Thursday, October 30, 2008

The really hard part of horse ownership

When you take in a horse for recovery/rescue, you just never know what the outcome might be.

Will the horse crash from disfunctional organs? Will the horse recover but have serious medical conditions which will need treatment? Will the quiet, grateful old soul that is slurping up the mash turn out to be a thug with out of control behavior? Or will you be gifted with a sound, healthy horse with a decent future?

You just never know. Over the last couple of years, I have been involved in a couple of rescue type situations where it turned out that the most humane thing to do, was put them down. One was a chronic sinker/founder. One was old enough that the organs were shutting down. And so on and so forth. I have had a couple of the younger horses turn out to be surprisingly nice when fully recovered-Pepper and Wingnut and the yellow gelding spring to mind.

And that leads me to my own personal trial of spirit, compassion, and commitment. I found out yesterday afternoon that the wonderful horse lover who opened up her heart to Chubs for me, must have him gone by this coming Monday morning. In tears, I was told that the landlord insists on only three horses-not four. Chubs, of course, makes four.

Despite the fact that he's been there since green up, and the horses have panel enclosures-he has to go. No exceptions, no grace period, nothing. Gone or else. I cannot burden the caretaker with this, it's mine and mine alone to deal with.

He cannot come here. He picks fights and plows through fencing with other male horses. He can only either be by himelf, or in a place with mares. Since I have just purchased a mare for myself, I have no space for him anyway......not even another mare (such as one of the caretakers).

I called the vet straight away and when I got the return call last night, we discussed cost and logistics of euthanasia. As a practical matter due to road conditions, I prefer not to haul to that location.....I am a fair weather (dry!!!) road hauler as a rule. I had made up my mind some time back that I was not going to haul any more horses to be put down. It's hard, very very hard. This time of year it would be difficult to get a pit dug on short notice on my own property anyway.

My options are to haul him to the clinic, have him euthed in the horse trailer and dispose of him at the landfill myself. Cheapest, but the emotional cost will be very high. I just can't go there with the remains, I can't. Too many dead horses in my memory, you know?

The other option is to have the vet handle it completely, although I will need to be there to load of course. Sigh. I spoke with my husband and he is upset of course, he really likes old Chubs. But we knew we would have to face this some day-we just did not know it would be due to his behavior, and not because of failing organs or something.

The sad truth is that there is no special medical condition-he does not need a mash, he actually has his molars. He does have that terrible arthritis and the blown knees-but an entire summer with a lot of exercise has helped him immensely. He has a nice personality with good ground manners, but he's old. No one knows for sure how old-vet said between 25 and 30. And truthfully that doesn't matter, really. For him, this is the end of the road.

I don't see anyone stepping forward to offer stable space for a horse that has behavorial issues, even if he's relatively easy on the pocketbook to feed. I can't think of one local place that would have room and facilities for him, even if I was willing to spend the board money.

So this is the really hard part of horse ownership-when you have run out of options. No medical or disease or soundness issue (he is "pasture sound") he is just old, cantankerous towards other horses, and there is nowhere for him to go. Period.
Unless a miracle happens sometime today, poor old Chubs will leave this earth for the Rainbow Bridge tomorrow, mid day. The plight of these older horses never gets any easier for me.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Uncle Ted, I thought I knew you

Unless you have been living in a cave up here, you have heard a lot about Ted Stevens, Bill Allen, and the work done on the Girdwood cabin. You've heard about the invoices, the barbeque, the details about the long friendship between Allen and Stevens, and about Ted's wife who paid the bills.

I remain torn, I really do. Do I think Bill Allen through Ted under the bus? Of course. Do I think the prosecution was politically motivated? Naturally. Do I think think Ted did something wrong? Yes.

But mostly I fear what it means for Alaska. Until the verdict yesterday I thought Ted stood a fairly good chance at being re-elected, considering his Democrat opponent, Mark Begich. Now, I am sure he will go down in flames.......if he had not pushed for an expedited trial, the Governor would have had the opportunity to appoint a temporary until a special election was held. A special election would have meant another Republican in that scenario. With that chance gone, I do expect Uncle Ted to resign. It saddens me that he will leave Washington in disgrace-after 40 years of stellar service to Alaskans.

Uncle Ted, I thought I knew you. It feels like a betrayal.

Here we go

One very dark photo, taken at feeding time :) Please keep in mind she standing downhill a little bit, due to the stall surface.....When I have some help, I will get better pictures :)
This is Reba, and she is still settling in.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A cause for some concern

Just now, I had occasion to go poke around on Craigslist. This was a direct result of an earlier phone call where someone else complained about having their ad for a horse flagged off. And it occured to me that the statement made by that person was correct: The only remaining ads seem to be the ones under $1500 and for horses under a certain age. Very strange I thought, and as I scrolled through a few days' worth, it also dawned on me that some ads I had seen previously, were gone.

So I got to snooping around the help and flag forums, and stumbled across another poor soul who has been flagged off for reasons unknown. Actually there are several someones, but the most disturbing thing I read was a statement made by a very nice local guy-quoted here:

"(We have been told by the animal control in this area that there are a group of ladies who gang up and try to make trouble for people in the horse business...even if there is absolutely no grounds for it...)"

Um, what?

Now, this opens up a whole messy can of worms, doesn't it? This makes the third or fourth time I have heard something similar-this time, it's in print. Now of course, it could have been taken out of context, but still............

First, which people at animal control are talking like this to people in our tiny community? There are only three officers that have regular contact on horse matters, as a rule. Darla, whose last name I can never recall-nice gal and a genuinely great advocate for horses. Matthew Hardwig, whom I have met several times on MSBACR business, and the other guy whose name also escapes me at the moment. On my end, I can say that I don't always care for how well they respond to complaints, but I have found them to be compassionate and mostly professional.

Talking out of turn by suggesting that other members of the community "gang up" on others for no reason.....well, that is a big deal. It just proves how little control the manager there has, over the daily interactions they have with the public they serve. Statements like that do nothing but serve to splinter the community even further, and can do great harm. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that undermining some members does not help the whole, does it?

Which leads to the $64 question: Which people are being identified as being part of this "gang"? The statement I read does not include names, of course.

A cause for some concern, indeed!

No pictures :(

This time, it had nothing to whatever with technical difficulties-nope, I completely forgot!

Saturday we did a Costco run and it was fairly dark and cloudy when we got home. Sunday, was a beautiful day but I ended up spending the day in the kitchen, processing more vegetables. Sigh.

Since it was a brisk 7 degrees this morning and we are supposed to be sunny all day today, I will hope to get some photos this evening when I get home from work. It was reassuring to see that the stock tank heaters are working perfectly-and that the chicken water was steaming too. Still getting eggs, and two of the hens are using the boxes (yay!) and the other has made herself a very deep nest in a large pile of hay I have in there for them. She can't fit in the boxes because her tail feathers are way too long-something I did not think about when I got them (they are Yokohama's) but they seem to be just fine.

On Saturday evening I saw a post on CL about a free mare that needed special care (stall, nursing) and I stepped forward to offer my help. After a few hours of investigation, I discovered that the mare was to be euthanized that night. In hindsight, that was the best outcome, but it sure leaves a bitter taste in my mouth-about the entire situation. Too miserable a story to go into detail here, but suffice to say, some people are not humane enough to own horses :(

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A new chapter begins for me.

A new chapter in my life with horses has begun :)

As some readers may have geussed from previous entries, I had been idly looking for another horse....I had a vague idea of what I wanted, but had totally written off Appaloosas completely some months ago. Nice Appaloosa mares are about as common as hen's teeth here, and rarely come up for sale. There have been quite a number of QH mares on the market this summer but only three that piqued my interest enough to attempt a contact (and of course we all know how one of those turned out, right? lol)

Two of those local QH mares had health issues I was more than willing to accomodate, and the other was just too tall for my personal tastes. I even dabbled around on the internet and heaven knows there are 1000s of quality mares available down south. But as usual, the logistics of long distance purchase, plus arranging pre purchase exam and exrays, then temporary stabling, then hauling-just more than I was willing to gamble on a horse I could not see in person. Yes, I have some great, knowledgeable friends who could help me out-but still, despite having two previous long distance purchases go perfectly, I just couldn't bring myself to actually do it.

So a couple months back, a hay customer of mine mentioned to me she had a mare for sale. I didn't pay much attention to it at the time, until a later contact mentioned she was an Appaloosa. A few weeks later, a mutual acquaintance asked if I had seen the mare yet-and I confessed I hadn't. This acquaintance chided me a bit, and then I heard the same from a couple other people. Eventually I was able to work out a time to see the mare-a bit difficult with work schedules. So I went....and I looked. I didn't even handle the mare....just watched her move, play, approach me, and spoke with the owner at length.

Then I had to think about it. And boy did I have a hard time with this. I have already turned down six free horses so far this fall, early winter. I know I will be offered others, who might be in great need due to health or care issues. What if I tied up a stall that might be needed? Should I do this with the economy on the skids? Should I make this investment in the first place? Would she fit in with my plans? I went back and forth and waffled and see sawed and just could not make up my mind....until one evening I was talking with my husband. He pointed out a few things, and I made the call to the owner :)

And then of course it was again a scheduling and hauling conflict, trying to get her out here. I am pretty firm about new arrivals showing up on a weekend so that I can keep a close eye on them. And I really wanted my hub to be in town, just in case something went awry during the work day when I was not available. (Yeah, I know, I am a worry wart!) Due to issues with the four wheel drive on our truck, we weren't safe to haul-so they delivered her late last Saturday afternoon. We turned her loose in the small arena and let her blast around-and man oh man can that girl move!

She's ten. About 15.1. ApHC, and ApHCC registered. Born a chestnut, but looks like a liver chestnut with flakes right now. Built like a tank, and very well broke-even if she hasn't been ridden in a couple years. She has been hunting-packed and ponied. Lots of trail miles, not too much arena time. Safe for adults-compliant under saddle, although I am pretty sure she isn't a performance machine. And pretty pretty pretty. Nice personality, if a little rattled about being in a new place. Our first challenge-fix her hooves which are a mess. Nothing I am not prepared to take on, and she has already had her first trim (thanks, Gisela!) and is a on a four week schedule to correct some issues.

I do have a couple photos, but they are pretty lousy, so this weekend I will get better ones and put them up here.....feel free to critique-I already know her faults!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The CL flag wars continue

A recent topic on a local group, the constant flagging that is taking place on our local Craigslist was discussed at length. Having been a CL poster, I have learned what gets your ads flagged down:

Any website or even a partial website
Any kind of business name
More than one horse (sometimes)
Posting more often than the "flag nazis'" think you should
Anything else the nazi's think violates the TOU

In other areas, CL ads just stay up unless they are really long, nasty, or are big time spammers. We have a couple spammers here too, notably the people posting the tractors for sale-I mean, come on, everyone knows you cannot purchase a year or two old medium sized tractor here for under six grand, lol That's the only thing I flag on CL, in the hopes they will try to peddle whatever it is they are really selling, some other place.

A CL ad also makes you a target for anyone who doesn't like you. Or, you can become a target and be presumed guilty of flagging, even if you haven't! It's a no win situation here, even if you have hay that people are needing. I really feel for all the local farmers and hay dealers-as soon as an ad gets posted, it's flagged-sometimes in just a few minutes. I highly doubt the flagging down hay ads is coming from a local hay grower...just think about it: Who would have the time? And this year, who has hay they can't sell??

This same mentality is proven as horse for sale ads get flagged down at lightspeed. It doesn't seem to matter who the seller is, it can be down in just a few minutes. Most of these are obviously the result of someone who doesn't like the seller....or, folks think they are spamming by reposting their ad over and over again. Which of course they do because they get flagegd down so quickly, lol!

Actually, it's all very overblown. I have a hunch some of the nazi's are feeling pretty secure in their ability to get rid of ads-people whose ads are from competitors, ads from people they have an axe to grind with, people who are adversaries. And then of course a lot of ads get caught up in the crossfire, entirely by accident. The anonymity that CL provides might give the flagger a little thrill....a "see there, take that!" giggle as they click the upper right hand link(s) for flagging. Never thinking through the consequences of their actions.

Of course, the whole CL phenomena (the self regulated, free ads) is a wonderful tool for Alaskans. I know I have found some deals on CL, and sold a few items I didn't need myself. But I learned in a hurry-don't bother posting an ad for hay for sale. It doesn't matter how it is phrased, it will be flagged off in a hurry. And any discussion on there, is rightly flagged as those belong in either the forums, or R&R. But truthfully, R&R is a cesspool, the forums have their nazi's too, but it surely makes it to Farm and Garden pretty regular. Here's a typical snipe:

Reply to: [?]Date: 2008-10-16, 7:05PM AKDT
Location: MAT-SU
it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interestsPostingID: 882313096

Now the above is a fairly typical little rant. I don't even need to explain the obvious I would hope, most of the readers here are locals who do visit the Craigslist F&G, and already know what happens there. Nope, I have no idea who is "trying so hard to discredit Alaska hay" because it surely isn't me. Most of these folks have no clue what I have in my barn, but it does include hay from three local, Alaska sources. I have no idea who has hay arriving next week...and all imported is going to be over $545 a ton, that's a fact based on freight rates and the going price down south.

But what I do see, is a pattern here. The assumption of guilt that comes from these flaggers. The assumption that a particular ad is from a specific person-without proof. The assumption that any one person, or group of people, is responsible for the rampant flagging.

If it takes more than one person to flag down an ad, then it's impossible for one person to be at fault for all this, period.

It's a shame that CL is being abused this way, it's a shame that people can't sell their horses, it's a shame that people can't buy hay. It's a shame that people can't sell hay too. On the other hand, they could pony up the bucks and place an ad with the Alaska Horse Journal, the Frontiersman, the Anchorage Daily News. They could make up flyers and schlep them around to the local feed stores-where they will again be taken down by those who feel they are righteous in their actions.

It's a no win situation, for everyone, and it's small and petty at that. Grow up and get a life is what I would tell these flag nazi's.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's a small world after all

Let me preface this by telling readers that this involves a specific local horse person, and it has no bearing whatever on anyone who is not part of this horse community. Feel free to click on it and skip today's entry, okay?

Once in a while, life will prove to you in no uncertain terms, that trite little sayings are truisms for good reasons.

Last Friday was an otherwise ordinary day. Very busy at work, very busy with the vanload of hay. When I eventually got into the house from barn chores, I was pretty tired. My cousin who has been staying with me, was also plenty tired-he'd had a challenging day himself. After a bit of discussion, I offered to buy him a dinner out-my treat. He agreed and we discussed heading back into town, but eventually we decided to head on down to the Knik Bar & Grill for a couple of their Friday night steaks. Locals have been going there for a good long time, and I have been there a bunch over the last decade plus myself......great steaks, reasonable price, close enough to home. And of course, there is always that wonderful color provided by the regulars (Or, as my hub puts it-it's "U-nique", lol)

I see a lot of familiar faces just about anywhere I go-either customers I have dealt with, friends and acquaintances, or just faces I have seen quite often before....sometimes I don't know who they are as no name springs to mind, but they look familiar just the same. I imagine it's that way for a lot of people who live in smaller areas-you just tend to see the same faces.

So I was not too terribly surprised to see Flo Pitcher (and her husband, I think it was) sitting at a side bar when we walked in last Friday evening. I paused at the bar, not having noticed that they had waitresses that night. I glanced Flo's way just the once, and distinctly heard her say the word "internet" and then turned my attention to the harried bartender for a minute or so. It became plain that we needed to take a table, and so my cousin and I found one on the other side of the pool table. We ended up sharing one with a couple who had come all the way from Palmer, just for the meal.

The waitress attended to our order, and conversation was flowing nicely as we watched the nights' musical entertainment get set up. A music tape or CD was started, and the noise level began increasing as it often does. After a short time, our salads were laid in front of us and just as we were picking up our forks, I happened to glance to my left and see Flo Pitcher approaching.

With a sinking feeling, I watched her stride towards me. About four feet away, she began talking. Loudly, aggressively, obviously wanting to make a point. She opened with calling me the "biggest shit stirrer in Alaska" and eventually ended with a screeching "BITCH!" During her tirade, I quite calmly said "Flo, this is not the place. Flo, this is not the time. Flo, this is NOT the place" The longer she went, the louder she got and eventually I said "Flo, shut UP!" quite firmly.

During the time she was yelling, I was relieved that her gestures did not touch me-although I did have some serious concern when she rocked her weight back onto one heel and dropped a shoulder-pretty much telegraphing a punch was waiting to be thrown. But thankfully, she did not do so (yeah, no kidding! I was sitting down, haha!) and strode off out of view to her perch at the other bar.

I was totally, completely flummoxed by her behavior. I apologized to the sea of dumbfounded faces turned my way over and over. I swear you could have heard a pin drop and I was mortified...I explained to our dinner companions that it was probably result of this blog-and that perhaps it was due to an inquiry about a horse for sale I had made recently. Shortly afterwards, the waitress hustled over, and informed me that Flo wouldn't be more trouble, she would be leaving.

Just a minute or two after that, a guy showed up, who said not to worry, Flo was being kicked out and we could all enjoy our dinners in peace.

After a great steak and a thorough, if slimmed down, explanation of Flo for my cousin who had sat quietly through the episode, I had the waitress check to see if she was still there......just in case. Thankfully, she was long gone by then and we left without further incident.

Naturally I have thought a lot about this, and about Flo, and what her issues with me are. I remain puzzled, but you can surely bet I will be much more watchful in the future. If she feels comfortable enough to verbally assault me (in her own stomping grounds, no less) what else might she do? She already brags that she knows what trucks "we" drive, and makes all kinds of accusations and insinuations about me, about other people she thinks are her "enemies" and the like.

Right off that bat, the only thing I can recall that I specifically called her to the carpet on, was her "picaninny days" practise (starving her horses for 24 hours each month) We disagreed on a horse situation that happened about ten years ago-she thinks one thing, I think another and that's that-we each have our own views. I have said publicly that I don't care for her stallions, but again, this is just an opinion I hold-nothing more, nothing less. I am sure she thinks Sully is crap too-and that's fine by me :)

I have often praised her good fortune to live where she does, doing what she loves. I have sent mare owners her way, people who needed training, hauling, and boarding. I may have caused her some grief by linking her website to a local group-but the content was her own, and what fell out over that is her own doing....if she didn't want it a topic of conversation, she should not have named names herself. I know she had an open door policy for months, making a big splash about "the door is always open" and "come out and have a cup of coffee" and "everyone welcome any time" and this led to her accusing another person of theft-someone who made the mistake of actually taking her up on it. Unfounded, but still, it was pretty ugly for a while.

The strangest part of this whole incident, when I had time to think of it a bit later is this: Why in the world would you create such a scene in your favorite watering hole? Maybe she felt she was in her comfort zone, or something. Maybe my presence just triggered some latent hatred that she feels towards myself and others-who knows? I have often served as the public "whipping post" or at least a lightening rod for whatever the hot topic of the day might be. And that's perfectly alright....I have always "called them as I see them" and anyone who knows me even passingly, will agree.

But what happened on Friday night with Flo is just wrong. I have no idea what her situation is, and no desire to know. But I will say this: The next time I am accosted and verbally assaulted in a room full of strangers.....there will be a very different outcome. It is, indeed, a small world after all....especially in the horse community here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Court again today

For the third time, I took time off from work and headed to the courthouse in Palmer on behalf of Wingnut and her owner.

For the umpteenth time, Leta Belardi lost. The three default judgements entered today

Sunday, October 12, 2008

OK, now I am getting seriously worried....

Have any readers here been to fugly recently?

"Fugly" is It is another horse related blog-much larger than mine by orders of magnitude :) I have been reading it for months now, at least a year or better. As I mentioned before, there have been several horse auction reports recently posted, and the numbers are pretty scary.

Then today's entry really gave me pause....not only is the lead entry about a person with *over* 100 hundred head (Over one hundred!!!) in very bad shape, there was in the comments section a blurb about another auction, quoted here:

"Local midwest sale barn on Friday - no bids on many horses....2 yr olds started under saddle with $20 bids.

The guy running the sale said at a different sale barn, a couple of hours from here had MANY go through without bids. After the sale was over, and everyone was gone - approx. 80 horses stood on the property...the owners just abandoned them. Many were euthanized I guess. It's getting scary out there. If this is happening now, when there is still pasture out there, I can't imagine what's going to happen when the pasture is gone."

Another poster linked a CL ad in Kansas, 40 to 45 head of "reining bred" horses, make an offer.

The growing numbers of these abandonments, the increasing numbers of horses being abandoned (or worse, like with where Joe reports the going price of horses from the kill buyers at forty cents per pound) just scares me pretty bad. I know that the majority of these poor horses are either young and unstarted, or older with issues-but still, it should give us all pause. Some of these auctions are held weekly, some once or twice a month-but it's happening all over the L48.

Can this happen here in Alaska? Has it happened? I have heard about horses being dropped at AC before, this year in fact-but I haven't heard anything recently. If it's that bad down south, where there *are* auctions, where there is pasture for a good long time, where hay can be had for a pittance compared to Alaska, where there are many active, legitmate rescues, law enforcement who can and will act with the aid of much better statutes.....what's the future going to be like here, when the economic slow down really reaches us?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Winds of change, indeed

Yesterday we had a big low pressure system spin up in the Gulf of Alaska. As usual, the winds were getting a little brisk by late afternoon, and it was downright cold because the temps were just barely above freezing. It wasn't too bad at home (thank heavens we are out of the main "wind tunnel" effect that is this broad valley) but still, the horses were a little unsettled and one of my hens has gone missing.

This morning the first thing I did was check Wunderground. Oh my, what a day it is going to be at work-South Palmer station reported a gust to 39.7 mph as I was looking at it, slightly lower gusts to the west were reported. As the first official big wind of the winter, I am very glad to see temps have risen to 42 at my place, even if it means spitting some rain too.

The temps rise so steeply when we get these lows due to the downsloping effect created by the mountains and passes. Since my office is located at very nearly the bullseye between two major passes, it is sure to be just howling there. Its just that we are all at the mercy of these systems and the geography, and there is not much you can do but batten down the hatches and wait it out-and pick up what got strewn around afterwards.

Winds of change are upon us. If you live under a tree in the Bush, you have probably heard about the financial crises. Over the past couple of days it has rocketed around the world and the Dow was down 700 points right after the opening bell this morning. Its up, but still in negative territory this morning....with hours to go yet. Across the world, some markets are closed in Europe and the FTSE (London) and the NIKEI (Japan) are following in our footsteps, right into huge losses. I had sort of expected the Dow to settle out around 8500 (no idea why, but that seemed reasonable considering the history) but I have a hunch its going to get much worse.

I am reading across BBs and very large forums that most are expecting an outright depression. This pessimism is a self fulfilling prophecy since it's investor confidence which fuels the market for the most part. I am trying not to get overly worried because I am still a good ways out from retirement, but of course I am fearful about the economy. Oil seemingly slid down under $80 a barrel, which is a good thing.....but when people freak out over how much money they have lost and runs begin on banks-I can only hope we are somewhat isolated from the rest of the US up here. I know the majority of our banks are in good shape, credit wise and are relatively solvent. But I also know this is not the case in other areas, due to the sub prime mess.

Alaska has historically had long periods of depressed economic activity, and we have weathered these before (1986, anyone?) and most of us stuck it out and made it through just fine. And too, our economic activity is cyclic just due to the construction season. I had already expected our Suothcentral unemployment numbers to jump way up, due to the influx of folks leaving villages because of the high energy costs. I do expect Anchorage to go to the state for emergency help before too long, as the social services and schools are stretched to the breaking point.

As the cold wind of realistic growth blows through the financial markets, I can only hope we are spared the worst up here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Cooling down is right.....brrr!!

Ok this is the about the fifth morning in a row with temps in the upper to mid 20s.


Dang, time to start thinking about digging out the serious winter gear here. When it snowed the other day and I had to be outside for about four hours, I could only find my worn out pair of winter boots-time for a new, warmer pair :)

So as I am breaking ice this morning, I was regretting not getting the tank heaters installed. This is something my husband normally does, but truthfully, it usually is not this cold this early-and neither one of us thought we'd need them until towards the end of the month. I will be getting those up and working this weekend for sure, to take advantage of the higher temperatures to come.

The time spent outdoors this week was educational, at the least. Most importantly, I learned that my horse has developed a heart murmur. I know for a fact (at least, I did not hear it using my own stethescope) it wasn't there last fall, so this is a relatively new thing. It is a thump thump-whisssshhhh sound, and I was told this is a faulty valve on the upper chamber. Since his overall circulation is outwardly good, there may be nothing to worry about. But it is significant, of course.

It is not likely to cause damage to the heart muscle itself-which could lead to serious complications down the road. I have heard other heart murmurs in horses before, but nothing quite like this one....most were worse, in fact. And most of those horses lived lengthy lives too-so I remain somewhat optomistic as to what this means for his future. On the other hand, if the valve gives, I will end up with a horse with basically and "enlarged heart", for the most part.

So then we talked about-how did this happen? And this is the most likely cause: When my horse dropped a molar about a year and a half ago, that tooth was likely abcessed. Even though we did not see any outward evidence of it, that probably caused the bacteria to migrate-and just like small dogs, it landed in the valves. I have not had a chance to do much research on this yet, but of course that is high on my list over the next couple of days.

Interesting, isn't it? Always something new to learn, even if the lesson is scary ;)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Heating up and cooling down!

The events of the past week or so, have left me a little adrift. Unless you live under a rock, you have heard about the "financial crises" on Wall Street, the first bail out plan which did not pass, and the second, pork filled one which did. Oh joy, each residents' portion of the national debt is now something like 80 grand!

And if you have been checking your retirement and investment portfolios, you have no doubt seen a substantial loss. I haven't. Wanna know why? I am afraid to look! LOL, I am in it for the long haul, and there is no way I am going to try to micromanage my retirement-that's what the professionals do quite well. I presume they are about to go bargain hunting, once the market settles out.

Of course, the entire global financial markets reflect Wall Street....I read a great line yesterday that said: Wall Street gets a cold, the world catches pneumonia.

Nice to see the price of oil dropping too. I hope that too, finds its center and stabilizes for a while. I also hope the price of shipping products to Alaska does not continue to rise-Many people who ship are upset that the fuel surcharges just keep going up and up, when bunker fuel (which most cargo ships burn) drops in price. Always paying through the nose up here, aren't we?

Of course I am sure you regular readers are wondering: What's that got to do with horses?

Well, check out this link:

This is a noteworthy report of a couple of horse auctions recently. The prices and the outcomes are not for the tender hearted-the prices are rock bottom, and I have a hunch its only going to get worse down there as the economy tanks. Joe at TBFriends yesterday had on a report from a kill buyer, that the KB had been out driving around and saw some neglected horses in a small lot. Stopped, offered $200 for the four of them, and bought them-they are already en route to Canada for processing. That's $50 each, two year olds, otherwise healthy. No training or handling of course, so the KB just round penned them into his trailer and they were gone. The thing is, this is happening all over the US, not just the coasts-low end auctions where some are given away, horses are being let loose to fend for themselves, abandoned because auctions are now not the way to even get your gas money and fees back. Too expensive to euthanize, never mind dispose of the remains...this is a very bad time in America for horses.

I don't know if I am relieved we don't have an auction here in Alaska, or not. Yes, we really do need some central way to to put buyers and sellers together that does not cost a fortune and is held regularly. I have toyed with the idea myself off an on for at least six years....a place where all livestock can be sold-either for nominal sum through an auction, or privately outside the ring. Say you pay $10, you have all day to sell your critter and if you don't, you just take it home. For ten bucks, people would bring their stock, I am sure-they could make their own deals for however much they can get. Showcase in the arena for performers or something special-$25 for three minutes, with reserves if they chose. Seems workable to me, but more than I could possibly manage on my own. And there is that little issue of location and insurance. I am sure it could be overcome but again, this is something I cannot manage working full time. No big percentages, no big fees for the day, make it something affordable and the people will come-and their animals too. There is no one central place to take cattle, goats, sheep, fowl of all kinds, llamas or alpacas, swine-no place at all.

That leaves Craigslist and the Alaska Horse Journal, plus bulletin boards, online groups and word of mouth-for a huge state with livestock scattered everywhere. Which is likely part of the reason for the very high prices we see today.

Here's a few examples that will leave you scratching your head:

A Fuglyhorseoftheday candidate:

I know the seller-eeks!

Here's a nice horse, but hooboy, the price tag!

Hmm, why would you breed for this?

Why would you email about these two? (You can't see anything of either)

And so on and so forth. Funny, the horses listed for under $1000, don't seem to stay on CL long, which means the true market is somewhere near that. Not to say there aren't some really nice horses that are reasonably priced-there are! But reasonable means something different to each of us-just go back and take a look at the auction reports to get an idea of where we are heading.....maybe?

So, do we need a regular, every two weeks auction up here, or not? Would it help the market find a firm footing, or just serve as a way to provide cheap dog food to our mushing community? Thoughts?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October 1st, already!

This morning was the fourth one in a row, that I walked under stars for morning feeding. Brilliant stars, the constellations glittered in the quiet of my footsteps. As usual, my first glance is towards the Big Dipper-and as always, I search for the North Star. The North Star is difficult to locate if it hasn't been pointed out to you before, and you wouldn't think it would be so faint-but it's there. And as always I wish I knew more about astronomy because I don't know the names-and that's something a parent should teach their children. I think I better go do some research on this topic.

Today was my father's birthday. Funny how you don't forget those things, isn't it? For years, as rather a joke, I would get the same things for this day, and he always chuckled with a twinkle in his eye when he opened them too. Traditions, very important and I am saddened that his passing in '87 will only be remembered by a few. He would have loved my son, truly, and would have gotten along well with my husband I am positive of that. As a sailor, he knew all the constellations and their origins-and sadly, I did not pay attention when I was a child.

Yes, I miss him dearly, and can easily envision his expressions and hear his voice (complete with original sayings too) in my mind. Dad, I am missing you today. Oh dear, I am melancholy, imagine that :(

Starry morning skies and sunny days make me hopeful that some local farmers got in a late second cutting-I know of only one so far, but it's promising that others are doing the same. Let's all hope for a bountiful cutting tucked into barns for the coming winter-we need it. In the meantime, vans continue to arrive and I continue to work like a dog arranging them and offloading. The grower called me yesterday and we spoke of the supply and the freight, of course. Next year will be much better for supply as he is adding another pivot for hay. And again, we lamented that there seems to be no affordable shop space in Wasilla proper for storage of extra hay. I would basically have to have for nearly free, and that is just not a possibility.

So, all the outside chores are done and we are ready for the first snows. The place is tidy even if the inside of the barn is it's usual disshevled mess. I think we'll work on that a bit tonight when I get home, it's time to dig out those stock tank heaters anyway. So far, the insulated tanks are doing well-no serious ice even at 26 degrees, but I know it's coming. I will need to install the heaters the next time the tanks are empty and due for cleaning.

Oh, small thing! I have been complaining about my chickens who roost (three of them, the three Aracuanas) up on the lower part of the trusses in the barn. So three are up top, and three remain down lower, perched on their wooden door. This morning everything was very quiet when I walked up-no crowing at all. Somewhat puzzled, I looked around for the three up high-since its that rooster that makes the racket. I didn't see them in their usual place just above the stall wall and I though-for a second-oh no, they're gone! About that time I heard a faint coo, and looked way up and over my shoulder-and there they were, crammed into a small space directly under the metal roof! I swear I do not know how they managed to get up there, but they did. Goofy birds, they are not going to be happy when they get penned in, are they?