The local AC has a file on her about three inches thick, yet she seldom gets cited by staying just barely within the boundaries of minimal care. Yet she is quick to sue anyone else, to get a judgment on debt.

A number of years ago, she "found the Lord" and got remarried. This seems to have helped her with her horse dealings as she is able to keep the doors open year round. It has not, however, kept her from being the worst example of a horse trader we have in state. to wit: RIDING THE TWO YEAR OLD ALL SUMMER. See the picture with the smiling rider? WTF is wrong with that broad? Everyone with any horse sense knows you do not ride a baby! Grrr!

I have personally seen foals so ill they were near death. Carcasses. No hay on premises. No water for all horses. Numerous new scars from ill fitting equipment. Numerous untreated injuries from squabbles in tiny, trash strewn paddocks. She leaves a trail of used up and broken down horses across the area....once she has used them up in her trail riding operation, she then sells them off to suckers, who pay double to triple what they are really worth. She is able to do this because she takes payments.

And to top it off, she breeds. Anything with a uterus it seems. I have no idea what she has for a stallion these days, but it's sure to be fugly along with all her stock. Anything above average that appears there, came from somewhere else.

I have plenty of coal tar-a whole five gallons of it at work....only two feather pillows though :(

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Welcome mat is hereby removed from back

I admit it, I am a sap. I get taken advantage of frequently, people use me since I am so predictable in my responses, and in general, I am often played the fool. Especially when it comes to horses, because I am really a sap for those!

What usually happens is that I eventually get annoyed. Then it moves to frustrated, and from there, to downright ticked off. I have no one to blame but myself when I get into these sticky predicaments, but I would sure like to think I can.

Like most humans, once I am ticked off, civility takes a back seat and I can surely be rude in getting my point across. Mostly that's because being blunt and forceful is what it takes to get it there in the first place.

I am sure you might be thinking: What does this have to do with horses? Welp, let me recap for you, the current predicament-

At the beginning of summer, I allowed my coworker to bring to my place her mare for training. She's been there since the last week of May. The deal was, $100 a month and she'd provide the hay and grain. A very sweet deal for up here. So time passes and the trainer works with the horse sporadically, with little forward progress. The "plan" was that once the trainer got three rides on the mare, that would be it. Month after month passes and eventually it's September. Trainer becomes hard to reach and I don't see evidence of the horse being worked. October rolls around and the coworker contacts trainer, and it's agreed that it will wrap up very soon. Trainer does not show. November rolls around and I tell coworker that the trainer has not been there at all (easy to verify due to snow on the ground-no tracks) Coworker is too intimidated by confrontations to have it out with trainer, and lets it slide. Finally, I tell coworker the horse has to go home. This is the first week of December. Over the course of the fall, I have lost the chance at three boarders for full rate, and I can't afford to do this any longer.

Now we have reached a point where she is leaving messages when she knows I won't be home or at work to talk to her. The last conversation was her asking that she leave the horse there until yesterday when she had a doctor's appointment in town anyway. I said I needed full board or the horse gone, period. The horse trailer is there, alright, but so is the horse.

Now I am infuriated at myself, for allowing this to happen. It's all well and good to help out friends but honestly, this is going too far. So today I am going to keep calling until she can't stand it any longer, and answers the phone. Screw this. I have removed the Welcome mat for this person and it's time to be my blunt and rude self.