Friday, August 29, 2008

An historic day for Alaska

Today, Senator John McCain announced his choice for the Republican ticket:

Our very own Governor Sarah Palin.

Will her acceptance prove a help, or a hindrance? Will the party weather the storm sure to follow as they pick through Troopergate and Branchflowers' investigation? Will they even mention what happened with Randy Ruedrich? The Alask Oil & Gas Commission?

That remains to be seen, I am enjoying listening to talk radio, and hearing people spout off about Gov. Palin and McCain's motivations for chosing her. No one knows very much about her on the national level, and her chops are going to be picked over something fierce. And that is how it should be.

I personally think it was an astute choice for the ticket, based upon her conservative values-never mind what she has done with AGIA and ACES, the leases at Pt Thomson, and etc.

Interesting times ahead for Alaska, that's for sure. And even if nothing comes of it in the end, I am still proud an ALASKAN was chosen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The scope of the puzzle revealed

As some of you readers have likely already guessed, I am a bit of an amateur equine nutritionist.

On my own, I have attempted to unravel what had previously been a mystery from beginning to end-the intricate, delicate, equine digestive tract. I have always known I have a lot left to learn, and that I have only general principles to guide my feed choices and approach. I haven't been to college, but I read extensively on the net-results from studies, information from manufacturers, anectdotal stories from professionals in the field, extensive reading on research programs and their results ( is a fascinating website, btw-Katy Watts ROCKS!) I have also tried to learn the value of forage testing, how the elements in the horses' diet work together-or are inhibited from uptake, etc. I have developed general guidelines based on conclusions I have formed from this amateur study-and so far, they have served me pretty well. The evidence is plain from the looks of the horses in my care.

However, I don't have the science background to get into real detail on balancing a dietery regimen. In other words, I am working with a knowledge base that approximates a 48 piece jigsaw puzzle-when what is really happening is the equivalent of a 1000 piece super challenger. This was brought home the other day when I began reading up on IR/deworming/lysine/vitamins. Oh my word.

What I don't know is astounding. How it is that copper, zinc, iron, manganese (and etc), amino acids, vitamins all work together-or not, as the case may be. I feel certain that I am missing some key elements in the horses' diets-but I am not positive just what that may I providing too much of one thing, which is preventing other things from being bio-avilable to the horse? How can I tell whether a horse is able to utilize what I am feeding in the proper amounts? Without a lot of testing, I can't as it stands now.

But what I can do, is get more education in the subject. To that end, I plan on enrolling in an online course. Yeah yeah, I can see you rolling your eyeballs, lol! This particular course (and others offered) originate from a research veterinarian, who has accredidation with a number of insitutions. Since I cannot take any such courses locally, I am left with what I can manage long distance. First up, ten weeks of Cushings/IR study. Since we have a tremendous amount of this here, the more I can learn about these conditions....the better!

I hope this will prompt at least one person here to increase their knowledge base, for the future of horses in their care. If I can do it working full time, so can YOU.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fair times

Ah yes, State Fair time. For us long term residents, we know that this leads into a rainy pattern of weather.....although, I have to say it's not much different than the rest of what passed for summer this year, lol It's sort of tradition that you go to the Fair and get rained on-usually with a stiff breeze accompanying the drench. Most folks go well prepared with rain gear, that they will hastily remove at the first hint of sun and tote tied around their necks and waists as they meander from booth to booth.

I really enjoy going to the State Fair, I really do. I like most of the exhibits, and of course the food is incredible. I generally never make it as far as the horse shows because I am with my hub and son-who have no interest in that. I try for a Xinga and a plain coffee when I first arrive, then graze my way through the place, gorging on hot corn on the cob, fancy confections, peanut spuds, and topped off with a bread bowl of marvelous soup down by the midway. I end up spending hours (and plenty of dollars) at the midway so my son can enjoy the rides, along with 1000s of other children. I will eventually stroll up and watch in awe, the fools who get sling shotted (is that a phrase??) into the air, strapped into a two seat contraption and vaulted at speed upwards. Not for me thankyouverymuch! Then I will wander through the fancy toy haulers and motorhomes, buy tickets at every drawing, marvel at the giant veggies (no entry for me this year, darn it) look in awe at our talented artists' exhibits....and generally wear myself right out. I almost always miss the good events at the corral, and have missed the logging demo a couple of years in a row. I'll stand with others and listen to performers, and giggle myself out of the way of the goofy parades. You'll find my husband making repeated trips to the oyster bar, and tagging along behind me with resignation ;) He'll buy a new pocketknife and get his current one sharpened, and will chat with the dozens of people he knows.

State Fair time generally means that horse owners are trying to stock up on hay, and the bulltein boards and the local horse magazine are crammed with horses for sale. With prices finally starting to correct, and the size of the PFDs this year, quite a few are going into new homes I bet. I am still keeping an eye out for a good riding horse for myself, one that could possibly work into a decent mount for my son. Who now has the bug.

A few days ago, the owner of the Princess (pony) and her hony (they act like an old married couple, I swear-for all that he's a middle aged gelding) came for a visit. She graciously agreed to allow my son a ride on the Princess-and he's hooked. Even bareback on a broad backed, geriatric pony who did nothing more than walk around, and that's it, I have heard comments at least once a day since. My son already makes up feed pans, rakes out the barn, takes care of the chickens, helps with watering, and other smaller chores as it is. I know he really wants a pony or horse for himself, because it's not unusual for me to find him hanging off Princess, talking sweet and petting/scratching her. She, of course, is tolerant of accepting her due, and is a great walk/trot lesson pony in her own right.

Now is the time I will start putting up vegetables out of the garden. I have already harvested most of the cauliflower and broccoli, and I am keeping a close eye on the zucchini because I definitely want to make more relish this fall. My son has already sampled the corn in the greenhouse-and tells me "it's really good, Mom!" even raw. I have beans about ready for first picking too, and peas are coming on gangbusters. We've been eating tomato and cucumber salad for a while now, but I don't think I will have enough cucumbers to pickle. Tomatoes I have in abundance, yippee! I have to set some aside just for seed too. All the tomatoes in the greenhouse are direct from seeds I harvested last year and I have to say, they are good producers.

Soon enough, I will be processing potatoes into jars for long term storage. A friend offered to loan me a "french fry" cutter....which would certainly make dicing spuds go a lot faster! I swap them a couple cases of canned spuds for the potatoes they grow which are organic. They grow the best red eyes I have ever eaten, by far, and they can very well too. Since I have no carrots to speak of this year, I will have to buy some from the produce truck which will be parked down the road from my office. My hub isn't a big fan of cooked carrots, but they are a nice addition to casseroles, soups and stews-besides, I generally buy at least 50 pounds for the barn residents too, lol

I have been picking what few barries I have at home, and putting them into the freezer as they ripen. In about three weeks I will be making the trek up to my one "never fail" high bush cranberry spot, so that I will have many pounds ready for making into cranberry ketchup, jelly, and as a base for barbecue sauce.

The firewood is almost done now, should be finished this week. When all the harvesting is taken care of (and hopefully a moose too) we will be pretty well set for winter.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Court this morning

The Belardi case goes before the judge this morning. I have no idea if it's going to end up postponed (again), rescheduled (again), continued (again), or what. With luck, all of the witnesses will be able to testify as to the facts of the case.

And the judge (request for jury trial was vacated or something?) will see the light and at least give her a fine. Unfortunately, we can't introduce her history with MSBACR :(

I'll post a reply here with an update when I get back....stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fact vs. Fiction

I mentally toss around these two concepts from time to time, particularly when a rumor surfaces. In fact, there was quite the exchange regarding rumors on CL just last week-which has prompted this entry today.

At what point is something fact, and at what point is it fiction??

How do you determine which is which, when it comes to rumors and gossip?? I mean, how do you personally view the difference-is it fact when it comes from a close friend, but only "nasty gossip" when it comes fourth or fifth hand?

The small horse community here gossips something fierce-we all know that. There is a lot of talking going on, not in public or on the net-but emails, texting, and phone calls do fly when something "juicy" comes along. There is an equal amount of what can only be called back stabbing and trash talking going on as well. Sometimes, people are even used to carry information between parties-whether they are aware of it or not.

Many times, the same people who will denounce such behavior to your face, are the same ones that gleefully pass along tidbits to other buddies-and from there it makes the round, one person to the next-proving "six degrees of seperation" exists and functions quite well here thankyouverymuch ;)

Folks will move from one circle or clique to another-and promptly trash talk the previous set, exposing their failings and sometimes their secrets. I am not sure if this is just a way to gain acceptance, or the equivalent of sour grapes-but this is a fact we all know-and most of us, entirely too well.

I enjoy a good rumor, really. Sometimes they are hilarious, sometimes very sad, sometimes alarming-but I always, always attempt to find the truths-if there are any. I have stopped a number of them in their tracks over the years, thank heavens. Occasionally, rumors that float around about me could be resolved with a simple phone call and a question to two-but that rarely happens. Folks are much more at ease speaking to their friends than they are actually determining the truth. I'd say the majority of poeple gossip to one degree or another-whether they admit it or not. So, if two friends are discussing something that concerns them-is that gossiping? I don't think so.

If you are convinced that any talk of another person is gossip, then perhaps applying your standards across our culture will help you see the fallacy there: Any information that is not experienced first hand, would thus be gossip. All the news reports, all the articles and stories we read and hear every day, could qualify as gossip by that yardstick. Politics, international events, newspapers, radio, the internet, etc-all nothing but gossip yet we accord them more validity than we do that which we hear from our peers.

It's like the recent subject of a prior entry....I heard some startling things, and proceded quickly to discover the truths. Thus, I had contact with a number of people, and accurately relayed what I found out.

Does this make me a gossip?
Or a reporter?
Or a little of both?
Or none of those but something else?

Sunday, August 17, 2008


This morning, I have at my side, my buddy Jethro.

Yep, you read right, he's back!

Honestly, I had about given up hope. I had long since concluded he had been scooped up by someone and was safely in a household somewhere. But, funny how it all turns out....

On Friday, I had planned to run down to MSBACR again-but in the morning, I was checking their website and didn't see any new dogs. The Anchorage AC website very kindly puts up a "found dog" list (which we really need out here-any volunteers?) and I checked that as usual. I had been checking CL umpteen times a day too, of course. But Friday was rather busy at work and I figured I could safely wait until Monday this time.

So Friday evening I am just walking into the house and the phone rings. Its a neighbor who tells me this bizarre story about a free pony and I know they are hinting around for a haul-but I toss some cold water on that idea as they would be in way over their heads. I hang up from them, my head kind of spinning with the thought of why would anyone give away a 17 yo pony?? when the phone rings immediately. I answer and a lady says she thinks she has my dog.

My dog?? MY dog?? Really? She tells me she got my number from MSBACR, that the dog had wandered into her yard the night before around 9:30. A little disoriented, she had to coax him with food and managed to catch him. She called AC the first thing and learned about my lost dog report, and called. I asked her location, and it turns out she is living in a new house built just a half a mile away.

I said I would be there in two minutes flat, yelled to my son to load up, got the cat out of my car, and we were off, lol And YES it was him!!! He knew us right away, of course and wagged his tail....I scooped him up in my arms and got a few licks and my son too. I was bawling like the old sap I am, and thanked the woman profusely as you can imagine.

I have no idea what's happened to him in the nearly month he has been missing. But I do know he surely wasn't in someone's house being fed. He is emaciated. He stinks something awful and is very weak. Has patches of pitch and bare spots on his leg and one ear is flipped down at the tip now, much lower than previously. Friday night I did what I could to get him to eat, and he drank a lot too. First thing Saturday I called the vet and got an appointment....I am quite relieved to know that he's going to recover.....he is on amoxi (for infected anal glands) and Rimadryl for his body soreness and one shoulder that is very painful. His diet is hamburger and rice for a week and I picked up some Eukanuba small breed puppy chow too.

He spent most of yesterday sleeping, and we only go out (on lead) so he can do his business. A couple minor accidents in the garage Friday night that I am not worried about, but nothing overnight as of this morning. He isn't drinking or eating as much as normal but considering his body weight....well, if he were a horse I would put him at a CS 1. He was weighed at the vet at 8.6 pounds.

He is a changed dog, I will tell you that...but last night, after the drugs kicked in, he actually played for a few seconds! Of course I promptly started crying, but it's all okay...miracles DO happen! Really.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Just for mbd :)

I actually addressed the matter that has you so riled up, on this blog:

Just the past few weeks I have seen some horses for free, to horses with little or no training for thousands. These are the same horses that would bring a pittance at any auction in the L48, btw. There are a very few some what reasonably priced weaners and yearlings-and I even know (not for a fact, mind you) of at least one family is dealing with being your own backyard breeder by simply harvesting the foals for the freezer.

In case you've missed it, I have taken in an oldster too. This guy is horribly crippled up from arthritis from two blown knees, and was given to us by someone who "didn't want to deal with him". Besides, he had been over to visit a number of times-usually when we weren't home ;) I found a wonderful horse person who agreed to pasture him for the summer, and he has the companionship of three mares and runs on 100s of acres. I can't imagine a better last summer for him, considering he spent the last five or so years pretty much by himself in a small pasture. The summer turn out and exercise has helped him tremendously. He is getting around much much better than earlier in the year, and he has slimmed down and toned up and is generally content to be part of the small herd. I am still determined to put him down as I cannot see subjecting him to yet another hard winter here. That horse is just one of a string of older horses I have rehabbed, and then either found a great last home or had to be put down. I don't like hauling horses to the musher, but of course I am a practical person and realize this end is *much* better than starving to death in someone's back yard.

Since we have no retirement facility, and no auctions, and no sanctuaries-there just isn't any place for them to GO, when the owner has had enough. Of course, I thought of a practical solution, but I can't see being able to make it happen.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Addressing emails re: Tangled tale

Today, I am addressing some emails I got about my previous post here, the one titled "A tangled tale"

I received several that were along the lines of "you're a terrible person!" and "he's a nice guy" and "that's not a nice thing to do!"

Ok let me answer this way:

To those of you who think I went way overboard with the posting, I ask you to consider what is better here-that the whole thing gets swept under the rug? Or that an unsuspecting horse owner is made aware of it?

If the "nice guy" gets a pass on this behavior....what else might he do, or not do, to others? It is somehow okay that horses were without shelter, or water, or feed, or were mismanaged, or lost a LOT of body weight, just because he's a nice guy? It's all okay because he has the feed store? Has a 4-H club? Whats your criteria for a boarding operator anyway, one wonders.

If you think I am a terrible person for bringing this from the rumor mill to the harsh light of public scrutiny, I don't know what to tell you-you are missing the point here entirely. And that point is this:

Know who you are placing your horse with. Check references, ask questions, and do not essentially abandon your horses with a stranger-no matter how nice and charismatic the operator, or what line of BS you were fed about the place.

Look at what happened to Wingnut as an example-just one, out of many. She survived, but another horse on the property did not. All the money that was "saved" by cheap board just proves you get what you pay for. Especially when it comes to quality horse care up here. If the boarding fee sounds like a really good deal-it's worth investigating why. If you are satisfied with the answers, so be it.

And if you are at ease with no shelter, marginal care and supervision...then you get what you deserve. But your horses DO NOT deserve it-it is still your responsibility as owner to watch out for them.

If these were your children, would you leave them there in his care? I would hope not!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A tangled tale

We here in Alaska have our share of stories and storytellers-from the great Robert Service to Dana Stabenow, Peabody Prize winning reporters and on down to erstwhile bloggers such as myself. Blogs are wonderful tools. They can educate, alarm, reveal, and titillate. They can inflame passions, prompt reformations and yet, yet, most readers have no idea that a blog is nothing more than the authors opnion. It may be backed up by graphs, citations, charts and quotes, but whatever "idea' put forth into cyber space is just that: the opinions and conclusions of one person. As such, they are afforded some specific rights under law. Something to keep in mind when reading this entry.

Yes, it's horse related-and if the cast of characters and tale itself does not concern or amuse you-feel free to click on out to some other page.

Okay, that's the preface-now to the rather twisted tale of enterprise, ego and expectations.

There appeared on the horse scene a couple years ago, a man who seemed to be unknown-at least, unknown to those of us on the west side of the Valley. He made a bit of a splash with ads for boarding, and honestly the place looked just lovely. Lots of pasture, nice fencing-that sylvan fields impression. He joined a local horse group online, and seemed friendly and outgoing and genuinely interested in helping kids and horses out.

Now comes onto the scene, the plight of a local feed store. The hard working young couple that started it, were going to close down if someone didn't step in and operate it. An enterprising woman saw the opportunity and soon enough, she and her husband were up and running with new energy. Not being sure of the exact timeline, I can only say that some months passed and I noticed the above mentioned boarding stable operator hanging out at the feed store pretty regularly. More time passed and I noticed the husband was no longer there, and the woman and the stable owner were what can only be called an item. He tells several people he is a member of a particular Valley family, and thus the reason he has those wonderful, grassy acres to put horses on.

More time passed, and onto the local group the man posts about wanting free horses. And he posts to Craigslist for the same. He is asked questions about his motivation for doing so-but explains that he is just looking to put kids and horses together, to have fun, for 4-H, etc. It's been relayed to me that he acquired at least 7 horses in this manner-in addition to the horses he was boarding for others. Several months go by and there are reports of loose horses very near the stable-but he is very quick to deny they originated from there.

Later on (earlier this year) I get a phone call out of the blue from a young man needing boarding. I am happy to oblige and we make arrangements for the following weekend. During the week, he arrives to check on his two, and discovers them in very poor condition. For the fourth time, there is no water, no shelter available and no hay present. The winds are howling like they can only do in Palmer, and the horses are weak and very dehydrated. The young man calls me in a panic-can I take them today? (And of course I agree, it only takes a few minutes to shuffle horses around) Once loaded and on the road, he calls again, nearly in tears. His horses have marks all over them, they are extremely dehydrated, and the mare is having trouble staying on her feet. I suggest water first, then, stop at AC and sign out a complaint. Photos are taken of the wounds and marks, and the MSBACR officer condition scores the horses. Later I get a phone call from my husband when they me a heads up they are "very hungry". I tell him which hay to put out, and have several other conversations with the owner...........and I learn some very peculiar things.

When I arrive home, it's too cold to be taking blankets off of stressed out, weak horses. I run my hands under the blankets and my heart just drops. A condition score 2.5, and about a 3. We quickly confer with vet over the phone and I get them started on a recovery program right away. The next day it is made clear that the responding AC officer is indeed, "good buddies" with the stable owner as no action is taken-not even a warning. The owner is beyond upset, and even more nervous about leaving his horses with someone he does not know (that would be me, of course) I assure him his horses will be fine, and not to worry about his stuff either. I tell him that boarding is a meeting of expectations-he expects that I will take care of them, and I expect to get paid for it ;) Pretty simple, really.

Over the succeeding weeks, the horses recover, even as they show signs of abuse-scars, marks, head shyness, fear, defensiveness. But they were young, and rebounded fairly quickly with balanced nutrition and their other needs attended to in a timely fashion. The owner of the horses and the stable owner have it out over the phone, leaving it that the matter is dropped.

And there it would stay, if it were not for little bits and peices of rumors that continued to crop up from time to time. Missing tack, a horse trailer used without permission, horses ridden without approval, until one day......I get yet another contact, asking about boarding. Of course, I relate what I can offer, and learn that the boarding stable had shut down. I didn't think much of it at the time, other than the passing thought that a lot of horses got shuffled around.

The summer progressed, and the horses in my care just bloomed. Glossy, excellent weight, their personalities emerged from the frightened, spooky state they arrived in. I took extra pains to get the one horse past a new fear of hand implements-would actually bolt and then cower at the motion of a manure rake in hand, poor thing. Eventually the owner found new stabling arrangements more convenient to work and home, and they moved on. The owner was more than pleased with their condition, but called me less than a week later with a very serious question.........

......and the question raised so many other issues, that I began doing a little bit of digging.

It's amazing what you find when you start turning over rocks, really it is.

I began to get a better picture of the ego exhibited when further discussions take place regarding the boarding operation with those who either boarded there, or who knew someone who did. One of the stranger things was a "fee" charged to a new boarder, euphemistically called "herd introduction fee". Of the nearly 50 horses on the property, I am not sure how many people were forced to pay this extra fee for the priviledge of arrival there-but at a $150 per head....well, let's just say it was likely lucrative. For $500 a month for two horses, you got pasture and hay. If you wanted your horses to get any grain (or they needed it) it was a flat $80 per month, per horse. And COB was all that you could get. Most people expect some sort of shelter and water would be provided, but in actuality, the majority of the horses had only trees, and water was not available 24/7, Instead, it was "just being filled" or, "tank is frozen, it needs thawing first" or some such. Always an excuse, and horses were moved from paddocks and rotated through pastures fairly regularly. Several people arrived to find saddle marks on their horses-always explained away....light hearted, "it was kids" type of explanations.

In May, word came that the horses had been moved. All of them. Or, the story was, the place was "closing down" and you "must come get your horse right away". Whichever the real truth is, I don't know, but a bunch got moved to another location-without the knowledge of some owners and definitely without prior approval. A number of people are still owed refunds on boarding money paid in good faith. Others are just happy their skinny horses got moved to a place where food and water are not a worry. Quite a bit of tack is still missing too, some of which are specialty items not commonly found in local tack rooms.

Turning over yet more rocks, I learn that the boarding operator was not actually a relative of the local Valley family.
And, he had managed to procure goods and/or services under the alias of that last name.
And, he'd never had a business license either.
And neither does the feed store-under either name. The same one they advertise for sale too.

This is the same guy who trolls for customers on Craigslist, touting "quantity purchases" of grains in "bulk". This is the same guy that has a rather interesting history with the local court system. This is the same guy who scammed at least 7 free horses for his 4-H club, of which there are four members. This is the same guy who threatens anyone who asks questions, or who just flat refuses to answer. This is the same guy who brags he's "good buddies" with a well known MSBACR officer-and he can do as he likes with horses in his care. This is the same guy that never told any of his boarders that he was actually kicked off the original property. This is the same guy that joined the local horse group, then left it when people asked any questions of him.

Keep in mind that the boarding operation was going full swing as the feed store is in business also. Surely, he had access to more hay? Surely, he had the means to get more stock tanks, or hoses, or tank heaters? Surely, he did not need to use anyone elses' tack? Surely, he had the knowledge to manage so many horses?

But like many things within the horse world, trust is a fragile element. Just as you can break a horses' trust with an ill timed, unnecessary reprimand, so too, a person can cause their own "house of cards" to collapse easily enough-all it takes is threats.

In closing, please bear in mind that while on the surface this may appear to be a personal spat, the truth is, this effects ALL of us in the horse communuity here. Here you have a guy who should have had all the right resources to provide quality care for the horses in his stable. He has the feed store connection, he had the land, he started a 4-H club-all perfectly wonderful things in their own right. What he seemingly did not have was the expertise, the licensing, and the common sense to know he was going to eventually be caught out in falsehoods.

When asked simply for information, he came out with threats and/or denials. Since I was not privy to the conversations, I cannot relate what those might have been-but it serves as a warning to the rest of us: Know who you do business with, and ask for references. Do not rely upon a casual friends' recommendation, or the charisma of the person. Visit your horses frequently when boarded out. Don't be afraid to ask questions-and if you aren't happy with the answers-move your horses! They depend solely on your judgement, remember?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A little of this, a little of that.....

Well, despite my gloomy expectations, I have managed to get two vans of hay ordered. One is on the ground being unloaded this week, the other set to ship the 13th I think it is, arrival the end of the month. I have begun taking deposits on a third van and we'll see just how many we need after that. Most people are having doubts about buying hay for their horses or goats at these prices...all I can tell them is, me too! It's hard, but it's better than nothing and the quality surpasses the feed stores easily. Several folks buy from me because our local feed store either cannot or will not order in orchard grass for them.

The situation with Wingnut is in the air again....the wonderful, capable person who wishes to lease her, may end up on furlough from her employer. So the whole deal is on hold this month for sure. Poor Wingnut. As much as I may like her antics and her character, I cannot afford to have her taking up a stall that is income producing all winter long. If the deal does not work out, I will be asking the owners to find another place for her to board....a somewhat risky proposition given what happened to her over last winter-gads! The owner has been out to see her once in three months, something of a record if that tells you anything. Feed, worming and hoof care is out of my own pocket. And of course I'm the one you will find grooming when I can't stand to see the dreadlocks in her mane, and scrubbing off the manure stains on her sides too. Too bad this sweet natured horse can't seem to find the right person to care about her.

No word whatsoever on my little Jethro. It's as if he has vanished into thin air. I can only conclude that someone either snatched him, or decided to keep him (if he showed up at their home) because a) he's very very cute and small, b) he's great with kids, dogs and house cats, and c) he's housebroken. I console myself with this thought, even though I visit the local AC office three times a week, and repeatedly check petfinder, Craigslist, and etc many times a day. My son still asks if I have found Jethro every night-and it's painful to see his face crumple every night when I must tell him no, no sign of him :( I had a real hard morning this past weekend when I had no Jethro jumping and spinning at my side, biting for gloves as I headed to the barn for chores. Jethro, wherever you are, I hope you are safe, warm, and fed, and that no one has risen a hand to strike you in anger or fear.

Something really, seriously stinky is brewing within our little horse community and when it blows, it's going to be pretty bad. Of course, at this point I cannot relate much, but when I can, it will get top billing here for sure. It will definitely make the local groups, and who knows, maybe even the local paper as well.

Other than that, the garden is limping along slowly. We've been eating lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini for a while now, and I still have tons of (green!) tomatoes in the greenhouse. If we could just stitch together about a week of sun, things would really set like the beans and peas. I even have some very tiny, baby pumpkins which surprised me-they like the heat! The average high temperature for last month was only 61 degrees, just dismal for a lot of production that is not inside a heated greenhouse. I have read some newbie gardeners here who think this is all just great (ha!) but honestly, folks that have been doing this for a while know the yeilds are way down and at least three weeks behind normal. This is true even for the berries, wild and cultivated. I have rock hard green raspberries on my new canes....most years, I would already have several pickings by now.

And so it goes, two horses move out, two more move in and they are settling in nicely. Most horses take to my place fairly quietly and seem at ease quickly. This last two, there was hardly a whinny let out by anyone-just acceptance which I thought was pretty wonderful. My own horse was more concerned about the trailer, than what was in it, haha Not quite sure what he thought should back off that trailer but as soon as it left, not a peep out of him, silly boy.

School starts in less than two weeks, and everyone is remarking-where did summer go? Heck, as far as I can tell, it never showed up!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Pandora's Box

Over the past few days the topic of farrier care has arisen on a local board I frequent. I haven't been posting much there due to a falling out with the board moderator (another convoluted, stupid story typical of the horse community up here) but I do check it a few times a week.

Much to my surprise, an old member posted asking for suggestions in dealing with a laminitis/founder horse. A number of things were brought up, but the most amazing thing was the member actually naming names! Yehaw, someone with guts! I like to think I have guts, but honestly when it comes to the horse community it's much easier to keep your mouth shut, than to be vilified for having an opinion. (Thus, readers, the impetus for the blog here in the first place ;))

When the member posted that a local farrier refused to treat her horse due to "taking too much time".....well, let's just say that I might have been surprised if I hadn't experienced the results of that farriers' care for myself.

Over the past couple of decades, I have used just about every certified farrier that works here in the Valley. Several of them, within the first couple of weeks after they arrived here as a matter of fact. Some have since retired or moved away, but it's been a long road of no shows, canceled appointments, shoddy care, rough handling, gossip mongering, unreturned calls, and whatnot. As a general rule, I'd say most of them are very poor business people, have no clue how to maintain client relations, and give little thought to the responsible owner. My horses have always been decent to work on, I am always on time, and I have bent over backwards to accomodate their own schedules-many times taking off from work early to be there ahead of schedule.

My own road with that farrier went fairly well for a number of years, actually. Cordial and polite, we knew we had contracted heels to deal with. However, standing with the lead rope in hand, you generally cannot see what is done, and how. A few years back my horse injured his shoulder from a bad dismount. Shortly afterward he was trimmed when I was unable to be there, a first, although someone else held him. Imagine my astonishment to see a pretty badly botched four point trim! Every foot was a different angle too, no balance anywhere. I could not imagine why that was done, but was unable to speak to the farrier directly. I learned the next day that the farrier had a whole bunch of personal stuff going on, and she left the state for a short while directly afterwards. Since my horse was lame due his shoulder anyhow, I let it go. I regret that decision to this day. I just didn't call for an appointment, and tried a few other farriers over the next year. None did a very good job, and some were pretty prickly to deal with and it was obvious that personality clashes would get in the way of farrier care.

So, with no options left, I called the woman back, and so went forward for several years. Over this period, the farrier became increasingly popular, began doing therapeutic shoeing at vet clinics, and started an organization for Christian families. Appointments began to get further and further apart, and my horse suffered because of it. At the end, we had one final appointment I was unable to make due to work-and she went ahead and trimmed him without my being there. (Hey this can be a good thing, or a bad thing, but in this case it was a BAD thing)

The following weekend when I had light to see what had been done, I was appalled. Another, absolutely rotten four point trim. My horse was swollen on all four cannons and he was LAME. I knew other things were wrong, but wasn't sure just what-just that everything was not right. Angles looked funky, heels were wrong, he was still contracted, etc. The photo above shows only the was only when you picked up the foot and saw what was underneath that a person could see the whole story of shoddy care:

Is there anything that isn't WRONG with that foot?

Ayep, professional, certified farrier care indeed. Honestly, I did not know what to do. For weeks, I was paralyzed, knowing that if I did the wrong thing, my horse would probably get worse-he was already lame, could barely move around. He would need specialty shoes, he would need a vet, he would need LOTS of care, if he could be saved. I couldn't understand how my horse got to be in such a condition, when I had "the best" farrier we had! I scoured the local magazine, asked other people who they used, spoke to a couple who were very new at the craft...and there I was, stuck.

Rescue came out of the blue via an email from a friend I had not spoken to in a while. I discovered that this friend had begun to trim horses barefoot, and she sent me a ton of links to read, so I could learn what a good foot, and a good trim should look like. I mean, I could tell some obvious things (big flares that chip, a very underrun heel, etc) but honestly I knew nothing of a good foot. In desperation I asked her to come see my horse.

That Sunday was a turning point in my horsekeeping and knowledge. When I brought him out, she was very quiet, just looked at him. Asked how long it had been since last trim (7 weeks to the day), and then picked up his left front. After a thorough cleaning, she set it down carefully, stood up, and looked at me with tears in her eyes. Nearly bawling myself, we worked out a plan to save my horse.

Its been a long road, but I never had any doubts as to her competence and commitment to help my horse. I emailed her every day with every observation of his condition, every small was an amazing thing to watch the improvements come, a little at a time as the two week trim schedule progressed, and eventually moved to the four week schedule we have today. During this period, I set out to educate myself about the hoof, how it functions and what its health means to the horse. I attended the Pete Ramey clinic and learned a lot more, and read his book. I read articles and case histories about other recovery projects fairly regularly and now, finally, after all these years, I feel I am a somewhat educated horse owner. I have a horse who lands properly....heel first, who has a great toe callous, excellent depth and a working frog. He is sound, playful and athletic, and by paying attention to the stabling and diet too, I intend to keep him this way for many years to come. I don't hear anyone saying "He's just a halter horse and you won't be riding him, right?" (Quote direct from previous certified farrier)

There are few certified farriers here (or vets for that matter) that won't think outside the box of their symposiums, clinics, and certification processes. Not every horse can be turned around like mine can, but its possible for many who are suffering through extensive hoof modeling with shoes, pads, fillers and wedges today. It just takes a true commitment on the part of the owner, your hoof care professional, and sometimes your vet. You must have courage to see it through, and the wisdom to know when you need to do something else. For myself, if I had not seen the amazing improvement I did, I would have spent umpteen thousands on clinical care immediately.

So, you have read all this, and noticed I left out names. SO here you go: The certified farrier I had been using whose results can be seen here was Deb Avritt. The trimmer who has corrected this is Gisela Swift. I would be more than happy to share photos of the recovery process with anyone, just email to