Tag: Prize

Knowing when to say goodbye

My old mare, Prize, has had declining health since summer. A mare who used to be an easy keeper has stopped being able to keep weight on. She’s been on a complete senior feed for several years, plus chopped hay, joint and anti-inflammation supplements. Her teeth have wave mouth, so their uneven surfaces prevent her from being able to effectively chew grass and hay.  It’s not for lack of trying. Where ever she has been eating, there is a trail of matted lumps of grass she’s tried to chew (called quids).

horse_banner2
Kasane, Prize, and Isis. My three Bay Wonder Mares.

I’ve had a sinking feeling that she wouldn’t make it through this winter, and honestly, that I shouldn’t ask her to. Where she used to be my sure-footed, take-a-mudrock-downhill-at-a-canter trail horse, her gait has lost its stability as her muscles along her topline and hips have deteriorated. She had been retired from active riding for about 1.5 years. We still would do trail rides periodically when she had good days. She had not had a good day where her gait looked stable enough to ride since the summer.

Over the past few months, she has had bad days. At the barn, we took to calling them “episodes,” because that’s what they seemed to be. Most days she would have that mischievous,interested spark in her eye when she saw me. She would carefully pick her way through the paddock to see if I had treats for her. She would nicker and recognize me.

On her bad days, she seemed confused about where she was. Each step was wobbly like she was trying to be careful where she stepped but her body didn’t have the coordination she remembered. Most days her gait was unsteady, but she would still manage to harass her paddock mate and chase the other away from hay piles even at a canter. Not on Prize’s bad days. On days when she had episodes, she didn’t leave her stall or her paddock. She would stand in the same place most of the day with her head poking out of the stall, her eyes focused inward. An episode lasted anywhere from a few hours to a day, at most.

Prize and I at a trail ride shortly after she first returned to me, 2010.
Prize and I at a trail ride shortly after she first returned to me, 2010.

The episodes, at first, were a very rare occurrence. A few months apart, but with growing frequency. We have tried a lot of different things. Pain management meds, anti-inflammation supplements, joint supplements (she’s been on this for years)… In December, she was having episodes once a week.

She had a bad day yesterday, Saturday, and it was worse than the others. Her lack of coordination was so pronounced that she had trouble trying to scratch her hock with her mouth. She tried to position her leg in the right spot and then started to lean around to reach her hock, and would stop. She would stay in that position, with her back legs splayed apart, her back right awkwardly on the ground reaching towards her front legs, and her head turned back staring at her legs. Her front legs were spread apart for balance. She would stand like that for a few minutes, and then it was like a light would click and she would pull her legs back underneath her. She couldn’t walk without losing her footing and almost falling several times.

She refused to eat until we gave her some Banamine (pain meds). Watching her, I could see how much pain she was in. This episode didn’t end on Saturday. It continued into Sunday and lasted the day. At one point shortly after she received the afternoon’s dose (and before it had kicked in), she laid down with her legs straight out and her lips set in a grimace across her face. Several of us stopped what we were doing to watch her belly to make sure she was still breathing.

She has been telling me in no uncertain terms that she is hurting.

I’ve known that this was coming. The sense of dread has been an undercurrent in my mind for the entire fall and winter seasons. That my sweet Prize was going to need to be let go with all of the beauty and dignity that she has shared with me over the past 30 years. I can’t put her through a harsh, wet, slippery winter.

When Prize came back to me six years ago, the girl who had Prize taught her how to give kisses. The girl would hold a peppermint candy in her mouth and Prize would reach up and gently take it. So today I went to the tack shop and bought some of Prize’s favorite treats: thick molasses and oat muffins with a peppermint candy in the middle. She might not be able to bite the peppermint, but she would be able to have the taste of it on the soft treat.

Prize and Kasane having a moment.
Prize and Kasane having a moment.

She hadn’t eaten much today, but she ate six of those treats. And asked for more. And nickered at me. She was spoiled and loved on and cooed over (but always with the awareness that being in a stall with an unsteady horse isn’t necessarily safe). It warmed my heart to see her in less pain after the meds kicked in. The difference in how she felt also spoke wonders.

The barn owner and I talked today. Prize is his favorite horse. (He calls her “my good horse.” On days when Kasane has been doing particularly well, he calls her my “other good horse.”) I asked him if he thought it was Prize’s time. He nodded and said yes, and tried like me to not cry.

The vet will be out on Monday. It is time. As much as I don’t want it to be time, how Prize is physically and mentally says it clearly. I can’t put her through this anymore.

So tomorrow I have to figure out how to grieve for a horse who was my partner in crime for many years. She who did jumping, barrel racing, jousting, gymkhana, ring spearing, trail riding, and trail classes all in English riding attire. She has taught many kids to ride. When the young riders didn’t know what they were doing, Prize would walk over to the instructor and stand there. She took care of the beginner riders and loved when a more experienced rider was on her, then she would get excited. Prize earned the nickname of “the rocket” because she would get up whenever someone like me got on her. Several times, she would be so excited, we’d rip around the ring a few times and then she would settle into work. After so many years of being afraid to jump, she helped me regain my confidence.

She has had a grand life. I am so blessed to have had the chance to redeem my earlier mistakes by having her back to take proper care of her and love her.

Prize and Isis
Prize and Isis

I am going to try and celebrate her. She has touched so many and has been so loved. A lady at my office emailed me once asking about Prize. Her daughter had learned to ride on Prize. I am amazed at the lives this original Bay Wonder Mare has touched.

I know I have to say goodbye. This will be my second, and final, time to say goodbye. That first time I said goodbye when I had to sell her because I could not pay my board, I wrote “Transfer of Owners”:

I felt your breath
soft on my neck
myriad memories
tickling my mind like
whiskers
falling
from clippers

Luminous eyes
glazed with the day’s work
and the field is
dust
flicking through the stall
washed with bespeckled light
and the thrum of horse flies
and the stench of sweat
and the buzz of Osters
trimming, trimming…

The night is vacant now
scents of cedar and straw
drift through the barn into
my dreams–
twice-wet feet cross the stream
to another’s pasture

Redemption: Old Eyes Tell Tales

The barn where I board is full of wise old eyes: half of the horses are over 20. My old girl, Prize, is 28 and still teaches people (myself included) about riding and jumping. She’s a bright bay Arabian mare with three white socks, a snip, and a blaze. She’s not typey for an Arabian (most people think she’s part Quarter Horse), but she is fearless and enthusiastic. The riding instructor at the barn–who previously was never a fan of Arabians–cherishes Prize as one of the best horses on the farm.

For the first nine years of her life, she was mine: a $2 mare my family won in a raffle and was immediately claimed by me. She was the second horse I ever trained to ride. Over the years, she blossomed into a willing partner to try all of the crazy stuff teenaged riders do: medieval horse games (like ring spearing), trail riding, barrel racing and pole bending in hunt seat attire, jumping, Western, side saddle, driving, hunt seat, and dressage. Together we had the confidence to do anything. We never pinned very high but we had fun trying.

After college, I tried to support her and board her. There comes a point when what is best for the horse comes first: I had to let her go because I couldn’t afford her upkeep. When I sold her, I wrote a five-page letter explaining her pedigree, her training, all of the cues I used when we rode–everything I could think of that I would want to know if I was the one blessed to buy Prize.

I let my baby go. As the years passed and other horses came into my life, I always tried to provide the best possible care for my horses because I never wanted to be in the position I was in with Prize. I was always haunted by the memory of how I had failed Prize and how I had to give her up. That guilt drove my career so I could have enough to support my horse.

When her 20th birthday came and went, I held a small memorial for her because odds were, I figured, something had probably happened to her. I wished for a happy life for her and hoped that anyone who had her loved her as much as I had.

More years passed and I moved to across states, back to the same area where I had lost Prize so many years before. I never lost the feeling of having failed my favorite mare.

Three years ago, my mom received an email asking if she had a daughter who had won a horse in a raffle. This author of the email wanted to contact me because her daughter was going off to college. The family didn’t want Prize to be inactive, so they were finding homes for their daughter’s horses.

Prize was being boarded at a barn almost exactly halfway between my house and the barn where my other mare was boarded. She was 24 and looked much the same as she always had. Her back was swayed but the sparkle in her eyes was still there.


Reunion day: Prize, fall 2009. First time I had seen her in 15 years.

The letter I wrote out of sorrow and pain ultimately brought Prize back to me. The letter had followed Prize from owner to owner throughout her life away from me. The lady who had Prize said that she knew someone who had written a letter like that had loved Prize. She offered to give me Prize.

I was torn. I wanted to give Prize the type of life she deserved but I already had two mares and I wasn’t sure I could support Prize. If I took Prize on without being sure I could pay her board, I wouldn’t have learned my lesson that caused me to have to sell Prize in the first place.

I told the story to the people at my barn. At my barn, the average lesson horse’s age is 18-25. They have (at most) one lesson a day, and maybe a lesson every other day. They are like the grandparents of the herd. Prize, 24 at the time, could have a grand retirement teaching young kids about riding. The barn owners and I figured out that we could make this happen for Prize. She could earn her keep and I would cover farrier and vet costs. If (and when, given her age) something serious happened that required a vet, there would not be any heroic measures.

Prize is 28 now and has been at the barn where I board for three years. Like the other older horses, she is valued for her experience and patience. She walks quietly with the young riders. When they can’t figure out how to steer her, she walks to the instructor and waits. When she sees me with my riding helmet on, she perks up. There is a spring in her step when I get on. It’s Mom and we are going to have some FUN now! We’ve had to hand gallop a few times around the ring to get her to calm down before we started our jumping lesson. (Yes, she is now my teacher too.)

When I talk to other people about how their horses are old and how they need to find a replacement, it makes me sad if the person’s attitude is one of replacing a car or truck. Some people–like the woman who reunited me with Prize–find loving homes for their older horses. Others, though, don’t seem to realize the gem they have in their back yard. That these grand old horses have given us so many years and so much love. They deserve the best possible care and active life style that they are capable of.

For me, this old girl is a blessing in my life. I have the rarest of opportunities to correct a mistake I made so many years ago and give her the retirement and life I always wanted to give her.

Farrier on Saturday

Yesterday the farrier did Prize, Kasane, and Rajiyyah. Prize has a regular trim. Kasane and Rajiyyah both get front shoes. Rajiyyah is a pro at it, but this was Kasane’s third or fourth pair.

Before the farrier arrived, I gave Kasane some Quietex (contains L-Triptophan, think same mellowing agent in turkey). We went into the ring and lunged for about 20 minutes to help her work off any extra energy.

She was a little gem for the farrier. she stood like this was just nothing new. She periodically watched him and rested her chin on his back. Only on the last foot with the last nail or two did she have any problems. She was reaching the end of her patience and that was fine. I was really proud of her for being so good.

Even though she was so good, I discovered that my leg was really bothering me after standing around for so any hours. (I was at the barn for 7 hours.) After the farrier left, I was going to ride Rajiyyah, but was barely able to lunge her for a little bit before my calf starting hurting.

Vet update on Prize

The vet came out today around noon and saw Prize. She was much lamer today than she was yesterday. We added extra bedding to her stall for some extra padding. She still just looked like she hurt, poor girl.

The vet had some good news: he’s almost 100% sure it’s not laminitis (yay!). He thinks she has an abscess that is coming to the surface. Hoof testers on the bottom of her hoof showed one localized sensitive spot that she consistently reacted to. If it was laminitis, she would have reacted on more than one foot most likely and it would have been spread throughout the toe of her foot. Her feet are so dry it may take a while for the abscess to come to the surface.

For the nxt few days, we’re going to soak Prize’s front left foot in hot water and keep it wrapped to help add moisture to it. We’re using ichthyamol on the sole. The farrier comes tomorrow. He might be able to do something with it. We will see what happens.

At least we know what it is and it isn’t laminitis.

Whew!

Prize may have laminitis

When I got to the barn this evening, I had two surprises: Kasane was covered in hives (happened last year too) and Prize was in her stall. I called the barn manager to ask about Prize and to see about giving Kasane antihistamines for a few days. The barn owner and I had been playing phone tag, with my calls not connecting to hers and her phone giving her issues when she tried to dial out. Prize was up because she was having feet issues: her white line on her front feet looked wider, she was stiff, and was also lame on her front feet. She seemed to be shifting her weight a little too the back too. The barn owner thinks Prize has a mild case of laminitis.

Prize was definitely lame more on her front left when I walked her down the barn aisle tonight. When I asked her to turn around, she was very reluctant to turn and was more willing to back up. She had a strong digital pulse in her front left (stronger than her front right). The temperature for all four feet felt the same to me tonight. She was stocked up in all four feet, so I put some liniment (probably to make me feel better).

First thing tomorrow morning I’ll be at the barn and will probably call the vet on the way out. I’ve been remembering the regimens we did for Isis (luckily they are documented on this blog – go me!).

I had a flashback to Isis when she had laminitis. We were lucky with Isis: she came through with little to no rotation and recovered fully. No one could even tell she’d ever had laminitis. (That was my Miracle Mare!) Hopefully Prize will have the same type of recovery. Prize is 27 so our treatment options may be different.

What might have caused her laminitis? It could be so many things: high sugar levels in the grass from the rain and heat, something she ate, a toxin in her system that is working its way out through her feet, etc.

I started taking notes for Prize in the medical journal at the barn. I’ll trace her feet tomorrow like I used to do with Isis. We’re also going to switch Prize over to the same set of supplements Isis used to be on (Pre-Ox and Quiessence), just in case this is a sugar-related issue. Farrier comes on Saturday. I’m hoping I can get the vet out tomorrow. It’s an expense, but laminitis is an emergency. You do what you have to do for the girls, you know?

I’ve been reading through Safer Grass (best source for info on laminitis and grass), especially these articles:

Yeah, I know. That last one is a “worst case scenario.” I never want to think about having to make that kind of decision any time soon for Prize, but I want the article printed and in Prize’s folder at the barn as a reminder.

One thousand posts and counting

This post is the 1000th entry on Y Ceffyl Du. It’s only taken seven years to get here. I’ve blogged the tales and tribulations of four cats, five horses, and major events in my life. Here’s to Isis, Basette, Stella, and Ambush, who have passed and are missed. Their antics and memories are chronicled here.

Here’s to Rajiyyah, Logan, Kasane, and Prize, two still in my life and two with other people who love them dearly. And Kiesha, the only furrball left of the original four.

It’s amazing to think that I’ve stuck with this blog enough time to last seven years and 1000 posts.

Pretty neat.

Horses in Santa hats!

I had to. I just had to. Okay, maybe I didn’t but it was too cute to pass up. What do you do when you find reindeer antlers and santa hats in the store? You take them out to the barn and put them on horses, of course!

Only Kasane was brave enough to wear the evil antlers with bells. She was very good about it. Isis wanted nothing to do with them and looked at me sideways when I wore the antlers.

Saddle fitting suggestions, part 1

A friend of mine just bought her first Arabian mare. A fine bay Arabian mare with white socks and a star. She asked me to help her with choosing a saddle for her mare, Sarafina. Sarafina is currently ridden in an older Wintec dressage saddle (the type before the changeable gullet and CAIR system). Instead of writing my suggestions in a private email, I thought I would post most of the discussion here so other people can read the article and post suggestions.

The general steps for choosing a saddle include knowing what you want to ride, knowing your horses’ (and yours) shape, and then sitting in everything you can to figure out what feels good. Like shoes, some brands run narrow or wide. And then you get to take home the top candidates and see how they fit your horse.

A note about saddle costs

You can spend as much as you want on a saddle: from $100 to $5,000 or more. A used name-brand dressage saddle in good condition will run $1000 to $2000 — probably half off the original price. Just because a saddle is expensive in the tack shop, don’t be afraid to sit in it. If you find a saddle that feels great and is out of your price range, check around online. You may find a great bargain in a tack shop’s used / consignment section, on Craigslist, eBay, or in the used saddle lists of online tack shops.

Riding discipline

Before you purchase a new saddle, the first question to ask is what do you want to do: show jumping, reining, dressage, trail riding, endurance…? Customized saddles are available for all of these disciplines. If you are interested in trying multiple disciplines, you should be able to purchase an all purpose Western or English saddle. (Any comfortable saddle can be used for basic trail riding.) If you know a particular saddle make and model fits your horse, that can be a great starting point for finding a saddle.

Shape changes and saddle fit

The saddle you choose has to fit both you and your horse. A horse’s shape change over time, some times from season to season as the horse gains and loses muscle mass and weight. When people lose or gain weight, their saddle size may also change.

Exchangeable gullet systems and fit

If you consider a saddle with an exchangeable gullet, it will offer additional flexibility. The gullet system will let you adjust the saddle’s tree width to accommodate changes in a horse’s shape.

The gullet system adjusts the front of the tree. The channel (the space between the panels on the underside of the saddle) has to be wide enough to accommodate the horse’s spine and the back pads have to lay with the horse’s shape. No gullet system will change the physical dimensions of the saddle. (See the videos included below for information on fit, conformation, and more.)

One of the first dressage saddles I bought was a Wintec. Over time, as Isis matured and muscled, the Wintec no longer fit. While the dressage saddle used to fit her whithers well, eventually she became too muscled (and fat). The saddle was too narrow at that point: when the saddle was placed on her, the pommel was up in the air — higher than the cantle (back of the seat).

I traded the Wintec in on an all purpose eventing saddle made by the Spanish saddler Zaldi in 2004. Comfortable saddle — like a big comfy chair with good contact. It fit her very well for her build at the time. Her body shape drastically changed shape after she recovered from colic surgery. I had to pad the Zaldi so it would fit her over the whithers and back. When we started taking dressage lessons, I had the Zaldi fit re-evaluated by my instructor. We discovered that the saddle no longer fit at all. I ended up buying both a dressage saddle and then the next year, an all purpose.

Saddle trees and expansion

I did a lot of research into trees, saddle fit, impact on human/horse conformation, and read way too many reviews. Some breeds are harder to fit than others, with Arabians being notorious for their dainty heads and broad backs. Most English saddles are built on a spring tree: the tree offers some flexibility to move with the horse. After doing a lot of reading, I liked the e-Motion tree used in the Courbette saddles. The e-Motion tree provides additional flexibility so it’s easier to fit a broad range of widths without being so flexible as to pinch the horse’s whithers.

I decided to try a Courbette Magic dressage saddle because of the e-Motion tree. These saddles are hard to find locally. When I did find used Courbette dressage saddles in the local shops, they were not the Magic saddle and inevitably they felt like sitting on plywood. I ended up ordering a used Courbette Magic dressage saddle used from Trumbull Mountain Tack Shop (excellent price, great trial program). I was very pleased to find that the saddle fit Isis well and was very comfy.

DSCN0867.JPG

I’ve now had the saddle over two years. It has fit both Kasane and Isis very well. The saddle has even fit Isis as the shape of her whithers have changed with work, weight, and various medical issues over the last two years. Because the Courbette fit so well, when it came time to purchase an all purpose, I found a used saddle that was made with the same tree as the Magic, a Courbette Bernina. The Bernina seems to fit Prize and Isis very well but might be a little narrow on Kasane.

Examples of saddle fit

Several posts on this blog have pictures and descriptions of fitting the Courbette Magic and the Bernina:

I recently had to revisit saddle fitting when Kasane started riding. I’ve been very lucky and the dressage saddle appears to fit Kasane very well. The all purpose might be a little narrow, but I’ll have to take pictures of her in both saddles and post them here for comparison with Isis’ pictures.

If you don’t have access to a saddle fitter, then a good way to get an idea about whether a saddle fits you and your horse is to watch a few videos on saddle fitting on YouTube. Out of the dozens of hits for searching for saddle fitting here are two options I watched when fitting Kasane with the dressage saddle.

This is a general video on how to fit a saddle.

Here is an excellent video on how the saddle needs to fit both you and your horse with discussions of equine and human anatomy.

Saddle considerations

General points to keep in mind:

  • Any saddle should be comfortable for you and your horse. (Your tush should say “Ahh!” when you sit in the saddle.)
  • Do a whither tracing to figure out the correct width tree your horse needs. (See Trumbull Mountain Tack Shop’s saddle fitting guide for instructions.)
  • Know what size saddle you need, including tree width and channel size.
  • Be aware of the type of flocking in the saddle — wool flocking can be reshaped while foam flocking cannot.
  • Sit in everything so you have a good idea of current offerings, quality differences between price ranges, and what fits you (narrow or wide twist, big thigh blocks, etc.).
  • Search online for reviews of any saddle you consider purchasing to find out other people’s experiences with the saddle.

If you find a saddle in a shop that you really like, you may be able to find a cheaper version of it online some where. You’ll have to pay shipping if you order online. Make sure you investigate return policies and trial program terms before purchasing.

Getting the saddle on the horse

If it is comfortable on the fake horse, it may (or may not) be comfortable when you actually ride in it. Make sure the tack shop place offers a reasonable trial. You should be able to try the saddle out (reasonable — so no visible damage or wear is done to the saddle) and bring the saddle back if it doesn’t fit. When you try a saddle on the horse for the first time, make sure the horse is clean so you won’t get the saddle dirty. (Retailers have to be able to sell the saddle if you return it.)

The videos above have some excellent points on how the saddle should fit and what you need to watch out for. When trying the saddle, keep an eye on where settles on the horse’s back. Is the channel wide enough? Does the saddle press on the horse’s shoulders? Does the saddle rock back and forth or does it settle into place properly?

When I was trying the Courbette Magic on Isis, it was one of three saddles I was test riding: a Wintec dressage, Albion dressage saddle, and the Magic. I paid my riding instructor for an extra lesson so we could try all of the saddles and then take a lesson in the saddle that fit the best. The Albion was too wide for Isis and the twist was far too wide for me. (It felt like I was riding a four-by-four.) The dressage didn’t quite fit me or her right even though it was comfortable to sit on in the store. Her movement was different in each saddle. When we put the Magic on her, her gaits felt freer. It just fit her beautifully, so that was the one I purchased.

Good news from the farrier

Farrier came out today. The weather has been so dry all of the bits of foot crud (thrush) that the mares had were gone. Their feet looked great.

Isis and Prize were very well mannered with the farrier. Isis rubbed his head with her lip, which the farrier thought was sweet. It’s okay when she does that until you hear the distinct sound of her mouth opening. She won’t bite but some times she’ll take something in her mouth and hold it. Didn’t want the farrier’s shirt, hair, or ear ending up in her mouth…

Once Isis was done, the new mare at the barn was trimmed. She had underrun heels on her front right. Very interesting discussion with the farrier when he explained what underrun heels mean and what to do about them. (See figure 5 at Barefoot Hoofcare blog.) Underrun heels can be caused by a conformation fault, trimming, or other things. To correct it (as much as possible), the farrier gradually trims back the underrun section and brings the toe length back to match the other front foot (or, more correctly, how the foot should be shaped according to the horse’s bone structure and use). The correction takes place over several trims and may or may not require shoes.

As the new mare was being finished, I went out to get Kasane. The Diva, a lovely dark bay Morgan mare, was added to the diet herd (Kasane and Katie). Diva is much more dominant and not very happy that she has a grazing muzzle on. She wanted that muzzle off and I was the nearest human. Therefore, I should take it off. Now. This minute. Except I wasn’t out there for her. Diva tried to shoo Kasane away from the gate and was surprised when I shooed the Diva away by twirling the end of the lead rope. Kasane was up from trotting around and came into the barn prancing.

She was good for the farrier, except she fidgeted constantly. She had to have the lead rope in her mouth to chew on it. Last time the farrier was out, she didn’t chew on things. Whenever she’s chewed on things, that’s meant she has a tooth coming in. She stops chewing as soon as the tooth resolves itself. (Kinda like a two year old child chewing on anything and everything when they are teething.) Sure enough, her lower left front tooth looks like it is starting to work its way out.

When Kasane first arrived almost two years ago, the inside walls of both of her front feet were pretty upright. Instead of being a round or oval shape, the bottom of her foot looked slightly flat on the inside. Upright hoof walls can put more pressure on the mare’s legs and may require corrective work on her feet. Luckily, her feet have been maturing and spreading into a more normal shape.

We rode a lot last week and she didn’t have any trouble. The farrier said her feet look perfect. Happy dance!

Hivin’ a good time

In which our intrepid explorer, One More Nite, explores the wilds of a mowed pasture and returns with hives. Proving, once and for all, that she is still a sensitive-skinned Arabian. Poor little girl got into something and then she scratched.

I found Prize’s hives on Friday evening when I turned Isis out in the paddock. It was dark, so I could only feel the lumps and didn’t see them. All of the Arabians I’ve had have ended up with hives from getting into something they were allergic too. Never anything serious (except for one time when Logan had a severe reaction to spring shots).

Saturday evening I was very surprised when I saw her. The hives were much worse than I originally thought and they were sore to the touch. She has hives on the left side of her cheek and upper third of her neck. The hives are also on her left leg, left knee (swollen), and inside of her right leg. Maybe she laid down in the soft cuttings as a bed in something she was allergic to.

The barn owner and I tried to figure out what she might have gotten in to. Were the lumps hives or stings? Did she manage to tangle with a wasp nest or ground bees? The scabs on the hives were scraps across the top instead of coming to a point with a bite at the top. One of the cedar trees in the mares’ paddock had many of the lower branches rubbed off, so we guessed that Prize had itched her neck against the tree.

I gave Prize a dose of antihistamines. Shortly after, she had a gentle bath with some oatmeal shampoo. Once she dried off, I put hydrocortisone cream and diphenhydramine cream on the hives.

Isis also had hives, but not nearly as bad. (The Houdini horse had managed to get her grazing muzzle off and dispose of it. No matter how many times we searched, we weren’t able to find the muzzle.)

This morning, I called the barn and Prize’s hives were much better. The swelling was gone and only the scabs from where she had scratched against a tree were still present. Prize’s hives were almost completely gone this evening by the time I arrived at the barn.

Prize has a grand time

Sylvana, a friend of mine at the barn, and I both have four year olds we are working with under saddle. Our two Arabs (okay, he’s technically an Anglo-Arabian) have the Arab herd-brain: when one snorts the other automatically snorts and looks around. Even if nothing is there. It just takes a snort. Funny to see when a llama is following you around the pasture…

Sylvana is taking her four year old, Renegade, to a clinic on Friday. She wanted to have one more ride on him before she went. We have been spotting each other when we ride our youngsters — buddy system helps prevent a lot of problems. The idea was to have Renegade’s first ride in the big ring and have another older horse to keep him company.

Perfect situation for Prize: older mare used mainly in lessons would probably like getting out some place different. Good soothing influence. Theoretically.

Renegade was the one who was the soothing influence. Prize wanted to RUN! She was in the big ring with a non-student on her back who could ride and she wanted to RUN! Twenty minutes of prancy walk later, she finally calmed down a little to where her head came down and she started to relax. We stayed in the far end of the ring so Renegade had plenty of space. When Prize walked calmly, I asked her to trot (expecting her nice slow trot). Nope, we were off to the races with her Very Fast Pony Trot. I brought her back down to the walk and we focused on getting her to stretch down for a while.

Once Sylvana was off of Renegade, I let Prize canter (make that a hand-gallop) around the ring a few times before we stopped. She was having so much fun. It was like “WHEE! I’m 25 going on 3!”

So the youngster misbehaving was actually 25 and the old-acting horse was 4.

Lunging two horses at one time

Yesterday I did an experiment: I lunged Isis and Prize together in their paddock (which is also a backup ring). A few nights ago, I did a similar experiment except I lunged one horse at a time and swapped between them with both of them loose in the ring. It worked pretty well. How would it work with both of them being worked at the same time?

Surprisingly it worked out pretty well. Some times it was funny trying to get one to reverse and then the other would decide to go the wrong direction. A couple of times I asked Isis to walk and she’d trot. Once I started recording the show-off came out and she stuck the tail over her back and pranced around. Asking them to whoa while holding a camera was not very successful. I couldn’t give the complete signal because I had the camera in one hand. It did eventually work.

They got along very well during all of it. I’ve been surprised. The two of them have struck up a good friendship — enough that they were standing in one of the stalls together when I arrived. (I don’t remember Isis *ever* standing in the same stall with another horse. Ever.)

Prize is on some joint compounds now and seems to be doing very well on them. She’s on MSM and glucosamine, as well as some Omega 3s (from flax) and trace minerals.

Prize settling in well

Prize has settled in very well. She’s still in a paddock by herself, but always next to other mares so she has company. We’re going to try her with Kasane and Katie soon and see how they get along. Maybe this weekend, if it doesn’t rain.

Last weekend, I rode Prize for the first time in ages (yup, halter and lead rope, of course). Funny how your rump remembers where to sit and how to ride a horse’s gaits after so many years. 🙂

Chris (barn manager/owner) and I have been working together with Prize to make sure we’re using the same cues and commands. It is an interesting process figuring out how to teach someone cues that are second nature.

Prize remembers all of the stuff! Little things that I do with Isis and Kasane (and all started with Prize) that are so automatic now were things Prize and I figured out together.

So much fun having the girls together. This was the first time I rode all three girls over the weekend and on Monday night. I’m going to be sore.

All kitties to the vet tomorrow

All of the kitties are going to the vet tomorrow morning. Ambush and Stella are having fluids. Kiesha is going to be tested to see if she has a UTI like the other two, and if so, she will needs meds.

The farrier is also coming out tomorrow morning for Isis and Kasane. He’ll check Prize’s feet to find the best way to get her on the same schedule as the other girls. (Her feet look great.) Chris at the barn is going to keep an eye on the girls and let me know how they are for the farrier.

After finishing with the kitties, I’m going to head to the barn and spend the day with the girls. It’s supposed to be really pretty. I can’t wait!

Two peas in a pod

Prize arrived on Saturday. It’s hard to describe what it is like to having a horse come back after so many years. I couldn’t stop smiling all day at work on Friday. Saturday I was bouncing off of the walls and wanting to make everything perfect. I had Prize’s halter, photos of her as a yearling/weanling, and her old tack box with her name on it with a backwards Z (from when I was in high school).

Prize arrives

Prize backed off of the trailer like a champ and looked around. Gena walked Prize over to Isis so they could meet. Isis arched her neck. Prize didn’t look impressed. They both squealed and struck with their front legs.

Isis and Prize
Isis and Prize meet for the first time

What I wasn’t expecting was how much they looked alike: same build, same rumps, and two back white stockings. It says volumes considering their ages: Isis is 17 and Prize will be 25 in May.

Prize’s first night was spent in a paddock with Isis in an adjoining area. They went nose to nose again, turned and kicked at the same time — and both hit a board in the fence in the same location (at a knot of course) and split it. No damage to either horse (just impressive noises). I spent most of the remaining daylight helping fix the fence. Silly girls.

Before I left on Saturday, I helped Chris, the barn manager, throw hay. We were walking through Isis’ paddock to give the horses hay in the field next door. Chris gave me some flakes to toss to Prize. I called to Prize and Isis immediately walked over with her “you are my Mommy why are you near HER?” look. She squealed at Prize (20 feet away on the other side of the fence) and Prize squealed at Isis (20 feet away on the other side of the fence).

By Sunday afternoon, the two of them were walking the fence with each other and acting like a little herd.

On Sunday, Prize walked along the fence when I free lunged Isis. Not trotting or
upset, just staying with us while we worked. When I took Prize to the round pen
to play with her, she hollered and carried on for Isis. Isis hollered back. Prize ripped around the round pen like a mare half of her age. I caught her and we did some walk and whoa and basic ground work. She remembered so many things that we used to do (including standing up in halter). I couldn’t stop grinning.

You can always tell if a horse is happy: their eyes, their demeanor, and their body language tell you volumes. Prize looked fabulous and happy. It is so obvious how much she has been loved and cared for. Prize gives Gena kisses. 🙂